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London to End Uber Ride Hailing App Over ‘Security Implications’

Transport officials in London say they will not renew Uber’s license to operate in the city due to “a lack of corporate responsibility” in dealing with the ride hailing app’s safety issues. The regulatory body Transport for London said in a statement Friday Uber London “is not fit and proper” to operate in the city. TfL considers that "Uber's approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications,” the agency said. Among the issues cited by TfL are Uber’s approach to reporting serious criminal offenses and its use of “greyball” technology, which can be used to block regulators from fully accessing the app. Uber said the city’s decision to end the app would show the world that “London is closed to innovative companies.” "By wanting to ban our app from the capital, Transport for London and the mayor have caved in to a small number of people who want to restrict consumer choice," the company said in a statement. Uber has said it will appeal the decision. London Mayor Sadiq Khan and the city’s taxi drivers union both said they supported the decision not to renew Uber’s license.   "The mayor has made the right call not to relicense Uber," Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association, said. "We expect Uber will again embark on a spurious legal challenge against the Mayor and TfL, and we will urge the court to uphold this decision. This immoral company has no place on London's streets."  

Iraqis Track Abandoned Homes With Digital Tools

In camps across northern Iraq, people forced from their homes by Islamic State militants are using their phones to track what is happening to their properties, according to researchers who say returning home is crucial for building a safe future in the war-torn nation. More than three million Iraqis have been driven from their homes, land and farms, according to the United Nations, many of them by armed groups like Islamic State (IS). As pro-government forces intensify the fight against IS, clearing militants from much of Mosul and other cities they once held, displaced people are hoping to return home soon. Before leaving the camps, they are keeping a close eye on Facebook and digital messaging services to better understand what they will be returning to or who might be occupying their homes, said Nadia Siddiqui from Social Inquiry, a research group based in northern Iraq. With conflicting land claims and weak property rights in parts of Iraq due to years of violence, establishing who rightfully owns what is crucial for reducing violence and building social trust, Siddiqui said. Digital tools are helping establish ownership by allowing them to build dossiers of what belongs to them with photographic evidence, title deeds and other data which could be used in court to prove their claims. “In the long-term, land and property issues are some of the root causes (of strife),” Siddiqui told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from Erbil, Iraq. Disputes over property exacerbate communal or religious tensions, she said, and lingering issues over unclear ownership can fester for generations, making it difficult to build the economy and move past a history of violence. “People remember these kinds of things,” Siddiqui said of land disputes. Clearing up ownership conflicts and creating arbitration processes for competing land claims can help ease social tensions, she said. Evidence More than 60 percent of displaced people use digital tools like Facebook, camera phones and messaging apps to actively monitor the status of their properties, according to a July survey in Erbil supported by Social Inquiry. The average household of displaced people has three mobile phones, the small survey said, meaning tools to collect data on properties are accessible even to those who fled their lands in the dead of night. Thirty-two percent of displaced people surveyed share information about the status of their properties on social media. “What is so exciting about the process is that people have this evidence already on their phones or on their Facebook page,” said Emily Frank, an anthropologist turned marketing executive in Montreal, Canada, who has monitored property rights in countries facing conflict. Many people, however, do not realize these digital documents and photos of the land where they once lived can be used as evidence in court or a property restitution process once it is safe enough to return home, said Frank. Along with helping individuals claim their homes from armed groups or others who have been occupying them, photos, videos and other digital data become increasingly powerful as more displaced people collect them, she said. “If more people can submit evidence, it becomes more widely corroborated,” Frank told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “It will be a more just and transparent process.” Domino effect Jon Unruh, a professor at McGill University in Montreal who studies land rights, has watched the process happen in Iraq first hand. Unruh interviewed a 76-year-old man in Erbil who, after fleeing an IS-controlled area, asked a relative still living near his home to walk around the property and take pictures to see who was living inside. IS and its supporters had occupied homes in the area, and the militant group even issued its own property title deeds, so the displaced man used digital tools and family networks to try and gather information about his home to claim it upon return. This kind of data could be presented before a government arbitration panel or via a transitional justice plan from the U.N. or a similar international agency when the man attempts to reclaim his property, Unruh said. Iraqi government officials working on property restitution could not be reached for comment. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Iraq, a U.N.-linked body working with the government on property restitution for refugees, was unavailable for comment. Officials in Kurdistan, the northern semi-autonomous region of Iraq of which Erbil is the capital, are planning a referendum vote on independence for Sept. 25. The move, opposed by Iraq’s central government, could complicate efforts for displaced people living in the region to claim properties in other parts of Iraq once it is safe enough to leave camps in the Kurdish region. It is unclear what moves Iraq’s government will make on property rights in areas once controlled by IS based on digital data, Unruh said. But officials in the capital Baghdad who he met recently understand the importance of property rights in reducing violence. “The Iraqi government is most concerned people returning home to ISIS-held areas are going to default to armed kin to resolve their property disputes,” Unruh told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “That returnee who finds their property destroyed moves into someone else's house. When that person returns there is a conflict —It creates a domino effect.”

