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Osaka, Nadal Both Out for Wimbledon; She’ll Go to Olympics

Naomi Osaka and Rafael Nadal are sitting out Wimbledon, leaving the oldest Grand Slam tennis tournament without two of the sport’s biggest stars as it returns after being canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.Osaka’s agent, Stuart Duguid, wrote Thursday in an email that the four-time Grand Slam champion does plan to head to the Summer Games after skipping Wimbledon.”She is taking some personal time with friends and family,” Duguid wrote. “She will be ready for the Olympics and is excited to play in front of her home fans.”Osaka, 23, was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and a Haitian father. The family moved to the United States when she was 3 and she is still based there.Osaka has been ranked No. 1 and is currently No. 2. She is the highest-earning female athlete and was the 2020 AP Female Athlete of the Year. She is 14-3 this season, including a title at the Australian Open in February.Last month, Osaka was fined $15,000 when she didn’t speak to reporters after her first-round victory at the French Open. The next day, she pulled out of the tournament entirely, saying she experiences “huge waves of anxiety” before meeting with the media and revealing she has “suffered long bouts of depression.”In a statement posted on Twitter at the time, she said she would “take some time away from the court now, but when the time is right, I really want to work with the Tour to discuss ways we can make things better for the players, press and fans.”Osaka has played at Wimbledon three times, twice exiting in the third round and losing in the first round in 2019.FILE – Spain’s Rafael Nadal waves to the crowd after losing to Serbia’s Novak Djokovic in their semifinal match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, June 11, 2021.Wimbledon, which was called off in 2020 for the first time since World War II because of COVID-19 concerns, begins main-draw play on June 28. The Olympic tennis competition opens on July 24.Nadal, a two-time champion at the All England Club, announced via a series of social media posts Thursday that he would also miss the Tokyo Olympics to rest and recover “after listening to my body.””The goal,” the 35-year-old Spaniard said, “is to prolong my career and continue to do what makes me happy.”Nadal lost to Novak Djokovic in four grueling sets that lasted more than four hours in the semifinals of the French Open last week — just the third loss for Nadal in 108 career matches at Roland Garros, where he has won a record 13 championships.That defeat ended Nadal’s 35-match winning streak at the clay-court major tournament and his bid for a fifth consecutive title there.After the loss to Djokovic at Roland Garros, Nadal pointed to fatigue as an issue for him in the later stages of that match.On Thursday, he explained in one his tweets that avoiding “any kind of excess” wear and tear on his body “is a very important factor at this stage of my career in order to try to keep fighting for the highest level of competition and titles.”A former No. 1-ranked player who currently is No. 3, Nadal is 23-4, with two titles this season in Barcelona and Rome, both on clay courts.

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Economy & business/Silicon Valley & Technology
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Facial Recognition Technology Solves Crimes, but at What Cost?

