Shooter at Kansas City mall kills three

Sunday, April 29, 2007

A gunman killed three people and wounded two others Sunday after a shooting occurred at the Ward Parkway shopping center in Kansas City, Missouri. The shooting took place at around 4 p.m. local time (2200 UTC). The gunman fired shots from the parking lot, then entered the mall and continued shooting. He himself was then shot, presumably by local police.

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Posted on January 13th, 2023 by  |  No Comments »

GitHub blocks public access to youtube-dl after RIAA issues DMCA notice

This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Monday, October 26, 2020

On Friday, code hosting and sharing website GitHub blocked the public access to youtube-dl, a software which can download videos from the internet via the command-line. The blockade came after GitHub received a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) take-down notice from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). After stripping the metadata from the notice, GitHub published the take-down notice on their site.

Initially started in July 2008 by Ricardo Garcia, youtube-dl is a script written in Python which can download videos from multiple websites including YouTube, LiveLeak and Vimeo. youtube-dl is a FLOSS software and is under public domain. Currently, the repository on GitHub is locked for viewers other than maintainers of the project.

RIAA’s DMCA notice alleged the script’s purpose of existence was to “circumvent the technological protection measures used by authorized streaming services such as YouTube” and “reproduce and distribute music videos and sound recordings owned by our member companies without authorization for such use”.

youtube-dl has multiple unit tests in its source code, which test whether the software works in different circumstances or not. Some of the tests include checking if the script can download Creative Commons licensed videos, videos which did not have square pixels, videos with no age restriction, “offensive to some audiences” per YouTube community and age-restricted videos. One of the tests included the URL of some copyrighted songs. Citing this test, RIAA’s take-down notice claimed “comments in the youtube-dl source code make clear that the source code was designed and is marketed for the purpose of circumventing YouTube’s technological measures”.

RIAA’s notice published by GitHub alleged violation of 17 U.S. Code § 1201 Circumvention of copyright protection systems which says “No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title”. RIAA listed a number of forks of youtube-dl and requested GitHub via the notice they all be made inaccessible.

The notice did not list any incident of anyone using youtube-dl to download or share copyrighted material, nor mention any damages that actually occurred. Unremarked by the notice, YouTube allows videos to be licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license. When a copyright holder chooses to release their work, be it a photograph, a video, or audio, under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license, they allow everyone to freely own, share or modify the work as long as the reusers properly attribute the author of the work. YouTube also hosts many audio and video recordings in the public domain which can be used for any purpose without any restrictions.

youtube-dl is used by thousands of people around the world. Multiple Creative Commons-licensed and public domain videos on Wikimedia Commons are uploaded via a tool called video2commons, which relies on youtube-dl to download media. youtube-dl also lets users download videos from LiveLeak — a video-sharing platform for citizen journalism. Videos downloaded using youtube-dl are also used for the purpose of fair use, or for evidence.

youtube-dl comes with a small JavaScript interpreter where it acts as a web-browser would behave while receiving video data from the server. The script has “extractors” for various websites to handle videos from different sources. Whenever something is displayed on the user’s screen, the device has a copy of that content. Web browsers “download” data while surfing the web, though most of it is not persistent on the device. It is possible to download copyrighted photos by using a web-browser. The way the world wide web works, there are no technological prevention measures to prevent recording and sharing of content such as RIAA talks about in the notice. Photos and texts can be downloaded by taking screenshots, videos by screen recording tools, and audio by recording on a tape if not an audio recording software.

Multiple users expressed their disappointment on Twitter and Internet Relay Chat. One of the users said “this is yet another example of why we should use git as it was intended, as a distributed network, rather than rely on one single proprietary server”. Git is decentralised version-tracking software which is used by a large number of software companies and projects. It is possible to host one’s own git server for software development. While Microsoft’s GitHub is a centralised git server, development of software using git does not require a GitHub account.

Soon after the public access to the repository was locked, multiple users started sharing the source code via self-hosted git servers, Tor sites and via the Torrent protocol leading to a Streisand effect. Streisand effect is when a measure to censor information causes further spread of that information. The binary files of the software are still available on its website for users to download. Some people came up with esoteric ways to share the source code, by converting the compressed code into photographs and providing shell commands to convert to the source code.

GitHub’s DMCA repository, where the takedown notice was published for public viewing, was subject to contant vandalism from multiple GitHub users. One user submitted a pull request, merging the source code of youtube-dl along with the DMCA repository. This enabled users to view youtube-dl’s source code from within the DMCA repository, provided they know the commit id.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation said on Twitter “Youtube-dl is a legitimate tool with a world of a lawful uses. Demanding its removal from Github is a disappointing and counterproductive move by the RIAA.” Richard Stallman, the founder of the Free Software Foundation, has been highly critical of DRM (digital rights management, the subject of the DMCA) for many years now.

