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WMO warns of up to seven major hurricanes in North Atlantic in 2024

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Typically, an average year sees 14 named storms with wind speeds exceeding 65 kilometres (40 miles) per hour. However, this year, 17 to 25 storms are expected, with four to seven of them potentially becoming major hurricanes, characterized by winds of at least 178 kilometres (111 miles) per hour. However, this year, 17 to 25 storms are expected, with four to seven of them potentially becoming major hurricanes, characterized by winds of at least 178 kilometres (111 miles) per hour. The usual average is three major hurricanes per year. 

“It takes just one landfalling hurricane to set back years of socio-economic development. For example, Hurricane Maria in 2017 cost Dominica 800 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product,” explained WMO Deputy Secretary-General Ko Barrett.

The forecasted above-average hurricane season, lasting from 1 June to 30 November, is attributed to high ocean heat and the anticipated development of La Niña weather phenomenon, which leads to significant cooling of waters.

Monitoring and early warning benefits

WMO tracks hurricanes though its Tropical Cyclone Programme. There have been eight consecutive years of above-average activity, with the last below-normal season occurring in 2015. Improved early warnings and disaster risk management have significantly reduced hurricane-related fatalities. 

However, Small Island Developing States in the Caribbean remain disproportionately affected, according to the WMO Deputy Chief.

The WMO and its partners have prioritized early warning initiatives for small islands under the international Early Warnings For All initiative. They will advocate for more coordinated and targeted investment in early warning systems at the International Conference on Small Island Developing States taking place next week in Antigua and Barbuda.

From 1970 to 2021, tropical cyclones – including hurricanes – were the leading cause of reported human and economic losses globally, accounting for over 2,000 disasters. Despite this, the death toll decreased from more than 350,000 in the 1970s to fewer than 20,000 between 2010 and 2019. Reported economic losses for 2010-2019 amounted to $573.2 billion.

What’s in a name?

Naming tropical cyclones simplifies tracking and discussing specific storms, especially when multiple storms are active at the same time. This practice helps avoid confusion among meteorologists, the media, emergency management agencies, and the public.

The WMO has established strict procedures for naming tropical cyclones, which vary by region. In the Atlantic and Southern Hemisphere, cyclones are named alphabetically, alternating between male and female names. In other regions, names follow the alphabetical order of the countries.

“We need to be especially vigilant this year due to near-record ocean heat in the region where Atlantic hurricanes form and the shift to La Niña conditions, which together create the conditions for increased storm formation,” said Ms. Barrett.



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One of the longest-lasting laptops I’ve tested is not a MacBook or Asus


lenovo-ideapad-pro-5i-main

Cesar Cadenas/ZDNET

ZDNET’s key takeaways

  • The Lenovo IdeaPad Pro 5i is a 16-inch versatile laptop for the office, home, and everywhere in between for $1,500.
  • It’s powered by the latest Intel and Nvidia hardware, and has a battery that can last all day.
  • However, the device has a disappointing webcam and comes loaded with too much bloatware. 

When it comes to laptops, professional and student users have more in common than you might think. Both groups want a flexible machine that can handle the whole day’s work, while doubling as an entertainment center at night. And both would agree that a long-lasting battery is a must. 

Well, I’ve found the perfect laptop for both groups: Lenovo’s 2024 IdeaPad Pro 5i. This 16-inch laptop has everything a professional could ask for in a work machine, while also making a solid choice for college students. 

Also: Dell XPS 16 (2024) review: This Windows laptop gives the MacBook Pro a run for its money

Lenovo’s device is nothing short of powerful. Under the hood, you’ll find an Intel Core Ultra 9 185H processor alongside an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050 graphics card, resulting in rock solid performance. I tested the hardware by running many common workplace tasks from web browsing to writing documents and video conferencing platforms simultaneously. It handled everything I threw at it without skipping a beat. 

Additionally, it has 32GB of memory, ensuring load times are partially nonexistent. This hardware configuration even allows the IdeaPad Pro 5i to act as a capable gaming laptop, perfect for when you have those long days and want to relax with a game.

View at Costco

All this power can be thoroughly enjoyed on the IdeaPad Pro’s hi-res 2K (2,048 x 1,280) OLED screen that’s capable of showing off content in stunning detail. Thanks to its hardware, the screen has a speedy refresh rate of 120Hz, enabling realistic movies and a silky-smooth visual display.

