Nigeria Non-profits Take Cancer Awareness to the Streets

Nigeria accounts for the highest cancer mortality rate in Africa according to the World Health Organization. Low awareness, late detection and high cost of treatment are major factors contributing to increasing cancer mortality in the west African nation. But in October, also world cancer awareness month, several non-profits in Nigeria are taking information about the disease to the streets and sponsoring underprivileged patients for treatments. Timothy Obiezu reports from Abuja.

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Seychelles Leader Pleads for Action on Climate Change

Small island nations are among the most vulnerable to climate change.  Many are fighting the effects of a warming planet but say they cannot succeed alone.  VOA’s Arash Arabasadi heads to island waters for this story

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Rwanda Government Pushes Electric Cars, Bikes

KIGALI — Rwanda’s government is getting behind the “carbon neutral” movement by promoting electric cars and motorcycles. German automaker Volkswagen is demonstrating electric vehicles in Kigali, while a local company has begun selling electric bikes. But some ask whether the vehicles work in a city with a dense population and poor road systemOn a parking lot of the Kigali International Convention Center, Rwandan Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente stepped into a Volkswagen electric car, and maneuvered it around with no problems, like it was his own.His short drive officially launched a pilot program by Volkswagen. The company is putting four electric cars on the roads for Kigali residents to try them out through the Uber-like Move service.If all goes well, the automaker will roll out another 50 electric cars, to be powered by 15 charging stations.Ngirente said electric cars would be a step forward in Rwanda’s drive to become less dependent on carbon-emitting fossil fuels.“Rwandans are increasingly aware that protecting the environment is a top priority,” he said.Arrival of the e-cars follows the introduction of electric motorbikes in Rwanda. Because of a poor road system and dense population, 70% of Kigali residents rely on them to get around.Kigali-based Ampersand is one the companies hoping to see the public switch to electric-powered bikes. With their classy design, locals think they’re cool, and they are manufactured partly in India, partly in Rwanda. Their cost is around $1,000.Ampersand CEO Josh Wolf says that these e-bikes fulfill a need. “The motorcycles are simply cheaper to acquire and cheaper to operate while they actually have more power or more performance than the current fuel-powered motorcycles people use,” Wolf said.The e-bikes use a battery that lasts for about 75 kilometers of driving. Despite the limitations, Emmanuel Dayambaze says he’s happy with his. He says he loves the electric bike because it’s good, it requires little maintenance, and he says that compared with a fuel-powered motorbike it saves him money.Battery life is one of the challenges for Ampersand. They’re working on increasing the capacity and having more than the current two charging stations.Rwanda’s Ministry of Infrastructure is monitoring the progress with the e-bikes. If found suitable, it will start promoting them, says ministry official Alfred Byiriangiro.“After realizing the electric motorcycle can be used on our terrain, which is a hilly terrain, we just sensitize people on the advantage of using electric bikes and electric motorcycles,” Byiriangiro.Ampersand hopes to have 500 e-bikes on the road next year. But they might feel competition from the electric cars, according to Volkswagen sub-Saharan Africa CEO Thomas Schaefer.“People are tired sitting on the back of a motorbike and having a bad helmet. It rains and the buses are sometimes full, so the take up is amazing,” Schaefer said.While for now fuel-powered motorcycles remain king of the road in Rwanda, e-cars and e-bikes are gaining ground, and may lead the country to an electric, carbon neutral future.
  

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Security Firm Says Chinese Hackers Intercepted Text Messages

Chinese hackers with a history of state-sponsored espionage have intercepted the text messages of thousands of foreigners in a targeted campaign that planted eavesdropping software on a telecommunications provider’s servers, a cybersecurity firm said.FireEye said in a report issued on Thursday that the hackers belong to the group designated Advanced Persistent Threat 41, or APT41, which it says has been involved in spying and cybercrime for most of the past decade. It said some of the targets were “high-value” and all were chosen by their phone numbers and unique cellphone identifiers known as IMSI numbers.
 
