Powerful Antibiotic Discovered Using Machine Learning For First Time

science - Posted On:2020-02-21 02:14:58 Source: slashdot

A powerful antibiotic that kills some of the most dangerous drug-resistant bacteria in the world has been discovered using artificial intelligence. The Guardian reports: To find new antibiotics, the researchers first trained a "deep learning" algorithm to identify the sorts of molecules that kill bacteria. To do this, they fed the program information on the atomic and molecular features of nearly 2,500 drugs and natural compounds, and how well or not the substance blocked the growth of the bug E coli. Once the algorithm had learned what molecular features made for good antibiotics, the scientists set it working on a library of more than 6,000 compounds under investigation for treating various human diseases. Rather than looking for any potential antimicrobials, the algorithm focused on compounds that looked effective but unlike existing antibiotics. This boosted the chances that the drugs would work in radical new ways that bugs had yet to develop resistance to. Jonathan Stokes, the first author of the study, said it took a matter of hours for the algorithm to assess the compounds and come up with some promising antibiotics. One, which the researchers named "halicin" after Hal, the astronaut-bothering AI in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, looked particularly potent. Writing in the journal Cell, the researchers describe how they treated numerous drug-resistant infections with halicin, a compound that was originally developed to treat diabetes, but which fell by the wayside before it reached the clinic. Tests on bacteria collected from patients showed that halicin killed Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bug that causes TB, and strains of Enterobacteriaceae that are resistant to carbapenems, a group of antibiotics that are considered the last resort for such infections. Halicin also cleared C difficile and multidrug-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii infections in mice. Three days after being set loose on a database of about 1.5 billion compounds, the algorithm returned a shortlist of 23 potential antibiotics, of which two appear to be particularly potent. "[The senior researcher] now wants to use the algorithm to find antibiotics that are more selective in the bacteria they kill," adds The Guardian. "This would mean that taking the antibiotic kills only the bugs causing an infection, and not all the healthy bacteria that live in the gut. More ambitiously, the scientists aim to use the algorithm to design potent new antibiotics from scratch." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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How Blue Apron Became a Massive $2 Billion Disaster

news - Posted On:2020-02-20 22:44:58 Source: slashdot

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Observer: If you like to cook but not to shop or plan your own meals, and if you weren't too hungry, and if you didn't like cooking for too many friends, then Blue Apron -- the startup delivering precisely measured, prepackaged amounts of just enough salmon, green beans, butter and lemon for one meal, no leftovers -- was for you. Exactly who it was that was both upwardly mobile to pay for this service while also having a barren kitchen, nobody really knew -- but by the divine math of Silicon Valley gamblers, your existence made this an idea worth several billion dollars and potent enough to "disrupt" the grocery business. People actually believed this. Or they did until Jeff Bezos and Amazon went shopping and bought out Whole Foods. Or until HelloFresh launched. Or until Blue Apron spent millions on packaging and shipping, as well as marketing, literally gifting away boxes of neatly assorted ingredients to millennials who never ordered another box. All this conspired to, one-by-one, wreck Blue Apron's IPO, crater stock prices to all-time list lows, kick founders out of company leadership and now, at last, the seemingly undeniable, ultimate doom of the company. After losing another $23.7 million in the last three months of 2019, Blue Apron is laying off 240 workers and shutting down the shop at its Arlington, Texas warehouse location. Blue Apron will keep, for now, its California and New York assembly-and-distribution shops, while leaders ponder peddling what's left at a paltry $50 million price tag. Meanwhile, customers continue to desert Blue Apron, down to 351,000 in the last quarter of 2019, from 557,000 the year before. Selling off Blue Apron that low would mean a loss in the neighborhood of $143 million for Blue Apron's capital investors, including Fidelity and Goldman Sachs. That hurts, but as usual, retail investors took the worst hit. Stock-market playing rubes, who bought in when Blue Apron went public at $11 a share, have lost more than 80% on their investment -- and that represents a recovery. Shares were trading for $3.60 at the close on Wednesday, up from 2018 when Blue Apron was worth less than a dollar. There's no other analysis than this: Blue Apron was one of the biggest-ever Silicon Valley catastrophes, a mix of hubris, unrealistic expectations, a misunderstanding of how people exist in the world -- and, Amazon. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Report: 300 Oracle employees walk out over Ellison’s Trump fundraiser