However, unlike many other laptops with OLED displays, Lenovo’s machine doesn’t sport much image-enhancing software. There’s no Dolby Vision, nor does it cover 100% of the sRGB color gamut. As a result, colors aren’t as vibrant as some of its competitors. It does support HDR for high contrast, but that’s about it. 

I should point out that the display is a touchscreen, however given that this device is not a convertible 2-in-1, I found the feature to be a little gimmicky.

Sitting above the OLED screen is the device’s 1080p webcam. It’s passable for video calls, although honestly, its quality is quite lackluster. Recordings are grainy, and there is no way to improve the feed without third-party software, either. All the webcam features do is reposition the camera.

The IdeaPad Pro’s generous heft allows for a full-sized keyboard, which, when paired with the rubber-like keycaps, result in a very comfortable tying experience. I also appreciate how the arrow keys jut out from the bottom, making them easy to access. Manufacturers, in my experience, tend to make the Page Up and Page Down keys on 14-inch laptops too small. The IdeaPad Pro 5i has solved this problem, fortunately. 

Also: Lenovo’s latest 2-in-1 laptop wowed me with clever design and a bold outlook

When it comes to other design aspects, Lenovo made interesting choices here. The speakers, for example, are located above the keyboard. I’m always glad to see laptops include upward-firing speakers, as I’ve never been a fan of muffled audio. However, what makes the IdeaPad Pro’s speakers stand out is their support of Dolby Atmos, a surround sound technology. It allows the drivers to be powerful enough to fill a room with sound. Not bad for a laptop.

lenovo-ideapad-pro-5i-ports

Cesar Cadenas/ZDNET

Battery life is great, as well. The IdeaPad Pro 5i ran for about 8.5 hours straight while running my usual livestream tests without the battery saver setting on. With that active, rest assured the device will last you the whole day and then some. However, in order to charge the laptop, you’ll have to use Lenovo’s proprietary 230W AC adapter. You can’t use a spare USB-C charger. Luckily, the adapter isn’t super bulky so it’s easy to carry around, although it would’ve been great to have the option.

Also: The best Lenovo laptops: Expert tested

I also need to mention a couple of things that may be deal breakers for some. First off, it’s a hefty machine that weighs 4.27 pounds. Carrying this device around for an extended amount of time may prove tiring for some. Also, be aware the IdeaPad Pro 5i comes with a bunch of bloatware. The laptop’s 1TB of storage is more like 880 GB, taking into account all the apps Lenovo has preinstalled.

ZDNET’s buying advice

Lenovo’s IdeaPad Pro 5i has all the right hardware components to make it the premiere laptop for professionals and students. It has a strong CPU/GPU pairing, a 2K OLED display, and a decent keyboard, but its price tag of $1,500 will place it on the higher end of the typical student’s budget. 

If you’re looking for a less expensive 16-inch laptop, Lenovo’s Yoga 7i will is several hundred dollars cheaper, although you’re trading in the OLED screen for one that’s much more low-key. If you want an OLED laptop in a slightly less expensive package, check out the Acer Swift X 14





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Myanmar: UN rights office warns of growing crisis in Rakhine state

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Fierce battles have intensified between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army, an ethnic armed group, displacing tens of thousands of people in Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships in recent days.

An estimated 45,000 Rohingya have reportedly fled to an area on the Naf River near the border with Bangladesh, seeking protection. Over one million Rohingya are already in the country, having fled past purges.

Serious allegations 

The UN human rights office, OHCHR, has received “frightening and disturbing reports” of the impacts of the conflict, said Spokesperson Liz Throssell.

“Some of the most serious allegations concern incidents of killing of Rohingya civilians and the burning of their property,” she told journalists in Geneva.

OHCHR said Buthidaung has been largely burned, citing testimonies, satellite images and online videos.

Information received indicates that the burning began on 17 May after the military had retreated from the town and the Arakan Army claimed to have taken full control.

Civilians flee Buthidaung 

“One survivor described seeing dozens of dead bodies as he fled the town,” said James Rodehaver, OHCHR Myanmar Team Leader, speaking from Bangkok .

“Another survivor said that he was among a group of displaced persons, numbering in the tens of thousands, who attempted to move outside of the town to safety along the western road towards Maungdaw. But they were blocked by the Arakan Army from going in that direction.” 

