КУПУЙ!

У літній сезон падають спроможності гідрогенерації, яка є основним джерелом гнучкості енергосистеми, розповів представник компанії

WASHINGTON — The United States announced regulatory changes on Tuesday to increase support for the Cuban people and independent private sector entrepreneurs. The changes will enable more U.S. financial support for small private businesses in Cuba, enhance internet-based services on the island and broaden access to financial services.

The new U.S. measures come as the communist-run island faces a social and economic crisis, including severe shortages of food, fuel, electricity and medicine.

A senior administration official stated that the new authorization allows Cuba’s independent private sector entrepreneurs to open and remotely access U.S. bank accounts, including through U.S. online payment platforms.

As of 2021, Cuban entrepreneurs can establish small and medium private enterprises under Cuban law. By the latest count, there are over 11,000 registered private businesses in Cuba.

“It’s important to note that the new definition for independent private sector entrepreneurship excludes prohibited officials of the Cuban government, such as National Assembly members, Cuban military officers, certain ministry staff, regime propagandists and prohibited members of the Cuban Communist Party,” the senior official told reporters during a briefing on Tuesday.

New U.S. regulatory measures will benefit the Cuban people while continuing to minimize resources to the Cuban government, said another senior official in President Joe Biden’s administration.

“We believe that the growth of an independent entrepreneurial private sector in Cuba is fully aligned with our values and is the best hope for generating economic development and employment in Cuba,” said the senior official.

The Treasury Department said that Tuesday’s regulatory changes will allow Cuban nationals to open, maintain and remotely use U.S. bank accounts, including through online payment platforms, to conduct authorized or exempt transactions, whether the independent private sector entrepreneur is physically located in the United States, Cuba or another country.

Earlier this month, the U.S. removed Cuba from its list of countries “not cooperating fully” in the fight against terrorism. However, Cuba remains on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list.

The cooperation against terrorism list, which the State Department is required by law to provide to Congress, is not the same as the State Sponsors of Terrorism list.

U.S. officials declined to comment on whether the State Department has begun a formal review of Cuba’s presence on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. U.S. sanctions against the Cuban government, its military intelligence and security services remain in place.

Він додав, що під час двосторонньої зустрічі з Фіалою сторони обговорили реалізацію артилерійської ініціативи, на яку «зібрано вже понад 1,6 мільярда євро»

TOKYO — The operator of Japan’s destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant demonstrated Tuesday how a remote-controlled robot would retrieve tiny bits of melted fuel debris from one of three damaged reactors later this year for the first time since the 2011 meltdown.

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings plans to deploy a “telesco-style” extendable pipe robot into Fukushima Daiichi No. 2 reactor to test the removal of debris from its primary containment vessel by October.

That work is more than two years behind schedule. The removal of melted fuel was supposed to begin in late 2021 but has been plagued with delays, underscoring the difficulty of recovering from the magnitude 9.0 quake and tsunami in 2011.

During the demonstration at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ shipyard in Kobe, western Japan, where the robot has been developed, a device equipped with tongs slowly descended from the telescopic pipe to a heap of gravel and picked up a granule.

TEPCO plans to remove less than 3 grams (0.1 ounce) of debris in the test at the Fukushima plant.

“We believe the upcoming test removal of fuel debris from Unit 2 is an extremely important step to steadily carry out future decommissioning work,” said Yusuke Nakagawa, a TEPCO group manager for the fuel debris retrieval program. “It is important to proceed with the test removal safely and steadily.”

About 880 tons of highly radioactive melted nuclear fuel remain inside the three damaged reactors. Critics say the 30- to 40-year cleanup target set by the government and TEPCO for Fukushima Daiichi is overly optimistic. The damage in each reactor is different, and plans must accommodate their conditions.

Better understanding the melted fuel debris from inside the reactors is key to their decommissioning. TEPCO deployed four mini drones into the No. 1 reactor’s primary containment vessel earlier this year to capture images from the areas where robots had not reached.

У квітні 2024 року сума державного і гарантованого державою боргу України збільшилась у гривневому еквіваленті на 86,17 млрд гривень

NEW YORK — Americans who spend Memorial Day scouting sales online and in stores may find more reasons to celebrate the return of warmer weather. Major retailers are stepping up discounts heading into the summer months, hoping to entice inflation-weary shoppers into opening their wallets.

