Seeing Is Believing? Global Scramble to Tackle Deepfakes

Chatbots spouting falsehoods, face-swapping apps crafting porn videos, and cloned voices defrauding companies of millions — the scramble is on to rein in AI deepfakes that have become a misinformation super spreader. Artificial Intelligence is redefining the proverb “seeing is believing,” with a deluge of images created out of thin air and people shown mouthing things they never said in real-looking deepfakes that have eroded online trust. “Yikes. (Definitely) not me,” tweeted billionaire Elon Musk last year in one vivid example of a deepfake video that showed him promoting a cryptocurrency scam. China recently adopted expansive rules to regulate deepfakes but most countries appear to be struggling to keep up with the fast-evolving technology amid concerns that regulation could stymie innovation or be misused to curtail free speech. Experts warn that deepfake detectors are vastly outpaced by creators, who are hard to catch as they operate anonymously using AI-based software that was once touted as a specialized skill but is now widely available at low cost. Facebook owner Meta last year said it took down a deepfake video of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urging citizens to lay down their weapons and surrender to Russia. And British campaigner Kate Isaacs, 30, said her “heart sank” when her face appeared in a deepfake porn video that unleashed a barrage of online abuse after an unknown user posted it on Twitter. “I remember just feeling like this video was going to go everywhere — it was horrendous,” Isaacs, who campaigns against non-consensual porn, …

Breast Cancer Is Leading Cause of Cancer Deaths Among Women

As it marks World Cancer Day, the World Health Organization is calling for action to tackle breast cancer, the most common and leading cause of cancer deaths among women.   Every year, more than 2.3 million women are diagnosed with breast cancer, and nearly 700,000 die of the disease, which disproportionately affects women living in low- and middle-income countries.   WHO officials say women who live in poorer countries are far less likely to survive breast cancer than women in richer countries.      “Breast cancer survival is 50 percent or less in many low- and middle-income countries, and greater than 90 percent for those able to receive the best care in high income countries,” says Bente Mikkelsen, director of the Noncommunicable Diseases Department at the WHO.   She says the odds are stacked against women who live in poor countries, noting many must sell their assets to pay for the treatment they need.      She notes that women also are discouraged from seeking and receiving a timely diagnosis for their condition because of the stigma attached to breast cancer.      “A woman subjected to racial and ethnic disparities will receive lower quality care and be forced to abandon treatment,” she says.   WHO data show more than 20 high income countries have successfully reduced breast cancer mortality by 40 percent since 1990. It finds five-year survival rates from breast cancer in North America and western Europe is better than 95 percent, compared to 66 percent in India …

UN Weekly Roundup: Jan. 27-Feb. 3, 2023 

Editor’s note: Here is a fast take on what the international community has been up to this past week, as seen from the United Nations perch.  Two years since Myanmar military coup The U.N. special rapporteur for Myanmar warned Tuesday that two years after its coup, Myanmar’s military will try to legitimize its hold on power through sham elections this year, and he urged the international community not to recognize or engage with the junta. Humanitarians await ‘guidelines’ from Afghan Taliban on women aid workers The U.N. humanitarian chief said Monday he is awaiting a list of guidelines from Taliban authorities to allow Afghan women to work in the humanitarian sector, following a decree last month that has restricted their work. Martin Griffiths said he also asked Taliban officials if they are not going to rescind their decree now, then they should extend exemptions to cover all aspects of humanitarian work. Iran dismisses IAEA report Iran’s atomic energy organization on Wednesday dismissed a report by the United Nations nuclear watchdog that said Tehran had made an undeclared change to uranium enriching equipment at its Fordow plant. The IAEA said its inspectors found a modification to an interconnection between two clusters of centrifuges that was substantially different than what Iran had declared. Red Cross warns world dangerously unprepared for next pandemic The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies warned Monday in its World Disaster Report that the world is dangerously unprepared for the next pandemic, and this will …

