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3-D Printed Practice Organs Smooth Toddler’s Transplant

A sick toddler is thriving thanks to his father’s kidney and a practice surgery using 3-D printed organs. VOA’s Steve Baragona explains.

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Canada’s Trudeau Talks Tech at MIT Gathering

Canadian computer scientists helped pioneer the field of artificial intelligence before it was a buzzword, and now Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is hoping to capitalize on their intellectual lead.

Trudeau has become a kind of marketer-in-chief for Canada’s tech economy ambitions, accurately explaining the basics of machine learning as he promotes a national plan he says will “secure Canada’s foothold in AI research and training.”

“Tech giants have taken notice, and are setting up offices in Canada, hiring Canadian experts, and investing time and money into applications that could be as transformative as the internet itself,” Trudeau wrote in a guest editorial published this week in the Boston Globe.

Trudeau has been taking that message on the road and is likely to emphasize it again Friday when he addresses a gathering of tech entrepreneurs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His visit to the MIT campus headlines an annual meeting of the school’s Solve initiative, which connects innovators with corporate, government and academic resources to help them tackle world problems.

Trudeau isn’t the only head of state talking up AI — France’s Emmanuel Macron and China’s Xi Jinping are among the others — but his deep-in-the-weeds approach has caught U.S. tech companies’ attention in contrast to President Donald Trump, whose administration “got off to a little bit of a slow start” in expressing interest, said Erik Brynjolfsson, an MIT professor who directs the school’s Initiative on the Digital Economy.

“AI is the most important technology for the next decade or two,” said Brynjolfsson, who attended the Trump White House’s first AI summit last week. “It’s going to completely transform the economy and our society in lots of ways. It’s a huge mistake for countries’ leaders not to take it seriously.”

Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Uber and Samsung have all opened AI research hubs centered in Montreal, Toronto and Edmonton, drawn in large part by decades of academic research into “deep learning” algorithms that helped pave the way for today’s digital voice assistants, self-driving technology and photo-tagging services that can recognize a friend’s face.

Canada’s reputation as a welcoming place for immigrants is also helping, as is Trudeau’s enthusiasm about the AI economy, Brynjolfsson said.

“When a national leader says AI is a priority, I think you get more creative, smart young people who will be taking it seriously,” he said.

AI is an “easy and recognizable shorthand” for the digital economy Trudeau hopes to foster, said Luke Stark, a Dartmouth College sociologist from Canada who studies the history and philosophy of technology.

A former schoolteacher, Trudeau is “smart enough to know when to learn something so he can talk about it intelligently in a way that helps educate people,” Stark said.

Stark said that also allows Trudeau to “push into the background some of the less high-tech, less fashionable elements of the Canadian economy,” such as the extraction of oil and gas.

The visit comes amid talks between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico over whether to renew the North American Free Trade Agreement. Negotiators have now gone past an informal Thursday deadline set by U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, increasing the likelihood that talks could drag into 2019.

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Inventors Honored in Hall of Fame Special Ceremony

Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Apple founder Steve Jobs are some of America’s best known inventors. But there are other, less recognizable individuals whose innovative products have greatly impacted our world. More than a dozen of them were recently honored for their unique contributions in a special ceremony at the National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum in Alexandria, Virginia. VOA’s Julie Taboh has more.

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In the Name of Safety: NYC Tradition – Blessing of the Bikes

For almost 20 years, cyclists have gathered in New York’s Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine for what might seem like an unusual ceremony the blessing of the bikes. Held the day before the city’s Five Boro Bike Tour, the ceremony is meant to bring luck and safety to those who travel around the Big Apple on a bike. Evgeny Maslov has the story, narrated by Anna Rice.

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YouTube to Launch Music Streaming Service Next Week

Google’s YouTube will launch a music streaming service next week, it said on Thursday, looking to use its popular internet video brand to tap the growing market for paid music streaming.

YouTube Music, which will offer both ad-supported and $9.99-per-month versions, will compete directly with services from Spotify Technology, Pandora Media, Apple and Amazon.com.

YouTube Music will launch on May 22, and include features such as personalized playlists based on a user’s YouTube history. The service is expected to eventually replace Google Play Music, the Alphabet Inc unit’s existing music streaming brand.

The news sent stocks of music streaming companies Spotify and Pandora lower by about 2 percent on Thursday morning.

