Category Archives: Science & technology

‘Clock Boy’ lawsuit thrown out in federal court

Ahmed Mohamed clock boy

Good.

From Fox News: A federal court has thrown out the civil rights lawsuit filed by the family of the Texas teenager known as “Clock Boy.”

The lawsuit alleged that the city of Irving and Irving school district discriminated against Ahmed Mohamed at Irving MacArthur High School in September of 2015.

Mohamed, a Muslim teenager who was 14 years old at the time, brought a homemade clock to school to show his engineering teacher. But an alarm on the clock went off in his English class and the teacher confiscated it. He was sent to the principal’s office.

“A.M. never stated the device was anything other than a clock, never threatened anyone with harm, never claimed to have made a bomb, and never attempted to scare or cause alarm to anyone. When he asked for his parents, he was told that he could not speak with them because he was in the middle of an interrogation,” his attorney argued according to the court’s ruling.

The lawsuit claimed Mohamed’s civil rights were violated when he was interrogated at length without his parents and arrested on hoax bomb charges.

When his father finally arrived at the school several hours later, the court documents state he “tried to explain to Officer Howman that A.M. was interested in robotics and created things, but she was unwilling to listen to his explanations.”

Police originally said Mohamed was not very forthcoming and the school as concerned that the device was possibly the infrastructure for a bomb. Officers acted in an abundance of caution.

“It was a very suspicious device. We live in an age where you can’t take things like that to school. Of course we’ve seen across our country horrific things happen. We have to err on the side of caution,” Irving Police Chief Larry Boyd told FOX 4 in 2015.

The charges against Mohamed were later dropped but the school still suspended him for three days.

Read more at Fox 4 News.

DCG

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Night views of North Korea

Below are night-time views of North and South Korea, showing the south ablaze with lights, while the north is in darkness.

Here’s a shot taken by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station in January 2014:

See the big splash of light in South Korea?

That’s Seoul, the Republic of Korea’s capital.

Above Seoul is South Korea’s curvy borderline, and above that is the darkness that is North Korea, with one bright dot — the capital Pyongyang.

Above North Korea is northeast China, also lit up by lights.

2014 was no different than a nighttime satellite picture of the Korean peninsula taken in 2012:

In 1953, when the armistice ending the Korean War was signed, North and South Korea had similar levels of economic development.

While South Korea has since nurtured high-tech industries and economic growth, North Korea has faced “chronic economic problems” under the repressive Kim dynasty. A widespread famine in the 1990s, exacerbated by the Kim policy of “self reliance” and the closed economy that prevented food imports, killed between half a million and up to 3 million people, according to different estimates.

In 2017, with a gross domestic product estimated at $1.4 trillion by the International Monetary Fund, South Korea is among the dozen most prosperous countries in the world. In contrast, North Korea’s GDP is estimated at around $25 billion. The per-capita GDP of North Korea was $1,013 in 2015, lagging behind even undeveloped countries like Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Source: Live Science

~Eowyn

Long-winded speech may be an early sign of Alzheimer’s

Approximately 7.7 million new cases of dementia are identified every year—which amounts to one new case every four seconds. Last year, dementia overtook heart disease as the leading cause of death in England and Wales. There are 850,000 people with dementia in Britain and this figure is expected to reach 1 million by 2025.

The dreaded Alzheimer’s disease is a severe form of dementia which affects as many as 1 in 8 people 65 and older, or an estimated 5.2 million Americans in 2013.

Alzheimer’s causes nerve cell death and tissue loss throughout the brain. As the disease gets worse, brain tissue shrinks and areas that contain cerebrospinal fluid become larger. The damage harms memory, speech, and comprehension.

On left is a diagram of the brain of a person with Alzheimer’s Disease

Hannah Devlin reports for The Guardian, Feb. 21, 2017, on the disappointing news that drugs designed to treat Alzheimer’s have shown to be ineffective. Between 2002 and 2012, 99.6% of drugs studies aimed at preventing, curing or improving Alzheimer’s symptoms were either halted or discontinued.

