Chesss New Best Player Is A Fearless Swashbuckling Algorithm

Chess is an antique, about 1,500 years old, according to most historians. As a result, its evolution seems essentially complete, a hoary game now largely trudging along. That’s not to say that there haven’t been milestones. In medieval Europe, for example, they made the squares on the board alternate black and white. In the 15th century, the queen got her modern powers.1Long ago, the queen could move only one square diagonally at a time.And in the 20th century came the computer. Chess was simple enough (not many rules, smallish board) and complicated enough (many possible games) to make a fruitful test bed for artificial intelligence programs. This attracted engineering brains and corporate money. In 1997, they broke through: IBM’s Deep Blue supercomputer defeated the world champion, Garry Kasparov. Humans don’t hold a candle to supercomputers, or even smartphones, in competition anymore. Top human players do, however, lean on computers in training, relying on them for guidance, analysis and insight. Computer engines now mold the way the game is played at its highest human levels: calculating, stodgy, defensive, careful. Or at least that’s how it has been. But if you read headlines from the chess world last month, you’d think the game was jolted forward again by an unexpected quantum leap. But to where?The revolutionary is known as AlphaZero. It’s a new neural network, reinforcement learning algorithm developed by DeepMind, Google’s secretive artificial intelligence subsidiary. Unlike other top programs, which receive extensive input and fine-tuning from programmers and chess masters, drawing on the wealth of accumulated human chess knowledge, AlphaZero is exclusively self-taught. It learned to play solely by playing against itself, over and over and over — 44 million games. It kept track of what strategies led to a win, favoring those, and which didn’t, casting those aside. After just four hours of this tabula rasa training, it clobbered the top chess program, an engine called Stockfish, winning 28 games, drawing 72 and losing zero. These results were described last month in a paper posted on arXiv, a repository of scientific research.Within hours, the chess world descended, like the faithful to freshly chiseled tablets of stone, on the sample of 10 computer-versus-computer games published in the paper’s appendix. Two broad themes emerged: First, AlphaZero adopted an all-out attacking style, making many bold material sacrifices to set up positional advantages. Second, elite chess may therefore not be as prone to dull draws as we thought. It will still be calculating, yes, but not stodgy, defensive and careful. Chess may yet have some evolution to go. For a taste of AlphaZero’s prowess, consider the following play from one of the published games. It’s worth emphasizing here just how good Stockfish, which is open source and was developed by a small team of programmers, is. It won the 2016 Top Chess Engine Championship, the premier computer tournament, and no human player who has ever lived would stand a chance against it in a match.It was AlphaZero’s turn to move, armed with the white pieces, against Stockfish with the black, in the position below: In the middle of the AlphaZero paper is a diagram called Table 2. It shows the 12 most popular chess openings played by humans, along with how frequently AlphaZero “discovered” and played those openings during its intense tabula rasa training. These openings are the result of extensive human study and trial — blood, sweat and tears — spread across the centuries and around the globe. AlphaZero taught itself them one by one: the English opening, the French, the Sicilian, the Queen’s gambit, the Caro-Kann.The diagram is a haunting image, as if a superfast algorithm had taught itself English in an afternoon and then re-created, almost by accident, full stanzas of Keats. But it’s also reassuring. That we even have a theory of the opening moves in chess is an artifact of our status as imperfect beings. There is a single right and best way to begin a chess game. Mathematical theory tells us so. We just don’t know what it is. Neither does AlphaZero.Yet.DeepMind was also responsible for the program AlphaGo, which has bested the top humans in Go, that other, much more complex ancient board game, to much anguish and consternation. An early version of AlphaGo was trained, in part, by human experts’ games — tabula inscripta. Later versions, including AlphaZero, stripped out all traces of our history.“For a while, for like two months, we could say to ourselves, ‘Well, the Go AI contains thousands of years of accumulated human thinking, all the rolled up knowledge of heuristics and proverbs and famous games,’” Frank Lantz, the director of NYU’s Game Center, told me. “We can’t tell that story anymore. If you don’t find this terrifying, at least a little, you are made of stronger stuff than me. I find it terrifying, but I also find it beautiful. Everything surprising is beautiful in a way.” AlphaZero is already behind by two pawns, and its bishop is, in theory, less powerful than one of Stockfish’s rooks. It’s losing badly on paper. AlphaZero moved its pawn up a square, to g4 — innocuous enough. But now consider Stockfish’s black position. Any move it makes leaves it worse off than if it hadn’t moved at all! It can’t move its king, or its queen, without disaster. It can’t move its rooks because its f7 pawn would die and its king would be in mortal danger. It can’t move any of its other pawns without them being captured. It can’t do anything. But that’s the thing about chess: You have to move. This situation is known as zugzwang, German for “forced move.” AlphaZero watches while Stockfish walks off its own plank. Stockfish chose to move its pawn forward to d5; it was immediately captured by the white bishop as the attack closed further in.You could make an argument that that game, and the other games between the two computers, were some of the strongest contests of chess, over hundreds of years and billions of games, ever played.But were they fair? After the AlphaZero research paper was published, some wondered if the scales were tipped in AlphaZero’s favor. Chess.com received a lengthy comment from Tord Romstad, one of Stockfish’s creators. “The match results by themselves are not particularly meaningful,” Romstad said. He cited the fact that the games were played giving each program one minute per move — a rather odd decision, given that games get much more complicated as they go on and that Stockfish was programmed to be able to allocate its time wisely. Players are typically allowed to distribute their allotted time across their moves as they see fit, rather than being hemmed in to a specific amount of time per turn. Romstad also noted that an old version of Stockfish was used, with settings that hadn’t been properly tested and data structures insufficient for those settings.Romstad called the comparison of Stockfish to AlphaZero “apples to orangutans.” A computer analysis of the zugzwang game, for example, reveals that Stockfish, according to Stockfish, made four inaccuracies, four mistakes and three blunders. Not all iterations of Stockfishes are created equal.DeepMind declined to comment for this article, citing the fact that its AlphaZero research is under peer review.Strong human players want to see more, ideally with the playing field more level. “I saw some amazing chess, but I also know we did not get the best possible,” Robert Hess, an American grandmaster, told me. “This holds true for human competition as well: If you gave Magnus [Carlsen] and Fabiano [Caruana] 24 hours per move, would there be any wins? How few mistakes? In being practical, we sacrifice perfection for efficiency.”Chess.com surveyed a number of top grandmasters, who were assembled this month for a tournament in London (the home of DeepMind), about what AlphaZero means for their profession. Sergey Karjakin, the Russian world championship runner-up, said he’d pay “maybe $100,000” for access to the program. One chess commentator joked that Russian president Vladimir Putin might help Karjakin access the program to prepare for next year’s Candidates Tournament. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, the top French player, said it was “worth easily seven figures.” Wesley So, the U.S. national champion, joked that he’d call Rex Sinquefield, the wealthy financier and chess philanthropist, to see how much he’d pony up.“I don’t think this changes the landscape of human chess much at all for the time being,” the grandmaster Hess told me. “We don’t have the ability to memorize everything, and the games themselves were more or less perfect models of mostly known concepts.”In some aesthetic ways, though, AlphaZero represents a computer shift toward the human approach to chess. Stockfish evaluated 70 million positions per second, a brute-force number suitable to hardware, while AlphaZero evaluated only 80,000, relying on its “intuition,” like a human grandmaster would. Moreover, AlphaZero’s style of play — relentless aggression — was thought to be “refuted” by stodgy engines like Stockfish, leading to the careful and draw-prone style that currently dominates the top ranks of competitive chess.But maybe it’s more illustrative to say that AlphaZero played like neither a human nor a computer, but like an alien — some sort of chess intelligence which we can barely fathom. “I find it very positive!” David Chalmers, a philosopher at NYU who studies AI and the singularity, told me. “Just because it’s alien to us now doesn’t mean it’s something that humans could never have gotten to.” read more


