Apr 16

Stage set for another volatile trading day

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Fed speak may trump a bundle of big earnings reports and important housing and industrial production data Wednesday, all of which guarantees another volatile trading day. Traders are also focused on Ukraine, as Kiev attempts to move against pro-Russian militants, and headlines from there ruffled markets Tuesday. U.S. industrial output and retail sales, set for release early Wednesday, could also have a lingering impact on markets. Earlier Wednesday, China reported better-than-expected first quarter gross domestic product numbers, with economists forecasting a growth pickup over the coming months. There are a number of Fed speakers Wednesday, but the most important by far is Fed Chair Janet Yellen, who speaks to the Economics Club of New York at 12:25 p.m. ET. Yellen will also answer questions from economists.  ”She’s clearly taken a beating in the press. She’s going to try not to say anything,” said Ian Lyngen, senior Treasury strategist at CRT Capital.

Lyngen was referring to a comment Yellen made at her first press briefing after the Fed’s March 19 meeting. She said that the Fed could begin to hike short term rates about six months after it ends its bond buying program. That sent a ripple through markets, as traders repriced for higher rates sooner than they had expected in 2015. The Fed has emphasized since then – even in the minutes from the March meeting – that it intends to keep rates low for longer. Yields have fallen across the curve since those minutes were released last week.  Besides Yellen, the Fed’s beige book on the economy could be important when it is released at 2 p.m. ET. There are also housing starts at 8:30 a.m. ET and industrial production at 9:15 a.m. Fed speakers include Fed Gov. Jerome Stein, who speaks at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta Conference on financial stability and monetary policy at 8:30 a.m. Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart also makes comments at the Fed conference at 11:30 a.m., and separately, Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher speaks on the regional economic outlook in Austin, Texas at 1:25 p.m. More

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Apr 16

DAYS OF LOT – French MEP says easy porn access is a benefit of the European Union


Reminding young people that EU membership makes foreign pornography easier to access is a useful way to promote the bloc, a conservative French MEP told a newspaper on Tuesday. When asked how he planned to convince young people to vote in the upcoming EU Parliament elections in May, Joseph Daul, the leader of the European People’s Party (EPP), said that freer movement across borders was one of his most convincing arguments, The Local reported. The 67-year-old, who grew up near the German border, told Les Dernieres Nouvelles d’Alsace newspaper: “I tell them that at their age, when I was 18, when I wanted to go to Kehl (across the border in Germany) to see porno movies that were banned in France, you had to wait two-and-a-half hours to get through customs. ”You’d get to the cinema and the film was already finished,” he “And one out of every couple of times I’d realise I’d forgotten to bring deutschmarks! ”When you explain it that way to youngsters they understand straight away what Europe means,” he added. More

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Apr 16

Two backpacks detonated by police at Boston Marathon finish line after masked man yelling ‘Boston Strong’ dumps bag

The man dropped this backpack after running down Boylston Street early Tuesday evening.
Two loud booms rang out Tuesday night near the Boston Marathon finish line on Boylston Street, an eerie reminder of the terror attacks exactly one year before. These explosions were controlled though, carried out by the city’s bomb squad after a barefoot man shrouded in black and yelling “Boston Strong!” ditched at least one backpack around 7 p.m. near the site of last year’s bombing during the race. The location is where three people died and more than 260 people were injured after two pressure cooker bombs in backpacks exploded near the finish line during last year’s race.

Kayvon EdsonThe man was quickly taken into custody and identified as Kayvon Edson, 25, sources told WBZ-TV. He’s charged with disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace and possession of a hoax device, according to the news station.  A second unattended bag was also detonated but may have been left by somebody else. The suspect, pictured wearing all black clothing with black makeup, told cops he put a rice cooker in one of the bags, according to the news station.  After Edson ran down the street and left the bags, police evacuated Boylston Street for several hours. The rice cooker was filled with confetti, a source told the CBS affiliate, while the second bag had photography equipment inside. One bag was detonated around 9 p.m. while the second was blown up around 9:40 p.m. The all-clear was given shortly after and the road reopened. In a YouTube video posted by Edson in 2012, he describes himself as “a fashion designer, an entrepreneur, a performance artist, a mental patient, a blogger/bloggerist, a jailbird, a college dropout and a drag queen.” More

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Apr 16

14 Emerging Digital Technologies That Will Change The World

Minority Report computer screen
In electronics, advances take the form of faster computers, flexible and printable electronics, and smaller and better sensors. In networking, the trend is towards more interoperability between networks, higher bandwidth and more virtual services. In human interfaces, we see change converging on more portable devices and enormously improved telepresence between people. We have included predictions based on consultation with experts of when each technology will be scientifically viable (the kind of stuff that Google, governments, and universities develop), mainstream (when VCs and startups widely invest in it), and financially viable (when the technology is generally available on Kickstarter).

