‘Open source’ investigators use satellites to identify burned Darfur villages

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Investigators using satellite imagery to document the war in western Sudan's Darfur region say 72 villages were burned down in April, the most they have seen since the conflict began. Henry Wilkins talks with the people who do this research about how so-called open-source investigations could be crucial in holding those responsible for the violence to account. ...


New cars in California could alert drivers for breaking the speed limit

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SACRAMENTO, California — California could eventually join the European Union in requiring all new cars to alert drivers when they break the speed limit, a proposal aimed at reducing traffic deaths that would likely impact motorists across the country should it become law. The federal government sets safety standards for vehicles nationwide, which is why most cars now beep at drivers if their seat belt isn't fastened. A bill in the California Legislature — which passed its first vote in the state Senate on Tuesday — would go further by requiring all new cars sold in the state by 2032 to beep at drivers when they exceed the speed limit by at least 16 kph. "Research has shown that this does have an impact in getting people to slow down, particularly…


China’s Digital Silk Road exports internet technology, controls

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washington — China promotes its help to Southeast Asian countries in modernizing their digital landscapes through investments in infrastructure as part of its "Digital Silk Road." But rights groups say Beijing is also exporting its model of authoritarian governance of the internet through censorship, surveillance and controls. China's state media this week announced Chinese electrical appliance manufacturer Midea Group jointly built its first overseas 5G factory in Thailand with Thai mobile operator AIS, Chinese telecom service provider China Unicom and tech giant Huawei. The 208,000-square-meter smart factory will have its own 5G network, Xinhua news agency reported. Earlier this month, Beijing reached an agreement with Cambodia to establish a Digital Law Library of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Inter-Parliamentary Assembly. Cambodia's Khmer Times said the objective is to "expand…


Attempts to regulate AI’s hidden hand in Americans’ lives flounder

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DENVER — The first attempts to regulate artificial intelligence programs that play a hidden role in hiring, housing and medical decisions for millions of Americans are facing pressure from all sides and floundering in statehouses nationwide. Only one of seven bills aimed at preventing AI's penchant to discriminate when making consequential decisions — including who gets hired, money for a home or medical care — has passed. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis hesitantly signed the bill on Friday. Colorado's bill and those that faltered in Washington, Connecticut and elsewhere faced battles on many fronts, including between civil rights groups and the tech industry, and lawmakers wary of wading into a technology few yet understand and governors worried about being the odd-state-out and spooking AI startups. Polis signed Colorado's bill "with reservations," saying…


IS turns to artificial intelligence for advanced propaganda amid territorial defeats

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Washington — With major military setbacks in recent years, supporters of the Islamic State terror group are increasingly relying on artificial intelligence (AI) to generate online propaganda, experts said. A new form of propaganda developed by IS supporters is broadcasting news bulletins with AI-generated anchors in multiple languages. The Islamic State Khorasan (ISKP) group, an IS affiliate active in Afghanistan and Pakistan, produced in a video an AI-generated anchorman to appear reading news following an IS-claimed attack in Bamiyan province in Afghanistan on May 17 that killed four people, including three Spanish tourists. The digital image posing as an anchor spoke the Pashto language and had features resembling local residents in Bamiyan, according to The Khorasan Diary, a website dedicated to news and analysis on the region. Another AI-generated propaganda video…


Australian researchers unveil device that harvests water from the air

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SYDNEY — A device that absorbs water from air to produce drinkable water was officially launched in Australia Wednesday. Researchers say the so-called Hydro Harvester, capable of producing up to 1,000 liters of drinkable water a day, could be “lifesaving during drought or emergencies.” The device absorbs water from the atmosphere. Solar energy or heat that is harnessed from, for example, industrial processes are used to generate hot, humid air. That is then allowed to cool, producing water for drinking or irrigation. The Australian team said that unlike other commercially available atmospheric water generators, their invention works by heating air instead of cooling it. Laureate Professor Behdad Moghtaderi, a chemical engineer and director of the University of Newcastle’s Centre for Innovative Energy Technologies, told VOA how the technology operates.   “Hydro Harvester…


Researchers use artificial intelligence to classify brain tumors

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SYDNEY — Researchers in Australia and the United States say that a new artificial intelligence tool has allowed them to classify brain tumors more quickly and accurately.   The current method for identifying different kinds of brain tumors, while accurate, can take several weeks to produce results.  The method, called DNA methylation-based profiling, is not available at many hospitals around the world. To address these challenges, a research team from the Australian National University, in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute in the United States, has developed a way to predict DNA methylation, which acts like a switch to control gene activity.   This allows them to classify brain tumors into 10 major categories using a deep learning model. This is a branch of artificial intelligence that teaches computers to process…


Companies trying to attract more smartphone users across Africa, but there are risks

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Accra, Ghana — Anita Akpeere prepared fried rice in her kitchen in Ghana's capital as a flurry of notifications for restaurant orders lit up apps on her phone. "I don't think I could work without a phone in my line of business," she said, as requests came in for her signature dish, a traditional fermented dumpling. Internet-enabled phones have transformed many lives, but they can play a unique role in sub-Saharan Africa, where infrastructure and public services are among the world's least developed, said Jenny Aker, a professor who studies the issue at Tufts University. At times, technology in Africa has leapfrogged gaps, including providing access to mobile money for people without bank accounts. Despite growing mobile internet coverage on the continent of 1.3 billion people, just 25% of adults in…


