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Bioplastics to social robotsnew tech to bring inclusivity

first_imgNew Delhi: From biodegradable plastics to humanoid robots, a new wave of emerging technologies is on the horizon that have the potential to provide major benefits to societies and economies in the years to come, a new World Economic Forum (WEF) report said. An international Steering Committee of leading technology experts identified this year’s “Top 10 Emerging Technologies” — humanoid (and animaloid) robots designed to socialize with people; a system for pinpointing the source of a food-poisoning outbreak in seconds and minuscule lenses that will pave the way for diminutive cameras and other devices, among others. Also Read – Swiggy now in 500 Indian cities, targets 100 more this year “Technologies that are emerging today will soon be shaping the world tomorrow and well into the future – with impacts to economies and to society at large,” said Mariette DiChristina, Editor-in-Chief of Scientific American, and chair of the Emerging Technologies Steering Committee. Bioplastics are advanced solvents and enzymes that are transforming woody wastes into better biodegradable plastics. Like standard plastics derived from petrochemicals, biodegradable versions consist of polymers (long-chain molecules) that can be moulded while in their fluid state into a variety of forms. Also Read – New HP Pavilion x360 notebook with in-built Alexa in India “However, the options currently available – mostly made from corn, sugar cane, or waste fats and oils – generally lack the mechanical strength and visual characteristics of the standard kinds,” emphasized the report. Recent breakthroughs in producing plastics from cellulose or lignin (the dry matter in plants) promise to overcome those drawbacks. In an added boon for the environment, cellulose and lignin can be obtained from non-food plants, such as giant reed, grown on marginal land not suitable for food crops, or from waste wood and agricultural byproducts that would otherwise serve no function. Worldwide sales of consumer robots reached an estimated $5.6 billion in 2018 and the market is expected to grow to $19 billion by the end of 2025, with more than 65 million robots sold a year. “A wave of robots is lining up to take the place of defunct robots, including BUDDY (Blue Frog Robotics), a big-eyed mobile device that plays games in addition to acting as a personal assistant and providing home automation and security,” said the report. Like most robots, social robots use artificial intelligence (AI) to decide how to act on information received through cameras and other sensors. The ability to respond in ways that seem lifelike has been informed by research into such issues as how perceptions form, what constitutes social and emotional intelligence, and how people can deduce others’ thoughts and feelings. Another promising emerging tech of 2019 is tiny lenses. It is hard to make tiny lenses with traditional glass-cutting and glass-curving techniques, and the elements in a glass lens often need to be stacked to focus light properly. “Engineers have recently figured out much of the physics behind much smaller, lighter alternatives known as metalenses. These lenses could allow for greater miniaturization of microscopes and other laboratory tools, as well as of consumer products,” the report mentioned. In the next few years, the tiny lenses will probably make their way into smaller, easier-to-manufacture sensors, diagnostic tools such as endoscopic imaging devices and optical fibres. Those potential applications are appealing enough to have attracted research support from government agencies and such companies as Samsung and Google. Disordered proteins as drug targets will herald new possibilities for treating cancer and other diseases, said the report. These “intrinsically disordered proteins” (IDPs) looked different from the proteins with rigid structures that were more familiar in cells. IDPs were shape-shifters, appearing as ensembles of components that constantly changed configurations. This loose structure allows the IDPs to bring together a wide variety of molecules at critical moments, such as during a cell’s response to stress. “It is increasingly likely that in the next three to five years, these once “undruggable” proteins will end up in the crosshairs of pharmaceutical development,’ said the WEF report. Other emerging technologies on the list are: Smarter fertilizers that can reduce environmental contamination; collaborative telepresence where participants can be seen in virtual gatherings; advanced food tracking and packaging; safer nuclear reactors, DNA data storage; and utility-scale storage of renewable energy.last_img read more

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Report says 106 on death row

The human rights organization says the death penalty violates the right to life and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. A report by Amnesty International released today said that 106 people were sentenced to death in Sri Lanka last year but yet Sri Lanka continued to be among the execution-free countries..Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. Official information received by Amnesty International indicated that one-hundred and six new death sentences were imposed in Sri Lanka in 2011 and 362 people were on death row at the end of the year. In late December 2011 the National Human Rights Commission announced that it intended to propose that the government abolish the death penalty. However, the Secretary to the Ministry of Prison Reforms and Rehabilitation A. Dissanayake was reported as saying that the prison authorities had already requested the approval of the Management Service Department of the Treasury to recruit a hangman and that they had received a number of applications for the post.According to Dissanayake, in late December there were nearly 750 inmates on death row, Amnesty International said. The US was once again the only executioner in the Americas. A total of 43 executions were recorded in 13 of the 34 states that retain the death penalty, a drop by a third since 2001, and 78 new death sentences were recorded in 2011, a decrease by half since 2001.  (Colombo Gazette) read more

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EPDP denies hand in oil attack on Dimuthu

Waste-oil was thrown at Attygalle near the Nallur Hindu Temple in Jaffna on Monday when she got down from her vehicle. Attygalle was in Jaffna to attend a party function when the attack took place and a complaint was lodged with the Jaffna police. The EPDP noted that there was no reason for its party members to attack the FSP activist or anyone else. (Colombo Gazette) The EPDP has denied any involvement in the waste-oil attack on Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) activist and member Dimuthu Attygalle.A statement by the EPDP said that it condemns the attack but is also concerned of moves to blame the EPDP over the incident. read more

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UN agency to name new ambassadors on World Food Day

The singers will participate in the 2001 World Food Day Ceremony on Tuesday, 16 October, at FAO Headquarters in Rome. The event marks the anniversary of the organization’s founding in Quebec City, Canada, in 1945. FAO Ambassadors express support for the agency’s fight against hunger in the world and call upon the public to help poor people around the world “break out of the vicious circle of chronic hunger and undernourishment.”The German President Johannes Rau, Italian Minister of Agriculture Gianni Alemanno and FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf will address the 16 October ceremony. The Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to FAO, Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, will deliver a message from Pope John Paul II. Queen Fabiola of Belgium will be awarded the FAO Ceres Medal.This year marks the launch of the first North American World Food Day/TeleFood campaign to heighten awareness about the plight of some 800 million hungry people in developing countries. Known as Groundwork 2001, the campaign consists of a week-long series of concerts and community events in Seattle, from 14 to 22 October. Renowned musicians R.E.M., Michael Franti & Spearhead, Pearl Jam, Alanis Morissette, Dave Mathews, Femi Kuti, Emmylou Harris, Mana, Blind Boys of Alabama, Daniel Lanois, Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart, Artis the Spoonman and many others are scheduled to perform.This year’s World Food Day theme, “Fight Hunger to Reduce Poverty,” gives voice to increasing economic evidence contained in recent FAO studies that the single most effective way to reduce poverty is to end hunger. read more

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Kyle Snyder and coach Tom Ryans Rio reflection

