Chula unveils ‘marketing’ strategy to encourage Thais to join anti-corruption battle #SootinClaimon.Com

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Chula unveils ‘marketing’ strategy to encourage Thais to join anti-corruption battle

Jan 27. 2021

By The Nation

A Chulalongkorn University research team has unveiled a new strategy to beat corruption in Thailand.

“The right communications strategy for Thai citizens 4.0 to counter corruption” is the fruit of more than a year’s research by lecturers at Chula’s Economics Faculty and Business School (CBS) and uses a marketing approach to the problem.

It aims to encourage citizens to join anti-graft efforts and comes with an indicator to evaluate the anti-corruption level of individuals.

(From left)  Asst. Prof. Dr. Ake Pattaratanakun, Dr. Mingsan Khaosaard, Asst. Prof. Dr. Torplus Yomnak

(From left) Asst. Prof. Dr. Ake Pattaratanakun, Dr. Mingsan Khaosaard, Asst. Prof. Dr. Torplus Yomnak

Asst Prof Torplus Yomnak, who led the research, explained that up until now, corruption studies had used an issue-centric rather than actor-centric approach, while anti-corruption policies and mechanisms had followed the top-down model. This had resulted in lower social participation in the fight against corruption, he said.

Instead, the Chula research uses a marketing model to target citizens with its graft-busting message.

“This is the first time an attempt has been made to change the anti-corruption research methodology based on social, cultural and psychological factors,” said Torplus. “In the past, researchers used demographic factors such as career, gender, age and income, rather than segmentation of people by different lifestyles.”

The researchers focused on existing civil society networks like the Anti-corruption Organisation of Thailand (ACT) and the Isranews Agency, which demonstrate that citizens are the most important mechanism to tackle fraud and corruption. They asked how these networks could be rapidly expanded. The answer they found was to identify target groups and encourage them to become active citizens who investigate the truth.

The team categorised “targets” according to six criteria – personal norms, chances of involvement in corruption, acceptance of power inequality, group adherence, avoidance of uncertainty, and masculinity.

A nationwide survey then classified the targets into four groups: The Frontline – citizens who believe they can solve the problems by their actions; The Exemplar – citizens who want to counter corruption but don’t participate in suppression; The Mass – citizens who don’t like corruption but don’t participate in anti-corruption efforts; and The Individualist – citizens who don’t pay attention to nor participate in anti-corruption efforts.

The Frontline [Very anti-corruption/join anti-corruption efforts/obey laws and regulations]

The Frontline [Very anti-corruption/join anti-corruption efforts/obey laws and regulations]

The Exemplar [Very anti-corruption/defend against corruption/anti-bribery/believe in common interest]

The Exemplar [Very anti-corruption/defend against corruption/anti-bribery/believe in common interest]The Mass [Somewhat anti-corruption/low-level participation in anti-graft efforts/can be corrupted/believe in common interest less than first two groups]The Mass [Somewhat anti-corruption/low-level participation in anti-graft efforts/can be corrupted/believe in common interest less than first two groups]The Individualist [More tolerant of corruption/don’t join anti-corruption efforts/don't care about regulations/interested in personal benefits]The Individualist [More tolerant of corruption/don’t join anti-corruption efforts/don’t care about regulations/interested in personal benefits]

Further research found that citizens with low personal norms and high masculinity also have a low anti-corruption bias.

A campaign designed to encourage awareness and attitudes about gender equality in terms of capability and acceptance of career and duties, among others, could be a means to promote anti-corruption thinking, said the researchers.

The team also created an indicator to measure anti-corruption efforts based on four aspects: awareness of problems, prevention, persistence and suppression. This indicator will become a tool for future research on anti-corruption efforts.

Team member Asst Prof Ake Pattaratanakun said the research will enable policymakers to use anti-corruption budget more efficiently by targeting groups like the Frontline and the Exemplar.

Prof Mingsan Khaosaard, who leads the Spearhead Strategic Plan on Social Aspects: Khon Thai 4.0, which supported the research, said that anti-corruption is a crucial factor affecting happiness and thus a goal of Khon Thai 4.0.

Mingsan suggested that social media including YouTube, TikTok, Twitter and Facebook will play a key role in promoting the new concept and model among the target groups.

Meanwhile, relevant state agencies should change their communications strategy from “hard-sell” to lifestyle marketing via campaigns that encourage awareness and change attitudes on gender equality, said the researchers.

They expect the new knowledge to serve as a guideline to enhance efficiency of complaint mechanisms and good governance of state agencies including the Comptroller General’s Department, the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission and the State Audit Office.

Thailand dropped to 101st place in Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index.

Meet the people paying $55 million each to fly to the space station #SootinClaimon.Com

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Meet the people paying $55 million each to fly to the space station

Jan 27. 2021From left, Axiom crew members Eytan Stibbe, Michael Lopez-Alegria, Mark Pathy and Larry Connor. MUST CREDIT: Axiom Space.From left, Axiom crew members Eytan Stibbe, Michael Lopez-Alegria, Mark Pathy and Larry Connor. MUST CREDIT: Axiom Space.

By The Washington Post · Christian Davenport

Two are grandfathers, the other has three young children. All three are extremely wealthy, with the means to pay the $55 million ticket price for an eight-day stay on the International Space Station. They are the first would-be spaceflight crew comprised entirely of private citizens in a mission to the station.

