US-Russian Space Crew Makes Emergency Landing After Rocket Problem

A U.S. astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut made an emergency return to earth Thursday shortly after launching on what was supposed to be a mission to the International Space Station. Rescuers reached American Nick Hague and Russian Alexei Ovchinin after their emergency landing in Kazakhstan. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb recently sat down with Hague to talk about his future in space, a future now up in the air after his unexpected fall to Earth.

US-Russian Space Crew Makes Emergency Landing After Rocket Problem

A U.S. astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut made an emergency return to earth Thursday shortly after launching on what was supposed to be a mission to the International Space Station. Rescuers reached American Nick Hague and Russian Alexei Ovchinin after their emergency landing in Kazakhstan. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb recently sat down with Hague to talk about his future in space, a future now up in the air after his unexpected fall to Earth.

Facebook Deletes Hundreds of Pages, Accounts for Spreading Fake News

Facebook announced Thursday that it had deleted over 800 mostly U.S.-based pages and accounts that were posting politically oriented spam and engaging in “inauthentic behavior.” 

The social media giant declined a request from VOA News to name the 559 pages and 251 accounts. Nation in Distress, a pro-President Donald Trump page identified by The Washington Post as being among the banned, had over 3 million followers.

Facebook said that many of the pages and accounts had posted political clickbait across multiple fake accounts to drive users to their websites, where they were often targeted with ads. 

“Many used the same techniques to make their content appear more popular on Facebook than it really was,” Facebook said on its news blog. “Others were ad farms using Facebook to mislead people into thinking that they were forums for legitimate political debate.”

Facebook said “the ‘news’ stories or opinions these accounts and pages share are often indistinguishable from legitimate political debate,” noting the proximity of the 2018 midterm elections.

In the past, Facebook has purged dozens of pages spreading fake news originating from Iran and Russia, countries that have antagonistic relations with the U.S. The company says most of the pages and accounts banned this time were from the U.S.

Facebook Deletes Hundreds of Pages, Accounts for Spreading Fake News

Facebook announced Thursday that it had deleted over 800 mostly U.S.-based pages and accounts that were posting politically oriented spam and engaging in “inauthentic behavior.” 

The social media giant declined a request from VOA News to name the 559 pages and 251 accounts. Nation in Distress, a pro-President Donald Trump page identified by The Washington Post as being among the banned, had over 3 million followers.

Facebook said that many of the pages and accounts had posted political clickbait across multiple fake accounts to drive users to their websites, where they were often targeted with ads. 

“Many used the same techniques to make their content appear more popular on Facebook than it really was,” Facebook said on its news blog. “Others were ad farms using Facebook to mislead people into thinking that they were forums for legitimate political debate.”

Facebook said “the ‘news’ stories or opinions these accounts and pages share are often indistinguishable from legitimate political debate,” noting the proximity of the 2018 midterm elections.

In the past, Facebook has purged dozens of pages spreading fake news originating from Iran and Russia, countries that have antagonistic relations with the U.S. The company says most of the pages and accounts banned this time were from the U.S.

Musk Rejects Report on Succession at Tesla

Elon Musk replied with a tweet saying “This is incorrect” after the Financial

Times reported that outgoing Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. Chief Executive James Murdoch was the lead candidate to replace him as Tesla Inc. chairman.

Tesla has until Nov. 13 to appoint an independent chairman of the board, part of settlements reached last month between Tesla, Musk and U.S. regulators after Musk tweeted in August that he had secured funding to take the electric car maker private.

The SEC settlement capped months of debate and some investor calls for stronger oversight of Musk, whose recent erratic public behavior raised concerns about his ability to steer the money-losing company through a rocky phase of growth.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which said Musk’s tweeted statements about going private were fraudulent, allowed the billionaire to retain his role as CEO while requiring he give up his chairmanship.

Musk had said he was considering taking Tesla private at a price of $420 a share, a number that is slang for marijuana. He tweeted the three-word denial of the Financial Times story on Wednesday at 4:20 pm PDT (2320 GMT), about six hours after the newspaper’s post.

In a vote of confidence for Musk, shareholder T. Rowe Price Group Inc. said in a regulatory filing on Wednesday that it had raised its stake to 10.2 percent at the end of September from just under 7 percent in June.

