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Scientists Create a New Form of Light by Linking Photons
« Reply #11280 on: February 17, 2018, 04:10:34 AM »

It’s a glimpse of science fiction made fact: Scientists have created a new form of light that could someday be used to build light crystals. But before would-be Jedis start demanding their sabers, the advance is far more likely to lead to intriguing new ways of communicating and computing, researchers report this week in Science.

Light is made up of photons—speedy, tiny packets of energy. Typically, photons do not interact with each other at all, which is why when using flashlights “you don’t see the light beams bounce off each other, you see them go through each other,” explains Sergio Cantu, a Ph.D. candidate in atomic physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In new experiments, however, the physicists coaxed individual photons to cozy up to each other and link, similar to the way individual atoms stick together in molecules.

The photon dance happens in a lab at MIT where the physicists run table-top experiments with lasers. Cantu, his colleague Aditya Venkatramani, a Ph.D. candidate in atomic physics at Harvard University, and their collaborators start by creating a cloud of chilled rubidium atoms. Rubidium is an alkali metal so it typically looks like a silver-white solid. But vaporizing rubidium with a laser and keeping it ultracold creates a cloud the researchers contain in a small tube and magnetize. This keeps the rubidium atoms diffuse, slow moving and in a highly excited state.

Then the team fires a weak laser at the cloud. The laser is so weak that just a handful of photons enter the cloud, a press release from MIT explains. The physicists measure the photons when they exit the other side of the cloud and that is when things get weird.

Normally the photons would be traveling at the speed of light—or almost 300,000 kilometers per second. But after passing through the cloud, the photons creep along 100,000 times slower than normal. Also, instead of exiting the cloud randomly, the photons come through in pairs or triplets. These pairs and triplets also give off a different energy signature, a phase shift, that tells the researchers the photons are interacting.

“Initially, it was unclear,” says Venkatramani. The team had seen two photons interact before, but they didn’t know if triplets were possible. After all, he explains, a hydrogen molecule is a stable arrangement of two hydrogen atoms but three hydrogen atoms can’t remain together for longer than a millionth of a second. “We were not sure three photons would be a stable molecule or something we could even see,” he says.​

Surprisingly, the researchers discovered that the three-photon grouping is even more stable than two. “The more you add, the more strongly they are bound,” says Venkatramani.

But how do the photons get together? The physicists’ theoretical model suggests that as a single photon moves through the cloud of rubidium, it hops from one atom to another, “like a bee flitting between flowers,” the press release explains. One photon can briefly bind to an atom, forming a hybrid photon-atom or polariton. If two of these polaritons meet in the cloud, they interact. When they reach the edge of the cloud, the atoms stay behind and the photons sail forward, still bound together. Add more photons and same phenomenon gives rise to triplets.

“Now that we understand what leads to interactions being attractive, you can ask: Can you make them repel each other instead?” says Cantu. Fundamentally, playing with the interaction could reveal new insights into how energy works or where it comes from, he says.

For the purpose of technological advances, photons bound together in this way can carry information—a quality that is useful for quantum computing. And quantum computing could lead to uncrackable codes, ultra-precise clocks, incredibly powerful computers and more. The thing that is so attractive about encoding information in photons is that photons can carry their information across distances very quickly. Already photons speed our communications along fiber optic lines. Bound or entangled photons could transmit complex quantum information almost instantaneously.

The team envisions controlling the attractive and repulsive interactions of photons so precisely that they could arrange photons in predictable structures that hold together like crystals. Some photons would repel each other, pushing apart until they find their own space, while others hold the larger formation and keep the repelling ones from scattering. Their patterned arrangement would be a light crystal. In a light crystal, “if you know where one photon is, then you know where the others are behind it, at equal intervals,” says Venkatramani. “This could be very useful if you want to have quantum communication at regular intervals.”

The future that such crystals could enable may seem more nebulous than one where people fight with lightsabers, but it could hold advances even more impressive and undreamt of as yet.
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Italian elections and the crisis of European democracy
« Reply #11281 on: February 17, 2018, 04:17:56 AM »
"Perhaps only a war can wake our country from slumber and give direction to our politics." Most people would be surprised to hear a young progressive utter these words in a cafe in Rome. But I have heard them more than once. And only a few weeks before the national elections on March 4, the question haunting Italy is familiar to many across the world: can democracy still bring about real change?

The global success of Babylon Berlin, the German TV series portraying life under the fragile Weimar republic, signals a rising European fascination for the tumultuous inter-war period. Comparing the situation today to the 1930s has become something of a political cliche on the continent. The sense of dancing on the verge of the abyss seems real enough: exploding inequalities, threats of ecological catastrophe, disruptive technological change and rising extremism. Psychological distress seems to have crossed all class barriers, with the ultra-rich hoarding cash, preparing for the apocalypse, and purchasing foreign passports.

Yet, in this very European obsession with historical repetition, one element seems too easily forgotten: the power of individuals to effect political change.

If an Italian citizen of the 1930s were tele-transported to the 1950s she would scarcely believe her eyes. Where the poor were left to die of curable illnesses, she would find a universal national health service. Where fascism ruled she would find a vibrant democracy. Where protectionist empires collided, she would find booming international trade. In the short span of 20 years a new world had emerged.

Today, as we stand at yet another crossroads, is politics still able to provide such transformative potential - peacefully? Dramatically, the upcoming Italian elections bring a response in the negative. 

The economic background is bleak. The country remains below its pre-crisis output, while the little economic growth there is concentrates at the top of the pyramid. Unemployment may be nominally decreasing, but only due to the spread of precarious, underpaid jobs. And while the national debate focuses on the effects of rising immigration, the number of Italians leaving their country each year often exceeds the number of migrants coming in.

