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Arts Culture STEM Competition Tuesday 16th April 2024 Industry Opinion Local Nations

MLB Launches Investigation into Gambling Allegations Involving Shohei Ohtani's Interpreter

Major League Baseball (MLB) has initiated a formal investigation into gambling allegations involving Ippei Mizuhara, the longtime interpreter for Shohei Ohtani, following Mizuhara's dismissal by the Los Angeles Dodgers amidst conflicting reports regarding money paid for gambling debts.

The investigation was confirmed by Commissioner Rob Manfred's office, which stated that MLB's investigations department had commenced its formal process. The league has been gathering information since learning about the allegations from news reports.

The saga unfolded publicly on Wednesday evening while Ohtani, the Dodgers, and Mizuhara were in Seoul for a series against the San Diego Padres to open the season. ESPN initially reported that Ohtani's lawyers claimed he was the victim of a "massive theft." However, conflicting accounts emerged, with Mizuhara and a spokesperson for Ohtani initially suggesting that Ohtani had willingly paid off gambling losses of at least $4.5 million for Mizuhara.

Despite these claims, Ohtani has not been accused of placing bets. A person familiar with the situation told The Athletic on Friday that Ohtani was not being placed on leave based on the circumstances known when the investigation began.

Mizuhara admitted to ESPN that he had asked Ohtani for help paying off his debts, claiming he had gotten in over his head. Mizuhara stated that he and Ohtani worked together to wire money to a bookmaker who had allowed the wagers to be placed on credit. However, a spokesperson for Ohtani later recanted this account, asserting that Ohtani had not been aware of Mizuhara's gambling activities.

The Associated Press reported on Friday that the IRS was criminally investigating Mizuhara. Ohtani's representatives informed ESPN that they had turned the matter over to law enforcement, though they did not specify which agency.

ESPN published a timeline detailing its reporting on the evolving accounts from Mizuhara, Ohtani's spokesperson, and the superstar's lawyers. A crisis communications specialist for Ohtani, unnamed in the report, claimed that Mizuhara had used his position as interpreter to control communication to and from Ohtani, leading to inconsistent accounts about the situation.

ESPN reached out to Ohtani's agent, Nez Balelo, with evidence of Ohtani's wire transfers on Monday afternoon. Within hours, a newly hired crisis communications manager responded to ESPN, asserting that Ohtani had paid off Mizuhara's gambling debts.

Mizuhara told ESPN in an interview that he met the bookmaker, Mathew Bowyer, at a San Diego poker game in 2021. David Fletcher,a Braves infielder and former teammate of Ohtani's, was present but denied ever betting with Bowyer.

Mizuhara explained that he began betting with Bowyer after their initial meeting. By the end of 2022, Mizuhara had lost $1 million and was seeking financial help from others. He eventually approached Ohtani, who agreed to pay off the debts, and the pair worked together to send several wire transfers.

After the Dodgers' season-opening win in Seoul, Mizuhara and team owner Mark Walter addressed the situation with the team before it became public knowledge. At this point, Ohtani reportedly realized something was amiss and later discovered money missing from his bank account, leading to Mizuhara's dismissal.

Before his termination, Mizuhara admitted to ESPN that he had lied in his initial interview. He denied being paid to take the blame and claimed to be changing his story without coercion. However, Mizuhara denied using his position as an interpreter to misrepresent communications to and from Ohtani.

Mizuhara stated that he never bet on baseball and that Ohtani was not involved in gambling, noting that Ohtani disapproved of gambling and never participated when invited by teammates.

Security Researchers Uncover Vulnerabilities in Hotel Keycard Locks

Every August, Las Vegas hosts the notorious "hacker summer camp," comprising the Black Hat and Defcon hacker conferences. Amidst this gathering, a select group of security researchers were invited to hack a Vegas hotel room, uncovering vulnerabilities in its technology.

Ian Carroll, Lennert Wouters, and their team have revealed a technique named Unsaflok, which exploits security flaws in Saflok-brand RFID-based keycard locks by Dormakaba. These locks, installed on 3 million doors worldwide, are susceptible to a method that allows intruders to open any room with just two taps on a specially crafted keycard.

The researchers discovered weaknesses in Dormakaba's encryption and the MIFARE Classic RFID system, which Saflok keycards use. By reverse-engineering Dormakaba's front desk software, they were able to create a master key that can open any room on a property.

