Study finds marijuana use leads to brain development in rats

Saturday, October 15, 2005

In the November issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation,researchers announce that they have found that cannabinoids promoted a generation of new neurons in rats’ hippocampi. The study held true for both a plant-derived and a synthetic cannabinoid. The hippocampus is a part of the brain that contributes to learning and memory. In particular, it has been shown that the hippocampus is essential for the formation of new episodic memories.

“This is quite a surprise, chronic use of marijuana may actually improve learning memory when the new neurons in the hippocampus can mature in two or three months,” said Xia Zhang, with the Neuropsychiatry Research Unit of the University of Saskatchewan.

“Our results were obtained from rats, and there’s a big difference between rats and humans,” added Zhang, “So, I really don’t know yet if our findings apply to humans. But our results indicate that the clinical use of marijuana could make people feel better by helping control anxiety and depression.”

Zhang and his co-workers performed behavioral tests on two purified cannabinoids. The test results indicated that these two cannabinoids have anti-anxiety and antidepression-like effects in rats that may depend on the ability of cannabinoids to promote the production of new neurons in the hippocampus. Marijuana contains a complex mixture of chemicals including cannabinoids and may have somewhat different behavioral effects than the purified cannabinoids tested so far.

Previous studies examining the effects of cannabis have highlighted negative aspects of the drug’s use, such as short term memory difficulties, increased heart rate, nausea, and (in a very small percentage of people) hallucinations. Long term studies about cannabis use tend to be controversial as the data is seen to be biased or flawed. The most agreed upon effect of long term cannabis use is lung damage. However, proponents argue that the correlation between cannabis consumption and lung cancer is misleading suggesting that cannabis use may correlate with tobacco use or that the data is not being properly analyzed.

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British computer scientist’s new “nullity” idea provokes reaction from mathematicians

Monday, December 11, 2006

On December 7, BBC News reported a story about Dr James Anderson, a teacher in the Computer Science department at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom. In the report it was stated that Anderson had “solved a very important problem” that was 1200 years old, the problem of division by zero. According to the BBC, Anderson had created a new number, that he had named “nullity”, that lay outside of the real number line. Anderson terms this number a “transreal number”, and denotes it with the Greek letter ? {\displaystyle \Phi } . He had taught this number to pupils at Highdown School, in Emmer Green, Reading.

The BBC report provoked many reactions from mathematicians and others.

In reaction to the story, Mark C. Chu-Carroll, a computer scientist and researcher, posted a web log entry describing Anderson as an “idiot math teacher”, and describing the BBC’s story as “absolutely infuriating” and a story that “does an excellent job of demonstrating what total innumerate idiots reporters are”. Chu-Carroll stated that there was, in fact, no actual problem to be solved in the first place. “There is no number that meaningfully expresses the concept of what it means to divide by zero.”, he wrote, stating that all that Anderson had done was “assign a name to the concept of ‘not a number'”, something which was “not new” in that the IEEE floating-point standard, which describes how computers represent floating-point numbers, had included a concept of “not a number”, termed “NaN“, since 1985. Chu-Carroll further continued:

“Basically, he’s defined a non-solution to a non-problem. And by teaching it to his students, he’s doing them a great disservice. They’re going to leave his class believing that he’s a great genius who’s solved a supposed fundamental problem of math, and believing in this silly nullity thing as a valid mathematical concept.
“It’s not like there isn’t already enough stuff in basic math for kids to learn; there’s no excuse for taking advantage of a passive audience to shove this nonsense down their throats as an exercise in self-aggrandizement.
“To make matters worse, this idiot is a computer science professor! No one who’s studied CS should be able to get away with believing that re-inventing the concept of NaN is something noteworthy or profound; and no one who’s studied CS should think that defining meaningless values can somehow magically make invalid computations produce meaningful results. I’m ashamed for my field.”

There have been a wide range of other reactions from other people to the BBC news story. Comments range from the humorous and the ironic, such as the B1FF-style observation that “DIVIDION[sic] BY ZERO IS IMPOSSIBLE BECAUSE MY CALCULATOR SAYS SO AND IT IS THE TRUTH” and the Chuck Norris Fact that “Only Chuck Norris can divide by zero.” (to which another reader replied “Chuck Norris just looks at zero, and it divides itself.”); through vigourous defences of Dr Anderson, with several people quoting the lyrics to Ira Gershwin‘s song “They All Laughed (At Christopher Columbus)”; to detailed mathematical discussions of Anderson’s proposed axioms of transfinite numbers.

