Electric Vehicle ‘Fast Charger’ Seen as Game Changer

With White House funding to put more electric cars on the road, some states are using the money to build out their part of a fast-charging EV network. Deana Mitchell has the story.

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Saudi Arabia Likely to Host 2034 World Cup After Australia Decides Not to Bid

Saudi Arabia is all but certain to host the men’s 2034 World Cup after the Australian soccer federation decided not to enter the bidding contest, which had been widely seen as shaped by FIFA to suit the oil rich kingdom. 

FIFA had set Tuesday as the deadline to formally declare interest in hosting the tournament, but Australia’s decision not to enter the race leaves Saudi Arabia as the only declared candidate — to the dismay of many human rights activists. 

“We have explored the opportunity to bid to host the FIFA World Cup and — having taken all factors into consideration — we have reached the conclusion not to do so for the 2034 competition,” Football Australia said in a statement. 

FIFA still needs to rubber stamp Saudi Arabia as the host — a decision that is likely to be made next year — but that now seems a formality. It would be the culmination of Saudi Arabia’s ambitious drive to become a major player in global sports, having already spent massive amounts on bringing in dozens of star soccer players to its domestic league, buying English soccer club Newcastle, launching the breakaway LIV Golf tour and hosting major boxing fights. 

But FIFA’s seeming eagerness to pave the way for Saudi Arabia to host its marquee event has drawn widespread criticism from activists who say it exposes the governing body’s human rights commitments as “a sham.” 

Saudi Arabia’s sports spending program approved by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been described as sportswashing to soften a national image often associated with its record on women’s rights and the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has built close ties to Saudi soccer and the crown prince personally, and has long been seen as trying to steer the world soccer body’s competitions toward the kingdom. 

When FIFA made deal this month to have just one host bid for the 2030 World Cup — uniting Spain, Portugal and Morocco with three games placed in South America — it also fast-tracked the 2034 hosting race with only member federations in Asia and Oceania eligible to bid. The tight deadline gave them less than four weeks to enter the race by Tuesday and just one month more to sign a bidding agreement that requires government support. 

The timetable “was a little bit of a surprise,” Australian soccer federation leader James Johnson acknowledged Tuesday, adding “we’re adults and we just try to roll with it and deal with the cards that we have been given.” 

Within hours of the FIFA announcement on October 4, the Saudi soccer federation said it was in and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) — which includes Australia — said it was backing the kingdom to bring the World Cup back to the Middle East after neighboring Qatar hosted the 2022 edition. 

Qatar hosted in November and December, in the heart of the European club soccer season, to avoid extreme heat in the summer months and a Saudi tournament likely also will be moved from the traditional June-July period. 

Indonesia’s football association initially showed interest in a joint bid with Australia, potentially alongside Malaysia and Singapore, but that faded when Indonesia instead backed Saudi Arabia. 

Australia will instead attempt to secure hosting the 2029 Club World Cup — which will relaunch in 2025 playing every four years in a new format with 32 teams qualifying — and the 2026 Women’s Asian Cup. Saudi Arabia also is bidding for the women’s Asian championship. 

“I think there will be some goodwill created by not going for 2034,” Johnson told reporters in an online call, accepting that the resources of a government-backed Saudi bid “is difficult to compete with.” 

Australia and New Zealand successfully co-hosted the Women’s World Cup in July and August. Brisbane, Queensland state, is due to become the third Australian city to host the Olympics when it stages the 2032 Summer Games. 

Saudi Arabia also will host the men’s Asian Cup in 2027 and has started a widespread construction program to build and renovate stadiums that likely will be used for the World Cup. FIFA’s bidding documents say 14 stadiums are needed at the 48-team tournament. 

Qatar’s World Cup was dogged by years-long allegations of rights abuses of migrant workers needed to build its stadiums. 

“FIFA’s failure in 2010 to insist on human rights protections when it awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar is a major reason why serious reforms were so delayed, and so often weakly implemented and enforced,” Football Supporters Europe executive director Ronan Evain said Tuesday. 

Saudi Arabia’s preparation should face some of the same scrutiny in the next decade. 

“With Saudi Arabia’s estimated 13.4 million migrant workers, inadequate labor and heat protections and no unions, no independent human rights monitors, and no press freedom, there is every reason to fear for the lives of those who would build and service stadiums, transit, hotels, and other hosting infrastructure in Saudi Arabia,” Human Rights Watch director of global initiatives Minky Worden said in a recent statement.

“The possibility that FIFA could award Saudi Arabia the 2034 World Cup despite its appalling human rights record and closed door to any monitoring exposes FIFA’s commitments to human rights as a sham,” Worden said.

FIFA’s own World Cup bidding documents push potential hosts toward “respecting internationally recognized human rights,” though limits the remit to tournament operations rather than in wider society.

“FIFA must now make clear how it expects hosts to comply with its human rights policies,” Amnesty International official Steve Cockburn said in a statement Tuesday. “It must also be prepared to halt the bidding process if serious human rights risks are not credibly addressed.” 

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Spanish Soccer Official Who Kissed Unwilling Star Player Is Banned for Three Years

The Spanish soccer official who provoked a players’ rebellion and reckoning on gender when he kissed an unwilling star player on the lips at the Women’s World Cup final trophy ceremony was banned for three years on Monday by the sport’s global governing body.

Luis Rubiales’ conduct at the Aug. 20 final in Australia — and his defiant refusal to resign as Spanish soccer federation president for three weeks — distracted many people from the women’s career-defining title win.

Rubiales is now barred from working in soccer until after the men’s 2026 World Cup. His ban will expire before the next women’s tournament in 2027.

Spanish authorities have launched a criminal investigation against Rubiales for kissing Jenni Hermoso on the lips after the team’s 1-0 victory over England in Sydney, and his conduct in the fallout from the scandal.

Spanish prosecutors have formally accused Rubiales of sexual assault and coercion. Hermoso said that Rubiales pressured her to speak out in his defense amid the global furor.

Rubiales denied wrongdoing to a judge in Madrid who imposed a restraining order for him not to contact Hermoso, the record goal scorer for the Spain women’s team.

FIFA has said it was investigating whether Rubiales violated “basic rules of decent conduct” and “behaving in a way that brings the sport of football and/or FIFA into disrepute.”

In another incident, at the final whistle in Sydney Rubiales grabbed his crotch as a victory gesture while he was in an exclusive section of seats and Queen Letizia of Spain and 16-year-old Princess Sofía were standing nearby.

