Epoch Times, Tech – Tech News, Products & Reviews, Social Media | The Epoch Times https://www.theepochtimes.com The Epoch Times is an independent voice in print and on the web. We report news responsibly and truthfully so that readers can improve their own lives and increase their understanding and respect for their neighbors next door and around the globe. Wed, 20 Nov 2019 00:02:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Australias Parliamentary IT System Hacked Earlier This Year: Report https://www.theepochtimes.com/australias-parliamentary-it-system-hacked-earlier-this-year-report_3147299.html Fri, 15 Nov 2019 03:38:53 +0000 SYDNEY—The computer network of Australias parliament was hacked earlier this year and data was stolen from the computers of several elected officials, the Australian Broadcasting Corp reported.
Security agencies discovered the attack on Jan. 31 this year and monitored it for a week before shutting down the network, Senate President Scott Ryan told a parliamentary committee, according to the ABC.
During the time the network was compromised, two senators and a small number of lower house members had “non-sensitive” data stolen, the ABC reported without giving detail of the theft.
“A small number of users visited a legitimate external website that had been compromised,” the broadcaster quoted Ryan as telling the parliamentary committee on Thursday. “This caused malware to be injected into the parliamentary computer network.”
The parliaments cybersecurity team stopped another attempted attack in late October, sending an email to users saying that malware had been detected in the system, the ABC reported. People on the parliamentary computer network were temporarily banned from accessing personal email accounts like Gmail, the broadcaster reported without citing sources.
In September, Reuters reported Australian intelligence officials had determined China was responsible for a cyber-attack on its national parliament and its three largest political parties before a general election in May.
The cyber intelligence agency, the Australian Signals Directorate, concluded in March that Chinas Ministry of State Security was responsible for the attack but recommended keeping the findings secret to avoid disrupting trade relations with Beijing, Reuters reported.
The Australian Signals Directorate did not immediately respond to a Reuters email seeking comment on Friday.
]]> Costco Warns of $75 Fake Coupon Scam Circulating on Social Media https://www.theepochtimes.com/costco-warns-of-75-fake-coupon-scam-circulating-on-social-media_3146158.html Thu, 14 Nov 2019 10:50:59 +0000 Costco has warned its customers about a scam coupon that has been circulating on social media promising shoppers $75 in celebration of the companys anniversary.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, the company said members should not trust the “recurring hoax” and confirmed it is not giving away $75 coupons.
“While we love our fans and our members, this offer is a SCAM, and in no way affiliated with Costco. Thanks to our fans for letting us know about this recurring hoax!” it said.
The scam post initially appeared on Facebook earlier this year, promoting users to click on a link that is unaffiliated with Costco, in order to collect their coupon. The fraudulent offer quickly spread across social media as it asks users to share the post and also input personal information.
This is not the first time Costco has been forced to address scam coupons, as the same thing happened exactly one year ago when an identical post began circulating online.
Again users were asked to complete a brief survey about their experience at Costco and then taken to a fake site which declared them a “winner” of the coupon.
They were then asked to like and share the post on Facebook and enter “Thanks Costco” as a comment on the post, thus unknowingly recruiting new victims to the scam.
It is not known exactly what happens to the information customers provide, however they are most likely shared with various marketing companies, Hoax Slayer reported.
Victims of the scam are typically inundated with phone calls, emails text messages, and letters promoting a range of products and services, according to the outlet.
In 2017, another fake Costco coupon also did the rounds on Facebook, this time offering $41 off any purchase of $50 or more in celebration of the companys 41st anniversary.
Again, customers were asked to complete a survey and taken to a third-party website where they were prompted to provide their personal information and then share the post with their network.
On its website, Costco, which was founded in 1976, stressed that it never asks customers to provide personal information online unless its through its official website.
“There have been some Facebook accounts using the Costco name and logo claiming to offer merchandise at below-market prices or giving away samples. They are SCAMS, and they are neither sponsored nor endorsed by Costco.
“Costco does not ask for money to ship you samples. We also do not ask you to provide your personal information online, except through our official website, Costco.ca,” it said.
It also described several common online scams and how customers can avoid them, advising never to respond to emails that cannot be verified and calling the company to verify the request.
Costco also warned of any companies that request customers deposit a check or a pay a fee to collect a prize.
]]> Google Looks to Offer Personal Banking Accounts Next Year https://www.theepochtimes.com/google-looks-to-offer-personal-banking-accounts-next-year_3146114.html Thu, 14 Nov 2019 03:01:52 +0000 SAN FRANCISCO—Alphabet Incs Google said on Wednesday it will offer personal checking accounts next year through its Google Pay app, initially in partnership with Citigroup Inc and a small credit union at Stanford University.
The project, codenamed Cache, comes as rivals Facebook Inc and Apple Inc are expanding their own efforts in consumer finance, a broad area that ranges from digital payment apps to bank accounts, brokerage accounts and loans, and which offer Silicon Valley new sources of revenue and new opportunities to strengthen ties with users.
U.S. regulators and lawmakers have expressed concern about how those companies massive influence and poor records on data privacy will play out as they try to gain ground in finance. The scrutiny most recently prompted Facebooks partners to pull back from plans to support the launch of a digital currency.
Google said it has held initial talks with regulators, though it declined to specify which ones, about compliance issues related to the new checking accounts.
Asked about Googles plans, U.S. Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat on the Senate panel that oversees banking, expressed reservations.
“There ought to be very strict scrutiny,” Warner told CNBC about tech giants such as Facebook or Google entering new fields before rules governing them were in place.
Google spokesman Craig Ewer said the companys lead partners were Citi and Stanford Federal Credit Union and that more details would be known within months.
“Were exploring how we can partner with banks and credit unions in the U.S. to offer smart checking accounts through Google Pay, helping their customers benefit from useful insights and budgeting tools, while keeping their money in an FDIC or NCUA-insured account,” Ewer said in a statement, referring by acronym to two U.S. agencies that insure deposits.
Stanford Federal and Citi confirmed their roles.
“This agreement has the potential to expand the reach and breadth of our customer base,” Citi spokeswoman Liz Fogarty said. “Privacy and transparency are, and will continue to be, critical priorities.”
Joan Opp, president and chief executive of Stanford Federal, described the deal as “critical to remaining relevant and meeting consumer expectations.”
Traditional banks have long partnered with companies outside the industry to lure deposits or expand their loan books.
The most recent prominent example is Goldman Sachs Group Inc teaming up with Apple Inc on a credit card this year, but other regulated banks, including JPMorgan Chase & Co, Citigroup Inc, American Express Corp, and Green Dot Bank, have teamed with companies, including Amazon.com Inc, Walmart Inc, Delta Air Lines Inc and Home Depot Inc to offer co-branded products.
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier on Googles plan and quoted Caesar Sengupta, general manager and vice president of payments at Google, as describing an approach of partnering deeply with banks.
“It may be the slightly longer path, but its more sustainable,” Sengupta said.
Leaning on the regulatory and financial know-how of banks could allow Google to proceed without engaging much with bank regulators.
For instance, deposits are stored in an account managed by a regulated bank and protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp (FDIC) and National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), and if the lender does not share consumers financial data with Google, there may not be a regulatory problem or license requirements.
Googles biggest success in financial services has been in India, where it has over 67 million monthly users for Google Pay, which is used to digitally pay for groceries, Uber rides and other transactions.
Though still behind Indian rivals, the Google Pay apps popularity in India has overshadowed its usage in the United States and other countries, where it can be used for cashless payments in stores and money transfers.
Sengupta had overseen the Indian service, formerly known as Tez, as head of Googles emerging markets product team. Chief Executive Sundar Pichai last year sought to build on the Indian app, developed by a team of about 150 employees in Asia, and merged it into Googles broader payments organization.
The move has given Sengupta oversight of several thousand workers worldwide, including those who maintain tools to help Google charge its advertisers and app store users.
Former Google Pay employees said the company faces a massive challenge gaining users for payment tools in locations such as the United States that have robust financial products already. High interest rates on deposits or major loyalty perks could become important incentives for Google to draw consumers, the former employees said.
On Tuesday, Facebook launched a unified payment service through which users across its platforms can make payments without exiting the app, named Facebook Pay.
The effort is separate from Facebooks plan to launch its Libra cryptocurrency, which has met with skepticism from U.S., European and Australian regulators concerned about the risk of money laundering and the security of transactions and user data.
By Paresh Dave and Munsif Vengattil
]]> Health Websites Share Sensitive Personal Data with Advertisers Without Required Consent: Report https://www.theepochtimes.com/health-websites-share-sensitive-personal-data-with-advertisers-without-required-consent-report_3145153.html Wed, 13 Nov 2019 15:52:25 +0000 Investigative reporters probing alleged misuse of the sensitive data of Europeans found that health websites were illegally sharing peoples information with ad-targeting companies including Google, Amazon, and Facebook.
The personal data shared without users explicit consent—a requirement under European data protection laws—includes medical symptoms, diagnostic information, as well as names of drugs.
Reporters at the Financial Times used an analytical tool called WebXray to analyze 100 health websites, including WebMD, Healthline, and Babycentre, according to an article headlined “How top health websites are sharing sensitive data with advertisers.”
The FTs investigation found that 79 percent of the sites installed “cookies” on users computers without consent. In Europe, it is a legal requirement for websites to seek explicit consent to install chunks of code that allow third-party companies to track peoples online activity.
Computer scientist Tim Libert, who created the open-source tool WebXray that the FT used in its investigation, told the publication that the problem is that companies could use medical information to prey on the ill and vulnerable.
“There is a whole system that will seek to take advantage of you because youre in a compromised state. I find that morally repugnant,” Libert told the FT.
He said people profiled on the basis of their assumed medical condition might face discrimination.
“As medical expenses leave many with less to spend on luxuries, these users may be segregated into data silos of undesirables who are then excluded from favorable offers and prices,” Libert told the FT. “This forms a subtle, but real, form of discrimination against those perceived to be ill.”
Data Protection in Europe
In May 2018, the EU adopted the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which subjects online marketers to tighter constraints.
Under the new rules, advertisers are prohibited from sharing “special category” data without explicit consent, in which the user is informed how their sensitive data will be used and by whom.
According to the British Information Commissioners Office, an independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, “special category” data “is more sensitive, and so needs more protection.”
“There are 10 conditions for processing special category data in the GDPR itself, but the Data Protection Act 2018 introduces additional conditions and safeguards,” the agency said.
The agency notes that “special category” data includes the following: race, ethnic origin, politics, religion, trade union membership, genetics, biometrics (where used for ID purposes), health, sex life, or sexual orientation.
“In particular, this type of data could create more significant risks to a persons fundamental rights and freedoms. For example, by putting them at risk of unlawful discrimination,” it notes.
The FT wrote in its report that none of the websites tested asked for the type of explicit and detailed consent required under law.
The report follows the earlier findings of data privacy advocacy group Privacy International, which reviewed the data gathering habits of 136 popular mental health web pages in France, Germany, and the UK.
In a publication titled “Your Mental Health for Sale,” the group noted its findings that the mental health websites examined shared users sensitive personal data with advertisers without the required consent.
The sensitive data tracked and shared with third-party marketers includes information from depression websites and the results of online mental health check tests.
“Our findings show that many mental health websites dont take the privacy of their visitors as seriously as they should,” Privacy International wrote in its report. “This research also shows that some mental health websites treat the personal data of their visitors as a commodity, while failing to meet their obligations under European data protection and privacy laws.”
Regulators Probe Google-Ascension Deal
A U.S. federal regulator has initiated an investigation into a cloud computing deal between Alphabet Incs Google and Ascension Health, which would give Google access to detailed health information of millions of patients, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.
The Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services will look into the data collection to ensure the partnership is in compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) which safeguards medical information, the Journal said.
On Monday, Google said patient data “cannot and will not be combined with any Google consumer data.”
Hours after the secret project was revealed, the two companies announced the collaboration in a press release, in which they said the joint project would see Ascensions data moved onto Googles Cloud platform.
The partnership will explore artificial intelligence and machine learning applications to help improve clinical quality and effectiveness, patient safety, and increase consumer and provider satisfaction, according to the statement.
Tariq Shaukat, President of Google Cloud, said, “By working in partnership with leading healthcare systems like Ascension, we hope to transform the delivery of healthcare through the power of the cloud, data analytics, machine learning, and modern productivity tools—ultimately improving outcomes, reducing costs, and saving lives.”
Ascension also said that its work with Google had been compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act 1996 (HIPAA) and “underpinned by a robust data security and protection effort and adherence to Ascensions strict requirements for data handling.”
Reuters contributed to this report.
]]> Reddit Wont Block Alleged Whistleblowers Name, Diverging From Facebook and YouTube https://www.theepochtimes.com/reddit-wont-block-alleged-whistleblowers-name-diverging-from-facebook-and-youtube_3144384.html Tue, 12 Nov 2019 18:48:05 +0000 Reddit wont automatically delete posts that include the name of a person who is reportedly the whistleblower who filed a complaint against President Donald Trump, leading to the impeachment inquiry.
Facebook and YouTube have publicly said theyre attempting to quash mentions of the name by deleting posts and removing videos. Twitter has said it would allow the name but suspended some users who included the name in posts. Now Reddit says it wont black the alleged whistleblowers name.
Reddit does not “have a specific policy around whistleblowers,” a spokesperson told CNBC.
“Our policy encourages an open discussion regarding issues of public and political relevance, however it forbids posting of personal information, or the encouragement of harassment or vigilantism.”
If the posts violate the policies, moderators will take action. “Context is important in these matters,” the spokesperson said.
In a statement on Nov. 8, Facebook said that “any mention of the potential whistleblowers name violates our coordinating harm policy, which prohibits content outing of witness, informant, or activist.”
It added, “We are removing any and all mentions of the potential whistleblowers name and will revisit this decision, should their name be widely published in the media or used by public figures in debate.”
A YouTube spokesperson told CNN that videos mentioning the name of the alleged whistleblower would be removed; the company would be using machine learning and human reviewers to find and remove the content.
The name of the alleged whistleblower has spread widely but some news outlets are declining to print the name for different reasons. The Epoch Times hasnt been able to verify the name, which hasnt been confirmed by official sources, and there are indications the whistleblower might actually be someone else.
RealClearPolitics first published the name on Oct. 30 and a number of outlets and reporters have circulated the name since then.
Republicans are attempting to have the whistleblower testify before the House but House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said over the weekend he was vetoing the request, a reversal of his stance early in the process.
A number of top Republicans have sought to unmask the person, including President Donald Trump and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
The lawyers representing the person have said that anyone who discloses the persons name is at risk of being sued.
The battle surrounding the identity comes as a newly filed complaint to the Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) said that the whistleblower at the center of the impeachment inquiry might have violated federal law by indirectly soliciting hundreds of thousands of dollars via GoFundMe.
