News-Writing Robots Make their Way into Editorial Bureaus

London- Western media, especially in the US, have increasingly relied on “automated journalism.” Over the last few years, news-writing bots have made their way into editorial offices.

The Washington Post has used the gift of artificial intelligence to help in preparing some 850 stories last year alone.

The Associated Press, an American multinational nonprofit news agency headquartered in New York City, operates another program for editing and writing brief stories.

The Los Angeles Times resorted to an algorithmic writing system called “Quakebot” to cover the LA earthquake in 2014.

In China, the Xiao Nan was developed by a research team at Peking University, Beijing, led by Professor Xiaojun Wan.

The robot journalist recently published an article about Spring Festival travel rush in Southern Metropolis Daily based in Guangzhou, wroting some 300 words to cover the topic.

The Washington Post, one of the most prestigious media outlets, has relied heavily on artificial intelligence since the Jeff Bezos acquisition in 2013. The newspaper began preparing for developing a more efficient robot which can tackle complex topics with some depth and explanatory details.

Last year, the outlet’s own Heliograf editing tool was used in the Rio Olympics coverage, and later used an upgraded version to cover the US elections.

“Automated storytelling has the potential to transform The Post’s coverage. More stories, powered by data and machine learning, will lead to a dramatically more personal and customized news experience,” said Jeremy Gilbert, director of strategic initiatives at The Washington Post.

“The Olympics are the perfect way to prove the potential of this technology. In 2014, the sports staff spent countless hours manually publishing event results. Heliograf will free up Post reporters and editors to add analysis, color from the scene and real insight to stories in ways only they can,” he added.

Algorithm writing has proved its importance across many aspects such as speed. China’s Xiao Nan system has been able to write 300 words in one second, which is ideal for breaking news.

At the Rio Olympics, China’s writer bot published 450 subjects in 15 days, ranging from 100 to 800 words per topic. The robot prepared stories for a Chinese news site in record-breaking time—averaging a short two minutes after the end of each sports event.

Palestine’s Omar Kamal Charms Audience in London Concert


London – Rising Palestinian singer Omar Kamal enchanted the audience during a concert he gave in London on Monday night.

For two hours, concertgoers at Cadogan Hall were treated to international and Arabic songs by Kamal, who charmed them with his charisma and emotional renditions of Frank Sinatra, Simon and Garfunkel, Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson songs.

He gave the songs a romantic and playful edge, distinguishing himself from other performers of the same songs, some of which have been around since the 1950s, to the adulation of the crowd.

The crowd’s excitement peaked even more when he performed his own renditions of famous Arabic songs, such as Abdul Halim Hafez’s “Ana laka ala toul il bal” and Fayrouz’s “Ya ana.”

Kamal added his own spin to the Lebanese singer’s song, telling the audience: “This song already has a famous western sound and Fayrouz added her own touch to it.”

“We then took the song and developed it our own way,” he stated before going on and singing it in English.

Performing in London was like a dream come true to the young singer, especially since he studied in Britain, telling the audience: “I see that several of my classmates are here. Thank you for coming.”

Kamal later told Asharq Al-Awsat: “It was my dream as a child to sing in London and it has come true. These are the songs that I used to sing to myself. It was a great experience.”

He later performed Fayrouz’s “Li Beirut”, dedicating it to his mother, followed by “Mawtini.”

At the end of the concert, the audience demanded an encore, which saw Kamal return to the stage to perform “Ya ana” and “Mawtini” one more time amid the applause.

Winged Bull… from Mosul to Trafalgar Square


London – The Iraqi wars and the damage left behind will be highlighted at the Trafalgar square’s Fourth Plinth in London in 2018. The work by US artist Michael Rakowitz has been announced the winner, featuring an ancient Assyrian winged bull sculpture destroyed by ISIS in 2015.

Rakowitz named his project “The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist”, which will be revealed to the public in 2018.

