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John McCarthy, the American mathematician known universally as the father of Artificial Intelligence, died last Monday at his home in Palo Alto. He was 84.
WEEKEND EDITION's Math Guy, Keith Devlin, knew McCarthy and has this remembrance.
KEITH DEVLIN, BYLINE: I first got to know John McCarthy when I arrived at Stanford as a visiting professor in 1987. He was 60 years old at that time, with a towering and, to me, somewhat daunting, reputation.
The Port of Entry at Nogales, Ariz., is in the midst of a massive upgrade to ease congestion caused by up to 1,500 Mexican trucks crossing each day. Nearly two-thirds of the produce consumed in the U.S. and Canada during the winter come through here.
These Mexican trucks stop at warehouses near the border to transfer their loads to U.S. trucks. That's the way it's long been done. Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, says that adds cost.
It's a huckster's dream: "Try the new Burmese Python Diet. No calorie counting or special foods. Eat whatever comes along, up to a quarter of your body weight. Not only is it good for your waistline; it's good for your heart."
Trouble is, what works in pythons probably won't work for humans.
Pythons employ what scientists call a "sit and wait foraging tactic." In other words, they lie around in a Burmese jungle and wait for the food to come to them. And of course, this can mean months between meals.
Attend just about any of the Occupy Wall Street-inspired protests across the country and you're likely to see a group of people dressed in matching union T-shirts somewhere in the crowd. Typically, they're older than your average Occupy protester but no less enthusiastic in their chanting.
"I've been doing this [protesting] for five decades," said Mike Wisniewski at a recent Occupy Philadelphia protest at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Wisniewski says he's a university library employee and has been a union member since 1972.
A suicide car bomber struck a NATO convoy on the outskirts of Kabul on Saturday, causing casualties among the NATO service members and Afghan civilians, the U.S.-led coalition said. Afghan officials said three civilians and one policeman were killed.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred near Darulaman Palace, the bombed-out seat of former Afghan kings on the southwest outskirts of the capital. It was one of three attacks in the day that targeted either the U.S.-led coalition or Afghan government offices in the country.
A couple of decades ago, Colombian drug cartels dominated smuggling operations into the United States. In recent years, the Mexican cartels have taken over.
But Mexico's brutal drug war over the past five years is now pushing some of the drug trade into the smaller, weaker nations of Central America. And the traffickers are increasingly active in the region's least-populated and most vulnerable country, Belize.
Solar power's image has taken a hit lately with the bankruptcy of Solyndra. The California solar panel manufacturer received more than half a billion dollars in Energy Department loan guarantees before going belly up.
But the industry is still optimistic — that much was apparent at the Solar Power International conference held in Dallas in mid-October. Walking into the big hall of the Dallas Convention Center, it was impossible not to be impressed by the huge array of black solar panels hanging from the ceiling.
This past week, the U.S. dismantled the last of its largest nuclear bombs, the B53.
This was a Dr. Strangelove bomb, conjuring up images of armageddon and apocalypse. At the same time, one of the smallest warheads was also removed from the nuclear arsenal.
These are steps the U.S. is taking apart from its arms control agreements with Russia. And thousands more American nuclear weapons are slated for destruction in a process that could take a decade or more.
Originally published on Fri October 28, 2011 6:39 pm
Yes, it's still October, but the Northeast could be in for quite a snowstorm this weekend. It'll be a "quick, one-day event," says the Weather Channel, but it could dump up to 15 inches in Harrisburg, Pa.; 10 inches in Hartford, Conn.; 12 inches in Concord, N.H.
In all, 619 different groups and corporations said they intend to lobby around the work of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, better known around Capitol Hill as the supercommittee. All of them mentioned the supercommittee or the legislation that created it in their mandatory third-quarter lobbying disclosure forms. Here is an alphabetical list of the organizations:
When Bank of America decided to introduce a $5 per month debit-card fee, consumers weren't happy. One senator even said it amounted to BoA "sticking it to customers."
