Category Archives: Technology

silicon valley & technology news

Era of VHS Might Be Over, but Many Are Not Ready to Let Go

The last VHS player was produced five years ago by Funai Electric in Japan. But for many, the era of VHS tapes never ended. Karina Bafradzhian and Angelina Bagdasaryan have the story.Camera: David Gogokhia, Vazgen Varzhabitian.

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What Are Deep Fakes and Why Are They Dangerous?

Fake videos generated by artificial intelligence — also known as deep fakes — are becoming more common and harder to detect. But some deep fakes are being used for a good cause. Karina Bafradzhian has the story.

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Israel’s NSO Under Fire for Spyware Targeting Journalists, Dissidents

There is growing international criticism of Israel following allegations that software from the private security company NSO was used to spy on journalists, dissidents, and even political leaders around the world. A group of American lawmakers is urging the U.S. government to take punitive action against the company, which denies any wrongdoing. In Israel, some experts are calling for better regulation of cyber exports. Linda Gradstein reports for VOA from Jerusalem.

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Big Tech Companies to Allow Only Vaccinated Employees into US Offices

Big tech companies are making it mandatory for employees in the United States to get COVID-19 vaccinations before entering campuses, as the highly infectious delta variant of the coronavirus drives a resurgence in cases.Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook Inc. said on Wednesday all U.S. employees must get vaccinated to step into offices. Google is also planning to expand its vaccination drive to other countries in the coming months.According to a Deadline report, streaming giant Netflix Inc. has also implemented a policy mandating vaccinations for the cast and crew on all its U.S. productions.Apple Inc. plans to restore its mask requirement policy at most of its U.S. retail stores, both for customers and staff, even if they are vaccinated, Bloomberg News reported.Apple and Netflix did not immediately respond to requests for comments.Many tech companies, including Microsoft Corp. and Uber, have said they expect employees to return to their offices, months after pandemic-induced lockdowns forced them to shift to working from home.In April, Salesforce said it would allow vaccinated employees to return to some of its offices.Google also said on Wednesday it would extend its global work-from-home policy through Oct. 18 due to a recent rise in cases caused by the delta variant across different regions.”We’ll continue watching the data carefully and let you know at least 30 days in advance before transitioning into our full return-to-office plans,” the company said.   

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Healthy Living, A Look at Cosmetic Surgery, S2, E108

This week on Healthy Living, a look into cosmetic surgery. We hear from Doctor Frédérique Yao-Dje, an Aesthetic and Regenerative Medicine Specialist in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire who tells us more about the growing demand for cosmetic procedures in Africa. Plus, would you alter your body to feel better about yourself? We have your reactions from Jos, Nigeria. These topics and more this week.

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Lawyer for Hong Kong Protester Asks Court for Shorter Term

A lawyer for the first person convicted under Hong Kong’s national security law asked Thursday for no more than 10 years in prison instead of the possible life sentence faced by the former restaurant waiter in a closely watched case as China’s ruling Communist Party tries to crush a pro-democracy movement.

Tong Ying-kit was convicted Tuesday of inciting secession and terrorism for driving his motorcycle into a group of police officers during a July 1, 2020, pro-democracy rally while carrying a flag bearing the banned slogan, “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times.”

Tong, 24, will be sentenced Friday, the Hong Kong High Court announced.

Beijing imposed the security law on the former British colony last year following anti-government protests that erupted in mid-2019. The crackdown prompted complaints the ruling party is violating the autonomy promised when Hong Kong returned to China in 1997 and hurting its status as a global business center. Officials reject the criticisms and say Beijing is restoring order and instituting national security protections similar to those of other countries.

At a hearing, Tong’s lead defense lawyer, Clive Grossman, asked the three-judge panel for a sentence of no more than 10 years. He said the court hadn’t found the attack was deliberate, no one was injured and Tong’s secession-related offense qualified as minor under the law.

The court ruled Tuesday that Tong’s actions were an act of violence aimed at coercing the Hong Kong and mainland governments and intimidating the public. It said carrying the flag was an act of incitement to secession, rejecting defense arguments that Tong couldn’t proven to be inciting secession just by using the slogan.

Prosecutor Ivan Cheung asked for at least three years.

Judge Anthea Pang said the court will follow the “usual statutory term” and legal interpretations of the national security law but gave no indication what that might be.

Tong, wearing a black shirt and tie with a blue blazer, talked with his lawyers before the hearing but didn’t address the court. Relatives waved to Tong as he left and said, “see you tomorrow.”

The last pro-democracy Hong Kong newspaper, Apple Daily, shut down last month after journalists and executives were arrested.