Facebook to Share Russia-linked Ads With US Congress

Facebook will provide the contents of 3,000 ads bought by a Russian agency to congressional investigators, bowing to pressure that it be more forthcoming with information that could shed light on possible interference in the 2016 presidential election.   The social media giant also said it will make political advertising on its platform more "transparent.'' It will require ads to disclose who paid for them and what other ads they are running at the same time. That's key, because political ads on social media may look different depending on who they're targeted at, a tactic designed to improve their effectiveness.   The moves Thursday come amid growing pressure on the social network from members of Congress, who pushed Facebook to release the ads. Facebook has already handed over the ads to the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company is "actively working'' with the U.S. government in its ongoing Russia investigations. Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post and live video on Thursday that he has directed his team to provide the ads, created by fake accounts linked to Russia, to Congress. Facebook's transparency measures are also important. Currently, there's no way for outsiders to track political ads or for recipients to tell who is sponsoring such messages.   The company will hire 250 more people in the next year to work on "election integrity,'' Zuckerberg said.   Zuckerberg hinted that the company may not provide much information publicly, saying that the ongoing federal investigation will limit what he can reveal.   "As a general rule, we are limited in what we can discuss publicly about law enforcement investigations, so we may not always be able to share our findings publicly,'' he said.   The nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center stressed again on Thursday that the company should make the ads public, "so that everyone can see the nature and extent of the use of Facebook accounts by Russia.''   The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee have been seeking to bring Facebook executives before their committee since the company first revealed the existence of the ads two weeks ago. But critics say Facebook should go further. They say the company should tell its users how they might have been influenced by outside meddlers.   Zuckerberg did warn that Facebook can't catch all undesirable material before it hits its social network.   "I'm not going to sit here and tell you we're going to catch all bad content in our system. We don't check what people say before they say it, and frankly, I don't think our society should want us to,'' Zuckerberg said. "If you break our community standards or the law, then you're going to face consequences afterwards.''   He added: "We won't catch everyone immediately, but we can make it harder to try to interfere.''   Zuckerberg's move came a day after Twitter confirmed that it will meet next week with staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has been scrutinizing the spread of false news stories and propaganda on social media during the election. The committee's top Democrat, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, had said the committee wanted to hear from Twitter to learn more about the use of fake accounts and bot networks to spread misinformation.   "Twitter deeply respects the integrity of the election process, a cornerstone of all democracies, and will continue to strengthen our platform against bots and other forms of manipulation that violate our Terms of Service,'' the company said in a statement.

Review: iTunes Video Upgrade Makes New Apple TV Worth It

It might seem odd to review the new Apple TV streaming device — one specifically designed to display super-sharp video known as 4K — without actually owning a 4K TV. But in a way, that's the point. Most people still don't have 4K TVs, so the new Apple TV model doesn't offer them much. But if you're an Apple fan and already have 4K, the choice is clear. The new Apple TV 4K is out Friday starting at $179, or $30 more than the regular model. It's a small difference compared with the price of your TV. It's worth noting that alternatives to Apple TV are cheaper and equally capable at a basic level. All of the devices connect to a TV so you can stream most major video services on a big screen. Roku and Amazon have 4K models for less than $100 and non-4K versions for even less. Both are even ahead of Apple TV in being able to stream Amazon video now; it's coming soon to Apple TV. But none of the rivals will play movies or shows purchased from Apple's iTunes, at least without clunky workarounds. To watch those on a big screen directly, you need an Apple TV. And Apple has just sweetened the deal on that front. The future has arrived Apple's embrace of 4K is significant, despite the fact that Roku, Amazon and other rivals beat Apple to that milestone. Apple often waits until there's broad enough appeal for new technologies. That time is now, given growth in sales of 4K TV and more movies and TV shows released in 4K formats. Parallel to that is the rise of high-dynamic range technology in television sets. HDR increases color range and produces brighter whites and darker blacks. Better contrast means details in bright scenes aren't washed out. Apple TV 4K supports HDR, too. Path to upgrades 4K is coming, just as high definition earlier replaced standard definition. The consulting company Futuresource says a third of TVs sold worldwide this year will be 4K capable, up from 25 percent last year. But people tend to keep TVs for many years, unlike high-turnover phones. In demos with tech companies and visits to Best Buy, I find superior picture quality in 4K. Your couch needs to close enough to the screen to see the difference. My next TV will likely have 4K, but my 4-year-old Vizio HD TV still works fine (though I'm sure I just jinxed it). Upgrades to iTunes video - and yours Many Hollywood blockbusters now have 4K versions of home video releases. Netflix and Amazon are also trying to make their original shows available in 4K. But many indie and older titles remain in HD; even older shows like "The Wonder Years" are still stuck in standard definition. Fortunately, Apple isn't making you choose now. If you buy something in HD through iTunes, you'll automatically get the 4K version when it's out. And if a 4K version is available now, it will cost the same as its HD counterpart. It's never been clear why HD video is more expensive than SD when actors, directors and others behind the movies were paid the same. Lots of people were peeved at how the music industry tried to get them to repurchase the same songs on cassette tapes, CDs and then digital files. I have a collection of DVDs and don't feel like paying again for higher-quality Blu-ray or digital versions. So Apple's decision to treat 4K and HD the same is a good one. That only applies to iTunes, though. Netflix is charging extra for a plan that includes 4K, even when viewed on Apple TVs. A word of caution: While the new iPhone 8 and iPad Pros unveiled this past June will support HDR, they won't display 4K. Even the upcoming iPhone X falls short in that respect. Beyond video The new Apple TV gets a faster processor, which should make high-end games better to play. A new remote offers more precise motion control and a raised menu button to make it easier to orient yourself without looking. These features alone aren't enough to justify an Apple TV 4K unless you're a gamer. The non-4K version is getting the new remote, too. Picture quality is the same for both versions on regular HD sets like mine. In any case, Apple TV — with or without 4K — will be most useful if you're already tied into Apple's system with iDevices and iTunes. Given that rival devices are cheaper, what you're buying isn't the device, but an experience — integration and syncing with all your other Apple gadgets. For instance, 4K video taken on an iPhone will play easily on an Apple TV 4K. If you're in that camp and are thinking of buying a new TV in the next few years, there's a good chance it will be 4K, so you might as well choose the 4K version of Apple TV now. But if it's longer, a better Apple TV will likely be out by then. The non-4K version will do just fine for now.

