Sep 15, 2023


Robots are pouring drinks in Vegas. As AI grows, the city's workers brace for change

Walk any direction in Las Vegas and it's easy to find machines doing human work.

Check-in kiosks have replaced people at the front desk of hotels. Text-bots now make restaurant recommendations instead of a concierge. Robots can serve food, and behind the bar, machines are pouring out drinks.

Automation and technology replacing jobs has long been a conversation in Nevada's most populated city. Studies show that between 38% to 65% of jobs there could be automated by 2035.

With the use of artificial intelligence on the rise, the economy of this city --which relies on tourism and hospitality — is at an inflection point, as companies look to technology to reduce labor costs.

Silicon Valley's latest hype: Eyeball-scanning silver orbs to confirm you're human

Silicon Valley has a new shiny toy.

It's a silver orb outfitted with eyeball-scanning cameras intended to distinguish humans from machines in the era of ever-developing artificial intelligence.

In an office in Santa Monica, Calif., I sit on a small couch waiting to prove my humanity, peering directly at a spherical object that has been compared to a "decapitated robot head."

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In Nairobi, Kenya's capital, some people who lined up said in local interviews that they were unemployed and heard about the project as a way to make a quick buck, unaware that their biometric data was being hoovered up.

Recently, Kenyan authorities raided Worldcoin's Nairobi warehouse, citing a "lack of clarity on the security and storage" of residents' eyeball scans.

Judge Puts Masterson Away for 30 Years: ‘You Are Not the Victim Here’

Actor and Scientologist Danny Masterson will spend at least the next 30 years behind bars, following a conviction for violently raping two women at his Hollywood Hills home.

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“You relish in hurting women,” one of Masterson’s victims said, according to a reporter who was in the courtroom. “It is your addiction. It is without question your favorite thing to do.”

She called him a “true coward” and a “heartless monster,” and recommended that Masterson consider making the most of his time behind bars by reading and educating himself. Amid it all, the woman, who said the situation at one point had her considering suicide, told Masterson that she forgave him.

The other woman said the legal ordeal has been “filled with attempts [by the Church of Scientology] to silence us all, to intimidate us and even obstruct.” “I still have to contend with what you did to me that night,” she said, adding that she will need therapy for life.

Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick not competent to stand trial in Wellesley sex abuse case

A judge ruled Wednesday that a 93-year-old former Roman Catholic cardinal is not competent to stand trial after both prosecutors and defense attorneys determined he suffers from dementia, and dismissed charges he sexually assaulted a teenage boy in Massachusetts decades ago.

Theodore McCarrick, the ex-archbishop of Washington, D.C., was defrocked by Pope Francis in 2019 after an internal Vatican investigation determined he sexually molested adults as well as children. The case created a credibility crisis for the church, as the Vatican had reports from authoritative cardinals dating to 1999 that McCarrick's behavior was problematic, yet he became an influential cardinal, kingmaker and emissary of the Holy See's "soft diplomacy."

During Wednesday's hearing, a psychologist hired by the prosecution said she found significant deficits in McCarrick's memory during two interviews in June, and he was often unable to recall what they had discussed from one hour to the next. Dr. Kerry Nelligan said she administered a number of tests on two occasions in June. As with any form of dementia, she said there are no medications that could improve the symptoms.

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"In spite of the criminal court's decision today," [attorney Mitchell] Garabedian said following Wednesday's hearing, "many clergy sexual abuse victims feel as though former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick is and will always be the permanent personification of evil within the Catholic Church."

In a first, New Orleans priest accused of abusing minors admits wrongdoing

For the first time ever, one of the New Orleans Catholic church’s most strongly suspected abusers has publicly admitted that he sexually abused or harassed several teenagers during his career as a priest. He’s also described himself as remorseful yet unsure if he’s deserving of any criminal consequences.

Lawrence Hecker gave the rare admission when reporters for the Guardian and local news outlet WWL-TV asked him to discuss a statement he gave to New Orleans church leaders in 1999. In the statement, he acknowledged committing “overtly sexual acts” with at least three underage boys in the late 1960s and 1970s and revealed his close relationships with four others stretching into the 1980s.

