Samsung to expand chip output from Texas

The Biden administration last month announced $6.4 billion in direct funding to back South Korean tech giant Samsung’s new semiconductor cluster in central Texas. That means big changes for the town of Taylor. Deana Mitchell has our story


Researchers use artificial intelligence to classify brain tumors

SYDNEY — Researchers in Australia and the United States say that a new artificial intelligence tool has allowed them to classify brain tumors more quickly and accurately.  

The current method for identifying different kinds of brain tumors, while accurate, can take several weeks to produce results.  The method, called DNA methylation-based profiling, is not available at many hospitals around the world.

To address these challenges, a research team from the Australian National University, in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute in the United States, has developed a way to predict DNA methylation, which acts like a switch to control gene activity.  

This allows them to classify brain tumors into 10 major categories using a deep learning model.

This is a branch of artificial intelligence that teaches computers to process data in a way that is inspired by a human brain.

The joint U.S.-Australian system is called DEPLOY and uses microscopic pictures of a patient’s tissue called histopathology images.

The researchers see the DEPLOY technology as complementary to an initial diagnosis by a pathologist or physician.

Danh-Tai Hoang, a research fellow at the Australian National University, told VOA that AI will enhance current diagnostic methods that can often be slow.

“The technique is very time consuming,” Hoang said. “It is often around two to three weeks to obtain a result from the test, whereas patients with high-grade brain tumors often require treatment as soon as possible because time is the goal for brain tumor(s), so they need to get treatment as soon as possible.”

The research team said its AI model was validated on large datasets of approximately 4,000 patients from across the United States and Europe and an accuracy rate of 95 percent.

Their study has been published in the journal Nature Medicine.


Companies trying to attract more smartphone users across Africa, but there are risks

Accra, Ghana — Anita Akpeere prepared fried rice in her kitchen in Ghana’s capital as a flurry of notifications for restaurant orders lit up apps on her phone. “I don’t think I could work without a phone in my line of business,” she said, as requests came in for her signature dish, a traditional fermented dumpling.

Internet-enabled phones have transformed many lives, but they can play a unique role in sub-Saharan Africa, where infrastructure and public services are among the world’s least developed, said Jenny Aker, a professor who studies the issue at Tufts University. At times, technology in Africa has leapfrogged gaps, including providing access to mobile money for people without bank accounts.

Despite growing mobile internet coverage on the continent of 1.3 billion people, just 25% of adults in sub-Saharan Africa have access to it, according to Claire Sibthorpe, head of digital inclusion at the U.K.-based mobile phone lobbying group GSMA. Expense is the main barrier. The cheapest smartphone costs up to 95% of the monthly salary for the poorest 20% of the region’s population, Sibthorpe said.

Literacy rates that are below the global average, and lack of services in many African languages — some 2,000 are spoken across the continent, according to The African Language Program at Harvard University — are other reasons why a smartphone isn’t a compelling investment for some.

“If you buy a car, it’s because you can drive it,” said Alain Capo-Chichi, chief executive of CERCO Group, a company that has developed a smartphone that functions through voice command and is available in 50 African languages such as Yoruba, Swahili and Wolof.

Even in Ghana, where the lingua franca is English, knowing how to use smartphones and apps can be a challenge for newcomers.

One new company in Ghana is trying to close the digital gap. Uniti Networks offers financing to help make smartphones more affordable and coaches users to navigate its platform of apps.

For Cyril Fianyo, a 64-year-old farmer in Ghana’s eastern Volta region, the phone has expanded his activities beyond calls and texts. Using his identity card, he registered with Uniti, putting down a deposit worth 340 Ghanaian Cedis ($25) for a smartphone and will pay the remaining 910 Cedis ($66) in installments.

He was shown how to navigate apps that interested him, including a third-party farming app called Cocoa Link that offers videos of planting techniques, weather information and details about the challenges of climate change that have affected cocoa and other crops.

Fianyo, who previously planted according to his intuition and rarely interacts with farming advisors, was optimistic that the technology would increase his yields.

“I will know the exact time to plant because of the weather forecast,” he said.

Kami Dar, chief executive of Uniti Networks, said the mobile internet could help address other challenges including accessing health care. The company has launched in five communities across Ghana with 650 participants and wants to reach 100,000 users within five years.

