China Users on Banned Social Platforms Need Protection, Advocates Say

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washington — Rights advocates are urging international social media platforms to do more to prevent Chinese authorities from obtaining the personal information of users. The call comes after two popular Chinese social media influencers alleged on X and YouTube that police in China were investigating their followers and had called some in for questioning. Social media platforms such as X and YouTube and thousands of websites — from The New York Times to the BBC and VOA — are blocked in China by the country's Great Firewall. But increasingly, even as social controls tighten under the leadership of Xi Jinping, many in China are using virtual private networks to access X, YouTube and other sites for news, information and opinions not available in China. Li Ying, who is also known online…
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Renewal of U.S.-China Science and Tech Pact Faces Hurdles

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STATE DEPARTMENT — With a science and technology agreement between the United States and People’s Republic of China due to expire Tuesday, the State Department said it is negotiating to "amend, extend, and strengthen protections within" the agreement but declined to specify if the U.S. would extend the deal. “We are not able to provide information at this time on specific U.S. negotiating positions or on whether the agreement will be extended past its current expiration date,” a State Department spokesperson told VOA. The Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement is a framework for U.S. governmental collaborations with China in science and technology.   U.S. officials have said the STA provides consistent standards for government-to-government scientific cooperation between the U.S. and China.   While the agreement supports scientific collaboration in areas that…
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2 Exiled Chinese Bloggers Warn of Police Interrogating Their Followers

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SHANGHAI — Two prominent Chinese bloggers in exile said that police were investigating their millions of followers on international social media platforms, in an escalation of Beijing’s attempts to clamp down on critical speech even outside of the country’s borders. Former state broadcaster CCTV journalist Wang Zhi’an and artist-turned-dissident Li Ying, both Chinese citizens known for posting uncensored Chinese news, said in separate posts Sunday that police were interrogating people who followed them on social media, and urged followers to take precautions such as unfollowing their accounts, changing their usernames, avoiding Chinese-made phones and preparing to be questioned. Li Ying, known as Teacher Li, came to prominence as a source of news about the White Paper protests, a rare moment of anti-government protests in mainland China in 2022. Teacher Li's account…
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Private US Lunar Lander Will Stop Working Tuesday 

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A private U.S. lunar lander is expected to stop working Tuesday, its mission cut short after landing sideways near the south pole of the moon. Intuitive Machines, the Houston company that built and flew the spacecraft, said Monday it will continue to collect data until sunlight no longer shines on the solar panels. Based on the position of Earth and the moon, officials expect that to happen Tuesday morning. That's two to three days short of the week or so that NASA and other customers had been counting on. The lander, named Odysseus, is the first U.S. spacecraft to land on the moon in more than 50 years, carrying experiments for NASA, the main sponsor. But it came in too fast last Thursday and the foot of…
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Japan Moon Lander Revives After Lunar Night

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Tokyo — Japan's moon lander has produced another surprise by waking up after the two-week lunar night, the country's space agency said Monday. The unmanned Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) touched down last month at a wonky angle that left its solar panels facing the wrong way. As the sun's angle shifted, it came back to life for two days and carried out scientific observations of a crater with a high-spec camera, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said. It went to sleep again as darkness returned and, since it was "not designed for the harsh lunar nights," JAXA had been uncertain whether it would reawaken. "Yesterday we sent a command, to which SLIM responded," JAXA said on X, formerly Twitter, on Monday. "SLIM succeeded in surviving a night on…
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South Korea Sets Thursday Deadline for Return of Striking Doctors

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea's government gave striking young doctors four days to report back to work, saying Monday that they won't be punished if they return by the deadline but will face indictments and suspensions of medical licenses if they don't. About 9,000 medical interns and residents have stayed off the job since early last week to protest a government plan to increase medical school admissions by about 65%. The walkouts have severely hurt the operations of their hospitals, with numerous cancellations of surgeries and other treatments. Government officials say adding more doctors is necessary to deal with South Korea’s rapidly aging population. The country's current doctor-to-patient ratio is among the lowest in the developed world.  The strikers say universities can’t handle so many new students and argue the…
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Tax-Free Status of Movie, Music and Games Traded Online Is on Table as WTO Nations Meet in Abu Dhabi

