Technology

Anton Petrov’s Tribute to Veteran Cosmonaut and Space Artist, Alexei Leonov

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 17/10/2019 - 5:03am in

Last Friday, 11th October 2019, Alexei Leonov passed away, aged 85. Born on 30th May 1934, Leonov was one of the first Russian cosmonauts and the first man to walk in space. His obituary in yesterday’s I, written by Nataliya Vasilyeva, ran

Alexei Leonov, the legendary Soviet cosmonaut who became the first human to walk in space 54 years ago – and who nearly did not make it back into his space capsule – has died in Moscow aged 85.

Leonov, described by the Russian Space Agency as Cosmonaut No 11, was an icon both in his country as well as in the US. He was such a legend that the late science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke named a Soviet spaceship after him in his sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey, the 1982 novel 2010: Odyssey Two.

Leonov staked his place in space history on 18 March 1965, when he became the first person to walk in space. Secured by a tether, he exited his Voskhod 2 space capsule. “I stepped into that void and I didn’t fall in,” he recalled later. “I was mesmerised by the stars. They were everywhere – up above, down below, to the left, to the right. I can still hear my breath and my heartbeat in that silence.”

Spacewalking always carries a high risk but Leonov’s pioneering venture was particularly nerve-racking, according to details that only became public decades later. His spacesuit had inflated so much in the vacuum of space that he could not get back into the spacecraft. He had to open a valve to release oxygen from his suit to be able to fit through the hatch. Leonov’s 12-minute spacewalk preceded the first American spacewalk, by Ed White, by less than three months.

Leonov was born in 1934 into a large peasant family in western Siberia. Like countless Soviet peasants, his father was arrested and shipped off to Gulag prison camps under Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, but he managed to survive and reunite with his family. 

The future cosmonaut had a strong artistic bent and even thought about going to art school before he enrolled in a pilot training course and, later, an aviation college. Leonov did not give up sketching even in space, and took coloured pencils with him on the Apollo-Soyuz flight in 1975.

That mission was the first between the Soviet Union and the US, carried out at the height of the Cold War. Apollo-Soyuz 19 was a prelude to the international co-operation aboard the current international Space Station.

Nasa offered its sympathies to Leonov’s family, saying it was saddened by his death. “His venture into the vacuum of space began the history of extra-vehicular activity that makes today’s Space Station maintenance possible”, it said in a statement.

“One of the finest people I have ever known,” the Canadian retired astronaut Chris Hadfield wrote. “Alexei Arkhipovich Leonov, artist, leader, spacewalker and friend, I salute you.”

Russian space fans have been laying flowers at his monument on the memorial alley in Moscow that honours Russia’s cosmonauts. Leonov, who will be buried today at a military memorial cemetery outside the Russian capital, is survived by his wife, a daughter and two grandchildren. 

Anton Petrov put up his own personal tribute to the great cosmonaut on YouTube yesterday, 15th October 2019, at his vlog, What Da Math. Petrov posts about astronomy and space, and his video yesterday placed Leonov in his context as one of a series of great Soviet science popularisers before Neil deGrasse Tyson, Brian Greene or Carl Sagan. Petrov shows the stunning paintings done by Leonov with his friend, the science artist Andrei Sokolov. He describes how Leonov’s spacesuit expanded so that he couldn’t enter the capsule, and was forced to let some of the oxygen out. As a result, he nearly lost consciousness. This showed both the Russians and Americans that spacesuits had to be built differently. He also describes how Leonov, during his 12 minutes in space, was profoundly struck by the profound silence. It was so deep he could hear his heart pumping, the blood coursing through his veins, even the sound of his muscles moving over each other.

Petrov states that the Russian cosmonauts did not enjoy the same celebrity status as their American counterparts, who could live off book signings. Many had to support their families with other work. In Leonov’s case, it was painting. He illustrated a number of books, some with his friend Sokolov. These are paintings Petrov uses for the visuals in his video. He considers these books the equivalent to works by modern science educators like Carl Sagan. They were meant to encourage, inspire and educate. Sokolov’s and Leonov’s art was not just beautiful, but very accurate scientifically and included some SF elements. Some of these elements were borrowed by other science fiction writers. the opening shot of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 is somewhat similar to one of Sokolov’s and Leonov’s paintings. This became a joke between the two, with Leonov creating a miniature version for the great American director to keep. Kubrick also borrowed many of the ideas for the movie from the Russian film director, Pavel Kushentsev. An extremely talented cameraman, Kushentsev made films about the first Moon landing, the first space station and the first man in space decades and years before they became reality. And all of his movies were scientifically accurate. Some of his movies are on YouTube, and Petrov gives the links at his site there for this video.

Petrov explains that he is talking about these men because their era has ended with Leonov’s death. Leonov was the last of the five astronauts on the Voskhod programme, and so all the men who inspired youngsters with amazing paintings and film are now gone. He considers it unfortunate that some of their experiences in the last days of their lives were not very happy. They did not live to see the future they depicted, and their paintings were not appreciated by the modern generation. Kushentsev said before his death,

Popular science is dying, because there is no money. No demand. Nobody wants to educate. Everyone just wants to make money everywhere possible. But one mustn’t live like this. This is how animals live. Men have reached the level of animals – all they want to do is eat and sleep. There is no understand that this humanity has passed a certain phase of evolution. We must understand the direction of this evolution. For this, we need culture, we need knowledge. 

Petrov believes Kushentsev’s criticism of modern Russian society also applies more broadly to the modern generation in the West, to all of us as well. We are all doing what he said we shouldn’t – just living for the money, to eat and sleep. Unfortunately, according to Petrov, nothing has changed in the 20 years since his death. But there are people out there in the world working to change this, to produce culture, to inspire and share knowledge. But sometimes the world crushes them, simply because it can. But Petrov says that, like those Soviet men before him, despite not being a famous astronaut or talented artist, or even someone who has very good diction, he will continue doing his part of sealing the hope for humanity, continue the work of these great men and inspire new generations to do things, believe in science and create a better world. Because as Leonov once said,

the Earth was small, light blue and so touchingly alone. Our home that must be defended like a holy relic. The Earth was absolutely round. I believe I never knew what the word ’round’ meant until I saw the Earth from space. 

Petrov concludes ‘Goodbye, comrade, and thank you for all the paintings.

