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Sony is building an A.I.-based taxi and ride hailing system in Japan

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Sony Corp said on Tuesday it would become the latest blue-chip firm to jockey for position in Japan’s taxi and ride-hailing market, with plans for a joint venture to develop an artificial intelligence (AI)-based hailing system.

Japan is seen as a potentially lucrative ride-hailing market, with regulators under pressure to ease stringent rules.

Currently, non-professional drivers are barred from offering taxi services on safety grounds, and ride-hailing companies are limited to services that “match” users to existing taxi fleets via mobile platforms.

Sony plans to build the AI-based hailing platform with Daiwa Motor Transportation and five other domestic taxi firms.

This month, SoftBank Group Corp and China’s Didi Chuxing said they would roll out a venture in Japan this year to provide matching services.

Toyota Motor Corp has said it will take a stake in taxi-hailing service JapanTaxi, set up by Japan’s largest taxi firm, Nihon Kotsu.

Uber’s new chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, is in Tokyo meeting regulators.

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Source code is being auctioned by inventor Tim Berners-Lee

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Sir Tim Berners-Lee gives a speech at the Campus Party Italia 2019 on July 25, 2019 in Milan, Italy.

Rosdiana Ciaravolo | Getty Images

LONDON — British computer scientist and inventor Tim Berners-Lee is auctioning the original code for the world wide web as a non-fungible token.

NFTs are a type of digital asset designed to show that someone has ownership of a unique virtual item, such as online pictures and videos, or even sports trading cards.

The auction for the world wide web NFT — titled “This Changed Everything” — will be run by Sotheby’s in London from June 23-30, with bidding starting at $1,000. The proceeds of the auction will benefit initiatives that Berners-Lee and his wife support, Sotheby’s said.

The NFT includes original time-stamped files containing the source code written by Berners-Lee, an animated visualization of the code, a letter written by Berners-Lee on the code and its creation, and a digital “poster” of the full code. They will all be digitally signed by Berners-Lee.

It will be the first time Berners-Lee has been able to capitalize financially on what is widely viewed as one of the greatest inventions of our time.

“Three decades ago, I created something which, with the subsequent help of a huge number of collaborators across the world, has been a powerful tool for humanity,” said Berners-Lee in a statement. “For me, the best bit about the web has been the spirit of collaboration. While I do not make predictions about the future, I sincerely hope its use, knowledge and potential will remain open and available to us all to continue to innovate, create and initiate the next technological transformation, that we cannot yet imagine.”

He added: “NFTs, be they artworks or a digital artefact like this, are the latest playful creations in this realm, and the most appropriate means of ownership that exists. They are the ideal way to package the origins behind the web.”

Cassandra Hatton, global head of science and popular culture at Sotheby’s, said in a statement that the “NFT format” will allow collectors to “own the ultimate digitally-born artefact.”

In March, South Carolina-based graphic designer Beeple, whose real name is Mike Winkelmann, sold an NFT for a record $69 million at a Christie’s auction. Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, sold his first tweet as an NFT for $2.9 million later that month.

More recently, a rare digital avatar known as a CryptoPunk sold at Sotheby’s for over $11.7 million on Thursday. Total NFT sales reached an eye-watering $2 billion in the first quarter of this year, according to data from Nonfungible, a website which tracks the market.

But there are signs that the bubble could be bursting, with sales of digital collectibles falling dramatically in recent weeks. Overall sales plunged from a seven-day peak of $176 million on May 9, to just $8.7 million on June 15, according to numbers from Nonfungible. That means volumes are now roughly back where they were at the start of 2021.

— Additional reporting by CNBC’s Ryan Browne.

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What you need to know

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President Joe Biden (L) and President Vladimir Putin.

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When U.S. President Joe Biden meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva on Wednesday it will be one of the most closely watched pieces of geopolitical theater this year.

Biden’s summit with Putin in Switzerland, chosen for its history of political neutrality, will not be the first time the two have met. But it will be their first meeting since Biden became U.S. president, the so-called leader of the free world.

The Biden-Putin summit is expected to strike a different tone than the meeting that took place in July 2018 between then-President Donald Trump and Putin. Trump insisted that the two leaders meet at the beginning of the summit without any aides present — stirring concerns that the former KGB officer would outflank his American counterpart.

