Viktor Schreckengost dies at 101

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Viktor Schreckengost dies at 101

July 22nd, 2018

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Viktor Schreckengost, the father of industrial design and creator of the Jazz Bowl, an iconic piece of Jazz Age art designed for Eleanor Roosevelt during his association with Cowan Pottery died yesterday. He was 101.

Schreckengost was born on June 26, 1906 in Sebring, Ohio, United States.

Schreckengost’s peers included the far more famous designers Raymond Loewy and Norman Bel Geddes.

In 2000, the Cleveland Museum of Art curated the first ever retrospective of Schreckengost’s work. Stunning in scope, the exhibition included sculpture, pottery, dinnerware, drawings, and paintings.

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Microsoft to track legal marijuana with new partner Kind Financial

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Microsoft to track legal marijuana with new partner Kind Financial

July 22nd, 2018

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Microsoft announced on Thursday they are partnering with KIND Financial to help governments track the production and distribution of legal marijuana. Kind Financial, a California-based start-up company, began selling its Agrisoft Seed to Sale software three years ago. Microsoft is admitting Kind’s software on the Government portion of its Azure cloud service.

Although Kind Financial CEO David Dinenberg stressed to The Guardian they “absolutely do not touch the plant”, his company does business with growers and distributors of marijuana, as well as the governments that regulate it. State law in twenty-five US states — but not US federal law — has legalized marijuana, whether medicinally or for recreational use. Kimberly Nelson, Microsoft executive director of state and local government solutions, said they expect significant demand for technology to help states make sure cannabis distribution within their state is done according to their laws.

Kind also provides kiosks similar to automated tellers (ATMs) to facilitate marijuana transactions in dispensaries. The distribution of marijuana is often done only with cash or through machines like the ones Kind offers since many banks in the United States shy away from the marijuana industry entirely. Microsoft is not interacting with this part of Kind’s operations, however.

Microsoft and Kind will apply for contracts with state governments for their software. Currently, they have applied to Puerto Rico, a US territory, where medical marijuana has recently been made legal. BioTrackTHC, a company similar to Kind Financial, already has contracts with Washington, New Mexico, and Illinois.

Dinenberg said his company’s partnership with Microsoft is a major step in advancing the legitimacy of cannabis-related businesses.

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Computer professionals celebrate 10th birthday of A.L.I.C.E.

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Computer professionals celebrate 10th birthday of A.L.I.C.E.

July 17th, 2018

Wednesday, November 30, 2005File:Turing1.jpg

More than 50 programmers, scientists, students, hobbyists and fans of the A.L.I.C.E. chat robot gathered in Guildford, U.K. on Friday to celebrate the tenth birthday of the award winning A.I. On hand was the founder the Loebner Prize, an annual Turing Test, designed to pick out the world’s most human computer according to an experiment laid out by the famous British mathematician Alan Turing more then 50 years ago. Along with A.L.I.C.E.’s chief programmer Dr. Richard S. Wallace, two other Loebner prize winners, Robby Garner and this year’s winner, Rollo Carpenter, also gave presentations, as did other finalists.

The University of Surrey venue was chosen, according to Dr. Wallace, not only because it was outside the U.S. (A.L.I.C.E.’s birthday fell on the Thanksgiving Day weekend holiday there, so he expected few people would attend a conference in America), but also because of its recently erected statue of Alan Turing, who posed the famous A. I. experiment which inspired much of the work on bots like A.L.I.C.E. University of Surrey Digital World Research Centre organizers Lynn and David Hamill were pleased to host the event because it encourages multi-disciplinary interaction, and because of the Centre’s interest in interaction between humans and computers.File:ALICE Birthday Cake.jpg

Dr. Wallace gave a keynote address outlining the history of A.L.I.C.E. and AIML. Many people commented on the fact the he seemed to have moved around a lot in the last ten years, having lived in New York, Pennsylvania, San Francisco, Maine, Amsterdam and Philadelphia, while working on the Alicebot project. The A.L.I.C.E. and AIML software is popular among chat robot enthusiats primarily because of its distribution under the GNU free software license. One of Dr. Wallace’s PowerPoint slides asked the question, “How do you make money from free software?” His answer: memberships, subscriptions, books, directories, syndicated ads, consulting, teaching, and something called the Superbot.

