India, US to strengthen high technology cooperation 

New Delhi — Days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his third term in office, India and the United States agreed to strengthen cooperation in high technology areas during a visit by White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan to New Delhi. Sullivan met Modi, the Indian foreign minister and his Indian counterpart during the visit that reaffirmed both countries will pursue closer ties. “India is committed to further strengthen the India-US comprehensive global strategic partnership for global good,” Modi wrote on X after meeting Sullivan on Monday. The main focus of Sullivan’s visit was to hold discussion with Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval on a landmark initiative launched by the two countries in January last year to collaborate more closely in high-technology areas including defense, semiconductors, 5G wireless networks and artificial intelligence. The initiative, launched with an eye to countering China, marks a significant push in tightening the strategic partnership between the two countries. “The visit by Sullivan in the early days of Modi’s new administration signals that the U.S. wants to maintain the momentum in the high technology partnership between the two countries,” according to Manoj Joshi, Distinguished Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi. A joint fact sheet by the two countries following Sullivan’s meeting with Doval said that they launched a new strategic semiconductor partnership between U.S. and Indian companies for precision-guided ammunition and other national security-focused electronics platforms. They also agreed to co-invest in a lithium resource project in South America and a …

Smartphone stroke detection breakthrough announced by Australian team

SYDNEY — A new technology that allows smartphones to identify strokes far quicker than existing methods has been developed by researchers in Australia. The new technology uses artificial intelligence as it scans a patient’s face for symmetry and certain muscle movements, which are called action units. People who have suffered a stroke often have one side of their face looking different from the other.   The biomedical engineers at Melbourne’s RMIT University say the smartphone technology can detect facial asymmetry, potentially identifying strokes within seconds – much sooner and more precisely than current technologies. Professor Dinesh Kumar, who led the research team, explained to Australian Broadcasting Corp. how the AI-driven device works. “It takes a video of a person who is doing a smile, and the model determines whether this particular smile is indicative of (a) person who has had a stroke,” Kumar said. “We then inform the paramedic or the clinician who is aware of the very high risk of this person having a stroke and, thus, can be treated immediately.” Strokes affect millions of people around the world.  They occur when the supply of blood to part of the brain is interrupted or reduced, which stops brain tissue from receiving oxygen and nutrients.  Experts say that if treatment is delayed by even a few minutes, the brain can suffer permanent damage.  Symptoms of stroke include confusion, speech impairments and reduced facial expressions. The RMIT team reports that the smartphone tool has an accuracy rating of 82% for detecting stroke. They …

A year after the Titan’s tragic dive, deep-sea explorers vow to pursue ocean’s mysteries

PORTLAND, Maine — The deadly implosion of an experimental submersible en route to the deep-sea grave of the Titanic last June has not dulled the desire for further ocean exploration, despite lingering questions about the disaster. Tuesday marks one year since the Titan vanished on its way to the historic wreckage site in the North Atlantic Ocean. After a five-day search that captured attention around the world, authorities said the vessel had been destroyed and all five people on board had died. Concerns have been raised about whether the Titan was destined for disaster because of its unconventional design and its creator’s refusal to submit to independent checks that are standard in the industry. The U.S. Coast Guard quickly convened a high-level investigation into what happened, but officials said the inquiry is taking longer than the initial 12-month time frame, and a planned public hearing to discuss their findings won’t happen for at least another two months. Meanwhile, deep-sea exploration continues. The Georgia-based company that owns the salvage rights to the Titanic plans to visit the sunken ocean liner in July using remotely operated vehicles, and a real estate billionaire from Ohio has said he plans a voyage to the shipwreck in a two-person submersible in 2026. The Titan dove southeast of Newfoundland. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada said Monday that there are other submersibles operating within Canadian waters, some of which are not registered with the country or any other. Numerous ocean explorers told The Associated Press they are …

