Spurrier returns to sideline, wins AAF opener
By FRED GOODALL
AP Sports Writer
Sunday, February 10
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The Head Ball Coach is back, lighting up the scoreboard and selling the Alliance of American Football.
And fans — at least those in Orlando, Florida, who showed up in the rain for Steve Spurrier’s debut in the new league Saturday night — are eager to buy.
The 73-year-old coach returned to the sideline for the first time since abruptly walking away from the college game in 2015, bringing along an entertaining style of offense that didn’t disappoint an announced crowd of 20,191 for the AAF opener between the Orlando Apollos and Atlanta Legends.
With a 52-man roster featuring 29 players from nine Florida colleges, there’s a local feel to the Apollos for fans of the hometown team.
It begins with Spurrier, who won the Heisman Trophy as a player at the University of Florida and later put together his best body of work as a coach at his alma mater, a mere 113 miles up the road in Gainesville.
And, there was just enough razzle-dazzle and imaginative play-calling in the Apollos’ 40-6 victory over the Legends to remind the faithful, who can buy season tickets for as little as $75, of the good old days.
“I think the fans had a good time,” said Spurrier, who improved to 6-0 in his first game with the six teams he coached. “They saw enough good plays, especially after the first quarter.”
It was a long night for Atlanta, which took the field barely a month after the sudden departure of coach Brad Childress and just days after the team decided ex-NFL quarterback Michael Vick would no longer hold the title of Legends offensive coordinator.
“We’re disappointed,” Legends coach Kevin Coyle said.
“I think Atlanta’s a pretty good team. Time will tell if they are,” Spurrier said. “Time will tell if we’re any good. It’s just one game.”
In the league’s other opener Saturday night, San Antonio topped San Diego 15-6.
On Sunday, Memphis is at Birmingham, and Salt Lake at Arizona.
Two hours before game-time between Orlando and Atlanta, traffic flowed freely and there were few visible signs that the league was about to make its debut at Spectrum Stadium on the campus of UCF, where the Apollos have chosen to play in a more intimate setting than the larger Citrus Bowl near downtown Orlando.
In stark contrast to the thousands who tailgate in a festive atmosphere before UCF games in the fall, only a smattering of fans mingled in a plaza near the 44,000-seat stadium on a cloudy and windy evening.
Rain sent some early arrivals scurrying for cover in concession areas beneath the stands and intermittent showers fell most of the night, contributing to some slipping and sliding and occasional sloppy play.
The weather even forced Spurrier to don a baseball cap instead of his signature visor.
“I think the rain deterred the crowd a little bit,” the coach said. “But 20,000 is pretty good.”
This isn’t the first time Spurrier has been part of a new league. His first head coaching job was a three-year stint in the mid-1980s with the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits.
He led Florida to a national championship in 1996, left the Gators five years later to coach the Washington Redskins for two seasons, then ended a long college career when he walked away from a decade-long stay at South Carolina six games into the 2015 season.
He smiled when he was asked about being unbeaten in his first game with six different teams.
“Even won with the Redskins,” he said, laughing. “That’s not easy to do.”
Japan’s Shoma Uno takes men’s title at Four Continents
By JOE REEDY
AP Sports Writer
Sunday, February 10
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Shoma Uno was the first skater in Saturday’s final group of the men’s free skate at the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships. He ended up executing a flawless program that no one was able to match.
The Japanese skater won the men’s title by successfully landing three quadruple jumps during his four-minute program, including one in combination. The 197.36 points was the highest score in an international competition this season.
The 2018 Olympic silver medalist — who was in fifth place after Thursday’s short program — posted a total of 289.12 points, which was nearly 16 points better than China’s Boyang Jin, who was the defending champion. American Vincent Zhou was third with 272.22 points.
Uno said earlier this week that he had reinjured his right ankle after winning Japan’s national championship in December. That didn’t stop him from keeping in three quads. The program, set to Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” began with a quad flip and quad toeloop, which earned a combined 25.75 points. Halfway into the program he had a quad toe loop-double toe loop combination (13.51 points) along with a triple axel-single euler-triple flip combination for 14.15 points.
