Since the 2016 U.S. presidential election nearly a year ago, there has been increasing scrutiny of how Russian-backed operatives used accounts on Facebook, Google and Twitter to try to influence its outcome. Executives from those companies appear before at least three congressional hearings starting Tuesday, facing questions from lawmakers about what happened and how they plan to respond. What happened on the internet companies' services during the 2016 election "was the undermining of our political process," said Ann Ravel, a lecturer at the University of California-Berkeley's law school and a former chair at the Federal Election Commission, the federal agency that enforces campaign finance law. The congressional spotlight on the internet marks a shift in how lawmakers and the public think of the global communications network, observers say. View of the internet For years, the internet was viewed as "an egalitarian force, basically giving voice to the voiceless," said Nate Persily, a Stanford University law professor. The 2016 election, with Russian-backed operatives reportedly placing political ads on social networks or posing as Americans talking about hot-button issues, changed that utopian view of the internet. "We realized that once you allow anyone to speak to as many people as they want no matter when they want, that enables certain types of speakers who hold undemocratic speech," Persily said. On the streets of San Francisco, people interviewed echoed frustrations heard around the country that little is known yet about how and why Russian-backed actors used internet firms. But some say tech companies should take responsibility for what happens on their services and play more of a monitoring role than they have done. "Social media is accessible to everyone," peer counselor Moinnette Harris said. "People can engage in it or put whatever they want on there, whether it's true or false." Lia McLoughlin, a stay-at-home parent, said, "I think Facebook has a responsibility. ... If you know that there's something that is affecting our democracy, and if you have any idea that it might be fake, there is a reason to stand in there. It's our democracy." Facebook and other companies share responsibility if their services were used by foreign agents, said Christian Simonetti, an administrative assistant. But any new rules or penalties the internet companies face should be done "without infringing on people's democratic rights to express themselves," he said. Proposed legislation Law lecturer Ravel said that congressional leaders and regulators should require that internet companies be transparent about who is using their services for political ads, something that billboards, TV stations and newspapers have to do. In recent weeks, some of the companies have vowed to make changes in reaction to the scrutiny. Twitter and Facebook have said they will do more to make political advertisements more transparent. Twitter also banned RT and Sputnik, two Russian-backed media companies, from advertising on its site. But almost everyone agrees it would be harder to regulate — for the government and internet firms — so-called "issue-based ads," which are about hot topics such as gun rights and gay marriage. Those ads may not be tied to a specific candidate or ballot measure. Even harder would be fake Facebook or Twitter accounts created overseas but purporting to have been created by people living in a targeted community. "There is currently no clear industry definition for issue-based ads," Twitter said in a blog post. How the U.S. navigates these issues will matter to the rest of the world, Ravel said. "It's important for the United States to be a leader to balance innovation we want from the internet for people to speak openly on the internet," Ravel said, "yet to do something to prevent the intervention in the election."
Automakers from around the world take the stage this weekend at the 45th annual Tokyo Motor Show. Designers will showcase electronic cars with advanced artificial intelligence and at least one concept car with safety features for the world around it. Arash Arabasadi reports.
Facebook, Google and Twitter are heading to Washington to answer questions about how their services were used by Russia-based operatives to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In Silicon Valley, there's concern that the scrutiny may bring new regulations, as VOA's Michelle Quinn reports.
Police in Hawaii will ticket people who get caught looking at digital devices while crossing a street in the state capital, Honolulu. The law, passed in July, came into effect this week, making Honolulu the first major city in the U.S. to pass such a law. The only exemption to the Distracted Walking Law is to use a device to call 911 to report an emergency. The fines for the offenses will range from $15 to up to $99 for repeat offenders. Pedestrians are still allowed to talk on their phones while crossing the streets, as long as they look at their surroundings. The National Safety Council added "distracted walking" to its annual list of injury risks in 2015. According to a study in the Journal of Safety Studies in 2015, some 400 pedestrians distracted by a phone were injured in the United States each year between the years 2000 and 2007. But after the introduction of the smartphone, the numbers have risen. The study found an estimated 1,300 pedestrians were injured in 2012.
