(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SPACE.COM)
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SPACE.COM)
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SPACE.COM)
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF AL JAZEERA)
Iranian rights activists are creating hi-tech solutions to promote civil liberties, despite frequent internet shutdowns.
A popular uprising took hold of Iran in the final week of 2017, with thousands taking to the streets to protest against the dire economic situation in the country.
Using smartphone apps such as Telegram and Instagram, demonstrators quickly spread their message, and within days, protests erupted in dozens of cities across Iran.
In the government crackdown that followed, more than 25 people were killed and hundreds arrested.
The spread of protests once again showed the power of technology and social media, highlighted by repeated efforts by the government to block access to the mobile apps used by the protesters.
After realising the potential of these apps, many in Iran – a country with about 48 million smartphones – are looking at ways to leverage technology in their pursuit of civil liberties.
One of the latest apps is Hafez, which translates as “to protect”. Named after the famous Persian poet whose words frequently targeted religious hypocrisy, the app offers users a collection of human rights-related information.
Foremost, it is a virtual rolodex of human rights lawyers in Iran, which allows users to access legal information regarding human rights.
However, Hafez is more than just a list of telephone numbers, Keyvan Rafiee, an Iranian human rights activist, told Al Jazeera.
“Users receive daily human rights news; [it] allows them to send news of human rights violations securely; [it] disseminates important legal information to users if they are arrested, and provides the contact information for attorneys who can assist,” said Rafiee, the founder of Human Rights Activists Iran (HRAI).
Rafiee, who has been arrested for his activism six times, said having a record of human rights violations is instrumental for protesters in Iran.
“Monitoring violations that take place on a daily basis can improve human rights conditions since independent organisations are not permitted to work in Iran,” Rafiee said.
Hafez is just one of several apps Iranians are using to promote civil liberties and human rights.
“The technology is a tool, not an end result,” said Firouzeh Mahmoudi, founder of United4Iran, an organisation focussed on promoting civil society.
“For us, the main question was how to engage with the vast majority of Iranians who do not go out on the street for every protest,” she said. “We saw this niche that was not being filled; building Iran’s civic tech sector.”
One of its most prominent projects is the Iran Prison Atlas, a compendium of judges, prisons and, most importantly, political prisoners currently held by the Iranian government.
The database has played an important role in creating an overview of the number of political prisoners in Iran and has been used by the United Nations Human Rights Council as a source in their evaluations of the human rights situation in the country.
“The atlas also helps when people get out of Iran,” Mahmoudi told Al Jazeera. “When they apply for asylum, our documentation is a good way to prove they are not making up the story, since we have a record of it.
“We share and compare lists with a large number of people we work with because what we don’t want to have is false positives,” she said.
“A lot of time, when people leave prison, they are quiet about it, and we don’t want a situation where the government says our information is not accurate’.”
Although technologies like Prison Atlas allow for more transparency, working on it also comes with inherent risk in a country that regularly cracks down on dissent or activism.
To ensure the safety of the people working on and using the applications, Mahmoudi says there is a certain degree of anonymity.
“It is very much a decentralised network of people, we use secure methods to communicate, and we have an extensive security protocol in order to guarantee the safety of the people involved,” Mahmoudi said.
But not all apps are at odds with the authorities’ goals, which has led to some surprising results.
“Governments are not a monolithic thing; rather they have many different sides, so sometimes they end up promoting one of our apps,” Mahmoudi said.
That’s because not all the apps are political; some promote sexual health or combat domestic violence, for example.
Mahmoudi said women’s rights in Iran are not well protected, especially in marriage. Therefore, two of the apps provide examples of language for marriage contracts to make it easier for women to retain their rights to a divorce and custody of their children.
“Our sexual health app also has information on sexually transmitted diseases, a menstruation calendar and information about contraceptives, which made it one of our more popular apps,” Mahmoudi said.
“The domestic violence app allows users to contact people within a trusted circle with the push of a button in case you’re in danger, and it outlines people’s rights when confronted with abuse,” she added.
As a result, women have approached Mahmoudi and her organisation to thank them, saying the information provided by the apps made them feel safer and helped them leave their husbands.
Rafiee said the same thing happened with Hafez, the app that promotes human rights.
“We were surprised by the scope of the usage of the application; people from small villages to large cities around Iran, who reported various data, from corruption to bureaucratic mismanagement,” he said.
“Additionally, a number of attorneys reported that they have been contacted for legal consultation.”
However, reaching more people remains a challenge, mainly because the Iranian government regularly blocks internet access, especially during protests.
