UN urges moratorium on AI tech that threatens rights
The UN yesterday called for a moratorium on artificial intelligence systems like facial recognition technology that threaten human rights until "guardrails" are in place against violations. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called for assessments of how great a risk various AI technologies pose to things like rights to privacy and freedom of movement and of expression. She said countries should ban or heavily regulate the ones that pose the greatest threats. But while such assessments are under way, she said that "states should place moratoriums on the use of potentially high-risk technology".
US gen secretly called China doubting Trump's sanity: book
The top US general was so worried in early January that Donald Trump was out of control that he took secret action to prevent the outgoing president from sparking a war with China, according to a new book. Joint Chiefs Chair General Mark Milley ordered aides to not act immediately on any move by Trump to use US nuclear forces, and he called a Chinese general to reassure Beijing, presidential chronicler Bob Woodward and co-author Robert Costa wrote in their soon-to-be-released book "Peril". Milley called Chinese counterpart General Li Zuocheng twice, on October 30 just before Trump's election defeat, and on January 8, two days after Trump supporters attacked the US Capitol, to reassure him that the Republican president's anti-China rhetoric could not translate into military action. "Peril" will go on sale on September 21.
Californians vote to keep Democratic governor
Californians voted overwhelmingly to keep their Democratic governor Tuesday, roundly rejecting a Republican attempt to unseat him in a special recall vote spurred by mask mandates and Covid lockdowns. Gavin Newsom handily survived a confidence vote that could have seen him replaced by a Republican with only minority support in one of the most liberal parts of the United States. With more than 60 percent of the votes tallied, NBC, CNN and Fox News said Newsom was set to prevail, with two thirds voting against the effort. Newsom acted quickly as the pandemic took hold of California, ordering people to stay home and shuttering schools, in moves praised by scientists. But entrepreneurs blamed him for suffocating their businesses.
Sri Lanka prison minister quits after gun-toting claims
Sri Lanka's prisons minister stepped down yesterday over allegations he tried to force a confession from a Tamil inmate at gunpoint, and drunkenly threatened to execute others. The controversy raged as the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva urged Sri Lanka to either prosecute or release 78 Tamils incarcerated for decades without being charged -- some of whom were involved in the incidents. Ratwatte allegedly made the threats at Anurdhapura prison, north of Colombo, on Sunday. Pro-government outlet Derana TV reported the junir minister took eight inmates out of their cell and made them kneel before him and then he placed his pistol on an inmate's head thrice and threatened him.