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Facebook Puts Hold on Child Version of Instagram as Opposition Grows

  Facebook has put a hold on the development of a child version of its Instagram service. The move comes after major child advocacy groups and U.S. lawmakers urged Facebook to drop its launch plans for the new service, called Instagram Kids. The decision was announced in an online post by Instagram’s chief, Adam Mosseri. Mosseri said company officials still “stand by the need to develop the (Instagram Kids) experience.” However, a delay in the project will give Instagram the chance “to work with parents, experts, policymakers and regulators” on how it should move forward. Facebook announced plans for Instagram Kids in March. Instagram says the application is meant for children between the ages of 10 and 12. The company says while the service is designed for kids, it will contain tools for parents to “supervise and control” their child’s experience. “The reality is that kids are already online,” Mosseri said in his online post. “And we believe that developing age-appropriate experiences designed specifically for them is far better for parents than where we are today.” He added that Instagram Kids aims to cut down on cases of children misrepresenting their age so they can download and use apps meant for people over age 13. Mosseri said kids will need to get parental permission to join the service and it will not contain advertisements. Parents will be able to supervise the time their children spend on the app and control who they can message and follow. But the plans have faced opposition from child advocacy groups and some U.S. lawmakers.   In May, a group of 44 U.S. attorneys general wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. They urged him to cancel the project because it could harm children. The group warned the service could increase cyberbullying and help online predators reach children. It also accused Facebook of not taking necessary steps in the past to safeguard user privacy and protect children.   Facebook faced similar criticism in 2017 when it launched the Messenger Kids app. The company said that service was designed as a way for children to communicate through the app with family members and friends approved by parents. Child development experts later urged the company to shut down Messenger Kids, but Facebook did not do so. Josh Golin is executive director of the online child advocacy group Fairplay. He called on Facebook in a statement to permanently end its plans to launch Instagram Kids. "We won't stop pressuring Facebook until they permanently pull the plug," Golin said. A group of Democratic members of Congress urged the same. Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey wrote for the group on Twitter that Facebook’s latest decision showed the company had heard the calls to halt plans to launch Instagram Kids. He added, however, that the temporary delay is not enough. “Facebook must completely abandon this project." Mosseri said while work is stopped on Instagram Kids, the company plans to expand its parental supervision tools to Instagram accounts of those 13 and older. He said more details on those tools will be shared in the coming months. I’m Bryan Lynn.   The Associated Press and Reuters reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the reports for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter Jr. was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.     _____________________________________________   Words in This Story   advocacy – n. of expression of support for a particular idea or way of doing things kid – n. a child or young person regulator – n. to body with the responsibility to control an activity or process, especially by using rules application (app) –n. a computer program that carries out a specific job appropriate – adj. suitable or right for a particular situation cyberbullying – v. the mistreatment or abuse of someone online predator – v. someone who follows people in order to harm them or commit a crime against them pull the plug – v. (phrasal) to do something that prevents an activity from continuing abandon – v. to stop doing an activity before it is finished  

US Fish and Wildlife Service Declares 23 Species Extinct

  The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has identified 23 species it says are now extinct. The agency released a list Wednesday that includes 11 birds, eight freshwater mussels, two species of fish, a bat and a plant. Most of the species had been found in states in the southeastern U.S. Eleven species lived in Hawaii or Guam. Perhaps the best known species on the list is the ivory-billed woodpecker. There had been unconfirmed sightings of the bird over the past 20 years. That led to search operations in parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida. But none of the woodpeckers were found. Other species on the list had only been identified in the wild a few times and never seen again. One example is the flat pigtoe, a freshwater mussel found in  Alabama and Mississippi. In such cases, the species likely started disappearing shortly after being discovered.   In declaring a species extinct, the Fish and Wildlife Service removes it from its Endangered Species Act (ESA). The purpose of the ESA is to call attention to species with the greatest need for protection. The agency said the identifications came after officials carried out “rigorous” investigations based on “the best available science for each of these species.” The declarations will become final after a three-month public comment period. All 23 species were thought to have at least a small chance of survival when added to the ESA list. Only 11 species have been previously removed because of extinction in the nearly half-century since the ESA was signed into law. The Fish and Wildlife Service warned that climate change, combined with other environmental pressures, could make such disappearances more common. As an example, it said nearly 3 billion birds have been lost in North America since 1970.   “These extinctions highlight the need to take action to prevent further losses,” the agency said in a statement. Around the world, about 900 species have been documented as extinct. The actual number, however, is thought to be much higher because some are never officially identified. Many scientists have warned that the planet is in an “extinction crisis,” with plants and animals disappearing at 1,000 times the historical rate. Several scientists said it was possible that one or more of the 23 species included could reappear in the future. Cornell University bird biologist John Fitzpatrick is a leading figure in the hunt for the ivory-billed woodpecker. He told The Associated Press he thinks it was too early to declare the birds extinct. “Little is gained and much is lost” he said of the declaration process.   Fitzpatrick led a 2005 study that claimed the woodpecker had been rediscovered in eastern Arkansas. He said removing a species from the ESA reduces public attention that is needed to help continue environmental protection efforts.  Officials said the extinction declarations were driven by a desire to clear a backlog of suggested changes for species that had not been acted upon for years. They hope this will free up resources for more protection efforts for species that still have a chance for recovery. I’m Bryan Lynn.   The Associated Press, Reuters and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the reports for VOA Learning English. Susan Shand was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page. ___________________________________________   Words in This Story   species – n. a group of animals or plants that are similar and can produce young animals or plants extinct – adj. no longer existing in nature rigorous – adj. being careful in looking at or considering every part of something previously - adj. existing or happening before the present time highlight – v. to emphasize something backlog – n. an amount of work that should have been done earlier  

