Category - News

Quantum ‘spookiness’ passes toughest test yet

Experiment plugs loopholes in previous demonstrations of ‘action at a distance’, against Einstein’s objections — and could make data encryption safer.

Nature, By Zeeya Merali, August 27

It’s a bad day both for Albert Einstein and for hackers. The most rigorous test of quantum theory ever carried out has confirmed that the ‘spooky action at a distance’ that the German physicist famously hated — in which manipulating one object instantaneously seems to affect another, far away one — is an inherent part of the quantum world.

The experiment, performed in the Netherlands, could be the final nail in the coffin for models of the atomic world that are more intuitive than standard quantum mechanics, say some physicists. It could also enable quantum engineers to develop a new suite of ultrasecure cryptographic devices.

“From a fundamental point of view, this is truly history-making,” says Nicolas Gisin, a quantum physicist at the University of Geneva in Switzerland.

Huge Anti-Government Protests in Malaysia Continue For a Second Day

The demonstration is the largest popular vote of no confidence to date against beleaguered Prime Minister Najib Razak.

TIME, By Nash Jenkins, August 30

Kuala Lumpur – Saturday’s massive but harmonious anti-government demonstrations in Kuala Lumpur continued overnight and into Sunday morning as historical numbers of Malaysians gathered in the streets of the capital to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Razak.

“It’s what we need to do for the prime minister to hear our voices and realize we don’t need him anymore,” Abdul Muiz, a 26-year-old businessman in a plastic Guy Fawkes mask, told TIME early Sunday. “I think it’ll stay peaceful — the object is peaceful revolt, since we’re a peaceful nation.”

The marathon rally is expected to last until midnight on Sunday, which will mark the beginning of Merdeka Day, the anniversary of Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957.

By noon on Sunday, the crowd had swelled to rival Saturday’s, which drew 200,000 by organizer’s estimates and 20,000 by police’s. A number of protesters stayed in the streets near Merdeka Square overnight, sleeping on the pavement when tired.

Israel reveals “delegitimization department” to spy on boycott activists

The Electronic Intifada, By Asa Winstanley, August 27

An Israeli spy agency revealed to Haaretz last week that it operates a “delegitimization department” which “routinely gathers information on foreign, left-wing organizations” that promote the Palestinian-led boycott of Israel.

An Israeli activist also told The Electronic Intifada about being questioned by the country’s internal secret police.

Also known by the Hebrew acronym Aman, Israel’s military intelligence branch spies on “overseas organizations … [including] dozens affiliated with the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement,” Haaretz states.

New Boss on Construction Sites Is a Drone

Drones are being used to capture video footage that shows construction progress at the Sacramento Kings’ new stadium in California.

Technology Review, By Will Knight, August 26

For some construction workers, any thoughts of slacking off could soon seem rather quaint. The drones will almost certainly notice.

The site of a lavish new downtown stadium for the Sacramento Kings in California are being monitored by drones and software that can automatically flag slow progress.

Once per day, several drones automatically patrol the Sacramento work site, collecting video footage. That footage is then converted into a three-dimensional picture of the site, which is fed into software that compares it to computerized architectural plans as well as a the construction work plan showing when each element should be finished. The software can show managers how the project is progressing, and can automatically highlight parts that may be falling behind schedule.

Japan police expect bloody violence as biggest yakuza syndicate set to split

RT, August 28

War is imminent in the Japanese gang world, police say, as Yamaguchi-gumi – the largest yakuza conglomerate – is facing a split. Authorities are awaiting an outbreak of bloody violence, as the syndicate boasts some 43 percent of all Japan’s gang members.

To blame are differences in loyalties to the gang’s 73-year-old boss, Shinobu Tsukasa, who became the country’s most powerful crime lord in 2005, the Japan Times reports.

Reports indicate that he angered some of the gangs in the syndicate by giving preferential treatment to certain branches, as well as harboring ambitions of expanding into new territory, straying outside of the syndicate’s home turf. Tsukasa, who also goes by the name Kenichi Shinoda, is the syndicate’s sixth-generation don.

Twelve of the more than 30 groups now threaten to leave and form their own syndicate, according to the Japan Times’ police sources. This is putting police on very high alert, as the gang – now 100 years old – is quite a large organization. Numbering 10,300 members at the end of 2014, it also comprises 23,400 ‘quasi’-members. The gang’s influence is felt everywhere.

West Point professor calls on US military to target legal critics of war on terror

US military academy official William Bradford argues that attacks on scholars’ home offices and media outlets – along with Islamic holy sites – are legitimate

The Guardian, By Spencer Ackerman, August 29

New York – An assistant professor in the law department of the US Military Academy at West Point has argued that legal scholars critical of the war on terrorism represent a “treasonous” fifth column that should be attacked as enemy combatants.

In a lengthy academic paper, the professor, William C Bradford, proposes to threaten “Islamic holy sites” as part of a war against undifferentiated Islamic radicalism. That war ought to be prosecuted vigorously, he wrote, “even if it means great destruction, innumerable enemy casualties, and civilian collateral damage”.

