’Times Have Changed’: Saudi Arabia To Reopen Embassy In Syria, Angering US
Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad continues to be brought “in from the cold” and back into the Arab regional fold at rapid pace, with Reuters confirming on Thursday the prior rumors that Saudi Arabia and Syria were on the brink of fully restoring diplomatic ties. They will now reopen embassies — a huge step. Is a return to the Arab League next?
“Syria and Saudi Arabia have agreed to reopen their embassies after cutting diplomatic ties more than a decade ago, three sources with knowledge of the matter said, a step that would mark a leap forward in Damascus’s return to the Arab fold,” Reuters reports.
The mutual embassy openings reportedly are the result of talks between the Saudis and a senior Syrian intelligence official. A source told Reuters they “preparing to reopen embassies after Eid al-Fitr,” in reference to a Muslim holiday in late April.
Most recently, the United Arab Emirates hosted Assad and his wife in an official visit — the first in well over a decade.
The US and Israel have not been happy at these developments, and the Syria-Gulf rapprochement also comes in the context of Iran and Saudi Arabia normalizing relations. One source told Al Jazeera:
“The prevailing attitude can be defined as, ‘times have changed, the Arab Spring is history and the region is transitioning towards a new future, with new geopolitical characteristics,’” the official, who himself recently reconciled with Damascus after defecting to the Syrian opposition in the summer of 2011, added.
It seems the Gulf has been willing to recognize that the Syrian government won the decade-long war and move on, but not Washington. The US has continued its military occupation of northern Syria, and Israel has extended its bombing campaign, even this week with strikes on Aleppo international airport.
Saudi Arabia will reopen its embassy in Syria, joining a list of several regional countries that reestablished ties with Damascus after failing miserably to overthrow its government for over a decade. Condolences to Israel, US and UK for failing to isolate post-victory Syria
Far-reaching US sanctions are also still on. But regional leaders have been reaching out to Assad after the deadly earthquake which rocked Turkey and Syria, killing tens of thousands of people.
Saudi Arabia and allies like Qatar and the UAE had helped the US spearhead regime change efforts in Damascus. Russia and Iran came to the aid of Syria, however, in a war that took hundreds of thousands of lives and left much of the country in rubble.
Defense attorneys in the Proud Boys seditious-conspiracy trial in Washington D.C. learned late March 22 that one of their own defense witnesses who was about to testify had worked as an FBI informant for at least 22 months.
They asked for an emergency hearing before U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly and filed a motion to compel the U.S. Department of Justice to disclose if the witness has been spying on the defense team.
Judge Kelly suspended the trial until March 24 and converted March 23 from a day of testimony into a motions hearing.
Zachary Rehl, one of five Proud Boys defendants, filed a motion on behalf of his co-defendants seeking a court order to compel prosecutors to disclose any recordings or reports made by confidential human sources (CHS) — informants — about the defendants and their attorneys.
Defense attorney Carmen Hernandez said the information given to the defense team on March 22 raises “serious and substantiated allegations of governmental misconduct surrounding the surreptitious invasion and interference of the defense team by the government through a confidential human source, at the government’s behest.”
Judge Kelly ordered prosecutors to file a response to the motion by 1 p.m. EDT on March 23. A hearing on the matter will begin at 3 p.m.
The trial began Dec. 19, 2022, in U.S. District Court. Prosecutors wrapped up their case on March 17.
Defense Witness was Prosecution Informant
After the close of testimony on March 22, prosecutors disclosed that a witness on the defense list who was due in court on March 23 had worked as an FBI informant from April 2021 through to at least January 2023.
“During this period of time, the CHS [informant] has been in contact via telephone, text messaging, and other electronic means, with one or more of the counsel for the defense and at least one defendant,” the motion said.
“The CHS also participated in prayer meetings with members of one or more of the defendants’ families. The CHS also engaged in discussions with one of the defendant’s family members about replacing one of the defense counsel.”