A third incident FIFA judges cited to remove Rubiales from office during their investigation — “carrying the Spanish player Athenea del Castillo over his shoulder during the post-match celebrations” — was detailed in a ruling to explain why he was provisionally suspended.

Women’s soccer has seen allegations of sexual misconduct by male soccer presidents and coaches against female players on national teams.

Two of the 32 World Cup teams, Haiti and Zambia, had to deal with such issues while qualifying for the tournament co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand.

Even before the Women’s World Cup, Rubiales — a former professional player and union leader — had been the target of unproven allegations of a sexual nature about his managerial culture, including at the national federation he led since 2018.

The Spanish players’ preparation for the Women’s World Cup also was in turmoil in the year ahead of the tournament because of their dissatisfaction with the leadership of their male coach, Jorge Vilda.

Vilda was supported by Rubiales to stay in the job despite 15 players asking last year not to be called up again because of the emotional pain it meant to play for the team. Three continued their self-imposed exile and refused to be selected for the World Cup.

As the Rubiales scandal continued into September, with lawmakers supporting the players, Vilda was fired by the federation’s interim management.

Rubiales resigned from his jobs in soccer on Sept. 10 after three weeks of defiance that increased pressure on him from the Spanish government and national-team players.

He also gave up his vice presidency of European soccer body UEFA which paid him $265,000 a year. One day later UEFA thanked Rubiales for his service in a statement that offered no backing to the women players.

When Rubiales resigned, he said he did not want to be a distraction from Spain’s bid to host the men’s 2030 World Cup in a UEFA-backed project with Portugal and Morocco.

That bid has since been picked by FIFA as the only candidate to host the 2030 tournament in a plan that now also includes its former opponents Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

The Morocco soccer federation that partnered with Spain on the men’s 2030 World Cup later hired Vilda to coach its women’s national team. The Morocco women were a standout story at their World Cup reaching the last-16 knockout round in their tournament debut.

The quick forgiveness of Vilda fueled the view that soccer administrators’ actions often do not meet their claims of zero-tolerance of misconduct.

Rubiales can choose to appeal his three-year ban, first to FIFA and subsequently at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

FIFA said Rubiales has 10 days to request the full written verdict in his case which it would then publish.

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Biden Signs Sweeping Executive Order on AI Oversight

President Joe Biden on Monday signed a wide-ranging executive order on artificial intelligence, covering topics as varied as national security, consumer privacy, civil rights and commercial competition. The administration heralded the order as taking “vital steps forward in the U.S.’s approach on safe, secure, and trustworthy AI.”

The order directs departments and agencies across the U.S. federal government to develop policies aimed at placing guardrails alongside an industry that is developing newer and more powerful systems at a pace rate that has many concerned it will outstrip effective regulation.

“To realize the promise of AI and avoid the risk, we need to govern this technology,” Biden said during a signing ceremony at the White House. The order, he added, is “the most significant action any government anywhere in the world has ever taken on AI safety, security and trust.” 

‘Red teaming’ for security 

One of the marquee requirements of the new order is that it will require companies developing advanced artificial intelligence systems to conduct rigorous testing of their products to ensure that bad actors cannot use them for nefarious purposes. The process, known as red teaming, will assess, among other things, “AI systems threats to critical infrastructure, as well as chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and cybersecurity risks.” 

The National Institute of Standards and Technology will set the standards for such testing, and AI companies will be required to report their results to the federal government prior to releasing new products to the public. The Departments of Homeland Security and Energy will be closely involved in the assessment of threats to vital infrastructure. 

To counter the threat that AI will enable the creation and dissemination of false and misleading information, including computer-generated images and “deep fake” videos, the Commerce Department will develop guidance for the creation of standards that will allow computer-generated content to be easily identified, a process commonly called “watermarking.” 

The order directs the White House chief of staff and the National Security Council to develop a set of guidelines for the responsible and ethical use of AI systems by the U.S. national defense and intelligence agencies.

Privacy and civil rights

The order proposes a number of steps meant to increase Americans’ privacy protections when AI systems access information about them. That includes supporting the development of privacy-protecting technologies such as cryptography and creating rules for how government agencies handle data containing citizens’ personally identifiable information.

However, the order also notes that the United States is currently in need of legislation that codifies the kinds of data privacy protections that Americans are entitled to. Currently, the U.S. lags far behind Europe in the development of such rules, and the order calls on Congress to “pass bipartisan data privacy legislation to protect all Americans, especially kids.”

The order recognizes that the algorithms that enable AI to process information and answer users’ questions can themselves be biased in ways that disadvantage members of minority groups and others often subject to discrimination. It therefore calls for the creation of rules and best practices addressing the use of AI in a variety of areas, including the criminal justice system, health care system and housing market.

The order covers several other areas, promising action on protecting Americans whose jobs may be affected by the adoption of AI technology; maintaining the United States’ market leadership in the creation of AI systems; and assuring that the federal government develops and follows rules for its own adoption of AI systems.

Open questions

Experts say that despite the broad sweep of the executive order, much remains unclear about how the Biden administration will approach the regulations of AI in practice.

Benjamin Boudreaux, a policy researcher at the RAND Corporation, told VOA that while it is clear the administration is “trying to really wrap their arms around the full suite of AI challenges and risks,” much work remains to be done.

“The devil is in the details here about what funding and resources go to executive branch agencies to actually enact many of these recommendations, and just what models a lot of the norms and recommendations suggested here will apply to,” Boudreaux said.

International leadership

Looking internationally, the order says the administration will work to take the lead in developing “an effort to establish robust international frameworks for harnessing AI’s benefits and managing its risks and ensuring safety.”

James A. Lewis, senior vice president and director of the strategic technologies program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told VOA that the executive order does a good job of laying out where the U.S. stands on many important issues related to the global development of AI.

“It hits all the right issues,” Lewis said. “It’s not groundbreaking in a lot of places, but it puts down the marker for companies and other countries as to how the U.S. is going to approach AI.”

That’s important, Lewis said, because the U.S. is likely to play a leading role in the development of the international rules and norms that grow up around the technology.

“Like it or not — and certainly some countries don’t like it — we are the leaders in AI,” Lewis said. “There’s a benefit to being the place where the technology is made when it comes to making the rules, and the U.S. can take advantage of that.”

‘Fighting the last war’ 

Not all experts are certain the Biden administration’s focus is on the real threats that AI might present to consumers and citizens. 

Louis Rosenberg, a 30-year veteran of AI development and the CEO of American tech firm Unanimous AI, told VOA he is concerned the administration may be “fighting the last war.”