Wikinews reached out to Sergey M?, one of the maintainers of youtube-dl script, however Sergey said he “won’t give any comments at this time”. Later, he shared an update on the IRC channel. Sergey said, “they require complete removal of so called YouTube’s rolling cipher implementation […] GitHub requires in order to reinstate the repo […] under this conditions I could reinstate it in Saturday/Sunday already but this is an unsatisfactory outcome”. He also said, “I can’t guarantee whether [or] not we will bend over them considering the situation with @phihag [Philipp Hagemeister] but we’ll see soon what we can do in order to keep the max we have and mitigate potential legal issues at the same time”.

EFF is yet to respond to Wikinews queries. Wikinews also reached out to Philipp Hagemeister, a former maintainer and contributor of the youtube-dl project to discuss this takedown.

When did you get to know about the takedown notice and what were your initial reactions?

((Philipp Hagemeister)) I saw the takedown notice along with anyone else, on reddit. Since I am no longer involved with the youtube-dl project (except for occasional contributions, my maintainership ended in 2016), I don’t know any details.

((RS)) Does YouTube implement DRM for videos not under Creative Commons license, and if so, how does youtube-dl bypass it? Could you please elaborate the procedure?

((Philipp Hagemeister)) YouTube implements DRM for YouTube Movies. youtube-dl does not support those.

YouTube has multiple non-DRM video delivery protocols. I’m not up to date about specifics; my last dabbling in this was in 2015.

One of these protocols is described here. YouTube uses JavaScript to compute parts of the URLs. youtube-dl executes this JavaScript, just like a web browser.

((WN)) Could you also explain in brief how youtube-dl functions, and how the maintainers had intended it to be used?

((Philipp Hagemeister)) youtube-dl downloads and plays videos and music, just like any other web browser, from over 1000 different services. Its uses are varied: It enables video playback on many devices (e.g. Raspberry Pi) where the video services don’t work properly, it makes high-quality video playable for people with a bad or no Internet connection, it enables disabled users to use tools to play videos, and it is used for archival and research.

((WN)) What do you think of the DMCA notice?

((Philipp Hagemeister)) I think it is not warranted because youtube-dl is entirely legal. As the DMCA notice has no effect for me personally, I’m not really the right person to address it.

((WN)) Why were the copyrighted tests in the source code? Could they be replaced?

((Philipp Hagemeister)) I’m not sure why, but my guess is that users requested support for these videos and thus they were added as test cases. They can be removed trivially, without losing any function of youtube-dl.

((WN)) Are you aware Electronic Frontier Foundation said it was a “disappointing and counterproductive move”? What do you think should be the next steps?

((Philipp Hagemeister)) Yes, and I concur. I’m no longer involved in the project. If I were, I would probably just remove the test cases, block these music videos (RIAA is not worth the trouble for me, that can be done by other projects), and get the project back online.I understand people who think differently.

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Posted on January 7th, 2023 by  |  No Comments »

Public smoking ban in Virginia snuffed out

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Virginia legislature’s House of Delegates voted unanimously in a sub-committee to kill a bill that would ban public smoking in the Mid-Atlantic state. The vote was reached during a six-member sub-committee meeting on Thursday.

The Virginia Senate, the upper house of the General Assembly, passed on Monday a week ago a bill that would ban the indoor smoking of tobacco in restaurants, bowling alleys, and other public places, including workplaces. The bill was not expected to pass the House, but the thumbs up signal by the Senate signaled a shift in tolerance towards the product in a state known for its 400-year economic history steeped in the cultivation of the cash crop.

The General Laws sub-committee based its vote on the rights of property owners, rights that would be violated by a state-wide ban. The debate was largely centered on the issue of restaurant smoking. The committee noted there was no law that said a restaurant must allow smoking.

“They have a right not to go where people are smoking,” said delegate John Cosgrove (R-Chesapeake). He noted the consumer and the restaurant businesses can decide whether to allow smoking. “They have a right and responsibility to take care of themselves,” he said.

A Virginia Beach restaurant owner, Matt Falvey, said “The plain truth is that the majority of our citizens do not smoke, and do not want to be around smoke,” according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Falvey, who owns three restaurants, said “In addition, restaurant workers should not be subjected to the harm caused by secondhand smoke.”

Falvey said he has smoking sections in his restaurants because not to would put him at a competitive disadvantage with other restaurants that have smoking sections. An across the board state-wide ban would level the playing field by settling the issue.

Senate Bill 649, known as the Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act, to become law in the nation’s 4th largest tobacco growing state would require passage by the House. Last year, the Senate killed a similar bill to ban indoor smoking in public places. New procedural rules introduced in Virginia this year allow a bill’s passage to be blocked by sub-committee, but there remains a slim chance it could be revived.

