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Wikinews investigates: Advertisements disguised as news articles trick unknowing users out of money, credit card information
 Notice — May 19, 2010 This article has been judged, by consensus of the Wikinews community, not to meet Wikinews standards of style and neutrality. Please see the relevant discussion for details. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Internet has already brought great things to the world, but has also brought spam, phishing, scamming, etc. We all have seen them across the Internet. They promise money, weight loss, or other things a person may strive for, but they usually amount to only a lighter pocket. Online advertising has become something that the increasingly Internet-reliant society has become used to, as well as more aware of. As this is true, online ads have become more intricate and deceptive in recent years.

However, a certain type of advertisement has arisen recently, and has become more deceptive than any other Internet ad, and has tricked many users into credit card charges. These sites claim to be news websites that preach a “miracle product”, and they offer a free trial, and then charge the user’s credit card a large amount of money without informing them after the trial ends. These sites appear to be operating under one venture and have caught ad pages of high-traffic websites by storm. In this report, Wikinews’ Tjc6 investigates news advertisement sites.

These Internet ads work in different ways:

Hypothetically speaking, a reader is browsing the web, and then happens to come across something that they believe is too good to be true. A link on one of these high-traffic pages promises white teeth, weight loss, or huge profits from working at home part-time. Out of curiosity, they click on the link.

This is the way that people are attracted to these fake news sites on the internet. The domain owners draw in customers by purchasing advertising on some of the World Wide Web’s most visited pages. Curious users click and are led to what they believe is a news article. From anti-aging to shedding weight, these “articles” from non-existant newspapers and television stations depict a skeptical news reporter trying a product because they were instructed to by a superior.

As the user reads on, they find that the “reporter” miraculously achieves significant weight loss, teeth whitening, or other general health and beauty improvement. The reporter states that the reader can get the same results as they did by using a “free trial” of the product.

Next, the user looks to the bottom of the page, where there seems to be a set of user comments, all of them praising the product or products that are advertised — this is where we first see something suspicious. Across several of these false articles, the comments appear to show the exact same text, sometimes with even the same usernames as other sites.

There is obviously some kind of correlation. Although this appears to be true, most users who purchase these products do not look at multiple versions of these similar pages of what appears to be a fast-growing network of interconnected fake news sites.

Once customers have convinced themselves into buying the product, they are led to a product (or products) website which promises a free trial for a very low price. What they do not know about this, however, is that they are giving their credit card data to a company that will charge it automatically after the trial ends. In about 14 days, the user receives a charge on their credit card for an excessive amount of money, usually from about $80 to $100 (USD). All attempts to contact these companies and cancel their shipments usually prove to be futile.

What these sites have is a large amount of legal copy located at the bottom of each site, stating their right to charge the user. This site, a fake news article claiming to offer teeth-whitening benefits, has several paragraphs of fine print, including this: “…Upon signing up for the 10 day trial membership you will be charged up to $4.97 depending on various shipping and initial offer promotions at that time but not more than $4.97 upon signing. If not cancelled, you will be charged $89.97 upon completion of the 10 day trial period. Monthly thereafter or 30 days from the original order date, the charge will reoccur monthly at a total of $89.97 until cancelled…,” the site says.

Practices like this have alerted the Better Business Bureau, an American organization that studies and reports on the reliability and practices of US businesses. In a press release, a spokesman from the BBB spoke out against sites like this. “Many businesses across the country are using the same selling model for their products: They lure customers in with claimed celebrity endorsements and free trial offers, and then lock them in by making it extremely difficult to cancel the automatic delivery of more products every month…,” said the report that denounced the websites.

When a user looks at several of these sites, they notice that all of them have the same exact structure. Because of this, Wikinews decided to look into where some of the domains were owned, and if they were all in fact part of one company.

However, the results that Wikinews found were ones that were not expected. Out of the three random websites that were found in Internet ads, all using similar designs and methods to attract the customers, came from three different locations in three countries and two separate continents. The first came from Scottsdale, in the United States, while the next two came from Vancouver and Hamburg. There is no location correlation, but surely, there has to be something that connected these sites together. We had to look even further to try to find a connection.

HAVE YOUR SAY
What do you think of these sites? Have you ever fallen for an advertisement similar to this one?
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There is some correlation within the product’s contact information. A large amount of the teeth-whitening products analyzed actually shared the same phone number, which lead to a distribution center located in St. Petersburg, Florida, and several other similar distribution centers located across the Southern United States. But, that explains only one of the categories of products that these websites cover, teeth whitening.

