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Messages - AgelessDrifter

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Eliezer Yudkowsky is also impressed

(from Facebook)

People occasionally ask me about signs that the remaining timeline might be short. It's *very* easy for nonprofessionals to take too much alarm too easily. Deep Blue beating Kasparov at chess was *not* such a sign. Robotic cars are *not* such a sign.
This is.
"Here we introduce a new approach to computer Go that uses ‘value networks’ to evaluate board positions and ‘policy networks’ to select moves... Without any lookahead search, the neural networks play Go at the level of state-of-the-art Monte Carlo tree search programs that simulate thousands of random games of self-play. We also introduce a new search algorithm that combines Monte Carlo simulation with value and policy networks. Using this search algorithm, our program AlphaGo achieved a 99.8% winning rate against other Go programs, and defeated the human European Go champion by 5 games to 0."
As the authors observe, this represents a break of at least one decade faster than trend in computer Go.
This matches something I've previously named in private conversation as a warning sign - sharply above-trend performance at Go from a neural algorithm. What this indicates is not that deep learning in particular is going to be the Game Over algorithm. Rather, the background variables are looking more like "Human neural intelligence is not that complicated and current algorithms are touching on keystone, foundational aspects of it." What's alarming is not this particular breakthrough, but what it implies about the general background settings of the computational universe.
To try spelling out the details more explicitly, Go is a game that is very computationally difficult for traditional chess-style techniques. Human masters learn to play Go very intuitively, because the human cortical algorithm turns out to generalize well. If deep learning can do something similar, *plus* (a previous real sign) have a single network architecture learn to play loads of different old computer games, that may indicate we're starting to get into the range of "neural algorithms that generalize well, the way that the human cortical algorithm generalizes well".
This result also supports that "Everything always stays on a smooth exponential trend, you don't get discontinuous competence boosts from new algorithmic insights" is false even for the non-recursive case, but that was already obvious from my perspective. Evidence that's more easily interpreted by a wider set of eyes is always helpful, I guess.
Next sign up might be, e.g., a similar discontinuous jump in machine programming ability - not to human level, but to doing things previously considered impossibly difficult for AI algorithms.
I hope that everyone in 2005 who tried to eyeball the AI alignment problem, and concluded with their own eyeballs that we had until 2050 to start really worrying about it, enjoyed their use of whatever resources they decided not to devote to the problem at that time.

Here's the link to the actual paper in Nature

Experts say it's a major breakthrough. All the compsci kids in my facebook newsfeed have been geeking out.

IN A MAJOR breakthrough for artificial intelligence, a computing system developed by Google researchers in Great Britain has beaten a top human player at the game of Go, the ancient Eastern contest of strategy and intuition that has bedeviled AI experts for decades.

Machines have topped the best humans at most games held up as measures of human intellect, including chess, Scrabble, Othello, even Jeopardy!. But with Go—a 2,500-year-old game that’s exponentially more complex than chess—human grandmasters have maintained an edge over even the most agile computing systems. Earlier this month, top AI experts outside of Google questioned whether a breakthrough could occur anytime soon, and as recently as last year, many believed another decade would pass before a machine could beat the top humans.

But Google has done just that. “It happened faster than I thought,” says Rémi Coulom, the French researcher behind what was previously the world’s top artificially intelligent Go player.

In theory, such training only produces a system that's as good as the best humans---not better. So researchers matched their AI system against itself.
Researchers at DeepMind—a self-professed “Apollo program for AI” that Google acquired in 2014—staged this machine-versus-man contest in October, at the company’s offices in London. The DeepMind system, dubbed AlphaGo, matched its artificial wits against Fan Hui, Europe’s reigning Go champion, and the AI system went undefeated in five games witnessed by an editor from the journal Nature and an arbiter representing the British Go Federation. “It was one of the most exciting moments in my career, both as a researcher and as an editor,” the Nature editor, Dr. Tanguy Chouard, said during a conference call with reporters on Tuesday.

This morning, Nature published a paper describing DeepMind’s system, which makes clever use of, among other techniques, an increasingly important AI technology called deep learning. Using a vast collection of Go moves from expert players—about 30 million moves in total—DeepMind researchers trained their system to play Go on its own. But this was merely a first step. In theory, such training only produces a system as good as the best humans. To beat the best, the researchers then matched their system against itself. This allowed them to generate a new collection of moves they could then use to train a new AI player that could top a grandmaster.

“The most significant aspect of all this…is that AlphaGo isn’t just an expert system, built with handcrafted rules,” says Demis Hassabis, who oversees DeepMind. “Instead, it uses general machine-learning techniques how to win at Go.”