He collapsed to the ice at the end of the program, which was more out of relief than elation.
“I think I was able to do everything I can,” Uno said. “There weren’t a lot of happy emotions when I collapsed, it was like ‘I really did it.’ I thought about how I was injured after Nationals and how I can bring my skating to the next level.”
Jin finished with 273.51 points but was frustrated with his free skate, which included one fewer quad than usual.
“I wanted to put on a better performance. My skating wasn’t that relaxed,” Jin said. “Two minutes before stepping on the ice, I decided to not do the quad salchow in my program and change some of the choreography.”
Zhou led after the short program but under rotated on a couple of his quad jumps during his free skate. He was fifth in the long program (172.04) but was still pleased to get on the podium.
“I’m proud of myself at this competition and I’m continuing that upward trend,” Zhou said.
Two other Americans finished in the top 10. Jason Brown was fifth (258.89 points) and Tomoki Hiwatashi was eighth (236.79).
Earlier, China’s Wenjing Sui and Cong Han edged Canada’s Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro by six-hundredths of a point to win the pairs competition
China’s Cheng Peng and Yang Jin were third. American pairs finished fourth through sixth, led by reigning national champions Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc. Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier were fifth, followed by 2018 Four Continents champions Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea.
More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Byron wins Daytona 500 pole, puts Hendrick up front again
By MARK LONG
AP Sports Writer
Monday, February 11
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — William Byron put Hendrick Motorsports in a familiar position: on the pole for the Daytona 500. His bigger goal is to make the starting spot pay dividends for the NASCAR powerhouse.
The 21-year-old Byron and 25-year-old teammate Alex Bowman locked in the front row for “The Great American Race” during qualifying laps Sunday at Daytona International Speedway. They comprise the youngest front row in Daytona 500 history.
The coveted starting spot hasn’t meant much for NASCAR’s season opener over the last two decades, though. The last Daytona 500 pole-sitter to win the race was Dale Jarrett in 2000.
The last four — Hendrick’s Jeff Gordon, Chase Elliott (twice) and Bowman — have failed to notch a top-10 finish.
“To have them on top of each other means the organization did a heck of a job,” Hendrick said. “This is the deal to sit on the pole at Daytona.”
Byron and Bowman edged the other two Hendrick drivers: seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and fan favorite Chase Elliott.
“That’s a pretty amazing feat, I feel,” said longtime Hendrick crew chief Chad Knaus, who is entering his first season with Byron after 18 years with Johnson.
Knaus and Johnson landed the Daytona 500 pole in their first race together in 2002. After splitting with Johnson at the end of last season, Knaus essentially repeated the feat with Byron.
“I think it’s huge,” Knaus said. “We’ve had a lot of late nights, a lot of long hours. The last time I came here with a new driver, we sat on the pole. This is really special for me.”
Byron reached a top speed of 194.304 mph in the final round of qualifying, nearly two-tenths of a second faster than Bowman (194.153).
“I thought we were going to be somewhere in the hunt,” Byron said. “I was excited to get down here and see what we had. It’s really cool.”
The rest of the 40-car lineup will be set by two qualifying races Thursday. Thirty-six of those spots are already filled because of NASCAR’s charter system.
Former Hendrick driver Casey Mears and Tyler Reddick secured two of the remaining spots in the Daytona 500. They posted the top speeds of the six drivers vying for four open spots in NASCAR’s season opener.
“I really feel like we’ll be able to be competitive,” Mears said. “I can tell you this: I’ve been at Daytona with a lot less and ran inside the top five.”
Joey Gase, Ryan Truex, Parker Kligerman and Brandan Gaughan likely will have to race their way into the 500 during the qualifying races. Two of them will make it, and the other two won’t.
Byron and his teammates will spend the week being lauded as the Daytona 500 favorites. They also will try to stay out of trouble in the qualifying races.
“We want to take care of the cars for sure,” Hendrick said. “We don’t want to put the cars in any unnecessary harm’s way. It’s kind of a two-edge sword on the front row. You don’t want to take a chance of tearing up a really good car, but you’ve got to figure out what to race.”