What about the other products? The other products such as weight loss and work-at-home kits all trace back to similar distribution centers in similar places. So, what do we make of all of this?

There is obviously some company that promotes these products through the fake news advertisements, but that company is nowhere to be found on the websites. All contact information is given on the product pages, and websites are copyrighted under the name of the domain, not a company. Whatever company has been the setup for these pages has been very good at hiding themselves from the Internet, as there is no information across the web about that mysterious large advertiser.

As a result of customers buying the products and having unauthorized charges on their credit cards, a large volume of complaints are currently present on awareness sites, complaint sites, and even the Better Business Bureau. Several customers point out that they were not informed of the steep charges and the company made it extremely difficult to cancel their subscription, usually resulting in the loss of several hundred dollars.

  • The trial offer was to pay for $3.95 for the cost of the shipping for one bottle. I noticed shortly after placing the order I had a charge on my credit card for $149.95. Unknown to myself the company charges for a membership if you don’t cancel within 14 days, I cancelled within 18 days…When I called the customer service number they told me the decision has been made and my refund request was denied. When I questioned the person on the other line about what I was getting for my $149.95 she told me I was not getting anything because I cancelled the membership.
?“Tamara”, in a post to the Ripoff Report
  • This is a “free sample” scam: Pay only postage and handling and get a free sample of a tooth whitening system, they say. I looked for the “catch,” something that would indicate that there’d be hidden or recurring charges, but didn’t see anything, and ordered. Sure enough, a couple of weeks later, I see a charge for $88.97 on my bank statement…When I called, the guy answering the phone had obviously answered the same angry question many, many times: “Why has your company charged $88.97 to my card?” “Because you didn’t cancel your subscription in time,” he said tiredly.
?“Elenor”, in a post to the Ripoff Report

One notable lawsuit has occurred as a result of these articles. Some of the articles about work at home kits specifically advertise things like “work for Google”, or “job openings at Google”. However, Google asserts these claims as false and has taken the case to court, as it is a copyright violation. “Thousands of people have been tricked into sending payment information and being charged hidden fees by questionable operations,” said Google in a statement.

The BBB has received over 3,000 complaints about products such as the ones that Google took offense to. The lawsuit has yet to begin in court, and no date has been set.

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Court rules Massey can appeal US restrictions in mine disaster investigation

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Court rules Massey can appeal US restrictions in mine disaster investigation
October 25th, 2020 | Uncategorized |

Monday, June 13, 2011

In a unanimous decision, a US federal appeals court issued a ruling Friday against the federal government, in favor of Massey Energy Co, owner of the Upper Branch Mine in West Virginia, the location of last year’s mine disaster that killed 29 workers. The court ruled the company may appeal the restrictions placed on it by a government order hindering the company’s ability to conduct its own internal investigation of the disaster.

The order controlling Massey’s investigations into the disaster was placed on Massey immediately after the incident by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) when it seized control of the coal mine six hours after the blast on April 5.

MSHA’s controls prohibited Massey from “taking or retaining photographs, collecting and preserving mine dust samples, employing mine mapping technology, and participating in or objecting to any destructive testing of materials gathered underground.” Massey said MSHA’s restrictions prevented the company from evaluating the accident site before it was altered by investigators, and denied Massey the chance to gather evidence to use in the company’s defense.

The story of Upper Big Branch is a cautionary tale of hubris. A company that was a towering presence in the Appalachian coal fields operated its mines in a profoundly reckless manner, and 29 coal miners paid with their lives for the corporate risk taking.

Massey’s appeal to the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission (the commission that decides disputes over mining regulations) to void the order by MSHA was denied by the commission. It based its decision on its interpretation of the Mine Act that it had no authority to consider Massey’s appeal. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit set aside this decision, finding the commission’s interpretation of the act was “simply untenable” and the government’s actions had denied Massey the opportunity to gather “potentially important exculpatory evidence”.

The court rejected the commission’s position that the Mine Act’s language was ambiguous, allowing the government flexibility in its implementation. Rather, the court said, “No matter how you parse it, [the act] is a model of near-perfect clarity. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a clearer expression of congressional language.” It also rejected the commission’s position that the case was moot: “This case is not moot. Indeed, even the [Labor] Secretary’s counsel recognized the near-frivolity of this argument, and made only a half-hearted attempt to persuade us.”

This case is not moot. Indeed, even the Secretary’s counsel recognized the near-frivolity of this argument, and made only a half-hearted attempt to persuade us.

The court’s ruling comes after a state government-comissioned report issued on May 19 by investigators found Massey Energy responsible for the deaths of the 29 workers. The workers were killed in an explosion that could have been avoided, the report said, if Massey had put in place standard safety procedures.

