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Study finds Facebook news use declining, WhatsApp growing
14 June 2018, 3:41 PM

News consumption is increasingly shifting from social media like Facebook to messaging applications like WhatsApp, according to a study published Thursday which also found high levels of international public concern about fake news online.

The Reuters Institute report, which covers 37 countries in five continents, found that the use of social media for news fell by six percentage points in the United States compared to last year.

“Almost all the decline is due to a decrease in the discovery, posting and sharing of news in Facebook,” said lead author Nic Newman, a founding member of the BBC News website.

Facebook suffered its worst public relations disaster in its history when a huge data privacy breach was revealed earlier this year.

The scandal saw many users around the world opt to move away from Facebook, and to spend more time on other apps like WhatsApp and Instagram — which are also owned by Facebook.

The 2018 Digital News Report found that WhatsApp is now used for news by around half of the sample in Malaysia (54%) and Brazil (48%) and by around a third in Spain (36%) and Turkey (30%).

The report, based on a YouGov survey of over 74,000 online news consumers, found Instagram had also taken off in Asia and South America, while Snapchat progressed in Europe and the United States.

The report also revealed that the average level of trust in the news has remained relatively stable at 44% — a slight increase from 43% last year. However, only 23% said they trusted the news they find in social media.

More than half (54%) agreed or strongly agreed that they were concerned about what is real and fake on the Internet.

The rate was highest in Brazil at 85% and lowest in the Netherlands at 30%.

The survey found that a majority of respondents believed publishers and platforms have the biggest responsibility to fix the problem of fake and unreliable news.

Some 60% of respondents in Europe, 63% in Asia and 41% in the United States believed that their governments should do more to stop “fake news”.

The report also found that podcasts are becoming an increasingly popular way of accessing news, with 33% of respondents in the United States and 18% in Britain making use of them.

It found that in Britain, Germany and the United States, around half of those polled who have voice-activated digital assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home use them to receive news.

Kiprop gives up fight to clear name in doping scandal
14 June 2018, 3:23 PM

Kenyan runner Asbel Kiprop said Thursday he would not defend himself against accusations that he used performance-enhancing drugs.

The three-time World champion and 2008 Olympic 1,500m gold medallist, faces a potentially career-ending four-year ban after testing positive for the blood-boosting drug EPO in an out-of-competition test last November.

He had vowed to clear his name before an International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) disciplinary panel in London on June 28.

While continuing to insist on his innocence, Kiprop on Thursday said he would not fight the charges, blaming lack of financial and other support.

“There is no point in putting up the fight to clear my name without the support of my managers, my federation and the government behind me,” Kiprop said.

“I am totally innocent. It’s unjust.”

The 28-year-old runner said he could not afford the legal costs of defending himself and feared the damage to his credibility by the positive test could not be undone.

“I am financially weak to challenge my accuser, the IAAF,” Kiprop said.

“I have always worked hard to bring out the best in me, for the sport and myself. I’m left, not to admit doping, but to fall, a victim of my accusers.”

British engine maker Rolls-Royce cutting 4 600 jobs
14 June 2018, 2:15 PM

Rolls-Royce, the British maker of plane engines, said Thursday that it plans to cut 4,600 mainly British management roles by 2020 in a vast restructuring that has already resulted in thousands of job losses.

“Rolls-Royce announces the next stage in our drive for pace and simplicity with a proposed restructuring that will deliver improved returns, higher margins and increased cash flow,” the group said in a statement.

The London-listed company, whose engines are used in Airbus and Boeing aircraft, said the latest cuts would produce £400 million ($536 million, 454 million euros) of annual cost savings by the end of 2020.

Rolls has faced a tough trading environment in recent years on weak demand for its plane engines and marine power systems.

Although it roared back into profit last year, this was largely owing to a recovery in the pound.

“Our world-leading technology gives Rolls-Royce the potential to generate significant profitable growth,” the company’s chief executive Warren East said alongside Thursday’s announcement.

“The creation of a more streamlined organisation with pace and simplicity at its heart will enable us to deliver on that promise, generating higher returns while being able to invest for the future,” he added.

