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Trump Administration Offering $200M in STEM and IT Study Grants

The Trump administration announced Monday that it would offer at least $200 million in grant funding annually for programs that offer science, technology, engineering, math (STEM), and particularly computer science education.   With 6 million job openings in the United States, administration officials said it was making the pledge to extend computer science education because of a skills gap.   Ivanka Trump, the daughter of President Donald Trump and an adviser to the administration, said less than half of kindergarten through 12th grade schools in the U.S. offer a single computer course. She plans to head to Detroit on Tuesday with tech leaders from Microsoft, and others.   “As a country we want to embrace innovation, but we need to plan for it,” she said.   The grant program is not new. President Trump was expected to sign a presidential memorandum on the program Monday at the White House, directing Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to prioritize STEM education, with a focus on computer science, in existing competitive grant programs.  STEM education involves specific disciplines taught together in an interdisciplinary and applied approach.   The announcement is expected to be followed Tuesday with pledges from businesses, such as Google and Facebook. Ivanka Trump noted that women make up 22 percent of the technology work force, down from 35 percent in 1990. While designing their programs, grant seekers should keep “gender and racial diversity in mind,” she said.   The program’s goal is to offer every student in the country access to technology education, said a senior administration official.   “We want it to reach across the country,” said the official. “Certainly that includes areas that are under-represented…We can't allow our students to be left behind.”

Uber Boss Apologizes for 'Mistakes' in London

Uber's chief executive apologized for "mistakes we have made," but says he still plans to appeal London's decision to revoke the ride-hailing app's license to operate in the city. "While Uber had revolutionized the way people move in cities around the world, it is equally true that we have got things wrong along the way," Uber chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, wrote in an open letter released Monday. But he assured customers that he would fight the ruling by regulatory body Transport of London (TfL). London transport officials said Friday that they will not renew Uber's license due to "a lack of corporate responsibility" in dealing with the ride hailing app's safety issues. The officials cited Uber's approach to reporting serious criminal offenses and its use of "greyball" technology, which can be used to block regulators from fully accessing the app. Khosrowshahi wrote, "We will appeal this decision on behalf of millions of Londoners, but we do so with the knowledge that we must also change." 

US Launches Spy Satellite From California

A spy satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office has been launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket carrying the classified NROL-42 satellite lifted off at 10:49 p.m. PDT Saturday. All systems were going well when the launch webcast concluded about three minutes into the flight. National Reconnaissance Office satellites gather intelligence information for U.S. national security and an array of other purposes including assessing impacts of natural disasters. U.S. officials have not revealed what the spacecraft will be doing or what its orbit will be. United Launch Alliance is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

Uber Signals It’s Willing to Make Concessions to London

U.S. ride-hailing firm Uber is prepared to make concessions as it seeks to reverse a decision by London authorities not to renew its license in the city, which represents a potentially big blow for the fast-growing company, a newspaper reported. The Sunday Times also quoted sources close to London’s transport body as saying the move was encouraging and suggested the possibility of talks. “While we haven’t been asked to make any changes, we’d like to know what we can do,” Tom Elvidge, Uber’s general manager in London, told the newspaper. “But that requires a dialogue we sadly haven’t been able to have recently.” A spokesman for Transport for London (TfL) declined to comment. The Sunday Times said Uber’s concessions were likely to involve passenger safety and benefits for its drivers, possible limits on working hours to improve road safety and holiday pay. TfL stunned the powerful U.S. start-up Friday when it deemed Uber unfit to run a taxi service for safety reasons and stripped it of its license from Sept. 30, although the company can continue to operate while it appeals. The regulator cited failures to report serious criminal offenses, conduct sufficient background checks on drivers and other safety issues. Uber responded by urging users in London to sign a petition that said the city authorities had “caved in to a small number of people who want to restrict consumer choice.” The move echoed Uber’s strategy in disputes with other cities. By 2200 GMT Saturday, more than 600,000 people had signed although it was not clear how many of them were in London. A spokesman for Uber said around 20,000 Uber drivers had emailed the city’s mayor directly to object to the decision.