Aker, the scholar, noted that the potential impact of mobile phones across Africa is immense but said there is limited evidence that paid health or agriculture apps are benefiting people there. She asserted that the only beneficial impacts are reminders to take medicine or get vaccinated.

Having studied agricultural apps and their impact, she said it doesn’t seem that farmers are getting better prices or improving their income.

Capo-Chichi from CERCO Group said a dearth of useful apps and content is another reason that more people in Africa aren’t buying smartphones.

Dar said Uniti Networks learns from mistakes. In a pilot in northern Ghana designed to help cocoa farmers contribute to their pensions, there was high engagement, but farmers didn’t find the app user-friendly and needed extra coaching. After the feedback, the pension provider changed the interface to improve navigation.

Others are finding benefit with Uniti’s platform. Mawufemor Vitor, a church secretary in Hohoe, said one health app has assisted her to track her menstruation to help prevent pregnancy. And Fianyo, the farmer, has used the platform to find information on herbal medicine.

But mobile phones are no substitute for investment in public services and infrastructure, Aker said.

She also expressed concerns about the privacy of data in the hands of private technology providers and governments. With digital IDs in development in African nations such as Kenya and South Africa, this could pave the way for further abuses, Aker said.

Uniti Networks is a for-profit business, paid for each customer that signs up for paying apps. Dar asserted that he was not targeting vulnerable populations to sell them unnecessary services and said Uniti only features apps that align with its idea of impact, with a focus on health, education, finance and agriculture.

Dar said Uniti has rejected lucrative approaches from many companies including gambling firms. “Tech can be used for awful things,” he said.

He acknowledged that Uniti tracks users on the platform to provide incentives, in the form of free data, and to provide feedback to app developers. He acknowledged that users’ health and financial data could be at threat from outside attack but said Uniti has decentralized data storage in an attempt to lessen the risk.

Still, the potential to provide solutions can outweigh the risks, Aker said, noting two areas where the technology could be transformative: education and insurance.

She said mobile phones could help overcome the illiteracy that still affects 773 million people worldwide according to UNESCO. Increased access to insurance, still not widely used in parts of Africa, could provide protection to millions who face shocks on the front lines of climate change and conflict.

Back in Fianyo’s fields, his new smartphone has attracted curiosity. “This is something I would like to be part of,” said neighboring farmer Godsway Kwamigah.


Blue Origin flies thrill seekers to space, including oldest astronaut 

Washington — After a nearly two year hiatus, Blue Origin flew adventurers to space on Sunday including a former Air Force pilot who was denied the chance to be the United States’ first Black astronaut decades ago. 

 

It was the first crewed launch for the enterprise owned and founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos since a rocket mishap in 2022 left rival Virgin Galactic as the sole operator in the fledgling suborbital tourism market. 

 

Six people including the sculptor Ed Dwight, who was on track to become NASA’s first ever astronaut of color in the 1960s before being controversially spurned, launched around 09:36 am local time (1436 GMT) from the Launch Site One base in west Texas, a live feed showed. 

 

Dwight — at 90 years, 8 months and 10 days — became the oldest person to ever go to space. 

 

“This is a life-changing experience, everybody needs to do this,” he exclaimed after the flight. 

 

Dwight added: “I thought I didn’t really need this in my life,” reflecting on his omission from the astronaut corps, which was his first experience with failure as a young man. “But I lied,” he said with a hearty laugh. 

 

Mission NS-25 is the seventh human flight for Blue Origin, which sees short jaunts on the New Shepard suborbital vehicle as a stepping stone to greater ambitions, including the development of a full-fledged heavy rocket and lunar lander. 

 

To date, the company has flown 31 people aboard New Shepard — a small, fully reusable rocket system named after Alan Shepard, the first American in space. 

The program encountered a setback when a New Shepard rocket caught fire shortly after launch on September 12, 2022, even though the uncrewed capsule ejected safely. 

 

A federal investigation revealed an overheating engine nozzle was at fault. Blue Origin took corrective steps and carried out a successful uncrewed launch in December 2023, paving the way for Sunday’s mission. 

 

After liftoff, the sleek and roomy capsule separated from the booster, which produces zero carbon emissions. The rocket performed a precision vertical landing. 

 

As the spaceship soared beyond the Karman Line, the internationally recognized boundary of space 100 kilometers above sea level, passengers had the chance to marvel at the Earth’s curvature and unbuckle their seatbelts to float — or somersault — during a few minutes of weightlessness. 

