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SpaceX Launches 60 More Mini Satellites for Global Internet

SpaceX launched 60 mini satellites Monday, the second batch of an orbiting network meant to provide global internet coverage.The Falcon rocket blasted into the morning sky, marking the unprecedented fourth flight of a booster for SpaceX. The compact flat-panel satellites – just 575 pounds (260 kilograms) each – will join 60 launched in May.SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk wants to put thousands of these Starlink satellites in orbit, to offer high-speed internet service everywhere. He plans to start service next year in the northern U.S. and Canada, with global coverage for populated areas after 24 launches.Last month, Musk used an orbiting Starlink satellite to send a tweet: “Whoa, it worked!!”Employees gathered at company bases on both coasts cheered when the first-stage booster landed on a floating platform in the Atlantic.”These boosters are designed to be used 10 times. Let’s turn it around for a fifth, guys,” company’s launch commentator said.This also marked the first time SpaceX used a previously flown nose cone. The California-based company reuses rocket parts to cut costs.SpaceX employees work on the Crew Dragon spacecraft that will astronauts to and from the International Space Station, from American soil, as part of the agency’s commercial crew Program, in Hawthorne, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019.Stacked flat inside the top of the rocket, the newest satellites were going to maneuver even higher following liftoff, using krypton-powered thrusters. SpaceX said there was a potential problem with one of the 60 that could prevent it from moving beyond its initial 174 mile-high (280 kilometer-high) orbit. In that case, the faulty satellite will be commanded to re-enter and burn up harmlessly in the atmosphere.Each satellite has an autonomous system for dodging space junk. In September, however, the European Space Agency had to move one of its satellites out of the way of a Starlink satellite. SpaceX later said it corrected the problem.SpaceX is among several companies interested in providing broadband internet coverage worldwide, especially in areas where it costs too much or is unreliable. Others include OneWeb and Jeff Bezos’ Amazon.According to Musk, Starlink revenue can help SpaceX develop rockets and spacecraft for traveling to Mars, his overriding ambition.

As Wildfires Worsen, Californians Harness Tech for Help

When a wildfire threatened Margie Hanselman’s home in the northern California hills two years ago, the fire department dispatcher told her all the crews were already busy battling another blaze.”That’s when I knew we were really on our own,” she said. “I knew I had to do something differently for the next big emergency.”So Hanselman, her neighbors and fire officials got together and turned to mobile phone apps, social media and communications technology to better share news, emergency updates and preparation advice on threats in their fire-prone community in Sonoma County wine country.This month’s wind-driven Kincade fire, which burned nearly 80,000 acres (32,400 hectares) and destroyed more than 370 structures, stopped just short of Hanselman’s driveway.This time, no one died, unlike two years ago, when the nearby Pocket fire and other windy wildfires north of the San Francisco Bay area killed 43 people.Joining forces to address the growing threat of living in a dry, rural forest area has made the community less stressed and anxious, said Priscilla Abercrombie, a nurse practitioner with a home on the region’s Fitch Mountain.Hanselman and Abercrombie helped put together a local COPE team – Citizens Organized to Prepare for Emergencies – which links residents and authorities to share advice on everything from how to pack evacuation bags to how to find family during a fire.”I feel more empowered. I feel more in control,” said Abercrombie. “I feel better about myself, and I feel better about my community.”Typically, the COPE network might collect and share information such as where doctors live, where a resident might be house-bound or where swimming pools are located that could be used in fighting a fire, organizers said.It was modeled after an original COPE team started a few miles south in Santa Rosa after the deadly 2017 Tubbs fire that killed more than 20 people, they said.’A huge difference’Healdsburg Fire Marshal Linda Collister said she has integrated the local COPE network with GroupMe, a mobile messaging app, to help share information that in the recent Kincade fire helped people evacuate early and smoothly.This time, no one died in the Kincade blaze.”We made a huge difference in this fire, compared to the last one, simply because we were ready for it,” the fire marshall said.Vines surround a burning building as the Kincade Fire burns through the Jimtown community of unincorporated Sonoma County, California, Oct. 24, 2019.As the Kincade fire raged, Collister said she used the communications system to show evacuated residents that their homes were still standing.”I could take a picture of their neighborhood and say it’s still there,” she said.COPE is one of a range of local networks set up to help residents grapple with the stress of living amid the growing threat of wildfires.The Integrative Healers Action Network, created in Sonoma County during the 2017 fires, for instance, draws on the skills of chiropractors, massage therapists and osteopaths to provide crisis care to those in need.Another small group started by a survivor of a 2008 wildfire is building tiny homes – some 200 square feet – provided free for survivors of the Kincade and Paradise blazes.Strengthened community links made an enormous difference this year compared to the fire two years ago, said Hanselman, who sells antiques in picturesque Healdsburg.”Two years ago, none of us had any idea what to do,” she said. “Today I feel much more secure and confident.”That’s something she and other residents are going to need more and more in coming years, she predicted.”(With) climate change, it only gets worse,” she said. “I joke it’s not fall anymore. It’s fire season. Every fall, the anxiety level definitely goes up.”