'Go is implicit. It's all pattern matching. But that's what deep learning does very well.'
The win is more than a novelty. Online services like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, already use deep learning to identify images, recognize spoken words, and understand natural language. DeepMind’s techniques, which combine deep learning with a technology called reinforcement learning and other methods, point the way to a future where real-world robots can learn to perform physical tasks and respond to their environment. “It’s a natural fit for robotics,” Hassabis says.

He also believes these methods can accelerate scientific research. He envisions scientists working alongside artificially intelligent systems that can home in on areas of research likely to be fruitful. “The system could process much larger volumes of data and surface the structural insight to the human expert in a way that is much more efficient—or maybe not possible for the human expert,” Hassabis explains. “The system could even suggest a way forward that might point the human expert to a breakthrough.”

But at the moment, Go remains his primary concern. After beating a grandmaster behind closed doors, Hassabis and his team aim to beat one of the world’s top players in a public forum. In mid-March, in South Korea, AlphaGo will challenge Lee Sedol, who holds more international titles than all but one player and has won the most over the past decade. Hassabis sees him as “the Roger Federer of the Go world.”

Judging by Appearances
In early 2014, Coulom’s Go-playing program, Crazystone, challenged grandmaster Norimoto Yoda at a tournament in Japan. And it won. But the win came with caveat: the machine had a four-move head start, a significant advantage. At the time, Coulom predicted that it would be another 10 years before machines beat the best players without a head start.

The challenge lies in the nature of the game. Even the most powerful supercomputers lack the processing power to analyze the results of every possible move in any reasonable amount of time. When Deep Blue topped world chess champion Gary Kasparov in 1997, it did so with what’s called brute force. In essence, IBM’s supercomputer analyzed the outcome of every possible move, looking further ahead than any human possibly could. That’s simply not possible with Go. In chess, at any given turn, there are an average 35 possible moves. With Go—in which two players compete with polished stones on 19-by-19 grid—there are 250. And each of those 250 has another 250, and so on. As Hassabis points out, there are more possible positions on a Go board than atoms in the universe.

Players will tell you to make moves based on the general appearance of the board, not by closely analyzing how each move will play out.
Using a technique called a Monte Carlo tree search, systems like Crazystone can look pretty far ahead. And in conjunction with other techniques, they can pare down the field of possibilities they must analyze. In the end, they can beat some talented players—but not the best. Among grandmasters, moves are rather intuitive. Players will tell you to make moves based on the general appearance of the board, not by closely analyzing how each move might play out. “Good positions look good,” says Hassabis, himself a Go player. “It seems to follow some kind of aesthetic. That’s why it has been such a fascinating game for thousands of years.”

But as 2014 gave way to 2015, several AI experts, including researchers at the University of Edinburgh and Facebook as well as the team at DeepMind, started applying deep learning to the Go problem. The idea was the technology could mimic the human intuition that Go requires. “Go is implicit. It’s all pattern matching,” says Hassabis. “But that’s what deep learning does very well.”

Deep learning relies on what are called neural networks—networks of hardware and software that approximate the web of neurons in the human brain. These networks don’t operate by brute force or handcrafted rules. They analyze large amounts of data in an effort to “learn” a particular task. Feed enough photos of a wombat into a neural net, and it can learn to identify a wombat. Feed it enough spoken words, and it can learn to recognize what you say. Feed it enough Go moves, and it can learn to play Go.

 Google and Facebook Race to Solve the Ancient Game of Go With AI
Google and Facebook Race to Solve the Ancient Game of Go With AI
 The Mystery of Go, the Ancient Game That Computers Still Can't Win
The Mystery of Go, the Ancient Game That Computers Still Can’t Win
 Google Just Open Sourced TensorFlow, Its Artificial Intelligence Engine
Google Just Open Sourced TensorFlow, Its Artificial Intelligence Engine
At DeepMind and Edinburgh and Facebook, researchers hoped neural networks could master Go by “looking” at board positions, much like a human plays. As Facebook showed in a recent research paper, the technique works quite well. By pairing deep learning and the Monte Carlo Tree method, Facebook beat some human players—though not Crazystone and other top creations.

But DeepMind pushes this idea much further. After training on 30 million human moves, a DeepMind neural net could predict the next human move about 57 percent of the time—an impressive number (the previous record was 44 percent). Then Hassabis and team matched this neural net against slightly different versions of itself through what’s called reinforcement learning. Essentially, as the neural nets play each other, the system tracks which move brings the most reward—the most territory on the board. Over time, it gets better and better at recognizing which moves will work and which won’t.