 

The capsule then reentered the atmosphere, deploying its parachutes for a desert landing in a puff of sand. However, one of the three parachutes failed to fully inflate, possibly resulting in a harder landing than expected. 

 

Bezos himself was on the program’s first ever crewed flight in 2021. A few months later, Star Trek’s William Shatner blurred the lines between science fiction and reality when he became the world’s oldest ever astronaut aged 90, decades after he first played a space traveler. 

 

Dwight, who was almost two months older than Shatner at the time of his flight, became only the second nonagenarian to venture beyond Earth. 

 

Astronaut John Glenn remains the oldest to orbit the planet, a feat he achieved in 1998 at the age 77 aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. 

 

Blue Origin’s competitor in suborbital space is Virgin Galactic, which deploys a supersonic spaceplane that is dropped from beneath the wings of a massive carrier plane at high altitude. 

 

Virgin Galactic experienced its own two-year safety pause because of an anomaly linked with the 2021 flight that carried its founder British tycoon Richard Branson into space. But the company later hit its stride with half a dozen successful flights in quick succession. 

 

Sunday’s mission finally gave Dwight the chance he was denied decades ago. 

 

He was an elite test pilot when he was appointed by President John F Kennedy to join a highly competitive Air Force program known as a pathway for the astronaut corps, but was ultimately not picked. 

 

He left the military in 1966, citing the strain of racial politics, before dedicating his life to telling Black history through sculpture. His art, displayed around the country, includes iconic figures like Martin Luther King Jr, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and more. 


Musk, Indonesian health minister, launch Starlink for health sector 

DENPASAR, BALI, INDONESIA — Elon Musk and Indonesian Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin launched SpaceX’s satellite internet service for the nation’s health sector on Sunday, aiming to improve access in remote parts of the sprawling archipelago.   

Musk, the billionaire head of SpaceX and Tesla TSLA.O, arrived on the Indonesian resort island of Bali by private jet before attending the launch ceremony at a community health centre in the provincial capital, Denpasar.   

Musk, wearing a green batik shirt, said the availability of the Starlink service in Indonesia would help millions in far-flung parts of the country to access the internet. The country is home to more than 270 million people and three different time zones.

“I’m very excited to bring connectivity to places that have low connectivity,” Musk said, “If you have access to the internet you can learn anything.”   

Starlink was launched at three Indonesian health centers on Sunday, including two in Bali and one on the remote island of Aru in Maluku.   

A video presentation screened at the launch showed how high internet speeds enabled the real-time input of data to better tackle health challenges such as stunting and malnutrition.   

Asked about whether he planned to also invest in Indonesia’s electric vehicle industry, Musk said he was focused on Starlink first.   

“We are focusing this event on Starlink and the benefits that connectivity brings to remote islands,” he said, “I think it’s really to emphasize the importance of internet connectivity, how much of that can be a lifesaver.”   

Indonesia’s government has been trying for years to lure Musk’s auto firm Tesla to build manufacturing plants related to electric vehicles as the government wants to develop its EV sector using the country’s rich nickel resources.   

The tech tycoon is scheduled to meet Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Monday, where he will also address the World Water Forum taking place on the island.   

Communications Minister Budi Arie Setiadi, who also attended the Bali launch, said Starlink was now available commercially, but the government would focus its services first for outer and underdeveloped regions.   

Prior to Sunday’s launch, Starlink obtained a permit to operate as an internet service provider for retail consumers and had been given the go-ahead to provide networks, having received a very small aperture terminal (VSAT) permit, Budi Setiadi told Reuters.   

SpaceX’s Starlink, which owns around 60% of the roughly 7,500 satellites orbiting earth, is dominant in the satellite internet sphere.   

Indonesia is the third country in Southeast Asia where Starlink will operate. Malaysia issued the firm a license to provide internet services last year and a Philippine-based firm signed a deal with SpaceX in 2022.   

Starlink is also used extensively in Ukraine, where it is employed by the military, hospitals, businesses and aid organizations. 


Illness took away her voice. AI created a replica she carries in her phone

PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND — The voice Alexis “Lexi” Bogan had before last summer was exuberant.

