Monday, May 24, 2021

A paralyzed man is challenging Neuralink’s monkey to a match of mind Pong

A man with a brain implant that allows him to control computers via mental signals says he is ready to challenge Elon Musk’s neuroscience company Neuralink in a head-to-head game of Pong—with a monkey. Neuralink is developing advanced wireless brain implants so humans can connect directly to computer networks. In April, researchers working with the company showed off videos of a rhesus monkey named Pager who can play the classic paddle game using thought signals. The company’s monkey MindPong video won raves from Musk acolytes, who acclaimed it as the billionaire’s latest mind-blowing deed. The man was hurt in car accident and now can’t walk or move his fingers. He does retain movement in his shoulder, and he can operate a computer and trackpad by typing with the side of his fist. That means he’s not totally reliant on his brain interface. “I do enjoy playing with my mind, though,” he says adding that he is now ready to challenge the monkey to the first “interspecies battle” in Pong. (MIT Technology Review)


Apple criticized for storing data inside China

Apple has confirmed that it is storing Chinese customers’ data inside data centres based in China, following reports from various news sources. However it said it had “never compromised the security” of either its customers or their data. Apple said it was complying with Chinese law about the data storage of its nationals. However, experts said it was effectively “handing over the keys” to the Chinese government by doing this. China has long been accused of using technology to track its citizens and for the purpose of mass surveillance. (BBC)


Thanks to observations by birdwatchers, scientists have been able to estimate the number of wild birds on our planet at 50 billion

Researchers at the University of New South Wales came up with that estimate using data logged in the iBird app by birdwatchers, as well as scientific records. Earlier this week, they released a study in which they argue that their calculations indicate the world’s bird population is very diverse. They found that out of around 9,700 species spotted by birdwatchers, only four have populations greater than 1 billion, these are the house sparrow, the European starling, the ring-billed gull, and the barn swallow. They also found that there are many species with small populations, either because they live in small habitats, like islands, or “because of human causes.” According to the study, Australia has several bird species with large populations, such as the rainbow lorikeet (19 million), the sulfur-crested cockatoo (10 million), and the laughing kookaburra (3.4 million). (The Guardian)


Under a law enacted by Alabama Governor, the state’s public schools will be allowed to teach yoga for the first time since 1993

Some wanted the ban to continue, arguing that yoga is linked to Hinduism and Buddhism, and should therefore be considered a religious practice. The new law, which comes into effect on August 1, allows public schools to teach yoga to students up to 12th grade. At the request of GOP lawmakers, the bill was amended to bar educators from including “any aspect of Eastern philosophy” in their yoga lessons. The legislation bars teachers from using the traditional salutation “Namaste,” chanting, or referring to yoga poses with their Sanskrit names. (Yahoo)


Feds seize 68 big cats from ‘Tiger King Park’ in Oklahoma

Federal authorities have seized 68 big cats from an animal park in Thackerville, Oklahoma featured in Netflix’s “Tiger King.” The U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday that the seizure of the federally protected lions, tigers, lion-tiger hybrids and a jaguar as part of a court-approved agreement to resolve a DOJ complaint against the owners over the animals’ care. The civil complaint, filed in November, accused the the owners of recurring inhumane treatment and improper handling of animals protected by the Endangered Species Act. The couple has received numerous citations for failing to properly care for the animals following three inspections of the Tiger King Park since December 2020. (Associated Press)


Seven rural counties in Oregon have voted to secede from the state and join Idaho

Conservative activists behind the “Greater Idaho” movement say those living in eastern and southern Oregon have values that align more with Idaho than the rest of their state. They also want a chance for their votes for president to contribute to a Republican’s electoral college count, the last time the state of Oregon sent its electoral votes to a Republican was 1984. The movement is not likely to succeed – legislatures in both states, as well as the U.S. Congress, would need to approve the change. Five counties voted to leave Oregon recently; two other rural counties approved the move last year. Citizens for Greater Idaho also want some northern counties in California to join Idaho. All seven counties that voted in favor of seceding from Oregon heavily favored Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election. President Biden won the state of Oregon, however, with 57% of the vote. (Business Insider)


