Wheelchair-using Israeli minister invited to meet Boris Johnson after being refused entry to COP26 summit

November 02, 2021



[Note by Tom Gross]

There was anger in Israel and elsewhere after Israel's Energy Minister Karin Elharar (pictured above entering the Israeli president's office in June) was refused entry to the UN's COP26 climate conference in Glasgow yesterday because she uses a wheelchair. Elharar has muscular dystrophy.

The energy minister was forced to return to her hotel an hour's drive away in Edinburgh after organizers refused to allow her in, and after she was kept waiting at the entrance for over two hours.

The BBC reported that Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said last night that he would not attend today and withdraw the Israeli delegation if Elharrar was again refused entry to the summit today.

The British Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly and Britain's ambassador to Israel both apologized for her exclusion and it was announced this morning that provisions will be made to allow her into the conference today.

At the suggestion of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has agreed that Karin Elharar will be invited to join them when the two leaders meet later today.



Above is a tweet from Pam Duncan-Glancy who has been a Labour MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament) for Glasgow since May 2021. She is the first permanent wheelchair-user elected to the Scottish Parliament.

Last night, Israeli Energy Minister Karin Elharar told Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot "What happened today was scandalous and it shouldn't have happened. I came with certain goals, and I couldn't achieve them today."

She added "The UN calls on everyone to adhere to the international treaty," referring to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. "So it is appropriate for there to be accessibility at its events."

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said: "It is impossible to take care of the future, the climate, and sustainability if we don't first take care of people, accessibility, and people with disabilities."


Tom Gross adds: Incidentally, another current member of the Israeli government, Shirly Pinto, representing the right-wing Yemina party, is deaf.

Pinto was born to deaf parents, and her mother is both deaf and blind and part of the wonderful Nalaga'at theater group, which I have seen perform:





The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has apologized for telling the BBC yesterday that climate change would "allow a genocide on an infinitely greater scale than the Nazis."

Welby, the worldwide leader of the Anglican Church, made the comments in a live BBC broadcast while attending the COP26 summit.

Among those criticizing his comments was Stephen Pollard, editor of The Jewish Chronicle, who tweeted that Welby's comments were "so sickening that I simply cannot comprehend how Welby can remain as a priest, let alone Archbishop."

Welby later tweeted that he "unequivocally apologized" for "comparisons with the atrocities brought by the Nazis."


Above: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, right, greet the Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh at COP26. Shtayyeh said he will use his speech at the summit to attack Israel.



There was considerable amusement yesterday when veteran CNN news anchor Wolf Blitzer stood in front of Edinburgh castle and said he was reporting from Edinburgh, "where 20,000 world leaders and delegates have gathered for the Cop26".

The Cop26 summit is in fact taking place in Glasgow, 47 miles west of Edinburgh.

CNN -- which was regularly derided as "Fake News CNN" by Donald Trump for the many errors it makes -- later moved its camera team to Glasgow, more than an hour's drive from Edinburgh.

A parody Boris Johnson twitter account quipped: "You seem to have all the necessary attributes to become my next Foreign Secretary."

Meanwhile Reuters' White House correspondent Jeff Mason tweeted a picture of the US president Joe Biden's arrival on Air Force One at Edinburgh airport, with the caption: "Arrived in Glasgow."

I attach three pieces below -- Tom Gross



Cop26: Cries of hypocrisy as private jets fill the Glasgow sky
By Ben Clatworthy, Transport Correspondent
The Times of London
November 2 2021

About 400 private jets will fly into Glasgow for the climate talks, prompting accusations of hypocrisy against world leaders and captains of industry.

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, led the parade in his ?48 million Gulf Stream, with the Prince of Wales, Prince Albert of Monaco and dozens of "green-minded" chief executives also arriving by private plane.

Charles is believed to have travelled from Rome, where he had been attending the G20 alongside Boris Johnson. It is thought he flew via RAF Brize Norton, where he may have picked up the Duchess of Cornwall.

A Clarence House spokesman defended the prince's decision to fly to the climate conference. He said: "His Royal Highness has personally campaigned for a shift towards sustainable aviation fuel and would only undertake travel to Rome when it was agreed that sustainable fuel would be used in the plane. Wherever possible, and recognising the challenges of supply, the intention is that sustainable fuel will increasingly be part of royal travel plans from now on."