The complaint claimed that donations from 6,000 people “clearly constitute” gifts to a current intelligence official, adding that donations may have come from prohibited sources, and asked the ICIG to investigate if any “foreign citizen or agent of a foreign government” contributed to the persons fund.
]]> Googles Project Nightingale Secretly Gathers Personal Health Data on Millions of Americans https://www.theepochtimes.com/googles-project-nightingale-secretly-gathers-personal-health-data-on-millions-of-americans_3143843.html Tue, 12 Nov 2019 05:06:54 +0000 Google has been working with one of the largest healthcare systems in the U.S. to collect and analyze the personal health information of millions of citizens across 21 states, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The Tech giant reportedly teamed up with St. Louis-based Ascension, the largest non-profit health system in the country, last year, and the data sharing has accelerated since summer.
Code-named Nightingale, the project saw both companies collect personal data from patients, which included lab results, doctor diagnoses, and hospitalization records, as well as patient names and dates of birth.
Google said it plans to use the data to create new software that will improve patient care and suggest changes to their care.
Patients and doctors were not notified that their data is being shared, and did not give their consent, according to the report.
One individual who was familiar with the project told the Journal that at least 150 Google employees already have access to much of the data on tens of millions of patients.
Just hours after the secret project was revealed, the two companies announced the collaboration in a press release, in which they said the joint project would see Ascensions data moved onto Googles Cloud platform.
The statement said the joint project aims to “optimize the health and wellness of individuals and communities and deliver a comprehensive portfolio of digital capabilities that enhance the experience of Ascension consumers, patients, and clinical providers across the continuum of care.”
Eduardo Conrado, Executive Vice President of Strategy and Innovations at Ascension, said: “As the healthcare environment continues to rapidly evolve, we must transform to better meet the needs and expectations of those we serve as well as our own caregivers and healthcare providers.
“Doing that will require the programmatic integration of new care models delivered through the digital platforms, applications, and services that are part of the everyday experience of those we serve.”
The partnership will also explore artificial intelligence and machine learning applications to help improve clinical quality, and effectiveness, patient safety and increase consumer and provider satisfaction, according to the statement.
Tariq Shaukat, President of Google Cloud, added: “Ascension is a leader at increasing patient access to care across all regions and backgrounds, particularly those in disadvantaged communities. Were proud to partner with them on their digital transformation.
“By working in partnership with leading healthcare systems like Ascension, we hope to transform the delivery of healthcare through the power of the cloud, data analytics, machine learning, and modern productivity tools—ultimately improving outcomes, reducing costs, and saving lives.”
Ascension also said that its work with Google had been compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act 1996 (HIPAA) and “underpinned by a robust data security and protection effort and adherence to Ascensions strict requirements for data handling.”
]]> Twitter Suspends Users for Naming Alleged Whistleblower https://www.theepochtimes.com/twitter-suspends-users-for-naming-alleged-whistleblower_3142921.html Mon, 11 Nov 2019 14:26:38 +0000 Twitter has suspended or forced users to delete tweets naming the alleged whistleblower who sparked the presidential impeachment inquiry, while stating that it isnt company policy to do so.
Several Twitter users said their accounts were suspended for posting the name. One said Twitter later messaged him saying the suspension was “an error.”
A Twitter spokeswoman told Breitbart: “Per the private information policy, any Tweets that include personally identifiable information about any individual, including the alleged whistleblower, would be in violation of the Twitter Rules.”
The spokeswoman said posting the name of the person isnt against the rules.
Screenshots from a number of users confirm they were suspended for tweets they posted that included the name, and Twitter said it was reviewing what happened in those cases.
Many other accounts that have posted the name havent been suspended.
The situation with Twitter unfolded after YouTube and Facebook both said theyd delete posts that included the name of the whistleblower.
In a statement on Nov. 8, Facebook said that “any mention of the potential whistleblowers name violates our coordinating harm policy, which prohibits content outing of witness, informant, or activist.”
It added, “We are removing any and all mentions of the potential whistleblowers name and will revisit this decision, should their name be widely published in the media or used by public figures in debate.”
A YouTube spokesperson told CNN that videos mentioning the name of the alleged whistleblower would be removed; the company would be using machine learning and human reviewers to find and remove the content.
Facebook is now claiming that journalism is a crime that could cause harm
They have deleted my post about the whistleblower specifically discussing the importance of journalists disclosing this information
Pic 1 and 2: Removal notice
Pic 3: Section from deleted article pic.twitter.com/ZKT8JRCBU4
— Tim Pool (@Timcast) November 9, 2019
Independent journalist Tim Pool mentioned the name in an Oct. 31 video that racked up nearly 300,000 views before being blocked through a manual review.
“Welcome to the dystopian nightmare, where big tech is colluding to censor newsworthy and public information,” he wrote.
A number of media figures and companies, including HuffPost contributor Yashar Ali, RealClearPolitics, and Breitbart, have circulated the name of the alleged whistleblower. The name hasnt been confirmed.
Republicans have pushed for the whistleblower to testify before Congress about the complaint House Democrats filed against President Donald Trump, while some congressmen have said the person should be identified publicly so any political bias is made clear.
]]> Ubers Self-Driving Car That Hit and Killed Woman Was Not Designed to Stop for Jaywalkers https://www.theepochtimes.com/ubers-self-driving-car-that-hit-and-killed-woman-was-not-designed-to-stop-for-jaywalkers_3142132.html Sun, 10 Nov 2019 05:38:16 +0000 Ubers self-driving car which struck and killed a pedestrian last year was not programmed to recognize and stop for jaywalkers, according to documents released this week by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
The finding comes after 20-months of investigation following the death of 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, who was hit by a Volvo SUV self-driving Uber vehicle while walking her bicycle across the road at night in Tempe, Arizona.
The vehicle had an operator in the drivers seat and was travelling at around 40 miles per hour in autonomous mode when the incident occurred.
According to the documents released Nov. 5, the accident was a result of the automated Uber not having “the capability to classify an object as a pedestrian unless that object was near a crosswalk.”
The Uber vehicle had been fitted with a number of safety systems, which included “a collision avoidance function with automatic emergency braking, known as City Safety, as well as functions for detecting driver alertness and road sign information,” the report said.
However, it noted that on the day the test took place, all of these functions had been disabled as the test vehicle was being operated in computer control mode.
Software fitted in the Uber vehicle detected Herzberg about six seconds before hitting her, according to the documents.
However, the vehicle did not try and stop before impact and instead alternated between classifying Herzberg as an “unknown object, a vehicle, and then as a bicycle” before concluding that it needed to break just 1.3 seconds before it hit her.
Uber told the NTSB that it “has since modified its programming to include jaywalkers among its recognized objects.”
However, the NTSB claims that Uber ignored safety issues on the night of the incident, which resulted in Herzbergs death.
“The Uber Advanced Technologies Group unit that was testing self-driving cars on public streets in Tempe didnt have a standalone safety division, a formal safety plan, standard operating procedures or a manager focused on preventing accidents,” it said.
Uber suspended its self-driving program after the fatal accident but resumed it again nine months later in December 2018—this time ensuring all the vehicles had collision avoidance systems enabled.
Following the release of the report on Tuesday, Uber said in a statement: “We regret the March 2018 crash involving one of our self-driving vehicles that took Elaine Herzbergs life. In the wake of this tragedy, the team at Uber ATG has adopted critical program improvements to further prioritize safety.
“We deeply value the thoroughness of the NTSBs investigation into the crash and look forward to reviewing their recommendations once issued after the NTSBs board meeting later this month.”
With reporting by The Associated Press.
]]> Terrorists Exploit Cryptocurrency, Says Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton https://www.theepochtimes.com/terrorists-exploit-cryptocurrency-says-australian-home-affairs-minister-peter-dutton_3139560.html Thu, 07 Nov 2019 01:26:17 +0000 Terrorists are exploiting crypto-currencies to fund their deadly missions, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has warned.
Dutton says the anonymity of the online currencies allows extremists to escape scrutiny.
“The anonymity afforded by such technologies enables terrorist financiers to obfuscate their activities,” he told a counter-terror conference in Melbourne on Thursday.
“The increasing use of digital and crypto-currencies, stored-value cards, online payment systems and crowd-funding platforms provide new channels through which terrorism may be financed.”
He said countries need to stay ahead of modern financing measures, while also warning terrorists continue to use traditional methods, like ransom money and fraudulent charities.
He called on Australias private lenders to help join the fight, saying nations needed to embrace expertise from outside governments.
Greater scrutiny of charities and not-for-profits is also needed, having become popular terror financing conduits.
“In many cases, not-for-profits are not even aware that they are being taken advantage of,” Dutton said.
Dutton pointed to the work of Australias anti-money laundering watchdog, AUSTRAC, in the Indo-Pacific to combat the terrorist groups ISIS and al-Qaeda.
The minister also lumped Islamist extremism and far-right extremism in with “environmental radicalism.”
]]> Australian Regulators to Probe Facebook Currency Libra https://www.theepochtimes.com/australian-regulators-to-probe-facebook-currency-libra_3139550.html Thu, 07 Nov 2019 01:07:01 +0000 Australias financial and consumer watchdogs arent happy with Facebooks proposed global digital currency Libra, also known as the “Zuck Buck.”
The eight regulators, including the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), plan to investigate Libra after the social media giant failed to address concerns about the currency.
There are fears the cryptocurrency could enhance money laundering and expose social media users to more scams and privacy issues.
Regulators met with Facebook executives in the United States in October but werent satisfied with the outcome, The Australian reported on Wednesday.
Documents from ASIC published under freedom of information laws and cited by The Australian say Libra poses “many risks and threats” to Australian financial markets.
The Office of the Australian Information Commission, one of the regulators looking into Libra, has suggested the agencies investigate independently.
Other agencies involved include Australias anti-money laundering regulator, Austrac, and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
In light of the backlash against the currency, several big companies initially involved have withdrawn, including Paypal, Visa and Mastercard.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans to launch the currency in 2020, allowing Facebook and WhatsApp users to send money to each other, across borders, at low or no cost.
Cybersecurity pioneer, libertarian and independent US presidential candidate John McAfee says even if Libra gets the tick from regulators around the world, he doesnt believe it will be backed by many consumers.
“Libra is a perversion of the original intent of cryptocurrency which is to free people from financial control,” he told AAP in an interview on Wednesday, ahead of him speaking at the Startcon event in Sydney later this month.
“Libra is merely a cryptocurrency that tells Facebook and therefore the government every single thing about your financial life.
“People will discover very fast, oh my god, using this I get 10 times the number of ads addressed to me. It will be a nightmare.”
]]> SpaceX Plans Launching 30,000 More Starlink Satellites to Meet Projected Internet Demands https://www.theepochtimes.com/spacex-plans-launching-30000-more-starlink-satellites-to-meet-projected-internet-demands_3136307.html Mon, 04 Nov 2019 05:16:10 +0000 The Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, SpaceX, is planning to send 30,000 new Starlink broadband satellites into the sky in a bid to meet future demands for fast and reliable internet, TechCrunch reports.
Elon Musks company recently filed the request with the International Telecommunication Union, which governs international use of global bandwidth. The proposal is anticipated to be affirmed soon, according to the report.
The company already has permission to launch 12,000 new satellites into space and hopes the extra satellites will responsibly “meet users anticipated needs.”
A SpaceX spokesperson told the publication: “As demand escalates for fast, reliable internet around the world, especially for those where connectivity is non-existent, too expensive or unreliable, SpaceX is taking steps to responsibly scale Starlinks total network capacity and data density to meet the growth in users anticipated needs.”
The publication says SpaceX is hoping to launch hundreds of satellites in the coming year as it anticipates a considerable demand for highly-optimized broadband globally.
However, the service will initially be provided to the northern U.S., as well as parts of Canada, from as early as next year, when the network goes live.
It will reportedly take up to 24 launches of Starlink satellites for SpaceX to be able to provide global coverage. It will not be operating all of its satellites in the same orbital region.
The company is also taking specific measures to avoid additional issues with traffic, such as building an automated collision avoidance system, structuring de-orbiting plans, and sharing information about the orbital routes of their satellites.
It is also said to be turning back around all the Earth-facing Starlink satellites to minimize reflected light. Astronomers and space watchers are worried that a build-up of satellites may impact scientific observation and research.
SpaceX said it is meeting or exceeding all of the industry standards that have been established so far.
Earlier this year, in May, the company deployed 60 of its Starlink satellites from its Falcon 9 rocket, which launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida.
On Tuesday, founder and CEO Musk appeared to have successfully sent a message using the Starlink network.
Posting on Twitter, he wrote: “Sending this tweet through space via Starlink satellite”, followed shortly by: “Whoa, it worked!!”
However, it has not been confirmed whether he did indeed use the Starlink satellite to send the tweet.
SpaceX was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk to reduce space transportation costs to enable the colonization of Mars.
]]> Do What Makes You Happy, Chemistry Nobel Prize Winner Says https://www.theepochtimes.com/the-nobel-prize-in-chemistry-goes-to-the-inventor-of-rechargeable-lithium-batteries_3130366.html Fri, 01 Nov 2019 06:11:23 +0000 BINGHAMTON, N.Y.—In the corner of the hall on the second floor of the Innovative Technologies Complex campus at Binghamton University, theres an office decorated with balloons. A modest way to celebrate Dr. M. Stanley Whittinghams 2019 Chemistry Nobel Prize.
Now 78 years old, Whittingham is still excited about batteries, visiting laboratories, and giving lectures around the globe.
“So people say, When are you going to retire?'” Whittingham said. And hell reply, “I like what Im doing. Im gonna keep doing it.”
And his wife, Dr. Georgina Whittingham, who is a professor of foreign languages, says the same.
“We keep teaching,” he said. “And my doctor says, Dont retire.'”
For more than 30 years, Whittingham has been working at Binghamton University in different positions. Currently, hes a distinguished professor of Chemistry and Materials Science and Engineering.
Its a place he loves.
“Theres a lot more teamwork here,” he said.
Hes a busy man—even more so since being announced as a key figure in history. What won him the Nobel Prize was that he was the first to develop the lithium battery in the 1970s at Exxon.
British at Heart
He came from a small town—Lincolnshire, England—where his high-school teacher got him excited about chemistry.
“Those days, you could make chemicals, blow things up, and things that you are not allowed to do,” he said with a laugh. “So I got excited about chemistry.”
He then made it to Oxford and finished his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D.
At the end of his Ph.D., unlike many colleagues who went to North America and Canada, he decided to go to Stanford University.
“I wanted to go somewhere with sunshine,” he said with a laugh. “Im still British at heart.”
After being there for two months, he was asked to take charge of the material labs of the Department of Defense for the next two years.
“Very successful time, I should say. During those two years, something even more important happened,” Whittingham said. “I met my wife at Stanford.”
“We didnt waste any time. Within, I think, nine months, we were married.”
