Global Hunger Is Rising, Artificial Intelligence Can Help

Despite a global abundance of food, a United Nations report says 815 million people, 11 percent of the world’s population, went hungry in 2016. That number seems to be rising.

Poverty is not the only reason, however, people are experiencing food insecurity.

“Increasingly we’re also seeing hunger caused by the displacement related to conflict, natural disaster as well, but particularly there’s been an uptick in the number of people displaced in the world,” said Robert Opp, director of Innovation and Change Management at the United Nations World Food Program.

Humanitarian organizations are turning to new technologies such as AI, or artificial intelligence, to fight global food insecurity.

WATCH: Global Hunger Is Rising — Artificial Intelligence Can Help

“What AI offers us right now, is an ability to augment human capacity. So, we’re not talking about replacing human beings and things. We’re talking about doing more things and doing them better than we could by just human capacity alone,” Opp said.

Analyze data, get it to farmers

Artificial intelligence can analyze large amounts of data to locate areas affected by conflict and natural disasters and assist farmers in developing countries. The data can then be accessed by farmers from their smartphones.

“The average smartphone that exists in the world today is more powerful than the entire Apollo space program 50 years ago. So just imagine a farmer in Africa who has a smartphone has much more computing power than the entire Apollo space program,” said Pranav Khaitan, engineering lead at Google AI.

“When you take your special data and soil mapping data and use AI to do the analysis, you can send me the information. So in a nutshell, you can help me [know] when to plant, what to plant, how to plant,” said Uyi Stewart, director of Strategy Data and Analytics in Global Development of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“When you start combining technologies, AI, robotics, sensors, that’s when we see magic start to happen on farms for production, to increase crop yields,” said Zenia Tata, vice president for Global Impact Strategy at XPRIZE, an organization that creates incentivized competitions so innovative ideas and technologies can be developed to benefit humanity.

“It all comes down to developing these techniques and making it available to these farmers and people on the ground,” Khaitan said.

Breaking down barriers

However, the developing world is often the last to get new technologies.

As Stewart said, “815 million people are hungry and I can bet you that nearly 814 million out of the 815 million do not have a smartphone.”

Even when the technology is available, other barriers still exist.

“A lot of these people that we talked about that are hungry, they don’t speak English, so when we get insights out of this technology how are we going to pass it onto them?” Stewart said.

While it may take time for new technologies to reach the developing world, many hope such advances will ultimately trickle-down to farmers in regions that face food insecurity.

“You’ve invented the technology. The big investments have gone in. Now you’re modifying it, which brings the cost down as well,” said Teddy Bekele, vice president of Ag Technology at U.S.-based agribusiness and food company Land O’Lakes.

“So, I think three to four years maybe we’ll have some of the things we have here to be used there [in the developing world] as well,” Bekele predicted.

Those who work in humanitarian organizations said entrepreneurs must look outside their own countries to adapt the new technologies to combat global hunger, or come up with a private, public model. Farmers will need the tools and training so they can harness the power of artificial intelligence to help feed the hungry in the developing world.

This story was written by Elizabeth Lee​.

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Judge: State’s Assault Weapons Ban Doesn’t Violate 2nd Amendment

Assault weapons and large-capacity magazines are not protected by the Second Amendment, a federal judge said in a ruling Friday upholding Massachusetts’ ban on the weapons.

U.S. District Judge William Young dismissed a lawsuit challenging the 20-year-old ban, saying assault weapons are military firearms that fall beyond the reach of the constitutional right to “bear arms.”

Regulation of the weapons is a matter of policy, not for the courts, he said.

“Other states are equally free to leave them unregulated and available to their law-abiding citizens,” Young said. “These policy matters are simply not of constitutional moment. Americans are not afraid of bumptious, raucous and robust debate about these matters. We call it democracy.”

Attorney general praises ruling

State Attorney General Maura Healey said the ruling “vindicates the right of the people of Massachusetts to protect themselves from these weapons of war.”

“Strong gun laws save lives, and we will not be intimidated by the gun lobby in our efforts to end the sale of assault weapons and protect our communities and schools,” Healey, a Democrat, said in a statement. “Families across the country should take heart in this victory.”

AR-15 assault-style rifles are under increased scrutiny because of their use in several recent mass shootings, including the February massacre at a Florida high school that left 17 people dead.

