Hangzhou, Nov 9 (Xinhua/UNB) - The world's first artificial intelligence (AI) news anchor made "his" debut at the ongoing fifth World Internet Conference in east China's Zhejiang Province.
The news anchor, based on the latest AI technology, has a male image with a voice, facial expressions and actions of a real person. "He" learns from live broadcasting videos by himself and can read texts as naturally as a professional news anchor.
The AI news anchor was jointly developed by Xinhua News Agency, the official state-run media outlet of China, and Chinese search engine company Sogou.com.
According to Xinhua, "he" has become a member of its reporting team and can work 24 hours a day on its official website and various social media platforms, reducing news production costs and improving efficiency.
Seoul, Nov 8 (AP/UNB) — South Korea's foreign minister quoted U.S. officials as saying that it was North Korea that canceled a meeting this week between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a senior North Korean official on nuclear issues.
North Korea sent a notification to Washington to call off the meeting aimed at discussing the North's denuclearization and setting up a second summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said Thursday.
Kang provided no reason on why North Korea canceled the meeting in New York. Kang told lawmakers she planned to discuss the matter with Pompeo over the phone. South Korea's presidential office earlier said that the meeting's postponement wouldn't affect the momentum of talks between Washington and Pyongyang.
"We were notified by the United States that North Korea explained that (the meeting) should be postponed because both sides have busy schedules," Kang said. "I think it would be excessive to read too much into the postponement of the meeting."
Trump told reporters at the White House that the United States is "in no rush" and that the meeting between Pompeo and his North Korean counterpart Kim Yong Chol would be rescheduled.
U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said the postponement was "purely a scheduling issue" but refused to elaborate. He did not provide a straightforward answer when asked whether a discord over U.S.-led sanctions against the North, which Pyongyang says must be removed before any progress in nuclear talks, has made it more difficult to set up meetings.
"Timing, timing," Palladino said. "This has to do with timing as a matter - we're talking about scheduling. And I'll leave it at that."
Seoul has worked hard to revive nuclear diplomacy between Washington and Pyongyang, which removed war fears among South Koreans following a provocative run in North Korean weapons tests and Trump's threats of military action last year.
Kim shifted to diplomacy in 2018, meeting Trump in June between three summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. But the North has been playing hardball since the summits, fueling doubts about whether Kim would ever deal away a nuclear program he may see as his strongest guarantee of survival. North Korea's Foreign Ministry last week criticized the United States for its continued support of sanctions and hinted it may resume nuclear development if the measures aren't lifted.
Trump has been showing signs of slowing the pace of his diplomacy with North Korea, seemingly pivoting closer to his party's mainstream on North Korea issues. Trump recently said he won't play a "time game" with the North over a denuclearization deal.
Jakarta, Nov 8 (AP/UNB) — A crucial sensor was replaced on a Lion Air jet the day before it plunged into the Java Sea, and that sensor replacement may have exacerbated other problems with the plane, Indonesian investigators said Wednesday.
That sensor, known as the "angle of attack" sensor, keeps track of the angle of the aircraft nose to help prevent the plane from stalling and diving.
Earlier this week, Indonesian officials hinted that airspeed indicators played a role in the deadly Oct. 29 crash that killed all 189 people on board.
The jet's airspeed indicator malfunctioned on its last four flights, and that problem was related to the sensor issue, said Soerjanto Tjahjono, chairman of Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee, on Wednesday.
Lion Air's first two attempts to address the airspeed indicator problem didn't work, and for the Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane's second-to-last flight on Oct. 28, the angle of attack sensors were replaced, Tjahjono said.
On the Oct. 28 flight, from Bali to Jakarta, the pilot's and copilot's sensors disagreed. The 2-month-old plane went into a sudden dive minutes after takeoff, which the pilots were able to recover from. They decided to fly on to Jakarta at a lower-than-normal altitude.
The next day, during the deadly crash, the plane hit the water at very high speed just 13 minutes after takeoff from Jakarta. Its flight crew had requested permission to return to the airport several minutes after taking off.
"The point is that after the AOA (sensor) is replaced, the problem is not solved but the problem might even increase. Is this fatal? NTSC (National Transportation Safety Committee) wants to explore this," he said.
Even if an angle of attack sensor on a jet is faulty, there's generally a backup system in place for the critical component, and pilots are trained to handle a plane safely if those sensors fail, airline safety experts said.
There are audio signals and physical warnings that can alert the pilot to malfunctioning equipment or other dangers, said Todd Curtis, director of the Airsafe.com Foundation.
"They should have been completely engaged in what was going on inside that cockpit, and any kind of warning that came up, they would have been wise to pay attention to it," Curtis said.