The cybersecurity firm would not identify or otherwise characterize the victims or the impacted telecoms provider or give its location. It said only that the telecom is in a country that’s typically a strategic competitor to China.The spyware was programmed to capture messages containing references to political leaders, military and intelligence organizations and political movements at odds with the Chinese government, FireEye said.FireEye’s director of advanced practices, Steven Stone, said that none of the known targets was a U.S. government official.The discovered malware, which FireEye dubbed MESSAGETAP, was able to collect data on its targets without their knowledge but could not read messages sent with end-to-end encrypted applications such as WhatsApp and iMessage.“If you’re one of these targets you have no idea your message traffic is being taken from your device because your device hasn’t been infected,” Stone said.FireEye said the hackers also stole detailed calling records on specific individuals, obtaining the phone numbers they interacted with, call durations and times.
A government representative at China’s embassy in Washington, D.C., did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.FireEye did not identify the maker of the equipment that was hacked or specify how the hackers penetrated the telecom provider networks.It said APT41 began using MESSAGETAP during the summer, which is around when pro-democracy protests began in Hong Kong. The firm said since its discovery, it has found “multiple” telecoms targeted by the malware.FireEye said it has observed APT41 targeting four telecoms this year as well as major travel services and healthcare providers in countries it did not identify.Details of the espionage operation come as the U.S. tries to persuade allied governments to shun Chinese telecom equipment providers led by Huawei as they build next-generation wireless networks known as 5G, claiming they represent a risk to national security.The U.S. government already has banned government agencies and contractors from using equipment supplied by Huawei and ZTE, another Chinese company. It is now seeking to bar their use in telecom projects that receive federal funding.Huawei vehemently denies that it has allowed China’s communist rulers to use its equipment for espionage, and Washington has presented no proof of such. U.S. officials say a 2017 Chinese law requires organizations and citizens to help the state collect intelligence.

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India Asks WhatsApp to Explain Privacy Breach

India has asked Facebook-owned WhatsApp to explain the nature of a privacy breach on its messaging platform that has affected some users in the country, Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Thursday.A WhatsApp spokesman was quoted by the Indian Express newspaper on Thursday as saying that Indian journalists and human rights activists were targets of surveillance by an Israeli spyware. The company said it was “not an insignificant number” of people, but did not share specifics.WhatsApp’s comments came after the messaging platform sued Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group on Tuesday, accusing it of helping government spies break into the phones of roughly 1,400 users across four continents including diplomats, political dissidents, journalists and government officials. NSO denied the allegations.“We have asked WhatsApp to explain the kind of breach and what it is doing to safeguard the privacy of millions of Indian citizens,” Prasad said in a tweet.WhatsApp said it had no comment on Prasad’s tweet, but referred to a previous WhatsApp statement that the company believes people have the fundamental right to privacy and no one else should have access to their private conversations.Facebook’s WhatsApp Allows Users to Control Who Can Add Them to Group Chats

        Facebook Inc on Wednesday changed the privacy settings on its WhatsApp messaging platform, allowing users to decide who can add them to chat groups, as it tries to revamp its image after growing privacy concerns among users.

WhatsApp, which has about 1.5 billion users, has been trying to find ways to stop misuse of the app, following global concerns that the platform was being used to spread fake news, manipulated photos, videos without context and audio hoaxes, with no way to monitor their origin or…
India is WhatsApp’s biggest market with 400 million users. Globally, the platform is used by some 1.5 billion people monthly and has often touted a high level of security, including end-to-end encrypted messages that cannot be deciphered by WhatsApp or other third parties.In its lawsuit filed in a federal court in San Francisco, WhatsApp accused NSO of facilitating government hacking sprees in 20 countries, calling it “an unmistakable pattern of abuse.” 