She loved to belt out Taylor Swift and Zach Bryan ballads in the car. She laughed all the time — even while corralling misbehaving preschoolers or debating politics with friends over a backyard fire pit. In high school, she was a soprano in the chorus.

Then that voice was gone.

Doctors in August removed a life-threatening tumor lodged near the back of her brain. When the breathing tube came out a month later, Bogan had trouble swallowing and strained to say “Hi” to her parents. Months of rehabilitation aided her recovery, but her speech is still impaired. Friends, strangers and her own family members struggle to understand what she is trying to tell them.

In April, the 21-year-old got her old voice back. Not the real one, but a voice clone generated by artificial intelligence that she can summon from a phone app. Trained on a 15-second time capsule of her teenage voice — sourced from a cooking demonstration video she recorded for a high school project — her synthetic but remarkably real-sounding AI voice can now say almost anything she wants.

She types a few words or sentences into her phone and the app instantly reads it aloud.

“Hi, can I please get a grande iced brown sugar oat milk shaken espresso,” said Bogan’s AI voice as she held the phone out her car’s window at a Starbucks drive-thru.

Experts have warned that rapidly improving AI voice-cloning technology can amplify phone scams, disrupt democratic elections and violate the dignity of people — living or dead — who never consented to having their voice recreated to say things they never spoke.

It’s been used to produce deepfake robocalls to New Hampshire voters mimicking President Joe Biden. In Maryland, authorities recently charged a high school athletic director with using AI to generate a fake audio clip of the school’s principal making racist remarks.

But Bogan and a team of doctors at Rhode Island’s Lifespan hospital group believe they’ve found a use that justifies the risks. Bogan is one of the first people — the only one with her condition — who have been able to recreate a lost voice with OpenAI’s new Voice Engine. Some other AI providers, such as the startup ElevenLabs, have tested similar technology for people with speech impediments and loss — including a lawyer who now uses her voice clone in the courtroom.

“We’re hoping Lexi’s a trailblazer as the technology develops,” said Dr. Rohaid Ali, a neurosurgery resident at Brown University’s medical school and Rhode Island Hospital. Millions of people with debilitating strokes, throat cancer or neurogenerative diseases could benefit, he said.

“We should be conscious of the risks, but we can’t forget about the patient and the social good,” said Dr. Fatima Mirza, another resident working on the pilot. “We’re able to help give Lexi back her true voice and she’s able to speak in terms that are the most true to herself.”

Mirza and Ali, who are married, caught the attention of ChatGPT-maker OpenAI because of their previous research project at Lifespan using the AI chatbot to simplify medical consent forms for patients. The San Francisco company reached out while on the hunt earlier this year for promising medical applications for its new AI voice generator.

Bogan was still slowly recovering from surgery. The illness started last summer with headaches, blurry vision and a droopy face, alarming doctors at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence. They discovered a vascular tumor the size of a golf ball pressing on her brain stem and entangled in blood vessels and cranial nerves.

“It was a battle to get control of the bleeding and get the tumor out,” said pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Konstantina Svokos.

The tumor’s location and severity coupled with the complexity of the 10-hour surgery damaged Bogan’s control of her tongue muscles and vocal cords, impeding her ability to eat and talk, Svokos said.

“It’s almost like a part of my identity was taken when I lost my voice,” Bogan said.

The feeding tube came out this year. Speech therapy continues, enabling her to speak intelligibly in a quiet room but with no sign she will recover the full lucidity of her natural voice.

“At some point, I was starting to forget what I sounded like,” Bogan said. “I’ve been getting so used to how I sound now.”

Whenever the phone rang at the family’s home in the Providence suburb of North Smithfield, she would push it over to her mother to take her calls. She felt she was burdening her friends whenever they went to a noisy restaurant. Her dad, who has hearing loss, struggled to understand her.

Back at the hospital, doctors were looking for a pilot patient to experiment with OpenAI’s technology.

“The first person that came to Dr. Svokos’ mind was Lexi,” Ali said. “We reached out to Lexi to see if she would be interested, not knowing what her response would be. She was game to try it out and see how it would work.”

Bogan had to go back a few years to find a suitable recording of her voice to “train” the AI system on how she spoke. It was a video in which she explained how to make a pasta salad.

Her doctors intentionally fed the AI system just a 15-second clip. Cooking sounds make other parts of the video imperfect. It was also all that OpenAI needed — an improvement over previous technology requiring much lengthier samples.