Investigators are likely focused on how a single sensor's failure resulted in a faulty command that didn't take into account information from a second sensor, said John Cox, CEO of Safety Operating Systems.
"We don't know what the crew knew and didn't know yet," Cox said. "We will."
Boeing, which manufactured the Lion Air plane, issues safety-related bulletins, and had previously circulated instructions about what flight crews should do if sensors fail.
Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee said it had agreed with Boeing on procedures that the airplane manufacturer should distribute globally on how flight crews can deal with "angle of attack" sensor problems.
But a Boeing statement said a safety bulletin, sent to airlines on Tuesday, directs flight crews to existing guidelines on how they should respond to erroneous "angle of attack" data. It wasn't immediately clear if it plans an update, though comments from Indonesian officials indicate they expect one.
Indonesian investigators said their flight procedure recommendations to Boeing were based on how the flight crew responded to problems on the Bali-to-Jakarta flight.
"The draft of what will be conveyed by Boeing this morning has been presented to us," said air accident investigator Nurcahyo Utomo.
"There are some things that we ask for explanation and some that we ask to be removed, and there has been an agreement between the NTSC and Boeing to release a new procedure to all Boeing 737 MAX users in the world," he said.
Indonesia's search and rescue agency on Wednesday extended the search effort for a second time, saying it will continue until Sunday. Body parts are still being recovered and searchers continue to hunt for the cockpit voice recorder.
The Lion Air crash is the worst airline disaster in Indonesia since 1997, when 234 people died on a Garuda flight near Medan. In December 2014, an AirAsia flight from Surabaya to Singapore plunged into the sea, killing all 162 on board.
Lion Air is one of Indonesia's youngest airlines but has grown rapidly, flying to dozens of domestic and international destinations. It has been expanding aggressively in Southeast Asia, a fast-growing region of more than 600 million people.
Islamabad, Nov 8 (AP/UNB) — A Christian woman acquitted after eight years on death row in Pakistan for blasphemy was released but her whereabouts in Islamabad on Thursday remained a closely guarded secret in the wake of demands by radical Islamists that she be publicly executed.
Aasia Bibi was with her family and under heavy security after being transferred to the Pakistani capital overnight from her detention facility in southern Punjab, triggering expectations that her departure from the country could be imminent.
The European Parliament has made an offer to protect Bibi and her family but for the moment she was still in Pakistan, according to two people close to her. They spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to endanger Bibi's life.
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry confirmed later on Thursday that Bibi was still in Pakistan.
Radical Islamists have been demanding Bibi's death as well as the death of the three Supreme Court judges who acquitted her last week.
Following her acquittal, the hard-line Tehreek-e-Labbaik Party forced a country-wide shut down as their supporters took to the streets for three days to protest Bibi's release.
Scores of protesters were arrested for damaging vehicles and property during the rallies and bank accounts of some of the leaders of the party were reportedly frozen.
The rallies only dispersed after Prime Minister Imran Khan's government promised a court would review a motion to challenge the acquittal and deny Bibi permission to leave Pakistan.
Critics immediately accused Khan, who came to power after elections last summer riding in part on an Islamist agenda, of capitulating to the radicals.
Bibi's release, her high-security transfer to Islamabad and her likely departure raised the prospect that Khan's "promises" to the Islamists could have been an effort to buy time. The government, however, has not openly declared Bibi was free to leave the country.
The radical Tehreek-e-Labbaik, in a widely circulated video message, said it received government assurances following Bibi's relocation to Islamabad that she wouldn't leave the country until the review petition was heard.
Bibi's ordeal began on a blistering hot day in 2009 when the 54-year-old mother of five, a farmworker, went to fetch water. An argument took place after two fellow women farmworkers refused to drink from the same container as a Christian.
Nearly a week later, the two women said Bibi had insulted the Prophet Muhammad and she was charged with blasphemy — a controversial issue in Pakistan, where mere accusations of blasphemy can cause riots. The charge itself carries the death penalty. Bibi was sentenced to death in 2010.
Her case garnered worldwide attention and brought sharp criticism of Pakistan's blasphemy law.
In a letter, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani invited Bibi and her family to Europe. In the letter, a copy of which was seen by The Associated Press, Tajani tells Bibi's husband Ashiq Masih, that the European Parliament is "extremely concerned for your safety as well as your family's, due to the violence by extremist elements in Pakistan."
The letter added to expectations that Bibi and her family would leave for Europe, though their destination has not been confirmed. Earlier, Spain and France had offered her asylum.
