Apple Sues Israeli Spyware Company NSO Group 

Apple says it is suing Israeli NSO Group, maker of the controversial Pegasus spyware.  Apple will be the second company to sue NSO after Facebook, now Meta, sued over similar concerns that Pegasus was targeting WhatsApp users. Meta owns WhatsApp. The case is still working its way through the courts.  Apple says the spyware specifically targeted its users. It also wants to prevent NSO from using any Apple product or service, which would be a massive blow to the company that sells governments the ability to hack iPhones and Android phones in order to gain full access.  Apple says it has created a software patch to protect devices from Pegasus.  The Cupertino, California-based company says it is seeking undisclosed damages it says it incurred because of NSO. It says it would donate any award money to organizations that investigate and expose spyware. One such company, Citizen Lab, was central in uncovering how Pegasus worked.  “This is Apple saying: If you do this, if you weaponize our software against innocent users, researchers, dissidents, activists or journalists, Apple will give you no quarter,” Ivan Krstic, head of Apple security engineering and architecture, said in an interview Monday with the New York Times.  Earlier this month, the U.S. put NSO along with three other software companies on a blacklist that places severe restrictions on their ability to do business in the U.S.  It said the companies “developed and supplied spyware to foreign governments” and that the spyware was used “to maliciously target government …

Burkina Faso Internet Shutdown Continues into Fourth Day

The shutdown of internet access via mobile phone networks that began Saturday dragged on for a fourth day Tuesday. The government said in a statement the shutdown is in the interest of national defense and public security and will last until around 10 p.m. tonight. VOA talked to some Burkinabes on the streets of Ouagadougou to ask how the shutdown was affecting them and what they thought of the government’s decision. Alexi Sawadogo, a physician, spoke outside a bank on one of the city’s busy boulevards. He said he was there to check his account balance as the shutdown meant he could no longer do so online.  “It disconnects us from our friends who are outside the country, with whom we communicate regularly,” he says. He notes that he understands that it is because of the French convoy that was blockaded in the north, but says insecurity is not a valid reason and that the government needs to review its strategy.  The shutdown has come in the wake of protests in recent days that have blocked a French military supply convoy that is attempting to travel from Ivory Coast to Niger. Protesters say they want an end to French military intervention in the regional war against Islamist militants.  There have also been protests against the government’s handling of security, after a terrorist group believed to be associated with al-Qai da killed more than 50 military police in an assault on a base in northern Burkina Faso on November 14th.  Ali Dayorgo, a university student, said the shutdown has affected his ability to work and learn the latest news. He says he doesn’t understand why the shutdown is happening, but he hears …

Robot Waiter Eases Labor Shortages in Australia’s Hospitality Industry

A Sydney restaurant is using a Chinese-made, multi-lingual hospitality robot to address chronic staff shortages as Australia’s economy begins to recover from COVID-19 lockdowns and border closures.  The robot waiter is programmed to know the layout of the tables and delivers food from the kitchen. It is also multi-lingual, programmed to communicate in English and Mandarin. The so-called BellaBot is built by the Chinese firm PuduTech.  Each machine costs about $17,000. They can be leased for $34 per day for each device, or the equivalent of two hours’ wages for restaurant staff. The devices are in use in other Australian restaurants and imports into Australia appear to be unaffected by recent trade tensions between the two countries.  Liarne Schai, the co-owner of the Matterhorn Restaurant in Sydney, is delighted with her new mechanical staff member.  “Ah, love the robot. Love the robot, she makes my life a lot easier. It is like a tower that has got four trays. It will carry eight of our dinner plates in one go. She is geo-mapped to the floor (customer names, location of tables, etc.) The robot knows where all our tables are,” Schai said.   Australia’s hospitality workforce has traditionally relied on international students. They have, however, been restricted from entering after Australia closed its borders to most foreign nationals in March 2020 in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.   Labor shortages are affecting not only hospitality in Australia, but a range of industries from construction to information technology.   Liarne Schai says she has tried for months without success to recruit workers.  “It is the biggest issue we have at the moment. We have been …

Australian Mining Magnate to Help Publishers Strike Content Deal With Google, Facebook

Australian mining billionaire Andrew Forrest’s philanthropic organization will help 18 small news publishers in the country to negotiate collectively with Google and Facebook to secure licensing deals for the supply of news content. Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation on Monday said it would submit an application with the country’s competition regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), allowing the publishers to bargain without breaching competition laws. Forrest, Australia’s richest man, is the chairman and the largest shareholder of iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group. He has a net worth of around A$27.2 billion ($19.7 billion), according to the Australian Financial Review. Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google have been required since March to negotiate with Australian media outlets for content that drives traffic and advertising to their websites. If they don’t, the government may take over the negotiation. Both companies have since struck licensing deals with most of Australia’s main media companies, but they have not entered into agreements with many small firms. The federal government is scheduled to begin a review of the law’s effectiveness in March. Frontier Technology, an initiative of Minderoo, said it would assist the publishers. “Small Australian publishers who produce public interest journalism for their communities should be given the same opportunity as large publishers to negotiate for use of their content for the public benefit,” Emma McDonald, Frontier Technology’s director of policy, said in a statement. Google and Facebook did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment. The 18 small publishers include online publications that attract …