This week’s meeting between Biden and Putin comes on the heels of Biden’s first international trip as president, where he reaffirmed alliances with G-7 leaders and NATO allies. At NATO’s headquarters, Biden told reporters that he consulted with other world leaders in the days ahead of his meeting with Putin.

“Every world leader here, most of them mentioned it [the upcoming summit] and thanked me for meeting with Putin,” Biden said Monday.

“I had discussions with them about what they thought was important from their perspective and what they thought was not important,” he said, adding that his counterparts appreciated his transparency and coordination.

On Tuesday, a Kremlin aide said nuclear stability, climate change and cybersecurity were on the agenda for the summit, Reuters reported, as well as the outlook for Russian and U.S. nationals imprisoned in each other’s countries.

Nonetheless, the aide said he was not sure any agreements could be reached.

US President Joe Biden speaks during a press conference after the NATO summit at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) headquarters in Brussels, on June 14, 2021.

Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images

Navalny’s imprisonment

A still image taken from video footage shows Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is accused of flouting the terms of a suspended sentence for embezzlement, during the announcement of a court verdict in Moscow, Russia February 2, 2021.

Simonovsky District Court | via Reuters

Hacking concerns

Biden is also expected to raise concerns over a series of ransomware attacks and other cybersecurity concerns with Putin.

Last month, a hacking group known as DarkSide with suspected ties to Russian criminals launched a ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline, forcing the U.S. company to shut down approximately 5,500 miles of pipeline. It led to a disruption of nearly half of the East Coast’s fuel supply and caused gasoline shortages in the Southeast.

Gas pumps are roped off with a tape indicating a lack of gasoline at a gas station in Washington, U.S., May 14, 2021.

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

Ransomware attacks involve malware that encrypts files on a device or network causing the system to become inoperable. Criminals behind these types of cyberattacks typically demand a ransom in exchange for the release of data.

Speaking after the DarkSide attack, Biden told reporters: “So far there is no evidence from our intelligence people that Russia is involved although there is evidence that the actor’s ransomware is in Russia, they have some responsibility to deal with this.” He added that he would discuss the situation with Putin.

The Kremlin has denied claims that it has launched cyberattacks against the United States.

In April, Washington slapped more sanctions on Russia for human rights abuses, sweeping cyberattacks and attempts to influence U.S. elections. The Biden administration also expelled 10 officials from Russia’s diplomatic mission in the United States.

Moscow has denied the U.S.’ allegations and described the latest moves by the White House as a blow to bilateral relations.

In response to the U.S. action, Russia expelled 10 U.S. diplomats from the American Embassy in Moscow and sanctioned eight senior U.S. administration officials, including FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines.

Meanwhile, the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project remains a bone of contention between the U.S. and Russia (and indeed, Europe), with Biden thoroughly opposed to the almost-finished project.

No breakthrough moments?

In sum, there’s a lot for the U.S. and Russia to work through, but experts hold little hope of there being any “breakthrough” moments in Putin and Biden’s talks.

Fabrice Pothier, chief strategy officer at Rasmussen Global, told CNBC on Tuesday that Biden “hadn’t set the bar very high” when it came to the forthcoming summit.

“Concrete outcomes? I don’t think so,” Pothier noted.

Meanwhile, Chris Weafer, CEO of the Moscow-based consultancy firm Macro-Advisory, said that “expectations are low for any breakthrough” and that the phrase commonly used to describe expectations “is a hoped-for return to ‘predictable strategic stability’.”

Weafer noted that there was an expectation in Russia that the U.S. will bring more sanctions against the country, but that “the hope is that these will be relatively mild and inconsequential for the economy and for multinationals in Russia.”

Despite there being little expectation of anything beyond cooperation in strategic areas, such as nuclear weapons control, Weafer said he believed the main positive outcome from the summit would be that Russia removes the U.S. from its list of “unfriendly” states (i.e. those deemed to have carried out “unfriendly actions” against Russia, its nationals or companies).

“That would allow for a return to normal of respective embassy and consulate staffing as well as political and diplomatic engagement,” Weafer added.

‘Framework for future ties’

Andrius Tursa, Central and Eastern Europe advisor at Teneo Intelligence, agreed that while the summit “is unlikely to bring any breakthroughs in bilateral relations … symbolic confidence re-building agreements are possible.”

He expected more of a “framework for future ties” to be outlined more than anything else.

