On Air Now

Listen Now

Weather

cloudy-day
45°
Partly Cloudy
H -° L 39°
  • cloudy-day
    45°
    Current Conditions
    Partly Cloudy. H -° L 39°
  • cloudy-day
    Today
    Partly Cloudy. H -° L 39°
  • rain-day
    54°
    Tomorrow
    Showers. H 54° L 36°
Listen
Pause
Error

News on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

Traffic on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

Weather on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

Technology

    Defense lawyers argue a senior executive of the Chinese tech giant Huawei should not be extradited to the U.S. because her actions would not be considered crimes under Canadian law. The extradition hearing for Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou is scheduled to begin Monday. Meng, the daughter of the company's founder, faces charges of committing fraud to try and evade U.S. sanctions on Iran. Huawei is China's first global tech brand and Beijing views her case as a political move designed to prevent China's rise. “This is a case of U.S. sanctions enforcement masquerading as Canadian fraud,” say defense documents released Friday. Meng was arrested at the Vancouver airport in late 2018 at the request of the U.S. government. American prosecutors allege she made misrepresentations to foreign banks, including London-based HSBC, about Huawei’s relationship with its Iran-based affiliate Skycom. Last week, the Canadian Department of Justice released documents supporting its case the allegations against Meng meet the extradition test of “double criminality” meaning if they had occurred Canada, they would be criminal under Canadian law. Defense lawyers dispute that claim, arguing it’s not illegal in Canada to do business with Iran. “Canada not only permits banks to do business with Iran-based entities, it encourages them to do to,” the documents say. The documents point out the prosecution has argued Meng’s action have caused HSBC to be placed at risk of financial prejudice for offering banking service to Huawei and Skycom because of U.S. sanctions. ”Simply put, a bank in Canada would not be concerned that Huawei’s relationship with Skycom could trigger sanctions risk,' the documents say. Meng made a brief court appearance Friday where lawyers discussed additional court dates. The first stage of the extradition hearing dealing is expected to last five days. Meng is free on bail of and is living in one of the two Vancouver mansions she owns. Beijing detained former two Canadians, ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, in late 2018 in an apparent attempt to pressure Canada to release Meng. They have not had access to lawyers or their families. Huawei is the biggest global supplier of network gear for phone and internet companies has become the target of U.S. security concerns because of its ties to the Chinese government.
  • Last April, as a military uprising roiled Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro’s socialist government ordered pay TV providers to immediately cease transmission of CNN and the BBC. DirecTV, which is wholly owned by AT&T, quickly obliged, yanking the two networks off the air as live images of military trucks running over protesters were being broadcast to the world. Now, pressure is building against the Dallas-based communications giant to stand up to Venezuela's government censors. In December, officials from the State Department met in Washington with executives from AT&T to urge them to help pull the plug on Maduro’s propaganda machine, according to five people familiar with the discussion. The meeting followed months of outreach to AT&T by Venezuela's opposition, according to the five individuals. Under a plan being promoted with the Trump administration, DirecTV, Venezuela's largest pay TV operator, would restore to its lineup a half dozen international news channels that local regulators have banned in recent years, according to the five individuals. The strategy harkens back to a Cold War playbook of leveraging information to fight anti-U.S. propaganda and undermine authoritarian rule. But instead of covertly beaming U.S.-government produced content into foreign countries as Radio Free Europe did in the former Soviet Union, this proposed effort consists of pressuring a private company to bring back access to private, international news outlets that, until recently, Venezuelans took for granted. AT&T faces a difficult choice: comply with a Maduro regime that the U.S. government no longer recognizes and has heavily sanctioned, or go along with the opposition’s plan and risk seizure of its installations and the loss of its license on which some 700 Venezuelans depend for employment. According to corporate filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company doesn’t actually need a physical presence in Venezuela to beam content into the country. It could instead use broadcast centers in Argentina, Brazil or California. The U.S. officials and opposition operators are concerned that DirecTV is being used to broadcast unfiltered state TV programming by Maduro to attack his opponents, who have no way to respond, according to the five individuals, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the politically-sensitive nature of the talks. Of particular concern, they said, is the private network Globovision, which is carried by DirecTV. The channel has been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department and is accused by the opposition of spreading disinformation. Globovision is a customer of the AP. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was briefed and expressed initial support for the plans to enroll DirecTV to help undermine Maduro, according to two individuals with knowledge of the discussions. Planning is in the early stages, the two individuals said, and it's just one of several options under consideration to pressure Maduro, who remains firmly in power even in the face of U.S. sanctions aimed at propping up Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader recognized as Venezuela’s rightful leader by more than 50 nations. The two individuals said no decision has yet been made on how much to lean on AT&T, which is pushing back strongly against any initiative that would jeopardize operations in a nation where it has a whopping 44% market share — its largest in the region. DirecTV Latin America declined to comment. The move to open up the airwaves would be significant because DirecTV reaches people who are dependent on the government, such as those in the working-class barrios of larger cities and the interior, says David Smilde, from the Washington Office on Latin America, a think tank. These groups don't have other access to outside news, he says. “This wouldn’t pose an immediate threat to Maduro, but it could complicate the longer-term ability of the government to control information,” said Smilde, who has lived on and off in Venezuela for more than two decades. “Maduro could conceivably try to confiscate DirecTV equipment from people’s homes, but this would be an extraordinarily unpopular move.” A key to Maduro’s staying power is so-called communicational hegemony: dozens of government-controlled newspapers, social media accounts and TV channels that have replaced the once highly confrontational private news outlets with around-the-clock coverage of Maduro. Further widening the information gap, the country’s telecommunications regulator, Conatel, since 2017 has ordered pay TV platforms, of which DirecTV is the largest, to eliminate 10 international news channels, from CNN en Espanol to Colombia’s NTN24, accusing them of violating the Law on Social Responsibility on Radio and Television. The law seeks to guarantee socially-responsible programming but has been criticized by press freedom groups as a tool for self-censorship due to its ambiguous language and heavy penalties. When Conatel banished CNN en Espanol in 2017, it accused the network of “direct aggressions that strike against the peace and democratic stability of the Venezuelan people by generating a climate of intolerance.” The government also removed the channel that broadcast sessions of the National Assembly after the opposition won control of the legislature in 2015. Another law passed by the Maduro-controlled constitutional assembly in 2017 threatens up to 20 years in prison for anyone publishing material deemed hateful. “The pay TV operators aren’t the ones giving the orders,” said Marianela Balbi, executive director of the Caracas-based Institute for Press and Society, “but they are accomplices in censorship.” International channels broadcast by DirecTV and other service providers had until recently filled a void left by Globovision, the last open-air network critical of the government, which was sold to a businessman linked to Maduro in 2013. Not long after the purchase, the channel softened its anti-government coverage. Globovision’s billionaire owner, Raúl Gorrín, has been indicted by federal prosecutors in Miami in connection to an alleged money laundering scheme involving Maduro’s stepsons. Gorrín, who was recently added to the Department of Homeland Security's most wanted fugitive list, did not respond to questions from the AP. As government censorship has intensified, pressure on private broadcast service providers have increased, especially DirecTV, the only one operated by a U.S. company subject to sanctions imposed by the Trump administration. Last week, Venezuelan social media briefly lit up after Carlos Vecchio, the Guaidó government’s envoy in Washington said DirecTV would be “forced” by the U.S. sanctions to remove “treasonous” Globovision from its lineup. Accompanying Vecchio’s tweet was the photo of an order by the Treasury Department giving U.S. companies until Jan. 21 to wind down all operations with Venezuela’s largest private TV network. But in Venezuela, like in the U.S., DirecTV is required to carry several broadcast networks, including Globovision. Experts said the U.S. government's options for compelling DirecTV to do its bidding in Venezuela are limited. Peter Kucik, a