US Regulators to Back More Oversight of Digital Currencies

Digital currencies such as bitcoin demand increased oversight and may require a new federal regulatory framework, the top U.S. markets regulators will tell lawmakers at a hotly anticipated congressional hearing on Tuesday.

Christopher Giancarlo, chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and Jay Clayton, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, will provide testimony to the Senate Banking Committee amid growing concerns globally over the risks virtual currencies pose to investors and the financial system.

Giancarlo and Clayton will say current state-by-state licensing rules for cryptocurrency exchanges may need to be reviewed in favor of a rationalized federal framework, according to prepared testimony published on Monday.

Reporting by Michelle Price.

Israeli Entrepreneurs Invest in Tech Startups

Five years ago, Israeli investor Jon Medved started OurCrowd, a business that lets people buy into some of the newest and most innovative tech startups in the world. Some of the most innovative new products were on display at the recent investor summit. VOA’s Kevin Enochs reports. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Fixing Pollution by Fixing Your Gas Guzzler

Statistics from the Environmental Protection Agency show automobiles are responsible for at least 50 percent of emissions of harmful and planet-warming gases. But because cars are not going away, one enterprising British company is working to fix the problem where it starts. VOA’s Kevin Enochs reports.

Scientists Develop Blood Test to Detect Eight Types of Cancer

Feb. 4 is World Cancer Day, an annual opportunity to raise awareness of cancer and encourage its prevention, detection and treatment. In the area of detection, Faith Lapidus reports that researchers at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center in Baltimore, Maryland, are developing a blood test that screens for eight different types of cancer.

Suspected Spam King Extradited to US

Spain has extradited to the United States a Russian citizen who is suspected of being one of the world’s most notorious spammers.

Pyotr Levashov, a 37-year-old from St. Petersburg, was arrested in April while vacationing with his family in Barcelona.

U.S. authorities had asked for him to be detained on charges of fraud and unauthorized interception of electronic communications. He was scheduled to be arraigned late Friday in a federal courthouse in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where a grand jury indicted him last year.

A statement from Spain’s National Police said officers handed Levashov over to U.S. marshals Friday. The extradition was approved in October by Spain’s National Court, which rejected a counter-extradition request from Russia.

The Russian Embassy in Washington didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Army of botnets

Authorities in the U.S. say they have linked Levashov to a series of powerful botnets, or networks of hijacked computers, that were capable of pumping out billions of spam emails. An indictment unsealed last year said he commanded the sprawling Kelihos botnet, which at times allegedly involved more than 100,000 compromised computers that sent phony emails advertising counterfeit drugs, harvested users’ logins and installed malware that intercepted bank account passwords.

On a typical day, the network would generate and distribute more than 2,500 spam emails, according to the indictment.

Levashov’s lawyers have alleged the case is politically motivated and that the U.S. wants him for reasons beyond his alleged cybercrimes. They had argued that he should be tried in Spain instead, and pointed to evidence showing that he gained access to Russian state secrets while studying in St. Petersburg.

Levashov’s U.S.-based lawyer, Igor Litvak, didn’t return emails or calls seeking comment Friday.

Google’s AI Push Comes with Plenty of People Problems

Google CEO Sundar Pichai recently declared that artificial intelligence fueled by powerful computers was more important to humanity than fire or electricity. And yet the search giant increasingly faces a variety of messy people problems as well.

The company has vowed to employ thousands of human checkers just to catch rogue YouTube posters, Russian bots and other purveyors of unsavory content. It’s also on a buying spree to find office space for its burgeoning workforce in pricey Silicon Valley. 

For a company that built its success on using faceless algorithms to automate many human tasks, this focus on people presents something of a conundrum. Yet it’s also a necessary one as lawmakers ramp up the pressure on Google to deter foreign powers from abusing its platforms and its YouTube unit draws fire for offensive videos , particularly ones aimed at younger audiences.

In the latest quarter alone, Google parent Alphabet Inc. added 2,009 workers, for a total of 80,110. Over the last three years, it hired a net 2,245 people per quarter on average. That’s nearly 173 per week, or 25 people per day.

Some of the extra workers this year will come from its vow to have 10,000 workers across Google snooping out content policy violations that computers can’t catch on their own, representing “significant growth” in personnel.

Alphabet on Thursday reported a fourth-quarter loss of $3.02 billion, after reporting a profit in the same period a year earlier.

The Mountain View, California-based company said it had a loss of $4.35 per share, caused by provisions for U.S. tax changes enacted last year. Earnings, adjusted for pretax expenses, came to $9.70 per share.

The results missed Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of 14 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of $10.12 per share.

The internet search leader posted revenue of $32.32 billion in the period. After subtracting Alphabet’s advertising commissions, revenue was $25.87 billion, exceeding Street forecasts. Twelve analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $25.65 billion.

Alphabet shares were down 4 percent at $1,119.22 in after-hours trading.  

Apple Dealing with iPhone Jitters, Coming Off Big Quarter

Apple is making more money than ever, but it still doesn’t seem to be enough to keep everyone happy. Not with conspiracy theories swirling around Apple’s secret slowdown of older iPhones while a cloud of uncertainty looms over its high-priced iPhone X.

It’s a reality check for a company accustomed to an unflinchingly loyal customer base. Apple expected buyers to embrace the iPhone X as a revolutionary device worth its $1,000 price, but it appears many Apple fans aren’t impressed enough to ante up, especially with other recently released models selling for $200 to $300 less.

And not even the less expensive iPhone 8 line appears to be selling quite as well as analysts had expected, based on the numbers that came out Thursday in Apple’s fiscal first-quarter earnings report.

What’s more, consumers disillusioned with the slowdown of their devices may be even less inclined to upgrade. Apple said the slowdown was its effort to prevent unexpected crashes on phones with old batteries, and it’s now offering to replace those batteries for just $29. That $50 discount is available as part of Apple’s apology for not being more forthcoming about what it did.

“Once you get past all the enthusiasts who want the iPhone X, you get down to a lot of people who think $1,000 is a lot of money for a phone,” said analyst Bob O’Donnell of the research firm Technalysis. “We may be getting near the peak of the smartphone market, and that impacts everyone, including Apple.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook said the iPhone X has been selling even better than management anticipated, describing it as its top-selling model in every week since its release in early November. But Apple’s revenue forecast for the current quarter fell below analysts’ already diminished expectations, fueling fears that the early appetite for the iPhone X has quickly faded.

Those concerns are the primary reason Apple’s stock has fallen about 7 percent since hitting an all-time high two weeks ago. The shares ticked up $1.02 to $168.80 in extended trading after the quarterly report came out.