Tag Archives: robotics

From Congressman Jim McGovern’s office …

McGovern Announces $836,000 for UMass Medical to Fight Heart Disease

Funds will Support Heart and Vascular Disease Research, push for Cures

Congressman Jim McGovern announced yesterday that UMass Medical School has been awarded $836,858 by the Department of Health and Human Services to support research on treatments and cures for heart and vascular diseases. The new federal funding is awarded through the Community Surveillance of Coronary Heart Disease program, a national HHS effort to invest in medical research at world-class universities like UMass Medical School.

“Heart disease impacts families across the country every year and there has never been a more important time to invest in life-saving medical research. This new federal funding for UMass Medical School will help them continue their cutting-edge medical research that will help save lives while supporting economic growth right here in Massachusetts,” Congressman McGovern said. “I am grateful to HHS Secretary Burwell for making this investment in our community and recognizing UMass Medical School as a leader in the fight against heart disease. Together we can continue to support this important work to help families in Massachusetts and across the country.”

The grant continues the decades-long work of the Worcester Heart Attack Study, funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute since the mid-1980s. The community-based study provides 40 years of data about the number of heart attacks among residents of the Greater Worcester community and outcomes of their medical care during and after hospitalization. It also provides insights on how patients who experience heart attacks in the community are treated by physicians.

“We’re going to have a 40-year picture of heart disease, which is unique. What we’ve learned since 1975 is that even though Worcester heart attack patients have become older and sicker, often having multiple diseases, the incidence of heart attacks is declining, and patients’ prognosis both in-hospital and post-discharge is getting better,” said Robert Goldberg, PhD, professor of quantitative health sciences and founder and principal investigator of the renamed Worcester Heart Attack Study. “We think this is because patients are being much more aggressively managed with evidence-based care.

“What we want to learn is will these trajectories continue: will incidence of heart attacks continue to decrease? Will patients’ prognosis continue to improve? And how much more effectively can patients be managed?”

The new funding will help Dr. Goldberg and his research team achieve these goals by monitoring trends of heart attack patients; and patient management.

“Most novel is that we’re going to use bioinformatics and very technical approaches to sift through available medical records, be they in paper or electronic form, and see how machines do compared to our manual abstractors,” Goldberg said. “The goal is to streamline the approach to data collection and data abstraction and give feedback to investigators and clinicians in real time.”

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McGovern, House Democrats Call for White House to Strengthen Safeguards on “Killer Robots”

House Lawmakers Raise Concerns About New Military Technology

Congressman Jim McGovern led a group of House Democrats yesterday in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Ash Carter to push for meaningful human control as a safeguard on lethal autonomous weapons systems, also known as fully autonomous weapons or so-called “killer robots – an emerging and concerning military technology.

The letter comes ahead of the upcoming Fifth Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) to be held at the United Nations in Geneva on December 12-16, 2016. The CCW is five-year Review Conference and will focus on lethal autonomous weapons systems.

In today’s letter to the Obama Administration, Congressman McGovern and House Democrats write that these weapons “would constitute a new method of warfare – and one that would not be for the betterment of humankind. Once activated, these weapons would be able to select and attack targets without any further human involvement. While these weapons do not yet exist, technology is racing ahead, and experts say that they could be procured within years, not decades.”

Joining Congressman McGovern on yesterday’s letter to the White House were Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Alan Grayson (D-FL), Mark Pocan (D-WI), John Conyers (D-MI), John Lewis (D-GA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), and Maxine Waters (D-CA).

The lawmakers expressed their support of “the call for a preemptive prohibition on the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons. This call has been endorsed by thousands of artificial intelligence and robotics experts, including many of the most respected people in those fields, as well as two dozen Nobel peace Laureates, more than 100 prominent faith leaders, numerous humanitarian organizations and many more. This prohibition, which should require meaningful human control over target selection and engagement for each individual attack, could be achieved as a new CCW protocol.”

In the letter, McGovern and House Democrats called on the Obama Administration to take the following actions at the CCW Review Conference next week:

· The U.S. should strongly support the continuation of discussions in the CCW on the legal, ethical, technological, proliferation, international security, and other challenges raised by what the CCW calls “lethal autonomous weapons systems.”

· The U.S. should strongly and unequivocally support the recommendation agreed to by CCW members, including the United States, in April that states establish a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) at this Review Conference to continue these deliberations next year. The creation of an open-ended GGE would move the CCW discussions from informal to the more appropriate formal status, and indicate that the CCW is making progress on the issue and intends to produce a result. Such groups have been the CCW’s established method of work for the past two decades to address explosive remnants of war, landmines and cluster munitions. The U.S. agreed to the recommendation in April with reluctance, and at an August meeting, the U.S. indicated its preference is to continue the process using the current format of informal meetings. Given the uncertainty on advancing arms control measures, support for proceeding to the more formal process seems warranted.

· The U.S. should propose an ambitious mandate for CCW work in 2017, one that states that CCW deliberations in 2017 should be carried out with a view to formal negotiations on lethal autonomous weapons systems in the future.

· The U.S. should propose that the CCW commits to at least four weeks of time for its deliberations on lethal autonomous weapons systems in 2017. In the past, the CCW has only made progress on issues when it devoted such an amount of time.

