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Was the meeting of UN’s Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems cancelled to delay action affecting UK and US investment?

In 2015 Max Tegmark (professor, MITT) reported, in the Future of Life Institute, that Artificial Intelligence & Robotics researchers warned in an open letter:

“Autonomous weapons select and engage targets without human intervention. They might include, for example, armed quadcopters that can search for and eliminate people meeting certain pre-defined criteria, but do not include cruise missiles or remotely piloted drones for which humans make all targeting decisions. Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology has reached a point where the deployment of such systems is—practically if not legally—feasible within years, not decades, and the stakes are high: autonomous weapons have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms.”

Today (Aug. 21), Quartz reports that in a second open letter a group of specialists from 26 nations, including Tesla CEO Elon Musk and DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman, as well as other leaders in robotics and artificial-intelligence companies, called for the United Nations to ban the development and use of autonomous weapons.

In recent years Musk has repeatedly warned against the dangers of AI, donating millions to fund research that ensures artificial intelligence will be used for good, not evil. He joined other tech luminaries in establishing OpenAI, a nonprofit with the same goal in mind and part of his donation went to create the Future of Life Institute.

“As companies building the technologies in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics that may be repurposed to develop autonomous weapons, we feel especially responsible in raising this alarm. We warmly welcome the decision of the UN’s Conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) to establish a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems. Many of our researchers and engineers are eager to offer technical advice to your deliberations . . .

“Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend. These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways. We do not have long to act. Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close.”

The first meeting for the UN’s recently established Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems is now planned for November. It was to be held today, but was cancelled, the letter notes, “due to a small number of states failing to pay their financial contributions to the UN.”

Critics have argued for years that UN action on autonomous weapons is taking too long.

The UK and the US have increased investment on robotic and autonomous systems by committing to a joint programme (announced by UK Defence Minister Philip Dunne and US Under Secretary of Defense Frank Kendall, right).

Observers say the UK and US are seeking to protect their heavy investment in these technologies – some directly harmful and others servicing  military operations – by ‘watering down’ an agreement so that it only includes emerging technology, meaning that any weapons put into practice while discussions continue are beyond the reach of a ban.

 

 

 

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British politicians: stop shouting adjectives, banging drums and dropping bombs (Jenkins) and exert unrelenting international pressure for a negotiated settlement (Corbyn)

Paul Ingram, executive director of BASIC*, commented on Simon Jenkins’ statement quoted in today’s article on another website:

“It is a war crime to disable, maim or poison a victim by chemical or biological means, yet it is permissible to blow them to bits. Dropping chlorine evokes howls of horror. Dropping bunker busters does not. Cluster munitions, the most horrible of delayed action weapons, remain in the arsenals of NATO armies”.

Paul (left) wrote: “Fair enough, and of course I agree that the war mongering these last two days, particularly by the BBC, is shocking indeed. But to equate CW with other munitions is to miss the point that they are expressly illegal, and we have to be building up stronger humanitarian law piece by piece and defending strongly those pieces already in place”.

The editor replied: “Yes, I think Jenkins could have made a valid point just by referring to conventional bombs”. After checking on the illegality of cluster bombs she asked Paul, “Did US ever sign this?”

He replied, “No, I don’t think the US is a signatory. It certainly hasn’t ratified” and continued:

“I was on Russia Today yesterday saying that the best response for the Russians now would be to strengthen their call for a UN Security Council meeting and present all the evidence they have that the chemical weapons attack was not a Syrian air force one … or to come up with further evidence for their current explanation.

“The worst aspect of the cruise missile attack was the way it by-passed the UN Security Council and was illegal and is a major step in the direction of unilateralism and flagrant use of force.

“There are plenty of conspiracy theories going around, but the consequences are that Russia will no longer tolerate US aircraft over Syria and will strengthen the S300-400 systems that appear to have shot a majority of the 59 cruise missiles out of the sky.

“… and I see that Russia is sending its own missile destroyer into the Med today”.