Official Criticizes London’s Move to Take Uber’s License

A British government minister has criticized the London authorities for deciding to strip Uber of its taxi license, a major setback to the U.S. technology firm that has become a big player in the city’s transport system. The British capital’s transport regulator deemed Uber unfit to run a tax service and said its license would not be renewed when it expires Sept. 30. London Mayor Sadiq Khan, a member of the opposition Labour Party, backed the move. “At the flick of a pen Sadiq Khan is threatening to put 40,000 people out of work and leave 3.5 million users of Uber stranded,” Greg Hands, the government minister for London, wrote on Twitter late on Friday. He said Uber had to address safety concerns and it was important that there was a level playing field across the private hire market. In backing the decision to strip Uber of its license, Khan said: “All private-hire operators in London need to play by the rules. The safety and security of customers must be paramount.” Uber has said it will contest the decision. Regulator Transport for London (TfL) said it would let Uber operate until the appeals process is exhausted, which could take months. Uber has turned to customers to help defend itself in other battles around the world, and an online petition to support Uber in London gathered nearly 430,000 signatures by early Saturday. In Friday’s announcement, TfL cited concerns about Uber’s approach to reporting serious criminal offenses, background checks on drivers and software that could be used to block regulators from gaining full access to the app.

US Tech Companies Under Scrutiny in White House Russia Probe

Inside a converted port terminal, thousands of tech entrepreneurs gathered this week to pitch their ideas at TechCrunch Disrupt, an annual event that focuses on emerging technologies. But this is no ordinary time for the tech industry, which finds itself under increasing scrutiny from Washington over how Russia used social media to influence the U.S. elections. This week, Facebook announced that it would give U.S. lawmakers access to ads linked to Russia that were placed on the site leading up to the 2016 presidential election. "We are in a new world," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook live event on Thursday. "It is a new challenge for internet communities to deal with nation states attempting to subvert elections. But if that's what we must do, we are committed to rising to the occasion." For the entrepreneurs at Disrupt, the tech industry's troubles in Washington seemed a sideshow to the technology they are working on. Spurred on by their own sense of idealism, the startup founders said technology is mostly a force for good, connecting the world and helping information flow freely. But concerns over how Russia has apparently exploited these modern tools of communication for propaganda gave some entrepreneurs pause. Can they control how their technology is used? Should the government provide more oversight? Technology is "allowing people to have more freedom to create and more freedom to communicate," said Lachlan Phillips, whose company, AdRobot, helps businesses make video ads and distribute them on social media. But he acknowledged that "a malevolent message might have been quiet in the past, and that can be quite loud now." The traditional Silicon Valley view has long been that technology is just a tool, and that any problem caused by a new innovation would be solved by more technology. That's what Amy Chen is betting on. She has created a site — 99 Voices — for users to rate businesses and political leaders. But she isn't sure that people aren't rigging the votes. Chen is hoping that making people register with a U.S. mobile phone number will help ensure who is on her site. "I don't know if technology can solve this issue," she said. "It would be nice if each person gets one vote and one say, and that's the platform [on which] you can judge what is public opinion." Dylan Sidoo's company,, focuses on encrypted messaging. Like SnapChat, his firm offers a messaging app called Vanish. For Sidoo, communications security is a social good, even if some might use his service for nefarious purposes. "People say there are drawbacks about this kind of security, that different personnel can use it for different things, maybe not the most positive things in the world," he said. "If the company has good intentions, initially, that's fine from there." This week, Facebook also announced that it would add more humans to review its automated ad-buying process. Reports showed that some advertisers were able to target people who expressed anti-Jewish ideas. Phillips, of AdRobot, said companies have a moral responsibility to know how their technology is used, something that computer algorithms, no matter how well designed, can't get right on their own. "My belief is that we are still a human society," he said. "And we need that human layer to ensure that we are people talking to people." Deana Mitchell contributed to this report.

London to End Uber Ride Hailing App Over ‘Security Implications’

Transport officials in London say they will not renew Uber’s license to operate in the city due to “a lack of corporate responsibility” in dealing with the ride hailing app’s safety issues. The regulatory body Transport for London said in a statement Friday Uber London “is not fit and proper” to operate in the city. TfL considers that "Uber's approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications,” the agency said. Among the issues cited by TfL are Uber’s approach to reporting serious criminal offenses and its use of “greyball” technology, which can be used to block regulators from fully accessing the app. Uber said the city’s decision to end the app would show the world that “London is closed to innovative companies.” "By wanting to ban our app from the capital, Transport for London and the mayor have caved in to a small number of people who want to restrict consumer choice," the company said in a statement. Uber has said it will appeal the decision. London Mayor Sadiq Khan and the city’s taxi drivers union both said they supported the decision not to renew Uber’s license.   "The mayor has made the right call not to relicense Uber," Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association, said. "We expect Uber will again embark on a spurious legal challenge against the Mayor and TfL, and we will urge the court to uphold this decision. This immoral company has no place on London's streets."  