This is the first of two videos about Russian art from that era of space exploration. I’ll post the other up shortly.

I don’t feel quite as pessimistic as Kushentsev. Brian Cox, who’s now taken Sagan’s place as the chief space broadcaster on British television, has attracted record audiences for his stage presentation about science and the universe. There is a massive interest among the public in space and space exploration. At the same time, there are a number of really great science vlogs and channels on YouTube. Petrov’s is one, but I also recommend John Michael Godier and the Science and Futurism channel, presented by Isaac Arthur.

Sokolov’s and Leonov’s paintings, they are of a universe of rich, vibrant colour. Spacesuited figures explores strange, new worlds, tending vast machines. They stand in front of planetary landers somewhat resembling the American lunar module. Or crawl across the landscape in rovers, gazing at horizons above which hang alien, often multiple, suns. The best space art shows worlds you’d like to visit, to see realised. These paintings have this effect. It’s a pity that on the blurb for this video over at YouTube, Petrov says that these paintings come from old postcards, which are difficult to come by. It’s a pity, as they still have the power to provoke wonder and inspire.

I’m not sure Leonov himself was quite so pessimistic. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the main space museum was closed, and many of its exhibits sold off. Before it finally closed its doors to the public, they held a rave in it. I think Leonov was in attendance, sitting at the back with his wife. Someone asked him what he thought of it all. The old space traveler replied that they had found graffiti on the walls on Babylon complaining about the behaviour of the younger generation. ‘It is,’ he said, ‘the young man’s world’. It is indeed, and may cosmonauts, space pioneers, scientists and artists like Leonov, Sokolov, Kushentsev and Kubrick continue to inspire the young men and women of the future to take their strides in the High Frontier.

Video on Proposed Swiss Space Shuttle

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 13/10/2019 - 10:28pm in

This is an interesting little video from Swissinfo on YouTube about Swiss Space Systems, a company set up by engineer Pascal Jaussi, which is developing another space shuttle concept. Jaussi was inspired to become a space scientist as a child after he was given a copy of the Tintin book, Tintin on the Moon. His company’s design for the shuttle will have it taken up to 10,000 metres by a passenger jet acting as the shuttle’s first stage. The shuttle will then leave the jet, flying up to a higher altitude, where it will launch a satellite, which will then ascend to its final orbit using its own rockets. The shuttle is initially intended to be a satellite launcher, but later missions will be crewed.

Jaussi’s company does not intend to develop any new technology, but is simply trying to use and integrate already existing technology from America, France and Russia. This is aided by Switzerland’s neutral status. The American’s would understandably be extremely reluctant to give sensitive technology to the Russian the firm, which is building the engines for Jaussi’s shuttle. They’re the same as those in the Russian Soyuz rocket. The French aerospace firm Dassault is responsible for constructing the shuttle’s airframe. The company’s based in Jaussi’s home town of Payerne, in Vaud canton. He would like to build the launch complex there with another, launch complex without an accompanying crew planned for Croatia. The video also shows the shuttle’s cameras being tested in Canada. The video was posted four years ago in 2014, and states that the first test flights were planned for 2018.

This is another version of the Jet/shuttle combination initially proposed by Sanger in Germany. I’ve already blogged about British shuttle proposals using the same idea, Spacebus and Spacecab, by David Ashcroft and Patrick Collins.  The Swiss design is interesting, but 2018 was last year and the fact that we haven’t heard anything more of this fascinating project suggests that it’s experiencing difficulties. I hope that these are just a minor setback, and that we can look forward to the Swiss joining the other nations now entering a new Space Age, one that will lead to the proper exploration, industrialisation and hopefully colonisation of the solar System.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘I’ Article on Planned British Lunar Rover

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 13/10/2019 - 7:34pm in

Friday’s I for the 11th October 2019 also had a really cool piece of space news. It seems that there are plans to send a British rover, designed by a start-up company, to the Moon in 2021. It is, however, tiny, and looks something like a four-legged, boxy mechanical spider. The article, ‘Give us a lift: Britain’s first lunar rover hitches a ride to the Moon’, by Nina Massey, runs

The UK’s first Moon rover will be sent into space in 2021 – and will be tiny.

Announced at the New Scientist Live event in London’s ExCel, British space start-up SpaceBit created and designed the robot. SpaceBit founder Pavlo Tanasyuk said: “Our goal is to go and see what is available there for all humanity to explore.”

He added that, unlike rovers with wheels or tracks, this robot with its four legs would provide an opportunity for “something a little bit like a human” to explore the lunar surface.

Only three other countries have put a rover on the Moon: the US, Russia and China.

In May, NASA announced that Astrobotic and two other companies had been awarded funding to build lunar landers.

US firm Astrobotic was awarded millions of dollars to carry up to 14 NASA instruments to the Moon, as well as 14 payloads from other partners.

SpaceBit will be one of those partners, sending the rover to the surface inside Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander.

It is expected to land in June or July 2021. Once the lander reaches the Moon, the 1.5kg rover will drop from beneath it to the surface along with other payloads.

It will scuttle across the surface taking measurements and collecting exploration data that can be analysed for scientific and exploration purposes.

It also has two cameras that will enable it to take “robot selfies”, SpaceBit said.

The reason for the legs is that in future lunar missions, the rover will go into lava tubes, which has not been possible before, Mr Tanasyuk said. he added: “It will spend up to 10 days on the Moon before going into the night and basically then freezing for ever.”

The article carried two photographs, one of the rover, and the other of Mr Tanasyuk holding a model of it.

This is great news, as it shows that British entrepreneurs are getting into space exploration. With luck, this rover should do better than the Beagle probe sent to Mars a few years ago. This was intended to find life, but crashed on its surface. SpaceBit join a number of other British space companies that have been set up, like Orbex, now building a spaceport in Scotland, and the expected development of the Skylon spaceplane. It seems that Britain may now be developing a full-fledged space industry, after the cancellation of the British space launcher project in 1975. I wish them God speed, and every success.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hedge Fund-Owned Newspaper Group Outsources Design Abroad, Chasing Higher Dividends

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/10/2019 - 9:00pm in

Tags 

Technology

Investigative journalist Thomas Peele remembers the day he learned that he and fellow reporters at the East Bay Times and the San Jose Mercury News won the Pulitzer Prize for their “relentless” coverage of the deadly Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland, California.