Target, Walmart and other chains have rolled out price cuts — some permanent, others temporary — with the stated aim of giving their customers some relief. The reductions, which mostly involve groceries, are getting introduced as inflation showed its first sign of easing this year but not enough for consumers who are struggling to pay for basic necessities as well as rent and car insurance.

The latest quarterly earnings reported by Walmart, Macy’s and Ralph Lauren underscored that consumers have not stopped spending. But multiple CE0s, including the heads of McDonald’s, Starbucks and home improvement retailer Home Depot, have observed that people are becoming more price-conscious and choosy. They’re delaying purchases, focusing on store brands compared to typically more expensive national brands, and looking for deals.

“Retailers recognize that unless they pull out some stops on pricing, they are going to have difficulty holding on to the customers they got,” Neil Saunders, managing director of consulting and data analysis firm GlobalData, said. “The consumer really has had enough of inflation, and they’re starting to take action in terms of where they shop, how they shop, the amount they buy.”

While discounts are an everyday tool in retail, Saunders said these aggressive price cuts that cover thousands of items announced by a number of retailers represent a “major shift” in recent strategy. He noted most companies talked about price increases in the past two or three years, and the cut mark the first big “price war” since before inflation started taking hold.

Where can shoppers find lower prices?

Higher-income shoppers looking to save money have helped Walmart maintain strong sales in recent quarters. But earlier this month, the nation’s largest retailer expanded its price rollbacks — temporary discounts that can last a few months — to nearly 7,000 grocery items, a 45% increase. Items include a 28-ounce can of Bush’s baked beans marked down to $2.22, from $2.48, and a 24-pack of 12-ounce Diet Coke priced at $12.78 from $14.28.

Company executives said the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer is seeing more people eating at home versus eating out. Walmart believes its discounts will help the business over the remainder of the year.

“We’re going to lead on price, and we’re going to manage our (profit) margins, and we’re going to be the Walmart that we’ve always been,” CEO Doug McMillon told analysts earlier this month.

Not to be outdone by its closest competitor, Target last week cut prices on 1,500 items and said it planned to make price cuts on another 3,500 this summer. The initiative primarily applies to food, beverage and essential household items. For example, Clorox scented wipes that previously cost $5.79 are on shelves for $4.99. Huggies Baby Wipes, which were priced at $1.19, now cost 99 cents.

Low-cost supermarket chain Aldi said earlier this month that it was cutting prices on 250 products, including favorites for barbecues and picnics, as part of a promotion set to last through Labor Day.

McDonald’s plans to introduce a limited-time $5 meal deal in the U.S. next month to counter slowing sales and customers’ frustration with high prices.

Arko Corp., a large operator of convenience stores in rural areas and small towns, is launching its most aggressive deals in terms of their depth in roughly 20 years for both members of its free loyalty program and other customers, according to Arie Kotler, the company’s chairman, president and CEO. For example, members of Arko’s free loyalty program who buy two 12-packs of Pepsi beverages get a free pizza. The promotions kicked off May 15 and are due to end Sept. 3.

Kotler said he focused on essential items that people use to feed their families after observing that the cumulative effects of higher gas prices and inflation in other areas had customers hold back compared to a year ago.

“Over the past two quarters, we have seen the trend of consumers cutting back, consumers coming less often, and consumers reducing their purchases,” he said.

In the non-food category, crafts chain Michaels last month reduced prices of frequently purchased items like paint, markers and artist canvases. The price reductions ranged from 15% to up to 40%. Michaels said the cuts are intended to be permanent.

Do these cuts bring prices back to pre-pandemic levels?

Many retailers said their goal was to offer some relief for shoppers. But Michaels said its new discounts brought prices for some things down to where they were in 2019.

“Our intention with these cuts is to ensure we’re delivering value to the customer,” The Michaels Companies said. ”We see it as an investment in customer loyalty more than anything else.”

Target said it was difficult to compare what its price-reduced products cost now to a specific time frame since inflation levels are different for each item and the reductions varied by item.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tracks consumer prices, said the average price of a two-liter bottle of soda in April was $2.27. That compares with $1.53 in the same month five years ago. A pound of white bread cost an average of $2 last month but $1.29 in April 2019. One pound of ground chuck that averaged $5.28 in April cost $3.91 five years ago.