 

 

Will parliament stand firm again?

*The British American Security Information Council (BASIC) works to address security challenges by building confidence in a shared, sustainable security agenda. We work in both nuclear weapon and non-nuclear weapon states, with a specific expert focus on the UK, US, Europe and the Middle East.

 

 

 

Secret State 17: will the unjustly exiled return to Diego Garcia?

A reader sends this link for the latest news of the islanders’ claim to be allowed to return to their homes.

chagos Deep Space Surveillance facility

Over forty years ago the Chagos islanders were removed to make way for a military base by the United States in 1971 (above). Under a secret deal with the British government, the US agreed to contribute to the costs of establishing a base on one of the islands, Diego Garcia and to provide support for the UK’s nuclear missile programme.

In 2000, the high court ruled that the Chagossians could return to 65 of the islands, but not to the main island of Diego Garcia, a coral atoll in the Indian Ocean,

The government won an appeal in the House of Lords, which ruled, in 2008, that the exiles could not return. Lawyers acting for the islanders claim that the law lords’decision relied heavily on a flawed 2002 feasibility study into resettlement. Read more here.

We learn that the supreme court will deliver a decision on Wednesday as to whether an earlier ruling by the House of Lords banning the Chagossians from living in their homeland was legal. If the decision is overturned it will pave the way for their return.

Will the British decision at last be consistent with natural law and public opinion or will the political-military alliance once again sideline morality with impunity?

 

 

American blue collar workers are angry (The Times); Martin Wolf adds a growing and widespread sense that ‘elites are corrupt, complacent and incompetent’

pinn blue collar workers

Today the Times interprets unusual polling results in the United States. Like many American media commentators, it predicts that “blue-collar workers who are worried about the effects of globalisation on American jobs promise to shape the November election”.

In the Financial Times, analyst/economist Martin Wolf expresses a belief that the ‘native working class’ are seduced by the siren song of politicians who combine the nativism of the hard right, the statism of the hard left and the authoritarianism of both.

’A plague on both your houses’?

He writes: “The projects of the rightwing elite have long been low marginal tax rates, liberal immigration, globalisation, curbs on costly “entitlement programmes”, deregulated labour markets and maximisation of shareholder value. The projects of the leftwing elite have been liberal immigration (again), multiculturalism, secularism, diversity, choice on abortion, and racial and gender equality . . . As a recent OECD note points out, inequality has risen substantially in most of its members in recent decades. The top 1% have enjoyed particularly large increases in shares of total pre-tax in­come”.

pinn church v state moral missionDavid Cameron responds to church leaders’ attacks by saying that the reforms are part of a moral mission

Wolf continues: “In the process, elites have become detached from domestic loyalties and concerns, forming instead a global super-elite. It is not hard to see why ordinary people, notably native-born men, are alienated. They are losers, at least relatively; they do not share equally in the gains. They feel used and abused. After the financial crisis and slow recovery in standards of living, they see elites as incompetent and predatory. The surprise is not that many are angry but that so many are not”.

Wolf sees the electorate turning to ‘outsiders’ to clean up the system in Britain, the US and many European countries and advises ‘the centre’ how to respond:

  • People need to feel their concerns will be taken into account, that they and their children enjoy the prospect of a better life and that they will continue to have a measure of economic security.
  • They need once again to trust the competence and decency of economic and political elites.
  • There must be a fundamental questioning of its austerity-oriented macroeconomic doctrines: real aggregate demand is substantially lower than in early 2008.
  • The financial sector needs to be curbed. It is ever clearer that the vast expansion of financial activity has not brought commensurate improvements in economic performance. But it has facilitated an immense transfer of wealth.
  • Taxation must be made fairer. Owners of capital, the most successful managers of capital and some dominant companies enjoy remarkably lightly taxed gains.
  • The doctrine of shareholder primacy needs to be challenged. With their risks capped, their control rights should be practically curbed in favour of those more exposed to the risks in the company, such as long-serving employees.
  • And, finally, the role of money in politics needs to be securely contained.