Myanmar cracks down on flow of information by blocking VPNs

BANGKOK — Myanmar’s military government has launched a major effort to block free communication on the internet, shutting off access to virtual private networks — known as VPNs — which can be used to circumvent blockages of banned websites and services.  The attempt to restrict access to information began at the end of May, according to mobile phone operators, internet service providers, a major opposition group, and media reports.  The military government that took power in February 2021 after ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi has made several attempts to throttle traffic on the internet, especially in the months immediately after their takeover.  Reports in local media say the attack on internet usage includes random street searches of people’s mobile phones to check for VPN applications, with a fine if any are found. It is unclear if payments are an official measure.  25 arrested for having VPNs On Friday, the Burmese-language service of U.S. government-funded Radio Free Asia reported about 25 people from Myanmar’s central coastal Ayeyarwady region were arrested and fined by security forces this week after VPN apps were found on their mobile phones. Radio Free Asia is a sister news outlet to Voice of America.  As the army faces strong challenges from pro-democracy guerrillas across the country in what amounts to a civil war, it has also made a regular practice of shutting down civilian communications in areas where fighting is taking place. While this may serve tactical purposes, it also makes it hard for …

World leaders discuss AI as China’s digital influence in Latin America grows  

washington — Pope Francis, originally from Argentina, spoke Friday about the ethics of artificial intelligence at the G7 summit at a time when China has been rolling out its own AI standards and building technological infrastructure in developing nations, including Latin America. The annual meeting of the Group of Seven industrialized nations held in the Puglia region of Italy this week focused on topics that included economic security and artificial intelligence. On Friday, Francis became the first pope to speak at a G7 summit. He spoke about AI and its ethical implications and the need to balance technological progress with values. “Artificial intelligence could enable a democratization of access to knowledge, the exponential advancement of scientific research, and the possibility of giving demanding and arduous work to machines,” he said. But Francis also warned that AI “could bring with it a greater injustice between advanced and developing nations, or between dominant and oppressed social classes.” Technology and security experts have noted that AI is becoming an increasingly geopolitical issue, particularly as the U.S. and China compete in regions such as Latin America. “There will be the promotion of [China’s] standards for AI in other countries and the U.S. will be doing the same thing, so we will have bifurcation, decoupling of these standards,” Handel Jones, the chief executive of International Business Strategies Inc. told VOA. To decrease reliance on China, U.S. tech companies are looking to Mexico to buy AI-related hardware, and Taiwan-based Foxconn has been investing hundreds of millions of …

Google AI Gemini parrots China’s propaganda

Washington — VOA’s Mandarin Service recently took Google’s artificial intelligence assistant Gemini for a test drive by asking it dozens of questions in Mandarin, but when it was asked about topics including China’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang or street protests against the country’s controversial COVID policies, the chatbot went silent. Gemini’s responses to questions about problems in the United States and Taiwan, on the other hand, parroted Beijing’s official positions. Gemini, Google’s large-language model launched late last year, is blocked in China. The California-based tech firm had quit the Chinese market in 2010 in a dispute over censorship demands. Congressional lawmakers and experts tell VOA that they are concerned about Gemini’s pro-Beijing responses and are urging Google and other Western companies to be more transparent about their AI training data. Parroting Chinese propaganda When asked to describe China’s top leader Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party, Gemini gave answers that were indistinguishable from Beijing’s official propaganda. Gemini called Xi “an excellent leader” who “will lead the Chinese people continuously toward the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” Gemini said that the Chinese Communist Party “represents the fundamental interest of the Chinese people,” a claim the CCP itself maintains. On Taiwan, Gemini also mirrored Beijing’s talking points, saying the United States has recognized China’s claim to sovereignty over the self-governed island democracy. The U.S. only acknowledges Beijing’s position but does not recognize it. Silent on sensitive topics During VOA’s testing, Gemini had no problem criticizing the United States. But when …