Tech Under Scrutiny in Russian Investigation

The tech industry pitches itself as a force for good, connecting the world and helping information flow freely. But Silicon Valley is under increasing scrutiny with reports that people in Russia were able to use these services to target and influence U.S. public sentiment. At TechCrunch Disrupt, a big tech conference this week in San Francisco, VOA's Michelle Quinn walked around tech booths to find out how those pitching their startups see tech's role in society.

Iraqis Track Abandoned Homes With Digital Tools

In camps across northern Iraq, people forced from their homes by Islamic State militants are using their phones to track what is happening to their properties, according to researchers who say returning home is crucial for building a safe future in the war-torn nation. More than three million Iraqis have been driven from their homes, land and farms, according to the United Nations, many of them by armed groups like Islamic State (IS). As pro-government forces intensify the fight against IS, clearing militants from much of Mosul and other cities they once held, displaced people are hoping to return home soon. Before leaving the camps, they are keeping a close eye on Facebook and digital messaging services to better understand what they will be returning to or who might be occupying their homes, said Nadia Siddiqui from Social Inquiry, a research group based in northern Iraq. With conflicting land claims and weak property rights in parts of Iraq due to years of violence, establishing who rightfully owns what is crucial for reducing violence and building social trust, Siddiqui said. Digital tools are helping establish ownership by allowing them to build dossiers of what belongs to them with photographic evidence, title deeds and other data which could be used in court to prove their claims. “In the long-term, land and property issues are some of the root causes (of strife),” Siddiqui told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from Erbil, Iraq. Disputes over property exacerbate communal or religious tensions, she said, and lingering issues over unclear ownership can fester for generations, making it difficult to build the economy and move past a history of violence. “People remember these kinds of things,” Siddiqui said of land disputes. Clearing up ownership conflicts and creating arbitration processes for competing land claims can help ease social tensions, she said. Evidence More than 60 percent of displaced people use digital tools like Facebook, camera phones and messaging apps to actively monitor the status of their properties, according to a July survey in Erbil supported by Social Inquiry. The average household of displaced people has three mobile phones, the small survey said, meaning tools to collect data on properties are accessible even to those who fled their lands in the dead of night. Thirty-two percent of displaced people surveyed share information about the status of their properties on social media. “What is so exciting about the process is that people have this evidence already on their phones or on their Facebook page,” said Emily Frank, an anthropologist turned marketing executive in Montreal, Canada, who has monitored property rights in countries facing conflict. Many people, however, do not realize these digital documents and photos of the land where they once lived can be used as evidence in court or a property restitution process once it is safe enough to return home, said Frank. Along with helping individuals claim their homes from armed groups or others who have been occupying them, photos, videos and other digital data become increasingly powerful as more displaced people collect them, she said. “If more people can submit evidence, it becomes more widely corroborated,” Frank told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “It will be a more just and transparent process.” Domino effect Jon Unruh, a professor at McGill University in Montreal who studies land rights, has watched the process happen in Iraq first hand. Unruh interviewed a 76-year-old man in Erbil who, after fleeing an IS-controlled area, asked a relative still living near his home to walk around the property and take pictures to see who was living inside. IS and its supporters had occupied homes in the area, and the militant group even issued its own property title deeds, so the displaced man used digital tools and family networks to try and gather information about his home to claim it upon return. This kind of data could be presented before a government arbitration panel or via a transitional justice plan from the U.N. or a similar international agency when the man attempts to reclaim his property, Unruh said. Iraqi government officials working on property restitution could not be reached for comment. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Iraq, a U.N.-linked body working with the government on property restitution for refugees, was unavailable for comment. Officials in Kurdistan, the northern semi-autonomous region of Iraq of which Erbil is the capital, are planning a referendum vote on independence for Sept. 25. The move, opposed by Iraq’s central government, could complicate efforts for displaced people living in the region to claim properties in other parts of Iraq once it is safe enough to leave camps in the Kurdish region. It is unclear what moves Iraq’s government will make on property rights in areas once controlled by IS based on digital data, Unruh said. But officials in the capital Baghdad who he met recently understand the importance of property rights in reducing violence. “The Iraqi government is most concerned people returning home to ISIS-held areas are going to default to armed kin to resolve their property disputes,” Unruh told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “That returnee who finds their property destroyed moves into someone else's house. When that person returns there is a conflict —It creates a domino effect.”

