Ontario Votes 2007: Interview with Progressive Conservative candidate Penny Lucas, Kenora—Rainy River

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Penny Lucas is running for the Progressive Conservative in the Ontario provincial election, in the Kenora-Rainy River riding. Wikinews’ Nick Moreau interviewed regarding her values, her experience, and her campaign.

Stay tuned for further interviews; every candidate from every party is eligible, and will be contacted. Expect interviews from Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, New Democratic Party members, Ontario Greens, as well as members from the Family Coalition, Freedom, Communist, Libertarian, and Confederation of Regions parties, as well as independents.

 

Simon’s Rock College tests Alan Turing theories with ‘Imitation Game’ experiment

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On Saturday April 16, students at Simon’s Rock College in Great Barrington, Massachusetts and Dr. Richard Wallace of the A.L.I.C.E. AI Foundation for their first time tested Alan Turing’s thought-experiment. The Imitation Game, based on the original Turing model for testing the ability of humans to recognize artificial intelligence (AI), was carried out with nearly eighty human and AI participants.

The ‘Original Imitation Game’ is described in Turing’s 1950 paper. A popularized version now dubbed the “Turing Test” involves a judge knowingly interviewing a software program and a human person during a computer chat, and then trying to discern which is which. The Turing Test has been conducted many times as Artificial Intelligence programs developed. However, no study was ever published following the guidelines of the original thought-experiment itself.

The Imitation Game involved playing a “gender guessing game”, wherein two human subjects, a male and a female, communicate via computer chat to the judge. Both the male and the female would try to convince the judge that s/he is female. Turing’s original question was, if a gender guessing game were done with two humans, and then with an AI replacing the male, would the judge be more accurate in guessing who the real female was?

Three students at Simon’s Rock — Cameo Wood, Melissa Leventhal, and Allyson Sgro — wrote a grant to support the experiment, and shepherded the proposal through the Human Research Review Committee under the oversight of Professor Anne O’Dwyer. The experiment was funded by the departments of Natural Science and the department of Social Science at the college.

The experiment utilized a program called A.L.I.C.E., which is designed to hold one end of an interactive conversation. The program was provided by the ALICE Artificial Intelligence Foundation. Dr. Richard Wallace was on hand during the experiment to troubleshoot the AI robot, later gave a lecture about on The Anatomy of A.L.I.C.E. and blogged the event.

Six human subjects from Simon’s Rock composed the human players in the game; the judges were recruited from various non-technical internet communities. Roughly eighty individuals participated in the experiment, which required the organizers to maintain strict secrecy about the experiment until it was concluded. All subjects who participated in the experiment were required to be over 18, not affiliated with the college, and were not allowed any foreknowledge of the use of AI in the experiment. Roughly 70 interviews were conducted over a three hour period last Saturday, via AOL’s Instant Messenger, a messaging tool that allows individuals to write to one another online.

The research team at Simon’s Rock has started to analyze the data they acquired during the experiment and will be writing a paper for publication in the coming months. Inquiries regarding the experiment may be directed to researcher@theguessinggame.net.

 

Norwegian government considers prosecuting Scientology

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services is considering prosecuting and banning some Scientology practices, in particular the use of the Scientology personality test to sell courses. State Secretary Rigmor Aasrud said that the activities in question might be prosecuted as fraud or as violations of existing healthcare regulations. A Norwegian Member of Parliament (MP) whose daughter killed herself after taking such a test, supports the idea of prosecuting illegal practices rather than trying to ban the movement as a whole.

Also stupid or clearly false expressions must be allowed as free expressions in a democracy, as long as individuals are not harmed by the expressions. The questionable thing about the Scientology cult is, however, that their operation is harmful for individuals.

The statement was made after three journalists from the online edition of the newspaper Verdens Gang (VG) took the test. The journalists wore hidden recording devices, and did not disclose that they were journalists; VG put the recordings on its website. Scientology staff members told all three that they should buy a course to handle psychological issues. Two of the journalists filled out the 200 questions with honest answers, while the third gave answers consistent with being depressed. The “depressed” journalist was told that he should avoid traditional medicine, while one of the “normal” journalists was told that the course was her only hope for improvement unless she wanted to start taking “chemicals”.

Matthias Fosse, spokesperson for the Church of Scientology in Norway, said that the staff members in question were acting individually. He said that the Church of Scientology does not give medical advice, but that it encourages people to focus on the side effects of medications, and is critical of the “over-medication” of psychiatric patients.