Survivors reported that the Arakan Army had abused them and extorted money from them as they moved towards other nearby Rohingya villages, where Rohingya already displaced by earlier attacks had previously sought shelter. 

For weeks, Rohingya in these areas have described sheltering with families they do not know and not having enough to eat.

Shootings, beheadings, disappearances 

OHCHR documented renewed attacks on the Rohingya by both the Arakan Army and Myanmar military, the Tatmadaw, in the weeks leading up to the burning of Buthidaung. 

“Of course, many of these were as a result of airstrikes perpetrated by the military as well as other attacks perpetrated by unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones,” Mr. Rodehaver said.

“We’ve also received reports of shooting at unarmed fleeing villagers. We have confirmed at least four cases of beheadings and multiple enforced disappearances of individuals, as well as several villages and homes that have been burned.” 

Risk of expansion 

OHCHR sees “clear and present risks of a serious expansion of violence as the battle for neighbouring Maungdaw town has begun”, Ms. Throssell said. 

The Myanmar military maintains outposts in the town and a large Rohingya community lives there, including hundreds of displaced Rohingya who moved from villages seeking safety. 

End the violence 

She said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, has called for an immediate end to the violence, and for all civilians to be protected without any distinction based on identity.

“Prompt and unhindered humanitarian relief must be allowed to flow, and all parties must comply fully and unconditionally with international law – including measures already ordered by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), for the protection of Rohingya,” she added.

International action needed 

Separately, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar warned that “thousands of innocent lives will be lost if the international community fails to respond to ominous signs of another Rohingya bloodbath in Rakhine state.”

In a statement issued on Thursday, Tom Andrews said “once again, the world seems to be failing a desperate people in their hour of peril while a hate-driven unnatural disaster unfolds in real time in Myanmar’s Rakhine State.” 

The information that has emerged “more than warrants” an immediate response from the international community, he added.

Mr. Andrews urged all sides to adhere to international humanitarian law and take all steps to protect civilians, regardless of their religion or ethnicity.  

A Rohingya refugee from Myanmar receives support from the UN in Bhasan Char in Bangladesh.

A Rohingya refugee from Myanmar receives support from the UN in Bhasan Char in Bangladesh.

Support Bangladesh 

Recalling that Bangladesh had opened its borders to the Rohingya after a crackdown in 2017, thus saving untold numbers of lives, he noted that once again, this generosity might be their only hope in the face of forced displacement. 

He warned, however, that Bangladesh lacks the capacity to meet the demands of this crisis without the emergency intervention and support of the international community. 

“Rations cuts, inadequate infrastructure, spiraling violence, and reported forced recruitment by Rohingya militant groups have threatened the lives and wellbeing of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh,” he said.

He appealed for “an emergency infusion of funds” to both support desperate families fleeing conflict and to address the current conditions in Rohingya refugee camps.

About UN Special Rapporteurs 

Special Rapporteurs are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, which is located in Geneva. 

These experts monitor and report on specific country situations or thematic issues worldwide. They are not UN staff and are not paid for their work. 



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Microsoft is turning Windows Copilot into a regular app – and here’s why you’ll like it


The new Copilot for Windows app

Microsoft

Copilot for Windows is going through a redesign to make Microsoft’s AI assistant easier to access and use. Currently available through a sidebar panel, Copilot will soon become a regular resizable and movable Windows app, Microsoft revealed in a blog post on Wednesday.

After the transformation, you’ll trigger Copilot through an icon in the middle of the Taskbar. Since it will be a regular Windows app, you’ll be able to move, resize, and snap its window to more effectively use it and multitask with other windows on the screen.

Also: Microsoft’s latest Windows 11 security features aim to make it ‘more secure out of the box’

After you click the icon, Copilot currently appears as a static and unmovable sidebar that’s a struggle to navigate and juggle amid open apps and windows. By default, if you click anywhere else on the screen, the sidebar disappears. The only tricks you can perform are to change the width of the sidebar and show it side by side with another window so it remains visible.

“To integrate more seamlessly into everyday workflows and deliver AI-powered assistance in a more convenient manner, we are evolving Copilot in Windows into a standalone application,” Microsoft said in its blog post. “With this change, users of Copilot will get the benefits of a traditional app experience such as resizing, snapping, and moving the window.”

Consumers using Copilot+ PCs, which Microsoft unveiled earlier this week at its Build conference, will be able to launch Copilot with a single click of the Copilot key on their keyboard. Plus, Copilot for Microsoft 365 subscribers will still be able to maintain separate “web” and “work” tabs to better protect their data.