Study: Social Media a Double-Edged Sword for Female Politicians

On Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren’s Facebook page, you can find videos ranging from an announcement in Des Moines, Iowa, that her campaign has reached $2 million in donations …Two Million DonationsWe’ve worked hard, sharing plans and building a grassroots movement. And yesterday, we reached a new milestone—two million donations!Posted by Elizabeth Warren on Monday, October 21, 2019… to one with the Massachusetts senator looking into the camera, explaining her plan to help U.S. teachers.My New Plan Would Help Teachers Like KatieBetween town halls last week, I took some time to read a letter I got from Katie, a teacher in North Carolina.

Katie wrote in with her story—so I called her to say thanks for being in the fight. My new public school plan would help Katie and her students: by FILE – A photo taken July 4, 2019, in Nantes, France, shows logos of the U.S.-based social media platform Facebook. “You are not asking a reporter to change a quote or asking for local news to recut the story,” she said. “You can put the video up that you want; you can put the message up that you want in a way that you want it to be shown to people. That’s often the best way to get truthful information about yourself out there — and to counter bad information.”While the 2018 midterm elections saw an unprecedented number of female candidates win congressional seats, Rebecca Schuller, executive director of Winning for Women, an organization that supports female Republican leaders, said right-of-center female candidates are working to build a similar kind of momentum online.”Maybe they are not getting the attention because they just don’t have the history that some of their male peers have, or maybe they are Republican women in a very purple district and it’s a challenging media environment,” she said.Even then, social media is still a useful tool that enables them “to kind of take the reins and do it for themselves,” Schuller said.While social media can be a great equalizer at a time when women politicians remain underrepresented in traditional media, Virginia-based political consultant Christine Matthews said the success of individual candidates in driving their message on social media depends largely on their skills in the medium.”A candidate who can use it [social media] effectively and authentically is going to be more powerful and have a better message,” Matthews, president of Bellwether Research and Consulting, told VOA.Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., top center, questions Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, foreground, as he appears before a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 23, 2019.Matthews points to New York Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat, as one who is savvy at using social media. For last month’s pointed cross-examination of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Ocasio-Cortez sought questions from her Twitter followers to ask the tech mogul. Candidates who use social media in a “risk-averse way, I think you’re going to have more difficulties,” she said.Double-edged swordDespite myriad benefits of direct online engagement, broader online exposure can cut both ways, the Global Women’s Leadership initiative study found.Not only are women targeted for harassment on Twitter more frequently than that their male counterparts, but the nature of the criticism is different, the study, headed by Di Meco, found.”Twitter conversations, for example, looked more at their [the women’s] personality and character instead of their policies,” Di Meco said, adding that females also are more likely to be targeted by fake accounts.Consultant Matthews said all candidates — particularly women — should have an established strategy for responding to online harassment before hitting the campaign trail, such as identifying fake accounts and training staff in digital literacy.”What women in particular are going to need to do is think about, What is my strategy for responding to trolls or negative criticism or attacks,’ ” she said. They also need to consider real-time response logistics, from staffing size to specific skillsets of workers, in order to respond effectively, she added.Matthews also said it is imperative that party officials at all levels tell constituents and online commenters that offensive memes and misogynistic attacks, regardless of the target’s political affiliation, aren’t acceptable.Political consultant Jenna Golden, former head of political and advocacy sales at Twitter, said even if candidates face an unbearably toxic environment online, withdrawal from the political arena shouldn’t be the solution.”The solution is not to walk away, the solution is to say, ‘We belong here, this is a place for us, this is an opportunity for us to communicate,’ ” she said during an October panel discussion at American University on challenges facing female candidates.  “As a result, we have to look to all these groups of people and entities and say, ‘How can we come up with a solution together?'”Evolving responsesAnother key finding in Di Meco’s report: Women are increasingly savvy about responding effectively to harassment on the campaign trail.While female candidates have historically been advised to “take the high road” and ignore sexist attacks, Di Meco said new research indicates that many women are seeing an uptick in popularity when responding to harassment by calling it out, whether that’s online or on the campaign trail.”It was found that the better response is, in fact, to call it out, to say that those things aren’t acceptable,” Di Meco said. “When a female politician does that, she recovers in credibility and improves her likability.”Due to technology’s rapid advance, platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are only now offering guidance on navigating social media platforms, partnering with digital-literacy advocates to train political professionals on how to maximize their reach and impact while shielding themselves from attack. The Women and Politics Institute at American University, for example, offers a WeLead training program that offers guidance to young women who want to run for office or run a political campaign.Asked whether the expanded online engagement can translate into more votes, Di Meco said results of the 2018 midterms are a positive sign.”We did see an uptick in the number of female politicians elected. And so I would think that the younger generations are politically active both online and offline,” she said.This story originated in VOA’s Albanian Service. 

