Oversight Board Urges Meta to Rethink Policy on Manipulated Media

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NEW YORK — An oversight board is criticizing Facebook owner Meta's policies regarding manipulated media as "incoherent" and insufficient to address the flood of online disinformation that already has begun to target elections across the globe this year.  The quasi-independent board on Monday said its review of an altered video of President Joe Biden that spread on Facebook exposed gaps in the policy. The board said Meta should expand the policy to focus not only on videos generated with artificial intelligence, but on media regardless of how it was created. That includes fake audio recordings, which already have convincingly impersonated political candidates in the U.S. and elsewhere.  It also said Meta should clarify the harm it is trying to prevent and should label images, videos and audio clips as manipulated instead…
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Deepfake Scam Video Cost Company $26 Million, Hong Kong Police Says

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Hong Kong — Scammers tricked a multinational firm out of some $26 million by impersonating senior executives using deepfake technology, Hong Kong police said Sunday, in one of the first cases of its kind in the city. Law enforcement agencies are scrambling to keep up with generative artificial intelligence, which experts say holds potential for disinformation and misuse — such as deepfake images showing people mouthing things they never said. A company employee in the Chinese finance hub received "video conference calls from someone posing as senior officers of the company requesting to transfer money to designated bank accounts," police told AFP. Police received a report of the incident on January 29, at which point some HK$200 million ($26 million) had already been lost via 15 transfers. "Investigations are still ongoing…
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China Launches Rocket as Commercial Missions Pick Up Pace

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BEIJING — A small but powerful Chinese rocket capable of carrying payloads at competitive costs delivered nine satellites into orbit Saturday, Chinese state media reported, in what is gearing up to be another busy year for Chinese commercial launches.  The Jielong-3, or Smart Dragon-3, blasted off from a floating barge off the coast of Yangjiang in southern Guangdong province, the second launch of the rocket in just two months.  Developed by China Rocket Company, a commercial offshoot of a state-owned launch vehicle manufacturer, Jielong-3 made its first flight in December 2022.  President Xi Jinping has called for the expansion of strategic industries including the commercial space sector, deemed key to building constellations of satellites for communications, remote sensing and navigation.  Also Saturday, Chinese automaker Geely Holding Group launched 11 satellites to…
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Beheading Video Gone from YouTube, But Questions Remain

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NEW YORK — A graphic video from a Pennsylvania man accused of beheading his father that circulated for hours on YouTube has put a spotlight yet again on gaps in social media companies' ability to prevent horrific postings from spreading across the web. Police said Wednesday that they charged Justin Mohn, 32, with first-degree murder and abusing a corpse after he beheaded his father, Michael, in their Bucks County home and publicized it in a 14-minute YouTube video that anyone, anywhere could see. News of the incident — which drew comparisons to the beheading videos posted online by the Islamic State militants at the height of their prominence nearly a decade ago — came as the CEOs of Meta, TikTok and other social media companies were testifying in front of federal…
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Lunar Night Puts Japan’s Lander Back to Sleep

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TOKYO — After a brief awakening, Japan's Moon lander is out of action again but will resume its mission if it survives the two-week lunar night, the space agency said Thursday. 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 this week and carried out scientific observations of a crater with its high-spec camera. "After completing operation from 1/30 (to) 1/31, #SLIM entered a two-week dormancy period during the long lunar night," space agency JAXA said on X, formerly Twitter. "Although SLIM was not designed for the harsh lunar nights, we plan to try to operate again from mid-February, when the Sun…
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History of AI

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From counting machines to neural networks, the development of artificial intelligence has paralleled emerging brain science. Writer, Matt Dibble; graphic designer, Kateryna Stepchenko; motion designer, Valeryia Rusak; narrator, Hayde Fitzpatrick. ...
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Remote Washington State Town Becomes Hub for EV Battery Production

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Moses Lake, Washington — It’s mid-winter in east Washington state, yet despite the chilly fog, two construction sites in the town of Moses Lake are brimming with activity. Several hundred workers are on an ambitious timeline to complete two new factories slanted to begin production of the next-generation components for electric vehicle batteries later this year. Two American start-ups, backed by $100 million in federal grants each, in addition to commercial partnerships, are racing to secure the domestic supply chain with the next-generation battery materials for EV automakers. “That's going to go into everything from electric vehicles to IoT [Internet of Things] devices to smartphones and wearables and a lot of battery-based applications that we don't even know exist yet,” explains Nik Anderson, director of program management with Group 14 Technologies,…
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Iran Launches 3 Satellites Into Space

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JERUSALEM — Iran said Sunday it successfully launched three satellites into space, the latest for a program that the West says improves Tehran's ballistic missiles. The state-run IRNA news agency said the launch also saw the successful use of Iran's Simorgh rocket, which has had multiple failures in the past. The launch comes as heightened tensions grip the wider Middle East over Israel's continued war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. While Iran has not intervened militarily in the conflict, it has faced increased pressure within its theocracy for action after a deadly Islamic State suicide bombing earlier this month and as proxy groups like Yemen's Houthi rebels conduct attacks linked to the war. Footage released by Iranian state television showed a nighttime launch for the Simorgh rocket. An Associated Press…
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George Carlin Estate Sues Over Fake Comedy Special Purportedly Generated by AI

