Need to harness technology innovation to help the poor stressed at UN

“We must provide incentives to various stakeholders, including the private sector, so that they do indeed focus their efforts on the needs of poor people,” Deputy-Secretary-General Louise Fréchette told the “Global Roundtable Forum on Innovation and Investment.” The purpose of the meeting was to discuss ways in which science and technology, and especially information and communications technologies (ICTs), could help meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).Stressing that developing nations were the least likely to have taken advantage of technology because of lack of resources, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Jose Antonio Ocampo said that science and technology should help “cure diseases, address environmental concerns, communicate across great distances, and empower people to realize their human potential.”Bringing technology to the poor will require new political will and additional finances, said Mr. Ocampo who is also acting as Chair of the UN ICT Task force.President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, who chaired the Forum, said the development promise of science and technology “remains unfulfilled for the poor of the world.” Strengthening educational institutions and research and development organizations in the developing countries and their effective linkages with industry is therefore “vital,” he added.Figures relating to the “digital divide” made for “grim reading,” with 1 billion people in the world without telephone access, and 800,000 villages or 30 per cent of villages worldwide without any kind of connection, said Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Haji Ahmad Badawi. At the same time, people in the developed world own 13 times more personal computers than 85 per cent of the world population, he said.Building scientific capacity and promoting technological adaptation for science and technology are part and parcel of the UN MDGs, which seek to slash a host of socio-economic ills, such as extreme poverty, hunger, and preventable diseases, by 2015. read more

Immunization gamechangers should be the norm worldwide says UN health agency

Getting back on trackMany of the successes achieved last year resulted from strengthened leadership and accountability at all levels¬ – national, regional and global.“When countries and partners establish and enforce clear accountability systems, measure results and take corrective action when results are not achieved, gaps in immunization can be closed,” added Dr Okwo-Bele. Last year, the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) identified 5 factors to achieving significant results in immunization coverage: quality and use of data community involvement better access to immunization services for marginalized and displaced populations strong health systems access to vaccines in all places at all times In strengthening the quality and use of data, the World Health Assembly passed a resolution last year on vaccine pricing, which called on countries to provide their vaccine prices to WHO. The agency’s database currently contains 1,600 vaccine price records on almost 50 different types of vaccines from 42 countries, but also from international buyers such as the procurement platform available in the WHO Region of the Americas and from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), making it the largest international vaccine price database. Because prices paid for vaccines represent a large share of countries’ immunization budgets and the prices of new vaccines are higher than those of traditional vaccines, the agency noted that costs represent a strong barrier to countries introducing new vaccines. The UN World Health Organization (WHO) announced that during World Immunization Week 2016, which begins Sunday, it will be highlighting recent gains in immunization coverage, and outlining further steps countries can take to meet global vaccination targets by 2020. “Last year immunization led to some notable wins in the fight against polio, rubella and maternal and neonatal tetanus,” says Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, in a press release. “But they were isolated wins. Polio was eliminated in one country, tetanus in three, and rubella in one geographical region. The challenge now is to make gains like this the norm,” she added. According to WHO, immunization averts two to three million deaths annually; however, an additional 1.5 million deaths could be avoided if global vaccination coverage improves. Today, an estimated 18.7 million infants – nearly one in five children worldwide – are still missing routine immunizations for preventable diseases, such as diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus.In 2012, the World Health Assembly endorsed the Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP), a commitment to ensure that no one misses out on vital immunizations. Despite gains in vaccination coverage in some regions and countries the past year, global vaccination targets remain off track.WHO noted that only one out of six targets is on track – the introduction of new or underutilized vaccines in low- and middle-income countries. During the past five years, 86 low- and middle-income countries have made 128 introductions of the following vaccines: Hib-containing vaccine, pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), rotavirus vaccine, human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV), rubella and inactivated polio vaccine. The target is to introduce one or more new or underutilized vaccines in at least 90 low- and middle-income countries by 2015.Game-changers in immunizationLast year reportedly saw some major breakthroughs. India joined Cambodia, Madagascar and Mauritania in eliminating maternal and neonatal tetanus. It also improved coverage of the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis-containing vaccines (DTP3) to 83 per cent.Despite challenges imposed by Ebola, including for routine immunization coverage, the African Region became one-step closer to being certified polio-free with the removal of Nigeria from the list of polio-endemic countries. As recently as 2012, the country accounted for more than half of all polio cases worldwide. Now, only two countries – Afghanistan and Pakistan – remain polio endemic.The Region of the Americas became the first to eliminate rubella, a contagious viral disease that can cause multiple birth defects as well as foetal death when contracted by women during pregnancy. Additionally, five years after the introduction of an affordable conjugate meningitis A vaccine, immunization of more than 230 million people has led to the control and near elimination of deadly meningitis A disease in the African “meningitis belt” that stretches from Senegal to Ethiopia.New vaccines against dengue, Ebola and malaria have the potential to be game-changers in immunization in the near future. For example, through a “ring-vaccination” strategy, the Ebola vaccine is being given to anyone who has come into contact with a person infected with Ebola, as well as contacts of theirs.And, the new polio vaccination regimen, with the withdrawal of type 2 oral polio vaccine in 155 countries this month, represents a critical step towards a polio-free world.“Although the world has seen some achievements in immunization, global vaccination coverage has stalled the past few years,” said Dr Flavia Bustreo, WHO Assistant Director-General Family, Women and Children’s Health and Vice-Chair of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance Board. “Far too many opportunities to reach unvaccinated children and close the immunization gap are still being missed every day.” Reducing missed opportunities To improve vaccination coverage, WHO is calling on countries to reach more children missed by routine delivery systems, especially those living in countries, districts or areas where less than 80 per cent of them are receiving vaccines or those living in countries affected by conflicts or emergencies.More than 60 per cent of children who are unvaccinated live in 10 countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Uganda and South Africa.Equally, when a child or adult who is unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated visits a health facility for any reason, their vaccination record should be checked by healthcare workers and they should be given all vaccines they are missing. However, recent field assessments in American and African Regions have shown that between 23 and 96 per cent of eligible children who visited a health facility for vaccination or for medical care, left the health facility without receiving the vaccine doses they needed.“These children are not what we would consider ‘hard-to-reach’ or underserved populations,” said Dr Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele, Director of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals at WHO. “Children who are already present in health facilities are easy wins in improving vaccination coverage.” Women wait to have their children vaccinated against polio in a health centre in Erbil, Kurdistan region of Iraq. Photo: UNICEF/Anmar read more

