Resisting the hype, Apple defied most predictions this week and made no mention of artificial intelligence when it unveiled its latest slate of new products, including its Vision Pro mixed reality headset.
Generative AI has become the tech world’s biggest buzzword since Microsoft-backed OpenAI released ChatGPT late last year, revealing the capabilities of the emerging technology.
ChatGPT opened the world’s eyes to the idea that computers can churn out complex, human-level content using simple prompts, giving amateurs the talents of tech geeks, artists or speechwriters.
Apple has laid low as Microsoft and Google raced out announcements on how generative AI will revolutionize its products, from online search to word processing and retouching images.
During the recent earnings season, tech CEOs peppered mentions of AI into their every phrase, eager to reassure investors that they wouldn’t miss Silicon Valley’s next big chapter.
Apple has chosen to be much more discreet and, in its closely watched keynote address to the World Developers conference in California, never once mentioned AI specifically.
“Apple ghosts the generative AI revolution,” said a headline in Wired Magazine after the event.
‘Not necessarily AI?’
Arguments vary on why Apple has chosen a more subtle approach.
For one, Apple follows other critics who have long been wary of the catchall “AI” term believing that it is too vague and unhelpfully evokes dystopian nightmares of killer robots and human subjugation to machines.
For this reason, some companies – including TikTok or Facebook’s Meta – roll out AI innovations, but without necessarily touting them as such.
“We do integrate it into our products [but] people don’t necessarily think about it as AI,” Apple CEO Tim Cook told ABC News this week.
Indeed, AI was actually very much part of Apple’s annual jamboree on Monday, but it required a level of technical know-how to notice.
In one instance, Apple’s head of software said “on-device machine learning” would enhance autocorrect for iPhone messaging when he could have just as well said AI.
Apple’s autocorrect innovation drew giggles with the promise of iPhones no longer correcting common expletives.
“In those moments where you just want to type a ‘ducking’ word, well, the keyboard will learn it, too,” said Craig Federighi.
Autocorrect will also learn from your writing style, helping it guide suggestions, using AI technology similar to what powers ChatGPT.
In another example, a new iPhone app called Journal, an interactive diary, would use “on-device machine learning … to inspire your writing,” Apple said, again not referring to AI when other companies would have.
But AI will also play a major role in the Vision Pro headset when it is released next year, helping, for example, generate a user’s digital persona for video-conferencing.
‘Not much effort’
For some analysts, the non-mention of AI is an acknowledgement by Apple that it lost ground against rivals.
“They haven’t put much effort into it,” independent tech analyst Rob Enderle told AFP.
“I think they just kind of felt that AI was off into the future and it wasn’t anything surprising,” he added.
The glitchy performance of Apple’s chatbot Siri, which was launched a decade ago, has also fed the feeling that the smartphone giant doesn’t get AI.
“I think most people would agree that Apple lost its edge with Siri. That’s probably the most obvious way they fell behind,” said Insider Intelligence principal analyst Yory Wurmser.
But Wurmser also insisted that Apple is primarily a device company and that AI, which is software, will always be “the means rather than the ends for a great user experience” on its premium devices.
In this vein, for analyst Dan Ives of Wedbush Securities, the release of Apple’s Vision Pro headset was in itself an AI play, even if it wasn’t explicitly spelled out that way.
“We continue to strongly believe this is the first step in a broader strategy for Apple to build out a generative AI driven app ecosystem” on the Vision Pro, he said.
There are renewed concerns North Korea’s army of hackers is targeting financial institutions to prop up the regime in Pyongyang and possibly fund its weapons programs.
A report published Tuesday by the cybersecurity firm Recorded Future finds North Korean aligned actors have been spoofing well-known financial firms in Japan, Vietnam and the United States, sending out emails and documents that, if opened, could grant the hackers access to critical systems.
“The targeting of investment banking and venture capital firms may expose sensitive or confidential information of these entities or their customers,” according to the report by Recorded Future’s Insikt Group.
“[It] may result in legal or regulatory action, jeopardize pending business negotiations or agreements, or expose information damaging to the company’s strategic investment portfolio,” it said.
The report said the most recent cluster of activity took place between September 2022 and March 2023, making use of three new internet addresses and two old addresses, and more than 20 domain names.
Some of the domains imitated those used by the targeted financial institutions.
Recorded Future’s named the group behind the attacks Threat Activity Group 71 (TAG-71), which is also known as APT38, Bluenoroff, Stardust Chollima and the Lazarus Group.
This past April, the U.S. sanctioned three individuals associated with the Lazarus Group, accusing them of helping North Korea launder stolen virtual currencies and turn it into cash.
U.S. Treasury officials levied additional sanctions just last month against North Korea’s Technical Reconnaissance Bureau, which develops tools and operations to be carried out by the Lazarus Group.
The Lazarus Group is believed to be responsible for the largest theft of virtual currency to date, stealing approximately $620 million connected to a popular online game in Match 2022.
Earlier this month, U.S. and South Korean agencies issued a warning about another set of North Korean cyber actors impersonating think tanks, academic institutions and journalists in an ongoing attempt to collect intelligence.
Japan announced Tuesday that it joined the United States and Australia in signing a $95 million undersea cable project that will connect East Micronesia island nations to improve networks in the Indo-Pacific region where China is increasingly expanding its influence.
The approximately 2,250-kilometer (1,400-mile) undersea cable will connect the state of Kosrae in the Federated State of Micronesia, Tarawa in Kiribati and Nauru to the existing cable landing point located in Pohnpei in Micronesia, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.
Japan, the United States and Australia have stepped up cooperation with the Pacific Islands, apparently to counter efforts by Beijing to expand its security and economic influence in the region.
In a joint statement, the parties said next steps involve a final survey and design and manufacturing of the cable, whose width is about that of a garden hose. The completion is expected around 2025.
