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JD.com Chief Richard Liu Will Not Be Charged With Sexual Assault

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Richard Liu, the Chinese billionaire accused of rape nearly four months ago by a young Chinese student at the University of Minnesota, will not be charged with sexual assault, prosecutors in Minneapolis said on Friday.

The county attorney’s office said it did not find enough evidence to pursue a case against Mr. Liu, a 45-year-old internet tycoon who was arrested in the early morning of Sept. 1 but released within hours and allowed to return to China.

The decision could bring Mr. Liu, who founded and leads JD.com, back to a more visible role at his e-commerce behemoth. JD.com’s stock has slumped since the accusations were revealed, and Mr. Liu, whose Chinese name is Liu Qiangdong, has skipped several public engagements.

“As is the case in too many sexual assault incidents, it was a complicated situation,” Mike Freeman, the Hennepin County attorney, said in a statement. “It is also similar to other sexual assault cases with the suspect maintaining the sex was consensual.”

In a statement on Chinese social media, Mr. Liu said that he had been unable “to address the situation or defend myself” to “avoid interfering with the independent investigation.”

JD.com said in a statement that it was pleased with the decision. Jill Brisbois, Mr. Liu’s lawyer, reiterated in a statement her “strong belief from the very beginning that my client is innocent,” adding that “Mr. Liu’s reputation has been damaged like anyone falsely accused of a crime” because of “misinformation and speculation that has been widely circulated.”

Wil Florin, a lawyer for the woman, said he was considering bringing a civil case, adding that prosecutors had made their decision having never met or spoken with his client. Chuck Laszewski, a spokesman for the county attorney’s office, declined to comment on Mr. Florin’s claim.

Mr. Liu was arrested this year while taking courses at the University of Minnesota. On the night of Aug. 30, he and a group of fellow students in the academic program dined at a Japanese restaurant in Minneapolis. The occasion, involving some two dozen guests, was jovial. More than 30 bottles of wine had been brought in from a nearby liquor store.

Also present that evening was a 21-year-old woman, a Chinese student who was volunteering for the doctoral program. As she later told police, she had been invited to the dinner by another Chinese executive in the program, who asked her to sit next to Mr. Liu.

She told police that she got into a car with Mr. Liu after the dinner, and he began to touch her without her consent. She asked to be taken back to her apartment, where he forced himself upon her, despite her pleas, she told police.

But Ms. Brisbois, in an email, said the woman was being “flirtatious” in the car and agreed to the contact with Mr. Liu. Ms. Brisbois said that the woman invited Mr. Liu into her apartment building and that “what happened in the room was entirely consensual.”

“The woman was an active and willing participant and at no time did she indicate in any way that she did not consent,” Ms. Brisbois said. The following day, the woman sent text messages to friends saying that Mr. Liu had raped her.

Police were called to the apartment by a friend and fellow student, according to the county attorney’s office.

Ms. Brisbois said she spoke with the woman after Mr. Liu’s release, at the woman’s request. Over several phone calls and texts, the woman “made repeated demands for money, and threatened to make her allegations public and to sue Richard if her demands were not met,” Ms. Brisbois said.

Mr. Florin, the woman’s lawyer, said that a lawyer for Mr. Liu initiated contact with the woman about a settlement. Mr. Florin added that many of Ms. Brisbois’ descriptions of events are “directly contradicted by eyewitness testimony.”

The Minneapolis Police Department’s sex crimes unit conducted a “thorough investigation” into the case, the county attorney’s office said, followed by a “meticulous review” by four sexual assault prosecutors, a group of three men and one woman. They determined that “there were profound evidentiary problems which would have made it highly unlikely that any criminal charge could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Investigators reviewed surveillance video, text messages and witness statements. Among the evidence was footage from a body camera worn by an officer that recorded conversations between Mr. Liu and the woman at her apartment after police arrived.

The county attorney’s office declined to provide more detail, saying prosecutors “do not want to re-victimize the young woman.”

In his statement on social media, Mr. Liu apologized to his wife, Zhang Zetian, and said he felt “deep regret and remorse.”

“I will continue to try in every possible way to repair the impact on my family and to fulfill my responsibility as a husband,” he said.

In China, the incident exploded on social media. People scrutinized Minnesota police documents, speculated about whether Mr. Liu had been set up and pondered the glimpse they had gotten into the lives of the country’s ultrawealthy business elites.

JD.com is a proud emblem of China’s rising consumer class, and a major partner to global brands, like Adidas and Samsung, that use the platform. Walmart, Google and the Chinese internet conglomerate Tencent are all JD.com shareholders. And Mr. Liu is a celebrity tycoon whose rise from humble means to internet riches is the subject of many admiring books and television programs.

The company’s shares have lost around 60 percent of their value since early this year as it grappled with the accusations against Mr. Liu and slowing economic growth in China.

The company’s business has been under pressure recently. China’s economy is decelerating, and competition from rivals such as Alibaba has intensified. In November, JD.com said that its customer base had shrunk for the first time since the company went public in 2014. The retailer says it still serves more than 300 million shoppers.