Defendants in the trial include Rehl, former Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio, Joseph Biggs, Ethan Nordean, and Dominic Pezzola.
The men are accused of seditious conspiracy, conspiracy to obstruct official proceedings, obstruction of official proceedings, and conspiracy to prevent certain federal officers from performing their duties at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Tarrio, Rehl, Nordean, and Biggs face nine criminal counts, while Pezzola is charged with 10.
Disclosure of the FBI informant demonstrates “that there are reasons to doubt the veracity of the government’s explanation and justification for withholding information about the CHSs [informants] who have been involved in the case,” Hernandez wrote.
It was the second time in March that privileged attorney-client communication became the center of controversy.
On March 8, FBI Special Agent Nicole Miller disclosed that investigators had been monitoring communications between Rehl and his now-former attorney, and discussing his trial strategy among themselves.
Defense attorneys also discovered a hidden tab in an FBI evidence spreadsheet containing some of Miller’s emails, “in which the FBI agent admitted fabricating evidence and following orders to destroy hundreds of items of evidence,” according to a March 9 court filing (pdf).
The defense motion called the discovery “a clear and flagrant Sixth Amendment violation” that “screams for a dismissal.”
OpenAI CEO Sam Altman And ‘Father Of China’s Great Firewall’ Sound Alarm Over Artificial Intelligence
OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and Fang Bingxing — considered the ‘father of China’s Great Firewall’, are joining OpenAI co-founder Elon Musk in raising concerns regarding the dangers of artificial intelligence (AI).
“We’ve got to be careful here,” the 37-year-old Altman told ABC News last week, adding “I think people should be happy that we are a little bit scared of this.”
“I’m particularly worried that these models could be used for large-scale disinformation… Now that they’re getting better at writing computer code, [they] could be used for offensive cyber-attacks.”
That said, Altman also thinks it could be “the greatest technology humanity has yet developed.”
OpenAI is the company behind Chat GPT, which launched “GPT-4″ less than two weeks ago. The highly sophisticated chatbot can reach almost perfect scores on SAT math tests, and achieve a 90% on the US bar exam.
And it has competitors…
Other AI-based startups are making surprising advancements in the field as well. RADAIrecently launched the first AI marketing platform built to understand emotion, and some of the largest companies on the planet are already using it.
GenesisAI is a startup building a marketplace to allow for any business to integrate AI and automation into their business. Meaning soon AI might be just as much of an integral part of a business as employees themselves. -Benzinga
According to Altman, however, ChatGPT-4 uses deductive reasoning vs. memorization, which can lead to inaccurate results.
“The thing that I try to caution people the most is what we call the ‘hallucinations problem’” Altman told ABC News. “The model will confidently state things as if they were facts (but they) are entirely made up.”
Altman thinks there is a need for regulationof AI in general.
“There will be other people who don’t put some of the safety limits that we put on,” he said. “Society, I think, has a limited amount of time to figure out how to react to that, how to regulate that, how to handle it.”
Also concerned over GPT-4 and similar AI is Fang Bingxing, the father of China’s so-called Great Firewall.
According to Fang, such chatbots can lead to an “information cocoon” (as opposed to the free flow of information in China?)
“People’s perspectives can be manipulated as they seek all kinds of answers from AI,” he told Red Star News, a media affiliate to state-backed Chengdu Economic Daily, as reported by SCMP.
Fang, a computer scientist and former government official, is widely considered the chief designer of China’s notorious internet censorship and surveillance system. He played a key role in creating and developing the Great Firewall, a sophisticated system of internet filters and blocks that allows the Chinese government to control what its citizens can access online.
The Great Firewall has been fortified over the past decade, blocking Chinese netizens’ access to a wide range of foreign websites and online services including Facebook, Twitter and Google.–SCMP
Fang also warned that when AI evolves further, it could pose a threat to humanity.
“Now it’s simply software used in an online chat-like scenario. If it’s incorporated into robots and cars, we need to stay vigilant for the potential harm they could do to humans.”
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