Several readers have commented that they consider this to have damaged the reputation of the Computer Science department, and even the reputation of the University of Reading as a whole. “By publishing his childish nonsense the BBC actively harms the reputation of Reading University.” wrote one reader. “Looking forward to seeing Reading University maths application plummit.” wrote another. “Ignore all research papers from the University of Reading.” wrote a third. “I’m not sure why you refer to Reading as a ‘university’. This is a place the BBC reports as closing down its physics department because it’s too hard. Lecturers at Reading should stick to folk dancing and knitting, leaving academic subjects to grown ups.” wrote a fourth. Steve Kramarsky lamented that Dr Anderson is not from the “University of ‘Rithmetic“.

Several readers criticised the journalists at the BBC who ran the story for not apparently contacting any mathematicians about Dr Anderson’s idea. “Journalists are meant to check facts, not just accept whatever they are told by a self-interested third party and publish it without question.” wrote one reader on the BBC’s web site. However, on Slashdot another reader countered “The report is from Berkshire local news. Berkshire! Do you really expect a local news team to have a maths specialist? Finding a newsworthy story in Berkshire probably isn’t that easy, so local journalists have to cover any piece of fluff that comes up. Your attitude to the journalist should be sympathy, not scorn.”

Ben Goldacre, author of the Bad Science column in The Guardian, wrote on his web log that “what is odd is a reporter, editor, producer, newsroom, team, cameraman, soundman, TV channel, web editor, web copy writer, and so on, all thinking it’s a good idea to cover a brilliant new scientific breakthrough whilst clearly knowing nothing about the context. Maths isn’t that hard, you could even make a call to a mathematician about it.”, continuing that “it’s all very well for the BBC to think they’re being balanced and clever getting Dr Anderson back in to answer queries about his theory on Tuesday, but that rather skips the issue, and shines the spotlight quite unfairly on him (he looks like a very alright bloke to me).”.

From reading comments on his own web log as well as elsewhere, Goldacre concluded that he thought that “a lot of people might feel it’s reporter Ben Moore, and the rest of his doubtless extensive team, the people who drove the story, who we’d want to see answering the questions from the mathematicians.”.

Andrej Bauer, a professional mathematician from Slovenia writing on the Bad Science web log, stated that “whoever reported on this failed to call a university professor to check whether it was really new. Any university professor would have told this reporter that there are many ways of dealing with division by zero, and that Mr. Anderson’s was just one of known ones.”

Ollie Williams, one of the BBC Radio Berkshire reporters who wrote the BBC story, initially stated that “It seems odd to me that his theory would get as far as television if it’s so easily blown out of the water by visitors to our site, so there must be something more to it.” and directly responded to criticisms of BBC journalism on several points on his web log.

He pointed out that people should remember that his target audience was local people in Berkshire with no mathematical knowledge, and that he was “not writing for a global audience of mathematicians”. “Some people have had a go at Dr Anderson for using simplified terminology too,” he continued, “but he knows we’re playing to a mainstream audience, and at the time we filmed him, he was showing his theory to a class of schoolchildren. Those circumstances were never going to breed an in-depth half-hour scientific discussion, and none of our regular readers would want that.”.

On the matter of fact checking, he replied that “if you only want us to report scientific news once it’s appeared, peer-reviewed, in a recognised journal, it’s going to be very dry, and it probably won’t be news.”, adding that “It’s not for the BBC to become a journal of mathematics — that’s the job of journals of mathematics. It’s for the BBC to provide lively science reporting that engages and involves people. And if you look at the original page, you’ll find a list as long as your arm of engaged and involved people.”.

Williams pointed out that “We did not present Dr Anderson’s theory as gospel, although with hindsight it could have been made clearer that this is very much a theory and by no means universally accepted. But we certainly weren’t shouting a mathematical revolution from the rooftops. Dr Anderson has, in one or two places, been chastised for coming to the media with his theory instead of his peers — a sure sign of a quack, boffin and/or crank according to one blogger. Actually, one of our reporters happened to meet him during a demonstration against the closure of the university’s physics department a couple of weeks ago, got chatting, and discovered Dr Anderson reckoned he was onto something. He certainly didn’t break the door down looking for media coverage.”.

Some commentators, at the BBC web page and at Slashdot, have attempted serious mathematical descriptions of what Anderson has done, and subjected it to analysis. One description was that Anderson has taken the field of real numbers and given it complete closure so that all six of the common arithmetic operators were surjective functions, resulting in “an object which is barely a commutative ring (with operators with tons of funky corner cases)” and no actual gain “in terms of new theorems or strong relation statements from the extra axioms he has to tack on”.

Jamie Sawyer, a mathematics undergraduate at the University of Warwick writing in the Warwick Maths Society discussion forum, describes what Anderson has done as deciding that R ? { ? ? , + ? } {\displaystyle \mathbb {R} \cup \lbrace -\infty ,+\infty \rbrace } , the so-called extended real number line, is “not good enough […] because of the wonderful issue of what 0 0 {\displaystyle {\frac {0}{0}}} is equal to” and therefore creating a number system R ? { ? ? , ? , + ? } {\displaystyle \mathbb {R} \cup \lbrace -\infty ,\Phi ,+\infty \rbrace } .