“Google has an advantage given YouTube’s more than a billion users and viewers. So, it has opportunities to convert some into YouTube Music listeners or premium subscribers,” said Ali Mogharabi, analyst at Morningstar Research.

The growing adoption of paid music streaming has helped wean a generation of music listeners away from free or pirated music, and has led to services such as Spotify and Apple Music becoming the recording industry’s single biggest revenue source.

Revenue from music streaming services overtook sales of CDs and digital downloads for the first time in 2017, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.

YouTube Music will launch in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and South Korea on May 22. It will roll out to more countries in the following weeks.

Separately on Thursday, YouTube also said it would revamp YouTube Red, the paid version of YouTube that comes with original programming, to include YouTube Music at an additional price of $2.

YouTube Premium, which will replace YouTube Red, will cost $11.99.

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US Senate Votes to Restore Net Neutrality

The U.S. Senate voted 52-47 to overturn the FCC’s 2017 repeal of Obama-era net neutrality rules, with all Democrats and three Republicans voting in favor of the measure.

The Senate approved a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution that would undo the Federal Communications Commission’s vote to deregulate the broadband industry. If the CRA is approved by the House and signed by President Donald Trump, internet service providers would have to continue following rules that prohibit blocking, throttling and paid prioritization.

The Republican-controlled FCC voted in December to repeal the rules, which require internet service providers to give equal footing to all web traffic.

Democrats argued that scrapping the rules would give ISPs free rein to suppress certain content or promote sites that pay them.

Republicans insist they, too, believe in net neutrality, but want to safeguard it by crafting forward-looking legislation rather than reimposing an outdated regulatory structure.

​’Political points’

“Democrats have decided to take the issue of net neutrality and make it partisan,” Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota said. “Instead of working with Republicans to develop permanent net neutrality legislation, they’ve decided to try to score political points with a partisan resolution that would do nothing to permanently secure net neutrality.”

Before the vote, Senator Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, urged fellow senators to disregard the “armies of lobbyists marching the halls of Congress on behalf of big internet service providers.”

Lobbyists tried to convince senators that net neutrality rules aren’t needed “because ISPs will self-regulate,” and that blocking, throttling and paid prioritization are just hypothetical harms, Markey said.

Lobby groups representing all the major cable companies, telecoms and mobile carriers urged senators to reject the attempt to restore net neutrality rules.

The resolution still faces tough odds in the House. It requires 218 votes to force a vote there, and only 160 House Democrats back the measure for now. The legislation would also require the signature of Trump, who has criticized the net neutrality rules.

While Democrats recognize they are unlikely to reverse the FCC’s rule, they see the issue as a key policy desire that energizes their base voters, a top priority ahead of the midterm elections.

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Facebook’s Zuckerberg, EU Lawmakers to Discuss Data Privacy

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is slated to meet privately in Brussels as soon as next week with key European lawmakers about the data protection controversy that has affected his company.

EU Parliament President Antonio Tajani confirmed the meeting Wednesday.

It will be Zuckerberg’s first visit with EU representatives since a whistle-blower alleged that British political consulting company Cambridge Analytica improperly collected information from millions of Facebook accounts to help Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election in the United States. The collection affected about 87 million users and prompted apologies from Zuckerberg.

Facebook was largely unscathed by Zuckerberg’s 10 hours of testimony before U.S. legislators in April. The social media giant’s share price increased after his testimony, and some lawmakers apparently failed to grasp the technical details of the company’s operation and data privacy policies. 

Zuckerberg’s pending appearance in Brussels comes as new European data protection laws are set to take effect May 25.

Some critics say Zuckerberg’s meeting with the lawmakers should be public.

Guy Verhofstadt, president of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, a liberal-centrist political group of the European Parliament, said he would not attend the meeting if it were held behind closed doors.

“It must be a public hearing,” he said. “Why not a Facebook Live?” he asked on Twitter.

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FL Students Develop Anti-Skimming Detector to Stop ATM Hackers

While hackers steal credit card numbers online, other crooks do it directly from the card, at the point where a consumer exchanges the data with a cash or banking machine. The U.S. Secret Service says those crooks, called skimmers, steal more than a billion dollars annually. A group of students at the University of Florida is developing a device that may put a stop to this type of crime. VOA’s George Putic has more.

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