Hendrick has been outspoken about how difficult the 2018 season was on the organization, calling it one of the worst in team history.
The Hendrick cars were mediocre at best — Johnson failed to win for the first time in his Cup career — and it took 22 races for the organization to get its first victory. The final tally included three victories for Elliott and no drivers in the championship-deciding finale for the second consecutive year.
Hendrick responded by splitting up Johnson and Knaus, tasking Knaus with building another team around Byron. A new racing package in 2019 also should benefit Bowman and Byron because neither had much experience under the old rules.
For at least one day or maybe even a week, the moves are paying off.
“You work all these years coming down here and you want all the cars to run well,” Hendrick said. “And if you have one up front and a couple in the back, in the middle; but this is a tribute to our organization, the engine shop, the chassis, body shop, and the teams to come down here and run with four cars running that good. I can’t believe it.”
More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/apf-AutoRacing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Virginia lawmaker backs off fast track for impeachment bill
By ALAN SUDERMAN and BEN FINLEY
Monday, February 11
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A Virginia lawmaker on Monday backed off his plans to swiftly introduce an impeachment bill seeking the ouster of the state’s leading black elected official as Democrats struggled to address revelations of past racist behavior and allegations of sexual assault roiling its highest levels of office.
The effort to impeach Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax was prompted by the emergence of two women who accused him of sexual assault in the 2000s. Fairfax has vehemently denied the claims and called for authorities, including the FBI, to investigate.
Democratic Del. Patrick Hope tweeted early Monday that he got “an enormous amount of sincere and thoughtful feedback” from colleagues after circulating a draft of his impeachment bill, and that he sees that “additional conversations … need to take place before anything is filed.”
There’s been little sign of broad appetite for impeachment, with lawmakers set to finish this year’s session by the month’s end. But the Legislature is swirling with questions about lines of succession and the political fallout for Democrats should their governor, lieutenant governor or attorney general leave office, willingly or not.
Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring are still trying to regain their political standing after awkwardly acknowledging that they each once wore blackface as young men in the 1980s . Calls for Northam’s resignation raised the prospect of Fairfax taking over, which prompted his accusers to come forward.
All three scandals involve events that happened long before these leaders took office, but they’ve become a full-blown crisis for Democrats. The party counts on the support of black voters and has taken an almost zero-tolerance approach to sexual misconduct in the #MeToo era. A housecleaning could be costly: If all three resign, Republican state House Speaker Kirk Cox would become Virginia’s governor.
In an interview broadcast Monday, Northam provided a more complete explanation of his statements that set off this whole crisis following the discovery of a racist photo in his 1984 medical school yearbook. Northam initially said he was in the photo of a person wearing blackface next to another person in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe; then he denied it, while saying he did wear blackface to a dance party that same year.
Northam told “CBS This Morning” that he overreacted and mistakenly took responsibility for the picture because had never seen the image before, even though it was on his yearbook page.
“When you’re in a state of shock like I was, we don’t always think as clearly as we should,” said Northam, who worked for years as a pediatric neurologist before entering politics.
But “when I stepped back and looked at it, I just said I know it’s not me in the Klan outfit. And I started looking in the picture of the individual with blackface. I said that’s not me either,” he said.
His first lesson from all this, Northam said, was to understand what it means to be “born in white privilege.”
“I have also learned why the use of blackface is so offensive, and yes, I knew it in the past. But reality has really set in,” Northam said. “I’ve still got a lot to learn but this has been a week that has been very eye-opening for me.”
Northam also charted a path forward, saying he would dedicate the rest of his tenure to policies aimed at helping his black constituents.
“I really believe that things happen for a reason,” he said. “I will focus on race and equity. That’s something that, for the next three years, is going to be my commitment to Virginia. And I really think we can make impactful changes.”
Political considerations will be key to what comes next. Virginia is among a handful of states electing lawmakers this year, and Democrats had hoped to flip the Republican-controlled General Assembly.
It’s possible that lawmakers will launch some sort of investigation of Fairfax, even if impeachment isn’t immediately in the cards. Meredith Watson and Vanessa Tyson have accused him of sexual assault and offered to testify.
