U.S Returns over $100 Million of Indian Cultural Artifacts

Compliments of Indian Express 

The US today returned over 200 cultural artifacts estimated at $100 million to India at a ceremony, attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at Washington DC.

“For some, these artifacts may be measured in monetary terms but for us this is beyond that. It’s a part of our culture and heritage,” the Prime Minister said at the ceremony held at the Blair House.

Items returned included religious statues, bronzes and terra cotta pieces, some dating back 2,000 years, looted from some of India’s most treasured religious sites.

Among the pieces returned is a statue of Saint Manikkavichavakar, a Hindu mystic and poet from the Chola period (circa 850 AD to 1250 AD) stolen from the Sivan Temple in Chennai, which is valued at $1.5 million.

Also included in the collection is a bronze sculpture of the Hindu god Ganesh estimated to be 1,000-year-old.

The artifacts that speak to India’s astounding history and beautiful culture are beginning their journey home, US Attorney General Loretta E Lynch said.

“It is my hope – and the hope of the American people– that this repatriation will serve as a sign of our great respect for India’s culture; our deep admiration for its people; and our sincere appreciation for the ties between our nations,” she said.

“Protecting the cultural heritage of our global community is important work and we are committed to identifying and returning these priceless items to their countries of origin and rightful owners,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said in a statement.

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John Oliver Puts His Money Where His Mouth Is

Compliments of USA Today 

John Oliver may have just out-Oprahed Oprah.

The Last Week Tonight host announced in Sunday’s episode that he legally purchased $14,922,261.76 in outstanding and overdue medical debt, and forgave it all.

Just like when when he started his very own church (RIP Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption), Oliver took his segment on the shady practices in the debt-collecting industry one step further than just educating his audience. He joined the industry.

“It is pretty clear by now (that) debt buying is a grimy business, and badly needs more oversight, because as it stands any idiot can get into it,” Oliver said. “And I can prove that to you, because I’m an idiot, and we started a debt-buying company. And it was disturbingly easy.”

How easy? Well back in April they spent just $50 to start the company. “We called it Central Asset Recovery Professionals, or CARP, after the bottom-feeding fish.”

With an official company and a website at his disposal, Oliver was offered nearly $15 million of medical debt from Texas for less than half a cent on the dollar, or less than $60,000.

And with a wave of his magic wand, all that debt was forgiven.

“Why not forgive it?” he asked. “Because on one hand, it’s obviously the right thing to do. But much more importantly, we’d be staging the largest one-time giveaway in television show history.”

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To Bounce Or Not To Bounce? That Is The Question.

By Paris Finnie 

As they say, necessity is mother of invention and it seems it has become absolutely necessary to enter Berghain. Berghaintrainer is an interesting implementation of facial and voice recognition software. The program trains the average person to be a bouncer duping superstar and gain entrance the most exclusive club in Berlin. The charitable young team has created a simulator that puts you in front of the clubs most notorious bouncer Sven. A man known for his stern attitude and wavering subjectivity of whom he allows access to the club.

How  you ask? The website will request access to your microphone and camera. It will then place you face to face with Sven and he will ask you a few random questions. Based on your answers, the program will then use logarithms to study which emotions you are omitting ( Anger, Sadness, Amazed, Euphory) and whether or not you answers are worthy of Eurodance superstardum.

The program gives you plenty of attempts to earn your stripes with Sven, it even gives you feedback to better your chances on your next attempt. If you are curious, I was able to to do it on my second attempt. My background is in Non-verbal communication. So, if you would like to give it a go here is the website link: Berghaintrainer  

But before you flip your table at the “manipulation of emotions invading our personal space” conducted by this program. Let us inform you, that emotion detecting facial recognition software, a mouthful to say, is no stranger to tech companies.

Facial Recognition was made popular by a psych study created decades ago by the scientist Dr. Paul Ekman. Dr. Ekman is known as one of the fundamentalist of non-verbal communication, and has spent a large portion of his career mapping the extents of our facial structures when displaying emotions ( E.g. Anger, Sadness, Joy, fear). His paramount discoveries provided a platform for other theorist to create studies like “The Face In The Crowd” study. The theory proves that most people can detect dissenting/angry faces in a crowd of people. Can you?


