Cash-for-marks scam hits Gujarat medical college

first_imgWhen Gujarat’s Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) caught Bharat Sawant and Ashok Tailor accepting ₹20 lakh from a doctor couple to allow their daughter to appear in the final year MBBS examination of the Sumandeep Vidhyapeeth (SV), a deemed university that runs medical and dental colleges in Vadodara, the agency had little idea that a massive cash-for-marks and ‘donation’ scam would be unearthed.The ACB laid a trap to arrest Sawant and Tailor on Monday; the duo worked to collect money on behalf of Mansukh Shah, SV’s chairman and managing trustee. Subsequently, Mr. Shah was also arrested as the police established that the cash collected by the duo was meant for him.Following the arrest, the police raided several premises of Mr. Shah’s and recovered 200 signed cheques worth ₹101 crore from students. At the back of each cheque, the name and details of students were written, but the instruments did not have dates or the receiver’s name on them.“Cheques were taken in advance from students in addition to their regular course fees, which means those cheques were meant for other purposes, either as donation for admission, or as cash for marks in exams,” a senior official of the ACB told The Hindu, adding, “As per the modus operandi, the cheque was returned after the student paid in cash.”According to the assistant director of the ACB, D.P. Chudasama, after the arrest of Mansukh Shah and his agents, the agency has received a dozen complaints from current and ex-students that they were forced to pay a hefty amount in order to take exams.Mr. Chudasama added that the ACB had also collected documents related to ₹43 crore as fixed deposits in various banks, and papers pertaining to immovable properties and land parcels. Another ACB official pegged Mr. Shah’s empire at ₹1,500 crore, with annual donation income of close to ₹100 crore from 150 MBBS seats, 100 BDS seats, 112 MS and MD seats and 30 MDS seats in his colleges.Interestingly, the current president of the Medical Council of India (MCI), Dr. Jayshree Mehta, was earlier Vice Chancellor of SVU from 2007 to 2012.Considered a close aide of former MCI chairman Dr. Ketan Desai, Mr. Shah founded SVU’s medical and dental colleges, which were recognised as a deemed university by the University Grants Commission (UGC) in 2013, so it has its own fee structure and admission process.All for a priceAccording to insiders, the donation for each MBBS seat is anywhere between ₹50 lakh to ₹ 1 crore, in addition to the regular course fee of ₹15.95 lakh for general category students, ₹11.96 lakh for Jain students, and $50,000 for students getting admissions in NRI (Non Resident Indian)-sponsored seats.Similarly for BDS, donation amounts range from ₹10 to ₹15 lakh, besides a regular course fee of ₹4.75 lakh for the general category, ₹3.56 lakh for Jains, and $13,000 for the NRI category.“Shah runs his university like a shop, selling seats and also higher grades in exams. This concept of a self-financed and deemed university needs to be reviewed because the entire process, from admission to fixing fees and taking the exam is done by itself, without the intervention of any outside agency,” said Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lawmaker R.M. Patel, who earlier served as health commissioner of Gujarat.“Shah is a medical and education mafia and will be dealt with strictly as per the law,” said Gujarat BJP spokesperson Bharat Pandya. “Sumandeep (Vidyapeeth) is an epicentre of corruption in medical education in the State. We have been demanding that his [Shah’s] colleges should be de-recognised as it is a massive scam running into several thousand crores of rupees,” said Congress leader and syndicate member of the Gujarat University, Manish Doshi.A senior official in the Gujarat government told The Hindu that more than 40% students in SV are children of doctors from Gujarat and other States. Interestingly, even the main complainant is an Ahmedabad-based doctor couple, whose daughter is in the final year of MBBS at SV.The couple approached the ACB when they received a call from the college, asking for ₹20 lakh to enable their daughter to take the final year exam. “The college authorities would call parents before the exam, saying that their child has failed in the internal exam, and so would not be allowed to take the annual exam. Subsequently, after the payment of a certain amount, he or she would be allowed to take the exam and get good marks,” an insider said, explaining the cash-for-marks racket.last_img read more

