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Google says it 'internally tested' censored China search engine

Al Jazeera

Google CEO Sundar Pinchai has said a separate, censored version of its search engine for the Chinese market has undergone several successful internal tests. The comments are the first time Google has officially confirmed it is working on the search engine, dubbed Project Dragonfly, which has been criticised heavily by human rights organisations. Pinchai defended the decision of working on a search engine which will censor any results critical of the Chinese government by saying providing some information is better than providing no information at all. "We are compelled by our mission [to] provide information to everyone, and [China is] 20 percent of the world's population," the Google CEO said during the Wired25 conference, as reported by the organiser, Wired. "People don't understand fully, but you're always balancing a set of values," he continued, adding that the company will try to provide information in any market it enters.


Stephen Hawking's final book entreats readers: 'Shape the future'

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The final writings of world-famous physicist Stephen Hawking have been compiled in a book. In Brief Answers to the Big Questions, Hawking looks at the origins of our planet, the controversial role of genetics and the threat of artificial intelligence. Although Hawking was known for his work on cosmology and black holes, his final book is a "reflection of his humanity" and his hopes that dangerous new technologies could not just destroy, but also unite and revolutionise human life. Al Jazeera's Catherine Stancl was at the book's launch at the London Science Museum.


US, Russian astronauts survive Soyuz emergency landing

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The two-man crew of a Soyuz rocket has made a successful emergency landing following the failure of a Russian booster rocket carrying them to the International Space Station (ISS). Russian state space agency Roscosmos and NASA on Thursday said the three-stage Soyuz booster rocket, which propelled their landing capsule, suffered an emergency shutdown of its second stage. The capsule jettisoned from the booster and went into a ballistic descent, landing at a sharper than normal angle and subjecting the crew to heavy gravitational force. NASA said that rescue teams have reached Nick Hague and Roscosmos' Alexei Ovchinin and they have been taken out of the capsule and were in good condition. The capsule landed about 20km (12 miles) east of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.


US accuses Venezuela spies of 'involvement' in suspicious death

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Hundreds of Venezuelans demanded justice at the funeral of an opposition activist who died in government custody, as the United States called out Caracas for its "involvement" in his death. Fernando Alban - a 52-year-old Caracas city council member accused of taking part in a failed drone attack on President Nicolas Maduro - was in pre-trial detention on Monday at the time of his death. Authorities say he committed suicide by jumping from a 10th-floor window of the headquarters of the state intelligence service after asking to go to the toilet. Alban was arrested on Friday at the capital's international airport upon arrival from a trip to New York City to galvanise world opinion against Maduro's socialist government. Opposition leaders, backed by several foreign governments, have accused Maduro's government of torture and killing Alban.


India plans face recognition technology to decongest airports

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The Indian government plans to decongest its airports by introducing facial recognition technology next year - a proposal that may once again raise privacy concerns in the South Asian country. India's ministry of civil aviation on Thursday said passengers on domestic flights will be able to choose to use their biometric authentication system and go paperless. "Security will benefit from the ability of the technology to verify the passenger at every checkpoint in a non-intrusive way," ministry secretary Rajiv Nayan Choubey said in a statement. The proposal says passengers would be verified by being photographed at every stage of the check-in process - from entering the airport to proceeding through security and boarding the plane. The India government statement said the biometric technology will be introduced first at Bengaluru and Hyderabad airports by February next year, followed by Kolkata, Varanasi, Pune and Vijayawada by April.


Google, the company that 'knows everything', turns 20

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Google started out as a simple search engine in 1998 and has turned into one of the most important and influential companies in the world. On Thursday, the company celebrates its 20th birthday, and although searching for something on the internet has commonly become "googling", the company itself has become a part of the everyday lives in more ways than one. Google was officially founded in September 1997 but September 1998 is generally seen as the date the company really started its now ubiquitous search engine. The search engine was created for about $100,000 by Sergey Brin and Larry Page, two Stanford PhD students, who wanted to challenge Altavista and Yahoo, the two most popular search engines in the earlier days of the internet. As its popularity grew, the company expanded to new territories.


Colombia false positive scandal: Families demand 'greater truth'

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Bogota - Carmenza Gomez was planning a surprise Christmas dinner in the winter of 2008 to celebrate having her eight children back together under one roof in their home in an impoverished suburb in Bogota, the capital of Colombia. That summer, the family had finally been reunited after years apart due to the sons' military service. It was months away, but Carmenza wanted to throw an elaborate dinner to share their first Christmas together in years. But just days after the last of her sons arrived home, 23-year-old Victor Fernando, her third youngest, disappeared. "I didn't tell any of them what I was planning [for Christmas]," Carmenza recalled nearly a decade later.


CIA to expand its armed drone programme in Africa: NYT

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The CIA is reportedly expanding its armed drone programme in Africa and will start using a military base in the Nigerien desert to carry out raids on areas where ISIL and al-Qaeda are believed to operate. The New York Times reported on Monday that a secret military base in Dirkou, about 250km south of the Libyan border, will soon begin deploying armed drones in an apparent loosening of Obama-era limits on US raids outside conventional warzones. According to the Times, the Pentagon has already carried out five drone raids in Libya this year, including one two weeks ago. While the drones are currently being flown out of bases in Sicily and Niamey, Niger's capital, armed drones "would almost certainly" be deployed from Dirkou "in the near future". The Times added that one of its journalists said he saw "gray aircraft - about the size of Predator drones, which are 27 feet long - flying at least three times over six days in early August".


Yuval Noah Harari: Technology is humanity's biggest challenge

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In 2014, Yuval Noah Harari's life changed completely. The little-known academic was thrust into the international literary spotlight when his book on the history of humans from the discovery of fire to modern robotics, Sapiens, was translated into English. Then-US President Barack Obama said the book gave him a new perspective on "the core things that have allowed us to build this extraordinary civilisation that we take for granted". It went on to sell more than eight million copies worldwide. "I still see myself as a historian," says Harari.


Hackable humans and digital dictators: Q&A with Yuval Noah Harari

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Yuval Noah Harari was catapulted into the international literary spotlight in 2014 following the English translation of his book Sapiens. The book, which covers the history of humanity from the discovery of fire to modern robotics, became a non-fiction publishing phenomenon, feted by then-US President Barack Obama and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and went on to sell more than eight million copies worldwide. In his next book, Homo Deus, the Israeli historian and author explored how the growth of big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and biotechnology could radically alter and divide human society, perhaps ending the species altogether. The same themes crop up again in his latest work, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, which collects essays, talks and responses to his readers in a series of observations on everything from meditation to climate change. In an interview with the Talk to Al Jazeera programme, Harari discussed technology, immigration and politics with Al Jazeera's Harry Fawcett in Tel Aviv.