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Going Its Own Way: Twitter Bans Political Ads from Its Service

In a major break from other internet companies, Twitter said on Wednesday it would no longer accept political ads, a decision that will affect users and political campaigns in the U.S. and around the world.In a series of 11 tweets, Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s CEO, said that while internet advertising is powerful and effective for advertisers, “that power brings significant risks to politics.”“We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally,” Dorsey said. “We believe political message reach should be earned not bought.”We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally. We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought. Why? A few reasons…🧵— jack 🌍🌏🌎 (@jack) October 30, 2019The ban, which will go into effect Nov. 22, will cover candidate ads as well as ads for political issues. Advertisements that encourage people to vote will remain.
 
Technology and elections
 
Twitter’s decision comes as internet firms have struggled with internet-fueled disinformation campaigns both in the U.S. and around the world.
 
Earlier on Wednesday, Facebook said it removed three Russia-backed disinformation campaigns in Africa that they were part of legitimate local organizations.
 
Since the birth of social media, tech savvy political candidates have gained an edge by using internet services – including buying ads on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter- to augment traditional media and talk directly to their supporters.But since the 2016 U.S. presidential election, mixing technology and electoral politics has come under increasing scrutiny. Echoed in Dorsey’s tweets is a darker view that technology’s success at helping candidates target and reach masses can create its own problems.“A political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account or retweet,” Dorsey wrote. “Paying for reach removes that decision, forcing highly optimized and targeted political messages on people. We believe this decision should not be compromised by money.”A political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account or retweet. Paying for reach removes that decision, forcing highly optimized and targeted political messages on people. We believe this decision should not be compromised by money.— jack 🌍🌏🌎 (@jack) October 30, 2019 
Fighting against, profiting from misinformationTwitter’s decision will likely have little effect on the firm’s bottom line – less than $3 million was spent on political advertising on the service in the U.S. mid-term election, the firm’s chief financial officer tweeted. Still, it appears to end a struggle between the advertising business and Twitter’s fight against misinformation.“It’s not credible for us to say: ‘We’re working hard to stop people from gaming our systems to spread misleading info, buuut if someone pays us to target and force people to see their political ad…well…they can say whatever they want!'”For instance, it‘s not credible for us to say: “We’re working hard to stop people from gaming our systems to spread misleading info, buuut if someone pays us to target and force people to see their political ad…well…they can say whatever they want! 😉”— jack 🌍🌏🌎 (@jack) October 30, 2019That comment is in stark contrast to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s ongoing defense of his firm’s decision not to factcheck political ads.Zuckerberg told investors on Wednesday that he stands by that decision, adding that “ads can be an important part of voice — especially for candidates and advocacy groups the media might not otherwise cover so they can get their message into debates.”Twitter’s across-the-board ban on political ads earned the praise of one Silicon Valley executive.“I think this is the right call by Jack Dorsey and by Twitter,” said Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, chief marketing officer at Mozilla, the parent of the Firefox browser. In 2018, Mozilla stopped advertising across Facebook’s businesses because of Facebook’s data practices.“Accepting money to run ads that contain falsehoods isn’t the right thing to do for people,”Kaykas-Wolffsaid. “We know that the harm from misinformation is very real in political discourse. … You either vet the ads or you don’t run them.”It remains to be seen whether Twitter’s decision will influence other internet firms and how it will be received by people seeking office, who have now lost one way to reach voters.

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Dispensing Medical Marijuana