Google Bets Big on Hardware With HTC Buy

Google is biting off a big piece of device manufacturer HTC for $1.1 billion to expand its efforts to build phones, speakers and other gadgets equipped with its arsenal of digital services. The deal announced Thursday underscores how serious Google is becoming about designing its own family of devices to compete against Apple and Amazon in a high-stakes battle to become the technological hub of people’s lives. Over the past decade, Google had focused on giving away its Android operating system to an array of device makers, including Taiwan’s HTC, to ensure people would keep using its ubiquitous search engine, email, maps, YouTube video service and other software on smartphones and other pieces of hardware. But that changed last year when Google stamped its brand on a smartphone and internet-connected speaker. HTC manufactured the Pixel phones that Google designed last year, perhaps paving the way for this deal to unfold. Although Android powers about four out of every five smartphones and other mobile devices in the world, the software can be altered in ways that result in Google’s services being de-emphasized or left out completely from the pre-installed set of apps. That fragmentation threatens to undercut Google’s ability to increase the ad sales that bring in most of the revenue to its corporate parent, Alphabet Inc., as people spend more and more time on smartphones and other devices instead of personal computers. Apple’s iPhone and other hardware products are also particularly popular among affluent consumers prized by advertisers, giving Google another incentive to develop its own high-priced phone as a mobile platform for its products and ads. Google also wants to build more internet-connected devices designed primarily for home usage, such as its voice-controlled speaker that’s trying to catch up with Amazon’s Echo. The Home speaker includes a digital concierge, called Google Assistant, that answers questions and helps manage people’s lives, much like the Alexa in Amazon’s Echo. The purchase is a gamble on several fronts for Google and Alphabet. Google’s previous forays into hardware haven’t panned out to be big winners so far. It paid $12.5 billion for smartphone maker Motorola Mobility five years ago only to sell it to Lenovo Group for less than $3 billion after struggling to make a dent in the market. And in 2014, Google paid more than $3 billion for home device maker Nest Labs, which is still struggling to make money under Alphabet’s ownership. Expanding into hardware also threatens to alienate Samsung Electronics, Huawei and other device makers that Google relies on to distribute its Android software.

