March 13, 2019

Experts project how IoT will be used to transform agriculture.

According to the U.N., we will need to produce 70% more food in 2050 than in 2006. Smart sensors combined with big data will help farmers meet the demands of a growing and hungrier world. Experts project how IoT will be used to transform agriculture.

Women and automation


Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios


The most visible faces in the predicted coming wave of job displacement belong to the likes of factory workers and truck drivers — primarily men threatened by robots and AI.

Kaveh writes: But the wave will crash harder over women, who do the majority of highly automatable jobs. Policymakers thus far appear blind to the coming job losses for women, experts say, and risk putting in place training programs and safety nets that mainly rescue men.

Automation is expected to devastate jobs that involve routine tasks, such as back-office clerical jobs like accounting and service jobs in retail and fast food. Women do the majority of this repetitive work, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Key stat: Women will make up 57% of the Americans likely to see their jobs either eliminated or changed significantly by 2026, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). That's despite women making up less than half of the workforce.At the same time, women risk missing out on the fastest-growing jobs of the future, like data analysts and AI experts, because relatively few are in these occupations or are training for them.As of 2018, only 22% of people working in AI were womenaccording to WEF and LinkedIn.

"We risk living in a world where the clearest winners from technological change and the growth from it are disproportionately men," says Molly Kinder, a researcher at New America. In this scenario:

"Women fall further behind in terms of gender parity and upward economic mobility, and we design policies that try to buffer the fall for men and improve their ability to do jobs for the future — but we don't do the same for women."

— Molly Kinder, New America

What's happening: On March 8, WEF announced a new project meant to curb this potential impact on women.

WEF will work with companies to identify the 5 fastest-growing jobs in each firm and try to persuade them to commit to hiring equal numbers of men and women into those roles.The surging jobs vary by industry, according to WEF data shared with Axios, but in most sectors, the top 5 include engineers, scientists and computer experts.

Currently, there are too few women trained for many such jobs.

But increasing demand for women in high-growth jobs will likely encourage more women to obtain the skills for them, says Era Dabla-Norris, head of fiscal affairs at the IMF. This would take a bite out of the so-called "pipeline problem," which describes the relative lack of women in STEM education.Widening the pipeline, programs like AI4ALL, a nonprofit that began at Stanford University, are teaching AI skills to high schoolers from groups that are underrepresented in computer science — like women. And Silicon Valley, drawing fire for sexism, is under pressure to fix it.

But, but, but: Another surging future-proof industry that skews heavily female is home care for older or disabled patients (84% female), along with child care (94% female).

Many of these jobs do not pay well, can be unsafe and offer no career advancement.One frequent suggestion: Subsidize this care work, turning the sector into an anchor for the coming choppy waters.

March 12, 2019

Remarks by spokesman of Islamic Emirate regarding conclusion of latest round of talks

Remarks by spokesman of Islamic Emirate regarding conclusion of latest round of talksin Statements

March 12, 2019

Talks that began with the United States on the 25th of February 2019 came to an end today, 12th March 2019.

This round of talks saw extensive and detailed discussions taking place regarding two issues that were agreed upon during January talks. Those two issues were the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan and preventing anyone from harming others from Afghan soil; how and when will all foreign forces exit Afghanistan and through what method? Similarly, how will the United States and her allies be given assurances about future Afghanistan?

Progress was achieved regarding both these issues. For now, both sides will deliberate over the achieved progress, share it with their respective leaderships and prepare for the upcoming meeting, the date of which shall be set by both negotiation teams.

It should be mentioned that no agreement was reached regarding a ceasefire and talks with the Kabul administration, nor were other issues made a part of the current agenda. Reports by some media outlets in this regard are baseless.

Spokesman of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan

Zabihullah Mujahid
05/07/1440 Hijri Lunar
21/12/1397 Hijri Solar                  12/03/2019 Gregorian

Pakistan to offer gas fields to foreign explorers, investors -official

Pakistan to offer gas fields to foreign explorers, investors -official

Much of the mineral-rich Pakistan remains unexplored despite gas discoveries dating back to the 1950s.

By Reuters | Mar 12, 2019, 10.11 AM IST

Pakistan also plans to introduce measures that ensure auction rights are unaffected by government or policy changes.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan plans to offers dozens of gas field concessions in the coming year to fill in a fuel shortage, a senior official said, with Islamabad hoping a sharp drop in militant violence and changes to exploration policy will attract foreign investors.

Much of the mineral-rich South Asian nation remains unexplored despite gas discoveries dating back to the 1950s. Conventional gas reserves are estimated at 20 trillion cubic feet (tcf), or 560 billion cubic meters, and shale gas reserves, which are untouched, at more than 100 tcf.