Cannabis is a medicinal plant, an herbal remedy to relieve symptoms or treat various diseases. In some U.S. states, marijuana is legal for treating specific health problems, but not at the federal level.Prior to opening the dispensary, Ruben worked as an administrator for a pain management and mental health clinic that treated people with opioids. “My experience was that those medicines create dependence and addictive behaviors in a large number of people. Patients get on opiates because of some type of injury or operation. They’re on well controlled prescribed amounts of opiates, and through the course of treatment those doses are increased because of their developing a tolerance and needing more medication to achieve the desired analgesic effect. And you know, at some point, the doctor has a responsibility to the patient and to the system that exists and that patients tend to get cut off or not allowed to increase their dose further, and that’s when problems start to arise. The medications themselves are extremely effective. We absolutely need them for surgery and for immediate emergent situations. However, they don’t seem to be a good alternative for most individuals for long term use. The toxic effects seem to outweigh the benefits.”  California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana, in 1996. Since then, more than half of U.S. states have done so. Ruben says support continues to increase in the United States for the legalization of cannabis. “There’s more support for the legalization of marijuana than there has ever been. The last time that we were close to this amount of the voting populace in support was in the mid-70s. And we’ve surpassed the amount of people that support legalization of marijuana. The support for medical uses is at an all-time high, and I believe to be in the 80 or 90 percent range in terms of adults that support people having safe legal access to medical marijuana for reasonable medical use,” says Ruben.  Although the federal government hasn’t given its approval to marijuana for medicinal use, it has signed off on three related compounds (cannabinoid, dronabinol or nabilone) as specific treatments. Ruben says new customers may come to his shop with very little information from their physician. And prescribing the best treatment for customers can be trial and error, but he says cannabis has a high safety profile.  “We experiment and do our trial and error process with individuals with a high degree of security and confidence that nothing bad is going to happen to them, that we can navigate that safely and find what works for them, and use that information then to help others with similar circumstances. And so that to me is fascinating and one of the most interesting parts of my job, matching up the right plants with the right people, which happens organically over time.” 

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Twitter to Ban Political Advertisements

Twitter is banning all political advertising from its service, saying social media companies give advertisers an unfair advantage in proliferating highly targeted, misleading messages. 
 
Facebook has taken fire since it disclosed earlier in October that it would not fact-check ads by politicians or their campaigns, which could allow them to lie freely. CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Congress last week that politicians have the right to free speech on Facebook. 
 
The issue arose in September when Twitter, along with Facebook and Google, refused to remove a misleading video ad from President Donald Trump’s campaign that targeted former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democratic presidential candidate.  FILE – Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey leaves after his talk with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris, June 7, 2019.In response, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, another presidential hopeful, ran an ad on Facebook taking aim at Zuckerberg. The ad falsely claimed that Zuckerberg had endorsed Trump for re-election, acknowledging the deliberate falsehood as necessary to make a point. 
 
Critics have called on Facebook to ban political ads. CNN chief Jeff Zucker recently called the policy of allowing lies ludicrous and advised the social media giant to sit out the 2020 election until it can figure out something better.  Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted the change Wednesday , saying the company was recognizing that advertising on social media offered an unfair level of targeting compared with other mediums. 
 
The majority of money spent on political advertising in the U.S. goes to television ads. 
 
Twitter’s policy will start Nov. 22. 

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Nairobi Startup Pushes Cleaner Home Cooking Fuel

NAIROBI, KENYA — Catherine Mutua she has always used charcoal and gas to cook for her young family.But, the source of energy she grew up with was becoming too expensive. She found out that she can also cook with another kind of fuel, ethanol.”Before I was using the gas and charcoal,” Mutua said.  “I shifted after I was educated how the fuel is cheap, safe for the kids, for the environment.”Mutua gets the ethanol from a filling station set up by the Koko Networks, a Nairobi-based start-up. The company also sells ethanol stoves that cost a customer about $70.Regina Anyango, owner of small food kiosk in Nairobi, uses ethanol fuel to prepare meals for customers. Her kitchen is free of fumes and smoke from charcoal use. (Mohammed Yusuf/VOA)Regina Anyango runs a food kiosk in Kangemi neighborhood in Nairobi. She says she no longer battles black fumes spewed out of her charcoal stove.”So far it has been very economical, no fume faster to use when you are cooking, Anyango said. “And it’s easy to control.”According to health experts, fumes from charcoal and kerosene contribute to respiratory diseases. They also produce carbon emissions that are heating up Earth’s atmosphere.Ethanol, by contrast, is made from food sources like sugar or corn, and is considered carbon-neutral.Some officials believe this kind alternative source energy can help reduce the number of trees cut down for the use of charcoal or firewood.The Koko network of tanks are serviced at least once a week with each station carries 300 liters of fuel. (Mohammed Yusuf/VOA)Michael Wakoli is the fuel supply manager for the Koko Networks. He told VOA ethanol is a more practical and convenient fuel to use.”Typically traditionally what will happen because of the nature of fuel that we used to cook — kerosene, charcoal — you will be forced to cook outside because of the harmful fumes that we have,” Wakoli said. “But we are giving you an in-house solution, which is 200-300 meters away, you can get for a very small bundle.”Wakoli said the filling stations are in parts of Nairobi with huge populations that are usually neglected.”So we have typically targeted dense market — Kawangware, Kibera, Kitengela area, Embakasi, Kahawa West — where we can reach many people as possible and because knowing the need of people and being near to them.” Koko Networks says its customer base has been growing and now serves up to 3,000 people.