Peele was stunned and, of course, elated that he and his team would be honored for their dogged work covering a tragedy that shook their region.

It was April 2017. One week later, MediaNews Group, owner of the two papers and scores of others around the country, announced plans to move the Bay Area’s copy desk work to Southern California, triggering 20 layoffs from a shrunken roster of fewer than 100 employees in the East Bay newsroom.

In a flash, almost a quarter of the award-winning editorial staff was gone.

“It was a kick in the teeth,” said Peele, who is an officer for the NewsGuild, the union that represents workers at the papers.

The chain’s owners and executives, he said, “didn’t even send a pizza.” But they did send layoff notices, along with “word that our papers would be edited 400 miles away by people we had no relationship with, and who had little knowledge about our region of the state. And we were basically told some stories wouldn’t be copy edited at all.”

“Pulitzer?” he asked. “What Pulitzer?’

It was all part of a growing trend of shifting tasks such as proofreading, copy editing, and page design to “hubs” that would save money. Meanwhile, the papers were profitable, not to mention Pulitzer-winning — but the hedge fund that owned their parent company wanted to skim more off the top.

Two years later, MediaNews Group, better known by its trade name Digital First Media, has decided that shutting down pressrooms, eliminating jobs, and concentrating design and printing into regional hubs hasn’t cut costs enough.

Now it’s outsourcing California news design to the Philippines, paying pennies on the dollar for work that once employed professionals who lived in the communities they served.

An employee in the production department of the design hub, who asked not to be named because of fears he’d be laid off, said Digital First once assured workers that the hubs were key to helping the papers survive. By his count, just before the Philippines contract went into effect in May, the company cut its Southern California design and copy editing pool by a half-dozen people — all on the heels of 65 layoffs across the company’s Southern California newspapers a year earlier.

“They said it was to save money,” he said. “So once we heard everything was being outsourced, we were confused, because we were supposed to be that.”

Computers Covering City Hall?

At the Denver Post, the company is pushing the envelope even further. In bargaining talks with union leaders this summer, Digital First pushed for the right to use artificial intelligence to cover high school sports. They also hope to allow computers to “gather and publish” municipal government news, including “local news stories from suburban communities, school districts and other governmental districts,” according to a company proposal obtained by The Intercept. Denver Post union official Tony Mulligan said the company has already selected a vendor and budgeted money for the prep sports transition.

Of course, artificial intelligence and data mining don’t automatically lead to job loss, and they can be useful tools in the hands of skilled journalists, said Ken Doctor, a media analyst with Nieman Lab.

“The problem is the tools are being used by those who are primarily looking at cost-cutting,” he said. “Actual journalism requires judgment.”

In the midst of this unending budget slashing, Digital First papers are making plenty of money. They netted profits of $159 million in fiscal year 2017, according to Doctor. In fact, Digital First may be the most profitable daily newspaper chain in the industry, earning an average 17 percent annual profit margin in a field where 7 or 8 percent is considered viable. Some of its papers have earned as much as 30 percent, Doctor reported.

In press releases and statements filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission this year, Digital First confirmed its “increased profitability,” which it said grew from 11.6 percent to 16.2 percent between fiscal years 2015 and 2018.

But apparently even “increased profitability” isn’t enough. That’s because Digital First is controlled by the New York hedge fund Alden Global Capital.

Since 2012, when the privately held firm took control of the chain’s hundreds of dailies and weeklies, Alden has treated them like a personal ATM, admitting in court documents that it siphoned hundreds of millions in cash from local papers across the country to gamble on unrelated businesses — many losing propositions — such the Fred’s Pharmacy chain, which on September 9 declared bankruptcy and announced that it was liquidating all its stores and assets. Other court filings show that it invested in Payless ShoeSource, which this year shuttered its more than 2,000 stores.

Under Alden’s stewardship, those companies have shuttered thousands of stores, eliminating a combined 22,000 jobs, while Alden executives and associates took in six-figure compensation packages.

This is a typical strategy for what are known as vulture funds, which push these companies into bankruptcy, preferring to make their money by selling off assets like real estate, extracting maximum profits by slashing payrolls, paying themselves handsomely by serving on the company’s boards, and charging a 2 percent management fee (which, in Alden’s case, adds up to $20 million a year).

Shuttering Newsrooms

I’ve seen firsthand what Alden can do to a company. I worked for one of its papers, the Monterey Herald, until 2015. (I now freelance as a reporter and editor for various media outlets, including websites published by the NewsGuild, the union that represents workers at 13 Digital First newspapers.)

At the Herald, it was bad enough when the hot water heater broke and never got fixed. Then employees had to put plants under the leaky roof to keep the break room from flooding. Then the presses were shut down, the building sold, and we moved into smaller rented digs.

But at least we had an office.

In 2013, Alden quietly set up a mysterious firm called Twenty Lake Holdings to sell off its newspapers’ real estate, which often includes historic buildings in prime downtown locations. In towns from Longmont, Colorado, to Pottstown, Pennsylvania, Alden has closed Digital First offices entirely, forcing reporters to work from other papers’ buildings, printing plants miles from the towns they cover — or from their homes, cars or coffee shops.

Bill Ross, executive director of the NewsGuild of Greater Philadelphia, said that in his region, three Pennsylvania newspapers have closed their offices — in Pottstown, Norristown, and West Chester. These are the papers that, according to Doctor, are earning that stunning 30 percent profit margin.

Evan Brandt, a veteran reporter at the Pottstown Mercury, now works in his attic, “up here with the Christmas decorations.”

Brandt said the biggest challenge is getting breaking news to his community. “The cops reporter doesn’t live in town, so that’s 20 minutes away.”

Local News Going Overseas

In Monrovia, 20 miles northeast of Los Angeles, a Digital First production hub of 33 full-time and three freelance employees puts together 12 daily papers that include the L.A. Daily News, the Orange County Register, the San Jose Mercury News, and a swath of smaller California papers, along with dozens of weekly papers.

But now, even that consolidation effort is apparently not saving enough. Since May, Alden has been shifting design work to the Philippines. Through an outsourcing company called AffinityX, more than 40 California weekly newspapers once designed in Monrovia are now produced in Manila.

In an August 23 email to staff, Digital First’s Southern California News Group managing editor Helayne Perry wrote that “AffinityX has taken over the design of our opinion pages.” There are “rumblings” that page two and local news sections will likely be next, the Monrovia design hub employee said.