During the most recent protests, the government shut down messaging apps such as Telegram and Instagram, preventing people from communicating with each other.
“Iranians are young, they’re technologically savvy, and they’re educated, so it’s really critical Iran stays online,” Mahmoudi said. “When the internet was shut down for a short time during the last uprising, it was an issue.”
According to Rafiee, the reason behind these blocks is more than just preventing protesters from organising. “Free and uncensored circulation of information opens the society to changes and accelerates the process of democratisation,” Rafiee said.
To get around these obstacles, Hafez uses built-in VPN technology, which allows the app to circumvent attempts by the government to block the app.
Rafiee’s organisation is also looking to circumvent government censorship. It recently launched Toosheh, an app that allows people who do not have internet access to receive information using satellite TV technology.
“We are hoping to become more technologically advanced in order to use such tools for the purpose of advancing awareness and human rights conditions in Iran,” Rafiee said.
Mahmoudi reiterated that these apps are just tools created to help achieve a bigger goal. “The most important thing we can do is build a culture of transparency, accountability and civic engagement,” she said.
“How human rights leaders, ethnic and religious minorities and those persecuted are treated is a litmus test for the human rights conditions in a country,” Mahmoudi added.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)
(CNN)A small island in the Pacific Ocean is the site of a huge discovery that could change Japan’s economic future. How huge? One economist called it a “game changer.” The researchers who helped find it said it had “tremendous potential.”
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘EXTREMETECH’)
If you’ve ever purchased a game console or other piece of electronics gear, chances are you’ve seen a “Warranty Void if Removed” sticker stuck somewhere on the device. There’s typically a peel-away tape used to confirm whether a device has been opened. If it has, companies will often attempt to deny warranty claims.
What many people don’t realize is that this is illegal. The 1975 Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act made it illegal for companies to force users to only repair hardware using specific components or via “authorized” resellers. While companies are not required to offer warranties, if they do offer a warranty, they aren’t allowed to void it simply because the customer has the device repaired elsewhere. Companies are allowed to require you to ship the device to them for warranty service or to return it to the store you purchased it from, but they can’t void your warranty just because you repaired an unrelated problem yourself. The Mag-Moss Act states:
No warrantor of a consumer product may condition his written or implied warranty of such product on the consumer’s using, in connection with such product, any article or service (other than article or service provided without charge under the terms of the warranty) which is identified by brand, trade, or corporate name.
We’ve covered this issue before, but the topic is back on the radar thanks to recent FTC action. The government agency announced it has sent warnings to six specific companies, notifying them that their continued use of “Warranty Void if Removed” stickers is in direct violation of federal law. They even wrote a song about it. I quote:
When the screen goes blue
And the car breaks down
And the smartphone keeps rebooting eternally
Consumers won’t be afraid
No, they won’t be afraid
Just as long as you stand by your warranty.
(The song appears in an accompanying blog post as opposed to being part of the letter. Thank God the author isn’t relying on his scansion skills for job security).
The FTC didn’t name which companies it contacted, but notes that the firms in question sell “automobiles, cellular devices, and video gaming systems in the United States.” The FTC does give three examples of offending warranty language, however, which let us hone in on some of the targets by searching for the text strings directly:
“The use of [company name] parts is required to keep your… manufacturer’s warranties and any extended warranties intact.” = Hyundai.
“This warranty shall not apply if this product… is used with products not sold or licensed by” = Nintendo.
“This warranty does not apply if this product… has had the warranty seal on the [product] altered, defaced, or removed” = Sony.
The FTC continues:
FTC staff has requested that each company review its promotional and warranty materials to ensure that such materials do not state or imply that warranty coverage is conditioned on the use of specific parts of services. In addition, FTC staff requests that each company revise its practices to comply with the law. The letters state that FTC staff will review the companies’ websites after 30 days and that failure to correct any potential violations may result in law enforcement action.
Don’t put up with any BS from Nintendo, Sony, or Microsoft (Microsoft has used the same types of warnings on the Xbox One). Your warranty is not void simply because you opened a box. They’re not allowed to tell you differently, and neither are firms like Apple (another likely recipient of one of these letters). This consumer-hostile bullshit is illegal, period, full stop. For more information on this topic and a breakdown of what actions can or cannot void a warranty, see this article.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘LIGHTNING INJURY RESEARCH PROGRAM’, NOAA, AND MD./PROFESSOR MARY ANN COOPER, UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT CHICAGO)
Medical Aspects of Lightning
How Big A Problem Is This? Statistics
Lightning has been the second largest storm killer in the U.S. for the last 40 years, exceeded only by floods. A lightning strike can result in a cardiac arrest (heart stopping) at the time of the injury, although some victims may appear to have a delayed death a few days later if they are resuscitated but have suffered irreversible brain damage.