Twitter is reporting a loss of $21.1 million in its third quarter, but turned in a better-than-expected profit when one-time charges and benefits are removed. Shares of Twitter Inc. soared almost 9 percent before the opening bell Thursday. The San Francisco company had a loss of 3 cents, but a gain of 10 cents if those non-re-occurring events are removed. That's 2 cents better than industry analysts had predicted, according to a survey by Zacks Investment Research. Revenue was $589.6 million in the period, in line with expectations.
Twitter is enacting new policies around hate, abuse and ads, but creating new rules is only half the battle – the easy half. The bigger problem is enforcement, and there the company has had some high-profile bungles recently. That includes its much-criticized suspension of actress Rose McGowan while she was speaking out against Harvey Weinstein, and the company's ban, later reversed, of a controversial ad by a Republican Senate candidate. The twists and turns suggest that Twitter doesn't always communicate the intent of its rules to the people enforcing them. The company says it will be clearer about these policies and decisions in the future.
Robert Salazar has been playing with origami, the Japanese art of paper folding, since he was 8 years old. When he sees a sheet of paper, his imagination takes over and intricate animals take shape. "Seeing the single uncut sheet, it has everything you need to create all of the origami that have ever been folded. It is all in the single sheet so there is endless potential," Salazar said. The endless potential of origami, folding a single sheet of paper into an intricate sculpture, reaches all the way to space. Salazar’s 17-year experience with origami is appreciated at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. As a contractor and intern, Salazar is helping create objects that may one day be used in space exploration. "Origami offers the potential to take a very large structure, even a vast structure, and you can get it to fit within the rocket, go up, then deploy back out again. So it greatly magnifies what we are capable of building in space," Salazar said. Folding a large object into a relatively small space is not a simple task. "A big challenge in origami design in general is that because all of these folds share a single resource, which is a single sheet ... everything is highly interdependent, so if you change just one feature it has an impact on everything else," Salazar said. "One of our guide stars really is keep it as simple as can be," said Manan Arya, a technologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Don't add unnecessary complexity because every piece of complexity, every piece of hardware you add, that ends up being another potential point of failure." Starshade Folding an object the size of a baseball diamond so that it could fit into a rocket is the goal of a NASA project called Starshade. Once it opens in space, Starshade would allow a space telescope to better see the planets around bright stars. "Seeing an exoplanet next to its parent star is like trying to image a firefly next to a search light, the searchlight being the star," said Arya, who is working on the Starshade project. "Starshade seeks to block out that starlight so you can image a really faint exoplanet right next to it." Origami robot Origami is also used in designing a robot called the Pop-Up Flat Folding Explorer Robot, or PUFFER. It has a body that can fold itself flat and roll under small spaces. PUFFER has been tested on desert terrains and snowy slopes. It may one day end up on a mission to another planet. "It [PUFFER] is to explore environments otherwise inaccessible to a robot that could not fold itself to fit inside these cracks, [to] explore cave systems, could be other planets, even on our own," Salazar said. Origami antenna Another application for space origami design is to pack an antenna into satellites the size of a briefcase, called CubeSats. "The bigger the antenna you have, the more gain your antenna has, so it is useful to have a big antenna that gets packaged into this tiny space that unfolds out to be a large antenna. The biggest CubeSat antennas right now are about half a meter," Arya said. Unexplored territory There are also largely unexplored surfaces that can utilize origami concepts in designing new technologies. "So often, origami design has been tailored toward materials that are already lying flat," Salazar said. "But there is actually a vastly, a much larger field of application for which the surfaces are not flat, so they could be parabolic. They could be spherical. They could be many combinations of doubly curved surfaces coming together. All of these things can also be folded." In the current origami-inspired technologies being developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, there is a graceful beauty to the folding and unfolding of designs such as the Starshade, which unfurls into what looks like a sunflower. In origami, Salazar said, art, science and engineering are only superficially different. "Really, when it comes down to it, you're looking at the world," he said. "You're making observations. You're finding patterns in these observations. [You're] developing an understanding of what you see, then using that understanding to create. And when you're creating, [it] can either be creating with the intention of solving a physical problem or it could be nonphysical. It could be aesthetic. You're trying to find a particular impact on people when they see your work. So really, the practice is the same." In origami, Salazar said art, science and engineering are quite similar. They draw on making observations and creating something that produces an impact.