Although Dormakaba is working on a fix, only 36 percent of installed Safloks have been updated so far. The full fix may take months to years to roll out completely. The researchers stress the importance of hotel guests knowing the risks and suggest using the NFC Taginfo app to check if their keycard is still vulnerable.

While there have been no known exploits of Unsaflok, the researchers believe the vulnerability has existed for a long time. They urge caution, advising guests to avoid leaving valuables in their rooms and to use the deadbolt as an additional safety measure.

The discovery underscores the importance of security in hospitality technology and serves as a reminder for businesses to prioritize the security of their systems.

City-Owned Vacant Homes in Baltimore to Be Sold for $1

The Baltimore Board of Estimates approved a program to sell city-owned vacant homes for $1. The decision was made despite objections from City Council President Nick Mosby, who expressed deep concern about the policy. The new pricing structure, approved by a 4-1 vote, will apply to a small group of city-owned homes listed on the Buy Into Bmore website, with rates starting at $1. Mosby, a Democrat, voted against the item, noting that he had proposed a similar program in 2021, which stalled in committee in 2022.

Mosby had previously pushed for a deferral of the new policy, arguing that Mayor Brandon Scott’s administration had not provided sufficient written guidelines to ensure that city residents are given first rights to buy properties and are not displaced when neighborhoods improve. He emphasized the importance of ensuring that sales fit into a broader approach to development that addresses vacancy for entire areas, rather than individual properties.

City housing officials, however, have insisted that guardrails are in place to protect residents. These include a 90-day window during which city residents will have priority to buy properties for renovation and use as their primary residence. The Department of Housing and Community Development also plans to offer a form for residents to indicate interest in buying any vacant property, whether city-owned or otherwise.

Alice Kennedy, the city’s housing commissioner, explained that the pricing policy is part of the city’s property disposition strategy and that there are other programs to help residents and developers financially when they buy properties to rehab.

The $1 price point will be available only for individual buyers and community land trusts. Developers will have to pay $3,000, as will large nonprofits with 51 or more employees, while nonprofits with fewer employees could pay $1,000. The policy also covers vacant lots, which will range in price from $1 to $1,000, based on a similar structure.

The new pricing structure will apply to vacant homes and lots in city neighborhoods with the most stressed housing markets, primarily in East and West Baltimore. However, it will apply to very few of the city's total vacant properties, as fewer than 1,000 of the city's total vacant properties are city-owned, and not all of those are listed on the Buy Into Bmore website.

The program is reminiscent of the city’s “dollar house” program of the 1970s, which offered homes for $1 to residents willing to fix them up and live in them. However, unlike the previous program, the current approach does not include low-interest rate renovation loans for buyers.

The pricing policy is part of a larger plan to address the thousands of vacant homes and lots in the city. Last year, Mayor Scott unveiled a $3 billion plan that calls for a mix of public and private funding to be spent over 15 years to address 35,000 homes, including down payment and closing cost assistance.

Nneka N’namdi, a Baltimore housing advocate, expressed support for the fixed pricing policy but emphasized the need for conditions that prioritize existing residents and prevent slumlords and land speculators from participating. She also stressed the importance of offering financial assistance to buyers to help them rehabilitate properties.

In response, Mayor Scott committed to developing an anti-displacement and equity policy and creating a public-facing tracking tool for “whole block” development. He also pledged quarterly reports to the city council on the demographics of buyers and an annual review of the program’s effectiveness.

Mosby, however, argued that N’namdi’s demands were not being met by the city’s current policies governing the $1 sales, emphasizing the need to ensure that the policy is in place to protect residents.


Biden Administration Forgives $6 Billion in Student Debt for Public Service Workers

President Joe Biden announced on Thursday that his administration will forgive approximately $6 billion in student loans for 78,000 public service workers. This relief is part of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, which is designed for employees of government agencies or nonprofit organizations such as teachers, nurses, and social workers.

This announcement brings the total loan forgiveness under the Biden administration to $144 billion for approximately 4 million borrowers. Just a month ago, Biden announced $1.2 billion in loan forgiveness for 150,000 borrowers eligible for a special benefit in the new affordable repayment plan developed by his administration.

Many borrowers have expressed that student debt has hindered their ability to achieve milestones such as homeownership and starting families. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona emphasized that the Biden-Harris administration is committed to fixing logistical issues and expanding opportunities for more Americans.