“AlphaGo learned to discover new strategies for itself, by playing millions of games between its neural networks, against themselves, and gradually improving,” says DeepMind researcher David Silver.

According to Silver, this allowed AlphaGo to top other Go-playing AI systems, including Crazystone. Then the researchers fed the results into a second neural network. Grabbing the moves suggested by the first, it uses many of the same techniques to look ahead to the result of each move. This is similar to what older systems like Deep Blue would do with chess, except that the system is learning as it goes along, as it analyzes more data—not exploring every possible outcome through brute force. In this way, AlphaGo learned to beat not only existing AI programs but a top human as well.

Dedicated Silicon
Like most state-of-the-art neural networks, DeepMind’s system runs atop machines equipped with graphics processing units, or GPUs. These chips were originally designed to render images for games and other graphics-intensive applications. But as it turns out, they’re also well suited to deep learning. Hassabis says DeepMind’s system works pretty well on a single computer equipped with a decent number of GPU chips, but for the match against Fan Hui, the researchers used a larger network of computers that spanned about 170 GPU cards and 1,200 standard processors, or CPUs. This larger computer network both trained the system and played the actual game, drawing on the results of the training.

When AlphaGo plays the world champion in South Korea, Hassabiss team will use the same setup, though they’re constantly working to improve it. That means they’ll need an Internet connection to play Lee Sedol. “We’re laying down our own fiber,” Hassabis says.


According to Coulom and others, topping the world champion will be more challenging than topping Fan Hui. But Coulom is betting on DeepMind. He has spent the past decade trying to build a system capable of beating the world’s best players, and now, he believes that system is here. “I’m busy buying some GPUs,” he says.

Go Forth
The importance of AlphaGo is enormous. The same techniques could be applied not only to robotics and scientific research, but so many other tasks, from Siri-like mobile digital assistants to financial investments. “You can apply it to any adversarial problem—anything that you can conceive of as a game, where strategy matters,” says Chris Nicholson, founder of the deep learning startup Skymind. “That includes war or business or [financial] trading.”

For some, that’s a worrying thing—especially when they consider that DeepMind’s system is, in more ways than one, teaching itself to play Go. The system isn’t just learning from data provided by humans. It’s learning by playing itself, by generating its own data. In recent months, Tesla founder Elon Musk and others have voiced concerns that such AI system eventually could exceed human intelligence and potentially break free from our control.

But DeepMind’s system is very much under the control of Hassabis and his researchers. And though they used it to crack a remarkably complex game, it is still just a game. Indeed, AlphaGo is a long way from real human intelligence—much less superintelligence. “This is a highly structured situation,” says Ryan Calo, an AI-focused law professor and the founder of the Tech Policy Lab at the University of Washington. “It’s not really human-level understanding.” But it points in the direction. If DeepMind’s AI can understand Go, then maybe it can understand a whole lot more. “What if the universe,” Calo says, “is just a giant game of Go?”


The Census Bureau has reported that 15% of Americans live in poverty. A shocking figure. But it’s actually much worse. Inequality is spreading like a shadowy disease through our country, infecting more and more households, and leaving a shrinking number of financially secure families to maintain the charade of prosperity.

1. Almost half of Americans had NO assets in 2009

Analysis of  Economic Policy Institute data shows that Mitt Romney’s famous  47 percent, the alleged ‘takers,’ have taken nothing. Their debt exceeded their assets in 2009.

2. It’s Even Worse 3 Years Later

Since the recession, the disparities have continued to grow. An  OECD report states that “inequality has increased by more over the past three years to the end of 2010 than in the previous twelve,” with the U.S. experiencing one of the widest gaps among OECD countries. The 30-year  decline in wages has worsened since the recession, as low-wage jobs have replaced formerly secure middle-income positions.

3. Based on wage figures, half of Americans are in or near poverty.

The IRS reports that the highest wage in the bottom half of earners is about $34,000. To be eligible for food assistance, a family can earn up to  130% of the federal  poverty line, or about $30,000 for a family of four.

Even the Census Bureau recognizes that its own  figures under-represent the number of people in poverty. Its  Supplemental Poverty Measure increases, by 50%, the number of Americans who earn between one-half and two times the poverty threshold.

4. Based on household expense totals, poverty is creeping into the top half of America.

A family in the top half, making $60,000 per year, will have their income reduced by a total tax bill of about $15,000 ($3,000 for  federal income tax and $12,000 for  payroll, state, and local taxes. The  Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau agree that food, housing, and transportation expenses will deduct another $30,000, and that total household expenditures will be about $50,000. That leaves nothing.