Electronics

Digital currencies: Electronic money that acts as alternative currency. Currently, alternative digital currencies are not produced by government-endorsed central banks nor necessarily backed by national currencies. It differs from virtual money used in virtual economies due to its use in transactions with real goods and services; not being limited to circulation within online games.

Scientifically viable today; mainstream in 2016; financially viable in 2017.

Botsourcing: The assignment of physical and online tasks traditionally performed by human agents to an autonomous software agent.

Scientifically viable in 2017; mainstream and financially viable in 2020.

Smart dust sensors: A system of many tiny microelectromechanical systems such as sensors, robots, or other devices, that can detect, for example, light, temperature, vibration, magnetism, or chemicals.

Scientifically viable in 2022; mainstream in 2024; and financially viable in 2027.

Printed electronics: A set of printing methods used to create electrical devices on various substrates. Electrically functional or optical inks are deposited on the material, creating active or passive devices, such as thin film transistors or resistors. Printed electronics is expected to facilitate widespread, very low-cost, low-performance electronics for applications such as flexible displays, smart labels, decorative and animated posters, and active clothing that do not require high performance.

Scientifically viable in 2021; mainstream and financially viable in 2022.

Memristors: The reason why the memristor is so different from the other three basic circuit elements is that it retains memory without power. It is a new material that promises computers two orders of magnitude more efficient from a power perspective than traditional transistor technologies, contains multiple petabits of persistent storage, and can be reconfigured to be either memory or CPU in a package as small as a sugar cube.

Scientifically viable in 2018; mainstream in 2022; financially viable in 2025.

Networking

MOOCs: Massive Open Online Courses are a type of online course aimed at large-scale participation and open access via the web.

Scientifically viable and mainstream today; financially viable in 2021.

5G: A predicted future fifth generation of mobile telecommunications, expected to be the next major phase of mobile telecommunications standard as well as a proposed single global standard.

Scientifically viable in 2016; mainstream in 2017; financially viable in 2022.

WiGig: Wireless Gigabit will deliver up to 6 Gbps [6,000 Mbps] connections between devices in interior spaces. This will enable wireless displays, much like Wi-Fi did for wireless networking.

Scientifically viable in 2016; mainstream in 2021; financially viable in 2022.

High-altitude stratospheric platforms: A quasi-stationary aircraft that provides means of delivering networking to a large area while flying at a very high altitude (17–22 km) over cities for several years. They are effectively low-orbit regional communication satellites.

Scientifically viable in 2022; mainstream in 2026; financially viable in 2027.

Interfaces

Context-aware computing: Computers that can both sense and react to their environment. Devices will have information about the circumstances under which they operate, and based on rules and sensor inputs, react accordingly. Context-aware devices may also learn assumptions about the user’s current situation.

Scientifically viable today; mainstream and financially viable in 2017.

Annotated-reality glasses: Much like Google’s Glass project, these allow contextual information to be overlaid on the user’s field of vision.

Scientifically viable today; mainstream in 2019; financially viable in 2020.

Wall-sized screens: Tileable and interactive screen-wallpapers are expected to dominate all types of surfaces for domestic and professional uses. Wrap-around screens recruit the peripheral vision and create a truly immersive experience

Scientifically viable in 2017; mainstream in 2022; financially viable in 2023.

Telepresence: A set of technologies which allow a person to feel as if they were present, to give the appearance of being present, or to have an effect, via telerobotics, at a place other than their true location.

Scientifically viable today; mainstream in 2024; financially viable in 2025.

Immersive multi-user VR: A fully immersive Virtual Reality environment to which the user connects through direct brain stimulation. All senses would be stimulated, diffusing the boundary between reality and fiction. Scientifically viable and mainstream in 2026; financially viable in 2027. Business Insider

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Apr 16

Some Catholic schools updating with Common Core standards


Classrooms at some Catholic schools are undergoing a transformation, as decades-old traditions are being updated with Common Core state standards. Although the standards are not federally mandated for Catholic schools, dozens of dioceses are nevertheless adopting some of the changes. The way Bob Laird of the Cardinal Newman Society sees it, “beauty, truth, and knowledge” are lost when Catholic schools begin to weave the non-religious standards into lesson plans. ”If Common Core standards are used across the board, then why send students to Catholic school?” Laird protested.  “Just send them to the public school, and have them take some Catholic–CCD–education.” Many public schools have been integrating Common Core for several years, and critics argue the results aren’t impressive enough to bring to Catholic schools, where students traditionally outperform others. At Catholic schools, 99.4 percent of students graduate, far more than the 78.2 percent of students receiving diplomas at public schools. Parents also pay a lot for Catholic school: an average of $3,880 for elementary and $9,922 for secondary education. In 2009 and 2010, Dr. Sandra Stotsky contributed to Common Core’s validation committee, charged with making sure the final product was rigorous. But Stotsky does not think very much of the final product, and said parents of Catholic school students complain to her about the social issues brought up in the pages of some recommended readings. ”The reading selections are offensive to them as devoted Catholics,” Stotsky said.