In recent years, Hecker has given various interviews and repeatedly denied touching children inappropriately. But the Guardian obtained a copy of the 24-year-old statement Hecker gave to church leaders, which prompted the questions posed to Hecker in this latest interview.

Asked if he did the specific sexual acts he laid out in the statement, Hecker twice said, “Yes,” while being recorded on video. He also claimed that society was more permissive of such behavior at the time, even though Louisiana’s age of consent to have sex in the 1960s and 70s was the same as it is now: 17.

Teen’s Family 'Extremely Fearful' for Her Life After She Fled to Italy With Exorcist Priest

Alex Crow, 30, was a priest who listened to confessions at the McGill-Toolen High School in Mobile, also visiting classes and chaperoning trips with high school students. This summer, he traveled to Europe with a just-turned 18-year-old, whose name is being withheld in case she was a victim of juvenile crime. At first, Mobile authorities said they did not believe the relationship was sexual in nature, but they’ve since released two letters Crow wrote that suggest otherwise, including a love letter to the teen for Valentine’s Day. In that note, he professed his love for her, claimed they’re married, and said he tried to steal her some flowers from a Virgin Mary statue, “but there were too many people around.”

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Lagniappe Mobile reports that former students said Crow often screamed about demons and tried to perform exorcisms on and in front of students, including on a trip to Guatemala in 2022. Parents have complained about Crow to the Archdiocese of Mobile, and County Sheriff Paul Burch said they told Crow to stay away from another young woman in the past. Parents at the school were worried he was “brainwashing” their children, performing exorcisms on them and providing alcohol for them at bonfires. One parent said their child has refused to come home after Crow convinced them their household was controlled by demons.

But it doesn’t seem like much was done about the priest, as he was still able to go with a group of students to Italy in June. It was only after Crow and the 18-year-old fled to Europe that the Archdiocese decided he exhibited behavior “unbecoming of a priest” and that he “may no longer exercise ministry as a priest.”

Former youth minister enters guilty plea in child molestation case

The former youth minister of a Floyd County church faces up to 40 years in prison after entering a guilty plea to child molestation charges on Tuesday.

When Austin Wray Perkins was arrested on March 9, 2022, as part of a sting targeting child pornography, a release from the Floyd County Police Department stated that he was victimizing a minor who was living at his home and Perkins was also creating explicit videos.

Perkins, 26, pleaded guilty in a non-negotiated plea to one count of felony child molestation and one count of felony sexual exploitation of children in Floyd County Superior Court. Both charges carry the potential of 20 years in prison and each have a five-year mandatory minimum sentence.

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According to a police statement at the time of his arrest, Perkins took the child — who had no family or support — into his home and molested him. Perkins also coached the child about how to act in pornographic videos with himself. During that time, Perkins was also a youth minister at Grace Fellowship Baptist Church.

Ancient priest's remains are a first-of-a-kind find for Peru team

A group of Japanese and Peruvian archaeologists have discovered the 3,000-year-old tomb of a priest alongside ceramic offerings in northern Peru.

"We have recently discovered the tomb of a 3,000-year-old figure at the Pacopampa archaeological site," in the Cajamarca region, 900 kilometers (560 miles) north of Lima, archaeologist Juan Pablo Villanueva told AFP on Saturday.

"He is one of the first priests in the Andes to have a series of offerings," the researcher said, adding that "the funerary context is intact."

. . .

"The find is extremely important because he is one of the first priests to begin to control the temples in the country's northern Andes," Japanese archaeologist Yuji Seki, who has been working at the site for 18 years, told AFP.

4 exceptionally preserved Roman swords discovered in a Dead Sea cave in Israel

Four Roman-era swords, their wooden and leather hilts and scabbards and steel blades exquisitely preserved after 1,900 years in a desert cave, surfaced in a recent excavation by Israeli archaeologists near the Dead Sea, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Wednesday.

The cache of exceptionally intact artifacts was found about two months ago and tells a story of empire and rebellion, of long-distance conquest and local insurrection.

Researchers, who published the preliminary findings in a newly released book, propose that the arms — four swords and the head of a javelin, known as a pilum — were stashed in the remote cavern by Jewish rebels during an uprising against the Roman Empire in the 130s.