Rakowitz, who was born in Chicago from an Iraqi mother, said that one of his uncles left Iraq in 1940 to settle in London. Rakowitz stated that he started working in 2007 on a project in which he used recycled Middle Eastern food cans to recreate some damaged artifacts of Iraq’s Museum in Baghdad.

The original winged bull, a protective deity known as the Lamassu, stood from about 700 BC at a gate of the ancient city of Nineveh on the outskirts of the modern-day Iraqi city of Mosul, a former ISIS stronghold.

“It’s the first time this project has been situated in a public space, and it’s happening when we are witnessing a massive migration of people fleeing Iraq and Syria,” said Rakowitz in a statement.

“It’s devastating what’s happened,” he told the Guardian. “Creating these apparitions of the originals has been a very meaningful work but it’s also become very clear to me how impossible it is to reconstruct history. Regardless of what our technologies are, the DNA of the societies can’t be put back together.”

The artist said he visited the Edgware Road and went by these stores called Bahgdad and Babylon Grocery and he recognized just how much of Iraq is here as well.

It’s one of the pleasures of being able to do a project in a place like this where there are different generations of Iraqis who left at different times, said Rakowitz.

Ekow Eshun, chair of the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group congratulated Michael Rakowitz and Heather Phillipson on winning the commission, and said that they were selected among five projects participating in the contest.

The new commissions will proudly continue the legacy of the Fourth Plinth in putting world-class contemporary sculpture at the heart of London, he added.

Sharjah Biennial 13…Black Barriers, Colorful Opera


Sharjah – In the Sharjah Biennial the streets of the calm city speaks of art that extends through the city where a bunch of old houses have turned into ateliers featuring many masterpieces partaking in the Biennial. Away from the city’s center, Hamriyah studios located on the beach show artworks, while movies are screened in the open area, which offers myriads of comfortable seats.

Accompanying the Sharjah Biennial, the house of Serkal has been transformed into a platform for arts and events.

Inside of the historic house old architecture compete with contemporary artworks that occupy many of its rooms and surfaces.

Palestine’s Museum

In one of the galleries, visitors read “The Palestinian Museum of Natural History and Humankind” – an exhibition by the Palestinian artist Khalil Rabah composed of two pavilions: the earth and the solar system, and geology and botany.

In the introduction of the exhibition’s brochure, Rabah says that The Palestinian Museum of Natural History and Humankind presents a scene featuring occupation and feelings of exile in the motherland.

The Palestinian artist delivered a brief speech in which he explained how the museum covers different phases in the Palestinian cause, mainly those of 1948 and 1967, when many Palestinian lands were stolen.

Banknotes made of shells

Among art pieces that attract visitors at Al Marijah Art Atelier was a totally new idea called “shell banknotes” signed by an Australian artist; these pieces are a number of banknotes made of a special kind of shells found in the New Guinea.

The artist said that making these pieces takes a lot of time because it passes through many phases: collecting shells, mashing them, and then transforming them into banknotes.

Behind the black shields

Facing the Sharjah Museum and near Al-Serkal House, visitors find themselves in front of a barrier of black shields similar those used by police forces to face riots; the shields are stacked to form a wall extending on a small area surrounding a small garden.

This inspirational work was made by two Taiwanese artists, Yin Woo and Erik Chin, who said the inspiration behind their work came from the popular protests that took place in their country five years ago. These black shields can be seen from negative and positive perspectives, depending on the sight of each individual, said the two artists.

Colorful opera

On the facade of the Sharjah Art Museum, visitors see colored fabric hung like a huge curtain, tailored from different fabric pieces with gold fringes. This masterpiece made by Joe Nehme brings visitors a state of happiness and positivity. Nehme said that the inspiration behind this artwork came from the experience he acquired in the world of opera.

