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Iran's Growing Isolation, Obama Gun Measures, Putin's Rat Army

Iran's Growing Isolation, Obama Gun Measures, Putin's Rat Army

SAUDI ALLIES CUT TIES WITH IRAN

Photo: Ahmad Halabisaz/Xinhua/ZUMA

After Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait has also broken its diplomatic ties with Iran, recalling its ambassador from Tehran today, the BBC reports. The Mideast diplomatic crisis began after Saudi Arabia executed Shia Muslim cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and 46 other people who had been accused of terrorism, sparking weekend protests and attacks against the Saudi embassy in the Iranian capital.

  • The fear among global leaders is that this latest antagonism could lead to an escalation of violence and increased proxy wars between Shia and Sunni states in the Middle East. But Saudi officials said yesterday that its hostility with Iran won't affect ongoing negotiation efforts on the wars in Syria and Yemen, Al Jazeera reports.
  • Reuters quoted Saudi UN Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi as saying yesterday that Riyadh would restore ties with Tehran once Iran ceases "interfering in the internal affairs of other countries." He added, "We are not natural-born enemies of Iran."
  • Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also said today that Saudi Arabia cannot hide "its crime" of executing the cleric by cutting ties with Iran, warning that discord could affect the fight against terrorism.

OBAMA TO OUTLINE NEW GUN CONTROLS

Having been thwarted by Congress on the issue of gun control for several years, the Obama administration is set to unveil today a series of modest executive measures to address U.S. gun violence. According to The Washington Post, they will include increased background checks on buyers, stricter licenses for all sellers, more federal funds to treat mental illnesses and the exploration of "smart gun technology" to improve gun safety. "The gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage, but they can't hold America hostage," Obama wrote on Twitter last night. "We can't accept this carnage in our communities." Because these are executive measures, the president is side-stepping Congress, though that hasn't prevented Republican representatives from promising to oppose them.


VERBATIM

"There is an atmosphere of real fear and impunity," Amnesty International's Rachel Nicholson told The Guardian about the situation in Burundi, where ongoing political tensions could return the country to civil war. President Nkurunziza plunged the country into crisis last April, when he announced he would run for a third presidential term, in defiance of a 2005 peace deal that ended a 12-year civil war that killed 300,000 people. Nkurunziza is now accused of leading a killing and intimidation campaign by executing civilians protesting his third term. "Arbitrary arrests, disappearances and cordon-and-search operations accompanied by the killing of civilians have become routine," Nicholson added.


NORTH KOREA TO ATTEND DAVOS

For the first time in 18 years, North Korea is scheduled to participate in the 2016 World Economic Forum in Davos, Le Temps reports. North Korean Minister for Foreign Affairs Ri Su-yong will travel to Switzerland for the event, which takes place Jan. 20-23.


ON THIS DAY


What's more than a mile-and-a-half long and one of the "wonders of the modern world"? We've got the answer and much more in today's shot of history.


$500 MILLION

U.S. automaker General Motors is set to invest $500 million in the transportation startup Lyft to form a partnership and develop a network of on-demand, self-driving cars, Bloomberg reports. This is part of Lyft's $1 billion round of fundraising. "We see the world of mobility changing more in the next five years than it has in the last 50," GM President Dan Ammann said. The move is widely seen as a way to counter Uber, which is also working on driverless cars.


MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD



CHINA BUS FIRE KILLS 14

A suspected arson attack on a bus left at least 14 people dead and 32 injured this morning in China, Xinhua reports. After launching a manhunt, police later arrested the suspect. In 2013, a man killed 47 people and himself after reportedly setting fire to a bus in the coastal city of Xiamen.


WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

College students increasingly describe how the pressure to perform well is wreaking havoc on their well-being. Research even shows a worrying trend toward psychological conditions related to the strain, Anne-Ev Ustorf reports for Süddeutsche Zeitung. "There are many clichés about college life: that students party a lot, study a bit, enjoy their youth. But for most students, life is far from this happy-go-lucky description. According to a recent German government survey, half of all students are totally stressed out, and a quarter say that it's impossible to overcome the pressure with common relaxation techniques. One-fifth have even been diagnosed with psychological conditions such as depression, stress disorders and chronic anxiety."

Read the full article, The University Of … Stressed-Out Students.


ZIDANE TO THE RESCUE

Madrid sports daily MARCA's front page today is all about the "soluZZion," a day after Real Madrid announced that former French soccer star Zinedine Zidane would replace the unpopular Rafael Benítez as team coach. See the Zidane cover here.


PUTIN'S RAT ARMY

Russian President Vladimir Putin is apparently about to unleash his latest weapon in the fight against ISIS: an army expand=1] of cyborg rats.

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Future

Hey ChatGPT, Are You A Google Killer? That's The Wrong Prompt People

Reports that the new AI natural-language chatbot is a threat to Google's search business fails to see that the two machines serve very different functions.

Photo of bubbles exploding

Mind blowing power

DeepMind
Tristan Greene

Since OpenAI unveiled ChatGPT to the world last November, people have wasted little time finding imaginative uses for the eerily human-like chatbot. They have used it to generate code, create Dungeons & Dragons adventures and converse on a seemingly infinite array of topics.

Now some in Silicon Valley are speculating that the masses might come to adopt the ChatGPT-style bots as an alternative to traditional internet searches.

Microsoft, which made an early $1 billion investment in OpenAI, plans to release an implementation of its Bing search engine that incorporates ChatGPT before the end of March. According to a recent article in The New York Times, Google has declared “code red” over fears ChatGPT could pose a significant threat to its $149-billion-dollar-a-year search business.

Could ChatGPT really be on the verge of disrupting the global search engine industry?

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