All that noise might have encouraged JPMorgan Chase & Co. to steer clear. After testing out the concept in Georgia and northern Wisconsin for eight months, the bank said today that it scrapping the pilot next month and would not impose fees anywhere else.
For some people at especially high risk of developing colon cancer, taking a couple aspirin a day appears to help protect them from the disease.
A study in The Lancet finds that people with Lynch syndrome, a hereditary predisposition to cancer of the digestive tract, who took aspirin twice a day for a up to 4 years were about 60 percent less likely to develop colorectal cancer than those who got a placebo.
Originally published on Fri October 28, 2011 4:23 pm
It was a bet made as a joke. Last New Year's eve, California restaurateur Ted Balestreri had then-CIA director Leon Panetta and about 28 others over for a dinner party. He was talking to his guests about his wine collection, when the 141-year-old bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothschild came up.
It was the oldest wine in his possession and Balesteri said he wouldn't serve it, but if Panetta captured Osama bin Laden he would uncork the $10,000 legendary bottle of wine.
Every year, about 8 million tons of fallen leaves end up in landfills.
That's according to Melissa Hopkins of the National Audubon Society, who offers alternatives to raking up leaves and throwing them away.
"A lot of people think that when leaves fall, you need to really quickly scoop them up and get rid of them," she tells NPR's Melissa Block as they take a look Block's backyard in Washington, D.C., covered in a blanket of leaves. "We think about leaves as vitamins. They are free vitamins that naturally occur in your yard."
Federal watchdogs now concede they made a mistake when they criticized the Justice Department for paying $16 each for muffins at a conference. But they also say Justice still needs to be careful about how it spends taxpayer money.
The bloodied face of a 24-year-old Iraq veteran has become a symbol for protesters in Oakland, Calif., drawing attention to the level of force used by police and sparking criticism of the mayor's handling of the Occupy movement.
Scott Olsen came to Occupy Oakland after work Tuesday night to support the protesters. Witnesses say that when clashes broke out, he was struck in the head by a projectile fired by police — either a rubber bullet or a tear gas canister. He was hospitalized with a fractured skull.
Deans from some of the nation's top medical schools met Thursday — not to talk about training doctors or weathering economic challenges — but to size up the people who grade them.
The sit-down between editors at U.S. News & World Report and the top brass at Harvard, Yale, Columbia and several other schools showed how seriously those in medicine's ivory tower take the magazine's annual rankings.
A few years ago, Father Tomasz Trafny was brainstorming with other Vatican officials about what technologies would shape society, and how the Vatican could have an impact. And it hit them: Adult stem cells, which hold the promise of curing the most difficult diseases, are the technology to watch.
"They have not only strong potentiality," says Trafny, "but also they can change our vision of human being[s], and we want to be part of the discussion."
Tunisia, the cradle of the Arab Spring, held its first elections since its longtime dictator was toppled after a popular revolt. The elections were seen as one of the brightest moments in the regional movement.
But, today, it became clear that the path to democracy won't be easy. After the country announced that the Islamist Ennahda party had won 41 percent of the votes and 90 seats of the 217-member assembly, protests erupted across the country.
Ken Ward of the Charleston Gazette has a story this morning featuring a rare interview with the U.S. Attorney for West Virginia, who says prosecutors are exploring more serious charges against senior Massey Energy officials in last year's deadly explosion at the company's Upper Big Branch mine.
Originally published on Fri October 28, 2011 3:31 pm
Consider the last time you ordered a salad at a restaurant. What, precisely, was in it? Chances are you'll remember the biggest, brightest ingredients, like the lettuce, the tomato, maybe the grilled chicken.
But will you remember the little bits — the nuts, berries or toppings? In an age when salads increasingly aspire to be confetti-like piles of artistic greatness, you'd be pardoned if you didn't take note every morsel.