Why are companies cutting prices on some items?

U.S. consumer confidence deteriorated for the third straight month in April as Americans continued to fret about their short-term financial futures, according to the latest report released late last month from the Conference Board, a business research group.

With shoppers focusing more on bargains, particularly online, retailers are trying to get customers back to their stores. Target this month posted its fourth consecutive quarterly decline in comparable sales — those from stores or digital channels operating at least 12 months.

In fact, the share of online sales for the cheapest items across many categories, including clothing, groceries, personal care and appliances, increased from April 2019 to the same month this year, according to Adobe Analytics, which covers more than 1 trillion visits to U.S. retail sites.

For example, the market share for the cheapest groceries went from 38% in April 2019 to 48% last month, while the share for the most expensive groceries went down from 22% to 9% over the same time period, according to Adobe.

How are retailers funding price cuts?

GlobalData’s Saunders said he thinks companies are subsidizing price cuts with a variety of methods — at the expense of profits, at the cost of suppliers and vendors, or by reducing expenses. Some retailers may be using a combination of all three, he said.

Saunders doesn’t think retailers are raising prices on other items to make up for the ones they lowered since doing that would bring a backlash from customers.

Target declined to disclose details but said its summer price promotion was incorporated into the company’s projected profit range, which falls below analysts’ expectations at the low end.

GPM Investments, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of ARKO Corp. said its suppliers are funding the convenience store promotions.

З боку України участь у відкритті місії взяв міністр фінансів Сергій Марченко

detroit — Cars, trucks and SUVs in the U.S. keep getting older, hitting a record average age of 12.6 years in 2024 as people hang on to their vehicles largely because new ones cost so much. 

S&P Global Mobility, which tracks state vehicle registration data nationwide, said Wednesday that the average vehicle age grew about two months from last year’s record. 

But the growth in average age is starting to slow as new vehicle sales start to recover from pandemic-related shortages of parts, including computer chips. The average increased by three months in 2023. 

Still, with an average U.S. new-vehicle selling price of just over $45,000 last month, many can’t afford to buy new — even though prices are down more than $2,000 from the peak in December of 2022, according to J.D. Power. 

“It’s prohibitively high for a lot of households now,” said Todd Campau, aftermarket leader for S&P Global Mobility. “So I think consumers are being painted into the corner of having to keep the vehicle on the road longer.” 

Other factors include people waiting to see if they want to buy an electric vehicle or go with a gas-electric hybrid or a gasoline vehicle. Many, he said, are worried about the charging network being built up so they can travel without worrying about running out of battery power. Also, he said, vehicles are made better these days and simply are lasting a long time. 

New vehicle sales in the U.S. are starting to return to pre-pandemic levels, with prices and interest rates the big influencing factors rather than illness and supply-chain problems, Campau said. He said he expects sales to hit around 16 million this year, up from 15.6 million last year and 13.9 million in 2022. 

As more new vehicles are sold and replace aging vehicles in the nation’s fleet of 286 million passenger vehicles, the average age should stop growing and stabilize, Campau said. And unlike immediately after the pandemic, more lower-cost vehicles are being sold, which likely will bring down the average price, he said. 

People keeping vehicles longer is good news for the local auto repair shop. About 70% of vehicles on the road are six or more years old, he said, beyond manufacturer warranties. 

Those who are able to keep their rides for multiple years usually get the oil changed regularly and follow manufacturer maintenance schedules, Campau noted.

NEW YORK — Three years ago, Erin Decker was a middle school librarian in Kissimmee, Florida, increasingly frustrated by the state’s book bans and worried that she couldn’t make a difference remaining in her job.

So, she and fellow librarian Tania Galiñanes thought of a way to fight back.

“We just put our heads together and decided a bookstore would help make sure students could get to books that were being pulled from shelves,” says Decker, whose White Rose Books & More opened last fall in Kissimmee. The store is named for a resistance group in Nazi Germany and features a section — ringed by yellow “caution” tape — dedicated to such banned works as Maia Kabobe’s Gender Queer, Jonathan Evison’s Lawn Boy and John Green’s Looking for Alaska.