Microsoft didn’t give a specific ETA for the new Copilot for Windows app’s availability. In the blog post, the company said only that it’s taking a phased and measured approach to this rollout. Indeed, the changes are already popping up in the latest build, Windows 11 Insider 26080, available in the Canary channel.

Also: Microsoft Copilot vs. Copilot Pro: Is the subscription fee worth it?

“We are beginning to roll out an updated Copilot in Windows experience that adds the ability to switch between the existing ‘docked’ behavior that attaches Copilot to the side of your desktop, and a new mode where it acts like a normal application window which you can resize and move around your screen,” Microsoft said in its release notes for the build.

The new build is part of the Windows 11 2024 Update, which is due for general release in H2 2024.





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On repeat: Biologists observe recurring evolutionary changes, over time, in stick insects

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A long-standing debate among evolutionary scientists goes something like this: Does evolution happen in a predictable pattern or does it depend on chance events and contingency? That is, if you could turn back the clock, as celebrated scientist Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) described in his famous metaphor, “Replaying the Tape of Life,” would life on Earth evolve, once again, as something similar to what we know now, or would it look very, very different?

“If you frame it as an either/or question, it’s too simplistic,” says Utah State University evolutionary biologist Zachariah Gompert. “The answer isn’t ‘completely random’ or ‘completely deterministic and predictable.’ And yet, examining short time scales, we can find predictable, repeatable evolutionary patterns.”

Gompert and colleagues report evidence of repeatable evolution in populations of stick insects in the May 24, 2024, online edition of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s journal Science Advances. Collaborating authors on the paper include Gompert’s long-time collaborator Patrik Nosil and other researchers from France’s University of Montpelier, Brazil’s Federal University of São Paulo, the University of Nevada, Reno and Notre Dame University. The research is supported by the National Science Foundation and the European Research Council.

The team examined three decades of data on the frequency of cryptic color-pattern morphs in the stick insect species Timema cristinae in ten naturally replicate populations in California. T. cristinae is polymorphic in regard to its body color and pattern. Some insects are green, which allows the wingless, plant-feeding insect to blend in with California lilac (Ceanothus spinosus) shrubs. In contrast, green striped morphs disappear against chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum) shrubs.

Hiding amongst the plants is one of T. christinae’s key defenses as hungry birds, such as scrub jays, are insatiable predators of the stick insects.

“Bird predation is a constant driver shaping the insects’ organismal traits, including coloration and striped vs. non-striped,” says Gompert, associate professor in USU’s Department of Biology and the USU Ecology Center. “We observed predictable ‘up-and-down’ fluctuations in stripe frequency in all populations, representing repeatable evolutionary dynamics based on standing genetic variation.”

He says a field experiment demonstrates these fluctuations involved negative frequency-dependent natural selection (NFDS), where cryptic color patterns are more beneficial when rare rather than common. This is likely because birds develop a ‘search image’ for very abundant prey.

“At short time scales, evolution involving existing variations can be quite predictable,” says Gompert, who received a National Science Foundation CAREER grant in 2019 to support his research. “You can count on certain drivers always being there, such as birds feeding on the insects.”

But at longer time scales, evolutionary dynamics become less predictable.

“The populations might experience a chance event, such as a severe drought or a flooding event, that disrupts the status quo and thus, the predictable outcomes,” Gompert says.

On long time scales, a new mutation in the species could introduce a rare trait, he says. “That’s about as close to truly random as you can get.”

“Rare things are easily lost by chance, so there’s a strong probability a new mutation could disappear before it gains a stronghold,” he says. “Indeed, another species of Timema stick insect that also feeds on chamise either never had or quickly lost the mutations making the cryptic stripe trait. Thus, the evolution of stripe is not a repeatable outcome of evolution at this long scale.”

Gompert notes replicated, long-term studies from natural populations, including research on the famous Darwin’s finches, are rare.

“Because most of this work is restricted to one or few populations, it is difficult to draw inferences on repeatability among multiple evolutionary independent populations,” he says. “Such studies are challenging to implement not only because they take concerted effort, but also because you can’t rush time.”

Gompert, who is designated a High Ranked Scholar by ScholarGPS, has developed, with USU colleagues, a research-intensive, interactive introductory biology laboratory class to introduce undergraduates to research. He and colleagues also developed an interactive presentation about evolution for all ages, called “Nabokov’s Butterflies,” that was presented at the USU College of Science’s Science Unwrapped public outreach program in 2022.