The political response to the grave state of affairs has been little more than feeble attempts to muddle through and petty squabbles. The incumbent Democratic Party of Matteo Renzi and its stitched-up coalition try to tout the economic "success" achieved in the last five years and promise more of the same. On the other side of the spectrum, a coalition led by former prime minister and convicted tax-fraudster Silvio Berlusconi puts together neo-fascists, nationalists, and old centrists in an incoherent alliance promising everything, and its opposite. Between the two, comedian Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement seems willing to say anything its marketing experts recommend on any given day: tellingly, the party is both in favour and against Italian membership of the Euro, the EU's single currency.

Silvio Berlusconi's coalition is leading the polls, but none of the contenders in the upcoming election seems to have a chance of securing an absolute majority in Parliament, leaving horse-trading, a grand-coalition, or a technocratic government as the most realistic options.

But regardless of the swinging electoral arithmetic, the upcoming elections bring further proof of the crisis of European democracy. At a moment when Italy and Europe need ambition, leadership and a clear vision for change, politics is turning parochial and short-sighted. Where the extraordinary economic, ecological and geopolitical challenges of our time would call for a battle of ideas and for competing world views, the electoral debate is solidly buried in the sands of insignificance. The sad truth is that China's long-term planning increasingly appears as a captivating alternative to Europe's petty bickering.

The outcome of this political abdication is a contradictory mix of apathy and extremism. In the upcoming Italian elections, abstention is expected to reach 50 percent among younger people, an all-time high. A sense of gloom and powerlessness prevails: "We need to hit rock bottom before anything can begin to change" is another refrain very commonly heard in the country. At the same time the debate becomes even more polarised, with increasingly toxic media coverage and openly racist claims from leading politicians encouraging a climate of fear, xenophobia, and even far-right terrorism. Recently, a drive-by shooting targeted migrants in Northern Italy.

As the Irish poet W. B. Yeats sung in 1919, these appear to be times when:

"The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity"

Despondency grows all across European democracies. And during the 2017 French presidential elections I have heard many young people thinking that a victory for Marine Le Pen's far-right party, however disastrous, might at least have provided a much needed wake up call. In the meantime, the far-right has entered government in Austria, Poland and Hungary, while in Germany it has become nearly as popular as the Social Democratic party.

Apathy and extremism are the bitter fruits of a failing economy and a political system that has renounced any vision or passion for the future. Ultimately, Italian elections will mean almost nothing. And this is precisely the problem.

Yeats ended his poem with a terrifying vision:

"And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,   

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"

It was the beast of war. History rarely repeats itself. But a feeling of political impotence coupled with material suffering has always been the premise of all catastrophe. Keeping the monsters at bay will require the courage of political renewal and transformation. But a tired and provincial European political class appears tragically unfit for the task.
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 A magma reservoir potentially hidden behind an underwater volcanic crater could have civilization-ending results if it ever erupts, according to Japanese scientists.

Experts from the Kobe University Ocean Bottom Exploration Center (KOBEC) have confirmed that a giant caldera or large crater exists in the Japanese Archipelago. The crater, measuring 32 cubic kilometers, is said to be the largest of its kind and the result of an explosive underwater eruption 7,300 years ago, according to their latest study.

Sitting between the Pacific and Philippine Sea Oceanic plates, Japan is a hotbed for seismic activity, which is why scientists are keen on updating methods of predicting natural disasters. The KOBEC team has been carrying out detailed surveys of the area and published their findings in Scientific Reports. 

Located to the south of Kyushu, the Kikai caldera has very small chance of erupting over the next 100 years, reports KOBEC. However, the lead scientist studying the volcanic formation has given an ominous warning about the bubbling caldera’s destructive potential.

“Although the probability of a gigantic caldera eruption hitting the Japanese archipelago is 1 percent in the next 100 years, it is estimated that the death toll could rise to approximately 100 million in the worst case scenario,” professor Yoshiyuki Tatsumi, head of KOBEC, told The Mainichi.

Super eruptions are rare, with Yellowstone Volcano Observatory scientist Michael Poland telling that the odds of civilization-ending explosion is “astronomically small.” However, scientists researching the Kikai caldera believe that a giant magma reservoir may lay hidden below the crust - and an eruption could be deadly.

“An eruption like this would see over 40 cubic kilometers of magma released in one burst, causing enormous damage,” a KOBEC statement reads. “The mechanism behind this and how to predict this event are urgent questions.”

A team of scientists armed with underwater robots plan to return to the crater in March to determine whether the magma build up exists. It’s hoped that KOBEC and the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology will be able to use the research to pioneer a way to predict caldera eruptions.
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Trolls crash Apple devices with ‘killer symbol’ from South Indian language
« Reply #11283 on: February 17, 2018, 04:28:41 AM »

 Apple users are once again under siege from unscrupulous trolls who are using a Unicode-based bug in a south Indian language to instantly crash iPhone and Mac apps en masse via social media.

The latest bug causes application meltdown when it tries to render two characters in Telugu, a language from south India. Telugu is the country’s third most-spoken language, with roughly 75 million native speakers, and the fifteenth most-spoken language in the world.

While many can simply avoid using or viewing the symbols, the problem arises when an unscrupulous troll sends the symbols directly to devices, effectively triggering a notification bomb that locks up the phone. “Read this to log off instantly” and “retweet this to crash anyone using an Apple device,” wrote several such online deviants on Twitter. The crash bug can also be deployed in a Twitter user’s ‘@ replies’ or in their handle, meaning it can be pushed out through ‘likes’ or mentions on the platform. 

This forces users to reinstall the app from scratch. One security researcher reportedly added one of the ‘weaponized’ symbols to his Twitter handle as an experiment, before attempting to request an Uber. “I suspect a crashed phone means you get routed to the next driver… who gets crashed too. Like an Uber routing worm,” he wrote.