They also knew that getting something useful out of 15 seconds could be vital for any future patients who have no trace of their voice on the internet. A brief voicemail left for a relative might have to suffice.

When they tested it for the first time, everyone was stunned by the quality of the voice clone. Occasional glitches — a mispronounced word, a missing intonation — were mostly imperceptible. In April, doctors equipped Bogan with a custom-built phone app that only she can use.

“I get so emotional every time I hear her voice,” said her mother, Pamela Bogan, tears in her eyes.

“I think it’s awesome that I can have that sound again,” added Lexi Bogan, saying it helped “boost my confidence to somewhat where it was before all this happened.”

She now uses the app about 40 times a day and sends feedback she hopes will help future patients. One of her first experiments was to speak to the kids at the preschool where she works as a teaching assistant. She typed in “ha ha ha ha” expecting a robotic response. To her surprise, it sounded like her old laugh.

She’s used it at Target and Marshall’s to ask where to find items. It’s helped her reconnect with her dad. And it’s made it easier for her to order fast food.

Bogan’s doctors have started cloning the voices of other willing Rhode Island patients and hope to bring the technology to hospitals around the world. OpenAI said it is treading cautiously in expanding the use of Voice Engine, which is not yet publicly available.

A number of smaller AI startups already sell voice-cloning services to entertainment studios or make them more widely available. Most voice-generation vendors say they prohibit impersonation or abuse, but they vary in how they enforce their terms of use.

“We want to make sure that everyone whose voice is used in the service is consenting on an ongoing basis,” said Jeff Harris, OpenAI’s lead on the product. “We want to make sure that it’s not used in political contexts. So we’ve taken an approach of being very limited in who we’re giving the technology to.”

Harris said OpenAI’s next step involves developing a secure “voice authentication” tool so that users can replicate only their own voice. That might be “limiting for a patient like Lexi, who had sudden loss of her speech capabilities,” he said. “So we do think that we’ll need to have high-trust relationships, especially with medical providers, to give a little bit more unfettered access to the technology.”

Bogan has impressed her doctors with her focus on thinking about how the technology could help others with similar or more severe speech impediments.

“Part of what she has done throughout this entire process is think about ways to tweak and change this,” Mirza said. “She’s been a great inspiration for us.”

While for now she must fiddle with her phone to get the voice engine to talk, Bogan imagines an AI voice engine that improves upon older remedies for speech recovery — such as the robotic-sounding electrolarynx or a voice prosthesis — in melding with the human body or translating words in real time.

She’s less sure about what will happen as she grows older and her AI voice continues to sound like she did as a teenager. Maybe the technology could “age” her AI voice, she said.

For now, “even though I don’t have my voice fully back, I have something that helps me find my voice again,” she said.


Changes from Visa mean Americans will carry fewer credit, debit cards

new york — Your wallet may soon be getting thinner.

Visa on Wednesday announced major changes to how credit and debit cards will operate in the U.S. in the coming months and years.

The new features could mean Americans will be carrying fewer physical cards in their wallets, and will make the 16-digit credit or debit card number printed on every card increasingly irrelevant.

They will be some of the biggest changes to how payments operate in the U.S. since the U.S. rolled out chip-embedded cards several years ago. They also come as Americans have many more options to pay for purchases beyond “credit or debit,” including buy now, pay later companies, peer-to-peer payment options, paying directly with a bank, or digital payment systems such as Apple Pay.

“I think (with these features) we’re getting past the point where consumers may never need to manually enter an account number ever again,” said Mark Nelsen, Visa’s global head of consumer payments.

The biggest change coming for Americans will be the ability for banks to issue one physical payment card that will be connected to multiple bank accounts. That means no more carrying, for example, a Bank of America or Chase debit card as well as their respective credit cards in a physical wallet. Americans will be able to set criteria with their bank — such as having all purchases below $100 or with a certain merchant applied to the debit card, while other purchases go on the credit card.

The feature, already being used in Asia, will be available this summer. Buy now, pay later company Affirm is the first of Visa’s customers to roll out the feature in the U.S.

Fraud prompts changes

Some of Visa’s new features are in response to online-payments fraud, which continues to increase as more countries adopt digital payments. The company based in San Francisco, California, estimates that payment fraud happens roughly seven times more often online than it does in person, and there are now billions of stolen credit and debit card numbers available to criminals.