“I think it’s great that they’re making a bold statement that this is a very important issue,” Rosenberg said. “It definitely shows that the administration is taking it seriously and that they want to protect the public from AI.”

However, he said, when it comes to consumer protection, the administration seems focused on how AI might be used to advance existing threats to consumers, like fake images and videos and convincing misinformation — things that already exist today.

“When it comes to regulating technology, the government has a track record of underestimating what’s new about the technology,” he said.

Rosenberg said he is more concerned about the new ways in which AI might be used to influence people. For example, he noted that AI systems are being built to interact with people conversationally.

“Very soon, we’re not going to be typing in requests into Google. We’re going to be talking to an interactive AI bot,” Rosenberg said. “AI systems are going to be really effective at persuading, manipulating, potentially even coercing people conversationally on behalf of whomever is directing that AI. This is the new and different threat that did not exist before AI.” 

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Malian Artists Decry Suspension of French Cultural Exchange

Adiara Traore was due to travel to France with an international dance troupe before France suspended visa services in Mali, and the French Ministry of Culture asked the country’s artistic union to “suspend cooperation” with artists from Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. Amid tensions between France and Sahelian juntas, Malian artists and their supporters are asking the French government to allow artists to continue the cultural exchange that has flourished between Mali and France for years. Annie Risemberg reports.

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Paris Palestinian Exhibit Casts Eerily Prescient Spotlight on War in Gaza

The photos of property are neatly lined up, looking — at first glance — like a classic window display at any real estate agency.

“Calm, light filled, and unobstructed surroundings,” reads one, indicating the location as the Ezbet Abed-Rabbo neighborhood, in northern Gaza. “Garden + parking: 120 square meters. Inhabitants: 10 people.”

The photo above it shows the rubble of a blasted building, flanked by a baby-blue sky.

The artwork is part of a trove of paintings, photographs and sculptures that comprise the exhibit, “What Palestine Brings to the World,” at the Arab World Institute in Paris. Running through November 19, the show was organized well before the Israeli-Hamas war broke out earlier this month. Yet the images of shattered Palestinian homes, rings of barbed wire and tall fences are eerily prescient. 

“The exhibition gives a foretaste of the coming eruption, the pent-up anger and the sense of injustice,” said the Institute’s head, Jack Lang, a former French culture minister, in an interview with VOA. “And at the same time, it shows the talent, intelligence and creativity of Palestinians, notably the youth.”

The works are authored and donated by a mix of Palestinian and other largely Arab artists, many of them living in the West. But the themes are about Palestinians: their recent history, their loss, the truncated territories where some live today.

The collection’s home, for now, is the Arab World Institute, whose show aimed to mark the 75th anniversary of the Nakba, or catastrophe — the Palestinian commemoration of their mass displacement during the establishment of Israel. But its owner, former Palestinian ambassador to UNESCO Elias Sanbar, wants it to form the basis of a future Palestinian museum of modern and contemporary art in East Jerusalem. 

On display too is the Sahab or “cloud” museum painted by Palestinian artists of the art house they hope will rise in Gaza one day. With swathes of that territory now lying in ruins, it seems like an unlikely dream.

The war has entered the exhibit in other ways. One Gazan artist died in a bomb explosion. Others cannot be located.

“I send messages to the different artists,” Lang said. “I have received one answer. But it doesn’t mean the others have died.” 

The collection reflects Palestinian history as interpreted by its artists. One massive painting seems a riff on Picasso’s “Guernica,” the Basque town bombed during the Spanish civil war. This time, the structure is an Israeli separation barrier. In another room, photos show yellow no-trespass signs transposed over images of former Palestinian land. 

A picture by Texan-Jordanian photographer Tanya Habjouqa — part of a series called “Occupied Pleasures” — shows two men and a child sitting in armchairs, flanked by an Israeli border barrier. Others depict the dreamed-of return by Palestinian exiles to their homeland. There are only a few scraps of semi-normality, like youngsters on skateboards, or a pair of women on a yoga mat.

The Institute’s chief curator, Eric Delpont, says despite its bleak images, the exhibit offers an undercurrent of hope. 

“The Palestinians are people, like so many others, who have been hurt through the history,” he said. “Yet there is a force of life, and a believing of what can be tomorrow, despite the harshness of today.” 

The show has drawn good crowds since it opened in May, museum officials say, but turnout has spiked since the war.

Events in the Middle East are closely followed here in France, home to Western Europe’s largest populations of Jews and Muslims. Thousands of French joined pro-Israel rallies after Hamas’ deadly attacks in Israel on October 7. Following Israel’s retaliatory strikes on Gaza, thousands more have participated pro-Palestinian demonstrations — some of which were banned for fear of unrest.

“It’s enriching, you see through the works the distress of the Palestinians,” said Radia Robani, a Parisian of ethnic Algerian origin, who visited the exhibit one recent afternoon.

Of the war in Gaza, she added, “it’s hard, it’s sad. You don’t have to be an Arab or a Muslim to feel this.”

Student Gihed Barreche said the Palestine exhibit helped him to make sense of recent events. “It really shows us what Palestinians think,” he said, “and how they try to free themselves from the conflict through their words and their pictures.”

Institute head Lang, who visited Gaza in July and knows the region well, is not hopeful about the months to come.

“The future is very, very grave, and the hatred is very high,” he said, describing both Israel and the Palestinians as currently lacking the political leadership needed to realize peace. “The people who could discuss things a little before are today not able to discuss.”  

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Musk Pulls Plug on Paying for X Factchecks

Elon Musk has said that corrections to posts on X would no longer be eligible for payment as the social network comes under mounting criticism as becoming a conduit for misinformation.

In the year since taking over Twitter, now rebranded as X, Musk has gutted content moderation, restored accounts of previously banned extremists, and allowed users to purchase account verification, helping them profit from viral — but often inaccurate — posts.

Musk has instead promoted Community Notes, in which X users police the platform, as a tool to combat misinformation. 

But on Sunday, Musk tweeted a modification in how Community Notes works.

“Making a slight change to creator monetization: Any posts that are corrected by @CommunityNotes become ineligible for revenue share,” he wrote.  

“The idea is to maximize the incentive for accuracy over sensationalism,” he added. 

X pays content creators whose work generates lots of views a share of advertising revenue. 

Musk warned against using corrections to make X users ineligible for receiving payouts.

“Worth ‘noting’ that any attempts to weaponize @CommunityNotes to demonetize people will be immediately obvious, because all code and data is open source,” he posted.

