OpenAI appoints new boss as Sam Altman joins Microsoft in Silicon Valley twist

Sam Altman participates in a discussion during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit, Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023, in San Francisco. (AP)
Sam Altman participates in a discussion during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit, Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023, in San Francisco. (AP)
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Updated 21 November 2023
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OpenAI appoints new boss as Sam Altman joins Microsoft in Silicon Valley twist

OpenAI appoints new boss as Sam Altman joins Microsoft in Silicon Valley twist
  • Hundreds of OpenAI employees, including other top executives, threatened to join them at Microsoft in an open letter addressed to OpenAI’s four-member board that called for the board’s resignation and Altman’s return

SAN FRANCISCO: OpenAI named ex-Twitch boss Emmett Shear as interim CEO, while outgoing chief Sam Altman moved to backer Microsoft, in a surprise turn of events that clouded the future of the startup at the heart of the artificial-intelligence boom.
The appointments, settled late on Sunday, followed Altman’s abrupt ousting just days earlier as CEO of the ChatGPT maker and ended speculation that he could return.
By Monday, close to all of OpenAI’s more than 700 employees threatened to quit in a letter demanding the resignation of the board and reinstatement of Altman and former President Greg Brockman, according to a copy viewed by Reuters and a person familiar with the matter. The document was signed by employees including OpenAI Chief Scientist Ilya Sutskever, the board member who fired Altman.
“I deeply regret my participation in the board’s actions. I never intended to harm OpenAI. I love everything we’ve built together and I will do everything I can to reunite the company,” Sutskever said in a post on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, on Monday.
Hours later, Altman and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella sought to quell fears of a collapse at OpenAI. Altman wrote on X that his top priority “remains to ensure openai continues to thrive” and said he was “committed to fully providing continuity of operations.
Nadella during a CNBC interview said he was open to people staying at OpenAI or coming to Microsoft. He noted, however, that governance at the ChatGPT maker needed to change no matter where Altman ended up.
Microsoft has rushed in to attract some of the biggest names that left OpenAI, including co-founder Brockman, to keep key talent out of the hands of rivals including Alphabet’s Google and Amazon.com while seeking to stabilize the startup in which it invested billions of dollars.
OpenAI’s newly appointed interim head moved quickly to dismiss speculation that its board ousted Altman due to a dispute over the safety of powerful AI models. Shear vowed to open an investigation into the firing, consider new governance for OpenAI and continue its path of making available technology like its viral chatbot.
“I’m not crazy enough to take this job without board support for commercializing our awesome models,” Shear said.
The startup dismissed Altman on Friday after a “breakdown of communications,” according to an internal memo seen by Reuters.
The organization that governs OpenAI is a nonprofit. Its four-person board as of Friday consisted of three independent directors holding no equity in OpenAI, as well as Chief Scientist Sutskever.
In the letter calling for the board’s resignation, employees also demanded the appointment of two new independent directors, such as former Salesforce CEO Bret Taylor and Will Hurd, a former United States representative.
“Your actions have made it obvious that you are incapable of overseeing OpenAI,” the employees said in the letter.
“Microsoft has assured us that there are positions for all OpenAI employees at this new subsidiary should we choose to join,” they added.
An OpenAI spokesperson referred Reuters to Altman’s comment on the goal to make the startup thrive.

DIFFERENT IDEALS
For years, OpenAI employees have been split between different ideals, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Some — including many who joined before 2022 — are focused on building artificial general intelligence (AGI) safely with sufficient guard rails, while others recruited after the success of ChatGPT are more keen on quickly building and launching products in the tradition of Silicon Valley startups, one of the people said.
Shear said prior to his appointment as interim CEO that he was “in favor of slowing down” AI’s rapid development.
Analyst Richard Windsor, of Radio Free Mobile, said in a note: “This weekend was simply the detonation of a bomb that has been waiting to go off.”
Altman is becoming CEO of a new research group inside Microsoft and will be joined by other departing OpenAI colleagues who quit following his ouster, Nadella said in posts on X.
Those joining Altman at Microsoft include senior researchers Szymon Sidor and Jakub Pachocki, according to Brockman.
Microsoft has bet heavily on the startup, releasing what it called AI copilots to business customers based on OpenAI’s technology. OpenAI researchers have viewed Microsoft’s vast reserves of computing power as essential to the development of superintelligent machines.
SemiAnalysis, a research and consulting firm, said in a note on Monday that any attempt by OpenAI’s nonprofit board to slow down AI’s development out of safety concerns had backfired.
“Now the world’s largest corporations without clear oversight/commitment to safe and responsible AGI is in the drivers seat,” the note said.
Microsoft had supported a return by Altman to OpenAI, according to sources, a move that seemed likely only hours prior to Monday’s announcements.