OSU junior Kyle Snyder shows off his gold medal at the Welcome Back event for OSU Olympians. Credit: Ashley Nelson | Sports DirectorKyle Snyder stood tall at Ohio State as he reflected upon his passion for the sport of wrestling, expressing his strong will that drove him to achieve his highest goal: Olympic gold.  Though he only competed for a single day in Rio de Janeiro, Snyder’s work ethic and love for the sport paid off.“Winning the gold is fun. And getting the accolades, Twitter followers and doing the interviews is really cool. But I love wrestling for what it is,” said Snyder, OSU junior heavyweight wrestler, addressing a media event Monday at the Ohio Union.The medals and recognition of winning were not the main aspects of his time in Rio that Snyder most enjoyed.“Even if that wasn’t a part of it, then I would still love what I was doing and that’s what I cherish the most,” Snyder said.His day of competition in Rio did not lack drama, as Snyder fell behind quickly in the first half of the semifinal match 0-4.Buckeye wrestling coach Tom Ryan observed from the stands with confidence.“My first thoughts were, ‘If there’s anybody that’s got to be down like that, I want it to be Kyle,’ because you know that he has the mindset and the hours of training behind him to come back from something like that,” Ryan said.Snyder was feeling no different from his coach at OSU, as he remained calm with another three-minute half left in the match.“I was excited to wrestle the rest of the match,” Snyder said.  “I wasn’t worried, my heart rate didn’t go up, I wasn’t stressed. I was just ready to wrestle.”The comeback resulted in a 9-4 victory, placing him in the gold-medal match later that evening.Snyder’s next opponent, from Azerbaijan, was a tough match. However, Snyder prevailed, capturing gold, winning 2-1. With this victory, Snyder became the youngest American Olympic wrestler to win a gold medal, along with being the only OSU wrestler to do such.“The moments that I was prepared for came throughout the day, throughout my matches, and then the product of wrestling well was standing at the top of the podium and being able to listen to the national anthem,” Snyder said.Snyder said he did not let the distractions presented by celebration of sport and athletic ability, deter him from focusing on his wrestling goals.“Because I don’t value winning or just the gold medals, I didn’t fear losing,” Snyder said. “I wanted to wrestle the toughest competitors and the challenge is what I was excited for.”Ryan’s presence in the arena was more than a presence of fandom, but of inspiration. The Buckeyes’ coach shared the magic of that golden moment, just seconds after the finals match.“You knew (Snyder) could do it.  You go to an event, and you’re like, ‘Hey we can win this thing,’” Ryan said.The evening before, Ryan and Snyder texted each other, sending words and thoughts of inspiration from Matthew 8:26.“The night before, he was sending me some Scripture about fear and not being fearful,” Ryan said. “I mean, the night before the Olympics, there’s the Olympic Village and there’s a lot to do, and this guy is in his room reading (the Bible). He sent me that before the competition started.  He’s just really grounded.”Snyder’s Olympic experience followed him back home to Columbus, where Ryan planned an event to which he was welcomed and embraced by his family, along with many Buckeye, Olympic and wrestling fans alike at the John Glenn International Airport.Snyder wrapped up the media event by saying there was just one accolade that could top his Olympic adventure.“I think maybe doing it again in 2020 might top it,” Snyder said.  “I think I can. I plan to, but we’ll have to see when we get there.” read more

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Giant wartime bomb found in Portsmouth Harbour to be exploded at sea

first_imgA controlled explosion is to be carried out on a massive Second World War bomb which was dislodged from the seabed.Royal Navy disposal experts towed the 1,102lb (500kg) device out to sea after it was found in Portsmouth Harbour.The discovery led to the evacuation of shops and restaurants in the Gunwharf Quays waterfront retail and leisure complex.The bomb was found during dredging works to deepen the harbour entrance for the arrival next spring of the Navy’s new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth.Disposal experts have taken the device into open water about 1.5 miles (2.4km) east of the Isle of Wight where the explosion can be safely carried out on Friday morning.A Royal Navy spokesman said: “An unexploded German 500kg bomb (WWII) has been found on the seabed in Portsmouth Harbour.”The device was located by a barge carrying out dredging works ahead of the arrival of the Navy’s new aircraft carrier – HMS Queen Elizabeth – next spring.”We can confirm a controlled explosion will be carried out between 1000 and 1100 today [Friday] by Royal Navy bomb disposal experts.”A Second World War torpedo was also found earlier this month during the dredging operation and exploded at sea. 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 read more

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Western Australia government challenges Federal government on taxes affecting mines

first_imgWA Mines Minister, Norman Moore, told the Paydirt 2011 Australian Nickel Conference, last week that “the federal government’s proposed Mineral Resource Rent Tax (M-R-R-T), and the carbon tax are challenges this government and industry are facing. The M-R-R-T is expected to apply from July 1 next year, applying a rate of 30% to all iron ore and coal projects.”The state government’s position on this new tax is clear. …we oppose it and believe it will threaten the WA resource industry’s ability to compete in the global market place. …the same sentiment applies to the proposed carbon tax. The WA resources sector is energy intensive and operates in a competitive world market.“….competing with nations which don’t have a carbon price can only adversly affect our competitiveness.“…currently the federal government does not recognise the emergency of Africa, South America and Central Asia as attractive destinations for resources investment.“….the state government will continue to argue against the implementation of these taxes in negotiations with the federal government.last_img read more

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POLICE LOG for February 28 3 Fire Hydrants Struck In Separate Accidents

first_imgWILMINGTON, MA — Here are highlights from the Wilmington Police Log for Thursday, February 28, 2019:A blue 2017 Ford Explorer struck a pole on Glen Road. No injuries noted. Vehicle towed. Verizon notified. (6:49am)A caller reported he saw a black SUV strike a fire hydrant on Research Drive and drive away. Police confirmed damage to the hydrant and contacted the Water Department. (7:30am)A blue 2001 Jeep Grand Cherokee slid off Aldrich Road and struck a fire hydrant. No injuries. Vehicle towed. Water Department notified. (7:57am)A Church Street resident surrendered 4 chickens to the Animal Control Officer. (9:03am)Water Astu (37, Chelsea) was a issued a summons for Unlicensed Operation of a Motor Vehicle (Subsequent Offense) and Unsecured/Uncovered Load.  Astu’s pickup truck lost its load in the roadway at Lowell Street and Woburn Street. (9:51am)A gray 2013 Kia Soul struck a hydrant and cable box on Agostino Drive and Gandalf Way. Water Department and Verizon notified. (10:20am)A 2-vehicle crash involving a mail truck occurred on Waltham Street. (1:54pm)A Forest Street resident filed a complaint of dogs barking next door for hours at a time while she is conducting business meetings in her home. (4:07pm)(DISCLAIMER: This information is public information.  An arrest does not constitute a conviction.  Any arrested person is innocent until proven guilty.)Like Wilmington Apple on Facebook. Follow Wilmington Apple on Twitter. Follow Wilmington Apple on Instagram. Subscribe to Wilmington Apple’s daily email newsletter HERE. Got a comment, question, photo, press release, or news tip? Email wilmingtonapple@gmail.com.Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading… RelatedPOLICE LOG for July 1: Man Arrested For OUI (Drugs); Resident Taps Into & Damages Fire HydrantIn “Police Log”POLICE LOG for July 6: Trailer Fire On Highway; Car vs. Rock Wall; Needle Found In YardIn “Police Log”POLICE LOG for June 28: OUI Arrest; Trash Truck Fire; Car vs. MotorcycleIn “Police Log”last_img read more