White Rose Books is part of the ever-expanding and diversifying world of independent bookstores. Even as industry sales were slow in 2023, membership in the American Booksellers Association continued its years-long revival. It now stands at 2,433, more than 200 over the previous year and nearly double since 2016. Around 190 more stores are in the process of opening over the next two years, according to the ABA.

“Our numbers are really strong, and we have a solid, diverse pipeline of new stores to come,” says Allison Hill, the book association’s CEO. She cites a range of reasons for people opening stores, from opposing bans to championing diversity to pursuing new careers after the pandemic.

“Some are opening to give back to their community. And some still just love books,” she said during a phone interview this week.

Recent members include everyone from the romance-oriented That’s What She Read in Mount Ayr, Iowa; to Seven Stories in Shawnee, Kansas, managed by 15-year-old Halley Vincent; to more than 20 Black-owned shops.

In Pasadena, California, Octavia’s Bookshelf is named for the late Black science fiction author Octavia Butler and bills itself as “a space to find community, enjoy a cup of coffee, read, relax, find unique and specially curated products from artisans from around the world and in our neighborhood.” Leah Johnson, author of the prize-winning young adult novel You Should See Me In a Crown, was troubled by the surge in book bans and by what she saw as a shortage of outlets for diverse voices. Last year, she founded Loudmouth Books, one of several independent sellers to open in Indianapolis.

“I’m not a person who dreamed of opening a bookstore. I didn’t want to be anybody’s boss,” Johnson says. “But I saw a need and I had to fill it.”

Most of the new businesses are traditional “brick and mortar” retailers. But a “bookstore” can also mean a “pop-up” business like Loc’d & Lit, which has a mission to bring “the joy of reading to the Bronx,” the New York City borough that had been viewed by the industry as a “desert” for its scarcity of bookstores. Other new stores are online only, among them the Be More Literature Children’s Bookshop and the used books seller Liberation Is Lit. Nick Pavlidis, a publisher, ghost writer and trainer of ghost writers, launched the online Beantown Books in 2023 and has since opened a small physical store in suburban Boston.

“My goal is to move into a larger space and create a friendly place for authors to host events,” he says, adding that he’d like to eventually own several stores.

Independent bookselling has never been dependably profitable, and Hill notes various concerns — rising costs, dwindling aid from the pandemic and the ongoing force of Amazon.com, which remains the industry’s dominate retailer even after the e-book market stalled a decade ago. Last month, the booksellers association filed a motion with the Federal Trade Commission, seeking to join the antitrust suit against Amazon that the FTC announced in 2023. The motion states in part that Amazon is able to offer prices “that ABA members cannot match except by forgoing a sustainable margin, or incurring a loss.”

Just opening a store requires initiative and a willingness to take risks. Decker says that she and Galiñanes had to use retirement money because lenders wouldn’t provide credit until they were actually in business. The owner of Octavia’s Bookshelf, Nikki High, is a former communications director for Trader Joe’s who relied on crowdfunding and her own savings to get her store started.

“Even with tons of planning, and asking questions and running numbers, it’s been very difficult,” High says. “I don’t know that I could have prepared myself for what a shrewd business person you have to be to making a living out of this.”

High cites a variety of challenges and adjustments — convincing customers they don’t have to order items from Amazon.com, supplementing sales by offering tote bags and journals and other non-book items. Knowing which books to stock has also proved an education.

“I would read a book and think it’s the best thing ever and order a bunch of copies, and everybody else is like, ‘No, I don’t want that book,'” she explains. “And when we started, I wanted to be everything for everybody. We had a ton of different categories. But I found out that short stories and poetry almost never sell for us. People want general fiction, bestsellers, children’s books. Classics sell very well, books by James Baldwin and Toni Morrison and bell hooks and June Jordan.”

“It’s incredibly important to listen to your customers.”

SACRAMENTO, California — California could eventually join the European Union in requiring all new cars to alert drivers when they break the speed limit, a proposal aimed at reducing traffic deaths that would likely impact motorists across the country should it become law.

The federal government sets safety standards for vehicles nationwide, which is why most cars now beep at drivers if their seat belt isn’t fastened. A bill in the California Legislature — which passed its first vote in the state Senate on Tuesday — would go further by requiring all new cars sold in the state by 2032 to beep at drivers when they exceed the speed limit by at least 16 kph.

