|Cache||Late last night Trump announced, via a statement from the White House, that troops would be withdrawing from Northern Syria and Turkey allowed to continue its conquest of the area: Today, President . . . |
What is friendship these days? Modern busy life hardly leaves room for friends. In the modern societies which are turning more and more consumerist and selfish, values of life seem to change faster than the latest model of cell phones. It has become very hard to find true friends who can share everything confidentially.
Ten necessary principles of friendship
1) Proper understanding is the kernel of real friendship. Hence the first principle of friendship is to understand and make others feel important. Since everybody in the world wants to be treated important, you have to be generous with praise and recognition of their accomplishments.
2) On your part, be amicable and congenial to others. Always arguing or striking up a quarrel on the least excuse may irritate any friendship and cause a deathblow to friendship. Listen to others and encourage them to talk about themselves.
3) Try to look at friendship positively and appreciate others. Make them feel comfortable with your friendship so that they enjoy your appreciation, advice and help. Let them experience that they are important to you.
4) Friendship should not be just a lip service. It should be real and fostered in heart. Selfish motivated friendships will dwindle and disappear very soon. Try to understand your friend’s mind, his likes and dislikes, and his moods. Try to adjust yourself, though you do not have to tolerate any undesirable attitude. Tolerance is one of the foundations upon which friendship is built, as no one is absolutely perfect.
5) Be careful about your words. . The habit of talking carelessly, of not being able to keep a secret, is at the root of friendships breaking up.
6) They should be reliable and faithful. Never give way to any suspicion and keep your word, no matter how difficult the circumstances may be. They should be assured of your faithfulness. They should realize that you will go to any lengths to keep your promise.
7) Do not desert and betray your friend in any situation especially in their adversities. Betrayal is the death blow to any friendship and shatters friendship. Never be carried away by the gossip mongers’ false tales.
8) Thiruvalluvar, a famous South Indian saint poet, says about the greatness of friendship, “Friendship should be timely like the hand protecting ones shame when the towel slips from the loin.” Stand by your friend in his anxieties and adversities. Try to help your friends in as many ways as possible. Let them feel that they have some one who cares them really.
9) Friendship should not be a mere flattery. Some people do not like their mistakes to be criticized, as it gives them a sense of inferiority. It is the duty of a friend to correct him properly whenever he goes out of track..
10) Do not forget that only constructive criticism can be of much help, provided it is appreciated and accepted. They should not taken as a wounding remark. Always try to share a common interest with your friend. Sharing serves as a bond, and also acts as the motivation for many shared activities. Many friendships spring up on a playing field, in an art gallery, or in places which cater to common interests.
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump hasn’t endorsed a Turkish incursion into Syria, a senior administration official said, deepening confusion around his policy after an uproar from Republicans that he planned to abandon U.S. Kurdish allies.The official said Trump has cautioned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he will bear responsibility for Islamic State prisoners in the region, as well as a resurgence of violence if the militants are freed and any harm to civilians in areas Turkey occupies.The official briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.Trump later suggested his move to clear the way for a Turkish invasion was intended in part to pressure European countries including France and Germany that, he said, have refused to accept the return of citizens who joined Islamic State.Trump said at a meeting with military leaders that he had urged U.S. allies to reclaim their citizens, but they had refused.“We’re not going to move the fighters to Guantanamo Bay and take care of them for many, many years into the future, that’s not for us,” he said. “Now it’s time for Germany and France and all of the nations where they came from to take them back and they chose no. Maybe they’re going to change their tune now, I don’t know.”Trump has come under criticism from allies including Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and his former United Nations ambassador, Nikki Haley, for his announcement late Sunday that the U.S. wouldn’t stand in the way of the Turkish incursion.The White House statement was read around the world as Trump abandoning U.S. policy that Kurdish allies would be protected from Turkish aggression in exchange for their help in defeating Islamic State.Former Vice President Joe Biden, who is among the top Democratic contenders to challenge Trump’s re-election in 2020, said in a statement that “once again, an impulsive and erratic president has abandoned friends of the United States with a late-night tweet.”American officials didn’t immediately explain the president’s change in position on Syria. Trump’s order to remove about 50 U.S. troops from a Syria border region Turkey intends to invade doesn’t represent a green light for the incursion, the U.S. official said. The official added that Trump had discussed the decision with officials at the State Department and Pentagon before the White House announcement, and that the agencies should not have been surprised.The U.S. had successfully dissuaded Turkey from an invasion for two years, but if Erdogan orders an operation, the U.S. doesn’t want its soldiers endangered or caught in the crossfire, the official said.I’ve told President Erdogan, I hope he’s going to treat everybody with great respect,” Trump said at the meeting with military leaders. Earlier, he told reporters at the White House: “I have consulted with everybody.”“I fully understand both sides of it but I campaigned on the fact I was going to bring our soldiers home,” he said.The administration official did not say that any U.S. soldiers would be brought home as a result of the withdrawal. The troops moved from the border region, mostly special forces soldiers, would be re-positioned at different U.S. bases in Syria, the official said.(Updates with more Trump remarks, beginning in fourth paragraph)To contact the reporters on this story: Josh Wingrove in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org;Justin Sink in Washington at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at firstname.lastname@example.org, John HarneyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham lead condemnation of foreign policy move that could prove ‘disaster in the making’Donald Trump with Mark Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, in the Cabinet Room on Monday. Lindsey Graham said abandoning the Kurds would be ‘a stain on America’s honour’. Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/APDonald Trump was dangerously isolated on Monday as, in a rare rebuke, some of his most loyal allies revolted against his decision to withdraw US troops from north-eastern Syria.Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell led a chorus of Republicans who, having defended the president on almost every other issue – including over impeachment – decided to draw a line in the sand.“A precipitous withdrawal of US forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime,” McConnell said. “And it would increase the risk that Isis and other terrorist groups regroup.”He added: “As we learned the hard way during the Obama administration, American interests are best served by American leadership, not by retreat or withdrawal.”The criticism was significant because McConnell is usually at pains not to cross Trump even at his most capricious. Last week the Kentucky senator released a Facebook video promising to stop Democratic-led impeachment in its tracks.Article 1 of the United States constitution gives the House of Representatives the sole power to initiate impeachment and the Senate the sole power to try impeachments of the president. A president can be impeached if they are judged to have committed "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors" – although the constitution does not specify what “high crimes and misdemeanors” are.The process starts with the House of Representatives passing articles of impeachment. A simple majority of members need to vote in favour of impeachment for it to pass to the next stage. Democrats currently control the house, with 235 representatives.The chief justice of the US supreme court then presides over the proceedings in the Senate, where the president is tried, with senators acting as the jury. For the president to be found guilty two-thirds of senators must vote to convict. Republicans currently control the Senate, with 53 of the 100 senators.Two presidents have previously been impeached, Bill Clinton in 1998, and Andrew Johnson in 1868, though neither was removed from office as a result. Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before there was a formal vote to impeach him.Martin BelamThe unusual fracture emerged on Sunday night when, shortly after a phone conversation between Trump and Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the White House announced removal of US troops from the Syria-Turkey border area. “Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria,” it added.Critics of all political stripes have long feared that the move could open the way for a Turkish strike on Kurdish-led fighters in the area. Kurdish groups have fought alongside a small US presence in Syria to drive Islamic State militants from the region.The Republican backlash was rapid and potentially unnerving for a president whose fate is tethered to the party and the assumption that it will acquit him in the Senate if, as widely expected, the Democratic-led House of Representatives votes for impeachment.Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, who has become an outspoken defender (and frequent golf partner) of Trump, did not acquiesce this time. Abandonment of the Kurds would be “a disaster in the making”, he said, and “a stain on America’s honour”.Graham told Fox News: “I hope I’m making myself clear how short-sighted and irresponsible this decision is. I like President Trump. I’ve tried to help him. This, to me, is just unnerving to its core.”Graham wrote on Twitter that if the plan goes ahead, he will introduce a Senate resolution opposing it and seeking reversal of the decision. He added: “We will introduce bipartisan sanctions against Turkey if they invade Syria and will call for their suspension from NATO if they attack Kurdish forces who assisted the US in the destruction of the ISIS Caliphate.”Kevin McCarthy, the top Republican in the House, whose attempts to defend Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s president have provoked mockery, said: “If you make a commitment and somebody is fighting with you, America should keep their word.”Michael McCaul of Texas, the lead Republican on the House foreign affairs committee, also urged the president to reconsider. “The United States should not step aside and allow a Turkish military operation in north-east Syria,” he said. “This move will undermine our ongoing campaign to prevent an Isis resurgence and will ultimately threaten our homeland.“Additionally, the United States needs to stay engaged to prevent further destructive involvement in the region from our adversaries like the Assad regime, Putin and Iran.”Notably, senator Marco Rubio of Florida, reluctant to criticise Trump even when the president suggested that China investigate former vice president and 2020 election rival Joe Biden, was clear , describing the retreat as “a grave mistake that will have implications far beyond Syria”And Nikki Haley, Trump’s former UN ambassador, admonished Trump without mentioning his name. “We must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back,” she tweeted. “The Kurds were instrumental in our successful fight against ISIS in Syria. Leaving them to die is a big mistake. TurkeyIsNotOurFriend”Ominously for Trump, even conservative Fox News aired dissent. Host Brian Kilmeade described the pullout as “a disaster”, telling viewers of Fox & Friends: “Abandon our allies? That’s a campaign promise? Abandon the people that got the caliphate destroyed?”Republicans who have contradicted Trump before did so forcefully again. Utah senator Mitt Romney described Trump’s announcement as “a betrayal”, adding: “It says that America is an unreliable ally; it facilitates ISIS resurgence; and it presages another humanitarian disaster.”Romney and Democratic senator Chris Murphy issued a joint statement insisting Trump’s administration “explain to the American people how betraying an ally and ceding influence to terrorists and adversaries is not disastrous for our national security interests”.Democrats also piled in but there was a lone voice of support for the president on Capitol Hill. Republican senator Rand Paul, long a critic of foreign intervention, said: “So many neocons want us to stay in wars all over the Middle East forever. [Trump] is absolutely right to end those wars and bring the troops home.”Trump himself was undeterred by the blowback. Speaking at the White House on Monday, he said he has “great respect” for the prominent Republican critics. And added: “People are extremely thrilled because they say it’s time to bring our people back home. We’re not a police force. They’re policing the area. We’re not a police force. The UK was very thrilled at this decision … many people agree with it very strongly.”
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKIPresident Donald Trump’s decision to pave the way for a Turkish invasion of northern Syria at the expense of Kurdish allies in the region has infuriated Republican allies in the Senate who have spent the last two weeks twisting themselves in knots to defend him from an impeachment inquiry. Late on Sunday, the White House released a one-paragraph statement declaring that a Turkish invasion of northern Syria was imminent, and the United States would “not support or be involved in the operation” and “will no longer be in the immediate area.” For Kurds in the region—who have been fighting ISIS with U.S.-supplied weapons and are largely considered the strongest fighting force in Syria—the declaration amounts to an abrogration of agreements with the United States to defend them against Turkey, which considers them to be terrorists. In June, Trump himself warned that abandoning the alliance would allow Turkey to “wipe out the Kurds, who helped us with ISIS.”Trump’s Crazy Syria Move Will Wipe Out America’s Allies and Set Up a Big ISIS ComebackThe backlash from his Republican allies was swift. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), led the way on Monday morning, with the South Carolina senator calling the move “shortsighted and irresponsible” on Fox & Friends, a show that effectively serves as a televised presidential daily brief for Trump.“This impulsive decision by the president has undone all the gains we’ve made, thrown the region into further chaos, Iran is licking their chops, and if I’m an ISIS fighter, I’ve got a second lease on life,” Graham said. “I will do everything I can to sanction Turkey’s military and their economy if they step one foot into Syria. I hope I’m making myself clear how shortsighted and irresponsible this decision is.”Graham even referenced the House’s impeachment inquiry, unprompted, before adding that while “I’ve tried to help him,” the president’s behavior was “just unnerving to its core.”Graham, who has spent years trying to steer Trump closer to the hawkish foreign policy stances held by his Republican predecessors, opened the floodgates for Republicans who see Trump’s move as a threat to a critical U.S. ally in the region, and a potentially disastrous embrace of an autocratic regime.Indeed, Monday saw widespread pushback from around the Senate GOP, from lawmakers who’ve cozied up to Trump to those who have been more willing to call him out. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), a Trump ally who has nudged him toward more hawkish positions on Venezuela and Iran policy, called the decision “a grave mistake that will have implications far beyond Syria.” Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) said that he was “deeply concerned” that the decision could leave Kurds who risked their lives to fight ISIS in harm’s way.And Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), probably Trump’s most vocal Senate GOP critic, characterized the pullout as “a betrayal” that “presages another humanitarian disaster” in Syria. Romney went so far as to join Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) to demand that administration officials explain their move to lawmakers and the public. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), meanwhile, has toned down his Trump criticism lately but warned that the retreat would “likely result in the slaughter of allies who fought with us, including women and children.” Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) managed to subtweet the president, calling Trump’s move “a terribly unwise decision” moments after the president described his wisdom on the matter as “great and unmatched.”Even Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in a rare rebuke of the president whom he has pledged to protect from removal from office, pleaded with Trump to maintain an American presence in the region and to prevent Turkey from invading.“I urge the president to exercise American leadership to keep together our multinational coalition to defeat ISIS and prevent significant conflict between our NATO ally Turkey and our local Syrian counterterrorism partners,” McConnell said in a statement. Major new conflict between Turkey and our partners in Syria, McConnell said, “would seriously risk damaging Turkey’s ties to the United States and causing greater isolation for Turkey on the world stage.”Among Trump’s allies seeking to thread the needle between opposing the withdrawal and ensuring that the president didn’t feel attacked was Sen. Ted Cruz, who tweeted that while Trump was “right to want to bring our soldiers home,” it would be “DISGRACEFUL” (capital letters Cruz’s) to allow Turkey to attack Kurdish allies in the region.“Our enemies and rivals (Iran, Russia, etc.) don’t abandon their allies,” Cruz said. “If we want allies to stand with America in the future, we shouldn’t either. Honorable nations stand by their friends.”Seemingly alone among Senate Republicans in supporting the withdrawal was Sen. Rand Paul, who is perhaps the biggest cheerleader of Trump’s isolationist instincts. The Kentucky senator told reporters that he stands with Trump “as he once again fulfills his promises to stop our endless wars and have a true America First foreign policy.”Other Senate Republicans have remained tight-lipped on the president’s decision, perhaps praying that Trump will reverse course on the withdrawal—as he did in December 2018, after sharp rebukes from within the party and the resignation of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis halted a hastily announced drawdown of U.S. troops from Syria.Asked during an event celebrating a trade agreement with Japan on Monday afternoon about whether he had consulted with the Joint Chiefs of Staff about the decision, Trump insisted that he had.“I consulted with everybody,” Trump said.Additional reporting: Sam Brodey Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
