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Technology

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Amazon is offering customers refunds for unauthorized charges their children have incurred playing games from the company's Appstore.

The move comes nearly three years after the Federal Trade Commission sued Amazon in federal court over in-game charges that shocked unsuspecting parents.

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Call Me: Why Backchannels Matter

May 31, 2017

Backchannels, or secret lines of communication, are often used by the White House as diplomatic tools. But they’re also a way around intelligence agencies, which raises questions about why White House adviser (and President Trump’s son-in-law) Jared Kushner attempted to create a backchannel with Russia before Trump transitioned into office. Trump himself has also reportedly offered up his personal cell phone number to world leaders. What are the national security concerns around private communications with other countries?

GUESTS

Some call it “the First Amendment of the internet”: keep all data flowing free, and fast. The head of the Federal Communications Commission says the Obama-era rules need to change so business isn’t harmed.

Howard Scott Warshaw has had many gigs over the years, but perhaps his most notable achievement was also a spectacular failure:

"I did the E.T. video game, the game that is widely held to be the worst video game of all time," he says.

The war in Syria is a conflict of the social media age. Everyone — the rebels, the government, ordinary citizens, everyone — has a cellphone.

And that means almost no bad deed goes unrecorded by someone.

For families spread out across the country, videos and video chats have become a meaningful way to share a baby's first steps, a birthday party or a loved one blowing a kiss.

But for people in prison, rules limiting access to the Internet and cameras can make sharing these moments difficult. In Colorado Springs, an artist came up with a creative solution.

Like many proud parents, Nicole Garrens captured her son Zander's first steps on her cellphone. She wanted to share the video with her husband, Roy, but he recently went to prison in Texas.

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An IT meltdown at British Airways this weekend left about 75,000 passengers stranded and CEO Alex Cruz having to say I'm sorry.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

Tomas Villegas was looking for information about a product on YouTube, but couldn't find it. "So I thought, well, I'm sure there's other people looking for it. So I made a video."

Four years later, Villegas, who works at a technical college, has a side business doing product reviews on his YouTube channel. He found that adding a little music really improved his videos.

"It just adds that third dimension that is missing sometimes," he says.

It was a rough holiday weekend for British Airways.

Beginning Saturday, an incident the airline is describing as a "major IT systems failure" brought its operations to a grinding halt in the U.K. Thousands of passengers were stranded at the country's two major hubs in London — Heathrow and Gatwick — as flights were canceled, flyers endured long lines and bags became separated from their owners.

Receiving a diagnosis in 2017 — at least one made at a medical center outfitted with the latest clinical gadgetry — might include a scan that divides your body into a bread loaf of high-resolution digital slices. Your DNA might be fed through a gene sequencer that spits out your mortal code in a matter of hours. Even your smartphone might soon be used to uncover health problems.

On a Saturday afternoon, 10 students gather at Genspace, a community lab in Brooklyn, to learn how to edit genes.

There's a recent graduate with a master's in plant biology, a high school student who started a synthetic biology club, a medical student, an eighth grader, and someone who works in pharmaceutical advertising.

"This is so cool to learn about; I hadn't studied biology since like ninth grade," says Ruthie Nachmany, one of the class participants. She had studied anthropology, visual arts, and environmental studies in college, but is now a software engineer.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

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

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Many of us learned about the Manchester attack by looking at our phones. We got news alerts, saw videos posted to Facebook and tweets on Twitter. Perhaps you even sent a few of your own. But that might not be the best thing to do.

Harvard dropout Mark Zuckerberg returned to the university Thursday to give graduates a commencement address, filled with calls for building a connected world "where every single person has a sense of purpose."

Sure, it's not the singularity (yet) — but it is a rather singular achievement.

Computer Wins Again In Chinese Game Of Go

May 25, 2017

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OK, Steve, time for a very quick story.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

All right.

MARTIN: Ready, set, go.

Sleek, high-tech wristbands are extremely popular these days, promising to measure heart rate, steps taken during the day, sleep, calories burned and even stress.

"It's so heartbreaking because so many little ones attend our shows ... I just keep thinking about them," Ariana Grande's drummer wrote on Tuesday.

In the first of three matches with the world's No. 1 Go player, a Google artificial intelligence program claimed victory Tuesday. It won the round by just a fraction of a point in Wuzhen, China, but the win was enough to leave its grandmaster opponent impressed and thoroughly confounded by the result.

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of the man who invented recorded sound — Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville. He beat the more well-known inventor Thomas Edison by 20 years, though his accomplishments were only recognized over the last decade.

While the uses of recorded sound seem obvious now — music, news, voice messages — none of it was obvious to Scott or Edison when they made the first recordings. It's a story that has some lessons for today's aspiring inventors.

The ransomware attack on worldwide computer networks earlier this month largely spared those of the federal government. While the government dodged a bullet this time, experts say, its systems are still vulnerable — although perhaps less so than in the past.

When the global malware attack — dubbed "WannaCry" — was first detected, a government cybersecurity response group moved quickly.

Building a better battery is the holy grail for people who want better technology. Now researchers at the University of Texas, Austin say they may have found that battery — or something close. But their claims have sparked controversy.

At the center of this debate is a towering figure in the world of science — John Goodenough, who teaches material science at the university.

A new social network has grown quietly in recent months. It's called Gab, and its users are invited to #SpeakFreely — an appeal attractive to many members of the far right and others who feel their views are stifled by mainstream sites like Twitter and Facebook.

Everything was missing. Client files, financial data — all gone one Wednesday morning from the servers of Cancer Services of East Central Indiana — Little Red Door.

The small, Muncie-based nonprofit had been hit by a cyberattack like those that locked computers around the world last week.

The organization was hacked in January and, months later, is still recovering.

Executive Director Aimee Robertson-Fant says the group couldn't figure out what happened to its data when it went missing from the server.

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

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Google offered a glimpse of how it sees the future at its annual developer's conference this week. And it involves a lot of blending between the virtual and the real worlds using augmented and virtual reality. Google is calling that blend immersive computing.

Clay Bavor, who heads up Google's AR and VR division, says it's all part of a future where the virtual and real worlds blur.

The list of things that can be created with 3-D printers keeps getting longer: jewelry, art, guns, food, medical devices and, now, mouse ovaries.

Scientists have used a 3-D printer to create a mouse ovary capable of producing healthy offspring. And researchers hope to create replacement human ovaries the same way someday.

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

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The Federal Communications Commission has officially begun to undo Obama-era regulations on Internet service providers, often called net neutrality rules. The rules, passed in 2015, had placed cable and telecom companies under the strictest-ever oversight of the agency.

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