Heat claims a life in Gujarat

first_imgWith mercury hovering above 43 degree C in most of Gujarat, the State is witnessing intense heat wave conditions that have claimed one life and affected hundreds in Ahmedabad and other towns.One person died of heatstroke in Ahmedabad city on Monday while 518 cases of heatstroke, dehydration, fluctuations in blood pressure, anxiety were reported in hospitals across the State.Multiple complaintsAccording to the State emergency services, 2,368 persons have been affected by the excessive heat conditions since the beginning of May in Ahmedabad alone. “People are coming in to complain of dehydration, stroke, vomiting, chest and stomach pain and nose and ear bleeding,” a senior staff member for the emergency medical centre told The Hindu.“We are witnessing intense heat wave conditions with dry weather across the State, except for a few places in south Gujarat. Hundreds of patients are pouring in with heat-related illnesses,” a senior doctor of Ahmedabad civil hospital said.Another senior doctor from the city said the bulk of the patients were senior citizens, children and daily wage earners who were exposed to sun due to their work requirements.Orange alertThe Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation has issued an orange alert as part of its heat action plan that has been prepared and implemented with the help of experts from the U.S.-based Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Indian Institute of Public Health (IIPH), Gandhinagar.“We have alerted the citizens to take precautions, minimise exposure to sun between 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and remain hydrated during the day,” a senior official of the civic body said. “As per the met department’s prediction, heat wave conditions will continue for another week in the State,” he said.Meanwhile, a sudden change in the wind pattern on Tuesday brought in humidity. “Owing to change in wind direction, the relative humidity has become quite high in the State. In coastal areas, it is around 70-80% while in inland parts, it was 70%,” said Jayanta Sarkar, senior meteorologist of Met office in Ahmedabad.last_img read more

10 killed as car carrying pilgrims falls into canal in Mathura

first_imgTen persons died after a car in which they were travelling in fell into a canal at Makera area here this morning, police said.The vehicle carrying pilgrims from Mehandipur Balaji temple lost control and fell into the Makera canal, SP (rural) Aditya Shukla said.Eight bodies have been fished out. Efforts are on to trace the remaining bodies, he said.We are probing the incident further, police said.last_img

CBI to probe Ryan school murder

first_imgGiving into the persistent demand from parents of a seven-year-old boy of Ryan International School who was murdered inside the school premises, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Friday announced that the probe would be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).Mr Khattar also told reporters that the district administration had taken over the school management for three months.Making these announcements after meeting with the victim’s parents, Mr. Khattar said although the Haryana Police had conducted the investigation professionally, the government had decided to honour the demand of the parents and several local leaders.Plea for speedy inquiryHe said he would immediately write a letter to the Union government in this regard and also made an appeal to the CBI to conduct the probe at the earliest.“This incident was unfortunate. Today I came here to meet the family. There was a demand from the family members and several others for handing over the case to the CBI for investigation,” he said.The Chief Minister said the brutal murder of the minor was condemnable and had led to strong resentment among the people across the country.Mr. Khattar said the school management would be taken over by the district administration for three months and all security and safety lapses would be rectified by the Deputy Commissioner under his supervision.He said the Haryana Police would continue to investigate the matter till the CBI took over.Mr. Khattar, who was present in the city to participate in the Haryana Digital Summit-2017, got emotional while interacting with the parents and could be seen wiping away tears.The Class II student of Ryan International School in Bhondsi was murdered inside the washroom of the school on September 8, minutes after his father dropped him and his sister at the main gate.A school bus conductor and two senior officials of the school management have been arrested in the case so far.last_img read more

One convicted for raping elderly nun in Bengal’s Ranaghat

first_imgNearly two-and-a-half years after the rape of an elderly nun at Ranaghat in Nadia district, a city court in Kolkata convicted all the six accused in the case on Tuesday. The 71-year-old nun was raped on March 14, 2015 when a group of bandits broke into the Convent of Jesus and Mary at Ranaghat, robbed the institution of cash and sexually assaulted her.“While all the six accused have been convicted under Section 120 B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC, five of them have also been convicted under Section 395 (dacoity) of the IPC,” one of the government counsel Anindya Raut told The Hindu.He also said that apart from Sections 120B and 395 of the IPC, the court has convicted one of the accused, Nazrul Islam, under Section 376 (rape) and 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) and 354 A (sexual harassment) of the IPC.“Another accused Gopal Sarkar, a resident of Bangaon in North 24 Paraganas, was convicted under Section 216 A (harbouring dacoits) for giving shelter to the accused.last_img read more

Neiphiu Rio takes charge as Nagaland Chief Minister again

first_imgNeiphiu Rio has taken charge as Chief Minister of Nagaland on Thursday. BJP president Amit Shah was present as Nagaland Governor P.B. Acharya administered the oath of office and secrecy to Mr. Rio and 11 others in the State capital Kohima.This is the fourth stint for Mr. Rio as Chief Minister, but the first as leader of the regional Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) that had forged a pre-poll alliance with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).BJP leader Y. Patton was sworn in as Deputy Chief Minister.The 60-member Nagaland House allows a maximum 12 Ministers. The new Ministry includes six from BJP, four from NDPP, the lone Janata Dal (United) legislator and an independent. Mr. Rio was with the Naga People’s Front (NPF) when he led the Democratic Alliance of Nagaland government with the BJP and other parties thrice earlier. He joined the NDPP before the Assembly elections on February 27.Also Read  The NPF won 26 seats this time while the NDPP-BJP alliance won 30 seats. The latter mustered the support of JD(U) and the independent to stake claim to form the government last week.Should prove majority“This is a whole new challenge despite the experience of running the government earlier,” Mr Rio said after the swearing-in. Mr. Rio has to prove majority on the floor of the Assembly by March 16.Union Ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Kiren Rijiju attended the event. It’s Neiphiu Rio finest hourlast_img read more

