Dan Cohen AUTHOR Negotiations over the conference report for a fiscal 2019 spending package covering the military construction-Veterans Affairs, energy-water and legislative branch spending bills appear to be completed, with conferees prepared to sign a final deal imminently. On Friday, House Majority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the “minibus” would be on the House floor this week. It is still not clear, though, when the text of the conference report will be released, reports CQ. Congressional leaders are aiming to clear two other spending packages prior to the Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year as well, including a two-bill minibus covering the defense and labor-HHS-education titles.
18 Photos Fukushima turns to robots to fix the future Sci-Tech Bottle o’ rads? James Smith The nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl remains the worst nuclear accident in human history, leaving a 1,000 square mile region of the Ukraine uninhabitable since 1986. While some have continued to live there and tourists flock to the radioactive zone in droves (thanks to HBO’s fantastic series), the surrounding areas have been reclaimed by nature. Now, the BBC reports, a team of scientists have produced the first consumer product out of the exclusion zone since the nuclear disaster: An artisan vodka dubbed “Atomik”.The Chernobyl Spirit Company, has brewed up the vodka from “slightly contaminated” rye grain they planted within the exclusion zone. While many traditionally think of vodka as produced from potatoes, these days most vodka is made from grains such as wheat and rye. The one, the only (literally!) bottle of Atomik. Distilled in Chernobyl. James Smith James Smith, an environmental scientist from the University of Portsmouth, is part of the team at Chernobyl Spirit Company and has published numerous studies discussing the effects of radioactive pollutants, with a focus on accidental releases. He’s studied Chernobyl since 1990 and spent time working in Belarus, the Ukraine and Russia. “Our Atomik grain spirit came from an experiment we were doing to see how much radioactivity transferred into different crops in the Exclusion Zone 30 years after the accident,” he says, via email.The experimental plot where the grain was grown is situated about 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) from the Chernobyl reactor. Part of the process also involved using water from Chernobyl’s aquifer, lying about 10 kilometers (6 miles) south of the site of the disaster. The aquifer has been shown to contain traces of radioactivity in the past.”We had the Atomik grain spirit idea as a way to firstly (hopefully) make people think more deeply about the recovery of the Chernobyl affected areas and a way (also hopefully!) to make money to help support the affected communities.”Smith has released a technical report of the creation process on ResearchGate. Part of the report discusses risks associated with the production of the vodka which he says it’s completely safe.”We had to do a risk assessment, but radioactive safety isn’t really a problem,” Smith says. “The beauty of distillation is that it takes nearly all the radioactivity out (except for natural C-14) so we hope people will be happy to drink Atomik.”However, there is one little problem. Anyone wanting to taste the nuclear nectar will have to wait because there is currently only a single bottle of the stuff in existence. Now, I know the internet will be clamoring for a taste, because humans have proven to be incredibly interested in seemingly forbidden liquids. I remember when some suggested we should drink the fluid from an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus that was discovered in 2018. I know you want to taste the not-so-radioactive drop, but you’ll have to wait.The team plan to manufacture more Atomik before the end of the year, with the aim of making a profit they can then give back to the local communities that surround the abandoned exclusion zone. To really ramp up production, the team will need to get the go-ahead from the State Agency of Ukraine for Exclusion Zone Management and from Ukrainian authorities to produce alcohol, Smith says.”Unfortunately this will be slow — we hope to begin only very small scale experimental production this year,” he notes, explaining the Chernobyl Spirit Company is “not taking orders yet.”When they do, we’ll raise a glass. Tags 2 Share your voice Originally posted 10:55 p.m. PTUpdated Aug. 8: Adds additional comments from Smith and links to Spirit Company Comments
Ridhima PanditinstagramKhatron Ke Khiladi 9 recently ended with Punit Pathak emerging as the winner of the season. He defeated Aditya Narayan (first runner-up) and Ridhima Pandit (second runner-up). While Punit was certainly a deserving contestant to win the trophy, Aditya and Ridhima missed the golden opportunity to take home the coveted trophy by a small margin.In an interview with SpotboyE, Ridhima opened up on how it feels to reach the finale yet not bag the trophy. The actress started off by saying that she is proud and lucky to have reached the finale. However, being claustrophobic, she admitted having aborted a couple of stunts. She further praised the boys – Punit and Aditya, as they have always completed their tasks. “I have certain weaknesses like, for one, I’m claustrophobic. I couldn’t completely rid myself of that fear and due to it, I even aborted a couple of stunts,” she said.Speaking about the finale task, Ridhima said that she could have won it but lost out on time when she couldn’t open the carabiner. “I know for a fact that maybe I could have won it in the last stunt because it didn’t need physical strength as such. I had to jump from the car to the truck and open the lock. I was very calm. When I tried opening the carabiner, it didn’t open that’s where I lost out on time and I was almost in tears,” she added.However, Ridhima believes that Punit and Aditya were definitely better than her. “No excuses, I think they were definitely better than me. In fact, so many times I got Punit and Aditya in partner tasks, and they have been of great help. Definitely, they are stronger than me. The finale stunt was very nice. I could have won it actually,” she concluded.