Sample test


Sample Test

It comes naturally right?

In fact Microsoft has begun using facial recognition software known as Project Oxford. The program allows for public speakers and entertainers alike to get an overall “feel” of the room. Using a front facing camera, Project Oxford provides real time scans of the faces in attendance. The program potential extends eons past visual display application. The technology could pave the way for content suggestion ( I.e. Netflix recommending you a funny movie because you look sad). Or perhaps product placement and marketing ( I.e sugesting products that your friends also bought that made them happy due to a chronological read out of your bluer moods as of late).

Project Oxford scanning a picture for faces emotional disposition

Berghaintrainer without a doubt taps into this science and pokes fun at its application when it determins our worthiness of euro electronic music. We do predict these examples to be the few of the many commercial applications for this technology. So for now good luck and may you join the rest of us in  the elitist club of the ages. If you somehow are unable to swindle Sven. Rest easy in knowing you can explain to your friends and family how our devices are able to suggest media based on our moods.

Remember, don’t just believe what we say. Research what we say!

Sources

Ekman 

Berghaintrainer

Vocativ

Microsoft

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Cancer Vaccine?

Compliments of The Independent 

Scientists have taken a “very positive step” towards creating a universal vaccine against cancer that makes the body’s immune system attack tumors as if they were a virus, experts have said.

Writing in Nature, an international team of researchers described how they had taken pieces of cancer’s genetic RNA code, put them into tiny nanoparticles of fat and then injected the mixture into the bloodstreams of three patients in the advanced stages of the disease.

The patients’ immune systems responded by producing “killer” T-cells designed to attack cancer.

The vaccine was also found to be effective in fighting “aggressively growing” tumours in mice, according to researchers, who were led by Professor Ugur Sahin from Johannes Gutenberg University in Germany.

“[Such] vaccines are fast and inexpensive to produce, and virtually any tumour antigen [a protein attacked by the immune system] can be encoded by RNA,” they wrote

“Thus, the nanoparticulate RNA immunotherapy approach introduced here may be regarded as a universally applicable novel vaccine class for cancer immunotherapy.”

The paper said the three patients were given low doses of the vaccine and the aim of the trial was not to test how well the vaccine worked. While the patients’ immune systems seemed to react, there was no evidence that their cancers went away as a result.

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Is Facebook Listening Right Now?

By Paris Finnie 

It has been purported that The  Facebook app (Messenger included) has been listening to our conversations, “to better assist our experience.” The application uses microphone access to extract key points in our conversations. The information received would then be used to suggest a post, or send relevant advertising to our feeds.

To elaborate on the former point, the application would listen in on a song or television show we are watching. When or If were were to open the app, it would suggest to post in our feed the song so or show it had overheard. The ever inviting “What’s on your mind?” now becomes more rhetorical than inquisitive.

The listen in feature, depending on the perspective, can serve a benefit. Advertisers would kill for access at that level and there is high doubt Facebook would turn away the ad revenue the company would generate. The feature may also help during an emergency. Perhaps someone is in danger. Listening to someone in panic or confrontation may prove life saving. Now the last point we know is far reaching, but it is still a possibility. The  end goal of complete prediction through  tech is appears to be more realistic every day.

John Connor would turn in his Skynet grave if he were to learn Siri could predict the sex of the phone caller albeit it being unsaved to our device. Or how Netflix can push a certain title to the forefront of our choices based on our previous binges. Or  Youtube recommends videos upon pressing enter (or return) to the sites web address. Given, there has been some awesome discoveries from the suggestions in these features, but when does it become too invasive?

For those who demand a little more privacy there is a way to avoid Facebook’s digital stenographer. For the IOS users proceed with the following: Settings> Privacy> Microphone> Messenger or Facebook. (If you use voice recorder to send messages this will be an issue). For the android users its too late for you, google already knows. Or you can grasp a little hope and proceed with the following: Settings > Privacy>Change permissions for Facebook.