The original version of the bill, which allowed cities and counties to decide locally on the issue, was voted down by the Senate. The bill was brought back by Brandon Bell of Roanoke County, and passed in a revised version that would make than ban state-wide, with no local authority on the issue. The measure was passed by the Senate in a 21 – 18 vote, after it received the support from the Virginia Restaurant Association.

In Maryland, a similar ban was voted down this week by a House committee. New Jersey is the latest state to join the ranks of a total of 11 states that ban smoking in restaurants, bars, and workplaces.

Soybean over-took tobacco as Virginia’s top cash crop in 2005.

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Posted on January 7th, 2023 by  |  No Comments »

Climate change impacts Wyoming

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Cheek numbing, eye watering winds whip across the plains of the Laramie Basin, Wyoming. The ground is yellow brown with patches of recalcitrant snow. Sheep Mountain is losing its winter coat. All normal affairs for March. The March edition of the Wyoming Basin Outlook Report also reports, based on February accumulations, that Snow Water Equivalent is at 99% of average.

The SWE is a measure of the snow pack that feeds the streams, rivers and reservoirs that Wyoming, Nebraska and other states depend upon for water. Current averages are compared to the average SWE for 1971-2000. In recent years, snow pack in this region has been anything but normal.

The Outlook Reports are issued January to June. Since March 2000, only five of 46 months have been above normal. While many of the winter months have been near normal, June’s snow pack is far below average. Even in 2006, the wettest year of the last eight years, June snow pack was only 37% of the average.

In an e-mail interview with Wikinews, Lee Hackleman, Water Supply Specialist, said

The snowpack is melting out several weeks earlier than average. The higher temperatures in the spring are responsible for this. There seems to be a significant drop in the amount of runoff that we are able to retain in our reservoirs, a lot of runoff seems to be soaking into the ground. We do not have the June flood events any more. We use to [sic] be cool then hot, not cool warm then hot.

In a phone interview with Wikinews, Myra Wilensky of the National Wildlife Federation in nearby Colorado, also commented on changing snow patterns.

In the west, nothing is ever clockwork, the patterns shift, a good amount of snowfall in the season and then a quick warm up. We don’t get the prolonged snowpack that we used to have. May have a really wet snow year, then really dry with rain.

Can’t count on getting estimated amount of snow anymore. March and November have historically been our snowiest months, but this year it’s been a fairly dry in March and November. Winter is shorter now.

This is part of a general increase in temperature in the region. An Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change cited by the National Wildlife Federation estimates that the temperature will rise almost 7 degrees (F) by 2100.

This will likely cause most, if not all, of the state’s glaciers to disappear. Wildfires may increase, droughts could get worse and rains–when they do come–will likely come in more severe downpours that may cause more flash flooding. Warmer temperatures also mean less snowpack in the mountains, leading to more winter runoff and reduced summer flows in many Wyoming streams.

The NWF’s main concern is the fate of the wildlife in the region, particularly how the impact of pine bark beetles. Warmer winters have led to mass infestations in Western lodge pole pine forests and The New York Times reports that they are now moving on to white bark pines in Yellowstone particularly impacting grizzly bears there. In turn, the grizzlies are shifting to feeding on Canadian thistle, an invasive species that might be choking out native plants.

Changing weather patterns have also affected large migratory animals.

This year winter came late. When the heavy snows hit, the mule deer and the elk were spread out, had to be fed. Feeding isn’t newsworthy, happened before like in 1982 but it wasn’t as successful this year because they were so spread out.

Water for people has also become a major issue in the region.

There is a much greater concern for water rights than there used to be. There is not enough late season water to satisfy everyone all the time.

Kansas has long fought Wyoming over water rights issues. And Montana is currently suing Wyoming, claiming that the Yellowstone River Compact signed in 1950 gives rights to both surface and ground water, while Wyoming disagrees. On February 18, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the lawsuit.

Wyoming officials say they are adhering to the compact and that the drought has meant less water for both states.

But Montana says Wyoming is storing more water in reservoirs than the compact permits and allowing excessive pumping of groundwater reserves that feed into the two rivers.

Those “groundwater” reserves are tapped by some Wyoming farmers to irrigate their fields. Energy companies discharge large volumes of groundwater during production of coal-bed methane, a type of natural gas prevalent in northern Wyoming.

Authorities do not see this fight over increasingly limited water resources going away anytime soon.

Everyone is going to have to learn to get by with less.
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Blue Security anti-spam community target of large-scale spam attack

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Beginning Monday morning, many BlueFrog and Blue Security users began receiving an email warning them that if they did not remove their email addresses from the Blue Security registry, they would begin to receive huge amounts of unsolicited email. As quickly as four hours after the initial warning message, some users began to receive an unprecedented amount of spam. Most of the messages were simply useless text. Users reported that Blue Security’s website was unavailable or extremely slow in responding.