Urban Meyer praises Larry Johnson hire breaks down keys to Penn State

Four days before the Buckeyes are scheduled to take the field against Penn State, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer took to the Big Ten teleconference to discuss a quality coaching addition, keys to the Penn State matchup and the development of some young Buckeyes.OSU (5-1, 2-0) is set to take on the Nittany Lions (4-2, 1-2) after beating Rutgers, 56-17, last weekend.Meyer said losing Mike Vrabel to the NFL was like losing a key player. “You can’t replace him with a lesser quality coach.” He added that he “pinpointed” Larry Johnson when he first got to OSU, and brought him in after Vrabel left. “He’s done a great job for us.”Meyer said he talked to Johnson about Penn State junior defensive lineman Anthony Zettel. He said Zettel is “a great inside player, pass rusher, spins on contact. He’s an athletic guy playing inside.”He said redshirt-freshman H-back Jalin Marshall wasn’t a good practice player last season, and was lazy in the classroom. Meyer said he’s now one of the Buckeyes’ “better practice players” and added that he “does well in school.”More on Marshall: “A gentleman, a guy who represents Ohio State the right way.”Meyer on redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett: “He’s saved our bacon a few times” with his scrambling ability.He said quarterbacks need to have escapability, but don’t need to have world-class speed. “We cannot not have that kind of player again,” he said.Meyer said “everything starts” with the matchup in the trenches. He had specific praise for sophomore defensive lineman Joey Bosa.He said there are “a bunch” of guys on the defensive line who need to earn more playing time. “It’s time for them to start contributing more,” he said.The Buckeyes are scheduled to face-off with Penn State on Saturday in State College, Pa. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. read more


Football Ryan Day finds trust in 2019 recruiting class

Ohio State head-coach-in-waiting Ryan Day answers questions from the media during a press conference at the Fawcett Center on Dec. 4. Credit: Amal SaeedThe recruitment of five-star defensive end Zach Harrison came down to the last minute for Ryan Day and Ohio State. For Day, Harrison was a good representation of what the recruiting process has been like for him transitioning into the head coaching role after Urban Meyer announced that he would retire after the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1.“We had a home visit last week, was really important to sit down in the home and talk to the family about the direction of the program and having some communication on just some of the leadership changes that comes with the change of the head coach,” Day said.  This was a conversation Day had with many recruits in this two-week span following Meyer’s announcement, a needed conversation that the state of the program, despite the transition of leadership, was very strong and would be consistent. For many, the decision on whether to choose to come to Ohio State was much simpler. Day said the decision comes down to families trusting that their son would be taken care of. Harrison trusted Day. So did 14 other recruits, giving Ohio State the No. 3 2019 recruiting class in the Big Ten and No. 12 in the nation, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. Day knew from the moment Meyer handed him the reins of Ohio State recruiting that it would be a difficult process in securing the 2019 class during the period of transition, which he started immediately after the Big Ten Championship. Day had connected with many of the of the 2019 recruits in August and through the first three games of the season when he was named the acting head coach during Meyer’s suspension. He said this helped him have a closeness with the families. In the two-week span, what he considered to be a whirlwind, Day said it took a level of trust for the families to commit to a program with a brand new head coach. “I think there was some faith right here because I’ve only been on the job here really for a couple of weeks,” Day said. “When you connect with people, you look them in the eye and you sit in their homes, there’s a connection to be made there, I thought that happened.” But many of the families had the same types of questions, revolving around the same topic: replacing Meyer and what Day’s vision and direction for the Ohio State football program would be. “We think we have the most comprehensive program from A to Z in the country. The infrastructure is here and that the plan is not to change that,” Day said. “There’s a reason why there’s been so much success here in the past and we want to keep that going.” Day said even though there will be a change at the head coaching position, providing a change in personality and demeanor, the infrastructure would stay in place, the “Plan to win,” as Meyer coined, would remain consistent. This is what brought Harrison to Ohio State, what kept five-star wide receiver Garrett Wilson and five-star center Harry Miller committed. While the Buckeyes have an expectation for the quality of player and person they recruit, the storyline for the 2018 early signing period revolved around the expectation that the recruits have in Ohio State, despite the off-the-field storylines the program went through. And for those that remained with Ohio State through the firing of former wide receivers coach Zach Smith, the suspension of Meyer, Meyer’s retirement and Day’s promotion, the new and acting head coach is very grateful. “When you look at who these kids are in the last seven months, their loyalty, it’s amazing,” Day said. “What happened in August and then the coaching change down the stretch, these kids stuck with us, that means a lot to us. And we are not going to forget that moving forward.” read more