Software engineers at Aloha Browser initially discovered two Unicode symbols in Telugu that crashes any Apple device using the default San Francisco font which includes iPhones, iPads, Macs and watch OS devices with text-displaying screens. Apps such as Mail, Twitter, Messages, Slack, Instagram, Facebook, and in some instances Chrome have confirmed vulnerability to the bug. 

It can also wreak havoc when deployed as an SSID (service set identifier) in a WiFi network. For instance, if a user were to input the offending Unicode symbols in their SSID and then use their device as a WiFi hotspot, they could, theoretically, flash crash all Apple devices within range that had their WiFi enabled.

“From some experimentation, this bug seemed to occur for any pair of Telugu consonants with a vowel, as long as the vowel is not ై (ai),” Mozilla engineer Manish Goregaokar wrote in an in-depth blog post on the south Indian language bug.

Apple confirmed that there is a “dot update” fix coming soon, though declined to confirm if it would be iOS 11.2.6. Apple noted that the bug is fixed in current betas of iOS, tvOS, macOS and watchOS.

This is far from the first bug to plague Apple users. In January, Abraham Masri discovered a similar bug in which a specific URL could crash iPhones to which it was sent. Back in 2016, the URL for was deployed in a similar fashion to crash any Safari or iPhone browser that tried to open it and in 2015, the so-called ‘Unicode of Death’ could be used to overload an iPhone’s memory using several characters in Arabic.

Twitter released an iOS app update Thursday which fixed “a crash that affects users of right-to-left languages such as Arabic and Hebrew,” but did not address the current Telugu bug. Apple claims the issue has been resolved in beta versions of its operating systems and the fix will be disseminated across all platforms as soon as possible, The Guardian reports.
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Beijing’s decision to extend its ambitious multitrillion-dollar trade initiative to Latin America creates “security vulnerabilities” for the United States, said the chief of the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), Kurt Tidd.

Talking at a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting, he said China has already pledged $500 billion in trade funds with various Latin American countries and $250 billion in direct investment over the next decade.

“Increased economic cooperation – such as the extension of the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative to Latin America, one of the nodes to support China’s vision of a competing global economic initiative – and the continued provision of financing and loans that appear to have ‘no strings attached’ provide ample opportunity for China to expand its influence over key regional partners and promote unfair business and labor practices.”

Tidd added that “Increased reach to key global access points like Panama create commercial and security vulnerabilities for the United States, as do Chinese telecommunications and space ventures with dual-use potential, which could facilitate intelligence collection, compromise communication networks, and ultimately constrain our ability to work with our partners.”

According to the SOUTHCOM commander, China is intensifying its role as a US rival in Latin America.

“The larger strategic challenge posed by China in this region is not yet a military one. It is an economic one, and a new approach may be required to compete effectively against China’s coordinated efforts in the Americas. Some of the most critical elements needed in this effort are not ones that [SOUTHCOM] can bring to bear,” he said.

The US admiral explained Chinese operations in Latin America do not “yet” pose a military threat, but Beijing is increasingly recruiting Latin Americans who participate in the US International Military Education and Training program (IMET).

The program has facilitated the attendance of nearly 16,000 students from the region to various American war colleges, he noted.

“China, in particular, is increasingly aggressive in courting students from the region to attend Chinese military schools, offering to cover all expenses and salaries in return for increased student enrollment,” said Tidd.

Under the broader Belt/Road initiative announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, Beijing plans building a new ‘Silk Road’. It is aimed to connect China to Southeast and Central Asia by land and the Middle East and Europe by sea.

Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi has recently encouraged Latin American and Caribbean states to expand their trade with the country. Several states including Chile and Bolivia have already declared their readiness to integrate into the initiative.
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Why millennials are making memes about wanting to die
« Reply #11285 on: February 17, 2018, 04:41:43 AM »
As a downwardly-mobile generation, Dadaist jokes about death by Tide Pod is a form of catharsis for us millennials

Why would anyone willingly risk their health to eat a toxic Tide laundry detergent pod? Most adults are probably baffled by a viral Internet meme that has inspired dozens of young people to ingest the colorful capsules filled with laundry detergent for internet laughs. Indeed, both the Tide brand and health professionals have urged the public not to eat the pods, as even a small amount of the detergent can cause diarrhea, vomiting, breathing issues and, at worst, death.

Yet if you were perplexed, even baffled, by the staying power of internet jokes about absurd, brand-inspired forms of suicide, there’s a simple explanation. Millennials — who were born and raised on the internet and produce and consume much of their culture there — have had our whole lives characterized by economic anxiety. We have a dismal economic outlook, the worst of any generation born since the Great Depression. And our own culture-making — this kind of nihilistic, cynical humor epitomized in memes like eating Tide Pods — is merely a reflection of our worldview. It is cathartic in a sense. And it’s not the first time in history a generation has behaved this way in response to the world they were brought up in.

Generational jokes about death via consumer goods aren't new. Before the Tide Pod meme there was the "drinking bleach" meme, a joke about committing suicide by (obviously) drinking bleach. Social media subcultures like Weird Facebook and Black Twitter share images of bleach in response to undesirable content or to self-deprecate about their mental health. Building on the Tide Pod meme, the Forbidden Snacks meme includes ingesting other household objects that resemble edible treats such as Dungeons and Dragons dice, bath bombs and Himalayan Salt Lamps, to name a few.

What makes millennial humor so nihilistic and absurdist? I think the best way to understand memes like these is to analogize them to a century-old movement: Dadaism. The Dada movement evolved in reaction to World War I and disillusionment over war, violence, capitalism and nationalism. The original Dadaists were European radical leftists who traded the reason, rationale and aestheticism of the warmongering status quo for absurdity, irrationality and anti-capitalism. They rejected conventional notions of art, in turn creating anti-art with no clear purpose that mirrored the senselessness of war.