Requests for comment to Digital First management went unanswered. An AffinityX spokesperson said company executives declined to comment.

The employment website Glassdoor estimates that AffinityX pays around 18,000 Philippine pesos ($350) a month to designers in its Manila shop. While unverified, that does appear to be the going rate in the region. Pay at AffinityX’s design shop in Pune, India, is even lower, with annual salaries of 191,800 Indian rupees (around $2,700), according to Glassdoor.

The Nieman Lab’s Doctor said news companies have been sending advertising design offshore “for 10 to 15 years now. Everybody was doing it.” And while some companies tested offshoring news design a few years ago, he said this is the first instance he’s aware of a news chain actually doing it.

“With all the regionalization of editing and design, from a cost point of view, it’s a next logical step. It doesn’t surprise me,” he said. “It’s classic offshoring. You just keeping moving to make things cheaper and cheaper. Many of these companies have long ago given shorter shrift to the impact on product quality and journalism quality.”

Or, as the design hub employee put it, “Once they realize how much they’ll be saving, where does it end?”

The post Hedge Fund-Owned Newspaper Group Outsources Design Abroad, Chasing Higher Dividends appeared first on The Intercept.

A Declassified Court Ruling Shows How the FBI Abused NSA Mass Surveillance Data

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 10/10/2019 - 10:00pm in

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court found that the FBI may have violated the rights of potentially millions of Americans — including its own agents and informants — by improperly searching through information obtained by the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance program.

U.S. District Court Judge James E. Boasberg, who serves in the District of Columbia and the FISA court, made his sweeping and condemnatory assessment in October 2018 in a 138-page ruling, which was declassified by the U.S. government this week.

“These opinions reveal devastating problems with the FBI’s backdoor searches, which often resembled fishing expeditions through Americans’ personal emails and online messages.”

To longtime critics of the government’s mass surveillance program, the FBI’s abuses are confirmation that federal law enforcement agents are combing through the communications of Americans without warrants, in violation of Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

“These opinions reveal devastating problems with the FBI’s backdoor searches, which often resembled fishing expeditions through Americans’ personal emails and online messages,” said Patrick Toomey, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project. “But the court did not go nearly far enough to fix those abuses. The Constitution requires FBI agents to get a warrant before they go combing through our sensitive communications.”

The ruling concerns the FBI’s ability to access communications obtained through the NSA’s mass surveillance program, the existence of which was revealed in documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden. Critics of Snowden’s decision to leak classified NSA documents noted at the time that safeguards existed to prevent Americans’ communications from being searched improperly. The declassified FISA court ruling, however, shows that few safeguards existed at all.

The NSA’s mass surveillance program operates as a series of technologies and authorities that allow the government to intercept communications while in transit over the internet, as well as obtain communications directly from at least eight large technology companies without the need for warrants. These authorities, created in 2008 and renewed in 2018 with some minor reforms, are the result of the expansion of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The law created the secret FISA court to oversees its application.

FBI Abuses

Under traditional FISA authorities established in 1978, the U.S. government may intercept the communications of agents of foreign governments and terrorist organizations if the intelligence community can demonstrate legal justification to the FISA court.

The expansion of FISA authorities, known as Section 702, allows for monitoring to be approved in bulk by the court through what is essentially a recipe for mass surveillance. This surveillance cannot legally target Americans but sweeps up all communications that fit the so-called selectors — akin to search terms, as well as other data based on patterns — and can produce enormous amounts of incidentally collected information, including communications from U.S. citizens. This data is stored and can later be searched by government agencies.

DV.load('//www.documentcloud.org/documents/6464604-2018-FISC-Ruling-Shows-How-FBI-Abused-NSA-Mass.js', {
container: '#dcv-6464604-2018-FISC-Ruling-Shows-How-FBI-Abused-NSA-Mass',
height: '450',
sidebar: false,
width: '100%'
});

The declassified FISA court ruling revealed that the FBI is the most prolific miner of data about “U.S. persons,” a legal term that means any U.S. citizen or foreign national legally in the country. Queries of this data are known as “backdoor searches.” In 2017, the FBI ran approximately 3.1 million searches related to U.S. persons, compared to 7,500 combined searches by the CIA and NSA during the same year.

Many of the FBI’s searches were not legally justified because they did not involve a predicated criminal investigation or other proper justification for the search, as required by law, according to Boasberg’s FISA court ruling.

Among the abuses noted in the ruling:

  • During a four-day period in March 2017, the FBI searched mass surveillance data for communications related to an FBI facility, suggesting that agents were spying on other agents.
  • On one day alone, on December 1, 2017, the FBI conducted 6,800 queries using Social Security numbers.
  • A contract linguist for the FBI conducted searches on himself, other FBI employees, and relatives.
  • The FBI regularly used mass surveillance data to investigate potential witnesses and informants who were neither suspected of crimes nor national security concerns.

In a statement to the FISA court, the FBI blamed these problems on “fundamental misunderstandings by some FBI personnel [about] what the standard ‘reasonably likely to return foreign intelligence information’ means.”

Following Boasberg’s ruling, the Justice Department appealed to a three-judge panel that reviews FISA court decisions. After the panel affirmed the ruling, the FBI agreed to change the way agents can search FISA data.

“Assessments” Loophole

A type of FBI investigation known as an “assessment” is one of the primary reasons why the FBI is able to abuse mass surveillance data.

While the law requires that FBI searches of such data be related to investigations in which agents have reasonable suspicion that crimes are occurring or in which national security is at risk, assessments provide an enormous loophole that potentially allows agents to search through the communications of any American without a warrant.

A power created after the 9/11 attacks, assessments allow the FBI to investigate anyone — for reasons as scurrilous as an anonymous tip — suspected of being a potential national security threat. Although the law doesn’t establish a time limit, FBI policy generally limits assessments to 72 hours. Because assessments are de facto national security inquiries, the FBI has viewed this as authority to search mass surveillance data for Americans’ communications.

The FBI refers about 10,000 investigations for prosecution every year, but at the same time, agents have queried FISA data more than 3 million times in a year while investigating Americans. That suggests agents are using assessments to justify most of its backdoor searches of Americans’ communications.