Sometime early next year, if all goes according to plan, the trio – Larry Connor, the managing partner of the Connor Group, a real estate investment firm based in Ohio; Mark Pathy, the chief executive of Mavrik Corp., a Canadian investment firm; and Eytan Stibbe, a businessman and former Israeli Air Force fighter pilot – will lift off from the Kennedy Space Center aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft for what is scheduled to be an eight-day stay on the International Space Station.

Accompanying them will be Michael López-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut who flew to space four times and is now a vice president of Axiom Space, the Houston-based company that is coordinating their trip to space. López-Alegría is overseeing their training and will serve as the mission’s commander.

If it takes place as envisioned, the flight would mark a watershed moment in human space flight, one that according to Axiom, which announced the identities of the three paying passengers on Tuesday, will eventually make space more accessible and further erode the monopoly that governments have long held on space travel. The company is planning two flights per year and also is developing a space station of its own that NASA hopes may one day replace the International Space Station, the orbiting lab that has been in space for 22 years.

“This is just the first of several Axiom Space crews whose private missions to the International Space Station will truly inaugurate an expansive future for humans in space – and make a meaningful difference in the world when they return home,” Michael Suffredini, Axiom Space president and chief executive, said in a statement.

Over the years, several wealthy private citizens have flown to the space station before – but on the Russian Soyuz craft because NASA forbade the practice on flights from U.S. soil. In 2019, NASA reversed its stance, saying the missions would help boost a growing commercial space industry as well as help NASA’s bottom line. The space agency charges $35,000 a day per passenger for food, storage and communication during stays on board the orbiting laboratory – a total of $840,000 for three people for eight days.

“But it won’t come with any Hilton or Marriott points,” Jeff DeWit, NASA’s former chief financial officer, said at the 2019 announcement of the policy change.

Pathy, who has three young children, has a lifelong passion for space but didn’t think he would ever be able to go until a friend told him about the Axiom missions. His initial reaction was skeptical.

“I wasn’t sure it was completely real, and I’d never heard of this company, Axiom,” he said. “I obviously was not going to blast off in a rocket if this was some sort of Mickey Mouse travel outfit. But the more I inquired and the more I spoke with them directly, the more I realized they were the real deal. It was really possible. And that moment where you think, ‘Holy cow, this is something I could actually do,’ it’s a bit of a surreal moment.”

Flying private citizens to space is a goal that NASA has had for years. At the beginning of the space shuttle program, it envisioned offering seats to private citizens and started a “Spaceflight Participant” program. A couple of members of Congress flew first, Sens. Jake Garn, R-Utah, and Bill Nelson, D-Fla., but then NASA selected a teacher – Christa McAuliffe, who taught history in Concord, N.H. Next, a journalist was to go, then perhaps an artist.

The program ended, however, after the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after takeoff, killing McAuliffe and the other astronauts on board. The agency decided spaceflight was too risky for ordinary citizens.

In an op-ed in The Washington Post two days after the disaster, Michael Collins, who flew to the moon with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin aboard Apollo 11, seemed to take aim at NASA’s efforts to send civilians to space as cavalier, warning that PR stunts can’t overcome the punishing force of physics.

“I have been expecting something like this for 20 years,” he wrote of the Challenger disaster, which took place on a cold morning 35 years ago Thursday. “Anyone who has lived with large rocket engines understands that their awesome power is produced by machinery churning away at very high temperatures, pressures and velocities. A thin and fragile barrier separates combustion from explosion.”

In interviews with The Post, the crew of the Axiom flight said they were well aware of the risks and were taking the flight seriously. Within the ranks of the professional astronaut corps, there may very well be skepticism, if not outright objection, so their goal is to prove their merit through conviction and a humble dedication the endeavor deserves.

“There will definitely be some resistance,” said López-Alegría, who spent 20 years as a NASA astronaut and holds the record for the most spacewalks. “I think it’s our job to win them over. We can do that certainly by being as prepared and expert as possible. And so, my goal is to get those guys to the point where no stone is unturned. And when they get on board station, the crews are pleased, maybe pleasantly.”

That was his experience when in 2006, he flew on the Soyuz with Anousheh Ansari, who reportedly paid about $20 million for the experience. But at first, he was dubious, thinking she was a dilettante.

“I think the hesitancy was natural when you come from a background as a military pilot and then spend your whole career studying to want to be an astronaut, and then somebody kind of cuts the line, if you will,” he said. “It was a little hard to swallow.”

But what won him over was her “consummate professionalism” and the fact that she wrote a blog from space. “Millions of people were reading it,” he said. “These are people that otherwise wouldn’t have cared less about what was going on in human spaceflight. And that idea of sharing the experience really hit home for me.”

Stibbe, who flew combat missions for the Israeli Air Force and is the founding partner of an investment firm, is well aware of the risks, especially because he was close friends with Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first astronaut, who died in 2003 when the space shuttle Columbia came apart over Texas on reentry. He serves now on the board of a foundation created in Ramon’s honor. As for his flight, Stibbe said, “Obviously there’s some fear, and this is definitely extreme. And then there are risks, and I’m aware of the risks.”

Connor said he wanted to leave a good impression so that others might follow in his footsteps. “We have a vital responsibility as a first group of private astronauts to do this thing correctly so that we don’t end up being the last group,” he said.

They embrace the challenge wide-eyed, they said, chastened by past disasters, aware of the risks, but bullish on the benefits. Private citizens in space would not only bring attention to the space program but allow them to do research on board the station, raise awareness of science and math activities in their communities, and give their already robust philanthropic efforts a cosmic boost.