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Oppo F11 Pro takes to India with a 48megapixel rear camera

first_imgOppo The latest phone in Oppo’s F series lineup is promising to dazzle you with beautiful photos. And its 48-megapixel rear camera lives up to that promise.That rear camera is paired with a 5-megapixel depth sensor. And together the F11 Pro’s cameras do a great job of capturing images with plenty of detail, letting you zoom right down to the pixels. There’s also a night mode and the phone uses color mapping to identify and reconstruct the colors of a scene, which should help take better looking portrait shots. Oppo says it can even take great low-light portrait shots, a claim I’ve also tested. Oppo’s used AI to improve the phone’s camera features — the company claims it can recognize over 23 types of scenes and is capable of choosing the right settings to get the most out of a picture. Camera aside, the phone is quite the looker. The rear design has a gradient look that’s now a hallmark of Chinese phone makers, and it’s stunning. The pop-out front camera is placed in the middle and features a transparent design inspired by amber, which helps keep the focus on the 6.53-inch display — and Oppo says the screen uses its own memory (RAM) to help reduce power consumption.Oppo’s also designed the phone to make it easier to hold. The F11 Pro has a crescent design on the top and bottom and its rounded edges don’t dig into your palms. This should make it comfortable to hold and play games on. Phones Tags 0 Post a commentcenter_img Share your voice Following fans’ feedback on previous phones, Oppo has moved the speaker and microphone. The microphone is now in the middle of the phone, making it easier to pick up your voice if you’re playing a game and holding the phone horizontally.Other cool features include fast charging, which Oppo says can get the F11 Pro from 0 to full in just 80 minutes. Factor in the 4,000-mAh battery and the phone seems fit for all-day use. Note that the F11 doesn’t use a Qualcomm chip: It’s powered by an octa-core MediaTek Helio P70 instead. But I reckon it should hold up well against Qualcomm Snapdragon 660-powered phones.The F11 Pro runs Android 9 Pie, but it uses Oppo’s own ColorOS 6 on top. Unlike Vivo phones, it doesn’t just shoehorn in its own gesture control. It also includes Android P gesture controls, so you can find what works for you. The Smart Sidebar feature brings full-screen multitasking to the F11 Pro. Turn it on by swiping to the left from the right side. You can launch apps from the Smart Sidebar, quickly share recently opened files, start screen recording or snap a screenshot. Oppo’s latest F series phone isn’t a crazy high-end flagship phone, but it’s a solid midrange device. The F11 Pro is expected to hit markets in India first, then China and the rest of Asia pretty soon. But there’s no word on a US, UK or Australia launch. The 4GB RAM with 128GB of storage model will retail for around $285 converted (that’s £215 and AU$400) while the 6GB RAM with 64GB of onboard storage will go for around $355.Quick specsProcessor: MediaTek Helios P70 octa-core Memory: 6GB RAM, 64GB or 128GB onboard storageDisplay: 6.53-inch full-HD+ (2,340×1,080 pixels)Camera: Dual 48-megapixel and 5-megapixel rear, 16-megapixel f/2.0 frontBattery: 4,000-mAh battery with fast charging Oppolast_img read more

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Muni planning commission approves controversial Elmore extension

first_imgPublic testimony from both those for and against the road lasted around two hours at Monday’s Planning & Zoning Commission meeting. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage)Anchorage’s Planning and Zoning Commission last night [Monday] voted unanimously to move forward with the Northern Access Project.Download AudioThe controversial road would connect Elmore Road and Bragaw Street through the city’s U-Med district. But it needs to clear several more hurdles before it’s built.Despite spirited protests from opponents of the project outside of the assembly chambers, lasting until the final minutes before the meeting, Anchorage’s Planning and Zoning Commission opted to approve the road’s proposed route, cutting between the University of Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Pacific University campuses.“All in favor of the Walker motion, please raise their hand. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven,” Board Chair Jim Fergusson said. “That motion carries.”Two members were absent from the vote.The nine members of the Planning and Zoning Commission are appointed by the mayor. Commissioners help write policies and ordinances and make recommendations to the Assembly relating to land use planning within the Municipality.The current board was appointed by former Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan.The approval comes after the municipal planning division released a memo last week, recommending the road go back to the drawing board. As part of the vote, the commission addressed two of the report’s major concerns.Shannon McCarthy is a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation. She says one of the changes addresses existing trails in the area.“One was to make sure that the trail system, the winter tail system, is hooked up and continuous…a loop as it exists today,” she said.The other amendment adds a buffer between the sidewalk and the road.Opponents of the Northern Access Project rally outside of the Anchorage Assembly chambers at the Loussac Library. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage)It’s unclear how the changes will impact the project’s budget, which is limited to $20 million.Early in the meeting commission members were working with an older bridge design, that didn’t include a second pedestrian overpass on the southern end of the road.Chris Schutte, the director of economic and community development for the Municipality of Anchorage, explains what happened.“The applicant said, ‘well, since we submitted it, we’ve kept designing and the bridge has been added back in,’” Schutte said. “And I think that was an area where there was some miscommunication, or perhaps misunderstanding, because the planning and zoning commission, as well as staff, were operating off of a design submission that did not include that.”Though this design was approved with caveats, the process isn’t over. From here, it still needs approval from the Urban Design Commission, then the Anchorage Assembly. After that comes the permitting process through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.Schutte says Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz intends to delve further into the project.“The larger issue of whether or not this road should be built is still something that the mayor would like a chance to work through,” Schutte said.And a big part of that process will be gathering people on both sides of the issue to see if a reasonable compromise can be reached.So far, the two sides have been been widely divided.Surrounding community councils and many area residents have been long-opposed to the project.Among the road’s opponents is Alice Knapp, a 28-year resident of the area.“When they had the preliminary plans for this road, they said that they would provide bike trail access and bike lanes, and now they can’t afford that, and so now they’ve cut it back to a streamlined road, and it doesn’t have those amenities,” Knapp said. “And if you’re not gonna do it right, let’s not do it until we can do it right – if that is necessary.”On the other side, advocates for the road say it’s necessary.Mary K. Hughes is a member of the University of Alaska Board of Regents. She says improved access to the U-Med District is vital, largely because of the development and growth the area has seen.“It has burgeoned with productivity. Lots of square footage added. Lots of employees, patients, students,” Hughes said. “And, I mean, there’s about a quarter, probably, of the working population in addition to the people who are served that go in and out of the U-Med district and it needs to be treated accordingly.”The road plans to use University lands as a right-of-way to connect Elmore Road and Bragaw Street.If all approvals and permits are awarded, construction on the project could begin as soon as next spring.last_img read more

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SBI bad loans balloon postmerger provisioning likely to spike

first_imgState Bank of India headquarters in Mumbai on March 14, 2016Reuters fileState Bank of India’s bad loans have ballooned approximately 50 percent in the span of a year and those of its five associate banks by 170 percent.The bank will likely have to increase its provisioning for bad loans — setting aside money to partly cover the non-performing assets (NPAs) following its merger with five subsidiaries.SBI, which had a provisioning coverage ratio of about 59 percent, said that after the merger it will revisit the NPAs and provide accordingly.”Depending on the age of NPAs, we provide provisioning as per the norms. Hundred per cent provisioning is not a practice in the industry,” SBI managing director Dinesh Kumar Khara told IANS.SBI’s gross NPAs in December 2016 were at Rs 1.08 lakh crore, an increase by 48.6 percent from Rs 72,792 crore in the third quarter FY16. The bank’s net NPAs rose by 52.6 percent during the same period.SBI’s five associate banks reported a 172.8 percent increase in gross NPAs at Rs 55,164 crore in December 2016, as compared to Rs 20,218 in the same period in 2015-16. The net NPAs of these rose by 218.7 percent in the same period.The five associate banks with which SBI merged on April 1 were: SBBJ (State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur), SBM (State Bank of Mysore), SBT (State Bank of Travancore), SBP (State Bank of Patiala), and SBH (State Bank of Hyderabad).The Bharatiya Mahila Bank, which is not an SBI subsidiary, was also merged with it on the same day.The combined gross NPAs of SBI and its five associate banks as on December 31, 2016, stood at Rs 1.6 lakh crore or 8.70 percent of the total assets, while the net NPAs were at 5.33 percent.”As far as the corporate books of associate banks are concerned, we started converging the NPA books of corporates from September quarter; so I don’t envisage any surprises on that,” Khara said.The Reserve Bank of India had asked the banks to clean up their balance sheets and had given a deadline of March 31 for asset quality review. Kumar said that SBI has been continuously declaring NPAs; so there will not be any extraordinary rise in the fourth quarter of 2016-17.SBI Managing Director Rajnish Kumar told IANS, “We have been declaring NPAs from time to time. I don’t expect any extraordinary hike in NPAs. The formation of NPAs has slowed, that is the fact, though we are still not out of the woods as of now.”From time to time there are meetings at the level of the government or Indian Banks’ Association to find an acceptable solution as the recognition of NPAs has happened in the last two years, Kumar said.”All have realised the problem and are trying to work together to find a solution that is acceptable to all. NPA problem is (because of) corporates, or rather mid-corporates,” he added.He said that the NPAs would get reduced if the economy grows at a fast pace and profitability of stressed sectors sees an improvement.”For resolution of NPAs, the profitability of corporates should increase. For example, the steel sector has now suddenly started showing up, because there is an improvement in the profit margins. It is because of the pressure on the margins that the debt becomes non-sustainable. But if EBIDTA (earnings before interest, depreciation, taxes and amortisation) margins improve, synergy improves, problem would at least be partly solved,” Kumar said.Khara, however, said that the idea of bad bank could be considered, not as a repository of bad assets, but with the aim to turnaround these assets.”There are some insolvency professionals coming in. But by the time the ecosystem gets created and starts delivering… it is still some time away. That kind of vehicle to identify such assets which can be turned around is needed,” he said.SBI has committees for NPAs depending on the size of the loans. There is also a committee under the bank chairperson which looks after stressed assets worth Rs 500 crore or more. Similarly, there are committees that regularly review NPAs and decide on the future course of action.After the merger, SBI, with a customer base of 450 million, has about a quarter of all outstanding loans of the banking sector.last_img read more