Facebook has been under a lot of scrutiny over this feature. There has yet to be a public address from the company. There is plentiful expectation Facebook will not change especially since a user can block the apps use of the microphone.

Remember, Don’t just believe what we say. Research what we say!

Source

Independent 

Apple

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Google’s Crusade To End Password Protection

By Paris Finnie

Yes, you read right. Google is on a mission to end the grim reality of a password protected society. In no means is their journey nefarious in fact, it is quite daring in method.

The company has turned to biometrics to determine our identities. Android users will be able to log into their devices and accounts with their voice, swipe movements, typing style, and facial structure. Separately those features prove weaker than the thumb print currently championed by Apple phones, but together form a fortitude triple that of a measly digit scanner.

Above is a video describing in detail how the tech works. 

Hackers beware, unless you discover cloning and extreme pantomime mimicry. You just may have your work cut out for you.

Remember, don’t just believe what we say. Research what we say!

Source:

The Guardian 

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NYPD Caught Covering Up Their Digital Footprints

Compliments of Ars Technica 

IP addresses linked to the New York Police Department’s computer network have been used to sanitize Wikipedia entries about cases of police brutality.

This wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen nefarious alterations to Wikipedia entries, and it won’t be the last. But the disclosure of NYPD’s entries by Capital New York come as the Justice Department announced a national initiative for “building community trust and justice” with the nation’s policing agencies.

As many as 85 IP addresses connected to 1 Police Plaza altered entries for some of the most high-profile police abuse cases, including those for victims Eric Garner, Sean Bell, and Amadou Diallo,Capital New York said. Edits have also been made to other entries covering NYPD scandals, its stop-and-frisk program, and the department leadership.

One of the most brazen alterations concerned Eric Garner, who was killed by police last year during an arrest that was captured on video by an onlooker. The mobile phone video went viral, prompting widespread protests and a grand jury investigation. On December 3, the Staten Island grand jury agreed not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in connection to Garner’s death, despite the medical examiner ruling it a homicide. The same day as the grand jury announcement, the “Death of Eric Garner” page on Wikipedia was altered from IP addresses traced to 1 Police Plaza. Those alterations can be seen here and here.

One of the edits changed “Garner raised both his arms in the air” to “Garner flailed his arms about as he spoke.” Another line that said “push Garner’s face into the sidewalk” changed to “push Garner’s head down into the sidewalk.” The word “chokehold,” Capital New York discovered, was twice replaced to “chokehold or headlock” and to “respiratory distress.”

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Win For The People Loss For The Airport Business

Compliments of NBC 

Airlines Say No to Cutting Bag Fees, Insist TSA Needs to Staff Up

The head of Homeland Security has a bit of advice for airlines who want to shorten long waits at airport security: waive fees for checked baggage.

“We’ve asked the airlines to consider possibly eliminating the checked baggage fee to encourage people to check their luggage rather than putting it in the carry on,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Tuesday evening.

It’s a call echoed by U.S. Senators Edward Markey and Richard Blumenthal who also pitched the idea in a letter last week to a dozen major U.S. airlines.

The airlines’ response? No way.

Instead, the airlines suggest the TSA work to better staff at heavily trafficked airports and encourage more fliers to sign up for PreCheck, a TSA program aimed at expedited screening. American Airlines is now even using its own contractors in TSA lines to help speed things along.

This is not a bag fee issue. This model of charging customers for services they value and use is not a new phenomenon. It dates back to 2008. Encouraging passengers to check more bags will not help and would actually exacerbate current checked baggage screening issues that are resulting in passengers missing their connections and having their bags delayed,” said Jean Medina, a spokesperson for Airlines for America, an airline industry group.

For air travelers stuck in the middle of this debate, this is going to be the summer of discontent.

The Transportation Security Administration chief has apologized for long lines at airports nationwide with a special apology to hundreds who missed flights from Chicago over the weekend.