Italy's ENI and U.S. oil major Exxon Mobil are jointly drilling for gas offshore in Pakistan's Arabian Sea, but many other Western companies have not returned after leaving more than a decade ago because of Islamist militant violence.


Turbulence for airport developers

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Nadeem Babar, head of Prime Minister Imran Khan's Task Force on Energy Reforms, told Reuters the government was amending its natural gas regulation and drawing up its first-ever shale gas policy, with licensing rounds to follow later this year.

The government hopes improving security in recent years and the country's extensive pipeline network will attract investors.


More than 30 onshore gas blocks have been identified and the government plans to auction a large chunk of them in one or two licensing rounds by the end of 2019, Babar said in his office in the capital Islamabad.

"I expect in the second half of this year we will be auctioning at least 10, if not 20 blocks for exploration."


Pakistan's domestic gas output has plateaued in the last five years, falling to 1.46 trillion cubic feet in 2017/18, from 1.51 trillion cubic feet in 2012/2013, according to an annual report from the Petroleum Ministry.

This has led to severe gas shortages as Pakistan's population, now at 208 million people, has risen sharply over the same period, driving fuel demand from industries and new power plants higher.

Gas demand was estimated at 6.9 billion cubic feet per day for 2017/18, according to Pakistan's Oil & Gas Regulatory Authority, nearly 3 billion cubic feet more than daily output.

To help plug the deficit, Pakistan has built two liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminals, and demand is expected to hit 6.97 billion cubic feet a day for 2018/19, and 7.06 billion cubic feet a day in 2019/20.

But LNG is expensive, so Islamabad wants foreign companies to ramp up domestic exploration.

Babar said Pakistan was also drafting its first shale gas policy and it should be finished this year, with a licensing round in the first half of 2020.

One recent study by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) put Pakistan's shale gas reserves at more than 100 tcf in the Lower Indus Region alone, enough to meet current demand for at least a few decades.

One of the keys to developing natural gas production is to give investors affordable and reliable access to a pipeline network, Babar said, and such a plan is being drafted.

"The entire mechanism of how the pipeline system is working today is being is being re-looked at, to make it more deregulated, make it more open access," Babar said.

Prolific blocks and good data
Babar said the blocks for auction were "prolific and ... (had) good data", with interested companies including Saudi Arabia's Aramco, Exxon Mobil and Russia's Gazprom.

Only about 4 percent of Pakistan's landmass has been explored, and the success rate, with one out of three wells making a find, is above the international average, he said.

Babar said at least three more offshore blocks have also been carved out near where Eni and Exxon are searching for gas.

"We will be auctioning those ... probably next year."

To address security concerns, Babar said a military or a paramilitary unit will be created to guard companies that are exploring in the riskier parts of Pakistan, with the companies paying the costs.

"A mechanism like what was done in CPEC will be developed," Babar said, referring to a 15,000-strong army division set up to safeguard Beijing-funded infrastructure projects in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Pakistan also plans to introduce measures that ensure auction rights are unaffected by government or policy changes, to give investors greater regulatory certainty.

Wanted: Scholar to Document Progressive Perversity

By Dr. Manfred GerstenfeldMarch 11, 2019

Erasmus of Rotterdam, painting by Hans Holbein via Flickr CC

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,109, March 11, 2019

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The academy needs a competent and ambitious historian to document the many instances of progressive perversity throughout the centuries. Topics to be examined should include the antisemitism of Erasmus of Rotterdam, the “Prince of Humanism”; the French Revolution, during which progressives guillotined other progressives; the antisemitism of progressives like Voltaire, most French socialist leaders of the nineteenth century, and Karl Marx; communism; and the 2001 World Conference Against Racism, which was an iconic example of progressive perversity.

Progressive perversity has an extensive history over many centuries, and it is high time the phenomenon were subjected to scholarly analysis. A valid starting point for a competent and ambitious historian’s research might be the antisemitism of Erasmus of Rotterdam, often called the “Prince of Humanism.” He lived at the end of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth century.

Dutch theologian Hans Jansen investigated Erasmus’s antisemitism, which was extreme even for his time. This “humanist” called Judaism the “worst pest.” He even turned down an invitation to visit Spain in 1517, 25 years after the last non-converted Jews had left the country, because he claimed there was no more “Judaized country” than Spain.

In the history of Christianity, the Reformation can be considered a progressive upheaval though its aim was to return to the religion’s sources. The major reformer and antisemite, Martin Luther, neatly fits the description of a perverse progressive. Luther recommended that synagogues be burned to honor God and Christianity. He advised that Jewish books be confiscated and Jews expelled from Christian countries.

Luther also said no people were as thirsty for money as Jews. He believed that if a Christian met a Jew he should make the sign of the cross because a “live devil” was standing before him.  This went far beyond the mainstream antisemitism of his time.

