The vote by the U.S. Congress to repeal rules that limit how internet service providers can use customer data has generated renewed interest in an old internet technology: virtual private networks, or VPNs. VPNs cloak a customer's web-surfing history by making an encrypted connection to a private server, which then searches the Web on the customer's behalf without revealing the destination addresses. VPNs are often used to connect to a secure business network, or in countries such as China and Turkey to bypass government restrictions on Web surfing. Privacy-conscious techies are now talking of using VPNs as a matter of course to guard against broadband providers collecting data about which internet sites and services they are using. "Time to start using a VPN at home," Vijaya Gadde, general counsel of Twitter Inc, said in a tweet on Tuesday that was retweeted by Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey. Gadde was not immediately available for comment. Twitter said she was commenting in her personal capacity and not on behalf of the company. The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives voted 215-205 on Tuesday to repeal rules adopted last year by the Federal Communications Commission under then-President Barack Obama to require broadband providers to obtain consumer consent before using their data for advertising or marketing. The U.S. Senate, also controlled by Republicans, voted 50-48 last week to reverse the rules. The White House said President Donald Trump supported the repeal measure. Supporters of the repeal said the FCC unfairly required internet service providers like AT&T Inc, Comcast Corp and Verizon Communications Inc to do more to protect customers' privacy than websites like Alphabet Inc's Google or Facebook Inc. Critics said the repeal would weaken consumers' privacy protections. VPN advantages, drawbacks Protected data includes a customer's web-browsing history, which in turn can be used to discover other types of information, including health and financial data. Some smaller broadband providers are now seizing on privacy as a competitive advantage. Sonic, a California-based broadband provider, offers a free VPN service to its customers so they can connect to its network when they are not home. That ensures that when Sonic users log on to wi-fi at a coffee shop or hotel, for example, their data is not collected by that establishment's broadband provider. "We see VPN as being important for our customers when they're not on our network. They can take it with them on the road," CEO Dane Jasper said. In many areas of the country, there is no option to choose an independent broadband provider and consumers will have to pay for a VPN service to shield their browsing habits. Private Internet Access, a VPN provider, took a visible stand against the repeal measure when it bought a full-page ad in the New York Times on Sunday. But the company, which boasts about a million subscribers, potentially stands to benefit from the legislation, acknowledged marketing director Caleb Chen. VPNs have drawbacks. They funnel all user traffic through one point, so they are an attractive target for hackers and spies. The biggest obstacle to their routine use as a privacy safeguard is that they can be too much of a hassle to set up for many customers. They also cost money. "The further along toward being a computer scientist you have to be to use a VPN, the smaller a portion of the population we're talking about that can use it," said Ernesto Falcon, a legislative counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which opposed the bill.
While President Trump's latest executive order gives renewed life to power plants that burn coal, energy companies continue to seek and find alternative, less expensive and cleaner sources of fuel. One possibility is turning trash into fuel in an environmentally responsible way. VOA's George Putic reports that authorities in Tel Aviv say their new garbage processing plant is on track to produce as much as 500 tons of fuel daily.
Imagine a vaccine vial with a temperature-sensitive label that changes colors when exposed to excessive heat. That's the sort of technology that can make a huge difference for doctors working in challenging conditions, allowing them to determine at-a-glance whether heat-sensitive vaccines are viable. The vaccine vial monitor is one of the projects at the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), an international nonprofit based in Seattle with more than 22 offices around the world, including sub-Saharan Africa, India and Southeast Asia. The organization partners with foundations, non-governmental organizations and governments to expedite the development of global health solutions such as vaccines, drugs and medical devices. PATH's aim is to help deliver breakthroughs in drug and medical devices on a global scale. Tribendimidine (TrBD) is one of those potential breakthroughs — a drug treatment for soil-transmitted helminths, or intestinal worm infections. According to the World Health Organization, over 1.5 billion people, or 24 percent of the global population, have acquired soil-transmitted helminths infections. Tropical and subtropical regions of the world are most affected, with the highest rates of incidences in sub-Saharan Africa, the Americas, China and East Asia. The development of new drugs like TrBD helps deter increasing resistance to existing drugs, when used in tandem with or as a replacement for these drugs. Advice for entrepreneurs David Shoultz, program leader for drug development at PATH, considers three factors essential to the long-term success of health care solutions, and advises aspiring entrepreneurs to keep them in mind: demand, cost and consumer-oriented product design. "Unless we understand what the user is looking for and if we can then actually project what the demand will be … any technology, no matter how good it is, is likely to fall flat," he said. Shoultz recommends entrepreneurs find partners who can be a bridge into