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For the Homeless Winter Can be Life or Death

first_imgAfter being let in to the shelter at 3 p.m., men chose to sit in the silent dayroom. (Photos by Maya Allen)Doors open at 3 p.m. daily for scores of men to secure a bed for the night at Central Union Mission, a homeless shelter in Northwest Washington D.C.One by one, the men, young and old from all different walks of life, slowly trickled in recently through the open doors of the brick building on Massachusetts Avenue.  There are 192 spots available for the homeless, and every day they fill quickly.A few of the men were coming from work with no place to sleep for the night, but most were coming from the streets, seeking temporary refuge from the cold weather.It is winter, and for hundreds of thousands of homeless men and women across the Washington region and the nation, finding shelter, particularly at night, can be the difference between life and death.  Spend the night on the street, and they may not wake up the next morning.Jennifer Paul is the development director of Thrive D.C., an organization that provides emergency services, meals and a place for the homeless to come out of the cold during the day. She knows the seriousness of this risk, which has proven to be deadly.“When the temperature drops, people who are in shelter are encouraged to stay there,” Paul said.According to media reports, at least seven homeless people froze to death last winter in Washington.  One, who was well known on Capitol Hill, died just a few blocks away from the White House.   Another was found frozen to death in January in Oxen Hill, Md.Every night in America, more than 600,000 people are homeless, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.  Nearly 7,000 of those people, the report said, live in Washington, which has the highest rate of homelessness among major cities.D.C. is one of three states that have a mandatory shelter law during hypothermia season, which opened Nov. 1.  When the temperature drops below 32 degrees, government officials are required to provide emergency shelter for the homeless including individuals and families.A staff counselor walks inside Central Union Mission’s building. The mission offers a residential program for men to help them successfully transition into society.The city has faced hurdles in recent years with the surge of the homeless requesting shelter. Advocates and government officials are actively working to keep even more individuals and families out of the cold and into the warmth of shelters and affordable housing this year.In the midst of these freezing temperatures, the city opens  what it calls low barrier emergency shelters to house more people. Normal hours are from 7a.m. to 7 p.m. On extremely cold weather days, the shelters are open 24 hours a day until the temperatures rise above freezing.The city also opens additional overflow shelters for persons in various recreation centers around the city. If homeless people do not have the means to make it to one of the regular shelters, they are welcome in the overflow shelters.At Central Union Mission, the men stood in line, patiently awaiting their turn. Each raised his hands while a staff member searched him with a metal detector for contraband or outside food.Some retreated to the quiet dayroom where no talking is permitted. A few of the men closed their eyes while others intently watched the muted television, scripted with subtitles. A silent sadness filled the room.Others preceded downstairs to the noisy dayroom where they talked and joked. Some watched the television, while others received haircuts from the shelter’s in-house barbers.“The mission has always been to help the homeless, and we’ve been doing that for 130 years now,” said Rev. James Lewis, senior director of the mission and graduate of Howard University School of Divinity. This is his 14th year serving with the mission.In 1884, Lewis said, the mission was a place of refuge for the homeless men roaming the streets of Pennsylvania Avenue.  Many were Civil War veterans with no place to call home.During the Great Depression of the 1920s and 30s, it was a children’s emergency home for families to leave their children when they didn’t have the means to take care of them anymore. It is the oldest social service agency in the D.C., he said.Since the District’s temperatures have begun to drop below freezing and the winter season is approaching, the mission’s beds have been full every night, Lewis said.“They don’t even have to leave when they wake up,” Lewis said.  “They are free to go in and out all day.  We don’t want to enable homelessness, but we treat every one that walks in here as our guest.”Erik Salmi, the director of communications for Catholic Charities D.C., an organization that provides housing and shelter programs, works closely with different sites across the District to provide the best options for them during the winter season.“Counting all of our shelters around the District, each night during the winter season, we provide more than 1800 beds for the homeless,” she said.George Jones, program manager for the Nativity Shelter for Women and for all hypothermia shelters across the District, said housing the homeless during the winter is a yearlong process.“As a matter of fact, all summer long they’re planning for the winter,” Jones said. “The first thing they estimate is how many individuals and families they are going to have to house, and then they determine what sites they are going to use along with the transportation.”last_img read more

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Body of man found in drainage channel in Sonarpur

first_imgKolkata: The body of an unidentified middle-aged man was found in a drainage channel at Sonarpur in South 24-Parganas on Sunday morning. Police said locals who went out on a morning walk noticed the body and informed the police. Policemen from the local police station went to the spot. After preliminary investigation, police found injury marks on his body.Police have initiated a probe in this connection and they are trying to identify the man. They have spoken to the locals to know whether they had seen the man earlier in the area. They are also trying to ascertain whether there is any foul play behind the incident or he received the injuries when he fell in the drainage channel. Police have contacted adjacent police stations to get the identity of the man.last_img read more

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Gottlieb LeBron going down is a really bad sign

first_imgDoug Gottlieb is in for Colin discussing:– Why LeBron going down is a really bad sign– Mahomes is the clear MVP– Gottlieb’s Herd Hierarchy after Week 16– KD still hasn’t found what he’s looking forGuests:Michael Rappaport – Actor/Comedian and host of the I am Rappaport Stereo Podcast; T.J. Houshmandzadeh – NFL Analyst and former All-Pro wide receiver; Jim Jackson – FS1 NBA Analyst and 14-year NBA veteranlast_img