Ritchie wants patience from Scotland fans

first_imgIt wasn’t a good debut match for Alex McLeish as he was in charge for the first time as Scotland new boss – and his side were beaten 1-0 at home by Costa Rica.However, Matt Ritchie believes that it’s just a beginning and the fans should be patient – it will take some time to rebuild the squad and the midfielder hopes that after that, the national team will be strong as never before.The Newcastle player spoke about this bitter loss as he said, according to BBC:“We need their support and hopefully we can have a successful spell.”ScotlandScotland needs a hero: Billy Dodds Manuel R. Medina – September 10, 2019 According to former striker, Billy Dodds his country needs a hero to inspire future generations as the team’s hope to qualify to the EURO 2020 is small.“It’s the first game and I understand they want to win, we want to win more than anyone, but it’s a work in progress.”“I know they are frustrated after the last campaign but we all need to be pulling in the same direction.”“It’s a new manager with new ideas and I think you could see from the first half to the second half it was much improved. That was down to the lads getting to know each other.”last_img read more



Klopp pleased with his 5 or 6 midfield options at Liverpool

first_imgLiverpool manager Jurgen Klopp discussed his midfield options ahead of their Premier League showdown with Manchester United on Sunday.The Reds were the last team to inflict a league defeat on United in what was Jose Mourinho’s final game in charge in December at Anfield in a 3-1 win.Now Liverpool will be looking for a similar result in order to return to the top of the Premier League table in what will be the first of three fixtures in the space of seven days.Therefore, rotations will be expected in the Liverpool team over the course of next week with Klopp able to count on plenty of options in his midfield.“I expect that the players just understand it. It’s a typical thing,” said Klopp on the club website.“I will not explain to everyone why they don’t start because they will all start games.“We don’t have to talk about Ox [Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain] at the moment because he needs a bit of time. He looks so good in training but we need to make him resistant for all the things that are coming up.“For all the others I expect them to understand it. You cannot always have three players in midfield and they play and I have to wrap them in cotton wool – ‘Oh come on please, don’t do this step and this step’ or ‘Oh you feel something, come off training.’“Now we have five or six players for midfield and that’s exactly how it should be.“Of course they cannot start all the time. If somebody makes a story of that, I’m not interested.Harry Maguire, Manchester UnitedLiverpool legend Nicol slams Harry Maguire’s Man United form Andrew Smyth – September 14, 2019 Steve Nicol believes Harry Maguire has made some “horrendous mistakes” recently, and has failed to find his best form since joining Manchester United.“If somebody is not happy with that, I’m OK but you have to be ready for the next game and the next game is coming on Wednesday. That’s just how it should be.“All credit to the boys because they always deal with it. I’m not in doubt that they will deal with that situation as well. Make yourself ready because we need to have these different options.”As for Sunday’s match, Virgil van Dijk will make a welcome return to the Reds line-up at Old Trafford after being suspended from Tuesday’s 0-0 Champions League draw against Bayern Munich.Dejan Lovren remains sidelined with a hamstring injury, but Xherdan Shaqiri could feature after making some progress in his recovery from a minor abdominal strain.The match between United and Liverpool will begin at 3:05 PM (CET) on Sunday.I M P A C T 🙌A sublime double from @XS_11official when we hosted @ManUtd earlier this season. 😍 pic.twitter.com/gZzyBwwMeI— Liverpool FC (@LFC) February 22, 2019last_img read more


Soldotna Wildlife Trooper Gets Hearing On Marijuana Control Board Nomination

first_imgJamie has spoken about wanting to revisit rules for on-site consumption of marijuana at some licensed retailers if he is appointed to the board.  He said he acknowledges that Alaskans voted to legalize so-called recreational use of cannabis and that respecting the wishes of the people is important but “sensible regulations” also are needed. Facebook0TwitterEmailPrintFriendly分享An Alaska Wildlife Trooper stationed in Soldotna was among Governor Mike Dunleavy’s picks to serve in the public safety seat on the state Marijuana Control Board. Lt. Christopher Jaime was nominated to the board after Soldotna Police Chief Peter Mlynarik resigned in 2018. Jaime had a hearing before the House Labor and Commerce Committee this week. The nomination of Jamie to the board will require a confirmation by lawmakers.center_img Dunleavy made two new appointments, including Jamie, to the board tasked with regulating the industry even as he has eyed repealing the board. The other is Vivian Stiver who was appointed to the seat that has been held by industry representative Brandon Emmett. Matt Shuckerow, a Dunleavy spokesman, says it’s no secret Stiver “holds a certain skepticism for legal marijuana use,” which he says is a viewpoint other Alaskans share.last_img read more


KPB Alerts System Will Be Tested In Cooper Landing Tomorrow

first_imgFacebook0TwitterEmailPrintFriendly分享The Borough Office of Emergency Management will be testing the “KPB Alerts” emergency notification system within the Cooper Landing area on Tuesday. No action is required. This brief test is only being conducted for registered landlines and cell phones with physical addresses located in Cooper Landing. In a release from the BOEM, the test is being conducted to evaluate the system, and to encourage folks to register their cell phone numbers if they haven’t already done so. The test will be conducted at  1:05pm. In the event that KPB Alerts must be activated for an actual emergency, the notification will specify the incident and the actions that should be taken. Individuals that do not receive the test notification by 2:00pm may email or call the Office of Emergency Management. call 907-262-INFO (4636) or email oem@kpb.us.last_img read more