Nevada Lab: Quake-Resistant Bridge Design Tests Well

Scientists at a Nevada earthquake lab Wednesday tested new bridge designs with connectors they say are innovative and created to better withstand violent temblors and speed reconstruction efforts after major quake damage. University of Nevada, Reno engineers performed the experiments on a giant “shake table” to simulate violent motions of an earthquake to rattle a 100-ton (91-metric ton), 70 foot (21-meter) bridge model to determine how well it would hold up. The tests, conducted a day after a big quake struck Mexico, shook large concrete columns and beams back and forth for about 30 seconds at a time, displacing some nearly a foot before returning largely to their original spot. Graduate students measured and marked indications of tiny fractures but no major structural damage was observed in the initial review of the experiments. “The bridge has done better than we expected,” said Saiid Saiidi, a professor of civil and environmental engineering who served as the project leader. He’s done related research for more than 30 years. Bridges are already designed not to collapse in earthquakes but often are unsafe for travel after big quakes. He said the designs that were tested employed special types of connectors to link prefabricated bridge parts, including ultra-high performance concrete. “Earthquakes by themselves don’t kill people, it’s the structures,” Saiidi said. The elements have been tested on their own but never before combined in a bridge model subjected to realistic earthquake motions, like the 1994 Northridge, California quake. Wednesday’s test inside the University of Nevada’s Earthquake Engineering Laboratory simulated activity of a quake as large as magnitude 7.5. Some design work by the engineers has been incorporated into a highway off-ramp under construction in Seattle. It’s the first bridge in the world that uses flexible columns and reinforcement bars made out of a metal alloy with titanium that bends and then springs back into shape when quakes hit. Among other things, the innovative connectors allow for prefabricated concrete and other materials to be attached to an existing bridge foundation so as to speed repair and reconstruction. Part of the research centers on a so-called “pipe pin” connection developed by the California Department of Transportation’s bridge designers for use in connecting certain beam interfaces in bridge construction. The pin consists of a steel pipe that is anchored in the column and extended into a steel can embedded in the beam. A gap between the steel pipe and the can enables the extended segment to freely rotate inside the steel can and prevents bending of the protruded segment inside the can. The University of Nevada’s Earthquake Engineering Lab is the largest of its kind in the United States. The latest project is funded by the California Department of Transportation, which currently is developing plans for 10 pilot projects based on the developing bridge connector technology. “This study today is going to allow them to make observations of those designs,” Saiidi said.

Internet Firms Say Removing Extremist Content Within Hours Is Huge Challenge

Removing extremist content from the internet within a few hours of it appearing poses "an enormous technological and scientific challenge," Google's general counsel will say later Wednesday to European leaders who want it taken down quicker. Kent Walker, general counsel for Alphabet's Google, will speak on behalf of technology companies Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube at an event on the sidelines of the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations. The leaders of France, Britain and Italy want to push social media companies to remove "terrorist content" from the internet within one to two hours of it appearing because they say that is the period when most material is spread. "We are making significant progress, but removing all of this content within a few hours — or, indeed, stopping it from appearing on the internet in the first place — poses an enormous technological and scientific challenge," Walker will say in a speech on behalf of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, a working group formed by the four companies to combine their efforts to remove extremist content. Tech firms have come under increasing pressure from governments in the United States and Europe to do more to keep extremist content off their platforms after a spate of militant attacks, and the European Union is mulling legislation on the issue. "There is no silver bullet when it comes to finding and removing this content, but we're getting much better," Walker will say. "Of course, finding problematic material in the first place often requires not just thousands of human hours but, more fundamentally, continuing advances in engineering and computer science research. The haystacks are unimaginably large and the needles are both very small and constantly changing." Walker will say the companies need human reviewers to help distinguish legitimate material such as news coverage from the problematic material and train machine-learning tools against "ever-changing examples." The companies last year decided to set up a joint database to share unique digital fingerprints they automatically assign to videos or photos of extremist content, known as "hashes," to help each other detect and remove similar content. Facebook used a hash that contained a link to bomb-making instructions to find and remove almost 100 copies of that content. Twitter said Tuesday that it had removed 299,649 accounts in the first half of this year for the "promotion of terrorism," while Facebook has ramped up its use of artificial intelligence to map out pages and posts with terrorist material.