The rape allegation against Mr. Liu has weighed on JD.com in part because he has never indicated who might succeed him as chief executive. Mr. Liu controls nearly 80 percent of shareholder votes at the company, thanks to a special class of stock with 20 times the voting power of regular shares.

As a result, the company’s board cannot make decisions without him present. Mr. Liu once told a television interviewer that his early experience running a failed restaurant taught him the need for an iron managerial grip.

That appears to be changing, a little. In a November conference call, Mr. Liu told analysts that he would focus more on strategy and new businesses at JD.com in the future, leaving more of the management of mature businesses to subordinates.

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Trudeau Government Should Turn to Sustainable Floor Heating In Its New Deal

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A consortium has been chosen by Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) to manage the $1.1-billion overhaul of five heating and cooling plants in the National Capital Region. However, this decision has been met with a lot of disapproval by the country’s largest federal public service union.

Early June, the department announced that Innovate Energy has been awarded the 30-year contract “to design, retrofit, maintain and operate the plants,”winning the bid over a rival group that included SNC-Lavalin.

Minister of Environment, Catherine McKenna, said the federal government was “leading by example” in its bid to drastically reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions across the country. McKenna noted that by supporting this project, they’re utilizing heating and cooling infrastructure to promote a more environmentally friendly option.

“We’re very proud that our government is working with partners like Innovate Energy to modernize this critical infrastructure,” she said during the announcement at one of the facilities that will be upgraded, the Cliff Heating and Cooling Plant in downtown Ottawa.

The plants would be known as the district energy system and would heat 80 buildings in the area with steam. It is also expected to cool 67 of these buildings with chilled water through more than 14 kilometres of underground pipes.

Under the Energy Services Acquisition Program, PSPC will be tasked with modernizing the outdated technology in the plants to lower emissions and supportgrowth in the eco-friendly technology sector.

During the first stage of the overhaul, the system would be converted from steam to low temperature hot water and then switched from steam to electric chillers—with the estimated completion date being 2025. PSPC notes that the project will reduce current emissions by 63 per cent, the equivalent of removing 14,000 non-eco-friendly cars off the road.

Afterwards, the natural gas powering the plant will then be replaced by carbon-neutral fuel sources, which according to estimated will reduce emissions by a further 28 per cent. The renovation project is bound to save the government an estimated fee of more than $750 million in heating and cooling costs in the next 40 years.

Furthermore, the implementation of radiant floor heating in Ottawa by the federal government would be an additional step in driving its agenda for a more eco-friendly state.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Savers website, radiant floor heating has a lot of benefits and advantages over alternate heat systems and can cut heating costs by 25 to 50 per cent.

“It is more efficient than baseboard heating and usually more efficient than forced-air heating because no energy is lost through ducts,” the website states.

Radiant floor heating provides an equal amount of heat throughout a building, including areas that are difficult to heat, such as rooms with vaulted ceilings, garages or bathrooms. Consideringit warms people and objects directly—controlling the direct heat loss of the occupant—radiant floor heating provides comfort at lower thermostat settings.

“Radiators and other forms of ‘point’ heating circulate heat inefficiently and hence need to run for longer periods to obtain comfort levels,” reports the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNet).

Radiant heating is a clean and healthy option—a perfect choice for those with severe allergies—as it doesn’t rely on circulating air, meaning there are no potentially irritating particles blowing around the room. Additionally, it is more energy efficient, aesthetically pleasing with wall radiators or floor registers and virtually noiseless when in operation.

“They draw cold air across the floor and send warm air up to the ceiling, where it then falls, heating the room from the top down, creating drafts and circulating dust and allergens.”

It is important for the leadership in Ottawa to equally drive the adoption of radiant floor heating as doing this would lead to increased usage in residential buildings—and even government-owned buildings.

However, in October, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), a representative body of employees of the plants,began a campaign target at the government against their decision to use a public-private partnership (P3) for the retrofitting project, citing concerns about costs and safety.

According to the union, outside employees won’t be bound to the same health and safety standards of government workers and that typically P3 projects cost a lot more than traditional public financing deals.

The union demands that the government scraps the proposed project and meet PSAC members and experts to brainstorm on a new way forward that would ensure federal employees continue to operate and maintain the plants.

However, parliamentary secretary to public services and procurement minister, Steve MacKinnon said that the union officials have consulted him but that after conducting an analysis, the P3 option was still the best for the job.

“We didn’t have (to) sacrifice on safety or health — we didn’t have to sacrifice on job security,” he said.

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Steps to becoming a Data Scientist

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Data science has become one of the most in-demand career paths in this century, according to Business Insider. With the amount of information being circulated online, it has created a huge demand for storing, interpreting and implementing big data for different purposes—hence the need for a data scientist.

Today, there too much information flying around for regular people to process efficiently and use. Therefore, it has become the responsibility of data scientists to collect, organize and analyze this data. Doing this helps various people, organizations, enterprise businesses and governments to manage, store and interpret this data for different purposes.