Marvel heroes SpiderMan and AntMan team up to defeat fear itself

first_imgTruly a hero. Sony Pictures While many Marvel fans are focused on the epic conclusion to 10 years worth of storytelling in Avengers: Endgame, a team of Israeli researchers are diving back through Marvel’s movie catalog to help people overcome their fears.New research suggests that fear of spiders (arachnophobia) and fear of ants (myrmecophobia) can be alleviated by viewing a seven-second scene from Spider-Man 2 or Ant-Man.The study, published in Frontiers in Psychiatry on April 23, showed 424 participants segments of the Sony Pictures film Spider-Man 2, the Marvel film Ant-Man, a natural scene or the Marvel opening credits scene. Prior to viewing and after viewing they measured the participants’ responses in an online quiz that assessed their socio-demographic variables, familiarity with the films and phobic symptoms.The team showed watching Spider-Man 2 alleviated some of the symptoms of spider phobia. Post-viewing phobia symptoms were decreased, relative to pre-viewing, by 20%. Similar results were seen with Ant-Man. How to watch every Marvel Cinematic Universe film in the right order Sci-Tech Share your voice 26 Photos Now playing: Watch this: 0 Avengers: Endgame is a thrilling sequel to every MCU… 3:14 Post a comment The theory behind the technique is known as exposure therapy. This method is routinely used by psychiatrists to treat specific phobias by showing the patient neutral, non-harmful images of the things they are afraid of. Exposing them to their fear without consequence gradually helps ease the symptoms of the phobia.To ensure that it wasn’t just the idea of watching a Marvel film that had participants less fearful, the researchers compared their scores to those who watched the Marvel credits or a natural scene. The credits and the natural scene provided no reduction in phobia symptoms after viewing. Thus, the team concluded that Spider-Man and Ant-Man aren’t just incredibly good at fighting the intergalactic bad guys, they’re also beneficial for those suffering specific insect phobias.Notably, they suggest that because of the “fun” nature of Marvel films — and the fact they are such a huge part of modern pop culture — may reduce some of the stigmas associated with treatment and therapy of these phobias.The team is now looking at how they can improve the effects of their Marvel-based treatment option. Their next study will again assess the effect of watching Marvel movies on the brain, with a focus on how it may benefit those with post-traumatic stress disorder. Tags Sonylast_img read more


Hold your breath Researcher predicts megaquake as several tremors rattle various nooks

first_imgReutersSeismologists believe that predicting an earthquake with precision is practically impossible using current technologies. However, Frank Hoogerbeets, a self-proclaimed Dutch earthquake researcher claims that it is possible to predict earthquakes, and he believes that his system named SSGI (Solar System Geometry Index) is capable of predicting tremors with precision.A few days back, Hoogerbeets predicted that seismic activities will rise dramatically from June 16 to 21. The researcher also revealed that this rise in earthquakes is due to a critical planetary alignment. As per Hoogerbeets, the earthquakes in this given time period may measure even above 7 in the Richter scale which indicates extreme catastrophe in the affected area.Interestingly, four major earthquakes jolted the planet within the timeframe predicted by the Dutch researcher. On June 17, an earthquake measuring more than 6 in the Richter scale hit outside the city of Yubin, southwest China. The earthquake was so powerful that it resulted in the death of 12 people. Xinhua, the Chinese news agency reported that the earthquake had also resulted in considerable infrastructure damage.The next quake happened in the Hunchun city in North Korea. Even though the quake was very minor, many people believed that North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un has once again conducted a nuclear test.On June 18, another earthquake measuring 4.9 in the Richter scale hit the Andaman islands, India, and now, on June 20, a tremor measuring 4.8 M has jolted the Satara district in Maharashtra. Even though no casualties or infrastructure damage has been reported so far in Satara, local residents in the area are in a state of panic, as they are afraid of a possible aftershock which may happen in the coming hours or days.As Frank Hoogerbeets has predicted the earthquake timeline from June 16 to 21, many people believe that a megaquake will jolt the planet tomorrow. However, Hoogerbeets has not revealed the exact place where the earthquake will hit.Hoogerbeets, on his website Ditrianum, reveals that certain planetary alignments are capable of destabilizing the tectonic plates on the earth, and it is causing a rise in seismic activities.last_img read more