Ananya PandayInstagramShe is young, spunky, confident and rather frank in her chat with the media for Student of the Year 2 (SOTY 2), her acting debut in Bollywood. So when Ananya Panday, actor Chunky Panday’s daughter, tells us that she looks up to Alia Bhatt as her role model in Bollywood, we are not surprised and we know she is following in the right footsteps. Like Alia Bhatt, who made her debut in Karan Johar’s production and directorial Student of the Year, Ananya Panday makes her debut in SOTY 2. The sequel is produced by Dharma Productions and directed by Punit Malhotra.International Business Times, India speaks to Ananya Panday on her experience working in her debut film, her first co-star Tiger Shroff, her upcoming projects, being an industry kid and her father Chunky Panday’s struggle, and her bestie Suhana Khan.Ananya also speaks about working with Tiger Shroff and Will Smith, and not getting a chance to work with her favourite Varun Dhawan and Sidharth Malhotra. Ananya, who is rather popular on Instagram, also reveals how she tackles trolls. Excerpts from the chat.IBTIMES: This is your debut film and first experience of promoting a film. How has been the experience?Ananya Panday: We’re just back from shooting for Super Dancer (the dance reality show). This is my first promotional, so I’m excited for everything. Karan Johar gave me the title ‘Keen Kumari’ on Koffee with Karan. So, I’m really taking that forward and I’m the enthu cutlet of the group. I’m very excited about the promotions and all these firsts that I’m having for my debut SOTY 2, like my first song launch, first trailer launch first city visit and so on. I’m never gonna get this time again, so I’m just making the most of it.Tell us about your character in Student of the Year 2. Did you audition for the role with Dharma Productions? Student of the Year 2 poster.TwitterMy character’s name is Shreya. She’s very feisty and won’t take no for an answer. She fights for what she thinks is right, but is a little misunderstood. I’m quite similar to my character.The first time I heard the script of SOTY 2 was in this room (where the interview was being conducted at Dharma), so it’s weird – I’ve not come here after that. I gave an audition in another room and it was a very scary, ‘cos I thought Karan Johar will be there. But he wasn’t there and later saw the audition video of my two scenes, and the team really liked it.At the time, I was just 18 and on my way to USC (University of Southern California) to study media and communication. I was being practical that if I don’t get through the audition of SOTY 2, I would study and then maybe come back and pursue acting. If I hadn’t landed SOTY 2, I don’t know which film would’ve been my debut. Being young, there are not many roles that I could do. But I cleared the auditions and once I knew I was part of the film, I stayed back.Have you trained as an actor in a film school?I’ve always wanted to be an actor, but I’m not a trained actor. I’ve just played ‘acting games’ with Suhana Khan (Shah Rukh Khan’s daughter) and Shanaya Kapoor (Sanjay Kapoor’s daughter), imitating our moms Gauri, Bhavna and all. (Smiles) I’ve pursued drama in school. Since my grandparents were doctors and I love biology as a subject, I almost had this moment in life when I thought I’ll be a doctor. But no, acting is my calling. I’m a very filmi bachcha.SOTY 2 releases on May 10. Are you nervous about your Bollywood debut? Are you ready for the comparisons with the original Student of the Year?I’m actually very excited. I was nervous before the trailer launch. But now, I’m just waiting for people to watch it. We’ve worked so hard and for so long. There’s so much love attached to this film. I think it’s natural that people