Even as big tech companies such as Amazon limit their sale of facial recognition software to law enforcement, one company has not: Clearview AI, a facial recognition search engine that contains three billion images scraped from the internet.    More than 3,000 U.S. law enforcement agencies employ the software, which uses an advanced algorithm to identify and match faces, the company says.   “The way it works is very similar to Google, but instead of putting in words, you’re putting in photos of faces, and it will find anything publicly available on the internet that looks like that face,” said Hoan Ton-That, chief executive and co-founder of the company.   Police argue that facial recognition software is an important tool in fighting and solving crimes. But its increasing use has raised concerns that there are too few rules in place for when and how police can use it.    Limiting the scope of software Police typically have image search engines at their disposal that pull drivers’ license pictures or other photos among police records.  Clearview AI, in contrast, has gathered billions of images from social media sites and other websites, which internet firms say were obtained by breaking their rules.  Clearview AI’s Ton-That says that the company only pulls publicly available information.   In one case, federal agents were able to identify a man suspected of sexual abuse of a girl using a single image from the “dark web,” an area of the internet only accessible by special software and matching it through Clearview AI.   “He was in the background of someone else’s photo at the gym, in the mirror,” said Ton-That. “They were able to identify where the gym was, identify the person, he ended up doing 35 years in jail and they saved a seven-year-old.”   A tool for law enforcement The software was also instrumental in helping federal as well as state and local law enforcement identify suspects that stormed the U.S. Capitol in January, according to Ton-That.  In one way, Clearview AI, which has created its database from people’s social media accounts and other public parts of the internet, was well suited to help with this massive investigation of people whose mugshots wouldn’t necessarily be in police databases, he said.   Police were able to use Clearview AI, which runs about a second per search, he said, and find matching photos online of some suspects.   “So they were able to quickly identify them, and reduce a lot of false-positives, and also speed up the investigative process,” he said.     What about privacy? When police violence protests swept the U.S. last year, Amazon and other tech firms suspended sales of their facial recognition technology to law enforcement, a suspension they have said is indefinite.   Clearview AI continues to sell to law enforcement, and internet firms such as Facebook, Google and Twitter as well as civil rights advocates are raising the alarm about its power and potential abuse of people’s privacy.   The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has sued the company in Chicago and California.   Kate Ruane, senior legislative counsel for the ACLU, said that facial recognition technology raises the specter of the government “being able to surveil us throughout every single aspect of our lives.”   Federal, state and local governments, she says, “do admit that they use it, but they don’t tell us how, when or how often.”   There needs to be oversight and regulation, she said, but until then, she is calling for a total moratorium on law enforcement use of facial recognition technology.   Legislation & regulation In recent months, congressional leaders have introduced bills that would limit police use of purchased data that was “illegally obtained” via deception or breach of contract.  Clearview’s Ton-That agrees that there needs to be more transparency and even regulation around the technology’s use. But as for banning police use of Clearview?   “Given the success of our technology in solving crimes, especially crimes against children, it would be counterproductive and inappropriate to enact a moratorium or ban of facial recognition or Clearview AI’s product,” he said.   Ton-That has a code of conduct for customers and has built-in prompts in its software to help law enforcement customers prevent the software’s misuse.   Repressive governments’ use of facial recognition tech The ACLU and other civil rights groups are also concerned about the implications of this technology in the hands of repressive governments like China. “Because the implications are terrifying,” said the ACLU’s Kate Ruane, “especially what is going on in China, where it is trying to track citizens across every single aspect of their lives.” Ton-That says his company does not sell its software to foreign governments and is focusing for now on law enforcement in the U.S. “We’ve worked occasionally with some other private entities for investigative purposes, but we’ve decided just to focus on law enforcement,” he said. “It’s the easiest, most explainable and best use case of our technology.” 

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US Supreme Court Upholds Health Care Law Again

The U.S. Supreme Court for the third time on Thursday upheld the legality of the country’s chief health insurance law that provides millions of Americans with coverage to help pay their medical costs. The court, in a 7-to-2 decision, rejected a bid by 18 Republican-led states and the administration of former President Donald Trump to upend the 2010 Affordable Care Act. It was the signature legislative achievement of former President Barack Obama, Trump’s immediate predecessor, and is popularly known in the U.S. as Obamacare. The country’s highest court had also rejected legal challenges in 2012 and 2015, with all three decisions keeping in place such politically popular provisions as allowing young adults to remain on their parents’ insurance policies until they turn 26 and ensuring coverage for patients with preexisting health conditions. As originally approved by Congress, the law required people to pay a penalty if they chose to not buy health insurance. But Congress in 2017 set that penalty — the so-called individual mandate — at zero. Republican state attorneys general, and the Trump administration, contended that removing the penalty provision made the whole law unconstitutional. The court did not consider the validity of the claims made against the law but ruled that the states opposed to it did not have legal standing to make the challenge. The majority decision was written by liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, and joined by two of the three conservative justices appointed to the court by Trump, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. The third Trump appointee, Neil Gorsuch, joined Justice Samuel Alito in dissent. President Joe Biden has said he will attempt to add on provisions to the Affordable Care Act, which was approved when he was Obama’s vice president. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra praised the Supreme Court decision, saying it was “a victory for all Americans, especially people with a pre-existing condition or anyone who was worried they could be forced to choose between their health and making ends meet. Health care should be a right — not a privilege — just for the healthy and wealthy.” 