Researchers sexism fears are putting womens health at risk scientist claims

first_imgThe research is then generalised and widened out for women, despite there being evidence gender “matters fundamentally, powerfully and pervasively”.Scientists have widely failed to highlight the differences for fear of being “a pariah in the eyes of neuroscience mainstream”, possibly to the detriment of women’s health, it was claimed.According to The Times, neurobiologist Larry Cahill, from the University of California Irvine, said for years the assumption had been that “once you get outside of reproductive functions, what you find in males and females is fundamentally the same and therefore there is no reason to study both sexes – and beyond that it is not good to study females as they have pesky circulating hormones”.He added that the last two decades had proven the assumption as “false, false, false”. “The heart of the resistance is the view that if neuroscience shows males and females are not the same in brain function, we are showing they are not equal. That is false,” he said. The heart of the resistance is the view that if neuroscience shows males and females are not the same in brain function, we are showing they are not equalProfessor Larry Cahill Scientists have widely failed to highlight the differences for fear of being “a pariah in the eyes of neuroscience mainstream”, it has been claimedCredit:Cultura Creative (RF) / Alamy Stock Photo Scientists’ fear of being labelled sexist is putting women’s health at risk because researchers have ignored crucial gender differences in the brain, it has been claimed.Male and female brains react differently to drugs when it comes to some conditions, such as strokes, but research predominantly concentrates on men, the guest editor of this month’s Journal of Neuroscience Research said.   Scientists have widely failed to highlight the differences for fear of being “a pariah in the eyes of neuroscience mainstream” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. One example Prof Cahill gave was Alzheimer’s, where apoptosis – the process of programmed cell death – occurs differently in men and women. Scientists looking into the process and coming up with drugs to deal with the illness “would damn well be aware of the differences”, he added.It was added that in some drugs testing cases, these generalisations may have instead put men’s health at risk. Lazaroids, a rejected stroke treatment, may have worked for men but was deemed as no longer working after being used on both sexes.Eric Prager, the editor of the journal, said in the future any submissions would have to state the sex of the subjects used, as well as an explanation of why this is the case.last_img read more

Eyewitness describes Whitehall terror arrest suspect looked relaxed

first_imgEyewitness Chris Kacyk recalls the arrest of the man suspected of plotting to carry out a terrorist attack in Westminster on Thursday. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.last_img

LETTER HPV Vaccine for boys right thing to do even if

Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)RelatedOp-Ed: HPV vaccines are safe, all children should be immunized with itNovember 8, 2017In “Opinion”Latin America, C’bean record over 28,000 cervical cancer deaths annuallyFebruary 1, 2019In “Health”“Life is a big deal” – Min Lawrence at HPV awareness concertOctober 15, 2017In “Health” Dear Editor:In 2010, as Minister of Health, I announced the HPV Vaccine Initiative. In 2011, we launched the HPV vaccine Initiative for girls 9 to 11 years old. The Initiative’s implementation was launched with a simple ceremony at the Grove (East bank Demerara) Health Center. I spoke at the launching. Among the persons present was the Regional Health Officer, who at the time was Dr. Karen Cummings, now the Minister in the Ministry of Public Health. Amusingly, this HPV Initiative has been launched, at least, three more times since May 2015. This week, the Minister of Public Health, Ms. Volda Lawrence announced that the HPV Vaccine Initiative will be extended to boys. This is a necessary move and I commend the Ministry of Public Health. In commending them, I urge that this announcement is not merely more talk, since the roll out of the Initiative to include boys is now, at least, three years late.At the time, the PPP Government invested in the HPV Vaccine Initiative because global research had shown HPV was, and is, a common virus that infects both men and women. Studies show that HPV is so common that 8 out of 10 people will get an HPV infection at some point in their lifetime. HPV infections can cause cervical cancers in women, cancers of the back of the throat, known as oropharyngeal cancer, cancer in the anus, in both women and men, and penis in men. Cancers of the back of the throat have now surpassed cervical cancer as the most common type of cancer caused by HPV. Unlike cervical cancer in women, there are no recommended screening tests for the other types of cancers that HPV causes, so they may not be found until they cause health problems. The HPV Vaccine Initiative, therefore, was more than an Initiative to stop cervical cancer. While best known as a critical strategy in the fight against cervical cancer, HPV vaccines are now seen as a potent tool in the fight against several cancers. This is why, we must spare no effort to ensure universal access to HPV vaccines for our children and other vulnerable groups.The Minister of Public Health’s announcement that the HPV Vaccine Program will be extended to boys is correcting a grave mis-step since this progressive move is already more than three years late from the timeline established in 2010, when I was Minister of Health. At the time, we promised HPV vaccine would become part of the immunization program by 2011, starting with vaccination of girls age 9 to 11 years. Parents of girls 12 to 15 years old were encouraged to bring in their daughters for vaccination also. At the time, we established 2015 as the start date for extending HPV vaccination to boys between 9 and 11 years old. The announcement by the Minister that the program will now include boys is a case of “better late than never”.When we outlined the details for the roll out of the HPV vaccination initiative at the Initiative’s launching at the Grove Health Center, beginning with girls 9 to 11 years old in 2011 and including the vaccination of boys by 2015, we also announced by 2020, we would begin providing HPV vaccines for women 20 to 40 years old who did not have the HPV vaccines, which would be the vast majority of Guyanese women of that age group. Interestingly, the US started the adult women HPV vaccine program in 2018. When we launched the HPV Vaccine Initiative in 2011 with its rollout details, the initiative was one of the most ambitious HPV Initiatives in the World.Vaccinating boys with the HPV vaccine is a critical step forward and even though Guyana missed the original timeline of 2015, Guyana still is in the forefront of developing countries when it comes to HPV vaccines. This was an important strategic move by the Ministry of Health in its fight against cervical cancer, but since then, it is a critical initiative in the overall anti-cancer fight. Once we have universal access to HPV vaccines in Guyana, we have a good chance of reducing the incidence of cervical cancer by greater than 70% by 2030 and also to have a prevention success in the fight against other cancers. It is, therefore, encouraging that Guyana is implementing the program, as originally envisaged, even if it is disappointing that the timelines have shifted. I encourage the Ministry of Public Health to hasten forward with the  timelines.In making the announcement, the Minister did not update the citizens of our country with the status of HPV vaccination for girls 9 to 11 years old. If the program has been effective, the vast majority of girls between 11 and 18 years old at this time should be HPV immunized. The Ministry of Public Health needs to update the country on the HPV-status of girls between the age of 11 and 18 at this time. Does the Ministry have any data? We need to know. Guyana cannot simply be launching the program every year without updating citizens about progress made in immunizing our children, both boys and girls, with the HPV vaccine. It is like spinning our wheels, and not going anywhere.Dr. Leslie Ramsammy read more