Illegal migration of Bangladeshis to Europe rising

first_imgThere has been a rise in the number of Bangladeshis crossing the Mediterranean sea to illegally reach Europe.Bangladeshis are the highest among those detained while attempting to illegally enter Europe via the Middle East, West Asia and the bordering countries of Mediterranean.About 2,000 Bangladeshis attempting to go to Europe were stranded in Turkey.According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Bangladeshis are the highest in number among the people crossing the Mediterranean sea in small dinghies. A total of 2800 Bangladeshi nationals reached Italy this year.Around 5,650 Bangladeshis have crossed Mediterranean sea via Libya and reached Italy, till 22 May this year, reports IRIN news quoting the home ministry of Italy. The number was 7,578 last year.The foreign ministry officials said the EU countries are asking the Bangladesh government to take back the undocumented nationals. If they fail to do so, visa procedures for Bangladeshis will be toughened, the European countries cautioned.During a visit to Dhaka last April, a delegation of the European Union (EU) said around 80,000 Bangladeshis have been staying illegally in those countries.Foreign secretary Shahidul Haque told Prothom Alo at his office on Thursday that undocumented Bangladeshis would be brought back.Asked whether there was any pressure from the EU countries, he said talks are on to introduce a Standard Operating Procedure to bring them back. There may be progress at the joint commission meeting of Bangladesh-EU in Brussels on 12 July.Foreign ministry officials said that the process of bringing back Bangladeshis was seen to be lengthy. Steps were taken to expedite it, they added.The officials observed that it would not be proper to set a deadline to bring back Bangladeshis.Bangladesh ambassador to Turkey Allama Siddiki told Prothom Alo yesterday that around 2,000 Bangladeshis from different countries including Syria, Iran and Iraq were stranded in Turkey since the second half of last year. Of them, some 471 were detained.He said those who reached Turkey worked in different countries of Middle East. Lured by human trafficking rings, they reached Turkey to migrate to Europe. Each of them had to pay between Tk5,00,000 and Tk7,00,000 to the trafficking agents.Prothom Alo talked to those who worked in UK, Turkey, Italy, Greece, Libya and Portugal. They said it had been difficult for the undocumented migrants to stay in Turkey as the EU and Turkey had inked a ‘one in, one out’ deal.Under the deal, anyone who crosses into Greece illegally will be sent back to Turkey. In return, a vetted Syrian refugee will be able to go from Turkey to Europe for settlement. The citizens of other countries will be sent back home.Illegal migration of Bangladeshis came to the limelight when the Syrian refugee crisis turned alarming in 2015.Following the spread of the ‘Islamic State’ (IS) in 2014, Syrians started to take shelter in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.Violence and poverty drove people from Iraq, Afghanistan, Eretria and Somalia to go to Europe. Taking the advantage of this, human traffickers enticed Bangladeshis with promises of sending them to Europe.Bangladesh charge d’Affaires in Tripoli, Mozammel Haque, told Prothom Alo that Bangladeshis reached Libya first via South Asian countries and then Dubai, Jordan, Egypt and Turkey.Most of them reached Italy crossing the Mediterranean. As the Libyan labour market had collapsed due to the civil war, Bangladeshis attempted to go to Italy.Asked if aid organisations in Italy rescued Bangladeshis, the diplomat said 9,915 Bangladeshis were rescued between July 2014 and June 2015.Almost 1,100 died by drowning, suffocation and hypothermia on overcrowded boats so far this year.International relations professor at Dhaka University CR Abrar said the human traffickers were luring Bangladeshis to go to Europe. It is not clear why traffickers are not cracked down on within the country, he said.On bringing back Bangladeshis from EU countries, Abrar said political asylum seekers should not be listed in the undocumented category.*This piece, originally published in Prothom Alo Bangla, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islamlast_img read more


After North Koreas ICBM Launch Now What

first_imgAPNorth Korean state media reported that Kim Jong Un “personally ordered” an ICBM test this week, a milestone for the country’s nuclear program.On the 4th of July, North Korea marked a milestone by firing an intercontinental ballistic missile that soared high into space before turning around and landing in the sea near Japan. The North’s state media said the missile, Hwasong-14, flew 933 km (580 miles), reaching an altitude of 2,802 km (1,741 miles) and flew for nearly 40 minutes.The successful test of a missile of this kind, which could theoretically put Alaska within its range, is something President Donald Trump earlier this year said “would never happen.” Now that analysts — including those in the U.S. military — confirm it did, the world is grappling with what to do next.“Testing an ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile] represents a new escalation of the threat to the United States, our allies and partners, the region and the world,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement Tuesday night. “Global action is required to stop a global threat.”In the short term, the 15-member states of the U.N. Security Council will meet on Wednesday. This is the body that has imposed numerous sanctions packages on North Korea, which have proven ineffective in getting North Korea to change its behavior so far.The threat, dubbed “the worst problem on earth,” has persisted across U.S. administrations and only grown more alarming over time. Former President Barack Obama warned President Trump during the transition that North Korea was the most urgent and vexing problem to confront.As president, Trump has met with leaders in the region — Japan, China and South Korea — but so far has stayed on the same policy course as the Obama administration. The Trump administration has pursued a goal of de-nuclearization and increasing pressure via sanctions and working with regional neighbors.Now, given the symbolic importance of North Korea’s technological milestone, as well as the political leverage it earned by reaching it, the rest of the world is in a tighter box in dealing with Pyongyang.Generally, the options fall into a few baskets:Isolating North Korea further with economic sanctions and pressure from regional neighborsMilitary movesDiplomatic engagement, which would require accepting Pyongyang as a nuclear-armed state.Sanctions and China“Sanctions regimes are miserable failures until they’re not,” said Mark Lippert, the most recent U.S. ambassador to South Korea, in his exit interview with NPR.But despite “tough-on-paper” sanctions designed to stop the flow of nuclear weapons material into North Korea as well as deliver economic punishment on the regime, the latest research shows the numerous countries expected to enforce the sanctions aren’t doing so — because they’re too complicated to implement, private businesses independently aid North Korea (knowingly or not) and Pyongyang has grown increasingly deft in evading sanctions as it’s become more isolated.“Not a single component of the U.N. sanctions regime against North Korea currently enjoys robust international implementation,” Andrea Berger of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies wrote last month.For his part, President Trump still seems fixated on having neighboring China, North Korea’s largest trading partner, handle the problem.“Hard to believe that South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!” he tweeted Monday night.That both overestimates China’s influence on Pyongyang and its willingness to put on “heavy moves,” though it’s unclear what Trump means by heavy moves.But tensions between the U.S. and China have grown in recent weeks, following the U.S. Treasury Department’s sanctions on a Chinese bank accused of helping North Korea and an arms sale to Taiwan, which mainland China views as a renegade republic.Trump admitted last month in a tweet that his hope of getting China to rein in North Korea “has not worked out,” but after the ICBM test on Tuesday, he again wondered aloud about Chinese help.“Catastrophic” military optionsEach of the strategic options for the North Korea issue present drawbacks, though military moves — an attempt at regime change, a decapitation strike on Kim Jong Un or a limited strike to try and destroy weapons — are far more potentially deadly than others.Defense Secretary James Mattis has said outright war with North Korea would be “catastrophic” and “probably the worst kind of fighting in most people’s lifetimes.”If threatened, North Korea wouldn’t have to use nuclear weapons at all — just its artillery — to attack Seoul, a mega-city with a metro population of nearly 24 million. South Korea also hosts some 28,000 American troops.Other ideas being floated: downing North Korea’s electrical grid and possibly shooting down North Korean missiles in their boost or ascent phase. But it’s not clear the U.S. has that capability right now.Acceptance and engagementA week ago, former Secretary of State George Shultz, former U.S. ambassador to the U,N. Bill Richardson and former Defense Secretary William Perry joined others in a letter urging the administration to go beyond the current pressure tactics of escalating sanctions and isolation, and instead engage in talks with North Korea.“Tightening sanctions can be useful in increasing pressure on North Korea, but sanctions alone will not solve the problem,” the letter cautioned. “Pyongyang has shown it can make progress on missile and nuclear technology despite its isolation.”During a trip to Seoul in March, Tillerson ruled out engaging North Korea in talks unless Pyongyang showed a commitment to de-nuclearize. This follows the Obama administration line. But North Korea has shown no willingness to abandon its nuclear program, especially since its advancing technology has only served to strengthen its position globally.South Korea’s new President Moon Jae-in has indicated he’s willing to talk with North Korea with the aim of just getting to a freeze of its nuclear program. So far, North Korea has balked at that, too. But a growing chorus of North Korea observers say that given the advancements to date, it’s past time to just talk in the hopes of getting somewhere with this intractable problem.“We need to have serious conversations amongst ourselves and with allies about what we’re willing to trade. Because so far, there has been no price that was worth paying to stop their program,” says Melissa Hanham, a researcher with the James R. Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.This, of course, presumes that North Korea wants to meet in the first place, something that recent back-channel negotiators doubt. “There was absolutely no flexibility or willingness to meet to talk about their nuclear program,” says Sue Mi Terry, a former CIA analyst and National Security Council director for Korea who recently met with North Korean officials to try to get nuclear talks back on track.Trump, in a tweet, said of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un: “Does this guy have anything better to do?”The reality is that in his short tenure as North Korea’s leader, Kim has done a lot to put far richer and stronger nations in an increasingly difficult spot.Jihye Lee contributed to this story. Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Sharelast_img read more