Later, in the Cold War era, Neo-Dada arose in response to the consumer culture and mass media of the 1950s. See any parallels today?

“The Greatest Generation” suffered through the Great Depression and World War II. Having lived through scarcity and war, they did not want their children to experience the same hardships. As a result, “Baby Boomers” were raised in a world of supposed abundance and to believe they should never live without. Boomers lived during a time of significant prosperity with widespread access to resources, education and a thriving job market. Just as the dismal worldview of millennial internet memes sprang from the fount of economic anxiety, the utopianism of the 1960s counterculture sprang from their far sunnier-seeming world.

By the late 1990s, boomers had gained the greatest social, political and economic influence worldwide, and with this, a multitude of long-percolating crises reached their boiling points – climate change, national debt, and a shrinking middle class, to name a few.

Unlike boomers, millennials have taken on over a trillion dollars in student debt to obtain degrees and fight over good salaried jobs in an increasingly gig-ified economy. Millennials live with their parents longer, and are far less likely to purchase homes or vehicles, let alone marry and have children. Plagued by widespread financial insecurity, millennials have also inherited the negative externalities of boomer excess, of which climate change is the most harrowing.

Promised peace and prosperity, millennials have been delivered the opposite. With this, mass disillusionment with contemporary social, political and economic affairs reigns supreme. The nihilism and absurdity of memes that joke about dying reflect this kind of neo-Dada movement. Likewise, in television and literature, the popularity of dystopias speaks to how we see the future.

In 2011, the anonymous cartoonist known only as “Chris (Simpsons Artist)” created the Facebook page “Simpsons pictures that I gone and done.” Today, the outsider artist has over 1.3 million likes. Chris’ renowned illustrations feature absurdist, often childlike caricatures of cartoons such as “The Simpsons” and “Winnie the Pooh” that look as though they were drawn in the version of Paint that came bundled with Windows 98.  A dark, nihilistic bent undergirds many of Chris’ illustrations, like this one.

The 34-year-old illustrator has released two books and has had regular features in Front and FHM magazines. FHM has described Chris (Simpsons Artist) — as he’s known online and on Wikipedia — as the “Internet's Picasso…  he lives in Scotland somewhere, no one knows his real name, and he does slightly unnerving pictures of famous people”.

2017, the first full year of the Trump presidency, was a signal era for an emergent dark, nihilistic meme culture.  Two exemplary memes in this regard were SnapChat’s “dancing hotdog” and the so-called Emoji Sheriff. Regarding the former, the dancing hotdog involved an augmented reality filter on social media app Snapchat that let users superimpose an anthropomorphic comfort food onto real life footage of their lives.

The dancing hotdog became the star of innumerable absurd memes, and understandably: it was just bizarre and uncanny enough to appeal to millennials' Dadaist sentiments.

As for the Emoji Sheriff, it started with a few users riffing on a stick-figure emoji "sheriff" image that could be easily constructed via one's phone or keyboard and shared on Twitter. Thousands created their own renditions, be it the “sheriff of gay” or the “sheriff of fucking things up.”

Twitter user @leyawn put it best: “the two biggest memes now are a hot dog wearing headphones and making a sheriff out of emojis. Also our planet is dying. have a good week”.

Why is our generation laughing over dancing hot dogs and sheriffs made of of emojis? In part, it is, like most social media, escapism: a way to collectively disengage from the unending horror of politics by laughing at meaningless internet jokes that mirror the nonsensical global state of affairs. Like earlier forms of Dadaism, internet memes deconstruct and scramble all coherent thought into incoherent brain goop, left open for you to take what you want from them as you will. For some, that means eating a Tide Pod.
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Beijing’s decision to extend its ambitious multitrillion-dollar trade initiative to Latin America creates “security vulnerabilities” for the United States, said the chief of the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), Kurt Tidd.

Had the swells and grandees of the US Southern Command read the Diner Forum, they'd have seen this coming years ago. As long as they didn't listen to the majordomo, who remains convinced that China is "Toast."

Pepe Escobar saw this coming.

China is playing a long game that will span generations. Our own strategy seems to be focused on the quarter, and consuming as many of our resources as quickly as possible for the aggrandizement of the .1 per cent.

The Chinese long game may not even be necessary as we hasten our path toward worldwide irrelevancy.
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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Third-graders are selling AR-15 raffle tickets in Missouri
« Reply #11287 on: February 18, 2018, 04:07:56 AM »

A Missouri youth baseball team has been hailed and criticized for its AR-15 raffle.

Third-graders in a Missouri community are continuing to sell raffle tickets for an AR-15 to benefit their traveling baseball team after the same type of rifle was used to slaughter and injure dozens at a Florida school.

Levi Patterson, the coach of a 9-and-under baseball team in Neosho, Mo., told The Star the idea was conceived before the shooting in Parkland, Fla.

A father of one of the players — who co-founded Black Rain Ordnance Inc., a weapons purveyor in Neosho — offered the weapon for the raffle.

Patterson said by phone Saturday that he considered finding a different raffle item after Wednesday’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but ultimately decided to “turn it into a positive thing” after “getting the hate.”

“One of the people from the hate group turned in (a Facebook post about the raffle) for I don’t know what,” Patterson said. The post had shown a weapon next to the school logo, leading to fierce criticism by some until Facebook removed the post, according to Patterson.

After this story was published, Patterson said he mistakenly said the critics were part of a hate group. He said he does not view them as a hate group but as a concerned group that has “every right to stand up for what they believe in.”

“I applaud them for standing up for what they believe in. I just think they have feelings to this specific type of gun (that are) different than people around here do,” he said.