Musk’s announcement follows the unveiling Friday of a $16-a-month subscription plan that users who pay more get the biggest boost for their replies. Earlier this year it unveiled an $8-a-month plan to get a “verified” account.

A recent study by the disinformation monitoring group NewsGuard found that verified, paying subscribers were the big spreaders of misinformation about the Israel-Hamas war. 

“Nearly three-fourths of the most viral posts on X advancing misinformation about the Israel-Hamas War are being pushed by ‘verified’ X accounts,” the group said.

It said the 250 most-engaged posts that promoted one of 10 prominent false or unsubstantiated narratives related to the war were viewed more than 100 million times globally in just one week. 

NewsGuard said 186 of those posts were made from verified accounts and only 79 had been fact-checked by Community Notes. 

Verified accounts “turned out to be a boon for bad actors sharing misinformation,” said NewsGuard.

“For less than the cost of a movie ticket, they have gained the added credibility associated with the once-prestigious blue checkmark and enabling them to reach a larger audience on the platform,” it said.

While the organization said it found misinformation spreading widely on other social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Telegram, it added that it found false narratives about the Israel-Hamas war tend to go viral on X before spreading elsewhere. 

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Day of the Dead Celebration in Los Angeles Connects Mexican Americans to Their Heritage

As October gives way to November, Halloween is followed by the celebration of the Day of the Dead in Mexican American communities across the U.S. to honor the memory of loved ones who have died. Genia Dulot visited one of the largest events, the Dia de los Muertos — Day of the Dead — at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles.

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Love It or Hate It, Feelings Run High Over Candy Corn Come Halloween

Cruel joke for trick-or-treaters or coveted seasonal delight? The great Halloween debate over candy corn is on.

In the pantheon of high-emotion candy, the classic shiny tricolor kernels in autumn’s white, orange and yellow are way up there. Fans and foes alike point to the same attributes: its plastic or candle-like texture (depending on who you ask) and the mega-sugar hit it packs.

“I am vehemently pro candy corn. It’s sugar! What is not to love? It’s amazing. It’s like this waxy texture. You get to eat it once a year. It’s tricolor. That’s always fun,” comedian Shannon Fiedler gushed on TikTok. “Also, I know it’s disgusting. Candy corn is objectively kind of gross, but that’s what makes it good.”

Or, as Paul Zarcone of Huntington, New York, put it: “I love candy corn even though it looks like it should taste like a candle. I also like that many people hate it. It makes me like it even more!”

Love it or loathe it, market leader Brach’s churns out roughly 30 million pounds of candy corn for the fall season each year, or enough to circle planet Earth about five times, the company says. Last year, that amounted to $75 million of $88.5 million in candy corn sales, according to the consumer research firm Circana.

When compared to top chocolate sellers and other popular confections, candy corn is niche. But few other candies have seeped into the culture quite like these pointy little sugar bombs.

While other sweets have their haters (we’re looking at you Peeps, Circus Peanuts and Brach’s Peppermint Christmas Nougats), candy corn has launched a world of memes on social media. It inspires home decor and fashion. It has its knitters and crocheters, ombre hairdos, makeup enthusiasts and nail designs.

And it makes its way into nut bowls, trail mixes, atop cupcakes and into Rice Krispie treats. Vans put out a pair of shoes emblazoned with candy corn, Nike used its color design for a pair of Dunks, and Kellogg’s borrowed the flavor profile for a version of its Corn Pops cereal.

Singer-actor Michelle Williams is a super fan. She recorded a song last year for Brach’s extolling her love.

As consumers rave or rage, Brach’s has turned to fresh mixes and flavors over the years. A Turkey Dinner mix appeared in 2020 and lasted two years. It had a variety of kernels that tasted like green beans, roasted bird, cranberry sauce, stuffing, apple pie and coffee.

It won’t be back.

“I would say that it was newsworthy but perhaps not consumption-worthy,” said Katie Duffy, vice president and general manager of seasonal candy and the Brach’s brand for parent Ferrara Candy Co.

The universe of other flavors has included s’mores, blueberry, cotton candy, lemon-lime, chocolate and, yes, pumpkin spice. Nerds, another Ferrara brand, has a hard-shell version.

It’s unclear when candy corn was invented. Legend has it that Wunderle Candy Co. in Philadelphia first produced it in 1888 in collaboration with a longtime employee, George Renninger. It was called, simply, Butter Cream, with one type named Chicken Corn. That made sense in an agrarian-society kind of way.

Several years later, the Goelitz Confectionery Co., now Jelly Belly, began to produce candy corn, calling it Chicken Feed. Boxes were adorned with a rooster logo and the tagline: “Something worth crowing for.“ Brach’s began candy corn production in 1920.

Today, kids delight in stacking candy corn in a circle, points in, to create corncob towers. As for nutrition, 19 candy corns amount to about 140 calories and 28 grams of sugar. To be fair, many other Halloween candy staples are in the same ballpark.

Ingredient-wise, it couldn’t be more straightforward. Candy corn is basically sugar, corn syrup, confectioner’s glaze, salt, gelatin, honey and dyes, among some other things.

“It’s not any sweeter than a lot of other candy, and I’ve tasted every candy there is,” said Richard Hartel, who teaches candy science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Hartel’s students spend time in the lab making candy. The candy corn lab is among his most popular, he said, because it’s fun to make. His unscientific poll of the nine seniors who last made candy corn turned up no strong feelings either way on actually eating it.

“It’s the flavor, I think, that puts some people off. It sort of tastes like butter and honey. And some people don’t like the texture, but it’s really not that much different than the center of a chocolate-covered butter cream,” he said.

Candy corn fans have their nibbling rituals.

Margie Sung is a purist. She’s been partial since childhood to the original tricolor kernels. She eats them by color, starting with the white tip, accompanied by a warm cup of tea or coffee.

“To this day, I swear the colors taste different,” she laughed.

Fact check: No, according to Duffy.

Don’t get people started on Brach’s little orange pumpkin candies with the green tops. That’s a whole other conversation.

“The candy pumpkins? Disgusting,” said the 59-year-old Sung, who lives in New York. “Too dense, too sweet, not the right consistency.”

She likes her candy corn “borderline stale for a better consistency.” Sung added: “Unfortunately, I can’t eat too many because I’m a Type 2 diabetic.” 

Aaron Sadler, the 46-year-old spokesman for the city of Little Rock, Arkansas, and its mayor, doesn’t share his candy corn. He keeps stashes at home and in a desk drawer at his office.

“My fiancee can’t stand that I like candy corn,” he said. “I buy it and I get this look of disdain but I don’t care. I just keep plugging on.”