Other new elements are also in response to features that non-payments companies have rolled out in recent years. The Apple Card, which uses Mastercard as its payment network, does not come with a printed 16-digit account number and Apple Card users can request a fresh credit card number at any time without having to dispose of the physical card.

Visa executives see a future where banks will issue cards where the 16-digit account number, if the new cards come with them, is largely symbolic.

Soon, fingerprints can approve transactions

Among the other updates unveiled by Visa are changes to tap-to-pay features. Americans will be able to tap their credit or debit cards to their smartphones to add the card to mobile wallets, instead of using a smartphone’s camera to scan in a card’s information, or tap the card to their smartphones to approve a transaction online. Visa will also start implementing biometrics to approve transactions, similar to how Apple devices use a fingerprint or face scan to approve transactions.

The features will take time to filter down to the banks, which will decide when or what to implement for their customers. But because the banks and credit card companies are Visa’s customers, and issue cards with the Visa label, these are features that the financial institutions have been asking for.


Scholar called ‘Putin’s brain’ attacked on Chinese internet

Washington — Aleksander Dugin, a Russian nationalist ideologue and strong supporter of President Vladimir Putin, has been bombarded with attacks on Chinese social media, where netizens criticized and mocked his Russian expansionist views that had once included the dismembering of China.

Two years after Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine, pro-Russia sentiment has been prevalent on Chinese internet.

But the backlash against Dugin has revealed a less mentioned side of what has so far appeared to be a cozy alliance between Beijing and Moscow — hostility between Chinese nationalists and their Russian counterparts, the result of centuries of territorial disputes and political confrontations that Beijing has been reticent about displaying publicly in recent decades.

On May 6, Dugin opened an account on two of the most popular Chinese social media apps Weibo, China’s X, formerly known as Twitter, and Bilibili, a YouTube-like video site.

In the first video posted on both Weibo and Bilibili, Dugin greeted the Chinese audience and praised Beijing’s economic and political achievements in recent decades.

In the same video, he also criticized an article published in April in The Economist by Feng Yujun, director of Russian and Central Asian studies at Fudan University in Shanghai. Feng said in the article that Russia will inevitably lose the Ukraine war.

Dugin countered that Feng and some Chinese people underestimated Russia’s “tenacity and perseverance.”

The video was quickly condemned by Chinese citizens, who posted comments such as “Russia must lose,” which received thousands of likes.

“This is an extremist who is extremely unfriendly to China and has made plans to dismember China,” another message posted by a Weibo user named “Zhixingbenyiti” said.

Dugin, 62, was born in Moscow. In the 1980s, he became an anti-communist dissident.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, he began to promote Russian expansionism. He believes that Moscow’s territorial expansion in Eurasia will allow it to counter Western forces led by the United States.

In his 1997 book, Foundations of Geopolitics, Dugin wrote that dismembering China was a necessary step for Russia to become strong. People within Putin’s inner circle have reportedly shown interest in Dugin’s writing, which gave rise to his nickname “Putin’s brain.”

However, Dugin’s attitude toward China has changed significantly in recent years. In 2018, he visited China for the first time. In a speech at Fudan University, he praised China’s economy, culture and leadership in the fight against colonialism.

He also changed his previous support for containing China and said in a speech that China and Russia could work together to “form a very important and non-negligible containment/pull effect” on Western powers.

Dugin is now a senior fellow at Fudan University’s China Institute and one of the columnists for China’s nationalist news organization, Guancha.

Before Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Dugin said in a column that the alliance between China and Russia would “mean the irreversible end of Western hegemony.”

Philipp Ivanov, a senior fellow at the Asia Society Policy Institute, told VOA that “Dugin is an opportunist. As the Ukraine war dramatically accelerated the alignment between China and Russia, his position started to change, resulting in his current attempt to engage with China’s intellectual and broader community.”

Ivanov also thinks Dugin’s influence on the Kremlin has been exaggerated.

Since joining Chinese social media, Dugin has gained more than 100,000 followers on Weibo and 25,000 followers on BiliBili. He has published fewer than five posts on Weibo, but nearly every one of them has more than 1,000 comments, most of which criticized him.

Under a post in which Dugin supported Putin on his fifth presidential term, people responded with comments such as “Russia is about to lose the war” and “The gates of hell are waiting for you.”