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrived in Glasgow by train yesterday morning and are believed to be using electric cars to travel between venues in the city.

The sheer volume of arrivals by private jet has prompted accusations of hypocrisy. Matt Finch, of the Transport and Environment campaign group, said: "The average private jet -- and we are not talking Air Force One -- emits two tonnes of CO2 for every hour in flight. It can't be stressed enough how bad private jets are for the environment, it is the worst way to travel, by miles.

"Our research has found that most journeys could easily be completed on scheduled flights. Private jets are very prestigious but it is difficult to avoid the hypocrisy of using one while claiming to be fighting climate change."

President Biden touched down in Edinburgh yesterday. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and President Macron of France arrived at Glasgow.

It is estimated that Biden will have generated 2.2 million pounds of C02 in reaching the conference. His entourage consists of a fleet of four planes, as well as his Marine One helicopter and a vast motorcade including The Beast and numerous SUVs.

A Dassault Falcon 8X belonging to the royal family of Monaco was seen arriving in Edinburgh yesterday, as was a Falcon 7X belonging to the government of Namibia. President Buhari of Nigeria disembarked from his Nigerian air force jet at Glasgow.

Planes also arrived in Glasgow from Ukraine, Pakistan, Armenia, South Korea, Australia, India, Rwanda and Angola -- none of which usually have scheduled flights to the airport.

Bezos was said to have travelled to Glasgow fresh from celebrating the 66th birthday of Bill Gates, the billionaire founder of Microsoft, on a ?2 million-a-week superyacht off the coast of Turkey. The Microsoft founder was said to have ferried his guests to and from the sprawling vessel by helicopter.



The address by the Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett addressed the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland (Monday, 1 November 2021).

"Mr. President,
"Mr. Secretary General,
"Fellow leaders,

"As we gather here today in Glasgow, we know that history will judge our generation's response to this threat not by how ambitious we are, but by the actions we take.

"Israel is at the beginning of a revolution on climate change. We recently started implementing our 100-Step Plan, which means that we're currently doing more to promote clean energy and reduce greenhouse gases, than at any other time in our country's history. For the first time, Israel is committing to cutting greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, and will phase out of the use of coal by 2025.

"Yes, we're making progress, but let's be real: Israel is a small country. We're less than a third of the size of Scotland. So, our carbon footprint may be small, but our impact on climate change can be mighty.

"If we're going to move the needle, we need to contribute Israel's most valuable source of energy: The energy and brainpower of our people. You see, this is what fuels our innovation and ingenuity. This is where Israel can make a real difference. Israel may be 60% desert, but we've managed to make it bloom. We may be in one of the driest places on earth, but we've managed to become the world's number one country in water innovation.

"As the country with the most startups per capita in the world, we must channel our efforts to saving the world. Behavioral change alone will only take us so far. We're going to need new inventions and new technologies that have not yet been even imagined.

"And this is why I call upon our entrepreneurs, our innovators, in Israel and across the world: You can be the game changers. You can help save our planet. You see, instead of building yet another hyped-up internet app, why don't you launch startups that will help solve this global threat?

"Israel's national pivot to climate solutions can be only achieved with the right ecosystem. We've done it before. This is why I set up a task force called The Green Sandbox, to provide funds to help the entrepreneurs out and ensure that their path is free of bureaucratic bumps.

"My friends, as we work to keep people safe today, we will also be working for the resilience of tomorrow, where our children will breathe cleaner air, drink cleaner water and live in a world that treats the planet better than we did. Israel can become the climate innovation nation and we're ready to pave the way.

"Thank you very much."



The Challenge of Being Human in the Age of AI
By Henry Kissinger, Eric Schmidt and Daniel Huttenlocher
Wall Street Journal (opinion page)
November 2, 2021

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has called for "a bill of rights" to protect Americans in what is becoming "an AI-powered world." The concerns about AI are well-known and well-founded: that it will violate privacy and compromise transparency, and that biased input data will yield biased outcomes, including in fields essential to individual and societal flourishing such as medicine, law enforcement, hiring and loans.