Former Diplomat Likely to Become Japan’s Next Prime Minister

Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party elected former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida as its new leader Wednesday. The move means Kishida will likely become the country’s next prime minister soon. The Liberal Democratic Party, or LDP, controls both houses in Japan’s parliament. The decision by current Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to step down led to Wednesday’s results. None of the four main candidates gained a majority in the first vote, which also included Taro Kono, Sanae Takaichi and Seiko Noda. Kishida easily won the second ballot 257 to 170. In that vote, he faced only Kono, the official overseeing Japan’s coronavirus vaccination effort.  General elections are to take place no later than November 28. Some LDP officials said parliament is likely to be dismissed in October in preparation for elections in the first half of November. A win for the establishment It remains unclear how Kishida’s leadership will affect the LDP’s performance in upcoming elections. Kono was considered the more popular candidate. Suga became unpopular for his decision to hold the 2020 Olympic Games this year in Tokyo even though many Japanese protested the move. Yukio Edano is the head of the Constitutional Democratic Party, the largest opposition party. He criticized the choice of Kishida. “The results showed that LDP does not and cannot change,” he said. Kishida is considered a moderate who seeks agreement but is less popular with the public than some other politicians. In his victory speech, Kishida promised to deal with “national crises” including the COVID-19 pandemic, the struggling economy and the country’s falling birthrate. He also said he would deal with “important issues related to Japan’s future.” One of those issues is “a free and open Indo-Pacific” that balances China’s influence, he said. Kishida has promised spending more than $270 billion dollars on projects to help the economy. During his candidacy, he said a new kind of capitalism was needed to ease the division between rich and poor. “We can’t have strong growth if wealth is concentrated in the hands of a small group of people,” he said. In foreign policy, Kishida is unlikely to propose big changes. He has agreed with the need to improve Japan’s defenses. This includes strengthening ties with allies like the United States and the QUAD, which also includes India and Australia. Keeping trade ties with China also remains important. Chinese English-language broadcaster CGTV said that, among the candidates, Kishida was “the best possible option for Beijing.” However, Kishida supports increasing the country’s coast guard and approving a resolution condemning China’s treatment of Uyghur ethnic minorities. Three generations of the Kishida family have served as lawmakers. Kishida was first elected to office in 1993. A supporter of nuclear disarmament, he welcomed former U.S. President Barack Obama during his 2016 visit to Hiroshima, where Kishida is from. The city is where the first atomic bomb was dropped. Kishida served as foreign minister under former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. In 2015, he helped negotiate an agreement with South Korea over Korean women who said they suffered sexual abuse by the Japanese during World War II. The issue continues to cause tensions between the two countries. I’m Mario Ritter, Jr.    reported this story for Radio Free Asia. Mario Ritter Jr. adapted it for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor. __________________________________________________ Words in This Story stability –n. the quality or state of something that is not easily changed or likely to change   concentrated –adj. something that is in a specific place and is mainly found in that place option –n. a choice or possibility; something that can be chosen We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.

