Menu Bar

Home           Calendar           Topics          Just Charlestown          About Us
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Monday, July 24, 2017

Lawmakers Warned of the Risks of Killer Robots

Top U.S. general and inventor Elon Musk join those sounding alarm on artificial intelligence

Urgent warnings about the danger of autonomous weapons systems have come from two very different segments of American life this week. 

On July 18, the second highest-ranking general in the U.S. military testified at a Senate hearing that the use of robots during warfare could endanger human lives—echoing concerns brought up by inventor Elon Musk the previous weekend.

Gen. Paul Selva spoke about automation at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, saying that the "ethical rules of war" should be kept in place even as artificial intelligence (AI) and drone technology advances, "lest we unleash on humanity a set of robots that we don't know how to control."

The Defense Department currently mandates that a human must control all actions taken by a drone.

But at the hearing, Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) suggested that by enforcing that requirement, which is set to expire this year, the U.S. could fall behind other countries including Russia. 

Peters cited recent reports of Russia's "ambition to employ AI-directed weapons equipped with a neural network capable of identifying and engaging targets," and to sell those weapons to other countries.

"Our adversaries often do not to consider the same moral and ethical issues that we consider each and every day," Peters said.

Dealmaker Trump makes his biggest deal yet!

For more cartoons by Tom Tomorrow, CLICK HERE.

If we impeach Trump....

Ninigret up, Quonnie down

Eelgrass on decline in Rhode Island waters

Related imageMichael Bradley calls eelgrass “the canary in the coal mine for estuarine health.” The flowering plant that grows beneath the surface of coastal waters and salt ponds provides nursery habitat for shellfish and finfish while also dampening wave energy, stabilizing sediments and serving as an indicator of clean water.

But according to a recently issued report by the University of Rhode Island’s Environmental Data Center, eelgrass in Rhode Island is declining in Narragansett Bay and in most of the state’s coastal salt ponds.

The report found 1,144 acres of eelgrass and other submerged vegetation in state waters, an 18 percent decrease from 2012. The largest declines occurred in Quonochontaug Pond (52 percent), Point Judith Pond (48 percent) and Little Narragansett Bay (25 percent).

More than half of the state’s eelgrass occurs around Jamestown, which experienced a 19 percent decrease in eelgrass acreage. Ninigret Pond was the only coastal pond not to have a decrease, and the Narrow River was the only site that experienced a significant increase (45 percent) since 2012.

Help for the local tick-bit

Those eligible receive single dose of antibiotics at pharmacy, without doctor visit

Image result for doxycycline and tick biteIn the first program of its kind in the nation, local pharmacies are offering eligible consumers on-site antibiotic treatment to reduce the chance of developing Lyme disease.

The initiative is the result of collaborative practice agreements among the University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy, Green Line Apothecary in South Kingstown, Seaside Pharmacy in Westerly and Dr. Fredric Silverblatt, an infectious disease specialist with South County Health.

As part of the agreements, Anita Jacobson, clinical associate professor of pharmacy at URI and the program catalyst, trains pharmacists to provide the service, and Silverblatt acts as the clinical overseer.

In June, Green Line Apothecary, owned by pharmacist Christina Procaccianti, became the nation’s first pharmacy to provide the single, 200-milligram dose of doxycycline on site without a doctor’s order. 

“It’s been much more popular than I thought it would be,” said Procaccianti, who administered about 20 doses in the first three weeks. “It’s been very rewarding. If this can help prevent one case of Lyme disease, it’s worth it.”

Prompt treatment with the antibiotic doxycycline is crucial to successful treatment of the tick-borne illness, and making it readily available without a doctor’s visit could help reduce the incidence of Lyme disease, Jacobson said. 

Seriously? New GOP Budget Would Defund Election Security Agency

"Eliminating the Election Assistance Commission would pose a risky and irresponsible threat to our election infrastructure."

Related image
Despite an ongoing investigation into the hacking of voting systems in more than a dozen states during the 2016 presidential election, the new budget blueprint from House Republicans includes a provision to defund the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), which the Wall Street Journal notes is "the sole federal agency that exclusively works to ensure the voting process is secure."

Since it was established in 2002, the EAC has been under almost constant attack by the Republican Party. Earlier this year, the House Administration Committee voted 6-3 along party lines to eliminate the agency entirely.

As The Atlantic's Russell Berman noted in February, "GOP attempts to eliminate the Election Assistance Commission have passed out of committee but not made it to the House floor for a vote in the last four years."

Because they have failed repeatedly to eliminate the agency, Republicans now appear content to strip it of the funds it needs to operate effectively.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Is This How the World Sees America Now?

Scathing review of the president's performance at a recent global summit should raise red flags.

Image result for Trump alone at G20Donald Trump recently returned from meeting with the other powerful countries of the G20 group — one of his first big performances on the world stage. So how did it go?

Not swell, according to a no-holds-barred account delivered by Chris Uhlmann, an Australian journalist. Uhlmann made four main points about how the rest of the world sees the U.S. president.