Review: Apple Watch Goes Solo, But Don't Dump Your Phone Yet

A chief gripe with Apple Watch is that it requires you to keep an iPhone with you for most tasks. The inclusion of GPS last year helped on runs and bike rides, but you're still missing calls and messages without the phone nearby. A new model with its own cellular-network connection is Apple's next step toward an untethered world. Now you can make and receive calls and messages on the watch while leaving your phone at home. But the watch still needs regular contact with an iPhone, and for most tasks, the phone needs to be on and connected, even if it's nowhere nearby. So, you can't get away with ditching the iPhone altogether. (Android users have their own wristwear options, including Samsung Gear and Android Wear watches, some of which can already manage their own network connections.) The new Apple Watch Series 3, distinguished by a red crown, comes out Friday starting at about $400. You can forgo cellular, and the red crown, for $70 less. Or get a first-generation model, without GPS, for about $250. Where it helps You might not want to bring your phone on a short jog; the watch can still keep you in touch. Or you can leave the phone home while walking the dog or performing a quick errand. You need a data add-on from the same wireless provider as your phone. It typically costs $5 or $10 a month and uses the phone's data allotment. While the watch technically has its own phone number, the major carriers have worked out number syncing. Calls to your phone will go to the watch, and calls from the watch will appear on caller ID with your regular number. Same goes for texts and iMessage chats. Calls use the watch's speaker and microphone, or wireless earphones. Colleagues say call quality was fine. It came in handy for sneaking in runs during conference calls (though if you're my boss, just kidding! Now, about that raise ...). Phone calls and iMessage chats work on the watch even if your phone is off, as do turn-by-turn maps and queries to the Siri voice assistant. For texts, the phone needs to be on — somewhere. With the phone on, you can perform a variety of other tasks, including checking weather apps, Yelp recommendations and notifications that go to the phone. Coming soon: the ability to stream Apple Music, even with the phone off. Unfortunately, this doesn't apply to rival music services or Apple's podcast app. Limitations Because the watch screen is small, many apps offer only a sliver of information and refer you back to the phone to view more. That was little more than an annoyance when the phone was in the same room. If you've left the phone behind, though, you'll be left hanging. You can also run into trouble while roaming, particularly internationally. For one thing, engineers weren't able to squeeze in support for cellular frequencies around the world. And outside the U.S., only a handful of carriers are supporting the cellular watch. In any case, don't forget to switch to airplane mode on flights. Cellular data also drains the battery quicker. Apple's promised 18 hours of battery life includes about four hours of such use. An hour of phone calls over LTE will drain the battery completely. I got dropped from two conference calls because the battery was low to begin with. Plan ahead. A spare watch charger at your desk helps for those days you're dumb enough to leave your phone on the kitchen counter. Embracing the tether It can be handy to untether the watch at times, but it's not always necessary. Even when tied to the phone, Series 3 offers improvement such as tracking elevation, so you get credit for climbing stairs or jogging up a hill. And you can now hear Siri responses on the watch speaker, something enabled by the new version's faster processor. Software update For owners of past models, a software update out this week, watchOS 4, will bring easier access to music playback controls when exercising — just swipe left. There are more prompts when reaching or nearing daily goals, and options for multiple sports in a single workout. A new heart rate app now shows heart rate at rest and averages when walking or recovering from exercise. These can help you gauge your overall fitness. And if your heart rate is high without any signs of exercise, you'll get an alert. You enable this when you first open the heart rate app. It can signal health problems, though Apple is stopping short of telling you to see a doctor or visit the emergency room, as the watch isn't marketed — or certified — as a medical device.

Security Firm Links Iranian Hackers to Malware Attacks

A private U.S.-based security firm is linking an Iranian government-sponsored hacking group to cyber-attacks targeted at organizations across the world. The security firm FireEye said Wednesday the Iranian hackers used malware to attack aerospace and petrochemical firms in the United States, Saudi Arabia and South Korea. The hacking group, dubbed APT33 (advanced persistent threat) by the FireEye researchers, used phishing emails and fake domain names to gain access to computer systems of the targeted companies. The report suggests the hackers target the companies in an effort to “enhance Iran’s domestic aviation capabilities or to support Iran’s military and strategic decision making vis-a-vis Saudi Arabia.” “We believe the targeting of the Saudi organization may have been an attempt to gain insight into regional rivals, while the targeting of South Korean companies may be due to South Korea’s recent partnerships with Iran’s petrochemical industry as well as South Korea’s relationships with Saudi petrochemical companies,” the report reads. The FireEye report says the hackers retained access to the companies’ computers for between four and six months at a time, during which the hackers were able to steal data and drop off malware that could potentially be used to destroy the infected computers. It is difficult to accurately attribute cyber-attacks, but FireEye says it linked the hackers to Iran in part by tracking an online handle, “xman_1365_x,” that was accidentally left in the malware coding. The report also notes references to the Farsi language in the malware code and that the hackers’ workdays appear to correspond with the Iranian time zone, and the Saturday to Wednesday workweek used in the country.

Alexa, What do you see? Amazon Said to Be Working on Glasses

Amazon is attempting to develop glasses that pair with Alexa and would allow users to access the voice-activated assistant outside the home, according to a newspaper report. The Financial Times, citing anonymous sources, says the glasses could be released before the end of the year. Inc., based in Seattle, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.   Wearable technology, glasses specifically, is already in limited use. Snapchat sells $130 glasses that take a short video and post it on the social media app. And Alphabet Inc. sells Google Glass to employers, so that doctors or factory workers can search information or talk to co-workers hands free.  

Drones May Soon Deliver Life Saving Defibrillators to Rural Areas

A cardiac arrest happens when the heart stops beating regularly, due to mixed up electrical signals. According to the American Heart Association, when cardiac arrest occurs, every minute that passes before help arrives lowers a person's chance of surviving by seven to 10 percent. However, as we hear from VOA's Kevin Enochs, in a crisis when every minute counts, drones may be able to quickly get help to people who live in rural areas.