Before Biden took office, only 7,000 borrowers had all their student debt relieved under the PSLF program, leading to criticisms that the program and the student loan system were broken. Since then, over 871,000 borrowers enrolled in PSLF have had their loan debt canceled.

Public service workers selected for relief can expect to receive emails next week informing them of this development. Additionally, about 380,000 other PSLF borrowers who are not yet eligible for forgiveness will receive emails notifying them that they will qualify for cancellation within one or two years if they remain employed in public service jobs.

President Biden has reiterated his commitment to addressing the student debt crisis, which now exceeds $1.7 trillion, and the soaring costs of higher education. His administration has increased the maximum amount of the Pell grant to $7,395 during the 2023-24 school year and proposed a further 10% increase earlier this month.

While campaigning for president, Biden vowed to address the challenges posed by student debt. Despite the Supreme Court striking down the administration's plan for sweeping debt forgiveness, the Biden administration has implemented incremental relief measures to provide targeted relief to subsets of borrowers.

Boeing Under Fire: The Revelations of John Barnett's Complaint

Lawyers representing the late Boeing whistleblower John Barnett have made public the complaints central to a federal labor lawsuit he filed against the aerospace giant prior to his passing.

Barnett, whose body was discovered in his truck at a Holiday Inn in Charleston on March 9, had lodged a 32-page document outlining allegations of reprisal by Boeing. This came after he provided depositions in preparation for the federal trial scheduled for July.

The law firm of Robert M. Turkewitz, LLC, released a redacted copy of Barnett's Amended Complaint, filed on May 4, 2021, along with the court's decision of May 31, 2022, which denied Boeing's Partial Motion to Dismiss.

Barnett's complaint, filed under the AIR-21 Act with the U.S. Dept. of Labor's Administrative Law Court, alleges that Boeing retaliated against him for raising concerns about safety and quality control practices at Boeing South Carolina (BSC), where he worked for seven years.

The complaint details instances where Barnett asserts he was marginalized, harassed, and denied professional opportunities due to his efforts to address what he described as a "deep-rooted and persistent culture of concealment" at Boeing.

Boeing, in response to inquiries, expressed condolences for Barnett's passing and stated that it had addressed quality issues raised by Barnett prior to his retirement in 2017, as well as other issues mentioned in his complaint.

Barnett's lawyers are currently appealing the OSHA investigation decision that denied his claim, indicating that the case is ongoing.

Barnett's complaint seeks various forms of relief, including back pay, lost bonuses, and damages for emotional distress, among others.

The revelations in Barnett's complaint shed light on the challenges faced by whistleblowers and the complexities of addressing safety and quality concerns within large corporations.

The Complete Calvin and Hobbes

Bill Watterson

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The Wealth of Nations

Adam Smith

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Legal Battle Over Frida Kahlo's Legacy

The Frida Kahlo Corporation has initiated legal proceedings against online vendors for unauthorized use of the artist's likeness and art. The corporation, holding the trademark, is seeking to halt the reproduction of Kahlo's works without permission.

In the lawsuits filed on March 4, the corporation demanded that Amazon sellers either surrender profits from the alleged counterfeit products or pay $2 million for each infringement of the trademark. The company asserts that the defendants' products are nearly identical or substantially similar to Kahlo's works, violating U.S. trademark law.

Following Kahlo's death in 1954 without a will, her property rights passed to her niece, Isolda Pinedo Kahlo. Isolda's daughter, Maria Cristina Romeo Pinedo, received power of attorney over these rights in 2003. The Frida Kahlo Corporation was established the following year in Panama City to manage the licensing and commercialization of the "Frida Kahlo" brand worldwide. The corporation now controls over two dozen trademarks associated with Kahlo.

The lawsuits claim that the online merchants used fictitious names to sell products on Amazon and other platforms, obtaining them from a common source. The corporation also alleges that the defendants communicate and collaborate to evade detection and discuss pending litigation and potential lawsuits.

This is not the first legal dispute involving Kahlo's brand. In 2018, the Frida Kahlo Corporation filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for Southern Florida against Kahlo's great-niece and her daughter, accusing them of trademark infringement. The conflict escalated following Mattel's release of a Barbie doll in Kahlo's likeness, with Kahlo's relatives contesting the corporation's licensing rights. A Mexican court ruled in favor of the relatives, ordering the doll's discontinuation in Mexican stores. Mattel claimed to have obtained permission from the Frida Kahlo Corporation.