They are aware, too, that there are problems on Earth that need to be addressed and that spaceflight is viewed by much of the public as a superfluous indulgence, especially during a pandemic and an economic crisis. The crew members say they see the flight as an enhancement of their other philanthropic efforts.

“There are a lot of issues – adversity, and in some regards, crises, here, not only in the U.S., but worldwide,” Connor said. “And those absolutely need to be a priority. But we cannot forget about the future. We cannot forget about having long-term visions . . . and hopefully this mission and the research we’re going to do is going to be one small step on that journey.”

In space, he said he does “not want to be a spectator. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I want to do something of value and how that translates into research and experiments.”

Connor is collaborating with the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic on research projects. He also intends to teach lessons to students at Dayton Early College Academy, a K-12 charter school with 1,300 students, 75% of them from low-income families.

Pathy is working with the Canadian Space Agency and the Montreal Children’s Hospital on health-related research projects. And Stibbe plans to conduct scientific research coordinated by the Ramon Foundation and the Israeli Space Agency.

Their mission comes at a significant time for human spaceflight. Last year, SpaceX flew the first NASA astronauts to the space station from U.S. soil since the space shuttle was retired in 2011 – the first launch of humans into orbit by a private company, not a government. It flew another mission in November and is scheduled to fly more this year. Boeing also intends to fly NASA astronauts to the station this year.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin are planning to fly paying customers to space, as well. Those missions are not intended to go into orbit but rather to the edge of space, coming back down after giving passengers a few minutes of weightlessness. (Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Those trips, although still expensive, cost far less than trips to the space station. Virgin charged $250,000, although that price probably will go up in the short term. Blue Origin has not yet announced prices.

Pathy and Connor traveled to Cape Canaveral last year to witness SpaceX’s first launch of astronauts. It was the first time either of them had been to a rocket launch, and both said they were awestruck.

“You feel that sound in your chest,” Pathy said. “And for me, especially, I’m thinking that was going to be me in a few months. It was a really exciting and intense experience.”

College dropout becomes billionaire with Chinese gaming platform #SootinClaimon.Com

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College dropout becomes billionaire with Chinese gaming platform

Jan 27. 2021Huang Yimeng, co-founder and chief executive officer of XD, at the company's office in Shanghai, China, on Jan. 21, 2021. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Qilai Shen.Huang Yimeng, co-founder and chief executive officer of XD, at the company’s office in Shanghai, China, on Jan. 21, 2021. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Qilai Shen.

By Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg · Zheping Huang

When China’s two big mobile powers clashed publicly on New Year’s Eve, the stock of a little-known gaming company surged the most ever, minting a new billionaire in 38-year-old maverick entrepreneur Huang Yimeng.

Shares in his indie game distributor XD rose 24% on the first trading day of 2021 after Huawei Technologies temporarily removed all Tencent Holdings games from its app store in a dispute over their revenue split. Investors flocked to the ByteDance-backed creator of TapTap — a Steam-like download service for games that bypasses the dominant app stores — on the sign of schism between China’s big two.

The rare incident brought to the fore simmering resentment against the 50% cut that app stores like Huawei’s charge developers and highlighted the key attraction of TapTap: it is ad-supported and thus free to use for both players and publishers.

Now Huang, inspired by Epic Games’ fight against Alphabet’s Google and Apple’s platform fees, hopes to ride that upswell of rebellion and challenge the status quo in the $30 billion Chinese mobile games arena. Already counting blockbuster hits like Genshin Impact on its platform, XD is working to lure more developers disillusioned with the tight grip on game development and distribution enjoyed by Tencent and hardware vendors like Huawei and Xiaomi, which make their app stores the default on every phone they sell.

“More and more creators will come out and say ‘no’ to traditional distribution channels because they don’t need to pay them for selling good content,” the 6-foot-1-inch XD co-founder and chief executive officer said in an interview. “The danger of companies using hardware to trap users inside their ecosystems is something we should be looking at from an anti-monopoly standpoint.”

Huang isn’t all talk. One of 2020’s biggest mobile hits, Pascal’s Wager, picked TapTap as its exclusive Android distribution partner in China. The thematically dark action role-player, created by Giant Network Group unit TipWorks, has sold more than 1.05 million copies globally, according to the studio’s founder Yang Yang. TapTap generated half of those sales and the rest came from the iOS App Store and Google Play, said Yang, who first showcased the game during Apple’s iPhone 11 event in 2019.

“The timing was perfect in that our game met with TapTap’s rapid growth,” Yang said. “If someone wants to work with you without even making money, that means they really care about your product. Their way of game publishing is disruptive.”

TapTap’s rise is aided by a growing — and global — government and consumer backlash against the handful of mobile giants that control the app economy. It coincides with a Chinese crackdown intended to rein in its most powerful internet corporations from Tencent to Alibaba Group Holding. Regulators have yet to address gaming platforms, but the 50% rule set by Chinese Android stores — which makes Apple and Google’s 30% levies look like a bargain — is fueling discontent among game studios, big and small.

For months, Tencent had sought a bigger cut of sales through Huawei’s app store in marquee titles like Honor of Kings, but the two companies failed to agree a deal, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. On Dec. 31, Huawei removed Tencent games from its app store only to restore them hours later. Tencent said the next day that the two sides had reached an agreement, without providing details.