Harvey Forced The Relocation Of 1200 Texas Foster Children

first_imgGabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT NewsThe Texas Department of Family and Protective Services says 1,200 foster children were safely relocated as a result of Hurricane Harvey.Spokesperson Patrick Crimmins says they began to prepare as soon as they knew the storm was coming, noting that residential treatment centers that provide in-house counseling and mental health services for foster children were located in the Corpus Christi, South Texas and Houston areas.Crimmins explains that all of those facilities are required to have an emergency disaster plan that outlines what they would do if they needed to evacuate their sites for several days. About 24 facilities actually did have to evacuate.Most providers relocated the kids to other facilities they have in the state.“Some of them went to churches … as part of their disaster plan,” Crimmins says. “We had one residential facility that had to go to a Motel 6. And then one … they were apparently not able to go to their backup facility, so they actually went home with some of the facility staff members.” In that case, there were apparently a couple of large houses where the children could stay.He adds that it’s not clear yet when the foster kids will be able to return to the residential facilities. Sharelast_img read more


Cardinals Play at North Carolina on Saturday at Noon

first_imgCARD FILES In his last six games, Christen Cunningham has shot 61.5 percent from the field – including 61.9 percent from the three-point line (13-of-21) — while averaging 15.0 points and 3.8 assists. He scored a season-high 23 points and handed out five assists at Pittsburgh in his last game. Louisville has made 18 more free throws (302-of-395, .765) than its opponents have attempted (193-of-284). Louisville is ninth in the nation in free throw attempts per field goal attempts (395/853, 46.3 percent) and is fifth in the nation with 25.2 percent of its points coming from free throws. UofL is 15th in the nation in free throw percentage. UofL has scored over 80 points in nine of its 15 games (79.8 ppg) and the Cardinals are 26th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency by Ken Pomeroy. UofL’s 90 points vs. Miami was its second-highest total of the season. After committing a season-low seven turnovers vs. Miami, Louisville had a season-high 18 turnovers at Pittburgh, leading to 29 Pitt points. UofL has had 10 or fewer turnovers in seven games. With 14 offensive rebounds against Pittsburgh in its last game, Louisville has pulled down 10 or more rebounds off the offensive glass nine times this season, including each of the last six games. Louisville’s 2019 signing class is ranked second in the nation by ESPN.com, fifth by Rivals.com and fifth by 247sports.com. Louisville achieved a collective 3.352 grade point average for the 2018 fall semester, with 11 of 14 student-athletes earning a 3.0 or better GPA (20 of the last 21 semesters with at least a 3.0 team GPA). Uof L has produced a league-best 25 All-ACC Academic selections over its four years in the ACC.Print Friendly Version Louisville, ranked 30th in the NCAA Men’s Basketball NET ratings through games of Jan. 9, plays its second straight on the road as the Cardinals visit the North Carolina Tar Heels in Chapel Hill, N.C. on Saturday. North Carolina Notes North Carolina (12-3, 2-0 ACC), ranked 12th in both the Associated Press and USA Today polls, has won six of its last seven games, including a 90-82 victory at NC State in its last game on Jan. 8. All five Tar Heels starters scored in double-figures and three had double-doubles, led by Luke Maye’s 21 points and 11 rebounds. Louisville Notes Story Links The Cardinals are very balanced on the offensive end, with five players averaging over eight points.  Sophomore Jordan Nwora leads the Cardinals in in scoring and rebounding with 17.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.  Christen Cunningham is second on the team in scoring with 10.6 points and leads the team with 48 assists on the year. Dwayne Sutton ranks third on the team in scoring with 9.5 points along with 6.3 rebounds per game. Steven Enoch averages 9.0 points per game while Ryan McMahon is averaging 8.3 points per game.    Live Stats GAME 16Date: Jan. 12, 2019Time: 12:00 p.m.Site: Dean E. Smith Center, Chapel Hill, N.C. (21,750)Television: ESPN – Dan Shulman, play-byplay; Jay Bilas, analyst; Maria Taylor, reporter.Radio: WHAS (840 AM) Paul Rogers, play-by-play; Jody Demling, analyst (XM channel 380, Internet 971)Series History: Louisville trails 5-13 (4-1 in Louisville, 0-3 in Chapel Hill, 1-9 neutral)Last Meeting: North Carolina 93, UofL 76 (Feb. 17, 2018 in KFC Yum! Center)Officials: Mike Eades, Bill Covington, Jr., Tony HendersonNext UofL Game: Jan. 16 vs. Boston College, KFC Yum! Center, 7 p.m. ET (ACC Regional Sports Networks/Fox Sports South in Louisville) Louisville (10-5, 1-1 ACC) dropped its first ACC road game as the Cardinals fell 89-86 in overtime at Pittsburgh on Jan. 9. The Cardinals committed a season-high 18 turnovers and allowed the Panthers to shoot 52.2 percent from the field, second-highest for a UofL opponent this season. Christen Cunningham scored a season-high 23 points and handed out five assists to lead the Cardinals, making 9-of-11 field goals. Louisville trails 5-13 in its series against North Carolina, but has won two of the last five. The Tar Heels won 93-76 in Louisville last season (2-17-18) as Deng Adel led the Cardinals with 20 points and six assists off the bench. Four of the meetings have come in the NCAA Tournament, including twice in regional finals. North Carolina is third in the nation in rebounding margin (+11.5), is third in assists per game (19.7) and fifth in scoring offense (89.9). Six Tar Heel players are averaging over eight points a game, led by Cameron Johnson (16.2 ppg). UNC is No. 5 in the Sagarin Ratings, No. 6 in ESPN’s College Basketball Power Index (BPI), No. 8 in the NET rankings and No. 6 by Ken Pomeroy through Jan. 9.last_img read more