The Associated Press generally does not name people who say they are victims of sexual assault, but both women have come forward voluntarily.
Watson alleges Fairfax raped her while they were students at Duke University in 2000, her attorney said in a statement. Tyson, a California college professor, accused Fairfax of forcing her to perform oral sex on him at a Boston hotel in 2004.
Fairfax denies ever sexually assaulting anyone. He has made clear that he does not intend to immediately step down, and has urged authorities to investigate.
“Frankly, we really want any entity with comprehensive investigative power to thoroughly look into these accusations,” Fairfax spokeswoman Lauren Burke said. “There needs to be verification of basic facts about these allegations. It feels like something bigger is going on here.”
Some political observers noted that the threshold to start an impeachment process is remarkably high in the House of Delegates. The lawmakers are set to leave town before February ends, and have limited time and resources to immediately take on the complicated issue.
Still, “a clear sign of the depth of LG Fairfax’s political crisis is the near-absence of voices in Virginia politics this weekend publicly urging him to remain in office,” University of Mary Washington political science professor Stephen Farnsworth said in an email.
If the Legislature is in session, the House would need a simple majority to vote to impeach Fairfax, said A.E. Dick Howard, a University of Virginia law professor. The Senate would then review evidence and hear testimony. That chamber would need a two-thirds vote to convict among senators who are present.
Another possibility: Fairfax simply hangs on as he disputes the allegations.
“Before Donald Trump, I would say with this kind of stuff, it’s impossible for a person to just hang on, put their head down and ignore it,” said Quentin Kidd, a political science professor at Christopher Newport University. “Post-Donald Trump, I think what elected officials are willing to do has changed in some ways. So can he hang on? Certainly he can hang on.”
If Fairfax were to leave, it’s unclear who could replace him. Northam may try to appoint a Democrat, while Republicans could mount a legal challenge with the goal of getting Senate Pro Tem Steve Newman to serve as both a voting senator and temporary lieutenant governor.
The attorney general’s future also remains in question. Herring, who would become governor if both Northam and Fairfax leave office, initially made a forceful call for Northam to step down, but then he too acknowledged wearing blackface at a party in 1980. Herring has apologized but has not indicated he would resign.
Asked for his opinion on his subordinates, Northam told CBS it’s up to them to decide whether they want to stay. He said he supports Fairfax’s call for an investigation into the sexual assault allegations. Of Herring, he said that “just like me, he has grown.”
Finley reported from Norfolk, Virginia. Contributing to this report were Associated Press reporters Steve Helber in Chilhowie, Virginia; David McFadden in Baltimore; and Julie Pace and Michael Biesecker in Washington.
Most Americans don’t realize what companies can predict from their data
February 11, 2019
Author: Emilee Rader, Associate Professor of Media and Information, Michigan State University
Disclosure statement: Emilee Rader receives funding from the National Science Foundation.
Partners: Michigan State University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
Sixty-seven percent of smartphone users rely on Google Maps to help them get to where they are going quickly and efficiently.
A major of feature of Google Maps is its ability to predict how long different navigation routes will take. That’s possible because the mobile phone of each person using Google Maps sends data about its location and speed back to Google’s servers, where it is analyzed to generate new data about traffic conditions.
Information like this is useful for navigation. But the exact same data that is used to predict traffic patterns can also be used to predict other kinds of information – information people might not be comfortable with revealing.
For example, data about a mobile phone’s past location and movement patterns can be used to predict where a person lives, who their employer is, where they attend religious services and the age range of their children based on where they drop them off for school.
These predictions label who you are as a person and guess what you’re likely to do in the future. Research shows that people are largely unaware that these predictions are possible, and, if they do become aware of it, don’t like it. In my view, as someone who studies how predictive algorithms affect people’s privacy, that is a major problem for digital privacy in the U.S.
How is this all possible?
Every device that you use, every company you do business with, every online account you create or loyalty program you join, and even the government itself collects data about you.