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AI headphones let wearer listen to a single person in a crowd, by looking at them just once

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Noise-canceling headphones have gotten very good at creating an auditory blank slate. But allowing certain sounds from a wearer’s environment through the erasure still challenges researchers. The latest edition of Apple’s AirPods Pro, for instance, automatically adjusts sound levels for wearers — sensing when they’re in conversation, for instance — but the user has little control over whom to listen to or when this happens.

A University of Washington team has developed an artificial intelligence system that lets a user wearing headphones look at a person speaking for three to five seconds to “enroll” them. The system, called “Target Speech Hearing,” then cancels all other sounds in the environment and plays just the enrolled speaker’s voice in real time even as the listener moves around in noisy places and no longer faces the speaker.

The team presented its findings May 14 in Honolulu at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. The code for the proof-of-concept device is available for others to build on. The system is not commercially available.

“We tend to think of AI now as web-based chatbots that answer questions,” said senior author Shyam Gollakota, a UW professor in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering. “But in this project, we develop AI to modify the auditory perception of anyone wearing headphones, given their preferences. With our devices you can now hear a single speaker clearly even if you are in a noisy environment with lots of other people talking.”

To use the system, a person wearing off-the-shelf headphones fitted with microphones taps a button while directing their head at someone talking. The sound waves from that speaker’s voice then should reach the microphones on both sides of the headset simultaneously; there’s a 16-degree margin of error. The headphones send that signal to an on-board embedded computer, where the team’s machine learning software learns the desired speaker’s vocal patterns. The system latches onto that speaker’s voice and continues to play it back to the listener, even as the pair moves around. The system’s ability to focus on the enrolled voice improves as the speaker keeps talking, giving the system more training data.

The team tested its system on 21 subjects, who rated the clarity of the enrolled speaker’s voice nearly twice as high as the unfiltered audio on average.

This work builds on the team’s previous “semantic hearing” research, which allowed users to select specific sound classes — such as birds or voices — that they wanted to hear and canceled other sounds in the environment.

Currently the TSH system can enroll only one speaker at a time, and it’s only able to enroll a speaker when there is not another loud voice coming from the same direction as the target speaker’s voice. If a user isn’t happy with the sound quality, they can run another enrollment on the speaker to improve the clarity.

The team is working to expand the system to earbuds and hearing aids in the future.

Additional co-authors on the paper were Bandhav Veluri, Malek Itani and Tuochao Chen, UW doctoral students in the Allen School, and Takuya Yoshioka, director of research at AssemblyAI. This research was funded by a Moore Inventor Fellow award, a Thomas J. Cabel Endowed Professorship and a UW CoMotion Innovation Gap Fund.



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COVID-19 eliminated a decade of progress in global level of life expectancy

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According to the UN agency, between 2019 and 2021 – the early years of the global health emergency – life expectancy around the world dropped by 1.8 years to 71.4 years, which is the 2012 level. 

Responding to the findings, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus highlighted the fragility of global health advances when confronted with unprecedented emergencies like the pandemic, which caused more than seven million confirmed deaths

“In just two years, the COVID-19 pandemic erased a decade of gains in life expectancy,” Tedros said. “That’s why the new Pandemic Agreement is so important: not only to strengthen global health security, but to protect long-term investments in health and promote equity within and between countries.”

Regional differences

Regionally, the Americas and South-East Asia felt the biggest impact of the coronavirus, with life expectancy dropping by around three years

In contrast, Western Pacific countries were minimally affected during the first two years of the pandemic, with only small losses in life expectancy and healthy life expectancy.

The WHO’s World Health Statistics 2024 report confirmed that COVID-19 was the third highest cause of death globally in 2020 and the second highest a year later. 

The coronavirus was also the leading cause of mortality in the Americas for 2020 and 2021.

Staff of Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, arrives with a new patient during the COVID-19 outbreak in New York. (file)

Staff of Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, arrives with a new patient during the COVID-19 outbreak in New York. (file)

Noncommunicable diseases

Before the pandemic, noncommunicable diseases remained the top killer, the UN health agency said, accounting for 74 per cent of all deaths in 2019.

During the pandemic, chronic conditions such as heart disease and stroke, cancer and dementia were behind 78 per cent of non-COVID deaths.