Andrej Bauer stated that Anderson’s axioms of transreal arithmetic “are far from being original. First, you can adjoin + ? {\displaystyle +\infty } and ? ? {\displaystyle -\infty } to obtain something called the extended real line. Then you can adjoin a bottom element to represent an undefined value. This is all standard and quite old. In fact, it is well known in domain theory, which deals with how to represent things we compute with, that adjoining just bottom to the reals is not a good idea. It is better to adjoin many so-called partial elements, which denote approximations to reals. Bottom is then just the trivial approximation which means something like ‘any real’ or ‘undefined real’.”

Commentators have pointed out that in the field of mathematical analysis, 0 0 {\displaystyle {\frac {0}{0}}} (which Anderson has defined axiomatically to be ? {\displaystyle \Phi } ) is the limit of several functions, each of which tends to a different value at its limit:

  • lim x ? 0 x 0 {\displaystyle \lim _{x\to 0}{\frac {x}{0}}} has two different limits, depending from whether x {\displaystyle x} approaches zero from a positive or from a negative direction.
  • lim x ? 0 0 x {\displaystyle \lim _{x\to 0}{\frac {0}{x}}} also has two different limits. (This is the argument that commentators gave. In fact, 0 x {\displaystyle {\frac {0}{x}}} has the value 0 {\displaystyle 0} for all x ? 0 {\displaystyle x\neq 0} , and thus only one limit. It is simply discontinuous for x = 0 {\displaystyle x=0} . However, that limit is different to the two limits for lim x ? 0 x 0 {\displaystyle \lim _{x\to 0}{\frac {x}{0}}} , supporting the commentators’ main point that the values of the various limits are all different.)
  • Whilst sin ? 0 = 0 {\displaystyle \sin 0=0} , the limit lim x ? 0 sin ? x x {\displaystyle \lim _{x\to 0}{\frac {\sin x}{x}}} can be shown to be 1, by expanding the sine function as an infinite Taylor series, dividing the series by x {\displaystyle x} , and then taking the limit of the result, which is 1.
  • Whilst 1 ? cos ? 0 = 0 {\displaystyle 1-\cos 0=0} , the limit lim x ? 0 1 ? cos ? x x {\displaystyle \lim _{x\to 0}{\frac {1-\cos x}{x}}} can be shown to be 0, by expanding the cosine function as an infinite Taylor series, dividing the series subtracted from 1 by x {\displaystyle x} , and then taking the limit of the result, which is 0.

Commentators have also noted l’Hôpital’s rule.

It has been pointed out that Anderson’s set of transreal numbers is not, unlike the set of real numbers, a mathematical field. Simon Tatham, author of PuTTY, stated that Anderson’s system “doesn’t even think about the field axioms: addition is no longer invertible, multiplication isn’t invertible on nullity or infinity (or zero, but that’s expected!). So if you’re working in the transreals or transrationals, you can’t do simple algebraic transformations such as cancelling x {\displaystyle x} and ? x {\displaystyle -x} when both occur in the same expression, because that transformation becomes invalid if x {\displaystyle x} is nullity or infinity. So even the simplest exercises of ordinary algebra spew off a constant stream of ‘unless x is nullity’ special cases which you have to deal with separately — in much the same way that the occasional division spews off an ‘unless x is zero’ special case, only much more often.”

Tatham stated that “It’s telling that this monstrosity has been dreamed up by a computer scientist: persistent error indicators and universal absorbing states can often be good computer science, but he’s stepped way outside his field of competence if he thinks that that also makes them good maths.”, continuing that Anderson has “also totally missed the point when he tries to compute things like 0 0 {\displaystyle 0^{0}} using his arithmetic. The reason why things like that are generally considered to be ill-defined is not because of a lack of facile ‘proofs’ showing them to have one value or another; it’s because of a surfeit of such ‘proofs’ all of which disagree! Adding another one does not (as he appears to believe) solve any problem at all.” (In other words: 0 0 {\displaystyle 0^{0}} is what is known in mathematical analysis as an indeterminate form.)

To many observers, it appears that Anderson has done nothing more than re-invent the idea of “NaN“, a special value that computers have been using in floating-point calculations to represent undefined results for over two decades. In the various international standards for computing, including the IEEE floating-point standard and IBM’s standard for decimal arithmetic, a division of any non-zero number by zero results in one of two special infinity values, “+Inf” or “-Inf”, the sign of the infinity determined by the signs of the two operands (Negative zero exists in floating-point representations.); and a division of zero by zero results in NaN.

