Al Jazeera


Removal of fuel at Fukushima's melted reactor begins

Al Jazeera

The operator of the tsunami-wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant has begun removing fuel from a cooling pool at one of three reactors that melted down in the 2011 disaster, a milestone in the decades-long process to decommission the plant. Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) said on Monday that workers started removing the first of 566 used and unused fuel units stored in the pool at Unit 3. The fuel units in the pool located high up in reactor buildings are intact despite the disaster, but the pools are not enclosed so removing the units to safer ground is crucial to avoid disaster in case of another major quake. Tepco said the removal at Unit 3 would take two years, followed by the two other reactors. The step comes ahead of the real challenge of removing melted fuel from inside the reactors, but details of how that might be done are still largely unknown. Removing the fuel in the cooling pools was delayed five years by mishaps, high radiation and radioactive debris from an explosion that occurred at the time of the reactor meltdown, underscoring the difficulties that remain.


Can we stop killer robots?

Al Jazeera

Killer robots may sound like the name of a science fiction film, but they could be becoming a reality - and soon. Scientists say artificial intelligence has developed so quickly that we could soon see weapons that can choose a target and kill without being controlled by a human. The United Nations has held five days of talks in Geneva, Switzerland on banning what are known as lethal autonomous weapons. But the United States, Russia, Israel and the United Kingdom are against any restrictions, saying these developments could make war safer. How likely are killer robots?


Killer robots: Scientists concerned over ethics of military AI

Al Jazeera

A global ban on so-called killer robots - lethal autonomous weapons that can hunt and kill without a human involvement - has drawn the attention of tech giants and their role in developing military artificial intelligence that might cross an ethical line.


Scientists campaign to ban lethal robots production

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Scientists and activists are calling for a ban on making robots that could kill humans, which some tech companies are racing to develop. But that call hasn't been met with a blanket "yes", especially from some players in the Artificial Intelligence industry. So far, the United States and Russia have resisted signing up to the ban.


Trump revokes Obama-era order to report civilian drone deaths

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President Donald Trump has signed an executive order that revoked an Obama-era policy requiring United States intelligence officials to report civilian deaths in drone attacks outside active war zones. Former President Barack Obama, put the policy in place in 2016 as part of an effort to be more transparent about drone attacks after he had dramatically increased their use against armed groups in mostly Muslim countries. Trump's rescinding of the policy was done with little fanfare on Wednesday. The White House released the text of his executive order. "This action eliminates superfluous reporting requirements, requirements that do not improve government transparency, but rather distract our intelligence professionals from their primary mission," an administration official said.


Pakistan bans Bollywood films amid India tensions

Al Jazeera

Pakistan has placed a ban on the screening of all Bollywood films in cinemas across the country after Indian air raids further escalated tensions between the South Asian neighbours. On Wednesday, Pakistan confirmed it carried out air raids in Indian-administered Kashmir and shot down two Indian jets in its own airspace, capturing one of the pilots as tensions escalate a day after India bombed targets in Pakistan. Pakistan's Film Exhibitors Association decided to boycott Indian content, Fawad Chaudhry, the country's information minister, said on Tuesday in the wake of air attacks by Indian forces near the border with Pakistan-administered Kashmir. "No Indian movies will be released in Pakistan," he wrote on Twitter. Chaudhry said he had also instructed PEMRA, Pakistan's Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, against airing Indian advertisements on Pakistani TV channels.


Dubai airport disrupted after reported drone sightings

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Flights at Dubai International Airport, one of the busiest in the world, were disrupted on Friday after sightings of a drone flying nearby. The airport told the AP news agency that it halted flights from 10:13am to 10:45am (local time) over "suspected drone activity". It said flights were later resumed. Alleged drone sightings have previously disrupted flights into the airport, which is the base of the long-haul carrier Emirates. One disgruntled passenger tweeted: "Stuck for ages at Dubai airport runway unable to taxi as unauthorized drones have entered the airspace here and all takeoffs have been grounded! "This seems to be happening often in airports everywhere." Stuck for ages at Dubai airport runway unable to taxi as unauthorized drones have entered the airspace here and all takeoffs have been grounded! This seems to be happening often in airports everywhere. Another passenger wrote: "Dubai airport going nowhere due to drone flying around.


Nigeria elections: Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea

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In March 2015, as they prepared to cast their votes in a landmark presidential election, Nigerians found themselves facing a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea: Goodluck Jonathan, the then-incumbent whose administration was corrupt and largely inept; and Muhammadu Buhari, an erstwhile dictator known for his ethnoreligious biases. Eventually, the voters decided Buhari - who had branded himself "a reformed democrat" and promised to fight corruption - is the lesser of the two evils and chose him as their next president. After the election, Jonathan willingly conceded his defeat to Buhari, becoming the first sitting president in Nigeria to do so. Despite Buhari's flimsy democratic credentials, this peaceful transfer of power, coupled with the new president's initial successes in the fight against corruption, convinced many Nigerians that they had made the right choice. For a short while, many Nigerians believed that they may not be forced to choose "the lesser of the two evils" in future elections.


Mission complete: NASA announces demise of Opportunity rover

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During 14 years of intrepid exploration across Mars it advanced human knowledge by confirming that water once flowed on the Red Planet - but NASA's Opportunity rover has analysed its last soil sample. The robot has been missing since the US space agency lost contact during a dust storm in June last year and was declared officially dead on Wednesday, ending one of the most fruitful missions in the history of space exploration. Unable to recharge its batteries, Opportunity left hundreds of messages from Earth unanswered over the months, and NASA said it made its last attempt at contact. "I declare the Opportunity mission as complete," Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate told a news conference at mission headquarters in Pasadena, California. The community of researchers and engineers involved in the programme were in mourning over the passing of the rover, known affectionately as Oppy.


Germany to restrict Facebook's data gathering activities

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Germany has ordered Facebook to curb its data collection practices in the country, after a ruling that the world's largest social media network abused its market dominance to gather information about users without their knowledge or consent. "In future, Facebook will no longer be allowed to force its users to agree to the practically unrestricted collection and assigning of non-Facebook data to their Facebook accounts," Federal Cartel Office chief Andreas Mundt said in the landmark order on Thursday. Facebook said it would appeal the ruling, the culmination of a three-year probe, saying the antitrust watchdog underestimated the competition it faced and undermined Europe-wide privacy rules that took effect last year. The findings follow fierce global scrutiny of Facebook over a series of privacy lapses, including the leak of data on tens of millions of users, as well as the extensive use of targeted ads by foreign powers seeking to influence elections in the United States. These have gone down badly with Germans, reflecting broader concerns over personal surveillance that dates back to Germany's history of Nazi and Communist rule in the 20th century.