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Geneva — Since late last century and the early days of the web, providers of digital media like Netflix and Spotify have had a free pass when it comes to international taxes on films, video games and music that are shipped across borders through the internet. But now, a global consensus on the issue may be starting to crack. As the World Trade Organization opens its latest biannual meeting of government ministers Monday, its longtime moratorium on duties on e-commerce products — which has been renewed almost automatically since 1998 — is coming under pressure as never before. This week in Abu Dhabi, the WTO’s 164 member countries will take up a number of key issues: Subsidies that encourage overfishing. Reforms to make agricultural markets fairer and more eco-friendly. And efforts…
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Japan’s ‘Naked Men’ Festival Succumbs to Aging of Population

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Ōshū, Japan — Steam rose as hundreds of naked men tussled over a bag of wooden talismans, performing a dramatic end to a thousand-year-old ritual in Japan that took place for the last time.  Their passionate chants of "Jasso, joyasa" (meaning "Evil, be gone") echoed through a cedar forest in northern Japan's Iwate region, where the secluded Kokuseki Temple has decided to end the popular annual rite.  Organizing the event, which draws hundreds of participants and thousands of tourists every year, has become a heavy burden for the aging local faithful, who find it hard to keep up with the rigors of the ritual.   The "Sominsai" festival, regarded as one of the strangest festivals in Japan, is the latest tradition impacted by the country's aging population crisis that has hit…
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Productivity Surge Helps Explain US Economy’s Surprising Resilience 

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Washington — Trying to keep up with customer demand, Batesville Tool & Die began seeking 70 people to hire last year. It wasn't easy. Attracting factory workers to a community of 7,300 in the Indiana countryside was a tough sell, especially having to compete with big-name manufacturers nearby like Honda and Cummins Engine.  Job seekers were scarce.  "You could count on one hand how many people in the town were unemployed," said Jody Fledderman, the CEO. "It was just crazy.''  Batesville Tool & Die managed to fill just 40 of its vacancies.  Enter the robots. The company invested in machines that could mimic human workers and in vision systems, which helped its robots "see" what they were doing.  The Batesville experience has been replicated countlessly across the United States the past…
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Chip Giant TSMC Shifts From Hotspot Taiwan With Japan Plant

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TOKYO — Chip giant Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. opened its first semiconductor plant in Japan Saturday as part of its ongoing global expansion. “We are deeply grateful for the seamless support provided by you at every step,” TSMC Chairman Mark Liu said after thanking the Japanese government, local community and business partners, including electronic giant Sony and auto-parts maker Denso. The company's founder, Morris Chang, was also present at the ceremony in Kikuyo. This comes as Japan is trying to regain its presence in the chip production industry. Japan Advanced Semiconductor Manufacturing, or JASM, is set to be up and running later this year. TSMC also announced plans for a second plant in Japan earlier this month, with production expected to start in about three years. Private sector investment totals $20…
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Study Finds Seniors Enjoy Virtual Reality 

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POMPANO BEACH, Florida — Retired Army Colonel Farrell Patrick taught computer science at West Point during the 1970s and then at two private universities through the 1990s, so he isn't surprised by the progress technology has made over the decades.  But when the 91-year-old got his first virtual reality experience recently, he was stunned. Sitting in a conference room at John Knox Village, a suburban Fort Lauderdale, Florida, retirement community, Patrick sat up straight as his eyes and ears experienced what it would be like to be in a Navy fighter jet flying off the Florida coast.  "Oh, my God, that's beautiful," he blurted before the VR program brought the jet in for a landing on an aircraft carrier.  John Knox Village was one of 17 senior communities around the country…
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Army Doctor, Black Hawk Pilot Holds Record for Longest US Spaceflight 

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pentagon — U.S. Army Colonel Frank Rubio, who holds the record for the longest U.S. spaceflight, recounted the "awesome" experience of re-entering Earth's atmosphere on Thursday during a Pentagon ceremony honoring his achievement. "Colonel Rubio is a stellar example of someone who has made the absolute most of every opportunity," Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said as she presented him with an honor known as the Army Astronaut Device. "It's truly a privilege to have him representing the Army and the United States." The Army awards the astronaut device to soldiers who complete at least one mission in space. Rubio joins Colonel Anne McClain and Colonel Andrew Morgan as the only active-duty soldiers authorized to wear it. Rubio returned to Earth late last year on a Russian spacecraft after 371 days in…
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Private Lander Touches Down on Moon, Sends Weak Signal