 

 


Cyprus plans to build a major naval base to play a larger geopolitical role, says defense minister

An Open Arms ship and ship Jennifer, of the World Central Kitchen carrying food aid for the Gaza Strip, prepare to set sail.
An Open Arms ship and ship Jennifer, of the World Central Kitchen carrying food aid for the Gaza Strip, prepare to set sail.
Updated 17 July 2024
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Cyprus plans to build a major naval base to play a larger geopolitical role, says defense minister

An Open Arms ship and ship Jennifer, of the World Central Kitchen carrying food aid for the Gaza Strip, prepare to set sail.
  • Cyprus has in recent months been staging ground for collection and delivery of donated humanitarian aid to Gaza
  • Aid is being shipped from the Cypriot port of Larnaca to the Palestinian territory after being security screened

NICOSIA: Cyprus’ defense minister said Wednesday that plans are in motion to build a major naval base on the east Mediterranean island nation’s southern coast capable of hosting large ships from European Union countries and other nations to carry out a variety of missions including humanitarian aid deliveries to the tumultuous Middle East region.
Vasilis Palmas told reporters that Cyprus’ recently elevated geopolitical role as the European Union’s closest member to the Middle East warrants the building of infrastructure that can support policies geared toward the region.
Cyprus has in recent months been the staging ground for the collection and delivery of donated humanitarian aid to war-ravaged Gaza. The aid is being shipped from the Cypriot port of Larnaca to the Palestinian territory after being security screened. Last year, Cyprus served as a waystation for third-country nationals evacuated from Sudan.
Palmas said the construction of the base would “contribute decisively” to policy implementation in the region.
He said Greece is contributing technical know-how to the project, while actual construction will be guided by the findings of an expert study that will be completed in the next few days.
The naval base will be built on an existing naval installation some 25 kilometers (15 miles) east of the coastal town of Limassol, which in 2011 was the site of a huge explosion of 480 tons of seized Iranian gunpowder that killed 13 people, knocked out Cyprus’ main power station and stirred up a political crisis.


190 Russian, Ukrainian prisoners exchanged following UAE mediation efforts

190 Russian, Ukrainian prisoners exchanged following UAE mediation efforts
Updated 17 July 2024
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190 Russian, Ukrainian prisoners exchanged following UAE mediation efforts

190 Russian, Ukrainian prisoners exchanged following UAE mediation efforts

ABU DHABI: The UAE has succeeded in securing the exchange of 190 prisoners of war between Russian and Ukraine, state news agency WAM has reported.

The UAE now secured the release of 1,558 captives with its sixth successful mediation effort between the warring parties, less than one month after the previous exchange process, the report added.

“These efforts reflect the UAE’s commitment to being a reliable mediator supporting diplomacy to resolve the crisis between the two countries,” a statement for the UAE’s foreign ministry said.

The UAE was committed to ‘continuing all efforts and initiatives aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the conflict, stressing the importance of dialogue, and de-escalation, as the only ways to resolve the conflict, and for mitigating its humanitarian repercussions,’ it added.

The UAE also managed to negotiate the exchange of two prisoners between the United States and the Russian Federation in December 2022.


Pakistan summons Taliban envoy after attack on military base

Pakistan summons Taliban envoy after attack on military base
Updated 17 July 2024
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Pakistan summons Taliban envoy after attack on military base

Pakistan summons Taliban envoy after attack on military base

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's foreign ministry summoned the Taliban's deputy head of mission on Wednesday and urged their administration to take action against Afghanistan-based militant groups that Islamabad says attacked a military base this week.
Militants attacked the base in Bannu in northwestern Pakistan on Monday, killing eight Pakistani security force members.