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Economy & business/Silicon Valley & Technology
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Facial Recognition Technology Plays Important Law Enforcement Role, but at What Cost?

Facial recognition technology is playing an increasingly important role in helping law enforcement with criminal investigations, police say. But civil rights advocates are raising the alarm about its power and potential abuse of people’s privacy. VOA’s Julie Taboh has more

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Science & Health
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Climate-Related Drought Disasters Threaten Development, UN Warns

The United Nations warns accelerating climate change is causing a dramatic intensification of global drought disasters, which are threatening agricultural production, the world’s safe water supply and other essential aspects of human development.   The U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction has launched a “Special Report on Drought 2021.”  U.N. researchers say drought has affected more people around the world in the past four decades than any other natural disaster.  The U.N. report warns the impact of the climate-driven drought emergency on the lives and livelihoods of people across the planet will worsen in the coming years.  The U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction Mami Mizutori says drought has directly affected 1.5 billion people so far this century.  She says most of the world will be living with water stress in the next few years as drought disasters grow.  She says drought is a major factor in land degradation and is responsible for declining yields of major crops.  She adds shifting rainfall patterns and variability pose a risk to the 70 percent of global agriculture that is rainfall-dependent.”A warming planet threatens to multiply the number of people without access to safe water and sanitation, thereby seriously increasing the spread of diseases, the risk of displacement and the potential even for conflict over scarce water resources,” Mizutori said. G-7 Ministers Discuss COVID Vaccines, Climate ChangeForeign ministers of world’s wealthiest democracies are meeting ahead of a summit of the group’s heads of state next month  While droughts always have been part of the human experience, the damage and costs resulting from them are seriously underestimated.  The report estimates the global economic costs arising from drought from 1998 to 2017 of at least $124 billion.The World Health Organization considers drought to be the most serious hazard to livestock and crops in nearly every part of the world.  It says water scarcity impacts 40 percent of the world’s population.  WHO projects as many as 700 million people are at risk of being displaced by 2030 because of drought.Leading co-author of the report Roger Pulwarty agrees the data contained within the report is grim but does not see an apocalyptic picture ahead.  “I do not think that there is in fact this issue surrounding the collapse of civilizations…We are not seeing truly an increase in the frequency of drought,” Pulwarty said. “But we are seeing that where they occur in the different regions in which they do exist, an increase in intensification when they occur and the rapid onset of drought.”   Over the millennia, Pulwarty notes people have found ways to adapt to risks from drought and other natural disasters.  He says lessons learned from over 20 cases around the world – including the Horn of Africa and the Euphrates and Tigris River system in Western Asia  – have been incorporated in the report. However, he says tried and true drought management measures taken in the past must be adapted to meet the challenges of today’s changing nature of drought risk.

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Rafael Nadal Pulls Out of Wimbledon, Tokyo Olympics

Spain’s Rafael Nadal will not play at Wimbledon or at the Tokyo Olympics, saying Thursday he has decided to skip the two tournaments after “listening” to his body.Nadal, who reached the French Open semifinals this month but lost to Novak Djokovic, won the title at Wimbledon twice. He also won the Olympic gold medal in singles at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.”The goal is to prolong my career and continue to do what makes me happy, that is to compete at the highest level and keep fighting for those professional and personal goals at the maximum level of competition,” Nadal said.He said the fact there was only two weeks between Roland Garros and Wimbledon “didn’t make it easier” on his body to recover from “the always demanding” clay-court season.
 

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Explainer: The Significance of China’s New Space Station

Adding a crew to China’s new orbiting space station is another major advance for the burgeoning space power.  
Here’s a look at key developments:  What’s The Mission’s Purpose?  
The three-member crew is due to stay for three months in the station’s main living module, named Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony. They will be carrying out science experiments and maintenance, space walks and preparing the facility to receive two additional modules next year.
 