Policy - Posted On:2020-02-20 21:44:59 Source: arstechnica

About 300 Oracle employees walked off the job on Thursday to protest founder and executive chairman Larry Ellison's decision to hold a fundraiser for President Donald Trump the previous evening, Bloomberg reports. It was a rare sign of dissent for a company known for its stodgy corporate culture. But the circumstances of the small-scale protest also suggest that Ellison has less reason to worry about future employee revolts than some of his fellow tech moguls.

"The protest, called No Ethics/No Work, involved about 300 employees walking out of their offices or stopping work at remote locations at noon local time and devoting the rest of the day to volunteering or civic engagement," Bloomberg reports. Bloomberg's source asked not to be named for fear of retaliation.

Oracle has more than 130,000 employees, so a walkout by 300 workers is hardly a serious threat to the company. Some employees, worried about retaliation from management, chose to give charities opposing Trump's agenda rather than participate in the walkout. Others took vacation time for their afternoon off. In short, Oracle employees took a less confrontational approach than employees at other tech giants, including Google and Amazon.

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Report: 300 Oracle employees walk out over CEO’s Trump fundraiser

Policy - Posted On:2020-02-20 21:30:02 Source: arstechnica

About 300 Oracle employees walked off the job on Thursday to protest CEO Larry Ellison's decision to hold a fundraiser for President Donald Trump the previous evening, Bloomberg reports. It was a rare sign of dissent for a company known for its stodgy corporate culture. But the circumstances of the small-scale protest also suggest that Ellison has less reason to worry about future employee revolts than some of his fellow tech moguls.

"The protest, called No Ethics/No Work, involved about 300 employees walking out of their offices or stopping work at remote locations at noon local time and devoting the rest of the day to volunteering or civic engagement," Bloomberg reports. Bloomberg's source asked not to be named for fear of retaliation.

Oracle has more than 130,000 employees, so a walkout by 300 workers is hardly a serious threat to the company. Some employees, worried about retaliation from management, chose to give charities opposing Trump's agenda rather than participate in the walkout. Others took vacation time for their afternoon off. In short, Oracle employees took a less confrontational approach than employees at other tech giants, including Google and Amazon.

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'Project Magnum': Flywheel's Alleged Plot To Steal Peloton's Technology

yro - Posted On:2020-02-20 21:14:59 Source: slashdot

em1ly writes: Spin bike maker Flywheel lost a patent lawsuit to rival company Peloton, announcing yesterday that it's shutting down. Motherboard uncovered some wild corporate espionage in the court documents: "At some point before the launch of FLY Anywhere, according to Peloton's lawyers, Flywheel launched 'Project Magnum,' an attempt to 'obtain as MUCH secret intel on Peloton as we can,' according to an improperly redacted document Peloton filed in court. 'Project Magnum was not some extemporaneous side-project [...] but rather a concerted, widespread effort,' one of Peloton's filings adds. But Project Magnum was, apparently, more haphazard than spy operation. Flywheel created a Google Doc to 'create tabs with the functional areas of info so that the team know[s] to keep adding to it,' one of the documents reads. Much of the conspiracy seems to have taken place over email, judging by discovery that Peloton obtained. Someone at Flywheel named the project after the Magnum PI television series, one of the court documents adds, although the filing does not include the individual's name. The filings do not go into detail on how Flywheel apparently tried to obtain Peloton's secrets, but they do include contours of the project. In a message seemingly written by a former Flywheel CTO who now works at Facebook, he wrote 'Villency could be useful in providing insight related to Project Magnum.' Eric Villency, and his company Villency Design Group, designed the Peloton and SoulCycle stationary bikes..." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Windows 10 Icons Are Getting An Overdue Redesign

