Al Jazeera


What's behind the rise of 'black gold'?

Al Jazeera

The price of oil has hit $70 a barrel for the first time since 2014. Brent crude, the international benchmark for oil prices, jumped after the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) said it would continue to limit supplies. Naeem Aslam, the chief market analyst with London-based Think Markets says there are three major factors driving prices up: a supply cut, stability in demand and most importantly, the Aramco IPO. "The entire reason Saudi Arabia is behind price stability is mainly because of this IPO ... [it is] because of that we have seen the consistency of the supply cut throughout that supply cut decision," says Aslam. "[This trend] is highly likely to continue. The price could certainly continue to the upside.


Talking heads: The emperor phenomenon

Al Jazeera

Egyptians call them "emperors", and, every night, millions tune in to watch them lecture, entertain and rant their way through hours of television output. However, the very entertainers people love to watch are also widely recognised as by-products of a state of censorship that has become synonymous with Egyptian media - by-products and hosts on the front lines of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's government's propaganda efforts. The government has created an environment where disbursement of information, unless it is tightly controlled by the government, is all but impossible. "One of the key aspects of these talk shows is the way they whip out a sense of national emergency," says Marwan Kraidy, director at the Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication. "They react in a very emotional, sensationalistic way to very atrocious events.


The rise of social robots

Al Jazeera

Erica, who has a beautiful face and speaks with a synthesised voice, is one of the most advanced and autonomous androids in the world. The human-like robot was created in Japan in 2014 and was developed to be capable of conversational interaction. Since then, a total of four models have been engineered. She is unable to walk, but, in the summer of 2017, Erica (short for Erato Intelligent Conversational Android) was given an upgrade so she could move her arms, along with her head, neck and shoulders. If a robot acts as though it has a particular emotion or acts in a particular way to something, we ascribe the sense of it as feeling.


Tertulias: Talking heads on Spain's airwaves

Al Jazeera

Television programming in Spain has undergone a transformation over the past decade - changes driven partly by economics and partly by politics. Ever since the banking crisis of 2008, the country has been in a semi-constant state of political upheaval. A series of corruption scandals, inconclusive general elections and, more recently, Catalonia's run at independence have kept Spaniards glued to their televisions and pundits talking 24/7. That has given rise to a wave of political talk shows that the Spanish call tertulias. These programmes meet two important criteria, they provide political flashpoints that audiences seem to like and they're cheap to produce.


When algorithms discriminate: Robotics, AI and ethics

Al Jazeera

We live in an age of rapid technological advances where artificial intelligence (AI) is a reality, not a science fiction fantasy. Every day we rely on algorithms to communicate, do our banking online, book a holiday - even introduce us to potential partners. Driverless cars and robots may be the headline makers, but AI is being used for everything from diagnosing illnesses to helping police predict crime hot spots. As machines become more advanced, how does society keep pace when deciding the ethics and regulations governing technology? Al Jazeera talks to Stephen Roberts, professor of Machine Learning at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, on the role machine learning plays in our lives today - and in the future.


Hamas: Mossad assassinated Tunisian drone-maker member

Al Jazeera

Hamas has blamed the Israeli national intelligence agency Mossad for the assassination of one of its Tunisian members after conducting an 11-month-long investigation. The Palestinian group said Mohammed al-Zawari, a commander of its armed wing the Qassam Brigades since 2006, was fatally shot outside his home multiple times while in his car near Sfax, 270km southeast of Tunis, on December 15, 2016. Hamas had set up an investigative committee in the immediate aftermath of the assassination. Speaking at a press conference in Beirut on Thursday, Mohammed Nazzal, Hamas politburo member, called the Mossad operation a "terrorist act". "Mossad is officially accused of being behind the assassination, which is not only a terrorist act, but a violation of state sovereignty," he said.


China 2.0: Xi Jinping and the PRC's economic future

Al Jazeera

At the 19th Communist Party Congress, Chinese President Xi Jinping is stamping his authority by mapping out his vision for China for the next 30 years. "The banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics is flying high for the world to see. It will be an era that sees China move closer to the centre stage," Xi said. He aims for the "the rejuvenation of the great Chinese nation" and wants to build a "digital and smart society", a "country of innovators". At the heart of his strategy is an economy built on homemade innovation - with a particular emphasis on robotics, electric cars and artificial intelligence.


Waiting in the wings: Dubai's autonomous flying taxis

Al Jazeera

The recent unmanned flight by the German-made electric Volocopter represents the latest step in Dubai's pursuit of flying taxis. Dubai already has invested in another model of a flying, autonomous taxi, and is working to design regulations for their use. Unpiloted passenger flights represent a new frontier for regulators. Dubai's Road and Transportation Authority (RTA), which has invested an undisclosed sum in Volocopter, says it will work the next five years to come up with laws and develop safety procedures.


'Trump looking to loosen Obama limits on drone strikes'

Al Jazeera

The officials added that proposed drone attacks and raids would no longer undergo high-level vetting. NBC News cited officials at intelligence agencies, the Pentagon, Congress and the White House, who all requested anonymity to discuss the classified programme. The international human rights organisation Reprieve has found that since Trump took office in January this year, at least 30 civilians have been killed in ground raids and drone strikes in Yemen, where the US is not formally at war. In one week in March, the Trump administration conducted some 40 strikes in Yemen, including 25 on a single day.


The decline of Chinantec whistled speech in Mexico

Al Jazeera

Oaxaca, Mexico - The small village of San Pedro Sochiapam, deep in the mountainous region of the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, is home to the Chinantec people. "Chinantec whistled speech is a form of communication where people can really whistle whatever they can say in the spoken language, even though there's more ambiguity in the whistled channel," explains Mark Sicoli, a linguistics professor at the University of Virginia, noting that the presence and absence of glottal stops, tones, and stress patterns make it a particularly productive form of communication. "Prior to the introduction of walkie-talkies, the morning air would be filled with whistles across the town as men made their plans for the day," Foris adds, noting that local women understand whistled Chinantec, but usually do not use it. Back in San Pedro Sochiapam, villagers like Marcos Dominguez, remain highly attuned to whistled speech.