After finishing his postdoctoral research in two years, he went to work for Exxon.
“I was hired to work on energy, but not petroleum or chemicals,” he said.
With a keen interest in solar energy and fuel cells, he started researching batteries.
“We wanted to build the next-generation battery,” he said. “The big interest was electronic vehicles because of the gas crisis in the U.S.”
So they started building batteries in test tubes. At that time, they didnt have any unique environment, advanced machines, or even theories on what they might discover.
“We knew there was something there. We didnt know how big it would be.”
Whittingham never thought his invention would change the world.
“Even 15 years ago, the phone, youd need a whole briefcase to carry it. And I think lithium batteries helped all these little devices.”
In the 1980s, John Goodenough, using the foundation that Whittingham laid, made another breakthrough to even more powerful batteries.
With a physicists eyes, Goodenough set out to test something that they thought wouldnt work, Whittingham said.
Following that, in 1985, Akira Yoshino created the first commercially viable lithium-ion battery.
After decades, these three scientists who changed the world have been recognized with the 2019 Chemistry Nobel Prize.
And its all about perseverance.
“Youre going to make mistakes. Dont worry about that,” Whittingham said. “If you dont make mistakes, you wont make the big breakthrough.”
After working for Exxon, Whittingham realized research and academia was something he always wanted to come back to.
Young at Heart
Whittingham took up a professorship at Binghamton University in the late 80s and continued his research on batteries.
“I really wanted to do research, because lots of academia you get 18-year-olds every year coming in. So it keeps you younger,” he said jokingly.
But in the end, he said what matters is that he does what he likes.
“I think youre successful if youre happy with what youre doing,” he said. Winning a prize certainly helps as well, he said with a laugh.
“Its so motivating that, even at his age, hes still young,” said Anshika Goel, one of his Ph.D. students. “He comes in the lab, he comes to the office every day on time, no matter how much hes traveling.”
“He just replied [to] my email at 3 a.m.; hes still working,” said Yicheng Zhang, another of Whittinghams Ph.D. students.
Now, 30 years later, hes still teaching, and its his passion that keeps him young at heart.
]]> Government Officials Around the Globe Targeted for Hacking Through WhatsApp: Sources https://www.theepochtimes.com/government-officials-around-the-globe-targeted-for-hacking-through-whatsapp-sources_3134158.html Thu, 31 Oct 2019 23:33:18 +0000 WASHINGTON—Senior government officials in multiple U.S.-allied countries were targeted earlier this year with hacking software that used Facebook Incs WhatsApp to take over users phones, according to people familiar with the messaging companys investigation.
Sources familiar with WhatsApps internal investigation into the breach said a “significant” portion of the known victims are high-profile government and military officials spread across at least 20 countries on five continents. Many of the nations are U.S. allies, they said.
The hacking of a wider group of top government officials smartphones than previously reported suggests the WhatsApp cyber intrusion could have broad political and diplomatic consequences.
WhatsApp filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against Israeli hacking tool developer NSO Group. The Facebook-owned software giant alleges that NSO Group built and sold a hacking platform that exploited a flaw in WhatsApp-owned servers to help clients hack into the cellphones of at least 1,400 users between April 29, 2019, and May 10, 2019.
The total number of WhatsApp users hacked could be even higher. A London-based human rights lawyer, who was among the targets, sent Reuters photographs showing attempts to break into his phone dating back to April 1.
While it is not clear who used the software to hack officials phones, NSO has said it sells its spyware exclusively to government customers.
Some victims are in the United States, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Mexico, Pakistan and India, said people familiar with the investigation. Reuters could not verify whether the government officials were from those countries or elsewhere.
Some Indian nationals have gone public with allegations they were among the targets over the past couple of days; they include journalists, academics, lawyers and defenders of Indias Dalit community.
NSO said in a statement that it was “not able to disclose who is or is not a client or discuss specific uses of its technology.” Previously it has denied any wrongdoing, saying its products are only meant to help governments catch terrorists and criminals.
Cybersecurity researchers have cast doubt on those claims over the years, saying NSO products were used against a wide range of targets, including protesters in countries under authoritarian rule.
Citizen Lab, an independent watchdog group that worked with WhatsApp to identify the hacking targets, said on Tuesday at least 100 of the victims were civil society figures such as journalists and dissidents, not criminals.
John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at Citizen Lab, said it was not surprising that foreign officials would be targeted as well.
“It is an open secret that many technologies branded for law enforcement investigations are used for state-on-state and political espionage,” Scott-Railton said.
Prior to notifying victims, WhatsApp checked the target list against existing law enforcement requests for information relating to criminal investigations, such as terrorism or child exploitation cases. But the company found no overlap, said a person familiar with the matter. Governments can submit such requests for information to WhatsApp through an online portal the company maintains.
WhatsApp has said it sent warning notifications to affected users earlier this week. The company has declined to comment on the identities of NSO Groups clients, who ultimately chose the targets.
By Christopher Bing and Raphael Satter
]]> Number of Kids Watching Online Videos Soars: Survey https://www.theepochtimes.com/number-of-kids-watching-online-videos-soars-survey_3132805.html Thu, 31 Oct 2019 11:16:46 +0000 The number of young Americans watching online videos every day has more than doubled, according to survey findings released Tuesday. Theyre glued to them for nearly an hour a day, twice as long as they were four years ago.
And often, the survey found, theyre seeing the videos on services such as YouTube that are supposedly off-limits to children younger than age 13.
“It really is the air they breathe,” said Michael Robb, senior director of research for Common Sense Media, the nonprofit organization that issued the report. The group tracks young peoples tech habits and offers guidance for parents.
The survey of American youth included the responses of 1,677 young people ages 8 to 18. Among other things, it found that 56 percent of 8- to 12-year-olds and 69 percent of 13- to 18-year-olds watch online videos every day. In 2015, the last time the survey was conducted, those figures were 24 percent and 34 percent, respectively. The margin of error was plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.
Overall screen time hasnt changed much in those four years, the survey found. The average tween, ages 8 to 12 for the purposes of this survey, spent four hours and 44 minutes with entertainment media on digital devices each day. For teens, it was seven hours and 22 minutes. That did not include the time using devices for homework, reading books, or listening to music.
But the findings on video-watching indicate just how quickly this generation is shifting from traditional television to streaming services, often viewed on smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Among the teens surveyed, only a third said they enjoyed watching traditional television programming “a lot,” compared with 45 percent four years ago. Half the tweens said the same, compared with 61 percent in the last survey.
YouTube was their overwhelming first choice for online videos, even among the tweens who were surveyed—three-quarters of whom say they use the site despite age restrictions. Only 23 percent in that age group said they watch YouTube Kids, a separate service aimed at them and even younger children. And of those, most still said they preferred regular YouTube.
“It puts a lot of pressure on a parent to figure out what they can reasonably filter,” Robb said.
When presented with the findings, YouTube said that, in the coming months, it would share details on ways the company is rethinking its approach to kids and families.
Even so, many children with online access are adept at getting access to regular YouTube or other streaming content—partly because their parents are overwhelmed, said Sarah Domoff, an assistant professor of clinical psychology at Central Michigan University who studies techs impact on youth and families.
Those parents could certainly be doing more to track screen time, she said. But, as she sees it, filters on services such as YouTube also arent adequate.
“Its really hard to block out certain things unless youre really standing over your child,” Domoff said. Thats especially hard to do when devices are portable.
Some are skeptical about how much YouTube will change a service that easily leads its users, young and old alike, down a “rabbit hole” of video content, much of it created by everyday people.
“If your model is built on maintaining attention, its really hard to do something,” said Robb, of Common Sense Media.
His advice to families: “Protect homework time, family time, dinner time, and bedtime. Have device-free times or zones.”
Domoff added, “There needs to be a game plan.”
By Martha Irvine
]]> Facebook Takes Down Ad Falsely Claiming Sen. Lindsey Graham Supports Green New Deal https://www.theepochtimes.com/facebook-takes-down-ad-falsely-claiming-lindsey-graham-supports-green-new-deal_3131008.html Tue, 29 Oct 2019 21:49:22 +0000 Facebook Inc said on Oct. 26 that it had removed an ad falsely claiming that Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) supported the Green New Deal, demonstrating that it will fact-check ads from political groups but not politicians.
The ad, which ran on Friday, was put up as a stunt by a left-leaning Political Action Committee, or PAC, called The Really Online Lefty League, to test Facebooks political ad policies.
The ad was rated as false by Lead Stories, a fact-checker service used by Facebook. Lead Stories stated in an article posted on its website that “since The Really Online Lefty League is not a politician (or running for office) Lead Stories has rated their ad as “False.”
The Lead Stories article also explained that due to Facebook policy, any Facebook posts, including ads made by a politician, “are not eligible to be rated by the third-party fact-checkers Facebook is working with,” like Lead Stories.
Facebook has been criticized in recent weeks over its decision to not fact-check ads run by politicians, drawing ire from Democratic candidates running in the 2020 presidential election such as former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Last week, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg defended Facebooks policy, saying that the company did not want to stifle political speech.
Facebook spokesman Tom Channick told Reuters on Friday that since the new ad came from a political action group, rather than a politician, it was eligible for review by the companys third-party fact-checking partners.
At the time of writing, the ad could still be viewed on the PACs Facebook page, but paid distribution had ceased.
The ad was posted days after Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) grilled Zuckerberg on whether Facebook would permit her to run such an ad, during a congressional hearing on Wednesday.
The Washington Examiner reported that “Ocasio-Cortez asked Zuckerberg whether Facebook would allow ads targeting Republicans in primary contests that erroneously said they supported the Green New Deal, to which the Facebook head said probably.”
Adriel Hampton, treasurer of The Really Online Lefty League, said the Graham ad was inspired by the exchange.
Senator Grahams office said on Friday that it was aware of the ad and confirmed the senator opposes the Green New Deal, a proposal championed by Ocasio-Cortez.
Facebook and other social media companies are under pressure to identify misinformation on their platforms during the run-up to the November 2020 election.
On Friday, Facebook started to test Facebook News, a new section of its mobile app.
Facebook News will feature content from almost 200 publishers, including the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, BuzzFeed News, Business Insider, NBC, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and Breitbart News, among others.
Tapping on the headlines would take the user directly to the publishers website or app if they already had it installed.
Facebook also stated that it would be paying “a range of publishers for access to all of their content.”
According to Reuters, Facebook said that Breitbart is an unpaid partner, unlike some outlets in the section.
Facebook told Epoch Times that if a “publisher falls out of eligibility for posting misinformation, or clickbait or scraping content—for example,” they would be cut from the tab.
Reuters contributed to this report
]]> Hong Kong Students Take Protest to Virtual World https://www.theepochtimes.com/hong-kong-students-take-protest-to-virtual-world_3129803.html Mon, 28 Oct 2019 18:52:02 +0000 HONG KONG—A group of Hong Kong students have developed a virtual reality game they hope will allow people to experience the pro-democracy demonstrations from the view of a “frontline protester.”
The short but detailed first-person game, demonstrated to Reuters in a shabby, high-rise industrial block, allows players to dodge tear gas, duck behind burning barriers and run from riot police.
“It allows you to experience what crisis the frontline protester might have been through,” said Lam, a 30-year developer who covered her face and did not want to give her full name because she had participated in the often-illegal protests.
“That does not mean you will have to go out after playing the game. We hope people that fight for freedom will go out anyway.”
Protesters are concerned that Beijing is eroding freedoms granted when Britain handed the city back to China in 1997, and have been involved with often-violent exchanges with riot police over the last five months.
Lam, who developed the game with two classmates, said it does not allow protesters to inflict violence or do anything illegal. That would stymie their chances of getting it published by an online distributor, Lam said.
However, she added it did have a “pro-protester” stance.
Virtual reality headsets can be used to experience the game in 360 degrees.
Users can scan the colorful post-it notes that make up the games “Lennon Wall”—murals depicting protest slogans such as “fight for freedom” or “five demands, not one less” that are common around real-world Hong Kong. An interactive feature also explains some key events from the protests.
To the developers, the protest game is a form of protest in itself.
A role-playing mobile app game depicting the protest was suspended by Google earlier this month, while gaming giant Blizzard Entertainment suspended Hong Kong esports star Chung “blitzchung” Ng Wai after he called for the liberation of Hong Kong in a post-game interview.
The students said they have submitted their game to an online video game distributor and hope to have it available to the public next month.
By John Geddie
]]> Google Features Chinese Communist Partys Message About Religion https://www.theepochtimes.com/google-carries-chinese-communist-partys-message-about-religion_3129048.html Sun, 27 Oct 2019 21:10:58 +0000 WASHINGTON—The official press office for the spiritual practice Falun Gong is sounding a warning: Beijing attempts to influence U.S. public opinion by using a distorted and biased narrative that portrays an ideal view of the Chinese Communist Party when it comes to religious freedom.
The Party employs this strategy using major search engines, including Google, Bing, Yahoo, Ask, and Duckduckgo, researchers say.
When asked about Googles role in spreading Communist Party propaganda that distorts the Partys record on religious freedom and attacks Falun Gong, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback put the issue in a larger context. He said Chinas growing influence has become a major concern in the United States and may demand a response from Congress or the administration.
“Theres a robust debate in the country right now, whether its the tech companies or sports entities. This is a big, robust debate. These issues should be brought up and they should be discussed,” he said at a press briefing on Oct. 25, ahead of International Religious Freedom Day.
Oct. 27 marked the 21st anniversary of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, which was passed to endorse religious freedom as a foreign policy of the United States.
“We stand for freedom of speech. We stand for freedom of religion,” Brownback said, noting that the government should protect those basic human rights. But these principles also apply to individuals and companies in the United States, he said.
Brownback said the “robust discussions” are important for “reaffirmation of these basic principles” and may sometimes prompt Congress or the administration to take action.
Religious Freedom in China
The Chinese regime tries to exploit Google, the worlds leading search engine, to influence the American public, according to Falun Dafa Information Center (FDIC) researchers.
For example, when a user searches for “religious freedom in China,” Google guides the user by presenting the “People also ask” box. In this box, Google typically lists the most common questions matched up with what the search engine deems to be the most credible answer.
One of the questions presented by Google is “Does China have freedom of speech and religion?”
And the response to the question is: “The 1982 Constitution provides its citizens the right to believe in any religion, as well as the right to refrain from doing so: Citizens of the Peoples Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief.”
A similar issue arises when searching for “Falun Gong,” an ancient spiritual discipline brutally suppressed in China. Google lists the question “Is Falun Gong Buddhist?” and the top answer takes the user to a Chinese regime website that attacks the meditation practice, according to FDIC spokesperson Erping Zhang.
“This is akin to directing users to a neo-Nazi website to learn about the finer points of Judaism,” said Zhang. “These answer boxes are supposed to direct you to what Google considers to be the foremost authority on any given topic. Does this mean Google believes the Chinese regime to be the most authoritative on the topic of Falun Gong and religion?”
