Apple Buys First-ever Carbon-free Aluminum From Alcoa-Rio Tinto Venture

Apple Inc on Thursday said it has bought the first-ever commercial batch of carbon-free aluminum from a joint venture between two of the world’s biggest aluminum suppliers.The metal is being made by Elysis, a Montreal-based joint venture of Alcoa Corp and Rio Tinto announced last year with $144 million in funding from the two companies, Apple and the governments of Canada and Quebec.The aluminum will be shipped this month from an Alcoa research facility in Pittsburgh and used in Apple products, although the technology company did not say which ones.Aluminum is carbon-intensive to produce. The smelting process involves passing electrical current through a large block of carbon called an anode, which burns off during the process and releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.The carbon-free move is a response to consumer, activist and investor demand that miners and manufacturers show they are working to lessen their impact on climate change.“For more than 130 years, aluminum – a material common to so many products consumers use daily – has been produced the same way. That’s about to change,” Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives, said in a statement.Apple uses aluminum housings for many of its electronics, including iPhones, Apple Watches and Mac computers. Apple last year introduced Mac models that use recycled aluminum.The Alcoa-Rio joint venture wants to commercialize a technology by 2024 that uses a ceramic anode to make aluminum and emits only oxygen, eliminating direct greenhouse gas emissions from the smelting process.Alcoa has already produced test metal with the process and joined with Rio Tinto to bring it up to commercial scale. Elysis plans to license the technology and says that existing smelting facilities can be retrofitted to use it.The first batch was made in Pittsburgh, but Elysis also plans to manufacture it at a $50 million CAD research facility being built in Saguenay, Quebec, and that is expected to come online in the second half of 2020.Apple and Elysis would not disclose the size or cost of the first purchase. They described it as a “commercial batch,” and Elysis said the process is expected …


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Phone-in-Cheek: Spike Seen in Cellphone-Linked Face Injuries

Add facial cuts, bruises and fractures to the risks from cellphones and carelessly using them.                     That’s according to a study published Thursday that found a spike in U.S. emergency room treatment for these mostly minor injuries.                     The research was led by a facial plastic surgeon whose patients include a woman who broke her nose when she dropped her phone on her face. Dr. Boris Paskhover of Rutgers New Jersey Medical School said his experience treating patients with cellphone injuries prompted him to look into the problem.                     Paskhover and others analyzed 20 years of emergency room data and found an increase in cellphone injuries starting after 2006, around the time when the first smartphones were introduced.                     Some injuries were caused by phones themselves, including people getting hit by a thrown phone. But Paskhover said many were caused by distracted use including texting while walking, tripping and landing face-down on the sidewalk.                     Most patients in the study weren’t hospitalized, but the researchers said the problem should be taken seriously.                     The study involved cases in a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission database that collects emergency room visit information from about 100 hospitals. The researchers tallied 2,500 patients with cellphone-related head and neck injuries from 1998 through 2017.                     The study was published in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology.                     Nationwide, they estimated there were about 76,000 people injured during that time. Annual cases totaled fewer than 2,000 until 2006, but increased steeply after that. About 40% of those injured were ages 13 to 29, and many were hurt while walking, texting or driving.                     Cellphone use also has been linked with repetitive strain injuries in the hands and neck, and injuries to other parts of the body caused by distracted use.                     “I love my smartphone,” Paskhover said, but he added that it’s easy to get too absorbed and avoiding injury requires common sense.                  “ “People wouldn’t walk around reading a magazine,” he said. “Be careful.”   …


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China’s Huawei Sues to Allow Rural Carriers to Buy its Equipment

