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Laura Sydell

Laura Sydell fell in love with the intimate storytelling qualities of radio, which combined her passion for theatre and writing with her addiction to news. Over her career she has covered politics, arts, media, religion, and entrepreneurship. Currently Sydell is the Digital Culture Correspondent for NPR's All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, and NPR.org.

Sydell's work focuses on the ways in which technology is transforming our culture and how we live. For example, she reported on robotic orchestras and independent musicians who find the Internet is a better friend than a record label as well as ways technology is changing human relationships.

Sydell has traveled through India and China to look at the impact of technology on developing nations. In China, she reported how American television programs like Lost broke past China's censors and found a devoted following among the emerging Chinese middle class. She found in India that cell phones are the computer of the masses.

Sydell teamed up with Alex Bloomberg of NPR's Planet Money team and reported on the impact of patent trolls on business and innovations particular to the tech world. The results were a series of pieces that appeared on This American Life and All Things Considered. The hour long program on This American Life "When Patents Attack! - Part 1," was honored with a Gerald Loeb Award and accolades from Investigative Reporters and Editors. A transcript of the entire show was included in The Best Business Writing of 2011 published by Columbia University Press.

Before joining NPR in 2003, Sydell served as a senior technology reporter for American Public Media's Marketplace, where her reporting focused on the human impact of new technologies and the personalities behind the Silicon Valley boom and bust.

Sydell is a proud native of New Jersey and prior to making a pilgrimage to California and taking up yoga she worked as a reporter for NPR Member Station WNYC in New York. Her reporting on race relations, city politics, and arts was honored with numerous awards from organizations such as The Newswomen's Club of New York, The New York Press Club, and The Society of Professional Journalists.

American Women in Radio and Television, The National Federation of Community Broadcasters, and Women in Communications have all honored Sydell for her long-form radio documentary work focused on individuals whose life experiences turned them into activists.

After finishing a one-year fellowship with the National Arts Journalism Program at Columbia University, Sydell came to San Francisco as a teaching fellow at the Graduate School of Journalism at University of California, Berkeley.

Sydell graduated Magna Cum Laude with a bachelor's degree from William Smith College in Geneva, New York, and earned a J.D. from Yeshiva University's Cardozo School of Law.

It's been lean times for some of YouTube's most popular video producers. In the last two weeks ad rates have gone down as much as 75 percent. The producers are caught up in a struggle between advertisers and YouTube over ad placement.

In recent weeks, reports showed ads from major brands placed with extremist and anti-Semitic videos. Companies such as General Motors, Audi and McDonald's pulled out of YouTube. That means there's less money for everyone.

Now YouTube is trying to convince these companies to come back. And that's meant adjusting the algorithm that places ads.

It's daunting to think about the number of products Apple has created that have transformed how most people use technology: the original Mac with the first mass-produced mouse, the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad.

But fast-forward to 2017, and it appears that a lot of innovation is coming from other companies. Amazon has a hit with its Echo, a speaker device that responds to voice commands. Reviewers say Microsoft's Surface competes with the Mac. And now, Samsung's Galaxy S8 smartphone is getting raves because of its battery life and high-end screen.

There's a new brand on the Internet that's taking over some old ones — or at least old in Internet years. Yahoo and AOL are now under an umbrella company called Oath. The new brand has sparked more than a few jokes on Twitter and elsewhere.

One critic pointed out it sounded a lot like Oaf — and another asked if "Oof" was already taken. But with more than a billion customers, the combination has potential.

AOL CEO — soon to be Oath CEO — Tim Armstrong says consumers aren't really going to hear that name very much.

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

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Donald Trump frequently boasts about starting a movement, and sociologists say they are seeing unprecedented grass-roots activism across the country. They credit Trump for inspiring people to become politically engaged on the right — and even more so on the left. And many of those activists are brand new to the scene.

There are renewed efforts at the state level to pass so-called religious freedom bills. LGBTQ rights advocates believe that's because local lawmakers are anticipating support from the Trump administration.

In Alabama, there's a bill that allows adoption agencies that are religiously affiliated to hold true to their faith if they don't think same-sex couples should be parents. The psychiatric community has found no evidence that having same-sex parents harms children.

It was a dramatic market entry for the iPhone 7 last year. Many Apple customers grumbled when Apple took away the headphone jack and gave everyone an adapter to plug earbuds into the Lightning, or charging, connector.

But everyone seems to have adjusted. Apple sold 78 million iPhones over the holiday season.