Paper folding known as origami is widely considered a Japanese art form. From a single piece of paper, an animal, a flower or even a boat can take shape. Besides the fun and artistic side of origami, the art of paper folding also has applications that can take it to outer space. VOA's Elizabeth Lee has the details from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
U.S. President Donald Trump Wednesday ordered the Transportation Department to launch a test program to increase the number of drones for commercial and civil use. "The program will help tackle the most significant challenges in integrating drones into the national airspace while reducing risks to public safety and security," the department said. Under the program, drones will be test flown at night, fly over people for safety tests, fly out of sight of the operators and deliver packages. It would also test technologies to prevent collisions with other aircraft. "Drones are proving to be especially valuable in emergency situations, including assessing damage from natural disasters such as the recent hurricanes and the wildfires in California," Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said. A novelty for now Right now, drones in the United States are largely a novelty. Federal aviation officials say there are about 1 million registered drones in the country. Most of them belong to people who fly them as a hobby. They are small and relatively inexpensive and can be modified to deliver small packages and even pizzas. But the lack of federal and local rules and safety regulations have restricted more widespread commercial use. There is also the inevitable concern that drones could become a tool for terrorists. Terrorist tool? FBI Director Christopher Wray recently told a U.S. Senate panel, "The expectation is it's coming here imminently." He called drones "relatively easy to acquire, relatively easy to operate, and quite difficult to disrupt and monitor." A drone flown by a hobbyist unintentionally crash landed on the White House lawn in 2015. Along with Wednesday's announced test program, the Trump administration wants to enhance the powers of police to track drones and shoot down any that appear to be a threat.
Don't want Amazon boxes sitting on the porch? The company hopes you'll let a stranger inside to drop them off. Amazon said Wednesday it will launch a service called Amazon Key next month that will let people allow the door to be unlocked when they're not there so packages can be left inside. The proposal drew plenty of humorous reactions on social media, as well as concerns about safety or delivery employees being mistaken for intruders. Amazon said the drivers would be well-vetted, while one expert said the company has built up trust with customers and younger customers were more likely to try it out. An in-home delivery program also falls in line with Amazon's strategy of trying to make shopping with it so convenient that consumers don't think about buying elsewhere. And with the option requiring a specific camera that it sells, the move helps Amazon tie customers even closer to its gadgets as well as the items it delivers. Customers who want to use the service would need to be Amazon Prime members and would have to buy a camera and a Wi-Fi-connected lock from the Seattle-based company that starts at $250. Shoppers will then be able to choose in-home delivery as an option in the Amazon app. When the delivery person shows up, they will knock first and scan the package. Amazon will make sure the person is at the right home and unlock the door. No codes or keys are needed, and the indoor camera will record the in-home delivery. The Amazon Cloud Cam also lets users watch a livestream or recorded video on Amazon's Fire tablet, Fire TV or its voice-activated Echo devices that have a video screen. The service is likely to be more of a hit with younger families, said Timothy Carone, an associate teaching professor at University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business. He said millennials are already comfortable posting photos and their whereabouts on Facebook, Instagram and other social media. "They're less concerned about privacy than older generations are," Carone said. Walmart is testing a similar service in California's Silicon Valley, which lets delivery people drop off packages or stock the fridge with groceries bought from Walmart.com. The delivery person is given a one-time code to open the door and Walmart said customers will get an alert on their smartphones when someone enters. For Amazon, the in-home delivery service helps it enter the fast-growing home security camera market, competing with Google's Nest cameras, said Martin Garner, a device and internet analyst at CCS Insight. Tying the camera in with the in-home delivery service gives people a reason to buy it, said Garner. "They've been on a mission to do this," said Garner. Amazon.com Inc. said in-home delivery will be available Nov. 8 in 37 cities, including Atlanta, Cleveland and Denver. The company says the service is covered by the Amazon Key Happiness Guarantee, which applies to delivery issues, property damage or theft. And Amazon said the deliveries are carried out by drivers who are vetted with background checks and driving record reviews. The company said the smart lock can also be used to let in out-of-town guests who want to make themselves at home. And in the coming months, it can be used to grant access to housekeepers to scrub the kitchen or dog walkers to take your furry friend for a stroll. But for package deliveries, you may need to keep your dogs and cats a bit contained: Amazon doesn't recommend using the in-home delivery service if pets can get to the front door on delivery day.