While China concedes it arrived late at the space station game, it says its facility is cutting-edge. It could also outlast the International Space Station, which is nearing the end of its functional lifespan.  
The launch Thursday  also revives China’s crewed space program after a five-year hiatus. With Thursday’s launch, China has now sent 14 astronauts into space since it first achieved the feat in 2003, becoming the third country after the former Soviet Union and the U.S. to do so.  Chinese astronauts, from left, Tang Hongbo, Nie Haisheng, and Liu Boming listen to a journalist’s question during a press conference at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center ahead of the Shenzhou-12 launch from Jiuquan in northwestern China.Why Is China Building The Station?  
As the Chinese economy was beginning to gather steam in the early 1990s, China formulated a plan for space exploration, which it has carried out at a steady, cautious cadence. While China has been barred from participation in the International Space Station, mainly over U.S. objections to the Chinese program’s secretive nature and close military connections, it’s likely the country would have built its own station anyway as it sought the status of a great space power.  
At a news conference Wednesday, China Manned Space Agency Assistant Director Ji Qiming told reporters at the Jiuquan launch center that the construction and operation of the space station will raise China’s technologies and “accumulate experience for all the people.”  
The space program is part of an overall drive to put China on track for even more ambitious missions and provide opportunities for cooperation with Russia and other, mostly European, countries along with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs.  Politics And Security  
China’s space program has been a massive source of national pride, embodying its rise from poverty to the world’s second-largest economy over the past four decades. That has helped shore up the power of the Communist Party, whose authoritarian rule and strict limits on political activity have been tolerated by most Chinese as long as the economy is growing.
 
President and head of the party Xi Jinping has associated himself closely with that success, and Ji in his remarks cited Xi as setting the updated agenda for China’s rise to prominence in space. The first mission to the station also coincides with the celebration of the party centenary next month, an important political milestone.  
At the same time, China is modernizing its military at a rapid pace, raising concerns from neighbors, the U.S. and its NATO allies. While China espouses the peaceful development of space on the basis of equality and mutual respect, many recall that China in January 2007 sent a ballistic missile into space to destroy an inactive weather satellite, creating a debris field that continues to be a threat.  Who Are The Astronauts?
Mission commander Nie Haisheng, 56, and fellow astronauts Liu Boming, 54, and Tang Hongbo, 45, are former People’s Liberation Army Air Force pilots with graduate degrees and strong scientific backgrounds. All Chinese astronauts so far have been recruited from the military, underscoring its close ties to the space program.  
For Nie, it is his third trip to space, and for Liu, his second following a mission in 2008 that included China’s first space walk. Tang, who was recruited as one of the second batch of candidates in 2010, is flying in space for the first time.  
Future missions to the station will include women, according to officials, with stays extended to as long as six months and as many as six astronauts on the station at a time during crew changeovers. With China stepping up international cooperation and exchanges, it’s only a matter of time before foreign astronauts join the Chinese colleagues on missions to the station, Ji told reporters Wednesday.  What Else Is China Doing in Space?  
Along with its crewed space program, China has been moving boldly into exploration of the solar system with robotic space ships. It landed a probe on Mars last month that carried a rover, the Zhurong, which is conducting a range of surveys, looking particularly for frozen water that could provide clues as to whether the red plant once supported life.  
Earlier, China landed a probe and rover on the moon’s less explored far side, joining the Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, rover that was part of an earlier lunar exploration mission. China also brought back the first lunar samples by any country’s space program since the 1970s and officials say they want to send Chinese astronauts to the moon and eventually build a research base there.

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Biden’s New FTC Head Could Make Big Tech Sweat 