Mobile App Aims to Help End Child Marriage in India's Bihar

A mobile phone app is the latest tool for campaigners seeking to end child marriage in India's Bihar state, where nearly two-thirds of girls in some of its rural areas are married before the legal age of 18. The app, Bandhan Tod, was developed by Gender Alliance — a collective of more than 270 charities in Bihar focused on gender rights — and launched this week by Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi. It is backed by the U.N. Population Fund. India ranks among countries with the highest rates of child marriage in the world, accounting for a third of the global total of more than 700 million women, according to UNICEF, the United Nations children's agency. Bandhan Tod — meaning "break the binds" — includes classes on child marriage and dowries and their ill effects. It also has an SOS button that notifies the team when activated. "The app is a big part of our efforts to end child marriage in the state," said Prashanti Tiwary, head of Gender Alliance. "Education is good, but when a young girl wants help because she is being forced to marry before the legal age, the app can be her way out," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Despite a law banning girls from marrying before they turn 18, the practice is deeply rooted in tradition and widely accepted in Indian society. It is rarely reported as a crime and officials are often reluctant to prosecute offenders. While boys also marry before the legal age of 21, girls are disproportionately affected. Risks of abuse, death rise Early marriage makes it more likely that girls will drop out of school, and campaigners say it also increases risks of sexual violence, domestic abuse and death in childbirth. Legal efforts have failed to break the stranglehold of tradition and culture that continues to support child marriage, charity ActionAid India said in a report this year. When the SOS on Bandhan Tod is activated, the nearest small NGO will attempt to resolve the issue. If the family resists, then the police will be notified, said Tiwary. A similar app in West Bengal state to report child marriage and trafficking of women and children has helped prevent several such instances, according to Child in Need Institute, which launched the app in 2015. Other efforts include a cash incentive, where the state transfers a sum of money to the girl's bank account if she remains in school and unwed at age 18. Suppliers of wedding tents in Rajasthan state have stopped dozens of child marriages by alerting officials. "It will take a change in mindset and behavior to end child marriage," said Tiwary, who is lobbying the government to raise the marriage age for women to 21, so they have the same opportunities as men. "But technology provides a practical and accessible way to help prevent it on the ground," she said.

Twitter Reports Progress on Weeding Out Users Advocating Violence

Twitter said that its internal controls were allowing it to weed out accounts being used for "promotion of terrorism" earlier rather than responding to government requests to close them down. U.S. and European governments have been pressuring social media companies including Twitter, Facebook and Alphabet's Google to fight harder against online radicalization, particularly by violent Islamist groups. Twitter said it had removed 299,649 accounts in the first half of this year for the "promotion of terrorism," a 20 percent decline from the previous six months. Three-quarters of those accounts were suspended before posting their first tweet. Less than 1 percent of account suspensions were due to government requests, the company said, while 95 percent were thanks to Twitter's internal efforts to combat extremist content with "proprietary tools," up from 74 percent in the last transparency report. Twitter defines "promotion of terrorism" as actively inciting or promoting violence "associated with internationally recognized terrorist organizations." The vast majority of notices from governments concerned "abusive behavior," which includes violent threats, harassment, hateful conduct and impersonation.