Facebook is partnering with a developer to build a wind power farm in northeast Nebraska that will supply energy for the company's planned data center. The social media giant announced last week that it has partnered with Trade Winds Energy to build the Rattlesnake Creek Wind Project in rural Dixon County. Facebook plans to use energy from the wind farm to power its upcoming data center in Papillion, a suburb of Omaha. Of the 320 megawatts of power the wind farm will create, 200 of them will be allocated to the data center while the remaining will be available for other buyers. Officials said the project will produce the second-largest wind farm in Nebraska, behind the 400-megawatt Grande Prairie project in Holt County. Officials also said the new wind farm will generate enough energy to power 90,000 homes. Both projects are examples of the state's rich wind resource being acknowledged, said David Bracht, director of the Nebraska Energy Office. "The wind projects that have been installed [in Nebraska] have shown themselves to be very, very productive,'' Bracht said. A new electric rate structure rolled out in January by the Omaha Public Power District means Facebook can power its data center with 100 percent clean energy. The company also aims to get at least 50 percent of its total electricity consumption from clean and renewable energy sources in 2018. Neither Facebook nor Trade Winds provided a timeline or cost for the wind farm.
A university engineering department has developed what amounts to a Tinder app for criminals — a computer program that matches inmates with suitable prisons. The software, unique in the corrections field, has saved the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections about $3 million in its first year. It's resulted in fewer prison assaults, shortened wait times for treatment programs by nearly two months, reduced the number of prison transfers and lightened the workload of corrections staff. Corrections officials marvel that nobody thought of it sooner. "It's pretty amazing, and what we've seen so far is the outcomes are a lot better," said Major William Nicklow of the state prison in Camp Hill, who oversaw the project as the prison system's director of population management. On Tuesday, the Lehigh University team that developed the software accepted the Wagner Prize, the top international prize in the field of operations research practice. Their work has dramatically simplified the job of assigning inmates to prisons. Previously, corrections staff handled prisoner assignments one at a time, a laborious and inefficient process that meant inmates farther down the list were at a disadvantage when it came to placement in high-demand treatment programs. The software, in contrast, can assign hundreds of inmates simultaneously, taking into account dozens of factors including age and other inmate demographics, criminal history, mental illness, and educational and vocational interests to come up with the most appropriate placement for each inmate. It also identifies gang members as well as inmates most likely to be violent and separates them, reducing the threat at individual prisons. The software can finish in minutes what it took a staff of seven an entire week to do. "This very complex problem is mathematically modeled, put in the system and the system is advising where the inmate has to be assigned," said Tamas Terlaky, one of the program's developers and a professor in Lehigh's industrial and systems engineering department. "The benefits are quite obvious." Other corrections departments have taken note. At least three other states as well as the federal prison system have made inquiries about the software, Terlaky said.
