Mel Farr died from concussion-related disease seen in former NFL players, ESPN says

Mel Farr, a former Detroit Lions running back and owner of what was once the largest black-owned dealership group in the U.S., reportedly had Stage 3 chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) when he died in 2015 at age 70.

The condition, caused by repeated trauma to the head, has been a source of controversy in the NFL. A class-action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of former NFL players was settled by the league before a federal judge in 2015. The players charged that the league didn’t respond soon enough to mounting evidence on the long-term dangers associated with concussions suffered during football games.

Farr died Aug. 3, 2015. His family donated his brain and spinal cord to the Boston University School of Medicine, where it was confirmed Farr had Stage 3 CTE, ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” originally reported. CTE can only be confirmed after death. It also was the subject of the 2015 film Concussion, starring Will Smith.

A doctor told ESPN that Farr’s behavioral symptoms, along with memory loss and significant personality change, were consistent with a Stage 3 diagnosis. Additional symptoms of CTE include confusion, impaired judgment, aggression, depression, problems with impulse control and progressive dementia, among others.

Including Farr, of the 96 former NFL players who have died and been tested, 92 had confirmed cases of CTE, a Boston University CTE Center spokeswoman confirmed to Automotive News.

Farr retired from the NFL in 1973 because of knee and shoulder injuries. He rushed for 3,072 yards and scored 26 touchdowns in his 69 career games with the Lions. He also caught 146 passes for 1,374 yards to score10 additional touchdowns.

Then in 1975, Farr bought his first Ford dealership in suburban Detroit. He would go on to own 11 dealerships and build Mel Farr Automotive Group, the largest black-owned dealership in the nation.

He was known around town as “Mel Farr, Superstar,” a character he created for his TV commercials.

In 1998, his biggest year, Farr generated $568.4 million in total revenue and sold 9,297 new vehicles through his 13 franchises. Mel Farr Automotive Group was the first black-owned dealership group to hit the $500 million mark.

However, Farr started running into financial and legal trouble in the early 2000s and began selling his dealerships. By 2003, he had completely exited the new-car business.

He served as president of the Black Ford and Lincoln Mercury Dealers in 1994 and as chairman of the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers in 1991 and 1992.

Mel Farr died from concussion-related disease seen in former NFL players, report says

Mel Farr, a former Detroit Lions running back and owner of what was once the largest black-owned dealership group in the U.S., reportedly had Stage 3 chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) when he died in 2015 at age 70.

The condition, caused by repeated trauma to the head, has been a source of controversy in the NFL. A class-action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of former NFL players was settled by the league before a federal judge in 2015. The players charged that the league didn’t respond soon enough to mounting evidence on the long-term dangers associated with concussions suffered during football games.

Farr died Aug. 3, 2015. His family donated his brain and spinal cord to the Boston University School of Medicine, where it was confirmed Farr had Stage 3 CTE, ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” originally reported. CTE can only be confirmed after death. It also was the subject of the 2015 film Concussion, starring Will Smith.

A doctor told ESPN that Farr’s behavioral symptoms, along with memory loss and significant personality change, were consistent with a Stage 3 diagnosis. Additional symptoms of CTE include confusion, impaired judgment, aggression, depression, problems with impulse control and progressive dementia, among others.

Including Farr, of the 96 former NFL players who have died and been tested, 92 had confirmed cases of CTE, a Boston University CTE Center spokeswoman confirmed to Automotive News.

Farr retired from the NFL in 1973 because of knee and shoulder injuries. He rushed for 3,072 yards and scored 26 touchdowns in his 69 career games with the Lions. He also caught 146 passes for 1,374 yards to score10 additional touchdowns.

Then in 1975, Farr bought his first Ford dealership in suburban Detroit. He would go on to own 11 dealerships and build Mel Farr Automotive Group, the largest black-owned dealership in the nation.

He was known around town as “Mel Farr, Superstar,” a character he created for his TV commercials.

In 1998, his biggest year, Farr generated $568.4 million in total revenue and sold 9,297 new vehicles through his 13 franchises. Mel Farr Automotive Group was the first black-owned dealership group to hit the $500 million mark.

However, Farr started running into financial and legal trouble in the early 2000s and began selling his dealerships. By 2003, he had completely exited the new-car business.

He served as president of the Black Ford and Lincoln Mercury Dealers in 1994 and as chairman of the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers in 1991 and 1992.

Coen brothers, Peter Fonda take AMG on Super Bowl ride

Mercedes-Benz tapped Academy Award-winning filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen to guide the luxury brand’s fourth trip to the Super Bowl ad game.