the global health arena. "It may be that the entrepreneur truly does have a brilliant idea and it's already available in a different setting," he said. Organizations like PATH and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation can help filter and shape ideas, along with facilitating important industry connections. Cost is another important consideration for entrepreneurs. Medical technologies developed in high-income countries can be less accessible to those in middle- or low-income countries, which is why Shoultz advises entrepreneurs to keep prices as low as possible. For example, PATH's drug for soil-transmitted helminths will sell for $0.06 to $0.07 cents a tablet. "To be honest, there are comparable drugs that are even a little bit less expensive than that," noted Shoultz, "We're constantly trying to think of, OK, how could we make it even a little bit less expensive.'" WATCH: Shoultz Talks about Common Mistakes by Entrepreneurs Ultra Rice Global entrepreneurs should also consider end-users not just as patients, but as consumers, Shoultz said. "Sometimes we think about consumers or users in low-income settings as being very utilitarian, and in fact, my experience … is that they're looking for the same thing that all of us are looking for in consumer goods — they do want to be excited and delighted," he said. To that end, PATH developed a rice fortification technology called Ultra Rice in which grains made from rice flour are fortified with vitamins and minerals and produced to resemble real rice grains. The Ultra Rice grains are then mixed with local, natural rice supplies to significantly boost their nutritional value. The product aids those around the world suffering from micronutrient deficiencies, of which the United Nations World Food Program says there are 2 billion. "I think really understanding the consumer impulse … is critically important, rather than just imagining that we're going to build drab or utilitarian tools, because that's not very exciting to consumers, regardless of their income level," Shoultz said.
When he was growing up in Hyderabad, India, Ravindra Sunku, 52, could see and smell the burning kerosene and wood his neighbors used to cook. It stuck in his memory people he knew might have suffered from lung disease caused from what they inhaled by doing something as simple as cooking dinner. Now a tech executive in Silicon Valley, Sunku recently was able to use his professional skills to help a Kenyan organization that makes clean cook stoves that promise to save lives and reduce deforestation. "I've grown up in India. I've seen the hardship," he said. "This could have saved someone in my childhood." Sunku volunteered through RippleWorks, a unique mentorship program in Silicon Valley that connects tech professionals with startups around the world that have a social mission. RippleWorks has helped 28 projects and plans to help 40 more this year. It picks firms that are focused improving education, healthcare, clean energy technology and financial access. The companies helped include NeoGrowth, a firm in Mumbai, India, that provides access to short-term loans for small businesses. Another is Zoona, which uses technology to provide financial services for people in places such as Malawi and Zambia. In Mexico City, RippleWorks has connected a tech marketing expert with Cignifi, which provides credit to customers via mobile phones. There are many global mentorship programs and startup incubators bringing together tech experts with entrepreneurs in developing countries. But RippleWorks focuses on advising firms that have already launched and have found their niche. It offers what its founder calls “mentorship in a box." The organization identifies a key problem for the companies and pairs them with an expert who has done the job before. Then RippleWorks manages the project, setting up weekly video-conference meetings. Doug Galen, RippleWorks co-founder and CEO, says the organization’s “secret sauce” is “project management to keep everyone on task.” Tech Veterans Helping With Growth Hurdles Sunku's life took him from Hyderabad to Oklahoma, where he received a masters degree in industrial engineering. He worked in a sheet metal factory near Los Angeles before heading to the San Francisco Bay Area where he worked in software. As he juggled work and family, Sunku did volunteer stints in his community - all involving physical labor, such as building a playground or stuffing grocery bags for a food bank. He had not considered that his job skills would be useful as well to a non-profit until he met RippleWorks and began his six-month volunteer stint with Burn Manufacturing in Nairobi, Kenya. Since 2013, Burn has distributed 250,000 clean cook stoves. Since its launch, Burn had grown big fast, with a factory, employees, products and customers. It needed technology to track and manage everything from sales to payroll to supplies. That's where Sunku came in. Once a week, Sunku arrived at work in San Francisco at 7 a.m. to video conference with the chief financial officer and general manager at Burn. He also worked an additional two hours on the weekend on Burn-related projects and put in an additional hour working with the RippleWorks project manager. Sunku is director of IT at StitchFix, a digital personalized fashion company. He worked with the Burn team on its needs before acquiring a software system that would enable the organization to run more smoothly. He also helped them create criteria for hiring technical help in Nairobi. "It took me a bit to get comfortable," he said. "But once I could see that they were taking to what I was saying, it felt gratifying." Sunku's experience culminated with a trip to Nairobi to work with Burn, which he was able to do because his firm, StitchFix, gives workers unlimited time off. For Sunku, the experience was eye-opening. “I never thought someone like me, originally from India who moved to the U.S. and has been in this country for more than 30 years, would make a contribution to Africa."