Though data scientists come from different educational backgrounds, a majority of them need to have a technical educational background. To pursue a career in data science, computer-related majors, graduations and post graduations in maths and statistics are quite useful.

Therefore, the steps to becoming a data scientist are quite straightforward.  After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in an IT related field—such as computer science, maths or physics—you can also further your education by obtaining a master’s degree in a data science or any other related field of study. With the necessary educational background, you can now search for a job and obtain the required experience in whichever filed you choose to invest your acquired skills.

Here are the necessary steps to be taken to become a data scientist.

Step 1: Obtain the necessary educational requirements

As earlier noted, different educational paths can still lead to a career in data science. However, it is impossible to begin a career in data science without obtaining a collegiate degree—as a four-year bachelor’s degree is really important. However, according to a report by Business Insider, over 73% of data scientist in existence today have a graduate degree and about 38% of them hold a Ph.D. Therefore, to rise above the crowd and get a high-end position in the field of data science, it is important to have a Master’s degree or a Ph.D.—and with various online data science masters program, obtaining one is quite easy.

Some institutions provide data science programs with courses that will equip students to analyze complex sets of data. These courses also involve a host of technical information about computers, statistics, data analysis techniques and many more. Completing these programs equips you with the necessary skills to function adequately as a data scientist.

Additionally, there are some technical—and computer-based degrees—that can aid you begin a career in data science. Some of them include studies in, Computer Science, Statistics, Social Science, Physics, Economics, Mathematics and Applied Math. These degrees will imbibe some important skills related to data science in you—namely, coding, experimenting, managing large amounts of data, solving quantitative problems and many others.

Step 2: Choose an area of specialization

There rarely exists an organization, agency or business today that doesn’t require the expertise of a data scientist. Hence, it is important that after acquiring the necessary education to start a career as a data scientist, you need to choose an area of specialization in the field you wish to work in.

Some of the specializations that exist in data science today include automotive, marketing, business, defence, sales, negotiation, insurance and many others.

Step 3: Kick start your career as a data scientist

After acquiring the necessary skills to become a data scientist, it is important to get a job in the filed and company of your choice where you can acquire some experience.

Many organizations offer valuable training to their data scientists and these pieces of training are typically centred around the specific internal systems and programs of an organization. Partaking in this training allows you learn some high-level analytical skills that were not taught during your various school programs—especially since data science is a constantly evolving field.

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Artificial intelligence pioneers win tech’s ‘Nobel Prize’

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Computers have become so smart during the past 20 years that people don’t think twice about chatting with digital assistants like Alexa and Siri or seeing their friends automatically tagged in Facebook pictures.

But making those quantum leaps from science fiction to reality required hard work from computer scientists like Yoshua Bengio, Geoffrey Hinton and Yann LeCun. The trio tapped into their own brainpower to make it possible for machines to learn like humans, a breakthrough now commonly known as “artificial intelligence,” or AI.

Their insights and persistence were rewarded Wednesday with the Turing Award, an honor that has become known as technology industry’s version of the Nobel Prize. It comes with a $1 million prize funded by Google, a company where AI has become part of its DNA.

The award marks the latest recognition of the instrumental role that artificial intelligence will likely play in redefining the relationship between humanity and technology in the decades ahead.

Artificial intelligence is now one of the fastest-growing areas in all of science and one of the most talked-about topics in society,” said Cherri Pancake, president of the Association for Computing Machinery, the group behind the Turing Award.

Although they have known each other for than 30 years, Bengio, Hinton and LeCun have mostly worked separately on technology known as neural networks. These are the electronic engines that power tasks such as facial and speech recognition, areas where computers have made enormous strides over the past decade. Such neural networks also are a critical component of robotic systems that are automating a wide range of other human activity, including driving.

Their belief in the power of neural networks was once mocked by their peers, Hinton said. No more. He now works at Google as a vice president and senior fellow while LeCun is chief AI scientist at Facebook. Bengio remains immersed in academia as a University of Montreal professor in addition to serving as scientific director at the Artificial Intelligence Institute in Quebec.

“For a long time, people thought what the three of us were doing was nonsense,” Hinton said in an interview with The Associated Press. “They thought we were very misguided and what we were doing was a very surprising thing for apparently intelligent people to waste their time on. My message to young researchers is, don’t be put off if everyone tells you what are doing is silly.” Now, some people are worried that the results of the researchers’ efforts might spiral out of control.

While the AI revolution is raising hopes that computers will make most people’s lives more convenient and enjoyable, it’s also stoking fears that humanity eventually will be living at the mercy of machines.

Bengio, Hinton and LeCun share some of those concerns especially the doomsday scenarios that envision AI technology developed into weapons systems that wipe out humanity.

But they are far more optimistic about the other prospects of AI empowering computers to deliver more accurate warnings about floods and earthquakes, for instance, or detecting health risks, such as cancer and heart attacks, far earlier than human doctors.

“One thing is very clear, the techniques that we developed can be used for an enormous amount of good affecting hundreds of millions of people,” Hinton said.

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