Gun owners’ lawsuit

The Gun Owners Gun Owners’ Action League of Massachusetts and other groups that filed the lawsuit argued that the AR-15 cannot be considered a “military weapon” because it cannot fire in fully automatic mode.

But Young dismissed that argument, noting that the semi-automatic AR-15’s design is based on guns “that were first manufactured for military purposes” and that the AR-15 is “common and well-known in the military.”

“The AR-15 and its analogs, along with large capacity magazines, are simply not weapons within the original meaning of the individual constitutional right to ‘bear arms,”’ Young wrote.

Young also upheld Healey’s 2016 enforcement notice to gun sellers and manufacturers clarifying what constitutes a “copy” or “duplicate” weapon under the state’s 1998 assault weapon ban, including copies of the Colt AR-15 and the Kalashnikov AK-47.

State law mirrors federal one

Healey’s stepped-up enforcement followed the shooting rampage at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that killed 49 patrons. She said at the time that gun manufacturers were circumventing Massachusetts’ ban by selling copycat versions of the weapons they claimed complied with the law.

The Massachusetts assault weapons ban mirrors the federal ban that expired in 2004. It prohibits the sale of specific and name-brand weapons and explicitly bans copies or duplicates of those weapons.

The National Rifle Association panned the ruling and pledged to help the groups fighting the case “in any way possible.”

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Judge: State’s Assault Weapons Ban Doesn’t Violate 2nd Amendment

Assault weapons and large-capacity magazines are not protected by the Second Amendment, a federal judge said in a ruling Friday upholding Massachusetts’ ban on the weapons.

U.S. District Judge William Young dismissed a lawsuit challenging the 20-year-old ban, saying assault weapons are military firearms that fall beyond the reach of the constitutional right to “bear arms.”

Regulation of the weapons is a matter of policy, not for the courts, he said.

“Other states are equally free to leave them unregulated and available to their law-abiding citizens,” Young said. “These policy matters are simply not of constitutional moment. Americans are not afraid of bumptious, raucous and robust debate about these matters. We call it democracy.”

Attorney general praises ruling

State Attorney General Maura Healey said the ruling “vindicates the right of the people of Massachusetts to protect themselves from these weapons of war.”

“Strong gun laws save lives, and we will not be intimidated by the gun lobby in our efforts to end the sale of assault weapons and protect our communities and schools,” Healey, a Democrat, said in a statement. “Families across the country should take heart in this victory.”

AR-15 assault-style rifles are under increased scrutiny because of their use in several recent mass shootings, including the February massacre at a Florida high school that left 17 people dead.

Gun owners’ lawsuit

The Gun Owners Gun Owners’ Action League of Massachusetts and other groups that filed the lawsuit argued that the AR-15 cannot be considered a “military weapon” because it cannot fire in fully automatic mode.

But Young dismissed that argument, noting that the semi-automatic AR-15’s design is based on guns “that were first manufactured for military purposes” and that the AR-15 is “common and well-known in the military.”

“The AR-15 and its analogs, along with large capacity magazines, are simply not weapons within the original meaning of the individual constitutional right to ‘bear arms,”’ Young wrote.

Young also upheld Healey’s 2016 enforcement notice to gun sellers and manufacturers clarifying what constitutes a “copy” or “duplicate” weapon under the state’s 1998 assault weapon ban, including copies of the Colt AR-15 and the Kalashnikov AK-47.

State law mirrors federal one

Healey’s stepped-up enforcement followed the shooting rampage at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that killed 49 patrons. She said at the time that gun manufacturers were circumventing Massachusetts’ ban by selling copycat versions of the weapons they claimed complied with the law.

The Massachusetts assault weapons ban mirrors the federal ban that expired in 2004. It prohibits the sale of specific and name-brand weapons and explicitly bans copies or duplicates of those weapons.

The National Rifle Association panned the ruling and pledged to help the groups fighting the case “in any way possible.”

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Kansas Lawmakers Boost School Funding Over GOP Objections

Kansas legislators approved an increase in spending on school funding early Sunday, with Republicans pushing the measure to passage over the bitter objections of some GOP colleagues in hopes of meeting a court mandate.