Nothing, that is, except debt. The median  debt level rose to $75,600 in 2009, while the median family  net worth, according to the Federal Reserve, dropped from $126,400 in 2007 to $77,300 in 2010.

5. Putting it in Perspective

Inequality is at its ugliest for the hungriest people. While food support was being targeted for  cuts, just  20 rich Americans made as much from their 2012 investments as the entire  2012 SNAP (food assistance) budget, which serves 47 million people.

And as Congress continues to cut life-sustaining programs, its members should note that their 400 friends on the  Forbes list made more from their stock market gains last year than the total amount of the  food, housing, and education budgets combined.

There are links to sources (2nd hand, though, mostly, from the look of it) in the article if you go to the link.

General Discussion / Re: Most violent cities
« on: January 27, 2016, 08:06:28 PM »
You guys are fucking dumb

I'm not saying the list is meaningful, I'm saying that if it signified what it claimed to, the outcome wouldn't be especially surprising.

General Discussion / Re: Most violent cities
« on: January 27, 2016, 06:41:46 PM »
A bit of surprise on some of these for me.

Really? New Orleans was the only one that wasn't like "yeah, duh" for me out of the cities whose names I recognized and even that was just more of an "eh, I guess I could see that."

Well hitlers fascism wasn't really a cogent political ideology as much as a random amalgamation of ideologies which he took parts from as needed


Reminded me of this article I read a while ago that argues the opposite and was somewhat interesting, if tangential

Spamalot / Re: Broad City
« on: January 26, 2016, 07:00:14 PM »
I like it. Sooome of the humor falls flat once in a while but overall it's really fucking funny and v well made. I feel like you've talked about it before, though, no, Qub? Did you just watch it for the first time now?

I can't believe it took me this long to notice that Donald is misspelled in this thread's title.

General Discussion / Re: your news sources
« on: January 25, 2016, 11:39:58 PM »
and then when i get home and "watch TV" with the GF (aka read more fucking news)

al jazeera and chill


Bernie Sanders could be the next Ronald Reagan
Believe it or not, the democratic socialist from Vermont could be a game-changer for American politics

Whether you love him or hate him, no one can rightly deny that Ronald Reagan was a transformative president. As President Obama put it before he was elected:

“I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that, you know, Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not.”

The election of Reagan signaled an end to the New Deal era, which had endured for nearly half a century. After the 1980s, American politics shifted steadily to the right of the political spectrum, with Bill Clinton accelerating the Reagan revolution with his bi-partisan neoliberal reforms. This is why Reagan remains such a beloved figure for those on the right. Even though he would be considered a RINO today, he is worshipped by Republicans, while loathed by progressives. (And yet, most progressives would probably choose Reagan over any current GOP presidential candidate.)

After serving almost as many years as Reagan, President Obama recently compared himself to the 40th president, more or less saying that he was the Democrat’s Reagan, while the next Democratic president (i.e. Hillary Clinton) by that logic would be Bush 41. Unfortunately for progressives, however, Obama cannot really be considered the Democrat’s Reagan. He has been much less transformative than supporters once expected him to be, and he has not fundamentally altered America’s trajectory, as Reagan undoubtedly did.

Sadly, this is partially due to him being a black man, which many white Americans simply weren’t ready for — but more to do with his politics, as I discuss below.

The most significant difference between Reagan and Obama is that the former was an idealist, while the latter is a pragmatist. Or, as Felix Salmon put it in a recent article: Reagan was a hedgehog and Obama is a fox. These labels were first popularized by the great philosopher, Isaiah Berlin, in his essay, “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” which divided historical writers and thinkers (and human beings in general) into the two categories, based on a line from the Greek poet, Archilochus, saying: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

Berlin wrote:

“There exists a great chasm between those, on one side, who relate everything to a single central vision, one system, less or more coherent or articulate, in terms of which they understand, think and feel – a single, universal, organizing principle in terms of which alone all that they are and say has significance – and, on the other side, those who pursue many ends, often unrelated and even contradictory, connected, if at all, only in some de facto way, for some psychological or physiological cause, related to no moral or aesthetic principle.”

Reagan had a central vision and a rigid political philosophy, and was largely unconcerned with details — indeed, as William Leuchtenburg puts it in his new book, “The American President,”

“No one had ever entered the White House so grossly ill-informed.”

