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Was Artificial Intelligence drone deployed to kill in Libya?



Print this page Africa Possible First Use of AI-Armed Drones Triggers Alarm Bells By Jamie Dettmer June 07, 2021 09:12 AM A Turkish-made Kargu drone is seen in an illustration photo. A Turkish-made Kargu drone is seen in an illustration photo

Print this page Africa Possible First Use of AI-Armed Drones Triggers Alarm Bells By Jamie Dettmer June 07, 2021 09:12 AM A Turkish-made Kargu drone is seen in an illustration photo. A Turkish-made Kargu drone is seen in an illustration photo

Western military experts are assessing whether an autonomous drone operated by artificial intelligence, or AI, killed people — in Libya last year — for the first time without a human controller directing it remotely to do so.

A report by a United Nations panel of experts issued last week that concluded an advanced drone deployed in Libya “hunted down and remotely engaged” soldiers fighting for Libyan general Khalifa Haftar has prompted a frenetic debate among Western security officials and analysts.

Governments at the United Nations have been debating for months whether a global pact should be agreed on the use of armed drones, autonomous and otherwise, and what restrictions should be placed on them. The U.N.’s Libya report is adding urgency to the debate. Drone advances have “a lot of implications regionally and globally,” says Ziya Meral of the Britain’s Royal United Services Institute, a defense think tank.

“It is time to assess where things are with Turkish drones and advanced warfare technology and what this means for the region and what it means for NATO,” he said at a RUSI-hosted event in London.

According to the U.N. report, Turkish-made Kargu-2 lethal autonomous aircraft launched so-called swarm attacks, likely on behalf of Libya’s Government of National Accord, against the warlord Haftar’s militias in March last year, marking the first time AI-equipped drones accomplished a successful attack. Remnants of a Kargu-2 were recovered later.

The use of autonomous drones that do not require human operators to guide them remotely once they have been programmed is opposed by many human rights organizations. There were rumors that Turkish-supplied AI drones, alongside remote-guided ones, were used last year by Azerbaijani forces in their clashes with Armenia in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh and its surrounding territories.

Myriad of dilemmas

If AI drones did launch lethal swarm attacks it would mark a “new chapter in autonomous weapons,” worries the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Critics of AI drones, which can use facial-recognition technology, say they raise a number of moral, ethical and legal dilemmas.

“These types of weapons operate on software-based algorithms ‘taught’ through large training datasets to, for example, classify various objects. Computer vision programs can be trained to identify school buses, tractors, and tanks. But the datasets they train on may not be sufficiently complex or robust, and an artificial intelligence (AI) may ‘learn’ the wrong lesson,” the non-profit Bulletin warns.

The manufacturer of the Kargu-2, Defense Technologies and Trade (STM), told Turkish media last year that their drones are equipped with facial-recognition technology, allowing individual targets to be identified and neutralized without having to deploy ground forces. And company executives say Kargu-2 drones can swarm together overwhelming defenses.

Last month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lauded the success of Turkish unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), saying the results they had produced “require war strategies to be rewritten.” Turkey has deployed them in military operations in northern Syria, Turkish officials have acknowledged.

Speaking at a parliamentary meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ankara, Erdogan said Turkey plans to go further and is aiming to be among the first countries to develop an AI-managed warplane. Recently the chief technology officer of Baykar, a major Turkish drone manufacturer, announced the company had slated 2023 for the maiden flight of its prototype unmanned fighter jet.

‘A significant player’

Sanctions and embargoes on Turkey in recent years have been a major driving force behind Ankara pressing ahead to develop a new generation of unconventional weapons, says Ulrike Franke of the European Council for Foreign Relations.

“Turkey has become a significant player in the global drone market,” she said at the RUSI event. When it comes to armed drones, she noted, there are four states dominating drone development — the U.S., Israel, China and Turkey. The latter pair, the “new kids on the block,” are driving drone proliferation because unlike the U.S. they are not reticent about export sales, she said.