Olav Gunnar Ballo, a Norwegian MP and medical doctor whose daughter Kaja suddenly killed herself after a negative experience with the Scientology test in France in March 2008, released a book about Kaja Ballo‘s life in April 2009. The book debuted on 2nd place in the Norwegian best seller list. Ballo listened to the recorded test result sessions from VG and said that he found the practice “horrible and harmful”. He told the newspaper Dagbladet that Norway could have something to learn from the current French prosecution of Scientology corporations and individuals, by prosecuting specific harmful practices rather than banning Scientology as a whole.

Matthias Fosse said that France is a far more secular society than Norway, and that France were going too far in their prosecution. He said that France has a list of 165 organizations considered to be “sects”, which not just included Scientology but also covered Baptists such as former U.S. president Bill Clinton. The list which Fosse referred to is a list from the 1995 Parliamentary Commission on Cults in France. Fosse said that the OSCE, the U.S. State Department and the UN had criticised French “violations of human rights”.

 

Iconic London mural could be restored

Monday, September 20, 2010

One of London’s most well known murals could be restored after years of neglect if plans by a group of community activists gain public support. The Fitzrovia Mural at Whitfield Gardens on London’s Tottenham Court Road was created by two mural artists and commissioned by Camden Council in 1980, but the mural has since decayed and been vandalised.

Plans will be presented at a public meeting this Tuesday, to include details of the restoration and promote local public space in contrast to potential commercial developments and the focus of the London 2012 Olympics. If enough funds are raised from charitable trusts and public donations the mural could be restored during the summer of 2011.

Plans to be put forward by the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association, and the London Mural Preservation Society, will present ways to fund not only the restoration work but also projects to raise awareness of conservation, heritage, and the residential and working community. The heritage and mural project hopes to involve many local people who could learn new conservation skills. Also planned are workshops with local children to involve them in their heritage, an exhibition by local artists, guided tours and a celebratory event at the end of the restoration project. In addition to this, a booklet would be produced containing collected oral histories of the people involved and a preservation trust to protect the mural in future years.

The playful painting was created on a Camden Council-owned building in 1980 by artists Mick Jones, (son of the late Jack Jones, trade union leader) and Simon Barber and is a mash up of scenes depicting problems faced by the neighbourhood over the preceding decade.

There is also a caricature of poet Dylan Thomas, who lived in Fitzrovia, and a mocking portrayal of then leader of the Greater London Council, Conservative politician Horace Cutler, who is pictured as a bat-like creature. Other characters include an anonymous greedy developer and a property speculator counting piles of cash.

Peter Whyatt of the neighbourhood association is jointly leading the project to restore the mural. Yesterday he told Wikinews he had a number of concerns about the possible success of the project.

“There are a great number of problems with getting this project off the ground and we also need to act pretty quickly for a number of reasons,” said Mr Whyatt.

“Firstly the mural is in a terrible state and deteriorating quickly. There is more graffiti being daubed on the site every month because one bit of graffiti attracts another bit. We really need to start the work in the next 12 months because going through another winter with the condition of the wall will causes more problems and inevitably more expense. We want to keep as much original artwork on the site as possible to keep the costs down. This is a big mural and it will be expensive to restore,” he continued.

“And that brings me to my second concern: cost. If we don’t get other community organisations on board to bid for money for this with us and to involve their beneficiaries and volunteers, it will be very difficult to secure the money needed. Money is very tight at the moment because to the current financial climate. We need to get support at this meeting on Tuesday and some firm commitments from people and organisations to get involved.

“Lastly there is a danger of a commercial development on the site. A public-private partnership to create a new art feature. Because of the existing mural’s subject matter – it mocks property speculators, and land developers, etc – a commercial scheme probably backed by a property developer would not want to restore the mural’s original message. They’d want some “good news” scheme, some greenwash idea that paints them in a positive light.

“However, despite these problems, Camden Council have offered to do a condition survey on the mural. This will save us a lot of money. But having said that there are five council departments to deal with to get permission for this restoration work, and they don’t always talk to each other.

“But if the public and local voluntary organisations show their support, we can make it happen,” Mr Whyatt concluded.

The mural restoration will be just one part of a year long project of heritage and conservation awareness-raising. “The project is not just about the mural but also wider plans to promote awareness of heritage and conservation in an area of London under threat from commercial development. In fact the bulk of the project is about the heritage and conservation and the mural is just one part of it, and the most visible because of its situation,” Mr Whyatt later added.