The announcement comes just over two weeks after leaders of the Quad, a security alliance of Japan, the United States, Australia and India, emphasized the importance of undersea cables as a critical component of communications infrastructure and the foundation for internet connectivity.
“Secure and resilient digital connectivity has never been more important,” Matthew Murray, a senior official in the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said in a statement. “The United States is delighted to be part of this project bringing our region closer together.”
NEC Corp., which won the contract after a competitive tender, said the cable will ensure high-speed, high-quality and more secure communications for residents, businesses and governments in the region, while contributing to improved digital connectivity and economic development.
The cable will connect more than 100,000 people across the three Pacific countries, according to Kazuya Endo, director general of the international cooperation bureau at the Japanese Foreign Ministry.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is looking at how artificial intelligence can be used to help identify goods made with child or forced labor and prevent those goods from entering the country. VOA’s Julie Taboh has more. VOA footage by Adam Greenbaum.
Top Chinese officials told Elon Musk about plans to launch new regulations on artificial intelligence on his recent trip to the Asian giant, the tech billionaire said Monday, in his first comments on the two-day visit.
The Twitter owner and Tesla CEO — one of the world’s richest men — held meetings with senior officials in Beijing and employees in Shanghai last week.
“Something that is worth noting is that on my recent trip to China, with the senior leadership there, we had, I think, some very productive discussions on artificial intelligence risks, and the need for some oversight or regulation,” Musk said. “And my understanding from those conversations is that China will be initiating AI regulation in China.”
Musk, whose extensive interests in China have long raised eyebrows in Washington, spoke about the exchange in a livestreamed Twitter discussion with Democratic presidential hopeful and vaccine conspiracy theorist Robert Kennedy Jr., the nephew of the late U.S. President John F. Kennedy.
Musk did not tweet while in China and Tesla has not released readouts of Musk’s meeting with officials.
But official Chinese channels said he lavished praise on the country, including for its “vitality and promise,” and expressed “full confidence in the China market.”
Several Chinese companies have been rushing to develop AI services that can mimic human speech since San Francisco-based OpenAI launched ChatGPT in November.
But rapid advancements have stoked global alarm over the technology’s potential for disinformation and misuse.
Musk didn’t elaborate on his discussions in China but was likely referring to a sweeping draft law requiring new AI products to undergo a security assessment before release and a process ensuring that they reflect “core socialist values.”
The “Administrative Measures for Generative Artificial Intelligence Services” edict bans content promoting “terrorist or extremist propaganda,” “ethnic hatred” or “other content that may disrupt economic and social order.”
Under Beijing’s highly centralized political system, the measures are almost certain to become law.
Describes meetings as ‘promising’
Musk has caused controversy by suggesting the self-ruled island of Taiwan should become part of China — a stance that was welcomed by Chinese officials but which deeply angered Taipei.
The 51-year-old South African native described his meetings in China as “very promising.”
“I pointed out that if there is a digital super intelligence that is overwhelmingly powerful, developed in China, it is actually a risk to the sovereignty of the Chinese government,” he said. “And I think they took that concern to heart.”
The European Union is pushing online platforms like Google and Meta to step up the fight against false information by adding labels to text, photos and other content generated by artificial intelligence, a top official said Monday.
EU Commission Vice President Vera Jourova said the ability of a new generation of AI chatbots to create complex content and visuals in seconds raises “fresh challenges for the fight against disinformation.”
Jourova said she asked Google, Meta, Microsoft, TikTok and other tech companies that have signed up to the 27-nation bloc’s voluntary agreement on combating disinformation to dedicate efforts to tackling the AI problem.
Online platforms that have integrated generative AI into their services, such as Microsoft’s Bing search engine and Google’s Bard chatbot, should build safeguards to prevent “malicious actors” from generating disinformation, Jourova said at a briefing in Brussels.
Companies offering services that have the potential to spread AI-generated disinformation should roll out technology to “recognize such content and clearly label this to users,” she said.
Jourova said EU regulations are aimed at protecting free speech, but when it comes to AI, “I don’t see any right for the machines to have the freedom of speech.”
The swift rise of generative AI technology, which has the capability to produce human-like text, images and video, has amazed many and alarmed others with its potential to transform many aspects of daily life. Europe has taken a lead role in the global movement to regulate artificial intelligence with its AI Act, but the legislation still needs final approval and won’t take effect for several years.
Officials in the EU, which is bringing in a separate set of rules this year to safeguard people from harmful online content, are worried that they need to act faster to keep up with the rapid development of generative artificial intelligence.
The voluntary commitments in the disinformation code will soon become legal obligations under the EU’s Digital Services Act, which will force the biggest tech companies by the end of August to better police their platforms to protect users from hate speech, disinformation and other harmful material.
Jourova said, however, that those companies should start labeling AI-generated content immediately.
Most of those digital giants are already signed up to the EU code, which requires companies to measure their work on combating disinformation and issue regular reports on their progress.
Twitter dropped out last month in what appeared to be the latest move by Elon Musk to loosen restrictions at the social media company after he bought it last year.
The exit drew a stern rebuke, with Jourova calling it a mistake.
“Twitter has chosen the hard way. They chose confrontation,” she said. “Make no mistake, by leaving the code, Twitter has attracted a lot of attention and its actions and compliance with EU law will be scrutinized vigorously and urgently.”
In collaboration with the Ukrainian government, the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, has created an app that connects Ukrainians with their government so they can access public services — and use of the app’s code has expanded to different countries. Iryna Matviichuk has the story, narrated by Anna Rice.
SpaceX’s Starlink, the satellite communications service started by billionaire Elon Musk, now has a Defense Department contract to buy those satellite services for Ukraine, the Pentagon said Thursday.
“We continue to work with a range of global partners to ensure Ukraine has the resilient satellite and communication capabilities they need. Satellite communications constitute a vital layer in Ukraine’s overall communications network and the department contracts with Starlink for services of this type,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
Starlink has been used by Ukrainian troops for a variety of efforts, including battlefield communications.