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Facebook Removes 3 Russian Networks It Says Engaged in Foreign Interference in Africa

Less than a week after the Africa-Russia Summit, Facebook has suspended three networks of Russian accounts it says were engaging in foreign interference in Africa.Facebook said the accounts targeted Madagascar, the Central African Republic, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon. The accounts supported select political figures and derided pro-democracy activists in the countries.Russia has had an increasing interest in engaging with African countries on trade and policy as sanctions continue to hurt its economy.Russian President Vladimir Putin organized the first Russia–Africa Summit and Economic Forum, which promoted increased economic relations between Russia and the continent earlier in October in Sochi, Russia.According to documents leaked by The Guardian, companies and groups affiliated with the Russian government have been cooperating with African politicians and interfering in elections. According to the documents, Madagascar’s president Andry Rajoelina won the election with Russian support. Rajoelina has denied the allegation.The Stanford Internet Observatory also reported that Russia was working with local media organizations on the African continent to spread disinformation.This represents a new tactic compared to what occurred with Russian influence ahead of the U.S. 2016 presidential election.The three networks are among the first subjects of Facebook’s new policies aimed at curbing “coordinated inauthentic behavior.”Facebook defined coordinated inauthentic behavior in an October press release as using fake accounts and deceiving people on the origins of pages and groups.According to The Stanford Internet Observatory, a total of 1.72 million accounts “liked” the now removed Facebook pages. Though some of these “likes” could be from the same account across multiple pages.The removal of the networks demonstrates Facebook’s commitment to prevent manipulation on its platforms, but it also shows the evolving nature of Russian methods since 2016. 

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Activist Thunberg Declines Climate Prize, Urges More Action

Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg, who has inspired millions across the world to stage protests urging leaders to better tackle global warming, has declined an environmental prize, saying “the climate movement does not need any more prizes.”Two fellow climate activists spoke on Thunberg’s behalf at an award ceremony Tuesday in Stockholm for the regional inter-parliamentary Nordic Council’s prizes, reading a statement thanking the group for the honor. Thunberg, 16, is currently in California.But Sofia and Isabella Axelsson quoted Thunberg as saying that “what we need is for our rulers and politicians to listen to the research.”The Nordic Council hands out annual prizes for literature, youth literature, film, music and the environment, each worth 350,000 Danish kroner ($52,000).It was not the first prize that the climate activist has won or been nominated for.Three Norwegian lawmakers nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize this year because they believe “the massive movement Greta has set in motion is a very important peace contribution.”Last year, about three months into her school climate strike campaign, Thunberg declined another award, the Children’s Climate Prize, which is awarded by a Swedish electricity company, because many of the finalists had to fly to Stockholm for the ceremony.
 
Thunberg notes that flights contribute to global warming, so she sailed across the Atlantic Ocean for two weeks on a zero-emissions sailboat to reach New York. There the Swede scolded a U.N. climate conference in September , repeatedly asking, “How dare you?”
 