Panel seeks report on Alwar lynching

first_imgThe Rajasthan State Human Rights Commission (RSHRC) has sought a report from the State government over the death of a 28-year-old man in Alwar district who was allegedly thrashed by a mob on the suspicion of cow smuggling.On Thursday, the National Human Rights Commission sent a notice to the Rajasthan government over the death of Akbar alias Rakbar Khan. Taking cognisance of the alleged lynching case, the State human rights panel has sought a report from the Rajasthan Chief Secretary by August 8. RSHRC chairperson Justice Prakash Tantia has asked the State government to give its viewpoint on effective prevention of such similar incidents considering the Supreme Court guidelines.The Alwar District Collector and SP have also been asked to submit a factual report in the matter, the chairperson said, adding that the State government has been asked to send the report by August 8. The RSHRC had registered a case following a complaint lodged on July 24 by State secretary of Rajasthan Muslim Mahasabha N.D. Kadri and others in the alleged lynching case in Alwar. Meanwhile, the Rajasthan Minority Commission has said it will give its suggestions to the State government to curb lynching incidents.last_img read more

J&K civic poll: ₹10 lakh cover for contestants

first_imgFacing a volatile situation, Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik has proposed to offer insurance cover of ₹10 lakh to all candidates participating in the polls to the civic bodies and panchayats in the State. Meanwhile, the Congress and JD (U) on Wednesday decided to participate in the polls. Sources said Governor Malik discussed the insurance cover with senior officials of the State and gave his nod. However, the State Administrative Council is yet to issue any formal order. Around 33,400 panch and sarpanch seats will be filled through the polls. Governor Malik, who chaired a meeting of deputy commissioners and superintendents of police in Srinagar, directed officers “to generate awareness among people about the importance of the upcoming elections.” Eleven grassroots representatives have been killed since the last elections in 2011.However, candidates seem not impressed by the move to provide insurance. “More than insurance cover, our demand is that the government should provide a secure atmosphere,” said JKPC chairman Shafiq Mir.Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who has given a boycott call, termed insurance cover “a bait to entrap people and become scapegoats”.Meanwhile, Congress and JD(U), unlike National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party, have decided to contest the upcoming elections.“The current political and security situation in the Valley is the outcome of the pro-BJP policies of the PDP. Congress believes that under the grim situation prevailing in the Valley all mainstream political and other secular forces must unite to defeat the designs of BJP-RSS. We won’t keep ground open for communal forces,” said State Congress chief G.A. Mir. He said people need to deter the BJP-RSS from taking mileage out of so-called boycott by regional forces. “We reiterate our demand to the Governor to ensure security to everyone in the fray,” said Mr. Mir.Janata Dal (United) state president G.M. Shaheen said his party will also field candidates. “Our candidates in north Kashmir’s Kupwara and Baramulla districts have already started getting forms from the authorities concerned,” said Mr. Shaheen.last_img read more

Assam to be oil exporting hub for Southeast Asia

first_imgAssam is slated to soon become one of India’s major oil exporting hubs catering to the eastern neighbours of the country and Southeast Asia, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said on Friday.The Minister based his prediction on a slew of projects for augmenting oil exploration, refining and transportation capacity in various stages of completion in the region. Eight of these projects under Hydrocarbon Vision 2030, worth more than ₹1,500 crore, were inaugurated in Guwahati. “Assam will soon send petrol and diesel to Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, and Southeast Asian countries,” Mr. Pradhan said.last_img read more

Himachal Governor orders officials to act

first_imgHimachal Pradesh Governor Acharya Devvrat on Sunday directed officials to take necessary action after a Dalit family cremated an elderly woman in a jungle in Kullu after upper caste people allegedly did not let them use the village crematorium, a spokesperson said. The Governor took cognisance of the matter after a delegation of Sri Ravidas Dharma Sabha, led by its president Karam Chand Bhatia, brought the matter to his attention, he added. The alleged incident had taken place in Fozal valley of Kullu district. A elderly woman, a resident of Dhara village, died on Thursday after prolonged illness. Her grandson, Tape Ram, has alleged that when the funeral procession reached the public crematorium of the village, some upper caste men stopped them. A video is making the rounds on social media in which Tape Ram is seen recording his statement while his grandmother is being cremated in the backdrop. Mr. Ram can be heard saying, “They (upper caste men) said we shall be responsible if anything bad happens due to wrath of the deity. So we brought the body to nearby nullah and cremated it.”last_img read more