Washington attorney and former Treasury official specializing in sanctions compliance, said that media companies typically enjoy broad authorizations and exemptions from sanctions because it has been longstanding U.S. policy to promote the free flow of information worldwide, including into authoritarian regimes. In the case of DirecTV, its decision to comply with Maduro’s orders to remove channels took place prior to the blocking of the country’s government. “It's a complex issue, but in general providing any services to the now blocked Maduro government — including taking actions at its request or direction — could incur significant sanctions risk,' said Kucik. Press freedom groups say censorship is widespread in Venezuela. A pay TV industry executive told the AP that Conatel has about 30 people who monitor the airwaves around the clock. When they see something of a political nature they don’t like, they call the company and urge them to remove the content, sometimes in real time, the executive said. He spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because he feared retaliation. Companies rarely resist, the executive said, fearing it could lead to heavy fines or the arrest of employees, as has happened to companies in other industries that disobey orders. Sometimes security forces are deployed to enforce the orders, he sai d. Since Maduro took office in 2013, dozens of newspapers and radio stations have disappeared, leaving outlets that largely mimic the government’s line while ignoring such issues as human rights abuses and growing malnutrition. Meanwhile, internet speeds are among the slowest in the world and the government frequently blocks anti-government content. As a result, Venezuelans haven’t joined the cord-cutting wave seen elsewhere and pay TV remains a dominant source of news and information. But AT&T hasn’t made money from its satellite service provider in Venezuela for years, due to strict government controls that keep the price of its packages artificially low — the equivalent of around 15 U.S. cents per month. The situation has become so dire, that DirecTV in 2012 stopped importing set-top boxes, choking its growth. In 2015, it wrote down its assets in the country by $1.1 billion. Nonetheless, as the cheapest form of entertainment in a nation ravaged by 2 million percent hyperinflation, its market share remains DirecTV's largest in the world. Unlike other U.S. companies — General Motors, Kellogg Co. and Kimberly-Clark — that have abandoned Venezuela due to shrinking sales, government threats and the risk of sanctions, AT&T has remained, perhaps biding its time until there's an economic turnaround, or business-friendly government, said the Venezuelan telecommunications executive. The company may also be committed to its satellite broadcast center, which sits atop a verdant hill overlooking Caracas, the executive said. DirecTV beams about a third of its programming to several parts of South America from this location, according to corporate filings. The company is wary of being seen as a puppet of U.S. foreign policy and embracing Guaidó, the telecommunications executive said. One idea being discussed to force its hand is for the National Assembly — which the U.S. and others recognize as Venezuela’s only legitimate institution — to pass legislation ordering it to uphold the constitution, which guarantees access to “timely, truthful and impartial information, without censorship,” according to two of the people familiar with the project. The same individuals pointed out that Guaidó last week took a step in that direction by saying he would soon name his own ad-hoc Conatel board to fight “the propaganda of a dictatorship that tries to distort reality.” Some in the U.S. government, however, fear that pushing AT&T too hard could leave it to suspend operations in the country — an outcome nobody wants. While critical news coverage is hard to come by, other channels offer programming that promotes American values and a view on the world light years from the day-to-day struggles with collapsing infrastructure and food shortage that Venezuelans face. Removing them would isolate the country even more, and drive Venezuelans, especially outside major cities, closer to the government, according to even government opponents. Andres Izarra, a former Venezuelan communications minister who also created the state-funded regional network Telesur, agrees that there’s a woeful lack of diversity of opinion on television that keeps Venezuelans in the dark. But he’s skeptical that any plan to open up the airwaves would weaken Maduro’s grip on power. “This seems to be a very desperate measure, since nothing else has worked, but it won’t have any real effect on the politics on the ground,” said Izarra, who is now living in exile after breaking with the government. “All it will do is allow Maduro to try and portray himself as a victim of U.S. aggression.” ___ Joshua Goodman on Twitter: https://twitter.com/APjoshgoodman ___ Contact AP’s global investigative team at Investigative@ap.org.