“We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and yet all you can talk about is money. You are failing us,” she said.Weeks later, Thunberg won the 2019 Right Livelihood Award, known as the “Alternative Nobel” — “for inspiring and amplifying political demands for urgent climate action reflecting scientific facts.”In May 2019, she was featured on the cover of Time magazine, which named her a “next generation leader.”

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A Female Drone Community Blooms Despite Industry Attempt to Target Men

After falling in love with flying her drone, a young videographer searched for a community of other female drone flyers—but couldn’t find one.  So, she started her own. Deana Mitchell reports. 

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Protected Status Not Enough to Guard Threatened Nature Reserves, Scientists Find

Expanding the planet’s protected natural areas to safeguard vanishing forests and other ecosystems, and the species they protect, is unlikely to be effective on its own as human encroachment into reserves grows, scientists warned Tuesday.A study by Cambridge University researchers, which looked at thousands of conservation areas in more than 150 countries, found that, on average, protected designation is not reducing human encroachment in vulnerable areas.Both chronic underfunding of efforts to protect the land, and a lack of engagement with local communities that live there are hurting conservation efforts, they found.Creating protected areas is “a type of intervention that we know can work, we know is absolutely essential for conserving biodiversity, at a time in this world’s history where it has never been under higher pressure,” said lead author Jonas Geldmann.”But despite that we are seeing that some of our protected areas are not managing to mitigate or stop that increasing pressure,” said Geldmann, of the University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute.One-sixth of the globe now falls within protected areas, the study noted. Those include national parks, nature reserves and wilderness areas, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s World Database on Protected Areas.Such protected areas are vital for preserving diverse ecosystems, and helping to curb climate change by conserving carbon-sequestering forests and other vegetation.The United Nations Environment Program estimates protected areas hold 15% of the carbon stored on land.”Protected areas are one of the most important things that we can do to stem the loss of biodiversity and to help solve the climate crisis,” said Andrew Wetzler, managing director of the U.S.-based Natural Resources Defense Council’s nature program. “The destruction of natural habitat is the single biggest driver of extinction.”Cambridge researchers said their analysis is by far the largest of its kind.From lights to cropsScientists examined over 12,000 protected areas between 1995 and 2010, using census and crop yield data as well as satellite evidence of agriculture and lighting at night to assess human encroachment.The majority of protected areas in every global region saw increased human activity. However, researchers said encroachment appeared more serious in nations with fewer roads and a lower rank on the Human Development Index.Across the northern hemisphere and Australia, protected status on average proved effective at slowing encroachment when compared with equivalent unprotected habitats.But in particularly biodiverse regions such as South America, sub-Saharan Africa and southeast Asia, pressure from human activity inside protected areas was significantly higher.The study found agriculture is a major driving force behind human encroachment in protected areas.African mangrove forest reserves, for instance, saw 13% greater losses to agriculture than unprotected mangrove areas between 1995 and 2010, the study found.”Because (protected areas) are supporting biodiversity, they are more likely to support a high agricultural yield,” Geldmann said. To farmers, “they are actually more attractive than the outside areas.”In order to safeguard protected areas, experts emphasized the need for governments to allocate additional resources.”Simply designating a place as protected can’t be the beginning and the end of a conservation effort,” Wetzler said. “We need to make sure protected areas are appropriately funded.”Consulting local communities and involving them with conservation efforts also is key, the experts said.”We’ve seen from other studies that if you don’t engage with the people living in and around the protected areas, if they’re not partners to the protected areas, then making (reserves) work is much more difficult,” Geldmann said.Local communities are too often left out of conversations about a protected area’s importance and upkeep, he said.”But when you start engaging them, there’s often a lot of value to be had for local communities as well as for biodiversity.”