“They do not think these selections enhance Catholic identity.” Still, at least 100 dioceses–out of 195 in the United States–embrace some part of Common Core. Take the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, for example.   A “FAQ” sheet circulated there assures worshippers that “as a set of instructional standards, the Common Core is neither pro nor anti-Catholic in nature.” Now, Catholic schools trying to work Common Core into their lesson plans are getting help from the National Catholic Educational Association. The NCEA says Common Core is not a curriculum, but rather, “…a set of high-quality academic expectations that all students should master by the end of each grade level.” Their leaders also want people to know that it is possible to educate children using a foundation of faith and the standards of Common Core. ”In everything that we do, Christ comes first, our faith comes first,” said Kathy Mears, an executive director at the National Catholic Educational Association.  “What we are going to do is use materials that are infused with the faith.” The U-S Conference of Catholic Bishops explained in an e-mail Tuesday that Common Core “is by its nature incomplete, as it pertains to Catholic Schools,” because it was developed for public schools. More

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Apr 16

Suspected Islamic extremists abduct over 100 female students from Nigerian school

A family member waits for news of loved ones at Asokoro hospital in Abuja after Monday's bomb blast.
Maiduguri, Nigeria
: Suspected Islamic extremists abducted over 100 female students from a school in northeast Nigeria before dawn on Tuesday, but some of the teens managed to escape from the back of an open truck, officials said.  The girls were abducted after midnight from a school in Chibok, on the edge of the Sambisa Forest that is an insurgent hideout, said Borno state police commissioner Tanko Lawan. Gunmen killed a soldier and police officer guarding the school, then took off with at least 100 students, a State Security Service official said.  A local government official said he did not know how many of the girls have escaped but that “many” have walked through the bushes and back to Chibok. Early reports said as many as 200 girls were abducted. The girls were piled into the back of an open truck and, as it was traveling, some grabbed at low-hanging branches to swing off while others jumped off the slow-moving vehicle, he said.

The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorised to give information to reporters. All schools in Borno state were closed three weeks ago because of an increasing number of attacks by militants who have killed hundreds of students in the past year. But the young women – aged between 16 and 18 – were recalled to take their final exams, the local government official explained. Islamic extremists have been abducting girls to use as cooks and sex slaves. Insurgents from the Boko Haram terrorist network are blamed for dozens of attacks that have killed more than 1500 people this year alone. The group – whose name means “Western education is forbidden” – has targeted schools, churches, mosques, villages and agricultural centers in increasingly indiscriminate attacks. They have also made daring raids on military barracks and bases. The extremists also are accused of Monday morning’s explosion at a busy bus station in Nigeria’s capital that killed at least 75 people and wounded 141. The Sydney Morning Herald

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Apr 16

U.S. warns Beijing over currency weakness

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The Obama administration on Tuesday told Beijing it was watching the value of China’s currency closely, expressing concern over its recent drop and saying it remains “significantly undervalued.” In a semiannual report to Congress, the U.S. Treasury stopped short of declaring China a currency manipulator, but singled it out among large U.S. trading partners for its currency practices. ”Recent developments in the … exchange rate would raise particularly serious concerns if they presage renewed resistance to currency appreciation and a retreat from China’s announced policy of reducing intervention and allowing the exchange rate to reflect market forces,” the Treasury said. More

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Apr 16

RUMORS OF WARS – 2,000 PLA troops could invade Diaoyutai in 5 hours

A Zubr-class landing craft. (Internet photo)China has the ability to deploy 2,000 troops to the disputed Diaoyutai islands (Diaoyu to China, Senkaku to Japan) in just five hours using its four Zubr-class air-cushioned landing craft purchased from Russia, according to an Apr. 2 report in the Wall Street Journal. Although Lieutenant General John Wissler, the commanding general of the US Marine Corps in Okinawa, says that the United States is capable of wiping out invading Chinese forces without mobilizing ground forces, Western military expert have begun to question whether Washington and Tokyo are capable of defending Okinawa from a potential PLA invasion. A single Zubr-class landing craft can transport 500 soldiers and 150 tonnes of equipment. The Bell Boeing MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, deployed by the US in Okinawa, is four times faster than the Zubr-class landing craft; however, it would still be unable to stop a full-scale Chinese invasion of the islands because a single tiltrotor aircraft is only able to carry 24 combat personnel and six tonnes of equipment, according to the paper.