The FBI is also using national security concerns to explain why it does not properly document its reasons for searching through Americans’ communications. The FBI told the FISA court that providing written justification for accessing the data, as required by law, would “hinder the FBI’s ability to perform its national security and public safety missions.”

Evidence of Parallel Construction

One line in the FISA court’s recently declassified ruling adds to a growing body of evidence that the FBI is using a process known as “parallel construction” to secretly enter evidence from the NSA’s mass surveillance program into U.S. District Court for criminal prosecutions. The evidence-gathering technique might be analogized as a way for the FBI to search a home top to bottom before even showing up at the door with a warrant.

As The Intercept revealed in November 2017, documents provided by Snowden showed that the NSA had taken credit for intercepting the communications of Fazliddin Kurbanov, an Idaho man who was convicted at trial of providing material support to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and possessing bomb-making materials. But court records showed that the Justice Department claimed those communications had been acquired through traditional FISA authority, which would have required the FBI to present to the FISA court evidence that Kurbanov was a foreign agent before surveillance could be authorized.

In Kurbanov’s case, the FBI appeared to “launder” evidence obtained improperly through the NSA’s mass surveillance program by acquiring traditional FISA authority after the fact in order to reobtain the evidence through less controversial powers.

Kurbanov’s is one of a number of cases The Intercept found in which the intelligence community claimed that mass surveillance played a role in the case, while the Justice Department maintained in court records that only traditional FISA authority had been used.

In the recently declassified FISA court ruling, Boasberg noted an example that fits this pattern as an inappropriate use of FISA data. On November 11, 2017, the FBI conducted a search of mass surveillance data on “a potential recipient of a FISA order.” In other words, the FBI was able to mine mass surveillance data to find out what evidence agents would discover if they went ahead and requested the FISA order.

The post A Declassified Court Ruling Shows How the FBI Abused NSA Mass Surveillance Data appeared first on The Intercept.

Mark Zuckerberg Buckles and Will Testify to Congress on Facebook’s Cryptocurrency

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 10/10/2019 - 2:54am in

Tags 

Technology

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will be the sole witness to testify before the House Financial Services Committee on October 23 during a hearing on the company’s plans to launch its own cryptocurrency.

Members of the committee had been in talks over whether to allow Zuckerberg to skip the hearing and instead hear from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, but several members pushed for the CEO to appear instead.

The hearing, titled “An Examination of Facebook and Its Impact on the Financial Services and Housing Sectors,” comes three months after Chair Maxine Waters and committee Democrats sent a letter to Facebook calling on the company to suspend plans to launch the cryptocurrency, Libra. The company is also working on a program called Calibra, which would function as a digital wallet for the cryptocurrency.

The committee held another hearing in July on the company’s plans to launch the cryptocurrency, which included discussion of a draft bill that would keep companies like Facebook from operating digital assets functioning as currency, and from being licensed or registered as financial institutions. Calibra CEO David Marcus testified at that hearing.

The post Mark Zuckerberg Buckles and Will Testify to Congress on Facebook’s Cryptocurrency appeared first on The Intercept.

The Nazis and Post-War German Conservatism, The CDU

That determined opponent of all forms of racism and Fascism, and their Jewish version, Zionism, Tony Greenstein, has written a passionate open letter to the mayor of the German city of Aachen, Marcel Philipp. His letter is a protest against Philipp’s decision to withdraw an artistic prize from Raad, a Lebanese-American artist, because Raad supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement against Israeli goods and businesses operating in the Occupied Territories. In his letter, Greenstein shows how the BDS campaign is actually an anti-racist movement, despite the official condemnation of it as anti-Semitic by the Bundestag, the German parliament. Boycotts are the weapon of the oppressed. He notes that it was used against slave-produced sugar from the West Indies, and takes his name from Colonel Boycott, an Irish landlord shunned by his tenants in County Mayo in 19th Ireland. He also points out that the anti-BDS legislation is supported by outright racists and genuine anti-Semites like the Alternative fur Deutschland in Germany and Trump in the US. They do so not because they are friends of Jews, but because they believe that Israel is their real home, and would like the Jewish people in their countries to move there.

Philipp is a member of the CDU, the Christian Democratic Union. This is the German equivalent of our Conservative party, and was formed after the war from the merger of the Catholic Centre Party and a few other parties. Greenstein accuses Philipp himself of racism, due to the presence of former Nazis in the party after the War. He points out that the closest adviser of Conrad Adenauer, Germany’s first post-War Chancellor, was Hans Josef Globke, the legal expert, who drew up the infamous Nuremberg Laws for the Nazis. This was the legislation that put the Nazi social policy of racism, anti-Semitism and vicious discrimination and persecution into official state action. After the War, 77 per cent of legal staff in the German department of justice were former Nazis. At the Eichmann trial, Adenauer was determined to stop any mention of Globke and his role in the Holocaust. And so he sent Israel military aid, including submarines, and assistance with David Ben Gurion’s nuclear programme. 

Greenstein ends his letter

It is perfectly understandable that racists and white supremacists the world over should oppose the Boycott of Israel.  Racists have always opposed the use of BDS.  It is therefore no surprise that as a member of a racist German party should oppose Boycott.

My only message to you Mr Philipp is not to expiate your guilt over the Holocaust at the expense of the Palestinians. It was people like you who were responsible for Auschwitz and Treblinka, not the Arabs of Palestine.

The annihilation of the Jews in the Holocaust is no justification for the racial oppression and genocidal murder of the Palestinians today. Your party was once full of Nazis.  It would seem that old habits die hard.

http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2019/10/open-letter-to-aachens-racist-mayor.html

The letter’s interesting, not just for Tony’s protest about the withdrawal of the prize and efforts by German, American and European Fascists – he also mentions Italy’s Matteo Salvemini, amongst others – supporting and calling for a ban on the BDS movement, but also for the light it sheds on the Nazi past of many members of the CDU. The Baader-Meinhof gang in the 1970s arose because of scandals like this. They were furious that former Nazis like Globke were continuing their lives and careers, untroubled by proper punishment for their horrendous crimes. And as Ken Livingstone pointed out in his 1987 book, Livingstone’s Labour, NATO and the various western intelligence agencies actively recruited them during the Cold War as part of their campaign against Communism.