technology - Posted On:2020-02-20 20:29:59 Source: slashdot

Microsoft is rolling out updates to the icons for Windows 10's core apps over the months ahead, starting with the Calendar and Mail apps in a new Release Preview for Windows Insiders in the Fast ring. Engadget reports: The company's design team explained that it wanted to break away from the flat, colorless icons you see today in favor of ones that are at once more consistent with newer branding (including apps available beyond Windows) and different enough that you'll have an easier time finding the one you want. This is arguably an overdue move. Microsoft hadn't really touched Windows 10's main icons since its debut in 2015, so they risked feeling old. There were also inconsistencies creeping in, especially once Office got its new look. This update drags Windows 10's appearance into the modern era, and might just give you a more colorful OS in the bargain. "Flat, monochrome icons look great in context of colorful tiles, but as more icon styles enter the ecosystem, this approach needs to evolve," reveals Christina Koehn, a design leader for Windows and Devices at Microsoft. "When icons in the taskbar and Start menu are different styles, it creates more cognitive load to scan and find applications. We needed to incorporate more visual cues into the icon design language using our modernized Fluent Design Language." You can read more about Microsoft's approach to updating the icons in Windows 10 in this Medium post. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Facebook Will Now Pay You For Your Voice Recordings

technology - Posted On:2020-02-20 20:14:58 Source: slashdot

After being caught listening to and transcribing voice recordings without informing customers, Facebook announced it will now offer to pay some users for voice recordings to help improve its speech recognition technology. The Verge reports: Facebook will let you make voice recordings as part of a new program called "Pronunciations" in its Viewpoints market research app. If you qualify to be part of the program, Facebook says you'll be able to record the phrase "Hey Portal" followed by the first name of a friend from your friends list. You'll be able to do this with the names of up to 10 friends, and you have to record each statement twice. Facebook won't be paying much for your recordings, though. If you complete one set of recordings, you get 200 points in the Viewpoints app -- and you can't cash out in the Viewpoints app until you earn at least 1,000 points. That only translates to a $5 reward via PayPal. However, Facebook says users may be offered the opportunity to make up to five sets of recordings, so there is the potential to meet that 1,000-point goal and get paid. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Should Facebook, Google Be Liable For User Posts?

technology - Posted On:2020-02-20 19:59:59 Source: slashdot

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday questioned whether Facebook, Google and other major online platforms still need the immunity from legal liability that has prevented them from being sued over material their users post. "No longer are tech companies the underdog upstarts. They have become titans," Barr said at a public meeting held by the Justice Department to examine the future of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. "Given this changing technological landscape, valid questions have been raised about whether Section 230's broad immunity is necessary at least in its current form," he said. Section 230 says online companies such as Facebook, Alphabet's Google and Twitter cannot be treated as the publisher or speaker of information they provide. This largely exempts them from liability involving content posted by users, although they can be held liable for content that violates criminal or intellectual property law. The increased size and power of online platforms has also left consumers with fewer options, and the lack of feasible alternatives is a relevant discussion, Barr said, adding that the Section 230 review came out of the Justice Department's broader look at potential anticompetitive practices at tech companies. Lawmakers from both major political parties have called for Congress to change Section 230 in ways that could expose tech companies to more lawsuits or significantly increase their costs. Barr said the department would not advocate a position at the meeting. But he hinted at the idea of allowing the U.S. government to take action against recalcitrant platforms, saying it was "questionable" whether Section 230 should prevent the American government from suing platforms when it is "acting to protect American citizens." The attorney general of Nebraska, Doug Peterson, noted that the law does not shield platforms from federal criminal prosecution; the immunity helps protect against civil claims or a state-level prosecution. Peterson said the exception should be widened to allow state-level action as well. Addressing the tech industry, he called it a "pretty simple solution" that would allow local officials "to clean up your industry instead of waiting for your industry to clean up itself." Matt Schruers, president of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, which counts Google and Facebook among its members, said such a solution would result in tech giants having to obey 50 separate sets of laws governing user content. He suggested law enforcement's energies might be better spent pursuing the millions of tips that the tech industry sent over every year, only a small fraction of which, he noted, resulted in investigations. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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New Mexico Sues Google for Mining Children's Data

Security - Posted On:2020-02-20 19:30:00 Source: bleepingcomputer

Google is facing a new lawsuit for allegedly using its Google for Education platform to gather the personal and private data from students under the age of thirteen. [...]