Have We Been Visited by Aliens? Depends on Whom You Ask

Logistics manager Nicholas Rehak was visiting his parent’s home in Baltimore County, Maryland, several years ago. He was standing on the back deck one night when he noticed a bluish white light. “It was shaped in a damn near perfect oval and it started to rise,” Rehak told VOA. “I’m talking straight up vertical, no deviation. It sat there for nearly 30 seconds and then suddenly it vanished — like a lamp when someone pulls the plug. Just sudden darkness.” Perhaps it was a drone. Rehak said that was his first thought. “But I’ve never seen a drone take off perfectly vertical like that, from ground to sky without so much as a wobble,” he continued. “It was far too low to the ground to be a larger aircraft. So what was it? If I close my eyes, I can still see the light plain as day.” For decades, Americans have reported sighting unidentified flying objects — commonly referred to as UFOs — zigging, zagging and hovering in the sky. Many were ridiculed for their assertions. Now, however, the U.S. government is tracking and studying reports of what they refer to as unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP). More than 350 new cases have been reported to the government since March 2021, according to an unclassified document released last month by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. That number far exceeds what was reported over the 17 years prior, suggesting either a dramatic increase in sightings or a greater willingness …

Musk Found Not Liable in Tesla Tweet Trial

Jurors on Friday cleared Elon Musk of liability for investors’ losses in a fraud trial over his 2018 tweets falsely claiming that he had funding in place to take Tesla private. The tweets sent the Tesla share price on a rollercoaster ride, and Musk was sued by shareholders who said the tycoon acted recklessly in an effort to squeeze investors who had bet against the company. Jurors deliberated for barely two hours before returning to the San Francisco courtroom to say they unanimously agreed that neither Musk nor the Tesla board perpetrated fraud with the tweets and in their aftermath. “Thank goodness, the wisdom of the people has prevailed!” tweeted Musk, who had tried but failed to get the trial moved to Texas on the grounds jurors in California would be biased against him. “I am deeply appreciative of the jury’s unanimous finding of innocence in the Tesla 420 take-private case.” Attorney Nicholas Porritt, who represents Glen Littleton and other investors in Tesla, had argued in court that the case was about making sure the rich and powerful have to abide by the same stock market rules as everyone else. “Elon Musk published tweets that were false with reckless disregard as to their truth,” Porritt told the panel of nine jurors during closing arguments. Porritt pointed to expert testimony estimating that Musk’s claim about funding, which turned out not to be true, cost investors billions of dollars overall and that Musk and the Tesla board should be made to pay …

Two-Century-Old Mystery of Waterloo’s Skeletal Remains

More than 200 years after Napoleon met defeat at Waterloo, the bones of soldiers killed on that famous battlefield continue to intrigue Belgian researchers and experts, who use them to peer back to that moment in history. “So many bones — it’s really unique!” exclaimed one such historian, Bernard Wilkin, as he stood in front of a forensic pathologist’s table holding two skulls, three femurs and hip bones. He was in an autopsy room in the Forensic Medicine Institute in Liege, eastern Belgium, where tests are being carried out on the skeletal remains to determine from which regions the four soldiers they belong to came from. That in itself is a challenge. Half a dozen European nationalities were represented in the military ranks at the Battle of Waterloo, located 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Brussels. That armed clash of June 18, 1815 ended Napoleon Bonaparte’s ambitions of conquering Europe to build a great empire, and resulted in the deaths of around 20,000 soldiers. The battle has since been pored over by historians, and — with advances in the genetic, medical and scanning fields — researchers can now piece together pages of the past from the remains buried in the ground. Some of those remains have been recovered through archeological digs, such as one last year that allowed the reconstitution of a skeleton found not far from a field hospital the British Duke of Wellington had set up. But the remains examined by Wilkin surfaced through another route. ‘Prussians in …

US May Lift Protections for Yellowstone, Glacier Grizzlies

The Biden administration took a first step Friday toward ending federal protections for grizzly bears in the northern Rocky Mountains, which would open the door to future hunting in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said state officials provided “substantial” information that grizzlies have recovered from the threat of extinction in the regions surrounding Yellowstone and Glacier national parks. But federal officials rejected claims by Idaho that protections should be lifted beyond those areas, and they raised concerns about new laws from the Republican-led states that could potentially harm grizzly populations. “We will fully evaluate these and other potential threats,” said Martha Williams, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Friday’s move kicks off at least a year of further study before final decisions about the Yellowstone and Glacier regions. State officials have insisted any future hunts would be limited and not endanger the overall population. However, Republican lawmakers in the region in recent years also adopted more aggressive policies against gray wolves, including loosened trapping rules that could lead to grizzlies being inadvertently killed. As many as 50,000 grizzlies once roamed the western half of the U.S. They were exterminated in most of the country early last century by overhunting and trapping, and the last hunts in the northern Rockies occurred decades ago. There are now more than 2,000 bears in the Lower 48 states and much larger populations in Alaska, where hunting is allowed. The species’ expansion in the Glacier and Yellowstone areas …