Patterson said donations have poured in as the criticism reached a peak following the Florida shooting; people from as far away as Colorado offered to buy tickets on Facebook.

The perpetrator in Florida killed 17 people and injured at least 14 with an AR-15 in six minutes.

“Are you all tone deaf?” wrote Dan Weaver in a comment on Patterson’s page. “AR15 kills seventeen so you raffle a gun for child sports? Lord, people wake the hell up. Justify all you want but you are wrong, period.”

Patterson responded by writing that “gun raffles have been going on for years. Evil has and will always exist. Our hearts break for those involved, and we do not take that lightly.”

He also told The Star that he was not making a political statement with the raffle item. It was simply what had been offered by Black Rain.

He said critics view the weapon as a “killing machine.”

On Wednesday, Patterson took to Facebook to fire back at the “concerned group” critical of the raffle.

“We appreciate your ‘concern’ but please understand, we are not, have not, and will not force one of our boys to sell raffle tickets for the Black Rain AR15 Spec 15, if they are uncomfortable doing so,” he wrote.

He told The Star that all the players, who range in age from 7 to 9, are selling the raffle tickets.

The raffle is not affiliated with the Neosho School District.

The winner must pass a background check before receiving the gun.

Lee Woodward, the principal of South Elementary School in Neosho, announced the raffle on her Facebook page and encouraged purchases to support the “9u Neosho baseball players, coaches, and parents.” The post was made hours after the Florida shooting.

Woodward did not return a call or text to a phone number listed in her name.

Tyler Tannahill, a Republican congressional candidate from Kansas, also drew criticism this past week for offering an AR-15 giveaway as part of his campaign.
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Musician Gabe Mera strums a Gibson Les Paul guitar at the ''30th Street Guitars'' shop in New York City.


Gibson guitar company, which has been a staple brand among various musical instruments since 1902, is facing bankruptcy.


According to the Nashville Post, Gibson’s chief financial officer, Bill Lawrence, left after six months on the job and just as $375 million in senior secured notes mature and $145 million in bank loans become due, if they aren’t refinanced by July

The departure of Lawrence was seen as a bad sign for a company trying to re-organize.

 Eric Garland


Gibson Guitars facing imminent bankruptcy. Oh, there's a story here.
8:21 PM - Feb 15, 2018
Gibson guitar company facing imminent bankruptcy

The home of the Les Paul, SG, Firebird and other iconic instruments is facing bankruptcy as it seeks to refinance loans

    152 people are talking about this


The company, which generates $1 billion a year in revenues, recently moved out of its Nashville warehouse, where it had operated since the mid 1980s.

The company owner since then, Henry Juskiewicz, is trying to re-order the company according to the Post but is facing a battle with creditors over bad business decisions. The company recently sold Baldwin piano, and is hoping to see a boost in cash from the various electronics companies it had purchased the last several years.

Gibson began in 1902 in Kalamazoo, Mich., producing various instruments, including acoustic guitars. In 1952 the company brought in famous guitarist Les Paul to sell a guitar based on his own name, which would become one of the most iconic instruments ever made.

The Gibson Les Paul began production in 1952, and became a staple of the rock and roll movement since. The company since developed other iconic guitars such as the SG, Firebird, and has sponsored hundreds of musicians.

The company moved from Kalamazoo to Nashville in the mid 1980s.
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Cow escapes on way to slaughterhouse, smashes through metal fence, breaks arm of man trying to catch her then swims to safety on island in lake

Local politician reportedly agrees to let animal live after its ordeal captures public attention

The cow appears to have won its right to live after a campaign by politician Pawel Kukiz

A cow has been living alone on an island, attacking anyone who comes near, after staging a miraculous escape on its way to a slaughterhouse.

The animal made its bid for safety last month after it refused to get into a lorry taking it to be killed for meat. Instead it rammed a metal fence before making a dash for the nearby Lake Nysa, south Poland.

After the cow’s owner, known only as Mr Lukasz, attempted to get it back to the farm, the cow broke one of his worker’s arms, according to Polish news show Wiadomosci.

It then entered the water and swam to one of the islands in the middle of the lake. Mr Lukasz said he even saw it dive underwater on its way.

After a week of trying and failing to get the cow back, Mr Lukasz gave up and began making sure it was fed enough food to stay alive instead.

When firefighters used a boat to get to the island, the cow swam about 50 metres to a neighbouring peninsula. Pawel Gotowski, deputy commander of the fire brigade in Nysa, said the animal was frightened but healthy.

A vet called in to tranquillise the animal told Mr Lukasz he had run out of gas cartridges, and that it would take several days to get new ones.

Despite the farmer considering having it shot dead, a political leader in the town of Nysa, Czeslaw Bilobran, has reportedly said the cow will live out its life in peace.

Politician and former singer, Pawel Kukiz, raised the animal's plight on Wednesday in a Facebook post in which he offered to pay for the “hero cow” to be saved from death.

“She escaped heroically and infiltrated the island in the middle of the lake, where it remains today,” Mr Kukiz said, according to Polish news magazine Wprost. “She did not succumb to firefighters who wanted to transport her by boat and she was still on the battlefield.

"I am not a vegetarian, but fortitude and the will to fight for this cow's life is invaluable. Therefore, I decided to do everything to cause the cow to be delivered to a safe place and in the second stage, as a reward for her attitude, give her a guarantee of a long-term retirement and natural death.”

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Statewide strike of WV teachers this Thursday and Friday
« Reply #11290 on: February 18, 2018, 04:24:07 AM »
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia is headed for a statewide strike of teacher and service personnel this coming Thursday and Friday.

The dates were announced at the end of a rally in persistent drizzle at the state Capitol, where the crowd stretched from the top of the steps across to the edge of the Kanawha River, with a sea of public employees surrounding the statue of “Lincoln Walks at Midnight.”