Broadband access in the U.S. is not universal. There has long been a digital divide between urban and rural areas. But in one small town just four hours from Washington, D.C., there's no Wi-Fi internet service at all. The town of Green Bank, West Virginia, is the site of the largest fully steerable radio telescope in the world, so Wi-Fi Internet connections and anything else that can create electromagnetic waves, such as microwave ovens, are banned. VOA's Lesya Bakalets reports.
The vote by the U.S. Congress to repeal rules that limit how internet service providers can use customer data has generated renewed interest in an old internet technology: virtual private networks, or VPNs. VPNs cloak a customer's web-surfing history by making an encrypted connection to a private server, which then searches the Web on the customer's behalf without revealing the destination addresses. VPNs are often used to connect to a secure business network, or in countries such as China and Turkey to bypass government restrictions on Web surfing. Privacy-conscious techies are now talking of using VPNs as a matter of course to guard against broadband providers collecting data about which internet sites and services they are using. "Time to start using a VPN at home," Vijaya Gadde, general counsel of Twitter Inc, said in a tweet on Tuesday that was retweeted by Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey. Gadde was not immediately available for comment. Twitter said she was commenting in her personal capacity and not on behalf of the company. The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives voted 215-205 on Tuesday to repeal rules adopted last year by the Federal Communications Commission under then-President Barack Obama to require broadband providers to obtain consumer consent before using their data for advertising or marketing.
Tech billionaire Elon Musk is announcing a new venture called Neuralink focused on linking brains to computers. The company plans to develop brain implants that can treat neural disorders — and that may one day be powerful enough to put humanity on a more even footing with possible future superintelligent computers, according to a Wall Street Journal report citing unnamed sources. Musk, a founder of both the electric-car company Tesla Motors and the private space-exploration firm SpaceX, has become an outspoken doomsayer about the threat artificial intelligence might one day pose to the human race. Continued growth in AI cognitive capabilities, he and like-minded critics suggest, could lead to machines that can outthink and outmaneuver humans with whom they might have little in common. In a tweet Tuesday, Musk gave few details beyond confirming Neuralink's name and tersely noting the "existential risk" of failing to pursue direct brain-interface work. Stimulating the brain Some neuroscientists and futurists, however, caution against making overly broad claims for neural interfaces. Hooking a brain up directly to electronics is itself not new. Doctors implant electrodes in brains to deliver stimulation for treating such conditions as Parkinson's disease, epilepsy and chronic pain. In experiments, implanted sensors have let paralyzed people use brain signals to operate computers and move robotic arms. Last year , researchers reported that a man regained some movement in his own hand with a brain implant. Musk's proposal goes beyond this. Although nothing is developed yet, the company wants to build on those existing medical treatments as well as one day work on surgeries that could improve cognitive functioning, according to the Journal article. Neuralink is not the only company working on artificial intelligence for the brain. Entrepreneur Bryan Johnson, who sold his previous payments startup Braintree to PayPal for $800 million, last year started Kernel, a company working on "advanced neural interfaces" to treat disease and extend cognition. Risk of overhype Neuroscientists posit that the technology that Neuralink and Kernel are working on may indeed come to pass, though it's likely to take much longer than the four or five years Musk has predicted. Brain surgery remains a risky endeavor; implants can shift in place, limiting their useful lifetime; and patients with implanted electrodes face a steep learning curve being trained how to use them. "It's a few decades down the road," said Blake Richards, a neuroscientist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto. "Certainly within the 21st century, assuming society doesn't implode, that is completely possible." Amy Webb, CEO of Future Today Institute, pointed out that the Neuralink announcement is part of a much larger field of human-machine interface research, dating back over a decade, performed at the University of Washington, Duke University and elsewhere. Too much hype from one "buzzy" announcement like Neuralink, she said, could lead to another "AI Winter." That's a reference to the overhype of AI during the Cold War, which was followed by a backlash and reduced research funding when its big promises didn't materialize. "The challenge is, it's good to talk about potential," Webb said. "But the problem is if we fail to achieve that potential and don't start seeing all these cool devices and medical applications we've been talking about then investors start losing their enthusiasm, taking funding out and putting it elsewhere."
