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Friday, August 8, 2014

Nigeria Declares National Emergency Over Ebola

Nigeria Declares National Emergency Over Ebola


Nigeria Declares National Emergency Over Ebola

Posted: 08 Aug 2014 11:20 AM PDT

(ABUJA, Nigeria) — Nigeria’s president is declaring a national state of emergency over the Ebola virus.

President Goodluck Jonathan said in a statement Friday that the relevant agencies must ensure that all possible steps are taken “to effectively contain the threat of the Ebola virus in line with international protocols and best practices.”

Nigeria’s health ministry says two patients in Africa’s most populous nation have died of the disease, and there are seven other confirmed cases.

Jonathan also approved the release of 1.9 billion naira ($11.7 million) to contain the disease through an intervention plan. He also asked schools to consider extending the current school holiday until there is a national reassessment of the level of threat Ebola poses in Nigeria.

China Cracks Down on Public Figures’ Online Political Posts

Posted: 08 Aug 2014 11:00 AM PDT

Chinese actors, pop stars and other popular figures with public accounts on one of the country’s most popular social media platforms will no longer be allowed to post or share political news, according to restrictions issued Thursday by China’s State Council Information Office (SCIO).

Under China’s first rules that target instant messaging services, holders of public WeChat accounts, similar to verified pages on Facebook, must also sign an agreement to abide by “the socialist system” and “national interests,” among other principles paramount to what Beijing officials have called “a clean cyberspace,” according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency. These users will additionally be required to use their real name, confirmed by a background check.

Only approved news organizations and other authorized websites can post or share political news on the social media platform, owned by Tencent Holdings, officials said. Chinese officials added that organizations like People’s Daily, CCTV, Xinhua News—all run by the Chinese government—have been allowed to disseminate news to promote authenticity and accuracy.

Tencent said Thursday that it has deleted about 400 of WeChat’s 5.8 million public accounts and 3,000 articles found to be “spreading rumors,” but it was unclear if the shutdowns were related to the new policies, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The latest effort to limit public discourse and dissent, the WeChat crackdown follows those on Weibo—China’s answer to Twitter—when the Chinese government announced in May it would strip content linked to “infiltration from hostile forces at home and abroad.” Largely meant to discourage political rumors and discussion, the Weibo restrictions pushed millions of users to turn to WeChat, which, at the time, had been known as a freer, safer space for debate.

Some Chinese citizens have praised the efforts for being timely, though their opinions appear to be in the minority, and were promulgated through state-controlled media platforms.

“Users with ulterior motives will be deterred by the laws and regulations,” according to a column that originally appeared in Xinhua. “Good rain knows when it’s spring.”

Still, other Chinese citizens, particularly those with public accounts, took to media outlets not owned by the Chinese government to express concern. Wang Guanxiong, owner of a public WeChat account that posts about current affairs, told the South China Morning Post that “the rules are aimed at supporting government-backed media companies, while discouraging individual publishers, some of whom have gained much social influence.”

China has recently restricted other social media applications like Line and KakaoTalk.

 

 

 

IBM’s New Processor Sounds More Brain-Like Than Ever

Posted: 08 Aug 2014 10:59 AM PDT

IBM’s splashy new “brain” chip, TrueNorth, is actually nothing like a real human brain — it’s not going to admire the pointillistic works of Van Gogh, much less fall in love with you before absconding to frolic with a new race of godlike machine beings ala Her — but it is a remarkable-sounding next step in the direction of brain-like computers that mimic the synaptic conversation actual brains have been having for eons.

The chip, designed over the past decade and part of IBM’s TrueNorth computing architecture, is detailed in the August 8 issue of Science, and it’s based on a principle that’s been around for decades known as neuromorphic engineering. That’s a fancy way of describing a system that mimics the biological nervous system, including (though not limited to) biological brains.

TrueNorth is IBM’s stab at a neuromorphic processor, something its authors describe as an “efficient, scalable and flexible non-von Neumann architecture.” John von Neumann came up with the basic architecture for how you’d go about running a digital processor in the 1940s, and it’s that essentially linear notion that forms the basis for the computers we’re still using today.

But linearity has its disadvantages: today’s processors are epically faster than human brains at crunching massively complex mathematical equations, say simulating weather patterns or calculating all the gravitational vectors involved in soft-landing a rover on Mars. But they’re utterly dimwitted at attempting contextual feats we humans perform with ease, say picking a voice out of a crowd or deciding which type of wine goes best with a meal.