are gonna compare the two films, since it’s a franchise. And the first three students have such a big, massive fan-following. It’s normal to compare, but SOTY 2 is a very different film, so I don’t know what points audiences will compare it on. I hope they like our film as well.What was the advice from Karan Johar for SOTY 2?Karan asked me whose career I looked up to in the industry and who I aspired to be, and I said, ‘Alia Bhatt’. She’s my absolute favourite since the start. I’m not trying to be like Alia or follow what she’s done, but I really admire her. Karan told me, ‘You do you’. Alia is where she is because she has been herself and always made her own decisions, and done different things, which people have appreciated. Alia Bhatt with Ananya Panday.InstagramHow were your preparations for SOTY 2?I’m very lucky that my first film was with Tiger Shroff. I really had to keep my energy levels high and up my game in dance. I’ve learnt from Tiger Shroff now, but I really had to practice my steps, ‘cos he was always practicing, even if there were two minutes in between shots.Apart from Tiger Shroff, how was it shaking a leg with Hollywood star Will Smith?I missed not shaking a leg with Varun Dhawan and Sidharth Malhotra, the original stars in Student of the Year. Will Smith was a good alternative to that. There was so much hype before he entered the set and everyone was quiet. Once he came in, it was even more magical. He’s such a lovely person and didn’t have any airs about him. Between shots, he didn’t behave like some star, although he has every right to. That’s something we all need to learn from him.You belong to a film family and enjoy certain privileges. Do you think about it?I’m well aware of my privilege, like I’ve said on KWK, too that I know I belong to a film family. But for me it’s been like, my father was a huge star before I was born. After I was born, he took a break from those big films. I have seen ups and downs in his career, and know well enough not to take advantage of anything. I also auditioned for this film, and this has been my dream as well. So, I don’t think it’s fair to take that away from me. I don’t want to take anything away from my father as well, because he’s worked so hard and got a lot of respect and love in the industry. Wherever I go, it’s always about my father. So, I don’t want any negative attachments associated with my dad because of me. I think I just have to work doubly hard and find my place in people’s hearts.Do you follow your father Chunky Panday’s work?I love his film Aankhein because I love Govinda and his chemistry in the film. It’s amazing. I love his recent films like Housefull. I’ve not watched a lot of his old films, but now I should!What advice did your father give you before you entered the industry?He didn’t give any advice, because he knows that the times are very different now. Even if he tries, our generation is too different from theirs, so it might not be applicable right now. But I’ve learnt a lot from his behavior and that he has always stayed the same person in spite of failures and successes. He is always ready to laugh at himself. The fact that he never got affected by failure or trolling helps me, I’m also taking the trolling in a positive way. Thick skin is in our family.What do you have to say about Suhana Khan’s acting debut in Bollywood? Ananya Panday, Suhana Khan and Shanaya Kapoor.InstagramSuhana’s going to NYU (New York University) for studying acting and I think that’s amazing. She is such a good actor, if you’ve seen her videos online. I’ve always seen her act and loved how she is. We don’t have any serious conversations about acting. We’re like sisters so, it’s the fun and fluffy stuff. But if anyone is making a film on