The 40th president was the antithesis of a policy wonk, and often could not answer reporters basic questions about national security and other subjects of importance. For many, he was just plain dumb. Indeed, a decade before he entered the highest office in the land, President Richard Nixon and his then National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, discussed Reagan — then Governor of California — on the phone, saying that he was “shallow” and of “limited mental capacity.” But the real jewel comes in their contemplating a possible Reagan presidency:

“Can you think though, Henry, can you think, though, that Reagan, with certain forces running in the direction, could be sitting right here?” asked the president, to which Kissinger simply replied: “Inconceivable.”

What Reagan lacked in brain power he made up with in grandfatherly charm and ideological persistence. Reagan put forth a vision that the government was not the solution, but the problem in need of a solution. He railed against the New Deal era, which had come about with the last genuinely transformative president before him, Franklin Roosevelt. Prior to FDR, the government had little place in making sure people were employed and treated and paid fairly as workers, as well as ensuring an economy and political system that was not entirely tilted in favor of the capitalist class.

This New Deal philosophy, which favored unions and economic regulation, came to an end under Reagan. (As I have previously written, the most notable Republican president during the New Deal era, Dwight Eisenhower, wouldn’t dare go after New Deal policies, which were tremendously popular.) The former B-movie actor took a stand against unions, slashed taxes on the wealthy, deregulated the financial sector, and so on. It was a pro-capital counterrevolution that ushered in what we now call the neoliberal era. After Reagan, the party of FDR shifted its philosophy to the right of Richard Nixon’s. Bill Clinton’s declaration that “the era of big government is over,” was a stark contrast to Nixon’s earlier claim that “we’re all Keynesians now.”

While President Obama is certainly historic in being the first African American president, he has not ushered in any kind of paradigm shift, as Roosevelt and Reagan did before him. Sadly, we are still living in a broadly neoliberal, pro-capital country and world, and Obama has governed only slightly to the left of Bill Clinton. And, while  Hillary Clinton has attempted to promote herself as a pragmatic populist, one would have to be awfully uninformed to expect any kind of political transformation with her at the helm. Clinton is more of a poll-driven political realist than Obama, without much of a discernible ideology. Using Berlin’s terminology, she is the epitome of a fox, and would almost certainly govern to the right of our current president.

So it is that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt), who is a hedgehog like Reagan, is the only current presidential candidate who could potentially bring Reagan-style transformation if elected. Like Reagan, Sanders has a central vision, with policy ideas that wouldn’t stand a chance of passing in our current Congress. His goal is to bring forth a “political revolution,” just as Reagan did. When Reagan ran for president, he captured the vote of many former Democrats — namely, Reagan Democrats. Today, Sanders wants to recapture their vote. And, like Reagan, the idea of Sanders becoming president was “inconceivable” to the establishment not too long ago. For many, it still is.

The similarities don’t stop there. Reagan was one of the most personally liked presidents in recent history, and Sanders has the best favorability and trustworthy ratings of all the current presidential candidates, Democrat or Republican. He has a stubborn passion that Reagan once brought to the White House, though on the opposite side of the political spectrum. Of course, the fact that Sanders would overtake Reagan as the oldest president-elect in history is purely coincidental.

It should be recalled that, unlike FDR’s presidency, the Reagan was largely a failure when it came to enacting actual policy. After slashing taxes in his first year, he would go on to raise taxes seven times later on in order to make up for lost revenue (although he refused to call them tax hikes, instead saying “revenue enhancements”). He promised to cut social spending and dismantle government agencies, yet ended up adding one of the biggest agency’s, the Department of Veterans Affairs. He also ran against abortion and advocated a constitutional amendment ending it, but never seriously attempted this once in office. The most successful aspect of Reagan’s presidency had less to do with policy, and more to do with shifting the debate and convincing American’s that the government was the problem. He forced Democrat’s to abandon the New Deal philosophy, and Bill Clinton led the way in reforming his party.


“The Presidency is not merely an administrative office,” said FDR in 1932, during his first presidential campaign. “That is the least of it. It is pre-eminently a place of moral leadership. All of our great Presidents were leaders of thought at times when certain historic ideas in the life of the nation had to be clarified.”

Seven years ago, many believed that Obama would be the latest transformative president to lead America through a conversion of thought. As George Packer wrote in The New Yorker:

“The new era that is about to begin under President Obama will be more about public good than about private goods. The meal will be smaller, and have less interesting flavors, but it will be shared more fairly. The great American improvisation called democracy still bends along the curve of history. It has not yet finished astounding the world.”

Today, economic inequality has grown worse, political spending has skyrocketed, big banks are bigger than ever, and Obama is fighting hard for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which some have called “NAFTA on steroids.”

