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Tech News Today for June 13, 2017

Tech News for Tuesday June 13, 2017

Travis Kalanick, the CEO of Uber, is officially taking a leave of absense. In a note to emplyees sent Tuesday, Kalanick said he'll take the time away "to work on himself" and reflect on building a “world class leadership team.” The CEO will also be focusing on family after the tragic death of his mother in a recent boating accident. This decision, which Uber says Kalanick is making on his own, comes as the company is dealing with the ongoing fallout from reports of a toxic company culture rife with widespread sexual harrassment and corporate misbehavior. More than 20 people have been let go in connection to sexual harrasment at the company — two of the top execs below Kalanick's have left the company. The leave of absence is indefinite, so it's unknown when Kalanick will return. Read more at nytimes.com.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, in an interview with Bloomberg, said the company is working on what are essentially the brains of self-driving cars. Cook didn't explicitly say what Apple’s plans are or what sort of product would come of its efforts. But Cook said there are “three vectors of change” that are disrupting the auto industry— self-driving cars, electric cars, and ride-sharing. Apple is focusing on “autonomous systems" and said that the company sees it as "a core technology that we view as very important," "the mother of all AI projects" and “probably one of the most difficult AI projects to work on.” While Cook was a bit vague on what Apple is up to, and Apple's self-driving car tests and hires have been widely reported, Apple almost never speaks this early on projects that are so far away from being a consumer product. Read more at bloomberg.com.

Verizon has officially closed its $4.48 billion takeover of Yahoo. Marrisa Mayer has stepped down as Yahoo CEO. Yahoo will be combined with AOL, which Verizon bought for $4.4 billion in 2015. Together, the two will be structured as a new division of Verizon called "Oath." The Yahoo and AOL brands, however, will remain on Yahoo and AOL products. AOL CEO Tim Armstrong will be the CEO of Oath. Oath is expected to lay off about 2,100 employees, or 15% of its workforce. Mayer, a highly praised executive at Google, became the CEO of Yahoo 8 years ago, promising to turn Yahoo back into a major player in tech. That never panned out, but Mayer still made many shareholders happy. While Mayer was CEO, Yahoo's market cap rose from $18 billion to $51 billion. Read more at businessinsider.com.

The Russian cyberattack on the US electoral system during the last presidential election was much bigger than previously believed, according to a Bloomberg report. Russian hackers hit voter databases and software systems in a total of 39 states, twice as many as previously reported. In Illinois, investigators found evidence that Russian intruders tried to delete or alter voter data. The attacks took place in last summer and fall, and the scope and sophistication was so big that Obama administration officials reached out directly to the Kremlin in Moscow to complain about the meddling. And as a result, last fall, the Department of Homeland Security sent special teams to help states strengthen their cyber security efforts, and some states hired private security companies as well. Read more at bloomberg.com.

A 30-year-old man in Pakistan, Taimoor Raza, has been sentenced to death for committing blasphemy in posts on Facebook and WhatsApp, in a first for the country. Amnesty International says this is the "harshest handed down yet for a cyber-crime related offence." Raza inadvertently ended up in conversation with a government official on Facebook. Raza's brother told The Guardian: "My brother indulged in a sectarian debate on Facebook with a person, who we later come to know, was a [counterterrorism department] official." It's unclear exactly what Raza wrote in his posts, but Raza was charged under a law that outlaws insulting the Prophet Muhammad, punishable by death. Read more at theguardian.com.

Megan Morrone and Jason Howell are out today, so Nathan Olivarez-Giles and Fr. Robert Ballecer will be filling in. They'll be joined by Mike Murphy of Quartz to talk about Waymo killing off the adorable self-driving cars called "Fireflys." Tech News Today streams live weekdays at 4PM Pacific, 7PM Eastern at twit.tv/live. You can subscribe to the show and get it on-demand at twit.tv/tnt.

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