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Technology

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Earlier this month, the toy-giant Mattel announced it had pulled the plug on plans to sell an interactive gadget for children.

The device, called Aristotle, looked similar to a baby monitor with a camera. Critics called it creepy.

Powered by artificial intelligence, Aristotle could get to know your child — at least that was how the device was being pitched.

There is lots to watch this week, from a potentially make-or-break stretch on the tax overhaul President Trump so badly wants to social media network officials testifying about what they knew and when they knew it about Russian-linked ads that may have helped influence the 2016 presidential election.

Black leaders have condemned the Russian efforts in the 2016 election cycle that apparently sought to divide African-Americans both from whites and from each other, but nothing about those efforts is new.

Russian and Soviet influence-mongers have spent decades pressing as hard as they can on the most painful areas of the American body politic, from the days of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to the current era of the Black Lives Matter movement.

As fire fighters in California's wine country worked frantically to contain and put out devastating wildfires that killed at least 42 people in recent weeks, and while his officers were still evacuating residents and searching through the burned ruins of homes for missing persons, Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano had another problem to address.

Copyright 2017 KUER 90.1. To see more, visit KUER 90.1.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Facebook, Google and Twitter head to Washington this week for their first public congressional hearings on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign via their social networks. In the runup, NPR is exploring the growing social media landscape, the spread of false information and the tech companies that build the platforms in our series: Tech Titans, Bots and the Information Complex.

Last week in the Russia investigations: Washington, D.C., gears up for the big show; Trump campaign data firm's guru tried to link up with WikiLeaks; and Clinton, DNC helped pay for infamous dossier on Trump.

Get Ready For The Big Show

After weeks of buildups, letdowns, surprises, scoops and headlines, this is it: Three central players in the world of Big Tech are set to face off across the witness table this week from members of Congress.

Nations waged campaigns of influence against each other for centuries before Russia's interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and nothing is likely to stop them anytime soon.

Congress could mandate more "disclosure" for foreigners buying ads on U.S. social networks, but that wouldn't stop the ads from being sold, nor would it address the covert part of the Russians' playbook — the cyberattacks, snooping and dumping of embarrassing information.

As connoisseurs of the genre know, good horror stories come in many forms: scary movies, scary books, scary TV shows — even scary comic books.

In recent years, I've come to appreciate the scary video game, which provides an immersive style of storytelling that's hard to experience anywhere else.

The WannaCry ransomware attack that crippled Britain's National Health Service and hit thousands of computers around the world in May was almost certainly carried out by North Korea, says U.K. Minister of State for Security Ben Wallace.

The British government is "as sure as possible" that Kim Jong Un's pariah state launched the attack, Wallace told BBC Radio 4.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Scientists say they have developed a computer model that fundamentally breaks through a key test used to tell a human from a bot.

You've probably passed this test hundreds of times. Text-based CAPTCHAs, a rough acronym for Completely Automated Public Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart, are groups of jumbled characters along with squiggly lines and other background noise.

You might be asked to type in these characters before signing up for a newsletter, for example, or purchasing concert tickets.

Updated at 2:10 p.m. ET

A pair of Russian state media organizations will no longer be able to advertise on Twitter, the company said Thursday — a direct result of their role in Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The announcement took place less than a week before much-anticipated hearings on Capitol Hill at which representatives from Facebook, Twitter and Google are expected to be grilled by lawmakers about how Russia used their platforms as part of its influence campaign in the U.S.

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

A new law went into effect today in Honolulu. It bans something many of us are guilty of - texting while walking or looking at any screen really, specifically while crossing the street.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Tesla has used its solar panels and batteries to restore reliable electricity at San Juan's Hospital del Niño (Children's Hospital), in what company founder Elon Musk calls "the first of many solar+battery Tesla projects going live in Puerto Rico."

The project came about after Puerto Rico was hit by two devastating and powerful hurricanes in September, and Musk reached out about Tesla helping.

For years, Amazon has been testing the limits of online deliveries — expanding the number of things you can order at the click of a button (sometimes literally), pushing shipments to arrive faster, toying with delivery by drones.

When Floyd Conrade heard gunshots just above his Las Vegas hotel room the night of Oct. 1, one of his first reactions was to turn on a police scanner app on his phone. He wanted to know what was happening.

Police in Honolulu on Wednesday will begin writing tickets for people who get distracted by their cellphones while walking in a crosswalk. Honolulu is the first major city in the country to pass such a law, citing a high rate of pedestrians being hit in crosswalks.

"Starting today, texting while walking in a crosswalk can get you a ticket," Hawaii Public Radio's Bill Dorman reports for our Newscast unit. "In fact, a downward glance at a screen of any kind will cost you — a phone, a tablet, a video game."

Updated Oct. 25 at 1:42 p.m. EDT

Twitter has promised more disclosure about its advertisements as members of Congress put the big social networks under a microscope in investigating Russian interference in U.S. politics.

The San Francisco-based microblogging service said Tuesday that it plans to unveil an "industry-leading transparency center" through which it will "offer everyone visibility into who is advertising on Twitter, details behind those ads" and tools through which users can respond.

There's a genetic technology that scientists are eager to apply to food, touting its possibilities for things like mushrooms that don't brown and pigs that are resistant to deadly diseases.

And food industry groups, still reeling from widespread protests against genetically engineered corn and soybeans (aka GMOs) that have made it difficult to get genetically engineered food to grocery store shelves, are looking to influence public opinion.

SecureDrop, a tool used by dozens of news organizations to receive anonymous news tips through an encrypted platform, has announced its system contained a "vulnerability" that dates back to 2015. The flaw would have been extremely difficult to exploit, and there is no evidence that any organization's server was compromised.

In 2005, shortly after earning a master's degree in electrical and computer engineering, Sam Cape was looking for work online when he came across a cryptic help wanted ad.

At his interview, he was shown something that blew his mind. Cape says it looked like film but was three-dimensional and appeared to be moving. It was in fact a prototype of a micro-optics technology he would go on to refine as the director of research and development for Massachusetts-based Crane Currency.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

When the drinking water in Flint, Mich., became contaminated with lead, causing a major public health crisis, 11-year-old Gitanjali Rao took notice.

Having police officers wear little cameras seems to have no discernible impact on citizen complaints or officers' use of force, at least in the nation's capital.

That's the conclusion of a study performed as Washington, D.C., rolled out its huge camera program. The city has one of the largest forces in the country, with some 2,600 officers now wearing cameras on their collars or shirts.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

It's not your imagination: Tiny tots are spending dramatically more time with tiny screens.

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, just released new numbers on media use by children 8 and under. The nationally representative parent survey found that 98 percent of homes with children now have a mobile device such as a tablet or smartphone.

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