SpaceX, through private donations and under a separate contract with a U.S. foreign aid agency, has been providing Ukrainians and the country’s military with Starlink internet service, a fast-growing network of more than 4,000 satellites in low Earth orbit, since the beginning of the war in 2022.
The Pentagon contract is a boon for SpaceX after Musk, the company’s CEO, said in October it could not afford to indefinitely fund Starlink in Ukraine, an effort he said cost $20 million a month to maintain.
Russia has tried to cut off and jam internet services in Ukraine, including attempts to block Starlink in the region, though SpaceX has countered those attacks by hardening the service’s software.
The Pentagon did not disclose the terms of the contract, which Bloomberg reported earlier on Thursday, “for operational security reasons and due to the critical nature of these systems.”
Amazon agreed Wednesday to pay a $25 million civil penalty to settle Federal Trade Commission allegations it violated a child privacy law and deceived parents by keeping for years kids’ voice and location data recorded by its popular Alexa voice assistant.
Separately, the company agreed to pay $5.8 million in customer refunds for alleged privacy violations involving its doorbell camera Ring.
The Alexa-related action orders Amazon to overhaul its data deletion practices and impose stricter, more transparent privacy measures. It also obliges the tech giant to delete certain data collected by its internet-connected digital assistant, which people use for everything from checking the weather to playing games and queueing up music.
“Amazon’s history of misleading parents, keeping children’s recordings indefinitely, and flouting parents’ deletion requests violated COPPA (the Child Online Privacy Protection Act) and sacrificed privacy for profits,” Samuel Levine, the FCT consumer protection chief, said in a statement. The 1998 law is designed to shield children from online harms.
FTC Commissioner Alvaro Bedoya said in a statement that “when parents asked Amazon to delete their kids’ Alexa voice data, the company did not delete all of it.”
The agency ordered the company to delete inactive child accounts as well as certain voice and geolocation data.
Amazon kept the kids’ data to refine its voice recognition algorithm, the artificial intelligence behind Alexa, which powers Echo and other smart speakers, Bedoya said. The FTC complaint sends a message to all tech companies who are “sprinting to do the same” amid fierce competition in developing AI datasets, he added.
“Nothing is more visceral to a parent than the sound of their child’s voice,” tweeted Bedoya, the father of two small children.
Amazon said last month that it has sold more than a half-billion Alexa-enabled devices globally and that use of the service increased 35% last year.
In the Ring case, the FTC says Amazon’s home security camera subsidiary let employees and contractors access consumers’ private videos and provided lax security practices that enabled hackers to take control of some accounts.
Amazon bought California-based Ring in 2018, and many of the violations alleged by the FTC predate the acquisition. Under the FTC’s order, Ring is required to pay $5.8 million that would be used for consumer refunds.
Amazon said it disagreed with the FTC’s claims on both Alexa and Ring and denied violating the law. But it said the settlements “put these matters behind us.”
“Our devices and services are built to protect customers’ privacy, and to provide customers with control over their experience,” the Seattle-based company said.
In addition to the fine in the Alexa case, the proposed order prohibits Amazon from using deleted geolocation and voice information to create or improve any data product. The order also requires Amazon to create a privacy program for its use of geolocation information.
The proposed orders must be approved by federal judges.
FTC commissioners had unanimously voted to file the charges against Amazon in both cases.
The International Energy Agency says Chinese car manufacturers are emerging as a major force in the global electric car market, with more than 50% of all electric cars on roads worldwide now produced in China. Spain is the second-largest vehicle manufacturer in Europe after Germany and its market has become a target for Chinese automakers. From Barcelona, Alfonso Beato has this report, narrated by Marcus Harton.
The semiconductor trade war between Washington and Beijing may ensnare Seoul as South Korea must decide between backing its closest ally or embracing a lucrative export opportunity presented by China, its top trading partner.
The decision will reveal how closely South Korea is aligned with the U.S., its second-largest export market, experts said.
The dilemma facing Seoul emerged after China announced that it was banning the use of U.S.-based Micron Technology’s broad range of computer memory and storage technologies.
Liu Pengyu, a Chinese Embassy spokesperson in Washington, told VOA’s Korean Service on May 24 that Beijing’s cybersecurity regulators had assessed that Micron’s chips “pose a major security risk to China’s key information infrastructure supply chain and impact China’s national security.”
The ban echoed that set by the U.S. on China’s Huawei Technologies in May 2019, when the Trump administration cited security concerns related to the company’s wireless networking equipment, especially those related to 5G. The Biden administration in November 2022 banned approvals of new telecommunications equipment from Huawei and ZTE because the products pose “an unacceptable risk” to U.S. national security.
U.S. Representative Mike Gallagher, the Republican chairman of the House Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party, has called for South Korea to “act to prevent backfilling” the market gap left by Micron.
The U.S. has been trying to block China’s access to the technology needed to make advanced chips that can be used to modernize its military. Micron’s chips are used by Chinese industries that assemble consumer electronics such as smartphones. Although Beijing is funding the development of home-grown advanced chips such as those used in artificial intelligence applications, China’s chipmakers, for now, manufacture simpler products such as those used in home appliances.
Seoul’s decision on whether to dissuade its top chipmakers such as Samsung or SK Hynix from selling chips to China could indicate how closely South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol is aligned with Washington.
“This would certainly be a litmus test to see if Seoul and other allies are willing to support Washington’s policies designed to slow China’s technology growth,” said Andrew Yeo, the SK-Korea Foundation chair in Korea Studies at Brookings Institution.
Robert Rapson, who served as charge d’affaires and deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Seoul, 2018-2021, said, “This is the first real test of the Yoon administration’s policy of enhanced alignment with the U.S. on China.”
He continued, “In other words, will [South] Korea sacrifice core economic, commercial interests of its flagship high-tech companies in keeping with [Washington’s] policy and U.S. wishes?”