19 killed in South Yemen clashes

first_imgAt least 19 people have been killed in Saudi-led coalition air strikes and clashes between pro-government forces and rebels in Yemen’s south, military sources said.The air strikes took place late Friday and targeted two rebel vehicles on a road linking the central province of Ibb province to Daleh province further south, the sources said. Forces loyal to Gulf-backed Prez Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi recaptured Daleh and four other southern provinces in July.last_img


Calcutta University adopts online entrance test for PG courses

first_imgKolkata: Calcutta University on Monday opted for the online entrance examination for all Post Graduation (PG) courses. “The way the admission process has been made online, Calcutta University will conduct the PG entrance examinations online likewise. The decision has been made for the sake of modernisation, transparency and saving time,” Vice Chancellor Sonali Chakravarti Banerjee said. She said that CU is the first university to introduce this modern way of conducting the entrance test. Also Read – Rs 13,000 crore investment to provide 2 lakh jobs: Mamata Starting this year, the entrance for all the 66 department teaching PG courses in the 162-year-old University and other CU affiliated colleges will now be conducted online. The students will appear for the examinations in specific examination centres allotted by the university. Talking about the final examinations of PG examinations, the VC said for the next academic year, the university will also think about conducting the examinations away from the home centre. For instance, PG students studying in a particular college will have to write their exam in a different centre in order to maintain transparency. “Calcutta University is trying to strengthen the examination system by making it fair and following a path of discipline,” Chakravarti added.last_img read more


April 23 2012Welcome to the April 17 2012 worksh

first_imgApril 23, 2012Welcome to the April 17. 2012 workshop participants:[back row]: Rinaldo Vargas from Italy, Nicholas Berezovsky [seminar week], and Spartaco Peviani from Italy.[front row]:Rawaf Rawaf [scholarship], Valerie Osborn [seminar week], Jane Tellini [scholarship], Jonas Fister from Germany [construction internship], Taz Maddox Collins, and Charlie Gould [construction internship]. [photo: Chihiro Saito]last_img


UKbased Oasys Automated Playout Limited is due to

first_imgUK-based Oasys Automated Playout Limited is due to launch and showcase its new line of playout software called Chameleon at IBC.The new product consolidates relevant Oasys software into a single configuration for a variety of channel playout requirements, the firm said.Chameleon is designed to adapt to the broadcast workflow environment in which it is deployed so that operating parameters for specific environment are configured to their most efficient use.“Chameleon is the best example yet of the flexibility and value-added strength of our software solution architecture. We believe it is the ideal way to ensure optimal performance and functionality, unique to every facility in which it is installed,” said Fraser Jardine, vice president of global sales at Oasys.Oasys said it will also use IBC to featuring its strategic partnerships with key broadcast vendors such as Loft London Solutions.Oasys will present at IBC on stand 8.B16last_img read more