Huge Turnout on First Comic Con in Jeddah

London, Jeddah- Saudi social media users expressed their enthusiasm over the “Comic Con” international festival that was held for the first time in Saudi Arabia and that concluded its activities on Saturday.

During the past two days, Take off venue in Jeddah was crowded with youth, who found a chance to preview various animation arts and comic characters.

Many of them were busy taking pictures with comic characters like “Joker” and characters from “Star Wars.”

Moreover, YouTube stars in Saudi Arabia participated in the different events and characters from Marvel’s Avengers attended the three-day festival.

Workshops to produce and direct movies and draw cartoon characters were held in addition to holding a contest in the electronic games, science fiction and comics.

For his part, Mohammed al-Omari, 14, commented on his visit to the festival and told Asharq Al-Awsat that the show was “innovatively improvised.”

He said that visitors expressed their enthusiasm and participated in innovative ways to be involved with the different cartoon characters.

Geological Engineer Raed al-Omari said that it was the first time he sees Saudi people interacting this way in an event.

He noted that the people attending the festival were overwhelmed by the friendly and thrilling atmosphere, taking photos with each other and commenting on their comic outfits that a large number of attendees were wearing.

The international festival was launched on Thursday amidst impressive attendance by people to enjoy the event.

The event gave the opportunity for Saudis and residents in the Kingdom to enjoy and live the entertainment atmosphere that characterizes the international event.

London Exhibition Charts 500 Years of Evolution of Robots

London- When you step into a huge robots’ exhibition at the Science Museum in London, you feel like it’s a pure technical exhibition that deals with innovations. However, this impression changes once you find out it’s about a “500-year quest to make machines human.”

The “Robots” exhibition will feature over 100 models in what the museum calls the most significant collection of humanoid robots ever displayed.

The exhibition starts with the sample of a new-born child that moves his hands and makes voices. It is among the new possessions of the exhibition and stimulates the emotions of visitors with some programmed movements like moving hands, breathing and sneezing.

This robot is usually used in movies instead of real children as it looks like a real human being.

The exhibition is composed of five pavilions with one of them featuring how robots were created based on religious beliefs; this pavilion exhibits an automaton monk made in 1560 that hides its hands under its robe, while showing simple movements of hands and lips in sign of prayer.

Among the most amazing pieces at the London show is a mechanical silver swan on loan from the Bowes Museum that will remain part of the exhibition until March 23. The wind-up bird dates back to around 1773 and performs a 37-second routine to music in which it preens its own neck before plucking a fish from a flowing filigree stream and swallowing it.

A pavilion at the museum was dedicated for dreams and future predictions in the field of robots which usually appear in movies. Ben Russell, the lead curator of the exhibition, said that robots have always been present in the popular culture since people used the term “robot” in 1920. The exhibition also shows the T-Terminator Robot used in “Terminator Salvation” starred by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Visitors can also meet the first robot developed in the UK known as “Erik.”

“Pay As You Feel” Cafes Use Food Past Expiration Date

In December 2013, a chef named Adam Smith launched the Real Junk Food Project which aims to reduce food waste from supermarkets, restaurants and other food outlets. Food is collected to be cooked and is served as meals at the project’s cafes. Customers pay a price that they see fit. Three years after launching the project, Smith is completely devoting himself to it. He was previously a head chef in numerous restaurants in Britain and Australia and began to run a huge network of restaurants and cafes based on the simple philosophy of “Let’s really feed the world”.

In an interview with Adam Smith, I talked to him about the concept of the project that is working to change the way that food is sold and consumed in the world, the support that the project receives from the public or official authorities and other topics.

At the beginning of our conversation, Smith points out that there are 125 cafes called “Pay as You Feel” in seven countries around the world including South Africa, South Korea, America and Australia. 95 of their cafes are located in the United Kingdom.

