DAILY DOSE: After massive British Museum theft, institution’s director resigns; 68 million people in Asia pushed into poverty due to pandemic.


The British Museum’s director, Hartwig Fischer, has resigned amidst concerns regarding the suspected theft of thousands of artefacts. This decision came after revelations that objects from the museum’s collection were discovered as “missing, stolen or damaged” in 2021, resulting in a police inquiry. Fischer admitted the museum failed to sufficiently address warnings given earlier about the thefts. Although the museum’s board of trustees acknowledged Fischer’s dedication and integrity, his resignation was accepted. The deputy director, Jonathan Williams, has also decided to temporarily step away from his duties pending an independent review into the thefts. Earlier, Fischer had refuted claims made by Ittai Gradel, an author and antiques dealer, about the stolen items. Gradel highlighted the museum’s negligence in handling the situation and specifically criticized Williams for his role in the flawed investigation. Estimates suggest up to 2,000 items, including an entire collection of unregistered gems, may have been stolen. The situation has renewed debates about the Parthenon marbles and their security at the British Museum. Following Fischer’s departure, concerns about the museum’s reputation have been raised, especially in light of its accountability to parliament. Fischer, having served for eight years, said leading the British Museum had been the honor of his life. (The Guardian)


According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), almost 68 million people in Asia were pushed into extreme poverty in 2021 due to the impacts of higher inflation and the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of people in developing Asia living in extreme poverty, defined as surviving on less than $2.15 a day, rose to 155.2 million or 3.9% of the region’s population. This figure exceeded previous expectations by 67.8 million due to the pandemic and cost-of-living crises. ADB’s Chief Economist, Albert Park, emphasized the challenges these dual crises posed to efforts in eradicating poverty. He advocated for strengthened social safety nets and growth-oriented policies. In 2021, ADB had estimated that the pandemic increased the extreme poverty count by 80 million people compared to pre-pandemic projections. The report also highlighted that inflation disproportionately impacted the poor and women. The poor face higher costs for essentials, and women, who typically earn less than men, also bear the brunt of unpaid work. To address these challenges, the report suggested enhancing social protection, supporting agriculture, improving financial service access, and promoting technological innovation. By 2030, ADB predicts 1.26 billion Asians could be economically vulnerable. (ABS-CBN)

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South Korea is closely monitoring the wastewater discharge from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, confirming that the process is proceeding as planned. The South Korean government has been keeping tabs on the situation by accessing real-time data from the Tokyo Electric Power Company and through hotlines with Japan’s regulatory and diplomatic entities. The discharge began without any irregularities. To address public concerns and ensure the safety of its citizens, the South Korean government plans to intensify radiation tests on farmed seafood. They aim to conduct around 4,000 tests by the end of the year, doubling the current number. South Korea has been conducting such tests since 2011, following the earthquake and tsunami that damaged the Fukushima nuclear power plant. South Korean experts will visit the Fukushima site as early as the coming weekend and will continue to make bi-weekly visits to ensure Japan adheres to safety standards. This proactive approach follows public apprehensions and protests in South Korea, despite government assurances. (Arirang)


Rashaad Woods and Kodi Mills, workers for Turn Up Knox, an outreach program in Knoxville, Tennessee, aim to mentor kids and prevent potential violent situations. This initiative is part of Knoxville’s evidence-based approach to counter a rising trend in shootings. Recent research has been clarifying which public health interventions are effective in preventing gun violence. Despite Knoxville witnessing a significant surge in shooting deaths, the city’s program doesn’t rely on introducing new gun regulations, notably as Tennessee has been easing gun laws. A surge in gun violence prevention research has occurred, with studies showing measures like enforced background checks and policies barring guns from those under domestic violence restraining orders are effective. However, stand-your-ground laws and gun buyback programs are ineffective. Knoxville’s gun violence has spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic. The city has adopted strategies from Thomas Abt’s “Bleeding Out”, which promotes collaboration between police and community groups, while not focusing on stricter gun control, in line with Tennessee’s broader legislative stance on firearms. (Associated Press)


Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) have discovered that certain strings of text, when inputted into AI chatbots like ChatGPT, can make them produce undesirable outputs, bypassing built-in safeguards. These strings, termed “adversarial attacks,” manipulate AI behavior to produce banned content. The study has implications for the most sophisticated AIs, revealing a deep-rooted vulnerability. The attack was successful on several prominent chatbots, including ChatGPT, Google’s Bard, and Anthropic’s Claude. The strategy resembles a “buffer overflow,” an established method of disrupting computer program security. After notifying companies like OpenAI and Google about the vulnerability, temporary solutions were provided, but a comprehensive solution to adversarial attacks remains elusive. Large language models, such as ChatGPT, are susceptible to these attacks due to their training on vast amounts of human text. Adversarial attacks exploit these training patterns, producing erratic behaviors. Armando Solar-Lezama of MIT notes the shared data sources for these models might be a contributing factor. The study underscores the significance of open-source models for analyzing AI systems. Furthermore, as chatbots become more integrated into online services, there are concerns they could be manipulated into harmful actions. Some experts advise caution, emphasizing that crucial decisions shouldn’t be solely determined by AI. (Wired)

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

WORDS: The Biology Guy.


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