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Should Your Business Consider Mobile App Integration

first_img“Does a brand truly require an application to thrive today?” This is a question that comes up when companies are assessing their mobile strategy. There is however, no basic answer to the question so, we have created this guide to help you ascertain if you need a mobile application for your brand to succeed in today’s economy.An application is not just a means of distribution. It is a communication channel and if used correctly, applications can help you learn, adapt and interact with your customers, so that you can meet their needs in meeting your business goals.What Is the Integration of Mobile Applications?Nowadays, the integration of mobile applications offers innovative ways to work effectively and offers the possibility to use the complete infrastructure behind your applications, much more like the evolution of thecloud, which offers a variety of hosting services. Therefore, it is possible to have a robust and convenient service framework and an easy-to-use user interface.Many organizations are now integrating mobile applications with their back-end applications such as CRM, POS and ERP for better results and improved productivity. The integration of mobile applications helps give employees and users a good experience.Does Your Brand Need An Application?Here are some statistics to illustrate the huge amount of opportunities for the mobile application development industry in the coming years. Starting in March 2017, 2.2 million apps and 2.8 million apps are available in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, and mobile apps are expected to generate up to $ 188.9 billion by 2020 of revenue through Application Stores and in the advertising application.Websites are essential today, especially with e-commerce brands. They provide countless advantages to reinforce the customer experience.Having an online existence alone is however, no longer enough. Why? Because customer expectations are changing.Customers demand comfort. They want prompt access to information, the capability to discover alternatives, irrespective of where and when. And above all, they anticipate their involvements with businesses to be tremendously significant to them. This is what a mobile app provides that website does not.If your brand does not include mobile app, it will not be “located” where your customers are located. As a result, you lose important opportunities to connect, participate, influence, negotiate and support your current and potential customers.The Advantages of Developing a Mobile ApplicationImprove the customer experienceIncrease brand visibilityPromote customer engagementGet a competitive advantageGenerate additional revenueWhat Do Mobile Apps Offer That Websites Do Not Offer?The following:BiometricsCamera functionalityAugmented realityIs A Mobile Website Sufficient?There are obvious advantages of having responsive websites; however, they do not offer the same user experience as applications. Websites optimized for mobile devices are critical to the success of any company; however, they offer the user a completely different experience to applications. With a responsive design, a website can function as a mobile experience, but it is still limited by the mobile browser. An App is not.Final ThoughtsThe biggest concern of many companies is the cost of developing a mobile application. But the question is not so much if you can afford to build an application, as it is another means of generating income, but if you can afford to lose your customers compared to the competition that is already ahead of the game.An application is essentially an extension of your brand and a means for companies to become more involved with their customers. Customers want hyper-personal and immediate experiences. For this reason, changing user behavior over the past years is a chance to enlarge the mobile strategy of your brand, beyond a mobile-optimized site.last_img read more

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NFL teams to include male cheerleaders for the first time

first_imgTwo teams thus far, the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints, have added male dancers to their cheerleading roster.The NFL was facing a decline in ratings and controversy over athletes taking a knee during the National Anthem at the time of this announcement.Meet the cheerleadersOn Friday, 17 August, the Saints played the Arizona Cardinals in a pre-season game. Jesse Hernandez, 25, took the field as part of the Saintsations cheerleading unit. He is the first man on an NFL dance squad.‘This is the start of a new journey for a lot of people, myself included,’ Hernandez told CBS News.Quinton Peron and Napoleon Jinnies, two dancers for the Rams, have been practicing for football season since they landed the positions in March.‘Still can’t believe I’m one of the first males in history to be a pro NFL cheerleader,’ Jinnies tweeted after making the cut.Still can’t belive I’m one of the first males in history to be a pro NFL cheerleader! Everyone’s support and love has been insane! thank you and GO RAMS! @RamsNFL @LARamsCheer #LARams pic.twitter.com/srpkYiVmEI— Napoleon Jinnies (@NapoleonJinnies) March 27, 2018 Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading… ‘it’s still so surreal to me that I am one of the First Male cheerleaders to dance for a pro team,’ Peron echoed.This week has been a whirlwind! But it’s still so surreal to me that I am one of the First Male cheerleaders to dance for a pro team ! pic.twitter.com/PThiD6aScN— Quinton Peron (@Qperon) March 30, 2018Negative reactionsHowever, not all football fans are thrilled with this new gender-inclusive cheerleading squad.NFL MALE CHEERLEADERS?I’D Be DAMNED If I Sat Up And Watched That NONSENSE.— POVhilariousD (@POVhilariousD) August 6, 2018 GAYSTARNEWS- Napoleon Jinnies, a male cheerleader for the Los Angeles Rams NFL team Idgaf. I’m saying it. These male cheerleaders for the NFL are another way to showcase the effeminization of the black male.— (@thereddempress_) August 7, 2018 The National Football League (NFL) has announced that the 2018-2019 football season will include male cheerleaders. eTN Chatroom for Readers (join us) Definitely NOW, not watching football anymore.— @SalbertusMagnus711 (@sillysullyman71) August 7, 2018What else?Watch what Jinnies and Peron have to say about their experiences in the video below:[embedded content]The NFL Kickoff Game will take place on 6 September.Got a news tip? Want to share your story? Email us . The NFL is introducing male cheerleaders. They really know how to appeal to their fan base.— the Cult of Mike (@elvisknievil) August 7, 2018 Read the full article on Gaystarnews:  :https://www.gaystarnews.com/article/male-cheerleaders-nfl-teams/last_img read more

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Building VR experiences with React VR 20 How to create maze thats

