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first_imgWatch out, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Activists at the Human Rights Watch (HRW) are coming after you. At least, they probably would if you really were a humanoid killer robot. As it is, though, there are an increasing number of research projects into autonomous drones that can be programmed to kill and need no physical human presence to operate. This increasingly powerful — and worrisome — war technology will be banned across the world if the HRW has its say.The group has released a 50-page report on the potential consequences, entitled “Losing Humanity: The Case Against Killer Robots.” One of the issues that comes up is, if a robot kills someone, who would be the one to respond to any legal challenges? If soldiers are killed during the course of combat, that’s one thing, but if fully autonomous weapons take out a civilian, a whole host of issues would arise.In addition to the new legal precedents that would need to be created, there is a far more obvious question of morality. Is it okay for a robot to decide who lives and who dies? Today’s advanced weaponry is a far cry from the days of bayonets and looking for the whites of the enemy’s eyes, but any sort of explosion or attack, or death, can be attributed back to a human decision. In addition, if it would some day be possible for countries to declare war simply by sending out a battalion of robots, would this lead to more wars? After all, robots can always be replaced.So yes, this report is really talking about fully functioning robots, or “weapons,” that can essentially think for themselves. The report admits that this kind of technology probably won’t be achievable for at least 20 years, but based on the existing advancements, the time for international treaties is now.The use of the term “killer robots” in the report title may be partially meant for shock value and publicity for the HRW, but it is actually a subject that is worth calling attention to.More at HRW, via The Guardianlast_img read more

first_imgShare63TweetShareEmail63 Shares“Neighbors,” C.K. HartmanOctober 23, 2018; Color LinesSeven years ago, the Texas state legislature passed enormous budget cuts to women’s health in a concerted effort to defund Planned Parenthood. Shortly thereafter, legislation passed saying that no provider of abortion services could participate in its Healthy Texas Women network, the state Medicaid program. While there is little argument that the intention of the budget cuts was to defund Planned Parenthood, in reality, the legislation caused 25 percent of the state’s overall family planning clinics to close, not just Planned Parenthood clinics. Those that remained open struggled to stay afloat, being forced to reduce office hours or charge patients, essentially cutting off access to care for women.Moreover, the legislation effectively blocked Planned Parenthood from participating in the state Medicaid network, which provided women’s health services for 40 percent of the state Medicaid network’s patients. Currently, less than half of the Planned Parenthood clinics that existed in 2011 remain today.These sweeping changes alone were enough to cause devastation to women’s health efforts in Texas. In fact, Texas was used as a cautionary tale of what would happen if the federal government defunded Planned Parenthood. Now, a new report out of the Texas Observer indicates an alarming lack of access and oversight in the state. According to the Observer, “Almost half of the approximately 5400 providers in Healthy Texas Women didn’t see a single patient in the program in fiscal year 2017, according to data from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC). Of the 2900 providers that did see patients, more than 700 saw just a single person. Only about 1500 saw more than five patients. Of the 27 providers that served 1000 or more, 11 were labs, which don’t actually see patients and advocates say skew the data.”While the number of providers in the network has increased, it is merely a vanity metric. The number patients served in the network actually decreased. The Observer says, “Though the number of providers increased from just over 1300 in the predecessor program in 2011 to about 5400 in Healthy Texas Women in 2017, the average number of patients seen by each dropped from 150 to 85 during that time, as the state replaced large providers with small ones.” It should be noted that Planned Parenthood was a provider in the predecessor network, serving more than 40,000 patients each year in the state program.Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this situation is that the data seems purposefully shrouded in mystery. For instance, HHSC changed how patients are counted, making it difficult to accurately compare the number of patients served before and after Planned Parenthood was defunded. Without accurate data, advocates face an incredibly steep uphill battle to effect change. Meanwhile, over a million women who need access to these family planning services cannot obtain them.—Sheela NimishakaviShare63TweetShareEmail63 Shareslast_img read more