“We’ve been trying to negotiate with the House, the Senate and the governor. But it’s clear the negotiations are going nowhere,” Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association told the crowd as hundreds cheered and chanted.

“So, therefore, we are asking you to join us this Thursday and Friday in the first statewide walkout.”

Christine Campbell, president of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, followed up:

“Thursday. Friday. The entire state of West Virginia will be shut down.

“We’ll be here Thursday. We’ll be here Friday. And if it takes more than that we’ll be here until we see action.”

This is the first time teachers have gone on strike in West Virginia since a  statewide walkout in 1990.

Public employees, including teachers, have been pushing for higher wages and greater stability for the Public Employees Insurance Agency. In addition, teachers have been pushing against some education-related bills that they regard as disrespectful.

Lee told the crowd that it will take the first few days of next week to prepare.

“We’ve got to get organized. We’ve got to get everybody ready. We have to be here to let them know that we are standing united, all 55,” Lee said.

The crowd responded by chanting “55 united! 55 united!”

Saturday’s rally was for teachers, school personnel, law enforcement, state employees and community members from across West Virginia.

Only teachers and service personnel are striking, though.

Last Sunday, members of the West Virginia Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia voted to authorize a work action.

For the first time in its 52-year history, the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association voted Wednesday to authorize action.

Besides being a practical matter of wages and health insurance benefits, the rally also had political overtones looking toward the coming election cycle.

Many of the Democrats in the Legislature stood on the steps at the Capitol along with union leaders. Some Republicans in the House of Delegates stood there too.

But speakers called out Gov. Jim Justice and Senate President Mitch Carmichael repeatedly.

The Senate and the governor have said a 1 percent pay increase next year for teachers and other public employees is the fiscally-responsible approach. Under that plan, teachers would also receive average 1 percent raises the following four years.

The House of Delegates increased the raise for teachers to 2 percent the first year.

The House also proposes using $29 million from the Rainy Day fund to shore up PEIA for the coming year.

Teachers union leaders have said neither the 1 percent or the 2 percent next year is enough to encourage teachers to remain in the classroom or recruit new teachers. They also say PEIA needs a plan for long-term stability.

House Minority Leader Tim Miley, D-Harrison, one of those who stood on the Capitol steps, said the situation has come to a strike because lawmakers have been unable to agree on a solution.

“It appears as if little, if any progress has been made in finding a resolution to the PEIA issue for a permanent fix, as well as a pay raise for teachers and public school personnel but all public employees,” Miley said after the rally.

“They all seem seem united such that on Thursday and Friday they are going to walk out.”

Miley said the Legislature still has a chance to avoid a teacher strike.

“I’m surmising that the reason they didn’t start it until Thursday was to give the Legislature and the governor the first three days of next week to try to find a resolution to this impasse,” Miley said. “To their credit, I hope we can find that resolution.”

Saturday’s rally was the second day of an enormous presence at the Capitol. Teachers from several counties on Friday filled galleries in the House and Senate and also chanted in the Rotunda.

On Saturday, buses came from all over the state, dropping off teachers and service personnel.

The Harris family came together from Fayette County. Danielle Harris is a teacher.

“We’re out here to support all state workers, not just teachers,” Harris said. “It’s high noon time for us to have a raise. It’s been many years since we’ve had a raise.

“One percent is not enough. It would give me about $30 in my paycheck. My PEIA would go up $300. We’re all teachers. We can do the math. It doesn’t add up.”

Dan McKinney, a teacher at Hurricane High School in Putnam County often called “Coach,” took part in the 1990 teachers strike. He said this situation is different because so many state employees are upset about their pay and health insurance costs.

“Then, it was a teachers strike. Now it’s a public employees issue. It’s a little different,” McKinney said.

As he spoke, McKinney was on a pathway along the Kanawha River, looking across at the state Capitol.

“But it’s better in the fact that everybody realizes the parliament there in that building is not taking us seriously.”
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How can I make money from my DNA?
« Reply #11291 on: February 18, 2018, 04:33:30 AM »
If you have your DNA sequenced, someone somewhere will be making money from the data. A new start-up aims to make sure that you get your share

 The DNA deal: who should own people’s genetic data, them – or the companies that sequence it?

If you unlock the secrets of your DNA by paying a company to read your genes, behind the scenes it is probably making money by selling on your data for research. Companies like 23andMe and AncestryDNA charge consumers under £150 to learn about their health and/or origins, while others do whole genome sequencing for a little over £1,000 (although in the US it is cheaper at just under $1,000). The model works like this: send in a saliva sample, receive the results and provided you consent, which most people do because they want to help research efforts, the company retains control of the data.  Pharmaceutical and biotech companies hoping to develop new drugs become their customers – off the back of your genetic information.

Nebula Genomics, a US based startup, wants to upend this exploitation. It will offer whole genome sequencing, but allow customers to keep custodianship of their data, which they can then rent to the drug companies they choose, potentially making a profit in the process.

Co-founded by Harvard DNA sequencing pioneer George Church, his graduate student Dennis Grishin and entrepreneur and former Google employee Kamal Obbad, it was launched earlier this month. The system involves using blockchain technology, which records data in an endless ledger protected by encryption, and is the technology behind the cryptocurrency bitcoin.

“Under the current system, personal genomics companies effectively own your personal genomics data, and you don’t see any benefit at all,” says Grishin. “We want to eliminate the middleman.”

Although the aim isn’t to provide a get-rich-quick scheme, the company believes there is potential for substantial returns. Though speculative, its modelling suggests that someone in the US could earn up to 50 times the cost of sequencing their genome – about $50,000 at current rates – taking into account both what could be made from a lifetime of renting out their genetic data, and reductions in medical bills if the results throw up a potentially preventable disease.