Twitter, trying to boost its sagging advertising revenue, will allow brands to buy commercials on its video streams for Periscope, signaling a major push to make money off the live-streaming platform, the company announced on Tuesday morning. With sponsors growing more wary of exactly what kind of online videos their ads are being placed against, Twitter is allowing a select group of advertisers to purchase pre-roll videos, meaning those that run prior to the publishers’ content, on Periscope streams. Twitter acquired Periscope in 2015. Google’s YouTube, long the dominant force for online video ad dollars, has seen an exodus from brands upset to find their ads running alongside anti-Semitic and other videos that shocked customers. Companies that left included Verizon Communications, AT&T Inc and Johnson & Johnson. YouTube's selling process automatically places ads next to videos that meet the criteria for the audience advertisers want to reach, but the Alphabet unit has had difficulty policing the vast array of videos that are uploaded. Twitter is only offering up a select group of publishers for brands to buy ads against, which will let advertisers know exactly where their ads are showing up. “This is the solution to that problem,” Matthew Derella, Twitter's vice president of global revenue and operations, told Reuters. “We believe the advertiser should have control.” The video ads will only be seen when viewed within Twitter’s platform. Twitter allowed for Periscope streams to be integrated within Twitter last year. The advertisers will be able to purchase ads on Periscope videos through Twitter’s Amplify program. Until now, Twitter has monetized Periscope by relying on brands to purchase Promoted Tweets, which are placed in user feeds, even for those who do not follow the company on Twitter. The goal is to draw more attention whenever the company is live-streaming something on Periscope. Twitter is looking to turn around its sagging fortunes. Its stock has slumped 8 percent so far this year as investors have worried about slowed user and advertising revenue growth, along with mounting competition from Facebook Inc’s Instagram, and Snap Inc’s Snapchat. In the fourth quarter of 2016, Twitter posted the slowest revenue growth since it went public four years earlier, and revenue from advertising fell from a year earlier. The company warned that advertising revenue growth would continue to lag user growth during 2017. The company is also considering a paid subscription offering.
Tech giant Samsung Electronics plans to sell refurbished versions of the Galaxy Note 7 smartphones, the company said late on Monday, signaling the return of the model pulled from markets last year because of fire-prone batteries. Samsung's Note 7s were permanently scrapped in October after some phones self-combusted, prompting a global recall roughly two months after the launch of the near-$900 devices. A subsequent investigation found manufacturing problems in batteries supplied by two companies — Samsung SDI Co and Amperex Technology. Analysis from Samsung and independent researchers found no other problems in the Note 7 devices except the batteries, raising speculation that Samsung will recoup some of its losses by selling refurbished Note 7s. A person familiar with the matter told Reuters in January that it was considering the possibility of selling refurbished versions of the device or reusing some parts. Samsung's announcement that revamped Note 7s will go back on sale, however, surprised some with the timing - only days before it launches its new S8 smartphone on Wednesday in the United States, its first new premium phone since the debacle last year. Under pressure to turn its image around after the burning battery scandal, Samsung had previously not commented on its plans for recovered phones. "Regarding the Galaxy Note 7 devices as refurbished phones or rental phones, applicability is dependent upon consultations with regulatory authorities and carriers as well as due consideration of local demand," Samsung said in a statement. South Korea's Electronic Times newspaper, citing unnamed sources, said on Tuesday that Samsung will start selling refurbished Note 7s in its home country in July or August and will aim to sell between 400,000 and 500,000 of the Note 7s using safe batteries. Samsung said in a statement to Reuters that the company has not set specifics on refurbished Note 7 sales plans, including what markets and when they would go on sale, though it also said it does not plan to sell refurbished Note 7s in India or the United States. The company said refurbished Note 7s will be equipped with new batteries that have gone through Samsung's new battery safety measures. "The objective of introducing refurbished devices is solely to reduce and minimize any environmental impact," it said. The company estimated that it took a profit hit of $5.5 billion over three quarters because of the Note 7's troubles. It had sold more than 3 million of the phones before taking the model off the market. Samsung also plans to recover and use or sell reusable components such as chips and camera modules, as well as rare metals such as copper, gold, nickel and silver from Note 7 devices it opts not to sell as refurbished products. Environment rights group Greenpeace and others had urged Samsung to come up with environmentally friendly ways to deal with the recovered Note 7s. Greenpeace said in a separate statement on Monday that it welcomed Samsung's decision and that the company should carry out its plans in a verifiable manner.