Bangladesh shuts educational institutions after students killed in protests

Bangladesh shuts educational institutions after students killed in protests
Updated 17 July 2024
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Bangladesh shuts educational institutions after students killed in protests

Bangladesh shuts educational institutions after students killed in protests
  • Students say seven killed in overnight clashes with police, government supporters
  • They protest reservation of 30 percent of government jobs for families of 1971 war fighters

DHAKA: Bangladesh indefinitely closed all educational institutions on Wednesday following deadly clashes between students and police, as campus protests against job quotas spread across the country.

Students have been demonstrating at campuses since early July against the government’s quota system, in which 30 percent of public service jobs are reserved for the families of those who fought in Bangladesh’s 1971 liberation war.

The students demand the system’s reform and more just distribution of the well-paid public service jobs.

The protests turned violent on Sunday, after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina undermined the cause by suggesting that the demonstrators supported the “razakars,” or those who had collaborated with the Pakistani military — an enemy occupying force — during the 1971 war.

Students denounced the comparison and more of them joined the rallies, where they clashed with members of the youth wing of Hasina’s ruling Awami League party and security forces.

As violence escalated and turned deadly on Tuesday, the Ministry of Education and the University Grants Commission of Bangladesh announced in separate notifications that all secondary educational institutions, universities and medical colleges across the country would remain closed “until further notice” and “for the safety of the students.”

According to local media reports at least six people, including four students, were killed and 400 injured when the clashes broke out in Dhaka, Chottogram, Rajshahi and Rangpur.

Protesters estimate that the actual numbers are even higher.

“More than 1,000 of our protesters were injured during the clashes. Seven died, including one bystander. Just now, we held funeral prayers in absentia for our fellows who lost their lives,” said Mohammad Nahid Islam, coordinator of the Students Against Discrimination group, which is part of the protests in Dhaka.

“Today, police attacked protesting students at the Dhaka University campus with a stun grenade and tear gas shells. Many of our female students became sick and injured ... We are concerned about our security.”

Despite repeated attempts by Arab News, Bangladesh Police did not respond to requests for comment.


Women lawyers top Philippines’ Shariah Bar exams

Women lawyers top Philippines’ Shariah Bar exams
Updated 17 July 2024
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Women lawyers top Philippines’ Shariah Bar exams

Women lawyers top Philippines’ Shariah Bar exams

MANILA: Women have topped this year’s Shariah Bar examinations in the Philippines, with Supreme Court data showing that female examinees not only obtained the best score but also had the highest passing rate.

Shariah, or Islamic law, is partially implemented in the Philippines, applicable only to the Muslim community — about 10 percent of the 120 million of the country’s predominantly Catholic population.

A total of 853 candidates took part in the Shariah Bar exam in April and May, and 183 passed it. More than half of those who passed the exams were women, nine of whom were among the top 10 scorers.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Maria Filomena Singh announced the results on Tuesday, saying that “62.3 percent of the total passers are female. I’m very happy to announce that.”

This year’s exam also saw the “largest number of Shariah Bar examinees we have had in nearly 40 years,” Singh said.

“This is to strengthen and make the Shariah justice system more accessible by encouraging and giving more opportunities to aspiring Shariah councilors.”

Separate from the regular Bar tests for aspiring lawyers, the Shariah Bar exams are the professional licensure examination covering Islamic law for Shariah court councilor candidates.

Established under the 1977 Code of Muslim Personal Laws, the Islamic law courts are under the administrative supervision of the Supreme Court and have jurisdiction over the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region as well as other parts of the southern Mindanao island, which have significant Muslim populations.

The courts have application over personal status law, including marriage, as well as financial laws and halal certification.

The Supreme Court said last year that in its goal to “strengthen the Shariah justice system” under the Strategic Plan for Judicial Innovations 2022-2027, it was studying the possibility of expanding the mandate of Islamic courts to cover also criminal and commercial cases.