three best friends, please cast Suhana, Shanaya and I – maybe a Dil Chahta Hai 2!Suhana and Shanaya were so excited seeing me in the SOTY 2 trailer. I don’t think they can believe it that I’m actually in a film. Even I can’t believe it! When I saw the trailer, I thought it was someone else’s film, but then I realised it’s us on the screen. It’s not sunk in yet. We always send each other pictures on the Charlie’s Angels group that we have on WhatsApp. There’s just so much love around SOTY 2.How does it feel when fans shout out your name during promotions?We have Tiger with us, so everyone’s screaming for Tiger! So, we (Tara and Ananya) are just like, ‘Hi, please notice us. We’re also here’. Most of the attention of fans is with Tiger and I’m happy. We’re very lucky that we’ve such a big star. He’s so humble and the attention he is getting is crazy. We’re just getting a small part of it. I hope that one day I will get the same.How did you land a role in Pati, Patni Aur Who? Taapsee Pannu was supposed to play a part in in the film, but was dropped without notice. Any comments?They saw me in a Lakme ad and that is how I landed the role. Actors in general, and I, don’t get involved in the casting process. I think the role that Taapsee was supposed to do was the one Bhumi Pednekar is doing. I don’t think she lost the role because Taapsee is an outsider. I think talent speaks…I’d love to work with Taapsee Pannu one day.We guess this grounded nature comes to Ananya Panday from her family.My mom gives me a reality check. She’s been through my father’s ups and downs, so now she knows how it is. When you are in that storm, like my dad was, my mom saw it from the outside.How do you react to the various memes around SOTY 2 on social media?I love it! Since Koffee with Karan only my expressions have become memes. I love sharing them and put them out on my (Instagram) Stories and they’re really funny.Will you be choosy about your films?I don’t think I ever want to take a break. I don’t think I want to not be in front of people’s eyes for a long time, because I feel that people’s attention span is short. So, I wanna make sure I do as much good work as I can. I don’t want to take it easy or take things lightly. I just want to keep working and keep being visible to people.
More than 100 asylum seekers went on trial on the Greek island of Lesbos on Thursday after protesting against over-crowded camp conditions, an AFP reporter said.More than 100 asylum seekers went on trial on the Greek island of Lesbos on Thursday after protesting against over-crowded camp conditions, an AFP reporter said.The mainly Afghan asylum seekers stand accused of occupying a central square on the island in April 2018.Along with women and children, they staged a sit-in that was swiftly attacked by far-right militants who threw stones and flares, with riot police deployed to keep the two sides apart.”We didn’t do anything. We were attacked by some extreme people. We are innocent,” one of the defendants, Afghan refugee Hadisse Hosseini told AFP outside the courthouse.Among the attackers, 26 have been provisionally identified by police. Their trial date has not yet been set.Over 70,000 refugees and migrants have been stranded in Greece following a mass influx from 2015 onwards. Most were fleeing war-torn Syria and want to go to wealthier EU states such as Germany.Of these, some 15,000 are housed in badly overcrowded camps on Greek islands where living conditions have been repeatedly criticised by rights groups.Conditions are worst on the islands of Lesbos and Samos, where over 10,000 people live in camps built to handle a third of that number.At around 7,000, refugees and migrants on Lesbos currently outnumber the local population by 2.5 to one.