first_imgIn today’s tutorial, we will examine the functionality required to build a simple maze. There are a few ways we could build a maze. The most straightforward way would be to fire up our 3D modeler package (say, Blender) and create a labyrinth out of polygons. This would work fine and could be very detailed.However, it would also be very boring. Why? The first time we get through the maze will be exciting, but after a few tries, you’ll know the way through. When we construct VR experiences, you usually want people to visit often and have fun every time.This tutorial is an excerpt from a book written by John Gwinner titled Getting Started with React VR. In this book, you will learn how to create amazing 360 and virtual reality content that runs directly in your browsers.A modeled labyrinth would be boring. Life is too short to do boring things. So, we want to generate a Maze randomly. This way, you can change the Maze every time so that it’ll be fresh and different. The way to do that is through random numbers to ensure that the Maze doesn’t shift around us, so we want to actually do it with pseudo-random numbers. To start doing that, we’ll need a basic application created. Please go to your VR directory and create an application called ‘WalkInAMaze’:react-vr init WalkInAMazeAlmost random–pseudo random number generatorsTo have a chance of replaying value or being able to compare scores between people, we really need a pseudo-random number generator. The basic JavaScript Math.random() is not a pseudo-random generator; it really gives you a totally random number every time. We need a pseudo-random number generator that takes a seed value. If you give the same seed to the random number generator, it will generate the same sequence of random numbers. (They aren’t completely random but are very close.) Random number generators are a complex topic; for example, they are used in cryptography, and if your random number generator isn’t completely random, someone could break your code.We aren’t so worried about that, we just want repeatability. Although the UI for this may be a bit beyond the scope of this book, creating the Maze in a way that clicking on Refresh won’t generate a totally different Maze is really a good thing and will avoid frustration on the part of the user. This will also allow two users to compare scores; we could persist a board number for the Maze and show this. This may be out of scope for our book; however, having a predictable Maze will help immensely during development. If it wasn’t for this, you might get lost while working on your world. (Well, probably not, but it makes testing easier.)Including library code from other projectsUp to this point, I’ve shown you how to create components in React VR (or React). JavaScript interestingly has a historical issue with include. With C++, Java, or C#, you can include a file in another file or make a reference to a file in a project. After doing that, everything in those other files, such as functions, classes, and global properties (variables), are then usable from the file that you’ve issued the include statement in.With a browser, the concept of “including” JavaScript is a little different. With Node.js, we use package.json to indicate what packages we need. To bring those packages into our code, we will use the following syntax in your .js files:var MersenneTwister = require(‘mersenne-twister’);Then, instead of using Math.random(), we will create a new random number generator and pass a seed, as follows: var rng = new MersenneTwister(this.props.Seed);From this point on, you just call rng.random() instead of Math.random().We can just use npm install and the require statement for properly formatted packages. Much of this can be done for you by executing the npm command:npm install mersenne-twister –saveRemember, the –save command to update our manifest in the project. While we are at it, we can install another package we’ll need later:npm install react-vr-gaze-button –saveNow that we have a good random number generator, let’s use it to complicate our world.The Maze render()How do we build a Maze? I wanted to develop some code that dynamically generates the Maze; anyone could model it in a package, but a VR world should be living. Having code that can dynamically build Maze in any size (to a point) will allow a repeat playing of your world.There are a number of JavaScript packages out there for printing mazes. I took one that seemed to be everywhere, in the public domain, on GitHub and modified it for HTML. This app consists of two parts: Maze.html and makeMaze.JS. Neither is React, but it is JavaScript. It works fairly well, although the numbers don’t really represent exactly how wide it is.First, I made sure that only one x was displaying, both vertically and horizontally. This will not print well (lines are usually taller than wide), but we are building a virtually real Maze, not a paper Maze.The Maze that we generate with the files at Maze.html (localhost:8081/vr/maze.html) and the JavaScript file—makeMaze.js—will now look like this:x1xxxxxxxx x xxxx x x xx x x xx xxxxx xx x x xx x x x xx x 2xxxxxxxxxIt is a little hard to read, but you can count the squares vs. xs. Don’t worry, it’s going to look a lot fancier. Now that we have the HTML version of a Maze working, we’ll start building the hedges.This is a slightly larger piece of code than I expected, so I broke it into pieces and loaded the Maze object onto GitHub rather than pasting the entire code here, as it’s long. You can find a link for the source at: http://bit.ly/VR_Chap11Adding the floors and type checkingOne of the things that look odd with a 360 Pano background, as we’ve talked about before, is that you can seem to “float” against the ground. One fix, other than fixing the original image, is to simply add a floor. This is what we did with the Space Gallery, and it looks pretty good as we were assuming we were floating in space anyway.For this version, let’s import a ground square. We could use a large square that would encompass the entire Maze; we’d then have to resize it if the size of the Maze changes. I decided to use a smaller cube and alter it so that it’s “underneath” every cell of the Maze. This would allow us some leeway in the future to rotate the squares for worn paths, water traps, or whatever.To make the floor, we will use a simple cube object that I altered slightly and is UV mapped. I used Blender for this. We also import a Hedge model, and a Gem, which will represent where we can teleport to. Inside ‘Maze.js‘ we added the following code:import Hedge from ‘./Hedge.js’;import Floor from ‘./Hedge.js’;import Gem from ‘./Gem.js’;Then, inside the Maze.js we could instantiate our floor with the code:Notice that we don’t use ‘vr/components/Hedge.js‘ when we do the import; we’re inside Maze.js. However, in index.vr.js to include the Maze, we do need:import Maze from ‘./vr/components/Maze.js’;It’s slightly more complicated though. In our code, the Maze builds the data structures when props have changed; when moving, if the maze needs rendering again, it simply loops through the data structure and builds a collection (mazeHedges) with all of the floors, teleport targets, and hedges in it. Given this, to create the floors, the line in Maze.js is actually: mazeHedges.push();Here is where I ran into two big problems, and I’ll show you what happened so that you can avoid these issues. Initially, I was bashing my head against the wall trying to figure out why my floors looked like hedges. This one is pretty easy—we imported Floor from the Hedge.js file. The floors will look like hedges (did you notice this in my preceding code? If so, I did this on purpose as a learning experience. Honest).This is an easy fix. Make sure that you code import Floor from ‘./floor.js’; note that Floor not type-checked. (It is, after all, JavaScript.) I thought this was odd, as the hedge.js file exports a Hedge object, not a Floor object, but be aware you can rename the objects as you import them.The second problem I had was more of a simple goof that is easy to occur if you aren’t really thinking in React. You may run into this. JavaScript is a lovely language, but sometimes I miss a strongly typed language. Here is what I did:Inside the maze.js file, I had code like this:for (var j = 0; j After some debugging, I found out that the value of j was going from 0 to 42. Why did it get 42 instead of 6? The reason was simple. We need to fully understand JavaScript to program complex apps. The mistake was in initializing SizeX to be ‘4’ ; this makes it a string variable. When calculating j from 0 (an integer), React/JavaScript takes 2, adds it to a string of ‘4’, and gets the 42 string, then converts it to an integer and assigns this to j.When this is done, very weird things happened.When we were building the Space Gallery, we could easily use the ‘5.1’ values for the input to the box:Then, later use the transform statement below inside the class: transform: [ { translate: [ this.props.MyX, -1.7, this.props.MyZ] } ]React/JavaScript will put the string values into This.Props.MyX, then realize it needs an integer, and then quietly do the conversion. However, when you get more complicated objects, such as our Maze generation, you won’t get away with this.Remember that your code isn’t “really” JavaScript. It’s processed. At the heart, this processing is fairly simple, but the implications can be a killer.Pay attention to what you code. With a loosely typed language such as JavaScript, with React on top, any mistakes you make will be quietly converted to something you didn’t intend.You are the programmer. Program correctly.So, back to the Maze. The Hedge and Floor are straightforward copies of the initial Gem code. Let’s take a look at our starting Gem, although note it gets a lot more complicated later (and in your source files):import React, { Component } from ‘react’;import { asset, Box, Model, Text, View} from ‘react-vr’;export default class Gem extends Component {constructor() {super();this.state = {Height: -3 };}render() {return ();}}CopyThe Hedge and Floor are essentially the same thing. (We could have made a prop be the file loaded, but we want a different behavior for the Gem, so we will edit this file extensively.)To run this sample, first, we should have created a directory as you have before, called WalkInAMaze. Once you do this, download the files from the Git source for this part of the article (http://bit.ly/VR_Chap11). Once you’ve created the app, copied the files, and fired it up, (go to the WalkInAMaze directory and type npm start), and you should see something like this once you look around – except, there is a bug. This is what the maze should look like (if you use the file  ‘MazeHedges2DoubleSided.gltf‘ in Hedge.js, in the statement):>Now, how did we get those neat-looking hedges in the game? (OK, they are pretty low poly, but it is still pushing it.) One of the nice things about the pace of improvement on web standards is their new features. Instead of just .obj file format, React VR now has the capability to load glTF files.Using the glTF file format for modelsglTF files are a new file format that works pretty naturally with WebGL. There are exporters for many different CAD packages. The reason I like glTF files is that getting a proper export is fairly straightforward. Lightwave OBJ files are an industry standard, but in the case of React, not all of the options are imported. One major one is transparency. The OBJ file format allows that, but at of the time of writing this book, it wasn’t an option. Many other graphics shaders that modern hardware can handle can’t be described with the OBJ file format.This is why glTF files are the next best alternative for WebVR. It is a modern and evolving format, and work is being done to enhance the capabilities and make a fairly good match between what WebGL can display and what glTF can export.This is however on interacting with the world, so I’ll give a brief mention on how to export glTF files and provide the objects, especially the Hedge, as glTF models.The nice thing with glTF from the modeling side is that if you use their material specifications, for example, for Blender, then you don’t have to worry that the export won’t be quite right. Today’s physically Based Rendering (PBR) tends to use the metallic/roughness model, and these import better than trying to figure out how to convert PBR materials into the OBJ file’s specular lighting model. Here is the metallic-looking Gem that I’m using as the gaze point:Using the glTF Metallic Roughness model, we can assign the texture maps that programs, such as Substance Designer, calculate and import easily. The resulting figures look metallic where they are supposed to be metallic and dull where the paint still holds on.I didn’t use Ambient Occlusion here, as this is a very convex model; something with more surface depressions would look fantastic with Ambient Occlusion. It would also look great with architectural models, for example, furniture.To convert your models, there is user documentation at http://bit.ly/glTFExporting. You will need to download and install the Blender glTF exporter. Or, you can just download the files I have already converted. If you do the export, in brief, you do the following steps:Download the files from http://bit.ly/gLTFFiles. You will need the gltf2_Principled.blend file, assuming that you are on a newer version of Blender.In Blender, open your file, then link to the new materials. Go to File->Link, then choose the gltf2_Principled.blend file. Once you do that, drill into “NodeTree” and choose either glTF Metallic Roughness (for metal), or glTF specular glossiness for other materials.Choose the object you are going to export; make sure that you choose the Cycles renderer.Open the Node Editor in a window. Scroll down to the bottom of the Node Editor window, and make sure that the box Use Nodes is checked.Add the node via the nodal menu, Add->Group->glTF Specular Glossiness or Metallic Roughness.Once the node is added, go to Add->Texture->Image texture. Add as many image textures as you have image maps, then wire them up. You should end up with something similar to this diagram.To export the models, I recommend that you disable camera export and combine the buffers unless you think you will be exporting several models that share geometry or materials. The Export options I used are as follows:Now, to include the exported glTF object, use the component as you would with an OBJ file, except you have no MTL file. The materials are all described inside the .glTF file. To include the exported glTF object, you just put the filename as a gltf2 prop in the : To find out more about these options and processes, you can go to the glTF export web site. This site also includes tutorials on major CAD packages and the all-important glTF shaders (for example, the Blender model I showed earlier).I have loaded several .OBJ files and .glTF files so you can experiment with different combinations of low poly and transparency. When glTF support was added in React VR version 2.0.0, I was very excited as transparency maps are very important for a lot of VR models, especially vegetation; just like our hedges. However, it turns out there is a bug in WebGL or three.js that does not render the transparency properly. As a result, I have gone with a low polygon version in the files on the GitHub site; the pictures, above, were with the file MazeHedges2DoubleSided.gltf in the Hedges.js file (in vr/components).If you get 404 errors, check the paths in the glTF file. It depends on which exporter you use—if you are working with Blender, the gltf2 exporter from the Khronos group calculates the path correctly, but the one from Kupoman has options, and you could export the wrong paths.We discussed important mechanics of props, state, and events. We also discussed how to create a maze using pseudo-random number generators to make sure that our props and state didn’t change chaotically.To know more about how to create, move around in, and make worlds react to us in a Virtual Reality world, including basic teleport mechanics, do check out this book Getting Started with React VR. Read More:Google Daydream powered Lenovo Mirage solo hits the marketGoogle open sources Seurat to bring high precision graphics to Mobile VROculus Go, the first stand alone VR headset arrives!last_img read more