Fake Juventus player exposed

first_imgDionicio Farid Rodriguez deceived everyone in Mexico by pretending he played for JuventusThe 19-year-old, who comes from a town called Teotitlán de Flores Magón with just 8,500 residents, invented a life that involved him being a Juventus footballer.Rodriguez created a fake Instagram account and gained 16,000 followers after adding photos of himself donning the Juventus jersey.He even edited images of a current Juventus academy prodigy in Joao Serrao from Portugal.Libertad Digital reports that Rodriguez claimed Juventus discovered him in the United States, where he was about to sign for an unnamed MLS team.Thanks to his apparent status as a Juventus prodigy, Rodriguez had interviews with the media in Mexico to discuss his experiences with the Old Lady.Romelu Lukaku, Inter MilanLukaku backed to beat Ronaldo in Serie A scoring charts Andrew Smyth – September 14, 2019 Former Inter Milan star Andy van der Meyde is confident Romelu Lukaku will outscore Cristiano Ronaldo in this season’s Serie A.Rodriguez stated that he played as a centre-back for the Juventus youth team and even scored 10 goals, three of which came in the Uefa Youth League.The fraud also allegedly played for Mexican clubs Lobos BUAP and Pumas de la UNAM, while also claiming he had featured for the national team at U20 level.Dionicio Farid Rodríguez, el impostor mexicano que se hizo pasar por jugador de la Juventus— sosdependencia (@sosdependencia1) October 10, 2018last_img read more

And Were Off — The Texas Redistricting Trial Starts Today

first_imgIllustration by Anneke Paterson / Todd WisemanDid Texas target voters by race? No, the state says — even though they admit to drawing maps in a partisan way, which is something courts have allowed in the past.The curtains are rising on the redistricting case in Texas today as three federal judges in San Antonio begin a week-long trial centered on a crucial question: Did the state intentionally weaken voting rights for millions of Texans just because of their skin color? With 2018 elections coming into sight, the clock is ticking — and the trial could set the stage for shaking up races across the state. Here’s what you need to know: • How did we get here? After fresh census data came out in 2010, the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature drafted new political boundaries. Minority rights groups immediately raised a red flag, calling the new state and congressional maps discriminatory toward Latino and black voters across Texas. A court drew temporary maps ahead of the 2012 elections in response; lawmakers formally adopted those in 2013 and the state has used them ever since. • The issue flared this spring when the same three judges heading the trial this week dealt two blows to the state. They first ruled that three of Texas’ 36 congressional districts were drawn illegally. The judges took issue with the state’s House map a month later, saying the political boundaries intentionally discriminated against minorities statewide and in particular districts. • The divide: Texas wants the trio of judges to dump the legal challenge of the maps. Minority rights groups want the maps — which they argue were meant to be temporary — redrawn before the 2018 election cycle. Did Texas target voters by race? No, the state says — even though they admit to drawing maps in a partisan way, which is something courts have allowed in the past. Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court is about to consider another major redistricting case challenging maps drawn to gain partisan advantage. • Tick tock. If the judges order new maps, it would send lawmakers scrambling to create new ones without delaying the upcoming elections. If the involved parties aren’t happy with the eventual ruling, the case could head to the U.S. Supreme Court, potentially altering timing for candidates in the 2018 election cycle. The trial is expected wrap up Friday or Saturday, but it’s unclear when the judges will rule. Sharelast_img read more