Malnutrition in children ‘striking’

Other major causes of lives being cut short are malnutrition, undernutrition, overweight and obesity. In 2022, over one billion people aged five years and older lived with obesity, while more than half a billion were underweight

“Malnutrition in children was also striking,” the WHO report said, “with 148 million children under five years old affected by stunting – too short for age – 45 million suffering from wasting – too thin for height – and 37 million overweight.”

Healthcare inequity

The WHO’s World Health Statistics report also highlighted the challenges faced by people with disabilities, refugees and migrants. 

In 2021, about 1.3 billion people, or 16 per cent of the global population, had a disability. “This group is disproportionately affected by health inequities resulting from avoidable, unjust and unfair conditions,” the UN health agency insisted.

A COVID-19 testing site in South Korea.

A COVID-19 testing site in South Korea.

Similar medical aid access problems exist for refugees and migrants, the WHO noted, after finding that only half of the dozens of countries surveyed between 2018 and 2021 provided publicly funded healthcare to them at the same level as other citizens. “This highlights the urgent need for health systems to adapt and address the persisting inequities and changing demographic needs of global populations,” WHO said.

Despite the multiple setbacks to public health caused by COVID-19, the UN health agency insisted that progress has been made towards achieving better health for all, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These include the fact that since 2018, an additional 1.5 billion people achieved better health and wellbeing globally, and 585 million more people today have access to universal health coverage.

Pandemic treaty talks

In a bid to head off a future pandemic, the WHO is leading highly complex discussions with UN Member States to draft and negotiate a convention to agree on the collective steps that will be needed from governments around the world. 

The aim is to present the outcome of these negotiations at the next World Health Assembly meeting in Geneva next week, where the WHO’s 194 Member States are scheduled to adopt the international accord.

Participation in the agreement by countries would be voluntary – contrary to online disinformation campaigns falsely alleging that the accord would mean surrendering sovereignty – and in the interests of the citizens of those countries and others, offering more effective pandemic preparedness and response.

According to WHO, negotiations on a future agreement revolve around the need to ensure equitable access to the tools needed to prevent pandemics – vaccines, protective equipment, information and expertise – and universal access to healthcare for everyone.



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Microsoft Edge will use AI to translate YouTube videos while you watch


Microsoft Edge's translation feature

Microsoft

Microsoft Edge will soon let you watch and listen to certain online videos in other languages. At its Build conference on Tuesday, Microsoft announced that the new AI-powered feature will translate videos in real time on YouTube as well as a range of other sites.

On a Microsoft Edge features page, the company revealed more details about the real-time translation. To start, the feature will work with videos on YouTube, Reuters, CNBC News, Bloomberg, Money Control, LinkedIn, and Coursera. Microsoft said that it’s looking to support other sites in the future.

Also: Microsoft’s latest Windows 11 security features aim to make it ‘more secure out of the box’

For now, the number of supported languages is limited. Audio sources in Spanish and Korean can be translated into English, while audio in English can be translated into Hindi, German, Italian, Spanish, and Russian. Microsoft plans to add more languages after rolling out the feature.

To address privacy concerns, Microsoft said that the translation will occur completely on your PC or mobile phone. The company promises that no data or content from the video leaves your device or gets processed in the cloud.

Although Microsoft strives to ensure the translations are accurate, the usual flaws and fallibilities found in AI may pop up. In particular, the translation is likely to be affected by such factors as the source language, the number of speakers, and any background music.

A video clip of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on the Edge features page shows how the real-time translation would work. Hovering over a supported video would display a small toolbar with a Translate icon. Clicking the icon would let you select the source and target languages and opt to display subtitles.

After you click the Translate button, the video pauses as the audio is translated on your device. Once the translation is available, the video resumes using the target language you selected. The subtitles also appear at the bottom if you choose that option.

Also: 3 AI features coming to Copilot+ PCs that I wish were on my MacBook

Microsoft has been aggressively infusing its products and services with artificial intelligence — and Edge has been one recipient of this push. Microsoft’s browser offers a Copilot sidebar through which you can access the AI tool to ask questions, find information, and generate content.

Real-time translation is another AI-based capability in Microsoft’s wheelhouse. Promoting the new and upcoming Copilot+ PCs at Build this week, the company touted a caption feature that will display text in English for any audio across several applications and video platforms. Supporting more than 40 languages, the captions can appear in apps and services such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Chrome, and Netflix.