Against that backdrop, TapTap users grew 52% in the first half of last year. XD’s stock has risen roughly 470% since listing in Hong Kong at the end of 2019, pushing its market capitalization north of $3.7 billion and the value of Huang’s 35% stake to about $1.3 billion.

XD is one of the few up-and-comers in China’s games industry that hasn’t relied on Tencent’s patronage. It’s attracted powerful backers like ByteDance — the Tencent nemesis behind TikTok and Douyin that’s developing its own interest in gaming — as cornerstone investors for its initial public offering. Fellow Shanghai startups Lilith Games and Genshin creator miHoYo are also among its investors, though Huang and his co-founders maintain the controlling stakes and voting rights. That’s helped TapTap become a more neutral platform, where gamers look for both Tencent blockbusters and indie tiles.

The CEO’s path was as unlikely as that of his company. Huang’s first entrepreneurial effort got him kicked out of college.

A former semi-pro basketball player, his first business was a peer-to-peer download network called VeryCD that was quickly overrun with pirated content. In 2003, a sex tape circulating on the network that had been recorded on Huang’s university campus drew the ire of its governors, leading to his dismissal after refusing to remove the clip. He told his school back then that online platforms shouldn’t be responsible for policing content.

“I didn’t regret my decision,” he said. “I’m lucky I left school early so I got more time to work on my website.”

Huang found more success in making web games, enticing fans to splurge on weapons and power-ups for their warriors and sorcerers. As China’s internet use shifted from desktop to mobile, he realized there wasn’t a Steam-style community dedicated to smartphone gamers. TapTap was born in 2016 and has been free to use from the outset.

Outside of China, Fortnite maker Epic Games launched its PC games store in 2018 to challenge Steam by offering a 12% revenue split with developers rather than 30%. XD’s strategy mirrors Epic’s: its in-house games attract users to the store and the store lends more exposure to its games. For now, Huang’s company still generates the bulk of revenue from selling virtual items in games it develops or publishes. Ad sales through TapTap accounted for less than a fifth of XD’s $205 million revenue in the first six months of 2020. Huang expects TapTap to contribute a larger proportion as the platform continues to increase ad slots.

“It’s about time for Huawei and its peers to make changes,” said Chundi Zhang, a gaming analyst with Ampere Analysis. “But if the big guys do cut their fees, it will be TapTap’s turn to be threatened. This is a game of checks and balances.”

Facebook’s oversight board to decide whether Trump keeps account #SootinClaimon.Com

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Facebook’s oversight board to decide whether Trump keeps account

Jan 22. 2021

By Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg · Sarah Frier

Facebook asked its content Oversight Board to review the social network’s controversial decision to suspend former President Donald Trump’s account indefinitely, ceding the verdict on whether to keep or overturn the ban to an outside panel of experts.

“The board’s decision on this case will be binding on Facebook and will determine whether Mr. Trump’s suspension is overturned,” the Oversight Board said in a statement. “Facebook has committed not to restore access to its platforms unless directed by a decision of the Oversight Board.”

The Oversight Board, made up of high-profile academics, lawyers and others from around the world, was established by Facebook last year to provide a check on the tech giant’s power, reviewing cases that could change the company’s broader approach to policy. The panel has also been asked to make recommendations on Facebook’s policies with regards to world leaders, who have been given more room to break rules on the platform because of public interest in what they say. Trump’s accounts on Facebook and Instagram were suspended on Jan. 6 following the violent riots at the U.S. Capitol. Trump has since been permanently banned from Twitter Inc.’s social media service.

Trump will have an opportunity to write a letter contesting his indefinite ban. The board will convene a panel of five of its members, who won’t be identified, to review the decision and see if it aligns with Facebook’s community standards and overall principles of human rights and free expression, according to the statement. The decision, which needs to be approved by the entire board, will take as long as 90 days, and will be made public.

Whatever the board’s verdict, it’s likely to prompt a vigorous debate, and will also set precedent for the group’s authority over Facebook, according to Kate Klonick, an assistant professor at St. John’s University School of Law, who has been following the board closely. “On the one hand, it divests a huge amount of power from FB to give the board authority over this,” Klonick said in a tweet. “On the other hand, maybe the Board is too nascent to take on such an enormous question.”

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder and chief executive officer, has voting control of the company, and he has called the Oversight Board a check on his power.

‘Thailand next’ after China clinches 5G deal with Indonesia #SootinClaimon.Com

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‘Thailand next’ after China clinches 5G deal with Indonesia

Jan 21. 2021

By The Nation

China announced it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Indonesia on internet-security capacity building and tech cooperation.

State-run Chinese media hailed the deal as the “latest strategic counterattack Beijing has launched to shatter Washington’s anti-China clean network programme and break the US-led blockade”. 

They added the agreement with Southeast Asia’s largest economy would likely attract more of its neighbours to follow, paving way for Chinese firms including Huawei – which is facing difficulties penetrating the European market – to tap into a rising Asian market.

Beijing said the MoU was signed during Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to Indonesia last week.

Countries including Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines, where Chinese companies have a strong presence in infrastructure construction, would likely follow Indonesia’s lead, wrote the Global Times, quoting Xu Liping, director of the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.  

But countries including Vietnam and Singapore, which hold a wait-and-see attitude on Chinese investment, could be “vague” on signing such deal, according to Xu. 

The rapidly growing Southeast Asia market – which has a population over 600 million and is still in the early stage of internet deployment – could also help Huawei cushion setbacks in Europe, wrote the Global Times, quoting analysts.