North Korea Claims It Tested a Hypersonic Missile

North Korea claimed Wednesday that it successfully tested a new hypersonic missile. The advanced weapon system could be harder to defend and continues to expand the country’s military power. The state-run Korean Central News Agency, or KCNA, posted a picture of a test launch of a hypersonic missile called Hwasong-8. It said Tuesday's launch was successful and met the technical requirements of a “detached hypersonic gliding warhead.” It means the warhead could come off the rocket and move in flight toward a target. A hypersonic missile, also known as a Hypersonic Glide Vehicle, can fly much faster than the speed of sound. It can fly very low making it harder for current missile defense systems to recognize. It can also be controlled in flight, which means it can move away from other missiles making it harder to defend. Adam Mount is an expert at the Federation of American Scientists. He said the hypersonic missile is designed to get through defense systems like the one operated by South Korea and the U.S. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, however, estimated the North Korean missile to be at an early stage of development. It said North Korea would need “considerable time” to be able to deploy the missile. Missile tests return North Korea started testing missiles again in 2019 after talks with the United States failed. The launch of the hypersonic missile was North Korea’s third round of missile tests this month. It took place shortly before a North Korean diplomat at the United Nations General Assembly accused the United States of hostility and demanded an end to joint military exercises with South Korea. The missile is similar to a short-range missile that North Korea tested two years ago called the KN-23. However, the new missile has a warhead that can come off the rocket and continue toward a target. This kind of warhead could be attached to a more powerful rocket and strike a target on another continent. Vipin Narang is a nuclear security and political science expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He said this kind of missile would present “a big problem for the U.S.” He added it could be hard to find and the warhead could be difficult to defend. North Korea also claimed that it used a faster and more stable process to add rocket fuel. The process places rocket fuel in containers for storage and could be quickly added to the rocket before launch. In the past, North Korean rockets needed to be fueled at the launch site which took more time and opened the launch to attack. North Korea’s missile tests also include weapons that could be launched from vehicles, trains, and possibly even submarines. As a result, the missiles will be harder to find and destroy in the event of a war. Mount said the U.S. and South Korea alliance “will have to be ready for anything in a crisis.” He noted that North Korea showed some weapons but they may not yet be fully tested. I’m Dan Friedell.   Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learning English based on reports by VOA’s William Gallo and The Associated Press. Hai Do was the editor. What would you do about the missile tests in North Korea? Tell us in the Comments Section and visit our Facebook page. ___________________________________________________________________   Words in This Story   glide – v. to fly without engine power flight – n. the act of flying : the act of moving through the air by the use of wings stage – n. a particular point or period in the growth or development of something stable – adj. having a chemical structure or physical state that does not change easily site – n. a place that is used for a particular activity

At UN, Some Leaders Demand Payments for Past Wrongs

  At this year’s United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, several leaders voiced their approval of reparations. They gave their support to a system of payments from countries with historical links to slavery and colonialism. Officials from South Africa, Cameroon, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Cuba and Malaysia urged the creation of a reparations system. But large countries like the United States, Britain and Germany mainly did not comment about the issue. Philip J. Pierre is the prime minister of Saint Lucia. He said, “Caribbean countries like ours, which were exploited and underdeveloped to finance the development of Europe, have put forward a case for reparations for slavery and native genocide.” He added that he wanted the problem to be treated seriously and with urgency. But reparations payments have not been among the issues discussed by major world powers. U.S. President Joe Biden did not talk about reparations in his speech to the U.N. But earlier this year, the Biden administration said it supported studying reparations for Black Americans. The office of the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who is African American, did not comment on the recent reparations discussions to The Associated Press. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa did discuss the issue. He called the time of slavery “one of the darkest periods in the history of humankind.” Slavery in what would become the United States started more than 400 years ago in some of the British colonies. In the U.S., slavery was outlawed during the U.S. Civil War which ended in 1865. The debate about reparations has continued for many years. It has not gained much interest in the past 30 years. However, reparations have gained support in some cities and local governments since the 2020 death of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Carla Ferstman is an international law expert who studies reparations at the University of Essex in Britain. She said the U.N. talks are a big step forward for the reparations movement around the world. Reparations could come in many forms. There could be direct financial payments to individuals. Development aid could be offered to countries. Colonized land, art and cultural objects could be returned. The correction of policies and laws that continue to discriminate could also be carried out. And apologies that include wiping away national heroes who are no longer in favor are other possibilities. "One needs to be sensitive to what is important and how to best rectify,” Ferstman said. The Durban Declaration against racism The latest discussions on reparations came as the U.N. honored the 2001 conference against racism in South Africa. It produced what is called the Durban Declaration. Last week, a U.N. group approved a resolution that said there had been some progress on the issue. But it also said there had been a rise in discrimination and violence towards people of African ancestry. Other groups facing mistreatment included refugees, the displaced, those with disabilities, the Roma in Europe, the young and the old. The resolution said there should be a way for descendants to seek fair “reparation or satisfaction for any damage suffered.” But the resolution stopped short of demanding that nations must pay reparations to countries their governments have harmed. The United States, Britain and Germany were among several countries that did not attend the meeting honoring the Durban Declaration. The U.S. boycotted the meeting 20 years ago over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Germany’s president, in his General Assembly address, also did not talk about reparations. But Germany is one of the few countries that have offered to pay money to make up for its past actions. Earlier this year, Germany officially recognized the killing of tens of thousands of people in Namibia as genocide. It offered to provide 1.1 billion euros over 30 years for projects involving the people affected. But Germany did not call the payments reparations. I’m Dan Novak.   Sally Ho reported this story for The Associated Press. Dan Novak adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor. _______________________________________________   Words in This Story   descendant — n. someone who is related to a person or group of people who lived in the past exploit — v. to use in a way that helps you unfairly sensitive — adj. understanding the feelings of other people rectify — v. to correct something that is wrong