Broadband access in the United States is not universal, with a longtime digital divide beween urban and rural areas. But in one small town just four hours from Washington, D.C., there's no internet service at all. The town of Green Bank, West Virginia, is the site of the largest fully steerable radio telescope in the world, so internet connections and anything else that can create electromagnetic waves, such as microwave ovens, are banned. It becomes apparent in Green Bank that visitors have to navigate the old-fashioned way: by reading road signs. That's because GPS comes to a screeching halt as you approach this West Virginia town, which has two churches, an elementary school, a library and the world's largest radio telescope. Sherry, who manages the largest store in Green Bank, was born here so the lack of internet access is normal for her. "Yes, we are different. Many would say that we live the old-fashioned way, in the past. But for us, it's just the way of life that we have always lived," Sherry said. On her store wall, an artifact from the past ... a phone attached to a wall jack ... the only way to call someone in Green Bank. No modern wireless conveniences, such as smartphones, are usable here. Green Bank is frozen in time, somewhere in the 1950s, because there's a 33,000-square-kilometer zone of silence due to the telescope. Cellphone towers are forbidden. But that's OK for residents because there are several payphones. The closer you get to the telescope, the greater the restrictions. There's a 16-kilometer radius around the observatory where radio-controlled items, even toys, cannot be used. Compliance with these conditions is strictly enforced. Jonah Bauserman acts as a "technical" policeman. If he suspects there's an unauthorized signal, he drives to the house and inspects it for prohibited devices. "This equipment allows me to catch even the weakest signals that could affect the telescope," Bauserman said. Telescope employees even work in a special room -- much like a sarcophagus -- that blocks electromagnetic waves from leaving the interior. "Here imagine a submarine, water cannot get inside, and so this room is an electric submarine. No electromagnetic waves can get into this room, just as you can't go beyond it," Michael Holstein, an observatory officer, said. The job of these scientists is to minimize the impact of outside interference on the radio telescope. Only once a week, when there's regularly scheduled maintenance, some prohibited devices are allowed near the telescope, Holstein said. The size of a football field, the telescope is so sensitive it could pick up signals sent from an alien world. And scientists can't wait for that to happen. "All the signals that we now receive with the help of telescopes are signals that come from cosmic objects -- stars, galaxies. We have not yet received anything from intelligent civilizations," scientist Richard Lynch said. Local people respect the work of the scientists. And they are more than happy to live life Wi-Fi free. "When we want to meet friends, we just call each other on a wire phone. //// And instead of sitting in front of your screen, we talk, we go fishing, to the mountains," resident Sherry said. For the latest news, residents read the weekly local newspaper. When she's looking for a phone number, Sherry reaches for the phone book. And instead of Facebook, Sherry enjoys daily conversations with her customers. In this town, everyone knows each other and communication is face to face.
Facebook Inc will add a feature to its Messenger app Monday to allow users to share their locations, the company said, ramping up competition with tools offered by Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc's Google Maps. The company has found that one of the most used phrases on Messenger as people talk to friends and family is "How far away are you?" or some variation, Stan Chudnovsky, head of product for Messenger, said in an interview. "It happens to be what people are saying, what they're interested in the most," he said. Sharing location information will be optional, he said, but it will also be live, so that once a user shares the information with a friend, the friend will be able to watch the user's movement for up to 60 minutes. Messenger was once part of the core Facebook smartphone app, but the company broke it out as a separate app in 2014 and has since invested in frequent changes to build a service distinct from the massive social network. Google Maps said last week that it was adding a similar feature, an attempt to boost engagement on a product of increasing strategic importance to that company. The close proximity of the announcements tells Facebook "that we're working on the right things," Chudnovsky said. The Messages app on Apple's iPhone has such a feature, too. Facebook has been testing its change in Mexico, he said. It was ready as long ago as October, he added, but the company worked on it for five more months to minimize the impact on the battery life of phones.
Driverless vehicles operated by Uber Technologies Inc. were back on the road in San Francisco on Monday after one of its self-driving cars crashed in Arizona, the ride-hailing company said. Uber's autonomous vehicles in Arizona and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, remained grounded but were expected to be operating again soon, according to a spokeswoman for the company, who refused to be identified. "We are resuming our development operations in San Francisco this morning," she said in an email. Uber's San Francisco program is currently in development mode. It has two cars registered with the California Department of Motor Vehicles, but is not transporting passengers. The spokeswoman said because of this, the company felt confident in putting the cars back on the road while it investigates the collision in Arizona. On Friday, Uber suspended its pilot program in the three states. A human-driven vehicle "failed to yield" to an Uber vehicle while making a turn in Tempe, Arizona, said Josie Montenegro, a spokeswoman for the city's police department. "The vehicles collided, causing the autonomous vehicle to roll onto its side," Montenegro said in an email. "There were no serious injuries." Two "safety" drivers were in the front seats of the Uber car, which was in self-driving mode at the time of the crash, Uber said on Friday, a standard requirement for its self-driving vehicles. The back seat was unoccupied. Photos and a video posted on Twitter by Fresco News showed a Volvo SUV flipped on its side after an apparent collision involving two other, slightly damaged cars. Uber said the images appeared to be from the Tempe crash scene.