These legal battles are complicated by Kahlo's political legacy. Inspired by the Mexican Revolution and later aligned with Communist and anti-imperialist causes, Kahlo was critical of capitalist systems in the United States and Europe. Her political beliefs add depth to the legal disputes over her image and legacy.

In conclusion, the Frida Kahlo Corporation's legal actions highlight the ongoing efforts to protect Kahlo's legacy and intellectual property rights. The lawsuits against Amazon sellers underscore the corporation's commitment to preserving the integrity of Kahlo's work and image.

Hydropower Shortfall Leads to Record Global Emissions in 2023

In 2023, global emissions hit a record high, with a significant portion of the blame falling on hydropower. Droughts around the world led to a drop in generation from hydroelectric plants, forcing a reliance on fossil fuels to fill the gap.

Hydropower, a key source of renewable electricity, faced unprecedented challenges due to weather conditions last year. The decrease in hydropower generation contributed to a 1.1% rise in total energy-related emissions in 2023, with hydropower accounting for 40% of that increase, according to a report from the International Energy Agency.

Hydroelectric power plants use dams to create reservoirs, allowing water to flow through the power plant as needed to generate electricity. This flexibility is valuable for the grid, especially compared to less controllable renewables like wind and solar. However, hydropower is still dependent on weather patterns for reservoir filling, making it vulnerable to droughts.

The world added approximately 20 gigawatts of hydropower capacity in 2023. However, weather conditions caused a decrease in the overall electricity generated from hydropower. China and North America were particularly affected by droughts, leading to increased reliance on fossil fuels to meet energy demands.

Climate change is expected to further impact hydropower generation. Rising temperatures will lead to more frequent and severe droughts, while warmer winters will reduce snowpack and ice that fill reservoirs. More variability in precipitation patterns will also affect hydropower generation, with extreme rainfall events causing flooding instead of storing water for later use.

While hydropower is not expected to disappear, the future grid will need to be resilient to weather variations. A diverse range of electricity sources, combined with robust transmission infrastructure, will help mitigate the impacts of climate change on energy generation.

In conclusion, the challenges faced by hydropower in 2023 highlight the need for a flexible and diverse energy mix to meet climate goals in the face of a changing climate.

Apple's $1 Billion Bet on a Car It Never Built

Apple Inc. invested nearly $1 billion annually over the past decade in a quest to develop a revolutionary self-driving car, only to announce its decision to abandon the project. The ambitious venture, known internally as Project Titan, faced numerous challenges and changes in direction, ultimately culminating in its discontinuation.

The project's origins can be traced back to Steve Jobs, who envisioned Apple expanding into the automotive industry to complement its presence in consumer electronics. In 2014, under the leadership of CEO Tim Cook, Apple explored acquiring Tesla but ultimately decided against it due to concerns about the automotive industry's low profit margins.

Instead, Apple launched Project Titan, assembling a team of hundreds of engineers from the automotive industry. The project aimed to create a car with Level 5 autonomy, capable of driving entirely on its own. However, internal disagreements and technical challenges led to multiple redesigns and delays.

The project's head, Doug Field, proposed scaling back the self-driving goals to Level 3, which requires human intervention. Still, Apple's leadership insisted on pursuing Level 5 autonomy, highlighting the internal struggles and indecision that plagued the project.

Despite the ambitious designs, including a microbus-inspired prototype and discussions with various automakers for partnerships, Apple never progressed beyond testing on private tracks. The company explored partnerships with Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and others, but these efforts did not materialize into tangible outcomes.

In 2016, Bob Mansfield, a respected figure at Apple, took over Project Titan and shifted the focus to autonomous software rather than building a car. This decision led to significant layoffs and a reevaluation of the project's direction.

Under Mansfield's leadership, Apple continued to explore partnerships and considered producing a self-driving shuttle with Volkswagen for its employees. However, this initiative was also abandoned, signaling the ongoing challenges and setbacks faced by the project.

In 2024, Apple finally announced the end of Project Titan, citing a shift in focus to other areas. The decision resulted in the reorganization of the Special Projects Group, with some employees transitioning to other divisions within Apple, while others were laid off.

Despite the substantial investments and efforts, Apple's foray into the automotive industry ultimately ended without a tangible product. The project's demise serves as a cautionary tale of the challenges of entering new industries and the importance of strategic decision-making in product development.