Trump’s latest move has officials scrambling to understand the implications as Turkish forces gather near the Syrian borderTurkish fighters gather near the north-east Syrian border in preparation of a widely-anticipated invasion. Photograph: Nazeer Al-Khatib/AFP via Getty ImagesKurdish forces in Syria have said the fate of tens of thousands of suspected Islamic State fighters and their families is uncertain, after US forces began a sudden withdrawal from the country, abandoning their former ally on the eve of a widely-anticipated Turkish invasion.The effects of the shock retreat continued to reverberate through the region on Monday as Turkish forces massed near the border with the Kurdish stronghold of north-eastern Syria.The looming offensive– which was green-lighted by Donald Trump in a phone call to Recep Tayyip Erdogan late on Sunday – came as a surprise to US officials and allies, who were scrambling to understand the implications. There was a furious backlash in Congress, including from some of Trump’s closest allies, who accused the president of betraying the Kurds.The decision represents the latest in a series of erratic moves by Trump, who is fighting impeachment at home, apparently taken without consultation with, or knowledge of, US diplomats dealing with Syria, or the UK and France, the US’s main international partners in the country.A White House statement on Sunday night after his conversation with his Turkish counterpart said that: “Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into northern Syria”, adding that US forces were being removed from the area.The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Monday its US partners had already begun withdrawing troops from areas along Turkey’s border. Footage aired on Kurdish news agency Hawar purportedly showed US armoured vehicles evacuating key positions in the border region.The SDF spokesman, Mustafa Bali, accused the US of leaving the area to “turn into a war zone”, adding that the SDF would “defend north-east Syria at all costs”.But on Monday the Pentagon, which has been cooperating with Turkey along the Syrian border, issued a statement saying: “The department of defence made clear to Turkey – as did the president – that we do not endorse a Turkish operation in northern Syria. The US armed forces will not support or be involved in any such operation.”State department officials also sought to minimize the announcement, telling reporters that only about two dozen American troops would be removed from the Turkey-Syria border, and suggesting that Turkey might not go through with a large-scale invasion.In the face of fierce criticism from both political rivals and allies in Congress, Trump took to Twitter to try to defend the move and threaten Turkey.“I held off this fight for almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” he said.“As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!),” he said.It was unclear however, what was “off limits”.In earlier tweets, Trump had appeared unsentimental about the Kurds, noting that they had been paid “massive amounts of money and equipment” in the four year campaign, when they were used as the main US proxy to fight Isis in Syria.But the issue of Isis foreign fighters, most of them European, has clearly preoccupied the US president.Both Trump and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have repeatedly called on European states to repatriate around 20,000 foreign nationals currently held in north-east Syria for trial and rehabilitation at home.Trump argued it was up to Turkey and Europe and others, “to watch over the captured Isis fighters and families”.An SDF spokesman, Amjed Osman, said on Monday it was not clear what would happen to the prisoners. “We repeatedly called for foreign states to take responsibility for their Isis nationals. But there was no response,” he said in a statement. It is far from clear if Turkey has the capacity – or desire – to take custody of the detainees being held in crowded Kurdish jails and displacement camps, stretching the SDF to its limits and prompting warnings that militants are using the prisons to regroup.Some 74,000 women and children of the caliphate are held at the infamous Hawl camp, where they are guarded by just 400 SDF soldiers. But the camp, a hotbed of violence and extremist ideology, falls outside the parameters of the 32km-deep safe zone on the Turkish-Syrian border that Erdogan has said his forces would establish.Aid agencies warned that an offensive could displace hundreds of thousands of people, and create a new humanitarian disaster.Save the Children said that more than 9,000 children from 40 countries were being held in camps and depended on humanitarian aid to survive.“Reports of imminent military operations and troops already sent to the border are deeply troubling. The international community, including the UK, should take urgent steps to do what’s best for these children and bring them to their home countries before access becomes even more unpredictable,” the group said.The Guardian understands that the SAS and French special forces present in Rojava would be tasked with securing the camp perimeters if the Kurds withdrew. However, with only several hundred troops between them, their numbers would need to be quickly boosted by regular soldiers to avoid a catastrophic collapse in security.In Washington, the move was condemned by allies and opponents of the president. House speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said the move “poses a dire threat to regional security and stability, and sends a dangerous message to Iran and Russia, as well as our allies, that the United States is no longer a trusted partner”.Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said: “A precipitous withdrawal of US forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime. And it would increase the risk that Isis and other terrorist groups regroup.”Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a staunch Trump loyalist on most issues, said he would call for Turkey’s suspension from NATO and introduce sanctions against Ankara if the Turks attack Kurdish forces.“This decision to abandon our Kurdish allies and turn Syria over to Russia, Iran, & Turkey will put every radical Islamist on steroids. Shot in the arm to the bad guys. Devastating for the good guys,” Graham wrote in a tweet.During the campaign against Isis, the SDF did the bulk of the ground fighting to defeat Isis in Syria, losing 11,000 troops in the grinding battle. The senior ranks of the organisation are dominated by members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought a four-decade guerilla war against the Turkish government.Ankara has long complained that, while fighting Isis, PKK forces were also waging war in Turkey.
It's not every day that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are on the same page, but today is that day.McConnell released a statement Monday afternoon breaking with President Trump on his recent decision to pull back troops from northern Syria as Turkey prepares a military incursion."A precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime," McConnell says. "And it would increase the risk that ISIS and other terrorist groups regroup. I urge the president to exercise American leadership to keep together our multinational coalition to defeat ISIS and prevent significant conflict between our NATO ally Turkey and our local Syrian counterterrorism partners."> McConnell wants Trump to change his mind on Syria, says a precipitous withdrawal benefits Russia, Iran, Assad and warns about ISIS pic.twitter.com/7NmHN98qWD> > -- Steven Dennis (@StevenTDennis) October 7, 2019He concludes by suggesting the Trump administration is at risk of succumbing to what he sees as the foreign policy failings of the Obama administration, writing that "American interests are best served by American leadership, not by retreat or withdrawal."This came as Trump was facing a flood of criticism from the right including from one of his biggest allies in the Senate, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who wrote that the decision will have "disastrous consequences for our national security."Almost immediately after McConnell's statement, Pelosi released a statement of her own urging Trump to reconsider as well, though with far harsher language. Pelosi calls Trump's move a "reckless, misguided decision" that "betrays our Kurdish allies" in "a foolish attempt to appease an authoritarian strongman." Amid this bipartisan criticism, Trump defended the move in a tweet in which he touted his own "great and unmatched wisdom."