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CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA — A private U.S. lunar lander touched down on the moon Thursday, but contact with the craft was weak, company officials said.  There were no immediate updates on the lander's condition from the company, Intuitive Machines.  Tension mounted in the company's command center in Houston, as controllers awaited a signal from the spacecraft some 400,000 kilometers away. It arrived about 10 minutes later.  "We're evaluating how we can refine that signal," said mission director Tim Crain. "But we can confirm, without a doubt, that our equipment is on the surface of the moon."  The lander, Odysseus, descended from a moon-skimming orbit and guided itself toward the surface, searching for a relatively flat spot among all the cliffs and craters near the south pole.  The lander's choreographed descent was…
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Second IVF Provider in Alabama Pauses Some Services After Ruling on Embryos

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montgomery, alabama — A second in vitro fertilization provider in the U.S. state of Alabama is pausing parts of its care to patients after the state Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos are legally considered children.  Alabama Fertility Services said in a statement Thursday that it has "made the impossibly difficult decision to hold new IVF treatments due to the legal risk to our clinic and our embryologists."  The decision comes a day after the University of Alabama at Birmingham health system said in a statement that it was pausing IVF treatments so it could evaluate whether its patients or doctors could face criminal charges or punitive damages.  "We are contacting patients that will be affected today to find solutions for them and we are working as hard as we can…
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New Clues Discovered About Silent Brain Changes That Precede Alzheimer’s 

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WASHINGTON — Alzheimer's quietly ravages the brain long before symptoms appear, and now scientists have new clues about the dominolike sequence of those changes — a potential window to one day intervene.  A large study in China tracked middle-aged and older adults for 20 years, using regular brain scans, spinal taps and other tests.  Compared to those who remained cognitively healthy, people who eventually developed the mind-robbing disease had higher levels of an Alzheimer's-linked protein in their spinal fluid 18 years prior to diagnosis, researchers reported Wednesday. Then every few years afterward, the study detected another so-called biomarker of brewing trouble.  Scientists don't know exactly how Alzheimer's forms. One early hallmark is that sticky protein called beta-amyloid, which over time builds up into brain-clogging plaques. Amyloid alone isn't enough to damage…
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Head of Boeing’s 737 MAX Program Leaves After Midair Incident

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WASHINGTON — Boeing said on Wednesday it was replacing the head of its troubled 737 MAX program effective immediately, the first major executive departure since the January 5 midair panel blowout of a new Alaska Airlines MAX 9.  Ed Clark, who had been with the plane-maker for nearly 18 years, departed as Boeing has been dealing with its latest crisis and has vowed to ramp up quality efforts.  Regulators have curbed the plane-maker's production, and lawmakers and customers have been scrutinizing production and safety measures.   Boeing has scrambled to explain and strengthen safety procedures after a door panel detached during flight on a new Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9, forcing pilots to make an emergency landing while passengers were exposed to a gaping hole 16,000 feet above the ground.  …
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Private US Spacecraft Enters Orbit around the Moon Ahead Of Landing Attempt

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A private U.S. lunar lander reached the moon and eased into a low orbit Wednesday, a day before it will attempt an even greater feat — landing on the gray, dusty surface. A smooth touchdown would put the U.S. back in business on the moon for the first time since NASA astronauts closed out the Apollo program in 1972. The company, if successful, also would become the first private outfit to ace a moon landing. Launched last week, Intuitive Machines' lander fired its engine on the back side of the moon while out of contact with Earth. Flight controllers at the company's Houston headquarters had to wait until the spacecraft emerged to learn whether the lander was in orbit or hurtling aimlessly away. Intuitive Machines confirmed its…
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Commercial Spaceship Set for Lunar Touchdown, in Test for US Industry

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WASHINGTON — A company from Texas is poised to attempt a feat that until now has only been accomplished by a handful of national space agencies but could soon become commonplace for the private sector: landing on the moon. If all goes to plan, Houston-based Intuitive Machines will guide its spaceship named Odysseus to a gentle touchdown near the lunar south pole on Thursday at 2249 GMT, then run experiments for NASA that will help pave the way for the return of astronauts later this decade. A previous effort by another U.S. company last month ended in failure, raising the stakes to demonstrate private industry has what it takes to put an American lander on Earth's cosmic companion for the first time since the Apollo era. "Accepting risk was a challenge…
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