“The story of Upper Big Branch is a cautionary tale of hubris. A company that was a towering presence in the Appalachian coal fields operated its mines in a profoundly reckless manner, and 29 coal miners paid with their lives for the corporate risk taking,” the report read. “The company’s ventilation system did not adequately ventilate the mine. As a result, explosive gases were allowed to build up.” The report detailed claims Massey threatened miners with termination if they stopped work in areas that lacked adequate oxygen levels and listed numerous other state and federal safety standards that Massey failed to follow. Also blamed in the report was MSHA for failing to enforce federal regulations.

The report was considered by the those in the mining industry as especially direct and “hard hitting”. It firmly rejected conclusions reached by Massey officials that the incident was caused by an unexpected, massive, and uncontrollable methane bubble eruption, an occurrence that Massey said it could neither predict nor manage.

The company immediately challenged the report and issued its own report on June 3, blaming the blast on an act of nature and denying the company’s safety culture was at fault. MSHA also have an as-yet unreleased report in the works.

Retrieved from “https://en.wikinews.org/w/index.php?title=Court_rules_Massey_can_appeal_US_restrictions_in_mine_disaster_investigation&oldid=3444978”

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Ias Exam And Bank Po Exam Can Open Gates To A Bright And Rewarding Career

October 18th, 2020 | Seniors |

Submitted by: Sanjay Joshi

In today s times, where top notch corporations and MNCs are proffering heavy pay packages to their employees, populaces still have a strong preference for public sector jobs such as Bank PO, IAS (Indian Administrative Services), etc. One management program which also holds equal promising career aspects is the GMAT exam. There are numerous reasons for this penchant. the permanence of post, apt promotional prospects, various beneficial allowances and the eligibility for pensions, drive a majority of the populace to chip in for public sector entrance exams such as IAS exam and Bank PO exam.

The public sector jobs have had their piece of attention since the day they were incepted. But it is wonderful to know that they are still looked up as being the most reputed and rewarding vocations. In this article we will discuss innately these entrance exams and where to lay your hands on some apt and precise coaching to make sure you pass these exams with flying colors. The IAS exam is deemed as the most transparent and stringent exam to crack in these times, but once passes, the sheer advantages will make the effort worth it. It is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) every year to fill up administrative posts through the length and breadth of the country.

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One look at the number of applicants for the IAS exam and you are sure to flag this entrance test as a cut throat competitive and aggressive one. The mushrooming number of coaching institutes which proffer apt guidance for IAS exam will surely bring you to your wit s end. Some of the renowned names in this specific arena are: – Zenith Point, All India Civil Services Coaching Centre, Shri Sai Tutorials, Abhimanu Ias Study Group, Suzlon IAS Training Center, Ambedkar Study Circle, Chanakya IAS Academy, Lakhya IAS Study Circle, Bose Academy, Indian IAS Academy, Gandhi IAS Study Circle, Brills Coaching for IAS, etc.

Bank PO exam which make one eligible for being a probationary officer in a bank is also gaining mass popularity because of the various benefits it proffers both during the tenure and after it. Some of the distinguished names which regularly recruit through exams are: – State Bank of India, Indian Bank, Federal Bank, Punjab & Sind Bank, Bank of India, Oriental bank of Commerce, etc.

In this milieu, some coaching institutes which stand out from the crowd are: – AAA-Bright Academy, Career Shapers Education Forum, JTS Institute, Future Propel, M.P.Career Institute For Bank P.O, Sachdeva New P.T College and a lot more.

Graduate Management Admission Test or GMAT entrance exam is yet another crucial entrance exam which opens your gate to some top rated and legendary names in the field of graduate management programmes. Some of the most illustrious names in this field are: – TRINITI Learning Center, Achievers Point, T.I.M.E. (Triumphant Institute Of Management Education Pvt. Ltd), Avenues Abroad, Score Getter, Bulls Eye Knowledge Systems, IMS Institute, Capstone Tutorials, Endeavor, Career Launcher, Chitale’s Personalized Learning Centre (CPLC), and a lot more.

About the Author: Mr. Pankaj is providing SEO Services to Infinite Courses, a foremost name in the arena of web sites and portals offering umbrella solution to all education related queries and dilemmas. For more information visit

infinitecourses.com/IAS-Coaching-Institutes.aspx

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Category:Featured article

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Category:Featured article
October 17th, 2020 | Uncategorized |
Shortcut:WN:FA

Featured articles are selected by the community to represent the best of Wikinews. See the Featured Article Candidates page for nominations and discussions of candidate articles for this page. Or, subscribe to the RSS feed!