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria and abandon Kurdish allies has prompted a furious backlash among key members of his most important bulwark against an impeachment conviction: Senate Republicans.Hawkish GOP senators, whom Trump will need to keep him in office if the House moves ahead with impeachment, condemned the president’s decision as a win for terrorists and a defeat for American credibility. Some are already discussing legislation to push back.“A precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran and the Assad regime,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement. He urged the president to “keep together our multinational coalition to defeat ISIS and prevent significant conflict between our NATO ally Turkey and our local Syrian counterterrorism partners.”Foreign policy has long been the issue where Republicans are most likely to disagree with Trump, and it’s not clear that strong words against the president’s Syria policy will cost him any political support. Trump would have to lose the support of at least 20 Republican senators to be removed from office if the House votes to impeach him.The harshest criticism Monday came from South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, a strong Trump ally and frequent golf companion. Graham said this “impulsive decision” will benefit Iran and cost the U.S. leverage in the region.Graham also said he and Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen will introduce sanctions against Turkey if the NATO ally invades Syria. He said he expects such sanctions to get a two-thirds majority -- enough to override a Trump veto.After criticism from Graham and others, Trump tweeted that he would “totally destroy and obliterate” Turkey’s economy if it took “off limits” actions that he didn’t specify. He also said Turkey must “watch over” about 12,000 captured Islamic State fighters and tens of thousands of their family members living in jails and camps in Kurdish-held territory.The Senate earlier this year had a veto-proof margin to pass an amendment authored by McConnell opposing a withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan. On Monday, Criticism in Congress was bipartisan, focused on the move to abandon Kurdish forces who helped U.S. forces fight ISIS, and who are holding thousands of ISIS fighters in custody.Other Senate Republicans pushing back on the president include Marco Rubio of Florida, Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine, though none other than Graham have yet said they plan to act on their dismay.Romney, who heads a Foreign Relations subcommittee on the Middle East and counterterrorism, released a joint statement with Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, the top Democrat on the panel, saying Trump’s decision “severely undercuts America’s credibility as a reliable partner and creates a power vacuum in the region that benefits ISIS.” They demanded that the administration explain the decision to the full committee.Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, who is up for re-election next year, warned against partnering with Turkish President Recep Erdogan.“If the president sticks with this retreat, he needs to know that this bad decision will likely result in the slaughter of allies who fought with us, including women and children,” Sasse said in a statement Monday. “I hope the president will listen to his generals and reconsider.”Some House Republicans also criticized the abrupt withdrawal. Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney, a member of GOP leadership, called the decision a “catastrophic mistake.” New York Republican Elise Stefanik recently returned from a bipartisan trip to the region and joined a statement with Democratic representatives condemning Trump’s “rash decision.”“Not only will this decision further destabilize the region, it will make it more difficult for the United States to recruit allies and partners to defeat terrorist groups like ISIS,” the statement said.One of Trump’s Senate allies approved of Trump’s decision: Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has long called for withdrawing troops from Syria and Afghanistan.(Updates with McConnell quote in third paragraph)\--With assistance from Erik Wasson.To contact the reporter on this story: Steven T. Dennis in Washington at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at firstname.lastname@example.org, Anna Edgerton, Laurie AsséoFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
President Trump seemingly set out to quell fears Monday that the White House was creating an opening for Turkey to attack U.S.-allied Kurdish forces in Northern Syria.The White House announced Sunday night that U.S. troops would leave northern Syria and that Turkey would launch an invasion in the region. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan considers the Kurdish fighters "terrorists," as a result of a longstanding separatist movement among Kurds in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey, but the U.S. considered the Kurdish forces in northern Syria their strongest allies in the fight against the Islamic State, which is why Trump has received bipartisan criticism for leaving them vulnerable to Turkish forces.Trump, though, said that Turkey won't do anything he, in his "great and unmatched wisdom," considers "off limits" or else he'll "totally destroy and obliterate" the Turkish economy -- again.> As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I've done before!). They must, with Europe and others, watch over...> > -- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2019Trump doesn't mention the Kurds by name, but he has boasted about preventing Erdogan from attempting to "wipe out" the Kurds in the past, so it stands to reason he was referring to them. > Trump in June: https://t.co/Y1U2Za6clN pic.twitter.com/FQJsG6YZg1> > -- Dan Froomkin (@froomkin) October 7, 2019
REUTERSOne of President Donald Trump’s most loyal supporters in the Senate raged against the president’s Sunday night announcement that America will bow out of Syria while Turkey attacks allied Kurds in the region, calling the decision on Monday “shortsighted and irresponsible.”Appearing on Trump-boosting morning show Fox & Friends, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was asked whether he supported the president’s move, prompting the hawkish Republican lawmaker to exclaim, “Absolutely not.”“If I didn’t see Donald Trump’s name on the tweet, I thought it would be [former President] Obama’s rationale for getting out of Iraq.” he said. “This is gonna lead to ISIS’s reemergence!”Graham went on to say this was a “big win for ISIS,” claiming that the Kurds in the area will align with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad because they’d have no choice due to the United States abandoning them. “So this is a big win for Iran and Assad,” he added.(During another Fox & Friends segment, co-host Brian Kilmeade criticized the president as well, calling the president’s decision “disastrous” and that it would leave the Kurds to fend for themselves.)The South Carolina senator then stated that the “Kurds stepped up when nobody else would to fight ISIS,” noting that if we abandon the Kurds at this point, nobody will want to help America in the future in fighting radical Islam. Graham also pushed back on Trump’s claim that ISIS has been eradicated.“The biggest lie being told by the administration [is] that ISIS is defeated,” he declared. “This impulsive decision by the president has undone all the gains we’ve made, thrown the region into further chaos. Iran is licking their chops. And if I’m an ISIS fighter, I’ve got a second lease on life. So to those who think ISIS has been defeated, you will soon see.”“I hope I’m making myself clear how shortsighted and irresponsible this decision is, in my view,” Graham concluded.The GOP lawmaker continued to blast the president’s move on Twitter following his Fox & Friends appearance, saying he doesn’t “believe it is a good idea to outsource the fight against ISIS to Russia, Iran and Turkey.”“I feel very bad for the Americans and allies who have sacrificed to destroy the ISIS Caliphate because this decision virtually reassures the reemergence of ISIS. So sad. So dangerous,” he wrote in another tweet. “President Trump may be tired of fighting radical Islam. They are NOT tired of fighting us.”Furthermore, piggybacking off his assertion on Fox & Friends that he would do everything he can to sanction Turkey if they invade Syria, Graham announced that he would “introduce bipartisan sanctions against Turkey if they invade Syria and will call for their suspension from NATO if they attack Kurdish forces who assisted the U.S. in the destruction of the ISIS Caliphate.”Graham wasn’t alone among Trump’s allies and loyalists to call out the president over his decision to stand aside as Turkey attacks one of America’s most reliable allies in the region. For example, Nikki Haley, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said we “must always have the backs of our allies” and leaving the Kurds to “die is a big mistake.” And Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), weeks after competing with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) for Trump’s affections, called it a “catastrophic mistake” to pull out of Syria, adding that terrorists “thousands of miles away can and will use their safe-havens to launch attacks against America.”Facing overwhelming criticism from within his own party on the Turkey-Syria decision, Trump tweeted late Monday morning that if Turkey does anything that “I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!).”Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