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A Group of Ex-NSA and Amazon Engineers Are Building a 'GitHub For Data'

technology - Posted On:2020-02-20 19:14:59 Source: slashdot

A group of engineers and developers with backgrounds from the National Security Agency, Google, and Amazon Web Services are working on Gretel, an early-stage startup that aims to help developers safely share and collaborate with sensitive data in real time. TechCrunch reports: It's not as niche of a problem as you might think, said Alex Watson, one of the co-founders. Developers can face this problem at any company, he said. Often, developers don't need full access to a bank of user data -- they just need a portion or a sample to work with. In many cases, developers could suffice with data that looks like real user data. "It starts with making data safe to share," Watson said. "There's all these really cool use cases that people have been able to do with data." He said companies like GitHub, a widely used source code sharing platform, helped to make source code accessible and collaboration easy. "But there's no GitHub equivalent for data," he said. And that's how Watson and his co-founders, John Myers, Ali Golshan and Laszlo Bock came up with Gretel. "We're building right now software that enables developers to automatically check out an anonymized version of the data set," said Watson. This so-called "synthetic data" is essentially artificial data that looks and works just like regular sensitive user data. Gretel uses machine learning to categorize the data -- like names, addresses and other customer identifiers -- and classify as many labels to the data as possible. Once that data is labeled, it can be applied access policies. Then, the platform applies differential privacy -- a technique used to anonymize vast amounts of data -- so that it's no longer tied to customer information. "It's an entirely fake data set that was generated by machine learning," said Watson. The startup has already raised $3.5 million in seed funding. "Gretel said it will charge customers based on consumption -- a similar structure to how Amazon prices access to its cloud computing services," adds TechCrunch. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Apple is considering letting users change default email, browser, music apps in iOS

Tech - Posted On:2020-02-20 18:44:59 Source: arstechnica

Apple is seriously considering the possibility of allowing users to change the default apps for Web browsing, mail, or music on their iPhones. The company might also allow users to listen to Spotify or other music streaming services besides Apple Music via Siri on the iPhone or on the HomePod smart speaker.

These revelations were outlined in a report by Bloomberg's Mark Gurman this morning, who cited multiple people familiar with Apple's internal plans.

While Apple's plans are not final, the changes could go into effect as soon as Apple's iOS 14 release later this year, which means they would likely be introduced during Apple's developer conference this June.

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One year later, the future of foldables remains uncertain

Hardware - Posted On:2020-02-20 18:30:00 Source: techcrunch

Yesterday, Samsung announced that the Galaxy Flip Z sold out online. What, precisely, that means, is hard to say, of course, without specific numbers from the company. But it’s probably enough to make the company bullish about its latest wade into the foldable waters, in the wake of last year’s Fold — let’s just say […]

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Morgan Stanley Buys E-Trade For $13 Billion

news - Posted On:2020-02-20 18:29:59 Source: slashdot

Morgan Stanley is buying E-Trade in a $13 billion deal that "will give a powerful Wall Street firm control of a major presence in the world of online brokerages," reports The New York Times. The deal highlights the tech-driven change felt in many markets, from the fixed-income market to the institutional market. Matthew Leising writes via Bloomberg: A report released Thursday by Greenwich Associates found an appetite for "new and better digital products and tools" among fixed-income investors is fueling competition at banks. Kevin McPartland, head of market structure and technology research at Greenwich, said the elimination of trading commissions by many firms including Charles Schwab Corp. has freed investors to choose a brokerage based on services alone. "A lot of it is based on the tools you provide to the end-user, and I'm not sure the institutional market is much different any more," he said in an interview. "Compute power is effectively limitless at this point." In earlier research, Greenwich asked investors how they choose a top-tier bank, and 18% of respondents said technology services like execution algorithms and analytics were a factor. Breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, machine learning and the ability to mine huge pools of data have radically changed investing, McPartland said. The E*Trade deal, announced Thursday, helps Morgan Stanley add clients who are less wealthy than its traditional customers, but a state-of-the-art platform for investors was another draw. Morgan Stanley Chief Executive Officer James Gorman cited E*Trade's "innovation in technology" as a reason for the acquisition, according to a statement. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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France Shuts Down Oldest Reactors, But Nuclear Power Still Reigns