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Pages in category “Featured article”

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Professional Video Game Development Courses On The Rise

October 14th, 2020 | Software And Web Development |

By Madison Lockwood

The University of Southern California has announced the introduction of a bachelor’s program in video game development. With the advent of sophisticated games such as MMOs and the merging of commercial interests with virtual reality, it is possible that USC did this as an academic exercise rather than a place to park its football players.

Other mainstream universities have similar programs, among them Carnegie Mellon, Georgia Tech and Southern Methodist University. The game industry has cracked the seven billion dollar mark in annual revenue. More important from an academic point of view perhaps, is the prospect of applying game theory, analysis and development skills to cultural or economic environments that are not strictly about games. Major game producer Electronic Arts has helped to underwrite the USC program simply because of its focus on non-commercial applications.

It’s a fair guess that the skills and analytical tools one might develop in a video game liberal arts degree program will be increasingly applicable in commercial online applications. The Internet has become a major commercial marketplace, one that functions more efficiently as the websites utilized for commercial exchange become more sophisticated and, to some degree, have high level graphics.

With that in mind, the nuts and bolts of a video game education still have to do with the development of a sophisticated piece of software. Critical skills include digital animation, game design and game programming.

Basic job descriptions within the business have included:

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Programmer

A programmer can work on the game engine, the artificial intelligence features, the tools, hardware and network.

Designer

A designer – or artists – can be an animator, 3D artist/modeler or 2D artist/texturer.

Level Designer

Though it sounds similar and uses some of the same skills as a designer, level design is a job unto itself. Level designers need to have some art proficiency, but must also have good spatial awareness, organizational skills and lightning effects knowledge.

Writer

This is a growing position in the game community. There is more than just a manual to write; the story behind the game must be well-crafted and compelling. Every speaking character must have a script. Documentation is still an important element, though; as it is a necessary part of any software creation, and games are certainly no exception.

Behind these technical/creative roles are production managers, game modeling experts, and directors – much as with a film. Interactive design is an integral part of any video game and is also a key function of many websites. The transition of video game production methods to uses outside the game industry is well underway. The sophisticated graphics used in videogames are increasingly appearing in online commercials with high-gloss production values.

It will be the Internet and its importance as an economic engine that connects the video game major with the business world and provides job opportunities beyond the gaming industry. The trained, experienced level designer will find opportunities in high-end web site development companies that provide sophisticated sites for corporate sales and presentation purposes.

The flow of a high quality website (visit BMW USA for example) requires almost as much scripting as a game does, although much of the script appears as print instead of dialogue. And the use of artificial intelligence (AI) as a sales tool is probably not too far down the road – a method of taking a retail customer to the product that will suit them. Video games have forced the development of skill sets that are becoming meaningful to mainstream industries.

About the Author: Madison Lockwood is a customer relations associate, specializing in small business development, for Apollo Hosting. Apollo Hosting provides

website hosting

, ecommerce hosting, vps hosting, and web design services to a wide range of customers.

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Keep your eyes peeled for cosmic debris: Andrew Westphal about Stardust@home">
Keep your eyes peeled for cosmic debris: Andrew Westphal about Stardust@home

October 12th, 2020 | Uncategorized |

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Stardust is a NASA space capsule that collected samples from comet 81P/Wild (also known as “Wild 2) in deep space and landed back on Earth on January 15, 2006. It was decided that a collaborative online review process would be used to “discover” the microscopically small samples the capsule collected. The project is called Stardust@home. Unlike distributed computing projects like SETI@home, Stardust@home relies entirely on human intelligence.

Andrew Westphal is the director of Stardust@home. Wikinews interviewed him for May’s Interview of the Month (IOTM) on May 18, 2006. As always, the interview was conducted on IRC, with multiple people asking questions.

Some may not know exactly what Stardust or Stardust@home is. Can you explain more about it for us?

Stardust is a NASA Discovery mission that was launched in 1999. It is really two missions in one. The primary science goal of the mission was to collect a sample from a known primitive solar-system body, a comet called Wild 2 (pronounced “Vilt-two” — the discoverer was German, I believe). This is the first US “sample return” mission since Apollo, and the first ever from beyond the moon. This gives a little context. By “sample return” of course I mean a mission that brings back extraterrestrial material. I should have said above that this is the first “solid” sample return mission — Genesis brought back a sample from the Sun almost two years ago, but Stardust is also bringing back the first solid samples from the local interstellar medium — basically this is a sample of the Galaxy. This is absolutely unprecedented, and we’re obviously incredibly excited. I should mention parenthetically that there is a fantastic launch video — taken from the POV of the rocket on the JPL Stardust website — highly recommended — best I’ve ever seen — all the way from the launch pad, too. Basically interplanetary trajectory. Absolutely great.