According to Storm Data, a National Weather Service publication, the U.S. averages 73 reported lightning fatalities per year. Due to under reporting, the figures are more realistically about 100 deaths per year. Only about 10% of people who are struck by lightning are killed, leaving 90% with various degrees of disability.
|ODDS OF BECOMING A LIGHTNING VICTIM|
|U.S. 2000 Census population||280,000,000|
|Odds of being struck by lightning in a given year
(reported deaths + injuries)
|Odds of being struck by lightning in a given year
(estimated total deaths + injuries)
|Odds of being struck in your lifetime (Est. 80 years)||1/3000|
|Odds you will be affected by someone being struck
(Ten people affected for every one struck)
Who Gets Injured
While about one-third of all injuries occur during work, workers compensation companies are often reluctant to acknowledge the injury or pay related medical expenses. About another third of injuries occur during recreational or sports activities. The last third occurs in diverse situation, including injuries to those inside buildings.
How Do Lightning Injuries Affect People?
While any death is a blow to a family, eventually the family readjusts and goes on. However, for those who have a relative who suffers significant disability from lightning, life changes forever and the dreams of that family and the survivor may be markedly altered. The family income may be tremendously decreased if the survivor was one of the breadwinners, or the spouse or another family member may have to quit work to care for the survivor if the disability is great enough.
While about one-third of all injuries occur during work, workers compensation companies are often reluctant to acknowledge the injury or pay their medical expenses. About another third of injuries occur during recreational or sports activities. The last third occurs in diverse situation, including injuries to those inside buildings. Many injuries in each of these groups can be prevented with proper education, well conceived lightning protection systems that protect the people as well as the equipment being used or �shelters� where the survivor may seek safety, and lightning safety plans for coaches, parents, and referees at sporting events. While lightning safety and injury prevention is an individual responsibility and decision for adults, adults are ALWAYS responsible for the children in their care, particularly if it is an outdoor sports activity such as soccer, t-ball, camping, etc.
Unlike high voltage electrical injuries where massive internal tissue damage may occur, lightning seldom causes substantial burns. In fact, most of the burns are caused by other objects (rainwater, sweat, metal coins and necklaces, etc) being heated up and causing the burn rather than caused by the lightning itself.
Lightning tends to be a nervous system injury and may affect any or all parts of the nervous system: the brain, the autonomic nervous system, and the peripheral nervous system. When the brain is affected, the person often has difficulty with short-term memory, coding new information and accessing old information, multitasking, distractibility, irritability and personality change. A great quote sums it up perfectly:
“Patients have difficulty in all areas that require them to analyze more items of information than they can handle simultaneously. They present (appear) as slow because it takes longer for smaller than normal chunks of information to be processed. They present as distractible because they do not have the spare capacity to monitor irrelevant stimuli at the same time as they are attending to the relevant stimulus. They present as forgetful because while they are concentrating on point A, they do not have the processing space to think about point B simultaneously. They present as inattentive because when the amount of information that they are given exceeds their capacities, they cannot take it all in.”
Early on, survivors may complain of intense headaches, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), dizziness, nausea, vomiting and other �post-concussion� types of symptoms. Survivors may also experience difficulty sleeping, sometimes sleeping excessively acutely after the injury but changing during the next few weeks to inability to sleep more than two or three hours at a time. A few may develop persistent seizure-like activity several weeks to months after the injury. Unfortunately, standard EEG�s do not always pick up injury in the areas that lightning most often affects leading to a diagnosis of �pseudo-seizures�.
Personality Changes / Self-Isolation
Many may suffer personality changes because of frontal lobe damage and become quite irritable and easy to anger. The person who �wakes up� after the injury often does not have the ability to express what is wrong with them, may not recognize much of it or deny it, becomes embarrassed when they cannot carry on a conversation, work at their previous job, or do the same activities that they used to handle. As a result, many self-isolate, withdrawing from church, friends, family and other activities. Friends, family and co-workers who see the same external person, may not understand why the survivor is so different. Friends soon stop coming by or asking them to participate in activities. Families who are not committed to each other break up.
Obviously, depression becomes a big problem for people who have changed so much and lost so much. Suicide is something that almost all severely injured people have thought about at one time or another. Occasionally, those who do not have access to medical care or who do not understand what is happening may self-medicate with alcohol and other drugs, particularly those who have previously sought solace with these compounds. It is very important that the family and friends of the survivor maintain supportive contact even though it requires an adjustment in their relationship with the survivor. An injury such as this is an injury to the family, not just to the person hit.
