Artificial Intelligence Can Help Fight Global Hunger

A world without hunger by 2030 is the theme of this year’s World Food Day, and the goal of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Events around the world on October 16th will promote awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger and for the need to ensure food security and nutritious diets for all. Advances in technology and artificial intelligence can help feed the world. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee explains.

Facebook: Hackers Accessed 29M Accounts – Fewer Than Thought

Facebook says hackers accessed data from 29 million accounts as part of the security breach disclosed two weeks ago, fewer than the 50 million it initially believed were affected.

The hackers accessed name, email addresses or phone numbers from these accounts, according to Facebook. For 14 million of them, hackers got even more data, such as hometown, birthdate, the last 10 places they checked into or the 15 most recent searches.

 

An additional 1 million accounts were affected, but hackers didn’t get any information from them.

 

Facebook isn’t giving a breakdown of where these users are, but says the breach was “fairly broad.” It plans to send messages to people whose accounts were hacked.

 

Facebook said third-party apps and Facebook apps like WhatsApp and Instagram were unaffected by the breach.

 

Facebook said the FBI is investigating, but asked the company not to discuss who may be behind the attack. The company said it hasn’t ruled out the possibility of smaller-scale attacks that used the same vulnerability.

 

Facebook has said the attackers gained the ability to “seize control” of those user accounts by stealing digital keys the company uses to keep users logged in. They could do so by exploiting three distinct bugs in Facebook’s code. The company said it has fixed the bugs and logged out affected users to reset those digital keys.

 

At the time, CEO Mark Zuckerberg – whose own account was compromised – said attackers would have had the ability to view private messages or post on someone’s account, but there’s no sign that they did.

 

 

Russia Space Agency: Astronauts Will Likely Fly in Spring

The head of Russia’s space agency said Friday that two astronauts who survived the midair failure of a Russian rocket would fly again and would provisionally travel to the International Space Station (ISS) in spring of next year.

Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russian space agency Roscosmos, was speaking a day after Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin and American Nick Hague made a dramatic emergency landing in Kazakhstan after the failure of the Soyuz rocket carrying them to the orbital ISS.

Rogozin Friday posted a picture on Twitter of himself next to the two astronauts and said they had now arrived in Moscow. Both men escaped unscathed and feel fine, Roscosmos has said.

The mishap occurred as the first and second stages of a Russian rocket separated shortly after the launch from Kazakhstan’s Soviet-era cosmodrome of Baikonur.

Thursday’s accident was the first serious launch problem experienced by a manned Soyuz space mission since 1983, when a crew narrowly escaped before a launch pad explosion.

The Interfax news agency Friday cited a source familiar with the Russian investigation as saying that a faulty valve had caused the first stage of the Soyuz-FG rocket to malfunction even though the valve had been properly checked before take-off.

NASA has relied on Russian rockets to ferry astronauts to the space station since the United States retired its Space Shuttle program in 2011, although the agency has announced plans for a test flight carrying two astronauts on a SpaceX commercial rocket next April.

Space is an area of cooperation between the United States and Russia at a time of fraught relations. Asked about the mishap, President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House he was “not worried” that American astronauts have to rely on Russia to get into space.

Moscow has suspended all manned space launches, while Rogozin has ordered a state commission to investigate what went wrong. Russia’s Investigative Committee has also opened a criminal investigation into the matter.

Unmanned launches of the Progress spacecraft, which carry food and other supplies to the ISS and use the same rocket system as Soyuz, might also be suspended, Interfax has said.

 

WATCH: US-Russian Space Crew Makes Emergency Landing

US-Russian Space Crew Makes Emergency Landing After Rocket Problem

A U.S. astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut made an emergency return to earth Thursday shortly after launching on what was supposed to be a mission to the International Space Station. Rescuers reached American Nick Hague and Russian Alexei Ovchinin after their emergency landing in Kazakhstan. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb recently sat down with Hague to talk about his future in space, a future now up in the air after his unexpected fall to Earth.

Facebook Deletes Hundreds of Pages, Accounts for Spreading Fake News

Facebook announced Thursday that it had deleted over 800 mostly U.S.-based pages and accounts that were posting politically oriented spam and engaging in “inauthentic behavior.” 

The social media giant declined a request from VOA News to name the 559 pages and 251 accounts. Nation in Distress, a pro-President Donald Trump page identified by The Washington Post as being among the banned, had over 3 million followers.

Facebook said that many of the pages and accounts had posted political clickbait across multiple fake accounts to drive users to their websites, where they were often targeted with ads. 

“Many used the same techniques to make their content appear more popular on Facebook than it really was,” Facebook said on its news blog. “Others were ad farms using Facebook to mislead people into thinking that they were forums for legitimate political debate.”

Facebook said “the ‘news’ stories or opinions these accounts and pages share are often indistinguishable from legitimate political debate,” noting the proximity of the 2018 midterm elections.