Is the video available to the public?

Yes [see below]. OK, I digress. The first challenge that we have before can do any kind of analysis of these interstellar dust particles is simply to find them. This is a big challenge because they are very small (order of micron in size) and are somewhere (we don’t know where) on a HUGE collector— at least on the scale of the particle size — about a tenth of a square meter. So

We’re right now using an automated microscope that we developed several years ago for nuclear astrophysics work to scan the collector in the Cosmic Dust Lab in Building 31 at Johnson Space Center. This is the ARES group that handles returned samples (Moon Rocks, Genesis chips, Meteorites, and Interplanetary Dust Particles collected by U2 in the stratosphere). The microscope collects stacks of digital images of the aerogel collectors in the array. These images are sent to us — we compress them and convert them into a format appropriate for Stardust@home.

Stardust@home is a highly distributed project using a “Virtual Microscope” that is written in html and javascript and runs on most browsers — no downloads are required. Using the Virtual Microscope volunteers can search over the collector for the tracks of the interstellar dust particles.

How many samples do you anticipate being found during the course of the project?

Great question. The short answer is that we don’t know. The long answer is a bit more complicated. Here’s what we know. The Galileo and Ulysses spacecraft carried dust detectors onboard that Eberhard Gruen and his colleagues used to first detect and them measure the flux of interstellar dust particles streaming into the solar system. (This is a kind of “wind” of interstellar dust, caused by the fact that our solar system is moving with respect to the local interstellar medium.) Markus Landgraf has estimated the number of interstellar dust particles that should have been captured by Stardust during two periods of the “cruise” phase of the interplanetary orbit in which the spacecraft was moving with this wind. He estimated that there should be around 45 particles, but this number is very uncertain — I wouldn’t be surprised if it is quite different from that. That was the long answer! One thing that I should say…is that like all research, the outcome of what we are doing is highly uncertain. There is a wonderful quote attributed to Einstein — “If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be called “research”, would it?”

How big would the samples be?

We expect that the particles will be of order a micron in size. (A millionth of a meter.) When people are searching using the virtual microscope, they will be looking not for the particles, but for the tracks that the particles make, which are much larger — several microns in diameter. Just yesterday we switched over to a new site which has a demo of the VM (virtual microscope) I invite you to check it out. The tracks in the demo are from submicron carbonyl iron particles that were shot into aerogel using a particle accelerator modified to accelerate dust particles to very high speeds, to simulate the interstellar dust impacts that we’re looking for.

And that’s on the main Stardust@home website [see below]?

Yes.

How long will the project take to complete?

Partly the answer depends on what you mean by “the project”. The search will take several months. The bottleneck, we expect (but don’t really know yet) is in the scanning — we can only scan about one tile per day and there are 130 tiles in the collector…. These particles will be quite diverse, so we’re hoping that we’ll continue to have lots of volunteers collaborating with us on this after the initial discoveries. It may be that the 50th particle that we find will be the real Rosetta stone that turns out to be critical to our understanding of interstellar dust. So we really want to find them all! Enlarging the idea of the project a little, beyond the search, though is to actually analyze these particles. That’s the whole point, obviously!

And this is the huge advantage with this kind of a mission — a “sample return” mission.

Most missions rather do things quite differently… you have to build an instrument to make a measurement and that instrument design gets locked in several years before launch practically guaranteeing that it will be obsolete by the time you launch. Here exactly the opposite is true. Several of the instruments that are now being used to analyze the cometary dust did not exist when the mission was launched. Further, some instruments (e.g., synchrotrons) are the size of shopping malls — you don’t have a hope of flying these in space. So we can and will study these samples for many years. AND we have to preserve some of these dust particles for our grandchildren to analyze with their hyper-quark-gluon plasma microscopes (or whatever)!

When do you anticipate the project to start?

We’re really frustrated with the delays that we’ve been having. Some of it has to do with learning how to deal with the aerogel collectors, which are rougher and more fractured than we expected. The good news is that they are pretty clean — there is very little of the dust that you see on our training images — these were deliberately left out in the lab to collect dust so that we could give people experience with the worst case we could think of. In learning how to do the scanning of the actual flight aerogel, we uncovered a couple of bugs in our scanning software — which forced us to go back and rescan. Part of the other reason for the delay was that we had to learn how to handle the collector — it would cost $200M to replace it if something happened to it, so we had to develop procedures to deal with it, and add several new safety features to the Cosmic Dust Lab. This all took time. Finally, we’re distracted because we also have many responsibilities for the cometary analysis, which has a deadline of August 15 for finishing analysis. The IS project has no such deadline, so at times we had to delay the IS (interstellar, sorry) in order to focus on the cometary work. We are very grateful to everyone for their patience on this — I mean that very sincerely.