Survivors often complain of easy fatigability, becoming exhausted after only a few hours of work. This may be because every task that they used to automatically do without thinking now requires intense concentration to accomplish. Many return to work but find that they cannot multitask and do all of the activities that are required at their job.
There are two kinds of medical tests:
Sometimes function can be ascribed to the anatomic tests but often it cannot so that it is often fallacious on the basis of a normal static picture to ascribe normal function. The mental changes that the lightning survivor has are functional (how the brain works) changes, not anatomic ones so that anatomic tests such as the CT scan and MRI are usually normal. More functional scans such as PET and SPECT may show changes but are hard to obtain due to their relative infrequency in medical centers. To use an analogy: if an electric shock were sent through a computer, the outside case would probably look okay (similar to a photo or x-rays of the person), the computer boards on the inside would probably look okay and not be fused nor melted (CT, MRI for the person), but when you boot up the computer it would have difficulty accessing files, making calculations, printing, etc. similar to a person with brain injury who has short-term memory problems, difficulty accessing and coding information, difficulty organizing output,
A functional test of how a person�s brain is working that is seldom thought of by most non-neurologists is called neuropsychological testing. These tests are administered by a qualified neuropsychologist familiar with the literature in this area, not by a psychiatrist, and consist of a 6-8 hour battery of pen and paper tests including memory, IQ, organizational ability, and other �how the parts of the brain are working� kinds of tests. Survivors of lightning and electrical injury usually have a characteristic pattern of deficits. This type of testing is expensive and not necessary for most but can sometimes be helpful when litigation is involved and there is a doubt about the cause of a person�s injury.
Another common, often delayed problem for some survivors is pain, also a difficult problem to quantify and manage and one that does not always present initially in the full-blown pattern that it may have later. The pain may not only present as the chronic intense headaches mentioned above but may be in the back (perhaps from compression and disc injury from the intense muscle contractions which may throw a person several yards at the time of the injury), or in an extremity. Many may have nerve entrapment syndromes. A small number may eventually develop classic RSD. (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, Sympathetically Mediated Pain Syndrome, causalgia)
Sometimes the functional tests that are ordered are testing the wrong thing an electromyogram (EMG) measures only the largest nerve fibers, the motor fibers, which are seldom affected by lightning injury. Smaller pain-carrying nerve fibers are not tested by EMG so that a �normal EMG� means little when ordered for someone with pain. Likewise, the standard EEG does primarily surface readings of the brain and misses seizure activity in several deeper regions. EEG�s may not pick up only 50% of temporal lobe seizures (some personality, organizing ability) and miss 120% of hypothalamic seizures.4
Lack of libido and impotence are often reported. Other common and not so common complaints involve the digestive system, the endocrine (hormonal) system, and the immune system, some of which are currently being studied. It is not clear if these are directly due to lightning injury, to medication side effects, or to other incidental causes unrelated to lightning.
Help Exists – Lightning Strike and Electric Shock Survivors, International, Support Group
An organization that has been of tremendous help to survivors, their families, their physicians and other professionals is Lightning Strike and Electric Shock Survivors, International (LSESSI), a support group formed in 1989 by a gentleman who was injured in 1969 who became tired of no one recognizing or knowing what to do for those with lightning injury. LSESSI has printed materials, offers tremendous support, networks survivors with others in their area, and provides an annual meeting where survivors come together for support as well as for lectures from professionals who work with lightning and electrical survivors and their families. LSESSI can be reached at 912-346-4708, [email protected], http://www.lightning-strike.org/index.html, or at P.O. Box 1156, Jacksonville, North Carolina 28541-1156.
Four Factors Necessary for Recovery
The four most important factors in overcoming disability from lightning injury (or from any illness or major injury for that matter) are:
Far more important than treating survivors is preventing lightning injury.
Prevention is the KEY.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF POPULAR SCIENCE)
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)
(LONDON) — Hundreds of people lined the streets of the English city of Cambridge on Saturday, breaking into applause as the hearse carrying the remains of famed British scientist Stephen Hawking arrived at the church.
Some 500 guests had been invited to the private funeral at St. Mary the Great church for the service honoring Hawking, who died on March 14 at age 76 after capturing popular imagination with his writings about space and time.
Actor Eddie Redmayne, who portrayed Hawking in the 2014 biographical drama “The Theory of Everything,” gave a reading from Ecclesiastes during the service. There was also a reading by Astronomer Royal Martin Reese and eulogies by one of Hawking’s children and a former student.