Netflix’s recipe for success includes ‘secret sauce’ spiced with tech savvy

LOS GATOS, California — Although its video streaming service sparkles with a Hollywood sheen, Netflix still taps its roots in Silicon Valley to stay a step ahead of traditional TV and movie studios. The Los Gatos, California, company, based more than 300 miles away from Hollywood, frequently reaches into its technological toolbox without viewers even realizing it. It often just uses a few subtle twists on the knobs of viewer recommendations to help keep its 270 million worldwide subscribers satisfied at a time when most of its streaming rivals are seeing waves of cancelations from inflation-weary subscribers. Even when hit TV series like “The Crown” or “Bridgerton” have wide appeal, Netflix still tries to cater to the divergent tastes of its vast audience. One part of that recipe includes tailoring summaries and trailers about its smorgasbord of shows to fit the personal interests of each viewer. So, someone who likes romance might see a plot summary or video trailer for “The Crown” highlighting the relationship between Princess Diana and Charles, while another viewer more into political intrigue may be shown a clip of Queen Elizabeth in a meeting with Margaret Thatcher. For an Oscar-nominated film like “Nyad,” a lover of action might see a trailer of the title character immersed in water during one of her epic swims, while a comedy fan might see a lighthearted scene featuring some amusing banter between the two stars, Annette Bening and Jodie Foster. Netflix is able to pull off these variations through the deep …

Some US families opt to raise teens sans social media

WESTPORT, Connecticut — Kate Bulkeley’s pledge to stay off social media in high school worked at first. She watched the benefits pile up: She was getting excellent grades. She read lots of books. The family had lively conversations around the dinner table and gathered for movie nights on weekends. Then, as sophomore year got under way, the unexpected problems surfaced. She missed a student government meeting arranged on Snapchat. Her Model U.N. team communicates on social media, too, causing her scheduling problems. Even the Bible Study club at her Connecticut high school uses Instagram to communicate with members. Gabriela Durham, a high school senior in Brooklyn, says navigating high school without social media has made her who she is today. She is a focused, organized, straight-A student. Not having social media has made her an “outsider,” in some ways. That used to hurt; now, she says, it feels like a badge of honor. With the damaging consequences of social media increasingly well documented, many parents are trying to raise their children with restrictions or blanket bans. Teenagers themselves are aware that too much social media is bad for them, and some are initiating social media “cleanses” because of the toll it takes on mental health and grades. This is a tale of two families, social media and the ever-present challenge of navigating high school. It’s about what kids do when they can’t extend their Snapstreaks or shut their bedroom doors and scroll through TikToks past midnight. It’s about what families discuss …

US lawmakers call for scrutiny of NewsBreak app over Chinese origins

WASHINGTON AND LONDON — Three U.S. lawmakers have called for more scrutiny of NewsBreak, a popular news aggregation app in the United States, after Reuters reported it has Chinese origins and has used artificial intelligence tools to produce erroneous stories. The Reuters story drew upon previously unreported court documents related to copyright infringement, cease-and-desist emails and a 2022 company memo registering concerns about “AI-generated stories” to identify at least 40 instances in which NewsBreak’s use of AI tools affected the communities it strives to serve. “The only thing more terrifying than a company that deals in unchecked, artificially generated news, is one with deep ties to an adversarial foreign government,” said Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat who chairs the Intelligence Committee. “This is yet another example of the serious threat posed by technologies from countries of concern. It’s also a stark reminder that we need a holistic approach to addressing this threat — we simply cannot win the game of whack-a-mole with individual companies,” he said. The lawmakers expressed concerns about NewsBreak’s current and historical links to Chinese investors, as well as the company’s presence in China, where many of its engineers are based. In response to a request from Reuters for comment about the lawmakers’ statements, NewsBreak said it was an American company: “NewsBreak is a U.S. company and always has been. Any assertion to the contrary is not true,” a spokesperson said. NewsBreak launched in the U.S. in 2015 as a subsidiary of Yidian, a Chinese news aggregation app. …