The startup also thinks it can solve the problem of the dearth of genetic data researchers have to draw on, due to individuals – put off by cost or privacy concerns – not getting sequenced.

Payouts when you grant access to your genome would come in the form of Nebula tokens, the company’s cryptocurrency, and companies would need to buy tokens from the startup to pay people whose data they wanted to access. Though the value of a token is yet to be set and the number of tokens defined, it might, for example, take one Nebula token to get your genome sequenced. An individual new to the system could begin to earn fractions of a token by taking part in surveys about their heath posted by prospective data buyers. When someone had earned enough, they could get sequenced and begin renting out their data and amassing tokens. Alternatively, if an individual wasn’t yet sequenced they may find data buyers willing to pay for or subsidise their genome sequencing in exchange for access to it. “Potentially you wouldn’t have to pay out of pocket for the sequencing of your genome,” says Grishin.

In all cases, stress Grishin and Obbad, the sequence would belong to the individual, so they could rent it out over and over, including to multiple companies simultaneously. And the data buyer would never take ownership or possession of it – rather, it would be stored by the individual (for example in their computer or on their Dropbox account) with Nebula then providing a secure computation platform on which the data buyer could compute on the data. “You stay in control of your data and you can share it securely with who you want to,” explains Obbad. Nebula makes money not by taking any transaction fee but by being a participant providing computing and storage services. The cryptocurrency would be able to be cashed out for real money via existing cryptocurrency exchanges.

While Nebula is hoping to have the service up and running in the US within the next six months, it isn’t the only company thinking along these lines. Competitors also developing cryptocurrencies for the exchange of DNA data include Encrypgen and Luna DNA. But Nebula’s is the only one that offers actual genome sequencing, says Grishin. The company is partnering with Veritas Genetics, also co-founded by Church, to provide that.

The idea of trying to get individuals to monetise their own genomes using the blockchain is an interesting and new one, says Emin Gün Sirer, co-director of the Initiative for Cryptocurrencies and Smart Contracts at Cornell University.

But he says the real problem will be whether it is possible to keep the DNA data private while still allowing data buyers to compute on it. “This thing that they want to do, it is actually very difficult,” he says. Sirer predicts that the system will come under close scrutiny from researchers and maybe even hackers trying to test it for leaks. “I can imagine somebody launching a series of studies where they extract or exfiltrate some bit of information,” he says. He also predicts that people will lie on surveys to make themselves sound more interesting to data buyers so their genetic data gets rented and they can collect payouts.

“Very careful engineering” will be required to developing the secure computing platform, acknowledges Grishin, but he says that Nebula has the right partners – leaders in secure computing – that will help it accomplish this task. And, he adds, cheats won’t prosper. The company has tools to detect and block liars.
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Under Trump, America's religious right is rewriting its code of ethics
« Reply #11292 on: February 18, 2018, 04:38:27 AM »
From scorning immigrants to accepting the president’s profanity, evangelicals are proving just how flexible their values can be

Worshippers pray at the International Church of Las Vegas before the arrival of Donald Trump during a campaign event in 2016.

The religious right’s wholesale embrace of the Republican party and of Donald J Trump, both as candidate and as president, has necessitated a rewriting of evangelical ethics. Here’s a summary, with annotations.
Lying is all right as long as it serves a higher purpose

Yes, we know all about that business about not bearing false witness in the Ten Commandments, but that was a very long time ago. Can’t we get beyond that? Truth and truthiness are overrated. After all, did it really matter that the “birther” nonsense was hokum? Not at all. It enraged those godless liberals and launched our brother in Christ Donald Trump toward the presidency.

And all those websites fact-checking our president, claiming that he told more than 2,000 lies his first year in office? Big deal. He’s also pro-life, and he’s trying to root out transgender folks in the military, so cut the guy some slack. Besides, that same website that tracks lying concluded that Barack Obama told 28 lies during his two terms in office. So there. (Democrats are such hypocrites!)
It’s no problem to be married more than, well, twice

Let’s be clear here. We’re not talking about polygamy (sorry, Mitt), only serial marriages. This revision has been a long time in the making. Yes, Jesus said: “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and whoever marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.” Through the 1970s, we evangelicals ostracized anyone who was divorced, let alone divorced and remarried. But then we decided to ditch a family man (and fellow evangelical) in favor of a divorced and remarried Hollywood actor in 1980. Once that barrier was breached, we concluded that, hey, if two marriages are okay, why not three?
Immigrants are scum

We grant that Jesus said something about welcoming the stranger and feeding the hungry. And Leviticus says: “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself.” But our careful study of scriptural texts has led us to conclude that the almighty had Norwegians in mind, not Mexicans or Salvadorans.
Vulgarity is a sign of strength and resolve

The president’s scatological comments about Haiti and African nations provided a welcome relief to the rhetoric of those coddling the so-called Dreamers. As Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, noted, Brother Trump was “right on target”.

White lives matter (much more than others)

Our political movement began in the late 1970s in opposition to desegregation (although our sleight of hand to persuade everyone we organized to outlaw abortion was nothing short of, well, miraculous). On racial matters we’re also indebted to our colleague Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, who did business with David Duke, longtime leader of the Ku Klux Klan, way back in 1996.