The Mercedes-Benz ad, called “Easy Driver,” will air during the fourth quarter of the Feb. 5 Super Bowl. It commemorates this year’s 50th anniversary of the AMG performance sub-brand and shows off the Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster, which goes on sale in the U.S. this summer.

The storyline: A crew of aging bikers are hanging out in a desert bar filled with tributes to actor Peter Fonda and his 1969 road movie classic Easy Rider. Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild” plays on the jukebox. When their motorcycles are blocked in by the shiny new Mercedes-AMG roadster, they rush outside to see Fonda, their hero, stroll toward the car and compliment them by saying, “Nice rides.” He then gets in the high-performance GT C, starts it up and roars away.

Mercedes wanted to highlight the 50-year history of AMG, said Drew Slaven, vice president of marketing for Mercedes-Benz USA.

“The goal with the spot was to pay homage to the history that brought us to this point with something iconic but authentic that would resonate with people who have a passion for open-air driving, who live for the call of the road and who share a little of that rebellion from the norm,” Slaven said in a statement. “This film, which came out late in the ‘60s, as did AMG, was the perfect vehicle for a fast drive down memory lane.”

The ad was created by two agencies, Antoni of Berlin and Merkley+Partners of New York.

Mercedes last had a Super Bowl ad in 2015.

Click here for more coverage from Advertising Age, an affiliate of Automotive News.

Zoopla to buy Hometrack for £120m

Zoopla website

One of the UK’s leading online property sales websites, Zoopla, is going to buy the Hometrack website for £120m.

Hometrack provides information and data on the property market for both individual users and property professionals, especially property valuations.

Zoopla already owns the price comparison service, Uswitch, and the property sales website, Primelocation.

Alex Chesterman, boss of Zoopla, said he was “delighted” to buy Hometrack.

He described it as “the clear market leader in automatic valuation model (AVM) services in the UK and a leading player in Australia”.

“The deal will allow us to serve our consumers and partners even more effectively and gives us unrivalled data capabilities in the residential property market.

“Hometrack is a perfect fit to develop our data services business,” he added.

Hometrack was set up in 1999 and expanded into Australia in 2007.

Unlike Zoopla, which was launched in 2008 and which advertises properties for sale or to let on behalf of estate agents and landlords, Hometrack provides information for mortgage lenders, investors, home buyers and particularly automatic online valuations of individual properties.

The company says that 17 of the UK’s top mortgage lenders use its valuation services.

Hometrack employs only 55 staff in both the UK and Australia and will continue to operate as a separate business.

Its chief executive, Charlie Bryant, said: “We have had a long-standing relationship with Zoopla and share the same vision of using data to help our partners operate more effectively.”

Google boosts G Suite manageability with enterprise-grade security controls

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Google announced on Tuesday that it would be improving the G Suite with new security tools and controls to better protect sensitive data. Google announced the updates in a blog post, noting that the changes could offer the kind of visibility often expected by regulators and CTOs.

The new “enterprise-grade” controls exist in three parts: Security key enforcement for more access control, Data Loss Prevention (DLP) and S/MIME encryption across certain G Suite apps, and additional analytics capabilities.

When Google added two-step verification in 2011, it opened up the opportunity for administrators to opt-in to using security keys with company Google accounts, the post said. For those unfamiliar, security keys are physical devices that pair with a device wirelessly and authenticate a user through a Bluetooth or NFC connection. Now, G Suite administrators can limit login only to users who have a security key, the post said, while adding additional key management features and the ability to view usage reports.

SEE: Google Cloud ups encryption efforts with new key management service

DLP, which was introduced to Gmail in 2015, is now being extended to Google Drive, the post said. Much like DLP in Gmail, DLP for Google Drive will have easy-to-set-up rules, optical character recognition (OCR) image scanning, and the ability for admins to customize its use, the post said. The goal is to give admins better control over the sharing of confidential business information.

Google is also rolling out S/MIME encryption for Gmail to better protect potentially sensitive corporate data in emails. According to the post, allowing users to bring their own certificates could protect against other email services with more lax security standards. Administrators will have the ability to enforce S/MIME usage, while also being able to set DLP rules for individual business units.

To make it easier for organizations to glean insights from the data found in their Gmail logs, Google is also launching a BigQuery to improve analysis. Admins will be able to run queries, perform data analysis, and build dashboards to better understand the data, the post said. G Suite customers will also be able to more easily integrate third-party archiving solutions with Gmail.

The announcement follows a steady stream of security updates Google has made to its G Suite products. While G Suite has had the ability to be configured for HIPAA compliance, Google recently added new encryption key management features and MDM solutions as well.