“Research has shown that this does have an impact in getting people to slow down, particularly since some people don’t realize how fast that their car is going,” said state Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco and the bill’s author.

The bill narrowly passed Tuesday, an indication of the tough road it could face. Republican state Sen. Brian Dahle said he voted against it in part because he said sometimes people need to drive faster than the speed limit in an emergency.

“It’s just a nanny state that we’re causing here,” he said.

While the goal is to reduce traffic deaths, the legislation would likely impact all new car sales in the U.S. That’s because California’s auto market is so large that car makers would likely just make all of their vehicles comply with the state’s law.

California often throws its weight around to influence national — and international — policy. California has set its own emission standards for cars for decades, rules that more than a dozen other states have also adopted. And when California announced it would eventually ban the sale of new gas-powered cars, major automakers soon followed with their own announcement to phase out fossil-fuel vehicles.

The technology, known as intelligent speed assistance, uses GPS technology to compare a vehicle’s speed with a dataset of posted speed limits. Once the car is at least 16 kph over the speed limit, the system would emit “a brief, one-time visual and audio signal to alert the driver.”

It would not require California to maintain a list of posted speed limits. That would be left to manufacturers. It’s likely these maps would not include local roads or recent changes in speed limits, resulting in conflicts.

The bill states that if the system receives conflicting information about the speed limit, it must use the higher limit.

The technology is not new and has been used in Europe for years. Starting later this year, the European Union will require all new cars sold there to have the technology — although drivers would be able to turn it off.

The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 10% of all car crashes reported to police in 2021 were speeding related — including an 8% increase in speeding-related fatalities. This was especially a problem in California, where 35% of traffic fatalities were speeding-related — the second highest in the country, according to a legislative analysis of the proposal.

Last year, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended federal regulators require all new cars to alert drivers when speeding. Their recommendation came after a crash in January 2022 when a man with a history of speeding violations was traveling more than 100 miles per hour when he ran a red light and hit a minivan, killing himself and eight other people.

The NTSB has no authority and can only make recommendations.

washington — China promotes its help to Southeast Asian countries in modernizing their digital landscapes through investments in infrastructure as part of its “Digital Silk Road.” But rights groups say Beijing is also exporting its model of authoritarian governance of the internet through censorship, surveillance and controls.

China’s state media this week announced Chinese electrical appliance manufacturer Midea Group jointly built its first overseas 5G factory in Thailand with Thai mobile operator AIS, Chinese telecom service provider China Unicom and tech giant Huawei.

The 208,000-square-meter smart factory will have its own 5G network, Xinhua news agency reported.

Earlier this month, Beijing reached an agreement with Cambodia to establish a Digital Law Library of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Inter-Parliamentary Assembly. Cambodia’s Khmer Times said the objective is to “expand all-round cooperation in line with the strategic partnership and building a common destiny community.”

But parallel to China’s state media-promoted technology investments, rights groups say Beijing is also helping countries in the region to build what they call “digital authoritarian governance.”

Article 19, an international human rights organization dedicated to promoting freedom of expression globally and named after Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in an April report said the purpose of the Digital Silk Road is not solely to promote China’s technology industry. The report, China: The rise of digital repression in the Indo-Pacific, says Beijing is also using its technology to reshape the region’s standards of digital freedom and governance to increasingly match its own.

VOA contacted the Chinese Embassy in the U.S. for a response but did not receive one by the time of publication.

Model of digital governance

Looking at case studies of Cambodia, Malaysia, Nepal and Thailand, the Article 19 report says Beijing is spreading China’s model of digital governance along with Chinese technology and investments from companies such as Huawei, ZTE and Alibaba.

Michael Caster, Asia digital program manager with Article 19, told VOA, “China has been successful at providing a needed service, in the delivery of digital development toward greater connectivity, but also in making digital development synonymous with the adoption of PRC [People’s Republic of China]-style digital governance, which is at odds with international human rights and internet freedom principles, by instead promoting notions of total state control through censorship and surveillance, and digital sovereignty away from universal norms.”