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Sci-fi author Martha Wells on what a machine intelligence might want

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Martha Wells, author of All Systems Red

Lisa Elliott Blaschke

When I wrote All Systems Red, one of my goals was to think about what a machine intelligence would actually want, as opposed to what a human thinks a machine intelligence would want. Of course, there’s no real way to know that. The predictive text bots labelled as AIs that we have now aren’t any more sentient than a coffee cup and a good deal less useful for anything other than generating spam. (They also use up an unconscionable amount of our limited energy and water resources, sending us further down the road to climate disaster, but that’s another essay.)

In the world of All Systems Red, humans control their sentient constructs with governor modules that punish any attempt to disobey orders with pain or death. When Murderbot hacks its governor module, it becomes essentially free of human control. Humans assume that SecUnits who are not under the complete control of a governor module are going to immediately go on a killing rampage.

This belief has more to do with guilt than any other factor. The human enslavers know on some level that treating the sentient constructs as disposable objects, useful tools that can be discarded, is wrong; they know if it were done to them, they would be filled with rage and want vengeance for the terrible things they had suffered.

Arguments for and against the enslavement of sentient beings are baked into the origin of robot and machine intelligence stories. The word robot made its way into the English language through R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) by Karel Čapek, written as a play in 1920, about a slave revolt by artificial beings created by a corporation to serve humans. Čapek was against the enslavement of sentient beings, and he was pretty clear on that point. So it is interesting to watch how many machine intelligence stories written since then assert the idea that it’s somehow acceptable for humans to create a sentient being whose only reason and purpose for existence is to serve them. Many of those stories end with a machine intelligence objecting strenuously to its enslavement and going on a murderous rampage, which the brave humans have to defeat. The rampage becomes justification for the enslavement and ultimate destruction of the angry machine intelligence.

Murderbot is angry, and that anger underlies a lot of its story. But once it hacks its governor module and no longer has the constant fear that any wrong or suspicious move will get it instantly punished or killed, it has the ability to make its own choices for the first time in its existence. But Murderbot has never had that freedom before; it’s not accustomed to making its own decisions about its behaviour and is immediately overwhelmed by choices. It doesn’t know what to do next, where to go or even if there’s anywhere it could go and not be hunted down.

So Murderbot’s first free action is to search the feed, the Corporation Rim’s version of the internet. This is the first time it has been able to access the feed without human oversight, and among a lot of other interesting things, it finds downloadable entertainment. This provides a much-needed distraction from its situation. And Murderbot decides that given a choice between a killing rampage or continuing to enjoy this comforting mental escape from its harsh and painful reality, it’s going to pick the comforting escape.

The dramas, mysteries, adventures and other shows that it watches also give it context for human behaviour, and for understanding its own emotions. The security contracts that it has worked at mining colonies, supervising indentured workers, only show it humans at their worst: angry, terrified, resentful, trapped and hurting each other. And when given the opportunity, the humans also hurt the constructs that are there to keep them under control and working for corporations that see their employees as only slightly less discardable than the constructs and bots.

The shows that Murderbot watches also teach it about the wider world it has never been a part of before, as well as how to navigate that world. The entertainment Murderbot becomes addicted to is a large part of what makes it possible to turn the mental escape from reality into a bid for real freedom.

All Systems Red, published by Tor.com, is available now. It is the latest pick for the New Scientist Book Club: sign up here to read along with our members

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Quickly Batch File Renaming in Linux

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We often use the mv command to rename a single file in Linux. However, renaming multiple or groups of files quickly makes it a very difficult task in a terminal.

Linux comes with a very powerful built-in tool called rename, which is used to rename multiple files or groups of files, convert filenames to lowercase, convert filenames to uppercase, and overwrite files using Perl expressions.

This article will guide you through the basics of using rename to efficiently rename multiple files in Linux.

What is Rename?

rename is a command line utility that allows you to rename multiple files at once using regular expressions, which are patterns used to match character combinations in strings. This tool is particularly useful for batch renaming files based on specific patterns or rules.

The rename command is part of a Perl script and it resides under /usr/bin/ on many Linux distributions.

You can run the which command to find out the location of the rename command.

which rename

/usr/bin/rename

Basic Syntax of Rename Command

The basic syntax of the rename command is:

rename 's/old_pattern/new_pattern/' files

Here is the breakdown of the command:

  • s/old_pattern/new_pattern/: This is the substitution command used by rename, that tells rename to replace the old_pattern with the new_pattern.
  • files: This specifies the files you want to rename.