“The summit – initiated by the U.S. – likely aims to re-establish personal ties between the two presidents and sketch a wider framework for conducting bilateral relations during the Biden presidency,” Tursa said in a note Tuesday.

While both sides have an interest in having a more stable and predictable relationship in certain areas of global diplomacy, such as deepening agreements over arms control and tackling climate change, expectations for this initial meeting should be more muted, Tursa said.

“Strategic stability is one area where both sides could seek greater cooperation,” he said.

“In recent years, both countries have withdrawn from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and the Open Skies Treaty, which lowers transparency and heightens risks. Even though Moscow and Washington extended the New START Treaty until February 2026 earlier this year, it does not cover a range of modern weapons systems as well as emerging nuclear powers such as China. However, given the significance and complexity of the issue, it might be too optimistic to expect any quick progress in this area.”

He highlighted that both sides had also mentioned climate change, cyberterrorism, the coronavirus pandemic and various regional conflicts as other potential topics of discussion.

“As with strategic stability, no quick breakthroughs should be expected in either of those areas. In fact, even small confidence-rebuilding steps between the two countries – such as the proposed exchange of cyber-criminals or a partial reset of diplomatic relations – would be a success,” Tursa added.

– CNBC’s Holly Ellyatt reported from London. Amanda Macias reported from Washington.

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Reality Winner, who leaked Russia intel to The Intercept, released from prison

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Reality Winner exits the Augusta Courthouse June 8, 2017 in Augusta, Georgia. Winner is an intelligence industry contractor accused of leaking National Security Agency (NSA) documents.

Sean Rayford | Getty Images

Reality Winner, a former Air Force linguist who pleaded guilty in 2018 to leaking an intelligence report about Russian interference in the 2016 election, has been released from prison, her attorney said Monday.

“I am thrilled to announce that Reality Winner has been released from prison,” Alison Grinter Allen wrote in a post on Twitter. “She is still in custody in the residential reentry process, but we are relieved and hopeful.”

A Bureau of Prisons website says that Winner is currently located at a reentry facility in San Antonio. Her release date from the facility is listed as Nov. 23, 2021.

Winner, now 29, was 25 at the time that she printed out a classified intelligence report at the National Security Agency facility in Georgia where she worked and provided it to journalists at the investigative news outlet The Intercept.

A story based on Winner’s leak was published on June 5, 2017, with the headline: “TOP-SECRET NSA REPORT DETAILS RUSSIAN HACKING EFFORT DAYS BEFORE 2016 ELECTION.”

“Russian military intelligence executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials just days before last November’s presidential election, according to a highly classified intelligence report obtained by The Intercept,” said the article, written by journalists Matthew Cole, Richard Esposito, Sam Biddle and Ryan Grim.

Winner was sentenced to five years and three months in August 2018. According to Allen, Winner’s early release was not the product of a “pardon or compassionate release process, but rather the time earned from exemplary behavior while incarcerated.”

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Allen added that Winner remains barred from making public statements or appearances. Winner and her family, Allen said, “have asked for privacy during the transition process as they work to heal the trauma of incarceration and build back the years lost.”

Winner’s case was an early example of the tough approach that President Donald Trump’s administration took toward those accused of leaking confidential government information. Prosecutors said at the time that Winner’s sentence would mark the longest sentence served by a federal defendant for leaking to the media.

The case also reflected poorly on the source protection methods used by The Intercept. In 2017, editor-in-chief Betsy Reed issued a statement acknowledging that “at several points in the editorial process, our practices fell short of the standards to which we hold ourselves for minimizing the risks of source exposure when handling anonymously provided materials.”

Winner was arrested on June 3, 2017, two days before The Intercept published its article based on the document she provided. Investigators said they tracked Winner down after determining that whoever had leaked the classified document had printed it out. Winner was one of just half a dozen people who had printed the document, and she had also used her work computer to email someone at The Intercept.

Winner’s release comes as the Biden administration is under pressure over aggressive maneuvers used by the Justice Department under Trump to uncover the source of leaked materials. On Friday, the Justice Department’s inspector general said it will look into the department’s earlier seizure of electronic records belonging to journalists at major news outlets and Democratic members of Congress as part of leak investigations.

It was reported Monday that John Demers, a top Justice Department official who oversaw those leak investigations, will depart the agency in two weeks. A Justice Department spokesperson said Demers’ departure was planned before the recent scandal.

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