In the past, Facebook has purged dozens of pages spreading fake news originating from Iran and Russia, countries that have antagonistic relations with the U.S. The company says most of the pages and accounts banned this time were from the U.S.

Musk Rejects Report on Succession at Tesla

Elon Musk replied with a tweet saying “This is incorrect” after the Financial

Times reported that outgoing Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. Chief Executive James Murdoch was the lead candidate to replace him as Tesla Inc. chairman.

Tesla has until Nov. 13 to appoint an independent chairman of the board, part of settlements reached last month between Tesla, Musk and U.S. regulators after Musk tweeted in August that he had secured funding to take the electric car maker private.

The SEC settlement capped months of debate and some investor calls for stronger oversight of Musk, whose recent erratic public behavior raised concerns about his ability to steer the money-losing company through a rocky phase of growth.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which said Musk’s tweeted statements about going private were fraudulent, allowed the billionaire to retain his role as CEO while requiring he give up his chairmanship.

Musk had said he was considering taking Tesla private at a price of $420 a share, a number that is slang for marijuana. He tweeted the three-word denial of the Financial Times story on Wednesday at 4:20 pm PDT (2320 GMT), about six hours after the newspaper’s post.

In a vote of confidence for Musk, shareholder T. Rowe Price Group Inc. said in a regulatory filing on Wednesday that it had raised its stake to 10.2 percent at the end of September from just under 7 percent in June.

The Financial Times cited two people briefed on discussions saying Murdoch was the lead candidate for the job. Murdoch, already an independent director of Tesla, has signaled he wants the job, the report said.

The son of Fox mogul Rupert Murdoch, he joined Tesla’s board last year after years of work with media companies. He has no experience in manufacturing and has never led a company that makes cars or electric vehicles.

Murdoch could not immediately be reached for comment. Tesla did not respond to a request for comment. Twenty-First Century Fox declined to comment.

​Board roles

Musk is the public face of Tesla, and any chairman would have to contend with his powerful personality. Thanks to his vision and audacious showmanship, Tesla’s valuation has at times eclipsed that of established U.S. automakers with billions in revenues, and the company has garnered legions of fans, despite repeated production issues.

“The question when it comes to James Murdoch is, ‘Is he the guy who’ll be able to establish that level of authority with Elon Musk?’ ” asked Abby Adlerman, CEO of Boardspan, a corporate governance consulting company.

Murdoch, who at 45 is a near contemporary of 47-year-old Musk, recently navigated a takeover battle between Fox and Comcast Corp. to buy European pay-TV company Sky, which he also chaired.

His record in ensuring Sky’s independent shareholders were represented throughout was exemplary, media analyst Alice Enders said.

“His experience is very recent and very relevant,” she said.

Investor concerns that Tesla’s board was too closely tied to Musk led to the company’s addition of two independent directors, including Murdoch, in July 2017.

Earlier this year, leading U.S. proxy advisers Glass Lewis & Co. and Institutional Shareholder Services and union-affiliated investment adviser CtW Investment Group had recommended investors cast votes “against” the re-election of Murdoch as a Tesla director at the company’s annual meeting held on June 5.

While CtW cited a lack of relevant experience and a “troubled history as an executive and director,” both proxy firms warned that Murdoch already served on too many boards.

Murdoch currently serves on the boards of Twenty-First Century Fox and News Corp. He stepped down from Sky Plc on Tuesday following the completion of Comcast’s takeover of the broadcaster.

He was appointed chief executive of Sky, founded by his father, in 2003, becoming the youngest CEO of a FTSE 100 company.

“Under his leadership, Sky went down the technology route,” Enders said. “It’s no accident he oversaw that strategy, which was really distinct from the strategy other pay-TV companies followed, and in my view was his most valuable contribution.”

Murdoch replaced his father as chairman of Sky in 2007, but was forced out in 2012 after being embroiled in Britain’s phone-hacking scandal. He returned to Sky’s board in 2016 after rebuilding his career at Fox.

For the Next Big Thing in Tech, Look to … Africa?

From a young age, Phatwa Senene knew he wanted to be an inventor.

He got his start at age 11, he said, when he attached a DC motor to a fan. He then attached the fan to a drill and proceeded to drill holes into his bedroom wall. His invention worked, he said: The fan blew away the dust from the drilling.

“That was my first invention that I can recall,” he said, laughing. “My mom didn’t like it at all.”

He nearly hit a figurative wall years later, when he tried to go to university, but found he couldn’t afford it. His family was poor, he said, and he grew up in a Johannesburg township.

But the now-33-year-old plowed ahead, coming up with innovative inventions, like a data-collecting, 3D-printed solar-powered streetlamp, that have caught the attention of South African municipalities and companies.

Two of his new streetlamps, which are capable of tracking data like noise levels and air quality, are being piloted in inner city Johannesburg.