First, Uhlmann charged, Trump has “no desire or capacity to lead the world.” He called him “a man who barks out bile in 140 characters” and “wastes his precious days as president at war with the west’s institutions, like the judiciary, independent government agencies, and the free press.”

Related image
"I could be home watching TV. Or golfing."
It’s hard to refute that latter point. 

How much time has Trump wasted watching cable news, or insisting that he got more votes or had bigger crowds at his inauguration than he really did?

How much time has our entire country wasted focusing on nasty tweets, such as the recent one claiming that TV personality Mika Brzezinski has a low IQ?

When is it treason?

For more cartoons by Jen Sorenson, CLICK HERE.

Definition of tough

Image may contain: one or more people and text

Save the whales!

Recent Right Whale Deaths Have Scientists Worried
By TODD McLEISH/ecoRI News contributor

Most North Atlantic right whales are killed by human causes, such as entanglement with fishing gear. (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)
Most North Atlantic right whales are killed by human causes, such as entanglement with fishing gear. (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)

The deaths of six North Atlantic right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence last month have raised alarms among whale biologists who fear for the future of one of the rarest whales on the planet.

Robert Kenney, a marine mammal expert at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography, called the unexpected deaths “a major concern” because the population of right whales totals fewer than 500 animals and their numbers have been declining since 2011. The dead whales represent more than 1 percent of the population.

While the deaths raise many questions, one of the first, according to Kenney, is what were they doing in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the first place?

An Answer to Rising Prices or a ‘Carnival Game'?

Drugmakers' Money-Back Guarantees?
By Charles Ornstein, ProPublica and Katie Thomas, The New York Times

More than a decade ago, Italy tried a novel approach to help bring down drug costs: asking pharmaceutical companies to return money to the national health system if some of their medicines failed to work as expected. 

The effort largely flopped.The Trump administration is now considering whether to encourage a similar approach. Pharmaceutical executives presented the idea to President Trump at a meeting in January, and the general concept was raised last month in a draft executive order aimed at combating rising drug prices.

A number of drug companies have recently entered into such deals, which they call outcomes-based contracts. Merck has done so for its diabetes drugs Januvia and Janumet, promising to return money if patients' diabetes did not meet goals for control. And Novartis, which makes the heart failure treatment Entresto, is refunding money if too many patients taking the drug are hospitalized. In more typical deals, drugmakers pay rebates to insurers based on the number of drugs sold and to gain easier access for members to their products.

Making Utility Bills Rise Again

Why does Trump want to cancel the Energy Star program?

Image result for kill the energy star programIt’s summer and the mercury is soaring.

Temperatures are higher than ever, it turns out. Last year was the hottest year since humanity started recording temperatures, and it’s going to get much worse in the years to come, as a recent University of Hawaii study shows.

The relentlessly hot conditions in many parts of the country this summer mean that our air conditioners and refrigerators are working harder — and burning through more energy — to maintain a comfortable temperature for our families and a safe temperature for our food. 

And we pay for this increased energy use in our utility bills every month.

For me, it’s comforting to know that both my air conditioner and my refrigerator come with a little blue Energy Star label. Those labels indicate that they use less energy than comparable models without it.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Winning at all costs is the only thing that’s standard in Trumpworld.

Donald Trump sits in the seat of a fire truck made in Wisconsin during a Made in America product showcase.What did Trump say when confronted with proof that his son jumped at the prospect of meeting with a “Russian government attorney” offering to dish dirt on Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support” for his candidacy?

Trump said: “many people would have held that meeting.” 

The next day, Trump revised “many” to “most,” saying: “I think from a practical standpoint, most people would have taken that meeting. . . . Politics isn’t the nicest business in the world, but it’s very standard.”

It’s true that politics isn’t the nicest business in the world. I’ve been there. Real estate development isn’t the nicest business in the world either, for all I know. But breaking the law and flirting with treason isn’t standard practice in either realm.  

Much ink has been spilled over the last six months documenting Trump’s tin ear when it comes to all matters ethical:

  • His refusal to put his business into a blind trust, as every one of his predecessors in recent memory has done.
  • His refusal to reveal his tax returns, like his predecessors.
  • The never-ending stream of lies that he continues to spew even after they’re proven to be lies (three to five million fraudulent votes, Obama spied on me, fake news, and so on). 

None of this is “very standard” for presidents. It’s the opposite of standard.

I think we’ve been missing the boat by characterizing these as ethical breaches. Ethics assumes some sort of agreed-upon standard against which an ethical breach can be defined and measured.

But Donald Trump doesn’t live in a world that has any standards at all, and he never has. His entire approach to life, to business, and now to the presidency has nothing whatever to do with standards. 

trump made in americaIt’s about winning, at all costs. 

Whatever it takes.

Winning at all costs is the only thing that’s standard in Trumpworld.

When he was in business and couldn’t repay his creditors, he declared bankruptcy. Again and again. 

And when his bankers finally wised up and refused to lend him any more money, he found foreign bankers who would oblige.

The wonders of water

From Fake Science, where Donald Trump learned everything he knows about science.

American Shariah

Image may contain: text