The Financial Times cited two people briefed on discussions saying Murdoch was the lead candidate for the job. Murdoch, already an independent director of Tesla, has signaled he wants the job, the report said.

The son of Fox mogul Rupert Murdoch, he joined Tesla’s board last year after years of work with media companies. He has no experience in manufacturing and has never led a company that makes cars or electric vehicles.

Murdoch could not immediately be reached for comment. Tesla did not respond to a request for comment. Twenty-First Century Fox declined to comment.

​Board roles

Musk is the public face of Tesla, and any chairman would have to contend with his powerful personality. Thanks to his vision and audacious showmanship, Tesla’s valuation has at times eclipsed that of established U.S. automakers with billions in revenues, and the company has garnered legions of fans, despite repeated production issues.

“The question when it comes to James Murdoch is, ‘Is he the guy who’ll be able to establish that level of authority with Elon Musk?’ ” asked Abby Adlerman, CEO of Boardspan, a corporate governance consulting company.

Murdoch, who at 45 is a near contemporary of 47-year-old Musk, recently navigated a takeover battle between Fox and Comcast Corp. to buy European pay-TV company Sky, which he also chaired.

His record in ensuring Sky’s independent shareholders were represented throughout was exemplary, media analyst Alice Enders said.

“His experience is very recent and very relevant,” she said.

Investor concerns that Tesla’s board was too closely tied to Musk led to the company’s addition of two independent directors, including Murdoch, in July 2017.

Earlier this year, leading U.S. proxy advisers Glass Lewis & Co. and Institutional Shareholder Services and union-affiliated investment adviser CtW Investment Group had recommended investors cast votes “against” the re-election of Murdoch as a Tesla director at the company’s annual meeting held on June 5.

While CtW cited a lack of relevant experience and a “troubled history as an executive and director,” both proxy firms warned that Murdoch already served on too many boards.

Murdoch currently serves on the boards of Twenty-First Century Fox and News Corp. He stepped down from Sky Plc on Tuesday following the completion of Comcast’s takeover of the broadcaster.

He was appointed chief executive of Sky, founded by his father, in 2003, becoming the youngest CEO of a FTSE 100 company.

“Under his leadership, Sky went down the technology route,” Enders said. “It’s no accident he oversaw that strategy, which was really distinct from the strategy other pay-TV companies followed, and in my view was his most valuable contribution.”

Murdoch replaced his father as chairman of Sky in 2007, but was forced out in 2012 after being embroiled in Britain’s phone-hacking scandal. He returned to Sky’s board in 2016 after rebuilding his career at Fox.

Musk Rejects Report on Succession at Tesla

Elon Musk replied with a tweet saying “This is incorrect” after the Financial

Times reported that outgoing Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. Chief Executive James Murdoch was the lead candidate to replace him as Tesla Inc. chairman.

Tesla has until Nov. 13 to appoint an independent chairman of the board, part of settlements reached last month between Tesla, Musk and U.S. regulators after Musk tweeted in August that he had secured funding to take the electric car maker private.

The SEC settlement capped months of debate and some investor calls for stronger oversight of Musk, whose recent erratic public behavior raised concerns about his ability to steer the money-losing company through a rocky phase of growth.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which said Musk’s tweeted statements about going private were fraudulent, allowed the billionaire to retain his role as CEO while requiring he give up his chairmanship.

Musk had said he was considering taking Tesla private at a price of $420 a share, a number that is slang for marijuana. He tweeted the three-word denial of the Financial Times story on Wednesday at 4:20 pm PDT (2320 GMT), about six hours after the newspaper’s post.

In a vote of confidence for Musk, shareholder T. Rowe Price Group Inc. said in a regulatory filing on Wednesday that it had raised its stake to 10.2 percent at the end of September from just under 7 percent in June.

The Financial Times cited two people briefed on discussions saying Murdoch was the lead candidate for the job. Murdoch, already an independent director of Tesla, has signaled he wants the job, the report said.

The son of Fox mogul Rupert Murdoch, he joined Tesla’s board last year after years of work with media companies. He has no experience in manufacturing and has never led a company that makes cars or electric vehicles.

Murdoch could not immediately be reached for comment. Tesla did not respond to a request for comment. Twenty-First Century Fox declined to comment.