That’s where the notion of brain-like parallelism comes in, itself a well-established idea in computing, but TrueNorth is about scaling it to unprecedented levels. The processor simulates a brain with one million neurons and 256 million synapses — about the crunch-power of a honey bee or cockroach — fueled by an on-chip network of 4,096 neurosynaptic cores. That adds up to a 5.4 billion transistor processor — the largest chip IBM’s yet built — but one that sips a mere 70 milliwatts of power during realtime operations, or four orders of magnitude fewer than conventional chips today. Altogether, the chip can perform 46 billion synaptic operations per second, per watt, says IBM.

IBM

Think of it as a little like the old left brain, right brain relationship: language and analytic thinking are left (von Neumann architecture) while sense and pattern recognition are right (neuromorphic processors). And that’s just the start, says IBM, noting that in the years to come, it hopes to bring the two together “to create a holistic computing intelligence.”

While we’re waiting for our holistic machine overlords to take over, what can TrueNorth do after developers have figured out what to design for it? How about improving visual and auditory tasks traditional computers presently stumble over?

As IBM Fellow Dharmendra Modha writes, “The architecture can solve a wide class of problems from vision, audition, and multi-sensory fusion, and has the potential to revolutionize the computer industry by integrating brain-like capability into devices where computation is constrained by power and speed.” Notice the way Modha describes the chips as complementary: the strategy with TrueNorth out of the gate looks to be integrative rather than one of displacing the processors in our smartphones, tablets and laptop computers.

Again, it’s important to bear in mind that TrueNorth isn’t a brain. As Modha himself notes, “we have not built the brain, or any brain. We have built a computer that is inspired by the brain.” But it’s an important step forward: another rung on a ladder that’s as high as our hopes of perhaps someday creating computer-like beings in our own image, or ones better still.

Senator Marco Rubio: Obama Needs to Dig In for a Fight in Iraq

Posted: 08 Aug 2014 10:30 AM PDT

President Obama's decision to authorize humanitarian operations and targeted airstrikes in Iraq comes as fundamentalist Islam is on the rise throughout the Middle East.

Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups continue to threaten Israel. The United States and its allies have been forced to close their diplomatic missions in Libya because of fighting between secular militias and al Qaeda-affiliated groups. The Taliban is going on the offensive in Afghanistan as the United States and coalition partners continue to draw down.

And perhaps of most concern, in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) has established a caliphate, a fundamentalist state, in the heart of the Middle East. Flush with weapons and money, ISIS's forces are making significant advances as they expand their territory.

ISIS, an extreme Sunni militant group that emerged from al Qaeda, has been occupying and razing churches across Iraq, pulling down crosses, destroying religious documents and holy sites, and forcing Christians and other non-Sunni Iraqis to convert or face death. It is capturing young girls and the widows of men they have executed for their own unmarried fighters. It has seized bridges, dams and other infrastructure that Iraqi towns and communities rely on for subsistence.

The United States is right to intervene in Iraq to provide humanitarian assistance to persecuted religious minorities—including the Yazidis currently surrounded by ISIS forces in northern Iraq and Iraqi Christians, who have been brutalized as ISIS has swept through their villages, massacring thousands and conducting forced conversions of those they do not kill.

But America's security interests extend well beyond the fate of Iraq's religious minorities. Because ISIS, with thousands of foreign fighters, many of them from the West, will not rest once it has taken Erbil or Baghdad. Its expansionist ideology will lead it to attack U.S. allies in the region and eventually Europe and the United States.

We have seen time and again in recent decades that terrorist groups, once established, use safe havens to launch attacks on the United States and our interests. We ignore this history at our own peril.

Instead of confronting this challenge head on, President Obama has until now avoided taking decisive action. He has let the civil war in Syria simmer for years, creating the space for this jihadist threat to grow and letting instability spread to Syria's neighbors. Even after ISIS captured Iraq's second largest city, Mosul, in June, the President was hesitant in his response, sending several hundred military advisors but not confronting ISIS directly even as it made military gains. Now, we are rightfully providing food and water to people who face slaughter from extremists who have pledged to kill them.

Given the threat that ISIS poses to not just the central Iraqi government in Baghdad, but also to our Kurdish partners in northern Iraq, the President was right to begin to strike ISIS targets. We also need to strike supply routes from Syria, leadership, and frontline military units from the air. We should target the oil refinery in Syria they are using to fund their operations. And we should go after other assets and funding networks to deny them the financing they need to carry out their operations.

We need to significantly increase our military and humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi government, as well as the Kurdistan Regional Government. Baghdad has in recent days taken action to assist the Kurds with air support, providing some hope that a political settlement that unites all Iraqi political factions remains possible.