Other “lawful targets” for the US military in its war on terrorism, Bradford argues, include “law school facilities, scholars’ home offices and media outlets where they give interviews” – all civilian areas, but places where a “causal connection between the content disseminated and Islamist crimes incited” exist.

“Shocking and extreme as this option might seem, [dissenting] scholars, and the law schools that employ them, are – at least in theory – targetable so long as attacks are proportional, distinguish noncombatants from combatants, employ nonprohibited weapons, and contribute to the defeat of Islamism,” Bradford wrote.

Gujarat remains tense after Patel caste violence

Tension prevails in India’s Gujarat state where two days of caste-related violence has left eight people dead.

BBC, August 27

Fresh clashes were reported overnight and the army has been deployed to maintain peace.

A curfew has been imposed, after members of the influential Patel community, demanding quotas in government jobs, clashed with the police and local people.

[…]

Gujarat has been particularly alert to incidents of violence since 2002 when religious riots left at least 1,000 people dead, most of them Muslims.

[…]

Patels are now demanding affirmative action and classification as Other Backward Classes (OBCs) so that they are entitled to quotas in state-run education centres and in government jobs.

OBC refers to the castes – in the middle of the Hindu caste hierarchy – who do not face so much exclusion or isolation in society but have been traditionally socially and economically disadvantaged.

Election 2016: Jeb Bush Got $1.3M Job At Lehman After Florida Shifted Pension Cash To Bank

IBT, By Matthew Cunningham-Cook, David Sirota, and Andrew Perez, August 19

For Florida taxpayers, the move by the administration of then-Gov. Jeb Bush to forge a relationship with Lehman Brothers would ultimately prove disastrous. Transactions in 2005 and 2006 put the Wall Street investment bank in charge of some $250 million worth of pension funds for Florida cops, teachers and firefighters. Lehman would capture more than $5 million in fees on these deals, while gaining additional contracts to manage another $1.2 billion of Florida’s money. Then, in the fall of 2008, Lehman collapsed into bankruptcy, leaving Florida facing up to $1 billion in losses.

But for Jeb Bush personally, his enduring relationship with Lehman would prove lucrative. In 2007, just as he left office, Bush secured a job as a Lehman consultant for $1.3 million a year, Bloomberg reported.

Weeks after Bush took the Lehman job, the Florida State Board of Administration (SBA) — a three-member body that makes investment decisions about state pension funds and whose ranks had recently included one Jeb Bush — gave Lehman additional business: SBA purchased $842 million worth of separate investments in Lehman’s mortgage-backed securities. Over the course of one year from June 2007 to June 2008, the SBA would shift an additional $420 million of pension money into the same fund in which the state had begun investing under Bush.

In short, during Bush’s first year working for Lehman, his former colleagues in Tallahassee, the state capital, moved vast sums of Florida pension money into the doomed Wall Street investment bank, even as warnings about its financial troubles began to emerge.

Heidi Klum hits back at Donald Trump after ‘no longer a 10’ comment

Supermodel posts video shrugging off comments made by Republican presidential frontrunner in the New York Times that her looks were fading.

The Guardian, By Mahita Gajanan, August 18

New York – With not much more than a gasp and a shrug, supermodel Heidi Klum has hit back at Donald Trump after the Republican frontrunner declared her no longer a “10”.

Trump told the New York Times the supermodel’s looks were fading in a discussion about the fact that he sometimes goes “a little bit far”. “Heidi Klum. Sadly, she’s no longer a 10,” the businessman and TV star said.

Klum responded on Monday with a 12-second video posted to her Twitter and Instagram pages.

In the video, Klum poses for a photographer in a cut-off white T-shirt that says “10”. A man in a Trump mask rips off the “10”, revealing “9.99”, and everyone gasps.

Klum looks down, shrugs and smiles, as the video fades to black and #HeidiTrumpsTrump appears on screen.

Klum tweeted seven other hashtags with the video, including #TrumpHasSpoken, #NoLongerA10, #IHadAGoodRun and #BeautyIsInTheEyeOfTheBeheld.

First almost fully-formed human brain grown in lab, researchers claim

The Guardian, By Helen Thomson, August 18

Research team say tiny brain could be used to test drugs and study diseases, but scientific peers urge caution as data on breakthrough kept under wraps.

An almost fully-formed human brain has been grown in a lab for the first time, claim scientists from Ohio State University. The team behind the feat hope the brain could transform our understanding of neurological disease.

Though not conscious the miniature brain, which resembles that of a five-week-old foetus, could potentially be useful for scientists who want to study the progression of developmental diseases. It could also be used to test drugs for conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, since the regions they affect are in place during an early stage of brain development.

The brain, which is about the size of a pencil eraser, is engineered from adult human skin cells and is the most complete human brain model yet developed, claimed Rene Anand of Ohio State University, Columbus, who presented the work today at the Military Health System Research Symposium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Previous attempts at growing whole brains have at best achieved mini-organs that resemble those of nine-week-old foetuses, although these “cerebral organoids” were not complete and only contained certain aspects of the brain. “We have grown the entire brain from the get-go,” said Anand.

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