Wang Xiaodong, China’s most influential nationalist scholar, shared a Weibo post he made two years ago criticizing Dugin and Chinese pro-Russian groups.

“Introducing Dugin’s ideas is not because I worry that the Kremlin will implement his ideas; He has the intention but not the strength! I just want to tell the Chinese people how some Russians, including elites in the powerful departments, view China. Do we Chinese need to risk our lives for them?” the post read.

Ivanov was not surprised by the attacks on Dugin on the Chinese internet.

“While Chinese netizens may support Putin’s anti-Western/anti-US agenda, they are skeptical or outright negative about Russia’s assault on an independent country’s sovereignty and Russian expansionism, nationalism and chauvinism (which Dugin represents),” he told VOA in an email.

He said the history of China-Russia relations is predominantly about confrontation, competition and mistrust.

Among the attacks on Dugin, many netizens also brought up former Chinese territories that Russia occupied in the past 200 years.

“For the sake of ever-lasting friendship between China and Russia, please return Sakhalin and Vladivostok,” one Weibo comment posted by “lovejxcecil” read.

Although China has not been involved in the war, the Russia-Ukraine war has been a hot topic on the Chinese internet.

According to Eric Liu, a former Weibo censor, Dugin’s joining the platform undoubtedly brought more traffic to Weibo. However, it also means that Weibo needs to invest more resources in censorship to prevent him from making remarks that Beijing considers sensitive.

“He is a foreigner. He has no idea about China’s ‘political correctness’ or where the boundaries are,” Liu said. “This risk will have to be taken care of by Weibo, which brought him in.”

On Thursday, Dugin posted on Weibo that China and Russia could achieve “anything” together. His comment section has been turned off. 


US arrests American and Ukrainian in North Korea-linked IT infiltration scheme

WASHINGTON — U.S. prosecutors on Thursday announced the arrests of an American woman and a Ukrainian man they say helped North Korea-linked IT workers posing as Americans to obtain remote-work jobs at hundreds of U.S. companies.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) said the elaborate scheme, aimed at generating revenue for North Korea in contravention of international sanctions, involved the infiltration of more than 300 U.S. firms, including Fortune 500 companies and banks, and the theft of the identities of more than 60 Americans.

A DoJ statement said the overseas IT workers also attempted to gain employment and access to information at two U.S. government agencies, although these efforts were “generally unsuccessful.”

An earlier State Department statement said the scheme had generated at least $6.8 million for North Korea. It said the North Koreans involved were linked to North Korea’s Munitions Industry Department, which oversees development of the country’s ballistic missiles, weapons production, and research and development programs.

An indictment filed in federal court in Washington last week and unsealed on Thursday said charges had been filed against Christina Marie Chapman, 49, of Litchfield Park, Arizona; Ukrainian Oleksandr Didenko, 27, of Kyiv; and three other foreign nationals.

A Justice Department statement said Chapman was arrested on Wednesday, while Didenko was arrested on May 7 by Polish authorities at the request of the United States, which is seeking his extradition.

The State Department announced a reward of up to $5 million for information related to Chapman’s alleged co-conspirators, who used the aliases Jiho Han, Haoran Xu and Chunji Jin, and another unindicted individual using the aliases Zhonghua and Venechor S.

Court records did not list lawyers for those arrested and it was not immediately clear whether they had legal representation.

The head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Nicole Argentieri, said the alleged crimes “benefited the North Korean government, giving it a revenue stream and, in some instances, proprietary information stolen by the co-conspirators.”

The charges “should be a wakeup call for American companies and government agencies that employ remote IT workers,” she said in the statement.

It said the scheme “defrauded U.S. companies across myriad industries, including multiple well-known Fortune 500 companies, U.S. banks, and other financial service providers.”

The DoJ said Didenko was accused of creating fake accounts at U.S. IT job search platforms, selling them to overseas IT workers, some of whom he believed were North Korean. It said overseas IT workers using Didenko’s services were also working with Chapman.

Didenko’s online domain, upworksell.com, was seized Thursday by the Justice Department, the statement said.

The DOJ statement said the FBI executed search warrants for U.S.-based “laptop farms” – residences that hosted multiple laptops for overseas IT workers.