Anderson himself denies that he has re-invented NaN, and in fact claims that there are problems with NaN that are not shared by nullity. According to Anderson, “mathematical arithmetic is sociologically invalid” and IEEE floating-point arithmetic, with NaN, is also faulty. In one of his papers on a “perspex machine” dealing with “The Axioms of Transreal Arithmetic” (Jamie Sawyer writes that he has “worries about something which appears to be named after a plastic” — “Perspex” being a trade name for polymethyl methacrylate in the U.K..) Anderson writes:

We cannot accept an arithmetic in which a number is not equal to itself (NaN != NaN), or in which there are three kinds of numbers: plain numbers, silent numbers, and signalling numbers; because, on writing such a number down, in daily discourse, we can not always distinguish which kind of number it is and, even if we adopt some notational convention to make the distinction clear, we cannot know how the signalling numbers are to be used in the absence of having the whole program and computer that computed them available. So whilst IEEE floating-point arithmetic is an improvement on real arithmetic, in so far as it is total, not partial, both arithmetics are invalid models of arithmetic.

In fact, the standard convention for distinguishing the two types of NaNs when writing them down can be seen in ISO/IEC 10967, another international standard for how computers deal with numbers, which uses “qNaN” for non-signalling (“quiet”) NaNs and “sNaN” for signalling NaNs. Anderson continues:

[NaN’s] semantics are not defined, except by a long list of special cases in the IEEE standard.

“In other words,” writes Scott Lamb, a BSc. in Computer Science from the University of Idaho, “they are defined, but he doesn’t like the definition.”.

The main difference between nullity and NaN, according to both Anderson and commentators, is that nullity compares equal to nullity, whereas NaN does not compare equal to NaN. Commentators have pointed out that in very short order this difference leads to contradictory results. They stated that it requires only a few lines of proof, for example, to demonstrate that in Anderson’s system of “transreal arithmetic” both 1 = 2 {\displaystyle 1=2} and 1 ? 2 {\displaystyle 1\neq 2} , after which, in one commentator’s words, one can “prove anything that you like”. In aiming to provide a complete system of arithmetic, by adding extra axioms defining the results of the division of zero by zero and of the consequent operations on that result, half as many again as the number of axioms of real-number arithmetic, Anderson has produced a self-contradictory system of arithmetic, in accordance with Gödel’s incompleteness theorems.

One reader-submitted comment appended to the BBC news article read “Step 1. Create solution 2. Create problem 3. PROFIT!”, an allusion to the business plan employed by the underpants gnomes of the comedy television series South Park. In fact, Anderson does plan to profit from nullity, having registered on the 27th of July, 2006 a private limited company named Transreal Computing Ltd, whose mission statement is “to develop hardware and software to bring you fast and safe computation that does not fail on division by zero” and to “promote education and training in transreal computing”. The company is currently “in the research and development phase prior to trading in hardware and software”.

In a presentation given to potential investors in his company at the ANGLE plc showcase on the 28th of November, 2006, held at the University of Reading, Anderson stated his aims for the company as being:

To investors, Anderson makes the following promises:

  • “I will help you develop a curriculum for transreal arithmetic if you want me to.”
  • “I will help you unify QED and gravitation if you want me to.”
  • “I will build a transreal supercomputer.”

He asks potential investors:

  • “How much would you pay to know that the engine in your ship, car, aeroplane, or heart pacemaker won’t just stop dead?”
  • “How much would you pay to know that your Government’s computer controlled military hardware won’t just stop or misfire?”

The current models of computer arithmetic are, in fact, already designed to allow programmers to write programs that will continue in the event of a division by zero. The IEEE’s Frequently Asked Questions document for the floating-point standard gives this reply to the question “Why doesn’t division by zero (or overflow, or underflow) stop the program or trigger an error?”:

“The [IEEE] 754 model encourages robust programs. It is intended not only for numerical analysts but also for spreadsheet users, database systems, or even coffee pots. The propagation rules for NaNs and infinities allow inconsequential exceptions to vanish. Similarly, gradual underflow maintains error properties over a precision’s range.
“When exceptional situations need attention, they can be examined immediately via traps or at a convenient time via status flags. Traps can be used to stop a program, but unrecoverable situations are extremely rare. Simply stopping a program is not an option for embedded systems or network agents. More often, traps log diagnostic information or substitute valid results.”

Simon Tatham stated that there is a basic problem with Anderson’s ideas, and thus with the idea of building a transreal supercomputer: “It’s a category error. The Anderson transrationals and transreals are theoretical algebraic structures, capable of representing arbitrarily big and arbitrarily precise numbers. So the question of their error-propagation semantics is totally meaningless: you don’t use them for down-and-dirty error-prone real computation, you use them for proving theorems. If you want to use this sort of thing in a computer, you have to think up some concrete representation of Anderson transfoos in bits and bytes, which will (if only by the limits of available memory) be unable to encompass the entire range of the structure. And the point at which you make this transition from theoretical abstract algebra to concrete bits and bytes is precisely where you should also be putting in error handling, because it’s where errors start to become possible. We define our theoretical algebraic structures to obey lots of axioms (like the field axioms, and total ordering) which make it possible to reason about them efficiently in the proving of theorems. We define our practical number representations in a computer to make it easy to detect errors. The Anderson transfoos are a consequence of fundamentally confusing the one with the other, and that by itself ought to be sufficient reason to hurl them aside with great force.”