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Study Triples Population at Risk of Climate-triggered Floods

The number of people threatened by climate change-triggered flooding is about three times higher than previously thought, a new study says. But it’s not because of more water.It’s because the land, especially in Asia and the developing world, is several feet lower than what space-based radar has calculated, according to a study in the journal Nature Communications Tuesday.So instead of 80 million people living in low-lying areas that would flood annually by 2050 as the world warms, this new study finds the population at risk is closer to 300 million people.And if emissions of heat-trapping gases continue unabated and Antarctic ice melts more in a worst-case scenario, around 500 million people could be at risk by the end of the century, according to the study by Climate Central , a New Jersey based non-profit of scientists and journalists.Space-based radar says 170 million are at risk in that scenario.For big picture global mapping of flooding threats, the go-to technology for elevation is NASA’s Shuttle Radar Topography Mission . But that doesn’t accurately show ground, instead mistaking rooftops and tree canopies for ground with an average error of 6.5 feet (2 meters), said Climate Central chief executive officer Ben Strauss, a scientist who studies sea level rise.For the United States, much of Europe and Australia, this is not a problem because those areas use airborne lidar radar, which is more accurate about true elevation. But in flood prone Asia and other places that’s not an option, Strauss said.So Climate Central used the shuttle radar, artificial intelligence and 23 different variables to create a computer model that is more accurate in globally mapping elevation, Strauss said. They then tested it against the airplane-generated data in the United States and Australia and found this computer model was accurate, he said.“This is a far greater problem than we understood,” Strauss said. “Far more people live in risky places today than we thought and the problem only multiplies in the future.”He said the new model found “a huge difference” in elevation in places such as Shanghai, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Jakarta and Mumbai.Five outside sea level rise experts said the study highlighted a problem with current data, especially in Asia.“This study represents very significant progress in the understanding of the risk which climate change-related sea level will cause for hundreds of million of people before the end of this century,” said Jean-Pascal van Ypersele of the Universite catholique de Louvain in Belgium.  “If hundreds or even tens of millions of people are flooded in Asia or Africa, it will create social and economic disruptions on a huge scale.”University of Colorado’s Steve Nerem said the problem is real, but he isn’t sold on the new model yet, partly because it is based on the shuttle radar to begin with.It does highlight an issue that needs to be fixed, said Katy Serafin at the University of Florida. “The longer we wait to address this, the less time we will have to develop adaptive and sustainable solutions to coastal flooding.” 

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Concert Promoters Turn Away From Facial Recognition Tech