“Turkey has shown that a mid-sized power, when it puts its mind and money behind it, can develop very sophisticated armed drones,” says Franke.

Last October when the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh saw the worst fighting there since 1994, Turkish drones were assessed as having given Azerbaijan a key edge over the Armenians. Turkish drones sliced through Armenia’s air defenses and pummeled its Russian-made tanks.

Analysts calculate around 90 countries have military drones for reconnaissance and intelligence missions and at least a dozen states have armed drones. Britain is believed to have ten; Turkey around 140. The U.S. air force has around 300 Reaper drones alone. The deployment of armed drones to conduct targeted killings outside formal war zones has been highly contentious. But AI drone development is adding to global alarm.

“With more and more countries acquiring armed drones, there is a risk that the controversies surrounding how drones are used and the challenges these pose to international legal frameworks, as well as to democratic values such as transparency, accountability and the rule of law, could also increase,” Britain’s Chatham House noted in a research paper published in April.

“This is accentuated further, given that the use of drones continues to expand and to evolve in new ways, and in the absence of a distinct legal framework to regulate such use,” say the paper’s authors Jessica Dorsey and Nilza Amaral.

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New Zealand’s Hubbard selected as first transgender Olympian | LGBTQ News




Laurel Hubbard, 43, will compete in the super-heavyweight women’s event in Tokyo.

Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard will become the first transgender athlete to compete at the Olympics after being selected by New Zealand for the women’s event at the Tokyo Games, a decision set to test the ideal of fair competition in sport.

New Zealand Olympic Committee chief Kereyn Smith said 43-year-old Hubbard – who was assigned male at birth but transitioned to female in 2013 – had met all the qualification criteria for transgender athletes.

“We acknowledge that gender identity in sport is a highly sensitive and complex issue requiring a balance between human rights and fairness on the field of play,” Smith said in a statement.

Hubbard will compete in the super-heavyweight 87-kg category after showing testosterone levels below the threshold required by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The 43-year-old had competed in men’s weightlifting competitions before transitioning.

“I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders,” Hubbard, an intensely private person who rarely speaks to the media, said in a statement issued by the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) on Monday.

Hubbard has been eligible to compete at Olympics since 2015, when the IOC issued guidelines allowing any transgender athlete to compete as a woman provided their testosterone levels are below 10 nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months before their first competition.

Some scientists have said the guidelines do little to mitigate the biological advantages of people who have gone through puberty as males, including bone and muscle density.

Advocates for transgender inclusion argue the process of transition decreases that advantage considerably and that physical differences between athletes mean there is never a truly level playing field.

Save Women’s Sport Australasia, an advocacy group for women athletes, criticised Hubbard’s selection.

“It is flawed policy from the IOC that has allowed the selection of a 43-year-old biological male who identifies as a woman to compete in the female category,” the group said in a statement.

Weightlifting has been at the centre of the debate about the fairness of transgender athletes competing against women, and Hubbard’s presence in Tokyo could prove divisive.

Her gold medal wins at the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa, where she topped the podium ahead of Samoa’s Commonwealth Games champion Feagaiga Stowers, triggered outrage in the host nation.

Samoa’s weightlifting boss said Hubbard’s selection for Tokyo would be like letting athletes “dope” and feared it could cost the small Pacific nation a medal.

Belgian weightlifter Anna Vanbellinghen said last month allowing Hubbard to compete at Tokyo was unfair for women and “like a bad joke”.

Australia’s weightlifting federation sought to block Hubbard from competing at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast but organisers rejected the move.

Hubbard was forced to withdraw after injuring herself during competition, and thought her career was over.

“When I broke my arm at the Commonwealth Games three years ago, I was advised that my sporting career had likely reached its end,” Hubbard said on Monday, thanking New Zealanders.

“But your support, your encouragement, and your aroha (love) carried me through the darkness.”

Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand President Richie Patterson said Hubbard had worked hard to come back from the potentially career-ending injury.