​Board roles

Musk is the public face of Tesla, and any chairman would have to contend with his powerful personality. Thanks to his vision and audacious showmanship, Tesla’s valuation has at times eclipsed that of established U.S. automakers with billions in revenues, and the company has garnered legions of fans, despite repeated production issues.

“The question when it comes to James Murdoch is, ‘Is he the guy who’ll be able to establish that level of authority with Elon Musk?’ ” asked Abby Adlerman, CEO of Boardspan, a corporate governance consulting company.

Murdoch, who at 45 is a near contemporary of 47-year-old Musk, recently navigated a takeover battle between Fox and Comcast Corp. to buy European pay-TV company Sky, which he also chaired.

His record in ensuring Sky’s independent shareholders were represented throughout was exemplary, media analyst Alice Enders said.

“His experience is very recent and very relevant,” she said.

Investor concerns that Tesla’s board was too closely tied to Musk led to the company’s addition of two independent directors, including Murdoch, in July 2017.

Earlier this year, leading U.S. proxy advisers Glass Lewis & Co. and Institutional Shareholder Services and union-affiliated investment adviser CtW Investment Group had recommended investors cast votes “against” the re-election of Murdoch as a Tesla director at the company’s annual meeting held on June 5.

While CtW cited a lack of relevant experience and a “troubled history as an executive and director,” both proxy firms warned that Murdoch already served on too many boards.

Murdoch currently serves on the boards of Twenty-First Century Fox and News Corp. He stepped down from Sky Plc on Tuesday following the completion of Comcast’s takeover of the broadcaster.

He was appointed chief executive of Sky, founded by his father, in 2003, becoming the youngest CEO of a FTSE 100 company.

“Under his leadership, Sky went down the technology route,” Enders said. “It’s no accident he oversaw that strategy, which was really distinct from the strategy other pay-TV companies followed, and in my view was his most valuable contribution.”

Murdoch replaced his father as chairman of Sky in 2007, but was forced out in 2012 after being embroiled in Britain’s phone-hacking scandal. He returned to Sky’s board in 2016 after rebuilding his career at Fox.

For the Next Big Thing in Tech, Look to … Africa?

From a young age, Phatwa Senene knew he wanted to be an inventor.

He got his start at age 11, he said, when he attached a DC motor to a fan. He then attached the fan to a drill and proceeded to drill holes into his bedroom wall. His invention worked, he said: The fan blew away the dust from the drilling.

“That was my first invention that I can recall,” he said, laughing. “My mom didn’t like it at all.”

He nearly hit a figurative wall years later, when he tried to go to university, but found he couldn’t afford it. His family was poor, he said, and he grew up in a Johannesburg township.

But the now-33-year-old plowed ahead, coming up with innovative inventions, like a data-collecting, 3D-printed solar-powered streetlamp, that have caught the attention of South African municipalities and companies.

Two of his new streetlamps, which are capable of tracking data like noise levels and air quality, are being piloted in inner city Johannesburg.

Toybox for inventors

It’s that creativity and innovation that have also caught the attention of African technology innovators, who are hoping to turn this unique idea into profit. Senene is a member of a new Johannesburg tech innovation hub, called Toybox, that gives inventors, artists and tinkerers room to work, a community to work with, and business support to get their inventions off the drawing board and into the real world.

Co-founder Arlene Mulder, who previously started WeThinkCode, an institution that teaches young South Africans about coding and software engineering, says Africa is often overlooked as a source for ideas and invention. She wants to change that, by supporting local inventors and giving them room to grow.

“We’ve been seeing, over the last couple of years, incredibly talented inventors coming up with incredible inventions, but they are struggling to bring these inventions to life,” she tells VOA. “So we are creating this ecosystem and platform for them to come together, and we provide access to the global world.”

In exchange for its services, the hub gets a portion of the revenue the inventors end up making. There are similar places operating elsewhere in South Africa as well as Kenya and Rwanda.

Welcome support

Senene says he appreciates the support. It was hard to get ahead flying solo.

“You can be an inventor all day, but you still need to eat, you need to run a business,” he said. “So, as an inventor, I had to go through the process where you learn about business. And all of that for me was self-taught. There’s no one in my family who would set a path for me, there was no one who guided me, so, trial and error, I learned the hard way.”