Sadler has been a partaker since childhood. How does he describe the texture and flavor? “Sugary bliss.”

He’ll keep buying candy corn until mid-November.

“It’s 50% off after Halloween. Of course I’m going to buy it,” Sadler chuckled. 

After Thanksgiving, he’ll move on to his Christmas candy, York Peppermint Patties. And for Valentine’s Day? Sadler is all about the candy Conversation Hearts.

And then there are the hoarders. They freeze candy corn for year-round consumption. Others will only eat it mixed with dry roasted peanuts or other salty combinations.

“My ratio is 2 to 3 peanuts to 1 piece of candy corn. That’s the only way I eat it,” said Lisa Marsh, who lives in New York and is in her 50s. She stores candy corn in glass jars for year-round pleasure.

To the haters, 71-year-old fan Diana Peacock of Grand Junction, Colorado, scolded: “They’re nuts. How can they not like it?”

Au contraire, Jennifer Walker fights back. The 50-year-old Walker, who lives in Ontario, Canada, called candy corn “big ole lumps of dyed sugar. There’s no flavor.”

Her Ontario compatriot in Sault Ste. Marie, Abby Obenchain, also isn’t a fan. She equates candy corn with childhood memories of having to visit her pediatrician, who kept a bowl on hand.

“A bowl of candy corn looks to me like a bowl of old teeth, like somebody pulled a bunch of witch’s teeth out,” said Obenchain, 63.

Candy corn isn’t just a candy, said 29-year-old Savannah Woolston in Washington, D.C.

“I’m a big fan of mentally getting into each season, and I feel like candy corn is in the realm of pumpkin spice lattes and fall sweaters,” she said. “And I will die on the hill that it tastes good.”

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Video Game Adaptation ‘Five Nights at Freddy’s’ Notches $130 Million Global Debut

It hardly mattered that “Five Nights at Freddy’s” was released simultaneously in theaters and on streaming this weekend. Fans flocked to movie theaters across the country to see the scary video game adaptation on the big screen, which made $78 million to top the North American box office, according to studio estimates Sunday.

Universal Pictures bet on a day-and-date release on the weekend before Halloween, sending it to 3,675 theaters in the U.S. and Canada, while also making it available for Peacock subscribers, the subscription streaming service owned by NBCUniversal. The movie also opened in 64 markets internationally, where it’s expected to gross $52.6 million, giving the film a $130.6 million global launch – the biggest of any horror released this year.

“It was an extraordinary debut,” said Jim Orr, the president of domestic distribution for Universal, who praised Blumhouse, the filmmakers and the studio’s marketing department for the targeted campaign.

“Our marketing department continues to be one of the great superpowers we have at Universal,” he said.

Blumhouse, the company behind “Paranormal Activity,” “Get Out” and recent horror hits like “M3GAN” and “The Black Phone,” produced “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” which was directed by Emma Tammi and stars Josh Hutcherson, Mary Stuart Masterson and Matthew Lillard. The popular video game series, in which a security guard has to fend off murderous animatronic characters at a rundown family pizza restaurant, Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, was created by Scott Cawthon and first released in 2014.

While the game’s fanbase was strong, and passionate, the movie took many years to make. Producer Jason Blum said in an interview with IGN earlier this year that he was made fun of for pursuing an adaptation.

“Everyone said we could never get the movie done, including, by the way, internally in my company,” Blum said. They made the film with a reported $20 million production budget.

And it paid off: “Five Nights at Freddy’s” is his company’s biggest opening of all time, surpassing “Halloween’s” domestic and global debut. It’s also Blumhouse’s 19th No. 1 debut, which Orr noted is an “amazing accomplishment.”

The opening weekend audience was predominately male (58%) and overwhelmingly young, with an estimated 80% under the age of 25 and 38% between the ages of 13 and 17.

While the numbers aren’t surprising for anyone who knows the game’s audience, it is still notable for a generation not known for making theatrical moviegoing a priority.

“It’s great to get that kind of audience in theaters,” Orr said.

Audiences gave the film an A- CinemaScore, which could be promising for future weekends too.

“It’s a very young demographic,” said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore. “It won’t be lost on any of the other studios or video game manufacturers. This door has been kicked wide open.”

It’s also notable that so many chose theaters even though it was also available to watch at home.

“In some cases streaming can be additive and complimentary to theatrical,” Dergarabedian said. “Clearly audiences wanted that communal experience.

“Five Nights at Freddy’s” did not score well with critics, however. It currently has a dismal 25% on Rotten Tomatoes. AP’s Mark Kennedy wrote that it “has to go down as one of the poorest films in any genre this year.” But like many other horror movies, it appears to be critic-proof.

In second place, “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” is expected to cross $200 million in global grosses by the end of Sunday, having added $14.7 million domestically and $6.7 million internationally this weekend. The concert film, distributed by AMC Theatres, is in its third weekend in theaters where it is only playing from Thursday through Sunday, though there will be “special Halloween showtimes” on Tuesday at a discounted price of $13.13.

Third place went to Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” which added $9 million in its second weekend, bringing its total domestic earnings to $40.7 million, according to Paramount. With an additional $14.1 million from international showings, the film’s global total now stands at over $88 million.

Angel Studios’ “After Death,” a Christian documentary film about people who have had near death experiences, opened in fourth place to $5.1 million from 2,645 locations.

And “The Exorcist: Believer” rounded out the top five with $3.1 million in its fourth weekend, bringing its domestic earnings to just shy of $60 million.

Several of the fall’s high-profile films also launched in very limited release this weekend, including Alexander Payne’s “The Holdovers” and Sofia Coppola’s “Priscilla.” Both opened exclusively in New York and Los Angeles and will expand in the coming weeks.

Focus Features’ “The Holdovers,” starring Paul Giamatti as a curmudgeonly ancient history teacher at a New England prep school, debuted in six theaters where it earned an estimated $200,000.

Coppola’s “Priscilla,” about Priscilla Presley’s life with Elvis, also opened on four screens in New York and Los Angeles, where it averaged $33,035 per screen. With a cumulative gross of $132,139, the A24 release starring Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi expands nationwide next weekend.

“It was an eclectic and exciting weekend for moviegoers,” Dergarabedian said. “If you couldn’t find a film to your liking, you’re not looking hard enough.”

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

  1. “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” $78 million.

  2. “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour,” $14.7 million.

  3. “Killers of the Flower Moon,” $9 million.

  4. “After Death,” $5.1 million.

  5. “The Exorcist: Believer,” $3.1 million.