Facebook to Share Russia-linked Ads With US Congress

Facebook will provide the contents of 3,000 ads bought by a Russian agency to congressional investigators, bowing to pressure that it be more forthcoming with information that could shed light on possible interference in the 2016 presidential election.   The social media giant also said it will make political advertising on its platform more "transparent.'' It will require ads to disclose who paid for them and what other ads they are running at the same time. That's key, because political ads on social media may look different depending on who they're targeted at, a tactic designed to improve their effectiveness.   The moves Thursday come amid growing pressure on the social network from members of Congress, who pushed Facebook to release the ads. Facebook has already handed over the ads to the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company is "actively working'' with the U.S. government in its ongoing Russia investigations. Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post and live video on Thursday that he has directed his team to provide the ads, created by fake accounts linked to Russia, to Congress. Facebook's transparency measures are also important. Currently, there's no way for outsiders to track political ads or for recipients to tell who is sponsoring such messages.   The company will hire 250 more people in the next year to work on "election integrity,'' Zuckerberg said.   Zuckerberg hinted that the company may not provide much information publicly, saying that the ongoing federal investigation will limit what he can reveal.   "As a general rule, we are limited in what we can discuss publicly about law enforcement investigations, so we may not always be able to share our findings publicly,'' he said.   The nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center stressed again on Thursday that the company should make the ads public, "so that everyone can see the nature and extent of the use of Facebook accounts by Russia.''   The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee have been seeking to bring Facebook executives before their committee since the company first revealed the existence of the ads two weeks ago. But critics say Facebook should go further. They say the company should tell its users how they might have been influenced by outside meddlers.   Zuckerberg did warn that Facebook can't catch all undesirable material before it hits its social network.   "I'm not going to sit here and tell you we're going to catch all bad content in our system. We don't check what people say before they say it, and frankly, I don't think our society should want us to,'' Zuckerberg said. "If you break our community standards or the law, then you're going to face consequences afterwards.''   He added: "We won't catch everyone immediately, but we can make it harder to try to interfere.''   Zuckerberg's move came a day after Twitter confirmed that it will meet next week with staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has been scrutinizing the spread of false news stories and propaganda on social media during the election. The committee's top Democrat, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, had said the committee wanted to hear from Twitter to learn more about the use of fake accounts and bot networks to spread misinformation.   "Twitter deeply respects the integrity of the election process, a cornerstone of all democracies, and will continue to strengthen our platform against bots and other forms of manipulation that violate our Terms of Service,'' the company said in a statement.