The legacy of Project Titan will be remembered as a bold but unsuccessful endeavor that pushed the boundaries of innovation but ultimately failed to deliver a groundbreaking product.


Gangs Wreak Havoc in Haiti With Unprecedented Violence

Criminal gangs, wielding more power than Haiti's state security forces, have launched violent attacks on prisons and the airport serving Port-au-Prince, the country's capital. This has led to the closure of businesses and schools, forcing an estimated 15,000 people from their homes. The situation has escalated to a point where the U.N.'s top human rights official has deemed it "beyond untenable," with over 1,190 people killed since the start of 2024 alone. Efforts to send international help have so far been unsuccessful.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk has urgently called for the deployment of a multinational security force to support Haiti's struggling police and military, citing the lack of a realistic alternative to protect lives.

Recent developments include a surge in violence on Feb. 29, as Prime Minister Ariel Henry traveled to Kenya to seek U.N.-backed support against the gangs. Upon his absence, prominent gang leader Jimmy "Barbecue" Cherizier announced the alliance of his group, G9, with other gangs to pressure Henry to resign.

Finance Minister Patrick Boivert, acting as Haiti's prime minister in Henry's absence, declared a state of emergency on March 3, imposing an evening curfew to regain control of the situation. Despite mounting pressure, Henry has not been able to return to Haiti, landing instead in Puerto Rico after being denied entry to the Dominican Republic.

Haiti's long-standing instability stems from government corruption and violent political unrest. The nation has faced challenges exacerbated by powerful earthquakes in 2010 and 2021, which claimed thousands of lives and crippled infrastructure. The current crisis intensified in 2021 with the assassination of then-Prime Minister Jovenel Moïse, leading to Henry's appointment amidst economic and political turmoil.

Gangs in Haiti, estimated at 200 with 23 main factions in Port-au-Prince, have expanded their control to about 80% of the capital. They have grown more powerful due to smuggled firearms and ransom payments, surpassing the state's weakening authority. Recent reports indicate the gangs' acquisition of high-caliber weapons has transformed the country's violence landscape, posing significant challenges to security forces.

The situation in Haiti remains critical, with urgent international intervention needed to address the escalating violence and instability.

A Modest Proposal: Jonathan Swift's Satirical Essay

"A Modest Proposal," written by Jonathan Swift in 1729, is a Juvenalian satirical essay that suggests a shocking solution to ease the economic troubles of impoverished Irish people: selling their children as food to rich gentlemen and ladies. This hyperbolic proposal is a critique of heartless attitudes towards the poor, particularly the Irish Catholic population, and British policies towards the Irish.

Swift's essay is renowned for its sustained irony and shock value. It begins by vividly describing the plight of starving beggars in Ireland, leading readers to expect a serious proposal. However, the essay takes a surprising turn when Swift proposes that well-nursed, healthy children can be a delicious and nourishing food. He even provides detailed suggestions for preparing and cooking the children, as well as calculations to show the financial benefits of his suggestion.

The essay also critiques the can-do spirit of the times, which led to illogical schemes to solve social and economic issues. Swift mocks projects that proposed simplistic solutions to complex problems, such as the idea of running the poor through a joint-stock company.

In addition to criticizing these projects, Swift targets the calculating way people perceived the poor, viewing them as commodities. He uses statistical analysis ironically to show the absurdity of trying to justify cruelty with dispassionate statistics.

Swift's rhetorical style persuades readers to detest the speaker and pity the Irish. He creates sympathy for the Irish and disdain for the narrator, who shows emotion only for his own class. Swift also degrades the Irish by using language usually reserved for animals, highlighting the dehumanization of the poor.

Scholars have speculated about the influences on Swift's essay. It has been compared to Tertullian's Apology, which satirically attacked early Roman persecution of Christianity. Swift's work also responds to Daniel Defoe's essay on preventing murder and other abuses, as well as Bernard Mandeville's proposal for public bordellos.

Swift's essay was met with backlash in British society, with members of the aristocracy responding to it. Despite its controversial nature, "A Modest Proposal" is considered a masterpiece of satire and is studied in literature courses as an example of early modern western satire. It continues to be relevant today, serving as a critique of simplistic solutions to complex social and economic issues.

In conclusion, Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" remains a powerful and provocative work that challenges readers to confront their assumptions about poverty, society, and human nature.

The Iliad & the Odyssey


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Lord of the Rings Box Set

J.R.R. Tolkien

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