January 30, 2019

Scientists are now using artificial intelligence to help people who cannot speak.

Researchers at Columbia University's Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute are creating bots to translate brain signals into speech, per a study published Tuesday in Scientific Reports.

The researchers hope the AI technology can help people with speech disabilities, like someone recovering from a stroke, or someone with epilepsy or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a motor neuron disease that most notably affected the late Stephen Hawking.

Researchers are using a vocoder, a synthesizer that decodes speech after learning and listening to the speech patterns of humans, writes Gizmodo. Popular voice command systems like Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa also use this technology, says Nima Mesgarani, the paper's senior author. While the technology can't translate all of a person's imagined thoughts, it can translate patterns in brain signals to reconstruct words, rather than having a person select pre-programmed words from a system, as Hawking did.

"Our voices help connect us to our friends, family and the world around us, which is why losing the power of one's voice due to injury or disease is so devastating," said Mesgarani. "we have a potential way to restore that power. We've shown that, with the right technology, these people's thoughts could be decoded and understood by any listener."

In the study, patients listened to a person reading numbers 0-9 while researchers scanned their brains and the AI decoded it into speech. The AI software correctly picked up at least 75 percent of the patient's language, researchers found. Tatyana Bellamy-Walker

9:21 a.m.

House Democrats have announced they will proceed with articles of impeachment against President Trump.

In a Tuesday news conference, Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) announced his committee was introducing two articles of impeachment against Trump, one for abuse of power and one for obstructing Congress. "We do not take this decision lightly," Nadler said, but continued to say that Trump continually "endangers the Constitution, he endangers our democracy, and he endangers our national security," forcing the Democrats to act.

The six committee chairs leading the impeachment probe all joined House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on what she called "this solemn day," and she recalled the late Oversight Chair Elijah Cummings' contributions to the impeachment investigation. Then, Nadler laid out the charges against Trump, which notably didn't include the "bribery" allegation Democrats had been using in weeks before.

Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) then explained Trump's "simple and terrible" acts, both of which stemmed from attempt to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals. "In so doing he undermined our national security and jeopardized the integrity of our next election," Schiff said, adding that criticisms of the impeachment inquiry as rushed amount to one question: "Why don't you just let him cheat in one more election?"

The House will vote on advancing the articles as early as Wednesday, and with a Democratic majority, it's very likely to pass. The Senate Judiciary Committee will then vote on sending the articles to the whole Senate for a trial. The Senate seems well aware of this possibility, and has left its January calendar completely blank in anticipation. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:01 a.m.

President Trump is again lashing out at an FBI director.

This time, it's FBI Director Christopher Wray, who Trump publicly attacked on Twitter Tuesday morning following the release of the Department of Justice's inspector general report on the FBI's Trump-Russia investigation. The report found no evidence that the investigation was opened under "political bias or improper motivation," though there were some "significant errors" made.

Discussing the findings on Monday, Wray affirmed that "the investigation was opened with appropriate predication and authorization," although he noted there were instances where employees "failed to follow our policies."

Trump, who has insisted the investigation was politically biased, blasted the "current" FBI director in a Tuesday morning tweet, declaring he will "never be able to fix the FBI."

The Washington Post's Aaron Blake observed in response, "Not to read too much into the Trump tweet, but it seems conspicuous that he called Wray the 'current' FBI director?" The tweet immediately drew speculation that Trump may be considering firing Wray.

"Key phrase here is 'he will never be able to fix the FBI,' which sounds a lot like the language in a memo used to fire his predecessor," the Post's Devlin Barrett wrote, referring to former FBI Director James Comey, who Trump fired in 2017. Axios' Jonathan Swan reports Trump officials believe he "can't stomach the trouble of firing another FBI director," but "he would like to." Brendan Morrow

8:11 a.m.

President Trump is hosting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the White House on Tuesday afternoon, in Lavrov's second Oval Office meeting with Trump. Likely topics of conversation include nuclear weapons and, a senior U.S. official said, "the state of the bilateral relationship." The last time Lavrov visited Trump in the Oval Office, Trump had just fired FBI Director James Comey and reportedly bragged that the move relieved pressure on an investigation into his campaign's ties with Russia; he also divulged highly classified intelligence from Israel with Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Americans only learned about the meeting after Russia released photos.

This time, Lavrov's visit comes as House investigators unveil articles of impeachment against Trump tied to his withholding of anti-Russia military aid and a crucial White House visit from Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky at the same time he was asking Zelensky to announce investigations into Trump's Democratic rivals and a baseless conspiracy theory meant to absolve Russia of 2016 election interference. Zelensky still has not been invited to the White House.

"We didn’t pick this date to coincide with the process on Capitol Hill, but we can't allow the zaniness that's taking place on Capitol Hill to impact our job," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the conservative One America News Network on Monday. "We're not going to let that activity distract us from this important work." Peter Weber

8:05 a.m.

President Trump, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Avengers: Endgame produced some of 2019's most notable quotes, according to the editor of the Yale Book of Quotations.

Yale Law School's Fred Shapiro each year compiles a list of most notable quotes as an update to his book first published in 2006. Topping Shapiro's list for 2019, per The Associated Press, is "I would like you to do us a favor, though," said by Trump on his phone call with Ukraine's president that led to the impeachment inquiry.

A quote delivered by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate change activist who spoke at the United Nations in September, came in at number two, reading in part, "How dare you!" Number three was the closing statement of the late Rep. Elijah Cummings during the congressional testimony of Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen.

"When we're dancing with the angels, the question will be asked: 'In 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact?'" Cummings said. "'Did we stand on the sidelines and say nothing?'"