Surprise RJD ticket to scribe makes news

first_imgIn March this year, when the Rashtriya Janata Dal announced its list of candidates for all 20 seats it was contesting in Bihar, Sheohar was an exception. Party patriarch Lalu Prasad’s elder son Tej Pratap Yadav wanted the ticket for one of his loyalists, Angesh Kumar Singh.Though it was then widely believed that Mr. Prasad might withhold the candidate’s name, a few days later his younger son Tejashwi Yadav sprang a surprise and announced the name of Syed Faisal Ali as the party nominee for the seat.Dark horse The announcement sparked much speculation as no one had a clue about the dark horse and how he managed to swing an RJD ticket to contest against two-time sitting BJP MP Rama Devi. Adding to the speculation, Mr. Ali is the lone journalist contesting the LS poll from Bihar. “As my father had passed away on March 26, the party decided not to announce my name along with the others. It had nothing to do with Tej Pratap wanting to field his candidate,” Mr. Ali told The Hindu at the party’s camp office in Sheohar Bazaar.A young man with long sidebars and dressed in white kurta-pyjama, Mr. Ali greeted a group of people with folded hands before settling down for a chat.“Being in the media, I had been following politics closely but never thought that I would contest polls one day,” he said, running his beringed fingers through his tousled hair. The buzz in party circles is that Mr. Ali, along with Mr. Tejashwi Yadav and a very senior Congress leader in Delhi, had rescued the RJD’s alliance with the Congress from an imminent split on the question of seat sharing.On his relation with Mr. Prasad, he said: “Laluji and my father Ashad Ali were closely associated since the days of the JP movement, and our family remained in touch thereafter.” His father was a practising lawyer at the Patna High Court though the family hails from Gaya. Seasoned journalist Second of four brothers, Mr. Ali has been group editor of Roznama Rashtriya Sahara, editor of the Arab News, and worked with the Saudi Gazette and the BBC World Service.He says he has reported from various conflict zones, including Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and also covered the Arab Spring. He was also invited by the U.S. government for its prestigious International Visitor Leadership Program in 2014.“On March 10, 2018, I resigned from Roznama Rashtriya Sahara to form a news network which has been bringing out an Urdu newspaper Sacch Ki Awaz from Delhi,” Mr. Ali said. “We’ve also planned to start a Bihar edition of our newspaper soon.” Mr. Ali hoped to add to RJD numbers, banking on support of about 3.5 lakh Muslim and 2 lakh Yadav voters traditionally loyal to the RJD. On why people should vote for him, he said, “Because I’ve a clean image, no tainted past and I’ve this urge to reach out to people for social justice.”Sheohar goes to the polls on May 12.last_img read more

No Coffee for Pregnant Moms?