Americans could see a lot more drones flying around their communities as the result of a Trump administration test program to increase government and commercial use of the unmanned aircraft. President Donald Trump gave the go-ahead Wednesday, signing a directive intended to increase the number and complexity of drone flights. The presidential memo would allow exemptions from current safety rules so communities could move ahead with testing of drone operations. States, communities and tribes selected to participate would devise their own trial programs in partnership with government and industry drone users. The administration anticipates approving at least five applications, but there is no limit on the number of communities that can join. The Federal Aviation Administration would review each program. The agency would grant waivers, if necessary, to rules that now restrict drone operations. Examples include prohibitions on flights over people, nighttime flights and flights beyond the line of sight of the drone operator. Among the things that could be tested are package deliveries; the reliability and security of data links between pilot and aircraft; and technology to prevent collisions between drones and other aircraft and to detect and counter drones flying in restricted areas. Drone-makers and businesses that want to fly drones have pushed for looser restrictions. Trump discussed the issue with industry leaders at a White House meeting in June. In the past two years, the FAA has registered over 1 million drones. The majority of them belong to hobbyists. There are now more registered drones than registered manned aircraft in the U.S. Safety restrictions on drone flights have limited drone use, and U.S. technology companies seeking to test and deploy commercial drones have often done so overseas. For example, Google’s Project Wing is testing drones in Australia, and Amazon is testing drone deliveries in the United Kingdom. “In order to maintain American leadership in this emerging industry here at home, our country needs a regulatory framework that encourages innovation while ensuring airspace safety,” Michael Kratsios of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy told reporters in a conference call. The trial program will collect data on drone operations that will aid the government’s effort to develop a separate air traffic control system for low-flying unmanned aircraft, he said. The test zones are expected to start going into place in about a year. The program would continue for three years after that. Safety concerns over drones have risen recently after the collision of a civilian drone and an Army helicopter over Staten Island, New York, and the first verified collision in North America between a drone and a commercial aircraft, in Quebec City, Canada. The test program doesn’t address complaints by local governments that low-flying drones present safety, privacy and nuisance risks. The FAA says it has the sole authority to regulate the national airspace, but some communities have passed their own restrictions. Doug Johnson, vice president of technology policy at the Consumer Technology Association, said the test program recognizes that “the federal government cannot manage policymaking and enforcement by itself” and must work with local governments. “Public-private partnerships like those that would be created by the program are critical to realizing the economic benefits of drones,” he said. The association, whose members include drone-makers, has estimated 3.4 million drones valued will be sold in the U.S. this year, 40 percent more than last year. Revenue from those sales is estimated at about $1.1 billion.
Apple Inc recently allowed its suppliers to reduce the accuracy of the iPhone X's facial recognition system to speed up production of the smartphone, Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday, citing people familiar with the situation. The Face ID system - among the $999 iPhone X’s most talked about features - uses a mathematical model of users’ faces to allow them to sign on to their phones or pay for goods with a steady glance at their phones. Apple could not immediately be reached for comment outside regular business hours. Apple has been facing a slew of issues with its latest set of phones that it launched on Sept. 12, with the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus facing muted demand, and news and analyst reports suggesting reduced shipment plans for the iPhone X. The iPhone X is set to be released on Nov. 3.
A new strain of malicious software has paralyzed computers at a Ukrainian airport, the Ukrainian capital's subway and at some independent Russian media. The Odessa international airport in Ukraine's south, the Kyiv subway and prominent Russian media outlets such as Interfax and Fontanka on Tuesday reported being targeted. The cyberattack appears to be similar to a major attack in June that locked the computers of hospitals, government offices and major multinationals with encryption that demanded a ransom for their release. The software appeared to have originated in Ukraine. Moscow-based cyber security firm Group-IP said in a statement Wednesday the ransomware called BadRabbit also tried to penetrate the computers of major Russian banks but failed. None of the banks has reported any attacks. Moscow-based cyber security company Kaspersky Lab said it was aware of more than 200 companies in Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and Germany targeted by the ransomware. The Odessa airport said in a statement its information systems have been affected, although it continues to service flights. The subway in the capital, Kyiv, said it cannot process online payments and bank card payments. The operations of Russia's only privately owned news agency, Interfax, have been paralyzed since Tuesday.