It said that through these farms, including one Chapman hosted from her home, U.S.-based facilitators logged onto U.S. company computer networks and allowed the overseas IT workers to remotely access the laptops, using U.S. IP addresses to make it appear they were in the United States.

The statement said search warrants for four U.S. residences associated with laptop farms controlled by Didenko were issued in the Southern District of California, the Eastern District of Tennessee, and Eastern District of Virginia, and executed between May 8 and May 10.

North Korea is under U.N. sanctions aimed at cutting funding for its missile and nuclear weapons programs and experts say it has sought to generate income illicitly, including through IT workers.

Confidential research by a now-disbanded U.N. sanctions monitoring panel seen by Reuters on Tuesday showed they had been investigating 97 suspected North Korean cyberattacks on cryptocurrency companies between 2017 and 2024, valued at some $3.6 billion.

The U.N. sanctions monitors were disbanded at the end of April after Russia vetoed renewal of their mandate.

A research report from a Washington think tank in April said North Korean animators may have helped create popular television cartoons for big Western firms despite international sanctions. 


Protesters disrupt Google conference over Israel AI contract

Protesters disrupted Google’s annual conference this week over the tech giant’s deal providing artificial intelligence and other services to the Israeli government. Matt Dibble reports from Mountain View, California. Camera: Matt Dibble.


Kenya conference showcases technology to help people with disabilities

In Africa, about 15% of the population faces disability challenges despite advancements in technology. Limited infrastructure and high cost of assistive tech create barriers to digital access, leading to exclusion. A conference in Nairobi this week aims to help change that. Mohammed Yusuf reports.


TSMC says no damage to its Arizona facilities after incident

TAIPAI, TAIWAN — Taiwanese chipmaker TSMC said Thursday there was no damage to its facilities after an incident at its Arizona factory construction site where

a waste disposal truck driver was transported to a hospital.

Firefighters responded to a reported explosion Wednesday afternoon at the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company plant in Phoenix, the Arizona Republic reported, citing the local fire department.

TSMC, the world’s largest contract chipmaker whose clients include Apple and Nvidia, said in a statement none of its employees or onsite construction workers had reported any related injuries.

“This is an active investigation with no additional details that can be shared at this time,” it added.

TSMC’s Taipei-listed shares pared earlier gains after the news and were last up around 0.8% on Thursday morning. TSMC last month agreed to expand its planned investment by $25 billion to $65 billion and to add a third Arizona plant by 2030.

The company will produce the world’s most advanced 2 nanometer technology at its second Arizona facility expected to begin production in 2028.


New Zealand researchers say artificial intelligence could enhance surgery

SYDNEY — Researchers in New Zealand say that artificial intelligence, or AI, can help solve problems for patients and doctors.  

A new study from the University of Auckland says that an emerging area is the use of AI during operations using so-called “computer vision.”

The study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, says that artificial intelligence has the potential to identify abnormalities during operations and to unburden overloaded hospitals by enhancing the monitoring of patients to help them recover after surgery at home.

The New Zealand research details how AI “tools are rapidly maturing for medical applications.”  It asserts that “medicine is entering an exciting phase of digital innovation.”

The New Zealand team is investigating computer vision, which describes a machine’s understanding of videos and images. 

 

Dr. Chris Varghese, a doctoral researcher in the Department of Surgery at the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences at the University of Auckland, led the AI research team.

He told VOA the technology has great potential.

“The use of AI in surgery is a really emerging field. We are seeing a lot of exciting research looking at what we call computer vision, where AI is trying to learn what surgeons see, what the surgical instruments look like, what the different organs look like, and the potential there is to identify abnormal anatomy or what the safest approach to an operation might be using virtual reality and augmented reality to plan ahead of surgeries, which could be really useful in cutting out cancers and things like that.”

Varghese said doctors in New Zealand are already using AI to help sort through patient backlogs.

 

“We are using automated algorithms to triage really long waiting lists,” he said. “So, getting people prioritized and into clinics ahead of time, based on need, so the right patients are seen at the right time.”

The researchers said there are limitations to the use of artificial intelligence because of concerns about data privacy and ethics.

The report concludes that “numerous apprehensions remain with regard to the integration of AI into surgical practice, with many clinicians perceiving limited scope in a field dominated by experiential” technology.

The study also says that “autonomous robotic surgeons…. is the most distant of the realizable goals of surgical AI systems.”