  • Britain's Royal College of Psychiatrists is urging that mammoth tech companies like Facebook and Twitter turn over research about possible dangers caused to young people by excessive social media use. The group also calls for higher rates of taxation on these companies, with some of the revenue to be used to fund more research into how some young people are being put at risk of self-harm, suicide and other severe mental health issues. Dr. Bernadka Dubicka, leader of the group's faculty on adolescence, said Friday that she has seen in her practice an increase in self-harm among young people “as a result of their social media use and online discussions.” She said it will be impossible for researchers to understand the risks and benefits of social media use unless the major companies share their research data and help fund more inquiries. The group of psychiatrists wants big tech companies taxed on their international turnover, with some of the money earmarked for mental health research. It said a proposed 2% tax on UK revenues is insufficient. The father of Molly Russell, a 14-year-old girl who ended her life in 2017 in a case that attracted wide attention, said he supports the proposals. Ian Russell said there is an “urgent need” for action to protect young people. He said he had “no doubt that social medial helped kill my daughter,” after finding “bleak depressive material, graphic self-harm content and suicide-encouraging memes” in her computer.
  • Fiat Chrysler is in talks with the Taiwanese company Foxconn to develop and manufacture battery-powered vehicles, the U.S.-Italian automaker said Friday. Fiat Chrysler is in the process of merging with France's PSA Peugeot, which is 12% owned by Chinese company Dongfeng Motor Co. Both Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot have lagged in developing electric powertrains and also have been struggling to increase sales in China, the world's biggest auto market. It was unclear what impact Fiat Chrysler's proposed joint venture with Foxconn, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Ind. Co., Ltd., would have on the wider merger, which is expected to be completed in the next year or so. If a deal with Foxconn is reached, a joint venture would focus first on China, the biggest market for electric cars with 1.2 million vehicles sold last year - half the global total. 'The proposed cooperation ... would enable the parties to bring together the engineering and manufacturing and mobile software technology to focus on the growing battery electric vehicle market,'' Fiat Chrysler said in a statement. Talks were aimed at reaching a binding agreement ‘’in the next few months,'' the company said. Automakers around the world have announced a series of electric vehicle partnerships to share the soaring cost of technology development. Companies including General Motors Co. and Toyota Motor Co. have electric vehicle joint ventures with Chinese partners to take advantage of their experience at making low-cost vehicles. The Chinese government has a credit-based system that encourages automaker to sell electric vehicles, leading to a proliferation of brands. But industry analysts expect high development costs to drive many of them to merge. The trend has led to a complicated mix of ties among competitors. Daimler AG’s Mercedes Benz has electric vehicle joint ventures with both BYD Auto, one of the biggest global makers of battery-powered vehicles, and rival Geely Holding, which is best known abroad as the owner of Sweden’s Volvo Cars. Geely also has two separate electric brands, Geometry and Volvo’s Polestar. Beyond its stake in PSA Peugeot, Dongfeng also has joint ventures with Nissan Motor Co., Kia Motor Co. and Groupe Renault, all of whose product lineups include electric models.
  • A new $4 fee on Uber and Lyft rides to and from the Phoenix airport is “very likely” unconstitutional, the state attorney general said Thursday, upping the ante in the showdown that has led the ride-hailing giants to threaten to abandon the airport service. The fees approved by the Phoenix City Council probably violated a 2018 ballot measure prohibiting higher taxes on services, Attorney General Mark Brnovich said. The Arizona Supreme Court will make a final determination on the issue. By law, Phoenix could lose its share of state revenue, a third of its general fund budget, if the fee hike is found to be illegal and isn't repealed by the city. Lawyers for the city say the higher fees are not taxes on services, but rather permissible charges for businesses to use the city-owned Sky Harbor International Airport, one of the largest U.S. airports serving some 44 million passengers a year. The fees, the city argues, are akin to rent and landing fees charged to restaurants and airlines. “The Phoenix approach of ensuring that companies profiting from the airport pay their fair share is smart — and legal,” Mayor Kate Gallego, a Democrat, said in a statement. “This fee is no different from the fee every other vendor has paid at our airport since its creation.” Phoenix airport officials say ride-hailing operators represented just 9.3% of the commercial traffic when they began at Sky Harbor in June 2016 but now represent 70 percent of the commercial traffic. Last month, Uber and Lyft threatened to stop serving the airport if the fee is allowed to take effect. Republican Rep. Nancy Barto filed a complaint with Brnovich, also a Republican, under a 2016 Arizona law requiring the attorney general to investigate if any lawmaker complains that a city or county ordinance violates state law. The state Supreme Court is required by law to prioritize the issue ahead of all others. The city is also required to post a bond equal to 6 months of state-shared revenue — an enormous sum — but Brnovich said his office hasn’t asked for that in previous cases. “They’ll have time to rescind this ordinance and if they don’t we’ll see them at the Supreme Court,” Brnovich said. Phoenix is raising the fee of $2.66 per curbside pickup at Sky Harbor to $4 on Feb. 1. It also will create a drop-off fee of $4. The fees to the ride-hailing companies would gradually increase to $4.25 in 2021, $4.50 in 2022, $4.75 in 2023 and $5 in 2024. A city aviation commission had recommended the fee increase after a study showed airports in many other cities charge ride-hailing companies more to drop off and pick up passengers. The state constitution's ban on new or higher fees for services has never been litigated, so courts have never had a chance to interpret when it applies and when it doesn't. “We thought the quickest and best way to resolve this issue and to create certainty is to go right to the Supreme Court,” Brnovich said. 'Otherwise it could end up in litigation for the next two or three years.” ___ Associated Press writers Anita Snow and Bob Christie contributed.