According to the Tokyo-based Diplomat magazine, if the islands were to be taken by the PLA, the next likely step would be for China to launch another invasion against Okinawa. James Fanell, director of the US Navy’s Intelligence and Information Operations told the magazine that the PLA Navy has been carrying out amphibious assault drills to practice taking territory in the East China Sea in a “short sharp war” against Japan aimed at reasserting their claim over Diaoyutai. If the uninhabited islands came under Chinese control, the PLA could then attack Okinawa to remove the facilities of the US Air Force and Marine Corps from the island, according to Fanell. Major General Zhu Chenghu, dean of China’s National Defense University, told the state-run Global Times that statements from US secretary of defense Chuck Hagel and Wissler suggest that Washington has decided to side with Tokyo on the issue. “The threat of China has always been used by the United States as an execuse to deploy more of its troops to East Asia,” Zhu said. Want China Times

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Apr 16

Guess Which Word Obama Left Out of Boston Marathon Statement?


President Obama issued a statement marking the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon terrorist attack. But instead of calling it a terrorist attack, he called it a “tragedy.” The president’s message to the nation did not include any reference to terrorism or Islamic extremism. Instead, he called the attack that left four dead and 260 injured a “tragedy” and an “unspeakable tragedy.” Here’s President Obama’s statement: “A year ago, tragedy struck at the 117th Boston Marathon. Four innocent people were killed that week, and hundreds more were wounded. Today, we remember Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu, Martin Richard, and Sean Collier. And we send our thoughts and prayers to those still struggling to recover. We also know that the most vivid images from that day were not of smoke and chaos, but of compassion, kindness and strength:
A man in a cowboy hat helping a wounded stranger out of harm’s way; runners embracing loved ones, and each other; an EMT carrying a spectator to safety. Today, we recognize the incredible courage and leadership of so many Bostonians in the wake of unspeakable tragedy. And we offer our deepest gratitude to the courageous firefighters, police officers, medical professionals, runners and spectators who, in an instant, displayed the spirit Boston was built on – perseverance, freedom and love. 
One year later, we also stand in awe of the men and women who continue to inspire us – learning to stand, walk, dance and run again. With each new step our country is moved by the resilience of a community and a city. And when the sun rises over Boylston Street next Monday – Patriot’s Day – hundreds of thousands will come together to show the world the meaning of Boston Strong as a city chooses to run again.” Fox News Radio

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Apr 16

FBI Will Have Up To One Third Of Americans On Biometric Database By Next Year


A leading privacy watchdog has warned that the FBI plans to have up to a third of all Americans on a facial recognition database by next year. The Electronic Frontier Foundation notes in a communique that some 52 million Americans could be on the Next Generation Identification (NGI) biometric database by 2015, regardless of whether they have ever committed a crime or been arrested. The group managed to obtain information pertaining to the program via a freedom of information request. The database will also hold fingerprints, of which the FBI has around 100 million records, as well as retina scans and palm prints. Profiles on the system will contain other personal details such as name, address, age and race. The system will be capable of searching through millions of facial records obtained not only via mugshots, but also via so called “civil images”, the origin of which is vague at best. “[T]he FBI does not define either the ‘Special Population Cognizant’ database or the ‘new repositories’ category.” The EFF writes. “This is a problem because we do not know what rules govern these categories, where the data comes from, how the images are gathered, who has access to them, and whose privacy is impacted.”  A map within the EFF’s piece shows which states are already complying with the program, and which ones are close to agreeing deals to do so.

Map of US States Coordinating with FBI on NGI Face RecognitionThe EFF notes that currently, the FBI has access to fingerprint records of non-criminals who have submitted them for any kind of background check, by an employer or government agency. Going forward, however, all records, both criminal and non-criminal will be stored on the same database. “This means that even if you have never been arrested for a crime, if your employer requires you to submit a photo as part of your background check, your face image could be searched – and you could be implicated as a criminal suspect, just by virtue of having that image in the non-criminal file,” notes the EFF. EFF points to a disturbing assertion from the FBI that it will not “make positive identifications,” via the database, but will use it to produce “investigative leads.” The Feds claim that “Therefore, there is no false positive [identification] rate.” “[T]he FBI only ensures that “the candidate will be returned in the top 50 candidates” 85 percent of the time “when the true candidate exists in the gallery.”” EFF states. More

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