Wolf concludes pragmatically: “western polities are subject to increasing stresses. Large numbers of the people feel disrespected and dispossessed. This can no longer be ignored”.

Self interest rules OK! The threat to the status quo is paramount – the ethical dimension totally ignored.

US & UK: rising use of GM herbicides, prostate cancer, Parkinson’s, dementia, autism etc

Is it a coincidence, that – as the use of glyphosate rises – so does the incidence of Parkinson’s disease, senile dementia, childhood autism, prostate cancer and many other conditions?

Glyphosate was first marketed in 1976 and its use has greatly increased since 1995, when it was first used with genetically engineered crops. GE crops absorb glyphosate through direct application, and from the soil. It cannot be washed off, is found in rivers, streams, air, rain and food (according to the US National Center for Biotechnology Information).

Note that most recording and research comes from American sources

glyph soy parkinsons graph

Graphs of death rates for Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and senile dementia have been plotted against glyphosate applications to U.S. corn and soy crops. Dr Swanson notes that the correlations are quite strong. American deaths due to Alzheimer’s have been rising since 1980, but there was a sharp spike in 1999.

glyph soy senile demetia graphDr Swanson points out that correlation does not necessarily imply causation and there are now a host of other chemicals in our food and our environment.

glyph soy autism graphAutism data: U.S. Department of Education, Crop data: U.S. Department of Agriculture
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Britain: an increasing number of cancers and neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, Motor Neurone Disease and MS – and glyphosate in rivers and drinking water

In a new review paper written by Dr. Rosemary Mason (MB, ChB, FRCA) – medical doctor and naturalist – and submitted to the Scottish Parliament, glyphosate is shown to destroy both human health and biodiversity. She has compiled information from a global network of independent scientists, toxicologists, beekeepers, Industry, environmentalists, governments and regulators, noting that:

“UK has an increasing number of cancers and neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, Motor Neurone Disease and MS. We have just had our drinking water analysed in Germany and we have glyphosate in it and in our rivers! Wales, like Scotland has epidemics of type 2 diabetes, obesity and autism”.

This water testing was a private initiative – in Scotland the water is not tested – see a FOI response to Graham White.

Dr Mason says: “We asked the Environment Agency why the most used herbicide and the most used insecticide isn’t being measured in groundwater and they said it wasn’t necessary”.

Though the presence of glyphosate in other British waters is also not tested for/recorded, Monsanto has commissioned a report on removal methods by Swindon-based Water Research Centre: WRc Ref: UC7374/14690-0 July 2007: WRC General Report – Roundup.

Her paper can be downloaded here: Glyphosate – Destructor of Human Health and Biodiversity

Dr Mason notes that agrochemical corporations wield tremendous control over the British and American governments and influence the formulation of pesticide regulations – effectively controlling human health and biodiversity.  She presents a Cancer Research UK graph recording the incidence of prostate cancer in Britain; to the untutored eye the trajectory looks chillingly similar to the American graphs.

glyph soy prostate cancer graph

Lucrative symbiosis: agrochemicals damage, then Big Pharma treats

Rosemary Mason looks at one example of investment in the medical sector and political funding:

“Syngenta is one of several chemicals companies which market biotech seeds and pesticides; AstraZeneca, its parent company, manufactures six different anti-cancer drugs mainly aimed at breast and prostate cancer.

“AstraZeneca’s Oncology Website predicts: “Cancer claims over 7 million lives every year and the number continues to rise. Deaths are estimated to reach 12 million by 2030.”

“Michael Pragnell MA MBA, founder of Syngenta, was appointed a Trustee of Cancer Research UK (CRUK) in March 2010 and Chairman in November 2010. CRUK is donating £450 million/year to the Government’s Strategy for UK Life Sciences – see the relevant government website, page 9. #

Dr. Nancy Swanson received her Ph.D. in physics from The Florida State University and then worked as a staff scientist for the United States Navy. She  taught physics at Western Washington University and holds five U.S. patents. She is the author of over 30 scientific publications and two books on women in science. More detail here.