Zhang said FDIC raised that issue with Google a few weeks ago and still hasnt received a response.
Googles search results for “Falun Gong” in the UK include the same Chinese Communist Party-controlled websites as appear in searches in the United States.
For searches in the Chinese language, the results are even more slanted toward the Chinese regimes views. On some pages, Chinese Communist Party-controlled sites make up the majority of search results. This pattern is observable across several search engines, including Bing, Yahoo, Ask, and Duckduckgo, according to FDIC.
Increased Pressure on Beijing
The Trump administration has stepped up its criticism of China in recent months for its detention of more than a million Uyghur Muslims in so-called re-education camps in Chinas northwestern region of Xinjiang.
Brownback said the United States would continue to press China to end the persecution of not just Muslims but also Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, and Falun Gong practitioners. He hoped that these pressures would yield results.
“Its my hope that the Chinese will agree at some point in time to start directly addressing with us, and with other communities around the world, their horrific record on religious freedom, on religious persecution that theyre doing,” he said.
The Trump administration made religious freedom a priority at this years United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), and China was the main target. Brownback said it was the first time a state hosted a religious event at the UNGA.
Vice President Mike Pence in a recent policy speech also raised concerns about Chinas human rights abuses and its growing influence on U.S. companies.
“Today, China is not only exporting hundreds of billions of dollars in unfairly traded goods to the United States, but lately, China has also been trying to export censorship—the hallmark of its regime,” he said on Oct. 24. “By exploiting corporate greed, Beijing is attempting to influence American public opinion, coercing corporate America.”
Pence scolded U.S. corporations such as Nike and also the National Basketball Association for siding with the Chinese regime.
]]> Indonesia Report on 737 MAX Crash Faults Boeing Design, Says Lion Air Made Mistakes https://www.theepochtimes.com/indonesia-report-on-737-max-crash-faults-boeing-design-says-lion-air-made-mistakes_3127557.html Fri, 25 Oct 2019 19:49:33 +0000 Boeing, acting without adequate oversight from U.S. regulators, failed to grasp risks in the design of cockpit software on its 737 MAX airliner, sowing the seeds for a Lion Air crash that also involved errors by airline workers and crew, Indonesian investigators found.
The fatal crash, followed within five months by another at Ethiopian Airlines, led to a global grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX and a crisis for the worlds biggest planemaker, which this week ousted its commercial airplanes chief.
In its final report into the Oct. 29, 2018, Lion Air crash that killed all 189 people on board, Indonesia made recommendations to Boeing, the airline, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other agencies.
Indonesian regulators criticized the design of the anti-stall system known as MCAS, which automatically pushed the planes nose down, leaving pilots fighting for control.
“The design and certification of the MCAS did not adequately consider the likelihood of loss of control of the aircraft,” the report said.
Boeing has been working on a redesign of MCAS although it has yet to certified by the FAA.
The report also said “deficiencies” in the flight crews communication and manual control of the aircraft contributed to the crash, as did alerts and distractions in the cockpit.
The accident had been caused by a complex chain of events, Indonesian air accident investigator Nurcahyo Utomo told reporters at a news conference, repeatedly declining to be drawn on providing a single dominant cause.
“From what we know, there are nine things that contributed to this accident,” he said. “If one of the nine hadnt occurred, maybe the accident wouldnt have occurred.”
During the flight, the first officer was unable to quickly identify a checklist in a handbook or perform tasks he should have had memorised, it said, adding that he had also performed poorly in training exercises.
The captain did not properly brief the first officer when handing over control just before the plane entered a fatal dive, it also said.
The report noted that according to the cockpit voice recorder, the first officer told the captain the flight was not in his initial schedule and he had been called at 4 a.m. to be informed of the revision, while the captain said he had the flu.
A critical angle of attack (AOA) sensor providing data to the MCAS anti-stall system had been miscalibrated by Florida-based Xtra Aerospace without the recommended equipment, the report said, and there were strong indications that it was not tested during installation by Lion Air maintenance staff.
The FAA, also faulted by the report for its oversight of Xtra, formally revoked the maintenance firms repair station certificate following the reports publication.
Xtra responded in a statement that it had been cooperating closely with the FAA “and though we have reached a settlement with the FAA, we respectfully disagree with the agencys findings.”
The company noted the FAA action was separate from the Indonesias “investigation and report of the Lion Air Boeing 737 Max accident and is not an indication that Xtra was responsible for the accident.”
Lion Air should have grounded the jet following faults on earlier flights, the investigators also found, adding that 31 pages were missing from the airlines October maintenance logs.
A Lion Air spokesman said the crash was an “unthinkable tragedy” and it was essential to take immediate corrective actions to ensure a similar accident never occurred again.
Boeing said in a statement that it was addressing Indonesias safety recommendations and taking actions to enhance the safety of the 737 MAX. Saying it mourned with Lion Air, the manufacturer promised to learn from the crash.
The FAA said it welcomed the reports recommendations and would carefully consider them and all others as it continued to review Boeings proposed changes to the 737 MAX.
Indonesia may require pilots receive simulator training before the plane returns to service as earlier computer-based training covering differences between the 737 MAX and prior 737 NG model was insufficient, Director General of Civil Aviation Polana Pramesti said on Friday.
Boeing faces a slew of investigations by regulators, U.S. Congress, and the Department of Justice over its development of the 737 MAX, its previously best-selling workhorse for short-haul travel.
Boeing last month settled the first claims stemming from the Lion Air crash, a U.S. plaintiffs lawyer said.
Three other sources told Reuters that families of those killed would receive at least $1.2 million each.
The manufacturer is separately facing around 100 lawsuits over the Ethiopian Airlines crash on March 10 which killed all 157 people on board the flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi.
Indonesia has offered to aid Ethiopian authorities in their investigation into that crash but to date there has been no response, said Soerjanto, the head of Indonesias accident investigator.
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said this week the company was making “daily” progress on testing the final software fix for the 737 MAX and developing related training materials. The FAA has said it would need at least several more weeks for review.
The Indonesia report said that Boeings safety assessment assumed pilots would respond within three seconds of a system malfunction but on the accident flight and one that experienced the same problem the previous evening, it took both crews about eight seconds to respond.
It called for the systems to be designed not just for highly skilled test pilots but also for regular commercial airline pilots.
The FAA had delegated increasing authority to Boeing to certify the safety of its own aircraft, Indonesian investigators said in the report, recommending that all certification processes received adequate oversight.
A panel of international air safety regulators this month also faulted Boeing for assumptions it made in designing the 737 MAX and found areas where Boeing could improve processes.
By Bernadette Christina Munthe and Jessica Damiana
]]> Cal Newport: On Attention in an Age of Digital Distraction https://www.theepochtimes.com/cal-newport-on-attention-in-an-age-of-digital-distraction_3105482.html Thu, 24 Oct 2019 16:34:28 +0000 Only a few years ago, Cal Newports ideas about digital distraction and social media made him an outlier. He was a millennial who read a print newspaper and never had a social media account, during a time when every small business was starting, if not an account, a whole department.
And even though no one could give Newport a compelling argument for using social media, they asked without a hint of irony, but what if by not having an account, he missed out on a potential opportunity?
“People used to think my thoughts on social media were eccentric if not downright dangerous,” he said. “When I wrote an op-ed in The New York Times in 2016 that said social media was not as important for their careers as many young people think, the outrage was so strong that the paper commissioned a response op-ed for the next week to argue against my points.”
Less than a year later, the tide was turning.
“Starting around early 2017, I noticed this reaction begin to change. People were increasingly receptive to this idea that there might be something rotten about our relationship with our digital devices,” Newport said.
Hes a computer scientist at Georgetown University and grapples with mathematical theorems for a living—exactly the kind of field that requires deep work, or pushing your cognitive capabilities to their limit. He has published more than 60 peer-reviewed papers that have been cited more than 3,500 times. So he was, in fact, incredibly aware of the sort of cognitive noise that can immediately have a negative, and accumulated, impact on your ability to focus and concentrate.
In 2008, Newport titled an introspective journal entry, “Better.”
In it, he laid out a vision for his personal and professional life, and ended it with the earnest request to “accept only excellence from myself.” By the end of the year, he had an entry titled “The Plan,” in which he listed his values in the categories of relationships, virtues, and qualities.
“In my professional life, Ive always been surrounded by people who do high-impact work at elite levels, so Ive always been driven to understand how I can get better and better at what I do,” Newport said. “This mindset of continual improvements was simply in the air around me at that stage of life, and seemed as natural as breathing.”
It was, in many ways, a natural progression. In 2006, Newport had published his first book, “How to Win at College,” for students, which includes the tip “always be working on a grand project.'”
Newport was a student himself at the time and had found college advice books written to be too fluffy, or talking down to students. Before the books, he had actually been the humor columnist for the student newspaper at Dartmouth.
“Once I started down the path of writing, I found I had a knack for it, and so I kept going long after I moved beyond my student years,” Newport said.
He published “How to Become a Straight-A Student,” and then started blogging about study hacks, and published “How to Be a High School Superstar.” In 2010, he got interested in the idea of “Simplicity 2.0,” or the power of specialized craftsmanship in our age of general-purpose computing, and the danger of passion-driven career planning. These ideas are explored in length in his last three books.
With “So Good They Cant Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love,” Newport debunked the passion hypothesis (“do what you love,” or “follow your dreams”) showing that its not only wrong, but dangerous. He compares it to the “craftsman mindset,” which instead “focuses on what you can offer the world” while “the passion mindset focuses instead on what the world can offer you.” The latter has a track record for leading to disappointment and unhappiness, as he shows through interviews and stories. This book focused on the importance of skill, the beginnings of his attention capital theory.
If his ethos seems clear and unwavering, as he writes in his books, its because he has carved out the solitude necessary to form his ideas and values. He describes a stack of 12 black Moleskine notebooks, accounting for roughly one per year, with one more in his work bag.
It turns out, knowing yourself is the beginning of an antidote to digital distraction.
“Deep Work” begins with psychiatrist Carl Jung writing away in a locked private office in a village by the lake.
It goes on to share stories of other acclaimed individuals who eschew email and instant messaging in order to have long stretches of uninterrupted time, during which they churn out sometimes groundbreaking work in a relatively short period of time. Newport aimed to show the reader how to do that.
The book was published in 2016, and he has since many times had to explain that he isnt, in fact, a neo-Luddite (in fact, hes excited about new developments in artificial intelligence and virtual reality).
“Deep work is necessary to wring every last drop of value out of your current intellectual capacity,” he wrote in the first chapter. Many professions require nothing short of this, for one to stand out. But Newport found that with the rise of email and other methods for constant communication, even workers in these fields were working longer hours, dedicating more time to messaging and relegating the actual work to early or late hours outside the office. Knowing this, its hard to make a case for emails ability to aid productivity.
Theres a bigger cost than merely wasting time. Newport shows that if you spend enough time fragmenting your attention, you can permanently reduce your capacity to even do deep work.
After publishing “Deep Work,” Newport planned to write about what the workplace might look like going forward if we actually got rid of email and Slack. He wanted to explore this idea of attention capital theory, that in modern knowledge work, the primary capital resource is the human brain.
But feedback from readers of “Deep Work” took him in another direction.
People kept asking, what about our personal lives? How can I apply these principles outside of the workplace?
Later that year, Newport was on a beach in the Bahamas when he finally found the words: “digital minimalism.”
That was essentially the philosophy he was advocating for, to take the principles of minimalism and apply them to how you use technology. Rather than trying to make a case for whether Facebook or Twitter is good or bad, he outlines a broader philosophy, asking whether an app or platform adds positive value to your life (and making very specific arguments for elements that dont).
Autonomy Versus Convenience
Instead of social media, Newport has an “interesting” inbox, a public-facing email where his readers and followers can send him links to articles, books, studies, and other things that may be of interest to him.
“I love my interesting inbox,” he said. “I learn a lot from what comes through that channel.”
“In this way, it provides the same value to me that social media does for many others, but does so without any engineered addiction.”
In preparing to write the book, Newport had reached out to his readers to ask if anyone would be interested in trying out a “digital declutter.” He expected maybe 40 or 50 brave souls to venture forward; 1,600 signed up.
The results were interesting: people old enough to remember life without the internet talked about reconnecting with old hobbies and interests that were perhaps lost to them with their time sunk into scrolling on their phones. But people who had practically grown up with smartphones felt like they had stepped out into the void. There was real existential fear because they didnt have anything to fill the void, or know how to go about beginning.
It solidified Newports theory that the tips and tricks and weekend digital detoxes werent enough. Especially if those tips relied on depriving oneself of something we had before. People needed an underlying philosophy and values to have a staying reason to use tech in a way that would only improve their lives. “Digital Minimalism” contains not just philosophy, but a practical 30-day guide. He even presents a philosophy for socializing in the digital age.
Newport also interviewed digital minimalists who actually live a variety of lifestyles. Some use social media in a clever and intentional way, some find they dont miss it after all. What it really came down to was reclaiming autonomy.
“Most of the digital minimalists I encountered were people who became fed up with how much of their time they felt they were losing to their devices. They felt like they were losing autonomy, so went looking for ways to redirect their energy back to what really mattered to them,” he said.
In a podcast interview, he used heavier terms to describe what he was hearing: “People were getting the sense that their humanity itself was being degraded.”
This was a huge shift in public opinion from when he was writing “Deep Work.”
Work, Leisure, and AI
In one book, Newport interviews a talented 16-year-old professional banjo player who lives a monastic lifestyle and derives fulfillment from spending hours on improving technique. In another, he tells the story of a craftsman of handmade furniture who wrote a book subtitled “Creative Focus in the Age of Distraction.”
These types of stories demonstrate the importance of concentration and skill, but they also help Newport make a point about the importance of having a physical hobby.
“Our brains are wired to crave manipulating our physical world with our hands; to see intentions made manifest concretely,” he said. “Physical crafts satisfy this craving in a way that no amount of digital memes can approach.”
“In my own life, recently, Ive been getting into soldering together circuits—usually for little toys or gadgets for my kids. Im also struggling to get a cool drip irrigation system up and running in our gardens.”
Newport writes about the difference between low-quality leisure and high-quality leisure, the kind Aristotle identified as crucial for human happiness. These are pursuits he recommends people develop before they try to quit social media or declutter their digital life, not after, in order to prevent that miserable feeling of the void.
Part of this advice includes creating a “leisure plan,” a strategy for committing to high-quality pursuits. It can be seasonal or weekly, and ideally consists of both objectives and habits you intend to honor for that period (“Attend one cultural event per week”).
Newport has three young children, so the familys leisure plan tends to center around activities appropriate for them. “Interesting museums, nature centers, hikes, visits to relatives, games, and family movie nights,” he said.