The basic philosophy of the project and its series of cafes is that supermarkets exaggerate the expiry dates of food products and get rid of them even though they are completely fit for human consumption. This is so that the consumption process continues and people continue to buy. I ask him about the difference between the “expiry” dates and the “use-by” dates that supermarkets put on products, which in his view, increase consumer confusion. He describes these classifications that are labelled on food products as being concerned with their “aesthetics” rather than whether they are fit for consumption. He adds “We have noticed in the food industry that there are a large number of foods on which incorrect labels are placed, such as sugar. There is a level of deception and manipulation on the part of companies and factories to confuse the consumer about whether products are fit for consumption to push them to get rid of food and purchase more unnecessarily.” However, he also points out that this is not the case for meat and fish that may harm the consumer if it is consumed after the date on the product.

I ask Smith about how the process to reduce food waste works and he replies by giving the example of the project’s biggest café in the British city of Leeds: “In Leeds we gather the vegetables, meat and other food from shops, supermarkets and other outlets. We take this to a warehouse where the food is sorted. Then we transport the sorted food to the cafes where it is prepared in the correct manner and after that it is frozen until it is ready to be served to the customer.”

When I ask Smith about how the health and environment authorities treat the project, he says “They visit the cafes regularly and rate them – we are known to use food past the expiry dates and they are fully aware of our work and don’t try to stop us. They know we have an ambition to stop food waste and in order to do that we defy some of the regulations that we think are wrong”.

At a time of recession that has hit British families hard, the number of food banks has increased but they also face the same rules of having to get rid of food when it reaches its best before dates. I ask Smith if the organisation works with food banks. He says that they cooperate with them to collect waste food that is fit for consumption, but he goes on to say that he is against the concept. “I think the whole concept is shameful – to have more than a million people queuing in front of food banks to get what is their basic human right is shameful. When we waste 15 tons of food while a million people are malnourished, that means there is something wrong. Why do they have to queue to get food while companies get away with wasting food? This happens here in Britain.”

I conclude but asking him what his dream is and he replies “to feed the world.”

Exhibition in London to Celebrate Lockwood Kipling


London – Victoria and Albert Museum will launch Saturday a special exhibition to celebrate the artist Lockwood Kipling, who made plenty of artistic contributions to the museum. Kipling was one of the eminent artists influenced by the trend of arts and crafts that emerged in Britain between 1860 and 1910 and who focused on cooperation among designers, architects, and neighborhoods of traditional crafts.

The exhibition has been entitled “Lockwood Kipling: Arts and Crafts in Punjab and London” – it will show the paintings and portraits he drew in India, along with many of the museum possessions, which were purchased by the artist. While Kipling was deeply interested in maintaining crafts and mainly the Indian ones, visitors will have the opportunity to see Indian jewelry, furniture, and embroideries made with high proficiency.

Kipling was born in Yorkshire in 1837 and worked as an architect and sculptor, he embraced passion towards Indian crafts following his visit to the “Great Exhibition” organized under the patronage of King Albert and his wife Queen Victoria in 1815.

The exhibition on Lockwood Kipling will be launched with a bouquet of paintings featuring pictures from the “Great Exhibition” and the Indian pavilion with its fancy possessions. The event, which will feature the traditional Indian crafts will also introduce gold bracelets studded with diamonds; such works are expected to shed lights on the skillfulness of jewelry manufacture that prospered in India.

The exhibition tells many important phases of the artists’ life through a number of possessions, mainly his journey in India where he lived 10 years in Bombay and worked as ab instructor in an art school. The latter moved to work in Lahore, Punjab’s capital, where he served as head of the art collegesand museums. At that time, Kipling noticed that the quality of Indian’s handicrafts deteriorated, so he travelled in many trips to look for the best Indian works and registered them.

Among the pieces showed in the museum are portraits which he drew for a number of crafters from the countries he visited. Kipling’s contributions in India marked footprint in architecture too – the artist and his students implemented a number of buildings we see in movies in Lahore and Bombay.