While it would be a mistake to associate progressive incitement exclusively with antisemitism, the phenomenon has often been an indicator of huge misdeeds by individuals and societies.

Voltaire (1694-1778), the great thinker of the Enlightenment, was an extreme antisemite. He once wrote that all Jews were born with raging fanaticism in their hearts, and said the Jews surpassed all nations in bad conduct and barbarism.

The French Revolution, which began in 1789, was a major milestone of progressive perversity. First, the French king and queen and adherents of the old regime were executed. Subsequently, progressives started to send other progressives to the guillotine. For some time this was a daily event. The French Revolution brought about long-term societal renewal – but it was accompanied by mass murder.

During an interview with the late Robert Wistrich, the leading academic antisemitism scholar of our generation, he mentioned inter alia many progressive intellectuals who were antisemites. “Among the heirs of the Enlightenment traditions were the early French Socialists of the 19th century,” he said. “With rare exceptions, they laid the groundwork for late 19th century French antisemitism. They included Charles Fourier, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon – founder of anarchism and a seminal figure in the French labor movement – and Alphonse Toussenel.”

He went on to say, “Proudhon’s great rival and antagonist Karl Marx penned a work that Marxists always include in the pantheon of his writings, Zur Judenfrage (On the Jewish Question). Among the many pearls of intellectual inspiration in this work, one finds phrases like ‘Mammon is the worldly god of the Jews,’ or ‘The present Christian world in Europe and North America has reached the apex of this development and has become thoroughly Judaized.’”

Yet all this pales in comparison with another huge milestone of progressive perversity, the Communist Revolution in Russia. Not only were the Tsar, Tsarina, and adherents of the old regime executed, but in later years under Stalin, many communist leaders were themselves condemned to death. They included Lev Borisovich Kamenev (born Leo Rosenfeld) and Grigory Yevseyevich Zinoviev (born Hirsch Apfelbaum) in the show “Trial of the Sixteen” in 1936. Both had been members of the first politburo. That trial started what became known as the “Great Terror.” Trotsky would be assassinated by a Soviet agent in 1940.

National Socialism is generally considered a reactionary movement, but one should note the opinion of Polish-born sociologist Zygmunt Baumann. He linked the Holocaust to structural elements of modern society and civilization. Baumann pointed out that the Holocaust was the product of men who had been educated at the most refined level of Western society, and said Nazism was closely linked to modernity.

There were several progressive elements in Nazism. French philosopher Luc Ferry noted that Nazi laws to protect nature and prohibit hunting were the first in the world “to reconcile a sizable ecological project with the desire for a real political intervention.” The Nazis were indeed precursors of current animal protection movements that are usually considered progressive.

The historian of progressive perversity could devote many pages to contemporary progressives. In our time, progress is partly linked to left-wing politics. Left-wing antisemitism is a major force directed against the State of Israel. We find it among many Greens, Socialists, and Communists. Three now-deceased socialist European leaders compared Israel’s acts to those of the Nazis: Swedish PM Olof Palme, Greek PM Andreas Papandreou, and French President François Mitterrand. The tenacious antisemitism in the British Labour party to a large extent derives from supporters of its extreme leftist leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

For the scholar of progressive perversity who writes this magnum opus, antisemitism would be a good guideline with which to analyze the contemporary world. Academia is the logical place to start identifying perverse progressives. Outside academia, the BDS movement has its main supporters on the left. Other areas to look into are human rights and other NGOs, trade unions, liberal churches, and so on. As the issuer of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN might be considered progressive, even if it is mainly a collection of non-democratic states voting for heavily biased resolutions against Israel.

The NGO conference adjacent to the “World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance” in Durban, South Africa in September 2001 can be considered an iconic example of progressive perversity. Irwin Cotler, former Minister of Justice of Canada, who participated in the gathering, wrote: “For us, ‘Durban’ is part of our everyday lexicon as a byword for racism and anti-Semitism, just as 9/11 is a byword for terrorist mass murder.”

Progressive perversity overlaps humanitarian racism. The latter means criticizing the transgressions of one side in a conflict and closing one’s eyes to the much worse misdemeanors of the other side. The Goldstone Commission was a paradigm of humanitarian racism as it remained silent about the crimes of Hamas, a genocidal terror movement, and focused instead on the faults of the Israeli democratic state.

The challenges for the scholar who writes this history are great. It demands much knowledge and a clarity of view that can span many centuries. Books on the topic, even if brilliant, will likely be attacked by progressive scholars who cannot stand the truth.

Yet the potential is huge. A scholar who succeeds in this enormous task would become a star historian, all the more so as he or she would lay the foundation for the analysis of the many more perverse progressives yet to come.