He added that Seoul has the right to seek “some credit or offset” from Washington if it blocks backfilling the Micron gap.
A business decision
A spokesperson for the South Korean Foreign Ministry told VOA’s Korean Service on Tuesday that the government “plans to continue efforts to protect the interest of our companies through cooperation with relevant agencies and engagements with diplomatic missions abroad.”
South Korea sent 55% of its semiconductor exports to China last year even as
its semiconductor exports have been in a steep decline since August 2022, according to a Bank of Korea report released on Tuesday, cited by Business Korea.
Robert Manning, a senior fellow at the Stimson Center’s Reimagining U.S. Grand Strategy Project, said “As the security environment in Northeast Asia has become fraught with North Korea’s provocative nuclear efforts and Chinese economic coercion, the U.S.-ROK alliance has become more vital to Seoul.” South Korea’s official name is the Republic of Korea (ROK).
“South Korea will [need to] sacrifice to a degree to sustain broad alignment with the U.S.,” Manning said. “But South Korea has its own interests so there are likely to be limits.”
Troy Stangarone, senior director at Korea Economic Institute, said, “While China might face short-term shortage in chips if Samsung and SK Hynix withheld capacity, the ultimate result would only be the further expansion of domestic Chinese semiconductor firms which undermine U.S. long-term goals and potentially the very firms the United States is working with to improve its own supply chains.”
Dennis Wilder, senior director for East Asia affairs at the White House’s National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration, said, “This is a business decision, and it really should, in my view, be left to the South Korean companies to make this business decision.”
Wilder continued, “But it’s far more important for South Korea to align with the United States on the very high-end semiconductor chips and the attempts to keep things out of the hands of the Chinese military that can help modernize.”
Beijing’s ban came on the last day of the Group of Seven countries summit on May 19-21. The group agreed to de-risk the global economy and diversify trade away from China in an effort to counter its economic coercion. This is defined as “a threatened or actual imposition of economic costs by a state on a target with the objective of extracting a policy concession,” according to testimony by Bonnie Glaser, managing director, of the German Marshall Fund Indo-Pacific program, before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on Saturday that Washington “firmly opposes” China’s ban on Micron. She made the remark at a press conference held after the meeting of the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) that China sees as a body aimed at countering its economic rise.
On Monday, an article in Chinese state-run media Global Times said it would be “natural” for South Korea’s chipmakers to export to fill the market void left by the Micron ban.
“There is no possibility for South Korea to replace its chips with other goods in its exports to China,” the report said.
And on Sunday, Bloomberg quoted an unidentified source familiar with the situation as saying South Korea will veer away from supplying chips to China.
South Korea’s exports to China in April were $9.52 billion while exports to the U.S. reached $9.18 billion, according to the Trade Ministry’s latest data. The gap between South Korea’s exports to China and the U.S. narrowed to just $340 million in April from $1.15 billion in January driven by a strong dollar and EV demand.
The director of the leading U.S. cybersecurity agency has a message for scientists and top technology company officials who are warning that artificial intelligence could lead to the end of humankind: Take action.
“If you actually think that these capabilities can lead to extinction of humanity, well, let’s come together and do something about it,” the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s Jen Easterly told an audience Wednesday.
“While we’re trying to put a regulatory framework in place, think about self-regulation,” she told an Axios News Shapers event in Washington. “Think about what you can do to slow this down.”
The comments by the CISA director come just a day after more than 350 researchers and technology executives issued a one-sentence warning about the dangers of artificial intelligence, or AI.
“Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war,” they said in a post on the website for the Center for AI Safety.
Those signing onto the warning included the co-founder and CEO of OpenAI, the company behind Chat GPT, Microsoft’s chief technology officer, the CEO of Google’s AI research lab and Geoffrey Hinton, sometimes called “the godfather of artificial intelligence.”
Hinton, notably, quit his job at Google earlier in May to focus on warning others of the dangers of AI.
U.S. government officials, like CISA’s Easterly, have likewise been warning about the dangers posed by AI.
“AI will be the most powerful capability of our time,” Easterly told students at Vanderbilt University during a speech earlier this month.
“I believe it will also be the most powerful weapon of our time,” she added. “While one person will use this technology to plan a dinner party, another will use the capability to plan a cyberattack or a terrorist attack.”
Easterly has previously called for “smart regulation” of AI technology and products, warning that tech companies, as with other technologies, are too focused on getting AI products to market quickly and not paying enough attention to safety.
Earlier in May she said that CISA has held discussions with tech companies about a way forward for AI.
In April, CISA’s parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, launched its own initiative to take on the dangers posed by artificial intelligence.
“We must address the many ways in which artificial intelligence will drastically alter the threat landscape and augment the arsenal of tools we possess to succeed in the face of these threats,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said at the time.
Disgraced Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes is in custody at a Texas prison where she could spend the next 11 years for overseeing a blood-testing hoax that became a parable about greed and hubris in Silicon Valley, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Holmes, 39, on Tuesday entered a federal women’s prison camp located in Bryan, Texas — where the federal judge who sentenced Holmes in November recommended she be incarcerated. The minimum-security facility is about 152 kilometers (about 94 miles) northwest of Houston, where Holmes grew up aspiring to become a technology visionary along the lines of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.
As she begins her sentence, Holmes is leaving behind two young children — a son born in July 2021 a few weeks before the start of her trial and a 3-month old daughter who was conceived after a jury convicted her on four felony counts of fraud and conspiracy in January 2022.
Holmes has been free on bail since then, most recently living in the San Diego, California, area with the children’s father, William “Billy” Evans. The couple met in 2017 around the same time Holmes was under investigation for the collapse of Theranos, a startup she founded after dropping out of Stanford University when she was just 19.
Build up to startup
While she was building up Theranos, Holmes grew closer to Ramesh, “Sunny” Balwani, who would become her romantic partner as well as an investor and fellow executive in the Palo Alto, California, company.
