Dogs can associate words with objects, study finds

Dogs can associate words with objects, study finds
A new study in Hungary found that beyond being able to learn how to perform commands, dogs can learn to associate words with specific objects, a relationship with language called referential understanding that had been unproven until now. (AP/Denes Erdos)
Updated 29 March 2024
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Dogs can associate words with objects, study finds

Dogs can associate words with objects, study finds

BUDAPEST: Dogs are able to understand that some words refer to objects in a way that is similar to humans, a small study of canine brain waves has found, offering insight into the way the minds of man’s best friends work.
That our four-legged companions are able to recognize words that prompt actions will come as no surprise to dog owners who tell their pets to “sit” or “fetch.”
However, the study, which analyzed brain activity in 18 dogs, provided evidence that they can activate a memory of an object when they hear its name. The study was carried out at the Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest and published in the journal Current Biology.
“There has been a long debate on a non-human animal’s ability to understand words referentially,” said Marianna Boros who co-authored the study.
“While there have been behavioral reports, these were always exceptional cases. Our study is the first where we claim that this is a species-wide capacity.”
During the study, dog owners said words for objects their pets knew. Then in some cases they would present the dog with an object that matched the word, while in other cases the object didn’t match.
The results found that the patterns in the dogs’ brains when the words matched the objects were different compared to when they didn’t. This is similar to what can be observed in humans.
“Dogs can understand that words stand for things... So they activate mental representations and they link the meaning of the word to a mental representation and not just the context,” said Boros.
The researchers plan to examine if this ability to understand referential language is specific to dogs or might be present in other mammals as well.


Alex Jones’ personal assets to be sold to pay $1.5B Sandy Hook debt. Company bankruptcy is dismissed

Alex Jones’ personal assets to be sold to pay $1.5B Sandy Hook debt. Company bankruptcy is dismissed
Updated 15 June 2024
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Alex Jones’ personal assets to be sold to pay $1.5B Sandy Hook debt. Company bankruptcy is dismissed

Alex Jones’ personal assets to be sold to pay $1.5B Sandy Hook debt. Company bankruptcy is dismissed