Blue Origin flies thrill seekers to space, including oldest astronaut 

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Washington — After a nearly two year hiatus, Blue Origin flew adventurers to space on Sunday including a former Air Force pilot who was denied the chance to be the United States' first Black astronaut decades ago.    It was the first crewed launch for the enterprise owned and founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos since a rocket mishap in 2022 left rival Virgin Galactic as the sole operator in the fledgling suborbital tourism market.    Six people including the sculptor Ed Dwight, who was on track to become NASA's first ever astronaut of color in the 1960s before being controversially spurned, launched around 09:36 am local time (1436 GMT) from the Launch Site One base in west Texas, a live feed showed.    Dwight — at 90 years, 8 months and…


Illness took away her voice. AI created a replica she carries in her phone

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PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND — The voice Alexis "Lexi" Bogan had before last summer was exuberant. She loved to belt out Taylor Swift and Zach Bryan ballads in the car. She laughed all the time — even while corralling misbehaving preschoolers or debating politics with friends over a backyard fire pit. In high school, she was a soprano in the chorus. Then that voice was gone. Doctors in August removed a life-threatening tumor lodged near the back of her brain. When the breathing tube came out a month later, Bogan had trouble swallowing and strained to say "Hi" to her parents. Months of rehabilitation aided her recovery, but her speech is still impaired. Friends, strangers and her own family members struggle to understand what she is trying to tell them. In April,…


Changes from Visa mean Americans will carry fewer credit, debit cards

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new york — Your wallet may soon be getting thinner. Visa on Wednesday announced major changes to how credit and debit cards will operate in the U.S. in the coming months and years. The new features could mean Americans will be carrying fewer physical cards in their wallets, and will make the 16-digit credit or debit card number printed on every card increasingly irrelevant. They will be some of the biggest changes to how payments operate in the U.S. since the U.S. rolled out chip-embedded cards several years ago. They also come as Americans have many more options to pay for purchases beyond "credit or debit," including buy now, pay later companies, peer-to-peer payment options, paying directly with a bank, or digital payment systems such as Apple Pay. "I think (with…


Scholar called ‘Putin’s brain’ attacked on Chinese internet

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Washington — Aleksander Dugin, a Russian nationalist ideologue and strong supporter of President Vladimir Putin, has been bombarded with attacks on Chinese social media, where netizens criticized and mocked his Russian expansionist views that had once included the dismembering of China. Two years after Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine, pro-Russia sentiment has been prevalent on Chinese internet. But the backlash against Dugin has revealed a less mentioned side of what has so far appeared to be a cozy alliance between Beijing and Moscow -- hostility between Chinese nationalists and their Russian counterparts, the result of centuries of territorial disputes and political confrontations that Beijing has been reticent about displaying publicly in recent decades. On May 6, Dugin opened an account on two of the most popular Chinese social media apps…


US arrests American and Ukrainian in North Korea-linked IT infiltration scheme

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WASHINGTON — U.S. prosecutors on Thursday announced the arrests of an American woman and a Ukrainian man they say helped North Korea-linked IT workers posing as Americans to obtain remote-work jobs at hundreds of U.S. companies. The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) said the elaborate scheme, aimed at generating revenue for North Korea in contravention of international sanctions, involved the infiltration of more than 300 U.S. firms, including Fortune 500 companies and banks, and the theft of the identities of more than 60 Americans. A DoJ statement said the overseas IT workers also attempted to gain employment and access to information at two U.S. government agencies, although these efforts were "generally unsuccessful." An earlier State Department statement said the scheme had generated at least $6.8 million for North Korea. It said…


TSMC says no damage to its Arizona facilities after incident

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TAIPAI, TAIWAN — Taiwanese chipmaker TSMC said Thursday there was no damage to its facilities after an incident at its Arizona factory construction site where a waste disposal truck driver was transported to a hospital. Firefighters responded to a reported explosion Wednesday afternoon at the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company plant in Phoenix, the Arizona Republic reported, citing the local fire department. TSMC, the world's largest contract chipmaker whose clients include Apple and Nvidia, said in a statement none of its employees or onsite construction workers had reported any related injuries. "This is an active investigation with no additional details that can be shared at this time," it added. TSMC's Taipei-listed shares pared earlier gains after the news and were last up around 0.8% on Thursday morning. TSMC last month agreed to…


New Zealand researchers say artificial intelligence could enhance surgery

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SYDNEY — Researchers in New Zealand say that artificial intelligence, or AI, can help solve problems for patients and doctors.   A new study from the University of Auckland says that an emerging area is the use of AI during operations using so-called "computer vision." The study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, says that artificial intelligence has the potential to identify abnormalities during operations and to unburden overloaded hospitals by enhancing the monitoring of patients to help them recover after surgery at home. The New Zealand research details how AI “tools are rapidly maturing for medical applications.”  It asserts that “medicine is entering an exciting phase of digital innovation.” The New Zealand team is investigating computer vision, which describes a machine’s understanding of videos and images.    Dr. Chris Varghese,…