And rest assured that we’re just as frustrated!

I know there will be a “test” that participants will have to take before they can examine the “real thing”. What will that test consist of?

The test will look very similar to the training images that you can look at now. But.. there will of course be no annotation to tell you where the tracks are!

Why did NASA decide to take the route of distributed computing? Will they do this again?

I wouldn’t say that NASA decided to do this — the idea for Stardust@home originated here at U. C. Berkeley. Part of the idea of course came…

If I understand correctly it isn’t distributed computing, but distributed eyeballing?

…from the SETI@home people who are just down the hall from us. But as Brian just pointed out. this is not really distributed computing like SETI@home the computers are just platforms for the VM and it is human eyes and brains who are doing the real work which makes it fun (IMHO).

That said… There have been quite a few people who have expressed interested in developing automated algorithms for searching. Just because WE don’t know how to write such an algorithm doesn’t mean nobody does. We’re delighted at this and are happy to help make it happen

Isn’t there a catch 22 that the data you’re going to collect would be a prerequisite to automating the process?

That was the conclusion that we came to early on — that we would need some sort of training set to be able to train an algorithm. Of course you have to train people too, but we’re hoping (we’ll see!) that people are more flexible in recognizing things that they’ve never seen before and pointing them out. Our experience is that people who have never seen a track in aerogel can learn to recognize them very quickly, even against a big background of cracks, dust and other sources of confusion… Coming back to the original question — although NASA didn’t originate the idea, they are very generously supporting this project. It wouldn’t have happened without NASA’s financial support (and of course access to the Stardust collector). Did that answer the question?

Will a project like this be done again?

I don’t know… There are only a few projects for which this approach makes sense… In fact, I frankly haven’t run across another at least in Space Science. But I am totally open to the idea of it. I am not in favor of just doing it as “make-work” — that is just artificially taking this approach when another approach would make more sense.

How did the idea come up to do this kind of project?

Really desperation. When we first thought about this we assumed that we would use some sort of automated image recognition technique. We asked some experts around here in CS and the conclusion was that the problem was somewhere between trivial and impossible, and we wouldn’t know until we had some real examples to work with. So we talked with Dan Wertheimer and Dave Anderson (literally down the hall from us) about the idea of a distributed project, and they were quite encouraging. Dave proposed the VM machinery, and Josh Von Korff, a physics grad student, implemented it. (Beautifully, I think. I take no credit!)

I got to meet one of the stardust directors in March during the Texas Aerospace Scholars program at JSC. She talked about searching for meteors in Antarctica, one that were unblemished by Earth conditions. Is that our best chance of finding new information on comets and asteroids? Or will more Stardust programs be our best solution?

That’s a really good question. Much will depend on what we learn during this official “Preliminary Examination” period for the cometary analysis. Aerogel capture is pretty darn good, but it’s not perfect and things are altered during capture in ways that we’re still understanding. I think that much also depends on what question you’re asking. For example, some of the most important science is done by measuring the relative abundances of isotopes in samples, and these are not affected (at least not much) by capture into aerogel.

Also, she talked about how some of the agencies that they gave samples to had lost or destroyed 2-3 samples while trying to analyze them. That one, in fact, had been statically charged, and stuck to the side of the microscope lens and they spent over an hour looking for it. Is that really our biggest danger? Giving out samples as a show of good faith, and not letting NASA example all samples collected?

These will be the first measurements, probably, that we’ll make on the interstellar dust There is always a risk of loss. Fortunately for the cometary samples there is quite a lot there, so it’s not a disaster. NASA has some analytical capabilities, particularly at JSC, but the vast majority of the analytical capability in the community is not at NASA but is at universities, government labs and other institutions all over the world. I should also point out that practically every analytical technique is destructive at some level. (There are a few exceptions, but not many.) The problem with meteorites is that except in a very few cases, we don’t know where they specifically came from. So having a sample that we know for sure is from the comet is golden!

I am currently working on my Bachelor’s in computer science, with a minor in astronomy. Do you see successes of programs like Stardust to open up more private space exploration positions for people such as myself. Even though I’m not in the typical “space” fields of education?