But AI will compel even more fundamental change: It will challenge the primacy of human reason. For all of history, humans have sought to understand reality and our role in it. Since the Enlightenment, we have considered our reason -- our ability to investigate, understand and elaborate -- our primary means of explaining the world, and by explaining it, contributing to it. For the past 300 years, in what historians have come to call the Age of Reason, we have conducted ourselves accordingly; exploring, experimenting, inventing and building.

Now AI, a product of human ingenuity, is obviating the primacy of human reason: It is investigating and coming to perceive aspects of the world faster than we do, differently from the way we do, and, in some cases, in ways we don't understand.

In 2017, Google DeepMind created a program called AlphaZero that could win at chess by studying the game without human intervention and developing a not-quite-human strategy. When grandmaster Garry Kasparov saw it play, he described it as shaking the game "to its roots" -- not because it had played chess quickly or efficiently, but because it had conceived of chess anew.

In 2020, halicin, a novel antibiotic, was discovered by MIT researchers who instructed AI to compute beyond human capacity, modeling millions of compounds in days, and to explore previously undiscovered and unexplained methods of killing bacteria. Following the breakthrough, the researchers said that without AI, halicin would have been "prohibitively expensive" -- in other words, impossible -- to discover through traditional experimentation.

GPT-3, the language model operated by the research company OpenAI, which trains by consuming Internet text, is producing original text that meets Alan Turing's standard of displaying "intelligent" behavior indistinguishable from that of a human being.

The promise of AI is profound: translating languages; detecting diseases; combating climate change -- or at least modeling climate change better. But as AlphaZero's performance, halicin's discovery and GPT-3's composition demonstrate, the use of AI for an intended purpose may also have an unintended one: uncovering previously imperceptible but potentially vital aspects of reality.

That leaves humans needing to define -- or perhaps redefine -- our role in the world. For 300 years, the Age of Reason has been guided by the maxim "I think, therefore I am." But if AI "thinks," what are we?

If an AI writes the best screenplay of the year, should it win the Oscar? If an AI simulates or conducts the most consequential diplomatic negotiation of the year, should it win the Nobel Peace Prize? Should the human inventors? Can machines be "creative?" Or do their processes require new vocabulary to describe?

If a child with an AI assistant comes to consider it a "friend," what will become of his relationships with peers, or of his social or emotional development?

If an AI can care for a nursing-home resident -- remind her to take her medicine, alert paramedics if she falls, and otherwise keep her company -- can her family members visit her less? Should they? If her primary interaction becomes human-to-machine, rather than human-to-human, what will be the emotional state of the final chapter of her life?

And if, in the fog of war, an AI recommends an action that would cause damage or even casualties, should a commander heed it?

These questions are arising as global network platforms, such as Google, Twitter and Facebook, are employing AI to aggregate and filter more information than their users or employees can. AI, then, is making decisions about what is important -- and, increasingly, about what is true. Indeed, that Facebook knows aggregation and filtration exacerbates misinformation and mental illness is the fundamental allegation of whistleblower Frances Haugen.

Answering these questions will require concurrent efforts. One should consider not only the practical and legal implications of AI but the philosophical ones: If AI perceives aspects of reality humans cannot, how is it affecting human perception, cognition and interaction? Can AI befriend humans? What will be AI's impact on culture, humanity and history?

Another effort ought to expand the consideration of such questions beyond developers and regulators to experts in medicine, health, environment, agriculture, business, psychology, philosophy, history and other fields. The goal of both efforts should be to avoid extreme reactions -- either deferring to AI or resisting it -- and instead to seek a middle course: shaping AI with human values, including the dignity and moral agency of humans. In the U.S., a commission, administered by the government but staffed by many thinkers in many domains, should be established. The advancement of AI is inevitable, but its ultimate destination is not.

(Mr. Kissinger was secretary of state, 1973-77, and White House national security adviser, 1969-75. Mr. Schmidt was CEO of Google, 2001-11 and executive chairman of Google and its successor, Alphabet Inc., 2011-17. Mr. Huttenlocher is dean of the Schwarzman College of Computing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They are authors of "The Age of AI: And Our Human Future.")


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