  • A computer security expert says he found that a forensic image of the election server central to a legal battle over the integrity of Georgia elections showed signs that the original server was hacked. The server was left exposed to the open internet for at least six months, a problem the same expert discovered in August 2016. It was subsequently wiped clean in mid-2017 with no notice, just days after election integrity activists filed a lawsuit seeking an overhaul of what they called the state's unreliable and negligently run election system. In late December 2019, the plaintiffs were finally able to obtain a copy of the server's contents that the FBI made in March 2017 and retained — after the state allegedly dragged its feet in securing the image. State officials have said they've seen no evidence that any election-related data was compromised. But they also long refused to submit the server image for an independent examination. Logan Lamb, a security expert for the plaintiffs, said in an affidavit filed in Atlanta federal court on Thursday that he found evidence suggesting the server was compromised in December 2014. Lamb said the evidence suggests an attacker exploited a bug that provided full control of the server. Lamb also said he determined that computer logs — which would have been critical to understanding what might have been altered on or stolen from the server — only go back to Nov. 10, 2016 — two days after Donald Trump was elected U.S. president. Two years later, Brian Kemp won the Georgia governor’s race by a narrow margin over Democrat Stacey Abrams. Kemp oversaw Georgia’s elections during both races as secretary of state. Election administration was handled at Kennesaw State University by an outfit that Kemp's office dismantled after the server-wiping incident. Additionally, Lamb found evidence that election-related files were deleted from the server on March 2, 2017, just after a colleague of his alerted KSU officials that the election server remained vulnerable to hackers. It was Lamb who initially alerted Merle King, director of the elections center at KSU, in August 2016 of a gaping security hole that left the server vulnerable to tampering. The fact that the access logs were deleted suggests possible foul play, Lamb wrote. “I can think of no legitimate reason why records from that critical period of time should have been deleted,” he said in his sworn statement. The plaintiffs have accused state election officials of repeatedly and intentionally destroying evidence that could show unauthorized access to state election infrastructure and the potential manipulation of election results. A protective order prevented Lamb from speaking to a reporter about his findings. A spokesman for Georgia's secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, had no immediate comment and attorneys for the defendants did not respond to emailed questions and a telephone message. In his original and less methodical examination of the server after he discovered it exposed online, Lamb said he found personal data for Georgia’s 6.7 million voters as well as passwords used by county officials to access election-staging files. For the 2020 election, Georgia officials are replacing antiquated touchscreen voting machines that have long been discredited by computer scientists. But the Coalition for Good Governance, one of the plaintiffs in the case, rejects the computerized ballot-marking devices the state has purchased to replace them. It maintains, paralleling the findings last year of a National Academies of Sciences report, that the only secure voting solution are hand-marked ballots processed by scanners that leave a human-readable paper trail that can be audited later. Most U.S. voters will use systems with a voter-verifiable paper trail in November. “The defendants have since day one tried to do everything possible to obstruct the public, the plaintiffs and the court from seeing the shambles of what they had in an incredibly compromised election system,” said the coalition's Executive Director Marilyn Marks. Now, she said, state officials argue that because of their new system, problems with the old system aren't relevant anymore. 