At number four is British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's declaration that he would rather be "dead in a ditch" than ask for another Brexit delay (which he ultimately did), while number five is Britain's Supreme Court's finding that Johnson's suspension of Parliament was "unlawful."

Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's statement that he "would have said so" if he was confident Trump "clearly did not commit a crime" was number six, while "I have a plan for that" from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was number seven. Another 2020 Democrat's quote occupies number eight: Biden's gaffe, "Poor kids are just as bright, just as talented, as white kids."

Finally, the list's last two quotes are Emma Watson's description of herself as "self-partnered," and the memorable line from Avengers: Endgame first said by Tony Stark's daughter: "I love you 3000." Read the full quotes at The Associated Press. Brendan Morrow

6:54 a.m.

At least six people are confirmed dead and eight more suspected dead after Monday's eruption of White Volcano, also called Whakaari, a private scenic reserve island about 30 miles off New Zealand's North Island. Police estimate that 47 people, mostly tourists from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Ovation of the Seas, were on the island when the volcano erupted, and about 30 survivors remain hospitalized with serious burns. Some of those hospitalized are not expected to live.

Russell Clark, a paramedic who flew in one of the helicopters trying to rescue survivors from White Island, compared the scene to something out of "the Chernobyl miniseries," telling TVNZ, "Everything was blanketed in ash."

Richard Arculus, an Australian National University volcanologist, told The Associated Press that the eruption probably wouldn't have just sent rock and ask flying into the air, but also blasted out in a vertical ring close to the ground. "In that crater, it would have been a terrible place to be," he said. "There would have been nowhere safe for you to be hiding."

Police say 24 of the people on the island during the eruption were Australian, nine were American, five were from New Zealand, four from Germany, two each from China and Britain, and one person from Malaysia. New Zealand's Deputy Police Commissioner John Tims initially said Tuesday that police were opening a criminal investigation into the deaths apart from health and safety inquiries, but police later said "it is too early to confirm whether there will also be a criminal investigation. Peter Weber

5:39 a.m.

On Friday, President Trump "went on a rant about deregulation," especially "environmental regulations that limit water use in the bathroom," Stephen Colbert said on Monday's Late Show. And he had a very memorable, very strange example involving prolific toilet-flushing. "People are flushing toilets 15 times?!?" Colbert asked. "What? Are they trying to get rid of a body?" He asked "who in the world needs to flush 15 times," then showed a photo of Trump's diet of choice: "Okay, yeah, that checks out."

"After confirming that he takes huge dumps and doesn't wash his hands," Colbert said, "Trump discussed the big shower in the sky," explaining what rain is.

Yes, Trump "claimed that 'people are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times,'" Seth Meyers said at Late Night. "Apparently it's harder than I thought to get rid of a wedding ring."

Trump's flushing comment "might top all of the things he's said," including "covfefe," Jimmy Kimmel said on Kimmel Live. "Fifteen times?!? What are you eating? The only time you flush a toilet 15 times is if the DEA is banging on your door and you have a kilo of cocaine up you." Apparently, "this is a big issue for anti-regulation conservatives, and Trump is embracing it," he added. "He even has a new campaign slogan: 'Drain the Toilet.'"

"Let's just assume that people are flushing their toilets 10 or 15 times," Jimmy Fallon said at The Tonight Show. "Does that mean that people are telling the president of the United States about their flushing habits, or Trump is asking about them?" Trump went on to attack modern light bulbs for making him look orange, he said, "which means there's a decent chance Trump might not know the difference between a light bulb and a mirror."

The Daily Show's Trevor Noah was more receptive to Trump's concern about lackluster toilets. "If Trump can solve that problem, he's getting four more years," he said, conceding that it's "crazy how Trump had so much more emotion talking about toilets than he does about most tragedies." Watch below. Peter Weber

4:07 a.m.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a 476-page report Monday detailing his conclusions about the FBI's investigation of Russian election interference and people associated with President Trump's 2016 campaign. The report had a little something for everyone, disclosing "significant inaccuracies and omissions" at the FBI but also dismantling Trump's accusations that the FBI investigated his campaign for political reasons, broke the law, and launched its investigations without sufficient legal or factual basis.

The reactions to Horowitz's report were mostly positive and wildly divergent.

FBI Director Christopher Wray emphasized to ABC News that he doesn't see any evidence that his agency "unfairly targeted the Trump campaign," but acknowledged the FBI's shortcomings and said he has proposed 40 corrective actions.

"I think it's important that the inspector general found that in this particular instance the investigation was opened with appropriate predication and authorization," Wray said, and without "political bias or improper motivations" in "opening the investigation or the decision to use certain investigative tools," including electronic surveillance.

Trump claimed Horowitz uncovered FBI malfeasance "far worse than what I ever thought possible" and said incorrectly that the report pointed to "an attempted overthrow" of his government. He suggested the "overthrow" might have succeeded if he hadn't taken certain unspecified actions, likely meaning his firing of FBI Director James Comey.

Comey claimed vindication in a Washington Post op-ed and on CNN Monday night. "On all the important things," the report "tells the truth," he said, and the truth is that Trump has been lying about the FBI for two years. "People have internalized the lies they've heard," including his mother-in-law, Comey said. "Good people believe when a president says something, so they've heard 'treason' and they've heard 'spying' and they've heard 'informants in the campaign' for two years," and "it's a risk we've become so numb to the lying that we just move on to the next outrage, and we can't do that."

Comey took responsibility for the errors uncovered in the report, but insisted they didn't affect the investigation and the FBI had no choice but to act: "The facts were there, and we should have been fired if we didn't follow up on the facts that we received in late July — and we followed up, as you know, quietly, we didn't reveal it to anyone, we didn't leak it to anyone." Peter Weber

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