Alphabet, the parent company of Google, is among the tech firms that are critical of the Trump administration's executive order barring Muslim immigrants from certain countries. This weekend, Google co-founder Sergey Brin took part in protests at the San Francisco International Airport.

An article in an online publication accusing Facebook of suppressing the Women's March in its trending topics caused a little tempest on social media over the weekend. Facebook says it did not intentionally block any story and is revealing a new way its trending-topics algorithm will now operate.

Apple, the company known for its devices, has plans to start making original movies and television programming, Hollywood insiders tell NPR. Hollywood seems to be happy to have Apple enter the game, but some say the company will face some challenges.

When producer Sid Ganis first heard that Apple wanted to make TV and movies, "I thought to myself, 'What? And why?' "

Hundreds of thousands of Americans are now working as contractors for the rapidly growing ride-hailing industry, specifically for the largest companies, Uber and Lyft. But a new survey, released this week, finds that Lyft, with its fluorescent pink mustache symbol, is more popular with drivers.

Media coverage of tragedy — terrorist attacks, homelessness, the refugee crisis — can be so overwhelming it's numbing. Charities say it can also make it harder to get support.

Some are hoping a new form of media will be more persuasive — virtual reality or VR, which they think makes people more empathetic.

A lot of fake and misleading news stories were shared across social media during the election. One that got a lot of traffic had this headline: "FBI Agent Suspected In Hillary Email Leaks Found Dead In Apparent Murder-Suicide." The story is completely false, but it was shared on Facebook over half a million times.

Donald Trump took direct shots at some of the biggest tech companies during the presidential campaign. When Apple wouldn't help the FBI unlock a phone used by a terrorist, he suggested boycotting the company.

For decades, one company has pretty much had the monopoly on TV ratings: Nielsen. But, the way people watch TV is changing. A lot of fans are streaming shows from the Internet — not watching on cable TV.

Old-fashioned Nielsen ratings wouldn't show the habits of a family like Kevin Seal's.

Silicon Valley is a politically liberal place — and that is reflected in where people are sending their money this election season. Ninety-five percent of contributions from tech employees to the presidential campaigns have gone to Hillary Clinton, according to Crowdpac, a group that tracks political donations.

But one well-known outlier has caused a lot of friction in the Valley.

Nearly half of all American adults have been entered into law enforcement facial recognition databases, according to a recent report from Georgetown University's law school. But there are many problems with the accuracy of the technology that could have an impact on a lot of innocent people.

What happens when two human political journalists compete against a computer over which can do the best job predicting the issues that will dominate the news in the presidential election? Well, you are about to find out.

Despite having more than 300 million users, Twitter has struggled to make a profit and keep its investors happy. Yet, the service has arguably been good for public dialogues and news gathering.

So as Twitter considers a sale, maybe it's worth pondering the idea of Twitter getting out from under the pressures of Wall Street and turning itself into a nonprofit.

Twitter at crossroads

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

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Artificial intelligence is advancing rapidly, the ethics surrounding it are not. We are talking about an increasingly normal feature of life. When you talk with your smartphone or use Google Translate, you're using AI.

Republican lawmakers are accusing the Obama administration of allowing countries like Russia, China and Iran to take control over the Internet. Their beef with the administration focuses on a relatively obscure nonprofit overseen by the U.S. government that is scheduled to become fully independent Saturday.

The organization is called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN for short. Its history traces back to a graduate student at UCLA named Jon Postel.

Predictions are for psychics — and in this very unpredictable political season they might do a better job than the pundits. But what about a computer? I set out to see how well it could predict which controversies around the candidates were likely to re-emerge over the course of a month. And two human pundits have agreed to compete against the machine.

Meet the Contestants

The Computer

If you're like me, somewhere in your house you imagine there must be a pile of lost white iPhone earbuds. The pile is probably right next to the stack of single socks. It's one of several reasons I never liked wireless Bluetooth headphones. They're smaller and even easier to lose.

Cisco Systems is cutting its workforce by 5,500 employees to keep up with a rapidly changing tech sector that has less demand for the routers and switches that brought the company to prominence over 30 years ago. Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins is interested in making another kind of switch into different businesses such as security and online or cloud services.

Delta canceled about 530 flights on Tuesday in addition to about 1,000 canceled a day earlier after a power outage in Atlanta brought down the company's computers, grinding the airline's operation virtually to a halt.

Seth Kaplan, who follows the airline industry, asks the question on everyone's mind: "If every small business on the corner can manage to keep its website running through a cloud-based server and all those sorts of things, why can't Delta Air Lines with all its resources manage to do that?"

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