EU chooses Chiang Mai project to showcase hydrogen clean energy #SootinClaimon.Com

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EU chooses Chiang Mai project to showcase hydrogen clean energy

Jan 20. 2021

By The Nation

The European Commission has chosen Phi Suea House in Chiang Mai for its Hydrogen Valley Mission Innovation platform, which highlights 32 large-scale hydrogen flagship projects around the world. The platform will promote these advanced projects as “Hydrogen Valleys”, spurring collaboration between hydrogen project developers and awareness for policymakers.

Hailed as among the “most advanced H2 projects in the world”, Phi Suea House is developed by one of Europe’s fastest-growing green hydrogen companies – Enapter.

In 2015, the multi-house Phi Suea residence became the world’s first self-sustaining development fully powered by a clean-energy hydrogen system.

Phi Suea's energy room

Phi Suea’s energy room

The Hydrogen Valley Mission Innovation initiative started at the COP21 climate conference in Paris in 2015, to reinvigorate and accelerate global clean energy innovation. Tuesday’s platform launch kicks off one of eight Innovation Challenges, led by the renewable and clean hydrogen co-leaders, Australia, Germany and the EU.

“Realising the huge potential of green hydrogen in the clean energy transition requires accelerated efforts across all sectors of society. The many flagship projects featured on the Hydrogen Valley Mission Innovation platform can help build bridges between cutting-edge technologies and deployment of green hydrogen systems at scale,” said Patrick Child, chair of the Mission Innovation steering committee.

The Phi Suea House, the only Hydrogen Valley featured from Southeast Asia, is a multi-building development powered solely by solar power, a hybrid hydrogen-battery storage system and hydrogen fuel cells. The project was developed by Sebastian-Justus Schmidt, the German co-founder of electrolyser producer Enapter, to showcase combined solar and hydrogen tech feasibility – and uses Enapter’s own electrolyser systems to create green hydrogen from water and electricity.

Sebastian-Justus Schmidt

Sebastian-Justus Schmidt

Enapter is the world’s only manufacturer of Anion Exchange Membrane (AEM) electrolysers, and its highly efficient, modular hydrogen generators are used in more than 30 countries. It has chosen Saerbeck, Germany for its first mass-production facility, with construction planned to begin early this year and finish in 2022, with annual production capacity of more than 100,000 electrolyser modules.

“Phi Suea House was an excellent testing ground for developing such a world-first hydrogen system, one which gave Enapter an early chance to prove the success of our AEM electrolysers. That’s why we’re excited to see it selected for the Mission Innovation platform, joining others in inspiring faster green hydrogen rollout and with it, the cost reduction needed to replace fossil fuels globally,” said Schmidt.

Tech giants are teaming up to build digital vaccine records #SootinClaimon.Com

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Tech giants are teaming up to build digital vaccine records

Jan 20. 2021

By The Washington Post · Cat Zakrzewski

Health agencies have relied on paper vaccination certificates to fight epidemics for more than a century.

But Microsoft, Salesforce and Oracle are now teaming up with the health care nonprofit the Mayo Clinic and other major health care companies to develop technology that would bring such certifications to people’s phones. The companies envision that such “vaccine passports” could allow business, schools, concert venues and airlines to screen whether people have proof of vaccination.

The companies – which otherwise fiercely compete – together unveiled the Vaccination Credential Initiative.

The group’s goal is to help develop a secure copy of immunization records, which could be stored in the digital wallet feature on smartphones. The group is also plans to provide papers printed with QR codes that would allow people who don’t have smartphones to still access a secure record and gain entry to places that might require such a certificate.

“We wanted to build something that will empower consumers to take charge and have control and be able to manage their vaccination information in the way that they feel most comfortable, but will give them the freedom to start to get back to their life,” said Joan Harvey, president of care solutions at Evernorth, Cigna’s health services business and a partner in the coalition.

The announcement signals the role that Silicon Valley could play in the next phase of the pandemic – for better or worse.

A digital and secure format could ensure that people can keep track of their credentials in one place, and it could prevent people from creating fraudulent copies of the paper vaccination cards that health agencies distribute.

But health experts and privacy advocates questioned the timing of the initiative – especially as technical and other problems are inhibiting many vulnerable Americans from getting vaccines in the first place.

Bioethicists are concerned about developing vaccination certification tools before immunizations are more widely available.

Schools and some workplaces have long required proof of vaccination among students and some employees. But Nita Farahany, a professor and director of the Initiative for Science & Society at Duke University, warned against businesses and others requiring proof of vaccination too soon.

“I’m just opposed to it right now, when there is a significant limitation on the number of people who can get access to covid vaccines,” Farahany said. She said it could make sense to explore such systems later this year, when the vaccine is expected to be more widely available and there will be more data to support its efficacy.

Farahany has warned that such requirements could result in a “two-tiered society,” where vaccinated people have access to jobs and public places and others don’t. She also worries that putting such requirements in place before more data is available about the vaccine could give people a false sense of security.

The partners in the Vaccination Credential Initiative say it will be up to business and schools to determine how they would use such credentials.

Some businesses are already thinking about it. Already airlines have introduced a health passport app called CommonPass. The app initially checked the status of travelers’ coronavirus screening tests, and new vaccination passport apps could work similarly.

Albert Fox Cahn, the fonder and executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, questioned why tech companies are focused on building vaccine passports and not the technical problems that are currently hampering the rollout of the vaccine. He said the industry should wait for direction from public health officials before jumping to develop solutions.