Can you elaborate on your question a little — I’m not sure that I understand…

Well, while at JSC I learned that they mostly want Engineers, and a few science grads, and I worry that my computer science degree with not be very valuable, as the NASA rep told me only 1% of the applicants for their work study program are CS majors. I’m just curious as to your thoughts on if CS majors will be more in demand now that projects like Stardust and the Mars missions have been great successes? Have you seen a trend towards more private businesses moving in that direction, especially with President Bush’s statement of Man on the Moon in 2015?

That’s a good question. I am personally not very optimistic about the direction that NASA is going. Despite recent successes, including but not limited to Stardust, science at NASA is being decimated.

I made a joke with some people at the TAS event that one day SpaceShipOne will be sent up to save stranded ISS astronauts. It makes me wonder what kind of private redundancy the US government is taking for future missions.

I guess one thing to be a little cautious about is that despite SpaceShipOne’s success, we haven’t had an orbital project that has been successful in that style of private enterprise It would be nice to see that happen. I know that there’s a lot of interest…!

Now I know the answer to this question… but a lot do not… When samples are found, How will they be analyzed? Who gets the credit for finding the samples?

The first person who identifies an interstellar dust particle will be acknowledged on the website (and probably will be much in demand for interviews from the media!), will have the privilege of naming the particle, and will be a co-author on any papers that WE (at UCB) publish on the analysis of the particle. Also, although we are precluded from paying for travel expenses, we will invite those who discover particles AND the top performers to our lab for a hands-on tour.

We have some fun things, including micromachines.

How many people/participants do you expect to have?

About 113,000 have preregistered on our website. Frankly, I don’t have a clue how many will actually volunteer and do a substantial amount of searching. We’ve never done this before, after all!

One last thing I want to say … well, two. First, we are going to special efforts not to do any searching ourselves before we go “live”. It would not be fair to all the volunteers for us to get a jumpstart on the search. All we are doing is looking at a few random views to make sure that the focus and illumination are good. (And we haven’t seen anything — no surprise at all!) Also, the attitude for this should be “Have Fun”. If you’re not having fun doing it, stop and do something else! A good maxim for life in general!

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BDSM as business: Interviews with Dominatrixes">
BDSM as business: Interviews with Dominatrixes

October 12th, 2020 | Uncategorized |

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Whether the Civil War, World War II or the Iraq War, it can be challenging to face how conflict penetrates the psyche of a nation and surfaces in the nuances of life. There are thousands—if not millions—of individuals who indulge in fantasies others would deem perverse that have their nascence in some of the darkest moments of human history. It is possible someone you know pays a person to dress like a German Nazi to treat them like a “dirty Jew”, or to force them to pick cotton off the floor like a slave.

An S&M dungeon is a place where these individuals act out such taboos. Businesses that operate to meet their needs are often hidden, but they do exist and are typically legal. The clients want to remain confidential for fear of ostracism in their respective communities. As Sigmund Freud wrote, “Anyone who has violated a taboo becomes taboo himself because he possesses the dangerous quality of tempting others to follow his example.”

Last week Wikinews published the first in a two part series on the BDSM business: an interview with Bill & Rebecca, the owners of Rebecca’s Hidden Chamber. This week we publish the second part: an interview with three dungeon employees, Mistress Alex, Mistress Jada and Mistress Veronica. In their world, BDSM is a game, a harmless pursuit of roleplaying exercises that satiate the desires of the tabooed. These Dominatrixes are the kind of women men fantasize about, but they all look like they could be babysitting your children this Saturday night. Most likely, they will not be.

Mistress Alex has a distinctive sheen when David Shankbone walks into the room. Her moist skin cools quickly from the blow of the air conditioner she stands in front of. Just having finished an hour and a half session, she is dressed in a latex one-piece skirt and matching boots. Mistress Jada, a shapely Latina dressed in red, joins the conversation and remains throughout. When Alex needs to tend to a client, Mistress Veronica, who looks like she would be as comfortable teaching kindergarten as she would “tanning a man’s hide”, takes over for her.

The interview was neither sensational nor typical, but what you read may surprise, repulse, or even awaken feelings you never knew you had. Below is David Shankbone’s interview with three Dominatrixes.

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New ‘clean water’ funding for Djibouti’s drought-stricken rural areas">
New ‘clean water’ funding for Djibouti’s drought-stricken rural areas

September 29th, 2020 | Uncategorized |

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

With the announcement Monday of 2 million in new funding from the European Union (EU), the Republic of Djibouti’s Ministry of Agriculture hopes to provide some relief to an estimated 25,000 rural inhabitants suffering through severe drought conditions. The money, to be channeled through UNICEF for its water and sanitation program, will be used to develop new wells and improve existing ones.