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Costa Rica Medical tourism hot spot

first_imgMillions of tourists come to Costa Rica every year to experience the country’s world-renowned natural treasures and to enjoy a taste of Costa Rica’s friendly, welcoming hospitality. Over the last decade, however, as the price of quality health care has skyrocketed in the United States with no apparent end in sight, another breed of tourist – the medical tourist – is arriving, intent on seeking out the best and most affordable healthcare options that have made Costa Rica the envy of its Latin and North American neighbors.The medical tourism upswing in Latin America is a new and exciting trend created by two critical factors.First, there’s disparity in healthcare pricing between first world countries like the U.S. and Canada and their less developed cousins to the south, like Colombia, Costa Rica and Mexico. For example, a knee replacement may cost upwards of $40,000 in the U.S. and only $8,000-$12,000 in leading Latin American hospitals. A dental implant may cost $3,000 in the U.S. compared to a price tag of only $700-$900 per tooth in a top Costa Rican dental clinic.Second, there’s the disparity caused by a lack of availability. Certain procedures with long waiting lists in North America are widely available at much lower prices in other countries. For example, many Canadians simply do not have access to some medical procedures when needed, due to long patient waiting lists. Additionally, many cutting-edge or alternative procedures such as stem cell therapy are simply not available in the U.S. due to ongoing political and scientific debate. These procedures are available in many countries around the world and are gaining popularity in Latin America as well.While countries like India and Thailand are global leaders in medical tourism, a report by McKinsey & Company indicates that medical tourists from the U.S. and Canada prefer Latin American countries like Costa Rica, citing proximity, shorter flights, affordable costs and the chance for a memorable vacation as the main reasons for their preference.While the pricing for medical services is often 50 to 70 percent less than comparable care in the U.S., many medical tourists choose Costa Rica for the excellent reputation of its private health care system.  In fact, according to the World Health Organization, Costa Rica is rated higher than the U.S. and many other first world nations in terms of quality health care.  A visit to any of Costa Rica’s top private hospitals and dental clinics will provide evidence of Costa Rica’s preferred status. Modern hospitals, medical clinics and dental centers with cutting edge medical technology are staffed by board-certified doctors and surgeons with impressive national, North American and European training.About 500,000 North Americans travel abroad each year for health care services. While exact numbers are hard to pin down, it has been reported that Costa Rica received approximately 75,000 to 100,000 medical tourists in 2010. These numbers are expected to grow along with Costa Rica’s reputation as a global leader in medical tourism.For those involved in the health care or tourism sectors, medical tourism represents a significant revenue opportunity. While hospitals, medical clinics and dental centers are clear beneficiaries of increased medical and dental tourism, many hotels, restaurants, tour operators and all of their associated supply chain partners tend to view medical tourism as an outstanding growth opportunity.While the average tourist may stay an average of eight to nine days, medical tourists visiting Costa Rica stay an average of 11 days and often travel with friends and family, dramatically increasing tourism revenues.  With medical tourism revenues anticipated to exceed $100 billion globally in 2012, Costa Rica stands to earn an increasingly larger piece of this very big pie.-Patrick Goodness Facebook Comments Related posts:Costa Rica to host annual medical tourism summit Major medical tourism summit nears Medical tourism up in Costa Rica; Expomed set for this weekend Tourism and health sectors seek to boost medical tourism in Costa Ricalast_img read more

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27 years later CIA pilot tells of using secret Costa Rican airstrip