hardware - Posted On:2020-02-20 18:00:00 Source: slashdot

An anonymous reader shares a report from Agence France-Presse (AFP): France will start closing its oldest atomic power plant on Saturday after 43 years in operation, the first in a series of reactor shutdowns but hardly a signal the country will reduce its reliance on nuclear energy anytime soon. Unplugging the two reactors at Fessenheim, along the Rhine near France's eastern border with Germany and Switzerland, became a key goal of anti-nuclear campaigners after the catastrophic meltdown at Fukushima in Japan in 2011. Experts have noted that construction and safety standards at Fessenheim, brought online in 1977, fall far short of those at Fukushima, with some warning that seismic and flooding risks in the Alsace region had been underestimated. Despite a pledge by ex-president Francois Hollande just months after Fukushima to close the plant, it was not until 2018 that President Emmanuel Macron's government gave the final green light. The first reactor will start being shut down on Saturday and the second on June 30, though it will be several months before they go cold and the used fuel can start to be removed. France will still be left with 56 pressurized water reactors at 18 nuclear power plants -- only the United States has more reactors, at 98 -- generating an unmatched 70 percent of its electricity needs. The government confirmed in January that it aims to shut down 12 more reactors nearing or exceeding their original 40-year age limit by 2035, when nuclear power should represent just 50 percent of its energy mix. But at the same time, state-owned energy giant EDF is racing to get its first next-generation reactor running at the Flamanville plant in 2022 -- 10 years behind schedule -- and more may be in the pipeline. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Quibi’s streaming service app launches in app stores for pre-order

Apps - Posted On:2020-02-20 17:45:01 Source: techcrunch

Quibi, the mobile-only streaming service from Jeffrey Katzenberg, is now open for pre-orders. The company declined to fully show off its app only a month ago during demos of its “TurnStyle” technology at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, but it appears the app is ready nonetheless. Quibi is now listed on both Apple’s […]

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PlayStation cites coronavirus, backs out of multiple major gaming expos [Updated]

Gaming & Culture - Posted On:2020-02-20 17:45:00 Source: arstechnica

Update, February 20: One day after Sony's PAX East cancellation, the company's PlayStation arm has now announced plans to skip a second major gaming expo, the Game Developers Conference, by citing the impact of coronavirus on its worldwide operations. Its exit from the March expo has company: Oculus, the virtual reality arm of Facebook, will also no longer attend GDC.

GamesIndustry.biz reported the pair of cancellations on Thursday with statements from both companies. Both statements revolve around concern for the health and safety of employees worldwide, while Oculus insists it will proceed as planned by posting GDC-timed announcements online and "host[ing] GDC partner meetings remotely" in the near future.

GDC's organizers posted a statement on Thursday assuring attendees that they're moving forward with the expo as planned, based on guidance from state and city health advisers. "We believe that, based on the strict US quarantine around coronavirus and a large number of enhanced on-site measures, we are able to execute a safe and successful event for our community," the statement said.

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Neanderthals may have interbred with a much older human lineage

Science - Posted On:2020-02-20 17:14:59 Source: arstechnica

Shortly before the publication of the first Neanderthal genome, a number of researchers had seen hints that there might be something strange lurking in the statistics of the human genome. The publication of the genome erased any doubts about these hints and provided a clear identity for the strangeness: a few percent of the bases in European and Asian populations came from our now-extinct relatives.

But what if we didn't have the certainty provided by the Neanderthal genome? That's the situation where we find ourselves now, as several studies have recently identified "ghost lineages"—hints of branches in the human family tree for which we have no DNA sequence but find their imprint on the genomes of populations alive today. The existence of these ghost lineages is based on statistical arguments, and so it is very dependent upon statistical methods and underlying assumptions, which means they're prone to being the subject of disagreement within the community that studies human evolution.