The bell at Great St. Mary’s, as the church is known locally, tolled 76 times at the start of the service. A private reception was being held later at Trinity College.
The service was officiated by the Rev. Cally Hammond, Dean of Cambridge University’s Gonville and Caius College, where Hawking was a fellow for 52 years.
Flags were lowered to half-mast in many parts of Cambridge to pay tribute to Hawking.
Hawking, who suffered from motor neurone disease, was known for his groundbreaking research into black holes and other phenomena. He persevered for decades, writing ground-breaking work even as he gradually lost control of his muscles.
He was also a best-selling author and pop culture figure known for, among other things, his appearance on “The Simpsons” television show.
Hawking will be cremated at a later date and his ashes are to be interred at London’s Westminster Abbey near the remains of fellow scientist Isaac Newton.
About 2.3 million finance industry employees in mainland China are likely to either lose their jobs, or be reassigned to new roles, by 2027, as they fall victim to disruptive artificial intelligence technologies.
A study by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that 23 per cent of the total 9.93 million jobs in the country’s banking, insurance and securities sectors will be affected, with entry-level staff engaged in repetitious daily operations bearing the brunt of any cuts.
“Many jobs, particularly those involving mechanical, repetitious operations, will gradually be replaced by AI,” David He, a BCG partner, said in a statement. “Consequently, some positions will be cancelled, but other positions will see improvements in efficiency, and new jobs will be created.”
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)
The late President of the State of Israel Shimon Peres once said: “In Israel, a land lacking in natural resources, we learned to appreciate our greatest national advantage: our minds. Through creativity and innovation, we transformed barren deserts into flourishing fields and pioneered new frontiers in science and technology.” Even at an advanced age, President Peres was one of the great global supporters of finding new solutions to the way we live, work and move.
Every day, new innovations are sought and discovered which can drastically and dramatically alter the way we live, shape our lives and meet the changing needs of people around the world. As an international energy and services company, and the UK’s largest supplier of electricity and gas, Centrica already brings power and gas to millions of homes and businesses. But our offer is changing and we’re continually working to develop new products, offers and solutions that are firmly underpinned by investment in technology.
At Centrica Innovations we’re looking to invest £100m (US$140m) in the very best ideas and businesses, and believe that Israel offers access to both great tech and some of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs and innovators. We’re particularly interested in the distribution of energy, electrification of transport and increasing connectivity through data, blockchain and the Internet of Things.
Creativity and energy are the key building blocks of any hi-tech hub and it’s on an almost daily basis that we hear from our local Israel-based scouts about the new technologies emerging from the ‘Start-Up Nation’ at a dizzying speed.
But I believe it has become clear to investors around the world that Israel is not just at the cutting edge of invention and innovation but is a hub of activity in seeking to make a the world a better place, especially for the most vulnerable. At Centrica, we similarly look for solutions for those in need, so it should come as little surprise that we are already collaborating to this end.
Last week, we held our Active Ageing Challenge in London, inviting start-ups from all over the world to pitch to win £100,000 (US$140K) in funding, and we were delighted to award £25,000 (US$35K) to a brilliant Israeli business called EchoCare Technologies who are based in Beersheva.
They develop non-wearable, self-learning elder-care home monitoring devices which is a great solution to how we look after our elderly, and we’re looking forward to exploring opportunities to test their project out with some customers.
In Israel, the impossible frequently becomes the improbable and then the achievable, and we believe in harnessing this great and positive energy, not just for our customers but to ease and convenience people around the world. It is already strikingly true that almost every person with some type of daily interaction with technology frequently meets Israeli innovation as they go about their day.
Having acquired Panoramic Power, the leader in circuit level energy management solutions (in 2015), we see Israel as an excellent candidate for investment and are looking for new partners to work with us.
Our offer to potential Israeli partners is an opportunity to test their solutions and innovations with our global customer base. In turn, we welcome the opportunity for our partners to bring new ways of thinking to Centrica as we continue to serve millions of homes and businesses.
Centrica is committed to providing support to people and technology that can literally change the world, and we know that Israel, a nation whose innovators are always living on the edge of tomorrow can help us assist, develop and reshape the way the global community lives, works and moves.
The writer is the Director of Centrica Innovations and is in Israel for #GCVIsrael, Israel’s first corporate venturing conference, and to launch a £100 million Centrica Innovations fund.
Art and Books
stuff don't matter here
This blog is about everything and nothing. Factual and fictional... You decide which is which.
Mi patria es todo el mundo.
My adventures in self-publishing and other gibberish