Together, Holmes and Balwani promised Theranos would revolutionize health care with a technology that could quickly scan for diseases and other problems with a few drops of blood taken with a finger prick.
The hype surrounding that purported breakthrough helped Theranos raise nearly $1 billion from enthralled investors, assemble an influential board of directors that include former Presidential cabinet members George Shultz, Henry Kissinger and James Mattis and turned Holmes into a Silicon Valley sensation with a fortune valued at $4.5 billion on paper in 2014.
But it all blew up after serious dangerous flaws in Theranos’ technology were exposed in a series of explosive articles in The Wall Street Journal that Holmes and Balwani tried to thwart. Holmes and Balwani, who had been secretly living together while running Theranos, broke up after the revelations in the Journal and the company collapsed. In 2018, the U.S. Justice Department charged both with a litany of white-collar crimes in a case aimed at putting a stop to the Silicon Valley practice of overselling the capabilities of a still-developing technology — a technique that became known as “fake it ’til you make it.”
Holmes admitted making mistakes at Theranos, but steadfastly denied committing crimes during seven often-fascinating days of testimony on the witness stand during her trial. At one point, she told the jury about being sexually and emotionally abused by Balwani while he controlled her in ways that she said clouded her thinking. Balwani’s attorney steadfastly denied Holmes allegations, which was one of the key reasons they were tried separately.
Balwani, 57, was convicted on 12 felony counts of fraud and conspiracy in a trial that began two months after Holmes’ ended. He is serving a nearly 13-year sentence in a Southern California prison.
Maintaining she was treated unfairly during the trial, Holmes sought to remain free while she appeals her conviction. But that bid was rejected by U.S. District Judge Edward Davila, who presided over her trial, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, leaving her no other avenue left to follow but the one that will take her to prison nearly 20 years after she founded Theranos.
Attorneys representing Holmes did not immediately respond when contacted by The Associated Press for statement on Tuesday.
650 women on 37 acres
Federal Prison Camp Bryan, a minimum-security prison camp encompasses about 37 acres of land and houses about 650 women — including “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” star Jennifer Shah, who was sentenced earlier this year to 6 1/2 years in prison for defrauding thousands of people in a yearslong telemarketing scam.
Most federal prison camps don’t even have fences and house those the Bureau of Prisons considers to be the lowest security risk. The prison camps also often have minimal staffing and many of the incarcerated people work at prison jobs.
According to a 2016 FPC Bryan inmate handbook, those in the Texas facility who are eligible to work can earn between 12 cents and $1.15 per hour in their job assignments, which include food service roles and factory employment operated by Federal Prison Industries.
Federal prison camps were originally designed with low security to make operations easier and allow inmates tasked with performing work at the prison, such as landscaping and maintenance, to avoid repeatedly checking in and out of a main prison facility. But the lax security opened a gateway for contraband, such as drugs, cellphones and weapons. The limited security also led to a number of escapes from prison camps.
In November, a man incarcerated at another federal prison camp in Arizona pulled out a smuggled gun in a visitation area and tried to shoot his wife in the head. The gun jammed and no one was injured. But the incident exposed major security flaws at the facility and the agency’s director ordered a review of security at all federal prison camps around the U.S.
China sent three astronauts to its Tiangong space station on Tuesday, putting a civilian scientist into space for the first time as Beijing pursues plans to send a manned mission to the Moon by the end of the decade.
The world’s second-largest economy has invested billions of dollars in its military-run space program in a push to catch up with the United States and Russia.
The Shenzhou-16 crew took off atop a Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China at 9:31 am (0131 GMT), AFP journalists and state TV showed.
Leading the mission is commander Jing Haipeng on his fourth extra-terrestrial trip, as well as engineer Zhu Yangzhu and Beihang University professor Gui Haichao, the first Chinese civilian in space.
The Tiangong is the crown jewel of China’s space program, which has also seen it land robotic rovers on Mars and the Moon and made it the third country to put humans in orbit.
The mission is the first to the Tiangong space station since it entered its “application and development” stage, Beijing said.
Once in orbit, the Shenzhou-16 will dock at the space station’s Tianhe core module, before the crew meet three colleagues from the previous manned Shenzhou-15 flight, who have been at the space station for six months and will return to Earth in the coming days.
The mission will “carry out large-scale, in-orbit experiments… in the study of novel quantum phenomena, high-precision space time-frequency systems, the verification of general relativity, and the origin of life,” CMSA spokesperson Lin Xiqiang told reporters on Monday.
The space station was resupplied with drinking water, clothing, food and propellant this month in preparation for Shenzhou-16’s arrival.
One expert told AFP that Tuesday’s flight represented “a regular crew rotation flight as one crew hands over to another”, but even that was significant.
“Accumulating depth of experience in human spaceflight operations is important and doesn’t involve new spectacular milestones all the time,” said Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer and astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
Plans for China’s “space dream” have been put into overdrive under President Xi Jinping.
China is planning to build a lunar base, and CMSA spokesman Lin reaffirmed on Monday Beijing’s plan to land a manned mission on the Moon by 2030.
“The overall goal is to achieve China’s first manned landing on the Moon by 2030 and carry out lunar scientific exploration and related technological experiments,” he said.
The final module of the T-shaped Tiangong — which means “heavenly palace” — successfully docked with the core structure last year.
The station carries several pieces of cutting-edge scientific equipment, state news agency Xinhua reported, including “the world’s first space-based cold atomic clock system”.
The Tiangong is expected to remain in low Earth orbit at between 400 and 450 kilometers above the planet for at least 10 years.
It is constantly crewed by rotating teams of three astronauts.
China has been effectively excluded from the International Space Station since 2011, when the United States banned NASA from engaging with the country — pushing Beijing to develop the Tiangong.
China’s space agency reiterated on Monday it is actively seeking international cooperation in the project.
China “is looking forward to and welcomes the participation of foreign astronauts in the country’s space station flight missions”, Lin said.
