San Francisco, July 9 (AP/UNB) — Twitter now prohibits hate speech that targets religious groups by using dehumanizing language, a ban it says may extend to other categories like race and gender.
The social network already bars hateful language directed at individual religious adherents. It also bans hate speech on the basis of someone's race, gender and other categories. Tuesday's change broadens the hate speech rule to forbid likening entire religious groups to subhumans or vermin, without targeting a specific individual.
Twitter, along with YouTube and Facebook, has been under fire for the prevalence of harassment and hate on its service. Twitter's latest update came after users wrote in thousands of responses when the company asked for suggestions on how to expand its hate speech policies.
The company says it may also ban similar language aimed at other groups such as those defined by gender, race and sexual orientation, but it has not done so yet, sparking criticism from civil rights groups.
"Twitter's failure to ban all forms of dehumanization immediately casts doubt on the company's commitment to fully stopping hate on the platform," said Rashad Robinson, the president of online racial justice group Color of Change, in a statement. "It's no secret that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and other Silicon Valley leaders have been reluctant to stamp out discrimination and misinformation for fear of a conservative backlash."
Facebook has a similar policy banning dehumanizing speech, "statements of inferiority" and attacks against people or groups who share protected characteristics such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, caste or religious affiliation.
YouTube's policy also bans material that promotes "violence or hatred" against individuals or groups based on categories such as age, disability, race, immigration status among others.
New York, July 9 (AP/UNB) — Uber is letting passengers tell their driver in advance that they'd like a little less conversation, and more legroom, if those passengers are willing to pay.
The ride-hailing giant launched "comfort" rides in dozens of cities Tuesday. Riders are guaranteed 36 inches of legroom in "newer" cars — meaning those that are under five years old — and they can request a preferred air temperature. Riders can also use the app to tell drivers they don't want to chat, avoiding what some consider an awkward exchange.
Uber is responding to requests from business travelers and others who say they just want to work or rest quietly when they're on their way to the airport.
"It's a way to set up an expectation up front...it takes some guess work out of the process," said Aydin Ghajar, senior product manager at Uber.
In the early days of ride-hailing, when drivers for Uber and its main U.S. rival Lyft began picking up riders in their personal cars, riders were often chatty, asking the drivers lots of questions.
"It was so new and innovative that a lot of people were curious about other things they (drivers) did," said Harry Campbell, founder of The Rideshare Guy, a blog and online community for drivers. "Over the years, it's gotten more transactional."
Uber rolled out a "quiet mode" for Uber Black — its premium car service — in May, which left some drivers feeling like robots.
"Some drivers like it, they don't want to have to look at social cues," Campbell said. "Other drivers feel that it's a little dehumanizing...I do feel like in our society, everything is turning into an app, and we're losing the lost art of conversation."
Comfort rides cost 20% to 40% more for time and distance charges than standard Uber X rides.
The move could help Uber boost revenue, which could nudge the company closer to profitability.
"I think it would help maybe to boost those numbers up a little bit and maybe give some of the analysts on Wall Street something more to hang their hat on to remain bullish on the stock, based on the fact that the company still is not profitable," said Daniel Morgan, vice president of Synovus Trust Company.
Uber has yet to turn a profit and lost $1 billion in the first quarter of 2019. Executives have said it could take years to make money.
It's unknown whether the benefits offered by Uber Comfort will be enough to convince riders to cough up more cash. A five-year-old car is not really "newer," it's more "middle aged," said Morgan. And at 6 feet, 5 inches tall, the additional legroom wouldn't really be enough for Morgan — but it might be sufficient for people who are average height, he said.
"They might try it once and see if it's that much more of an improvement and worth it," Morgan said. "If they can't deliver it and it's not that much more comfortable, then it's like well, I'm not really going to pay up for it."
Uber declined to provide an average age for its drivers' cars, and said age requirements for vehicles vary by city.
Uber already has some premium products that cost more than the basic Uber X. For example, Uber Black includes high-end cars driven by professional drivers. Families or groups of six can choose Uber XL to get a van or SUV. Uber Select connects riders with highly rated drivers. On the other end of the spectrum, Uber Pool is the cheapest option, but riders have to share the car with passengers going to other destinations.
Uber says its Uber Black product will generally cost more than Uber Comfort, but specific pricing will vary by city.
Drivers who qualify for can make about 20% more on an Uber Comfort ride than Uber X ride, said Uber spokesman Steve Imm. But some drivers earned less during an Uber Comfort pilot, because their cars qualified for the pricier Uber Select or Uber XL options, and they couldn't easily opt out of the Uber Comfort option, Campbell said. Drivers will now be able to opt out of UBER Comfort using the app, Imm said.
London, Jul 9 (AP/UNB) — An Austrian privacy campaigner's long-running legal battle against Facebook over its data transfers to the U.S. has reached Europe's highest court.
The European Court of Justice is hearing arguments Tuesday on whether Facebook's Dublin-based subsidiary can legally transfer users' personal data to the U.S. parent company.
The court, based in Luxembourg, is expected to rule on whether "standard contractual clauses" governing data transfers comply with European data protection regulations.
A decision, which is expected by the end of the year, could affect thousands of European Union businesses that rely on the agreements as safeguards to protect personal data sent outside of the bloc.