Review: iTunes Video Upgrade Makes New Apple TV Worth It

It might seem odd to review the new Apple TV streaming device — one specifically designed to display super-sharp video known as 4K — without actually owning a 4K TV. But in a way, that's the point. Most people still don't have 4K TVs, so the new Apple TV model doesn't offer them much. But if you're an Apple fan and already have 4K, the choice is clear. The new Apple TV 4K is out Friday starting at $179, or $30 more than the regular model. It's a small difference compared with the price of your TV. It's worth noting that alternatives to Apple TV are cheaper and equally capable at a basic level. All of the devices connect to a TV so you can stream most major video services on a big screen. Roku and Amazon have 4K models for less than $100 and non-4K versions for even less. Both are even ahead of Apple TV in being able to stream Amazon video now; it's coming soon to Apple TV. But none of the rivals will play movies or shows purchased from Apple's iTunes, at least without clunky workarounds. To watch those on a big screen directly, you need an Apple TV. And Apple has just sweetened the deal on that front. The future has arrived Apple's embrace of 4K is significant, despite the fact that Roku, Amazon and other rivals beat Apple to that milestone. Apple often waits until there's broad enough appeal for new technologies. That time is now, given growth in sales of 4K TV and more movies and TV shows released in 4K formats. Parallel to that is the rise of high-dynamic range technology in television sets. HDR increases color range and produces brighter whites and darker blacks. Better contrast means details in bright scenes aren't washed out. Apple TV 4K supports HDR, too. Path to upgrades 4K is coming, just as high definition earlier replaced standard definition. The consulting company Futuresource says a third of TVs sold worldwide this year will be 4K capable, up from 25 percent last year. But people tend to keep TVs for many years, unlike high-turnover phones. In demos with tech companies and visits to Best Buy, I find superior picture quality in 4K. Your couch needs to close enough to the screen to see the difference. My next TV will likely have 4K, but my 4-year-old Vizio HD TV still works fine (though I'm sure I just jinxed it). Upgrades to iTunes video - and yours Many Hollywood blockbusters now have 4K versions of home video releases. Netflix and Amazon are also trying to make their original shows available in 4K. But many indie and older titles remain in HD; even older shows like "The Wonder Years" are still stuck in standard definition. Fortunately, Apple isn't making you choose now. If you buy something in HD through iTunes, you'll automatically get the 4K version when it's out. And if a 4K version is available now, it will cost the same as its HD counterpart. It's never been clear why HD video is more expensive than SD when actors, directors and others behind the movies were paid the same. Lots of people were peeved at how the music industry tried to get them to repurchase the same songs on cassette tapes, CDs and then digital files. I have a collection of DVDs and don't feel like paying again for higher-quality Blu-ray or digital versions. So Apple's decision to treat 4K and HD the same is a good one. That only applies to iTunes, though. Netflix is charging extra for a plan that includes 4K, even when viewed on Apple TVs. A word of caution: While the new iPhone 8 and iPad Pros unveiled this past June will support HDR, they won't display 4K. Even the upcoming iPhone X falls short in that respect. Beyond video The new Apple TV gets a faster processor, which should make high-end games better to play. A new remote offers more precise motion control and a raised menu button to make it easier to orient yourself without looking. These features alone aren't enough to justify an Apple TV 4K unless you're a gamer. The non-4K version is getting the new remote, too. Picture quality is the same for both versions on regular HD sets like mine. In any case, Apple TV — with or without 4K — will be most useful if you're already tied into Apple's system with iDevices and iTunes. Given that rival devices are cheaper, what you're buying isn't the device, but an experience — integration and syncing with all your other Apple gadgets. For instance, 4K video taken on an iPhone will play easily on an Apple TV 4K. If you're in that camp and are thinking of buying a new TV in the next few years, there's a good chance it will be 4K, so you might as well choose the 4K version of Apple TV now. But if it's longer, a better Apple TV will likely be out by then. The non-4K version will do just fine for now.

Google Bets Big on Hardware With HTC Buy

Google is biting off a big piece of device manufacturer HTC for $1.1 billion to expand its efforts to build phones, speakers and other gadgets equipped with its arsenal of digital services. The deal announced Thursday underscores how serious Google is becoming about designing its own family of devices to compete against Apple and Amazon in a high-stakes battle to become the technological hub of people’s lives. Over the past decade, Google had focused on giving away its Android operating system to an array of device makers, including Taiwan’s HTC, to ensure people would keep using its ubiquitous search engine, email, maps, YouTube video service and other software on smartphones and other pieces of hardware. But that changed last year when Google stamped its brand on a smartphone and internet-connected speaker. HTC manufactured the Pixel phones that Google designed last year, perhaps paving the way for this deal to unfold. Although Android powers about four out of every five smartphones and other mobile devices in the world, the software can be altered in ways that result in Google’s services being de-emphasized or left out completely from the pre-installed set of apps. That fragmentation threatens to undercut Google’s ability to increase the ad sales that bring in most of the revenue to its corporate parent, Alphabet Inc., as people spend more and more time on smartphones and other devices instead of personal computers. Apple’s iPhone and other hardware products are also particularly popular among affluent consumers prized by advertisers, giving Google another incentive to develop its own high-priced phone as a mobile platform for its products and ads. Google also wants to build more internet-connected devices designed primarily for home usage, such as its voice-controlled speaker that’s trying to catch up with Amazon’s Echo. The Home speaker includes a digital concierge, called Google Assistant, that answers questions and helps manage people’s lives, much like the Alexa in Amazon’s Echo. The purchase is a gamble on several fronts for Google and Alphabet. Google’s previous forays into hardware haven’t panned out to be big winners so far. It paid $12.5 billion for smartphone maker Motorola Mobility five years ago only to sell it to Lenovo Group for less than $3 billion after struggling to make a dent in the market. And in 2014, Google paid more than $3 billion for home device maker Nest Labs, which is still struggling to make money under Alphabet’s ownership. Expanding into hardware also threatens to alienate Samsung Electronics, Huawei and other device makers that Google relies on to distribute its Android software.