Blue Security is an online community dedicated to fighting spam. As they became more popular, their member list increased substantially. The members’ email address is encrypted and added to a list of e-mail addresses that wish to stop receiving spam. Blue Security maintains the encrypted list, which uses an encrypted hash function. Spammers are encouraged to remove all addressed from their email list that are also in Blue Security’s Do Not Intrude Registry by using free compliance tools available at Blue Security’s web site.

According to Blue Security’s web site, “A major spammer had started spamming our members with discouraging messages in an attempt to demoralize our community. This spammer is using mailing lists he already owns that may contain addresses of some community members.” Reportedly, Blue Security has received complaints from users about spam allegedly sent from Blue Security promoting their anti-spam solution and web site.

Blue Security states they are “an anti-spam company determined to fight spam and as such never has and never will send unsolicited email.” There are also reports of non-users of BlueSecurity/BlueFrog receiving the warning emails, which now seems is also being sent to email addresses of people who have never added their email address to Blue Security’s Do Not Intrude Registry.

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Posted on January 5th, 2023 by  |  No Comments »

British computer scientist’s new “nullity” idea provokes reaction from mathematicians

Monday, December 11, 2006

On December 7, BBC News reported a story about Dr James Anderson, a teacher in the Computer Science department at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom. In the report it was stated that Anderson had “solved a very important problem” that was 1200 years old, the problem of division by zero. According to the BBC, Anderson had created a new number, that he had named “nullity”, that lay outside of the real number line. Anderson terms this number a “transreal number”, and denotes it with the Greek letter ? {\displaystyle \Phi } . He had taught this number to pupils at Highdown School, in Emmer Green, Reading.

The BBC report provoked many reactions from mathematicians and others.

In reaction to the story, Mark C. Chu-Carroll, a computer scientist and researcher, posted a web log entry describing Anderson as an “idiot math teacher”, and describing the BBC’s story as “absolutely infuriating” and a story that “does an excellent job of demonstrating what total innumerate idiots reporters are”. Chu-Carroll stated that there was, in fact, no actual problem to be solved in the first place. “There is no number that meaningfully expresses the concept of what it means to divide by zero.”, he wrote, stating that all that Anderson had done was “assign a name to the concept of ‘not a number'”, something which was “not new” in that the IEEE floating-point standard, which describes how computers represent floating-point numbers, had included a concept of “not a number”, termed “NaN“, since 1985. Chu-Carroll further continued:

“Basically, he’s defined a non-solution to a non-problem. And by teaching it to his students, he’s doing them a great disservice. They’re going to leave his class believing that he’s a great genius who’s solved a supposed fundamental problem of math, and believing in this silly nullity thing as a valid mathematical concept.
“It’s not like there isn’t already enough stuff in basic math for kids to learn; there’s no excuse for taking advantage of a passive audience to shove this nonsense down their throats as an exercise in self-aggrandizement.
“To make matters worse, this idiot is a computer science professor! No one who’s studied CS should be able to get away with believing that re-inventing the concept of NaN is something noteworthy or profound; and no one who’s studied CS should think that defining meaningless values can somehow magically make invalid computations produce meaningful results. I’m ashamed for my field.”

There have been a wide range of other reactions from other people to the BBC news story. Comments range from the humorous and the ironic, such as the B1FF-style observation that “DIVIDION[sic] BY ZERO IS IMPOSSIBLE BECAUSE MY CALCULATOR SAYS SO AND IT IS THE TRUTH” and the Chuck Norris Fact that “Only Chuck Norris can divide by zero.” (to which another reader replied “Chuck Norris just looks at zero, and it divides itself.”); through vigourous defences of Dr Anderson, with several people quoting the lyrics to Ira Gershwin‘s song “They All Laughed (At Christopher Columbus)”; to detailed mathematical discussions of Anderson’s proposed axioms of transfinite numbers.

Several readers have commented that they consider this to have damaged the reputation of the Computer Science department, and even the reputation of the University of Reading as a whole. “By publishing his childish nonsense the BBC actively harms the reputation of Reading University.” wrote one reader. “Looking forward to seeing Reading University maths application plummit.” wrote another. “Ignore all research papers from the University of Reading.” wrote a third. “I’m not sure why you refer to Reading as a ‘university’. This is a place the BBC reports as closing down its physics department because it’s too hard. Lecturers at Reading should stick to folk dancing and knitting, leaving academic subjects to grown ups.” wrote a fourth. Steve Kramarsky lamented that Dr Anderson is not from the “University of ‘Rithmetic“.

Several readers criticised the journalists at the BBC who ran the story for not apparently contacting any mathematicians about Dr Anderson’s idea. “Journalists are meant to check facts, not just accept whatever they are told by a self-interested third party and publish it without question.” wrote one reader on the BBC’s web site. However, on Slashdot another reader countered “The report is from Berkshire local news. Berkshire! Do you really expect a local news team to have a maths specialist? Finding a newsworthy story in Berkshire probably isn’t that easy, so local journalists have to cover any piece of fluff that comes up. Your attitude to the journalist should be sympathy, not scorn.”

