World this week
The UN adopted a resolution that should make it easier to hold polluting countries legally accountable for failing to tackle the climate emergency, in a vote hailed as a historic victory for climate justice. The resolution spearheaded by Vanuatu, a tiny Pacific Island state, and youth activists calls on the UN to seek the opinion of the International Court of Justice, or World Court, on countries' obligations to addressing climate change, as well as any consequences they should face for failing to do so.
The ICJ's advisory opinions are not legally binding, but do carry legal authority and moral weight. The prime minister of Vanuatu, Ishmael Kalsakau, said ambition towards achieving the target of limiting the increase in average temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-Industrial levels "is still far from what is needed", and an ICJ opinion could provide the clarity that would benefit global efforts to address the climate crisis and boost international cooperation. The resolution was co-sponsored by 132 countries and adopted by consensus.
The US Senate voted to repeal the resolution that gave a green light for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, in a bipartisan effort to return a basic war power to Congress 20 years after an authorisation many now view as a mistake. Iraqi deaths are estimated in the hundreds of thousands, and nearly 5,000 US troops were killed in the war after President George W. Bush's administration falsely claimed that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.
Senators voted 66-30 to repeal the 2002 measure, as well as the 1991 authorisation that sanctioned the first Gulf War. If passed by the House, the lower chamber of Congress, the repeal would not be expected to affect any current military deployments. But lawmakers in both parties are increasingly seeking to claw back congressional powers they have handed over to the White House relating to US military strikes and deployments.
British newspaper The Guardian issued an apology for the role its founders had in transatlantic slavery and announced a decade-long programme of restorative justice. The Scott Trust, which owns Guardian Media Group, said it expects to invest more than £10m, with millions dedicated specifically to descendant communities. It follows independent academic research commissioned in 2020 to investigate whether there was any historical connection between chattel slavery and John Edward Taylor, the journalist and cotton merchant who founded the newspaper in 1821.
The Scott Trust Legacies of Enslavement report revealed that Taylor, and at least nine of his 11 backers, had links to slavery, principally through the textile industry. Researchers from the universities of Nottingham and Hull were able to find out that Taylor was a partner in two firms which imported vast amounts of raw cotton produced by enslaved people in the Americas. The trust also apologised for early editorial positions that served to support the cotton industry, and therefore the exploitation of enslaved people.
A group of prominent computer scientists and other tech industry notables such as Elon Musk and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak said tech companies are moving too fast in rolling out powerful artificial intelligence technology that could one day outsmart humans. In response to San Francisco startup OpenAI's recent release of GPT-4, a more advanced successor to its widely-used AI chatbot ChatGPT - that helped spark a race among tech giants Microsoft and Google - the group published a petition this week calling for a 6-month pause to consider the risks.
They warn that AI systems with "human-competitive intelligence can pose profound risks to society and humanity" - from flooding the internet with disinformation and automating away jobs to more catastrophic future risks beyond the realms of science fiction. "Recent months have seen AI labs locked in an out-of-control race to develop and deploy ever more powerful digital minds that no one - not even their creators - can understand, predict, or reliably control," they said.
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