Rollo Carpenter gave a fascinating presentation on his learning bot Jabberwacky, reading from several sample conversations wherein the bot seemed amazingly humanlike. Unlike the free A.L.I.C.E. software, Carpenter uses a proprietary learning approach so that the bot actually mimics the personality of each individual chatter. The more people who chat with Jabberwacky, the better it becomes at this kind of mimicry.

In another interesting presentation, Dr. Hamill related present-day research on chat robots to earlier work on dialog analysis in telephone conversations. Phone calls have many similarities to the one-on-one chats that bots encounter on the web and in IM. Dr. Hamill also related our social expectations of bots to social class structure and how servants were expected to behave in Victorian England. He cited the famous Microsoft paperclip as the most egregius example of a bot that violated all the rules of a good servant’s behavior.

Bots have advanced a long way since philanthropist Hugh Loebner launched his controversial contest 15 years ago. His Turing Test contest, which offers an award of $100,000 for the first program to pass an “audio-visual” version of the game, also awards a bronze medal and $2000 every year for the “most human computer” according to a panel of judges. Huma Shah of the University of Westminster presented examples of bots used by large corporations to help sell furniture, provide the latest information about automotive products, and help customers open bank accounts. Several companies in the U.S. and Europe offer customized bot personalities for corporate web sites.

Even though Turing’s Test remains controversial, this group of enthusiastic developers seems determined to carry on the tradition and try to develop more and more human like chat bots.Hugh Loebner is dedicated to carry on his contest for the rest of his life, in spite of his critics. He hopes that a large enough constituency of winners will exist to keep the competition going well beyond his own lifetime. Dr. Wallace says, “Nobody has gotten rich from chat robots yet, but that doesn’t stop people from trying. There is such a thing as ‘bot fever’. For some people who meet a bot for the first time, it can pass the Turing Test for them, and they get very excited.”

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American Academy of Pediatrics supports dairy for lactose intolerant children

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American Academy of Pediatrics supports dairy for lactose intolerant children

July 17th, 2018

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), in the September 2006 issue of its journal Pediatrics, supports the use of dairy by lactose intolerant children.

Dr. Melvin B. Heyman, author of the article, says that just because a child is lactose intolerant, does not mean that they should avoid dairy altogether. Many lactose intolerant people can consume small amounts of dairy.

Heyman says that dairy consumption is important, especially for children, because of its high calcium content. The calcium is, in turn, important for stengthening growing bones. “If dairy products are eliminated,” the article says, “other dietary sources of calcium or calcium supplements need to be provided.”

Lactose intolerance is a condition, present in the majority of human population above the age of infancy, due to which the body cannot tolerate lactose, a sugar present in milk and other dairy products. Lactose intolerance causes a range of unpleasant abdominal symptoms, including stomach cramps, bloating, flatulence and diarrhea.

As lactose intolerance is inherent, its prevalence varies by ethnic group. For example, while only 12% of American Caucasians have it, its prevalence is 75% among African Americans, 93% among Chinese, 60%-80% among Ashkenazi Jews,and 100% among American Indians. Many people do not realize that they have this condition simply because they have eaten dairy all their lives and view the symptoms of lactose intolerance as “normal”.

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) has long stated that the risks of consuming dairy far outweigh the benefits. According to PRCM’s fact sheet, called “Parents’ Guide to Building Better Bones”, there are many healthy ways of getting enough calcium and promoting bone health. Many foods contain calcium, not just dairy. Also, it is important to consider the amount of calcium absorbed, not just the amount of calcium present in a food. For example, more than three times as much calcium is absorbed from one serving of Total Plus cereal as from one serving of 2% milk.

PCRM promotes a strictly vegetarian diet. Despite its name, it claims only 5 percent of its members as physicians. PCRM has also been accused of having links with animal rights “extremists”, in particular Jerry Vlasak, a former PCRM spokesman who called for the murder of scientists who use animals in research.

