July 18th, 2024

In the news today: Liberals to talk UN ceasefire stance and AI fears spark concerns

By The Canadian Press on December 13, 2023.

Here is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to bring you up to speed on what you need to know today…

Liberal caucus meets after UN ceasefire vote

Liberal MPs are set to gather for what is expected to be their final caucus meeting of the year, a day after Canada shifted its stance to join international calls for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

Canada’s vote at the United Nations General Assembly was a departure from its long-standing policy of voting alongside Israel at the international body, which on Tuesday overwhelmingly voted to demand a humanitarian ceasefire.

The decision came amid conflict within Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal caucus over how to respond to the conflict triggered by an attack by Hamas militants in Israel on Oct. 7.

Addressing MPs and staff gathered at a holiday party Tuesday evening, Trudeau acknowledged the war was reverberating across the world and within the Liberal party.

Recent report: Deepfake hoaxes pose ‘persistent threat’

Violent extremists who lack the means to carry out an attack in Canada could compensate by perpetrating hoaxes with the help of artificial intelligence, says a newly released analysis.

The May report by the federal Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre, obtained through the Access to Information Act, warns that such visual trickery, known as a deepfake, poses “a persistent threat to public safety.”

The assessment centre’s report was prompted by an image of dark smoke rising near the U.S. Pentagon that appeared May 22 on social media, causing stocks to drop temporarily. Officials confirmed there was no emergency.

Synthetic images, video and audio are becoming easier to generate through applications driven by artificial intelligence, allowing people to spread false information and sow confusion.

The report also noted that democracies must invest in cutting-edge deepfake detection technologies that can unmask digital imposters, as well as criminalize the creation and dissemination of deepfakes.

Canada’s AI darling Cohere poised for success

In a year where artificial intelligence has created plenty of buzz, the co-founder of one of Canada’s biggest companies in the space says it’s all about the simple uses of AI.

Nick Frosst (Frost) of Toronto-based AI company Cohere says he gets most excited about AI use cases that other people would see as mundane.

He says one of those cases is using A-I to extract information from resum├ęs, cutting out the tedium of filling out job application questionnaires.

But Geoffrey Hinton, often called the godfather of AI and an early Cohere investor, has said he fears the technology could lead to bias and discrimination, joblessness, echo chambers, fake news, battle robots and existential risk.

While Frost says the company is trying to make sure that the tech is good at the things they can be proud of and bad at the things that they wouldn’t be, he admits: “In general, I think it’s great to have people think about the consequences of technology.”

Disappointed by OD response, B.C. coroner exits

British Columbia’s chief coroner Lisa Lapointe says she’s a hopeful person, but she is leaving her office frustrated and disappointed.

Angry, even.

Lapointe has been at the forefront of the province’s battle against toxic drug overdoses for years, but she said the public health emergency that was declared in 2016 never received a “a co-ordinated response commensurate with the size of this crisis.”

Instead, she lamented a “one-off, beds and projects” response to the emergency that the B.C. Coroners Service says has claimed more than more than 13,000 lives.

Lapointe, who retires in February, said she was particularly worried about what she feared was the creep of politics into vital public health decisions surrounding overdose policies.

She wondered whether the government even read a recent coroners service death review panel report that recommended providing controlled drugs to people without prescriptions.

Moon trek marks busy time for Canada’s astronauts

Less than a year away from a historic trip around the moon, Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen says humankind’s upcoming missions to further explore deep space will inspire future generations, just as NASA’s Apollo expeditions sparked his passion.

Hansen will be on board Artemis II, slated to launch in November 2024, the first crewed voyage to lunar space since the final Apollo mission more than half a century ago.

The London, Ontario-native, will also be the first non-American to travel beyond the lower Earth orbit.

His mission involves a lunar flyby, performing a figure-eight manoeuvre around the far side of the moon before returning to Earth. It will serve as a precursor to a mission expected to land the first woman and the first person of colour on the moon in December 2025 or later.

Climate Summit Agreement

Negotiators at United Nations COP28 climate talks agreed Wednesday that the world must transition away from planet-warming fossil fuels.

It was a significant step toward shifting how the world is powered but one filled with questions about how soon and who will pay for the transition.

COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber gaveled through the text at a plenary session in Dubai after more than two weeks of discussions that saw nations try and figure out a way for the world to stay in line with limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times.

Countries were split between those wanting strong language on a phase-out of fossil fuels and others who wanted some way to continue burning oil, gas and coal.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec.13, 2023

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