first_img It’s often one of the first questions a woman asks her physician when she learns she’s pregnant: Can I keep drinking coffee or caffeinated sodas? Soon-to-be moms are generally told by doctors not to drink more than a cup or two of coffee a day, a recommendation in line with a 2010 review concluding moderate caffeine consumption doesn’t promote premature births or miscarriages or harm fetal growth. But a new study in mice offers the controversial suggestion that at larger doses, caffeine can impair memory and increase the risk of having seizures.While the study authors and others are quick to note that the findings may not hold in humans, the work may prompt a closer look at the world’s most commonly used psychoactive drug.To date, no large-scale study in people has found any negative effect of caffeine exposure on fetal brain development, says Kimford Meador, a neurologist at Emory University in Atlanta. One reason for that could be that few high-quality studies exist because of the challenges of teasing apart the effects of caffeine from other variables affecting pregnant women, such as nutrition, stress, and other drug use, he says. Considering that one “Venti” coffee at Starbucks contains 410 mg of caffeine—more than twice the dose recommended for pregnant women by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which conducted the 2010 review on caffeine—it’s probably time to take a closer look at the substance that so many rely on to get out of bed in the morning, Meador says.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)One of the ways that caffeine speeds up brain activity in adults is by blocking the activity of a neurotransmitter called adenosine, which acts as a brake on neuronal firing and makes us sleepy. Carla Silva, a neuroscientist at the University of Coimbra in Portugal, was studying the role of adenosine in fetal brain development when an obvious experiment occurred to her: Why not use caffeine to study how adenosine alters brain development?Silva and colleagues at INSERM in Marseille, France, decided to focus on the fate of a small subpopulation of a type of cells called GABA neurons, which, along with other functions, can help regulate the flow of information in the brain by keeping the electrical impulses of their neighbors in check. Without enough GABA neurons to balance out the brain’s electrical activity, disorders such as epilepsy can result, she says.Over the course of early brain development in mammals, GABA neurons migrate from a transitory, heart-shaped embryonic structure called the ganglionic eminence to the hippocampus, two curved ridges of brain tissue deep in the brain that are key to memory and learning. To determine whether caffeine would interfere with this mass migration of cells, Silva laced the drinking water of female mice 15 days prior to pregnancy with enough caffeine to mimic the blood concentration that a human would get from drinking about three to four cups of coffee per day. After a day or so of getting accustomed to caffeine’s bitter taste, the mice lapped up the caffeinated water throughout pregnancy and while their pups were nursing.After the mouse pups were born, Silva and her colleagues examined slices of brain tissue to see if being exposed to caffeine had altered their GABA neurons’ maturation or migration. (The mice were bred to produce a glowing green protein only in these cells.) At 6 days after birth, the drug-exposed mouse pups had 41% fewer of one subtype of GABA neuron in the hippocampus, the authors report today in Science Translational Medicine. The numbers of this subtype of GABA neuron in the hippocampus were similar in non-drug exposed and drug-exposed pups a few months later, however, suggesting that the cells had simply been slow to arrive, says Silva. Other subtypes of GABA neuron showed a dramatic decrease in number in the hippocampus and cortex, a finding similar to those seen in animal models of cocaine and amphetamine exposure.The caffeine-exposed offspring performed badly on a series of memory tests and were more susceptible to seizures as they matured, Silva says. “We still don’t know how or why,” she says, but “caffeine exposure in early life resulted in long-term consequences” for the mice.Although the work is an “interesting, necessary start” to understanding the influence of significant caffeine consumption on pregnancies, “a number of questions need to be answered before sounding the alarm,” says Barbara Thompson, a neuroscientist at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and an expert in the effects of cocaine on fetal brain development. The subtype of GABA neurons that Silva studied were a very small population of cells, so it’s not possible to know how widespread such an effect might be in the brain, she says, and the effects on the mouse pups’ behavior and cognition were mild. Although there are some general similarities between the brain changes that Silva found in the caffeine-exposed mice and those that have been observed in cocaine-exposed mice, “I wouldn’t say caffeine should be banned like cocaine should be banned,” she says. “The results don’t show that at all.”To rule out the possibility that individual differences in sensitivity to caffeine between mouse mothers or pups didn’t lead to any misleading effects, the work needs to be replicated several times in much larger groups, and in different breeds of mice, Silva says. After that, more work will be done to show that the findings apply to humans. For now, however, “this study is not enough to give advice to pregnant women,” she says.*Clarification, 9 August, 11:50 a.m.: This version clarifies that the work was done at INSERM in Marseille, France.*Correction, 20 August: This SNOW has been changed to make several corrections, including that the mice began consuming caffeine-laced water 15 days (not weeks) before pregnancy. Other changes reflect that the research addressed different subtypes of GABA neurons, not a uniform population, and their fate in adult animals, not fetuses. RusS/Shutterstock Buzzkill. A new study in mice suggests that caffeine could influence fetal brain development.last_img read more

NSF Asks Scientists to Give It Time to Regroup After Shutdown

first_imgGuidance on HR actions, such as performance reviews and hiring activities, will be forthcoming. Agency travel (outreach, site visits, etc.) should be postponed for at least one week, if possible. Advisory committee meetings will be canceled through December unless an exception is granted by me. Routine internal meetings and training should be canceled through the end of October. Panel and PI meetings should be postponed through the end of October, pending directorate and office review.center_img Staff should pre-emptively communicate expectations with respective scientific communities via directorate/office websites, consistent with NSF-wide guidance, and refrain from responding to PI calls and emails until this guidance is available. Senior leadership will review and possibly modify individual and institutional performance goals to accommodate lost productivity.Additional guidance on other matters will be shared as it is developed.Your thoughts and suggestions are vitally important, and your directorate and office leaders will be seeking your input on the impacts of the shutdown and start-up approach. I invite you to attend a town hall meeting tomorrow, October 18, in Stafford I, Room 375 to learn more about our recovery plans and to share your perspectives. We will hold three sessions according to the follow breakout of directorates and offices:9 – 9:45 a.m. (BFA, BIO, EHR, OD)10 – 10:45 a.m. (CISE, ENG, GEO, OIG)11 – 11:45 a.m. (MPS, SBE, NSB, OIRM)We will also attempt to webcast the session — recognizing potential network challenges as a result of the shutdown — and we will separately post status and instructions for connecting to the broadcast. We would also invite your questions ahead of time at townhall@nsf.gov. Your questions will help to ensure that we appropriately address all policy, procedural and systems issues.I am truly grateful for your continuing professionalism and commitment to our mission and our nation’s science and engineering enterprise. Thank you, in advance, for your support as we work our way back to normal operations.Cora B. MarrettActing Director No advisory committee meetings for the rest of the year. No review panels until November. And don’t call us just yet.That’s the guidance to the research community from the National Science Foundation (NSF), which reopened yesterday after the 16-day government shutdown. A memo from NSF acting Director Cora Marrett (also see below) outlines a series of steps that the $7-billion-a-year agency will be taking to get back to business over the next several weeks.“It will take time and extra effort to work through the backlog of activities,” Marrett writes. “It’s important for us … to focus on re-establishing core functions, such as receiving, reviewing and awarding/declining proposals, as well as oversight and management of existing awards.”Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)NSF is urging scientists not to contact their program officers until the agency has had time to catch up on the backlog generated by the shutdown and resume normal operations. To that end, Marrett’s memo asks staffers to “pre-emptively communicate expectations” with the research community and “refrain from responding to PI calls and emails.”To ease the immediate crunch, Marrett has directed staff members to postpone all panel reviews “through the end of October” and to cancel meetings of the various advisory committees that offer regular input to the agency’s research directorates and major programs until 2014. Staffers have also been asked to postpone travel, including site visits, “for at least one week, if possible.”NSF is holding town meetings this morning to give staffers at its Arlington, Virginia, headquarters a chance to comment on what Marrett calls NSF’s “recovery plans.”CORA MARRETT’s MEMO:October 17, 2013Dear Colleague,I’d like to welcome everyone back to the office after a difficult 16-day government shutdown. While I recognize that you are as eager as I am to get back to work, I also appreciate that this hiatus likely caused personal hardship for many of you. I am hopeful that the continuing resolution agreed to by the Congress and signed into law by the President will provide the basis for the longer term funding stability we need to meet our personal commitments and to plan and execute NSF’s responsibilities.In an Important Notice to the community, I described some of the effects of the funding lapse on our activities and asked for patience and support as we focus on the actions necessary to restart NSF activities. Additional detailed guidance on assistance and contract-related policy and systems issues will be provided to you, as well as the community, as soon as possible. These communications will help us set expectations for both ourselves and the community as we recover from the shutdown and transition to normal operations. A copy of the Important Notice is attached.It will take time and extra effort to work through the backlog of activities. We are establishing priorities that will enable us to resume normal operations as quickly as possible while minimizing extra burden on our already hardworking staff. It’s important for us in this timeframe to focus on re-establishing core functions, such as receiving, reviewing and awarding/declining proposals, as well as oversight and management of existing awards. We will strive for consistency in extending deadlines and addressing other delays or cancellations caused by the shutdown. We will also consider the impact of our actions on other NSF offices engaged in start-up operations and foster creative solutions, consistent with NSF policy, to recover operations and activities impacted by the shutdown.The following near term actions will help ensure a successful restart of agency operations:BFA will establish and publish on the NSF website within one week agency-wide policies for proposal deadline extensions and other grant-related actions.last_img read more