first_imgA clandestine airstrip in Potrero Grande, in Costa Rica’s northwestern province of Guanacaste. The airstrip was used to traffic guns and drugs, according to a former CIA pilot. Julio Laínez/The Tico Times Nicaraguan guerrilla fighters led by Edén Pastora, known as “Comandante Cero,” pictured here in 1983.The Tico Times Second in a series. Read the first part here.Costa Rica’s Santa Elena Peninsula in the northwestern province of Guanacaste was the site of a smoking gun in the 1980s Iran-Contra affair, the scandal that rocked the administration of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan. Santa Elena also was the site of extensive drug trafficking back then, according to pilot who now says he trafficked cocaine and guns to a secret airstrip on the peninsula.The airstrip was located in Potrero Grande, a 1.6-kilometer valley on the coast some 15 km south of the Nicaraguan border. According to former CIA contract pilot Robert “Tosh” Plumlee, drug smugglers used the airstrip for years, even before U.S. Lt. Col. Oliver North came looking for a staging area for arms flights into Nicaragua’s “Southern Front.”A team of journalists, including Tico Times reporters, discovered the airstrip in September 1986.“Santa Elena had been on a drug-running route long before we started using it to help arm the Southern Front,” Plumlee told The Tico Times.Somehow, North fell in with the owner of the property, the Santa Elena Development Corporation, represented by North Carolina native Joe Hamilton. North took out a $5 million mortgage on the property for an unknown purpose.“Men with maps” approached former Costa Rican President Luis Alberto Monge to obtain his blessing to create a full-scale air base at Potrero Grande, arguing that it would be needed if Sandinistas attacked Costa Rica. After he left office, Monge told The Tico Times he assumed the men were U.S. officials. He readily agreed.A phantom Panamanian company, Udall Resources, set up by retired U.S. Gen. Richard Secord and “owned” by a “Robert Olmstead” – the pseudonym of William Haskell, a Maryland accountant and North’s Vietnam buddy – was contracted to extend the airstrip in 1984 to enable it to accommodate large C-130 transport aircraft.Iran-Contra investigators discovered that a “cabal” had elaborated a plan to conceal the backing of Nicaraguan Contras by the U.S. government at a time when the U.S. Congress had prohibited the Reagan Administration from aiding the Contras.Plumlee said he flew to the Potrero Grande airstrip before North dubbed it “Point West,” beginning in 1983, in a smaller C-123 transport plane.Plumlee estimated that he trafficked up to 30,000 kilograms of cocaine from Medellín and Bogotá, Colombia, out of Potrero Grande.When Óscar Arias became president of Costa Rica in May 1986, he ordered U.S. Ambassador Lewis Tambs to shut down the site. But the refurbished airstrip had become operational the same month Arias took office, and remained open for business, Plumlee said.Residents in the neighboring communities of Liberia and La Cruz spotted airplanes flying low over the hills of Santa Rosa National Park, which bordered the airstrip.A team of journalists set out to find the airstrip in September 1986. When they traveled to Santa Rosa National Park to ask about the mysterious flights, a U.S. scientist working in the park said, “It’s about time.”If the U.S. government was running a drug interdiction operation through Potrero Grande, it was a secret to the Costa Rican government. After journalists discovered the airstrip, then-Public Security Minister Hernán Garrón said Costa Rican police had seized the airstrip the previous month.“We didn’t know if we’d find Contras or armed drug traffickers,” Garrón told The Tico Times at the time. In the early morning hours of April 4, 1985, Costa Rican cops, accompanied by DEA agents, stormed Finca California, a mansion in the Ojo de Agua area of Alajuela near Juan Santamaría International Airport, and arrested Caro Quintero and his cohorts.According to press reports, Caro Quintero complained to the arresting officers that he had paid handsomely for refuge in Costa Rica.Later that morning at the DEA’s office in the U.S. Embassy, DEA-agent-in-charge Don Clemens was on the telephone to Costa Rican officials trying to convince them to hold Caro Quintero for extradition to the United States, to no avail.Instead, the Monge administration loaded Caro Quintero and his entourage onto an airplane and deported them to Mexico the same day the drug lord was captured.Another Costa Rican Legislative Assembly commission, which investigated the circumstances surrounding Caro Quintero’s stay in Costa Rica, concluded that a “superior political authority” was responsible.As for Caro Quintero, the drug kingpin vanished after his release last Julyfrom a Mexican prison. Mexican authorities ignored a U.S. extradition request.In the ’80s, no one imagined the link between Caro Quintero’s ranch in Veracruz, Mexico, and the Santa Elena airstrip in Costa Rica – two pieces of a puzzle that on the surface had little do with each other.While reporters have focused on isolated incidents, the entire picture of the Contra drug saga has yet to come into focus, according to Celerino Castillo, a former DEA agent and author of “Powderburns: Cocaine, Contras and the Drug War.”“All this is very well documented, but no one has put the pieces together,” Castillo said. “But the pieces do fit together.” In October 1986, the Sandinista army shot down a C-130 carrying arms to the Contras and captured a cargo kicker named Eugene Hasenfus, the only crew member with a parachute.Journalists given access to documents found aboard Hasenfus’ airplane linked the flight to the CIA. A Tico Times reporter determined that two phone numbers found in logs in the wreckage belonged to the home and the embassy office of CIA San José station chief Joe Fernández (code-named Tomás Castillo), a foreshadowing of the Iran-Contra scandal that erupted the following November, when U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese revealed that the U.S. government had sold weapons to Iran and used the proceeds to help arm the Contra rebels.The chain of events raised questions over how much the U.S. government, in general, and the CIA, in particular, had aided the Contra cause when a congressional prohibition was in place.In Costa Rica, a Legislative Assembly commission, acting on findings richly informed by the U.S. Senate Committee investigating Contra involvement in drugs and chaired by then-Senator – now-Secretary of State – John Kerry, prohibited a number of former U.S. officials – including North and Ambassador Tambs – from entering Costa Rica.Eventually, the Arias administration expropriated the Potrero Grande land and it became a part of Santa Rosa National Park – but not before a protracted court battle with the airstrip owners and the direct intervention of then-U.S. President George H.W. Bush, who held up an Inter-American Development Bank loan to Costa Rica to prod the Arias administration over the “investment issue.”The Costa Rican government ended up paying about $13 million for the property, after negotiations arbitrated by the World Bank.The fact that Mexican drug cartel kingpin Rafael Caro Quintero was a supporter of the U.S.-backed Nicaraguan rebels, providing a training and staging area for arms flights to the Contras at his Veracruz, Mexico, ranch, also casts a different light on the drug lord’s escape to Costa Rica and the circumstances surrounding his short stay in the country.In early March 1985, tipped off that Caro Quintero was about to fly out of Guadalajara to escape the manhunt that had prompted U.S. President Ronald Reagan to close the U.S. border with Mexico, DEA agents raced to the city’s airport to find agents from Mexico’s Federal Security Directorate (DFS) protecting Caro Quintero’s Gulf Stream jet.According toHéctor Berrellez, the DEA’s lead investigator into agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena’s 1985 kidnapping, torture and murder, Caro Quintero appeared in the doorway of the airplane holding a bottle of champagne and shouting to the outgunned DEA agents: “My children, next time bring more guns.”Caro Quintero was flown north to Sonora by Costa Rican pilot Warner Lotz – another CIA contract employee, according to Plumlee – to see his brother Miguel before Lotz flew the cartel boss to his ranch in Veracruz. Plumlee said he was waiting there to take Caro Quintero across the border to Guatemala, where yet another pilot, Luis Carranza, flew him to Costa Rica.Caro Quintero and his entourage, which included several cronies and his girlfriend Sara Cosio, passed through Customs unchecked upon arriving in San José. According to some reports, they may have first landed at an unsupervised provincial airstrip, making their arrival in San José a domestic flight exempt from passing through Customs.The participation of so many CIA contractors in Caro Quintero’s escape raises questions about whether the CIA might not have arranged for Caro Quintero to come to Costa Rica, where he could be more readily nabbed.“Absolutely not,” Berrellez said. “The only reason the Costa Rican government moved to arrest him was because we [the DEA] told them exactly where he was.”The DEA had pinpointed the drug lord’s location by tapping a telephone at the Mexican home of Cosio’s parents. Cosio had called home and tipped off the DEA, Berrellez said.center_img An aerial view of the U.S. government’s secret airstrip in Santa Elena Peninsula, northern Costa Rica.The Tico Times Related posts:Reagan administration, CIA complicit in DEA agent’s murder, say former insiders Reports: CIA present during U.S. drug agent’s torture, murder Doctors complicit in torture at CIA, military prisons: study U.S. supports clean energy initiatives in Costa Rica Facebook Commentslast_img read more

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by Hillel Italie The Associated Press Posted

first_img by Hillel Italie, The Associated Press Posted Jun 8, 2018 10:06 am PDT Last Updated Jun 8, 2018 at 10:40 am PDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email NEW YORK, N.Y. – Anthony Bourdain’s book imprint will be discontinued after the remaining works under contract come out.The announcement came Friday from HarperCollins Publishing.Anthony Bourdain Books was founded in 2011 and released through the Harper imprint Ecco. The imprint had released works by Daniel Vaughan and Marilyn Hagerty among others. Bourdain, the celebrity chef, bestselling author and CNN host, was found dead in his hotel room Friday in France. CNN is calling his death a suicide.A HarperCollins official told The Associated Press that future books from his imprint include “We Fed An Island” by Jose Andres, the chef widely praised for his efforts to feed Puerto Ricans after Hurricane Maria. Bourdain’s imprint to end after contracted books come outlast_img read more

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