UN discusses ‘killer robots’: Countries are meeting in Geneva to decide whether to consider banning ‘killer robots’ which can make decisions by themselves about when to kill people. Human rights groups claim weapons like these raise serious moral questions about how we conduct war.
15 November 2013
Drones have already raised questions about 21st century warfare – but while they have no pilots, they are controlled by humans on the ground. Lethal autonomous weapons, or ‘killer robots’, are programmed in advance; on the battlefield it could be the robot, not the human, which decides who to kill.
The United States, Britain and Israel are all developing lethal autonomous weapons, although all three countries say they don’t plan to take humans out of the decision-making loop.
Supporters of the new technology say it could save lives, by reducing the number of soldiers on the battlefield, but human rights groups question the ethics of allowing machines to take decisions over life and death.
Now the 50 countries which have ratified the convention on conventional weapons – the countries which have already approved a ban on blinding laser weapons – will consider whether to begin talks on banning killer robots.
drones: aircraft which are controlled by people on the ground
warfare: the activity of fighting a war
lethal: causing death
autonomous: independent, able to make its own decisions
out of the decision-making loop: not part of the process of making decisions
ethics: set of beliefs or principles that tell people what is right and wrong
ratified: made (an agreement become) official
blinding: causing blindness (not able to see)
Typhoon Haiyan: Destruction in the Philippines: Officials estimate up to 10,000 people have died in Tacloban city and elsewhere in the Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. Many other people are now struggling to survive without food, shelter or clean drinking water.
11 November 2013
Tacloban has been flattened. Driving down the main high street, hardly a single building is left standing. People say this town was hit by a wall of water when the typhoon struck on Friday.
There’s the stench of rotting corpses. Driving in from the airport we saw scores of bodies lying by the roadside. For three days they have been there – nobody to bury them. People are desperate for food, clean water and shelter. At the badly battered airport, a makeshift hospital has been set up. We saw two young women giving birth, laid out among the debris.
Aid is getting in, but slowly and this is just one town in one province. Nobody knows the full extent of the devastation elsewhere.
flattened: completely destroyed
stench: very bad smell, especially of decay
scores: many / measured in sets of twenty
shelter: temporary place where someone can live
battered: hit or badly damaged
makeshift: made quickly using whatever materials are available
debris: the broken pieces of something larger that has been destroyed
Twitter shares jump: Shares in the microblogging site, Twitter, have nearly doubled in value in the first few hours of trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The share price rose above $45, valuing the company at more than $25bn.
8 November 2013
It will go down as one of the most spectacular debuts in the history of financial markets.
Twitter has only been around seven years, has never made a profit and has modest sources of income – yet its shares rose 80% in value the moment it joined the stock market, and then briefly soared even higher than that.
Measured by the stock price in relation to revenues, Twitter’s shares are now rated as among the most expensive of any new share issue ever.
It’s a big bet that popularity – Twitter already has 230 million users – will eventually lead to massive profits.
go down: become known
debuts: first appearances; (here) launches
profit: money earned after costs are paid
modest: few and small
sources of income: people or organisations which it gets money from
soared: rose very quickly and very highly
revenue: money which is received regularly
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