Nevada Lab: Quake-Resistant Bridge Design Tests Well

Scientists at a Nevada earthquake lab Wednesday tested new bridge designs with connectors they say are innovative and created to better withstand violent temblors and speed reconstruction efforts after major quake damage. University of Nevada, Reno engineers performed the experiments on a giant “shake table” to simulate violent motions of an earthquake to rattle a 100-ton (91-metric ton), 70 foot (21-meter) bridge model to determine how well it would hold up. The tests, conducted a day after a big quake struck Mexico, shook large concrete columns and beams back and forth for about 30 seconds at a time, displacing some nearly a foot before returning largely to their original spot. Graduate students measured and marked indications of tiny fractures but no major structural damage was observed in the initial review of the experiments. “The bridge has done better than we expected,” said Saiid Saiidi, a professor of civil and environmental engineering who served as the project leader. He’s done related research for more than 30 years. Bridges are already designed not to collapse in earthquakes but often are unsafe for travel after big quakes. He said the designs that were tested employed special types of connectors to link prefabricated bridge parts, including ultra-high performance concrete. “Earthquakes by themselves don’t kill people, it’s the structures,” Saiidi said. The elements have been tested on their own but never before combined in a bridge model subjected to realistic earthquake motions, like the 1994 Northridge, California quake. Wednesday’s test inside the University of Nevada’s Earthquake Engineering Laboratory simulated activity of a quake as large as magnitude 7.5. Some design work by the engineers has been incorporated into a highway off-ramp under construction in Seattle. It’s the first bridge in the world that uses flexible columns and reinforcement bars made out of a metal alloy with titanium that bends and then springs back into shape when quakes hit. Among other things, the innovative connectors allow for prefabricated concrete and other materials to be attached to an existing bridge foundation so as to speed repair and reconstruction. Part of the research centers on a so-called “pipe pin” connection developed by the California Department of Transportation’s bridge designers for use in connecting certain beam interfaces in bridge construction. The pin consists of a steel pipe that is anchored in the column and extended into a steel can embedded in the beam. A gap between the steel pipe and the can enables the extended segment to freely rotate inside the steel can and prevents bending of the protruded segment inside the can. The University of Nevada’s Earthquake Engineering Lab is the largest of its kind in the United States. The latest project is funded by the California Department of Transportation, which currently is developing plans for 10 pilot projects based on the developing bridge connector technology. “This study today is going to allow them to make observations of those designs,” Saiidi said.

Internet Firms Say Removing Extremist Content Within Hours Is Huge Challenge

Removing extremist content from the internet within a few hours of it appearing poses "an enormous technological and scientific challenge," Google's general counsel will say later Wednesday to European leaders who want it taken down quicker. Kent Walker, general counsel for Alphabet's Google, will speak on behalf of technology companies Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube at an event on the sidelines of the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations. The leaders of France, Britain and Italy want to push social media companies to remove "terrorist content" from the internet within one to two hours of it appearing because they say that is the period when most material is spread. "We are making significant progress, but removing all of this content within a few hours — or, indeed, stopping it from appearing on the internet in the first place — poses an enormous technological and scientific challenge," Walker will say in a speech on behalf of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, a working group formed by the four companies to combine their efforts to remove extremist content. Tech firms have come under increasing pressure from governments in the United States and Europe to do more to keep extremist content off their platforms after a spate of militant attacks, and the European Union is mulling legislation on the issue. "There is no silver bullet when it comes to finding and removing this content, but we're getting much better," Walker will say. "Of course, finding problematic material in the first place often requires not just thousands of human hours but, more fundamentally, continuing advances in engineering and computer science research. The haystacks are unimaginably large and the needles are both very small and constantly changing." Walker will say the companies need human reviewers to help distinguish legitimate material such as news coverage from the problematic material and train machine-learning tools against "ever-changing examples." The companies last year decided to set up a joint database to share unique digital fingerprints they automatically assign to videos or photos of extremist content, known as "hashes," to help each other detect and remove similar content. Facebook used a hash that contained a link to bomb-making instructions to find and remove almost 100 copies of that content. Twitter said Tuesday that it had removed 299,649 accounts in the first half of this year for the "promotion of terrorism," while Facebook has ramped up its use of artificial intelligence to map out pages and posts with terrorist material.