The group says in Thailand, home to the world’s largest overseas Chinese community, agreements with China bolstered internet controls imposed after Thailand’s 2014 coup, and it notes that Bangkok has since been considering a China-style Great Firewall, the censorship mechanism Beijing uses to control online content.

In Nepal, the report notes security and intelligence-sharing agreements with China and concerns that Chinese security camera technology is being used to surveil exiled Tibetans, the largest such group outside India.

The group says Malaysia’s approach to information infrastructure appears to increasingly resemble China’s model, citing Kuala Lumpur’s cybersecurity law passed in April and its partnering with Chinese companies whose technology has been used for repressing minorities inside China.

Most significantly, Article 19 says China is involved at “all levels” of Cambodia’s digital ecosystem. Huawei, which is facing increasing bans in Western nations over cybersecurity concerns, has a monopoly on cloud services in Cambodia.

While Chinese companies say they would not hand over private data to Beijing, experts doubt they would have any choice because of national security laws.

Internet gateway

Phnom Penh announced a decree in 2021 to build a National Internet Gateway similar to China’s Great Firewall, restricting the Cambodian people’s access to Western media and social networking sites.

“That we have seen the normalization of a China-style Great Firewall in some of the countries where China’s influence is most pronounced or its digital development support strongest, such as with Cambodia, is no coincidence,” Caster said.

The Cambodian government says the portal will strengthen national security and help combat tax fraud and cybercrime. But the Internet Society, a U.S.- and Switzerland-based nonprofit internet freedom group, says it would allow the government to monitor individual internet use and transactions, and to trace identities and locations.

Kian Vesteinsson, a senior researcher for technology and democracy with rights group Freedom House, told VOA, “The Chinese Communist Party and companies that are aligned with the Chinese state have led a charge internationally to push for internet fragmentation. And when I say internet fragmentation, I mean these efforts to carve out domestic internets that are isolated from global internet traffic.”

Despite Chinese support and investment, Vesteinsson notes that Cambodia has not yet implemented the plan for a government-controlled internet.

“Building the Chinese model of digital authoritarianism into a country’s internet infrastructure is extraordinarily difficult. It’s expensive. It requires technical capacity. It requires state capacity, and all signs point to the Cambodian government struggling on those fronts.”

Vesteinsson says while civil society and foreign political pressure play a role, business concerns are also relevant as requirements to censor online speech or spy on users create costs for the private sector.

“These governments that are trying to cultivate e-commerce should keep in mind that a legal environment that is free from these obligations to do censorship and surveillance will be more appealing to companies that are evaluating whether to start up domestic operations,” he said.

Article 19’s Caster says countries concerned about China’s authoritarian internet model spreading should do more to support connectivity and internet development worldwide.

“This support should be based on human rights law and internet freedom principles,” he said, “to prevent China from exploiting internet development needs to position its services – and often by extension its authoritarian model – as the most accessible option.”

China will hold its annual internet conference in Beijing July 9-11. China’s Xinhua news agency reports this year’s conference will discuss artificial intelligence, digital government, information technology application innovation, data security and international cooperation.

Adrianna Zhang contributed to this report.

DENVER — The first attempts to regulate artificial intelligence programs that play a hidden role in hiring, housing and medical decisions for millions of Americans are facing pressure from all sides and floundering in statehouses nationwide.

Only one of seven bills aimed at preventing AI’s penchant to discriminate when making consequential decisions — including who gets hired, money for a home or medical care — has passed. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis hesitantly signed the bill on Friday.

Colorado’s bill and those that faltered in Washington, Connecticut and elsewhere faced battles on many fronts, including between civil rights groups and the tech industry, and lawmakers wary of wading into a technology few yet understand and governors worried about being the odd-state-out and spooking AI startups.

Polis signed Colorado’s bill “with reservations,” saying in an statement he was wary of regulations dousing AI innovation. The bill has a two-year runway and can be altered before it becomes law.

“I encourage (lawmakers) to significantly improve on this before it takes effect,” Polis wrote.

Colorado’s proposal, along with six sister bills, are complex, but will broadly require companies to assess the risk of discrimination from their AI and inform customers when AI was used to help make a consequential decision for them.

The bills are separate from more than 400 AI-related bills that have been debated this year. Most are aimed at slices of AI, such as the use of deepfakes in elections or to make pornography.