“It’s completely unnecessary,” Fox Cahn said. “It’s more of the same failed technosolutionism that we’ve seen throughout this pandemic.”

It’s not the first time that tech companies have collaborated during the pandemic. Apple and Google teamed up to build systems to notify people if they had been exposed to the virus, but those tools have not been widely adopted in the United States.

Study showing home-learning cuts maths ability by 50% rings alarm bells in Thailand #SootinClaimon.Com

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Study showing home-learning cuts maths ability by 50% rings alarm bells in Thailand

Jan 19. 2021

By The Nation

The government’s Equitable Education Fund (EEF) has presented research showing students lose 50 per cent of their maths knowledge and 30 per cent of their reading literacy after prolonged home-learning away from school. Thousands of Thai students are learning from home after all schools in 28 provinces under maximum Covid-19 controls were closed earlier this month. As a result, learning conditions have deteriorated, said EEF education economist Pumsaran Tongliemnak on Monday.

He cited a study by the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) which found that spending a long time at home cut students’ maths knowledge by half and their reading literacy by almost a third. Learning via screens affects mental health as well as social and emotional development, Pumsaran commented.

The NWEA study’s results are consistent with research from Massachusetts’ Institute of Technology (MIT) which shows learning through educational technology alone does not compensate for non-school effects such as declining knowledge, lack of social experience, poor access to proper nutrition and also age-appropriate study.

Pumsaran said that although Thailand has yet to study the affect of Covid-19 on education, there was enough available evidence to predict inequality impacts on Thai education in two key areas.

These were students falling out of the education system, and a decline in learning and health development among vulnerable groups – especially disadvantaged children, those in remote areas, children with disabilities, and those who need special education.

Pumsaran predicted that prolonged home-schooling would widen the education inequality gap between rural and city children by two school years. In the long-term, it may affect economic inequality by causing the cycle of poverty across generations to continue, he added.

Kraiyos Patrawart, deputy managing director at EEF, said Thailand’s educational inequality in the three years before Covid-19 had improved among the poorest households in terms of class absence rate.

However, the fresh Covid-19 outbreak had meant that 143,507 extremely poor children in the 28 “maximum control” provinces could have no school for two semesters or 40 per cent of the academic year.

“The biggest concern is children’s learning development and growth. We should make the most of the remaining three months [of the academic year] if schools can open as normal, with teachers checking students’ health and learning, running after-school programmes, and monitoring the gap of classes for children in remote areas,” said Kraiyos.

Arab Israeli entrepreneurs aim to join tech boom with Emirati backing #SootinClaimon.Com

#SootinClaimon.Com : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.

Arab Israeli entrepreneurs aim to join tech boom with Emirati backing

Jan 18. 2021

By The Washington Post · Shira Rubin · BUSINESS, WORLD, TECHNOLOGY, MIDDLE-EAST 

TEL AVIV – Amir Ounallah is an Arab entrepreneur from northern Israel looking to integrate artificial intelligence-based robotics into the e-commerce site he runs at an organic farm outside of Nazareth. But he needs an investor. 

Now, after the agreement last summer between Israel and the United Arab Emirates to normalize relations, Ounallah is angling for some of the big Emirati money that is already starting to flow into Israel.

For some of the 2 million Arab citizens of Israel, mainly Palestinians who remained inside Israel’s borders after its 1948 war of independence, the newfound access to the UAE is a chance to form economic and cultural ties that had long been officially off limits. 

The prospect of connecting with the UAE and other wealthy Arab states is especially intriguing for the Arab Israeli tech community. Over the past two decades, Arab Israelis have watched from the sidelines as their Jewish neighbors translated military experience into multibillion-dollar start-ups, especially in areas like cybersecurity, and Israel became home to the highest per capita concentration of start-ups in the world, according to Startup Genome, a San Francisco-based research group. Arab Israelis hope Emirati finance can get them in the game. 

The Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank, has blasted the agreement between Israel and the UAE for undermining Palestinian efforts to end Israel’s occupation and establish an independent state. But some Arab citizens inside Israel itself hold a more nuanced view.

Ounallah said he wants the “injustices” suffered by Palestinians to be addressed and believes that business ties might help along the way. “I don’t think anybody, on either side, has the magic answer,” he said. “But building community around entrepreneurship – that makes me proud as a Palestinian.”

In the months after the Israeli-UAE deal, many Arab Israelis joined thousands of their Jewish counterparts who flocked to the UAE’s largest cities, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, seeking to cash in on the multibillion-dollar Emirati market. New government-approved trade deals and direct flights between Tel Aviv and the UAE eliminated significant logistical hassle for business leaders like Ounallah, who had used a second passport, circuitous flight paths, and third-party affiliates when trying to collaborate with Emirati partners on a previous joint venture. 

Ounallah is now planning to apply to the “Tawasul” venture capital fund, backed by Emirati investors to finance early-stage Arab Israeli start-ups. 

He said he is looking to enhance the e-commerce site based at his Bustana organic farm, where he grows crops like almonds and green leafy vegetables, to increase communication between farmers and customers, eliminate food waste and minimize backbreaking manual work. Ounallah said he would eventually like to export his organic farming system to the UAE and other Middle Eastern countries that are now largely dependent on food imports. 

Mahmoud Kayal, an Arab Israeli physician and tech investor, is working with Emirati financiers to launch the $30-million “Tawasul” fund, or “Connection” fund in Arabic. “This is a pure business opportunity,” he said.