So much for that transformative change.

One could argue that, if Sanders was elected president, he would inevitably disappoint, just like Obama. But he is a fundamentally different kind of politician. He is personally more like Reagan than Obama. And the differences don’t end with personality; perhaps one of the biggest difference between Obama 2008 and Sanders 2016 is that Obama’s largest contributor was Goldman Sachs, while the average donation to the Sanders campaign is about $27. Sanders believes in moral leadership, which starts with refusing to play by the current set of rules, where special interests hold politicians hostage. If that is not a sign of a transformative leadership, I don’t know what is.

Interesting way to frame it.

General Discussion / Re: For the art enthusiasts out there...
« on: January 25, 2016, 07:43:07 PM »
but anyway taket I don't think the character selection was based on merit or accomplishment so much as prestige. It's no less weird to picture the queen taking a shit than either president even if she is a figurehead. In fact since the whole basis of her position is rooted in bearing a certain air of transcendence I'd say she's the *most* appropriate choice for this sort of piece.

General Discussion / Re: For the art enthusiasts out there...
« on: January 25, 2016, 07:35:30 PM »
For all the art enthusiasts out there...

F[...]art enthusiasts out there...

General Discussion / Re: Old guys with crushing handshakes
« on: January 25, 2016, 05:22:41 PM »
whenever i run across this i can't help but feel like they're trying way too hard to have a strong handshake

General Discussion / Re: your news sources
« on: January 25, 2016, 10:03:16 AM »
The only source I consult for information about the present and future society is old Fzoul posts

General Discussion / Re: TZT Gridiron Experts Symposium 2015
« on: January 25, 2016, 12:31:35 AM »
All this time I thought this thread was about basketball

ok the extra e is on me but the d and t are v close together in dvorak :nope:


MEXICO CITY — The rapid spread of the Zika virus has prompted Latin American governments to urge women not to get pregnant for up to two years, an extraordinary precaution aimed at avoiding birth defects believed to be linked to the mosquito-borne illness.

What until recently was a seemingly routine public health problem for countries that are home to a certain type of mosquito has morphed into a potentially culture-shaping phenomenon in which the populations of several nations have been asked to delay procreation. The World Health Organization says at least 20 countries or territories in the region, including Barbados and Bolivia, Guadeloupe and Guatemala, Puerto Rico and Panama, have registered transmission of the virus.

[Here’s a quick explanation of Zika]

Although the Zika virus has been documented since the 1940s, it began its assault on Latin America in the past several months. The hardest-hit country has been Brazil, where more than 1 million people have contracted the virus. In the past four months, authorities have received reports of nearly 4,000 cases in which Zika may have caused microcephaly in newborns. The condition results in an abnormally small head and is associated with incomplete brain development. Colombia, which shares an Amazonian border with Brazil, reacted to its own Zika outbreak, numbering more than 13,000 cases, by urging women not to get pregnant in the next several months. Other countries, including Jamaica and Honduras, also have urged women to delay having babies.

After more than 5,000 suspected Zika cases were reported last year and in the first weeks of 2016, El Salvador on Thursday took the most extreme stance so far: Deputy Health Minister Eduardo Espinoza urged women to refrain from getting pregnant before 2018. The Central American nation saw its first suspected Zika cases in November and sent samples to the United States to be tested for the virus, Espinoza said in an interview.
What you need to know about the Zika virus
Play Video1:10
Authorities have confirmed a dozen cases of Zika virus in the United States. Here’s what you need to know. (Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post)

“The recommendation is that people plan their pregnancies, that they avoid if at all possible to have babies this year,” Espinoza said. “This is the first time that we have suffered an attack of Zika virus, and the first attack is always the worst.”

A campaign to delay pregnancy would seem to be an implicit endorsement of birth control. For a region that is majority Roman Catholic, this presents a potential conflict, as the church has long condemned contraception. The Rev. Hector Figueroa, a priest in charge of health issues in the San Salvador archdiocese, said that the pregnancy alert appeared in the Salvadoran news media Friday morning and that the archbishop had not had time to formulate an official response.

“Morality says that people shouldn’t have that control” over procreation, Figueroa said. “But the church also isn’t going to say something that runs contrary to life and health.”

“This is a very delicate issue,” he said.

As in other countries in the region, Salvadoran authorities have tried to slow the spread of Zika by launching fumigation programs in mosquito-breeding areas. Radio and television public-service campaigns have called on pregnant women to cover their skin to avoid bites.

Outside the National Maternity Hospital in San Salvador, Selina Velasquez Cortez, a 30-year-old employee of a sardine factory who has been trying to get pregnant for two years, said there is no way she will stop trying now.