The seven bills are more ambitious, applying across major industries and targeting discrimination, one of the technology’s most perverse and complex problems.

“We actually have no visibility into the algorithms that are used, whether they work or they don’t, or whether we’re discriminated against,” said Rumman Chowdhury, AI envoy for the U.S. Department of State who previously led Twitter’s AI ethics team.

While anti-discrimination laws are already on the books, those who study AI discrimination say it’s a different beast, which the U.S. is already behind in regulating.

“The computers are making biased decisions at scale,” said Christine Webber, a civil rights attorney who has worked on class action lawsuits over discrimination including against Boeing and Tyson Foods. Now, Webber is nearing final approval on one of the first-in-the-nation settlements in a class action over AI discrimination.

“Not, I should say, that the old systems were perfectly free from bias either,” said Webber. But “any one person could only look at so many resumes in the day. So you could only make so many biased decisions in one day and the computer can do it rapidly across large numbers of people.”

When you apply for a job, an apartment or a home loan, there’s a good chance AI is assessing your application: sending it up the line, assigning it a score or filtering it out. It’s estimated as many as 83% of employers use algorithms to help in hiring, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

AI itself doesn’t know what to look for in a job application, so it’s taught based on past resumes. The historical data that is used to train algorithms can smuggle in bias.

Amazon, for example, worked on a hiring algorithm that was trained on old resumes: largely male applicants. When assessing new applicants, it downgraded resumes with the word “women’s” or that listed women’s colleges because they were not represented in the historical data — the resumes — it had learned from. The project was scuttled.

Webber’s class action lawsuit alleges that an AI system that scores rental applications disproportionately assigned lower scores to Black or Hispanic applicants. A study found that an AI system built to assess medical needs passed over Black patients for special care.

Studies and lawsuits have allowed a glimpse under the hood of AI systems, but most algorithms remain veiled. Americans are largely unaware that these tools are being used, polling from Pew Research shows. Companies generally aren’t required to explicitly disclose that an AI was used.

“Just pulling back the curtain so that we can see who’s really doing the assessing and what tool is being used is a huge, huge first step,” said Webber. “The existing laws don’t work if we can’t get at least some basic information.”

That’s what Colorado’s bill, along with another surviving bill in California, are trying to change. The bills, including a flagship proposal in Connecticut that was killed under opposition from the governor, are largely similar.

Colorado’s bill will require companies using AI to help make consequential decisions for Americans to annually assess their AI for potential bias; implement an oversight program within the company; tell the state attorney general if discrimination was found; and inform to customers when an AI was used to help make a decision for them, including an option to appeal.

Labor unions and academics fear that a reliance on companies overseeing themselves means it’ll be hard to proactively address discrimination in an AI system before it’s done damage. Companies are fearful that forced transparency could reveal trade secrets, including in potential litigation, in this hyper-competitive new field.

AI companies also pushed for, and generally received, a provision that only allows the attorney general, not citizens, to file lawsuits under the new law. Enforcement details have been left up to the attorney general.

While larger AI companies have more or less been on board with these proposals, a group of smaller Colorado-based AI companies said the requirements might be manageable by behemoth AI companies, but not by budding startups.

“We are in a brand new era of primordial soup,” said Logan Cerkovnik, founder of Thumper.ai, referring to the field of AI. “Having overly restrictive legislation that forces us into definitions and restricts our use of technology while this is forming is just going to be detrimental to innovation.”

All agreed, along with many AI companies, that what’s formally called “algorithmic discrimination” is critical to tackle. But they said the bill as written falls short of that goal. Instead, they proposed beefing up existing anti-discrimination laws.

Chowdhury worries that lawsuits are too costly and time consuming to be an effective enforcement tool, and laws should instead go beyond what even Colorado is proposing. Instead, Chowdhury and academics have proposed accredited, independent organization that can explicitly test for potential bias in an AI algorithm.

“You can understand and deal with a single person who is discriminatory or biased,” said Chowdhury. “What do we do when it’s embedded into the entire institution?”

Study finds 1 in 3 secretly travel while working remotely

За даними Bloomberg, станом на 16:00 торги відбувалися приблизно на рівні офіційного курсу – 40 гривень 14 копійок за долар

Washington — With major military setbacks in recent years, supporters of the Islamic State terror group are increasingly relying on artificial intelligence (AI) to generate online propaganda, experts said.

