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Guns Could Not Silence The Romantic Voice Of The African Night

There can be few radio stations in the world, which have broadcast for 10 days at gunpoint; few stations come back to life after 35 years—fewer still would return with the same people on air. This is the story of Africa’s first commercial station, LM Radio of Mozambique.

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Nostalgia is a thing of the future as far as one of the newest old radio stations in Africa is concerned. The breezy sound of LM Radio in Mozambique is back with a vengeance, with plans to broadcast across the whole of Southern Africa.

LM Radio was about the dream as much as the sound. Hopeful songs of love and laughter from LM, Lourenco Marques—as Maputo was known in those days—the city of palm trees, prawns, piri piri, sunshine and sand. The Monte Carlo of Southern Africa where smart yellow taxis ferried holidaymakers through the wide pristine streets of the city to the aroma of ground coffee and fresh bread.

This was the Mozambique of the 1960s and 70s where LM Radio made its name. There is a generation of boardroom executives in Southern Africa who grew up listening to LM Radio, under the bed sheets or in a boarding school dormitory. LM Radio had that allure of the underground as it played records the national broadcasters of neighboring countries refused to touch. Out of the African night came the sound of the Beatles—banned in South Africa after John Lennon said they were bigger than Jesus—The Who, Herman’s Hermits, Pink Floyd with a sprinkling of home-grown pop. Many who were youngsters in that era can’t remember exactly what the national broadcasters were playing, but recall it was difficult to dance to.

Gerry Wilmot with a shrivelled orange in the wake of the seige

It was this frustration with the establishment that led to the birth of LM Radio in 1936. Advertising man, GJ McHarry, from Durban in South Africa, wanted to hear jazz on the radio. The South African Broadcasting Corporation refused to touch it, so McHarry headed north to set up a station at Radio Clube de Moçambique.

The new station hosted big band music and variety shows before studio audiences. It brought the sparkle of tinsel town, with Latin dash, into the dowdy farms, barrack rooms and mining camps of Southern Africa. It prospered in the 1950s and became hip in the 1960s and 70s. Heavens, even young Cliff Richard paid a visit to the station that played his records. By 1969, it was estimated nearly nine million people, in South Africa alone, were tuning in.

A symbol of its success was that, in 1972, the SABC bought LM Radio for a massive R60 million—a fortune back then. The National Party government was twitchy about independent radio stations broadcasting from outside South Africa’s borders. The station struggled on through the turmoil of Mozambique’s painful independence before it closed on October 12, 1975 with a simple announcement on air saying: “For us it has been 39 happy years.”  The new government in Mozambique took over the station to air educational broadcasts.

Fast forward to September 21, 2010 and radio engineer, Chris Turner, and his team were putting the finishing touches to a radio transmitter fixed to the top of a 10-story concrete block in Maputo, ahead of the first full broadcast of the revived LM Radio.

The tiny studio was also in the tower block, but has since moved to small offices in the basement of Hotel Cardoso.

“The lifts in the tower block didn’t work very well,” says Turner.

LM Radio is Turner’s dream and radio is his life. He grew up in Cape Town with one ear fixed to the radio and was an avid fan of LM Radio.

“They played Elvis, the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones and you didn’t hear it anywhere else. Everyone in my age group has a memory,” he says.

Turner started a pirate radio station from his bedroom by the time he was 12. The police came to his home and closed down the station three times, but that didn’t deter Turner who grew up to train as a radio engineer.

To follow his dream, Turner and his wife sold property to raise the $3 million capital to open the station. It wasn’t easy; there were hours spent poring over Mozambique’s often pedantic bureaucracy.

The reward was that LM Radio is expected to break even in its first year, ahead of forecasts. The target is to achieve R12 million ($1.5 million) turnover in five years. It is taking advertising from South African supermarket chains to corner shops.

“We are about quarter of the way there,” smiles Turner.

LM Radio is banking on a large English-speaking population in Mozambique, largely South Africans; plus it broadcasts on medium wave in Lesotho, the Free State and in Johannesburg through community station Radio 2000. The station claims between 55,000 and 75,000 listeners a week, with a target of 125,000. Turner plans to apply to broadcast in Zimbabwe and Zambia, followed by the rest of Southern Africa where he thinks there is an even bigger pool of people who want to listen to Elton John and Abba.

“I think there is something in the music of the 1970s. It is feel good music, happy music. A lot of people write and tell us that our music lifts them up,” says Turner.

When LM Radio was reborn, in keeping with the theme of the station, there were blasts from the past. DJs, who were veterans of the original station, went back on air as if it where yesterday, rather than the last century, that they signed off. Reg de Beer, a veteran presenter who died in January, came back as did Nick Megens, a Dutch national, who had got into broadcasting at Radio Clube while working at his father’s company in Maputo.