Toybox for inventors

It’s that creativity and innovation that have also caught the attention of African technology innovators, who are hoping to turn this unique idea into profit. Senene is a member of a new Johannesburg tech innovation hub, called Toybox, that gives inventors, artists and tinkerers room to work, a community to work with, and business support to get their inventions off the drawing board and into the real world.

Co-founder Arlene Mulder, who previously started WeThinkCode, an institution that teaches young South Africans about coding and software engineering, says Africa is often overlooked as a source for ideas and invention. She wants to change that, by supporting local inventors and giving them room to grow.

“We’ve been seeing, over the last couple of years, incredibly talented inventors coming up with incredible inventions, but they are struggling to bring these inventions to life,” she tells VOA. “So we are creating this ecosystem and platform for them to come together, and we provide access to the global world.”

In exchange for its services, the hub gets a portion of the revenue the inventors end up making. There are similar places operating elsewhere in South Africa as well as Kenya and Rwanda.

Welcome support

Senene says he appreciates the support. It was hard to get ahead flying solo.

“You can be an inventor all day, but you still need to eat, you need to run a business,” he said. “So, as an inventor, I had to go through the process where you learn about business. And all of that for me was self-taught. There’s no one in my family who would set a path for me, there was no one who guided me, so, trial and error, I learned the hard way.”

Toybox co-Founder Kanina Foss says Africa is an ideal springboard for innovation, with its rich artistic talent and traditions.

“Some of the cool stuff our fellows are doing include leveraging the intersections between technologies and the creative disciplines, so that we can use artists to really push the barriers on what tech can do,” she said.

Senene, the inventor, says his inspiration comes from some unexpected places. One of his recent innovations is a “tombstone tracker,” a tool meant to find stolen grave markers, which has been a problem in South Africa.

 

WATCH: South African Invents Tracker for Stolen Tombstones

“What inspires me is my environment,” he said. “So many of my devices have been inspired by the places that I’ve lived in, especially the problems. So, I’m very sensitive to negativity, to horrible things, and that allows me to identify them, and I have an ability to try to come up with a solution.”

If he finds a solution, places like Toybox will be ready to help him develop and market the idea.

Reagan Back on Campaign Trail — as Hologram

A characteristic twinkle in his eye, Ronald Reagan waves to a crowd from aboard a rail car in a hologram revealed Wednesday at the late president’s namesake library in Southern California.

“We think we made a good beginning, but you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!” the digital resurrection of the nation’s 40th president says in his steady voice as a flurry of balloons falls in front of him.

Reagan, who died in 2004 at age 93, was speaking about the nation’s future during a 1984 campaign stop but easily could have been referencing the technology that brought him back to life in 2018. The audio used is edited from his real remarks.

​’A stunning experience’

“We wanted to make President Reagan as lifelike as possible,” said John Heubusch, executive director of the Reagan Foundation. “It’s a stunning experience.”

In two other holograms, Reagan appears in a suit and tie inside the Oval Office and in horseback riding pants, carrying a lasso alongside his dog, Victory, at his beloved ranch. All three holograms will be on display to visitors of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, west of Los Angeles, starting Thursday.

They will be shown in a specially designed room that will be the first stop for guests. Seats are set up in front of a stage, and a curtain opens up to thunderous applause at Reagan’s campaign stop more than three decades ago.

How it was done

The computer-generated imagery for the holograms was created starting with a silicone cast of Reagan’s head that was photographed from various angles with 300 cameras. His head was then digitally “placed” on the body of an actor portraying the president with full costumes and backdrops for the three scenarios.

Reagan’s face comes to life via specific movements of the mouth, nose, eyes, cheeks and hairline, all manipulated by computers.

The library worked with the same special-effects technicians who helped bring singers like Michael Jackson, Billie Holiday and Roy Orbison back to life on stage.

The Hollywood firm Hologram USA helped create the holograms and the stage on which they’re projected.

A lover of technology

As a radio host, television star and movie actor, Reagan understood and appreciated new technologies, company senior vice president David Nussbaum said.

“He always thought many steps ahead,” he said. “If he was looking down right now on this project, I think he would give us his seal of approval. I think he would totally get this and support it.”

Seeing her former boss “almost in the flesh” was “a little eerie, but at the same time, very comforting,” said Joanne Drake, who served as Reagan’s chief of staff after the Republican left office following his two terms from 1981 to 1989.

“It’s fun to think that he’s standing in front of us,” said Drake, who’s now chief administration officer for the foundation. “Intellectually, you know it’s not him standing there, but you see his facial movements and his arm movements and his body and that twinkle in his eye and that little grin that he always got, and it makes you remember really what he brought to the office.”

Drake said future plans could include bringing the holograms on the road.

“I do think we’re going to see Ronald Reagan back in Washington, D.C.,” she said.