. . .

The cool, arid and stable climate of the desert caves has allowed exceptional preservation of organic remains, including hundreds of ancient parchment fragments known as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

A new look at Ötzi the Iceman’s DNA reveals new ancestry and other surprises

A new look at the Iceman’s DNA reveals that his ancestors weren’t who scientists previously thought.

In 2012, scientists compiled a complete picture of Ötzi’s genome; it suggested that the frozen mummy found melting out of a glacier in the Tyrolean Alps had ancestors from the Caspian steppe (SN: 2/28/12). But something didn’t add up.

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As Ötzi and other ancient people’s DNA illustrate, the skin color genetic changes took thousands of years to become commonplace in Europe.

“People that lived in Europe between 40,000 years ago and 8,000 years ago were as dark as people in Africa, which makes a lot of sense because [Africa is] where humans came from,” [Johannes Krause of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany] says. “We have always imagined that [Europeans] became light-skinned much faster. But now it seems that this happened actually quite late in human history.”

Early human ancestors turned stones into spheres on purpose, study suggests

Early ancestors of humans 1.4m years ago deliberately made stones into spheres, according to a study – though what the prehistoric people used the balls for remains a mystery.

Archaeologists have long debated exactly how the tennis ball-sized “spheroids” were created. Did early hominins intentionally chip away at them with the aim of crafting a perfect sphere, or were they merely the accidental byproduct of repeatedly smashing the stones like ancient hammers?

Research led by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem suggests our ancestors knew what they were doing.

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The early hominins – exactly which human lineage they belonged to remains unknown – had “attempted to achieve the Platonic ideal of a sphere”, they said.

Earth just had its hottest summer on record, U.N. says, warning "climate breakdown has begun"

"Earth just had its hottest three months on record," the United Nations weather agency said Wednesday.

"The dog days of summer are not just barking, they are biting," warned U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a statement coinciding with the release of the latest data from the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) by the World Meteorological Organization.

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The WMO's Secretary-General, Petteri Taalas, issued an urgent assessment of the data, saying: "The northern hemisphere just had a summer of extremes — with repeated heatwaves fueling devastating wildfires, harming health, disrupting daily lives and wreaking a lasting toll on the environment."

Taalas said that in the southern hemisphere, meanwhile, the seasonal shrinkage of Antarctic Sea ice "was literally off the charts, and the global sea surface temperature was once again at a new record."

We could soon be getting energy from solar power harvested in space

The idea of space-based solar power (SBSP) – using satellites to collect energy from the sun and “beam” it to collection points on Earth – has been around since at least the late 1960s. Despite its huge potential, the concept has not gained sufficient traction due to cost and technological hurdles.

Can some of these problems now be solved? If so, SBSP could become a vital part of the world’s transition away from fossil fuels to green energy.

We already harvest energy from the sun. It’s collected directly through what we generally call solar power. This comprises different technologies such as photovoltaics (PV) and solar-thermal energy. The sun’s energy is also gathered indirectly: wind energy is an example of this, because breezes are generated by uneven heating of the atmosphere by the sun.

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Numerous designs have been proposed since the first concept by Peter Glaser in 1968.

A ufologist claims to show 2 alien corpses to Mexico's Congress

Jaime Maussan, a self-described ufologist, brought two caskets into the congressional chambers. As Maussan spoke, two men uncovered the caskets, to reveal two bodies.

The corpses looked white and like stereotypical depictions of aliens — big head, little body, three fingers. Maussan said they were found in Peru in 2017 and are estimated to be 1,000 years old. One of the bodies had been pregnant, he claimed.

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During Tuesday's hearing, José de Jesús Zalce Benítez, a forensic expert and a military doctor, walked the Congress through scans of the alleged alien bodies.

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The hearing also included remarks by Ryan Graves, executive director of the Americans for Safe Aerospace organization. A former Navy fighter pilot, Graves was one of three U.S. veterans who testified in front of a U.S. congressional subcommittee investigating the existence of UFOs in July.

Mexico's Congress also was shown videos of Mexican pilots struggling to make sense of fast-moving flying objects before them.

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