“I always tell people I won’t apologize for doing our job well,” TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger said Tuesday. “But I do apologize to the people who found themselves stranded in Chicago…”

However, for passengers waiting for hours — and missing flights — things could get even worse during the busy summer travel season.

The airline industry estimates 231 million people will travel this summer, some 2.5 million a day.

The frustration and anger hit a crescendo this week for thousands of passengers.

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Is There Life On Other Planets?

Compliments of BBC

It has also detected nine small planets within so-called habitable zones, where conditions are favourable for liquid water – and potentially life.

The finds are contained within a catalogue of 1,284 new planets detected by Kepler – which more than doubles the previous tally.

Nasa said it was the biggest single announcement of new exoplanets.

Space agency scientists discussed the new findings in a teleconference on Tuesday.

Statistical analyses of Kepler’s expanding sample of worlds help astronomers understand how common planets like our own might be.

Dr Natalie Batalha, Kepler mission scientist at Nasa’s Ames Research Center in California, said calculations suggested there could be more than 10 billion potentially habitable planets in the Milky Way.

“About 24% of the stars harbour potentially habitable planets that are smaller than about 1.6 times the size of the Earth. That’s a number that we like because it’s below that size that we estimate planets are likely to be rocky,” said Dr Batalha.

“If you ask yourself where is the next habitable planet likely to be, it’s within about 11 light-years, which is very close.”

Exoplanet discoveriesImage copyrightNASA

Future observatories such as the James Webb Space Telescope could examine starlight filtered through the atmospheres of exoplanets for potential markers of biology.

“The ultimate goal of our search is to detect the light from a habitable exoplanet and analyse that light for gases like water vapour, oxygen, methane and carbon dioxide – gases that might indicate the presence of a biological ecosystem,” said Paul Hertz, director of astrophysics at Nasa.

Of the telescope’s finds to date, the planets Kepler-186f and Kepler-452b are arguably the most Earth-like in terms of properties such as their size, the temperature of their host star and the energy received from their star.

Dr Batalha said the new finds Kepler 1638b and Kepler-1229b were intriguing targets in the search for habitable planets.

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The High Price Of Discrimination

Compliments of Marketplace

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration filed a lawsuit against the federal government Monday. It accused the U.S. Department of Justice of overreaching in its response to the state’s “bathroom law.” DOJ filed its own lawsuit in response, saying North Carolina’s law that bans transgender people from using public bathrooms that don’t match the gender on their birth certificates violates civil rights law.

There are many ethical, political and social questions swirling around this issue that have yet to be resolved, but the costs to the state for the transgender bathroom bill are starting to add up.

The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority estimated the bathroom bill has cost more than $80 million in lost business, and that’s just for events around Charlotte. The group factored in things like canceled conventions, lost hotel room nights and potential business that expressed hesitation or concern over the law.

Aaron Nelson, president and CEO of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, said he is seeing a similar trend in his area as well.

“It’s at hundreds of jobs,” he said, speaking of jobs lost due to the law, “and its economic impact in terms of millions of dollars in lost conference revenue, and we are nearing the hundreds of millions of dollars of lost community investment impact, and that’s just what we know.”

Concerts and conventions are being cancelled. And, Michael Jordan, the owner of the Charlotte Hornets, said in a statement to The Charlotte Observer that he’s opposed to discrimination in any form. John Connaughton at the University of North Carolina- Charlotte’s Belk College of Business said while canceled performances and conventions make headlines, they aren’t actually the main sources of economic impact.

“Those [kinds of events] are not as big as corporate relocations that don’t come here,” he said, pointing out that the new jobs created by such relocations “have a much bigger impact because the money stays here … and it’s for a much longer period of time.”

Paypal and Duetsche-Bank have already changed their plans to open or expand operations in North Carolina in response to the law, even as it’s being contested by the federal government.

Allan Freyer, the director of the Workers’ Rights Project at the North Carolina Justice Center, said there are longer-term consequences that can’t be quantified.

“Unfortunately,” he said, “we’ll never know the full scale of the companies that quietly struck North Carolina off their list for putting a new plant in the state or expanding an existing facility.”

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