The Kurds in particular need urgent U.S. assistance, including weaponry and training for their peshmerga forces that are now facing an adversary equipped with more advanced weaponry, some of it of U.S. origin stolen from the Iraqi military. The Kurds are also hosting more than a million refugees from other parts of Iraq and Syria that have fled their villages in the face of ISIS's advance. Due to ongoing disputes between Erbil and Baghdad, the Kurdish government has limited resources to continue to provide for these refugees and for their own people.

President Obama rightly stated that he decided to use military force to protect U.S. diplomats and military personnel in Iraq. But this should not be our only goal.

ISIS's continued rise is not just a problem for Iraq or its neighbors. If we do not continue to take decisive action against ISIS now, it will be not just Iraqis or Syrians who continue to suffer, it will likely be Americans, as a result of a terrorist attack on the U.S. homeland or on our personnel overseas. America was faced with the same choice President Clinton faced in the 1990s during the emergence of al Qaeda: take action now, or we will be forced to take action in the future.

It is time to begin reversing this unprecedented tide of jihadist victories. America's security and the safety of the American people are at stake.

Marco Rubio, who represents Florida in the U.S. Senate, is a member of the Senate’s Foreign Relations and Select Intelligence Committees.

Even Dentists Disagree On How To Brush Your Teeth

Posted: 08 Aug 2014 10:27 AM PDT

What’s the right way to brush your teeth? New research suggests that the experts don’t really know.

The study, published in the British Dental Journal, said that teeth-brushing advice provided to consumers is “unacceptably inconsistent” in its description of how often to brush and for how long.

“The wide range of recommendations we found is likely due to the lack of strong evidence suggesting that one method is conclusively better than another,” said lead author John Wainwright in a University College London press release.

The discrepancy is problematic, Wainwright said, because it leads to distrust in dentists and their profession.

“For something most people do twice a day, you would expect dentists to send a clearer, more unified message to their patients on how to brush their teeth,” said Wainwright, who now works as a dentist.

Hopefully the dental community doesn’t brush off his advice.

7 Things More Offensive Than Breastfeeding in Restaurants

Posted: 08 Aug 2014 10:21 AM PDT

I have a confession to make. Before I had kids, I was uncomfortable with moms breastfeeding their babies in public. Specifically, I thought it was offensive when they did it in restaurants.

My narrow view at the time saw it as women exposing themselves at tables populated by men, women and children simply trying to enjoy a meal. Why couldn't they do that out in the car or in the bathroom? At the very least they could cover up and sit off in the corner. It's just common decency, right?

Naturally, once I became a father and gained some perspective, I realized how ridiculous I was being. Breastfeeding is the healthiest way to nurture a baby and one of the most natural and instinctive things a mother can do for her child. It isn't something that should be hidden away or made out as shameful. If anything, it should be celebrated and encouraged.

But when restaurants make news for shaming breastfeeding moms, it's particularly grating.

Any restaurant employees or patrons upset at breastfeeding moms are flirting with near fatal levels of hypocrisy, as there are some truly annoying things that happen during meals that are far more offensive than a woman breastfeeding her child. So in observance of World Breastfeeding Week, here are my top seven.

7. Personal Cell Phone Conversations

So, you think breastfeeding moms are revealing too much? Then I hope you're not one of the dozens of people who go out to dinner and inevitably have awkwardly personal cell phone conversations within earshot of everyone. A mother feeding her child isn't nearly as offensive and inappropriate as a room full of strangers knowing intricate details of your most recent colonoscopy.

6. Splitting the Check

As someone who worked in restaurants, I can say without a shadow of a doubt I'd rather wait on an army of breastfeeding moms than deal with one large group who hands over 10 different credit cards and asks to split the bill evenly. If anyone should go to the bathroom and feel shame for a few minutes, it's check-splitters.

5. The Sound of Your Eating

Misophonia: a neurological disorder in which negative experiences are triggered by specific sounds. While some people claim they need bleach for their eyes after seeing the "horror" of a woman's partially exposed breast giving the milk of life to her baby, that same person could be horrifying nearby diners with lip-smacking, open-mouthed, wet chewing noises that easily drown out any sound of suckling from the baby.

4. Bad Tipping

Too many people complain about seeing gratuitous flesh when moms are feeding their babies, and not paying enough attention to leaving the waiter or waitress an adequate gratuity. It's ironic these people are full of generous suggestions for mothers regarding how, when and where to feed their children, yet their generosity is nowhere to be found when it's time to leave a tip.

3. Taking Pictures of Food

Stop. Instagramming. Your. Dinner. People complain about nursing mothers in restaurants being exhibitionists, yet they're taking 27 pictures of the food they're about to consume so they can post it on various social media platforms for the world to see. At least breastfeeding is productive.