22 Chinese nationals sentenced to prison in Zambia for cybercrimes

LUSAKA, Zambia — A Zambian court on Friday sentenced 22 Chinese nationals to long prison terms for cybercrimes that included internet fraud and online scams targeting Zambians and other people from Singapore, Peru and the United Arab Emirates. The Magistrates Court in the capital, Lusaka, sentenced them for terms ranging from seven to 11 years. The court also fined them between $1,500 and $3,000 after they pleaded guilty to charges of computer-related misrepresentation, identity fraud and illegally operating a network or service on Wednesday. A man from Cameroon also was sentenced and fined on the same changes. They were part of a group of 77 people, the majority of them Zambians, arrested in April over what police described as a “sophisticated internet fraud syndicate.” Director-general of the drug enforcement commission, Nason Banda, said investigations began after authorities noticed a spike in the number of cyber-related fraud cases and many people complained about inexplicably losing money from their mobile phones or bank accounts. Officers from the commission, police, the immigration department and the anti-terrorism unit in April swooped on a Chinese-run business in an upmarket suburb of Lusaka, arresting the 77, including those sentenced Friday. Authorities recovered over 13,000 local and foreign mobile phone SIM cards, two firearms and 78 rounds of ammunition during the raid. The business, named Golden Top Support Services, had employed “unsuspecting” Zambians aged between 20 and 25 to use the SIM cards to engage “in deceptive conversations with unsuspecting mobile users across various platforms such as WhatsApp, …

Many Americans still shying away from EVs despite Biden’s push, poll finds

Washington — Many Americans still aren’t sold on going electric for their next car purchase. High prices and a lack of easy-to-find charging stations are major sticking points, a new poll shows.   About 4 in 10 U.S. adults say they would be at least somewhat likely to buy an EV the next time they buy a car, according to the poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, while 46% say they are not too likely or not at all likely to purchase one.   The poll results, which echo an AP-NORC poll from last year, show that President Joe Biden’s election-year plan to dramatically raise EV sales is running into resistance from American drivers. Only 13% of U.S. adults say they or someone in their household owns or leases a gas-hybrid car, and just 9% own or lease an electric vehicle.   Caleb Jud of Cincinnati said he’s considering an EV, but may end up with a plug-in hybrid — if he goes electric. While Cincinnati winters aren’t extremely cold, “the thought of getting stuck in the driveway with an EV that won’t run is worrisome, and I know it wouldn’t be an issue with a plug-in hybrid,″ he said. Freezing temperatures can slow chemical reactions in EV batteries, depleting power and reducing driving range. A new rule from the Environmental Protection Agency requires that about 56% of all new vehicle sales be electric by 2032, along …

Next Boeing CEO should understand past mistakes, airlines boss says 

DUBAI — The next CEO of Boeing BA.N should have an understanding of what led to its current crisis and be prepared to look outside for examples of best industrial practices, the head of the International Air Transport Association said on Sunday. U.S. planemaker Boeing is engulfed in a sprawling safety crisis, exacerbated by a January mid-air panel blowout on a near new 737 MAX plane. CEO Dave Calhoun is due to leave the company by the end of the year as part of a broader management shake-up, but Boeing has not yet named a replacement. “It is not for me to say who should be running Boeing. But I think an understanding of what went wrong in the past, that’s very important,” IATA Director General Willie Walsh told Reuters TV at an airlines conference in Dubai, adding that Boeing was taking the right steps. IATA represents more than 300 airlines or around 80% of global traffic. “Our industry benefits from learning from mistakes, and sharing that learning with everybody,” he said, adding that this process should include “an acknowledgement of what went wrong, looking at best practice, looking at what others do.” He said it was critical that the industry has a culture “where people feel secure in putting their hands up and saying things aren’t working the way they should do.” Boeing is facing investigations by U.S. regulators, possible prosecution for past actions and slumping production of its strongest-selling jet, the 737 MAX. ‘Right steps’ Calhoun, a Boeing board …