Toybox co-Founder Kanina Foss says Africa is an ideal springboard for innovation, with its rich artistic talent and traditions.

“Some of the cool stuff our fellows are doing include leveraging the intersections between technologies and the creative disciplines, so that we can use artists to really push the barriers on what tech can do,” she said.

Senene, the inventor, says his inspiration comes from some unexpected places. One of his recent innovations is a “tombstone tracker,” a tool meant to find stolen grave markers, which has been a problem in South Africa.

“What inspires me is my environment,” he said. “So many of my devices have been inspired by the places that I’ve lived in, especially the problems. So, I’m very sensitive to negativity, to horrible things, and that allows me to identify them, and I have an ability to try to come up with a solution.”

If he finds a solution, places like Toybox will be ready to help him develop and market the idea.

For the Next Big Thing in Tech, Look to … Africa?

From a young age, Phatwa Senene knew he wanted to be an inventor.

He got his start at age 11, he said, when he attached a DC motor to a fan. He then attached the fan to a drill and proceeded to drill holes into his bedroom wall. His invention worked, he said: The fan blew away the dust from the drilling.

“That was my first invention that I can recall,” he said, laughing. “My mom didn’t like it at all.”

He nearly hit a figurative wall years later, when he tried to go to university, but found he couldn’t afford it. His family was poor, he said, and he grew up in a Johannesburg township.

But the now-33-year-old plowed ahead, coming up with innovative inventions, like a data-collecting, 3D-printed solar-powered streetlamp, that have caught the attention of South African municipalities and companies.

Two of his new streetlamps, which are capable of tracking data like noise levels and air quality, are being piloted in inner city Johannesburg.

Toybox for inventors

It’s that creativity and innovation that have also caught the attention of African technology innovators, who are hoping to turn this unique idea into profit. Senene is a member of a new Johannesburg tech innovation hub, called Toybox, that gives inventors, artists and tinkerers room to work, a community to work with, and business support to get their inventions off the drawing board and into the real world.

Co-founder Arlene Mulder, who previously started WeThinkCode, an institution that teaches young South Africans about coding and software engineering, says Africa is often overlooked as a source for ideas and invention. She wants to change that, by supporting local inventors and giving them room to grow.

“We’ve been seeing, over the last couple of years, incredibly talented inventors coming up with incredible inventions, but they are struggling to bring these inventions to life,” she tells VOA. “So we are creating this ecosystem and platform for them to come together, and we provide access to the global world.”

In exchange for its services, the hub gets a portion of the revenue the inventors end up making. There are similar places operating elsewhere in South Africa as well as Kenya and Rwanda.

Welcome support

Senene says he appreciates the support. It was hard to get ahead flying solo.

“You can be an inventor all day, but you still need to eat, you need to run a business,” he said. “So, as an inventor, I had to go through the process where you learn about business. And all of that for me was self-taught. There’s no one in my family who would set a path for me, there was no one who guided me, so, trial and error, I learned the hard way.”

Toybox co-Founder Kanina Foss says Africa is an ideal springboard for innovation, with its rich artistic talent and traditions.

“Some of the cool stuff our fellows are doing include leveraging the intersections between technologies and the creative disciplines, so that we can use artists to really push the barriers on what tech can do,” she said.

Senene, the inventor, says his inspiration comes from some unexpected places. One of his recent innovations is a “tombstone tracker,” a tool meant to find stolen grave markers, which has been a problem in South Africa.

“What inspires me is my environment,” he said. “So many of my devices have been inspired by the places that I’ve lived in, especially the problems. So, I’m very sensitive to negativity, to horrible things, and that allows me to identify them, and I have an ability to try to come up with a solution.”

If he finds a solution, places like Toybox will be ready to help him develop and market the idea.

For the Next Big Thing in Tech, Look to Africa?

The next big advance in technology could well come from Africa. At least, that is the hope of several new technology and innovation incubators on the continent. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg on Toybox, an interdisciplinary hub founded by two female engineers.

For the Next Big Thing in Tech, Look to Africa?

The next big advance in technology could well come from Africa. At least, that is the hope of several new technology and innovation incubators on the continent. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg on Toybox, an interdisciplinary hub founded by two female engineers.