Watch a RealLife Nissan GTR Car be Driven With a DualShock 4

first_img The Gran Turismo series is best known for how realistically it portrays racing. There is even a GT Academy where players of the game learn how to drive real-world race cars. Now, Nissan (a founder of GT Academy) has taken things to the next logical step. To celebrate the upcoming release of Gran Turismo Sport, made one of its GT-R cars drivable with a PlayStation controller.The remote-controlled car was operated by Jann Mardenborough. Not only is he a huge fan of Gran Turismo, but he is also a graduate of GT Academy. He controlled the car while riding inside of an R44 Raven II helicopter. This way, he was able to see the entirety of the Silverstone’s National Circuit as he “drove” the car. His fastest lap was 1:17:47. He managed to get an average speed of 76mph with a top speed of 131mph. The GT-R (or GT-R/C as this version of the car was dubbed) tops out at 196mph. This particular car is a standard 2011 GT-R from the same year Mardenborough won GT Academy.“The response from the car when using the controller was far more engaging than I thought it would be,” said Mardenborough in today’s press release. “JLB Design has done an incredible job at making everything respond really well. Steering, acceleration, and braking were all intelligently configured, allowing for the controlled application so I could really get a feel through the corners and hold it steady down the fast straights.”AdChoices广告As explained on Jalopnik, the DualShock 4 controller was connected to a microcomputer that transmitted signals to the GT-R/C. There were six computers situated in the back of the car that communicated between the car and controller up to 100 times per second. Robots inside the car controlled steering, transmission, throttle, and brakes. In the helicopter, Mardenborough used an LCD display to judge speeds. Two operators on different radio frequencies could remotely control the car’s breaks and cut power in case anything went wrong.Anything is possible with technology, and this is certainly a very cool effort by Nissan. Hopefully, they will allow others to race cars with PlayStation 4 controllers in the future. I know I’d love to give this a shot.Gran Turismo Sport will be released exclusively on PlayStation 4 on October 17.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. These Are the Games You Should Check Out in OctoberSony Shouldn’t Release Any PS4 Exclusives This Holiday Season Stay on targetlast_img read more

Outbound passenger count crosses 4000 at Bagdogra Airport

first_imgKolkata: The outbound passenger load at Bagdogra Airport has crossed the mark of 4,000 on Sunday.With a sharp increase in the passenger load at Bagdogra Airport, the outbound passenger count on Sunday was 4,011.It may be mentioned that recently, the announcement of two additional flights of AirAsia from the airport had come and it had taken the total number of flights to 26. The two additional flights are connecting Bagdogra directly with Delhi and Kolkata. Also Read – Heavy rain hits traffic, flightsAccording to the experts, the passenger load is expected to go up further with the summer vacation approaching, as people will choose to visit Darjeeling and Sikkim with schools and colleges remaining closed. It may be recalled that the Mamata Banerjee government has waived the tax on aviation turbine fuel (ATF) and it has helped increase the number of flight operations from Bagdogra. Moreover, the development of necessary infrastructure for tourism in North Bengal has also ensured a constant flow of tourists in the region. A large section of tourists now prefer flights to reach their destination, as it saves time. Also Read – Speeding Jaguar crashes into Merc, 2 B’deshi bystanders killedIt was on February 23 that Bagdogra Airport set a new record of crossing the 2 million passenger count in the last fiscal. Moreover, the Chief Minister herself was the 2 millionth passenger, when she took a flight from Bagdogra Airport to return to Kolkata after her North Bengal tour.Bagdogra Airport had witnessed a record increase of passengers by 53 percent in April-December in 2017, compared to that of the corresponding period in 2016, when around 10.61 lakh passengers had availed flights from the airport from April to December. In 2017, the figure went up to 16.28 lakh, which is an increase of over 50 percent. With the increase in passenger count, better passenger amenities have also been ensured at the airport.last_img read more

Folk Festival to be icing on cake for Hill tourists this season

first_imgDarjeeling: With peace and tranquility returning, tourists are again making a beeline for the Darjeeling and Kalimpong Hills. This time there is an added attraction for the tourists visiting the Hills, as the 2nd edition of the Kalimpong Darjeeling Folk Festival is all set to be flagged off on October 26 in Kalimpong.The 3 day festival is part of the Rural Craft & Cultural Hub initiative of the department of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises & Textiles (MSME&T), in collaboration with UNESCO. Video documentation of the cultural heritage of 16 Hill communities will also be released at the festival. Also Read – Rain batters Kolkata, cripples normal lifeThe MSME&T department has developed 10 Rural Craft Hubs in association with UNESCO, which benefit 3,000 handicraft artisans. It is also in the process of developing Rural Craft and Cultural Hubs (RCCH) across 15 districts, which would benefit an additional 12,000 rural artisans. The endeavours are aimed at strengthening grassroot level creative enterprises in the state. “The West Bengal Khadi and Village Industry Board (WBKVIB) has supported many such Hill communities in Kalimpong and Darjeeling. They will be supporting them with Folk Centres. MOUs have been inked with the communities and the process of land identification for the Folk Centres is underway. Already, 5 communities have identified or donated land,” stated Nirmalya Roy, manager of Banglanatak dot com. Also Read – Speeding Jaguar crashes into Mercedes car in Kolkata, 2 pedestrians killed”Video documentation of the cultural heritage of all the 16 Hill communities has also been prepared. The DVDs will be released at the festival” added Roy. “The DVDs are very special as they contain the cultural brief of the Darjeeling and Kalimpong region, covering lifestyle, food habits, costumes, scripts and other cultural elements of these communities,” said Roy. The communities include Mangar, Dhimal, Tamang, Lepcha, Rai, Khas, Bhutia, Tibetan, Limbu, Sarki, Bhujel, Newar, Gurung, Kami, Damai and Sherpa. Albaluna, an international band from Portugal, will be the star attraction of the festival. Different Hill communities will also present their unique cultures, songs and dances. “The cultural aspect of any destination is a major attraction. Such initiatives go a long way in promoting a place and people. It is a welcome move,” stated Samrat Sanyal, a tour operator.last_img read more