“Laurel has shown grit and perseverance in her return from a significant injury and overcoming the challenges in building back confidence on the competition platform,” he said.

Hubbard is currently ranked 16th in the world in the super heavyweight category.

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Apple Daily could shut ‘in days’ after Hong Kong asset freeze | Freedom of the Press News




Company adviser says action under security law means it cannot access some $50 million in funds to pay staff and vendors.

Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily will be forced to shut “in a matter of days” after authorities used the national security law imposed by China to freeze the company’s assets as it arrested the paper’s editor and four other directors, an adviser to jailed tycoon Jimmy Lai told Reuters on Monday.

Mark Simon, speaking by phone from the United States, said the company was no longer able to access its funds and would be holding a board meeting on Monday to discuss how to move forward.

“We thought we’d be able to make it to the end of the month,” Simon told the news agency. “It’s just getting harder and harder. It’s essentially a matter of days.”

His comments signal closure is imminent even after Apple Daily said on Sunday the freezing of its assets had left the newspaper with cash for “a few weeks” for normal operations.”

The news comes two days after editor Ryan Law, 47, and chief executive Cheung Kim-hung, 59, were denied bail after being charged under the security law with collusion with foreign forces.

Apple Daily’s editor-in-chief Ryan Law arrives back at the detention centre after he was remanded in custody on Saturday [Lam Yik/Reuters]

Three other senior executives were also arrested last Thursday when 500 police officers raided the newspaper’s offices in a case that has drawn condemnation from Western nations, human rights groups and the chief United Nations spokesperson for human rights.

The three have been released on bail.

Simon told Reuters it had become impossible to conduct banking operations.

“Vendors tried to put money into our accounts and were rejected. We can’t bank. Some vendors tried to do that as a favour. We just wanted to find out and it was rejected,” he said.

Speaking earlier to US news channel CNN, Simon said the company had about $50 million available, but was unable to access the funds.

The publisher has come under increasing pressure since its owner Jimmy Lai was arrested under the national security law last August, which marked the first time the company’s headquarters was raided. Lai, 73, is now jailed and facing trial under the national security law. In May, the authorities also froze some assets belonging to the longtime critic of Beijing has also had some of his assets frozen.

Three companies related to Apple Daily are also being prosecuted for collusion with a foreign country and authorities have frozen HK$18 million ($2.3 million) of their assets.

China imposed the national security law on Hong Kong last June saying it was necessary to restore “stability” to a territory that had been rocked by mass protests in 2019, some of which turned violent.

The broadly-worded law criminalises acts such as subversion, sedition, collusion with foreign forces and secession with possible life imprisonment, but critics have said it is being used to suppress legitimate political debate with dozens of pro-democracy politicians and activists among the more than 100 arrested since it was brought into force.

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Birmingham Classic: Ons Jabeur beats Daria Kasatkina to win first title




Tunisian second seed Ons Jabeur defeated Russia’s Daria Kasatkina in straight sets to win her first singles title at the Birmingham Classic.

World number 24 Jabeur triumphed 7-5 6-4 against the fourth seed to become the first Arab woman to win a WTA title.

In Berlin, Russian qualifier Liudmila Samsonova stunned Swiss fifth seed Belinda Bencic to win her first title.

The 22-year-old world number 106 battled back from a set down to win 1-6 6-1 6-3 in her first final.

Victories for Jabeur and Samsonova mean there have now been 10 first-time singles winners on the women’s Tour this year.

Jabeur broke Kasatkina’s serve three times to prevail in the first set, before successive breaks at the start of the second put the 26-year-old in control at 4-0.

Two-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist Kasatkina recovered to 4-3, but Jabeur held on to win a singles final at the third attempt.

It was a breakthrough week for Samsonova in Germany, during which she also defeated seventh seed Victoria Azarenka of Belaurus in the semi-final.

World number 12 Bencic won the first five games as she dominated the opening set, but Samsonova matched that feat in the second before completing her comeback with breaks in the first and ninth games in the deciding set.

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