Geomerics, a start-up company specializing in simulation software for physics and lighting and funded by ANGLE plc, had been asked to look into Anderson’s work by an unnamed client. Rich Wareham, a Senior Research and Development Engineer at Geomerics and a MEng. from the University of Cambridge, stated that Anderson’s system “might be a more interesting set of axioms for dealing with arithmetic exceptions but it isn’t the first attempt at just defining away the problem. Indeed it doesn’t fundamentally change anything. The reason computer programs crash when they divide by zero is not that the hardware can produce no result, merely that the programmer has not dealt with NaNs as they propagate through. Not dealing with nullities will similarly lead to program crashes.”

“Do the Anderson transrational semantics give any advantage over the IEEE ones?”, Wareham asked, answering “Well one assumes they have been thought out to be useful in themselves rather than to just propagate errors but I’m not sure that seeing a nullity pop out of your code would lead you to do anything other than what would happen if a NaN or Inf popped out, namely signal an error.”.

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Restrictions imposed in China textile trade with U.S.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

In an effort to ease complaints by the U.S. and Europe about a heavy influx of low priced Chinese goods, China will raise export tariffs on 74 categories of textile products in June. This follows plans from the U.S. to impose quotas on Chinese textiles and clothing.

Products likely to see an increase from the Chinese move include synthetic fiber shirts, trousers, knit shirts and blouses, cotton shirts, and combined cotton yarn. Last week, similar restrictions were imposed by the U.S. on cotton trousers, knit shirts, and underwear. Currently, a 2.5 cent charge per item is imposed; the new tariff will raise this to the equivalent of 12 cents per piece now. While this is a fourfold increase, it is not expected to affect consumer prices. Because of this, some doubt the tariff will have any effect on correcting the trade imbalance.

This move is in response to U.S. trade quotas imposed due to concerns that increased Chinese goods would put U.S. textile manufacturers out of business. According to Auggie Tantillo, executive director of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, a textile industry group in the U.S., the move will preserve 10,000 U.S. jobs. The new U.S. trade quota will limit the growth of Chinese textile imports to 7.5 percent compared with shipments over the past year.

Prior to January 1, a global quota system helped regulate the trade. With the quota system gone, fears have arisen that a flood of Chinese goods could undercut U.S. competitiveness in the market. China is able to market its goods cheaply due to an artificially weak yuan. The U.S. Treasury criticized the China yuan policy as “highly distortionary”, posing a major risk to China’s economy itself and to global economic growth. They challenged China to revalue its currency to bring it to a level they believe will allow fairer competition between global manufacturers.

China has disputed the charges of the U.S. Treasury. Chinese Commerce Minister Bo Xilai said, “I believe they are not reasonable”.

Laura Jones, a representative of large retailers, also criticized the move, saying “These restrictions on imports from China will do absolutely nothing to help the U.S. textile industry — and the government knows it.”

China has seen a boom in economic growth in recent years due to growing trade surpluses with the West, but economists worry that the trade gap will cause longer term global economic problems. China’s textile and apparel exports are the most noteworthy example, with exports up over 1,000 percent in some categories this year and the rapid loss of marketshare and jobs by U.S. textile manufacturers.

Beginning in 1978, the Chinese economy has been transforming from a Soviet-style centrally planned economy to more of a free market style system, under the rigid political control of Communist Party of China.

To this end, the government has leveraged foreign trade to stimulate economic growth. The result has been a fourfold increase in GDP, making China the sixth largest economy in the world. By 2012 the People’s Republic of China may have the highest GDP in the world.

According to U.S. statistics, from 1999 to 2004 China’s trade surplus with the U.S. doubled to $170 billion. Wal-Mart is China’s seventh largest export partner, just ahead of the United Kingdom.

However, the gains from their “socialist market economy” have not been without problems. The Chinese leadership has often experienced the worst results of socialism and capitalism: bureaucracy, lassitude, corruption, and inflation. Inflation rates have been an on-going challenge, reaching as high as 17% in 1995.

Environmental deterioration is a longer-term threat to economic growth. In 1998, the World Health Organization reported that China had seven of the 10 most-polluted cities on Earth. Another concern among some economists is that China’s economy is over-heating, and due to its global economic expansion this could have major repercussions among other nations.

Typically, wages have been low and working conditions poor, with workers living in restrictive dormitories and working at boring factory jobs. However, recent labor shortages have started improving conditions, and raising the minimum wage towards the equivalent of 100-150 US dollars per month. The labor shortages are in part a result of a demographic trend caused by strict family planning.