Megens, who lives in Johannesburg, survived one of the most fraught chapters in the LM Radio story. It all began one spring morning with a frantic phone call from station manager, Gerry Wilmot, telling him to come into Radio Clube as soon as possible.

Megens was living on Catembe Island, just off the coast, and took the ferry over to Maputo. As he jumped into a taxi he knew this was no ordinary day as thousands of people running in panic through the streets of the capital buffeted the vehicle. This was September 7, 1974. I Shot the Sheriff by Eric Clapton was number one on the day Portugal signed the Lusaka Accord handing the liberation movement, FRELIMO, control of Mozambique within a year. It was a shock to many of the white Portuguese after more than four centuries of colonial rule.

“People were giving away the keys of their houses on the streets and later that day I saw people at the airport, holding one suitcase, weeping,” says Megens.

When Megens got to Radio Clube he found it bristling with guns. Armed white militia had taken over the radio station because they feared the Portuguese, or FRELIMO, may use it for propaganda. The show went on; for 10 days Megens broadcast with a couple of gun-toting militia men at his back.

“All I could think of was, ‘what happens if one of these guys goes to sleep and his gun goes off, the bullets are going to fly around the room?’”

The militia brought in supplies to their prisoners on air. The only problem was that it was just oranges and cigarettes and Megens didn’t smoke. His stomach rumbled while cartons of cigarettes piled up against his wall. Station manager, Wilmot, demanded the newspaper photograph him holding a shriveled orange in protest.

When the Portuguese Army ended the occupation by storming the radio station they lobbed in a couple of hand grenades.

“It is not a nice sound,” says Megens.

Nearly 40 years on, LM Radio is a nice sound and that is maybe why it has overcome closure, political chaos, civil war and scores of desperate men with guns.

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Facebook Is Still Leaking Data More Than One Year After Cambridge Analytica

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Facebook said late Tuesday that roughly 100 developers may have improperly accessed user data, which includes the names and profile pictures of individuals in certain Facebook Groups.

The company explained in a blog post that developers primarily of social media management and video-streaming apps retained the ability to access Facebook Group member information longer than the company intended.

The company did not detail the type of data that was improperly accessed beyond names and photos, and it did not disclose the number of users affected by the leak.

Facebook restricted its developer APIs—which provide a way for apps to interface with Facebook data—in April 2018, after the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke the month before. The goal was to reduce the way in which developers could gather large swaths of data from Facebook users.

But the company’s sweeping changes have been relatively ineffective. More than a year after the company restricted API access, the company continues to announce newly discovered data leaks.

“Although we’ve seen no evidence of abuse, we will ask them to delete any member data they may have retained and we will conduct audits to confirm that it has been deleted,” Facebook said in a statement.

The social media giant says in its announcement that it reached out to 100 developer partners who may have improperly accessed user data and says that at least 11 developer partners accessed the user data within the last 60 days.

Facebook has been reviewing the ways that companies are able to collect information and personal data about its users since the New York Times reported that political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica harvested data of millions of users. Facebook later said the firm connected to the Trump campaign may have improperly accessed data on 87 million users.

The Federal Trade Commission slapped Facebook with a $5 billion fine as a result of the breach. As part of the 20-year agreement both parties reached, Facebook now faces new guidelines for how it handles privacy leaks.

“The new framework under our agreement with the FTC means more accountability and transparency into how we build and maintain products,” Facebook’s director of platform partnerships, Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, wrote in a Facebook post.

“As we work through this process we expect to find examples like the Groups API of where we can improve; rest assured we are committed to this work and supporting the people on our platform.”

Michael Nuñez

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How A BlackBerry Wiretap Helped Crack A Multimillion-Dollar Cocaine Cartel

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On August 18, 2017, four men travelling in a dual-engine speedboat carrying 1,590 pounds of cocaine were intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard northwest of the Galapagos Islands.

The federal agents manning the channel chose to launch a helicopter to hover over the boat. With this aggressive move, the men began to jettison the bales of coke, each with their own GPS tracker so they could be picked up at a later date, according to the government’s narrative. They attempted to flee, and when they ignored the warning shots from the helicopter, the chopper fired rounds directly at the boat, disabling it.

After the bales were collected, the government realized they had just stopped a huge amount of cocaine from entering the U.S. In total, it carried a street value of $25 million. The four men, all Ecuadorians, were swiftly arrested and charged.