Islamic State propagandists are seeking to capitalize on last week's terror attack in London, which left five people dead and 40 injured, by flooding YouTube with hundreds of violent recruitment videos. The online propaganda offensive comes as Britain demands social media companies scrub their sites of jihadist postings. Amber Rudd, the country's interior minister, has vowed to "call time" on internet firms allowing terrorists "a place to hide" and has summoned some of the leading social media companies, including Facebook and Twitter, for what is being dubbed by British officials as "showdown talks" later this week. Rudd says she is determined to stop extremists "using social media as their platform" for recruitment and for operational needs. Britain's security services are in a standoff with WhatsApp, which has refused to allow them access to the encrypted message the London attacker sent three minutes before he used an SUV to mow down pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and stabbed to death a policeman outside the House of Commons. British security services are powerless to read that final message, which might cast light on whether the attack was a "lone wolf" or one aided and directed by others. Police investigators believe the terrorist acted alone and have seen no evidence that he was associated with IS or al-Qaida. WhatsApp, which has a billion users worldwide, employs "end to end encryption" for messages, which the company says prevents even its own technicians from reading people's messages. Officials want voluntary action Rudd and other government ministers have launched a media onslaught, saying they are considering legislation to require online companies to take down extremist material. They argue this wouldn't be necessary if the companies recognized their community responsibilities. Rudd told the BBC that Facebook, Google and other companies should understand they are not just technology businesses, but also publishing platforms. "We have to have a situation where we can have our security services get into the terrorists' communications," she argued. "There should be no place for terrorists to hide." British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson joined in the condemnation of social media and online companies. "I think it's disgusting," he told The Sunday Times. "They need to stop just making money out of prurient violent material." At a security conference last week in the United States, Johnson called for action. "We are going to have to engage not just militarily, but also to stop the stuff on the internet that is corrupting and polluting so many people," he said. "This is something that the internet companies and social media companies need to think about. They need to do more to take that stuff off their media — the incitements, the information about how to become a terrorist, the radicalizing sermons and messages. That needs to come down." Recruiting criminals The furor over extremist use of the internet was fueled Monday by front-page articles in the Times and Daily Mail newspapers highlighting the IS propaganda videos posted on YouTube since last Wednesday's slaughter in the British capital. The high-definition videos, some of which contained references to the London attack, include gory scenes of beheadings and "caliphate violence" carried out by child adherents of the terror group. U.S. and European officials have long complained online companies are, in effect, aiding and abetting terrorism. A year ago in January, much of the U.S. national security leadership of the Obama administration sat down with Silicon Valley chiefs to discuss jihadist use of the internet to recruit and radicalize people and plot attacks. Also last year, British spy chief, Robert Hannigan, singled out messaging apps as especially worrisome for the security services, saying they had become "the command-and-control networks of choice for terrorists and criminals — precisely because they are highly encrypted." Some cooperation After initial resistance to complaints from Western governments, Facebook, Google and Twitter have in recent months been more cooperative with authorities and have removed large amounts of extremist material. Twitter said in the second half of 2016 it suspended 376,890 accounts for violations related to promotion of terrorism. But some services have resisted providing governments with encryption keys, or so-called back doors. Apple has developed encryption keys that message users can use that are not possessed by the company. Apple's chief executive, Timothy Cook, argued last year, "If you put a key under the mat for the cops, a burglar can find it, too." Silicon Valley chiefs say they fear violations of privacy and their priority is their customers, not national security, an argument that has resonated since former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed the extent of electronic surveillance by U.S. intelligence agencies. Last year, WhatsApp was blocked several times in Brazil for failing to hand over information relating to criminal investigations. Messages sent on a rival service by Telegram are also encrypted, but after bad publicity and immense pressure from Western governments, the company does provide a backdoor for security and law-enforcement agencies. Not that access to encrypted communications always helps. Sunday, it emerged that German police knew the Christmas market attacker in Berlin who drove a truck into a crowd of shoppers was planning a suicide attack. Police had intercepted his Telegram messages nine months before the attack. A police recommendation that he be deported was declined by state government prosecutors because they feared the courts would reject the request.