Machine Learning for March Madness Is a Competition In Itself

first_imgThe tricky part for statisticians is determining not only which variables are relevant to predicting a team’s performance, but also the importance or weight of each variable relative to the others. In this respect, Todisco says he found strength of schedule, a team’s number of assists, and three point defense percentages to be strong indicators of a team’s future performance.The biggest benefit of using machine learning to create his bracket, Todisco says, is that it “takes the human bias out of it.” For example, he says, “my model said [Loyola] had a 60 percent chance of beating University of Miami, which I would never have thought of without machine learning.”Who Rates the RatersThe adoption of machine learning techniques isn’t just limited to the amateur bracketologists in the Kaggle competition, however. In August, the NCAA announced it was scrapping the Rating Percentage Index (RPI), a system it had used since 1981 to create the official ranking of the 353 Division I men’s basketball teams. In its stead it would use the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET), a new rating system that was developed using machine learning methods. In the five years since Machine Learning Madness started, Sonas says the number of entrants to the competition has nearly tripled. This year, 955 competitors are vying for a total of $25,000 in prize money that will be distributed to the creators of the five most accurate brackets. But to take home the grand prize it’s not merely enough to have the most accurate bracket. Participants must also have predicted the outcome of their bracket with a high degree of certainty.Before the NCAA tournament begins, Machine Learning Madness participants are given access to a massive trove of data that includes basic information like the scores for every Division I basketball game dating back to 1984, team box scores dating back to 2002, and all the team rankings from dozens of different rating systems collected by Massey. This means that participants can use machine learning to do their own regression analyses and create their own rating systems. If they don’t feel like digging into basketball stats, they can use machine learning “ensembling” techniques to analyze the results of the dozens of already existing rating systems.Regardless of their technique, participants must predict the outcome of each of the roughly 2,000 possible NCAA tournament games. In addition to predicting the winner and loser of each possible matchup, the competitors must also declare how certain they are of this outcome on a scale from zero to one. Points are awarded to participants based on a log loss scale, which means that high levels of certainty for incorrect predictions are severely punished and vice versa. Thus, for example, if I predicted that Virginia will beat Purdue with 0.9 certainty and Purdue ends up winning, I will lose exponentially more points than if I had predicted that outcome with, say, 0.6 certainty.Michael Todisco, a data scientist at the event marketing software company Splash, entered Machine Learning Madness for the first time last year. He says he’s always been an analytically minded sports fan and entered the competition on a whim. After Villanova trounced Michigan to win last year’s national championship, Todisco says he was surprised to learn that he had won Machine Learning Madness and would be taking home the $25,000 first prize. A team’s RPI is a number that is supposed to quantify its relative strength compared to other teams in the division. This number is calculated by combining the team’s winning percentage (calculated as the number of games won divided by the number of games played), its opponent’s winning percentage, and the winning percentage of its opponent’s opponents, while also taking into account whether those wins occurred at home or away (home wins count for less than away wins). Nothing but Net (Works)The whole point of machine learning is to find meaningful trends among the noise. So using these techniques to predict NCAA champions makes perfect sense. Over the last few years, a steadily growing number of data scientists have competed in Machine Learning Madness, which invites participants to leverage machine learning techniques to create their NCAA tournament brackets. The contest is hosted on Kaggle, a Google-owned platform that is a cross between Stack Exchange and Github specifically designed for data scientists.Machine Learning Madness was launched in 2014 by Jeff Sonas, the owner of a database consulting firm who also designed a chess ranking method, and Mark Glickman, a statistician at Harvard. Sonas and Glickman had previously organized Kaggle competitions around chess tournaments, but “it was a relatively obscure area so we [realized] we would have greater outreach if we did a more popular topic like March Madness,” Sonas says. This year, 47 million Americans will spend an estimated $8.5 billion betting on the outcome of the NCAA basketball championships, a cultural ritual appropriately known as March Madness. Before the tournament starts, anyone who wants to place a bet must fill out a bracket, which holds their predictions for each of the 63 championship games. The winner of a betting pool is the one whose bracket most closely mirrors the results of the championship.For most people, making a bracket is a way to flex their knowledge of collegiate basketball and maybe make a few bucks by outguessing their colleagues in the office betting pool. But for the mathematically inclined, accurately predicting March Madness brackets is a technical problem in search of a solution.In the past few years, the proliferation of open source machine learning tools and robust, publicly available datasets have added a technological twist to March Madness: Data scientists and statisticians now compete to develop the most accurate machine learning models for bracket predictions. In these competitions, knowing how to wield random forests and logistic regression counts for more than court smarts. In fact, knowing too much about basketball might hurt your odds. Welcome to the world of Machine Learning Madness.What Are the OddsBetting and sports have always been closely linked, but as the size of professional and collegiate leagues ballooned during the later half of the 20th century, predicting the outcomes of sporting competitions became exponentially more difficult. In 1939, just eight teams competed in the inaugural NCAA basketball tournament, which would make the odds of filling out a perfect bracket around one in 128. When the tournament expanded to 16 teams in 1951, those odds were lowered to one in 32,768, but this is still pretty good compared to your chances of filling out a perfect 64-team bracket today, which is around one in 9.2 quintillion. There’s an important caveat here, however. These odds are calculated as if each team had a 50-50 chance of winning each game in the tournament, but in reality, some teams have a clear advantage over their opponents. For example, in the first round of March Madness the highest ranked teams (the first seeds) are pitted against the lowest ranked teams (the sixteenth seeds) in each division. Given that a sixteenth seed has beat a first seed only a single time in the history of March Madness, the outcomes of these games can be considered a given. As calculated by Duke University math professor Jonathan Mattingly, treating the outcomes of these games as guaranteed wins for the one seeds increases the odds of selecting a perfect bracket by six orders of magnitude to a measly one in 2.4 trillion. Todisco says it did take awhile to figure out which machine learning approach would work best for the relatively limited amount of training data. The approach he eventually chose was a random forest algorithm, which basically uses decision trees to probabilistically model all the possible outcomes of the tournament to arrive at a prediction. Using the algorithm, Todisco was able to see how altering the values of various parameters affected the accuracy of his model’s predictions; he could fine-tune the model by slightly altering the parameters each time it was run.At the heart of any March Madness model is the team ranking, an ordinal list based on the ratings of the constituent teams. These ratings are a few variables. The most obvious is a team’s win-loss record and some rating systems are based entirely on this metric. But trying to predict the results of a game like basketball using only a team’s win-loss record is a bit like trying to perform surgery with a hammer. It ignores a lot of details that are important for accurately assessing the relative strength of two teams. For example, a team that only wins by one point is much more evenly matched with their opponent than a team that wins by 30 points. If you were to make a prediction based only on the results of a game without considering its point spread, you might overestimate the likelihood that the victor will win again. The RPI was used by the NCAA championship selection committee to help determine which teams would compete in the tournament each year and how those teams would be seeded in the tournament. In theory, anyone filling out a March Madness bracket could simply look at the NCAA’s official ratings to determine how the tournament would play out. There would be upsets, of course, but if you just picked the NCAA’s highest ranked team in each bracket, your results should be pretty close to the actual results in the tournament.The reality, however, was much different. In fact, the NCAA’s official rating system produced the second worst March Madness results of the 75 different rating systems tracked by the sports statistician Kenneth Massey in 2017. Although the inaccuracy of the official rating method had been criticized for years, it wasn’t until just before the start of this year’s collegiate basketball season that the NCAA revealed it would be using the NET rating system to help select teams for the tournament going forward.The NCAA didn’t respond to my request for comment, but according to a press release describing the new system, it incorporates far more variables into its system for calculating a team’s rating. In addition to winning percentages, NET also factors in a team’s strength of schedule, game location, scoring margin (capped at 10 points), and “net offensive and defensive efficiency.” In a break with tradition, the NCAA hasn’t released the exact formula for the new rating system, but it did say the model was optimized using machine learning techniques that used late-season games, including tournament games, as training data.Machine learning is a field that is both full of promise and woefully overhyped. We’ll have to wait to see the final results of the NCAA championship to determine whether it helped to create a more accurate official ranking, but if Machine Learning Madness has proved anything, it’s that the future of collegiate basketball is as much about building networks as cutting down the nets. In short, you have a far better chance of winning the Powerball jackpot—one in 300 billion—than you do of filling out a perfect March Madness bracket. The challenge for statisticians, then, is developing mathematical models that improve these dismal odds as much as possible. Tournament modeling or “bracketology” is a nearly alchemical process that involves identifying the most important factors in a team’s success and combining these elements in such a way that they produce the most accurate possible prediction about a team’s future performance.These models will never be perfect, of course. There’s simply too much randomness in the system being modeled—players get injured, rosters change, coaches quit, and so on. This “noise” is something that no model will ever be able to fully anticipate. “The point is to try to find the trend and be more accurate than if you’re just going with your gut,” says Tim Chartier, an associate professor of mathematics at Davidson College, where he teaches a class on bracketology. “There’s only so much you can expect out of the model and then you just have to watch it play out with the randomness taking effect.” According to Todisco, the hardest part about the contest was the small amount of data available to train machine learning algorithms and the outsized role that luck played in the predictions. When it comes to machine learning, more data is almost always better. And while Todisco bemoaned the lack of March Madness data for training machine learning algorithms relative to training them for other tasks, it’s a far more complete dataset than most sports statisticians were working with only a few decades ago. More Great WIRED StoriesDJs of the future don’t spin records—they write codeThe true dollar cost of the anti-vaccine movementFerrari built the track-slaying P80/C for a single customerLong before selfies, people wanted to share picsWhat it’s like to be thrown in jail for posting on Facebook👀 Looking for the latest gadgets? Check out our latest buying guides and best deals all year round📩 Want more? Sign up for our daily newsletter and never miss our latest and greatest storieslast_img read more