Along with a booming cadre of Jewish entrepreneurs, Kayal sees a chance to join Israeli tech know-how with Emirati investors. Looking beyond business, he hopes the venture will bring Palestinians closer to neighbors from whom they have been largely isolated for decades. 

“It’s also a social, patriotic opportunity to reconnect with the Arab world. 48-ers have this feeling that they are the forgotten son, but it’s important to add to their mind-set that they belong to a very big nation that can support them,” said Kayal, using a nickname for Arab Israelis.

Thani Al-Shirawi, an Emirati businessman who is considering investing in Israeli water technology companies, said that he is looking to soon add Arab Israeli businesses to his investment portfolio. He says that addition would be a selling point for socially conscious Emirati and Arab customers.

He brushed aside the concerns over the normalization deal coming from Palestinians, inside both Israel and the occupied territories, saying he was “very optimistic, because it cannot get worse for them. Anything will be better than what they have now.” 

For more than 70 years, resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been a precondition for normalization between most Arab countries and Israel. But in recent months, there have been a flurry of deals formalizing Israel’s ties first with the UAE and then Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. 

While many Arab Israelis have been disappointed that the agreements bypassed Palestinian national aspirations, there is some optimism that the standing of Israel’s Arab citizens could benefit. Arabs represent about 20 percent of Israel’s population, and over the past decade, efforts to promote the civil rights of this minority have emerged as its top priority.

When an Emirati investor last month bought half of Beitar Jerusalem, the country’s infamously anti-Arab soccer club, its Jewish owner said the move paved the way to “new days of coexistence, achievement and brotherhood.”

Emirati investments are now coveted in a growing number of Arab Israeli tech hubs in cities like Nazareth, Haifa and Kfar Kassem. The founders and employees of about 300 Arab Israeli start-ups include Israeli citizens who have studied at Haifa’s vaunted Technion Institute – Israel’s version of MIT where Arabs make up more than 20 percent of the students – and who have worked at the Israeli offices of companies like Google, Apple and Intel.

This start-up scene contrasts with those in other Arab cities like Cairo, and Amman, Jordan, or among the few dozen start-ups in Ramallah in the West Bank, which tend to be ventures that primarily provide Arab translation for companies like Uber, Amazon and Booking.com. 

Ehab Jabareen, an Arab Israeli businessman who moonlighted as a brand consultant for Israelis quietly seeking to break into the Dubai market before the normalization agreement, said that Palestinians inside Israel are warming up to the UAE in ways reminiscent of 1979, following the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt.

Immediately after that deal was signed, Arab Israelis vowed to boycott Egypt out of solidarity with the Palestinian cause but within a few months began to open textile, cotton and olive oil factories that benefited from Egypt’s cheap labor supply.

“Palestinians in Israel see themselves as part of the Arab identity, and we are thirsty for these kinds of relationships,” said Jabareen. “There may have been shock in the beginning, but we’ve moved on.”

Dating apps are using Capitol images to ban rioters’ accounts #SootinClaimon.Com

#SootinClaimon.Com : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.

Dating apps are using Capitol images to ban rioters’ accounts

Jan 17. 2021

By The Washington Post · Drew Harwell, Lisa Bonos, Craig Timberg

WASHINGTON – Tinder, Bumble and other dating apps are using images captured from inside the Capitol siege and other evidence to identify and ban rioters’ accounts, causing immediate consequences for those who participated as police move toward making hundreds of arrests.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/c/embed/ed2abf27-38f2-4f79-919e-e65682e37661?ptvads=block&playthrough=false

Women and men have in some cases also turned the dating apps into hunting grounds, striking up conversations with rioters, gathering potentially incriminating photos or confessions, then relaying them to the FBI. Using the dating apps to pursue members of the mob has become a viral pursuit, with tips shared on Twitter and some women changing their location on the dating apps to Washington, D.C. in hopes of snaring a potential suspect.

The moves cast a spotlight on how some unlikely sources have helped expand a digital dragnet for participants in a siege with deeply online roots, fueled by viral conspiracy theories, organized on social media and live-streamed in real-time.

They also show how people are attempting to use the same tools to fight back, including by contributing to a wide-scale manhunt for dating-app users who played a part in the violent attack.

Amanda Spataro, a 25-year-old logistics coordinator in Tampa, called it her “civic duty” to swipe through dating apps for men who’d posted incriminating pictures of themselves. On Bumble, she found one man with a picture that seemed likely to have come from the insurrection; his response to a prompt about his “perfect first date” was: “Storming the Capitol.”

“Most people, you think if you’re going to commit a crime, you’re not going to brag about it,” Spataro said in an interview.

After swiping right in hopes she could get more information out of him, she said he responded that he did visit the Capitol and sent more pictures as proof. She later contacted the FBI tip line.

Some onlookers have celebrated the viral hunt as a creative form of digital comeuppance. But some privacy advocates said the episode reveals a worrying truth about pervasive public surveillance and the opaque connections between private companies and law enforcement. Some also worry about people being misidentified by amateur investigators and other risks that can arise when vigilantes try to take crime-fighting into their own hands.

“These people deserve the right to seek a partner in one of the few ways we have to socialize during the pandemic, and seek love,” said Liz O’Sullivan, technology director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, a New York-based nonprofit group fighting discriminatory surveillance.

“It’s one more example of how these tech companies can impact our lives without our feedback,” she added. “What if this was happening to Black Lives Matters protesters? . . . At the end of the day, it’s just so much power.”