  • “Economy of the People’s Republic of China” — Wikipedia, May 22, 2005
  • “China raises tariffs on textile exports. Beijing hoping to counter criticism from U.S., Europe.” — CNN, May 21, 2005
  • “China to increase export tariffs” — CNN, May 19, 2005
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Cyclone Sidr kills hundreds in Bangladesh

Friday, November 16, 2007

Powerful Cyclone Sidr battered Bangladesh, killing hundreds of people, though reports vary. Citing the local United News of Bangladesh, the Associated Press is reporting a death toll of 1,100.

An evacuation of some 3 million was attempted before the storm made landfall. Anjana Pasricha reported from New Delhi for VOA News that, officials say advance preparation saved many lives, in a country accustomed to natural disasters.

Officials say the cyclone crashed into the country’s southern coast Thursday night with winds of up to 240 kilometers an hour, triggering huge waves.

Many villages were devastated as the winds uprooted trees and flattened homes. Torrential rain and waves washed away crops. Officials say many of the victims were killed by falling trees or debris from collapsing homes.

Shail Shrestha, program coordinator for the Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Dhaka, said preliminary reports indicate that the devastation is widespread.

“Phone lines are cut and communication system is very much disrupted, said Shrestha. “Agriculture products are badly damaged and livestock are also badly damaged.”

The worst of the storm was over by early Friday. This made it possible for government and volunteer teams to dispatch relief teams carrying food, water, medicines, and tents for the people in the affected districts.

Although the storm has caused considerable destruction, officials say a mass evacuation ordered in advance helped save many lives.

Hundreds of thousands of coastal villagers were evacuated into government-built cyclone shelters and other buildings as the storm approached.

The shelters were built after the low-lying country suffered massive casualties in previous cyclones. A storm that hit the country in 1970 killed about half a million people. Another cyclone in 1991 killed more than 130,000.

Chittagong is one of the districts that lay in the path of the storm. A senior district official, Mokhlesur Rahman, says the region was spared large-scale casualties.

“We did evacuate a lot of people into different cyclone shelters, some in educational institutions,” said Rahman. “It was of much help, evacuation…. Now they are going back home.”

India’s east coast was also bracing for the cyclone, but so far it has escaped the storm’s fury. Authorities reported that several areas were hit by heavy rain, but there was little damage.


This article is based on Powerful Cyclone Wreaks Havoc in Bangladesh by VOA News which has a copyright policy compatible with our CC-BY 2.5. Specifically “Copyright status of work by the U.S. government

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Eliminate The Invaders In Your Home With Pest Control In Glen Burnie

byAlma Abell

Your home or business can easily become infested with a variety of pests including several types of insects, furry little rodents and even birds, bees and bats. The difficulty with unexpected Pest Control in Glen Burnie isn’t the unusual pests that invade your property, but the unique methods that each pest requires to eliminate the problem. For example, eliminating insects such as the cockroach is usually handled by a series of chemical applications designed to remove successive generations as the young hatch. Rodents on the other hand require the application of baits and traps to properly remove the problem.

Pest problems in your buildings can vary based on several different variables including the location of moisture, a ready source of food and a secure place to build a nest. Consider the termite. This is a small, whitish, pale or lightly colored insect with a social structure similar to the ant. However, the termite is no longer considered as a member of the ant species. Instead, it is considered as the infraorder Isopertera of the cockroach order Blattodea. You rarely see this insect outside of the nest and an experienced Pest Control in Glen Burnie contractor will need to find the nest and apply the proper baits for the termites.

Termites come in literally thousands of species, many of which actually perform a useful function in the wild, the breakdown and removal of dead plant matter, scientifically labeled as cellulose. Unfortunately, much of the material we build our homes with uses wood fibers and the termites aren’t smart enough to know they should find a different food source.

Another home invader that can be difficult to eliminate are rodents such as mice and rats. These pests usually enter your home or business through cracks in the walls or doors or holes that they gnaw away with their sharp front teeth. Once they have entered the building they quickly begin to build their nest in the warmer walls where they will birth their young. Mice and rats breed a lot and those new generations will soon find even more places to nest in the walls of your home which is why you should consider hiring an experienced contractor like Accutech Pest Management for your next pest elimination project.

ACLU commemorates anniversary of US Supreme Court decision on student free speech

Saturday, February 28, 2009

On Tuesday, the non-profit organization the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a video and press release commemorating 40 years since the landmark Supreme Court of the United States decision involving freedom of speech in the case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District. The Tinker case was decided on February 24, 1969. The case involved students in Iowa who chose to wear black armbands with peace symbols in protest of the Vietnam War – in violation of a recent school board policy. In their statement, the ACLU compared issues of freedom of speech in the Tinker case to a more recent case, Gillman v. Holmes County School District, where a school district in Florida forbade students from wearing rainbow symbols in school in support of LGBT rights.