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Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ is a Senior Research Associate at the BESA Center and a former chairman of the Steering Committee of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He specializes in IsraeliWestern European relations, antisemitism, and anti-Zionism, and is the author of The War of a Million Cuts.

In Search of Explainable Artificial Intelligence

Geopolitical Monitor

OPINION - March 8, 2019

By Alessandro Bruno

Today, if a new entrepreneur wants to understand why the banks rejected a loan application for his start-up, or if a young graduate wants to know why the large corporation for which he was hoping to work did not invite her for an interview, they will not be able to discover the reasons that led to these decisions.

Both the bank and the corporation used artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to determine the outcome of the loan or the job application. In practice, this means that if your loan application is rejected, or your CV rejected, no explanation can be provided. This produces an embarrassing scenario, which tends to relegate AI technologies to suggesting solutions, which must be validated by human beings.

Explaining how these technologies work remains one of the great challenges that researchers and adopters must resolve in order to allow humans to become less suspicious, and more accepting, of AI.  To that effect, it’s important to note what AI is not. The very term AI conjures up images of sentient robots able to understand human language and act accordingly. While it may one day reach that point, for the time being, in the vast majority of cases AI refers to a complex software, programmed to make decisions based on the inputs it receives.

The big leap occurred when such software moved beyond being able to play and win at chess against humans (Google’s DeepMind) to being able to approve or deny credit such as Lenddo. In other words AI now largely consists of software, based on decisional algorithms. The self-driving apps that Apple, Google, and Tesla are developing are based on the same principles. Similarly, many humans come literally face to face with AI every day when they ask Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant to help them with a search or in finding a good restaurant.

AI, therefore, for most people, is a decisional system that produces results based on the data that feed a given algorithm. And while we’re discussing the subject of AI explainability, algorithms (derived from the IX century Baghdad mathematician al-Kharawazm who first recognized these) are procedures that resolve a specific problem through an established number of basic steps.

In a sense, explainable AI offers a solution to enable the relevant humans to understand how an AI algorithm made a particular decision. Why does anyone need to know this? Because the algorithms take decisions with serious ethical and legal ramifications. Therefore, in order for AI to advance and spread, it can only do so in a context of ‘explainability.’ Let’s consider self-driving cars. In case of an accident, the obvious question is ‘who is responsible?’ The issue of repairing the damage, to a vehicle, person, or property begs to be asked. Legal systems have been slow to adapt, even as automated systems are making decisions in situations, which not even the human algorithm programmers can predict.

The issue of self-driving vehicles may be the most obvious.

Who is responsible? Insurers and lawyers are already debating the issue. And despite the fact that related experimental vehicles have driven millions of miles in tests on actual roads, before drivers will be allowed to exploit the full potential of self-driving technology, legal knots will have to be worked out. And in order for that to happen, the AI algorithms will have to be able to explain how they make their decisions.

Until then, humans will have to take responsibility for decisional processes. And this limits the potential of AI.

Therefore, the future of ‘AI explainability’ is the future of AI itself.

AI will also need to explain itself, given its enormous philosophical implications.

In the Bible, the Creator asked Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Creator offered no explanation for the demand; and his two most valuable creations, Adam and Eve, defied the command. In the Bible, God expelled the two from eternal life. Mankind will not have this luxury. AI technology, like all other technology before it, cannot be expelled from the world-no matter how hard luddites may try. Yet, the ‘forbidden fruit’ story does pose two crucial A.I. problems:

Will AI systems also become independent enough to think for themselves and defy human orders (as many fear and as science fiction has suggested)? And why should humans abide by decisions taken by AI systems?

Of the two, the one that must be addressed first is the latter question.

In the opinion of many, including unlikely sources involved in selling AI dependent technologies – such as Elon Musk of Tesla Motors and SpaceX – artificial intelligence suffers from excessive opacity. Artificial intelligence technologies have generated programs that peruse curricula, cover letters, medical diagnostics or loan applications. Nevertheless, these programs make decisions in ways that seem arbitrary. Or, rather, they make decisions that neither the humans in control nor the programs can explain. Programmers and users simply cannot track the multitude of calculations that the AI program has used to reach its conclusion.

AI technology—if we can even use that plebeian term to describe something that’s as revolutionary as the discovery of fire—will be a turning point for humanity, not just the economy, making our lives better. It’s on the brink of devising systems, whether machines or processes, that can think, feel and even worship their creators…humans. Indeed, humanity has truly reached an Olympian moment. It has evolved to the point of having reshaped the world physically, it has now reached a stage where it can literally play ‘God’. If humans are now in a position to create ever more sentient ‘machines’, there are no guarantees that the machines will be happy to serve and obey their creators all of the time.