Beijing plans to send two manned space missions to the space station every year, according to the CMSA.
The next will be Shenzhou-17, which is expected to be launched in October.
The United States “won’t tolerate” China’s effective ban on purchases of Micron Technology MU.O memory chips and is working closely with allies to address such “economic coercion,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Saturday.
Raimondo told a news conference after a meeting of trade ministers in the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework talks that the U.S. “firmly opposes” China’s actions against Micron.
These “target a single U.S. company without any basis in fact, and we see it as plain and simple economic coercion and we won’t tolerate it, nor do we think it will be successful.”
China’s cyberspace regulator said May 21 that Micron, the biggest U.S. memory chip maker, had failed its network security review and that it would block operators of key infrastructure from buying from the company, prompting it to predict a revenue reduction.
The move came a day after leaders of the G7 industrial democracies agreed to new initiatives to push back against economic coercion by China — a decision noted by Raimondo.
“As we said at the G7 and as we have said consistently, we are closely engaging with partners addressing this specific challenge and all challenges related to China’s non-market practices.”
Raimondo also raised the Micron issue in a meeting Thursday with China’s Commerce Minister, Wang Wentao.
She also said the IPEF agreement on supply chains and other pillars of the talks would be consistent with U.S. investments in the $52 billion CHIPS Act to foster semiconductor production in the United States.
“The investments in the CHIPS Act are to strengthen and bolster our domestic production of semiconductors. Having said that, we welcome participation from companies that are in IPEF countries, you know, so we expect that companies from Japan, Korea, Singapore, etc, will participate in the CHIPS Act funding,” Raimondo said.
China and South Korea have agreed to strengthen dialog and cooperation on semiconductor industry supply chains, amid broader global concerns over chip supplies, sanctions and national security, China’s commerce minister said.
Wang Wentao met with South Korean Trade Minister Ahn Duk-geun on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference in Detroit, which ended Friday.
They exchanged views on maintaining the stability of the industrial supply chain and strengthening cooperation in bilateral, regional and multilateral fields, according to a statement from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce on Saturday.
Wang also said that China is willing to work with South Korea to deepen trade ties and investment cooperation.
However, a South Korean statement on the same meeting did not mention chips, instead saying the country’s trade minister had asked China to stabilize the supply of key raw materials — and asked for a predictable business environment for South Korean companies in China.
“The South Korean side expressed that communication is needed between working-level officials over all industries,” not just for semiconductors, a source with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
The source declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
South Korea is in the crosshairs of a tit-for-tat row between the United States and China over semiconductors.
China’s cyberspace regulator said last week that Micron had failed its network security review and that it would block operators of key infrastructure from buying from the company.
The U.S. has pushed for countries to limit China’s access to advanced chips, citing a host of reasons including national security.
About 40% South Korea’s chip exports go to China, according to trade ministry data, while U.S. technology and equipment are necessary for South Korean chipmakers Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix.
As concerns grow over increasingly powerful artificial intelligence systems like ChatGPT, the nation’s financial watchdog says it’s working to ensure that companies follow the law when they’re using AI.
Already, automated systems and algorithms help determine credit ratings, loan terms, bank account fees, and other aspects of our financial lives. AI also affects hiring, housing and working conditions.
Ben Winters, senior counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said a joint statement on enforcement released by federal agencies last month was a positive first step.
“There’s this narrative that AI is entirely unregulated, which is not really true,” he said. “They’re saying, ‘Just because you use AI to make a decision, that doesn’t mean you’re exempt from responsibility regarding the impacts of that decision. This is our opinion on this. We’re watching.’”
In the past year, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau said it has fined banks over mismanaged automated systems that resulted in wrongful home foreclosures, car repossessions and lost benefit payments, after the institutions relied on new technology and faulty algorithms.
There will be no “AI exemptions” to consumer protection, regulators say, pointing to these enforcement actions as examples.
Consumer Finance Protection Bureau Director Rohit Chopra said the agency has “already started some work to continue to muscle up internally when it comes to bringing on board data scientists, technologists and others to make sure we can confront these challenges” and that the agency is continuing to identify potentially illegal activity.
Representatives from the Federal Trade Commission, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Department of Justice, as well as the CFPB, all say they’re directing resources and staff to take aim at new tech and identify negative ways it could affect consumers’ lives.
“One of the things we’re trying to make crystal clear is that if companies don’t even understand how their AI is making decisions, they can’t really use it,” Chopra said. “In other cases, we’re looking at how our fair lending laws are being adhered to when it comes to the use of all of this data.”
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act and Equal Credit Opportunity Act, for example, financial providers have a legal obligation to explain any adverse credit decision. Those regulations likewise apply to decisions made about housing and employment. Where AI make decisions in ways that are too opaque to explain, regulators say the algorithms shouldn’t be used.
“I think there was a sense that, ‘Oh, let’s just give it to the robots and there will be no more discrimination,’” Chopra said. “I think the learning is that that actually isn’t true at all. In some ways the bias is built into the data.”
EEOC Chair Charlotte Burrows said there will be enforcement against AI hiring technology that screens out job applicants with disabilities, for example, as well as so-called “bossware” that illegally surveils workers.
Burrows also described ways that algorithms might dictate how and when employees can work in ways that would violate existing law.
“If you need a break because you have a disability or perhaps you’re pregnant, you need a break,” she said. “The algorithm doesn’t necessarily take into account that accommodation. Those are things that we are looking closely at. … I want to be clear that while we recognize that the technology is evolving, the underlying message here is the laws still apply and we do have tools to enforce.”
OpenAI’s top lawyer, at a conference this month, suggested an industry-led approach to regulation.
“I think it first starts with trying to get to some kind of standards,” Jason Kwon, OpenAI’s general counsel, told a tech summit in Washington hosted by software industry group BSA. “Those could start with industry standards and some sort of coalescing around that. And decisions about whether or not to make those compulsory, and also then what’s the process for updating them, those things are probably fertile ground for more conversation.”