According to its post, Google now claims more than 3 million businesses as customers of G Suite, including major Whirlpool, PWC, and Woolworths. If the company continues to target enterprise use cases in its updates, it could continue to grow that number.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. G Suite admins will now be able to use security key management to limit account access solely to users with a security key.
  2. Google Drive is getting new DLP updates, and Gmail will have S/MIME encryption to better protect against other email providers without advanced security tools.
  3. A new BigQuery integration with Gmail will give admins better insights into their Gmail log data.

Merkel rejects Trump adviser euro claim

Angela Merkel

The German Chancellor has rejected comments made by a Trump advisor that Germany uses an undervalued euro to exploit trading partners.

Peter Navarro, the head of Mr Trump’s National Trade Council, that the euro is a German currency in disguise.

But Mrs Merkel said Germany “has always called for the European Central Bank to pursue an independent policy”.

She added that Germany “will not influence the behaviour of the ECB”.

Mr Navarro told the Financial Times that talks over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the US were dead.

“A big obstacle to viewing TTIP as a bilateral deal is Germany, which continues to exploit other countries in the EU as well as the US with an ‘implicit Deutsche Mark’ that is grossly undervalued,” he told the Financial Times.

He added that there was a “structural imbalance” in trade.

Germany’s trade surplus powers a large chunk of its economy.

According to official figures from Destatis, in November 2016 Germany exported goods worth 108.5bn euros and imported goods to the value of 85.8bn euros – the highest monthly figures ever calculated both for exports and imports.

In response to Mr Navarro’s comments, Mrs Merkel said: “”Germany is a country that has always called for the European Central Bank to pursue an independent policy, just as the Bundesbank did that before the euro existed.”

“Because of that we will not influence the behaviour of the ECB. And as a result, I cannot and do not want to change the situation as it is,” she added.


Mr Trump has made trade one of the central planks of a proposed radical overhaul of the way the US interacts with the rest of the world.

He has outlined a number of protectionist trade policies with the stated intention of creating more US jobs, including threatening to scrap a number of existing free trade agreements.

He has suggested withdrawing the US from the World Trade Organization, and in his first week on the job .

China has also been singled out, and Mr Navarro has been a fierce critic of China.

Daimler, Uber agree to add self-driving Mercedes-Benz to fleet

SAN FRANCISCO — Uber Technologies Inc. has signed another deal with a major automaker as the popular ride service accelerates efforts to build out one of the world’s first fleets of autonomous vehicles.

Uber on Tuesday announced a partnership with Germany’s Daimler AG, maker of the luxury Mercedes-Benz cars and trucks. In the coming years, Daimler plans to incorporate its own self-driving Mercedes-Benz into Uber’s growing fleet of self-driving cars.

Uber did not offer a specific timeline. Daimler is the first auto company to join Uber as it opens up its platform for manufacturers to introduce their own self-driving cars.

Relationships with automakers are imperative to the San Francisco company’s self-driving car efforts. Although the ride-hailing service is pouring resources into developing autonomous technology — a key component of its business strategy to rely less on human drivers — it is not equipped to build the cars itself.

“Auto manufacturers like Daimler are crucial to our strategy because Uber has no experience making cars — and in fact, making cars is really hard,” Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said in a blog post.

Daimler CEO Zetsche has met with Kalanick several times in recent years and once described him as a “frenemy.” The two appeared together on stage at an event in Berlin in June 2016.

“As the inventor of the automobile, Daimler aims to be a leader in autonomous driving — one of the most fascinating aspects of reinventing mobility,” Zetsche said in a statement.

“Mobility service providers offer an ideal platform for autonomous driving technology and Uber is a leading mobility platform company. The real revolution in future mobility lies in intelligently linking the four major trends we call CASE: connectivity, autonomous driving, sharing and electric mobility. And we will certainly be the driver of these changes.”

Alliance benefits

Such alliances are increasingly common between automakers and startups, as more traditional vehicle manufacturers perceive Silicon Valley firms as threats to their industry.

Uber has self-driving car pilots available to riders in Pennsylvania and Arizona. The newest cars in those fleets are Volvos, the result of a $300 million deal between the two companies to develop autonomous cars together. The Volvos are equipped with self-driving technology created by Uber.

However, unlike the Volvo deal, Uber will not own or manage the Daimler cars, and it will not be involved in the r&d of the self-driving technology for those cars.

Rather, it is opening up its fleet to include Mercedes-Benz cars.

An Uber spokesman declined to comment on financial terms of the agreement.

Automotive News contributed to this report.