Perkins also addressed the Council of Conservative Citizens, the “uptown Klan”, when he was a state representative in Louisiana. Therefore, we had no problem whatsoever with Steve Bannon or with the president’s statement blaming the violence in Charlottesville on “many sides,” both the white supremacists and those demonstrating against them. We took the Brother Trump at his word when he declared that the ranks of white supremacists and neo-Nazis included “some very fine people”. That’s why none of us criticized him. Besides, he wants to jettison the Johnson amendment to allow us to campaign from the pulpit while retaining our tax exemptions.
There’s no harm in spending time with porn stars

Once again, we have a precedent: David Vitter, the Republican senator from Louisiana and outspoken champion of “family values” whose phone number appeared in the date book of a Washington madam – and who continued to enjoy our support. Regarding that messy situation with Stormy Daniels, think of the opportunities for the president to share what Franklin Graham calls his “concern for Christian values”. We’re confident that as details emerge, we’ll learn that the Brother Trump was discussing his theological perspectives on human depravity and the second coming.

It’s all right for adults to date children

We’re not yet prepared to embrace pedophilia, but we see nothing wrong with a 30-something attorney trolling the local shopping mall for teenage dates. After all, didn’t Jesus say, “suffer the little children to come unto me”? Roy Moore was simply being Christ-like. Besides, he opposes abortion, and he asked their mothers for permission.
The ends justify the means

Enough said.

Too many Americans think of evangelicals as dogmatic and uncompromising, so we’re eager to demonstrate that when it comes to ethical standards we can indeed be flexible. Very flexible.

    Randall Balmer is the John Phillips Professor in Religion at Dartmouth College and the author of Evangelicalism in America.
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 An Iranian plane with 66 people on board has crashed near the city of Semirom in the Isfahan Province of Iran. Iran's Aseman Airlines has said all on board were killed.

The aircraft went off radar midflight from Tehran to Yasuj, some 20 minutes after take off, local media reported.

The plane disappeared from radar in a mountainous area. The search and rescue operation is hampered by bad weather, preventing helicopters from landing, Iran’s Press TV reports.

Everyone on the flight was killed, Aseman Airlines spokesman Mohammad Taghi Tabatabai told state TV, specifying that the plane was carrying 60 passengers, including one child, and six crew members. The plane crashed into Mount Dena, about 440 meters (1,440 feet) tall, the spokesman said.

The missing plane is an ATR 72, a French-Italian short-haul regional airliner, which was introduced in the late 1980s. Iran signed a contract to buy 20 ATR 72s in 2016 with an option for 20 more, and received the first batch last year. The fleet of Iran Aseman Airlines, however, is older, with aircraft delivered between 1993 and 2009, according to a database.

Semirom is located about 80km north of Yasuj, the capital of the southwestern Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province.
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 People carry the U.S. flag during the Veterans Day Parade in New York, U.S.

As Democrats indict Russians over "election meddling," former CIA officers say the US has been interfering in foreign elections for decades and “hopefully” will keep doing so because it has the moral high ground.

In an article published in the New York Times on Saturday, former CIA officers and several researchers, who have been studying covert US intelligence operations for years, say that the while methods allegedly used by Russians to meddle into the US elections might slightly differ from the old school CIA operations overseas, there is nothing in the allegations against Russians that Americans haven't done themselves.

If you ask an intelligence officer, did the Russians break the rules or do something bizarre, the answer is no, not at all,” retired CIA veteran Steven Hall told NYT’s Scott Shane.

Hall, who left his job as CIA Chief of Russian Operations in 2015 after 30 years of service, noted that the US has never shunned attempting to meddle in other countries’ elections.

Saying that the CIA had “absolutely” engaged in such operations in the past, Hall added that he hopes “we keep doing it.”

Thirteen Russian nationals and three entities were indicted on Friday as part of the special FBI counsel Robert Mueller's lingering probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential elections, and collusion between Moscow and US President Donald Trump's campaign. As proof to support either of the two allegations is still scant, the Russians listed in the indictment were accused of waging “information warfare against the United States of America,” including by sowing discord on social media with “divisive” posts on Facebook and Twitter.

While the social media boom is a recent phenomenon, the US intelligence has a long record of weaponizing information, albeit in a more conventional form, Loch Johnson, a scholar at the University of Georgia, who has been investigating the CIA since the 1970s, told the Times.

“We’ve used posters, pamphlets, mailers, banners — you name it. We’ve planted false information in foreign newspapers. We’ve used what the British call ‘King George’s cavalry’: suitcases of cash,” Johnson said, recounting that in the late 1980s he was told by CIA operatives that they used to plant reports that fit the US agenda or bluntly fake news in foreign newspapers by the dozen. The number of such daily “insertions” ran in as many as 70 to 80 publications, he recounted.

But when the US does it, it's for the greater good, the scholar and the CIA officers claim.

Likening the American operations to what Russia is accused of, “is like saying cops and bad guys are the same because they both have guns — the motivation matters,” Hall said. Because, just like the bloody wars the US is waging around the world, it is being done for the sake of democracy.

Contrary to the supposed Russian onslaught on the American democracy, which, according to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, did not affect the outcome of the presidential elections, some US meddling did lead to actual changes of power across Latin America, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

According to a survey by Researcher Dov Levin of Carnegie Mellon University’s Institute for Politics and Strategy, the US meddled in elections at least 81 times from 1946 to 2000, including in Yugoslavia in the 2000 against Slobodan Milosevic.

The number, however, does not include the military coups orchestrated by the US, or regime changes as a result of the US interventions, some of which had precious little to do with democracy, such as the rise of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet after the violent overthrow of President Salvador Allende in 1973. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the US did not give up on its interventionist policy. The most recent examples include the US-led NATO intervention in Libya that brought down strongman Muammar Gaddafi, but failed to deliver a semblance of democracy. The war-ravaged country is being torn between three different power centers seven years after the military incursion.

The US role in the coup in Ukraine, which paved way for bloodshed in the country’s east, has been widely reported. Last year, former US Vice President Joe Biden admitted in his memoir that he demanded former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich resign in 2014, telling him that his “time was over.”

Biden also boasted that he played a part in the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor during a meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and former Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk in March 2016.
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