Twitter Wants Public’s Feedback on Deepfake Policy Plans

Social media platform Twitter on Monday unveiled its plan for handling deepfake videos and other manipulated media, and called for feedback from the public.In the run-up to the U.S. presidential election in November 2020, social platforms have been under pressure to tackle the threat of manipulated media, including deepfakes, which use artificial intelligence to create realistic videos in which a person appears to say or do something they did not.Twitter’s new proposal, laid out in a blog post, said it might place a notice next to tweets sharing “synthetic or manipulated media,” warn people before they like or share such tweets, or add a link to a news story showing why various sources think the media is synthetic or manipulated.The company also said it might remove tweets with such media if they were misleading and could threaten physical safety or lead to other serious harm.It proposed defining synthetic and manipulated media as any photo, audio or video that has been “significantly altered or fabricated in a way that intends to mislead people or changes its original meaning.” This would include either deepfakes or more manually doctored “shallowfakes.”Twitter last year banned deepfakes in the context of intimate media: its policy prohibits images or videos that digitally manipulate an individual’s face onto another person’s nude body.Pelosi, Zuckerberg videosWhile there has not been a well-crafted deepfake video with major political consequences in the United States, the potential for manipulated video to cause turmoil was demonstrated in May by a clip of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, manually slowed down to make her speech seem slurred.FILE – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives for a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 23, 2019.After the Pelosi video, Facebook Inc Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg was portrayed in a spoof video on Instagram in which he appears to say “whoever controls the data, controls the future.” Facebook, which owns Instagram, did not to take down the video.In July, U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff wrote to the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet’s Google asking for the companies’ plans to handle the threat of deepfake images and videos ahead of the 2020 elections.Twitter has opened up its new proposal for public input through a survey and tweets with the hashtag #TwitterPolicyFeedback until Nov. 27.Last month, Amazon’s Amazon Web Services (AWS) said it would join Facebook and Microsoft Corp in their “Deepfake Detection Challenge,” a contest to spur research into the area.

Twitter Takes Steps to Keep UK Election ‘Healthy And Safe’

Twitter said it would make it easier to report misleading information about the voting process in Britain’s Dec. 12 election, less than a month after its global ban on political advertising comes into force.The microblogging site is a vital tool for candidates, political parties and journalists to break news and fuel debate, but it has also been used to spread fake news, such as manipulated video clips, and to abuse and threaten individuals. It said last month it would stop all political advertising, making the British election one of the first major tests for the new policy.It said on Monday it was also taking additional steps to make sure the British election was “healthy, open and safe”. It is launching a tool for people to report deliberately misleading information about the voting process, for example how to vote or register to vote, or false information about the date
or time for the election.”We’ve established a cross-functional UK elections team that will proactively protect the integrity of the election-related conversation, support partner escalations, and identify potential threats from malicious actors,” it said in a blog post.Users taking part in the election debate will be able to use a customized election emoji that is a visual play on the word “Vote” activated by the use of hashtags including #GE19, it
said.Chief Executive Jack Dorsey said last month that the platform would ban political advertising.He said the company could not credibly say it was working hard to stop people from spreading misleading information and then allow somebody to pay to target and force people to see their political ad in which they could say “whatever they want”.That move increased the pressure on Facebook which is continuing to allow political ads, even if they contain false or misleading claims. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said the social media company did not want to stifle political debate. Twitter will publish details of the ban on Nov. 15 and enforce it from Nov. 22.It is also increasing investment in systems that can detect abuse before it is flagged by users, with half of abusive tweets now identified by technology.