(Bloomberg) -- One of Donald Trump’s biggest defenders in Congress rebuked the president’s decision to step aside from Kurdish allies in Syria while Turkey’s military advances, saying it would result in the re-emergence of ISIS.“ISIS is not defeated, my friend. The biggest lie being told by the administration is that ISIS is defeated,” Senator Lindsey Graham told “Fox and Friends” in a phone call Monday. “The Caliphate is destroyed, but there’s thousands of fighters” still there.Graham said he would sponsor a resolution urging Trump to reconsider the decision he called “shortsighted and irresponsible.” Graham said he and Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen will also introduce a resolution to impose sanctions on Turkey if it invades Syria.The sharp criticism from Graham, a South Carolina Republican who usually is one of Trump’s fiercest defenders in the Senate, signals the president’s plan could meet resistance on Capitol Hill. Other Republican lawmakers were joining in expressing misgivings on Monday, echoing the admonishment that prompted Trump to reverse course on a similar pullout announced last year.Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, said on Twitter that “the Trump administration has made a grave mistake that will have implications far beyond Syria.”Representative Peter King, a Republican from New York, tweeted that the move “betrays Kurds, strengthens ISIS and endangers American homeland.”And Trump’s former United Nations ambassador, Nikki Haley, emphasized the risks of the U.S. abandoning allies in the Mideast. “We must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back,” she said on Twitter. “The Kurds were instrumental in our successful fight against ISIS in Syria. Leaving them to die is a big mistake.”Even before the pushback, Trump was defending his decision Monday, insisting on Twitter that the U.S. can’t afford to be stuck in “ridiculous endless wars.” The U.S. was only supposed to be in Syria for 30 days but stayed and “got deeper and deeper into battle with no aim in sight,” Trump tweeted, insisting he’d held off this fight for almost three years.Trump’s move represents a significant shift in U.S. policy that raises questions about the fate of tens of thousands of Islamic State detainees and casts further doubt on the reliability of the U.S. as an ally in the region.Trump said Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to “figure the situation out, and what they want to do with the captured ISIS fighters in their ‘neighborhood.”’The White House said Turkey would take responsibility for any Islamic State fighters captured in the area over the past two years. It gave no details and it wasn’t immediately clear what, if any, plan the NATO allies had agreed to handle the detainees or how they would be transferred to Turkish custody.But the assurance represents a potential win for Trump, who has insisted that the U.S. would bear no responsibility for any Islamic State detainees, as he gears up for the 2020 election.Close U.S. AllyThe Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have been a close U.S. ally in the fight to defeat Islamic State. But Turkey considers Syria’s Kurdish militants a threat to its national security, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said his forces are ready to begin a military operation against them in northeastern Syria.The U.S. in 2015 provided air support for Kurdish militias to retake the critical town of Kobani from Islamic State and has since used Kurdish fighters as ground troops in the campaign to clear Syria of the group.Trump’s approach to Syria has previously caused friction with administration officials. Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, resigned last December after Trump said the U.S. would withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan -- a decision Trump later reversed.Graham, who has not shied from criticizing other Trump moves on foreign policy, said that fatigue with the fight is not a reason to abandon it. Leaving the U.S. wartime Kurdish allies will only make it harder to find allies in the future, he warned.“If we abandon them, good luck getting anybody to help America in the future with radical Islam, al Qaeda and ISIS,” Graham said. “You may be tired of fighting radical Islam, but they’re not tired of fighting you.”Graham called Trump’s decision “impulsive” and said the ensuing chaos in the region will only help U.S. foes. “Iran is licking their chops,” he said. “And if I’m an ISIS fighter, I’ve got a second lease on life.”An adviser to the Syrian Democratic Forces said that Trump’s move will strengthen Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies Iran and Russia.“The Kurds told me this morning they were going to fight,” Moti Kahana, an adviser to the Kurdish-led forces, said by telephone from New Jersey. “They have two options. They can partner with Iran and Assad in order to prevent Turkish intervention into Syria or face a fight against Turkey in the northern border area and with Iran” in the southeast.Even if the Kurds don’t fight, Kahana said, “they will shift their alliance from the Americans” to Russia, Assad and Iran.Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a tweet that the U.S. is “an irrelevant occupioer in Syria” and it’s “futile to seek its permission or relyl on it for security.”(Updates with comment from adviser to Syrian Kurds, Iran’s Zarif in final paragraphs.)\--With assistance from Steven T. Dennis.To contact the reporters on this story: Jennifer A. Dlouhy in Washington at email@example.com;Glen Carey in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at email@example.com, Elizabeth Wasserman, Larry LiebertFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
Critics point to a 2015 Breitbart interview where Trump said he had a “conflict of interest” due to the Trump Towers in Istanbul.
President Trump’s surprise push Sunday to move U.S. troops from Syria, potentially opening the door for Turkish operations against Kurdish forces on the border of the two countries, quickly drew criticism from both sides of the political aisle.
Congress took its first step Wednesday toward allowing state-sanctioned marijuana businesses to access banking products without fear of a federal government crackdown.
That step included support from Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, an Eastern Washington Republican who has spoken against the state’s legalization of recreational marijuana and received criticism from cannabis reformers hoping to fully legalize the drug.
“I heard from a lot of banks and credit unions about the increased amount of cash that is on our streets, and the danger that it poses for our community,” McMorris Rodgers said in an interview following her vote.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Oregon, prohibits federal regulators from penalizing or limiting financial services offered by lending institutions working with marijuana businesses that followed state laws. The bill passed 321-103with 91 Republicans voting in favor, many of them saying they supported the bill’s narrow scope that is intended to keep such businesses from relying solely on cash. That can make them targets for crime, bill supporters argued.
Many banks and credit unions have avoided working with cannabis businesses, as the drug remains illegal under federal law. Locally, Numerica Credit Union offers a limited set of financial services to growers, processors and retailers.
The U.S. Treasury Department keeps track of banks and credit unions nationwide reporting activity with marijuana businesses as part of its suspicious activity reports program. The department reported in June that there were 715 lending institutions nationwide that were conducting business with marijuana firms.
Advocates pushing for further reform of federal marijuana laws, including the potential declassification of the drug as a controlled substance, heralded Wednesday’s vote. It is the first time Congressional lawmakers have approved any legislation dealing only with marijuana, as more and more states legalize its sale to both medical patients and as a recreational drug.
“For the first time ever, a supermajority of the House voted affirmatively to recognize that the legalization and regulation of marijuana is a superior public policy to prohibition and criminalization,” Justin Strekal, political director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said in a statement.
The bill doesn’t change marijuana’s classification as illegal under federal law. It also doesn’t address the Justice Department’s apparent attempts to keep bankruptcy cases from people declaring marijuana income out of the courts.
McMorris Rodgers said her support for the legislation was due to its narrow scope. But the congresswoman noted that she’s also co-sponsored another marijuana bill introduced by Oregon Democratic Rep. Ed Blumenauer which would enable the sale of marijuana seeds and plant starts to researchers licensed by the federal government for medical study.
“I continue to have concerns about legalization of recreational marijuana, in particular,” McMorris Rodgers said. “I’m concerned about the safety around it, especially for our kids.”