Some believe that these failures may be, in part, because by the time Alzheimer’s is diagnosed, the disease has already caused irreparable damage to the brain, making it too late for treatment to help. That is why scientists now try to push the detection period back to the very subtle, early changes in Alzheimer’s disease.

Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) on February 19, 2017 in Boston, Dr. Janet Cohen Sherman, clinical director of the Psychology Assessment Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, said: “With the growth in the aging population and the concomitant rise in the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease, the need to define changes in cognitive functioning at the earliest stages, prior to disease onset, when treatments are likely to be most effective, has become increasingly important.”

Dementia is accompanied by not just memory loss, but characteristic language deficits. New research suggests that an early sign of Alzheimer’s may be rambling and long-winded anecdotes — subtle changes in speech style from Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), a known precursor of Alzheimer’s in which there is evidence of cognitive decline years before dementia takes hold. The scientists behind the work say it may be possible to detect these speech changes and predict if someone is at risk more than a decade before meeting the clinical threshold for an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

At the AAAS meeting, Dr. Sherman presented new findings on distinctive language deficits in people with MCI, a precursor to dementia:

  • Studies of novelist Iris Murdoch’s later works found that her vocabulary showed signs of Alzheimer’s years before her diagnosis.
  • The final novels of famous crime writer Agatha Christie display increasingly repetitive and vague phrasing that suggests she was suffering from Alzheimer’s.
  • A study of White House press conference transcripts found striking changes in President Ronald Reagan’s speech over the course of his presidency, whereas George H.W. Bush, who was a similar age when president, showed no such decline. Dr. Sherman said, “Ronald Reagan started to have a decline in the number of unique words with repetitions of statements over time. He started using more fillers, more empty phrases, like ‘thing’ or ‘something’ or things like ‘basically’ or ‘actually’ or ‘well’.”
  • Sherman points out that the key is not long-winded, because many people without dementia are long-winded or verbose. The subtle change in speech style that indicates mild cognitive impairment is worsening mental imprecision.

So what’s an example of the kind of long-winded speech that is indicative of early Alzheimer’s?

In a study, the scientists compared the language abilities of 22 healthy young individuals, 24 healthy older individuals, and 22 people with MCI — the precursor to Alzheimer’s.

In one test, the subjects had to join up three words, for instance “pen”, “ink” and “paper”, the healthy volunteers typically joined the three in a simple sentence, while the MCI group gave circuitous accounts of going to the shop and buying a pen. Dr. Sherman explains that they MCI group “were much less concise in conveying information, the sentences they produced were much longer, they had a hard time staying on point and I guess you could say they were much more roundabout in getting their point across. It was a very significant difference.”

In another test, people were asked to repeat phrases read out by the investigator. Complex vocabulary or grammar was not a problem, but those with MCI appeared to have a mental block when they were given phrases involving ambiguous pronouns, such as “Fred visited Bob after his graduation”, which the scientists said required more mental agility to assign a meaning.

As Dr. Sherman summarizes the research findings:

“Our findings suggest that individuals with MCI may have more difficulty integrating syntax and semantics, impacting their ability to precisely and effectively convey meaning. Our findings suggest that the language changes cannot be accounted for by a decline in memory.”

Dr. Sherman hopes that in the next five years, researchers will develop a linguistic test for pre-Alzheimer’s mild cognitive impairment, as well as a determination whether engaging in language-based activities, including reading, writing and social activities, may serve as protective factors for dementia.

See also:

~Eowyn

Al Gore Calls Media Coverage of Climate Change a “Nature Hike Through the Book of Revelation”

gore

ManBearPig: Concerned about false information…

ManBearPig is blowing more hot air to promote his sequel to An Inconvenient Truth.