94-year-old Korean War veteran received the Medal of Honor more than 70 years after his heroic actions in battle

Ralph Puckett Jr., a United States Army Ranger who led the defense against six Chinese assaults on a frozen hill in the Korean War, was presented with America’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor, by President Joe Biden recently. “Col. Puckett, after 70 years rather than mail it to you I would have walked it to you,” President Biden said. “Your lifetime of service to our nation I think deserves a little bit of fuss.” On November 25, 1950, the then-first lieutenant led a company of 51 US and nine South Korean soldiers against Chinese forces on what was called Hill 205, according to an award citation from the White House and an oral history given by Puckett. In the initial daylight assault on the hill, Puckett repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire, rallying pinned down US troops to advance and take the hill from its defenders. But once night fell and temperatures on the hill dropped below freezing, Puckett and his command faced wave after wave of Chinese assaults attempting to retake the key location. It was estimated that hundreds of Chinese troops were involved in the attack against Puckett’s group of five dozen. (KEYT)


Elderly man has wrong leg amputated at Austrian clinic

An 82-year-old elderly man had the wrong leg amputated during surgery, a hospital in Austria has admitted. The man was due to have his left leg removed recently, but due to “human error” the right leg was amputated above the knee instead. The error occurred after a hospital worker mistakenly put a preoperative mark on the wrong leg, the hospital said. The patient was suffering from “numerous medical conditions” and ailments affected both his legs. Following the mistake, the man needed to have the correct leg removed above the knee as well. The man’s family have been informed and psychological support has been offered to them, while the hospital has also sent the details of the incident to the region’s public prosecutor. The surgeon involved is not currently on duty, at her own request, it added. (CNN)


Black fungus: Call to declare epidemic in Indian states

India’s states should declare an epidemic following a rise in deadly “black fungus” cases, the country’s health authorities has said. The normally rare infection, called mucormycosis, has a mortality rate of 50%, with some only saved by removing an eye or jaw bone. But in recent months, India saw thousands of cases affecting recovered and recovering Covid-19 patients. Doctors suspect there may be a link with the steroids used to treat Covid. Diabetics are at particular risk, with doctors telling the BBC it seems to strike 12 to 15 days after recovery from Covid. It is not clear exactly how many cases there have been across the country, which is currently in the grip of a deadly second Covid-19 wave which has left tens of thousands dead. (RT)


UK government to pay older farmers to retire

The average farmer could receive a lump sum payment to the equivalent of $50,000 to $100,000 dollars for farmers with most land. It is part of a massive overhaul of farm grants, incentivizing farmers to protect the environment. Some older farmers are resistant to new “green” methods. Currently, under the old EU system, farmers receive grants based largely on the amount of land they farm. The average farmer currently receives about the equivalent of $21,000 in grants, although those who own large amounts of land, such as the Queen, have been receiving more than half a million pounds each year. (BBC)


UPDATE: Iran intentionally shot down Flight PS752 in ‘an act of terrorism,’ Ontario court rules

Canada will soon enter into negotiations with Iran on reparations for the victims’ families. Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice has ruled that the shooting down of Flight PS752 by Iran was an intentional act of terrorism. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) shot down the Ukraine International Airlines flight with two surface-to-air missiles shortly after takeoff in Tehran on January 8, 2020, killing all 176 passengers onboard. There were 138 passengers onboard with ties to Canada, including 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents. “The plaintiffs have established that the shooting down of Flight 752 by the defendants was an act of terrorism and constitutes ‘terrorist activity’…”Justice Edward Belobaba wrote in his decision issued. “I find on a balance of probabilities that the missile attacks on Flight 752 were intentional and directly caused the deaths of all onboard.” Iran did not defend itself in court to refute the plaintiff’s evidence, making this a default judgment. Based on evidence from the plaintiffs and the balance of probabilities, the incident is considered a terrorist act under the State Immunity Act, the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and the Criminal Code. The federal government plans to release its own forensic analysis with its own findings of fact about the tragedy which is expected expected to hold more weight, say legal experts. (CBC)