After his retirement in 1893, Kipling returned to England and helped his son who was writing his book “The Jungle Book” as he drew images and some of the sculptures that feature their life in India.

The exhibition will be concluded with a number of furniture works made by the artist, which were used in Queen Victoria’s palace.

Myrna Ayad: “Art Dubai” Hub for Galleries, Collectors


London – In March 2016, “Art Dubai” celebrated its 10th anniversary and added a successful new exhibition to its path. When Myrna Ayad, the renowned journalist and art expert has been handled the management of Art Dubai, she faced huge responsibilities to lead this market toward new perspectives and to dedicate its position as a leading art market with a fine place in both Arab World and the West.

During her last visit to London, Ayad met the international media and attended the announcement of the Abraaj Group Art Prize won by Rana Begum from Bangladesh

Ayad knows her mission well as the director of such market and always had great preparations, but she prefers not to talk about her plans for the exhibition. During an interview, Ayad who was assigned as Art Dubai’s director in May, said that she doesn’t expect to make remarkable changes in her first edition and that her priority is to listen and learn from different figures in this field.

She also expressed her deep love for Art and Dubai saying that she doesn’t see Art Dubai as a trade market, but she considers it as a source of knowledge on different levels.

In spite that she prefers not to reveal much information on her preparations for the upcoming exhibition, she asserted that Art Dubai must maintain its show for the best artworks from the MENA and South Asia regions.

The director of Art Dubai announced that the next edition will include a symposium on the modern art in the MENASA region and hoped it will succeed in attracting researchers and artists who are interested in this kind of Art.

The previous edition of “Art Dubai Modern” witnessed the participation of 15 galleries and according to Ayad, the coming one will host 15 to 20 galleries, noting that they received requests that exceeded their capacity.

Ayad has concluded her interview with a positive tonality saying that Art Dubai always comprises options that serves all tastes. It is worth mentioning that 94 galleries from 34 countries participated in the 2016 edition, compared to 40 galleries in the first edition held in 2007, and that number of visitors has jumped from 8000 back then to 27,000 this year.

Golden Dinar Dating Back to Umayyad Caliphate Put Up for Auction in London

London– Morton & Eden, Auctioneers of Coins, Medals and Paper Money are putting up for auction a rare coin which belongs to the era of Al-Walid who is an Umayyad Caliph that ruled from 705 AD until his death in 715AD. The valuable currency is estimated to be worth £300,000 Pound Sterling.

Located in Belgravia, a West London district, Director of Morton & Eden Ltd Auction Company Stephen Lloyd says that the very small coin needs a microscope to view the details of the writing. Mr. Lloyd further confirmed that pure gold was used in the making of such a piece, more so, the coinage was the best quality compared to that time.

The actioned Dinar (dinar is a main currency unit in modern circulation in nine mostly-Islamic countries, and has historic use in several more) is one of twelve very rare pieces. The unique artifacts are known for the exceptional style of coinage used in that time.

Most of the retrieved coins are kept in world-class museums such as the British Museum, National Library of France, and Qatar National Museum.

Mr. Lloyd notes that Morton & Eden Ltd Auction Company had sold a similar coin for a dashing £540,000 in 2011, and another deal was made for £280,000 in 1999.

The relic is considered to be one of the prototypes for metal coinage made after the year 77 Hijri– Islamic calendar, Hijri calendar, is a lunar calendar consisting of 12 months in a year of 354 or 355 days.

The coin, made in 92 Hijri, shows writing from the Quran. Nonetheless, making it special to its likes is that the coin shows an additional phrase next to the Quran excerpts, “metal of Amir al-Mu’minin (Commander of the Faithful)”. The unique phrase indicates that the gold used in the making of the coin could possibly had been extracted from royalty-owned fields.

Mr. Lloyd also added that the coinage used in the auctioned piece is rare even to the time it was made, not many coins from the same period show the same design. The tool used to make the coin was a distinct one, which had not been frequently used.