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.

your ad here

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

your ad here

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.
  

your ad here

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.

your ad here

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.” 

your ad here

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.

your ad here

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.” 

your ad here

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. 

your ad here

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.

your ad here

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. 

your ad here