Sam Altman, the head of OpenAI, which makes ChatGPT, said government intervention “will be critical to mitigate the risks of increasingly powerful” AI systems, suggesting the formation of a U.S. or global agency to license and regulate the technology.
While there’s no immediate sign that Congress will craft sweeping new AI rules as European lawmakers are doing, societal concerns brought Altman and other tech CEOs to the White House this month to answer hard questions about the implications of these tools.
Global investment in clean energy production in 2023 will be significantly larger than investment in fossil fuel-based energy generation, and for the first time, more money will be invested in solar energy than in the oil sector, according to a report issued by the International Energy Agency on Thursday.
The report, World Energy Investment 2023, finds that globally, $2.8 trillion will be invested in energy in 2023, including production, transmission and storage. Of that amount, $1.7 trillion will be invested in clean technology, which the IEA defines as “renewables, electric vehicles, nuclear power, grids, storage, low-emissions fuels, efficiency improvements and heat pumps.”
The estimate for clean energy for 2023 reflects a 24% increase over that for 2021 in a sector expected to continue growing for the foreseeable future, as governments worldwide attempt to meet the internationally agreed-on target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Achieving that goal would allow the world to avoid some of the worst effects of global warming.
While the report shows that the road to a zero-carbon future is long, it also offers the possibility that key interim goals, including total investment targets for 2030, remain achievable.
“Clean energy is moving fast — faster than many people realize,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement accompanying the report. “This is clear in the investment trends, where clean technologies are pulling away from fossil fuels. For every dollar invested in fossil fuels, about 1.7 dollars are now going into clean energy. Five years ago, this ratio was 1-to-1. One shining example is investment in solar, which is set to overtake the amount of investment going into oil production for the first time.”
The report estimates that in 2023, total global investment in solar power technology will be $382 billion, compared with $371 billion invested in oil production. In 2013, the amount invested in oil production was $636 billion, five times larger than the $127 billion invested in solar.
No pandemic slowdown
Nat Bullard, an energy analyst and a senior contributor to BloombergNEF, which provides strategic research on the transition to a low-carbon economy, told VOA that the IEA report was clarifying after a period of complexity in the energy markets.
“We have had, in succession and overlapping, a pandemic, a supply chain crunch, inflation and a very, very large war all going on at once,” he said. “They’ve made long-term trends hard to see because you’ve had a lot of near-term variability.
“What the report highlights, and the IEA has generally been very clear, is that if you look on an evidence basis, during COVID we did not actually see any deceleration in interest in energy transition,” he said. “In the years after that, supply chain disruptions, high prices for hydrocarbons and big conflicts have actually encouraged investment.”
Not evenly distributed
China is far and away the largest single investor in clean energy, plunging $184 billion into the selector in 2022. Taken as a whole, the European Union invested $154 billion in clean energy in 2022.
The U.S. trailed both, with $97 billion invested last year. However, the amount spent by the U.S. in 2023 will likely be significantly larger thanks to passage of legislation last year containing funding for clean energy generation.
Rounding out the top five, Japan invested $28 billion in clean energy; India, $19 billion.
While rising investment in renewable power is good news in the climate-change fight, the IEA points out that it is heavily tilted toward large developed economies, with poorer countries and the Global South, in particular, seeing relatively little investment.
The entire continent of Africa, for example, saw just $10 billion in clean energy investment in 2022.
Electric vehicles and batteries
Two of the fastest-growing segments of the clean energy investment space are electric vehicles (EVs) and batteries that store power generated by clean energy technologies.
In 2023, the IEA estimates that $129 billion will be invested in electric vehicle technology, more than nine times the $14 billion invested just five years earlier. Battery storage will be the target of $37 billion in investment this year, over seven times the $5 billion invested in the sector in 2018.
In both segments, China is leading the way. In 2022, the entire world’s production capacity for lithium-ion batteries, the type most commonly used in EVs, stood at 1.57 terawatt hours. China accounted for 76% of that capacity. By 2030, according to the IEA, that capacity will have ballooned to 6.79 TWh, but China’s dominance will continue, accounting for 68% of the total.
Fossil fuels still growing
While renewables may be attracting more investment dollars than fossil fuels in 2023, the IEA reported that consumption of fossil fuels will continue to rise this year.
Meeting the net-zero goal in 2050 requires a slowing of investment in fossil fuels technology, according to the IEA. According to the report, more than $1 trillion will be invested in fossil fuels in 2023. To meet the agency’s benchmark for progress, that figure would have to be reduced by more than half by 2030.
Conversely, to remain on track, investment in clean energy must continue to grow. The agency estimates that to meet the benchmark for 2030, annual investment will have to grow from $1.7 trillion this year to $4.6 trillion in 2030.
To reach that goal, clean energy spending would have to grow by about 15% every year between now and 2030, somewhat higher than the 11.4% annual growth the sector has experienced over the past three years.
State-sponsored Chinese hackers have infiltrated critical U.S. infrastructure networks, the United States, its Western allies and Microsoft said Wednesday while warning that similar espionage attacks could be occurring globally.
Microsoft highlighted Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific Ocean with a vital military outpost, as one of the targets, but said “malicious” activity had also been detected elsewhere in the United States.
The stealthy attack — carried out by a China-sponsored actor dubbed “Volt Typhoon” since mid-2021 — enabled long-term espionage and was likely aimed at hampering the United States if there was conflict in the region, it said.
“Microsoft assesses with moderate confidence that this Volt Typhoon campaign is pursuing development of capabilities that could disrupt critical communications infrastructure between the United States and Asia region during future crises,” the statement said.
“In this campaign, the affected organizations span the communications, manufacturing, utility, transportation, construction, maritime, government, information technology, and education sectors.”
Microsoft’s statement coincided with an advisory released by U.S., Australian, Canadian, New Zealand and British authorities warning that the hacking was likely occurring globally.