“After so much time wanting to be a mother, I’m not going to give up now” because of the deputy health minister’s statement, she declared. “I think it’s absurd.”

Most people who have contracted the illness experience no symptoms. But Dinora Martinez, a 46-year-old secretary at a private health clinic in San Salvador, said she, her husband and their two adult sons had suffered when they contracted the virus in 2015.

“Pain, fever, aching joints. I couldn’t move my feet and thought I’d never be able to walk again,” she said. Her office has seen a rise in the number of Zika patients.

“The clinic has been full,” she said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday added eight to a list of 14 countries and territories it has urged pregnant U.S. women to avoid because of the risk associated with Zika outbreaks. So far there is no vaccine for the virus.

Zika is spread by two types of Aedes mosquitoes, which carry a clutch of fever-causing pathogens as they buzz in search of fresh blood. Besides the Zika virus, the mosquitoes transmit dengue, chikungunya and yellow fevers. An adult who contracts Zika might find the experience relatively mild: a slight fever, a rash, and pain in the joints and behind the eyes.

But the real devastation apparently strikes the children born to women with the illness, who can have permanent physical and mental defects, according to research in Brazil linking a surge in the number of microcephaly cases to Zika. There is also growing concern that Zika virus could be linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome, which can result in weeks of paralysis.

In the city of Santa Marta on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, a nurse in the maternity ward at the Clinica La Milagrosa said that the news about Zika and possible birth defects has scared many people. At least 500 of Colombia’s reported Zika cases involve pregnant women, according to the Health Ministry.

“There are women coming in really worried,” said the nurse, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “With everything that’s on the news about malformations, mothers are scared.”

Health Minister Alejandro Gaviria has advised Colombians to delay pregnancy for the next six to eight months. So far, 106 babies have been born to Zika-infected mothers, and the infants are under observation to determine whether their development has been affected by the virus, the ministry said. Colombia expects as many as 700,000 infections in the general population.



With less than two weeks to go until the Iowa caucus, Donald Trump remains characteristically confident about his chances. In fact, the Republican front-runner is so confident, he says his supporters would stay loyal even if he happened to commit a capital offense.

"I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters, OK?" Trump remarked at a campaign stop at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa. "It's, like, incredible."

The businessman, whose Trump Tower stands on the major Manhattan thoroughfare, cracked the joke Saturday to a receptive audience at the Christian college.

Reached by CNN immediately after the event, Trump declined to clarify the statement. On Twitter, he remarked on the rally, saying, "Just left Sioux Center, Iowa. My speech was very well received. Truly great people! Packed house- overflow!"

NPR's Don Gonyea reports that so far, the reaction to Trump's remarks has followed a familiar pattern.

"His audiences love it. His opponents try to use it against him — but so far, to no avail," Gonyea reports. "I talked to some of his supporters and they say, 'Yeah, sometimes he makes me cringe, but I still like him and I still think he's the right thing for America.' "

One supporter, who spoke to ABC News, said he found Trump's point clear — but mentioned Trump could have articulated it differently.

"He probably could've worded it a little bit better," campaign volunteer Brandon Fokkema said.

It was the first of two planned events in Iowa on Saturday for the presidential hopeful. The state's first-in-the-nation caucuses pick their preferred nominees from both parties on Feb. 1.


General Discussion / The Walk
« on: January 23, 2016, 09:18:38 AM »
Went and saw it on a whim. Hadn't seen the ads, just knew it was JGL as the guy from Man on Wire.

Might be really cool in IMAX--I saw it in regular 3D and it definitely had me muttering "nope,nope,nope" with sweaty palms at a point or two.

Wouldn't bother in 2D or at home though--it's a pretty cut-n-dry Oscar season drama. JGL does a great job of course (I can't comment on his French accent, though; to me for whatever reason 100% of French accents sound fake, even when they're real. I have no idea why French, specifically, has this effect on me). Nothing else really stands out, though. Probably didn't help that I had to read Japanese subtitles  for the French parts (distracting because I'm not fluent, of course, but also Japanese subtitles always lose a shitload in translation) but all the English dialogue is pretty perfunctory so I doubt it made that big a difference.

Sanders has said fairly frequently that he has no illusions that he's going to be able to change things unless the momentum that carries him into office segues into an enduring political awareness and activity from the electorate after the fact (which is admittedly highly unlikely)

But to me the big difference is that while Obama compromised constantly because he knew he couldn't get the country where he thought it should go by forcing radical changes, my impression of Hillary doesn't really leave me thinking there's actually even a direction she wants to take the country. It kinda just seems like she does whatever's politically beneficial at a given moment. I'm not sure she's not just as likely to wind up /actively/ undoing progress as she is to fail to make progress because of compromise.