Rolls said the latest round of restructuring was expected to cost the group £500 million.

“These changes will help us deliver over the mid and longer-term a level of free cash flow well beyond our near-term ambition of around £1 billion by around 2020,” added East, who has implemented the group-wide restructuring since his appointment as chief executive in 2015.

Rolls employs more than 22,000 staff in Britain, of which over one half are based at its UK operational centre in Derby, central England.

In total, the company employs around 55,000 worldwide.

“Most of these management and support functions (set to go) are in Derby and therefore, it will be most strongly felt in Derby,” East said in an interview with BBC radio.

Rolls had in January announced a major overhaul of its operations, reducing the number of core units and basing the remainder around civil aerospace, defence and power systems.

At the same time, the company has said it would consider selling its commercial marine business, while in April, Rolls sold German division L’Orange for 700 million euros to US group Woodward.

Speaking to the BBC, East said he saw opportunities in China.

“We look at China and we see an opportunity there for aircraft engine… that’s where a lot of opportunities are.”

The iPal robot in China
China’s latest robot cares for lonely children
14 June 2018, 1:24 PM

It speaks two languages, gives math lessons, tells jokes and interacts with children through the tablet screen in its chest — China’s latest robot is the babysitter every parent needs.

The “iPal” was among a slew of new tech unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show Asia in Shanghai this week, offering education and company for lonely children and peace of mind for adults.

The humanoid device stands as tall as a five-year-old, moves and dances on wheels and its eyes keep track of its charges through facial recognition technology.

Parents can also remotely talk to and monitor the children through the iPal, which is linked to a smartphone app that allows them to see and hear everything.

“The idea for this robot is to be a companion for children,” says Tingyu Huang, co-founder of AvatarMind Robot Technology.

“When a child sees it, he or she will think of the robot as a friend, as another child in the family.”

Their 9,000 yuan ($1,400) did not dampen interest from buyers watching a performance of several iPals dancing in unison.

“They’re pretty cute. I was just thinking my own two-year-old daughter would love one,” Mike Stone, a buyer from Australia said.

China’s young working parents often face the burden of taking care of children or elders without help from a large extended family, as the impact of the country’s decades-long one-child policy lingers. The limit was raised to two children in 2016.

“I don’t think the robots can replace parents or teachers,” Huang said. “But iPal can be a complementary tool to relieve some of their burden.”

China’s robot market is also catching onto needs from a growing population of elderly “empty nesters” who prefer to grow old at home rather than at a nursing home.

AvatarMind will soon launch another robot that can talk to seniors, remind them to take their pills and call the hospital when they fall.

Beijing has invested money and manpower in developing AI as part of its “Made in China 2025” plan.

A Chinese firm unveiled the country’s first human-like robot, which can hold simple conversations and make facial expressions, during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last year.

The iPal is the latest humanoid robot to be marketed for family use, following in the footsteps of the diminutive, wisecracking “Pepper” companion released by Japan’s SoftBank in 2015.

Trump, America’s oldest first-time president, turns 72
14 June 2018, 10:24 AM

President Donald Trump turned 72 on Thursday, having returned to the fray of Washington politics after his gruelling trip to Singapore for the summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Trump in 2016 was the oldest person to assume the US presidency – he was 70 then – although Ronald Reagan was 73 when he was re-elected in 1984.

Trump’s health, both physical and mental, has been the subject of keen interest in America.

He underwent an official physical in January and then White House physician Ronny Jackson described his health as “excellent.”

When Trump was still a presidential candidate, his then personal doctor Harold Bornstein released a letter on Trump’s behalf in December 2015 in which he described the businessman’s health in grand hyperbole.

It depicted Trump’s blood pressure and laboratory results as “astonishingly excellent,” his physical strength and stamina as “extraordinary,” and said he would be “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”

Last month Bornstein told CNN that Trump had personally dictated the letter.

Bornstein also said last month that a bodyguard visited his Park Avenue office last year and confiscated the president’s medical records. Bornstein said the “raid” took place on February 3, 2017; two days after The New York Times quoted the physician as saying he had prescribed Trump a hair growth medicine for years.

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