NFL Will Offer Free CPR Training During Super Bowl Week

Inspired by the lifesaving medical attention Damar Hamlin received on the field during a game last month, the NFL and American Heart Association will provide free CPR education in Arizona throughout Super Bowl week as part of the NFL Experience at the Phoenix Convention Center. Hamlin, the 24-year-old Buffalo Bills defensive back, needed to be resuscitated after making a tackle in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Bills assistant athletic trainer Denny Kellington performed CPR on Hamlin on the field. “Being able to deliver care in emergency situations is not just important at sporting events, but in all walks of life,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. People who visit the mobile training unit will receive hands-only CPR training from experts and receive CPR information that can be shared in their communities. Also, the American Heart Association is working with Hamlin and his #3forHeart CPR Challenge, a social media initiative that encourages people to learn CPR, donate money to support CPR research, education and training, and share the word with others. “Coming out of the events from last month with Damar Hamlin on the field and the remarkable work that the emergency responders performed, we thought about what opportunities existed for us to share some of the learnings that came from that experience more broadly, which is part of our responsibility throughout the world of football and maybe the world of sports,” NFL executive Jeff Miller told The Associated Press. “There’s a long history of the NFL trying …

Australia to Legalize MDMA And Magic Mushrooms for Medical Use

Australia’s drugs watchdog on Friday announced that psychedelic substances MDMA and psilocybin — more commonly known as ecstasy and magic mushrooms — will soon be used in the treatment of depression and post-traumatic stress. Psychiatrists will be able to prescribe the two substances from July, the Therapeutic Goods Administration said after finding “sufficient evidence for potential benefits in certain patients.” The two drugs are currently “prohibited substances” and can only be used in closely controlled clinical trials. The administration said they had been found to be “relatively safe” when administered in a medical setting and provided an “altered state of consciousness” that could help patients. Mike Musker, a mental health and suicide prevention researcher at the University of South Australia, welcomed the move as “long-awaited.” “There are many people in the community experiencing PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and depression, particularly army veterans and people who have worked in emergency services, where standard psychiatric drugs have not worked and offer no relief,” he said. Musker said the two drugs “reduce inhibitions” and could help people process difficult images and memories. For now, the use of MDMA and psilocybin will be limited to the treatment of depression and post-traumatic stress. But advocates hope to one day use them for alcohol dependence, obsessive compulsive disorder and eating disorders. Psychedelics have been used by Indigenous peoples for millennia, but Western researchers only started seriously looking into their potential uses in the middle of the last century. The drugs became symbols of the counterculture movement …

France Seeks Strategy as Nuclear Waste Site Risks Saturation Point

At a nuclear waste site in Normandy, robotic arms guided by technicians behind a protective shield maneuver a pipe that will turn radioactive chemicals into glass as France seeks to make safe the byproducts of its growing reliance on atomic power. The fuel-cooling pools in La Hague, on the country’s northwestern tip, could be full by the end of the decade and state-owned Orano, which runs them, says the government needs to outline a long-term strategy to modernize its aging facilities no later than 2025. While more nuclear energy can help France and other countries to reduce planet-warming emissions, environmental campaigners say it replaces one problem with another. To seek solutions, President Emmanuel Macron, who has announced plans to build at least six new reactors by 2050, on Friday chairs the first of a series of meetings on nuclear policy that will discuss investments and waste recycling. “We can’t have a responsible nuclear policy without taking into account the handling of used fuel and waste. It’s a subject we can’t sweep under the rug,” a government adviser told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We have real skills and a real technological advantage, especially over the United States. Russia is the only other country that is able to do what France does in terms of treatment and recycling.” La Hague is the country’s sole site able to process and partially recycle used nuclear fuel. France historically has relied on nuclear power for around 70% of its energy, although the share …