Despite his work on the dangers of the attention economy, with companies like Facebook and Twitter making money off your eyeballs and having every incentive to press forward, Newport is an optimist.
“Right now, in the world of knowledge work, we are making very poor use of the brains we employ. This is going to shift,” Newport said. This is the subject for his next book, “World Without Email,” set for publication next year. “We will look back at our current workflows—which depend on frenetic communication—with puzzlement.”
Newport also thinks AI will ultimately help solve some of these problems, and “minimize unproductive busyness in the workplace—which is making whole sectors of our economy miserable.”
]]> Facebooks Zuckerberg Testifies About Virtual Currency Project https://www.theepochtimes.com/facebooks-zuckerberg-faces-scrutiny-over-virtual-currency-project_3125216.html Wed, 23 Oct 2019 22:48:14 +0000 WASHINGTON—Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg conceded to lawmakers that the company is “not the ideal messenger” for its worldwide cryptocurrency project dubbed “Libra,” which aims to allow users to make payments with their smartphones, and said he supports a delay of the venture until regulatory concerns are adequately addressed.
In a five-hour hearing on Oct. 23 conducted by the House Financial Services Committee, Zuckerberg was increasingly on the defensive as he addressed a wide range of concerns, some outside the scope of Libra, such as “deepfakes” and Facebooks policy on fact-checking politicians, in his first appearance in Congress since April 2018.
Libra, which was first announced by Facebook earlier this year, is being created with blockchain technology and would involve working with companies such as MasterCard, Visa, and eBay. Recently, a slew of major companies, including the ones mentioned, dropped out amid concern and public criticism that the digital currency would affect national security and would enable money laundering and other financial crimes.
In his prepared remarks, Zuckerberg said the Libra project “is not an attempt to create a sovereign currency. Like existing online payment systems, its a way for people to transfer money.”
Zuckerberg promised in the hearing, titled “An examination of Facebook and its impact on the financial services and housing sectors,” that the cryptocurrency project should quell regulatory concerns.
“Of course, as a big company, were not going to do something thats unregulated or decentralized, we are going to work with the government that gets to the same standard on anti-money laundering and CFT (counter-terrorism financing) that all of the other world-class payment systems have,” he said during questioning.
President Donald Trump has publicly criticized cryptocurrencies, and also directly denounced Facebooks Libra project, saying the strongest currency in the world will always be the U.S. dollar.
“I am not a fan of Bitcoin and other Cryptocurrencies, which are not money, and whose value is highly volatile and based on thin air,” Trump said on Twitter in July. “Unregulated Crypto Assets can facilitate unlawful behavior, including drug trade and other illegal activity.”
“Similarly, Facebook Libras virtual currency will have little standing or dependability. If Facebook and other companies want to become a bank, they must seek a new Banking Charter and become subject to all Banking Regulations, just like other Banks, both National and International,” he wrote.
When questioned about the fact that a number of big companies had left Libra, Zuckerberg said the project “is too big for any one company to do on its own, which is why we set up this independent Libra association with a number of companies.”
“Its a risky project, and theres been a lot of scrutiny,” he added.
Facebook has been hit with a number of data scandals and fines, recently. On Oct. 22, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced an update of the multistate antitrust investigation into Facebook, which she said that 47 attorneys general now have joined.
Lawmakers, in their questioning, often talked about how they believed Libra to be a digital currency that would challenge the U.S. dollar and said there were serious concerns that Facebook should be broken up.
At one point, Zuckerberg was asked if he would be willing to stop the project if he saw it couldnt be moved forward.
“I will certainly stop Facebooks part of it,” he told lawmakers. “The independent Libra association is a separate thing that exists at this point. If I feel like Facebook cant be a part of it in keeping with the principles that Ive laid out, then Facebook wont be a part of it.”
Lawmakers also pressed Zuckerberg on Calibra, a new digital wallet for Libra that would be used by Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and as a standalone app. They questioned whether the wallets would be anonymous, as that could hide criminal activity.
“Our wallet is going to have strong identity [verification],” Zuckerberg said, adding that he doesnt speak for the Libra association, but promised commitment from Facebook.
The Facebook CEOs testimony follows news of a final report from a bipartisan congressional antitrust probe into big technology companies thats expected to be completed by the “first part” of 2020.
The subcommittee of the Houses Judiciary Committee is investigating Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple over potential breaches of antitrust law. So far, the subcommittee has received tens of thousands of documents from the four companies, Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) told reporters on Oct. 18.
]]> Hacking the Hackers: Russian Group Hijacked Iranian Spying Operation, Officials Say https://www.theepochtimes.com/hacking-the-hackers-russian-group-hijacked-iranian-spying-operation-officials-say_3123531.html Tue, 22 Oct 2019 04:26:10 +0000 LONDON/WASHINGTON—Russian hackers piggy-backed on an Iranian cyber-espionage operation to attack government and industry organizations in dozens of countries. They were masquerading as attackers from the Islamic Republic, British and U.S. officials said on Monday.
The Russian group is known as “Turla.” Estonian and Czech authorities accuse it of operating on behalf of Russias FSB security service. Turla has used Iranian tools and computer infrastructure to successfully hack into organizations in at least 20 different countries over the last 18 months, British security officials said.
The hacking campaign, the extent of which has not been previously revealed, was most active in the Middle East but also targeted organizations in Britain, they said.
Paul Chichester is a senior official at Britains National Cyber Security Centre (GCHQ) intelligence agency. He said the operation shows state-backed hackers are working in a “very crowded space.” They are developing new attacks and methods to cover their tracks better.
In a statement accompanying a joint advisory with the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), GCHQ said it wanted to raise industry awareness about the activity and make attacks more difficult for its adversaries.
“We want to send a clear message that even when cyber actors seek to mask their identity, our capabilities will ultimately identify them,” said Chichester, who serves as the NCSCs director of operations.
Officials in Russia and Iran did not immediately respond to requests for comment sent on Sunday. Moscow and Tehran have both repeatedly denied Western allegations over hacking.
Global Hacking Campaigns
Western officials rank Russia and Iran as two of the most dangerous threats in cyberspace, alongside China and North Korea, with both governments accused of conducting hacking operations against countries around the world.
Intelligence officials said there was no evidence of collusion between Turla and its Iranian victim, a hacking group known as “APT34,” which cybersecurity researchers at firms including FireEye https://www.fireeye.com/current-threats/apt-groups.html say works for the Iranian government.
Rather, the Russian hackers infiltrated the Iranian groups infrastructure to “masquerade as an adversary which victims would expect to target them,” said GCHQs Chichester.
Turlas actions show the dangers of wrongly attributing cyberattacks, British officials said. They added they were unaware of any public incidents incorrectly blamed on Iran as a result of the Russian operation, though.
“Our main intent right here is to point out that theres a lot of false flagging going on out there, and we want to make sure the national security systems that were trying to defend are aware,” said Doug Cress. He is a division chief within the NSAs newly formed Cybersecurity Directorate.
The United States and its Western allies have also used foreign cyberattacks to facilitate their spying operations. Its a practice referred to as “fourth party collection,” according to documents released by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden and reporting by German magazine Der Spiegel.
GCHQ declined to comment on Western operations.
“Collection efforts which leverage other infrastructure and the capability of peers, such as this, offer a low-cost, high-reward way to conduct operations while potentially confusing attribution,” explained FireEye director of intelligence analysis John Hultquist.
By gaining access to the Iranian infrastructure, Turla was able to use APT34s “command and control” systems to deploy its malicious code, GCHQ and the NSA said in a public advisory.
“I would say they are extremely talented and effective. Theyre someone we keep a close eye on because were worried about them damaging our national security systems,” Cress said about Turla.
The Russian group was also able to access the networks of existing APT34 victims and even access the code needed to build its own “Iranian” hacking tools.
By Vladimir Soldatkin, and Babak Dehghanpisheh
]]> Apple CEO Appointed Chair of Board at Top Chinese University With Close Ties to Beijing https://www.theepochtimes.com/apple-ceo-appointed-chair-of-board-at-top-chinese-university-with-close-ties-to-beijing_3123297.html Mon, 21 Oct 2019 21:35:22 +0000 Apples CEO Tim Cook recently became the chairman of an advisory board at the business school under Chinas prestigious Tsinghua University, as the tech giant faced criticism for caving in to the Chinese regimes censorship rules owing to its business interests in China.
Cooks role at the board was to make Tsinghuas School of Economics and Management a world-class institution during his three-year stint, according to the school websites report on an advisory board meeting held on Oct. 18. Cook hosted the meeting with 35 members in attendance.
The advisory board, established in 2000, comprises of roughly 70 business leaders and scholars from the United States, Europe, and Asia, as well as Chinese Communist Party officials. Chinese Vice Chair Wang Qishan is also an honorary member.
Reports from the website show that Cook joined the advisory board in October 2013. Chinas Vice Premier Liu He, Chinese tech conglomerate Tencent CEO Pony Ma, and Baidu Chairman Robin Li, who recently stepped down from his role at the cloud computing unit of internet giant Baidu, also served as board members in the past year.
Tsinghua receives substantial funding from the Chinese regime, including to conduct research benefiting the Chinese military.
According to the state-owned newspaper China Education Daily, the university received more than 100 million yuan ($14.53 million) from the Science and Technology Committee of Chinas Central Military Commission—a Party organ that oversees the military—to advance AI capabilities for the military.
The work of the universitys “Military Intelligent High-End Lab,” an AI lab established in 2018, will be “guided by military needs” to make China an advanced AI country, according to the newspaper report.
Apple hasnt responded to a media inquiry as of press time.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) took to Twitter on Oct. 21, criticizing Cook for his decision to chair the board.
“Will you teach a course on human liberties [and] Tiananmen Square? Maybe update students about whats happening in Hong Kong Protests?” he asked.
Bowing to China
Apple has recently come under criticism at home for toeing Beijings line in order to maintain its business in China.
On the same day the Tsinghua meeting took place, a bipartisan group of lawmakers wrote to Cook expressing concern over the companys recent decision to pull a crowd-sourced app, HKmap.live, from its app store.
The app has gained popularity among Hong Kong locals for providing timely updates about the ongoing protests, which could help protesters avoid tear gas and clashes on the street. Apple dropped the app just one day after Chinese state media accused the company of protecting “rioters” and told Apple that its business prosperity in China was at stake.
Chinese factories assemble the majority of Apple iPhones. The greater China area also generated $52 billion of sales in 2018, which accounted for roughly one-fifth of the companys global total in 2018, according to Apples financial earnings report.
The U.S. officials said the firms decision “to accommodate the Chinese government” was “deeply concerning.”
“We urge you in the strongest terms to reverse course, to demonstrate that Apple puts values above market access, and to stand with the brave men and women fighting for basic rights and dignity in Hong Kong,” they wrote in the letter.
Also, on Oct. 17, Cook met with Chinese market regulators in Beijing for “deep discussions” about issues such as corporate social responsibility and business expansion in the country, according to a statement from Chinese authorities.
Citing compliance with local laws, in early October, Apple removed the Taiwan flag emoji from its latest version of the emoji keyboard for users in Hong Kong and Macau. Beijing considers the self-ruled island of Taiwan a breakaway province and has threatened to claim it by force if necessary.
Apple has also been sending data, such as IP addresses, to Tencent, a social media and gaming company with government ties, as part of an iPhone and iPad security feature, according to media reports.
]]> Bipartisan Lawmakers Call Out Apple, Blizzard for Enforcing Chinese Regime Censorship https://www.theepochtimes.com/bipartisan-lawmakers-call-out-apple-blizzard-for-enforcing-chinese-regime-censorship_3120996.html Sat, 19 Oct 2019 01:17:10 +0000 A bipartisan group of lawmakers criticized Apple and Blizzard on Oct. 18 for their recent decisions to censor the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement for the sake of business interests in China.
Apple recently pulled a popular crowd-sourced app that maps out the protest development in Hong Kong from its app store. That came just a day after Chinese state media berated the tech giant for aiding Hong Kong protesters by approving the app. They warned that Apples business prospects are on the line.
The volunteer-run app, HKmap.live, keeps track of movements of both police and protesters. App users can avoid tear gas or clashes in the city embroiled with mass demonstrations in defiance of mounting interference from the Chinese regime.
In a joint letter to Apples CEO Tim Cook (pdf), the lawmakers said that Apples decision “to accommodate the Chinese government” was “deeply concerning.”
Citing data from non-profit Great Fire, they said that the company has also censored more than 2,200 apps in China. Among them were the Virtual Private Network apps used to get around Chinas Great Firewall and apps for oppressed groups such as Uyghurs and Tibetans.
Senate and House members: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), along with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.), and Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), signed the letter.
“We urge you in the strongest terms to reverse course, to demonstrate that Apple puts values above market access, and to stand with the brave men and women fighting for basic rights and dignity in Hong Kong,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter.
“When a repressive government refuses to evolve or, indeed, when it doubles down, cooperation can become complicity,” the letter stated.
Hong Kong police face growing accusations of escalating their level of aggression toward protesters. So far, over 2,600 people have been arrested during the protests.
Cook traveled to Beijing and met with Chinas State Administration for Market Regulation on Oct. 17. According to a statement from Chinese authorities, the two sides engaged in “deep discussions” about issues such as corporate social responsibility and expanding Apples business in China.
Five of the members also wrote a separate letter (pdf) to Activision Blizzard, a California-based video game company. They urge it to reconsider its move to ban pro-Hong Kong player Ng Wai Chung.
Ng, better known for his online name Blitzchung, received a one-year suspension from Blizzard Entertainment—a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard—for shouting out “Stand with Hong Kong” during a post-tournament broadcast.
Blizzard also revoked Ngs $10,000 prize money and fired two hosts who expressed support for the Hong Kong protests. After the decision backfired, Blizzard lightened the ban to six months and returned Ngs prize money.
The company also banned three college sophomores from the games because they held a pro-Hong Kong sign on Oct. 8 boycotting the punishment on Ng.
Activision Blizzards decision to penalize Ng is “disappointing,” and “could have a chilling effect on gamers who seek to use their platform to promote human rights and basic freedom,” the lawmakers said.
“Your company claims to stand by ones right to express individual thoughts and opinions. Yet, many of your own employees believe that Activision Blizzards decision to punish Mr. Chung runs counter to those values.”
They also said that many gamers worldwide have been calling for boycotts of the company.
“As China amplifies its campaign of intimidation, you and your company must decide whether to look beyond the bottom line and promote American values—like freedom of speech and thought—or to give in to Beijings demands in order to preserve market access,” they wrote.
]]> Blizzard Bans 3 More Players for Supporting Hong Kong https://www.theepochtimes.com/blizzard-bans-3-more-players-for-supporting-hong-kong_3119971.html Thu, 17 Oct 2019 22:18:53 +0000 U.S. gaming company Blizzard Entertainment has suspended three more players for expressing support for Hong Kong during an esport competition, a week after it triggered public criticism for punishing a Hong Kong player for similar actions.