Chinese telecom giant Huawei has filed a lawsuit in a U.S. federal court to throw out a Trump administration rule that bans phone carriers in rural areas from using money from an $8.5 billion government fund to purchase Huawei’s equipment.The lawsuit says the Federal Communications Commission acted improperly when it imposed the ban last month on Huawei and its domestic rival ZTE, citing national security concerns.At a news conference at the company’s headquarters in Shenzhen Thursday, Song Liuping, Huawei’s chief legal counsel, said the FCC made its decision without any evidence that Huawei posed a national security threat.This is the second lawsuit filed by Huawei to combat U.S. government claims that it presents a threat to U.S. national security. The company first filed suit in March challenging the legality of a law passed by the U.S. Congress last year that bars government agencies and contractors from doing business with the tech giant.Huawei is also involved in a separate legal fight involving Meng Wanzhou, its chief financial officer and the daughter of founder Ren Zhengfei. Meng was arrested in Canada last December on a U.S. warrant seeking her extradition to face charges of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran.The United States and others worry that technology companies located in countries with governments like China’s could be subject to state influence, making the networks insecure. President Donald Trump signed an executive order in May that bars American companies from using telecommunications equipment that is made by companies that pose a national security risk.But the administration has since granted a series of limited reprieves so Huawei can continue to provide equipment to carriers that provide wireless networks in rural areas. …


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Self-Driving Cars Taught to ‘Feel’ Passengers’ Emotions

Imagine if your car can sense your emotions and play happy music when you are sad. That’s what a team of researchers at Texas A&M University is working on — to look at brain waves that correlate to different human emotions and ultimately teach that to an autonomous vehicle. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee has the details from College Station, Texas. …


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Google Co-Founders Step Down as Execs of Parent Alphabet

Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are stepping down from their roles within the parent company, Alphabet.Sundar Pichai, who has been leading Google as CEO for more than four years, will stay in his role and also become CEO of Alphabet.Page was Alphabet’s CEO, while Brin was its president. Both have been noticeably absent from Google events in the past year. Both stopped making appearances at the weekly question-and-answer sessions with employees, and Page didn’t attend this summer’s Alphabet shareholder’s meeting even though he was still in the CEO role.Alphabet has been positioning Pichai as the de facto leader for quite some time making him the top executive voice at company shareholders meetings, on earnings call and as a spokesperson at Congressional hearings.Page and Brin announced the news in a Google blog post Tuesday, saying the company has “evolved and matured” in the two decades since its founding.”Today, in 2019, if the company was a person, it would be a young adult of 21 and it would be time to leave the roost,” they said.Page and Brin started the search giant in 1998 in Silicon Valley.Both founders promised they plan to stay actively involved as board members and shareholders, and lauded Pichai for his leadership of the company.The pair still hold more than 50% voting shares of Alphabet. According to an Alphabet SEC filing in April, Page holds 42.9% of the company’s Class B shares and 26.1% of its voting power. Brin holds 41.3% of the Class B shares and 25.2% of the voting power. …


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Teaching a Self-Driving Car to Know if its Passengers are Happy or Nervous

Imagine if your car can sense your emotions and play happy music when you are sad. That’s what a team of researchers at Texas A&M University is working on — to look at brain waves that correlate to different human emotions and ultimately teach that to an autonomous vehicle. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee has the details from College Station, Texas. …


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UN Agency: Europe Leads in Readiness for Online Shopping

The U.N.’s trade and development agency estimates that Europe, led by the Netherlands, leads the world in readiness for online shopping.UNCTAD’s annual business-to-consumer e-commerce index ranked the United States again in the teens, at 13th — largely because of its relatively low share of people using the internet compared to other developed countries.Russia ranked 40th and China 56th, while Hong Kong came in at No. 15.The agency said Tuesday over 80% of internet users in six European countries shop online, versus under 10% in some poorer countries.The rankings are based on use of the internet as well as access to secure internet servers, reliable postal services, and financial institution or mobile-money-service providers. UNCTAD called the report provisional, cautioning that some data dates to 2017.   …


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Workers Fired From Google Plan Federal Labor Complaint