  6. “Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie,” $2.2 million.

  7. “Freelance,” $2.1 million.

  8. “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (re-release), $2 million.

  9. “Saw X,” $1.7 million.

  10. “The Creator,” $1 million.

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Albinism Pageant Winner Says Event Gave her Sense of Purpose

A glittering crown on her head and a bouquet of flowers in her hands, Andreia Solange Sicato Muhitu beamed at being named the co-winner of the inaugural Mr. and Miss Albinism Southern Africa pageant. 

The 28-year-old Angolan model has competed in beauty pageants in her home country since her teens and won some of them. But none made her feel more beautiful or purposeful as the pageant for people with albinism that was held this month in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare. 

“I can be that inspiration for young girls, especially those with albinism, to feel comfortable and beautiful in their own skin,” Muhitu said. “That is the strong message we are hoping to send out there.” 

Misunderstood condition

Albinism, an inherited genetic condition that reduces melanin pigment production, is “still profoundly misunderstood,” according to the United Nations human rights agency. People with the condition have pale-colored skin, hair and eyes, are vulnerable to sun exposure and bright light, often have eyesight problems, and are prone to developing skin cancer. 

Although traditional beauty pageants have come under criticism for objectifying women’s bodies, Muhitu thinks the October 14 event where she was crowned could bring about positive change in parts of Africa where people with albinism are treated with disdain, ridicule and even violence driven by dangerously misguided superstitions. 

“This crown gives me the opportunity to change the lives of people living with albinism in ways I never imagined, not just in my country, but in the entire region. I don’t feel shamed, I feel empowered,” she said, shaking hands with people eager to congratulate her. 

The superstitions include the belief that having sex with a person with albinism can cure HIV or that their skin, hair, feet, hands, eyes, genitals or breasts have supernatural powers to bring good luck or boost the effectiveness of witchcraft potions, according to the U.N. and rights activists. In Malawi and Tanzania, people with the condition are sometimes killed for their body parts. 

They typically face daily prejudice despite anti-discrimination laws. She and other pageant participants talked about rejection by families and fathers who denied paternity once they realized a child had albinism. 

The contestants also highlighted how they need affordable skincare services and cancer treatment but more often receive hate, mocking or insults. 

Muhitu, who works as head of the tourism department in southeastern Angola’s Cuando Cubango province, said ridicule at school almost derailed her dreams, but celebrating her skin color is helping her and others push back against stereotypes and stigma. 

“The progressive laws on paper and the ugly reality on the ground are miles apart,” Muhitu said, adding: “It is time for soft power. We can change mindsets through modeling contests, storytelling, music and any outlets that are interesting. Art forms can be a powerful tool to change mindsets.” 

Albinism is more common in sub-Saharan Africa, where it affects about 1 in 5,000 people. The prevalence can reach 1 in 1,000 in some populations in Zimbabwe and in other ethnic groups in southern Africa, compared to 1 in every 17,000 to 20,000 in North America and Europe, according to the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

‘We are no different’

The 18 contestants who participated in the regional pageant in Zimbabwe came from countries that also included South Africa, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, Angola and Tanzania. They included fashion designers, health workers and professional models. 

Waving their national flags, they entertained a small audience with poetry, song and dance performances. They elegantly cat-walked in professional wear, evening gowns and African animal skin outfits before answering questions from a panel of judges on a variety of social and economic topics. 

Held under the theme, “Into the light,” the pageant was aimed at shining a spotlight on the “boundless talents” of people with albinism in a region where they often face harsh treatment and stigma, event organizer Brenda Mudzimu, who also has albinism, said. 

“We are mentally and physically tortured, yet we are no different from any other person except skin color,” said Mudzimu, whose Miss Albinism Trust founded the event as a local Zimbabwean contest in 2018. 

The contestants were judged for their charisma, confidence, poise, quality of walk and intellect. The Mr. Albinism Southern Africa title was claimed by Zimbabwean Ntandoyenkosi Mnkandla, 26, a trainee paralegal. 

Winners also received cash prizes, trophies, medals and flowers for categories such as Miss Personality and the People’s Choice awards. 

Muhitu, who received $250 for winning the Miss Albinism prize, commended the growing number of events that celebrate people with albinism in Africa. 

“Pageants are a powerful way of showcasing our limitless potential. I love them and I want to keep on inspiring young girls to follow their dreams,” she said. “People living with albinism have dreams, they have talent, and they are amazing people. But they will stay in the background if they are not given a chance to sparkle.” 

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Matthew Perry, Emmy-Nominated ‘Friends’ Star, Dead at 54

Matthew Perry, who starred as sarcastic-but-sweet Chandler Bing in the hit series “Friends,” has died. He was 54. 

The Emmy-nominated actor was found dead of an apparent drowning at his home in Los Angeles, California, on Saturday, according to the Los Angeles Times and celebrity website TMZ, which was the first to report the news. Both outlets cited unnamed sources confirming Perry’s death. 

Perry’s publicists and other representatives did not immediately respond to messages from The Associated Press seeking comment. Asked to confirm police response to what was listed as Perry’s home address, LAPD Officer Drake Madison told AP that officers had gone to that block “for a death investigation of a male in his 50s.”   

Perry’s 10 seasons on “Friends” made him one of Hollywood’s most recognizable actors, starring opposite Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow and David Schwimmer as a friend group in New York. 

As Chandler, he played the quick-witted, insecure and neurotic roommate of LeBlanc’s Joey and a close friend of Schwimmer’s Ross. By the series’ end, Chandler is married to Cox’s Monica and they have a family, reflecting the journey of the core cast from single New Yorkers to married and starting families. 

The series was one of television’s biggest hits and has taken on a new life — and found surprising popularity with younger fans — in recent years on streaming services.

“Friends” ran from 1994 until 2004, and the cast notably banded together for later seasons to obtain a salary of $1 million per episode for each. 

Unknown at the time was the struggle Perry had with addiction and an intense desire to please audiences.   

“‘Friends’ was huge. I couldn’t jeopardize that,” he wrote in his memoir, “Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing.” “… I loved my co-actors. I loved the scripts. I loved everything about the show but I was struggling with my addictions which only added to my sense of shame. I had a secret and no one could know.” 

“I felt like I was gonna die if the live audience didn’t laugh, and that’s not healthy for sure. But I could sometimes say a line and the audience wouldn’t laugh and I would sweat and sometimes go into convulsions,” Perry wrote. “If I didn’t get the laugh I was supposed to get I would freak out. I felt that every single night. This pressure left me in a bad place. I also knew of the six people making that show, only one of them was sick.” 