Ben Goldacre, author of the Bad Science column in The Guardian, wrote on his web log that “what is odd is a reporter, editor, producer, newsroom, team, cameraman, soundman, TV channel, web editor, web copy writer, and so on, all thinking it’s a good idea to cover a brilliant new scientific breakthrough whilst clearly knowing nothing about the context. Maths isn’t that hard, you could even make a call to a mathematician about it.”, continuing that “it’s all very well for the BBC to think they’re being balanced and clever getting Dr Anderson back in to answer queries about his theory on Tuesday, but that rather skips the issue, and shines the spotlight quite unfairly on him (he looks like a very alright bloke to me).”.

From reading comments on his own web log as well as elsewhere, Goldacre concluded that he thought that “a lot of people might feel it’s reporter Ben Moore, and the rest of his doubtless extensive team, the people who drove the story, who we’d want to see answering the questions from the mathematicians.”.

Andrej Bauer, a professional mathematician from Slovenia writing on the Bad Science web log, stated that “whoever reported on this failed to call a university professor to check whether it was really new. Any university professor would have told this reporter that there are many ways of dealing with division by zero, and that Mr. Anderson’s was just one of known ones.”

Ollie Williams, one of the BBC Radio Berkshire reporters who wrote the BBC story, initially stated that “It seems odd to me that his theory would get as far as television if it’s so easily blown out of the water by visitors to our site, so there must be something more to it.” and directly responded to criticisms of BBC journalism on several points on his web log.

He pointed out that people should remember that his target audience was local people in Berkshire with no mathematical knowledge, and that he was “not writing for a global audience of mathematicians”. “Some people have had a go at Dr Anderson for using simplified terminology too,” he continued, “but he knows we’re playing to a mainstream audience, and at the time we filmed him, he was showing his theory to a class of schoolchildren. Those circumstances were never going to breed an in-depth half-hour scientific discussion, and none of our regular readers would want that.”.

On the matter of fact checking, he replied that “if you only want us to report scientific news once it’s appeared, peer-reviewed, in a recognised journal, it’s going to be very dry, and it probably won’t be news.”, adding that “It’s not for the BBC to become a journal of mathematics — that’s the job of journals of mathematics. It’s for the BBC to provide lively science reporting that engages and involves people. And if you look at the original page, you’ll find a list as long as your arm of engaged and involved people.”.

Williams pointed out that “We did not present Dr Anderson’s theory as gospel, although with hindsight it could have been made clearer that this is very much a theory and by no means universally accepted. But we certainly weren’t shouting a mathematical revolution from the rooftops. Dr Anderson has, in one or two places, been chastised for coming to the media with his theory instead of his peers — a sure sign of a quack, boffin and/or crank according to one blogger. Actually, one of our reporters happened to meet him during a demonstration against the closure of the university’s physics department a couple of weeks ago, got chatting, and discovered Dr Anderson reckoned he was onto something. He certainly didn’t break the door down looking for media coverage.”.

Some commentators, at the BBC web page and at Slashdot, have attempted serious mathematical descriptions of what Anderson has done, and subjected it to analysis. One description was that Anderson has taken the field of real numbers and given it complete closure so that all six of the common arithmetic operators were surjective functions, resulting in “an object which is barely a commutative ring (with operators with tons of funky corner cases)” and no actual gain “in terms of new theorems or strong relation statements from the extra axioms he has to tack on”.

Jamie Sawyer, a mathematics undergraduate at the University of Warwick writing in the Warwick Maths Society discussion forum, describes what Anderson has done as deciding that R ? { ? ? , + ? } {\displaystyle \mathbb {R} \cup \lbrace -\infty ,+\infty \rbrace } , the so-called extended real number line, is “not good enough […] because of the wonderful issue of what 0 0 {\displaystyle {\frac {0}{0}}} is equal to” and therefore creating a number system R ? { ? ? , ? , + ? } {\displaystyle \mathbb {R} \cup \lbrace -\infty ,\Phi ,+\infty \rbrace } .

Andrej Bauer stated that Anderson’s axioms of transreal arithmetic “are far from being original. First, you can adjoin + ? {\displaystyle +\infty } and ? ? {\displaystyle -\infty } to obtain something called the extended real line. Then you can adjoin a bottom element to represent an undefined value. This is all standard and quite old. In fact, it is well known in domain theory, which deals with how to represent things we compute with, that adjoining just bottom to the reals is not a good idea. It is better to adjoin many so-called partial elements, which denote approximations to reals. Bottom is then just the trivial approximation which means something like ‘any real’ or ‘undefined real’.”

