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Palantir targeted by campus activists for work with ICE

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When Palantir, a private tech company that provides data analysis services, came to recruit at Duke University’s campus in September, Cat Jeon stood next to the company’s table asking her peers, “Do you know they work with ICE?”

Jeon and other Duke students were there to make sure every student who was considering a job with the company knew that it worked with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to facilitate deportations, a role that has put the secretive and often overlooked tech company on the radar of many activists.

“The Palantir guy was pissed,” said Jeon, 21, who added that some students got out of line when informed of the company’s work.

Duke is just one of the university campuses where students and sometimes faculty have organized protests and attempted to hit Palantir in a sensitive place for any tech company: recruiting.

On Nov. 19, students at 16 universities in the United States and United Kingdom including Stanford, Georgia Tech, Yale, Oxford, Cambridge and the University of Chicago protested the company on campus. The protests are organized in large part due to the work of Mijente, a nonprofit group that works on behalf of the Latinx community and brought attention to Palantir with its “No Tech for ICE” campaign.

The campaign against Palantir, activists say, is meant to force people to choose a side when technology companies have long tried to fashion themselves as apolitical, creating what activists see as a long overdue conversation.

For Bonnie Fan, 27, a master’s student in public policy and data analytics at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, protesting Palantir’s presence on campus felt necessary.

“There was a lot of collective student outrage about it,” Fan said, adding she was aware of Mijente’s campaign on other campuses. “There was this sense that other campuses had protests against their recruitment and that we should do the same.”

Around the country, students have held teach-ins about Palantir, disrupted ethics workshops sponsored by the company, held rallies, distributed flyers, and developed ethics-in-technology reading guides for their peers, in an attempt to shed light on Palantir’s work with ICE and call the company out.

To Fan and her fellow protestors, Palantir represents “the ultimate example of tech and ethics gone wrong,” she said. They have called on Carnegie Mellon to end its relationship with Palantir, which the university has rejected, telling NBC News in a statement that it “values freedom of speech” and “supports both the rights of the students protesting and those who wish to consider employment with particular employers.”

Duke said it believes “students can and should be able to make their own choices about their future work.”

Though far less known than other tech giants, Palantir sits at the intersection of technological and cultural flashpoints including immigration, data collection and the government’s use of technology. Its work with ICE has made associating with the company toxic for some of its partners.

In June, a Berkeley conference on digital privacy that had been sponsored by the company since 2011 cut ties with Palantir, citing its work to enact family separation policy. In September, Lesbians Who Tech removed Palantir from its list of sponsors for its annual conference. The Grace Hopper Celebration, the largest conference of women in technology, followed suit shortly after, banning Palantir from its annual conference in October over concerns about the company’s values. That same month, protesters chanted outside Palantir CEO Alex Karp’s house on Halloween, saying nothing was “spookier” than working with ICE. (Activists said Karp’s trick-or-treating neighbors were supportive of their campaign).

Mijente’s message to Palantir has found particular traction on college campuses, where the government’s immigration policy has mobilized young people to fight for change. Liza Mamedov-Turchinsky, a student at the University of California at Berkeley, said she believes Palantir participates in human rights abuses.

“We don’t have any concentration camps in our area,” Mamedov-Turchinsky, a junior, said, referring to migrant detention centers. “But what we do have is Palantir.”

Professors Jeffrey Bokor and John Canny of Berkeley’s electrical engineering and computer science department said in a statement their program doesn’t restrict companies from coming to campus to accommodate the “diversity of views on corporate recruiting among students.”

Members of Mijente, who fought deportations long before Trump took office, said that ICE’s raids hinted at the use of more advanced technology. New tactics indicated ICE had begun to dig deeper into personal connections, such as showing up at the homes of relatives of immigrants who had no contact with immigration authorities.

“People were asking, ‘How are they finding us?'” said Jacinta Gonzalez, senior campaign director at Mijente.

Partnering with a corporate research firm, Mijente identified Palantir as one of the “primary brokers” enabling ICE’s agenda, Gonzalez said, a relationship that the company itself acknowledges.

Palantir has said it works with ICE to “combat human trafficking, locate terrorists, and convict drugs and arms traffickers.” Mijente has countered that the work is more insidious, providing the technology that facilitates the agency’s deportations and raids, including the arrest of almost 700 people in a single day in Mississippi.

Palantir did not return a request for comment for this article.