'Of course, that’s not true,” she added. “This was the hub of their entire elections structure.” U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg, who is presiding over the case, has expressed grave concerns about the vulnerability of Georgia's election system and has scolded state officials for being slow to remedy serious vulnerabilities. Lamb, a former Oak Ridge National Laboratory researcher, said he found evidence in examining the server image that software running on the voting machines being phased out in Georgia were vulnerable to known attacks. He also said that in the December 12, 2014, intrusion he detected, the attacker patched the Drupal server vulnerability 20 minutes after the break in. That’s typical of a seasoned hacker who wants to prevent others from similarly gaining entry to a compromised machine. The FBI obtained the server image as part of an investigation into the security researchers who alerted KSU to the server's security hole. Those researchers were never accused of any wrongdoing. It is not clear, however, if the FBI ever examined the image to try to determine whether it had been compromised, a significant question given federal findings of interference by Russian military intelligence agents in the 2016 election. An FBI spokesman in Atlanta, Kevin Rowson, declined to comment on the matter. Documents obtained by an independent researcher from the FBI in a Freedom of Information Act request and shared with The Associated Press provide no indication that the bureau ever examined the KSU server image for evidence of tampering by malicious outsiders. The investigation apparently was limited to Lamb and his associate. An FBI document dated Oct. 23, 2017, said the matter would be shelved once the hard drive containing the image was placed in a case file. It said no investigative activity had been conducted in the case for two months. ___ This story has been corrected to note that Brian Kemp was elected Georgia governor in 2018 and the spelling of the surname of the current Georgia secretary of state to Raffensperger.
  • Microsoft is pledging to become 100% “carbon-negative” by 2030 by removing more carbon from the environment than it emits. CEO Satya Nadella said Thursday that the commitment will happen 'not just across our direct emissions, but across our supply chain, too.” It's a major step up from Microsoft's previous green pledges. The tech company had previously said its data centers would be 60% powered by renewable electricity by the end of last year, but environmental groups have said it has fallen short of such rivals as Google and Apple by relying too much on purchasing renewable energy credits to make up for its carbon emissions. “Microsoft has really been in the middle of the pack,” said Elizabeth Jardim, senior corporate campaigner for Greenpeace USA. “Not an ‘A’ student but clearly not doing nothing.” Jardim said that Thursday's announcement shows a “more serious and holistic” approach and that Microsoft “understands climate science and the shrinking window for action.” Microsoft had previously set an interim goal of 70% renewable energy by 2023. It now says it will hit 100% renewable for all of its data centers and buildings by 2025 — and will no longer depend on credit-buying to meet its goals. Google and Apple have already said they reached the 100% milestone. Amazon said it would run on 100% renewable energy by 2030. Microsoft's announcement was timed ahead of next week’s gathering of elites at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos. Catastrophic trends like global warming and the extinction of animal species will be a focus of the conference. Microsoft is responsible for about 16 million metric tons of emissions per year, said Brad Smith, the company's president and chief legal officer. That estimate includes not just Microsoft's global network of energy-chugging data centers, but emissions from making electronics components for its devices and from everyone who plugs in its Xbox gaming consoles at home. “When it comes to carbon, neutrality is not enough,” Smith said. “We have to get ourselves to net zero.” That means removing from the atmosphere all the carbon one emits, he said. The pledge to include supply chain emissions follows a similar move by Apple. Microsoft says it will set new procedures next year to push its suppliers to reduce their environmental footprint, in the same way it has required some of them to offer their workers paid time off and parental leave. It's also expanding the scope of a fee it has had since 2012 charging its own business units for each ton of carbon they emit. Microsoft says that after reaching its 2030 goal, it will, by 2050, remove from the environment all of its historical emissions since the company was founded in 1975. But Jardim said Microsoft is undermining its climate goals by taking the lead among tech firms in partnering with oil and gas companies, providing cloud computing and artificial intelligence that can speed up the extraction of fossil fuels. Microsoft also said Thursday it is starting a $1 billion fund for developing carbon reduction and removal technology.