There will be a public meeting about the heritage and mural project at 7.30 pm tomorrow (Tuesday), at the Neighbourhood Centre, 39 Tottenham Street. The public can also comment about the proposals on the Fitzrovia Heritage and Mural website.

 

Major Decisions To Discuss With Your Masonry Contractor About Patios In Islip, Ny

byAlma Abell

Patios are often the most social places in the yard. But putting in one can be a challenge. There are a lot of questions that have to be answered in regards to the installation and how the patio will best accommodate the family. This process can be less challenging with the help of a contractor.

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One of the biggest questions that should be discussed with the Masonry Contractor in Islip NY is the best location in the yard for the patio. In some yard configurations, this answer is not so obvious. While such decisions maybe easier with rectangular or square yards, some yards are oddly configured and space is a big deal when installing a patio. So, getting the right layout is key to having a functioning patio.

Another thing that should be discussed is the overall size of the patio. Like with the location, the space in your yard is going to be the determining factor in how big it should be. How much of your yard you want to give up for your patio is also going to play into this decision. Things like pets and children and the amount of yard space leftover for them will also be a factor in the size of the patio.

Once you have discussed the location and overall size, the next big decision to talk to the Masonry Contractor in Islip NY about is the type of stone you want for your patio. This can require a shopping trip. There are many options available in the coloring and sizes of the stones. You should talk about which stones will reflect what you want for your patio and what colors will blend in with your yard decor. It is only after this decision that the work can begin.

A patio is a great feature that provides value and usable outdoor space for social gatherings. But there are a lot of details to work out before it is laid down. For more information on getting a patio installed in your backyard, contact Libardi Island Landscaping. They can help you through the process of creating that patio space you always wanted.

 

Australia sends more troops to Afghanistan

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Australian government has confirmed it will send an extra 200 troops to Afghanistan as part of a security and reconstruction team. Prime Minister John Howard says troops will leave from late July and will spend about two years in Afghanistan separate from the Special Forces and commandos already serving there. In a press conference in Canberra today, Mr Howard said the deployment was “further evidence of the government’s ongoing commitment to assist the people of Afghanistan in consolidating their embrace of democracy and resisting any attempt on the part of the Taliban to come back.”

The Australian Greens oppose the deployment of new troops. In a press release, Senator Bob Brown voiced his opinion on the matter, and said the following about Australia’s deployment: “The announcement that Australia will be sending 200 more troops to Afghanistan comes hard on the heels of the Bush administration announcing the withdrawal of 3000 troops from the same theatre,” he said. “Without the US withdrawal there would be no Australian deployment. This is John Howard once again using the ADF to meet the Bush administration’s political shortcomings. Our troops should be kept at home.”

“The ADF contribution will be a mixed security and reconstruction taskforce of approximately 200 personnel and will be deployed over a period of two years,” Howard told reporters. The Australian Defence Force (ADF) troops will be deployed from late July and work alongside Dutch soldiers as part of a NATO force. The extra 200 troops will bring the number of ADF personnel to more than 500.

Australia sent 1,550 troops to Afghanistan in 2001, including special forces, to join the U.S.-led strikes against the Taliban regime. Australia’s only fatality in Afghanistan came in February 2002 when a soldier was killed after his vehicle hit a land mine. Violence has intensified in Afghanistan in recent months, particularly in the south and east, with a wave of raids, roadside and suicide bombings killing dozens of people.

 

Gastric bypass surgery performed by remote control

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A robotic system at Stanford Medical Center was used to perform a laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery successfully with a theoretically similar rate of complications to that seen in standard operations. However, as there were only 10 people in the experimental group (and another 10 in the control group), this is not a statistically significant sample.

If this surgical procedure is as successful in large-scale studies, it may lead the way for the use of robotic surgery in even more delicate procedures, such as heart surgery. Note that this is not a fully automated system, as a human doctor controls the operation via remote control. Laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery is a treatment for obesity.

There were concerns that doctors, in the future, might only be trained in the remote control procedure. Ronald G. Latimer, M.D., of Santa Barbara, CA, warned “The fact that surgeons may have to open the patient or might actually need to revert to standard laparoscopic techniques demands that this basic training be a requirement before a robot is purchased. Robots do malfunction, so a backup system is imperative. We should not be seduced to buy this instrument to train surgeons if they are not able to do the primary operations themselves.”

There are precedents for just such a problem occurring. A previous “new technology”, the electrocardiogram (ECG), has lead to a lack of basic education on the older technology, the stethoscope. As a result, many heart conditions now go undiagnosed, especially in children and others who rarely undergo an ECG procedure.