In the Tinker case, John and Mary Beth Tinker and another student decided to wear black armbands with peace symbols to school in protest of the Vietnam War. The school district heard of the students’ plans and decided to ban armbands in school. The three students case were represented by the ACLU of Iowa, and in a 7-2 decision the Supreme Court ruled for the plaintiffs.

It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights…at the schoolhouse gate.

Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas wrote in the Opinion of the Court: “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights…at the schoolhouse gate.”

The Gillman case began in September 2007 when according to students at Ponce de Leon High School in Florida, school officials responded improperly to complaints from a lesbian student that she was being harassed by other students. The ACLU contacted the school district on behalf of junior Heather Gillman, inquiring what form of symbols or slogans relating to LGBT rights would be allowed.

The school district responded saying it would not allow any expression of the sort, because it would “likely be disruptive”, and said the wearing of these types of symbols by students could signify they were part of a “secret/illegal organization”.

The video released by the ACLU includes clips of a deposition given by David Davis, the principal of Ponce de Leon High School in Florida. Davis testified he decided to ban students from wearing rainbow symbols in school because the rainbow is a symbol of “gay pride”, and he said it “could hinder the educational process”. He also testified that these symbols would immediately cause students viewing them to think of homosexual sex. Heather Gillman commented in the ACLU video “It was kind of scary, kinda, because I didn’t know what people would think, but then I figured ‘Who cares what people think, I’m standing up for something I believe in.'”

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On May 13, 2008, a federal judge decided in favor of the plaintiff, and permanently enjoined the school district from infringing upon the First Amendment rights of the students. Matt Coles, director of the ACLU’s national LGBT Project, stated “Schools need to know censorship is illegal, and students need to know their schools can’t get away with it.”

I’m grateful that the precedent established by the Supreme Court 40 years ago is still protecting students, including LGBT students and their friends.

In reflecting on the use of the Tinker precedent in the Gillman case, the ACLU cited three instances in which schools “were made to stop illegally censoring students thanks to Tinker v. Des Moines.” These include a 2006 incident where a student in Ohio was instructed by school administrators to remove a t-shirt which read “I support gay marriage”, and a 2007 incident where a teacher and an assistant principal at a school in Virginia told a student she could not wear a t-shirt with overlapping female gender symbols. In both cases the ACLU represented the students and school officials backed down and apologized for their actions.

In a blog post Tuesday by Mary Beth Tinker at Daily Kos, Tinker reflected on the similarities between her case before the Supreme Court of the United States and the more recent federal case of Heather Gillman. “I’m grateful that the precedent established by the Supreme Court 40 years ago is still protecting students, including LGBT students and their friends,” wrote Tinker. She encouraged young people to speak out about issues of concern to them and to freely express their thoughts and views. Tinker is currently a nurse in Washington, D.C., and travels the United States speaking to students about their First Amendment rights.

Retrieved from “https://en.wikinews.org/w/index.php?title=ACLU_commemorates_anniversary_of_US_Supreme_Court_decision_on_student_free_speech&oldid=1865427”

CyanogenMod: Open-source smartphone OS goes commercial

Thursday, September 19, 2013

File:CyanogenMod Cid.svg

The developers of CyanogenMod, an open source free Android-based operating system for smartphones, announced yesterday their incorporation following a successful venture capital campaign which netted the open-source project a US$7 million nest egg, and plan to roll out a simple installation app on Google Play for their Android firmware.

Android runs nearly 80% of new mobile devices; CyanogenMod operates on at least 7 or 8 million of those. CyanogenMod replaces the read-only-memory image in android devices which have been ‘rooted’ —control acquired of the device’s superuser account— allowing continuing development for, and backporting abilities of new generations of the operating system to, older devices.

Investor Mitch Lasky wrote on his blog “We believe that CM is poised to become one of the largest mobile operating systems in the world.” Benchmark Capital and Redpoint Ventures are part of the capital providers to form Cyanogen Inc.

“The only limitation we have right now is with the number of engineers and designers we currently have. As we hire more people and build this company, we’ll be able to work on so many cool things”, said Koushik ‘koush’ Dutta, who took questions alongside Steve ‘cyanogen’ Kondik and team social media manager Abhisek “ciwrl” Devkota in a Reddit Ask Me Anything event shortly after making the announcement on the CyanogenMod blog. The team of 17, including Boost co-founder Kirt McMaster as CEO, are in Palo Alto, California and Seattle.

Kondik says Cyanogen mod is named after him. “I’m terrible with names, so I just slapped ‘mod’ onto the end of my handle and ran with it”, he explained in the incorporation announcement.

An early question raised in the Reddit event concerned profit-making: “Monetization isn’t an immediate concern and our investors […] feel the same”, said Dutta, adding “Creating disruption in a multibilion dollar market is enough to make any investor raise their eyebrow.” This means CyanogenMod would continue to be free. Follow questions asked if the company was planning to release their own model of android device. “We certainly couldn’t take on the monumental task of building/testing hardware [right now]. Hardware would be one of many potential very long term paths we could take”, said Dutta.