Commentators have pointed out that in the field of mathematical analysis, 0 0 {\displaystyle {\frac {0}{0}}} (which Anderson has defined axiomatically to be ? {\displaystyle \Phi } ) is the limit of several functions, each of which tends to a different value at its limit:

  • lim x ? 0 x 0 {\displaystyle \lim _{x\to 0}{\frac {x}{0}}} has two different limits, depending from whether x {\displaystyle x} approaches zero from a positive or from a negative direction.
  • lim x ? 0 0 x {\displaystyle \lim _{x\to 0}{\frac {0}{x}}} also has two different limits. (This is the argument that commentators gave. In fact, 0 x {\displaystyle {\frac {0}{x}}} has the value 0 {\displaystyle 0} for all x ? 0 {\displaystyle x\neq 0} , and thus only one limit. It is simply discontinuous for x = 0 {\displaystyle x=0} . However, that limit is different to the two limits for lim x ? 0 x 0 {\displaystyle \lim _{x\to 0}{\frac {x}{0}}} , supporting the commentators’ main point that the values of the various limits are all different.)
  • Whilst sin ? 0 = 0 {\displaystyle \sin 0=0} , the limit lim x ? 0 sin ? x x {\displaystyle \lim _{x\to 0}{\frac {\sin x}{x}}} can be shown to be 1, by expanding the sine function as an infinite Taylor series, dividing the series by x {\displaystyle x} , and then taking the limit of the result, which is 1.
  • Whilst 1 ? cos ? 0 = 0 {\displaystyle 1-\cos 0=0} , the limit lim x ? 0 1 ? cos ? x x {\displaystyle \lim _{x\to 0}{\frac {1-\cos x}{x}}} can be shown to be 0, by expanding the cosine function as an infinite Taylor series, dividing the series subtracted from 1 by x {\displaystyle x} , and then taking the limit of the result, which is 0.

Commentators have also noted l’Hôpital’s rule.

It has been pointed out that Anderson’s set of transreal numbers is not, unlike the set of real numbers, a mathematical field. Simon Tatham, author of PuTTY, stated that Anderson’s system “doesn’t even think about the field axioms: addition is no longer invertible, multiplication isn’t invertible on nullity or infinity (or zero, but that’s expected!). So if you’re working in the transreals or transrationals, you can’t do simple algebraic transformations such as cancelling x {\displaystyle x} and ? x {\displaystyle -x} when both occur in the same expression, because that transformation becomes invalid if x {\displaystyle x} is nullity or infinity. So even the simplest exercises of ordinary algebra spew off a constant stream of ‘unless x is nullity’ special cases which you have to deal with separately — in much the same way that the occasional division spews off an ‘unless x is zero’ special case, only much more often.”

Tatham stated that “It’s telling that this monstrosity has been dreamed up by a computer scientist: persistent error indicators and universal absorbing states can often be good computer science, but he’s stepped way outside his field of competence if he thinks that that also makes them good maths.”, continuing that Anderson has “also totally missed the point when he tries to compute things like 0 0 {\displaystyle 0^{0}} using his arithmetic. The reason why things like that are generally considered to be ill-defined is not because of a lack of facile ‘proofs’ showing them to have one value or another; it’s because of a surfeit of such ‘proofs’ all of which disagree! Adding another one does not (as he appears to believe) solve any problem at all.” (In other words: 0 0 {\displaystyle 0^{0}} is what is known in mathematical analysis as an indeterminate form.)

To many observers, it appears that Anderson has done nothing more than re-invent the idea of “NaN“, a special value that computers have been using in floating-point calculations to represent undefined results for over two decades. In the various international standards for computing, including the IEEE floating-point standard and IBM’s standard for decimal arithmetic, a division of any non-zero number by zero results in one of two special infinity values, “+Inf” or “-Inf”, the sign of the infinity determined by the signs of the two operands (Negative zero exists in floating-point representations.); and a division of zero by zero results in NaN.

Anderson himself denies that he has re-invented NaN, and in fact claims that there are problems with NaN that are not shared by nullity. According to Anderson, “mathematical arithmetic is sociologically invalid” and IEEE floating-point arithmetic, with NaN, is also faulty. In one of his papers on a “perspex machine” dealing with “The Axioms of Transreal Arithmetic” (Jamie Sawyer writes that he has “worries about something which appears to be named after a plastic” — “Perspex” being a trade name for polymethyl methacrylate in the U.K..) Anderson writes:

We cannot accept an arithmetic in which a number is not equal to itself (NaN != NaN), or in which there are three kinds of numbers: plain numbers, silent numbers, and signalling numbers; because, on writing such a number down, in daily discourse, we can not always distinguish which kind of number it is and, even if we adopt some notational convention to make the distinction clear, we cannot know how the signalling numbers are to be used in the absence of having the whole program and computer that computed them available. So whilst IEEE floating-point arithmetic is an improvement on real arithmetic, in so far as it is total, not partial, both arithmetics are invalid models of arithmetic.