North Carolina man sues over fumes from South Carolina mill

A pulp and paper mill in South Carolina emits fumes that smells like rotten eggs and which nearby residents say have caused headaches and sore throats, a North Carolina homeowner says in a lawsuit. The man, who lives in the Ballantyne area of Charlotte not far from the South Carolina border, filed the private-nuisance, class-action lawsuit against New-Indy Containerboard of Catawba, South Carolina, in federal court in Rock Hill. The plant is specifically accused in the lawsuit of polluting areas of the Carolinas with “noxious and harmful hydrogen sulfide emissions.” Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless and flammable gas known for its pungent “rotten egg” odor at low concentrations, according to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It is highly toxic, OSHA says, and is used or produced in several industries, including oil and gas refining, and pulp and paper processing. Residents in areas along the state line have said the pungent odor has infiltrated their homes, causing headaches and sore throats, according to posts on a Facebook page dedicated to the odor. The lawsuit seeks at least $5 million in compensation for the harm the mill has wreaked on residents. (The Charlotte Observer)


Overwhelmed builders turn away jobs

With sky-high demand in the housing market, some builders are so overwhelmed with supply shortages and climbing construction costs that they’ve stopped taking orders. Moving away from fixed prices, some companies have turned to blind auctions or have stopped signing contracts altogether. Amid soaring lumber costs and worker shortages, about 19% of builders are delaying sales or construction and 47% have added clauses into contracts allowing them to raise prices as costs increase, according to a survey by the National Association of Homebuilders. (Bloomberg)


Retailers Couldn’t Stock Hand Sanitizer Fast Enough And Now They Can’t Give It Away

Retailers couldn’t stock hand sanitizer fast enough a year ago, now they can’t give it away. COVID-19 cases are declining as more people get vaccinated. Health officials have said in recent months that the virus is airborne and that the disinfectants aren’t as effective as masks and distancing. Some distilleries have on average somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 sanitizers made in stock. (The Wall Street Journal)


Monday Be Stylin’ With:

  • Aviation Maintenance Technician Day
  • Brother’s Day
  • Escargot Day
  • International Tiara Day
  • Morse Code Day
  • Scavenger Hunt Day
  • Victoria Day
  • World Schizophrenia Awareness Day
  • Wyoming Day 
  • Yucatan Shrimp Day


Historical Events

1738 – John Wesley is converted, essentially launching the Methodist movement; the day is celebrated annually by Methodists as Aldersgate Day and a church service is generally held on the preceding Sunday.

1822 – Battle of Pichincha: Antonio José de Sucre secures the independence of the Presidency of Quito.

1830 – The first revenue trains in the United States begin service on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad between Baltimore, Maryland and Ellicott’s Mills, Maryland.

1844 – Samuel Morse sends the message “What hath God wrought” (a biblical quotation, Numbers 23:23) from the Old Supreme Court Chamber in the United States Capitol to his assistant, Alfred Vail, in Baltimore, Maryland to inaugurate the first telegraph line.

1856 – John Brown and his men kill five slavery supporters at Pottawatomie Creek, Kansas.

1915 – World War I: Italy declares war on Austria-Hungary.

1940 – Igor Sikorsky performs the first successful single-rotor helicopter flight.

1958 – United Press International is formed through a merger of the United Press and the International News Service.

1960 – Following the 1960 Valdivia earthquake, the largest ever recorded earthquake, Cordón Caulle begins to erupt.

1994 – Four men convicted of bombing the World Trade Center in New York in 1993 are each sentenced to 240 years in prison.