Though the cartel had set up a sophisticated, multilayered operation that sought to slip coke into the country and up to Ohio via land, air and sea, they had made a crucial error: They used BlackBerry phones. As the drug barons chatted about shifting cocaine and how to avoid the narcs over BlackBerry Messenger, a wiretap on a server in Texas was quietly collecting all their communications.

In a case that’s Narcos meets The Wire, federal agents have, since June 2017, been listening in on that server. And beyond that interception, Forbes can exclusively reveal it is yielding results. On Friday, an Ohio court is unsealing charges against one of the crew’s top brass: Francisco Golon-Valenzuela, 40.

Known as El Toro, Spanish for The Bull, the Guatemalan was extradited from Panama earlier this week and is appearing before a magistrate judge today. (Forbes hasn’t yet made contact with his counsel for a response but will update if comment is forthcoming.)

Described as one of various organizers and leaders of the unnamed cartel, El Toro is charged with conspiring to distribute at least 5 kilograms or more of cocaine on the high seas. As a result, he’s facing between 10 years and life in prison.

A key to BlackBerry 

For any organized crime operation, BlackBerry has always been a poor choice. No longer extant since being decommissioned in spring this year, BlackBerry Messenger did encrypt messages, but the Canadian manufacturer of the once-ubiquitous smartphone had the key. And all messages went through a BlackBerry-owned server. If law enforcement could legally compel BlackBerry to hand over that key, they would get all the plain-text messages previously garbled into gibberish with that key.

Compare this to genuine, end-to-end encrypted messaging apps like WhatsApp or Signal; they create keys on the phone itself and the device owner controls them. To spy on those messages, governments either have to hack a target device or have physical access to the phone. Both are tricky to do, especially for investigations of multinational criminal outfits. Police can put a kind of tap on a WhatsApp server, known as a pen register.

This will tell them what numbers have called or messaged one another, and at what date and time, but won’t provide any message content. This makes those apps considerably more attractive to privacy-conscious folk than those where the developer holds the keys, though sometimes to the chagrin of law enforcement.

It’s unclear how or when the DEA got access to the BlackBerry server. A so-called Title III order was issued, granting them court approval to carry out the wiretap, though that remains under seal.

It proved vital to the investigation. “There would be no case without the without the Title III on BlackBerry Messenger,” said Dave DeVillers, who was recently nominated as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio. “The defendants, the seizures, the conspiracy were all identified with the Title III.”

A spokesperson for BlackBerry said: “We do not speculate or comment upon individual matters of lawful access.” The company has, however, previously made its stance on encryption public: Unlike other major tech providers like Apple or Google, BlackBerry will hand over the keys if it’s served with a legitimate law enforcement request.

If the police did receive a key from BlackBerry, it wouldn’t be the first time. Back in 2016, it emerged that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) had decrypted more than one million BlackBerry messages as part of a homicide investigation dating back to 2010.

As per reports from that time, it’s possible to use one of BlackBerry’s keys to unlock not just one device’s messages, but those on other phones too. Forbes asked the DOJ whether investigators would’ve been able to access other, innocent people’s BlackBerry messages as part of this wiretap, but hadn’t received a response at the time of publication.

Fishermen and spies

However those BlackBerry messages were intercepted, they helped illuminate a dark criminal conspiracy constructed of myriad parts. As revealed in today’s indictment, made known to Forbes ahead of publication, the gang employed “load coordinators.” Think of them as project managers, helping locate drivers for trucks and boats while finding people to invest in the cocaine.

Fishermen and other maritime workers were also allegedly recruited. They would help both in refueling the drug baron’s ships, but also helping transport the powder, prosecutors said.

Other individuals became ad hoc spies, sharing information on the activities and locations of police and military personnel trying to intercept shipments, according to the government’s allegations. Other coconspirators sheltered individuals who were at risk of extradition—not that it saved El Toro.

Forbes first became aware of the investigation in 2017, when a search warrant detailed various BlackBerry intercepts. In one, a pair of cartel employees discussed having to put some cocaine transports on hold because of a multinational maritime exercise—the Unitas Pacifico 2017—taking place in their shipment lanes, according to the warrant. BlackBerry wasn’t the only major tech provider to help on the case; That search warrant was for a Google account linked to one of the suspects, which investigators believe was used for further logistics.

The investigation has revealed that the 2017 seizure wasn’t the only time the cops had disrupted what was evidently a criminal enterprise worth hundreds of millions. In May 2016, long before the BlackBerry wiretap went up and the investigation into the cartel had begun in earnest, U.S. authorities intercepted 1,940 pounds of coke near the Guatemalan-Mexico border, worth another $30 million.

