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Washington Post Finds Itself in the Middle of the Jeff Bezos Story

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Jeff Bezos says owning The Washington Post is a “complexifier” for him. The newspaper could say the same about him.

The paper has flourished under Mr. Bezos’ ownership. Since he bought the newspaper in 2013 for $250 million, The Post has added over 200 people to its newsroom, which now numbers 900 journalists, and won plaudits and awards for its coverage of, among other subjects, the Trump administration. The paper has more than 1.5 million digital subscribers, and the business has been profitable for the past three years.

But the newsroom entered tricky editorial terrain last week when it became a factor in an apparent extortion attempt against Mr. Bezos, while also having to independently cover the events around its owner.

The drama featured a litany of classic tabloid elements that would challenge any newsroom — a marriage-busting affair documented by The National Enquirer, Hollywood agents with ties to political figures, secret rendezvous at high-end hotels and sexting — let alone one whose owner sits at the center of the controversy.

It was also a stark reminder that Mr. Bezos is a very public figure of great wealth and influence. He is the world’s richest person by dint of his command of Amazon, a company that is reaching further and further into the lives of everyday people, whether through its e-commerce business, its entertainment properties or its numerous warehouses around the country that employ hundreds of thousands.

His personal project, Blue Origin, describes its mission as “building a road to space so our children can build the future.”

With his blog post detailing his extortion allegations last week, Mr. Bezos has now also become a prominent commentator on the First Amendment. He said he was fighting back against alleged tactics that have no business in journalism, while The Enquirer claims he is merely trying to muzzle a publication because its coverage embarrassed him.

The editorial page of The Post clearly sides with its owner. On Friday, the day after Mr. Bezos published his blog post, the paper published an editorial praising him for exposing an “insidious model of intimidation and corruption masquerading as journalism.”

The overall situation will “test both Marty Baron and Jeff Bezos,” Kyle Pope, the editor and publisher of The Columbia Journalism Review, said in an email, referring to The Post’s executive editor. Mr. Bezos gets “good marks so far,” Mr. Pope said, but “the truth is that the rules of journalism are not baked into his bones; it’s something he’s going to have to learn, at a very stressful and trying time.”

Mr. Bezos did not respond to a request for comment.

The Washington Post declined to make Mr. Baron available for an interview but the paper did provide a statement from him.

“Jeff has never gotten involved in our reporting or our final stories,” he said. “People surmise that it must be difficult to cover Jeff and Amazon. But we’ve gone five and a half years with his ownership, and he hasn’t once intervened in any way.”

The clash between Mr. Bezos and The Enquirer began last month when the tabloid published an exposé of his extramarital affair with the television personality Lauren Sanchez. Mr. Bezos fought back in his remarkably revealing blog post on Medium, the online open platform. He accused David J. Pecker, the chairman of The Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc., of threatening through intermediaries to publish graphic photographs of Mr. Bezos if he did not publicly announce that The Enquirer’s reporting on his affair was not politically motivated.

The Post has traditionally focused on the nation’s capital, with not as many resources devoted to business coverage. That has started to change. The Post had previously said it would nearly double the number of journalists devoted to covering Silicon Valley to 25, including a reporter in Seattle who will focus on Amazon.

It also aggressively followed up on the revelation about Mr. Bezos’ private life.

The Post published a lengthy article on Feb. 5 about The Enquirer’s coverage of Mr. Bezos’ affair. It quoted Gavin de Becker, his longtime security chief, as saying the leak of evidence of Mr. Bezos’ infidelity to The Enquirer was “politically motivated,” designed to embarrass Mr. Bezos because he owns The Post. Mr. de Becker added that the effort could also involve figures from President Trump’s campaign.

Emails from American Media that Mr. Bezos included in his blog post referred to the Post article and demanded that he — and the newspaper — refrain from any statements or suggestions that politics played any part in its coverage of his affair with Ms. Sanchez.

Like other newspapers, including The New York Times, The Post ran front-page articles on Mr. Bezos and American Media on Friday and Saturday. Those were not the only articles about his interests. The paper also published a report about Amazon’s potentially pulling out of its agreement to build a headquarters in New York City, as well as one about a lawsuit filed against Amazon by the director Woody Allen, who said its streaming service had improperly backed out of a four-movie deal with him.

“I think they’ve finally woken up to the fact that their owner is a huge story,” said Mr. Pope, who has criticized the paper’s past coverage of Amazon as anemic. With the fight between Mr. Bezos and American Media, he said, “they’ve moved into an appropriately higher gear.”

Mr. Baron said the paper had not changed its approach to its coverage of Mr. Bezos or his business interests. Mr. Baron has said that he, along with other executives, talks with Mr. Bezos about “strategy” every two weeks or so, but that the discussions do not touch on the paper’s coverage. Mr. Bezos owns The Post separately from Amazon.

“Because I know full well that he won’t interfere, it’s not really difficult to cover him and Amazon at all,” Mr. Baron said in his statement. “In all the years of his ownership, there hasn’t been one report of his exerting influence, explicitly or implicitly, on our coverage.”

Frederick J. Ryan Jr., the publisher and chief executive of The Post, echoed those sentiments in a statement, and said Mr. Bezos had played no part in the editorial that praised his blog post.

“Jeff has always made it clear that he expects The Washington Post will act with complete independence, both in our news coverage and editorials, and treat him and his companies just as we would anyone else,” Mr. Ryan wrote. “We have never wavered from that position.”

Donald Graham, whose family had owned The Post for almost 80 years before he sold it to Mr. Bezos, said he was “delighted” by the editorial. “I agree with every word of it,” he said in an email.

He added, “Had they not editorialized, perhaps The Times would be doing a piece about the absence of such an editorial and what did that mean?”

Bill Grueskin, a Columbia University journalism professor and a former editor at The Wall Street Journal, said it should have been made clearer to readers that Mr. Bezos had nothing to do with the editorial.

“Readers deserve to know whether Bezos knew about the editorial in advance, or in any way contributed to discussions that led to it,” he said.

To show that the newspaper remains independent of its owner, The Post pointed to another editorial, from early last year. That editorial warned that cities should “proceed with caution, with their eyes at least as wide open as their wallets,” when bidding to be a location for Amazon’s second headquarters.

That has now become a major hometown story. Amazon recently announced that it would build a headquarters in nearby Arlington, Va., meaning it will be one of the largest employers in the region.

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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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