In fact, the party that consistently fought against the Nazis and their persecution was the SDP and later the KPD, the German Socialists and Communists. These formed resistance cells even after they were formerly banned. Not that German Conservatives were alone in possessing extreme right-wing sympathies. Our own Conservative party and its press, like the Daily Mail, also had Fascist sympathisers before the War, and a Fascist fringe afterwards.

Forget the lies about Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters in the British Labour Party, anti-Semitism is and has always been far more prevalent on the right. Which is why we need to have decent, left-wing parties presenting an alternative to poverty, austerity and neoliberalism in government all over Europe. And to fight all forms of Fascism, even when it tries to present itself as friendly towards Jews, like Zionist imperialism.

Ian Hislop Tackles Fake News with Reassurances about Lamestream Media

I watched Ian Hislop’s Fake News: A True Story last night. I blogged about it a few days ago after reading the blurbs for it in the Radio Times. It seemed to me that part of the reason for the programme’s production was the Beeb, and by extension, the mainstream media as a whole, trying to reassure the public that they were truthful and reliable by tackling what is a genuine problem. I don’t think I was wrong. Hislop is a good presenter, and the programme was well-done, with eye-catching graphics. As you might expect from Hislop’s previous programmes on British heroes and the the British education system, it was strong on history. He pointed out that while Donald Trump used it to described factual news that he didn’t like, because it criticised him, the term actually predated Trump all the way back into the 19th century. He illustrated this with quotes and contemporary cartoons. But it was also a very much an establishment view. The last piece of fake news created by the British state it mentioned was a story concocted during the First World War that the Germans were boiling down human bodies for their fat and other chemicals. It presented the main threat to truthful reporting as coming from the internet, specifically software that allows the mapping of a public figure’s face onto the body of another to create fake footage of them, Alex Jones and Infowars, and, of course, the Russians and their adverts and propaganda for the American election. We were assured that the British state no longer interfered in the politics of other countries. A former BBC official, now running the New York Times, appeared to talk to Hislop about how papers like his now spend their time diligently fact checking stories. He also talked to the MP, who called for an inquiry into fake news in parliament. All very reassuring, and very misleading.

The New York Sun Moon Hoax and the Spanish-American War

The programme began with the 1836 Moon hoax story run by the New York Sun. The Sun was one of the first tabloid newspapers, aimed at a working class audience with the low price of only a cent, a price a sixth that of its competitors. It published a series of articles claiming that an obscure British astronomer had discovered man-bats, unicorns and bison on the Moon. The story ran for six days until it was exposed as a hoax by a rival newspaper. The next item in this list of journalistic infamy was about the attempts by Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst to start a war with Spain in support of Cuban rebels at the end of the 19th century. There wasn’t much fighting going on, and there weren’t any available reports of Spanish atrocities to inflame the patriotic, moral sentiments of the American public. So they made them up. The papers first claimed that a young American woman had been brutally strip-searched by suspicious Spanish male officials. Well, not quite. She had been searched, but privately by a respectable older Spanish woman. When that didn’t work, they seized on an explosion that destroyed an American ship in harbour. In all likelihood, the ship was destroyed by an accident. The papers claimed, however, that it had been destroyed by the Spanish, while issuing a small caveat stating that the cause had yet to be determined. And so the papers got the war they wanted.

The programme then moved on to the American Civil War, and the exploits of one of the world’s first photojournalists. This gentleman used photography to bring home with hitherto unknown realism the horrors of that conflict. But he was not above faking some of the photographs. One of these was of a young Confederate soldier lying dead in a trench. In fact, the photographer had dragged the corpse into the trench from elsewhere, move the head so that it faced the camera to make it even more poignant, and added a rifle that the photographer himself always carried. This little episode was then followed by the story of William Mumler and his faked spirit photographs. Mumler ended up being prosecuted for fraud by one of the papers. However, while the judge sympathised with the papers, the prosecution hadn’t proved how he had faked it. They merely showed he could have done it in nine different ways. And so the case was dismissed, Mumler went back to faking his photos for a satisfied, grieving clientele, one of whom was the widow of Abraham Lincoln.

Deepfake and the Falsification on Online Images

This brought Hislop on to the Deepfake software, used by pornographers for adding the features of respectable actors and actresses onto porn stars. This was used to map Hislop’s own features onto the mug of a dancer, so that he could be shown doing the high kicks and athletic moves. He also interviewed a man, who had used it to parody Barack Obama. Obama’s face was mapped onto a Black actor, who mimicked the former president’s voice. This produced fake footage in which Obama said, with statesman like grace and precision, that Donald Trump was a complete dipsh*t. He also interviewed another young man, who was producing fake stories on the internet, which were nevertheless clearly labeled satire, intended to rile the Alt-Right by feeding their hate and paranoia. Hislop asked him if he wasn’t actually encouraging them. The man stated that he wasn’t converting anyone to the Alt-Right. They were already angry, and stupid if they didn’t read the statements that what they were reacting to was fake. He was just showing up their stupidity.

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion

The programme then moved on to the noxious Tsarist forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which is one of the main sources for the bogus conspiracy theories about the Jews running everything. He pointed out that it was first run in Russian newspaper, which blamed them for introducing capitalism and democracy into Russia. Then in 1917, they were updated to claim that the Jews once again were responsible for the Bolshevik Revolution. Hislop said very clearly, waving a copy of the infamous book he’d managed to get hold of, that it was long and contradictory. It had also been disproved as long ago as the 1920s, when the Times in a series of articles showed that it was based on an 18th century novel that had nothing to do with Jews. This showed how the press could correct fake news. He himself said that, whereas when he started out as journalist, he spent move of his time trying to get new stories, now he spent most of his time checking them. Despite its falsehood, the Protocols were seized on by Goebbels, who insisted that it was spiritually true, if not literally, and had it taught in German schools. This was a different approach to Hitler, who had argued in Mein Kampf that it’s very suppression by the authorities showed that it was true. Nevertheless, the wretched book was still available all over the world, illustrating this with Arabic versions on sale in Cairo bookshop.