10 Apps Every Foreign Student Should Have on Their Phone

When you’re new to a school or campus, your smartphone will be your new best friend. We want you to succeed in your host country, so here are 10 kinds of apps to help you get started in the U.S. 1. Social Media: You probably already know these apps, and you might be using similar ones in your home country in your own language, like WeChat or Weibo or Telegram. These are the biggies in the U.S.: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat.  Talk with friends. Get news. (In a September 2017 poll, 67 percent of Americans said they got at least a portion of their news from social media.) Find a bed to buy or find roommates. Get assignments from the class you missed this morning. These social media apps will be the core of your existence. You'll use Facebook to communicate with various groups, like friends and family, but also social clubs that share a common interest, like the soccer club, university subgroups around housing and socializing, or people who share the same field of study.  Apps like Snapchat are more for close friends. Instagram focuses on photos you share. Twitter limits you to 140 characters per "tweet," or post, so you learn to be brief, to the point and clever. They are a great way to tell your friends and family back home what you are up to.  (Hint: Facebook has nearly 2 billion users around the world, but is banned in China. The photos you post on Snapchat expire after you share them. But don't post anything on any app you will regret later. Google "Anthony Weiner.") 2. Banking: apps around the world are giving people the ability to transfer money or pay bills easily. Here are some popular among American students. Venmo, Google Wallet, Square Cash -- make it easy to send and receive money for free. Millennials who don't like to carry cash use this to split a check, pay someone back, or split that expensive drink tab. (Hint: Almost every bank has a mobile app that allows its customers to access their money, pay bills and make deposits by snapping a picture of a check front and back, so download it onto your phone. No more costly wire transfers.)  3. Ride-sharing: Need a ride? Punch your destination into these apps -- Uber or Lyft -- and it will tell you how close (or far) the nearest ride is to your location and how much it will cost to get where you are going. The app is linked to your bank account, so no money changes hands. They also offer shared or pool rides with others, making the fare cheaper for everybody. (Hint: Rates change based on the time of day and demand. Check both services to see which is offering the better price.)  4. Eating: Don’t want to get off the couch or away from your desk? Order from almost any nearby restaurant, pay online, and wait for a delivery driver to bring it to your front door through Grubhub or UberEats or DoorDash. This is great for students who don’t have a car or the time to go fetch food. Looking for a place to eat or something to do? Yelp is filled with customer reviews and ratings of restaurants and places, from where to eat breakfast to ratings of the Grand Canyon. This is the ultimate people's voice app, and where to find the right place for that first date. (Hint: Sometimes a business will reply to your review and try to make a bad experience right, so be constructive and clever with your criticism.) 5. Texting and Phoning Home: College students like to communicate in groups, which makes GroupMe and Slack common on campus smartphones. And cell phone carriers may charge outrageous fees for international calls. Using these apps for calls or text makes it cost-effective on a student’s tight budget: WhatsApp or GroupMe or Slack. (Hint: The popular WhatsApp is free to use on WiFi and messages are encrypted.) 6. Document sharing: Users can store and share documents from anywhere using their Gmail account and Google Drive. Want to send a paper to a colleague? Google Drive gives students access to documents from their phones. Don’t tell your professor that you left your paper at home: You can pull it up on Google Drive. 7. Mapping: Search directions while driving, walking or on public transportation on Google Maps or Waze. Unfamiliar with your surroundings when you emerge from the subway? These apps will orient you and put you in the right direction. For students with cars, Waze is another global-positioning system (GPS) app that tells the driver/user when traffic, potholes, and even roadkill, wait up ahead. (Hint: Waze users share where police are waiting up ahead.)  8. Translation: This is the sweetest cheat sheet: online translation. Can’t figure out what the professor’s directions are on a class syllabus? Copy the text into Google Translate,and the translation will appear in an instant. (Hint: It’s not perfect, so don’t rely on it literally.) 9. Weather: Though most smartphones come with a weather app, the Weather Channel or WeatherBug or MyRadar or Quakes offer additional information. Watch how near or far a storm -- and its intensity -- is to your location. (Hint: Set the apps to send you a weather or event alert for severe storms, conditions and tremblors.) 10. Finding a job: LinkedIn connects you with the business world and showcases who you are professionally. Post your CV, your employment history and links to examples of your work on your LinkedIn. Students use LinkedIn connections to get internships and jobs after graduation. (Hint: Ask supervisors and professors for recommendations on LinkedIn. They will show at the bottom of your page, and make you look like a superstar.) Did we miss your favorite app in this list? Please share your suggestion in the Comments here, and visit us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, thanks!  