From Hollywood Reporter: “Every night on the news is like a nature hike through the Book of Revelation,” Al Gore said Saturday night when asked his opinion of how the news media reports on climate change. “And I’ll wait for the newscasters to connect the dots,” he continued, adding that they rarely do.

Gore spoke about the state of the news media and its effect on the conversation surrounding global climate change at a Q&A before an advance screening of his his latest documentary, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, held at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles.

At the Fandango-sponsored event, actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt moderated the conversation with the former vice president of the United States, asking about “fake news” and its place in the denialist narrative about climate change.

“We have a challenge in the U.S., where climate in the news in concerned,” said Gore. “First: The line between news and entertainment has become a very porous line.” He added: “Second reason is that there is a pretty powerful and wealthy special interest of carbon polluters that have spent billions of dollars over the past three decades putting out false information.”

Gordon-Levitt asked Gore where he gets his own news. “I like to triangulate,” said Gore, adding his go-tos are The New York Times, The Guardian and The Wall Street Journal, adding, “I’ll read some red-state sites, as well.”

An Inconvenient Sequel, from directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, is the follow-up to Davis Guggenheim’s Oscar-winning 2006 doc An Inconvenient Truth. The Participant-produced sequel, which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, will be released July 28 by Paramount.

Before the screening began, Gore prompted the audience to go to town-hall meetings, talk to their local representatives and do their own research on the global climate crisis. He concluded: “It has to come from the people because the news media is not giving it to us fairly and squarely now.”

DCG

Do you find this cool or creepy?

Below is a Google Earth video:

I don’t know about you, but I find it really creepy that Google Earth can actually take pics of individuals, like the woman “Louise” lying on a lawn at the beginning of the video.

Imagine a government using Google Earth for surveillance of citizens.

~Eowyn

Travyon Martin will receive posthumous degree in Florida

Trayvon MartinMore proof that college degrees aren’t worth anything these days.
From Seattle Times: MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — A university will award Trayvon Martin a posthumous Bachelor of Science Degree in aviation five years after the black teenager was fatally shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer in central Florida.

An announcement on Florida Memorial University’s official Facebook page says Martin’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, will accept the degree during a May 13 commencement ceremony. Fulton graduated from the Miami Gardens university and, along with Tracy Martin, co-founded the Trayvon Martin Foundation.

The university’s statement says it will honor the steps Martin, who was 17 when he died in 2012, took toward becoming a pilot.

George Zimmerman said he shot Martin in self-defense as the teen returned to his father’s home after a trip to a convenience store. A jury acquitted Zimmerman of second-degree murder in 2013.

DCG

Charges dropped for immigrant teens accused of school sex assault in Maryland

henry sanchez illegalI told you about this case on March 20th – a 14-year-old girl claimed she was raped in the bathroom by two immigrants – one here illegally. They are not being charged with rape.

This latest development is infuriating and disappointing.

From NY Post: Prosecutors have dropped rape charges against two immigrant teens — one in the country illegally — because their alleged victim’s story fell apart.

Ninth-graders Jose Montano, 17, and Henry Sanchez Milian, 18, were accused of pushing a female classmate into a Rockville, Maryland, high school bathroom and violently raping her in March, fueling fiery national debate over immigration policies because both suspects were from Central America and Sanchez Milian was here illegally.

But officials dropped the charges Thursday, because school surveillance images and texts sent from the supposed victim to her alleged attackers raised doubts about the girl’s story, the Washington Post reports.

“At no point did the girl express any reluctance with any sex acts,” said Sanchez Milian’s attorney Andew Jezic. “From the night before, she actively planned a sexual encounter.”

Prosecutors are still charging Sanchez Milian with possession of child pornography over racy images of the female victim on his phone.

But his attorney says the victim willingly shared the pictures with Montano, who then passed the lewd photos to Sanchez Milian, and the smut charges are a last-ditch effort to target the immigrant teens, Jezic said.

“This is selective prosecution of elective promiscuity,” he said. “It is hardly uncommon behavior for teenagers.”

DCG