The House’s approval of the bill sends the legislation to the Republican-controlled Senate, where another Western GOP lawmaker has already convened an informational hearing about a companion bill.
Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo, chairman of the Senate’s Banking Committee, held a hearing in late July on similar bipartisan legislation, but no votes were taken. At the time, Crapo said he was interested in learning more about the legislation, but also concerned about a 2013 Justice Department initiative under President Barack Obama that targeted firearm sellers, payday lenders and other businesses believed to be at risk of committing financial crimes.
“Having a conversation about whether banks should be able to provide banking services to entities engaged in federally illegal behavior brings up the issue and concern that there has been a push to choke off legal industries from the banking sector,” Crapo said at the July hearing.
Strekal and representatives of other marijuana reform organizations urged the Senate to take up the legislation in statements Wednesday. President Donald Trump has not given clear indication whether he would sign marijuana banking legislation if it were to pass both chambers of Congress, but he expressed some support for another bipartisan bill introduced in Congress that, among other changes, would give state-sanctioned marijuana businesses access to banking.
Crapo told reporters for the publication Congressional Quarterly on Wednesday that he wanted to consider a banking bill, which could be separate from the House bill, in the Senate soon.
A report from a central bank-led global committee has defended the use of crisis-fighting tools such as negative interest rates and large-scale asset purchases, saying the benefits have outweighed the side effects. The study from the Committee on the Global Financial System Committee (CGFS) was a broad analysis, but is likely to attract considerable attention in Europe following growing criticism about the use of such measures. As well as sub-zero rates and trillions worth of bond buying, central banks have flooded their economies with ultra-cheap funding driving down borrowing costs but also putting pressure on savers and banks' margins.
|Cache||WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's sudden decision to pull back U.S. troops from northern Syria drew quick, strong criticism Monday from some of his closest allies in Congress. It was condemned ... - Source: www.arkansasonline.com|
THE NRL has promised to throw its full support behind under-fire referee Ben Cummins amid a wave of criticism coming his way following the end of Sunday’s controversial grand final. Cummins has been lambasted for backtracking on a six-to-go call which...
|Cache||President Trump is facing major pushback within the GOP over his decision to pull U.S. forces back in northern Syria. He's facing muted criticism for asking Ukraine and China to investigate Joe Biden.|
|Cache||Arsenal youngster Bukayo Saka has recently been receiving a lot of praise after a good performance for the Gunners’ against Manchester United during a 1-1 draw in the Premier League. However, he would have played even better with the presence of one individual playing behind him. After manager Unai Emery received a lot of criticism […]|
‘124-year-old’ traveller lands at Abu Dhabi airport Abu Dhabi: Swami Sivananda from India, whose passport mentions his date of birth as 08/08/1896 making him 123 years old, just won some new fans during his three-day visit to the UAE. However, this hasn’t come without a fair share of criticism on Khaleej Times’ social media platforms, […]
The post ‘124-year-old’ traveller lands at Abu Dhabi airport appeared first on Mangalorean.com.
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|Cache||Published on October 7, 2019 5:10 PM UTC|
Find all Alignment Newsletter resources here. In particular, you can sign up, or look through this spreadsheet of all summaries that have ever been in the newsletter. I'm always happy to hear feedback; you can send it to me by replying to this email.
Audio version here (may not be up yet).
Towards an empirical investigation of inner alignment (Evan Hubinger) (summarized by Rohin): Last week, we saw that the worrying thing about mesa optimizers (AN #58) was that they could have robust capabilities, but not robust alignment (AN#66). This leads to an inner alignment failure: the agent will take competent, highly-optimized actions in pursuit of a goal that you didn't want.
This post proposes that we empirically investigate what kinds of mesa objective functions are likely to be learned, by trying to construct mesa optimizers. To do this, we need two ingredients: first, an environment in which there are many distinct proxies that lead to good behavior on the training environment, and second, an architecture that will actually learn a model that is itself performing search, so that it has robust capabilities. Then, the experiment is simple: train the model using deep RL, and investigate its behavior off distribution to distinguish between the various possible proxy reward functions it could have learned. (The next summary has an example.)
Some desirable properties:
- The proxies should not be identical on the training distribution.
- There shouldn't be too many reasonable proxies, since then it would be hard to identify which proxy was learned by the neural net.
- Proxies should differ on "interesting" properties, such as how hard the proxy is to compute from the model's observations, so that we can figure out how a particular property influences whether the proxy will be learned by the model.
Rohin's opinion: I'm very excited by this general line of research: in fact, I developed my own proposal along the same lines. As a result, I have a lot of opinions, many of which I wrote up in this comment, but I'll give a summary here.
I agree pretty strongly with the high level details (focusing on robust capabilities without robust alignment, identifying multiple proxies as the key issue, and focusing on environment design and architecture choice as the hard problems). I do differ in the details though. I'm more interested in producing a compelling example of mesa optimization, and so I care about having a sufficiently complex environment, like Minecraft. I also don't expect there to be a "part" of the neural net that is actually computing the mesa objective; I simply expect that the heuristics learned by the neural net will be consistent with optimization of some proxy reward function. As a result, I'm less excited about studying properties like "how hard is the mesa objective to compute".
A simple environment for showing mesa misalignment (Matthew Barnett) (summarized by Rohin): This post proposes a concrete environment in which we can run the experiments suggested in the previous post. The environment is a maze which contains keys and chests. The true objective is to open chests, but opening a chest requires you to already have a key (and uses up the key). During training, there will be far fewer keys than chests, and so we would expect the learned model to develop an "urge" to pick up keys. If we then test it in mazes with lots of keys, it would go around competently picking up keys while potentially ignoring chests, which would count as a failure of inner alignment. This predicted behavior is similar to how humans developed an "urge" for food because food was scarce in the ancestral environment, even though now food is abundant.
Rohin's opinion: While I would prefer a more complex environment to make a more compelling case that this will be a problem in realistic environments, I do think that this would be a great environment to start testing in. In general, I like the pattern of "the true objective is Y, but during training you need to do X to get Y": it seems particularly likely that even current systems would learn to competently pursue X in such a situation.
Technical AI alignment
Machine Learning Projects on IDA (Owain Evans et al) (summarized by Nicholas): This document describes three suggested projects building on Iterated Distillation and Amplification (IDA), a method for training ML systems while preserving alignment. The first project is to apply IDA to solving mathematical problems. The second is to apply IDA to neural program interpretation, the problem of replicating the internal behavior of other programs as well as their outputs. The third is to experiment with adaptive computation where computational power is directed to where it is most useful. For each project, they also include motivation, directions, and related work.
Nicholas's opinion: Figuring out an interesting and useful project to work on is one of the major challenges of any research project, and it may require a distinct skill set from the project's implementation. As a result, I appreciate the authors enabling other researchers to jump straight into solving the problems. Given how detailed the motivation, instructions, and related work are, this document strikes me as an excellent way for someone to begin her first research project on IDA or AI safety more broadly. Additionally, while there are many public explanations of IDA, I found this to be one of the most clear and complete descriptions I have read.
Read more: Alignment Forum summary post
List of resolved confusions about IDA (Wei Dai) (summarized by Rohin): This is a useful post clarifying some of the terms around IDA. I'm not summarizing it because each point is already quite short.
