Vox Sentences: North Korea’s worst drought in decades

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San Francisco becomes the first US city to ban surveillance using facial recognition technology; a severe drought in North Korea threatens the country’s already limited food supply.


San Francisco bans facial recognition technology

Steffi Loos/Getty Images
  • San Francisco is now the first US city to ban the use of facial recognition surveillance technology by law enforcement or other government departments. [San Francisco Chronicle / Trisha Thadani]
  • There are some exceptions; airports, for instance, will not be affected, and the ban does not apply to businesses or individuals using the tech. The ban is part of a larger surveillance oversight ordinance that will also require the city to disclose the surveillance technology it currently uses or plans to implement in the future. [AP / Janie Har]
  • Facial surveillance is becoming a more popular tool among government agencies and is backed by big tech companies. Amazon sells the technology to US police departments and Microsoft to a US prison. [Recode / Shirin Ghaffary]
  • While supporters of the technology say it helps law enforcement effectively identify and arrest criminal suspects, critics have raised concerns about civil liberties and racial bias. [NPR / Shannon Van Sant and Richard Gonzales]
  • Studies have shown that facial analysis software was less likely to correctly identify dark-skinned or female faces. This means that, for instance, African Americans and women are more likely to be misidentified as suspects and wrongly arrested. [NYT / Kate Conger, Richard Fausset, and Serge F. Kovaleski]
  • This might be a sign that lawmakers are finally catching up with rapidly developing technology. Even now, there are no federal laws that regulate artificial intelligence technology. [CNN / Rachel Metz]
  • San Francisco might be setting a trend for other cities that are recognizing the need for more oversight of surveillance technology. Oakland, California, and Somerville, Massachusetts, are both set to vote on similar bans. [Wired / Gregory Barber]

Threat of starvation looms in North Korea

  • North Korea is experiencing its worst drought since 1982, and the UN predicts the country’s food crisis will only worsen with time. [Yonhap]
  • The country has only received 2.1 inches of rain for the past five months, which is about 42 percent of the level in recent years. Just a year ago, food production fell to its lowest in a decade. [Guardian / Daniel Hurst]
  • While there have been no reports of mass starvation yet, UN agencies said that the government is already cutting back on rations. Just two weeks ago, two UN relief agencies — the World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization — said that 40 percent of North Korea’s population risked “severe food shortages” because of the country’s disastrous harvest last fall. [NYT / Choe Sang-Hun]
  • Rodong Sinmun, North Korea’s leading newspaper, urged citizens to mobilize to prevent damage to crops. In February, citizens were also encouraged to secure water supplies as the drought dragged on. [North Korea News / Oliver Hotham]
  • This drought is particularly serious because sanctions, which were implemented because of the country’s weapons development program, have led to a drastic drop in bilateral food aid in recent years. [BBC]
  • South Korea is planning to provide aid to North Korea, despite recent threats from North Korea’s weapon tests. The country’s one goal: get North Korea back to the negotiating table. [NYT / Choe Sang-Hun]

Miscellaneous

  • Stan Lee’s manager and caretaker has been charged with allegedly abusing the late Marvel Comics icon. [CNN / Chloe Melas]
  • Say hello to Swiss ruby chocolate, the first new natural shade of the sweet stuff introduced in the US since white chocolate in the 1930s. [Washington Post / Hamza Shaban]
  • Commuters found themselves in a sticky situation when a semi-trailer filled with honey overturned on an Indiana highway. [AP]
  • An 11-year-old girl wrote to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern asking her to launch a dragon research program so she could grow up to be a dragon trainer. Her “bribe” for the PM: $5. [NPR / Vanessa Romo]
  • There’s a petition to remake season eight of Game of Thrones with 16,000 signatures. [A.V. Club / Dan Neilan]

Verbatim

“Even before this drought, one in five children under five years old was stunted because of poor nutrition. We are concerned that these children will not be able to cope with further stress on their bodies.” [Mohamed Babiker, head of the North Korea office of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, on the drought’s impact]


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