2. Hitting on the Wait Staff

Women baring their breasts in restaurants are inappropriate and unbecoming? That's funny, since I've seen moron after moron staring at the breasts (and other parts) of their waitress, and then engage in a pathetic attempt to hit on her. For people so quick to be the moral arbiters of breastfeeding in public, decorum quickly disintegrates when it comes to their delusions of grandeur regarding their waitress's nonexistent romantic interest.

1. Drunk People

We get it, you think breastfeeding in public is gross. Do you know how we know you think that? It's because your "drunk whisper" is actually a sonic boom reaching even the far corners of the restaurant. While these people lament the lack of common decency amongst breastfeeding moms, they seem to have no care in the world when it comes to screaming, being belligerent and making drunken asses of themselves while mothers quietly feed their kids.

If we're going to encourage mothers to breastfeed, then we need to get over ourselves and stop sexualizing breastfeeding. We also need to stop making mothers feel ashamed and self-conscious for it, while attempting to relegate them to the bathroom during feedings. And if common sense isn't enough to make this a reality, then we need more laws on the books protecting the rights of moms to feed their kids not just in restaurants, but anywhere out in public.

Aaron Gouveia is a husband, father of two boys, and writes for his site, The Daddy Files.

Delta Tops Airline Performance Rankings

Posted: 08 Aug 2014 10:08 AM PDT

Delta Airlines is the best all around pick for consumer fliers, according to Airfarewatchdog’s annual rankings. While the other legacy carriers, United and American, continue to struggle at the bottom of the list, Delta rose to the top spot from number six last year.

The list uses data on flight cancellations, on-time arrivals, baggage mishandling, denied boardings and customer satisfaction to rank America’s eight largest airlines. United rounded out the list with the lowest overall score, unsurprising given its bottom rank in customer satisfaction and number of denied boardings.

Discount carriers fared well in customer satisfaction scores, but that didn’t translate into high rankings in overall performance. Customers ranked JetBlue first and Southwest second for satisfaction, despite their low scores in flight cancellations and on-time arrivals. JetBlue in particular was hit hard by extreme weather earlier this year at its New York City headquarters and in Boston, where it also has major operations.

Bear in Mind, Smokey the Bear Is Turning 70

Posted: 08 Aug 2014 10:06 AM PDT

Originally named “Smokey Bear,” the beloved public service icon was created as a collaborative effort by the U.S. Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters, and the Ad Council to educate the country about forest fires. Smokey made his debut in a public service poster released on August 9, 1944, and his iconic slogan “Remember… Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires” was coined later on in 1947. As the big brown bear turns 70, NewsFeed rounds up 10 choice photos to show how the image of the fire safety mascot has evolved over the years.

#AskTIME Subscriber Q and A: Michael Grunwald

Posted: 08 Aug 2014 10:00 AM PDT

Welcome to TIME subscriber Q&A, with senior national correspondent Michael Grunwald.

We will start posting questions and responses at 1 p.m. EST and stay online for about 30 minutes. We have been gathering reader questions all week but will also take questions in the comments below or on Twitter with the hashtag #askTIME.

If you are not a subscriber yet, it is not too late to sign up.

MementoMori asks, Wall Street, including many of the same organizations that crashed the economy, continues to find ways to rip off the tax-payers. These are often very complicated schemes that even those with a passing familiarity with finance can have a hard time understanding, but these are important issues often involving billions of taxpayer dollars. My question: How can the media do a better job of both surfacing these stories and presenting them in a way lay people can understand?

Cheney: Obama Military Cuts ‘Devastating’

Posted: 08 Aug 2014 09:53 AM PDT

Former Vice President Dick Cheney lambasted President Barack Obama's leadership of the military on Thursday night, saying he has hamstrung the nation for a generation.

Speaking at a closed-door gathering of top Republican Party officials in Chicago, Cheney defended American engagement in the world.

"We are reducing the size of the army to where it’s the size of where it was below Pearl Harbor," Cheney said, according to multiple GOP officials who were in attendance. "President Obama is making an enormous impact on some President 15 or 20 years from now when he has to respond to some crisis. I can guarantee you no future secretary of defense will call Barack Obama and thank him for what he did."

Cheney called the military cuts "devastating," adding "We are not involved in that part of the world for charity. We are involved for our basic interests."

"We need the world's strongest military,” Cheney said. “It’s as important now as it’s ever been."

Earlier Thursday, Cheney's daughter, former Bush Administration official Liz Cheney, defended the practice of waterboarding and criticized Obama for calling it torture.

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