Dozens of teachers, many wearing red shirts, converged on the Statehouse, camped out for hours and cheered after the Senate approved a bill, 21-19, to phase in a $534 million increase in education funding over five years. The House passed the bill Saturday, 63-56, and GOP Gov. Jeff Colyer endorsed it publicly.

“I am pleased that we were able to compromise and pass a bill that ensures our schools will remain open and are funded adequately and equitably,” Colyer said in a statement.

Court ruling

The Kansas Supreme Court ruled last fall that the state isn’t spending enough money on its public schools. Colyer and some members of the Republican-controlled Legislature worried that a frustrated high court would take the unprecedented step of preventing the state from distributing dollars through a flawed education funding system, effectively closing schools statewide.

Many Democrats had argued that the plan, drafted largely by top House Republicans, would not satisfy the Supreme Court. Most Democrats in the House voted against it.

But the measure had bipartisan support in the Senate. The state’s largest teachers union put aside its own misgivings that the plan was too small and had members pack the Senate gallery and hallways outside the chamber.

“It is certainly the best bill we’ve seen,” said Kansas National Education Association lobbyist Mark Desetti. “It’s time to get something before the court.”

 

WATCH: Teacher Strikes Spread Across the US

Education underfunded

The Supreme Court declared in October that the state’s current funding of more than $4 billion a year isn’t enough for lawmakers to fulfill their duty under the Kansas Constitution to finance a suitable education for every child. It gave Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican, until April 30 to report on how lawmakers responded.

Lawmakers had been scheduled to start an annual spring break Saturday and return April 26 — four days before Schmidt’s deadline. He and Colyer urged legislators to delay the break until a school funding bill passed.

Senate GOP leaders had excoriated a previous, similarly sized plan from the House as likely to force higher taxes within two years. The Senate approved a plan to phase in a $274 million increase over five years and top Republicans hoped in negotiations to talk the House down from its big plan.

“We know — absolutely know — if we’re going to pay this bill, we’re going to have to increase taxes,” said Senate President Susan Wagle, a conservative Wichita Republican.

Later, she said, “I’m here for the people who are footing the bill.”

Colyer argued in a statement Saturday that the new plan could be sustained without increasing taxes. Supporters believe the annual growth in tax revenues will cover the new spending.

The House and Senate had passed rival plans earlier in the week. Their negotiators made little progress Friday on how much school spending should increase.

Besides objecting to the level of spending, some conservative Republicans said the court is improperly encroaching on the Legislature’s power to determine the state budget.

Conservative GOP Rep. Randy Garber, of Sabetha, argued that problems with public education stem from U.S. Supreme Court decisions in the early 1960s declaring school-sponsored prayer and Bible reading as unconstitutional.

“If we don’t fix society, we won’t fix our schools,” Garber said in concluding a 13-minute speech. “I say the way to fix our schools is to put prayer and the Bible back and give it a chance.”

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Kansas Lawmakers Boost School Funding Over GOP Objections

Kansas legislators approved an increase in spending on school funding early Sunday, with Republicans pushing the measure to passage over the bitter objections of some GOP colleagues in hopes of meeting a court mandate.

Dozens of teachers, many wearing red shirts, converged on the Statehouse, camped out for hours and cheered after the Senate approved a bill, 21-19, to phase in a $534 million increase in education funding over five years. The House passed the bill Saturday, 63-56, and GOP Gov. Jeff Colyer endorsed it publicly.

“I am pleased that we were able to compromise and pass a bill that ensures our schools will remain open and are funded adequately and equitably,” Colyer said in a statement.

Court ruling

The Kansas Supreme Court ruled last fall that the state isn’t spending enough money on its public schools. Colyer and some members of the Republican-controlled Legislature worried that a frustrated high court would take the unprecedented step of preventing the state from distributing dollars through a flawed education funding system, effectively closing schools statewide.

Many Democrats had argued that the plan, drafted largely by top House Republicans, would not satisfy the Supreme Court. Most Democrats in the House voted against it.

But the measure had bipartisan support in the Senate. The state’s largest teachers union put aside its own misgivings that the plan was too small and had members pack the Senate gallery and hallways outside the chamber.

“It is certainly the best bill we’ve seen,” said Kansas National Education Association lobbyist Mark Desetti. “It’s time to get something before the court.”