Abrupt Climate Change Still Looming

first_imgClimate change poses little threat of causing greenhouse gases to gush from the Arctic or the Gulf Stream to slosh to a stop, at least in this century, concludes a report released today by a committee of the National Research Council (NRC). But the uncertainties associated with passing tipping points in the climate system are dangerously large, the NRC committee finds. To remedy that, the committee recommends the creation of an early warning system to alert policymakers to new threats of abrupt change and, of course, further research to reduce those uncertainties. “The time is here to be serious about the threat of tipping points,” the report concludes, “so as to better anticipate and prepare ourselves for the inevitable surprises.”NRC foresees some of those surprises coming from some unconventional quarters. In addition to problems created by sudden climate changes over a few decades or even a few years, the committee points to abruptly developing problems created by a steadily changing climate. Rising sea level could suddenly begin to breach sea walls, for example, and thawing permafrost could cause the sudden collapse of buildings, roads, or pipelines.Some sudden impacts of climate change are already under way, the report notes. Arctic warming has caused a rapid decline in sea ice cover during the past decade that could seriously affect everything from Arctic ecosystems to shipping and oil drilling. And global warming is so rapid—as fast as any warming in the past 65 million years—that species already under pressure from habitat loss and overexploitation are at greater risk of extinction.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)To better anticipate the next sudden change, the committee recommends the creation of an early warning system and research to better understand the possibilities. “Right now we don’t know what many of these thresholds are,” said committee Chair James White of the University of Colorado, Boulder, in a statement. “But with better information, we will be able to anticipate some major changes before they occur and help reduce the potential consequences.”The committee acknowledges that its ambitions for enhanced monitoring, modeling, and synthesis of the knowledge gained would come with a significant price tag. The monitoring alone “in an era of budget cuts is an area of concern,” according to the report. Although an early warning system would eventually become a large program, the committee concedes, it “might better be started through the coordination, integration, and expansion of existing and planned smaller programs.”last_img read more