Concrete experiments in inner alignment (Evan Hubinger) (summarized by Matthew): While the highlighted posts above go into detail about one particular experiment that could clarify the inner alignment problem, this post briefly lays out several experiments that could be useful. One example experiment is giving an RL trained agent direct access to its reward as part of its observation. During testing, we could try putting the model in a confusing situation by altering its observed reward so that it doesn't match the real one. The hope is that we could gain insight into when RL trained agents internally represent 'goals' and how they relate to the environment, if they do at all. You'll have to read the post to see all the experiments.
Matthew's opinion: I'm currently convinced that doing empirical work right now will help us understand mesa optimization, and this was one of the posts that lead me to that conclusion. I'm still a bit skeptical that current techniques are sufficient to demonstrate the type of powerful learned search algorithms which could characterize the worst outcomes for failures in inner alignment. Regardless, I think at this point classifying failure modes is quite beneficial, and conducting tests like the ones in this post will make that a lot easier.
Learning human intent
Fine-Tuning GPT-2 from Human Preferences (Daniel M. Ziegler et al) (summarized by Sudhanshu): This blog post and its associated paper describes the results of several text generation/continuation experiments, where human feedback on initial/older samples was used in the form of a reinforcement learning reward signal to finetune the base 774-million parameter GPT-2 language model (AN #46). The key motivation here was to understand whether interactions with humans can help algorithms better learn and adapt to human preferences in natural language generation tasks.
They report mixed results. For the tasks of continuing text with positive sentiment or physically descriptive language, they report improved performance above the baseline (as assessed by external examiners) after fine-tuning on only 5,000 human judgments of samples generated from the base model. The summarization task required 60,000 samples of online human feedback to perform similarly to a simple baseline, lead-3 - which returns the first three sentences as the summary - as assessed by humans.
Some of the lessons learned while performing this research include 1) the need for better, less ambiguous tasks and labelling protocols for sourcing higher quality annotations, and 2) a reminder that "bugs can optimize for bad behaviour", as a sign error propagated through the training process to generate "not gibberish but maximally bad output". The work concludes on the note that it is a step towards scalable AI alignment methods such as debate and amplification.
Sudhanshu's opinion: It is good to see research on mainstream NLProc/ML tasks that includes discussions on challenges, failure modes and relevance to the broader motivating goals of AI research.
The work opens up interesting avenues within OpenAI's alignment agenda, for example learning a diversity of preferences (A OR B), or a hierarchy of preferences (A AND B) sequentially without catastrophic forgetting.
In order to scale, we would want to generate automated labelers through semi-supervised reinforcement learning, to derive the most gains from every piece of human input. The robustness of this needs further empirical and conceptual investigation before we can be confident that such a system can work to form a hierarchy of learners, e.g. in amplification.
Rohin's opinion: One thing I particularly like here is that the evaluation is done by humans. This seems significantly more robust as an evaluation metric than any automated system we could come up with, and I hope that more people use human evaluation in the future.
Preventing bad behavior
Robust Change Captioning (Dong Huk Park et al) (summarized by Dan H): Safe exploration requires that agents avoid disrupting their environment. Previous work, such as Krakovna et al. (AN #10), penalize an agent's needless side effects on the environment. For such techniques to work in the real world, agents must also estimate environment disruptions, side effects, and changes while not being distracted by peripheral and unaffecting changes. This paper proposes a dataset to further the study of "Change Captioning," where scene changes are described by a machine learning system in natural language. That is, given before and after images, a system describes the salient change in the scene. Work on systems that can estimate changes can likely progress safe exploration.
Learning Representations by Humans, for Humans (Sophie Hilgard, Nir Rosenfeld et al) (summarized by Asya): Historically, interpretability approaches have involved machines acting as experts, making decisions and generating explanations for their decisions. This paper takes a slightly different approach, instead using machines as advisers who are trying to give the best possible advice to humans, the final decision makers. Models are given input data and trained to generate visual representations based on the data that cause humans to take the best possible actions. In the main experiment in this paper, humans are tasked with deciding whether to approve or deny loans based on details of a loan application. Advising networks generate realistic-looking faces whose expressions represent multivariate information that's important for the loan decision. Humans do better when provided the facial expression 'advice', and furthermore can justify their decisions with analogical reasoning based on the faces, e.g. "x will likely be repaid because x is similar to x', and x' was repaid".
Asya's opinion: This seems to me like a very plausible story for how AI systems get incorporated into human decision-making in the near-term future. I do worry that further down the line, AI systems where AIs are merely advising will get outcompeted by AI systems doing the entire decision-making process. From an interpretability perspective, it also seems to me like having 'advice' that represents complicated multivariate data still hides a lot of reasoning that could be important if we were worried about misaligned AI. I like that the paper emphasizes having humans-in-the-loop during training and presents an effective mechanism for doing gradient descent with human choices.
Rohin's opinion: One interesting thing about this paper is its similarity to Deep RL from Human Preferences: it also trains a human model, that is improved over time by collecting more data from real humans. The difference is that DRLHP produces a model of the human reward function, whereas the model in this paper predicts human actions.
Other progress in AI
The Principle of Unchanged Optimality in Reinforcement Learning Generalization (Alex Irpan and Xingyou Song) (summarized by Flo): In image recognition tasks, there is usually only one label per image, such that there exists an optimal solution that maps every image to the correct label. Good generalization of a model can therefore straightforwardly be defined as a good approximation of the image-to-label mapping for previously unseen data.
In reinforcement learning, our models usually don't map environments to the optimal policy, but states in a given environment to the corresponding optimal action. The optimal action in a state can depend on the environment. This means that there is a tradeoff regarding the performance of a model in different environments.
The authors suggest the principle of unchanged optimality: in a benchmark for generalization in reinforcement learning, there should be at least one policy that is optimal for all environments in the train and test sets. With this in place, generalization does not conflict with good performance in individual environments. If the principle does not initially hold for a given set of environments, we can change that by giving the agent more information. For example, the agent could receive a parameter that indicates which environment it is currently interacting with.
Flo's opinion: I am a bit torn here: On one hand, the principle makes it plausible for us to find the globally optimal solution by solving our task on a finite set of training environments. This way the generalization problem feels more well-defined and amenable to theoretical analysis, which seems useful for advancing our understanding of reinforcement learning.
On the other hand, I don't expect the principle to hold for most real-world problems. For example, in interactions with other adapting agents performance will depend on these agents' policies, which can be hard to infer and change dynamically. This means that the principle of unchanged optimality won't hold without precise information about the other agent's policies, while this information can be very difficult to obtain.
More generally, with this and some of the criticism of the AI safety gridworlds that framed them as an ill-defined benchmark, I am a bit worried that too much focus on very "clean" benchmarks might divert from issues associated with the messiness of the real world. I would have liked to see a more conditional conclusion for the paper, instead of a general principle.
Recent release from Israeli sax hero Albert Beger and his quartet, and the debut release of one of his students’ free-improv trio GOG.
Albert Beger Quartet - The Gate (NoBusiness, 2019) ****
The Beger Quartet is Beger's most stable outfit with recording career of about 25 years, featuring a generation younger musicians - pianist Milton Michaeli, double bass player Shay Hazan and drummer Ofer Bymel (who replaced Adam Cohen and recently was replaced by Hagai Freshtman, who collaborated before with Beger). The Gate was recorded in the summer of 2017 in Afula, Israel.