Infowars and Pizzagate

The programme also showed a contemporary conspiracy theory. This was the tale spun by Alex Jones on Infowars that the Comet pizza parlour was supplying children to be abused and sacrificed by the evil Democrats. Talking to the parlour’s owner, Hislop heard from the man himself how he and his business still suffer horrendous abuse because of this fake story. But it got worse. One day a few years ago a young man, incensed by what he had heard online, came into the story with a high-powered rifle, wishing to free the children. The conspiracy theory about the place claimed that there was a basement and tunnels running to the White House. The proprietor tried explaining to the man that there was no basement and no tunnels. The gunman went through the building until he found a locked door. He fired a few rounds into it, destroying the store’s computer. Hislop found this ironic, considering computers were the medium that spread it in the first place. The man then lay his gun down, put his arms up and let himself be arrested. It was a peaceful end to a situation which could have resulted in many people dead. But even this horrible incident hadn’t silenced the conspiracy theorists. They still believed that the stories were true, and that the incident had been faked with an actor as a false flag.

Russian Interference

The programme then went on to talk about Russian interference in American politics, and how they had set up a bot army to spread adverts aimed at influencing the result of the American election. RT was deeply involved in this, as the Russian state-owned news service was defending the country and its leader, Putin, from allegations that this had been done. It had also spread lies denying that Russia was responsible for the Skripal poisoning.

British Propaganda and the First World War

Had the British state done anything similar? Yes, in 1917. This was when the War Office, tired of the First World War dragging on, had seized on the news that the Germans were boiling down animal carcasses for their fat, and elaborated it, changing the corpses into human. Some might say, Hislop opined, that this was justified, especially as the German had committed real atrocities. But if we told lies like that, that meant we were no better than they. Stafford Cripps, who served in Churchill’s cabinet during the War, said that if winning it meant using such tactics, he’d rather lose. The fake story about human carcasses also had an unforeseen, and deeply unpleasant aftereffect. Following the realisation that it was fake, the first news of what the Nazis were doing in the concentration camps was also initially disbelieved. We don’t do things like that now, he said. And in a side-swipe at the ‘Dodgy Dossier’ and Saddam Hussein, he said, that no-one would believe stories about a mad dictator possessing weapons of mass destruction.

The Message: Trust the Mainstream Media

Hislop and his interlocutors, like the MP, who’d called for an inquiry into fake news, agreed that it was a real problem, especially as over half of people now got their news from online media. But the problem wasn’t to regard it all with cynicism. That is what the retailers of fake news, like Putin and RT want you to do. They want people to think that it is all lies. No, concluded Hislop, you should treat online information with the same scepticism that should apply to the mainstream media. Because there was such a thing as objective truth.

The Mainstream Media and Its Lies: What the Programme Didn’t Say

Which is absolutely right. There is an awful lot of fake news online. There’s also an awful lot of fake news being retailed, without any objection or scepticism by the lamestream media. And the only people tackling this fake news are the online blogs, vlogs and news sites. I’ve mentioned often before the anti-Semitism smears against Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth, Ken Livingstone, Mike, Martin Odoni, Tony Greenstein, Chris Williamson, and too many others. It’s all fake news, but there is not a word against it in the lamestream press, including the Eye. I’ve also mentioned how the British state during the Cold War had its own disinformation department pushing fake news, the IRD. This also turned to smearing the domestic, democratic Left in the shape of the Labour party and CND by claiming that they had connections to the Communist bloc. And in the case of Labour, that they supported the IRA. This is documented fact. Is it mentioned by the Beeb and the rest of the lamestream media? Don’t be daft! Is it still going on today? Yes, definitely – in the shape of the Democracy Institute and the Institute for Statecraft, which have connections to British intelligence and the cyberwarfare section of the SAS. And they are smearing Corbyn as too close to Putin, along with other European dignitaries, officials and high ranking soldiers. And we might not seek to overthrow government, but the Americans certainly do. The CIA has a long history of this, now given over to the National Endowment for Democracy, which kindly arranged the 2012 Maidan Revolution in Kiev, which threw out the pro-Russian president and installed a pro-Russian one. As for the New York Times, the editors of Counterpunch showed in their book on official propaganda in the American media, End Times: The Death of the Fourth Estate, how the Grey Lady ran a series of articles of fake news to support George Dubya’s invasion of Iraq. The Beeb has also done its fair share of broadcasting fake news. It’s supported the bogus allegations of anti-Semitism against Corbyn and his supporters. It altered the footage of the fighting between police and miners at the Orgreave colliery during the miners’ strike to show falsely the miners attacking the police. In reality, it was the other way round. And then there was the way they edited Alex Salmond in a press conference during the Scottish Referendum. The Macclesfield Goebbels, Nick Robinson, had asked Salmond a question about whether the Edinburgh banking and big financial houses would move south if Scotland gained its independence. Salmond replied with a full answer, explaining that they wouldn’t. This was too much for the Beeb, which edited the footage, subsequently claiming that Salmond hadn’t answered fully, and then denying that he had answered the question at all. It was fake news, courtesy of the Beeb.

Mike and the Sunday Times’ Smears

None of this was mentioned, unsurprisingly. The result is a cosy, reassuring view of the mainstream media. Yes, fake news is out there, but it’s being done by internet loons and nasty foreigners like the Russians. But never fear, all is well. The mainstream media can be trusted to check the facts, and give you the truth. Except that they don’t check the facts, or when they do, immediately ignore them. As Gabriel Pogrund and the editor of the Sunday Times did when they wrote their nasty hit piece on Mike. Pogrund rang Mike up, Mike explained very clearly that he certainly was no kind of Jew-hater and certainly did not deny the Holocaust. Pogrund and his editor ignored that, and published their piece anyway. Complaints to IPSO then followed. Mike won, but some people still continue to believe the lies.

You can’t trust the lamestream media. Instead, I thoroughly recommend you go for corrections and alternative views to the left-wing blogs, vlogs and news sites like Mike’s, Vox Political, Another Angry Voice, Zelo Street, the Skwawkbox, Gordon Dimmack and the American sites, Sam Seder’s Majority Report, The Michael Brooks’ Show, the David Pakman Show, Democracy Now! and the work of Abbie Martin attacking the American Empire and Israeli apartheid and ethnic cleansing. Those sites provide an important corrective to the lies and falsehood being daily fed to us by the lamestream media. Including the Beeb.

 

 

Robot Heavy Metal Band Sing ‘Ace of Spades’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 06/10/2019 - 9:55pm in

More robotics now. I’ve put up a number of pieces about the German all-robot heavy metal band, Compressorhead. I found this video on YouTube yesterday of them playing Motorhead’s ‘Ace of Spades’. They’ve done it before, but this time they’ve got a robot singer for the vocals. As he was in the late 80s SF movie, Hardware, about a war robot going berserk in a devastated future, I feel the late, great Lemmy would have loved it. It even begins with a dedication to him.