The report in News-Medical.Net says that Ann Marie Krautheim, with the National Dairy Council, a dairy lobbying group, says

she hopes the report will educate parents on how to continue to include dairy in the diets of children sensitive to lactose and also help improve their nutrient intake. Krautheim says calcium-fortified beverages and other foods which seek to provide an alternative source of calcium, do not provide an equivalent nutrient package to dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yogurt.

This last statement, however, that dairy products are superior to calcium-fortified foods, is not supported by the article in Pediatrics.

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Home of Stonehenge builders found

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Home of Stonehenge builders found

July 17th, 2018

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Scientists have uncovered the largest Neolithic settlement in the United Kingdom at the Durrington Walls and believe that the village was inhabited by the people who built the Stonehenge monument.

Scientists say that the village was built around 2,600 B.C., roughly when Stonehenge was believed to have been constructed, and housed over 100 people.

Inside the areas which would have been the interior of houses at the time, scientists also found outlines of what they think were beds and cupboards or dressers. Pieces of pottery and “filthy” rubbish around the site. Animal bones, arrowheads, stone tools and other relics were also discovered.

“We’ve never seen such quantities of pottery and animal bone and flint. In what were houses, we have excavated the outlines on the floors of box beds and wooden dressers or cupboards,” said Sheffield University archaeologist Mike Parker Pearson.

So far, the dig has revealed at least 8 houses roughly 14-16 feet square, but scientists say that they think there may have been at least 25 altogether.

The site was likely to have been occupied only seasonally rather than year-round and evidence suggests that a lot of “partying” went on at the location.

“The animal bones are being thrown away half-eaten. It’s what we call a feasting assemblage. This is where they went to party – you could say it was the first free festival. The rubbish isn’t your average domestic debris. There’s a lack of craft-working equipment for cleaning animal hides and no evidence for crop-processing,” added Pearson.

The Durrington Walls are approximately 2 miles from the Stonehenge site.

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UK energy companies announce that prices for bills could increase

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UK energy companies announce that prices for bills could increase

July 16th, 2018

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Six energy companies in the United Kingdom have announced that it is likely that the prices for energy bills could increase over the course of 2010.

The companies, which are nicknamed the “big six” in the United Kingdom, did not pass on information that there would be price cuts in energy bills despite increasing profits. However, the companies have in fact sent a message in response saying that the prices of bills may even increase over the course of the next year. Energy company watchdog the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) have estimated that energy companies will make gross margins of £170 ($276) per dual fual customer over the course of the next twelve months, due to the recent fall in wholesale energy costs.

Ofgem have said: “Our analysis shows that based on an 18-month hedging strategy and assuming that retail prices remain unchanged, projected gross margin is set to increase by around £80 for dual fuel customers over the next six months.”

The “big six” energy companies in the United Kingdom are British Gas, E-on, Npower, Scottish and Southern Energy, Scottish Power, and EDF Energy. British Gas stated: “Prices [are] likely to remain at historically high levels, and in fact likely to increase as non-commodity costs rise ever upwards.”

EDF Energy said: “[We] would of course be prepared to reduce tariffs if market conditions allowed.” Scottish Power stated: “There are no immediate signals that would indicate a fall in retail prices for this winter, and risks of an increase next year.” Scottish & Southern Energy commented: “With forward annual wholesale prices significantly higher, and with upward pressures in terms of distribution, environmental and social costs, seeking to avoid an increase between now and the end of 2010 is an important goal.”

Meanwhile, a study by Consumer Focus in early September 2009 suggested that “energy companies were overcharging customers by £100 ($162) every year. A spokesperson for Ofgem said that there was no evidence of any cartel in operation, or evidence of profiteering. The spokesperson commented: “It is up to the companies themselves to decide whether to cut their bills. Consumer Focus data suggests that Scottish Power has increased dual fuel prices by the most since 2003 – up 148% – while decreasing prices by 0.6% so far this year. RWE’s Npower has increased tariffs by 132% since 2003, but has reduced bills by 2.7% in 2009.”

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Several large explosions reported in Xinjiang, China

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Several large explosions reported in Xinjiang, China

July 16th, 2018

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Authorities say that “violent terrorists” attempted to blow up sites in the Xinjiang province of the country. Police say at least 11 people were killed, all except one were reported to be the attackers responsible for the blasts. Police say three more were arrested and another three are “still at large.”