In fact, the standard convention for distinguishing the two types of NaNs when writing them down can be seen in ISO/IEC 10967, another international standard for how computers deal with numbers, which uses “qNaN” for non-signalling (“quiet”) NaNs and “sNaN” for signalling NaNs. Anderson continues:

[NaN’s] semantics are not defined, except by a long list of special cases in the IEEE standard.

“In other words,” writes Scott Lamb, a BSc. in Computer Science from the University of Idaho, “they are defined, but he doesn’t like the definition.”.

The main difference between nullity and NaN, according to both Anderson and commentators, is that nullity compares equal to nullity, whereas NaN does not compare equal to NaN. Commentators have pointed out that in very short order this difference leads to contradictory results. They stated that it requires only a few lines of proof, for example, to demonstrate that in Anderson’s system of “transreal arithmetic” both 1 = 2 {\displaystyle 1=2} and 1 ? 2 {\displaystyle 1\neq 2} , after which, in one commentator’s words, one can “prove anything that you like”. In aiming to provide a complete system of arithmetic, by adding extra axioms defining the results of the division of zero by zero and of the consequent operations on that result, half as many again as the number of axioms of real-number arithmetic, Anderson has produced a self-contradictory system of arithmetic, in accordance with Gödel’s incompleteness theorems.

One reader-submitted comment appended to the BBC news article read “Step 1. Create solution 2. Create problem 3. PROFIT!”, an allusion to the business plan employed by the underpants gnomes of the comedy television series South Park. In fact, Anderson does plan to profit from nullity, having registered on the 27th of July, 2006 a private limited company named Transreal Computing Ltd, whose mission statement is “to develop hardware and software to bring you fast and safe computation that does not fail on division by zero” and to “promote education and training in transreal computing”. The company is currently “in the research and development phase prior to trading in hardware and software”.

In a presentation given to potential investors in his company at the ANGLE plc showcase on the 28th of November, 2006, held at the University of Reading, Anderson stated his aims for the company as being:

To investors, Anderson makes the following promises:

  • “I will help you develop a curriculum for transreal arithmetic if you want me to.”
  • “I will help you unify QED and gravitation if you want me to.”
  • “I will build a transreal supercomputer.”

He asks potential investors:

  • “How much would you pay to know that the engine in your ship, car, aeroplane, or heart pacemaker won’t just stop dead?”
  • “How much would you pay to know that your Government’s computer controlled military hardware won’t just stop or misfire?”

The current models of computer arithmetic are, in fact, already designed to allow programmers to write programs that will continue in the event of a division by zero. The IEEE’s Frequently Asked Questions document for the floating-point standard gives this reply to the question “Why doesn’t division by zero (or overflow, or underflow) stop the program or trigger an error?”:

“The [IEEE] 754 model encourages robust programs. It is intended not only for numerical analysts but also for spreadsheet users, database systems, or even coffee pots. The propagation rules for NaNs and infinities allow inconsequential exceptions to vanish. Similarly, gradual underflow maintains error properties over a precision’s range.
“When exceptional situations need attention, they can be examined immediately via traps or at a convenient time via status flags. Traps can be used to stop a program, but unrecoverable situations are extremely rare. Simply stopping a program is not an option for embedded systems or network agents. More often, traps log diagnostic information or substitute valid results.”

Simon Tatham stated that there is a basic problem with Anderson’s ideas, and thus with the idea of building a transreal supercomputer: “It’s a category error. The Anderson transrationals and transreals are theoretical algebraic structures, capable of representing arbitrarily big and arbitrarily precise numbers. So the question of their error-propagation semantics is totally meaningless: you don’t use them for down-and-dirty error-prone real computation, you use them for proving theorems. If you want to use this sort of thing in a computer, you have to think up some concrete representation of Anderson transfoos in bits and bytes, which will (if only by the limits of available memory) be unable to encompass the entire range of the structure. And the point at which you make this transition from theoretical abstract algebra to concrete bits and bytes is precisely where you should also be putting in error handling, because it’s where errors start to become possible. We define our theoretical algebraic structures to obey lots of axioms (like the field axioms, and total ordering) which make it possible to reason about them efficiently in the proving of theorems. We define our practical number representations in a computer to make it easy to detect errors. The Anderson transfoos are a consequence of fundamentally confusing the one with the other, and that by itself ought to be sufficient reason to hurl them aside with great force.”

Geomerics, a start-up company specializing in simulation software for physics and lighting and funded by ANGLE plc, had been asked to look into Anderson’s work by an unnamed client. Rich Wareham, a Senior Research and Development Engineer at Geomerics and a MEng. from the University of Cambridge, stated that Anderson’s system “might be a more interesting set of axioms for dealing with arithmetic exceptions but it isn’t the first attempt at just defining away the problem. Indeed it doesn’t fundamentally change anything. The reason computer programs crash when they divide by zero is not that the hardware can produce no result, merely that the programmer has not dealt with NaNs as they propagate through. Not dealing with nullities will similarly lead to program crashes.”