Police bodycam maker Axon says no to facial recognition for now

first_imgFacial recognition is a controversial enough topic without bringing in everyday policing and the body cameras many (but not enough) officers wear these days. But Axon, which makes many of those cameras, solicited advice on the topic from and independent research board, and in accordance with its findings has opted not to use facial recognition for the time being.The company, formerly known as Taser, established its “AI and Policing Technology Ethics Board” last year, and the group of 11 experts from a variety of fields just issued their first report, largely focused (by their own initiative) on the threat of facial recognition.The advice they give is unequivocal: don’t use it — now or perhaps ever.More specifically, their findings are as follows:Facial recognition simply isn’t good enough right now for it to be used ethically.Don’t talk about “accuracy,” talk about specific false negatives and positives, since those are more revealing and relevant.Any facial recognition model that is used shouldn’t be overly customizable, or it will open up the possibility of abuse.Any application of facial recognition should only be initiated with the consent and input of those it will affect.Until there is strong evidence that these programs provide real benefits, there should be no discussion of use.Facial recognition technologies do not exist, nor will they be used, in a political or ethical vacuum, so consider the real world when developing or deploying them.The full report may be read here; there’s quite a bit of housekeeping and internal business, but the relevant part starts on page 24. Each of the above bullet points gets a couple pages of explanation and examples.Axon, for its part, writes that it is quite in agreement: “The first board report provides us with thoughtful and actionable recommendations regarding face recognition technology that we, as a company, agree with… Consistent with the board’s recommendation, Axon will not be commercializing face matching products on our body cameras at this time.”Not that they won’t be looking into it. The idea, I suppose, is that the technology will never be good enough to provide the desired benefits if no one is advancing the science that underpins it. The report doesn’t object except to advise the company that it adhere to the evolving best practices of the AI research community to make sure its work is free from biases and systematic flaws.One interesting point that isn’t always brought up is the difference between face recognition and face matching. Although the former is the colloquial catch-all term for what we think of as being potentially invasive, biased, and so on, in the terminology here it is different from the latter.Face recognition, or detection, is just finding the features that make up a face in the picture — this can be used by a smartphone to focus its camera or apply an effect, for instance. Face matching is taking the features of the detected face and comparing it to a database in order to match it to one on file — that could be to unlock your phone using Face ID, but it could also be the FBI comparing everyone entering an airport to the most wanted list.Axon uses face recognition and tracking to process the many, many hours of video that police departments full of body cams produce. When that video is needed as evidence, faces other than the people directly involved may need to be blurred out, and you can’t do that unless you know where the faces are. (Update: This paragraph originally stated that Axon was using a “lesser form of face matching,” which matches faces within videos but not with any central database, that it calls face re-identification. In fact this technology is not currently deployed commercially and is only in the research phase.)That particular form of the technology seems benign in its current form, and no doubt there are plenty of other applications that it would be hard to disagree with. But as facial recognition techniques grow more mainstream it will be good to have advisory boards like this one keeping the companies that use them honest.last_img read more