Even before I knew anything about his politics after watching a few seconds of footage of Cruz I was amazed the guy had managed to get so far in politics. He just seems so slimey and yet so transparent. It's like he's a child playing a badguy senator in a school play. He's always got this squint like he's trying to make himself look placid and wise but it's so obviously affected.

I'm not sure which'd be worse as president. If we're gonna have shitty backwards leadership maybe the uncharismatic Cor maybe I should say even more uncharismatic) one would do less damage.

But then obviously since he's so uncharismatic and got this far he must have *some* actual political knowhow. Whereas I'm not sure how far all Trump's huffing and puffing would get him once he had to actually start trying to convince career politicians in congress etc to do what he wants.

General Discussion / Re: Now taking bets on ninth planet
« on: January 22, 2016, 01:14:41 AM »
I'm also just sort of bitter that the last time we put humans on a rock other than earth was when my parents were younger than I am. Space is cool and shit, but if we're not actually gonna get up in there in some kind of way that actually affects human society it might as well be a big fish tank.

General Discussion / Re: Now taking bets on ninth planet
« on: January 22, 2016, 01:08:27 AM »
having a rough day in japan pal? jesus
Haha, I can see where that post comes across like "who gives a shit if we're a way for the universe to know itself, we're all going to get old and die anyway," but it wasn't coming from a dark place at all.

It's just always sort of puzzled me (since the question seems to crop up every few years) why a new rock that orbits our sun is so much more interesting than a lot of other rocks that we already know orbit our sun that happen to be smaller. There are literally billions of rocks in the Oort cloud/Kuiper belt orbiting our sun just like the planets do--phrased another way this result literally reduces to "one of the billions of rocks orbiting the sun is somewhat bigger than most of the rest but not as big as some others we've know about forever."

I mean, not to say I think it's not important to know--since if it's true it explains an unexplained phenomena and if it's not then there might be some interesting flaw in the model producing the unexplained result--I just don't think the outcome is especially exciting either way, is all.

General Discussion / Re: fwd: fwd: fwds: from your peeps
« on: January 21, 2016, 11:10:20 PM »
Yeah I just have no relatives with my email, really. P much just my mom and she knows better. I may be forgetting something from a random contact way back in like my hotmail days or before, but def no random fwds on gmail. I've heard the legends though.

Spamalot / Re: Nightmare on 495
« on: January 21, 2016, 11:02:22 PM »
I've never been into DC but driving past it on 95 (it was 95 in Fl, maybe it was 495 by the time I got to DC--don't remember) was a fucking nightmare. We made the mistake of asking my shitty $50 Garmin GPS to find a gas station in that area and regretted it for hours. If my memory is at all accurate it's not just the drivers; those roads are bonkers.

But in any event, a bunch of semis not being able to get uphill because of ice is gonna cause traffic regardless of other drivers. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

General Discussion / Re: fwd: fwd: fwds: from your peeps
« on: January 21, 2016, 06:47:49 AM »
I have never received a fwd:fwd:fwd

General Discussion / Re: Missing the old day's
« on: January 21, 2016, 02:10:06 AM »
Does everyone remember when Tae started posting again after a long hiatus and had the Tapatalk app tag at the end of his posts, and how it was the first time TZT members had seen that mobile tag?

For months after that there were tons of posts where tzters would write something like "Sent from my Beep Boop Boop using Tapatalk" to mock Tae rofl
Yeah I was just thinking I can't believe that was in 2012

Tapatalk seems newer and Tae seems older

General Discussion / Re: Hey Agrul
« on: January 21, 2016, 02:05:22 AM »

Agrul has been charging a debate Spirit Bomb since last time on Dragon Ball TZT.


General Discussion / Re: Now taking bets on ninth planet
« on: January 21, 2016, 02:04:02 AM »
Even when I was a kid the prospect of a tenth planet never really interested me much. If there is one, it's just a big ball of dirt in the sky like literally trillions of others. The probability that it has or has ever had and still has evidence of life would be next to zero. Maybe it'd have ice and shit, but nothing we can't see elsewhere, and all of that would only matter during the fairly brief and possibly vastly distant time during which it's passing near the sun.

If there were a second star in our system with a hugely erratic orbit that'd be a lot more interesting. At least you could see it when it passed without a big telescope and a lot of luck.

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