Review: Glitzy iPhone X Aside, iPhone 8 is Fine for Most

The difference between Apple's new iPhone models is a bit like flying first class compared with coach. We envy first class, but coach gets us there without breaking the budget. The iPhone 8 will do just fine for $300 less than the glitzy iPhone X , even though it won't make your friends and colleagues jealous. It's also available much sooner - this Friday - starting at almost $700. The X (read as the numeral 10) won't be out until November.   Still, the iPhone 8 remains a fairly straightforward update of the iPhone 7 , which itself was a fairly straightforward update of the iPhone 6S. Then again, no one expects much different from a coach seat.   What you're not getting   It's hard to talk about the iPhone 8 without comparing it to my 15 minutes with the iPhone X last Tuesday.   The X wowed with a fancy new display that flows to the edges of the phone. The phone is compact, yet features a screen slightly larger than the one on the supersized iPhone 8 Plus. The X also features facial recognition that lets you unlock the phone with a glance; you can also create animated emojis that match your facial expressions.   The 8 has none of that, although it does share other new goodies the X is getting, including wireless charging. The 8 and the X both have faster processors and sensors to enhance graphics in augmented reality, a blending of the virtual and physical worlds, though older iPhones will also run AR apps with a software update Tuesday. Wireless charging   Apple is embraces wireless-charging technology that Android phones have had for years. It's a rare case in which Apple isn't going its own way; instead, it's adopting an existing standard called Qi (pronounced chee). That means the iPhone gets all the technical advancements from the consortium behind Qi _ and can take immediate advantage of a slew of public wireless-charging stations.   It worked perfectly for me while waiting for a connecting flight in Los Angeles - no need to rummage through my backpack for a charging cord.   Apple says the wireless system should charge as quickly as the wall adapter included with iPhones. But I found wireless slower in testing, using a Belkin charger with the same power output as the iPhone charger.   Wireless charging is largely about convenience; it's terrific if you can just drop your phone on a charging pad overnight or during the day at your desk. Apple says it will boost wireless-charging power by 50 percent in coming months, which will speed things up further. But those in a rush should consider a wall charger that comes with the iPad, which will still be even faster.   In a way, wireless charging makes up for Apple's earlier decision to ditch the headphone jack in the iPhone 7, which made people share the Lightning port with both charging cords and wired headphones. You can now charge and use wired headphones at the same time.   Display   Colors on the 8's screen adapt to lighting in the room. It's noticeable in my apartment at night, as artificial lighting tends to be warmer and more yellowish. The screen adapts by making whites more like beige and yellow even yellower. It's softer on the eyes and mimics how light glows on white paper, though it can make images appear less natural. You can turn this feature off.   Resolution isn't as sharp as what the X and many rival Android phones offer. The Plus offers enough pixels for high-definition video at the highest quality, 1080p, while the regular model is comparable to the lesser 720p.   Camera   New color filters produce truer and richer colors without looking fake, while a new flash technique tries to light the foreground and background more evenly. You have to know to look, as the iPhone 7 already had a great camera. Differences in test shots taken while sightseeing in Poland were subtle, but noticeable - more so on the iPhone 8 screen than on last year's Mac.   The iPhone 8 also offers additional video options, including recording of ultra-high definition, or 4K, at 60 frames per second, twice the previous rate. (The phone's display, though, isn't sharp enough for 4K.)   A second lens in the 7 Plus and 8 Plus models lets the camera gauge depth and blur backgrounds in portrait shots, something once limited to full-featured SLR cameras. Samsung adopted that feature in this year's Note 8 .   Coming to the 8 Plus are filters to mimic studio and other lighting conditions. My favorite, stage light, highlights the subject's face and darkens the background. Some of these filters make images look fake - Apple has slapped a "beta" test tag to signal it's not flawless. You can try them out and undo any changes you don't like.   Design   To make wireless charging work, the 8 features a glass back, something last seen in the iPhone 4S in 2011. Aesthetic considerations aside, this gives you another sheet of glass to break.   Apple says custom glass from Corning makes the phone stronger. Even so, consider a service plan and get a case. Wireless charging works with most cases, as long as there's no metal or magnets. I found the phone charged just as fast with the case on.   About the price tag   The iPhone 8 is about $50 more than what the iPhone 7 cost at launch. Samsung has similarly increased the prices of its flagship Galaxy phones, and the S8 still outsold last year's S7. Consumers seem willing to pay.   You do get double the storage - 64 gigabytes - at that price, a value considering that iPhone storage boosts typically cost $100. You'll need that extra storage for video, apps and fancy features such as AR and animated photos.   Nonetheless, I would have preferred the option of a cheaper, lower-storage version. For that, you need an older model , such as the $549 iPhone 7 and the $449 6S. There's also the smaller iPhone SE for $349.

Self-driving Boats Could Launch Before Self-driving Cars

While car manufacturers are racing to get self-driving cars on the road, researchers are well ahead in developing self-driving vessels that could soon start ferrying passengers and cargo in busy ports. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Virtual Reality Therapy to Treat the World's Most Common Vision Problem

Amblyopia or Lazy Eye, as it is called, is a vision problem in which the brain doesn't receive or process signals from the affected eye. It can be caused by any number of physical issues, but the real problem is that it can't be fixed with glasses. But it can be fixed, through therapy, and that therapy is now getting a high tech makeover using VR technology. Kevin Enochs reports

Sources: Google Offers to Display Rival Sites Via Auction

Alphabet unit Google has offered to display rival comparison shopping sites via an auction as part of an EU compliance order following a landmark fine for favoring its own service, four people familiar with the matter said on Monday. The proposal, submitted to the European Commission on August 29 following a record 2.4-billion-euro ($2.87 billion) penalty, would allow competitors to bid for any spot in its shopping section known as Product Listing Ads, the people said. Three years ago, the world's most popular internet search engine made a similar offer in an attempt to settle a long-running investigation by the European Commission and stave off a fine. The offer was ultimately rejected following negative feedback from rivals and discord within the EU executive. Under this earlier proposal, Google had reserved the first two places for its own ads. The new offer would also see Google set a floor price with its own bids minus operating costs. The company has sought feedback from competitors. The offer does not address the issues set out by EU competition regulators, the people said. The Commission had ordered Google to treat rivals and its own service equally. "This is worse than the commitments," one of the people said, declining to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter. The Commission was not immediately available for comment. Google did not respond to a request for comment. Google has until September 28 to stop its anti-competitive practices or its parent company Alphabet could be fined up to 5 percent of its average daily worldwide turnover.

Countries Racing to Develop Warfare Robots

With air drones now being a fixture in nearly every army's arsenal, defense industries are hard at work developing ground and underwater robotic vehicles, trying not to fall behind others. Most of the technology has already been developed for industrial robots, and the rapidly expanding self-driving vehicle segment of the automotive industry. VOA’s George Putic looks at the state of warfare robots.