Three Hearthstone players from Washington-based American University held a sign that read “Free Hong Kong, boycott Blizz” during a Collegiate Championship match on Oct. 8.
Their message was in reaction to Blizzard suspending Hearthstone player Ng Wai Chung, better known as “Blitzchung,” on the same day for shouting a pro-Hong Kong slogan during a post-match interview.
The broadcast cut away from the protest sign after a few seconds.
— Casey Chambers (@Xcelsior_hs) October 9, 2019
“Happy to announce the AU Hearthstone team received a six month ban from competition,” 19-year-old Casey Chambers, one of the college players who goes by the moniker “Xcelsior”, wrote in an Oct. 16 tweet, attaching screenshots of the suspension notification from Hearthstone Admin.
The notice said Chambers had violated a rule prohibiting players from engaging in any activity that is “abusive, insulting, mocking, or disruptive.”
The other two suspended players are Corwin Dark, known as “Giant Dwarf,” and Torin Wright, known as “TJammer,” according to CNN.
Hong Kong has become a sensitive topic in mainland China since mass protests broke out in June in opposition to the growing influence of the Chinese Communist Party in the city.
In addition to Blizzard, a raft of foreign companies including Google, Apple, and the National Basketball Association, have become entangled in controversy over the Hong Kong protests, and have drawn criticism for reigning in free speech in an attempt to placate the Chinese regime.
“Every voice matters at Blizzard, and we strongly encourage everyone in our community to share their viewpoints,” the notice from Hearthstone Admin read. It went on to say that the official broadcast needs “to be a place where all are welcome.”
The suspension came almost a week after the demonstration by the three players, who had also forfeited their next game on Oct. 10 because they felt it was “hypocritical” of Blizzard to punish Blitzchung, but not their team, CNN reported.
“While delayed I appreciate all players being treated equally and no one being above the rules,” Chambers said in the tweet.
On Oct. 8, Blizzard initially suspended Blitzchung for a year and stripped him of his prize money for the season for shouting out the protest slogan “Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution of our age” during a post-tournament live interview. The slogan has been popularized during the ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
Amid outcry from employees and players, Blizzard reduced the punishment to six months on Oct. 12 and restored his prize money, which amounted to $10,000.
In response to Blitzchungs suspension, Hearthstone broadcaster Brian Kibler and Nathan Zamora both stated that they would not be casting at BlizzCon 2019, Blizzards annual gaming convention set to take place on Nov. 1 to Nov. 3.
“I will not be a smiling face on camera that tacitly endorses this decision,” Kibler wrote in a statement on Oct. 9.
Another Hearthstone player, William Barton, criticized Blizzard for silencing views deemed offensive to the Chinese regime, saying he supports ”the right of people in Hong Kong and around the world to assemble in protest.”
“I recognize that my decision to speak up may have consequences, but I believe its important to stand for what you think is right, and stand for the rights of others when they cant necessarily do so themselves,” he wrote in an Oct. 10 statement.
]]> Google Debuts Pixel 4 Phone, Wireless Earbuds With AI https://www.theepochtimes.com/google-debuts-pixel-4-phone-wireless-earbuds-with-ai_3117082.html Tue, 15 Oct 2019 16:49:08 +0000 Google unveiled a new Pixel smartphone and other hardware devices on Oct 15, all aimed at getting people even more dependent on its artificial-intelligence services.
The Pixel 4 phone promises to respond to AI queries even faster than before, while a home Wi-Fi system is getting the AI features for the first time. The company also unveiled a new smart speaker and wireless earbuds, both invoking the AI-powered Google Assistant.
The Assistant, akin to Apples Siri and Amazons Alexa, is now available on more than 1 billion devices, including ones made by other manufacturers. With Googles own products, though, the company can steer users to Assistant features even more.
That in turn, could encourage Google users to interact with other Google services such as search and maps more frequently, feeding into Googles multi-billion dollar advertising business. More use of the Assistant also means that Google gets more data on user preferences and activities to build its advertising profiles.
Amazon and Google are both pushing their voice assistants onto more devices, though they have different ultimate goals, said Victoria Petrock, principle analyst at eMarketer. Amazon is getting a shopping assistant into every device it can, she said, while Google is collecting more information about user preferences.
“I think their end game is trying to collect all this data and target you with advertising,” she said.
The “helpful” features Assistant announces could make people even more likely to use it.
“The voice is a whole new way to capture peoples behaviors,” she said.
Assistant has faced scrutiny this year after reports revealed that Google contractors were transcribing some customers spoken communication with the AI to help improve the system. Google has since clarified its policies and said it will make it more explicit that people must give explicit permission, or opt-in.
Still, many are skeptical of the proliferation of digital assistants in homes and pockets.
With the new Pixel, the Google Assistant will complete some tasks entirely on the device—so it doesnt have to wait for answers from the cloud—allowing users to make commands and dictate text messages more quickly.
The Pixel 4 will have better facial recognition for unlocking the phone with a glance. Unlike the existing “trusted face” feature on Android phones, the new Face Unlock is intended to be more secure and easier to use, matching what Apple and Samsung already offer.
The new phone gets a second camera lens, for better zooming, even as some Apple and Samsung devices are getting a third lens, for wider-angle shots. True to Googles focus on AI, the Pixels new camera will recognize people you have taken many photos of before and automatically focus on them in new shots.
And the new phone comes with motion-sensing technology that allows people to do simple hand-waving gestures to skip songs or switch apps without touching the phone.
The Pixel 4 will carry a starting price tag of $799—$100 more than the entry-level iPhone 11—and will go on sale Oct. 24. The larger XL version will cost $899.
Googles phones have been well reviewed, but have yet to make much of a splash in the market dominated by Apple, Huawei and Samsung. In fact, Googles hardware products have never been big moneymakers. Rather, they offer a way for Google to showcase its money-making services.
Google introduced a less expensive version of its phone, the Pixel 3a, to positive reviews in May, a trend that is sweeping across the smartphone market as consumers hold on to phones longer rather than buy new, expensive models. Google hinted the trend may continue, but offered no details.
“We see that being a really great long-term opportunity, both for our users and for us,” said Rick Osterloh, senior vice president of hardware at Google
The company also unveiled true wireless earbuds, called Pixel Buds, Googles answer to Apples AirPods. The new model, which will go on sale early next year for $179, does away with the wire that connects the two buds.
Google introduced Nest Mini, the smaller version of its smart speaker. It comes out next Tuesday for $49. Googles refreshed Wi-Fi router, Nest Wifi, will be available in the coming weeks for $269. A new Pixelbook Go laptop goes on sale in January staring at $649.
Google hardware team, including many former Google Glass engineers, work from a light-filled, architecturally impressive building near the companys main campus in Mountain View, California. The building is complete with a “color lab” for finding the perfect device hues, a materials library for all sorts of elemental inspiration and a small model shop to build device prototypes on site.
“We started by defining what it feels like to hold Google in your hands,” hardware design executive Ivy Ross said. “The good thing about coming a little bit late to the hardware arena is you get to stand back and look at everyone else.”
One of the challenges this time around was finding a way to make the products more sustainable, a feat especially notable on the Nest Mini, which has a “fabric” casing made of yarn created from plastic water bottles.
By Rachel Lerman
]]> Qatar Showcases Pricey Cooling Tech for World Cup Soccer Stadium https://www.theepochtimes.com/qatar-showcases-pricey-cooling-tech-for-world-cup-soccer-stadium_3112684.html Thu, 10 Oct 2019 23:23:48 +0000 Soccer World Cup host Qatar is touting a new cooling system for open-air stadiums as the energy-efficient model for the future—but will it catch on?
Architects and engineers of Al Janoub, a 40,000-seat venue in Doha for the 2022 Soccer World Cup, said they found a technological solution to beat the unbearable desert heat of Qatar.
Soccer fans and players can enjoy a game at a comfortable 75 degrees in the outdoors, even as temperatures soar past 120 Fahrenheit.
Small ducts under the seats and nozzles at field level gently diffuse cool air. “Youre living inside a micro, climate-controlled bubble,” said Saud Abdul-Ghani, a Qatar University mechanical engineering professor who led the design.
Abdul-Ghani said the system requires about one-fifth of the energy typically needed to cool spaces of the same size, such as airport terminals or closed baseball stadiums. This is because the new system continuously recycles air into small zones.
Nadia Elrokhsy, associate professor of ecological design at Parsons School of Design in New York, said while she appreciates the four-fifths reduction as a step forward, she is less convinced about the overall impact.
“They are comparing it to business as usual. … Business as usual is never as business we should have been in,” she said
Qatar wants to see its new cooling technology spread beyond its borders.
“The Americans, Mexicans, and Canadians will surely look at this because of thermal stress on players,” Abdul-Ghani said, referring to the host nations of the 2026 World Cup.
The system has been left unpatented for anyone to adopt. Still, it is uncertain whether other countries will be willing to pay for the upgrade.
Thani Khalifa Al Zarraa, the project manager for the stadium, said the cooling system increased the cost of construction by two to three times, or around $6,000 to $7,000 per seat.
Reuters contributed to this report.
]]> Apple Pulls Hong Kong App Amid Chinese Regimes Pressure https://www.theepochtimes.com/apple-pulls-hong-kong-app-amid-chinas-pressure_3112683.html Thu, 10 Oct 2019 17:36:54 +0000 Apple removed an app from its App Store that provides real-time updates for Hongkongers about police and protester movements on Oct. 10, becoming the latest international brand that has caved to pressure from the Chinese regime.
The dynamic, crowd-sourced app HKmap.live has become popular for helping people to navigate through the tear gas-filled streets in Hong Kong, a former British colony where pro-democracy protests have erupted since June against Beijings creeping interference. The emojis and spontaneous updates proved handy for users to track conditions such as train closures and potential clashes.
Apple said in a statement that the app has posed “serious harm” to law enforcement and local residents.
“We have verified with the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau that the app has been used to target and ambush police, threaten public safety, and criminals have used it to victimize residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement,” it said.
Apples CEO Tim Cook defended the apps removal on Oct. 10, saying that it was based on “credible information” from Hong Kong police and Apple users in Hong Kong.
In an internal memo obtained by several media outlets and confirmed by Apple, Cook wrote that although information such as crowdsourced reporting of police checkpoints and protest hotspots is in itself “benign,” the app was “being used maliciously to target individual officers for violence and to victimize individuals and property where no police are present.”
“It is no secret that technology can be used for good or for ill. This case is no different,” Cook wrote.
The move came one day after Chinese state media berated the company for aiding Hong Kong protesters by approving the “toxic” app. The app, which is also on Google Play, had just gone live on the iPhone shelf less than a week ago, after initially being rejected by Apple earlier this month.
Responding to the app removal, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson in an Oct. 10 press conference again described the Hong Kong movement as “extremist” and “criminal activities.”
The developers of HKmap.live said they disagree with claims that the app is a public safety threat and said there was zero evidence backing up the Hong Kong authorities allegations.
“The majority of user review[s] in the App Store … suggest HKmap IMPROVED public safety, not the opposite,” they said.
Apples rejection of the app is “clearly a political decision to suppress freedom and human right in HongKong,” they added.
“HKmap is used by [sic] passerby, protesters, journalists, tourists, and even pro-government supporters … If HKmap is for target and ambush police or other illegal purpose as falsely accused, why would I bother making it available to the public?”
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) criticized Apples decision, saying that the company had just assured him last week that “their initial decision to ban this app was a mistake.”
“Looks like the Chinese censors have had a word with them since. Who is really running Apple? Tim Cook or Beijing?” he said on Oct. 10.
Chinese officials and state media have consistently framed the unrelenting pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong as “riots” and have derided foreign companies that go against the Party line for “hurting Chinese feelings.”
Those companies, among others, have come under fire lately for taking actions to appease the Chinese regime in connection with the Hong Kong protests.
Apple had recently removed a Quartz news app from its Chinese mobile app store, due to Chinese government complaints that it “includes content that is illegal in China,” according to The Verge. The news organization told The Verge that they “abhor this kind of government censorship of the internet.”
Google also suspended a role-playing app on Oct. 10 for violating a company policy “prohibiting developers from capitalizing on sensitive events, such as attempting to make money from serious ongoing conflicts or tragedies through a game.” The app, titled “The Revolution of Our Times,” allows users to role-play as Hong Kong protesters.
Greater China is Apples third-largest market in terms of revenue, generating $52 billion—about a fifth of the companys total sales—during the past year. Its also where Apple manufactures most of its products, including iPhones and iPads.
During the Oct. 10 press conference, the foreign ministry spokesperson also said that foreign businesses are welcome to invest in China, “but the precondition is that they comply with Chinese laws and regulations and respect Chinese peoples national feelings. There is no doubt about that.”
]]> Senators Call Out Huawei Threat in Letter to Microsoft https://www.theepochtimes.com/senators-calls-out-huawei-threat-in-letter-to-microsoft_3110616.html Tue, 08 Oct 2019 22:31:33 +0000 Five U.S. senators wrote to Microsoft on Oct. 7 concerning the “real and urgent” threats posed by Chinese tech giant Huawei.
The letter was in response to Microsoft President Brad Smith, also the U.S. software developers chief legal officer, who said in a Bloomberg Businessweek interview that U.S. regulators should provide more evidence to back up its rationale for blacklisting Huawei.
In May, the U.S. Department of Commerce placed Huawei and 68 subsidiaries on an “entity list” on national security grounds, which effectively banned it from doing business with U.S. companies unless it applies for a special license. U.S. authorities have since added more Huawei subsidiaries to the list.
“To tell a tech company that it can sell products, but not buy an operating system or chips, is like telling a hotel company that it can open its doors, but not put beds in its hotel rooms or food in its restaurant,” Smith told Bloomberg.
The senators, including Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), listed examples of Huaweis cyberespionage and technology theft.
“We appreciate Microsofts communications with our offices and your understanding of the threats posed by Huawei. We also understand that many American companies have conducted business in good faith with Huawei and other Chinese telecommunications companies,” the letter stated.
“We believe, however, that a review of publicly available evidence indicates that the security concerns about Huawei are real and urgent.”
The senators also quoted Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, who cautioned European allies against Chinas security threats, during a speech in September.
“Huawei is the means by which China would get into our networks and our systems, and either attempt to extract information or to corrupt it, or to undermine what were trying to do,” Esper said.
Cotton said in an Oct. 7 tweet, “Huawei poses an enormous threat to our national security.”
Cottons office could not be reached as of press time.
Concerns About Huawei
Huawei is a major Microsoft customer, using Microsoft software for its devices.
U.S. officials and experts have previously sounded the alarm over the company, saying its products could be used by the Chinese regime for spying or to disrupt communication networks due to its close ties with the Chinese military. Critics have also raised the point that Chinese laws compel Chinese companies to cooperate with intelligence agencies when asked.