Sometime in 2014, a group of analysts walked into the office of Eugene Kaspersky, the ebullient founder of Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab, to deliver some sobering news. The analysts were in possession of a cache of files belonging to the Equation Group, an extraordinarily powerful band of hackers that would later be exposed as an arm of the U.S. National Security Agency. But the analysts were worried; the files were classified. "They immediately came to my office," Kaspersky recalled, "and they told me that they have a problem." According to him, there was no hesitation about what to do with the cache. "It must be deleted," Kaspersky says he told them. The incident, recounted by Kaspersky during a brief telephone interview on Monday and supplemented by a preliminary timeline provided by company officials, could not be immediately corroborated. But it's the first public acknowledgement of a story that has been building for the past three weeks — that Kaspersky's popular anti-virus program uploaded powerful digital espionage tools belonging to the NSA and sent them to servers in Moscow. The account provides new perspective on the U.S. government's recent move to blacklist Kaspersky from federal computer networks, even if it still leaves important questions unanswered. To hear Kaspersky tell it, the incident was an accident borne of carelessness. Kaspersky was already on the trail of the Equation Group when one of its customers in the United States — Kaspersky referred to them as a "malware developer" — ran at least two anti-virus scans on their home computer after it was infected by a pirated copy of Microsoft Office 2013, according to Kaspersky's timeline. That triggered an alert for Equation Group files hidden in a compressed archive which was spirited to Moscow for analysis. Kaspersky's story at least partially matches accounts published in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. All three publications recently reported that someone at the NSA's elite hacking unit lost control of some of the agency's powerful surveillance tools after they brought their work home with them, leaving what should have been closely guarded code on a personal computer running Kaspersky's anti-virus software. But information security experts reading the bits of information dropped by anonymous government officials are still puzzling at whether Kaspersky is suspected of deliberately hunting for confidential data or was merely doing its job by sniffing out suspicious files. Much of the ambiguity is down to the nature of modern anti-virus software, which routinely submits rogue files back to company servers for analysis. The software can easily be quietly tweaked to scoop up other files too: perhaps classified documents belonging to a foreign rival's government, for example. Concerns have been fanned by increasingly explicit warnings from U.S. government officials after tensions with Russia escalated in the wake of the 2016 presidential election. Kaspersky denied any inappropriate link to the Russian government, and said in his interview that any classified documents inadvertently swept up by his software would be destroyed on discovery. "If we see confidential or classified information, it will be immediately deleted and that was exactly [what happened in] this case,'' he said, adding that the order had since been written into company policy. An AP request for a copy of that policy wasn't immediately granted. Kaspersky's account still has some gaps. How did the analysts know, for example, that the data was classified? And why not alert American authorities to what happened? Several reports alleged that the U.S. learned that Kaspersky had acquired the NSA's tools via an Israeli spying operation. Kaspersky declined to say whether he had ever alerted U.S. authorities to the incident. "Do you really think that I want to see in the news that I tried to contact the NSA to report this case?" he said at one point. "Definitely I don't want to see that in the news." So did he alert the NSA to the incident or not? "I'm afraid I can't answer the question," he said. Even if some questions linger, Kaspersky's explanation sounds plausible, said Jake Williams, a former NSA analyst and the founder of Augusta, Georgia-based Rendition InfoSec. He noted that Kaspersky was pitching itself at the time to government clients in the United States and may not have wanted the risk of having classified documents on its network. "It makes sense that they pulled those up and looked at the classification marking and then deleted them," said Williams. "I can see where it's so toxic you may not want it on your systems." As for the insinuation that someone at the NSA not only walked highly classified software out of the building but put it on a computer running a bootleg version of Office, Williams called it "absolutely wild." "It's hard to imagine a worse PR nightmare for the NSA," he said.