An HBO Max reunion special in 2021 was hosted by James Corden and fed into huge interest in seeing the cast together again, although the program consisted of the actors discussing the show and was not a continuation of their characters’ storylines. 

Perry received one Emmy nomination for his “Friends” role and two more for appearances as an associate White House counsel on “The West Wing.” 

Perry also had several notable film roles, starring opposite Salma Hayek in the romantic comedy “Fools Rush In” and Bruce Willis in the the crime comedy “The Whole Nine Yards.” 

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Musk Says Starlink to Provide Connectivity in Gaza

Elon Musk said on Saturday that SpaceX’s Starlink will support communication links in Gaza with “internationally recognized aid organizations.”

A telephone and internet blackout isolated people in the Gaza Strip from the world and from each other on Saturday, with calls to loved ones, ambulances or colleagues elsewhere all but impossible as Israel widened its air and ground assault.

International humanitarian organizations said the blackout, which began on Friday evening, was worsening an already desperate situation by impeding lifesaving operations and preventing them from contacting their staff on the ground.

Following Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Starlink satellites were reported to have been critical to maintaining internet connectivity in some areas despite attempted Russian jamming.

Since then, Musk has said he declined to extend coverage over Russian-occupied Crimea, refusing to allow his satellites to be used for Ukrainian attacks on Russian forces there.

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‘Art of War’ and Amy Schumer’s Memoir Are Among Many Books Banned in US Prisons

Tens of thousands of books are being banned or restricted by U.S. prisons, according to a new report from PEN America. The list includes titles ranging from self-help books to an Elmore Leonard novel.

“The common concept underpinning the censorship we’re seeing is that certain ideas and information are a threat,” said the report’s lead author, Moira Marquis, senior manager in the prison and justice writing department at PEN, the literary and free expression organization.

Timed to the start Wednesday of Prison Banned Books Week, “Reading Between the Bars” draws upon public record requests, calls from PEN to prison mailrooms, dozens of accounts from inmates and PEN’s struggles to distribute its guide for prison writing, “The Sentences That Create Us: Crafting A Writer’s Life in Prison,” which came out last year.

Marquis said that the most common official reasons for bans are security and sexual content, terms that can apply to a very wide range of titles. Michigan’s “restricted” list includes Leonard’s thriller “Cuba Libre,” set right before the 1898 Spanish-American War, and Frederick Forsyth’s “The Day of the Jackal,” about a professional assassin’s attempt to murder French President Charles de Gaulle in the 1960s. Both novels were cited as a “threat to the order/security of institution.”

“One of the books [‘Day of the Jackal’] deals with the planned assassination of a political leader/methods for engaging in such activities and the second [‘Cuba Libre’] deals with an individual engaged in various criminal enterprises,” a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections told The Associated Press in an email. “As part of the updated restricted publication process, a new Literary Review Committee has been formed to review items that were previously placed on the restricted publication list, to determine if they should remain or be removed.”

Amy Schumer’s memoir “The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo” was flagged by Florida officials for graphic sexual content and for being “a threat to the security, order or rehabilitative objectives of the correctional system or the safety of any person.”

Other books to appear on banned lists: Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War,” the compilation “Prison Ramen: Recipes and Stories from Behind Bars,” Barrington Barber’s “Anyone Can Draw: Create Sensational Artwork in Easy Steps” and Robert Greene’s self-help best-seller “48 Laws of Power.”

“It’s a form of control. It’s the ultimate form of power of manipulation,” Greene said in a statement issued through PEN.

In its report, PEN found parallels between the frequency of prison bans and book bannings in schools and libraries. In Florida, PEN has estimated that more than 40% of all library bans took place in the state in 2022. Meanwhile, the organization found that more than 22,000 books are banned from Florida prisons — the highest of any state — as of early this year, with some entries dating back to the 1990s. Texas, another frequent site of library bannings, had more than 10,000 prison book bans, second only to Florida.

Incidents of banning are likely much higher than what PEN has compiled, according to “Reading Between the Bars,” because record-keeping by many prisons is erratic or nonexistent. Kentucky and New Mexico are among more than 20 states that do not keep centralized records.

“Prison book programs have mostly tried to raise awareness locally when prisons implement new censorship restrictions for communities they serve,” the report reads. “But these programs are largely run by volunteers and struggle to keep up with the demand for books even absent censorship. The upshot is that there have been few nationwide efforts to analyze trends in carceral censorship.”

Marquis says that PEN places bans into two categories: content-specific, in which books are banned because of what they say or allegedly say, and content-neutral, in which books are restricted because they are not sent through accepted channels. In Maine, Michigan and other states, prisoners may only receive books through a select number of vendors, whether Amazon.com, a local bookstore or an approved publisher. In Idaho, Amazon and Barnes & Noble are not among the nine approved sellers, which include Books a Million and the Women’s Prison Book Project.

Content-neutral restrictions may also apply to the packaging (some federal facilities only permit white wrapping, Marquis says), and against free or used literature “because the intended recipient did not receive permission from a warden — or similar administrator — for each specific title mailed to them before the literature arrived,” according to Marquis.

A spokesman for the Idaho Department of Correction told the AP in an email that restrictions on packaging had become necessary because of “an increase in the amount of drug-soaked mail being sent to our residents.” He added that inmates can receive books and periodicals free of charge from authorized vendors and publishers.

“We believe our guidelines are a reasonable response to a growing problem that puts the health and safety of the people who live and work in Idaho’s correctional facilities at risk,” he said.

“Reading Between the Bars” follows a report released late in 2022 by the nonprofit Marshall Project, which found some 50,000 banned prison titles, based on lists made available by 19 states.

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UN Announces Advisory Body on Artificial Intelligence 

The United Nations has begun an effort to help the world manage the risks and benefits of artificial intelligence.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday launched a 39-member advisory body of tech company executives, government officials and academics from countries spanning six continents.

The panel aims to issue preliminary recommendations on AI governance by the end of the year and finalize them before the U.N. Summit of the Future next September.

“The transformative potential of AI for good is difficult even to grasp,” Guterres said. He pointed to possible uses including predicting crises, improving public health and education, and tackling the climate crisis.

However, he cautioned, “it is already clear that the malicious use of AI could undermine trust in institutions, weaken social cohesion and threaten democracy itself.”

Widespread concern about the risks associated with AI has grown since tech company OpenAI launched ChatGPT last year. Its ease of use has raised concern that the tool could replace writing tasks that previously only humans could perform.