Ethical AI Learns Human Rights Framework

Artificial intelligence or AI, is broadly defined as the technology that allows machines to do tasks that only humans have done in the past. However, as that technology continues to advance there is a growing conversation about ensuring that machines aren’t just making decisions, but making ethical decisions.

Facebook Is Deleting the Name of the Potential Whistleblower

Facebook says it is deleting the name of the person who has been identified in conservative circles as the whistleblower who triggered a congressional impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s actions.The company said Friday that mention of the potential whistleblower’s name violates Facebook’s “coordinating harm policy,” which prohibits material that could identify a “witness, informant, or activist.”Facebook says it is removing mentions of the alleged whistleblower’s name and will revisit this decision if the name is widely published in the media or used by public figures in debate.On Twitter, though, the alleged whistleblower’s name was circulating widely on Friday. The company does not have a policy against identifying whistleblowers by name and is not removing the posts.Some of the stories identifying the person came from the conservative news site Breitbart, which Facebook counts as one of its news partners in a newly launched news section on its app. However, the company said it was also removing identifying posts on the whistleblower from Breitbart.In a statement, Twitter said it prohibits the sharing of “personally identifiable information about any individual, including the alleged whistleblower.” But the company’s policy on such information does not consider a person’s name to be private information, a category that does include details such as a person’s address, contact information or medical records.U.S. whistleblower laws exist to protect the identity and careers of people who bring forward accusations of wrongdoing by government officials. Lawmakers in both parties have historically backed those protections.The Associated Press typically does not reveal the identity of whistleblowers.So far, President Donald Trump has avoided identifying the whistleblower by name. Exposing whistleblowers can be dicey, even for a president. For one thing, doing so could be a violation of federal law.While there’s little chance Trump could face charges, revealing the name could give Democrats more impeachment fodder. It could also prompt a backlash among some Senate Republicans who have long defended whistleblowers.

3 Vehicles Owned by Elvis Presley Going up for Auction

Elvis Presley fans can take to the road in his personal stretch limousine, on his last motorcycle or in a pickup truck if they have the money, an auction house announced Wednesday.

Kruse GWS Auctions said the items will be part of its Artifacts of Hollywood auction on Aug. 31.

Presley drove the white-on-white 1973 Lincoln Continental stretch many times around Memphis, Tennessee, Kruse said. It features an old-school TV and other amenities. There are photos showing “the King” driving the car he was in when he stopped at a car accident in Memphis in 1976.

The auction house said a 1976 Harley Davidson FLH 1200 Electra Glide motorcycle was the last motorcycle Presley ever purchased. He transported it from California to Memphis and sold it 90 days before he died in 1977 at age 42. The Harley has been on display at the Pioneer Auto Museum in Murdo, South Dakota, since the late 1980s.

The third Presley vehicle is one of three GMC pickups that Presley purchased in 1967 for his Circle G Ranch in Mississippi. Two years later, his father, Vernon, sold them back to the same dealership, the auction house said. It has undergone a total restoration.


Beyonce Drops New Original Song From ‘The Lion King’

Beyonce has dropped a new original song from Disney’s live-action “Lion King.”

The song, “Spirit,” was released Tuesday and should get an Academy-Award push for Academy Award consideration.

The tune comes at a pivotal moment for Nala, the character voiced by Beyonce, in the film that comes out July 18. She also co-wrote the song.

It’s part of an album called “The Lion King: The Gift” that Beyonce is executive producing and performing on along with other artists. It will be released digitally July 11, with the physical album coming July 19.

The collection is a companion to the main “Lion King” soundtrack, which consists mostly of songs from the animated film, along with a new number from Elton John and Tim Rice, who wrote the songs for the original.   

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