Tong’s trial was conducted by judges without a jury under rules that allow an exception to Hong Kong’s British-style common law system if state secrets need to be protected or foreign forces are involved. The judges were picked by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam. 

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Largest US Employer to Pay Workers’ Tuition

The largest private employer in the U.S. — Walmart — said Wednesday it will pay 100% of tuition and books for its U.S.-based employees to attend its Live Better U Education Program.  

Walmart, a worldwide retailer that typically offers low prices because of the volume of goods it trades, operates 5,342 retail outlets in the U.S., employing 1.6 million people. Internationally, it has 2,653 stores in Mexico, 435 in China, 408 in Canada, 377 in Chile, 29 in India, and 5 in Nigeria, as well as outlets in at least 15 other countries, according to its website. Overseas it employs approximately 700,000 people.  

Walmart was previously taking a $1 a day education deduction from associates, as workers are called, in the Live Better U program, it said in a statement released July 27 from its Arkansas headquarters.  

Walmart’s program partners with these educational institutions: Johnson & Wales University, the University of Arizona, the University of Denver, Pathstream, Brandman University, Penn Foster, Purdue University Global, Southern New Hampshire University, Wilmington University and Voxy EnGen.  

“Each of these institutions were chosen for their history of success with adult and working learner programs as well as their focus on degree completion,” the company stated. 

More than 52,000 employees have participated and 8,000 have graduated since 2018, the company said. 

The company said it consulted with education experts and reviewed other employer education-support programs to devise its LBU program, which aims to help drive completion rates among adult working learners.  

Adult learners typically juggle more than undergraduate residential campus-based students, such as working, studying, carrying for family members young and old, and other adult responsibilities. Allowing for six years of study, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reported in February 2021 that the completion rate for full-time students was 65.4% and 31.7% for part-time students. It’s most recent data reported those figures from 2014.  

Walmart said it was adding college degrees and certificate options in business administration, supply chain and cybersecurity — curriculum that is in much demand and marketable.  

“These additional offerings join a robust catalog of programs to set associates up for new career opportunities,” said Lorraine Stomski, Walmart senior vice president. “Our education offerings tie directly to our growth areas at Walmart, and what better way to fill the pipeline of future talent than with our own associates.” 

Walmart announced plans in 2020 to compete with giant online retailer Amazon. It also competes with other big box, or big store, retailers like Target, Costco and Kroger companies.  

Kathleen Struck contributed to this report.

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Foreign Journalists Harassed Covering China Floods, Correspondents’ Club Says

Journalists from several media outlets covering recent floods in China were harassed online and by local residents, with staff from the BBC and Los Angeles Times receiving death threats, according to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC).
In a statement on Tuesday, the FCCC criticised what it said was growing hostility to foreign media, some of which it said was fanned by official bodies.
“There must be immediate action by the Chinese government to stop these attacks which continue to endanger foreign journalists,” the BBC said in a statement on Twitter.
China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the FCCC and BBC statements.
A spokesperson for the Los Angeles Times did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent after office hours.
In one incident, the local branch of the ruling Communist Party’s Youth League had asked its social media followers to report the whereabouts of a BBC reporter covering the floods, according to the FCCC statement.
“Rhetoric from organizations affiliated with China’s ruling Communist Party directly endangers the physical safety offoreign journalists in China and hinders free reporting,” it
Chinese nationals working for foreign media have also been threatened and accused of treason online, the FCCC said.
China’s foreign ministry has publicly criticized what it calls “fake news” from Western news outlets including the BBC.
One BBC journalist, John Sudworth, left the country this year citing threats of legal action, obstruction and intimidation.
China’s foreign ministry said at the time it had never threatened Sudworth.
Some Reuters journalists are members of the FCCC.

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18 Workers Killed in India as Truck Rams into Bus

Eighteen migrant laborers sleeping on a highway in northern India after their bus broke down died when a truck rammed into the vehicle, police said Wednesday. 

At least 19 others were injured in the accident in Uttar Pradesh state, a senior police officer told reporters. 

Most of the passengers were returning home to the eastern state of Bihar after working in the states of Punjab or Haryana. 

The passengers got off the bus after its axle shaft broke and were sleeping next to it when a truck crashed into it from behind. 

Rescue workers retrieved some of the bodies from under the mangled double-decker bus. 

“The district administration and the police have launched a probe and we are ensuring that the wounded receive the best medical treatment that’s available,” said police officer Satya Narayan Sabat. 

India’s vast network of roads is poorly maintained and notoriously dangerous. 

About 150,000 people are killed each year in traffic accidents in India, according to the government. 

Among the main factors contributing to the high number of fatalities are excessive speeding and people not using seatbelts or wearing crash helmets. 

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