Monsters and Critics.com quote Deutsche Presse-Agentur as saying witnesses on scene reported a plane flying over the town of Kuqa which was followed by 20 large “flashes”, but “no fire or smoke” which was then followed by “sporadic” gunfire. According to Xinhua the explosions occurred at about 3:20 local time (19:20 GMT) and 4:00 (20:00 GMT).

Despite the claims by police, Xinhua stated that authorities sealed off the town where the attacks have occurred and exchanged gunfire with the terrorists killing at least one while another, strapped with explosives, detonated himself. One other terrorist was injured and one was arrested. Military personnel were also reported to have been dispatched to the area. One early report stated that the government offices in Kuqa are unaware of any bombings.

The explosions, which witnesses report as home-made, were directed toward shopping centers, government buildings, hotels and military offices. At least two police cars were also destroyed by the blasts. Xinhua reports that the bombs were “bent pipes, gas canisters and liquid gas tanks.” One attacker drove a three-wheeled bike packed with explosives into the public safety building in Kuqa, which killed one security official and injured two civilians. Hours later, while police were hunting for more suspects, several terrorists began to throw bombs at them. Police killed two, while three others who were strapped with explosives detonated themselves.

Police and government officials refuse to confirm or deny the reports by Xinhua.

The Xinjiang region has a strong independence movement, largely in the form of 8 million Muslim Uyghurs. The East Turkestan Islamic Movement wishes to create an independent Islamic state out of part of what is currently Xinjiang. China has stated that the Uyghur separatists are the biggest potential terrorist threat to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

No one has claimed to be responsible for the blasts.

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Hungarian Parliament passes bill to criminalise helping undocumented migrants

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Hungarian Parliament passes bill to criminalise helping undocumented migrants

July 16th, 2018

Saturday, June 23, 2018

On Wednesday, the Hungarian parliament passed the “Stop Soros” bill, making it illegal to help undocumented immigrants.

The bill was passed by a vote of 160–18. Per the bill, anyone found guilty of helping undocumented immigrants can potentially face a jail term of up to twelve months. The bill was criticised by human rights-focused organisation Amnesty International, as well as the United Nations (UN), Council of Europe, Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and European Union. The bill bars non-government organisations from aiding refugees.

The bill is named after Hungarian-born democracy advocate George Soros. Having escaped the Holocaust and emigrated in 1947, Soros later founded the Open Society Foundations (OSF) which funds various NGOs. Current conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who won the election in April, spoke about immigration and national security in his political campaign. Orbán accused Soros of bringing migrants to Europe. Orbán asserted this blockade was to preserve the country’s “Christian culture”. In May, Soros announced OSF was moving from Hungary to German capital Berlin, asserting “increasingly repressive” condition in Hungary.

Amnesty internationals’s European Director Gauri van Gulik said in a statement, “It is a bitter irony that as the world marks World Refugee Day, the Hungarian Parliament voted […] to introduce a law that targets organizations and individuals who support asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants”. According to the UN, the law could come under effect as early as July.

A constitutional amendment was also made, prohibiting “alien population” from living in the country. Hungary’s Interior Minister, Sándor Pintér, said, “The Hungarian people rightfully expects the government to use all means necessary to combat illegal immigration and the activities that aid it”. He also added, “The Stop Soros package of bills serves that goal, making the organisation of illegal immigration a criminal offence. We want to use the bills to stop Hungary from becoming a country of immigrants”.

On Tuesday, 25% taxation of NGOs helping immigrants was proposed by the finance ministry. The ministry, in a statement, said, “The defense against illegal immigration imposes a heavy burden on Hungary’s budget, so it indirectly affects the Hungarian people […] therefore, the government passes that as a manner of burden sharing, the organisations aiding migration should bear additional taxes.”

UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees)’s European Bureau director Pascale Moreau said, “Seeking asylum is a fundamental human right, it is not a crime”.

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Off Festival 2007 takes place in Poland

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Off Festival 2007 takes place in Poland

July 16th, 2018

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Between August 17 and August 19, 2007 in S?upna Park in Mys?owice, Poland, the second edition of Off Festival had place. Art director of the edition was Artur Rojek, the leader of Myslovitz band.