The firm’s first announced step is to improve the process of installing the software on owner’s devices, which Kondik described as “hideous”. A new installer app is planned to be released “in the coming weeks” on Google Play. The installer app will not require rooting the device, instead installing by simply clicking a button.

A further step, broadly described without any details, is a project with an unnamed original equipment manufacturer (OEM). “We have a least one OEM partnership in the works, there will be an announcement next week regarding our plans there”, said Kondik. The team mentioned OEM licensing several times during the Q&A session on Reddit.

In addition to these corporate steps, there were questions regarding the roadmap for development of the ROM, which already has improvements regarding privacy and security over the native android loader. With “plenty of things in the product pipeline already” Dutta lists additional security features, AirPlay mirroring, screen recording, and Voice+ as upcoming. The mood throughout the event was jovial, with humourous questions such as “can you guys PLEASE release a CM build for my toaster? I’m not sure what model it is, but it’s white and I got it at Savers.” Kondik promised “Ship it to me and I’ll duct tape a G1 running CM to it”. Dutta said his “10 of your favorite lines of source code” are “The ones that worked when they shouldn’t have.”

Retrieved from “https://en.wikinews.org/w/index.php?title=CyanogenMod:_Open-source_smartphone_OS_goes_commercial&oldid=4408407”

Self Managed Superannuation Fund Grab Yourself The Smsf Advantage!

Submitted by: SMSF Strategies

Self-Managed Superannuation Fund Grab yourself the SMSF Advantage!

To safeguard your future, taking wise investment decisions for the financial well being of yourself and your family is imperative. Using SMSF strategies to invest in property is a great option for you to invest, control/protect and manage the whole investment portfolio as per your discretion. In simple terms, an SMSF is a fund with less than five members. All the members of the fund form a trust and operate similar to a corporate trust structure. The members or trustees of the fund prepare and implement a reasonable and effective investment strategy for their fund. One unique feature of this fund is that there are many flexible options for investing into this fund either direct property, shares, bonds or any kind of assets. Usually close friends, family members or business partners tend to form a SMSF fund as it allows pooling of resources for a common objective. This type of fund offers many advantages to investors compared to other conventional institutionally managed superannuation funds.

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Another added advantage for using SMSF strategies for investing is that the cost and fees accrued in the maintenance of the fund is shared among all the members reducing the impact of risk on each trust member to a bare minimum. The income and capital gains derived from the fund are taxed at a rate of 15%, which is extremely reasonable. Also whether you are employed under someone, or own a business of your own SMSF s are portable and can be transferred from one job to another according to your convenience. SMSF funds are the most popular funds availed in Australia owing to its flexibility and lucrative returns on investment. There are also a variety of super annuation schemes for investors to choose from. This is a fantastic retirement plan. You actually invest in your future. Many investors choose this fund for safeguarding their interest at the time of their retirement.

Some recent statistics reveal that SMSF s can typically cost around $1700 per year. This may include audit and operating expenses. In fact Self Managed Super annuation funds are also known as Do IT yourself or DIY funds. The benefits derived from these funds are obviously for your retirement. The investment returns accrued via this fund are solely for commercial purpose and not for personal or private purposes. They are self managed as you as a trustee of the fund have the right to choose the type of investment you would want to make and also transfer the fund from job to job or from one generation of trustees to another. There are certain eligibility criteria set by Australian government to form this SMSF fund. Since there is a risk of having to pay tax penalties for non compliance, it is better to take the advice of SMSF specialists (Accountants) who have knowledge and experience in handling these funds. Our team of experts is well updated with all the rules and regulations governing this fund and can guide you in establishing such a fund. We can reveal all the secrets, in plain language, to help you understand and implement a plan to maximize your tax benefits, investment returns and reduce your risk profile. Come say hello and see if SMSF strategies for investment property may be for you.

About the Author: Want to know the best strategy for investing? SMSF secrets revealed! Using SMSF strategies to invest in property is a great option for you to invest. Learn more! Don t hesitate to visit.

propertyinabox.com.au/australianinvestmentproperties/investor_seminar

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On the campaign trail, October 2012

This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The following is the twelfth and final edition of a monthly series chronicling the U.S. 2012 presidential election. It features original material compiled throughout the previous month after a brief mention of some of the month’s biggest stories.

In this month’s edition on the campaign trail: a fan of Wikinews asks a critical question at the Second presidential debate; Gary Johnson discusses Syria and foreign intervention with Wikinews, and three candidates give the their final plea to voters ahead of the November 6 election.

Retrieved from “https://en.wikinews.org/w/index.php?title=On_the_campaign_trail,_October_2012&oldid=4493137”