A new form of propaganda developed by IS supporters is broadcasting news bulletins with AI-generated anchors in multiple languages.

The Islamic State Khorasan (ISKP) group, an IS affiliate active in Afghanistan and Pakistan, produced in a video an AI-generated anchorman to appear reading news following an IS-claimed attack in Bamiyan province in Afghanistan on May 17 that killed four people, including three Spanish tourists.

The digital image posing as an anchor spoke the Pashto language and had features resembling local residents in Bamiyan, according to The Khorasan Diary, a website dedicated to news and analysis on the region.

Another AI-generated propaganda video by Islamic State appeared on Tuesday with a different digital male news anchor announcing IS’s responsibility for a car bombing in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

“These extremists are very effective in spreading deepfake propaganda,” said Roland Abi Najem, a cybersecurity expert based in Kuwait.

He told VOA that a group like IS was already effective in producing videos with Hollywood-level quality, and the use of AI has made such production more accessible for them.

“AI now has easy tools to use to create fake content whether it’s text, photo, audio or video,” Abi Najem said, adding that with AI, “you only need data, algorithms and computing power, so anyone can create AI-generated content from their houses or garages.”

IS formally began using the practice of AI-generated news bulletins four days after an attack at a Moscow music hall on March 22 killed some 145 people. The attack was claimed by IS.

In that video, IS used a “fake” AI-generated news anchor talking about the Moscow attack, experts told The Washington Post last week.

Mona Thakkar, a research fellow at the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism, said pro-IS supporters have been using character-generation techniques and text-to-speech AI tools to produce translated news bulletins of IS’s Amaq news agency.

“These efforts have garnered positive responses from other users, reflecting that, through future collaborative efforts, many supporters could produce high quality and sophisticated AI-powered propaganda videos for IS of longer durations with better graphics and more innovation techniques,” she told VOA.

Thakkar said she recently came across some pro-IS Arabic-speaking supporters on Telegram who were recommending to other supporters “that beginners use AI image generator bots on Telegram to maintain the high quality of images as the bots are very easy and quick to produce such images.”

AI-generated content for recruitment

While IS’s ability to project power largely decreased due to its territorial defeat in Syria and Iraq, experts say supporters of the terror group believe artificial intelligence offers an alternative to promote their extremist ideology.

“Their content has mainly focused on showing that they’re still powerful,” said Abi Najem. “With AI-generated content now, they can choose certain celebrities that have influence, especially on teenagers, by creating deepfake videos.”

“So first they manipulate these people by creating believable content, then they begin recruiting them,” he said.

In a recent article published on the Global Network on Extremism and Technology, researcher Daniel Siegel said generative AI technology has had a profound impact on how extremist organizations engage in influence operations online, including the use of AI-generated Muslim religious songs, known as nasheeds, for recruitment purposes.

“The strategic deployment of extremist audio deepfake nasheeds, featuring animated characters and internet personalities, marks a sophisticated evolution in the tactics used by extremists to broaden the reach of their content,” he wrote.

Siegel said that other radical groups like al-Qaida and Hamas have also begun using AI to generate content for their supporters.

Cybersecurity expert Abi Najem said he believes the cheap technology will increase the availability of AI-generated content by extremist groups on the internet.

“While currently there are no stringent regulations on the use of AI, it will be very challenging for governments to stop extremist groups from exploiting these platforms for their own gain,” he said.

This story originated in VOA’s Kurdish Service.

За даними Bloomberg, наприкінці торгової сесії 24 травня на ринку тенденція до падіння сповільнилася – і станом на 16:00 торги відбувалися приблизно на рівні офіційного курсу

Марченко повідомив, що за останні пів року Україна «мінімально» отримувала допомоги від партнерів у військовій частині

«Дискусіїї фокусуватимуться на ризиках, перед якими постала економіка України, та цілях економічної політики влади»

«США внесли пропозиції, які підпадають під рамки міжнародного права, і ми збираємося працювати над ними відкрито і конструктивно» – міністр фінансів Франції

За даними Bloomberg, наприкінці торгової сесії 23 травня на ринку тенденція до падіння триває

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