The whole style of the piece reminded me of the old ‘Robusters’ strip in 2000AD. In one story, the two heroes, Rojaws and Hammerstein, go to ‘Greasy Gracie’s’, a robot cafe and nightclub. There, as the robotic clientele drink their pints of oil – what else? – other robots dance the light fantastic while a robot band plays hits like ‘I Am Your Automatic Lover’. A few years ago, writer Pat Mills revisited this story. In this version, the two are still helping robots flee Earth and human oppression. However, the strip also draws on the Black experience during slavery and segregation. The Black slaves on the plantations developed the Cakewalk dance as a parody of the airs and graces put on by the White overlords as a piece of very conscious social satire. So robots, the slaves of the future, parody humans by mimicking them dancing. Thus Rojaws and Hammerstein climb onto the stage to perform ‘We Ain’t Got a Barrel of Money’ before the joint is raid by the human police. One of the characters, a robot resistance leader, is a blind bluesman.

‘Greasy Gracie’s’, from ABC Warriors: Return to Robusters, Pat Mills writer, Clint Langley, artist, Annie Parkhouse, letters, (Oxford: Rebellion 2016).

Fortunately for human artists, robots aren’t so intelligent yet that they can actually write songs, except through programmes written for them to produce music like particular artists. But in Compressorhead, Mills’, O’Neil’s – who was the first artist on the ‘Robusters Strip’ – and Clint Langley’s vision of a robot nightclub is coming close to reality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

French Scientists Help Paralysed Man to Walk with Robot Exoskeleton

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 06/10/2019 - 9:04pm in

Friday’s I, for 4th October 2019, also carried the astonishing news that a paralysed man had been able to walk and move his arms using an exoskeleton developed by scientists at the university of Grenoble. The article, ‘Paralysed man walks with help of exoskeleton’ by Rhiannon Williams and Tom Bawden, on page 5 of the newspaper, ran

A paralysed man has been able to move his arms and walk with the assistance of a robotic exoskeleton suit controlled by his thoughts, in a breakthrough that could revolutionise the lives of patients around the world.

The 28-yeard-old man is paralysed from the shoulders down with only partial movement in his biceps and left wrist, meaning he is classified as a tetraplegic and operates a joystick-controlled wheelchair.

Over the course of a two-year trial conducted by French researchers including the University of Grenoble, he was able to move all four of his limbs through brain signals recorded and interpreted by the robotic suit.

The team implanted a recording device between the patient’s brain and skull either side of his head, containing electrodes to collect brain signals and transmit them to a decoding algorithm. Those signals were translated into his desired movements and communicated to the exoskeleton suit to move it, after activating a brain-operated “on” switch. The suit was suspended from the ceiling to allow it to balance correctly.

The patient trained the decoding algorithm to understand his thoughts by using it to move a digital avatar in a video game before raching out for 2D and 3D objects while wearing the suit. He spent 95 days training the algorithm at home playing the game and teaching an avatar to walk onscreen, and a further 45 days operating the suit in the lab. In the first two months, he was able to activate the switch 73 per cent of the time over six sessions, while over 39 sessions he was able to walk over a total of 145m.

The study, published in The Lancet Neurology, has the potential to enhance patient autonomy and quality of life. “Our finds could move us a step closer to helping tetraplegic patients to drive computers using braini signals alone, perhaps starting with driving wheelchairs using brain activity instead of joysticks and progressing to developing an exoskeleton for increased mobility,” said Professor Stephan Chabardes, a neurosurgeon  from the CHU Grenoble-Alpes teachinig hospital. The trial is continuing with three more patients as researchers seek to remove the ceiling-mounted harness.

While the study is a “welcome and exciting advance”, its findings are a long way from reality, said Professor Tom Shakespeare from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “Even if workable, cost contraints mean hi-tech options are never going to be available to most people with spinal cord injury,m” he said. “One analysis suggests only 15 per cent of the world’s disabled population have access to the wheelchairs or other assistive technologies they need.”

A related peace, ‘Success: Real-world results after months of training’ adds

Robotic exoskeletons have been touted for years as a way to increase the mobility of elderly people and those who have limited movement, with global companies such as LG, Honda, Panasonic, Audi and Hyundai among the investors.

The trial’s exoskeleton is operated by a semi-invasive brain-computer system, and is the first of its kind designed for long-term use to activate all four limbs, according to Professor Alim-Louis Benabid, from the University of Grenoble.

‘Previous brain-computer studies have used more invasive recording devices implanted beneath the outermost membrane of the brain, where they eventually stop working. They have been connected to wires, limited to creating movement in just one limb, or have focused on restoring movement to patients’ own muscles’, he said.

The exoskeleton in the trial has 14 degrees of movement, meaning it can move in 14 different ways. Over time the patient progressed from reaching towards targets on cubes using one hand to using both hands to touch targets including rotating both wrists after 16 months. On average, the patient was able to perform tasks between 10 per cent and 20 per cent more successfully with the exoskeleton than by controlling the digital avatar, suggesting he received richer feedback in the real world.

Here’s the picture that accompanied the article of the man wearing the suit.

As the article says, there have been designs for robotic exoskeletons for some time. IN the 50s – 60s American scientists had plans for one. However, only the claw was built because the motors that they were using were so powerful they would have shaken the whole suit apart. Then in the 1990s there were designs for robotic leggings very much like those in the Wallace and Gromit film, The Wrong Trousers. They were designed to help paralysed people to walk. Driven by electric motors and with a computer learning system, the trousers would have first been worn by an able-bodied person. They would have walked about to teach the machine how to do it. After the machine had taken in this information, they would have been passed on to the disabled people needing them. A similar machine appeared in the I a few weeks ago, when it reported the development of robotic shorts.

At the moment, I’m afraid Professor Shakespeare is right, and such exoskeletons are too expensive for general use by the disabled. But hopefully if this technology is improved and developed, the price will come down and something like this machine might become affordable. It would certainly improve disabled people’s quality of life. In the meantime, we could do much by giving far more disabled people throughout the world access to the devices and machines we have now, like wheelchairs, so that far more than 15 per cent of the global disabled population have them. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pages