  • European automakers' network of highway charging stations for battery-powered vehicles is taking shape ahead of an expected surge in electric car sales as manufacturers strive to meet new emission limits. Ionity, the joint venture created among automakers to build the network, said Thursday it has completed more than 200 stations and expects to have 400 operating by the end of the year. Each station has 4-6 charging columns. The highway network is seen as a key step in convincing car buyers they can switch to electrics and still take long highway trips without worrying about running out of juice during a family vacation. Ionity CEO Michael Hajesch gave the progress update as the company unveiled the price for electricity at its high-speed stations in 20 — soon to be 24 — countries. Munich-based Ionity is a joint effort among BMW, Daimler, Ford, and Volkswagen Group, which also includes Audi and Porsche. Last year, battery-powered cars accounted for only 2% of the market in Europe but manufacturers need to sell more to meet tougher European Union limits on greenhouse gas emissions coming into effect from 2021. Carmakers that don't meet the limits face fines of thousands of euros per vehicle. The network is also a response to California-based electric car maker Tesla, which has its own charging network. The Ionity network will be open to Tesla owners. Hajesch said Ionity would charge 79 euro cents per kilowatt hour for customers who don't have a contract with a mobility service provider for a different rate. That replaces the previous price of 8 euros ($8.80) per charging session. The new price to charge up quickly on the highway and be on one's way is higher than what car owners typically pay to charge overnight at home, where charging might cost around 30 euro cents per kilowatt hour but takes hours. Ionity's 350-kilowatt stations mean charging could be completed in as little as 10-15 minutes for cars that can take full advantage; other models will charge more slowly.
  • When British police used facial recognition cameras to monitor crowds arriving for a soccer match in Wales, some fans protested by covering their faces. In a sign of the technology’s divisiveness, even the head of a neighboring police force said he opposed it. The South Wales police deployed vans equipped with the technology outside Cardiff stadium this week as part of a long-running trial in which officers scanned people in real time and detained anyone blacklisted from attending for past misbehavior. Rights activists and team supporters staged a protest before the game between Cardiff City and Swansea City, wearing masks, balaclavas or scarves around their faces. “It's disproportionate to the risk,” said Vince Alm, chairman of the Football Supporters’ Association Wales, which helped organized the protest. “Football fans feel as if they're being picked on” and used as guinea pigs to test new technology, he said. The real-time surveillance being tested in Britain is among the more aggressive uses of facial recognition in Western democracies and raises questions about how the technology will enter people's daily lives. Authorities and companies are eager to use it, but activists warn it threatens human rights. The British have long become used to video surveillance, with one of the highest densities of CCTV cameras in the world. Cameras have been used in public spaces for decades by security forces fighting threats from the Irish Republican Army and, more recently, domestic terror attacks after Sept. 11, 2001. The recent advances in surveillance technology mean a new wave of facial recognition systems will put the public's acceptance to the test. South Wales police have taken the lead in Britain. In 2017 they started rolling out and testing face scanning cameras after getting a government funding grant. While a court last year ruled the force's trial is lawful, regulators and lawmakers have yet to draw up statutory rules on its use. The van-mounted cameras, using technology by Japan’s NEC, scan faces in crowds and match them up with a “watchlist,” a database mainly of people wanted for or suspected of a crime. If the system flags up someone passing by, officers stop that person to investigate further, according to the force’s website. Rights groups say this kind of monitoring raises worries about privacy, consent, algorithmic accuracy, and questions about about how faces are added to watchlists. It’s “an alarming example of overpolicing,” said Silkie Carlo, director of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch. “We're deeply concerned about the undemocratic nature of it. This is a very controversial technology which has no explicit basis in law.” Her group has scrutinized other British police trials, including one by the London Metropolitan force last year, when officers pulled aside a man who tried to hide his face. They ended up fining him for a public order offence , the group said. The North Wales police commissioner, Arfon Jones, said using facial recognition to take pictures of soccer fans was a “fishing expedition.' He also raised concerns about false positives. British police and crime commissioners are civilians elected to oversee and scrutinize the country’s dozens of forces. They were introduced in 2012 to improve accountability. “I’m uncomfortable at this creeping interference with our privacy,” Jones, himself