Head to the roof of the New York City Lab School for Collaborative Studies and you’ll discover row upon row of solar photovoltaic panels. The solar panels generate about 159 kilowatts of renewable energy, just a drop in New York City’s energy bucket, and are part of a citywide initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. But not everyone is taking advantage of solar power’s promise of reduced energy bills and the rise of jobs in a new green workforce. “Eighty percent of America is locked out of the solar market because they cannot install solar on their own rooftop,” said Steph Speirs, co-founder and CEO of Solstice, a community-shared solar power startup. In New York City, where the majority of residents are apartment renters, the benefits of solar power are elusive. Many don’t have the means to install panels much less get access to their roof. But community-shared solar programs are now offering city dwellers a chance at solar power. In the process, they’re also lowering barriers for access to renewable energy. Solar in the City At the NYC Lab School, city officials recently put out a call to solar project developers for the installation of solar panels atop 14 of New York City’s public housing properties. If all goes according to plan, up to 6,600 low and moderate-income households will be powered by 25 megawatts of solar power by 2025. Rooftop spaces “are often underutilized,” said Mark Chambers, director of the New York City mayor’s office of sustainability. “They have a huge potential for us.” The New York City Housing Authority will lease rooftop sites to solar project developers for a maximum of 25 years. Developers will set up and maintain the solar systems and sell power to residents. Solar energy was the fastest growing power source in the world last year, according to the International Energy Agency.Solar capacity increased 50 percent in 2016, more than the growth of coal, wind and gas. Solar growth can be attributed to decreasing production costs and increased government support. For city dwellers, community-shared solar programs are a way to tap into solar power’s benefits. Like a Community Garden Apart from using city rooftops, companies like Solstice work with off-site solar farms to provide shares of the farm to urban communities and thus allow people in inner cities to lower their electricity bills. The Boston-based startup currently has nine solar projects in Massachusetts and is expanding to New York. “It’s like a community garden, but for solar,” said Speirs. Solar shares are sized according to how much electricity customers use. Solstice works to enroll neighborhoods in community-shared solar programs, managing the customer experience for solar project developers. Speirs said the average savings on a typical electricity bill is 10 percent. “The electricity from the shared farm goes back to the grid and you as a participant see the credit show up on your utility bill every month,” said Speirs. In low and moderate-income households where every penny counts, those savings mean money can be diverted to other essentials. Growing up, Speirs said she watched her mom struggle to pay the electricity bill. “Our product can help people like my mom save money,” she added. Building a Green Workforce In an industry that shows few signs of slowing down, community-shared solar programs can also provide jobs. New York City works with Green City Force, an AmeriCorps program that trains youth from low-income communities for careers in environmental fields, including installing solar panels on city roofs. New Yorker Miguel Rodriguez is a graduate of the program and now works as a program assistant for Green City Force. The adoption of green technologies, Rodriguez said, will inevitably change public perceptions of the public housing community, as well as perceptions among its residents. “People will see firsthand how this will impact their community, not just in energy saving,” Rodriguez said, “The value of life around the community will be much better.”
Only about 1 in 5 politicians in the US is female, even though women make up just over half of the US population. With many saying 2018 could be “The Year of the Woman” in American politics, new tools have become available for women running for office. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti shows us some high-tech and social media sites geared toward female candidates.
If you’re a city dweller, tapping into solar power can be challenging. Chances are, you live in an apartment and can’t install solar panels or get access to your roof. But community-shared solar programs are now allowing everyone to benefit from solar energy.
Twitter Inc said on Tuesday it would add labels to election-related advertisements and say who is behind each of them, after a threat of regulation from the United States over the lack of disclosure for political spending on social media. Twitter said in a blog post the company would launch a website so that people could see the identities of the buyers, targeting demographics and total ad spending by election advertisers, as well as information about all ads currently running on Twitter, election-related or otherwise. Silicon Valley social media firms and the political ads that run on their websites have generally been free of the disclaimers and other regulatory demands that U.S. authorities impose on television, radio and satellite services. Calls for that to change have grown, however, after Twitter, Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc's Google said in recent weeks that Russian operatives used fake names on their platforms to spread divisive messages in the run-up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Russia has denied interfering in the election. Twitter plans to make changes first in the United States and then roll them out globally. Changes would appear within Twitter feeds, where election ads would have a label like "promoted by political account," the company said. "To make it clear when you are seeing or engaging with an electioneering ad, we will now require that electioneering advertisers identify their campaigns as such," Bruce Falck, Twitter's general manager of revenue product, said in the blog post. Twitter also said it would limit the targeting options for election ads, although it did not say how, and introduce stronger penalties for election advertisers who violate policies. Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Warner said from his Twitter account that the moves by the company were a "good first step" but he added that Congress should make the disclosures mandatory by approving legislation he is co-sponsoring. Policing difficult Separately, Twitter has long been criticized by users and lawmakers as lax in policing fake or abusive accounts. Unlike Facebook, Twitter allows anonymous accounts and automated accounts, or bots, making the service more difficult to police. Twitter said last month it had suspended about 200 Russia-linked accounts as it investigated online efforts to influence last year's U.S. election. The general counsels for Facebook, Google and Twitter are scheduled to testify next week before public hearings of the Senate and House intelligence committees.