After Promise, Musk Sells $1.1 Billion in Tesla Shares to Pay Taxes

After making a promise on Twitter, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has sold about 900,000 shares of the electric car maker’s stock, netting over $1.1 billion that will go toward paying tax obligations for stock options.  The sales, disclosed in two regulatory filings late Wednesday, will cover tax obligations for stock options granted to Musk in September. He exercised options to buy just over 2.1 million shares for $6.24 each. The company’s stock closed Wednesday at $1,067.95 per share.   The transactions were “automatically effected” as part of a trading plan adopted on Sept. 14 to sell options that expire next year, according to forms filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. That was nearly two months before he floated the idea of the sale on Twitter.  After the transactions, Musk still owns about 170 million Tesla shares.  Musk was Tesla’s largest shareholder as of June, owning about 17% of the company, according to data provider FactSet. He’s the wealthiest person in the world, according to Forbes, with a net worth of around $282 billion, most of it in Tesla stock.  Last weekend, Musk said he would sell 10% of his holdings in the company, worth more than $20 billion, based on the results of a poll he conducted on Twitter. The sale tweets caused a sell off of the stock Monday and Tuesday, but it recovered some on Wednesday. The shares were up 2.6% to $1,096 in extended trading Wednesday, and they have risen more than 50% this year.  Wedbush Analyst Daniel Ives said it appears Musk will …

Countries Agree to Create Green Shipping Lanes in Pursuit of Zero Carbon

A coalition of 19 countries including Britain and the United States on Wednesday agreed to create zero emissions shipping trade routes between ports to speed up the decarbonization of the global maritime industry, officials involved said.  Shipping, which transports about 90% of world trade, accounts for nearly 3% of the world’s CO2 emissions. U.N. shipping agency the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has said it aims to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions from ships by 50% from 2008 levels by 2050. The goal is not aligned with the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change and the sector is under pressure to be more ambitious. The signatory countries involved in the ‘Clydebank Declaration’, which was launched at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, agreed to support the establishment of at least six green corridors by 2025, which will require developing supplies of zero emissions fuels, the infrastructure required for decarbonization and regulatory frameworks. “It is our aspiration to see many more corridors in operation by 2030,” their mission statement said. Britain’s maritime minister Robert Courts said countries alone would not be able to decarbonize shipping routes without the commitment of private and non-governmental sectors. “The UK and indeed many of the countries, companies and NGOs here today believe zero emissions international shipping is possible by 2050,” Courts said at the launch. U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the declaration was “a big step forward for green shipping corridors and collective action”. Buttigieg added that the United States was “pressing for the IMO to …

Facebook Plans to Remove Thousands of Sensitive Ad-Targeting Options

Facebook Inc. said on Tuesday it plans to remove detailed ad-targeting options that refer to “sensitive” topics, such as ads based on interactions with content around race, health, religious practices, political beliefs or sexual orientation.  The company, which recently changed its name to Meta and which makes the vast majority of its revenue through digital advertising, has been under intense scrutiny over its ad-targeting abilities and rules in recent years.  In a blog post, Facebook gave examples of targeting categories that would no longer be allowed on its platforms, such as “Lung cancer awareness,” “World Diabetes Day,” “LGBT culture,” “Jewish holidays” or political beliefs and social issues. It said the change would take place starting Jan. 19, 2022.  The company has been hit with criticisms around its micro-targeting capabilities, including over abuses such as advertisers discriminating against or targeting vulnerable groups. In 2019, it agreed to make changes to its ads platform as part of a settlement over housing discrimination issues.  “We’ve heard concerns from experts that targeting options like these could be used in ways that lead to negative experiences for people in underrepresented groups,” Graham Mudd, the company’s vice president of product marketing for ads, said in the post.  Its tailored ad abilities are used by wide-ranging advertisers, including political campaigns and social issue groups, as well as businesses.  “The decision to remove these Detailed Targeting options was not easy, and we know this change may negatively impact some businesses and organizations,” Mudd said in the post, adding …

Original Apple Built by Jobs and Wozniak to be Auctioned 

An original Apple computer, hand-built by company founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak 45 years ago, goes under the hammer in the United States on Tuesday.  The functioning Apple-1, the great, great grandfather of today’s sleek chrome-and-glass Macbooks, is expected to fetch up to $600,000 at an auction in California.  The so-called “Chaffey College” Apple-1, is one of only 200 made by Jobs and Wozniak at the very start of the company’s odyssey from garage start-up to megalith worth $2 trillion.  What makes it even rarer is the fact it is encased in koa wood — a richly patinated wood native to Hawaii. Only a handful of the original 200 were made in this way.  Apple-1s were mostly sold as component parts by Jobs and Wozniak. One computer shop that took delivery of around 50 units decided to encase some of them in wood, the auction house said  “This is kind of the holy grail for vintage electronics and computer tech collectors,” Apple-1 expert Corey Cohen told the Los Angeles Times. “That really makes it exciting for a lot of people.”  Auctioneers John Moran say the device, which comes with a 1986 Panasonic video monitor, has only ever had two owners.  “It was originally purchased by an electronics professor at Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga, California, who then sold it to his student in 1977,” a listing on the auction house’s website says.  The Los Angeles Times reported the student — who has not been named — paid just $650 …