Beger, asu usual, wrote all the compositions for The Gate, but now opted for more introspective-spiritual vein that represents his deep connection with the Afro-American free jazz forefathers. Beger himself is a long-time yoga practitioner and vegan and the six compositions reflect his own perspective of jazz music as a gate to better realization of the self and its virtues of compassion. Beger’s tone - on the tenor sax and Japanese Shakuhachi bamboo flute flute, identified with Zen Buddhism, is still charismatic and muscular but emphasizes more than ever his contemplative side, avoiding immediate ecstatic outbursts, and seeking a cohesive and strong quartet sound. And indeed, Michaeli, Hazan and Bymel are following his lead closely and adding rich yet modest focused, nuanced layers to Beger’s ideas.
The main pieces, “Zen” and “This Is It”, stress this patient, persistent and almost meditational-ritualistic way one seeks a deeper understanding of his art and true self in the art of the moment. This way is achieved by a generous sharing of your resources, by building together the necessary power for such an intense journey and with emphatic support until reaching the inevitable, liberating emotional climax. The silent and meditative “Shakuhachi impro”, for solo Shakuhachi, injects subtle Western playfulness to the whispering tones of the flute. The last piece, “Silence”, brings the Shakuhachi into a sparse free jazz atmosphere in a manner that offers a new ceremonial experience, suggestive and emotional.
GOG - Something on a Thin Rope (Self Produced, 2019) ***
Something on a Thin Rope is the debut recording of the Israeli, Jerusalem-based trio GOG, featuring cellist Tom Klein, a former student of Beger whose cello is connected to assorted pedals and laptop, synthesizer player Amit Biton and drummer Stav Lipitz, all former student at the local music academy. This free-improv aimed at distancing itssound from the jazz legacy, exploring raw sonic ideas but still flirting with strong melodic veins, just like walking on a thin rope. This album was recorded in Jerusalem in August 2017.
This post-jazz, electro-acoustic trio offers a postmodernist pastiche of sounds, rough noises and expressive colors that never takes itself too seriously (“Veggie Dentist”), often suggests clever and ironic criticism of the Israeli daily noisy and chaotic environment (“Wedding”) and is not shy from being openly emotional. The best realized pieces are the few coherent ones, when GOG doesn't attempt to juggle with too many elements, as the cinematic-mysterious “Last snare”, the fragmented, electronic beats of “Shame/Parade”, “Bonbonim,” (candies) that flirts with West-African rhythmic cycles, and the straight-ahead yet minimalist, spacious and much less dramatic cover of Bjork’s “All is full of love” with Palestinain vocalist Luna Abu-Nasser (drummer Lipitz plays in her band).
Trumpets ACORN: "On Feb. 19, ACORN members will launch a new tactic in fighting foreclosures: civil disobedience. Participants in the ACORN Home Savers campaign nationwide will simply refuse to move out of foreclosed homes, or in some cases, will move back in. ACORN homesteaders intend to squat in their homes until a comprehensive, federal solution for people facing foreclosure is put in place."
ACORN's foot soldiers, funded with your tax dollars, will scream, pound their fists, chain themselves to buildings, padlock the doors and engage in illegal behavior until they get what they want. It's a recipe for anarchy. Threatens Baltimore ACORN's Louis Beverly, who calls himself a "Foreclosure Fighter":
"After you've used all your legal options, your last resort is civil disobedience. We're talking about families who have been in their homes 20 or 30 years. People who are assets in the community, who look out for the elderly, who have community associations, and these are the people being kicked out of the community."
We can all sympathize with good folks who can't pay their bills. But as I've said repeatedly in my criticism of the mortgage entitlement mentality embraced by both parties in Washington, home ownership is not a civil right -- and neither is home retention. Artificially propping up the housing market will only result in more of the same costly borrow-spend-panic-repeat cycles that got us into this mess in the first place. Failing corporations need to fail. So do failing home borrowers. This is borrowing from frugal renter Peter to pay profligate Paul's home loan.
Now that's the kind of theft that should be the subject of civil disobedience.
Instead, ACORN offices, funded with your tax dollars, are training teams of "Home Savers" -- described as "people ready and willing to mobilize on short notice to defend the homesteaders against attempts to evict them." Ready, willing and able to mobilize on short notice because they are either unemployed or employed full time as ACORN shakedown artists.
Guess who's encouraging them to defy the law. Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, who told them: "Stay in your homes. If the American people, anybody out there is being foreclosed, don't leave." The housing bullies will be assisted by left-wing propaganda documentarians at the Brave New Foundation, headed up by Hollywood lib Robert Greenwald, who will disseminate sob stories to crank up pressure while Obama pushes his housing entitlement plan.
ACORN is targeting the following cities: Tucson, Ariz.; Oakland, Calif.; Los Angeles, Calif.; Contra Costa County, Calif.; Orlando, Fla.; Baltimore, Md.; New York, N.Y.; Houston, Texas; San Mateo County, Calif.; Denver, Colo.; Bridgeport, Conn.; Wilmington, Del.; Broward County, Fla.; Boston, Mass.; Flint, Mich.; Detroit, Mich.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Raleigh, N.C.; Durham, N.C.; Albany, N.Y.; Cincinnati, Ohio; Cleveland, Ohio; Pittsburgh, Pa.; and Dallas, Texas.
ACORN has waited three decades for this moment in the sun. And as Obama promised ACORN members at a forum in December 2007, "We're going to be calling all of you in to help us shape the agenda. We're gonna be having meetings all across the country ... so that you have input into the agenda." The moment is nigh. Prepare for lawlessness.
The 700 ClubWhen you’ve lost Pat Robertson…Reacting to President Donald Trump’s announcement that American forces will pull out of Syria and pave the way for Turkey to invade the country and attack Kurdish allies, the ultra-conservative televangelist on Monday joined the growing chorus of Republican critics of the president’s decision.“I am absolutely appalled that the United States is going to betray those democratic forces in northern Syria,” he said during Monday’s broadcast of The 700 Club, first spotted by Right Wing Watch. “That we are possibly going to allow the Turkish to come in against the Kurds.”Calling Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan a “thug” and “dictator,” Robertson said it was “nonsense” to call the Turkish leader an ally of America, claiming Erdogan is just “in for himself.”Robertson, who has been a loyal Trump supporter, then took full aim at the president.“The president, who allowed [Washington Post journalist Jamal] Khashoggi to be cut in pieces without any repercussions whatsoever, is now allowing the Christians and the Kurds to be massacred by the Turks,” he exclaimed. “The President of the United States is in danger of losing the mandate of heaven if he permits this to happen.”Robertson’s forceful condemnation of the president comes as Trump takes heat from some of his staunchest defenders over the Syria pullout. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called the president’s move “irresponsible” and “unnerving to its core,” while Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade said the decision was “disastrous” as it would leave the Kurds to fend for themselves.Amid the criticism from his supporters and fellow Republicans, Trump defended pulling out of Syria while adding that in his “great and unmatched wisdom” he would destroy Turkey’s economy if they did anything he considered to be off limits. Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.