Although Huawei claims it has no ties with the Chinese regime, the companys founder, Ren Zhengfei, was an officer at Chinas Ministry of Security, the countrys top espionage agency. Sun Yafang, who served as Huaweis CEO from 1998 to 2018, also worked for the same agency.
A July study by Christopher Balding, an associate professor at Fulbright University Vietnam, analyzed the leaked CVs of thousands of Huawei employees and found that about 100 staff members had links to Chinese military or intelligence agencies.
“The CCP has office space and minders inside Huaweis Shenzhen headquarters,” the senators letter states.
According to a biography published by the state-run publication Huazhong University of Science and Technology Press, the Chinese military was Huaweis main customer during the 1990s.
The China Development Bank, a financial institution under the cabinet-like State Council, has “closely worked with Huawei since 1998 and signed a cooperation agreement with Huawei in 2009 to supply it with $30 billion in low-interest loans,” according to a 2009 report on state media Xinhua.
Trade Theft and Espionage
The Chinese company is currently indicted in two U.S. cases. It is charged with bank fraud and violating U.S. sanctions on Iran by allegedly misrepresenting to U.S.-based banks its relationship with a subsidiary that did business in the country.
In a separate indictment, Huawei is charged with stealing trade secrets from U.S. mobile carrier T-mobile relating to a cellphone-testing robot.
Federal prosecutors are also reportedly investigating the Chinese company over other instances of alleged theft of intellectual property.
In January, Polish authorities arrested a Huawei sales director who previously worked at the Chinese consulate in Polands capital on spying charges. Huawei fired the employee three days later.
In June, research by cybersecurity firm Finite State also found Huaweis devices much more vulnerable than its competitors to hacking. Tests showed that over 55 percent of the 550 tested Huawei devices had at least one potential backdoor that could be a gateway for malicious attacks.
On Sept. 25, the Senate passed Resolution 331 to keep Huawei on the entity list.
Earlier in the same month, U.S. President Donald Trump called Huawei “a big concern of our military [and] of our intelligence agencies,” and reaffirmed that they are “not doing business with Huawei.”
“Itll stop almost completely in a very short period of time,” he said at the press conference.
]]> EU Court Opens Door to Worldwide Social Media Censorship https://www.theepochtimes.com/eu-court-opens-door-to-worldwide-social-media-censorship_3109169.html Mon, 07 Oct 2019 22:31:08 +0000 A recent judgment by the top court of the European Union allows individual European states to force social media companies to remove content globally, raising a concern that one country can force removal even in countries where said content is legal.
The decision may have broad implications for freedom of expression, especially in the United States, where the Constitution guarantees extensive free-speech protections.
In the United States, caps on free speech are limited to actions such as incitement to imminent lawless action and defamation—for which the legal standard is comparatively high, especially when the target is a public figure. Some European countries, however, not only have broader defamation laws, but also criminalize “hate speech”—a category open to wide interpretation, some experts say.
The Oct. 3 judgment by the Court of Justice of the European Union stems from a case involving former Austrian lawmaker Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek, who was, until 2017, spokeswoman for the left-leaning Austrian Green Party.
On April 3, 2016, a Facebook user posted a news article from Austrian news site oe24.at headlined, “Greens: Guaranteed Minimum Income for Refugees Should Stay.”
“Lousy traitor,” the person commented in the post, according to an Austrian court document (pdf). “This corrupt klutz has not earned a single penny of honest labor in her entire life, but has blown our tax money on these invaders. Finally ban this green fascist party.”
While comments of the sort are not uncommon in U.S. social media discourse, Glawischnig-Piesczek was able to get an Austrian court to order Facebook to remove the post for insult and defamation. Facebook responded by blocking access to the post from within Austria, but, on appeal, an Austrian court ruled against such a measure.
When the Austrian Supreme Court asked the EU court whether global removal is permissible under European law, the EU court concluded that it is, as long as the local law is “consistent with the rules applicable at international level.”
“It is up to Member States to ensure that the measures which they adopt and which produce effects worldwide take due account of those rules,” the judgment stated.
Glawischnig-Piesczek also wanted any “equivalent” content to get deleted, which the judgment also green-lighted, as long as “differences in the wording of that equivalent content” wouldnt require the social media company “to carry out an independent assessment of that content.”
The judgment “dealt a major blow to free speech, paving the way for a single nation to act as a global censor and require that online platforms act as its minions in doing so,” wrote Jennifer Daskal, American University law professor, in an Oct. 3 Slate op-ed.
Facebook spokesperson criticized the judgement for going “much further” then its own content policies.
“It undermines the long-standing principle that one country does not have the right to impose its laws on speech on another country. It also opens the door to obligations being imposed on internet companies to proactively monitor content and then interpret if it is equivalent to content that has been found to be illegal,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
“In order to get this right national courts will have to set out very clear definitions on what identical and equivalent means in practice. We hope the courts take a proportionate and measured approach, to avoid having a chilling effect on freedom of expression.”
Social Media Censorship
Social media companies have on the whole moved away from free speech and toward censorship in recent years, according to a 2018 internal Google research document leaked to Breitbart.
Because a few companies, such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter, control most of the information flow in the United States and beyond, their engaging in censorship effectively bypasses constitutional free speech protections, according to Michael Rectenwald, author and former liberal studies professor at New York University.
“Big digital,” as he calls the handful of massive tech companies, are now engaged in “directing, constraining, and framing of online behaviors,” he said in a Sept. 28 talk at the Libertarian Scholars Conference at Kings College in New York.
“As such, big digital may be a means by which the oversight and control functions that were formerly the province of national governments have been delegated to the market.”
While the companies claim to be politically neutral in their content policing, Rectenwald argues otherwise.
“Political ideology is coded into the very DNA of big digital,” he said.
One way big digitals politics manifest is through their “hate speech” policies, he argued.
Google and other tech companies have centered their “hate speech” rules on countering ideologies of supremacy, but more people have been slaughtered in the name of equality than supremacy, Rectenwald said.
“Youtube and other big digital principals represent leftism to themselves and to their digital constituencies as the default no-fault political belief system,” he said. “While the crimes of the political left, despite its much larger numbers, are swept under the carpet, ignored, or justified, YouTube regards leftist ideology not merely as obviously benign, but on the right side of history, even though their historical crimes are unparalleled.”
Rectenwald called the ideology practiced by big digital “corporate leftism.”
“It is deeply embedded in the ethos and technologies of big digital and has been for decades,” he said.
While it may look like an oxymoron, he said, supranational corporations indeed share many goals of the political left. The leftist goals of open borders, or effectively open borders, benefit the corporate appetite for free movement of labor. The “identity politics” endorsed on the left benefits corporations, since the splintering of identity groups allows for the cultivation of new niche markets, Rectenwald said.
“The disruption of stable gender categories will eventually dismantle the family, the last bastion of influence other than the state and major monopolistic powers,” he said.
Global corporations would also benefit from one international set of rules, thus siding with the left on promoting internationalism with the ultimate goal of a global government.
“The politics that most clearly aligns with the world-wide global interests of monopoly corporations is contemporary left-wing politics,” he said.
Rectenwald expounded on his views in his recent book, “Google Archipelago: The Digital Gulag and the Simulation of Freedom.”
Behind Closed Doors
Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged the company has a problem with political bias, according to Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who spoke to Zuckerberg on Capitol Hill behind closed doors on Sept. 19.
Zuckerbergs comments would be the closest any of the tech giants have come to acknowledging the issue. Facebook, however, didnt respond to a request for comment on Hawleys remarks.
Update: The article has been updated based on a response from Facebook spokesperson.
]]> Paralyzed Man Walks Again With Brain-Controlled Exoskeleton https://www.theepochtimes.com/paralyzed-man-walks-again-with-brain-controlled-exoskeleton_3107322.html Sat, 05 Oct 2019 21:48:32 +0000 LONDON—A man paralyzed from the shoulders down has been able to walk using a pioneering four-limb robotic system, or exoskeleton, that is commanded and controlled by signals from his brain.
With a ceiling-mounted harness for balance, the 28-year-old tetraplegic patient used a system of sensors implanted near his brain to send messages to move all four of his paralyzed limbs after a two-year-long trial of the whole-body exoskeleton.
The results, published in The Lancet Neurology journal on Thursday, bring doctors a step closer to one day being able to help paralyzed patients drive computers using brain signals alone, according to researchers who led the work.
But for now, the exoskeleton is purely an experimental prototype and is “far from clinical application,” they added.
“(This) is the first semi-invasive wireless brain-computer system designed… to activate all four limbs,” said Alim-Louis Benabid, a neurosurgeon and professor at the University of Grenoble, France, who co-led the trial.
He said previous brain-computer technologies have used invasive sensors implanted in the brain, where they can be more dangerous and often stop working. Previous versions have also been connected to wires, he said, or have been limited to creating movement in just one limb.
In this trial, two recording devices were implanted, one either side of the patients head between the brain and the skin, spanning the sensorimotor cortex region of the brain that controls sensation and motor function.
Each recorder contained 64 electrodes that collected brain signals and transmitted them to a decoding algorithm. The system translated the brain signals into the movements the patient thought about and sent his commands to the exoskeleton.
Over 24 months, the patient carried out various mental tasks to train the algorithm to understand his thoughts and to progressively increase the number of movements he could make.
Commenting on the results, Tom Shakespeare, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said it was “a welcome and exciting advance” but added: “Proof of concept is a long way from usable clinical possibility.”
“A danger of hype always exists in this field. Even if ever workable, cost constraints mean that high-tech options are never going to be available to most people in the world with spinal cord injury.”
By Kate Kelland
]]> Apple Rejects App that Tracks Hong Kong Protesters and Police https://www.theepochtimes.com/apple-rejects-app-that-tracks-hong-kong-protesters-and-police_3105817.html Thu, 03 Oct 2019 22:43:10 +0000 Apple has rejected an app that tracks the movement of Hong Kong police and protesters during the ongoing pro-democracy movement.
The app, HKmap.live, gives users a map of protests in real time and alerts users to issues such as police presence, the use of tear gas, or closures of metro stations.
Officially launched in August, the crowd-sourced app has become one of the most popular tools for protesters to dodge police during chaotic cat-and-mouse chases on the street.
Similar to Google Maps but with more graphics, it advises users of protest developments with symbols: for example, a dog for police presence and two exclamation marks for danger.
— HKmap.live 全港抗爭即時地圖 (@hkmaplive) October 3, 2019
“Your app contains content—or facilitates, enables, and encourages an activity—that is not legal … Specifically, the app allowed users to evade law enforcement,” HKmap.live quoted Apple as saying in an Oct. 1 tweet.
The app is still available online and on the Google Play store. Apple did not respond to a request for comment as of the articles publication.
HKmap.live expressed frustration over Apples decision in a series of tweets on Oct. 1.
“Apple assume[s] our user[s] are lawbreakers and therefore evading law enforcement, which is clearly not the case,” it said.
HKmap.live said it was “quite disappointing” that the app couldnt be available in the Apple App Store in time for Oct. 1, the 70th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Partys takeover of China, when over 100,000 Hongkongers marched out to the streets in protest.
Tensions in Hong Kong have intensified in recent weeks as activists continue pressing the government to accede to their demands for universal suffrage and an independent investigation into alleged police brutality.
On Oct. 1, a police officer shot a teenage protester in the chest with live round. The bullet narrowly missed the 18-year-olds heart, landing just three centimeters (1.18 inches) away at his left lung, according to local media.
While Hong Kongs police chief defended the officers actions, saying he acted in self-defense, the shooting drew criticism from U.S., British, and European officials.
Apple was “coming up with every reason to reject our App, which was simply a web app,” HKmap.live said.
“Everything can be used for illegal purpose on the wrong hand. Our App is for info, and we do not encourage illegal activity,” it said in an Oct. 2 tweet.
An admin of HKmap.live who goes by the alias Kuma told The Epoch Times that they have appealed Apples decision and they are now “back in review process.”
Kuma said they had been in communication with Apple since Sept. 21, when they first submitted the app for review.
Apple Store Review told the app admin on two occasions that the app “unlocks or enables additional functionality … which is not appropriate for the App Store,” according to screenshots of correspondence from Apple provided by HKmap.live.
Kuma believes the issue is more about “bureaucracy rather than political stance,” noting that Google finished reviewing the app in a day or two.
Around 50 percent of the apps gets reviewed in 24 hours and 90 percent in 48 hours, according to the Apple website.
Zeynep Tufekci, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina and an academic focusing on the social implications of emerging technologies, suggests that the decision might be a sign of Apple “sucking up to China.”
HKmap.live “reports locations and does nothing else,” she said in an Oct. 1 tweet.
]]> Australian Facebook Follows Instagram, Says Goodbye to Like Counts https://www.theepochtimes.com/australian-facebook-follows-instagram-says-goodbye-to-like-counts_3098358.html Fri, 27 Sep 2019 00:43:23 +0000 Australians will soon notice their Facebook news feed is missing something with like counts set to disappear.
Users will no longer see the number of likes, reactions and video views on others posts in a world-first trial which starts rolling out from Friday, Sept. 27.
Instead, likes will be private and only visible to the posts author in a change that follows a similar test on Instagram which started in July in Australia.
Facebook Australias Director of Policy Mia Garlick said the change was based on wellbeing research and feedback from mental health professionals that like counts can cause social comparison.
“Weve had really positive feedback from a lot of the anti-bullying groups and mental health organisations that we work with,” Garlick told AAP on response to the change.
“It really is just taking that number out of the equation, so that people can focus on the quality of their interactions and the quality of the content rather than on the number of likes or reactions.”
Its hoped that people will be more comfortable with sharing on the platform rather than feeling like its a competition, she said.
Garlick assured businesses who rely on Facebook they will still receive all the same metrics and insights they previously accessed.
She said it was too early to say if the test would roll out to other countries like Instagrams trial has in Australia, Canada, Brazil, New Zealand, Japan, Italy and Ireland.
Similar to Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, there is no date specified when the trial will end or if the change will be made permanent.
“We have had some initial positive feedback from the public about the experience (on Instagram), but were still just learning and listening to feedback at this stage,” she said.
On being the worlds training ground Garlick said Australia has very active “tech-savvy” users of Facebook and Instagram.
“We think this is a great country where we can get some really good feedback about whether this is a valuable experience for people on our services or not.”
By Laura Polson
]]> Google Achieves Quantum Supremacy That Will Soon Break All Encryptions https://www.theepochtimes.com/google-achieves-quantum-supremacy-that-will-soon-break-all-encryptions_3096063.html Wed, 25 Sep 2019 18:45:21 +0000 News Analysis
Bitcoin plunged by 15 percent as the tech world begins to realize that Google achieving “quantum supremacy” computing threatens all financial and military cyber-security.