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LOS ANGELES — The estate of George Carlin has filed a lawsuit against the media company behind a fake hour-long comedy special that purportedly uses artificial intelligence to recreate the late standup comic's style and material.  The lawsuit filed in federal court in Los Angeles on Thursday asks that a judge order the podcast outlet, Dudesy, to immediately take down the audio special, "George Carlin: I'm Glad I'm Dead," in which a synthesis of Carlin, who died in 2008, delivers commentary on current events. Carlin's daughter, Kelly Carlin, said in a statement that the work is "a poorly-executed facsimile cobbled together by unscrupulous individuals to capitalize on the extraordinary goodwill my father established with his adoring fanbase."  The Carlin estate and its executor, Jerold Hamza, are named as plaintiffs in the…
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Central Asia Seen as Key to Breaking China’s Rare Earth Monopoly

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WASHINGTON — U.S. officials hoping to break China's near monopoly on the production of rare earth elements needed for many cutting-edge technologies should engage the governments of Central Asia to develop high concentrations of REEs found in the region, says a new report.  The study by the U.S.-based International Tax and Investment Center warns that a failure to act could leave China with a "decisive advantage" in the sector, which is crucial to green energy, many new weapons systems and other advanced technologies.  "As the uses for these minerals has expanded, so too has global competition for them in a time of sharply increasing geostrategic and geo-economic tension," the report says.  "Advanced economies with secure, reliable access to REEs enjoy economic advantages in manufacturing, and corresponding economic disadvantages accrue for those…
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‘Moon Sniper’ Nailed the Landing, Japan’s Space Agency Says

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TOKYO — Japan's "Moon Sniper" craft landed around 55 meters from its target, the country's space agency said Thursday as it released the first images from the mission. The unmanned Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM), dubbed the "Moon Sniper" for its pin-point technology, had the goal of touching down within 100 meters of a specific landing spot. That is much more precise than the usual landing zone of several kilometers. "SLIM succeeded in a pin-point soft landing ... the landing point is confirmed to be 55 meters away from the target point," space agency JAXA said. Saturday's soft lunar landing made Japan the fifth nation to achieve the feat, after the United States, Soviet Union, China and India. But celebrations were muted because of a problem with the lightweight spacecraft's…
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EU Tools Up to Protect Key Tech From China

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BRUSSELS — The European Union on Wednesday unveiled plans to strengthen the bloc's economic security, including measures to protect sensitive technology from falling into the hands of geopolitical rivals such as China.  Brussels has bolstered its armory of trade restrictions to tackle what it deems to be risks to European economic security, following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine and global trade tensions.  The fallout from the war in Ukraine hit Europe particularly hard, forcing the bloc to find alternative energy sources. Now, it wants to avoid a similar over-reliance on China, which dominates in green technology production and critical raw materials.  On Wednesday, EU officials outlined an economic security package containing five initiatives, including toughening rules on the screening of foreign direct investment and launching discussions on coordination around export controls.  The…
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New Electric Bikes Accelerate Clean Transport in Africa

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With the growing concern over greenhouse gas emissions that are blamed for climate change, a Kenyan-Dutch company is introducing electric bikes in sub-Saharan Africa for deliveries in urban areas to help reduce emissions. The transport sector plays a crucial role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the effects of global warming. Juma Majanga reports from Nairobi. Camera: Amos Wangwa      ...
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Green Energy Expected to Cover Growth in Demand for Electricity

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Paris — Power generated from low-emissions sources, such as wind, solar and nuclear, will be adequate to meet growth in global demand for the next three years, the International Energy Agency said, adding that emissions from the power sector are on the decline. Following record growth, electricity generation from low-emissions sources will account for almost half of the world's power by 2026, up from less than 40% in 2023, the IEA said in report on Wednesday. Renewables are expected to overtake coal by early 2025, accounting for more than a third of total electricity generation, the report said. Nuclear power is also forecast to reach a record globally as French output continues to recover from lows in 2022, several plants in Japan come back online and new reactors begin operations in…
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AI Audience Row at Sundance Sparks Walkout, Highlights Division

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Park City, Utah — An audience member was ejected from a Sundance festival event Tuesday in a spat over artificial intelligence, triggering a walkout that illustrates the divisions the technology has rapidly wrought in the film industry. AI — a key driver of the recent and devastating Hollywood strikes — has been debated extensively at this year's indie movie festival in Utah. Filmmakers have experimented with using the technology as a creative tool, while also cautioning about its potential to erase jobs and stifle human expression and connection. At a Tuesday screening of "Being (The Digital Griot)," in which audience members were encouraged to approach the screen and discuss issues like racism and the patriarchy with an AI bot, an audience member appeared to shout profanity about AI. "I'm not here…
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Nigerian Startups See Rough Financing Road Ahead

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ABUJA, NIGERIA     — Nigeria's tech startups are facing reluctance from investors, stemming from the shutdown of some prominent young companies last year. Kingsley Eze co-runs Nairaxi, an e-Commerce, on-demand logistics startup in Abuja, Nigeria's capital. Despite its record of handling tens of thousands of successful requests, the firm has been largely funded by Eze, as well as family and friends.  Eze told VOA that even though he is ready for expansion, it has been difficult to secure financing, amid the tales of failing startups in the country.  "It's been very difficult to raise funds, investors are cautious, the interest rate hikes in the Western economy is also a contributing factor to that, coupled with a lot of disappointing or not so good outings for a few startups that were like a…
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