“Do the Anderson transrational semantics give any advantage over the IEEE ones?”, Wareham asked, answering “Well one assumes they have been thought out to be useful in themselves rather than to just propagate errors but I’m not sure that seeing a nullity pop out of your code would lead you to do anything other than what would happen if a NaN or Inf popped out, namely signal an error.”.

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AMBER alert issued in Maryland for missing teenaged boys

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Maryland State Police have issued an AMBER alert for two teenaged boys who were reportedly abducted in a 2004 black BMW 645 with Maryland temporary tags. According to the Baltimore Sun, the vehicle was later found, but the victims are still missing.

Police say that at 3 a.m. EDT (UTC-4), early Tuesday morning, six armed men wearing masks forced their way into the two-story house. They bound and gagged the residents and when they left at around 11 a.m. they took the two brothers with them.

A relative of the boys witnessed them being led from the house to the BMW car. He began to approach but, according to police, the assailants fired a shot at him and drove away.

Baltimore County police spokesperson, Mike Hill, said that the remaining victims in the house initially refused to give information, though they later gave some information. He said it was not known if any property was stolen from the house.

The boys have been identified as Stephon and Sterling Blackwell. Stephon is described as five feet seven inches and 145 pounds and last seen wearing blue jeans and a gray sweatshirt. Sterling is said to be five feet four inches tall and 150 pounds. He was last seen wearing blue jeans and green hoodie sweatshirt

The police are requesting anybody with information that may help in locating the victims to call (410) 307-2020 or 911. The vehicle tags are Maryland 04350D.

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Category:June 27, 2006

? June 26, 2006
June 28, 2006 ?
June 27

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International exhibit of chair art starts in Canada

Monday, November 21, 2005

The international entry mail art show SAT: An Exhibit of Chairs was put on display Friday in Brampton, Ontario, Canada. Held in the Fridge Front Gallery at the Shoppers World Brampton mall, SAT is a diverse collection of artworks focusing on a generally mundane object, the chair.

Works in the show range from realism to abstract, dadaism to surrealism, post-modern to collage.

While some of the entries were submitted directly to Visual Arts Brampton, most came from a previous exhibit. Organized by Pati Bristow, No place to rest, chairs you can’t sit on ran at Shopping Trolley Gallery West and Seaman’s Library at Foothill College, both in Los Altos Hills, California, earlier in 2005. Guest curator Nicholas Moreau was unaware of the similarly themed exhibit, held so soon before. The theme for SAT was based on that of a 1987 juried art show organized by Visual Arts Brampton at the now-defunct Chinguacousy Library Gallery.

Works in Visual Arts Brampton’s showing of the exhibition are from 17 countries including Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Romania, Spain, Uruguay, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

This is Visual Arts Brampton’s third mail art show. In 1999, Susan Williamson created The Great Canadian Mail Art Show for Artway at Bramalea City Centre; the show was so successful that the Art Gallery of Peel adopted it in 2001. The concept of a mail art show was revived in 2004 by Moreau, held at the new Artway Shoppers World. The Snail Mail World Postcard Art Show has been held annually since.

Visual Arts Brampton’s Fridge Front Gallery primarily hosts artwork by youth from its kids classes, and from schools in Brampton and Oakville. In contrast, the nearby Artway Gallery hosts artwork by professional and amateur adult artists from across Peel. VAB has successfully sought permission to create a third display space in Shoppers World, in the Zellers corridor. The space will host shows of mail art and works on paper year-round. The planned “World Art Gallery” will be the first ever permanent display space for mail art.

This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.

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ADP says US economy lost 742,000 jobs in March

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

According to the payroll services company ADP, United States private sector employers cut 742,000 jobs in in March. The figures were almost 80,000 more than the average analyst prediction of 663,000 losses. This is the largest monthly payroll decline since January 2001, when the ADP began tracking job activity.

ADP also updated its job loss statistics for February, from 697,000 to 706,000.

“The sharp employment declines among medium- and small-size businesses indicate that the recession continues to spread aggressively beyond manufacturing and housing-related activities to almost every area of the economy,” said Joel Prakken, the chairman of the company that conducts the ADP survey, Macroeconomic Advisors LLC.

“Despite some recent indications that stock prices, consumer spending, and housing activity may be bottoming out, employment, which usually trails overall economic activity, is likely to remain very weak for at least several more months,” he added.

The US Labor Department‘s report for employment statistics for March is due to be out on Friday. Analysts predicted that the department will announce the unemployment rate increased to 8.5% with 660,000 jobs eliminated in March. However, the bad news from ADP has prompted some to think that the current forecasts are too optimistic.

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