The Qatar Investment Authority, the Gulf Arab state's acquisitive sovereign wealth fund, is setting up an office in San Francisco to manage its growing portfolio in the United States, the CEO of QIA said in London on Monday. "Soon we will be opening an office in the Silicon Valley in San Francisco," Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohammed al-Thani told reporters at an investment conference. The fund is one of the most active sovereign investors in the world, snapping up stakes in everything from real estate to luxury goods. Much of its activity has traditionally been in Europe but the fund has said it is looking to diversify into Asia and the United States, announcing last year a plan to spend $20 billion in Asian investments over the next five years.
President Donald Trump is set to announce a new White House office run by his son-in-law that will seek to overhaul government functions using ideas from the business sector. A senior administration official said Trump on Monday will announce the White House Office of American Innovation. The official sought anonymity to discuss the office in advance of the formal rollout. The plans for the office were first reported by The Washington Post. The innovation office will be led by Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to Trump, and will report directly to the president. Among those working on the effort are National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, Dina Powell, senior counselor to the president for economic initiatives and deputy national security adviser, Chris Liddell, assistant to the president for strategic initiatives and Reed Cordish, assistant to the president for intragovernmental and technology initiatives. All have extensive business experience. Trump is readying to announce the new office at a low point in his young administration, days after the Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare." imploded in the House of Representatives, revealing deep divides within GOP and fraying tensions at the White House. This effort has been developing since shortly after the inauguration, the official said. The group has been meeting since then and started talking to CEOs from various sectors about ways to make changes to federal programs. Areas they hope to tackle include overhauling Veterans' Affairs, improving workforce development and targeting opioid addiction. Trump's daughter Ivanka, who is married to Kushner and has a West Wing office but no official job, will get involved on issues she is focused on, such as workforce development.
These days, the only words most people see are typed. Many young people never learn cursive handwriting, but it is making a comeback. Thousands of school students around the country are learning to write in longhand. At one elementary school in New York City, teachers and students seem excited about the elegance, but also the educational power, of cursive handwriting. VOA's Faiza Elmasry has more. Faith Lapidus narrates.
One day you may be carrying your own drone everywhere you go. A drone has been developed to take selfies that is so thin it can be put into your pants pocket. The Selfly, as it is called, is attached to a smartphone that fits into the phone’s case. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us more.
Uber Technologies Inc suspended its pilot program for driverless cars on Saturday (March 25th) after a vehicle equipped with the nascent technology crashed on an Arizona roadway, the ride-hailing company and local police said. The accident, the latest involving a self-driving vehicle operated by one of several companies experimenting with autonomous vehicles, caused no serious injuries, Uber said. Even so, the company said it was grounding driverless cars involved in a pilot program in Arizona, Pittsburgh and San Francisco pending the outcome of investigation into the crash on Friday evening in Tempe. The accident occurred when the driver of a second vehicle "failed to yield" to the Uber vehicle while making a turn, said Josie Montenegro, a spokeswoman for the Tempe Police Department. Two 'safety' drivers were in the front seats of the Uber car, which was in self-driving mode at the time of the crash, Uber said in an email, a standard requirement for its self-driving vehicles. The back seat was empty. Photos and a video posted on Twitter by Fresco News, a service that sells content to news outlets, showed a Volvo SUV flipped on its side after an apparent collision involving two other, slightly damaged cars. Uber said the images appeared to be from the Tempe crash scene. When Uber launched the pilot program in Pittsburgh last year, it said that driverless cars "require human intervention in many conditions, including bad weather." It also said the new technology had the potential to reduce the number of traffic accidents in the country. The accident is not the first time a self-driving car has been involved in a collision. A driver of a Tesla Motors Inc Model S car operating in autopilot mode was killed in a collision with a truck in Williston, Florida in 2016. A self-driving vehicle operated by Alphabet Inc's Google was involved in a crash last year in Mountain View, California, striking a bus while attempting to navigate around an obstacle. The collision comes days after Uber's former president Jeff Jones quit less than seven months after joining the San Francisco-based company, the latest in a string of high-level executives who have departed in recent months. In February, Alphabet's Waymo self-driving car unit sued Uber and its Otto autonomous trucking subsidiary, alleging theft of proprietary sensor technology.