a former police officer, said in an interview. He said police would be more justified using it if they had intelligence about a specific threat like an impending terrorist attack. Jones clashed with his South Wales counterpart, Alun Michael, after raising similar concerns at a game-day deployment in October. Michael said Jones’ criticism was based on misunderstanding of the technology and extensive scrutiny the police faced. “It is incomprehensible that Arfon Jones should not support measures which keep football fans safe,' Michael said. Facial recognition was used to spot fans banned from attending Sunday’s game based on previous misbehavior and anyone else's biometric data was automatically deleted, he said. “There has not been one single wrongful arrest as a result of the use of facial recognition by South Wales Police,' Michael said. The force has been deploying the technology about twice a month at big events including rugby games, royal visits and yacht races; it scanned nearly 19,000 faces at a Spice Girls concert in May and identified 15 on a watchlist, including nine incorrectly. Six others were arrested. “In laboratory conditions it’s really effective,” said University of Essex professor Pete Fussey. He monitored the London police trials, which also used NEC's system, and found a different outcome on the streets. He co-authored a report last year that said only eight of its 42 matches were correct. The London program has since been suspended. “The police tended to trust the algorithm most of the time, so if they trust the computational decision-making yet that decision-making is wrong, that raises all sorts of questions” about the accountability of the machine, he said. The debate is also playing out in the U.S., where real-time crowd surveillance is still rare and the technology is more commonly used to identify suspects by running their images through a pool of police mugshots or driver’s license photos. Critics in the U.S., including politicians, want to ban or curtail facial recognition over racial discrimination fears. Some point to China’s vast networks of street cameras to monitor ethnic minorities. Britain is the world’s fourth most camera-dense country, with one security camera per 6.5 people, according to IHS Markit. London is the fifth most surveilled city in the world, and one of only two non-Asian cities in the top 10, according to a report by Comparitech. The British capital has nearly 628,000 surveillance cameras. It’s so widespread Britain even has a surveillance camera commissioner, Tony Porter. He and the privacy commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, have urged police forces not to take a British High Court ruling that found the South Wales trial lawful as a green light for generic deployment of automated facial recognition. Denham is investigating its use by police and private companies. Store owners and landlords are among those keen to use the technology to spot shoplifters and abusive customers. British startup Facewatch sells a security system to retailers like convenience store chain Budgens that “matches faces against known offenders within seconds of them entering your premises” and sends instant alerts. The developer of London’s King’s Cross estate said last year it had deployed two facial recognition cameras from May 2016 to March 2018 to prevent and detect crime in the neighborhood, sparking a backlash because the system was used without the public's knowledge or consent. ___ For all of AP's tech coverage, visit https://apnews.com/apf-technology ___ Follow Kelvin Chan at www.twitter.com/chanman
  • Turkey on Wednesday lifted its more than two-year ban on accessing Wikipedia, weeks after the country's highest court ruled that the block violated freedom of expression. Turkey blocked Wikipedia in April 2017, accusing it of being part of a 'smear campaign” against the country, after the website refused to remove content that allegedly portrayed Turkey as supporting the Islamic State group and other terrorist organizations. Access resumed Wednesday, hours after Turkey's Official Gazette published details of last month's Constitutional 's Court ruling in favor of Wikipedia. Access to the website was blocked under a law that allows the government to ban websites that it deems to pose a national security threat. Wikipedia had declined to remove content from the community-generated site, citing its opposition to censorship. It petitioned the Constitutional Court in May 2017 after talks with Turkish officials and a challenge in lower courts failed. Turkey has a poor record on censorship and suppression of free speech, which intensified following a failed military coup in 2016 against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government. Tens of thousands of people were arrested or dismissed from government jobs and thousands of media organizations or civil society groups were shut in a clampdown in the aftermath of the coup attempt. Access from Turkey to tens of thousands of other websites remain blocked. In 2008, Turkey prevented access to YouTube for two years over videos insulting the Turkish republic's founding leader. Twitter, meanwhile, says it receives more requests for content removal from Turkey than from other countries. Many Turks however, have found ways to circumvent the ban on Wikipedia and other blocked websites.