With many calling for regulation of AI, researchers and lawmakers have stressed the need for global cooperation on the matter.

The U.N.’s new body on AI will hold its first meeting Friday.

Some information for this report came from Reuters. 

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Inside a Drone Factory: How It Helps Ukraine’s Defense Efforts

Brinc Drones is one of the U.S. companies shipping hundreds of drones to Ukraine. These drones are designed to help first responders survey the impacted areas of Russian shelling and find survivors. Adriy Borys visited the Brink manufacturing facility. Anna Rice narrates his story. Camera — Dmitriy Savchuk.

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Zara Owner Inditex to Buy Recycled Polyester From US Start-Up

Zara-owner Inditex, the world’s biggest clothing retailer, has agreed to buy recycled polyester from a U.S. start-up as it aims for 25% of its fibers to come from “next-generation” materials by 2030.

As fast-fashion retailers face pressure to reduce waste and use recycled fabrics, Inditex is spending more than $74 million to secure supply from Los Angeles-based Ambercycle of its recycled polyester made from textile waste.

Polyester, a product of the petroleum industry, is widely used in sportswear as it is quick-drying and durable.

Under the offtake deal, Inditex will buy 70% of Ambercycle’s production of recycled polyester, which is sold under the brand cycora, over three years, Inditex CEO Oscar Garcia Maceiras said at a business event in Zaragoza, Spain.

Garcia Maceiras said Inditex is also working with other companies and start-ups in its innovation hub, a unit looking for ways to curb the environmental impact of its products.

“The sustainable transformation of Inditex … is not possible without the collaboration of the different stakeholders,” he said.

The Inditex investment will help Ambercycle fund its first commercial-scale textile recycling factory. Production of cycora at the plant is expected to begin around 2025, and the material will be used in Inditex products over the following three years.

Zara Athleticz, a sub-brand of sportswear for men, launched a collection on Wednesday of “technical pieces” containing up to 50% cycora. Inditex said the collection would be available from Zara.com.

Some apparel brands seeking to reduce their reliance on virgin polyester have switched to recycled polyester derived from plastic bottles, but that practice has come under criticism as it has created more demand for used plastic bottles, pushing up prices.

Textile-to-textile polyester recycling is in its infancy, though, and will take time to reach the scale required by global fashion brands.

“We want to drive innovation to scale-up new solutions, processes and materials to achieve textile-to-textile recycling,” Inditex’s chief sustainability officer Javier Losada said in a statement.

The Ambercycle deal marks the latest in a series of investments made by Inditex into textile recycling start-ups.

Last year it signed a $104 million, three-year deal to buy 30% of the recycled fiber produced by Finland’s Infinited Fiber Co., and also invested in Circ, another U.S. firm focused on textile-to-textile recycling.

In Spain, Inditex has joined forces with rivals, including H&M and Mango, in an association to manage clothing waste, as the industry prepares for EU legislation requiring member states to separately collect textile waste beginning January 2025.

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33 US States Sue Meta, Accusing Platform of Harming Children

Thirty-three U.S. states are suing Meta Platforms Inc., accusing it of damaging young people’s mental health through the addictive nature of their social media platforms.

The suit filed Tuesday in federal court in Oakland, California, alleges Meta knowingly installed addictive features on its social media platforms, Instagram and Facebook, and has collected data on children younger than 13, without their parents’ consent, violating federal law.

“Research has shown that young people’s use of Meta’s social media platforms is associated with depression, anxiety, insomnia, interference with education and daily life, and many other negative outcomes,” the complaint says.

The filing comes after Meta’s own research in 2021 found that the company was aware of the damage Instagram can do to teenagers, especially girls.

In Meta’s 2021 study, 13.5% of teen girls said Instagram makes thoughts of suicide worse and 17% of teen girls said it makes eating disorders worse.

Meta responded to the lawsuit by saying it has “already introduced over 30 tools to support teens and their families.”

“We’re disappointed that instead of working productively with companies across the industry to create clear, age-appropriate standards for the many apps teens use, the attorneys general have chosen this path,” the company added.

Meta is one of many social media companies facing criticism and legal action, with lawsuits also filed against ByteDance’s TikTok and Google’s YouTube.

Measures to protect children on social media exist, but they are easily circumvented, such as a federal law that bans kids under 13 from setting up accounts.

The dangers of social media for children have been highlighted by U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, who said the effects of social media require “immediate action to protect kids now.”

In addition to the 33 states suing, nine more state attorneys general are expected to join and file similar lawsuits.

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters. 

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Taiwan Computer Chip Workers Adjust to Life in American Desert

Phoenix, Arizona, in America’s Southwest, is the site of a Taiwanese semiconductor chip making facility. One part of President Joe Biden’s cornerstone agenda is to rely less on manufacturing from overseas and boost domestic production of chips that run everything from phones to cars. Many Taiwanese workers who moved to the U.S. to work at the facility — face the challenges of living in a new land. VOA’s Stella Hsu, Enming Liu and Elizabeth Lee have the story.

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Governments, Firms Should Spend More on AI Safety, Top Researchers Say

Artificial intelligence companies and governments should allocate at least one third of their AI research and development funding to ensuring the safety and ethical use of the systems, top AI researchers said in a paper on Tuesday. 

The paper, issued a week before the international AI Safety Summit in London, lists measures that governments and companies should take to address AI risks. 

“Governments should also mandate that companies are legally liable for harms from their frontier AI systems that can be reasonably foreseen and prevented,” according to the paper written by three Turing Award winners, a Nobel laureate, and more than a dozen top AI academics. 

Currently there are no broad-based regulations focusing on AI safety, and the first set of legislation by the European Union is yet to become law as lawmakers are yet to agree on several issues.

“Recent state of the art AI models are too powerful, and too significant, to let them develop without democratic oversight,” said Yoshua Bengio, one of the three people known as the godfather of AI.

“It [investments in AI safety] needs to happen fast, because AI is progressing much faster than the precautions taken,” he said.

Authors include Geoffrey Hinton, Andrew Yao, Daniel Kahneman, Dawn Song and Yuval Noah Harari.

Since the launch of OpenAI’s generative AI models, top academics and prominent CEOs such as Elon Musk have warned about the risks on AI, including calling for a six-month pause in developing powerful AI systems.

Some companies have countered this, saying they will face high compliance costs and disproportionate liability risks.

“Companies will complain that it’s too hard to satisfy regulations — that ‘regulation stifles innovation’ — that’s ridiculous,” said British computer scientist Stuart Russell.

“There are more regulations on sandwich shops than there are on AI companies.” 

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