“This activity affects networks across US critical infrastructure sectors, and the authoring agencies believe the actor could apply the same techniques against these and other sectors worldwide,” they said.
‘Living off the land’
The United States and its allies said the activities involved “living off the land” tactics, which take advantage of built-in network tools to blend in with normal Windows systems.
It warned that the hacking could then incorporate legitimate system administration commands that appear “benign”.
Microsoft said the Volt Typhoon attack tried to blend into normal network activity by routing traffic through compromised small office and home office network equipment, including routers, firewalls and VPN hardware.
“They have also been observed using custom versions of open-source tools,” Microsoft said.
Microsoft and the security agencies released guidelines for organizations to try to detect and counter the hacking.
“It’s what I would term a low and slow cyber activity,” said Alastair MacGibbon, chief strategy officer at Australia’s CyberCX and a former head of the Australian Cyber Security Centre.
“This is someone wearing a camouflage vest and carrying a sniper rifle. You don’t see them, they’re not there,” he told AFP.
“When you think about something that can really cause catastrophic harm, it is someone with intent who takes time to get into systems.”
Once inside, the cyber attackers can steal information, he said. “But it also gives you the ability to carry out destructive acts at a later stage.”
A number of other governments had found similar activity since the Volt Typhoon alert was issued, said Robert Potter, co-founder of Australian cybersecurity firm Internet 2.0.
“I am not sure how communications infrastructure would be at risk from these attacks because those networks are highly resilient and difficult to bring down for more than small intervals,” Potter told AFP.
“However, the ongoing threat from China-based APT (advanced persistent threat) groups is real.”
The director of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Jen Easterly, said China had been stealing intellectual property and data worldwide for years.
“Today’s advisory, put out in conjunction with our U.S. and international partners, reflects how China is using highly sophisticated means to target our nation’s critical infrastructure,” Easterly said.
China offered no immediate response to the allegations. But it routinely denies carrying out state-sponsored cyber-attacks.
China in turn regularly accuses the United States of cyber espionage.
Beijing’s restrictions on American chipmaker Micron in retaliation to sweeping US chip curbs mark a major step up in its response to Washington’s pressure and could open the door for further measures in the geopolitical standoff, analysts say.
But they warned President Xi Jinping’s ability to raise the stakes will be limited as he battles to re-energize the world’s number two economy while it struggles to recover from years of zero-Covid-imposed inertia.
China on Sunday banned the use of Micron’s chips in critical infrastructure projects, which Beijing said posed “major network security risks” that could affect “national security”.
Washington expressed “serious concerns” over the ruling that came just as leaders of the world’s seven richest nations (G7) signed a statement urging Beijing to end “economic coercion”.
The move marked a significant shift in China’s response to US measures that have targeted the country’s technology sector, with Gary Ng, a senior economist at Natixis who specializes in the global chip trade, calling it “a landmark case”.
He emphasized it was China’s first cybersecurity probe into a foreign company since tighter rules were announced in 2021, and a rare instance when the scope of such reviews was expanded to include national security concerns.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if regulators used these reviews as a tool for retaliation in future” when faced with other geopolitical issues, he said.
Emily Weinstein, a research fellow at Georgetown University specializing in the US-China tech rivalry, added that the definition of what fell under “critical information infrastructure” was very broad — ranging from online government services and defense to healthcare and water conservation.
“Technically that could mean that anything qualifies,” she said.
“China has consistently found national security or other reasons to create protectionist barriers” including mandatory technology transfer agreements, which require companies to store all data locally and requirements for foreign entities to have joint ventures with local partners in several sectors.
‘Fuel to this fire’
China began an investigation into Micron in late March, five months after the US unveiled sweeping curbs aimed at cutting off Beijing’s access to high-end chips, chipmaking equipment and software used to design semiconductors.
“This is clearly part of a tit-for-tat retaliation for what Beijing perceives as Washington’s support of Micron and the US semiconductor industry,” said Paul Triolo, a China tech expert at consultancy Albright Stonebridge.
Micron was singled out to make a political statement, Triolo said, adding that previous cybersecurity reviews of domestic firms, such as ride-hailing app Didi, focused on data instead of broadening the scope to include national security.
Washington has banned Chinese chipmakers including Micron rival Yangtze Memory Technologies.
The announcement came as the G7 nations said they would move to “de-risk, not decouple” from China, while Washington pressures allies to unite in restricting chip equipment exports to China.
“The strong statement from G7 may have added fuel to this fire,” Ng said.
However, Xi’s desire to combat what he sees as US hegemony will need to be balanced against the impact such measures would have on the economy.
According to analysts, Micron — one of the US’s largest memory chipmakers — was an easy target because its semiconductors could be replaced by products from South Korea’s SK Hynix and Samsung.
But restrictions against other US firms such as Intel and Qualcomm would be much harder to deal with because their technologies are used in consumer goods, including smartphones, that are made in the country and shipped abroad.
Betting on South Korea
“The approach of limiting US firms like Micron intends to send a signal that Beijing is willing to bear some pain as it contests with the US,” Ja Ian Chong, an associate professor of political science at the National University of Singapore, said.
“But Beijing is quite careful to limit costs to itself,” he said, according to Bloomberg News.
The ban will come down particularly hard on companies offering cloud services or data centers because they use hardware that requires high-end memory chips, according to Toby Zhu, an analyst at market research firm Canalys.
He told AFP that Micron’s consumer goods products are “completely replaceable” by South Korean and domestic memory chip suppliers.
And Triolo said Beijing was “betting on switching to South Korean suppliers”.
However, the White House last month urged South Korean chipmakers not to export to China to fill any gap left by a ban on US semiconductor imports.
The Netherlands and Japan have already announced their own restrictions on chip exports, following requests from Washington.
Ng added: “China has been quite cautious not to retaliate too much… because Beijing can’t ramp up domestic capacity quickly to match any shortfall.”
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