Share Comey, fired last month as FBI director amid a federal investigation into connections between Russia and the Trump campaign, is set to testify next Thursday at a highly anticipated congressional hearing that could shed light on his private conversations with the president in the weeks before the dismissal. The Senate intelligence committee announced Comey’s appearance, and a Comey associate said he had been cleared to testify by Robert Mueller, another former FBI director now overseeing that investigation as special counsel. Also on Thursday, Democrats raised more questions about contacts during the campaign between the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, and Trump’s attorney general, former Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. Session, a close Trump adviser, withdrew from the Russia investigation in March after admitting to two previously undisclosed contacts with Kislyak last summer and fall. Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Al Franken, D-Minn., released a letter urging the FBI to investigate whether Sessions had falsely testified under oath when he said at his January confirmation hearing that he hadn’t had any contacts with Russia. “If it is determined that the attorney general still has not been truthful with Congress and the American people about his contacts with Russian officials during the campaign, he needs to resign,” the senators wrote. In addition to the two meetings Sessions has acknowledged, the senators pointed to the possibility of a separate encounter at an April 2016 Trump campaign event that Sessions and Kislyak attended. The Justice Department has acknowledged that Sessions was at the Mayflower Hotel event in Washington, but said there were no private or side conversations that day, Comey’s testimony probably will focus on the private meetings Comey had with President Donald Trump and subsequently chronicled in internal memos and recounted to associates who have divulged their contents to The Associated Press and other media outlets. Comey’s associates have said Comey told them that Trump asked him at a January dinner to pledge his loyalty to the president and, at an Oval Office meeting weeks later, asked Comey to consider ending an FBI investigation into Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn. The White House has denied those characterizations. The scope of Comey’s testimony was not exactly clear, though Mueller was permitting him to speak publicly, an associate told the AP. Mueller’s investigation could include a look at the circumstances of Comey’s firing, especially since Trump has said publicly that he was thinking of “this Russia thing” when he made the move. It is possible that the Trump White House could try to raise executive privilege claims in arguing that any conversations with the president could not be discussed publicly. A similar back-and-forth occurred before the testimony last month of former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, though the White House said it did not try to block her appearance.
By J. K. Schmid, Special to the AFROThe Lieber Institute for Brain Development announced the creation of the first African-American Neuroscience Research Initiative (AANRI) Monday.The Lieber Institute, a Baltimore nonprofit research center, boasts the largest repository of human brains in the world.Lieber also possesses the largest inventory of African-American brains in the world.Expanding a collection of African-American brains is hoped to give the AANRI expanded knowledge in the treatment of Black Americans andmitigate risks.The brains are used in research that explores the link between mind and body looking at physical characteristics of post-mortem brains to discover treatments for psychiatric and psychological ailments including post-traumatic stress and schizophrenia.“Research shows that African Americans are 20 percent more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population, and twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease,” a March press release said. “Suicide rates for African-American children under the age of 13 are twice as high as children of European ancestry. African-American infant death rates and premature birth rates also are twice that of European ancestry Americans.”Expanding a collection of African-American brains is hoped to give the AANRI expanded knowledge in the treatment of Black Americans and mitigate risks.“Research has long been hampered by a lack of diversity in basic science and in clinical trials, particularly in the field of neuroscience,” the release reads. “For example, 81 percent of large-scale genomic datasets are of European descent, even though this group makes up less than 16 percent of the world population.”The social construct of race has long been critiqued in the medical community. Race may not matter, but “ancestry matters,” representatives of Lieber say.While genomics (the study of a complete set of DNA) research continues the history of humanity in the African continent, AANI focuses it work on the diaspora in the United States and throughout the Americas.The limited, that is, White, sampling of genomes (“full” patterns of DNA) exposes Black Americans to risks of suboptimal to dangerous drug interactions and other complications in the treatment of mental illness.Soliciting tissue from Black Americans is a fraught topic in the aftermath of the monstrous experiments in Tuskegee and violations of basic bodily autonomy and consent in the case of Henrietta Lacks. Lieber and AANI are taking careful conciliatory steps to make sure Baltimore’s Black community is invited into something that will be by and for Blacks.“My clergy colleagues and I have been studying the emerging science behind precision medicine and believe that this technology has potential for finding cures and treatments for diseases that uniquely affect African Americans,” Rev. Dr. Alvin C. Hathaway, Sr., principal of the African-American Clergy Medical Research Initiative, said in a statement. “This revolution in medicine has largely left behind ethnic minority groups like African Americans, and it is time to change this.”