Mijente said they chose college campuses as one of the places to focus their campaign because Palantir needs graduates to come work for them, and it targets select universities for recruitment. Mijente decided to target those same schools, saying it was inspired by student protests during the Vietnam War, when students tried to stop Dow Chemical, the maker of napalm, from recruiting on campuses.

Gonzalez said Palantir hires students “without giving them a clear understanding of what their labor is being used to build.”

Efforts to turn tech workers against Palantir have shown some signs of success. The Washington Post reported that Palantir employees confronted the company’s chief executive over its ties to ICE, with 200 staffers signing a letter saying the work troubled them.

Competition among tech companies for top-tier talent is also famously competitive. Evan Pollock, managing partner of the recruiting firm Objective Paradigm, said that for some employees at Palantir or elsewhere, the moral questions raised by protests can be the final push needed to leave for another company, especially if they were already considering a move.

“My guess is that there’s probably more engineers than not who are against Palantir using their technology to push immigrants out of the U.S.,” Pollock said, adding that the protests may make a company like Palantir a target for tech rivals looking to poach talent.

Activists still have a ways to go. Charles Moore, who recruits tech executives and engineers as a managing partner at NextGen Global Executive Search, said less than 10 percent of potential job candidates ask questions about a potential employer’s social justice positions or willingness to accommodate employees’ views.

That widespread dispassion is why Mijente and students on their college campuses are focused so hard on educating their peers. Working for Palantir, they say, is not just a moral consideration, but a material one with serious consequences.

“These products can’t function if nobody is in the building to write the code and keep the lights on,” Mamedov-Turchinsky, the Berkeley student, said. “We need to hit them where it hurts, and ask our peers, ‘Which side of history do you want to stand on?'”

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HiTech Group Australia (ASX:HIT) Trading Up 0.8%

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HiTech Group Australia Limited (ASX:HIT)’s stock price traded up 0.8% during trading on Thursday . The stock traded as high as A$1.19 ($0.84) and last traded at A$1.19 ($0.84), 4,900 shares changed hands during mid-day trading. The stock had previously closed at A$1.18 ($0.84).

The stock has a market cap of $45.28 million and a price-to-earnings ratio of 15.66. The business’s 50 day moving average is A$1.12 and its 200 day moving average is A$1.07.

About HiTech Group Australia (ASX:HIT)

HiTech Group Australia Limited provides recruitment services for permanent and contract staff to the information and communications technology (ICT) industry in public and private sectors in Australia. Its permanent recruitment services comprise the search and selection of candidates for full time employment; and ICT contracting services include the provision of ICT professionals for temporary and other non-permanent staffing needs of clients for specific projects in system development, infrastructure support and cloud integration, operation, and other skill sets.

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New NASA mission will allow scientists to track rising seas from space

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Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are teaming up with European researchers to launch a mission that will probe the oceans’ depths over the next decade — and chart their inexorable rise.

The Sentinel-6/Jason-CS mission builds on four previous satellites that have circled the globe along the same path since 1992, carefully documenting the millimeter-by-millimeter changes in sea level fueled by greenhouse gas emissions. Over that time, they have found that the world’s oceans are rising at an increasingly rapid rate.

The rising waters have had some disastrous consequences, including the erosion of precious coastlines, contamination of agricultural land, more frequent and destructive high tides, and lost habitat for both humans and wildlife.

The Jason satellites, coupled with complementary readings from other NASA Earth-facing missions, have been essential to tracking these changes and dealing with their consequences, said R. Steven Nerem, a professor of aerospace engineering sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder and member of NASA’s Ocean Surface Topography Science Team.

“Without the satellites we’d be blind,” said Nerem, who has tracked sea level rise and its causes for decades. “It’s just very critical that we continue these missions because it’s the way we understand what’s going on.”

Earth’s oceans have swelled and shrunk for eons, but they’ve typically done so very gradually, rather than at the breakneck pace being recorded today.

Recent readings put the rate at roughly 4.5 millimeters per year, up from about 3 millimeters per year in 2005 and around 2 millimeters per year in 1993. Add it all up and the seas are now about 3 inches higher, on average, than they were a quarter-century ago.

The question the new Sentinel-6/Jason-CS mission will seek to answer is this: How much faster will the seas rise in the coming decade? And what will happen to Earth beyond then?

“Hundreds of millions of people around the Earth will be affected by sea level rise in the next 50 to 100 years, and our ability to measure how much of that is human-caused is really rooted in these satellites,” said JPL climate scientist Josh Willis, NASA’s project scientist for Jason-CS.