Concert promoters in the U.S. are stepping back from plans to scan festivalgoers with facial recognition technology, after musicians and others gave it some serious side-eye.Although it remains entirely possible that music venues will eventually take a second look at the controversial technology.Live-entertainment giants AEG Presents and Live Nation both recently disavowed any plans to use facial recognition at music festivals, despite earlier indications to the contrary. Their public pronouncements have led a group of musicians to declare victory after a months-long campaign to halt the technology’s use at live shows.Advances in computer vision have enabled businesses to install cameras that can recognize individuals by their face or other biometric characteristics. Venue operators have talked about using the technology at gateways to secure entry for select groups or to offer perks for repeat customers.Privacy advocates worry that such uses might also pave the way for greater intrusions, such as scanning audience members in real time to analyze their behavior.Both concert organizations seemed to be edging toward remembering more faces. In May 2018, for instance, Live Nation Entertainment subsidiary Ticketmaster announced it was partnering with and investing in Texas facial recognition startup Blink Identity, saying in a note to shareholders that the technology will enable music fans to associate their digital ticket with their image and “then just walk into the show.”AEG, which operates the Coachella festival in southern California and other major events, updated its online privacy policy earlier this year with language stating that it may collect facial images at its events and venues for “access control,” creating aggregate data or for “personalization” — a term commonly used by retailers trying to tailor advertising or promotions based to a specific customer’s behavior.Now, however, both organizations have done an about-face. AEG’s chief operating officer for festivals, Melissa Ormond, emailed activists earlier this month to say: “AEG festivals do not use facial recognition technology and do not have plans to implement.” AEG confirmed that statement this week but declined further comment.Live Nation said in a statement that “we do not currently have plans to deploy facial recognition technology at our clients’ venues.” The company insisted that any future use would be “strictly opt-in,” so that non-consenting fans won’t have to worry about potentially facing the music.Facial recognition isn’t seen in many musical venues. The biggest location known to employ it is New York City’s Madison Square Garden, which confirmed this week that facial recognition is one of the security measures it uses “to ensure the safety of everyone” in the arena. It declined to say what it looks at and why. The New York Times first reported its use last year.While the music industry paused, Major League Baseball stole a base by rolling out biometric ticketing in the U.S., usually involving fingerprints or iris scans to get into ballparks. Authorities in some parts of Europe have bounced around the idea of using either facial or voice recognition to keep tabs on unruly soccer fans, such as those participating in racist chants. Police agencies in China have used facial recognition at concerts featuring pop singer Jacky Cheung to identify and arrest people wanted as criminal suspects.American music event promoters this fall have been pressured to disclose their facial recognition plans by digital rights group Fight for the Future, which asked dozens of festival organizers to pledge not to use a technology it describes as invasive and racially biased.Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello co-authored an opinion column in BuzzFeed last week that described the pledge as the “first major blow to the spread of commercial facial recognition in the United States.”The CEO of Blink Identity says opposition to its Ticketmaster partnership is misguided.“They’re talking about mass surveillance,” said Mary Haskett, who co-founded the Austin, Texas startup. “We’re against mass surveillance…. Nobody’s talking about doing what they’re protesting against.”Haskett said Blink’s system allows concertgoers to opt in by taking selfies with their phones, which the company transforms into mathematical representations and deletes. The system might offer access to a shorter line or a VIP section.But protesting musicians fear their fans’ mugshots could still end up in the hands of law enforcement or immigration authorities.“Of course it’s going to be used by security,” said Joey La Neve DeFrancesco, a guitarist for Rhode Island punk band Downtown Boys, which played Coachella in 2017. “Of course it’s going to be used by law enforcement.”Punk rockers aren’t the only ones fixing the technology with a death stare. A June survey by the Pew Research Center found that while people are generally accepting of facial recognition used by police, only 36% said they trust tech companies to deploy it responsibly. Just 18% trust advertisers.

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China Accuses US of ‘Economic Bullying’ Over Equipment Ban

China on Tuesday accused the U.S. of “economic bullying behavior” after U.S. regulators cited security threats in proposing to cut off funding for Chinese equipment in U.S. telecommunications networks.China would “resolutely oppose the U.S. abusing state power to suppress specific Chinese enterprises with unwarranted charges in the absence of any evidence,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters at a daily briefing.
 
“The economic bullying behavior of the U.S. is a denial of the market economy principle that the U.S. has always advertised,” Geng said, adding the U.S. actions would “undermine the interests” of U.S. businesses and consumers, especially in rural areas.   
 
“We would like to urge the U.S. once again to stop abusing the concept of national security,” Geng said.The Federal Communications Commission votes next month on whether to bar telecom companies from using government subsidies to pay for networking equipment from Huawei and ZTE.
 
The move mostly affects small, rural companies, since larger U.S. wireless companies do not use equipment from the two Chinese firms.The agency is also exploring the impact of requiring companies to rip out their current Huawei and ZTE equipment, a demand a trade group for small rural wireless carriers has said would cost up to $1 billion.
 
The government is seeking comments on how it can help companies financially if they’re required to do that. Bills in Congress have proposed setting $700 million to $1 billion aside for telecom companies to replace their networks.The U.S. government says Huawei, the world’s biggest supplier of telecom gear and No. 2 smartphone manufacturer, poses an espionage threat. It has presented no evidence of its equipment being used for spying by the Chinese government and both Huawei and ZTE have denied their equipment is used for such purposes.
 
The U.S. government also has been pressuring allies to ban Huawei from their networks and has restricted exports of U.S. technology to Huawei.

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