5 min read In Silicon Valley this week, a debate about the potential dangers (or lack thereof) when it comes to artificial intelligence has flared up between two tech billionaires.Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg thinks that AI is going to “make our lives better in the future,” while SpaceX CEO Elon Musk believes that AI a “fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization.”Who’s right?Related: Elon Musk Says Mark Zuckerberg’s Understanding of AI Is ‘Limited’ After the Facebook CEO Called His Warnings ‘Irresponsible’They’re both right, but they’re also both missing the point. The dangerous aspect of AI will always come from people and their use of it, not from the technology itself. Similar to advances in nuclear fusion, almost any kind of technological developments can be weaponized and used to cause damage if in the wrong hands. The regulation of machine intelligence advancements will play a central role in whether Musk’s doomsday prediction becomes a reality.It would be wrong to say that Musk is hesitant to embrace the technology since all of this companies are direct beneficiaries of the advances in machine learning. Take Tesla for example, where self-driving capability is one of the biggest value adds for its cars. Musk himself even believes that one day it will be safer to populate roads with AI drivers rather than human ones, though publicly he hopes that society will not ban human drivers in the future in an effort to save us from human error.What Musk is really pushing for here by being wary of AI technology is a more advanced hypothetical framework that we as a society should use to have more awareness regarding the threats that AI brings. Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), the kind that will make decisions on its own without any interference or guidance from humans, is still very far away from how things work today. The AGI that we see in the movies where robots take over the planet and destroy humanity is very different from the narrow AI that we use and iterate on within the industry now. In Zuckerberg’s view, the doomsday conversation that Musk has sparked is a very exaggerated way of projecting how the future of our technology advancements would look like.Related: The Future of Productivity: AI and Machine LearningWhile there is not much discussion in our government about apocalypse scenarios, there is definitely a conversation happening about preventing the potentially harmful impacts on society from artificial intelligence. White House recently released a couple of reports on the future of artificial intelligence and on the economic effects it causes. The focus of these reports is on the future of work, job markets and research on increasing inequality that machine intelligence may bring.There is also an attempt to tackle a very important issue of “explainability” when it comes to understanding actions that machine intelligence does and decisions it presents to us. For example, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), an agency within the U.S. Department of Defense, is funneling billions of dollars into projects that would pilot vehicles and aircraft, identify targets and even eliminate them on autopilot. If you thought the use of drone warfare was controversial, AI warfare will be even more so. That’s why here it’s even more important, maybe even more than in any other field, to be mindful of the results AI presents.Explainable AI (XAI), the initiative funded by DARPA, aims to create a suite of machine learning techniques that produce more explainable results to human operators and still maintain a high level of learning performance. The other goal of XAI is to enable human users to understand, appropriately trust and effectively manage the emerging generation of artificially intelligent partners.Related: Would You Fly on an AI-Backed Plane Without a Pilot?The XAI initiative can also help the government tackle the problem of ethics with more transparency. Sometimes developers of software have conscious or unconscious biases that eventually are built into an algorithm — the way Nikon camera became internet famous for detecting “someone blinking” when pointed at the face of an Asian person or HP computers were proclaimed racist for not detecting black faces on the camera. Even developers with the best intentions can inadvertently produce systems with biased results, which is why, as the White House report states, “AI needs good data. If the data is incomplete or biased, AI can exacerbate problems of bias.”Even with the positive use cases, the data bias can cause a lot of serious harm to society. Take China’s recent initiative to use machine intelligence to predict and prevent crime. Of course, it makes sense to deploy complex algorithms that can spot a terrorist and prevent crime, but a lot of bad scenarios can happen if there is an existing bias in the training data for those algorithms.It important to note that most of these risks already exist in our lives in some form or another, like when patients are misdiagnosed with cancer and not treated accordingly by doctors or when police officers make intuitive decisions under chaotic conditions. The scale and lack of explainability of machine intelligence will magnify our exposure to these risks and raise a lot of uncomfortable ethical questions like, who is responsible for a wrong prescription by an automated diagnosing AI? A doctor? A developer? Training data provider? This is why complex regulation will be needed to help navigate these issues and provide a framework for resolving the uncomfortable scenarios that AI will inevitably bring into society. Free Webinar | Sept. 9: The Entrepreneur’s Playbook for Going Global Register Now » Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. July 28, 2017 Growing a business sometimes requires thinking outside the box.