Both Bumble and Match Group – which also owns Tinder, Hinge, OkCupid, PlentyofFish and Match – said they were working to remove users known to be involved in the Capitol siege from their platforms.

“We always encourage our community to block and report anyone who is acting against our guidelines, and we have already banned users who have used our platform to spread insurrectionist content or who have attempted to organize and incite terrorism,” Bumble said in an unsigned statement. “As always, if someone has or is in the process of committing a potentially criminal act on our platform, we will take the appropriate steps with law enforcement.”

A Bumble official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because company officials have received violent threats following past policy changes, said app employees have reviewed images taken inside and around the Capitol during the siege and banned accounts that “spread insurrectionist content or who have attempted to organize and incite terrorism.”

Bumble uses software to scan users’ dating profiles and biographies for “text content that promotes the insurrection or related activities,” the official said. Accounts can be banned for promoting racism, encouraging violence or spreading falsehoods about Trump’s election loss.

Dating apps have also worked to ban anyone who has been arrested or publicly identified by law enforcement as having taken part in the attack.

Match Group said it has banned rioters’ accounts based on long-established rules against promoting or inciting violence. Match spokeswoman Vidhya Murugesan declined to say how many had been punished in this way.

“We have, and will continue, to ban any users wanted by the FBI in connection with domestic terrorism from all of our brands, and we always cooperate with law enforcement in their investigations,” Murugesan said.

Many women in Washington over the past two weeks had taken notice of a surge in conservative men on dating apps, many wearing “Make America Great Again” hats or other markers of support for President Donald Trump rarely seen in an overwhelmingly Democratic city.

The FBI has set up an anonymous tip line for reports on people who might have breached the Capitol. In a statement last week, the bureau said they’d received more than 100,000 “digital media tips” from a wide range of sources.

Federal investigators have used airline passenger manifests, video live streams, social media posts, news reports, cellphone location data and other evidence to support their charges and find suspects.

Law enforcement officials would not say how many tips came from dating apps but have said they are reviewing all evidence. More than 100 people have been charged in connection to the riots, and hundreds of other cases are still under investigation.

“Even your friends and family are tipping us off,” FBI Assistant Director in Charge Steven M. D’Antuono said at a recent press briefing. “So you might want to consider turning yourself in instead of wondering when we’re going to come knocking on your door. Because we will.”

The overlapping issues of law enforcement, privacy and user safety are complicated for dating apps. Police or prosecutors seeking data – especially if they have search warrants – give companies little room to object unless they are already encrypting data in ways that can’t be readily retrieved, as Apple and some other companies have done with some kinds of user communications.

Using publicly available data to purge users who may have been involved in a crime – especially one as visible and troubling as the Capitol attack – requires tougher trade-offs.

Some would argue it’s unfair to delete the account of someone merely on the grounds of the Capitol that day, as opposed to someone known to have entered the building or committed other crimes, such as vandalism and theft. But a dating app’s users may reasonably expect to not get connected to somebody known to participate in what many regard as an illegal insurrection designed to disrupt a democratic process.

At the same time, the available identification technologies are imperfect. Privacy experts question whether any company should be taking action against users merely because they are believed to have been at the Capitol on Jan. 6 – before formal adjudication or even arrests by authorities.

“There’s a likely challenge of both false positives and false negatives,” said Ashkan Soltani, distinguished fellow at Georgetown Law Center’s Institute for Technology Law & Policy. “I’m not sure a dating app should be in the business of trying to make these determinations.”

Soltani said that the issues facing the dating apps are difficult ones, with a range of possible solutions. The apps could alert individual users that a person they have expressed interest in may have participated in the Capitol takeover, or they could allow individual users to identify themselves as participants by hitting a built-in button, similar to the “I Voted” tag some social media companies offer on election days. Blocking users outright based on analysis of images, especially before arrest or adjudication, struck him as “over-moderation” by the apps.

Dating apps have a history of using human moderators and automated software to scan for problematic content, thanks in large part to male users with a habit of sending unwanted photos of their genitals. (Such accounts are immediately banned.)

A Bumble spokesman said the dating app also scans users’ profile photos and biographies for weapons, hate symbols or offensive language. Conversations between matched users are not moderated unless one of the users reports the chat for abuse.

Major social media sites, messaging services and discussion forums routinely use automated software to scan for images, video or discussion of sexual abuse, terrorism and other crimes.

Algorithms scan images and video to see whether they match any clips in databases of problematic content, such as child sexual abuse material or child pornography; they also look through user profiles or posts to analyze whether they include hate speech, threatening language or racial slurs.

As the digital hunt for Capitol siege suspects was underway, Bumble on Wednesday removed a feature in the U.S. that allowedpeople to filter prospective matches by their political leanings, saying in a statement that the filter had been used “in a manner contrary to our terms and conditions.”

Some amateur insurrectionist-hunters criticized the company for instituting a change they said only protected rioters. But Bumble said the filter could have been misused to target people, including those who self-identified as “conservative” but did not participate in the siege. Bumble has since restored the politics filter after implementing what it called new “moderation tools and protocols.”

The move could dim the romantic opportunities for people like Brandon Fellows, who posted Snapchat videos of himself as he wandered the Capitol and smoked a joint in a senator’s office.

He later told Bloomberg that his Bumble profile was “blowing up” after he posted his Capitol photos, but did not provide evidence. The company said his account was immediately banned.