UNICEF is to contribute a further €60,000, as well as technical expertise to the Ministry of Agriculture, who will carry out the bulk of the work.

“The two-year water supply project targeting rural districts is very significant since people living in 45 villages and their 40,000 heads of cattle will have access to clean drinking water,” said Joaquin Gonzalez, EU Representative in Djibouti.

At the same time, the UN aid agency World Food Program (WFP) indicated that it is working with the Ministry of Agriculture and UNICEF to gradually shift Djibouti’s reliance on emergency aid to a Food for Work program, which it hopes will assist nomadic herders in Djibouti with long-term sustainability. “What we are trying to do together with the Ministry of Agriculture and UNICEF is, for example to dig wells so that despite drought, these herders will be able to irrigate their fields,” said Simon Pluess, WFP spokesman. “And, together with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, we will try and promote vegetable gardens.”

Djibouti has survived harsh drought conditions for the past 5 years. Groundwater is the primary source of water for drinking and irrigation, but has been difficult to exploit and is often contaminated. Almost 50 percent of people in rural Djibouti do not have ready access to properly developed source of drinking water. And, due to the ongoing drought, water availability for livestock is limited. Livestock have shown signs of distress and, subsequently, milk production is down substantially.

Nearly half of all families in Djibouti’s northwest were forced to migrate to find pasture for their livestock. As the droughts continue, the importance of properly maintained wells has become apparent. “Life is harder and harder for us. Years ago there were more rains and also more pastureland for cattle. Now it is good for us to have functioning wells so that we can keep cattle here,” said Anou Amada, farmer in the village of Andoli.

A 2006 survey indicated that only 15 percent of wells in Djibouti were equipped with a protective concrete wall to prevent contamination. Andoli’s well is one of many undergoing repair through WFP’s Food for Work project.

“WFP couldn’t do this alone, so we work with the Ministry of Agriculture and UNICEF to dig wells and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization for vegetable gardens,” said Benoit Thiry, Director, WFP in Djibouti.

When the project is completed in 2008, it will have increased Djibouti’s water pump capacity by adding 25 solar-power pumps, which would compliment the current 61 diesel-powered pumps. “The advantage of solar…is that it is much cheaper and requires less maintenance,” said Omar Habib, UNICEF communication specialist. “We want the people to participate and to appropriate these pumping stations. The government’s role in the long term should be as restricted as possible,” he added.

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Colleges offering admission to displaced New Orleans students/AL-KY">
Colleges offering admission to displaced New Orleans students/AL-KY

September 23rd, 2020 | Uncategorized |
See the discussion page for instructions on adding schools to this list and for an alphabetically arranged listing of schools.

Due to the damage by Hurricane Katrina and subsequent flooding, a number of colleges and universities in the New Orleans metropolitan area will not be able to hold classes for the fall 2005 semester. It is estimated that 75,000 to 100,000 students have been displaced. [1]. In response, institutions across the United States and Canada are offering late registration for displaced students so that their academic progress is not unduly delayed. Some are offering free or reduced admission to displaced students. At some universities, especially state universities, this offer is limited to residents of the area.

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Many infertile American women want sex selection">
Many infertile American women want sex selection

September 22nd, 2020 | Uncategorized |

Friday, March 11, 2005Many infertile American women would choose the sex of their next child if given the option.

A survey of 561 women being treated for infertility has found that 41% would use sex selection if it were offered at no cost.

Contradicting fears that such sex selection would cause gender imbalance, the survey found that women with no children would choose baby girls and boys in approximately equal numbers.

Furthermore, women with only daughters wanted to select a male child while women with only sons wanted to select a female child.

“Sex selection is a topic that’s almost taboo for physicians to talk about,” says study lead author Tarun Jain of the University of Illinois at Chicago. “Prior to this study, there has been no data to indicate what the demand might be.”

Of 561 survey respondents, 229 would want to select the sex of their future child.

Among these, 45% had no children and 48% had children of all the same sex.

Half would choose to select the sex of their next child even if they had to bear the cost.

About 55% would choose sperm separation, 41% would choose preimplantation genetic diagnosis and 4% would choose neither.

Sex selection is controversial. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists opposes it for nonmedical reasons and so does the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics.

The American Society of Reproductive Medicine supports it for nonmedical reasons for family gender balancing provided methods used are safe and effective.

“As the techniques gain more popularity, physicians will have to decide if they will offer the procedure to patients with and without children,” says Jain.

The research is reported in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

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