Despite such successes, DeVillers told Forbes the American government will never interdict its way to ending the drug trade. “We can only disrupt it,” he added. “And if we turn the tools used by the cartels to run their organization against them, we do just that.”

-Thomas Brewster; Forbes

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How Virtual Therapy Apps Are Trying To Disrupt The Mental Health Industry

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Millions of Americans deal with mental illness each year, and more than half of them go untreated. As the mental health industry has grown in recent years, so has the number of tech startups offering virtual therapy, which range from online and app-based chatbots to video therapy sessions and messaging. 

Still a nascent industry, with most startups in the early seed-stage funding round, these companies say they aim to increase access to qualified mental health care providers and reduce the social stigma that comes with seeking help. 

While the efficacy of virtual therapy, compared with traditional in-person therapy, is still being hotly debated, its popularity is undeniable. Its most recognizable pioneers, BetterHelp and TalkSpace, have enrolled nearly 700,000 and more than 1 million users respectively. And investors are taking notice.

Funding for mental health tech startups has boomed in the past few years, jumping from roughly $100 million in 2014 to more than $500 million in 2018, according to Pitchbook. In May of this year, the subscription-based online therapy platform Talkspace raised an additional $50 million, bringing its total funding to just under $110 million since its 2012 inception.

The ubiquity of smartphones, coupled with the lessening of the stigma associated with mental health treatment have played a large role in the growing demand for virtual therapy. Of the various services offered on the Talkspace platform, “clients by far want asynchronous text messaging,” says Neil Leibowitz, the company’s chief medical officer.

Users seem to prefer back-and-forth messaging that isn’t restricted to a narrow window of time over face-to-face interactions. At BetterHelp, founder Alon Matas notes that older users are more likely to go for phone and video therapy sessions, whereas younger users favor text messaging.

“Each generation is getting progressively more mobile-native,” says John Prendergass, an associate director at Ben Franklin Technology Partners’ healthcare investment group, “so I think we’re going to see people become increasingly more accustomed, or predisposed, to a higher level of comfort in seeking care online.”

The ease and convenience of virtual therapy is another draw, particularly for busy people or those who live in rural areas with limited access to therapy and a range of care options.

Alison Darcy, founder and CEO of Woebot, a free automated chatbot that uses artificial intelligence to provide therapeutic services without the direct involvement of humans, says that with Woebot and other similar services, there is no need to schedule appointments weeks in advance and users can receive real-time coaching at the moment they need it, unlike traditional therapy. The sense of anonymity online can also lead to more openness and transparency and attracts people who normally wouldn’t seek therapy.

Along with stigma, the cost of therapy has historically acted as a barrier to accessing quality mental-health care. Health insurance is often unlikely to cover therapy sessions. In most cities, sessions run about $75 to $150 each, and can go as high as $200 or more in places like New York City. Web therapists don’t have to bear the expense of brick-and-mortar offices, filing paperwork or marketing their services, and these savings can be passed on to clients. 

BetterHelp offers a $200-a-month membership that includes weekly live sessions with a therapist and unlimited messaging in between, while Talkspace’s cheapest monthly subscription at $260-a-month, offers unlimited text, video and audio messaging.

But virtual therapy, particularly text-based therapy, is not suitable for everyone. Nor is it likely to make traditional therapy obsolete. “Online therapy isn’t good for people who have severe mental and relational health issues, or any kind of psychosis, deep depression or violence,” says Christiana Awosan, a licensed marriage and family therapist. 

At her New York and New Jersey offices, she works predominantly with black clients, a population that she says prefers face-to-face meetings. “This community is wary of mental health in general because of structural discrimination,” Awosan says. “They pay attention to nonverbal cues and so they need to first build trust in-person.”  

Virtual therapy apps can still be beneficial for people with low-level anxiety, stress or insomnia, and they can also help users become aware of harmful behaviors and obtain a higher sense of well-being. 

Sean Luo, a psychiatrist whose consultancy work focuses on machine learning techniques in mental health technology, says: “This why some of these companies are getting very high valuations. There are a lot of commercialization possibilities.” He adds that from a mental health treatment perspective, a virtual therapy app “isn’t going to solve your problems, because people who are truly ill will by definition require a lot more.”

Relying on digital therapy platforms might also provide a false sense of security for users who actually need more serious mental-health care, and many of these apps are ill-equipped to deal with emergencies like suicide, drug overdoses or the medical consequences of psychiatric illness. “The level of intervention simply isn’t strong enough,” says Luo, “and so these aspects still need to be evaluated by a trained professional.

Ruth Umoh, Diversity and Inclusion Writer, Forbes Staff.

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