 

WATCH: Teacher Strikes Spread Across the US

Education underfunded

The Supreme Court declared in October that the state’s current funding of more than $4 billion a year isn’t enough for lawmakers to fulfill their duty under the Kansas Constitution to finance a suitable education for every child. It gave Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican, until April 30 to report on how lawmakers responded.

Lawmakers had been scheduled to start an annual spring break Saturday and return April 26 — four days before Schmidt’s deadline. He and Colyer urged legislators to delay the break until a school funding bill passed.

Senate GOP leaders had excoriated a previous, similarly sized plan from the House as likely to force higher taxes within two years. The Senate approved a plan to phase in a $274 million increase over five years and top Republicans hoped in negotiations to talk the House down from its big plan.

“We know — absolutely know — if we’re going to pay this bill, we’re going to have to increase taxes,” said Senate President Susan Wagle, a conservative Wichita Republican.

Later, she said, “I’m here for the people who are footing the bill.”

Colyer argued in a statement Saturday that the new plan could be sustained without increasing taxes. Supporters believe the annual growth in tax revenues will cover the new spending.

The House and Senate had passed rival plans earlier in the week. Their negotiators made little progress Friday on how much school spending should increase.

Besides objecting to the level of spending, some conservative Republicans said the court is improperly encroaching on the Legislature’s power to determine the state budget.

Conservative GOP Rep. Randy Garber, of Sabetha, argued that problems with public education stem from U.S. Supreme Court decisions in the early 1960s declaring school-sponsored prayer and Bible reading as unconstitutional.

“If we don’t fix society, we won’t fix our schools,” Garber said in concluding a 13-minute speech. “I say the way to fix our schools is to put prayer and the Bible back and give it a chance.”

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Facebook Executives Contrite, But Transparency Still Lacking

Mark Zuckerberg has apologized for what he calls a “breach of trust” regarding the exploitation of as many as 87 million users’ data by Cambridge Analytica. Questions are swirling in Washington as the CEO of Facebook prepares to testify before Congress. But, whether the hearings will bring about real change around privacy rights remains to be seen. Tina Trinh reports.

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Facebook Executives Contrite, But Transparency Still Lacking

Mark Zuckerberg has apologized for what he calls a “breach of trust” regarding the exploitation of as many as 87 million users’ data by Cambridge Analytica. Questions are swirling in Washington as the CEO of Facebook prepares to testify before Congress. But, whether the hearings will bring about real change around privacy rights remains to be seen. Tina Trinh reports.

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Air France Strike Sees 30 Percent of Flights Cancelled

Some 30 percent of Air France flights were cancelled Saturday as strikes over pay rises appear to be intensifying.

And that’s just part of France’s travel troubles this month. Most French trains will screech to a halt as a strike over President Emmanuel Macron’s economic reforms resumes Saturday night – a strike that is set to last through Monday.

Screens at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport showed red “cancelled” notes next to multiple flights Saturday, as families around France and Europe headed off on spring vacations.

The one-day Air France walkout is affecting international and domestic travel, notably a quarter of flights at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports. Air France is urging passengers to check the status of their flights before coming to the airport and offering to change tickets for free.

It’s the fifth Air France strike since February, and the number of cancelled flights is rising. Unions this week announced more strikes this month to coincide with national rail walkouts.

Air France unions want 6 percent pay raises after years of salary freezes. Air France is offering 1 percent raises, saying anything higher will hurt its turnaround efforts.

The strikes have been costing Air France some 20 million euros ($24.6 million) a day and have hurt its share price.

Meanwhile, the SNCF national railway announced that 80 percent of high speed trains and two-thirds of regional trains will be canceled starting Saturday night as unions stage another two-day walkout.

About a quarter of Eurostar trains to London will be cancelled, and no trains were expected to run at all to Switzerland, Spain or Italy.

It’s part of three months of rolling train strikes seen as the biggest challenge to Macron since he took office last year. Rail unions are angry at plans by Macron’s government to abolish a generous benefits system that gives train workers jobs for life.

Both the government and unions are holding firm despite continuing negotiations. France prides itself on its railways, seen as a pillar of public service.

Macron argues that the special status for train workers is no longer tenable in a globalized and increasingly automated economy. It’s part of his broader plans to overhaul the French economy to make it more competitive.

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