Review: Apple Watch Goes Solo, But Don't Dump Your Phone Yet

A chief gripe with Apple Watch is that it requires you to keep an iPhone with you for most tasks. The inclusion of GPS last year helped on runs and bike rides, but you're still missing calls and messages without the phone nearby. A new model with its own cellular-network connection is Apple's next step toward an untethered world. Now you can make and receive calls and messages on the watch while leaving your phone at home. But the watch still needs regular contact with an iPhone, and for most tasks, the phone needs to be on and connected, even if it's nowhere nearby. So, you can't get away with ditching the iPhone altogether. (Android users have their own wristwear options, including Samsung Gear and Android Wear watches, some of which can already manage their own network connections.) The new Apple Watch Series 3, distinguished by a red crown, comes out Friday starting at about $400. You can forgo cellular, and the red crown, for $70 less. Or get a first-generation model, without GPS, for about $250. Where it helps You might not want to bring your phone on a short jog; the watch can still keep you in touch. Or you can leave the phone home while walking the dog or performing a quick errand. You need a data add-on from the same wireless provider as your phone. It typically costs $5 or $10 a month and uses the phone's data allotment. While the watch technically has its own phone number, the major carriers have worked out number syncing. Calls to your phone will go to the watch, and calls from the watch will appear on caller ID with your regular number. Same goes for texts and iMessage chats. Calls use the watch's speaker and microphone, or wireless earphones. Colleagues say call quality was fine. It came in handy for sneaking in runs during conference calls (though if you're my boss, just kidding! Now, about that raise ...). Phone calls and iMessage chats work on the watch even if your phone is off, as do turn-by-turn maps and queries to the Siri voice assistant. For texts, the phone needs to be on — somewhere. With the phone on, you can perform a variety of other tasks, including checking weather apps, Yelp recommendations and notifications that go to the phone. Coming soon: the ability to stream Apple Music, even with the phone off. Unfortunately, this doesn't apply to rival music services or Apple's podcast app. Limitations Because the watch screen is small, many apps offer only a sliver of information and refer you back to the phone to view more. That was little more than an annoyance when the phone was in the same room. If you've left the phone behind, though, you'll be left hanging. You can also run into trouble while roaming, particularly internationally. For one thing, engineers weren't able to squeeze in support for cellular frequencies around the world. And outside the U.S., only a handful of carriers are supporting the cellular watch. In any case, don't forget to switch to airplane mode on flights. Cellular data also drains the battery quicker. Apple's promised 18 hours of battery life includes about four hours of such use. An hour of phone calls over LTE will drain the battery completely. I got dropped from two conference calls because the battery was low to begin with. Plan ahead. A spare watch charger at your desk helps for those days you're dumb enough to leave your phone on the kitchen counter. Embracing the tether It can be handy to untether the watch at times, but it's not always necessary. Even when tied to the phone, Series 3 offers improvement such as tracking elevation, so you get credit for climbing stairs or jogging up a hill. And you can now hear Siri responses on the watch speaker, something enabled by the new version's faster processor. Software update For owners of past models, a software update out this week, watchOS 4, will bring easier access to music playback controls when exercising — just swipe left. There are more prompts when reaching or nearing daily goals, and options for multiple sports in a single workout. A new heart rate app now shows heart rate at rest and averages when walking or recovering from exercise. These can help you gauge your overall fitness. And if your heart rate is high without any signs of exercise, you'll get an alert. You enable this when you first open the heart rate app. It can signal health problems, though Apple is stopping short of telling you to see a doctor or visit the emergency room, as the watch isn't marketed — or certified — as a medical device.