Four workers fired from Google last week are planning to file a federal labor complaint against the company, claiming it unfairly retaliated against them for organizing workers around social causes.The former employees said Tuesday they are preparing to file unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board this week. All four were fired Nov. 25 for what Google said were violations of its data security policy.Company officials wrote in a memo — without confirming the employees’ names — that the four were “searching for, accessing, and distributing business information outside the scope of their jobs.”But the four workers — Laurence Berland, Sophie Waldman, Rebecca Rivers and Paul Duke — say they believe they did not violate company policies and claim that Google is using the alleged violations as an excuse to terminate them for labor activity.“This is an expression of Google’s management power,” Duke said. “They are scared of worker power.”Google disputes that they fired the employees for organizing activity.“No one has been dismissed for raising concerns or debating the company’s activities,” the company said in a statement.Google employees are known for being some of the most outspoken across the tech industry. Thousands of employees walked out of work last year to protest the company’s handling of sexual misconduct claims, in what became known as the Google Walkout. Since then, employees have petitioned for better benefits for contract workers, successfully argued for the end of mandatory arbitration and have opposed Google’s involvement in some government projects.The company has also been known for an open, collaborative work culture since its early days, one that employee activists say is now getting closed off.CEO Sundar Pichai’s weekly question-and-answer sessions with employees became monthly meetings. Google also updated its community guidelines to tell employees to avoid “disrupting the workday” to debate politics or other topics. Some workers complain both moves were meant to discourage open speech and crack down on employee pushback.Waldman and Duke helped create a petition earlier this year that called for Google to refrain from bidding on a cloud computing contract with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. Nearly 1,500 …


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Twitter Makes Global Changes to Comply with Privacy Laws

Twitter is updating its global privacy policy to give users more information about what data advertisers might receive and is launching a site to provide clarity on its data protection efforts, the company said on Monday.The changes, which will take effect on Jan. 1, 2020, will comply with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).The California law requires large businesses to give consumers more transparency and control over their personal information, such as allowing them to request that their data be deleted and to opt out of having their data sold to third parties.Social media companies including Facebook and Alphabet’s Google have come under scrutiny on data privacy issues, fueled by Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal in which personal data were harvested from millions of users without their consent.Twitter also announced on Monday that it is moving the accounts of users outside of the United States and European Union which were previously contracted by Twitter International Company in Dublin, Ireland, to the San Francisco-based Twitter.The company said this move would allow it the flexibility to test different settings and controls with these users, such as additional opt-in or opt-out privacy preferences, that would likely be restricted by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Europe’s landmark digital privacy law.”We want to be able to experiment without immediately running afoul of the GDPR provisions,” Twitter’s data protection officer Damien Kieran told Reuters in a phone interview.”The goal is to learn from those experiments and then to provide those same experiences to people all around the world,” he said.The company, which said it has upped its communications about data and security-related disclosures over the last two years, emphasized in a Monday blog post that it was working to upgrade systems and build privacy into new products.In October, Twitter announced it had found that phone numbers and email addresses used for two-factor authentication may inadvertently have been used for advertising purposes.Twitter’s new privacy site, dubbed the ‘Twitter Privacy Center’ is part of the company’s efforts to showcase its work on data protection and will also give users another route to access and download their data.Twitter joins …


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Putin Signs Law Making Russian Apps Mandatory on Smartphones, Computers

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday signed legislation requiring all smartphones, computers and smart TV sets sold in the country to come pre-installed with Russian software.The law, which will come into force on July 1 next year, has been met with resistance by some electronics retailers, who say the legislation was adopted without consulting them.The law has been presented as a way to help Russian IT firms compete with foreign companies and spare consumers from having to download software upon purchasing a new device.The country’s mobile phone market is dominated by foreign companies including Apple, Samsung and Huawei. The legislation signed by Putin said the government would come up with a list of Russian applications that would need to be installed on the different devices.Russia has introduced tougher internet laws in recent years, requiring search engines to delete some search results, messaging services to share encryption keys with security services and social networks to store user data on servers in the country.   …


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EU Antitrust Regulators Investigating Google’s Data Collection

EU antitrust regulators are investigating Google’s collection of data, the European Commission told Reuters Saturday, suggesting the world’s most popular internet search engine remains in its sights despite record fines in recent years.Competition enforcers on both sides of the Atlantic are now looking into how dominant tech companies use and monetize data.The EU executive said it was seeking information on how and why Alphabet unit Google is collecting data, confirming a Reuters story Friday.“The Commission has sent out questionnaires as part of a preliminary investigation into Google’s practices relating to Google’s collection and use of data. The preliminary investigation is ongoing,” the EU regulator told Reuters in an email.A document seen by Reuters shows the EU’s focus is on data related to local search services, online advertising, online ad targeting services, login services, web browsers and others.European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager has handed down fines totaling more than 8 billion euros to Google in the last two years and ordered it to change its business practices.Google has said it uses data to better its services and that users can manage, delete and transfer their data at any time. …


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