The Full Text of the Letter to the Obama Administration:

December 8, 2016

The Honorable John F. Kerry Ashton B. Carter
Secretary of State Secretary of Defense
U.S. Department of State U.S. Department of Defense
Washington, DC 20520 Washington, DC 20301-1400

Dear Secretaries Kerry and Carter,

We are writing with respect to the upcoming Fifth Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) to be held at the United Nations in Geneva on December 12-16, 2016.

The main focus of this five-year Review Conference will be lethal autonomous weapons systems, also known as fully autonomous weapons or so-called “killer robots.” The high contracting parties, including the United States, will decide whether to continue discussions on this issue in the CCW, and if so, what the format, content, objective and duration of the talks should be.

We believe that fully autonomous weapons are a matter of vital concern. They would not simply be another weapon in the world’s arsenals, but would constitute a new method of warfare – and one that would not be for the betterment of humankind. Once activated, these weapons would be able to select and attack targets without any further human involvement. While these weapons do not yet exist, technology is racing ahead, and experts say that they could be procured within years, not decades.

We support the call for a preemptive prohibition on the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons. This call has been endorsed by thousands of artificial intelligence and robotics experts, including many of the most respected people in those fields, as well as two dozen Nobel peace Laureates, more than 100 prominent faith leaders, numerous humanitarian organizations and many more.

This prohibition, which should require meaningful human control over target selection and engagement for each individual attack, could be achieved as a new CCW protocol. The CCW has already taken similar action on one weapon, namely preemptively banning blinding laser weapons through its Protocol IV.

We urge that at the CCW Review Conference in December the U.S. delegation take the following actions:

· The U.S. should strongly support the continuation of discussions in the CCW on the legal, ethical, technological, proliferation, international security, and other challenges raised by what the CCW calls “lethal autonomous weapons systems.”

· The U.S. should strongly and unequivocally support the recommendation agreed to by CCW members, including the United States, in April that states establish a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) at this Review Conference to continue these deliberations next year. The creation of an open-ended GGE would move the CCW discussions from informal to the more appropriate formal status, and indicate that the CCW is making progress on the issue and intends to produce a result. Such groups have been the CCW’s established method of work for the past two decades to address explosive remnants of war, landmines and cluster munitions. The U.S. agreed to the recommendation in April with reluctance, and at an August meeting, the U.S. indicated its preference is to continue the process using the current format of informal meetings. Given the uncertainty on advancing arms control measures, support for proceeding to the more formal process seems warranted.

· The U.S. should propose an ambitious mandate for CCW work in 2017, one that states that CCW deliberations in 2017 should be carried out with a view to formal negotiations on lethal autonomous weapons systems in the future.

· The U.S. should propose that the CCW commits to at least four weeks of time for its deliberations on lethal autonomous weapons systems in 2017. In the past, the CCW has only made progress on issues when it devoted such an amount of time.

In closing, we would like to stress that we recognize the importance of artificial intelligence and robotics to the future of the U.S. military, and their central role in the Pentagon’s Third Offset Strategy, but we firmly believe that there must always be meaningful human control over critical combat functions.

Sincerely, …

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Bipartisan McGovern Human Rights Bill Passes Congress

McGovern Bill Will Crack Down on Corruption and Human Rights Abuses Around the World

McGovern Urges Trump to Continue U.S. Leadership on Human Rights

Congressman Jim McGovern this week applauded Congressional passage of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, a bill he co-authored to crack down on corruption and human rights abuses around the world. … Congressman McGovern is one of four co-sponsors of the bipartisan legislation along with Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ). The bill now goes to President Obama’s desk for his signature.

“America must stand up for human rights at home and abroad. With today’s passage of the Global Magnitsky Act, Republicans and Democrats came together to continue America’s leadership on human rights around the world,” Congressman McGovern said. “This bill will empower the president to deny U.S. visas and freeze U.S.-based assets of human rights abusers and corrupt foreign officials. I urge President Obama to sign this important bill into law. This is an important step, but there is still much more work ahead.”

“During the campaign, two words I never heard Donald Trump utter were ‘human rights’ and that should concern all of us. President-elect Trump has repeatedly praised Vladimir Putin and other world leaders guilty of brutal crackdowns on dissidents. Since his election, President-elect Trump has continued to raise red flags about his approach to political opponents. … Americans need a leader who will stand up for the freedoms our country was founded on and I hope President-elect Trump proves his critics wrong and uses the new tools in this bill to bring the leadership we need on human rights.”

The Global Magnitsky Act allows the president to deny U.S. visas and freeze U.S.-based assets of human rights abusers and corrupt foreign officials. It also directs the president to consider information from NGOs when determining who to sanction. Members of Congress and certain assistant secretaries of state may also recommend names for sanction. The president is required to make public the names of individuals being targeted.

Congressman McGovern has been a leading voice in the call for U.S. leadership and action to strengthen human rights across the world, including in Russia. Congressman McGovern is one of the authors of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, legislation passed by both the U.S. House and Senate in 2012 to establish a critical precedent that human rights must be an essential component of trade legislation.

The Magnitsky Bill was named after Sergei Leonidovich Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer and auditor who worked for Hermitage Capital Management. Magnitsky’s arrest and subsequent death while in Russian custody triggered both official and unofficial inquiries into allegations of fraud, theft, and human rights violations.