Francis Road turned into a river of water


Beware deadly virus killing dogs puppies

first_imgSymptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, not eating and lethargy. If your dog is experiencing these symptoms, then contact the vet as soon as possible.The league will re-open on August 1.Public Safety will not be permitted to pick up stray dogs until the kennels re-open.How do dogs get infectedParvo is not airborne. A dog must come into physical contact with the Parvovirus to contract the disease. Generally, dogs contract it by sniffing, eating or licking an infected dog’s faeces or vomit. When a dog sniffs, its nose usually touches the object it sniffs. The virus enters the body through the respiratory system because the dog touched it.The reason lay people believe it is airborne is that they cannot understand how dogs kept separately catch the disease. This happens because dogs can also pick up the virus by touching anything that an infected dog touched, including bedding, grass in the yard, bushes and clothing on a human that was not disinfected after handling a Parvo-infected dog. WebsiteWebsiteWebsite WebsiteWebsiteWebsite WebsiteWebsiteWebsite The Animal Anti-Cruelty League (AACL) kennels have closed due to an outbreak of the deadly Canine Parvovirus (Parvo).15 dogs have already died as a result of this killer virus.Canine Parvovirus is highly contagious and is spread from dog to dog by direct or indirect contact with their faeces. This virus is not airborne. It may infect other mammals, but not humans.Vaccines can prevent this infection, but mortality can reach 91% in untreated cases.Treatment often involves veterinary hospitalisation.last_img read more

VMware says its looking to acquire Pivotal

first_imgVMware today confirmed that it is in talks to acquire software development platform Pivotal Software, the service best known for commercializing the open-source Cloud Foundry platform. The proposed transaction would see VMware acquire all outstanding Pivotal Class A stock for $15 per share, a significant markup over Pivotal’s current share price (which unsurprisingly shot up right after the announcement).Pivotal’s shares have struggled since the company’s IPO in April 2018. The company was originally spun out of EMC Corporation (now DellEMC) and VMware in 2012 to focus on Cloud Foundry, an open-source software development platform that is currently in use by the majority of Fortune 500 companies. A lot of these enterprises are working with Pivotal to support their Cloud Foundry efforts. Dell itself continues to own the majority of VMware and Pivotal, and VMware also owns an interest in Pivotal already and sells Pivotal’s services to its customers, as well. It’s a bit of an ouroboros of a transaction.Pivotal Cloud Foundry was always the company’s main product, but it also offered additional consulting services on top of that. Despite improving its execution since going public, Pivotal still lost $31.7 million in its last financial quarter as its stock price traded at just over half of the IPO price. Indeed, the $15 per share VMware is offering is identical to Pivotal’s IPO price.An acquisition by VMware would bring Pivotal’s journey full circle, though this is surely not the journey the Pivotal team expected. VMware is a Cloud Foundry Foundation platinum member, together with Pivotal, DellEMC, IBM, SAP and Suse, so I wouldn’t expect any major changes in VMware’s support of the overall open-source ecosystem behind Pivotal’s core platform.It remains to be seen whether the acquisition will indeed happen, though. In a press release, VMware acknowledged the discussion between the two companies but noted that “there can be no assurance that any such agreement regarding the potential transaction will occur, and VMware does not intend to communicate further on this matter unless and until a definitive agreement is reached.” That’s the kind of sentence lawyers like to write. I would be quite surprised if this deal didn’t happen, though.Buying Pivotal would also make sense in the grand scheme of VMware’s recent acquisitions. Earlier this year, the company acquired Bitnami, and last year it acquired Heptio, the startup founded by two of the three co-founders of the Kubernetes project, which now forms the basis of many new enterprise cloud deployments and, most recently, Pivotal Cloud Foundry.last_img read more

Weekend snow warning for Van Reenen

first_imgHeavy snowfall is expected in Northern KZN if the predicted weather front does not change course.Areas affected, based on the current path of the system, are as follows: WC, EC, NC, KZN, Free State, Lesotho, and possibly Mpumalanga. According to the Snow Report SA facebook page, if this system holds its current path, there could be HEAVY falls in KZN and Lesotho.However, they stress that “this is true for the current path of the system, and it may change course as it approaches the WC today.” We will keep you updated on the weather front and the likelihood of heavy snow in Van Reenen as we get more information.If you are planning to travel, using Van Reenen’s Pass, please pay close attention to all weather reports.Heaviest snowfall is expected on Friday morning, which will most likely close Van Reenen.LATEST SNOW UPDATE:KZN and Lesotho are predicted to get the bulk of the snow. Snowfall will extend even as far as the KZN Midlands, but the snowfall will not be as heavy as initially predicted.As of today (Wednesday morning) light snowfall is expected on Friday morning at Van Reenen. This may change, we will keep you updated. WebsiteWebsiteWebsite WebsiteWebsiteWebsite WebsiteWebsiteWebsite last_img read more