Security Firm Links Iranian Hackers to Malware Attacks

A private U.S.-based security firm is linking an Iranian government-sponsored hacking group to cyber-attacks targeted at organizations across the world. The security firm FireEye said Wednesday the Iranian hackers used malware to attack aerospace and petrochemical firms in the United States, Saudi Arabia and South Korea. The hacking group, dubbed APT33 (advanced persistent threat) by the FireEye researchers, used phishing emails and fake domain names to gain access to computer systems of the targeted companies. The report suggests the hackers target the companies in an effort to “enhance Iran’s domestic aviation capabilities or to support Iran’s military and strategic decision making vis-a-vis Saudi Arabia.” “We believe the targeting of the Saudi organization may have been an attempt to gain insight into regional rivals, while the targeting of South Korean companies may be due to South Korea’s recent partnerships with Iran’s petrochemical industry as well as South Korea’s relationships with Saudi petrochemical companies,” the report reads. The FireEye report says the hackers retained access to the companies’ computers for between four and six months at a time, during which the hackers were able to steal data and drop off malware that could potentially be used to destroy the infected computers. It is difficult to accurately attribute cyber-attacks, but FireEye says it linked the hackers to Iran in part by tracking an online handle, “xman_1365_x,” that was accidentally left in the malware coding. The report also notes references to the Farsi language in the malware code and that the hackers’ workdays appear to correspond with the Iranian time zone, and the Saturday to Wednesday workweek used in the country.

Alexa, What do you see? Amazon Said to Be Working on Glasses

Amazon is attempting to develop glasses that pair with Alexa and would allow users to access the voice-activated assistant outside the home, according to a newspaper report. The Financial Times, citing anonymous sources, says the glasses could be released before the end of the year. Inc., based in Seattle, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.   Wearable technology, glasses specifically, is already in limited use. Snapchat sells $130 glasses that take a short video and post it on the social media app. And Alphabet Inc. sells Google Glass to employers, so that doctors or factory workers can search information or talk to co-workers hands free.  

Drones May Soon Deliver Life Saving Defibrillators to Rural Areas

A cardiac arrest happens when the heart stops beating regularly, due to mixed up electrical signals. According to the American Heart Association, when cardiac arrest occurs, every minute that passes before help arrives lowers a person's chance of surviving by seven to 10 percent. However, as we hear from VOA's Kevin Enochs, in a crisis when every minute counts, drones may be able to quickly get help to people who live in rural areas.

Mobile App Aims to Help End Child Marriage in India's Bihar

A mobile phone app is the latest tool for campaigners seeking to end child marriage in India's Bihar state, where nearly two-thirds of girls in some of its rural areas are married before the legal age of 18. The app, Bandhan Tod, was developed by Gender Alliance — a collective of more than 270 charities in Bihar focused on gender rights — and launched this week by Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi. It is backed by the U.N. Population Fund. India ranks among countries with the highest rates of child marriage in the world, accounting for a third of the global total of more than 700 million women, according to UNICEF, the United Nations children's agency. Bandhan Tod — meaning "break the binds" — includes classes on child marriage and dowries and their ill effects. It also has an SOS button that notifies the team when activated. "The app is a big part of our efforts to end child marriage in the state," said Prashanti Tiwary, head of Gender Alliance. "Education is good, but when a young girl wants help because she is being forced to marry before the legal age, the app can be her way out," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Despite a law banning girls from marrying before they turn 18, the practice is deeply rooted in tradition and widely accepted in Indian society. It is rarely reported as a crime and officials are often reluctant to prosecute offenders. While boys also marry before the legal age of 21, girls are disproportionately affected. Risks of abuse, death rise Early marriage makes it more likely that girls will drop out of school, and campaigners say it also increases risks of sexual violence, domestic abuse and death in childbirth. Legal efforts have failed to break the stranglehold of tradition and culture that continues to support child marriage, charity ActionAid India said in a report this year. When the SOS on Bandhan Tod is activated, the nearest small NGO will attempt to resolve the issue. If the family resists, then the police will be notified, said Tiwary. A similar app in West Bengal state to report child marriage and trafficking of women and children has helped prevent several such instances, according to Child in Need Institute, which launched the app in 2015. Other efforts include a cash incentive, where the state transfers a sum of money to the girl's bank account if she remains in school and unwed at age 18. Suppliers of wedding tents in Rajasthan state have stopped dozens of child marriages by alerting officials. "It will take a change in mindset and behavior to end child marriage," said Tiwary, who is lobbying the government to raise the marriage age for women to 21, so they have the same opportunities as men. "But technology provides a practical and accessible way to help prevent it on the ground," she said.