Now, researchers at the University of Utah are arguing they have evidence of a very old ghost lineage contributing to Neanderthals and Denisovans (and so, indirectly, possibly to us). This is undoubtedly going to be a claim that others in the field contest, in part because the evidence comes from an analysis that would also revise the dates of many key events in human evolution. But it's interesting to look at in light of how scientists deal with a question that may never be answered by definitive data.

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It’s the hosts versus the rest of humanity in new trailer for Westworld S3

Gaming & Culture - Posted On:2020-02-20 17:14:59 Source: arstechnica

It's been a long wait, but HBO just dropped a full trailer for the third season of Westworld, HBO's Emmy-award winning science fiction series. And it looks like we're in for another wild, mind-bending ride through multiple dystopian timelines.

(Warning: major spoilers for the first two seasons of Westworld below.)

The titular Westworld is one of six immersive theme parks owned and operated by a company called Delos Inc. The park is populated with a "cast" of very human-looking androids, called hosts. The park's well-heeled visitors can pretty much do whatever they like to the hosts and don't generally view the hosts as anything more than unfeeling props in their private dramas. But the hosts' creator/co-founder and park director of Westworld, Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), "awakens" a host named Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) to true sentience. S1 concluded with a bloody massacre, as the reprogrammed hosts rise up to take revenge on the guests. 

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Coronavirus Has Temporarily Reduced China's CO2 Emissions By a Quarter

slashdot - Posted On:2020-02-20 17:14:59 Source: slashdot

As China battles one of the most serious virus epidemics of the century, the impacts on the country's energy demand and emissions are only beginning to be felt. From a report: Electricity demand and industrial output remain far below their usual levels across a range of indicators, many of which are at their lowest two-week average in several years. These include: Coal use at power stations reporting daily data at a four-year low. Oil refinery operating rates in Shandong province at the lowest level since 2015. Output of key steel product lines at the lowest level for five years. Levels of NO2 air pollution over China down 36% on the same period last year. Domestic flights are down up to 70% compared to last month. All told, the measures to contain coronavirus have resulted in reductions of 15% to 40% in output across key industrial sectors. This is likely to have wiped out a quarter or more of the country's CO2 emissions over the past two weeks, the period when activity would normally have resumed after the Chinese new-year holiday. Over the same period in 2019, China released around 400m tonnes of CO2 (MtCO2), meaning the virus could have cut global emissions by 100MtCO2 to date. The key question is whether the impacts are sustained, or if they will be offset -- or even reversed -- by the government response to the crisis. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Former congressman confirms he offered to broker pardon for Assange

Biz & IT - Posted On:2020-02-20 16:30:00 Source: arstechnica

A former California congressman confirmed in an interview with Yahoo News' Michael Isikoff that he did offer to broker a pardon for Julian Assange in exchange for information that would exonerate Russia from the theft of emails from the Democratic National Committee and members of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign organization. Republican Dana Rohrabacher was seeking to prove that the emails were leaked by DNC staffer Seth Rich, who was murdered in July 2016—and were not the product of a hacking campaign by Russian intelligence organizations.

Rohrabacher, who lost his seat in 2018, was a long-time cheerleader in Washington for Russian President Vladimir Putin's government. Using information provided to him directly by the Kremlin, Rohrabacher personally promoted an effort to remove the name of Sergei Magnitsky from the Russia and Moldova Jackson–Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012, an anti-corruption law intended to sanction and punish officials involved in Magnitsky's imprisonment and death. (Magnitsky was a Russian tax lawyer murdered after he decided to testify against Russian Interior Ministry officials who had taken over the investment companies of his client and embezzled 5.4 billion rubles (about $230 million) from the Russian government himself.)

Rohrabacher is now a consultant to the cannabis industry. But in August 2017, while he was still a congressman, he visited Julian Assange at the Ecuadoran Embassy in London, with Assange's attorney present. He claimed his goal was to "prove" Seth Rich's involvement—an already widely debunked conspiracy theory—and disprove charges that would later take the form of an indictment of 12 officers of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian General Staff (GRU).

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