Privacy campaigner Max Schrems launched the case in 2013 after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the extent of electronic surveillance by U.S. security agencies.
Berlin, Jul 9 (AP/UNB) — The commander of the Swiss air force's aerial display team has apologized after his unit performed a low-altitude pass over the wrong municipality.
Residents of Langenbruck looked up in vain Saturday while expecting to see Switzerland's Patrouille Suisse squadron swoop by to mark the centenary of the death of local aviation pioneer Oskar Bider.
The team flew over nearby Muemliswil instead.
Switzerland's Defense Ministry said Monday that the formation hadn't practiced the maneuver and got distracted by an unauthorized helicopter in the area. The ministry says the team leader spotted what he thought was a tent for the Langenbruck celebration that turned out to be for a yodeling festival in Muemliswil.
The ministry said the Patrouille Suisse team's red and white F-5E Tiger II jets aren't equipped with GPS devices.
Flagstaff, Jul 8 (AP/UNB) — Before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin knew they would be the first to walk on the moon, they took crash courses in geology at the Grand Canyon and a nearby impact crater that is the most well-preserved on Earth.
Northern Arizona has had deep ties to the Apollo missions: Every moon-walking astronaut trained here, and a crater on the moon was even named in honor of the city of Flagstaff.
"It's a really interesting and unique part of our history, and it's really cool to think that this relatively small town in northern Arizona played such a big role in the Apollo missions," said Benjamin Carver, a public lands historian at Northern Arizona University.
Today, astronaut candidates still train in and around Flagstaff, which is among many cities celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing on July 20, 1969.
They walk in the same volcanic cinder fields where the U.S. Geological Survey intentionally blasted hundreds of craters from the ground to replicate the lunar surface, testing rovers and geology tools.
Scientists used early photos of the moon taken from orbit and re-created the Sea of Tranquility with "remarkable accuracy" before Apollo 11 landed there in 1969, the Geological Survey said.
Astronauts studied moon mapping at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff where Pluto was discovered and peered at their eventual destination through telescopes at various northern Arizona sites.
The region's role in moon missions is credited to former Geological Survey scientist Gene Shoemaker, who moved the agency's astrogeology branch to Flagstaff in 1963. It wasn't long before Shoemaker guided Armstrong and Aldrin on hikes at Meteor Crater as he pushed to ensure NASA would include geology in lunar exploration.
A story passed down by geologists at the crater says Aldrin ripped his spacesuit on jagged limestone rocks that are part of the aptly named "tear-pants formation," forcing a redesign, head tour guide Jeff Beal said.
Armstrong and Aldrin also hiked the Grand Canyon. A historical photo shows Armstrong carrying a rock hammer, a hand lens and a backpack for rock samples.
Harrison "Jack" Schmitt was the only Apollo astronaut who didn't train at the national park. The geologist left Flagstaff to become an astronaut, and while his comrades were learning geology, he was learning to be a pilot.
In another historical photo, Apollo astronauts Jim Irwin and David Scott ride around in Grover, a prototype of the lunar rover made in Flagstaff from spare parts and now on display at the Astrogeology Science Center.
The eventual lunar rover used in three Apollo missions famously got a broken fender on a 1972 mission to the moon. Astronauts cobbled together a quick fix that included a map produced by geologists in Flagstaff.
In yet another historical photo, Pete Conrad and Alan Bean stand in the volcanic cinder field bordered by ponderosa pine trees holding a tool carrier. Bean would later say: "I now love geology, thanks to these early experiences in Flagstaff," local historian Kevin Schindler co-wrote in a book on space training in northern Arizona.
Lauren Edgar, a research geologist at the Astrogeology Science Center, is working with the 2017 class of astronaut candidates who will be in Flagstaff later this year for field training.
"It will be pretty inspiring for them. It's inspiring for us being involved in this, but knowing you're walking in the boot steps of these previous astronauts here in Flagstaff and, hopefully, some day on another body," she said.
Flagstaff is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing with tours, exhibits, talks and moon-themed food and art.
Charlie Duke, the youngest astronaut on the moon, is returning to Flagstaff in September as the keynote speaker at an annual science festival. He and Jason Young, who were on Apollo 17, named a moon crater "Flag Crater."
Retired Flagstaff geologist Gerald Schaber plans to celebrate the lunar legacy wearing the same turquoise bolo tie that distinguished Shoemaker's Arizona crew from others who worked on moon missions. Schaber was at Mission Control in Houston in 1969, monitoring black-and-white images while bent over a map trying to gauge the distance between Armstrong and Aldrin using cutouts of the men.
"I was just trying to do the best I could with the primitive tracking ability we had in those days," he said from his home in Flagstaff where he has a signed photograph of a hill on the moon that Apollo 15 astronauts referred to "Schaber Hill."
Of the three crater fields created in northern Arizona for astronaut training in the late 1960s, only one has a sign acknowledging its importance in the moon missions. Visitors can walk through gaps in a barbed-wire fence and feel their feet sink into the volcanic cinders, although not as deep as the astronauts' feet on the moon.
The craters don't come into view without being close up, some as darkened, shallow depressions and others as giant welts in the ground partially lost to the weather.
Arizona has approved a nomination to list several of the training sites on the National Register of Historic Places to better preserve them, but federal approval is still needed.