A Chinese court has ruled in favor of Apple in design patent disputes between the Cupertino, California company and a domestic phone-maker, overturning a ban on selling iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus phones in China, Xinhua news agency reported. Last May, a Beijing patent regulator ordered Apple's Chinese subsidiary and a local retailer Zoomflight to stop selling the iPhones after Shenzhen Baili Marketing Services lodged a complaint, claiming that the patent for the design of its mobile phone 100c was being infringed by the iPhone sales. Apple and Zoomflight took the Beijing Intellectual Property Office's ban to court. The Beijing Intellectual Property Court on Friday revoked the ban, saying Apple and Zoomflight did not violate Shenzhen Baili's design patent for 100c phones. The court ruled that the regulator did not follow due procedures in ordering the ban while there was no sufficient proof to claim the designs constituted a violation of intellectual property rights. Representatives of Beijing Intellectual Property Office and Shenzhen Baili said they would take time to decide whether to appeal the ruling, according to Xinhua. In a related ruling, the same court denied a request by Apple to demand stripping Shenzhen Baili of its design patent for 100c phones. Apple first filed the request to the Patent Reexamination Board of State Intellectual Property Office. The board rejected the request, but Apple lodged a lawsuit against the rejection. The Beijing Intellectual Property Court on Friday ruled to maintain the board's decision. It is unclear if Apple will appeal.
Khmerload, a Cambodian entertainment news website modeled after the American media giant Buzzfeed, has become the country’s first local tech startup to attract the backing of Silicon Valley investors. A $200,000 investment to be exact. The money came from 500 Startups, a global venture capital seed fund and startup accelerator founded by PayPal and Google alumni, Dave McClure and Christine Tsai, who took notice of the website, launched five years ago. The grant pushed the company’s value to more than $1 million, according to In Vichet, Khmerload’s founder and CEO. Several sites, and growing Vichet, also the CEO and founder of Cambodia’s popular Little Fashion ecommerce site, said he convinced investors that Khmerload had growth potential, enough for a return on the investment. “We showed them that we are in the top three websites in Cambodia,” said Vichet, who did his graduate work in economics at the University of Michigan. “We also have traction in Myanmar, where we recently expanded. So they see that we have done a lot while already generating revenue. They saw our potential.” Khailee Ng, the Southeast Asia-based managing partner of 500 Startups, said Khmerload’s probable growth extends far beyond Cambodia’s borders. “Getting to the top media position behind Facebook and Google’s properties with such a lean budget is something not many entrepreneurs across Southeast Asia have done,” Ng said. “I’ve actually never seen anything quite like it. To be profitable, yet have increasing traffic growth rates? This investment decision is easy,” he added. The $1 million may not seem like much compared with the $1.7 billion value of Buzzfeed, until measured against Cambodia’s per capita income of $1,070, according to the latest World Bank estimate. More Cambodians on internet The 500 Startups grant comes as more and more Cambodians are using the internet and Facebook, according to an Asia Foundation study that found most go online exclusively through their smartphones. This mimics trends for sites like Buzzfeed. Khmerload has gained more than 17 million page views per month in Cambodia, allowing it to expand into Myanmar last year, opening a sister site, Myanmarload, which already generates about 20 million page views per month. It has also carried out a successful pilot in Indonesia, said Vichet, and was incorporated in Singapore as Mediaload. However, Khmerload’s Buzzfeed-style approach of viral content and quick clicks has led to criticism. Content diversifying Vichet admits that the site originally relied heavily on tabloid and entertainment content or, as he put it, “nonpolitical content,” an important distinction in a nation where the constitution provides for a free press, but where the state closely monitors the media and — one way or another — controls its content. But as the site has grown to reach millions, he says, it has diversified to include more informative content, including educational materials and technology news. And 500 Startups is no doubt aware of Cambodians growing embrace of the online world. In 2000, an estimated 6,000 Cambodians used the internet. Today, the company estimates 5 million active users in Cambodia. Tech startups are also on the rise. About 120 have sprung up in Cambodia, along with some 10 co-working spaces in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, according to Thul Rithy, founder of Phnom Penh-based co-working spaces SmallWorld and Emerald Hub. Mediaload’s next moves include expansions into Vietnam and Laos, Vichet said. He’s also keen to help other Cambodians obtain Silicon Valley investment. “Even with a good idea, it is really hard for Cambodians to get an investment from [Silicon Valley], as there is no precedent of success,” Vichet said. “I hope I can deliver good returns to them so that in the future they will invest in other Cambodian technology startups.” This report was originally published by VOA’s Khmer Service.