Speaking to the AP earlier this week in the Punjab capital of Lahore, Masih said he hasn't slept much since Bibi's acquittal and the subsequent Islamist rage.
Fear consumes him every time his phone rings and the shouts of the radicals, "Hang her!" haunt him constantly, he said.
"Sometimes I pace on the rooftop, sometimes I walk on the road outside our home," he said. "I look at the faces around me and I wonder if anyone is waiting to hurt us."
His initial joy at the acquittal quickly turned to heart-wrenching sadness when he realized his wife and his family's ordeal was still not over.
Even mere suggestions of blasphemy can whip mobs into a lynching frenzy in Pakistan. In 2011, the governor of Punjab, Pakistan's most populous province, was killed by his own guard after he defended Bibi and criticized the blasphemy law. A year later, the minister for minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, was shot and killed.
For Bibi's husband, leaving Pakistan is a painful decision but still a matter of life and death.
"We have no other choice but to leave," he said. "I love Pakistan but I can't live here."
Even in Bibi's dirt poor home village of Aitta Wali — a poor farming community where animals and villagers share tiny sunbaked mud houses — villagers are still outraged by her acquittal and warned a visiting AP reporter to "go. Just get out. Go."
"Our entire village swore on the Quran that she insulted the prophet but no one believes us and everyone believes her," said Aman Ali, one of the villagers. "Before this we liked the Christian families. We always got along. But now there is only anger."
The village's remaining three Christian families have fled.
Muhammad Afzal Qadri, a leader in the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Party and religious scholar, said he doesn't regret calling for the deaths of the judges who acquitted Bibi — or for calling on his followers to overthrow Khan's government.
At his sprawling madrassa in the Punjab city of Gujrat, Qadri told the AP this week that he had the religious authority to declare a fatwa, or edict, demanding the judges be killed.
Pakistan is bound by Islamic injunctions, he said, adding that he was qualified to decide such matters. The West only seeks to undermine Pakistan's Islamic traditions and culture, Qadri said.
Zahid Hussain, author of two books on militancy in Pakistan, said Islamists rallies over Bibi's acquittal were an attempt to regain positions the extremists had lost in the July elections.
"They are trying to mobilize people on this issue, creating more extremism," said Hussain. "They have created a sense of fear in society, for anyone who disagrees with their view of Islam."
United Nations, Nov 8 (AP/UNB) — A draft U.N. resolution would strongly condemn the continuing "gross human rights violations and abuses" against Rohingya Muslims and urgently call on Myanmar's government to end discrimination and provide a path to citizenship for the embattled minority.
The draft resolution, sponsored by the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, more than 25 European countries and Canada, was officially circulated Wednesday. The General Assembly's human rights committee is expected to vote on the measure on Nov. 15.
The draft expresses deep concern that violence against the Rohingya has forced over 723,000 people to flee to Bangladesh since August 2017.
The Rohingya have long been treated as outsiders in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, even though their families have lived in the country for generations. Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless, and they are also denied freedom of movement and other basic rights.
The latest crisis began with attacks by an underground Rohingya insurgent group on Myanmar security personnel in August 2017 in northern Rakhine State. Myanmar's military responded with a brutal campaign and is accused of mass rape, killings and setting fire to thousands of homes.
The draft resolution reiterates "deep distress" at reports that unarmed Rohingyas are still being subjected to excessive use of force and rights violations by Myanmar's military and security forces including killings and rapes. And it expresses "deep concern" at the continuing departure of the remaining Rohingya population as well as members of other minorities.
The proposed resolution expresses "grave concern" at the findings of the U.N. fact-finding mission on Myanmar, which concluded that some top Myanmar military leaders should be prosecuted for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide against the Rohingya.
It strongly condemns all rights abuses set out in the commission's report and calls for "a full and independent investigation" of human rights abuses against the Rohingya and other minorities.
The draft notes Myanmar's establishment of an independent commission to investigate alleged violations, but stresses that it must work "with independence, impartiality, transparency and objectivity in a credible way in line with international standards" — unlike its previous national investigations. And it encouraged the government commission "to seek support and expertise from the United Nations and the international community."
The proposed resolution would also reiterate an urgent call on Myanmar's government to take measures "to address the spread of discrimination and prejudice and to combat the incitement of hatred against Rohingya Muslims and other persons belonging to minorities, including Kachin and Shan."
And the government should "expedite efforts to eliminate statelessness and the systematic and institutionalized discrimination against members of ethnic and religious minorities," the draft says.
The draft resolution also addresses the military's control over much of Myanmar's government.
"To sustain the democratic transition of Myanmar by bringing all national institutions, including the military, under the democratically elected civilian government," it says.