Al Jazeera


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.


Cryptocurrencies: Another digital gold rush?

Al Jazeera

Cryptocurrencies, unlike loose currency, are created using digital technology called blockchain, a borderless, anonymous way of using and creating online money. I don't think [digital currencies] will ever replace the system, but I do think it will give us the option of holding our monetary authorities to a higher standard than just being able to do what they want with our money. Asked about bitcoin's soaring prices, Claasen says that "while there's certainly enough evidence to suggest that bitcoin is worth $4,000 ... it's still a high-risk asset to have ... By the end of the year, we're expecting bitcoin to go up to about $5,000 and high volatility to continue. "So, I don't think it'll ever replace the system, but I do think it will give us the option of holding our monetary authorities to a higher standard than just being able to do what they want with our money."


UK: Palestine activists face prison over Elbit protest

Al Jazeera

A group of Palestinian activists in the UK could be imprisoned after a protest outside a factory owned by a subsidiary of Israeli drone manufacturer, Elbit Systems. Operations at the UAV Engines Ltd plant were shutdown for two days starting July 6 with protesters laying out mock coffins outside the factory and laying on the ground outside its gates. Defence lawyer Mike Schwarz said: "An issue at trial is likely to be the lawfulness of [Elbit and UAV Engine's] activity in its factory." The company's customers include the Israeli army, US Air Force, and the British Royal Air Force.


Israel removing metal detectors from al-Aqsa compound

Al Jazeera

The Israeli security forces have started to remove metal detectors installed at entry points to al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the occupied East Jerusalem. Israel installed metal detectors and security cameras after gunmen shot dead two Israeli guards near al-Aqsa compound - Islam's third holiest site - on July 14. Al Jazeera's Imran Khan, reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, said that hundreds of Palestinians protested against the security cameras with advanced face recognition software that won't be removed. OPINION: The al-Aqsa metal detectors aren't a security measure "Israeli forces fired rubber-coated steel bullets, stun grenades at the protesters, and more security forces were placed at the Lions' gate of the mosque," our correspondent said.


US court dismisses Jaber lawsuit for Yemen drone strike

Al Jazeera

The unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel in Washington on Friday upheld a lower court's finding that it had no say over the president's drone programme. The case began in 2015 when two family members of Faisal bin Ali Jaber, who brought the "wrongful death" case against then-President Barack Obama in 2015, were killed by a drone strike Yemen in 2012. Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, an attorney for rights group Reprieve which helped file the case, agreed with the judge, telling Al Jazeera that legal precedents which stop courts from ruling on "political questions" like the drone programme are outdated. READ MORE: Should we be scared of Trump's drone reforms?


US shoots down 'Iranian-made' drone in Syria

Al Jazeera

In the latest sign of increasingly frequent confrontation with Damascus and its allies, Tuesday's incident closely followed Sunday's US downing of a piloted Syrian army jet in the southern Raqqa countryside after it dropped bombs near US-backed forces. The Pentagon said a US F-15 aircraft, flying over Syrian territory, fired on the drone after it displayed hostile intent and advanced on coalition forces. The drone was shot down after it dropped bombs, aimed only at dirt, but in an area close enough to coalition forces whereby it was considered a threat. In Syria's tangled conflict, Washington backs a coalition of rebel forces fighting both President Assad and fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.


Facebook reveals AI use to tackle 'terrorist content'

Al Jazeera

Amid growing pressure from governments, Facebook says it has stepped up its efforts to address the spread of "terrorist propaganda" on its service by using artificial intelligence (AI). In a blog post on Thursday, the California-based company announced the introduction of AI, including image matching and language understanding, in conjunction with it already-existing human reviewers to better identify and remove content "quickly". "We know we can do better at using technology - and specifically artificial intelligence - to stop the spread of terrorist content on Facebook," Monika Bickert, Facebook's director of global policy management, and Brian Fishman, the company's counterterrorism policy manager, said in the post. In their blog post, Bickert and Fishman said that when Facebook receives reports of potential "terrorism posts", it reviews those reports urgently.


US warplane 'shoots down' armed drone in Syria

Al Jazeera

An American F-15 warplane has shot down a pro-government drone in Syria after it fired at coalition forces, officials said, marking an escalation of tensions in the war-torn country's south. It was the first time since 2009 that the US Air Force shot down another aircraft, the Air Force said. The shooting down of the drone came after another incident earlier on Thursday in which coalition forces struck "technical vehicles" advancing towards At-Tanaf and threatening coalition and partner forces, US Central Command said in a statement. On Tuesday, coalition forces "destroyed" a pro-regime unit that was moving into the area with a tank, artillery, anti-aircraft weapons and armed technical vehicles, the coalition said.


One scientist's race to build a Peace Machine

Al Jazeera

There are some 130 million books in the world, and Honkela imagines how the wisdom and understanding locked in their pages could be utilised if collected and interpreted by computers. Tiedemann focuses on machine translation and believes translation technology could drastically reduce language-related discrimination. Honkela imagines that one ambitious application of the Peace Machine could be to improve democracy through artificial intelligence. One emerging subject of artificial intelligence research is emotion, because people often make decisions based on feelings and not just facts.


Middle East particle accelerator opens in Jordan

Al Jazeera

The Middle East's first particle accelerator has officially been inaugurated in Allan, Jordan, in a ceremony attended by King Abdullah II and Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO. According to UNESCO's press release on Tuesday, the official name of the facility is Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East, or SESAME - the password used in Ali Baba's time to open the gates to unimaginable treasures. In 1995, the Middle East Scientific Cooperation group (MESC) started organising meetings and advocate for the cooperation project. In 1997, MESC took up one proposal from scientist German Gustav-Adolf Voss, who suggested using components from a facility in Berlin that would soon be decommissioned in order to start a project in the Middle East.