Windows 10 helps stop spread of ransomware, Microsoft security researcher says

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Windows 10 could help enterprises more quickly detect and stop the further spread of a ransomware infection, a recent Microsoft blog post said. The post, published Monday, claims that Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) helps businesses better understand early cases, and use that information to protect their network.

Much like a physical illness, catching a cybersecurity infection early is key to mitigating potential damage and avoiding complex problems. If a ransomware attack is perpetrated, there are steps that an enterprise can take to limit the complications.

“As attacks reach the post-breach or post-infection layer—when endpoint antimalware fails to stop a ransomware infection—enterprises can benefit from post-breach detection solutions that provide comprehensive artifact information and the ability to quickly pivot investigations using these artifacts,” the post said.

SEE: Cybersecurity spotlight: The ransomware battle (Tech Pro Research)

The research cited in the blog post said that some of the more prevalent families of ransomware campaigns can last for “days or even weeks, all the while employing similar files and techniques.” But, if the affected business can investigate what the blog called “patient zero,” or the initial infection, they can “effectively stop ransomware epidemics,” the post said.

That means if an antimalware tool fails to prevent the actual attack in the first place, Windows 10 should be able to prevent it from growing further and turning into an epidemic. It is able to do so because Windows Defender ATP can point out the original infections and work to help protect the network and stop the subsequent attacks, the post said.

The research looked specifically at a type of malware known as Cerber ransomware, which was particularly prevalent during the holiday season. During the test, Cerber ransomware was downloaded and, when it tried to launch a PowerShell command, it was detected by Windows Defender ATP.

“Windows Defender ATP also generated an alert when the PowerShell script connected to a TOR anonymization website through a public proxy to download an executable,” the post said. “Security operations center (SOC) personnel could use such alerts to get the source IP and block this IP address at the firewall, preventing other machines from downloading the executable.”

Additionally, Windows Defender ATP also generated alerts when the ransomware tried to delete system restore points and volume shadow copies. According to the post, more updates are coming that will enable “network isolation of compromised machines,” and the ability to “quarantine and prevent subsequent execution of files.”

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. According to Windows researchers, Windows 10 can help prevent a ransomware infection from turning into a full-on epidemic.
  2. Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) picks up artifact information from patient zero to understand the ransomware family and alert security professionals.
  3. Future updates will add quarantine capabilities and network isolation as well.

AI just beat the world’s 4 best poker players: What it means

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The Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh may not seem a likely setting for a major scientific breakthrough. But on Tuesday, it was: Libratus, an AI system developed by Carnegie Mellon University, beat the world’s top four human players in a 20-day tournament of Head’s-Up No-Limit Texas Hold’em poker.

Libratus, developed by Carnegie Mellon’s Tuomas Sandholm, a professor of computer science, and Noam Brown, a Ph.D. student in computer science, competed against Dong Kim, Jimmy Chou, Daniel McAulay, and Jason Les in a competition called “Brains Vs. Artificial Intelligence: Upping the Ante”—during which 120,000 hands were played.

“This is the last frontier,” said Sandholm during a press conference on Tuesday. “This is a landmark in AI game-playing.”

A key element of Libratus’s success was the program’s ability to improve after each day of play—learning from the human players. “After play ended each day, a meta-algorithm analyzed holes the pros had identified and exploited in Libratus’ strategy,” Sandholm said in a press release. “It then prioritized the holes and algorithmically patched the top three using the supercomputer each night.”

This is very different from how learning has been used in the past in poker, Sandholm said. “Typically researchers develop algorithms that try to exploit the opponent’s weaknesses,” he said in the release. “In contrast, here the daily improvement is about algorithmically fixing holes in our own strategy.”

The victory marks another important milestone in AI’s success in the game world. IBM’s Deep Blue beat world chess master Gary Kasparov in 1997 (Deep Blue, it should be noted, also originated at Carnegie Mellon University). And in March 2016, AlphaGo, Google DeepMind’s machine learning platform, achieved a massive AI victory, defeating world champ Lee Sedolinthe ancient Chinese game Go—a victory that came about a decade before most experts predicted. The victory was impressive because, unlike Deep Blue, which was programmed for chess, AlphaGo taught itself through reinforcement learning. And with 200 possible options per move, compared to 20 on a chessboard, Go is also a highly complex game that experts say depends on intuition.

Libratus’s victory is seen as a big achievement by AI experts because of poker’s unique challenge: Incomplete information.