TradingView data reported on Sept. 24 that Bitcoin crypto-currency on the Binance exchange crashed from $9,352.89 to about $7,800 in less than an hour trading, before closing at about $8,568. The loss of confidence follows the release of technical reports that “quantum supremacy” computing will soon be able to hack 256-bit encryptions that are invulnerable to traditional supercomputer brute force attacks.
Googles efforts over the last decade to develop a Super Intellect System focused on advancing artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing and humanoid robotics. Many observers have referred to the effort as “Skynet,” from the 1984 movie: “The Terminator.”
NASA published a scientific paper stating Google achieved “quantum supremacy” with a 53-qubit quantum computer. The device takes just 200 seconds to complete a computing task that would normally require 10,000 years on a new supercomputer.
Although a 53-qubit quantum computer can break any 53-bit cryptography in a few seconds, Bitcoin transactions are protected by 256-bit encryption. But Fortune reported that Google quantum computer qubits will double at least every two years to over 100 qubits by 2020, and then defeat all crypto-currencies in 2022 with over 400 qubits.
The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) disclosed in March that quantum computers will eventually expand their qubits into the 512, 1024 and 2048 range, rendering the highest levels of current U.S. military encryptions obsolete. DISA is relying on the Department of Defenses Other Transaction Authority to expedite issuing requests for whitepapers on potential cybersecurity encryption models that cannot be hacked by quantum computers.
Quantum computing leapfrogs the limitations of traditional computing where calculations are done one at a time with the two binary digits (bits) of “0” or “1” that turn on and off electronic current flowing through transistors. But quantum superposition subatomic particles can exist in two states at once, expanding the “entangled” digits into qubits.
IBM CIO Fletcher Previn speaking at the Baltimore AFCEA TechNet Cyber conference in March described the quantum computing challenge: “Its a completely different approach to computing than counting, which is the basis of all current computing. Its possible weve been programming computers the wrong way for the last X number of years. Quantum is a much closer approximation to how nature figures things out.”
Chinese leader Xi Jinping demanded the complete modernization of the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) by 2035 and Chinas transition to a major military power by 2050. To support the effort, Chinas 2019 military spending grew by 7.5 per cent. But its PLA dominated technological research budget grew by 13.4 percent, with special focus on integration of AI, quantum computing, humanoid robots.
It was assumed in early 2018 that China would be the first to achieve quantum supremacy after Chinese physicists claimed to set a quantum computing record by achieving 18-qubit entanglement, while still being able to control each qubit. But China has not made any comment regarding quantum computing since Google disclosed getting there first.
Demonstrating the accelerating speed of disruptive technical change, D-Wave—which provides exotic hardware to Google and other research organizations—announced on Sept. 24 that the company is offering a 2048-qubit quantum computer called the “D-Wave 2000Q” platform.
Chriss Street is an expert in macroeconomics, technology, and national security. He has served as CEO of several companies and is an active writer with more than 1,500 publications. He also regularly provides strategy lectures to graduate students at top Southern California universities.
]]> Sen. Hawley: Facebook CEO Says Weve Struggled With Bias https://www.theepochtimes.com/senator-hawley-facebook-ceo-admitted-they-struggle-with-bias_3089782.html Fri, 20 Sep 2019 19:57:26 +0000 Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged the company has a problem with political bias, according to Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who spoke to Zuckerberg on Capitol Hill behind closed doors on Sept. 19.
Bias is “an issue weve struggled with for a long time,” Zuckerberg said, according to Hawleys Sept. 19 Twitter post.
Hawley said he confronted Zuckerberg regarding suppression of content of anti-abortion groups, specifically Live Action, an advocacy group led by Lila Rose.
“Zuckerberg admitted there clearly was bias in the @LiveAction @LilaGraceRose censorship,” Hawley said.
Facebook informed Live Action on Aug. 30 that Roses Facebook page and links to the groups website were subject to “reduced distribution and other restrictions” after two Live Action videos made a claim labeled “false” by “an independent fact-checker.”
It turned out the “fact-checker” relied on comments by two abortionists. In response, the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued a letter saying the videos were justified in saying that “abortion is never medically necessary.”
On Sept. 11, Facebook temporarily reversed the Live Action restrictions and said that it would investigate the matter, the group said. Zuckerberg said suppressing the group was a mistake, according to Hawley.
“He said that I was right about that, that they had made a mistake,” Hawley told Fox News.
In another tweet, Hawley said he challenged Zuckerberg to have Facebook “submit to an independent, third-party audit on censorship.”
“Open Facebooks books up, open their employees to interviews,” Hawley conveyed the conversation to Fox. Zuckerberg declined, he said.
Hawley also challenged Zuckerberg to address antitrust concerns by selling Facebook-owned social media platform Instagram and WhatsApp messenger.
“If Facebook is serious about privacy, if theyre serious about competition, put their money where their mouth is,” Hawley said.
Zuckerberg declined, he said.
Facebook didnt respond to a request for comment on Hawleys remarks, but the company previously acknowledged that its been under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission for antitrust concerns.
Conservatives have been consistently accusing big tech companies such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter of suppressing their voices. The companies have denied the accusations, claiming political neutrality.
Zuckerbergs comments would be the closest any of the companies have come to acknowledging the issue.
The companies do exhibit certain political preferences.
Brian Amerige, a former Facebook senior engineer, previously said he didnt see “intentional filtering of conservative perspectives” at the company, but noted that many of the people responsible for policing content “arent aware of what non-left-leaning perspectives even are.”
Amerige left Facebook after reaching an impasse with its executives on the hate speech policy and other issues.
“Hate speech cant be defined consistently and it cant be implemented reliably, so it ends up being a series of one-off pragmatic decisions,” he said.
A similar sentiment was expressed by Nadine Strossen, a law professor and former president of the American Civil Liberties Union.
“These so-called standards are irreducibly subjective. What is one persons hate speech … is somebody elses cherished loving speech,” she said in her June 26 Congress testimony.
Facebook not only acknowledged that it cant draw a clear line between what is and isnt hate speech, but that it also keeps a portion of its rules secret.
A Facebook spokesperson previously told The Epoch Times that users are partially kept in the dark to prevent them from circumventing the rules, but didnt respond when asked why the company doesnt spell out its policies in full and add a rule against circumventing the guidelines.
Trump has reportedly been working on an executive order to address politically biased censorship by social media companies.
]]> Huawei Unveils First Smartphones Without Google Apps, Owing to US Sanctions https://www.theepochtimes.com/huawei-unveils-first-smartphones-without-google-apps-owing-to-us-sanctions_3088486.html Thu, 19 Sep 2019 21:34:44 +0000 Huaweis latest smartphone series, the Mate 30, will be the first ones it makes without Google apps installed.
Since the Chinese tech giant was sanctioned by the U.S. government in May and prohibited from buying U.S. tech supplies and software, it has lost access to Googles proprietary products, including the Google-developed Android operating system and popular apps such as Gmail, Google Play Store, and Google Maps.
Some location-based apps that rely on Google Maps, such as ride-hailing and food delivery apps, wont be able to function on the new Huawei phones.
At a launch event in Munich, Germany, on Sept. 19, Richard Yu Chengdong, head of Huaweis consumer business division, introduced the series, which will have four models: the Mate 30, Mate 30 Pro, Mate 30 Pro 5G and Mate 30 RS.
The smartphones operating systems are based on Android open source, but wont have Google services or apps.
The phones are pre-installed with Huaweis own web browser to replace Google Chrome. They will have AppGallery, a Huawei-designed app distribution platform with roughly 45,000 apps available.
By comparison, the Google Play Store has about 2.7 million apps. Yu told reporters after the launch that Huawei will spend $1 billion to encourage global developers to make apps compatible with its AppGallery. Prior to the U.S. sanctions, AppGallery was primarily used in Huawei phones for the Chinese market, where Google and many Western tech brands are banned.
Yu didnt reveal which regions the new phones will be available for sale. But European media said given the lack of accessibility to Google products, the phones are unlikely to sell in Europe.
The Mate 30 design is competitive with Apples latest iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro, with its triple-lens camera; Samsungs triple-camera Galaxy Note 10; and the upcoming Google Pixel 4, which will be launched on Oct. 15.
The Mate 30 Pro has four camera lenses, including an ultra-wide lens, telephoto lens, and a 3D depth-sensing lens.
Due to U.S. sanctions, Huawei also cannot purchase U.S.-made electronic chips. The Mate 30 series will use Huaweis own design, the Kirin 990 chipset.
The Mate 30 models will retail between 799 euros (about $880) and 2,095 euros ($2,300).
Dutch media LetsGoDigital quoted a Huawei insider on Sept. 19, who revealed that Huawei does not plan to sell the new series in central Europe.
“Huawei realizes that launching an expensive, high-end smartphone without Google apps in Europe is practically useless,” the insider said.
The report pointed out that during the pre-event session in Munich, the Chinese company didnt provide information about the new phone, a “strange” incident that made journalists there “confused and upset.”
Jean Baptiste Su, principal analyst at Atherton Research, also told The Associated Press that European carriers are unlikely to take the risk of selling the latest series.
“I dont think [telecom] operators will risk having millions of disappointed customers that rely on Google services [who] see it doesnt work on their brand new devices,” she said.
Huawei was the worlds second-largest smartphone supplier in 2018. The companys founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei has said before that the company had ambitions to become the worlds number one smartphone maker by 2020.
But the U.S. sanctions put a damper on its plans.
Shortly after the U.S. administration announced its export ban on national security grounds, a number of mobile carriers announced that they would discontinue selling Huawei smartphone models, including EE, the UKs largest mobile operator, and UK-based mobile carrier, Vodafone.
Chunghwa Telecom, the largest telecom company in Taiwan, also announced that it would not purchase any more new Huawei phones because “the future maintenance and repair cant be guaranteed.”
In current trade-war negotiations, Beijing is seeking an easing of the U.S. sanctions on Huawei, but its unclear whether the U.S. side will cut such a deal.
]]> Trump Jr. Calls Out Instagram After His, Presidents Accounts Vanish From Search Suggestions https://www.theepochtimes.com/trump-jr-calls-out-instagram-after-his-trumps-accounts-vanish-from-search-suggestions_3088640.html Thu, 19 Sep 2019 21:29:52 +0000 Donald Trump Jr., son of President Donald Trump, pointed out in a Sept. 18 Instagram post that his and his fathers accounts on the social media platform werent showing up in search suggestions.
“Im sure this is totally a coincidence (like all the other total coincidences against conservative accounts),” Trump Jr. wrote.
Facebook, which owns Instagram, responded by saying it addressed the issue and was looking into what caused it, Breitbart reported.
On Instagram, when users type text into the search bar, the site suggests a list of accounts and tags based on their relevance to the typed text, as well as the users prior searches and other activity on the site.
But when “donaldtrumpjr” was typed in, which is the exact name of his account, Trump Jr.s account didnt show up in the suggestions, despite having 1.9 million followers on the platform.
Trump Jr. said he tried “other variations” of his name, but his account still didnt show up. In addition to that, his fathers account didnt show up either, despite having 14.6 million followers and being named “realdonaldtrump.”
“A few friends pointed this out to me so I figured Id reach out as it would seem odd to me that an account with almost 2[million] followers and The President Of The United States (because he has the same name) doesnt show up in a search but a lot of accounts with virtually no followers do,” Trump Jr. wrote.
He added a screenshot documenting the phenomenon.
“Im sure its totally an anomaly,” he wrote, encouraging the company “to do the right thing regarding this account and many others like it who may not buy fully into your left wing ideology.”
As of Sept. 19, both Trumps and Trump Jr.s accounts were appearing again in the search suggestions.
The companies have denied the accusations, claiming political neutrality. Theres a growing pile of evidence, however, showing otherwise.
An internal Facebook document described and partially leaked to Breitbart earlier this year indicated that ideology plays a role in the companys decisions on what content to suppress.
It listed conservative activist Candace Owens as a person who should be investigated and indicated that Facebook employees were to look into what Owens is “known for,” including her “ideology, actions, major news, etc.”
A Facebook spokesperson didnt respond to an earlier question on why it was relevant for Facebook to determine Owenss ideology.
]]> Facebook Briefly Blocks Netanyahu Chatbot On Election Day https://www.theepochtimes.com/facebook-briefly-blocks-netanyahu-chatbot-on-election-day_3086416.html Wed, 18 Sep 2019 17:17:13 +0000 JERUSALEM—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out at Facebook on Sept. 17 after the social network blocked a “chatbot” from his right-wing Likud partys account for violating election day rules.
The function, a type of automated software that simulates a conversation with a user, was running again within a few hours.
“They took a 100 kg hammer and brought it down on a fly, because it is a Likud fly,” Netanyahu said in a video posted on social media. “They shut down our means of communication with our voters.”
Israels Central Elections Committee said the chatbot had been used to publish poll data in contravention of regulations.
Netanyahu appeared to play down the violation, saying: “Someone published a small poll on Facebook.”
The problematic posts were apparently taken down and no longer appeared on his Facebook page.
Netanyahu, who is battling for his political career, has been trying to mobilize his base by warning them of low supporter turnout.
Asked about its intervention on Netanyahus account, Facebook said in a statement it works with “elections commissions around the world to help protect the integrity of elections.”
“Our policies clearly state developers are required to comply with all applicable laws in the country where their app is available. We have restricted this bot for violating local law until the polling stations are closed tonight,” it said.
Clearing the way for Facebook to reinstate the chatbot, Judge Hanan Melcer, chairman of the Israeli Central Elections Committee, said he received an assurance from Likud that no further poll data would be published on it.
By Dan Williams and Ari Rabinovitch
]]> GameStop Announces Closure of up to 200 Stores, Company Says https://www.theepochtimes.com/gamestop-announces-closure-of-200-stores-across-us_3080972.html Fri, 13 Sep 2019 16:01:52 +0000 Video game retailer GameStop said it is planning to shut down 180 to 200 poorly performing stores by the end of the fiscal year, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.
On Sept. 11, the Texas-based firm said it might shutter even more of its 5,700 locations around the world, said company finance chief James Bell in a conference call.
“While we experienced sales declines across a number of our categories during the quarter, these trends are consistent with what we have historically observed towards the end of a hardware cycle,” Bell said in a statement obtained by Yahoo. “We will continue to manage the underlying businesses to produce meaningful cash returns, while maintaining a strong balance sheet and investing responsibly in our strategic initiatives.”
The companys stock was down more than 10 percent on Wednesday, and it has fallen about 63 percent in 2019 and about 71 percent over the past 12 months, according to the Journal.
“We have a clear opportunity to improve our overall profitability by de-densifying our chain,” Bell remarked.
The firm is dealing with a shift in how consumers purchase games as they increasingly download them through consoles and bypass the purchase of packaged software.
“We are committed to taking quick and deliberate action to improve the performance of the company and set it on the correct strategic path,” George Sherman, CEO of GameStop, said, reported the Chicago Tribune.
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