Since the dawn of the industrial age, humans have been emitting excess amounts of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases, causing Earth’s temperature to rise. Melting glaciers have added water to the oceans. The additional heat also causes water to expand, pushing sea levels up even higher.

Altogether, the oceans have absorbed more than 90% of the extra heat trapped by greenhouse gases, Willis said.

And since they cover more than two-thirds of Earth’s surface, the oceans are reshaping the planet.

“The oceans, in a really big way, are kind of our most important indicator of just how much humans have changed the climate since the start of the industrial revolution,” Willis said.

From an orbit 830 miles above Earth, Sentinel-6/Jason-CS will scan 95% of the planet’s ice-free oceans, gathering a new set of global data every 10 days. Its altimeter will bounce a radar signal off the water’s surface, measuring the time it takes for the signal to return and using that information to calculate the ocean’s height.

Other instruments will hone those readings by compensating for the atmosphere’s effect on the timing of these radar signals, and by helping keep track of the spacecraft’s precise position.

The first Sentinel spacecraft in a clean room in Germany. The satellite is scheduled to launch in November.

(IABG)

Beyond average sea level, the radar readings will provide a wealth of additional information for researchers, who can use them to determine heat changes in the upper ocean, the flow of ocean currents, wave heights and the speed of wind over the water.

The data may even shed light on much of the still-mysterious topography of the sea floor, said Eric Leuliette, the Jason program and project scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“As my colleagues here often point out, we’ve mapped Venus, the moon and Mars better than we’ve mapped the bottom of the ocean,” he said.

Jason data hits the ground running, Leuliette said. Within hours, it’s sent out to National Weather Service forecasters, whose predictions are used by ships for navigation and other maritime purposes. Within a day, it goes into models that help meteorologists make better predictions about large weather events. For example, the information Jason gathers on how much heat is stored beneath the ocean surface can help in forecasting the intensity of a hurricane, or the strength of an El Niño event.

Sentinel-6/Jason-CS is part of an international collaboration involving NASA, NOAA, the European Space Agency, the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) and France’s National Center for Space Studies (CNES).

The spacecraft will fly in the same orbit as its predecessors, to ensure an unbroken line of sea level readings. That consistency is key for predicting future sea level rise — and preparing for its consequences, Willis said.

Unlike prior missions, which involved only a single spacecraft, this one will employ two satellites, each with a primary mission of five years, said Parag Vaze, Jason’s project manager at JPL. The first is scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in November, and the second will follow in 2025, making it the most long-lived of the Jason missions to date.

Sentinel-6/Jason-CS will also meet a different end than its forebears, Vaze said.

In an effort to reduce the accumulation of space junk, the two satellites will be the first in the Jason line to execute a planned de-orbit once they complete their final tasks. Even as the older satellites continue to circle the globe, their younger brethren will burn up in the atmosphere as they plunge back toward Earth.





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Students should use technology constructively: Seer

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At a time when technology has become an integral part of human life, students should make conscious efforts to make use of it for postive and constructive works, Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru of Brihan Mutt, Chitradurga, has said.

He was interacting with students of G.H. College at Hosa Mutt in Haveri on Saturday, in a personality development programme, organised as part of the ‘Sharana Samskruti Utsava’, to commemorate Nighantina Siddhabasava Murugharajendra Swami, and Murughendra Mahashivayogi.

The seer said that it was natural that young minds get easily attracted towards technology. “However what is important is how one uses it. You should make use of technology for constructive works, for developing your personality, rather than for negative works. Constructive use will always lead to a better life,” he told the students.

Emphasising on the need for imbibing values in one’s life, the seer said that good thoughts will help in building one’s life, while bad thoughts would destroy it.

Pointing out that several students suffered from a lack of concentration, the seer said that educational institutions should help such students through confidence-building measures, and encouragement.

Several students sought to know the methods to avoid the fear of examinations.

They also sought to know ways to develop concerntration and raised queries about their dilemma and how to build their lives.

The seer answered their queries and gave them tips on building a better life.

Basava Shanthalinga Swami of Hosa Mutt said that the utsav was not just limited to religious activities and fairs but also focussed on efforts towards dissemination of knowledge and making people think.

Principal of the College M.S. Yaragoppa, president of the utsav samiti Basavaraj Veerapur, vice-president Shridhar Doddamani, and others were present.

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