The kinds of data they collect include things like your name, address, age, Social Security or driver’s license number, purchase transaction history, web browsing activity, voter registration information, whether you have children living with you or speak a foreign language, the photos you have posted to social media, the listing price of your home, whether you’ve recently had a life event like getting married, your credit score, what kind of car you drive, how much you spend on groceries, how much credit card debt you have and the location history from your mobile phone.
It doesn’t matter if these data sets were collected separately by different sources and don’t contain your name. It’s still easy to match them up according to other information about you that they contain.
For example, there are identifiers in public records databases, like your name and home address, that can be matched up with GPS location data from an app on your mobile phone. This allows a third party to link your home address with the location where you spend most of your evening and nighttime hours – presumably where you live. This means the app developer and its partners have access to your name, even if you didn’t directly give it to them.
In the U.S., the companies and platforms you interact with own the data they collect about you. This means they can legally sell this information to data brokers.
Data brokers are companies that are in the business of buying and selling data sets from a wide range of sources, including location data from many mobile phone carriers. Data brokers combine data to create detailed profiles of individual people, which they sell to other companies.
Combined data sets like this can be used to predict what you’ll want to buy in order to target ads. For example, a company that has purchased data about you can do things like connect your social media accounts and web browsing history with the route you take when you’re running errands and your purchase history at your local grocery store.
Employers use large data sets and predictive algorithms to make decisions about who to interview for jobs and predict who might quit. Police departments make lists of people who may be more likely to commit violent crimes. FICO, the same company that calculates credit scores, also calculates a “medication adherence score” that predicts who will stop taking their prescription medications.
How aware are people about this?
Even though people may be aware that their mobile phones have GPS and that their name and address are in a public records database somewhere, it’s far less likely that they realize how their data can be combined to make new predictions. That’s because privacy policies typically only include vague language about how data that’s collected will be used.
In a January survey, the Pew Internet and American Life project asked adult Facebook users in the U.S. about the predictions that Facebook makes about their personal traits, based on data collected by the platform and its partners. For example, Facebook assigns a “multicultural affinity” category to some users, guessing how similar they are to people from different race or ethnic backgrounds. This information is used to target ads.
The survey found that 74 percent of people did not know about these predictions. About half said they are not comfortable with Facebook predicting information like this.
In my research, I’ve found that people are only aware of predictions that are shown to them in an app’s user interface, and that makes sense given the reason they decided to use the app. For example, a 2017 study of fitness tracker users showed that people are aware that their tracker device collects their GPS location when they are exercising. But this doesn’t translate into awareness that the activity tracker company can predict where they live.
In another study, I found that Google Search users know that Google collects data about their search history, and Facebook users are aware that Facebook knows who their friends are. But people don’t know that their Facebook “likes” can be used to accurately predict their political party affiliation or sexual orientation.
What can be done about this?
Today’s internet largely relies on people managing their own digital privacy.
Companies ask people up front to consent to systems that collect data and make predictions about them. This approach would work well for managing privacy, if people refused to use services that have privacy policies they don’t like, and if companies wouldn’t violate their own privacy policies.
But research shows that nobody reads or understands those privacy policies. And, even when companies face consequences for breaking their privacy promises, it doesn’t stop them from doing it again.
Requiring users to consent without understanding how their data will be used also allows companies to shift the blame onto the user. If a user starts to feel like their data is being used in a way that they’re not actually comfortable with, they don’t have room to complain, because they consented, right?
In my view, there is no realistic way for users to be aware of the kinds of predictions that are possible. People naturally expect companies to use their data only in ways that are related to the reasons they had for interacting with the company or app in the first place. But companies usually aren’t legally required to restrict the ways they use people’s data to only things that users would expect.
One exception is Germany, where the Federal Cartel Office ruled on Feb. 7 that Facebook must specifically ask its users for permission to combine data collected about them on Facebook with data collected from third parties. The ruling also states that if people do not give their permission for this, they should still be able to use Facebook.
I believe that the U.S. needs stronger privacy-related regulation, so that companies will be more transparent and accountable to users about not just the data they collect, but also the kinds of predictions they’re generating by combining data from multiple sources.