While top human players have lost to computers at chess and Go, Vincent Conitzer, computer science professor at Duke University, sees this win as different. “I consider beating top human players in Heads-up No-limit Texas Hold’em to be quite a breakthrough,” he said. Poker, he said, is “a game of imperfect information.” This means it’s “more relevant to real-world strategic decision making, where usually nobody has the complete picture of everything going on, whether it is in business, politics, security, or even one’s social life,” said Conitzer.

Toby Walsh, AI professor at the University of New South Wales, echoed the point. “Poker is, in some ways, a greater challenge than chess or Go because it is a game of incomplete information,” said Walsh. “You don’t know what cards the other players have or what cards you or they will be dealt in the future. This means there are many more possibilities to consider than in chess or Go. There are also extra complexities due to betting and bluffing.”

SEE: Google DeepMind: The smart person’s guide

Roman Yampolskiy, director of the Cybersecurity Lab at the University of Louisville, said he also sees this as pointing to AI’s capabilities in other domains. Beyond a victory in games, “it is much more interesting in terms of what AI can do for us in the domain of business deals, war strategy and interstate negotiations,” he said.

It’s important to note, said Walsh, that we still don’t know exactly how Libratus works, although he expects it uses “good old fashioned AI techniques like game tree search, abstraction and game theoretic analysis.

“Progress in AI is not just about deep learning,” he added.

Walsh also noted that we shouldn’t “get carried away” by the victory. “AI hasn’t solved the game of poker,” he said. “Libratus was only playing two person poker. These techniques will struggle to cope with the much larger game tree when more players are playing. It is likely years yet before machines can play poker as well with more players.”

Also, “just as AlphaGo could only play Go, Libratus can only play a special type of poker,” said Walsh. “It has no sentience, no desires, no consciousness. It’s not going to wake up and decide it wants to do anything else than play poker. That’s not in its code. Liberatus is an idiot savant at poker. And to adapt these ideas to anything else is going to take person months or years of effort.”

“Nevertheless, it’s another step down the road to machines equaling and eventually surpassing humans at tasks we consider intelligent,” Walsh said.

Report: Spam and cloud attacks rising, 4 steps to protect your business

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Cyber attacks via cloud-based applications and spam are on the rise this year, according to Cisco’s 2017 Annual Cybersecurity Report, released Tuesday.

Some 27% of connected third-party cloud applications introduced by employees into enterprises in 2016 posed a high security risk, the report found.

And, after dropping to their lowest level in a decade in 2015, spam attacks are on the rise once again, Cisco stated. Today, nearly two-thirds of emails are spam, with 8-10% marked as malicious, according to the report. Spam’s resurgence is due in part to the rise of large and spreading botnets, the report said.

Why the rise in attacks? In part, it’s because enterprise security departments are growing in complexity: 65% of businesses surveyed use anywhere from six to more than 50 different security products, which increases the potential for security gaps, Cisco noted. In order to take advantage of these gaps, cybercriminals have increased “classic” attack vectors via adware and email spam to new levels.

SEE: Cybersecurity: Two-thirds of CIOs say threats increasing, cite growth of ransomware

Security breaches come at a high cost: More than one-third of businesses that experienced a security breach in 2016 reported customer, opportunity, and revenue loss of more than 20%.

Nearly 3,000 chief security officers (CSOs) and security operations leaders from 13 countries participated in the Cisco report.

Just 56% of security alerts are investigated, Cisco found, and less than half of legitimate alerts are remediated. Budget concerns, poor compatibility of systems, and a lack of trained talent were the largest barriers to advancing enterprise security, the CSOs reported. Indeed, 57% of businesses recently reported major issues finding and recruiting talented IT security staff.

The vast majority of organizations (90%) that experienced a cyber attack are working to improve threat defense technologies and processes, the report found. Common tactics include separating IT and security functions (38%), increasing security awareness training for employees (38%), and implementing risk mitigation techniques (37%).

To better prevent, detect, and mitigate threats, Cisco recommends the following tips:

1. Make security a business priority: Executive leadership must own and evangelize security and fund it as a priority.

2. Measure operational discipline: Review security practices, patch, and control access points to network systems, applications, functions, and data.

3. Test security effectiveness: Establish clear metrics. Use them to validate and improve security practices.

4. Adopt an integrated defense approach: Make integration and automation high on the list of assessment criteria to increase visibility, streamline interoperability, and reduce the time to detect and stop attacks. Security teams then can focus on investigating and resolving true threats.

“In 2017, cyber is business, and business is cyber—that requires a different conversation, and very different outcomes,” said John N. Stewart, Cisco’s senior vice president and chief security and trust officer, in a press release. “Relentless improvement is required and that should be measured via efficacy, cost, and well managed risk.”