U.S. President Joe Biden’s unexpected decision to name a staunch antitrust advocate to lead the Federal Trade Commission has thrilled supporters of stronger regulation of the tech industry and has prompted predictions of regulatory overreach from representatives of some of the country’s largest internet companies.Lina Khan, 32, a professor at Columbia Law School prior to her nomination, is known for advocating a hard-nosed approach to the regulation of large technology firms like Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple. She was nominated to fill an open seat on the FTC in March, and on Tuesday she was confirmed in a bipartisan 69-28 vote in the Senate.Shortly afterward, the news that she would be not just a commission member but its leader was announced by Minnesota Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar at a Senate hearing.Her confirmation may signal an unexpectedly aggressive stance toward big tech firms from a presidential administration that had not seemed to make reining in the giants of Silicon Valley a major priority.Early run-in with big techKhan was born in London to Pakistani immigrant parents. The family moved to the United States when she was 11 and settled in New York City. Khan went to Williams College in Massachusetts, where she edited the school newspaper and completed her thesis on the political theorist Hannah Arendt.Khan’s first run-in with the might of big tech firms came when she was barely out of college and working for the Open Markets Program at the New America Foundation, a left-of-center think tank. The program’s focus was on the anti-competitive behavior of big businesses, such as Google, which happened to be a major financial supporter of the New America Foundation.FILE – This March 19, 2018, photo shows a Google app.In 2017, after the Open Markets Program expressed its approval of the European Union’s decision to slap Google with a $2.7 billion fine for the way it ranked its own shopping services in internet search results, the company’s chief executive reached out to the head of New America to express his displeasure.What happened afterward is disputed by the various parties involved, but within about two months, the Open Markets team was formally separated from the foundation.Going after big tech companiesKhan made a name for herself in the world of antitrust law with a 2017 article in The Yale Law Journal called “Amazon’s Anti-Trust Paradox.” The piece argued that typical antitrust doctrine in the U.S., which considers “consumer welfare” when determining whether a company is engaging in anti-competitive behavior, is inadequate in today’s world. A consumer products giant like Amazon can keep prices low — the biggest determinant of consumer welfare — even as it uses its dominance of a technology platform to disadvantage its competitors.Two years later, Khan followed up with an article in the Columbia Law Review advocating the application of “structural separations” to tech firms. The idea is that a system in which a company operates a platform on which goods and services are sold while simultaneously selling goods and services on that platform creates “a conflict of interest that platforms can exploit to further entrench their dominance, thwart competition and stifle innovation.”A prime example, offered in the paper, was Apple’s decision to block the popular music streaming service Spotify from its app store at the same time that it was trying to roll out a competing service called Apple Music.House reportKhan went on to help lead a major investigation into competition in digital markets by the majority staff of the House Judiciary Committee, which was issued in October of last year. The report included sweeping proposals for the application of antitrust law to the tech industry — including Khan’s favored concept of structural separation — and infuriated advocates for the tech industry.FILE – This combination of photos shows logos for social media platforms Facebook and Twitter.Khan’s participation in the House Judiciary report figured strongly in the negative reaction that news of her appointment as FTC chair generated from the industry. NetChoice, a group that represents giant companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter and more, quickly released a statement indicating its dismay with the decision.”Lina Khan’s antitrust activism detracts from the Federal Trade Commission’s reputation as an impartial body that enforces the law in a nondiscriminatory fashion,” said Carl Szabo, the group’s vice president and general counsel.Khan’s work on the House Judiciary report “casts doubt on her ability to fairly and neutrally apply our antitrust laws as they stand today,” Szabo said.Cheers from the leftDuring his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, Biden competed against other candidates, like Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who specifically called on the government to “break up” large technology firms. During the  campaign, Biden never went as far as Warren, which made the elevation of Khan to lead the FTC all the more surprising.”Lina brings deep knowledge and expertise to this role and will be a fearless champion for consumers,” Warren said in a statement Tuesday. “Giant tech companies like Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon deserve the growing scrutiny they are facing, and consolidation is choking off competition across American industries. With Chair Khan at the helm, we have a huge opportunity to make big, structural change by reviving antitrust enforcement and fighting monopolies that threaten our economy, our society and our democracy.”Even the New America Foundation — now New America — which separated with Khan and the Open Markets team under questionable circumstances in 2017, applauded her nomination to run the FTC.In a statement Tuesday, Joshua Stager, deputy director of broadband and competition policy at the foundation’s Open Technology Institute, called Khan a “proven thought leader who has helped jolt antitrust enforcement out of stagnant 1970s thinking. After years of sluggish enforcement — particularly in digital markets — the FTC needs a fresh perspective. We look forward to working with Commissioner Khan.”

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