Woman murdered in front of congregation

first_imgWebsiteWebsiteWebsite WebsiteWebsiteWebsite WebsiteWebsiteWebsite A mother of three was brutally stabbed to death by her estranged husband at a church service on Friday afternoon. 36-year-old Neliswa ‘Nelly’ Nzuza from the Uitval area in Ward 2, Indaka, was just about to go into a school where an Easter church service was to be held when an apparent argument between her and her husband turned deadly. It is alleged that the woman, who was also an Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) councillor, had been abused by her husband for some time and that the couple were separated. The father of the deceased, Mr Nzuza, told the Gazette that he and his daughter had decided to go to a service held at the Intando Yesizwe school. His daughter left before him and he caught up with her at the school. He says that when he arrived, she was standing outside with her husband and it looked as if they were having an argument. “As soon as I got out of the car, my daughter called me. Then I heard her husband saying, ‘Why are you calling your father while we’re talking?’” The husband then grabbed his wife’s arm and pulled out a knife. He proceeded to stab her in the back. Her father tried to intervene, but was stabbed in the arm in the process. She ran into the school, but was followed by her attacker and stabbed repeatedly. Congregation members watched in horror as the woman was stabbed to death. Mr Nzuza is still in shock after the incident. “I worked very hard to raise my child. She was being abused but said that everything would be fine. She was a nurse at Nazareth Hospital (Indaka area) and an active member of the church. She really was a wonderful person. How could this happen on Easter Friday, such a holy day?” said her shattered and heartbroken father. The husband turned himself in at Pomeroy police station the following day and was taken to Ladysmith police station. He is set to appear in court today (Monday). The deceased will be buried this coming weekend.last_img read more

NEW YORK MIAMI – Marquis Jet the leader in priv

first_imgNEW YORK & MIAMI – Marquis Jet, the leader in private jet cards, has been selected as the exclusive private aviation partner by The Yachts of Seabourn, according to a press release received by Elite Traveler.Guests sailing aboard The Yachts of Seabourn, recognized among the world’s most exclusive cruise lines, will receive special benefits when they purchase their first 25-hour Marquis Jet Card. In addition, The Yachts of Seabourn will provide special privileges and value-added benefits for Marquis Jet Card Owners embarking on Seabourn cruises. This partnership adds an exciting new dimension to the value-added benefits provided to Marquis Jet Card Owners, according to the companies.“The Yachts of Seabourn partners with companies that share our attention to detail and our dedication to personalized service, comfort, and customization,” stated Adam Snitzer, vice president of marketing for the Yachts of Seabourn. “The Marquis Jet Card provides Card Owners, through an exclusive alliance with NetJets®, with access to the very best in safety, reliability and personal service, and that makes Marquis Jet an ideal choice for Seabourn guests. We are proud to name them as our exclusive private aviation provider.”“We are delighted to have been selected as the exclusive private aviation partner of The Yachts of Seabourn, a company renowned for superior quality and highly personalized service, and to provide our respective clientele with the perfect complement to their travel needs plus additional special benefits,” said Mark Sage, executive vice president, business development for Marquis Jet. “Whether they are traveling via private aircraft or yacht, Marquis Jet Card Owners and Seabourn guests appreciate and enjoy an extremely comfortable, easy and consistent travel experience that exceeds their expectations time after time.”The Pitch: Marquis Jet Card Owners value having access to the convenience, quality and safety of the world’s premier fractional aircraft ownership program, NetJets, 25 hours at a time with no long-term commitment. Furthermore, Marquis Jet Card Owners select from 10 different aircraft types to meet a broad range of aviation needs. Yachts of Seabourn clients who contact Marquis Jet will receive a complimentary aviation consultation that will assist in matching their individual needs to the ideal aviation solution.The Marquis Jet Card program provides access to the NetJets fleet through an exclusive alliance between the two companies. NetJets, a Berkshire Hathaway Inc. company (NYSE:BRKA), is the worldwide leader in fractional jet ownership. NetJets manages and operates the world’s largest and most diversified private jet fleet of more than 800 aircraft, staffs the most highly trained and experienced pilots, and has the commitment and the resources to be the safest and most secure private aviation company in the world.About Marquis JetMarquis Jet is the leader in private jet cards. Through its exclusive alliance with NetJets, a Berkshire Hathaway Inc. company (NYSE:BRKA), Marquis Jet provides the convenience, quality and safety of the world’s premier fractional aircraft ownership program 25 hours at a time. The Marquis Jet Card is available throughout North America, catering to businesses and individuals who desire access to the world’s best fleet and service. Business Traveler Magazine, Executive Travel Magazine, Robb Report and Flight International have recognized the Marquis Jet Card as the number one private jet card program. For additional information, visit the Company’s website at or call 1-866-JET-1400.Marquis Jet Card Program flights are operated by NetJets companies under their respective FAR Part 135 Air Carrier Certificates. Marquis Jet Card Owners acquire a sublease in a pre-paid NetJets fractional aircraft ownership interest. Marquis Jet is an independent company not affiliated with NetJets and through its exclusive U.S. alliance sells the Marquis Jet Card. Please refer to Marquis Program Documents for more complete details.About The Yachts of SeabournThe Yachts of Seabourn provides the ultimate in ultra luxury cruise vacations to the most desirable destinations on earth. It has been consistently rated not only among the top cruise lines, but also among the world’s premier vacation choices, with a superior level of personalized service, spacious all-suite accommodations, and superb cuisine. Seabourn is a proud member of the World’s Leading Cruise Lines. Our exclusive alliance also includes Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America, Princess Cruises, Cunard Line, and Costa Cruises. Sharing a passion to please each guest, and a commitment to quality and value, our member lines appeal to a wide range of lifestyles and budgets. Together we offer exciting and enriching cruise vacations to the world’s most desirable destinations. Seabourn is a brand of Carnival Corporation and plc (NYSE/LSE: CCL; NYSE:CUK).last_img read more

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