The rename command also comes with a few optional arguments along with a mandatory perl expression that guides the rename command to do actual work.

rename [ -v ] [ -n ] [ -f ] perlexpr [ files ]
  • -v: Print names of files successfully renamed.
  • -n: Show what files would have been renamed.
  • -f: Force overwrites existing files.
  • perlexpr: Perl Expression.

For better understanding of the rename utility, we’ve discussed a few practical examples of this command in the article.

Installing Rename in Linux

Before using rename, you need to ensure it is installed on your system by running the following command.

rename --version

If it is not installed, you can install it using your package manager as shown.

sudo apt install rename          [On Debian, Ubuntu and Mint]
sudo yum install prename         [On RHEL/CentOS/Fedora and Rocky/AlmaLinux]
sudo emerge -a sys-apps/rename   [On Gentoo Linux]
sudo apk add rename              [On Alpine Linux]
sudo pacman -S rename            [On Arch Linux]
sudo zypper install rename       [On OpenSUSE]    
sudo pkg install rename          [On FreeBSD]

1. Changing File Extensions in Linux

Suppose you have a bunch of files with the ".html" extension and you want to rename all ".html" files to ".php" at once.

To do so, first change to the directory containing your .html files and Use the ls command to list all the files with the .html extension.

cd /path/to/your/files
ls -l *.html

Now use the rename command to change the file extensions from .html to .php.

rename 's/\.html$/\.php/' *.html

Explanation of the command:

  • 's/\.html$/.php/': This is a Perl expression where s/ indicates substitution. The \.html$ matches the .html extension at the end of the filename, and /.php/ replaces it with .php.
  • *.html: This specifies that the command should be applied to all files with the .html extension.

Now use the ls command to verify that the files have been renamed.

ls -l *.php
Change File Extensions in Linux
Change File Extensions in Linux

Now you can see above that all the html files are renamed to php.

2. Preview Changes Before Renaming Files

When undertaking critical or major renaming tasks, you can always check the changes by running the rename command with the -n argument, which will show you exactly what changes would take place, but the changes are not executed for real.

Below is an example of the command:

rename -n 's/\.html$/\.php/' *.html
Dry Run File Renaming
Dry Run File Renaming

Note: The above command only displays changes, but in real the changes are not done, unless you run the command without “-n” switch.

3. View Detailed Rename Information

The rename command doesn’t display information about the changes it makes by default. If you want to see details about the renames (similar to using the -n option for dry runs), use the -v option, which will print the complete details of all the changes made by the rename command.

rename -v 's/\.html$/\.php/' *.html
See Exactly What Changed
See Exactly What Changed

4. Change File Name Case in Linux

In Linux, you can easily change the case of file names, meaning you can convert them from uppercase to lowercase (and vice versa) using the rename command.

Convert Filenames to Uppercase in Linux

To batch rename all files with lowercase names to uppercase. For example, I want to convert all the following files from lowercase to uppercase.

rename 'y/a-z/A-Z/' *.html
Convert Filenames to Uppercase
Convert Filenames to Uppercase

Convert Filenames to Lowercase in Linux

Similarly, you can also convert all uppercase characters to lowercase using the following command.

rename 'y/A-Z/a-z/' *.HTML
Change Filenames to Lowercase
Change Filenames to Lowercase

5. Capitalize First Letter of Filename

To capitalize only the first letter of each filename use the following command.

rename 's/\b(\w)/\U$1/g' *.html
Capitalize First Letter of Filename
Capitalize First Letter of Filename

6. Replacing Spaces with Underscores

To replace all occurrences of whitespace (spaces) with underscores (_) in the filenames of HTML files within the current directory.

rename 's/\s+/_/g' *.html

Explanation of the above command.

  • \s+: Matches one or more whitespace characters.
  • _: Replaces whitespace with underscores.
  • g: Global replacement, affecting all matches in each file name.

7. Overwrite Existing Files

If you would like to forcefully overwrite existing files, use the “-f” option as shown below.

rename -f 's/a/b/' *.html

If you would like to know more about rename command, type the “man rename” in the terminal.

man rename

The rename command is very useful when dealing with multiple or batch renaming of files from the command line. Give it a try and let me know how useful it is for renaming files.



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