BBC director general Tony Hall The UK government h

first_imgBBC director general Tony HallThe UK government has ordered public broadcaster the BBC will foot a £600 million (US$929.4 million ) bill for free TV licences for over-75s.This is to be phased in from 2018/19, with the Corporation taking on the full cost from 2020/21. Estimates of the cost range from between £600 million and more than £650 million, with the official total in 2013/14 being £608 million, according to the BBC Annual Report.The government has demanded the BBC take on the provision due to the state of Britain’s economic deficit.In return, the Conservative government said it would “forward legislation in the next year to modernise the licence fee to cover public service broadcast catch-up TV”.Currently, the British licence fee is mandatory for all viewers using a TV set, but not for those watching live channels through on-demand platforms and web-connected devices. The likelihood now is a subscription charge will be brought in.Furthermore, the government said it expects the licence fee, which currently stands at £145.50 a year, would rise in line with inflation during the next Charter Renewal period, though with this currently at 0.1% it may not seem a huge boon to BBC bosses scrapping to bring its finances to a more stable footing.However, this would only happen if the conclusions of the review find it a viable option in relation to “to the purposes and scope of the BBC” and if the broadcaster showed “it is undertaking efficiency savings at least equivalent to those in other parts of the public sector”.The deal will also end a decree on the BBC that forced it to ring-fence cash to allow for broadband roll-out around the UK. This will fall to £80 million in 2017/18, £20 million in 2018/19, £10 million in 2019/2020 and nothing by 2020/21.A final element of the government’s announcement noted it would “carefully the case for decriminalisation” of the licence fee – a change the Conservatives are thought to be largely behind.Unexpectedly making the announcement ahead of Charter Renewal talks set for 2017, UK Chancellor George Osborne said: “The BBC is a valued national institution that produces some of the finest television and radio in the world. But it is also a publicly-funded body, so it is right that it, like other parts of the public sector, should make savings.”“The deal we have agreed with the Corporation means that it will take on the significant cost of TV licences for the over-75s, easing some of the pressure on taxpayers who have to meet the country’s welfare bill, while also ensuring that our promise to maintain pensioner benefits is met in full over the next five years.”“We have secured the right deal for the BBC in difficult economic circumstances for the country,” said BBC director general Tony Hall.“This agreement secures the long term funding for a strong BBC over the next Charter period. It means a commitment to increase the licence fee in line with inflation, subject to Charter Review, the end of the iPlayer loophole and the end of the broadband ringfence. In the circumstances, the BBC has agreed take on the costs for free licence fees for over-75s, and after the next parliament, will take on the policy.”Hall’s predecessor, Mark Thompson, came close to resigning over the over-75s issue, claiming it would be a disaster for the BBC, while current BBC director of television Danny Cohen has also indicated programming, and even television and radio channels, could be cut if it comes to pass.Commentators have already moved to criticise the timing of the announcement, which came before any public consultation, and the back-room nature of the negotiations.Rona Fairhead, chairman of the the BBC Trust, which is the under-fire body that governs the BBC, wrote in a letter to Culture Secretary John Whittingdale she accepted the decision “as a legitimate one”, but added she could not “endorse the process by which it has been reached”. It is the second time in five years the BBC and government reached an agreement without public consultation.“It is our presumption that the government will now not seek to impose further costs on the BBC during the Charter Period,” wrote Fairhead.“Both the Trust and the Executive are committed to driving further change and efficiencies, in the light of the economic challenges that face us, and to pursue all other possible sources of revenue.“However, the Executive are clear that the necessary savings will not be achieved through productive efficiency alone and will inevitably have some impact on the nature of the BBC’s services.”The news comes days after the BBC announced it was cutting 1,000 jobs in a bid to save £50 million per year.last_img read more


Netflix this week appointed exDisney parks and re

first_imgNetflix this week appointed ex-Disney parks and resorts retail and merchandise chief Christie Fleischer to help the streaming giant develop its consumer products portfolio around original series and films.Fleischer will head up a team focused on consumer products, retail and licensee partnerships, publishing, interactive games, merchandising and experiential events.The move highlights the emerging rivalry between Netflix and Disney as the media industry consolidates around a few global leaders. Media companies have all been looking to diversify their revenue streams and Fleischer’s appointment is evidence that Netflix, which has for a long time seemed to be focusing on a straightforward and simple proposition around basically a one-size-fits all subscription offering, is no exception.Netflix did its first merchandise deals last year when it started selling Stranger Things products, including action figures, and CEO Reed Hastings told Variety earlier this year that “we’ll be doing more of that over time”.If Disney is the model for diversification, Netflix has a long way to go/ In its most recent quarterly results, the Mouse House posted revenues of US$5.2 billion (€4.5 billion) from its parks and resorts arm alone, up 6% year-on-year. However, not all has been plain sailing for the media giant in the merchandising segment. Consumer products and interactive media revenues reached US$1 billion, down 8% thanks to a decline in Disney’s licensing activities and a dip in retail store sales.Sales of products from Spider Man and Cars was down, while Avengers merchandise continued to sell well. Disney said it also expected some headwinds having a negative impact on the consumer products business in the fourth quarter.In March Disney merged the consumer products and parks divisions into a single segment under Bob Chapek, previously head of parks and resorts. That reorganisation came at the same time as the company creation of a new worldwide division under chief strategy officer Kevin Mayer that will house its new streaming services.It is of course Disney’s move into streaming – and not only Disney but that of other US studios – that signals the biggest long-term threat to Netflix. And it is not only about the US studios. In Europe, commercial broadcasters are all engaging in discussion about how to develop SVOD propositions of their own – the revival of the idea of Project Kangaroo in the UK, ProSiebenSat.1’s alliance with Discovery in Germany, and the Salto initiative in France being prime examples. Whether these nascent projects will achieve fruition or fulfil their ambitions remains to be seen, but it is clear that they are all designed to combat the threat that Netflix is perceived to embody.The fact that the studios – and Disney in particular – as well as commercial broadcasters globally are eyeing direct-to-consumer propositions as key to their future, means that Netflix will inevitably look to diversify its own revenues. Investor confidence in the streamer was shaken somewhat when Netflix posted less than stellar Q2 results in July, failing to meet its own subscriber growth forecasts.Netflix has began to tinker with its proposition at the edges, looking at new variable pricing models for example, but the core offering of unlimited content for a relatively low monthly fee remains its core proposition. The streaming giant has steered well clear of live sports and other forms of premium content, unlike its rival Amazon, and none of these relatively small scale moves are going to have a huge impact on revenue.As that core proposition becomes less unique, Netflix is likely to come under further pressure. As a major investor in original content, building a licensing and merchandising business therefore seems like a timely move. Whether Netflix’s original shows will lend itself to this in the same way as Disney’s remains to be seen, but analysts such as RBC’s Mark Mahaney have previously predicted that Netflix could secure up to US$1 billion a year from sales of merchandise around popular franchises. Such a sum could definitely help improve the company’s return on its huge investment in original shows.last_img read more