Australian insects build houses to keep from drying out

first_imgLife is a major challenge for small animals living in the hot and dry Australian outback. Being small increases their risk of desiccation, and there are few options to deal with the constant hot and dry weather. At a mere 2 to 3 millimeters in length, thrips are among the smallest insects found on Australian soil, and they have evolved various ways to keep cool and avoid drying out. Their main strategy involves the formation of galls on various acacia plants. These galls—hollow knobby growths of plant tissue that swell in response to thrips—protect insects from the outside weather. Now, scientists have found a new antidesiccation strategy in a group of acacia thrips, according to a study published online before print in the journal Behavioral Ecology. Dunatothrips aneurae (pictured) build a tiny house made of the phyllodes (leaflike structures) of acacia trees, glued together by a silklike secretion extruded from the insect’s anus. This silken chamber keeps moisture levels high inside, stopping these minuscule insects from drying out. Although cozy, these homes are also fragile. The domicile wall often gets damaged by wind, and the thrips rush over to fix the damage so their offspring don’t dry or fall out. The discovery represents the first confirmed case of active parental care against desiccation in an insect. The finding may also represent a step in the evolution of social behavior in thrips, as domicile building is often a group affair. Domiciles can host groups of adults, which may be considered a kind of babysitting club, so if someone dies there are others to care for their babies, as happens in bees and termites.last_img read more