 

Disney animator Ollie Johnston dies at 95

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

American animator Ollie Johnston, the last of Disney’s so-called “Nine Old Men”, has died at the age of 95.

Johnston died of natural causes on Monday in Sequim, Washington, according to Walt Disney Studios Vice President Howard E. Green.

Johnston worked on many of the Disney’s classic films, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Pinnochio (1940), Fantasia (1940), Bambi (1942), and many others.

Ollie was part of an amazing generation of artists.

Johnston worked extensively with his best friend Frank Thomas, a fellow “old man” who died in 2004. The pair met at Stanford University in the 1930s and worked together until Thomas’ death. They retired from animation in 1978, but remained popular speakers and authors about Disney and animation.

“Ollie was part of an amazing generation of artists, one of the real pioneers of our art, one of the major participants in the blossoming of animation into the art form we know today,” said Roy E. Disney.

Johnston devoted much of his retirement to writing and lecturing, but perhaps even more to model trains, a field in which he became considered one of the world’s foremost experts.

Ollie Johnston’s last film was The Fox and the Hound (1981) on which he worked as a supervisor.

 

Canadian government employee faces criminal charges in leak of environment plan

Thursday, May 10, 2007

A Canadian government employee of Environment Canada was arrested Wednesday for criminal breach of trust with respect to a leak of the Conservative government’s green plan days before it was due to be made public.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) arrested the unidentified male employee following a complaint from Environment Canada’s security department. The department alleges that a secret draft copy of the government’s regulatory framework, Climate Change Section of the Eco-Action Plan, had been leaked to the media prior to being released officially to the public.

“An employee who violates the terms of their workplace security clearance, including the release of secret documents, may be subjected to legal consequences, including criminal charges,” said Superintendent Stan Burke, officer in charge of the RCMP’s financial integrity division. There was also concern that if the details were leaked, securities laws could be compromised if stock trades were made based on privileged information.

Environment Minister John Baird was forced to reveal details of the government’s climate change plan on April 24, in an opinion piece published in the media. The move came after a copy of a speech describing the plan was faxed by mistake, a day earlier, to an opposition Liberal party member and environment critic, David McGuinty. It is not clear whether the police action Wednesday was related to that incident.

The RCMP stated that the matter remains under investigation and, as such, no further details would be released at this time.

 

John Reed on Orwell, God, self-destruction and the future of writing

Thursday, October 18, 2007

It can be difficult to be John Reed.

Christopher Hitchens called him a “Bin Ladenist” and Cathy Young editorialized in The Boston Globe that he “blames the victims of terrorism” when he puts out a novel like Snowball’s Chance, a biting send-up of George Orwell‘s Animal Farm which he was inspired to write after the terrorist attacks on September 11. “The clear references to 9/11 in the apocalyptic ending can only bring Orwell’s name into disrepute in the U.S.,” wrote William Hamilton, the British literary executor of the Orwell estate. That process had already begun: it was revealed Orwell gave the British Foreign Office a list of people he suspected of being “crypto-Communists and fellow travelers,” labeling some of them as Jews and homosexuals. “I really wanted to explode that book,” Reed told The New York Times. “I wanted to completely undermine it.”

Is this man who wants to blow up the classic literary canon taught to children in schools a menace, or a messiah? David Shankbone went to interview him for Wikinews and found that, as often is the case, the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

Reed is electrified by the changes that surround him that channel through a lens of inspiration wrought by his children. “The kids have made me a better writer,” Reed said. In his new untitled work, which he calls a “new play by William Shakespeare,” he takes lines from The Bard‘s classics to form an original tragedy. He began it in 2003, but only with the birth of his children could he finish it. “I didn’t understand the characters who had children. I didn’t really understand them. And once I had had kids, I could approach them differently.”

Taking the old to make it new is a theme in his work and in his world view. Reed foresees new narrative forms being born, Biblical epics that will be played out across print and electronic mediums. He is pulled forward by revolutions of the past, a search for a spiritual sensibility, and a desire to locate himself in the process.

Below is David Shankbone’s conversation with novelist John Reed.

Contents

  • 1 On the alternative media and independent publishing
  • 2 On Christopher Hitchens, Orwell and 9/11 as inspiration
  • 3 On the future of the narrative
  • 4 On changing the literary canon
  • 5 On belief in a higher power
  • 6 On politics
  • 7 On self-destruction and survival
  • 8 On raising children
  • 9 On paedophilia and the death penalty
  • 10 On personal relationships
  • 11 Sources
  • 12 External links