Beside concerts, the main attraction of the festival, Indie Label plants, hosted by Philippe Petit and Markus Detmer, took place along with Children’s Happiness Feast (?wi?to Rado?ci Dzieci) with 400 children playing and the Second International Volunteer Work Expo (II Mi?dzynarodowe Targi Wolontariatu). At the event came around 8 thousand people. Along the VIPs there was former Prime Minister of Poland, Jerzy Buzek reading the storybooks for children. On the volunteer work expo came around 200 people from various organizations.

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U.S. President Obama’s farewell address focuses on accomplishment

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U.S. President Obama’s farewell address focuses on accomplishment

July 15th, 2018

Thursday, January 12, 2017

United States President Barack Obama gave his official farewell address on Tuesday night from McCormick Place in Chicago, reflecting on personal and national accomplishments. This is expected to be his last major speech before officially handing the reins to president-elect Donald Trump on January 20.

“Its why GIs gave their lives at Omaha Beach and Iwo Jima; Iraq and Afghanistan – and why men and women from Selma to Stonewall were prepared to give theirs as well.”

Obama’s speech was wide-ranging. He thanked his family and the nation, spoke of the need for unity, noted the country’s accomplishments and need for improvement in areas like education and civil rights, and spoke about the need for pride in U.S. accomplishments, citing milestones of U.S. history and of his presidency specifically. “It’s why GIs gave their lives at Omaha Beach and Iwo Jima; Iraq and Afghanistan – and why men and women from Selma to Stonewall were prepared to give theirs as well.”

The president also addressed his country’s troubled history with race and racism, an issue many black citizens feel he has avoided. Despite this, Chauncy Devega of Salon described the president as “a role model of calm, cool reflective black masculinity: a man utterly at home in his own skin.” Obama described the concept of a post-racial U.S. “unrealistic” and particularly cited the need for reform in education and the criminal justice system and greater acceptance of scientific evidence, particularly evidence supporting action to counteract climate change.

However, publications including The Washington Post and Salon have given particular focus to another aspect of the president’s address: the country’s increasing political tensions and controversies involving access to news and information, both accurate and inaccurate. “We become so secure and our bubbles,” said Obama, “that we start accepting only information, whether it’s true or not, that fits our opinions instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that is out there,” calling this trend “a third threat to our democracy.”

The Washington Post characterized Obama’s comment, “If every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hard-working white middle class and an undeserving minority, then workers of all shades will be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves,” as a “not-so-subtle jab” at the campaign tactics of President-elect Donald Trump. The Telegraph describes Obama’s warnings about the need to protect democracy as “a thinly veiled slight to the divisive rhetoric of Donald Trump’s election campaign, which included attacks on Muslims, the disabled, women and immigrants.” The president went on to call on the public to “reject the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest or to enfeeble the sacred ties that make us one America. We weaken those ties when we allow our political dialogue to become so corrosive […] We weaken those ties when we define some of us as more American than others when we write off the whole system as inevitably corrupt and when we sit back and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them. It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy.”

Despite this, when the mention of Donald Trump brought boos from the crowd, Obama reiterated the importance of the long history of peaceful transfers of power from one president to the next: “No no no no no. […] I committed to President-elect Trump that my administration would ensure the smoothest possible transition, just as President Bush did for me.” However, this was not unaccompanied by a call to action. Near the end of the speech, he insisted citizens dissatisfied with elected officials should “lace up your shoes, grab a clipboard, get some signatures and run for office yourself.”

Overall, the departing president’s speech focused on accomplishment, echoing the “Yes we can” slogan from his 2008 campaign: “If I have told you eight years ago, that America would reverse a great recession, reboot our auto industry, and unleash the longest stretch of job creation in our history. If I had told you, that we would open up a new chapter with the Cuban people, shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program without firing a shot, take out the mastermind of 9/11[…] If I had told you that we would win a marriage equality and secure the right to health insurance for another twenty million of our fellow citizens. If I had told you all that, you might have said our sights were set a little too high. But that’s what we did.”

But when the crowd began shouting “Four more years! Four more years!” Obama, with a small laugh, answered, “I can’t do that.”

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