Facebook will soon be able to ID you in any photo

first_img COURTESY OF ERIK LEARNED-MILLER Appear in a photo taken at a protest march, a gay bar, or an abortion clinic, and your friends might recognize you. But a machine probably won’t—at least for now. Unless a computer has been tasked to look for you, has trained on dozens of photos of your face, and has high-quality images to examine, your anonymity is safe. Nor is it yet possible for a computer to scour the Internet and find you in random, uncaptioned photos. But within the walled garden of Facebook, which contains by far the largest collection of personal photographs in the world, the technology for doing all that is beginning to blossom.Catapulting the California-based company beyond other corporate players in the field, Facebook’s DeepFace system is now as accurate as a human being at a few constrained facial recognition tasks. The intention is not to invade the privacy of Facebook’s more than 1.3 billion active users, insists Yann LeCun, a computer scientist at New York University in New York City who directs Facebook’s artificial intelligence research, but rather to protect it. Once DeepFace identifies your face in one of the 400 million new photos that users upload every day, “you will get an alert from Facebook telling you that you appear in the picture,” he explains. “You can then choose to blur out your face from the picture to protect your privacy.” Many people, however, are troubled by the prospect of being identified at all—especially in strangers’ photographs. Facebook is already using the system, although its face-tagging system only reveals to you the identities of your “friends.”DeepFace isn’t the only horse in the race. The U.S. government has poured funding into university-based facial recognition research. And in the private sector, Google and other companies are pursuing their own projects to automatically identify people who appear in photos and videos.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Exactly how automated facial recognition will be used—and how the law may limit it—is unclear. But once the technology matures, it is bound to create as many privacy problems as it solves. “The genie is, or soon will be, out of the bottle,” says Brian Mennecke, an information systems researcher at Iowa State University in Ames who studies privacy. “There will be no going back.”SIMPLY DETECTING FACES is easy for a computer, at least compared with detecting common objects like flowers, blankets, and lamps. Nearly all faces have the same features—eyes, ears, nose, and mouth—in the same relative positions. This consistency provides such an efficient computational shortcut that “we’ve been able to detect faces in images for about 2 decades,” LeCun says. Even the puny computers in cheap consumer cameras have long been able to detect and focus on faces.But “identifying a face is a much harder problem than detecting it,” LeCun says. Your face uniquely identifies you. But unlike your fingerprints, it is constantly changing. Just smile and your face is transformed. The corners of your eyes wrinkle, your nostrils flare, and your teeth show. Throw your head back with laughter and the apparent shape of your face contorts. Even when you wear the same expression, your hair varies from photo to photo, all the more so after a visit to the hairdresser. And yet most people can spot you effortlessly in a series of photos, even if they’ve seen you in just one.In terms of perceiving the world around us, facial recognition may be “the single most impressive thing that the human brain can do,” says Erik Learned-Miller, a computer scientist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. By contrast, computers struggle with what researchers call the problem of A-PIE: aging, pose, illumination, and expression. These sources of noise drown out the subtle differences that distinguish one person’s face from another.Thanks to an approach called deep learning, computers are gaining ground fast. Like all machine learning techniques, deep learning begins with a set of training data—in this case, massive data sets of labeled faces, ideally including multiple photos of each person. Learned-Miller helped create one such library, called Labeled Faces in the Wild (LFW), which is like the ultimate tabloid magazine: 13,000 photographs scraped from the Web containing the faces of 5749 celebrities, some appearing in just a few photos and others in dozens. Because it is online and free to use, LFW has become the most popular benchmark for machine vision researchers honing facial recognition algorithms.To a computer, faces are nothing more than collections of lighter and darker pixels. The training of a deep learning system begins by letting the system compare faces and discover features on its own: eyes and noses, for instance, as well as statistical features that make no intuitive sense to humans. “You let the machine and data speak,” says Yaniv Taigman, DeepFace’s lead engineer, who’s based at Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters. The system first clusters the pixels of a face into elements such as edges that define contours. Subsequent layers of processing combine elements into nonintuitive, statistical features that faces have in common but are different enough to discriminate them.This is the “deep” in deep learning: The input for each processing layer is the output of the layer beneath. The end result of the training is a representational model of the human face: a statistical machine that compares images of faces and guesses whether they belong to the same person. The more faces the system trains on, the more accurate the guesses. The DeepFace team created a buzz in the machine vision community when they described their creation in a paper published last March on Facebook’s website. One benchmark for facial recognition is identifying whether faces in two photographs from the LFW data set belong to the same celebrity. Humans get it right about 98% of the time. The DeepFace team reported an accuracy of 97.35%—a full 27% better than the rest of the field.Some of DeepFace’s advantages are from its clever programming. For example, it overcomes part of the A-PIE problem by accounting for a face’s 3D shape. If photos show people from the side, the program uses what it can see of the faces to reconstruct the likely face-forward visage. This “alignment” step makes DeepFace far more efficient, Taigman says. “We’re able to focus most of the [system’s] capacity on the subtle differences.”“The method runs in a fraction of a second on a single [computer] core,” Taigman says. That’s efficient enough for DeepFace to work on a smart phone. And it’s lean, representing each face as a string of code called a 256-bit hash. That unique representation is as compact as this very sentence. In principle, a database of the facial identities of 1 billion people could fit on a thumb drive.But DeepFace’s greatest advantage—and the aspect of the project that has sparked the most rancor—is its training data. The DeepFace paper breezily mentions the existence of a data set called SFC, for Social Face Classification, a library of 4.4 million labeled faces harvested from the Facebook pages of 4030 users. Although users give Facebook permission to use their personal data when they sign up for the website, the DeepFace research paper makes no mention of the consent of the photos’ owners.“JUST AS CREEPY as it sounds,” blared the headline of an article in The Huffington Post describing DeepFace a week after it came out. Commenting on The Huffington Post’s piece, one reader wrote: “It is obvious that police and other law enforcement authorities will use this technology and search through our photos without us even knowing.” Facebook has confirmed that it provides law enforcement with access to user data when it is compelled by a judge’s order.“People are very scared,” Learned-Miller says. But he believes the fears are misplaced. “If a company like Facebook really oversteps the bounds of what is ruled as acceptable by society … they could go out of business. If they break laws, then they can be shut down and people can be arrested.” He says that the suspicion stems from the lack of transparency. Whereas academic researchers must obtain explicit consent from people to use private data for research, those who click “agree” on Facebook’s end-user license agreement (EULA) grant the company permission to use their data with few strings attached. Such online contracts “are the antithesis of transparency,” Learned-Miller says. “No one really knows what they’re getting into.” Last year, the company introduced a friendly looking dinosaur cartoon that pops up on the screen and occasionally reminds users of their privacy settings, and it boiled down the EULA language from 9000 words to 2700.There is already a bustling trade in private data—some legal, others not—and facial identity will become another hot commodity, Iowa State’s Mennecke predicts. For example, facial IDs could allow advertisers to follow and profile you wherever there’s a camera—enabling them to cater to your preferences or even offer different prices depending on what they know about your shopping habits or demographics. But what “freaks people out,” Mennecke says, “is the idea that some stranger on the street can pick you out of a crowd. … [You] can’t realistically evade facial recognition.” FacialNetwork, a U.S. company, is using its own deep learning system to develop an app called NameTag that identifies faces with a smart phone or a wearable device like Google Glass. NameTag reveals not only a person’s name, but also whatever else can be discovered from social media, dating websites, and criminal databases. Facebook moved fast to contain the scandal; it sent FacialNetwork a cease and desist letter to stop it from harvesting user information. “We don’t provide this kind of information to other companies, and we don’t have any plans to do so in the future,” a Facebook representative told Science by e-mail.The potential commercial applications of better facial recognition are “troublesome,” Learned-Miller says, but he worries more about how governments could abuse the technology. “I’m 100% pro–Edward Snowden,” Learned-Miller says, referring to the former National Security Agency contractor who in 2013 divulged the U.S. government’s massive surveillance of e-mail and phone records of U.S. citizens (see p. 495). “We have to be vigilant,” he says.Learned-Miller’s sentiment is striking, considering that he is funded in part by the U.S. Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity to develop a facial recognition project called Janus. Perhaps that’s all the more reason to take his warning seriously.For more on privacy and to take a quiz on your own privacy IQ, see “The end of privacy” special section in this week’s issue of  Science.last_img read more

Why the Vietnam President’s India Visit Matters for Security Ties

first_imgIn addition to the manifold story lines that have emerged in recent days, Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang’s India visit, which kicked off on March 2 and will last till March 4, is a testament to the growing closeness in the bilateral security ties between Hanoi and New Delhi.Quang’s visit comes at a time when momentum for bilateral ties and India’s ties with Southeast Asia in general are at a high level. This is a trip that is coming just a few weeks of the Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s visit to India as chief guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations in January, along with the leaders from all the other ASEAN countries.Read it at The Diplomat Related Itemslast_img read more