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2015 election – 1

In 2015, people turned their backs on mainstream political parties, disillusioned by successive governments legislating in the interests of big business instead of those who had elected them.

The first sign of revolt came in August 2013 when parliament, reflecting the overwhelming public opposition, voted against military action in Syria – for the first time not prioritising the relationship with the United States. Many had seen the Ken Loach film and been inspired by its account of the stable economy achieved in five years by a war-impoverished nation.

The wild card? New voters had entered politics in large numbers – deprived and angry – mobilised by an energetic eighteen year old. 

BEN JACKSONBen Jackson was one of the 300,000 youngsters in Britain who had grown up in households where no-one in the family had ever worked since his grandmother’s generation in the ‘60s.

In his region alone, by 2013, there were children under the age of sixteen living in 171,000 households where nobody worked.

copec coverThe support network available to his parents’ generation had been dispersed to different areas during the ‘60s demolition of the back-to-back houses where they lived, some splendidly renovated and overseen by Copec housing, and people from other areas came in to occupy the flats which replaced the houses.

His first ‘official’ set-back

Ben passed the grammar school entrance examination – a remarkable feat in his school. A number of other children from various schools were also just over the borderline but there were only two places available so King Edward’s admissions officer phoned Ben’s headmaster asking his opinion of the boy. No support was given – the lad had disagreed with the head once too often; he said firmly – and with some satisfaction – “Ben would stick out like a sore thumb at grammar school” . . . payback. The place was given to another boy.

Though he was not told of this transaction, being well aware of his own ability, Ben felt instinctively that he had not been given his fair due, and the seeds of anger and resentment were sown.

He began to register the plight of people in the area where he lived.

workless households 2 graph

He saw the boredom, the lack of purpose, the addiction to antidepressants, alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs and started to meet the few who were politically active in the mainstream parties and then Respect, the Socialist Workers’ Party and the Co-operative Party. The liveliness and dedication of the SWP attracted him, but he eventually left after finding that he was expected to accept their policies unquestioningly. His enthusiasm for the policies of the Co-operative Party waned when he saw that their radical conference resolutions – passed with large majorities by members – were ignored by the party hierarchy and did not feature in the official manifesto.

russell brand 2Then came the outburst from Russell Brand – whom Ben had formerly discounted as an attention-seeking degenerate – expressing the anger and disillusionment of masses of people in the same way as Ben later learnt to do with his help.

And one day, by chance, Ben saw a way of making a real political difference.

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Be honest about America’s record – and ours

rogue states coverIn 2000 Chomsky presented an analysis of the United States and its allies as the world’s ‘rogue states’.

George Monbiot continues:

“Obama’s failure to be honest about his nation’s record of destroying international norms and undermining international law, his myth-making about the role of the US in world affairs, and his one-sided interventions in the Middle East, all render the crisis in Syria even harder to resolve.

“Until there is some candour about past crimes and current injustices, until there is an effort to address the inequalities over which the US presides, everything it attempts – even if it doesn’t involve guns and bombs – will stoke the cynicism and anger the president says he wants to quench.” So writes George Monbiot in an article highlighted by a Moseley reader.

It made the following charges:

  • that US used millions of gallons of chemical weapons in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. It also used them during its destruction of Falluja in 2004;
  • that the Reagan government helped Saddam Hussein to wage war with Iran in the 1980s while aware that he was using nerve and mustard gas;
  • that the US remains outside the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court;
  • that it committed a crime of aggression in Iraq;
  • that US troops committed war crimes during the invasion and occupation of Iraq;
  • that prisoners were held without trial, abused and tortured in the US run prison in Guantánamo Bay, where – as of August 2013 – 164 detainees remain.

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Some years ago, Ken Veitch wrote in the Friend:

 rogue states veitch

 

Has Britain been a lesser rogue state?

 

Time for change.

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