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Iraq's "Ghost Soldiers," World AIDS Day, Record Christmas Tree

An Indian activist attends a World AIDS Day event.
An Indian activist attends a World AIDS Day event.

Monday, December 1, 2014

A corruption probe in Iraq has discovered that the Iraqi army counts 50,000 “ghost soldiers,” troops that don’t even exist but are paid, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said yesterday, as he continues efforts to end years of graft. Meanwhile, AP reports that the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS launched as many as 30 overnight airstrikes Saturday against the terrorist group in the Syrian city of Raqqa. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 50 ISIS fighters were killed.

Some 40 million people have died of AIDS during the last three decades, but the world has finally reached the “beginning of the end” of the pandemic, according to a report released to mark World AIDS Day. “We've passed the tipping point in the AIDS fight at the global level, but not all countries are there yet,” warned the ONE campaign, an advocacy group working to end poverty and preventable disease in Africa. As of last year, an estimated 35 million people were believed to live with the disease. Writing in the Washington state newspaper The News Tribune, a woman diagnosed with AIDS 20 years ago explains that “those afflicted, like myself, can and do live full and long lives.”

Hong Kong police clashed with pro-democracy protesters early this morning in an attempt to remove protesters from a government building they were surrounding. Forty people were arrested and at least as many were taken to the hospital with injuries after the police used pepper spray and batons to remove the protesters, The Guardian reports. Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying urged occupiers to go home, saying that those arrested “will have criminal records, which will affect their chances in studying and working overseas.” Read more from the South China Morning Post.

The government in Taiwan, meanwhile, resigned after the ruling Kuomintang party suffered its biggest ever defeat in Saturday’s local elections. According to the BBC, the electorate punished the party pursuing closer ties with China, which still regards the island as a “renegade province.”

A Las Vegas man who won $14.3 million on a casino slot machine plans to donate all his winnings to charity.

Israel’s governing coalition was “close to collapse” last night as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and cabinet rival Yair Lapid clashed over a controversial bill designating Israel a Jewish state, The Daily Telegraph reports. Haaretz quoted a source close to Netanyahu as saying that the prime minister may call for an early election in the next days. A Palestinian woman was shot and wounded this morning in the West Bank after she stabbed an Israeli settler, AFP reports. This comes after a Hebrew-Arabic bilingual school in Jerusalem was torched Saturday by suspected extremist Jewish activists who sprayed racist messages on the walls.

As Die Welt’s Birger Nicolai reports, changing behavior among younger generations of Germans will eventually lead to fewer cars on the road — and more women behind the wheel. “The young market is lost to car manufacturers because lifestyles are changing,” the journalist writes. “Fewer people are starting families, for example, and therefore more of them are staying in the city instead of moving to the suburbs where they would need a car. ‘We phone instead of driving,’ a young traffic adviser says. ‘Young Germans don't want to be physically mobile to the extent people previously were.’”
Read the full article, In Car-Loving Germany, A New Generation Foregoes Auto Ownership.

After days of sometimes violent protests across the country in reaction to a grand jury’s decision not to indict the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed teenager Michael Brown in August, officer Darren Wilson resigned. He cited threats against him if he didn’t step down. “I’m not willing to let someone else get hurt because of me,” he told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.


Uruguay’s leftist candidate Tabaré Vázquez was elected president yesterday with voters handing the country’s top job to the ruling Broad Front party for the third time in a row, newspaper La República reports. Vázquez already served as president between 2005 and 2010 and will succeed his ally, the very popular José Mujica, who was barred by the Uruguayan constitution from running for a second consecutive term. Vázquez vowed to govern “without ignoring anybody” and said he wanted “to be able to count on all Uruguayans.” Read more in English from AP.

Rio de Janeiro might not have snow for Christmas, but that’s not stopping the city from boasting the world’s tallest floating Christmas tree, which contains 3.1 million micro bulbs and weighs 542 tons. Watch a video of the unveiling ceremony here.

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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

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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