HOUSTON: A federal judge on Friday ordered the liquidation of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones′ personal assets but dismissed his company’s separate bankruptcy case, leaving the immediate future of his Infowars media platform uncertain as he owes $1.5 billion for his false claims that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a hoax.
Judge Christopher Lopez approved converting Jones’ proposed personal bankruptcy reorganization to a liquidation. But Lopez threw out the case of his company, Austin, Texas-based Free Speech Systems, after failed attempts by Jones to reach an agreement with Sandy Hook families on his proposals to reorganize and keep operating the company while paying them millions of dollars.
It wasn’t immediately clear what will happen in the coming weeks to Free Speech Systems, Infowars’ parent company, which Jones built into a multimillion-dollar moneymaker over the past 25 years by selling dietary supplements and other products. But both Jones and lawyers for the Sandy Hook families said they expect Infowars to cease operating at some point because of the huge debt.
A trustee appointed Friday in Jones’ personal bankruptcy case to oversee the liquidation now has control over his assets, including Infowars, according to lawyers for Sandy Hook families.
Dismissal of Free Speech Systems’ case means the families can now move immediately to collect on the $1.5 billion in state courts in Texas and Connecticut where they won defamation lawsuits against Jones and the company. It’s possible Infowars will continue operating during the collection efforts, which could include selling off the company’s assets.
Jones, who smiled as the judge dismissed the company’s case, called in to Infowars after the court hearing and predicted more battles in the state courts. “The bizarre political attempts to hijack the operation have failed,” he said, and added that he would find another way to broadcast his shows if he loses Infowars.
Outside the courthouse, he railed about the families not accepting his reorganization proposals and alleged that they were being used by political groups in a conspiracy to silence him. He said he would try to maximize revenues at Infowars to make money for creditors and then wind down the business in a way that takes care of its 44 employees.
“This is about taking me off the air,” Jones said. “Understand that what you’ve seen in the corporate media about me, or what I said about Sandy Hook or any of this, has no bearing on reality.”
Chris Mattei, a lawyer for the Sandy Hook families, called Infowars “soon-to-be defunct” as his clients move to collect on the debt in state courts. He said the families will also pursue Jones’ future earnings.
“Today is a good day,” Mattei said in a text message after the hearing. “Alex Jones has lost ownership of Infowars, the corrupt business he has used for years to attack the Connecticut families and so many others. ... Alex Jones is neither a martyr nor a victim. He is the perpetrator of the worst defamation in American history.”
Lopez had been asked to either convert Free Speech Systems’ bankruptcy reorganization to a liquidation or dismiss the case. He said his sole focus was what would be best for the company and its creditors. He also said Free Speech Systems’ case appeared to be one of the longest running of its kind in the country, and it was approaching a deadline to resolve it.
“I was never asked today to make a decision to shut down a show or not. That was never going to happen today one way or another,” Lopez said. “This case is one of the more difficult cases I’ve had. When you look at it, I think creditors are better served in pursuing their state court rights.”
Many of Jones’ personal assets will be sold off, but his primary home in the Austin area and some other belongings are exempt from bankruptcy liquidation. He already has moved to sell his Texas ranch worth about $2.8 million, a gun collection and other assets to pay debts.
In the lead-up to Friday’s hearing, Jones had been telling his web viewers and radio listeners that Free Speech Systems was on the verge of being shut down because of the bankruptcy. He urged them to download videos from his online archive to preserve them and pointed them to a new website of his father’s company if they want to continue buying the dietary supplements he sells on his show.
Jones has about $9 million in personal assets, according to the most recent financial filings in court. Free Speech Systems has about $6 million in cash on hand and about $1.2 million worth of inventory, according to J. Patrick Magill, the chief restructuring officer appointed by the court to run the company during the bankruptcy.
During Friday’s hearing, lawyers for the Sandy Hook families repeated claims that Jones illegally diverted millions of dollars both before and during the bankruptcies, and questioned his sending his audience to his father’s website. The families have a pending lawsuit in Texas accusing Jones of illegally diverting money, which he denies, and said they will continue efforts to claw it back.
Jones and Free Speech Systems filed for bankruptcy protection in 2022, when relatives of many victims of the 2012 school shooting that killed 20 first graders and six educators in Newtown, Connecticut, won lawsuit judgments of more than $1.4 billion in Connecticut and $49 million in Texas.
The relatives said they were traumatized by Jones’ comments and his followers’ actions. They have testified about being harassed and threatened by Jones’ believers, some of whom confronted the grieving families in person saying the shooting never happened and their children never existed. One parent said someone threatened to dig up his dead son’s grave.
Jones is appealing the judgments in the state courts.
The families in the Connecticut lawsuit, including relatives of eight dead children and adults, had asked that Free Speech Systems’ bankruptcy case also be converted to a liquidation. But the parents in the Texas suit — whose child, 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, died — wanted the company’s case dismissed, saying it would speed up collection of Jones’ debt to them.
Lawyers for the company filed documents indicating it supported liquidation, but attorneys for Jones’ personal bankruptcy case wanted the judge to dismiss the company’s case.


Myriad people flock to Indian city to swallow live fish with ‘miracle cure’ to asthma

Myriad people flock to Indian city to swallow live fish with ‘miracle cure’ to asthma
Updated 14 June 2024
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Myriad people flock to Indian city to swallow live fish with ‘miracle cure’ to asthma

Myriad people flock to Indian city to swallow live fish with ‘miracle cure’ to asthma
  • It is said that the fish, stuffed with a secret herbal treatment, travels down the throat and relieves any phlegm or congestion
  • The practice enjoys support despite objections from scientific groups and others who say there is no proof behind it, and even call it unsanitary

HYDERABAD, India: A mother encourages her daughter to fully open her mouth to swallow a live fish holding “the medicine” she believes will help cure her child’s asthma, as scores clamor about, gulping down their own fish and hoping for the best.

Each summer, on a day deemed auspicious by astrological calculations, people suffering from asthma and other respiratory ailments flock to the southern Indian city of Hyderabad to swallow a small live fish with its mouth stuffed with a secret herbal treatment that only one family can craft.
Legend has it that in 1845 a wandering saint presented a secret formula of miracle herbs to Veeranna Goud, a man living in the old city of Hyderabad, and instructed him to give it to asthma patients for free. Since then, Goud’s descendants, known as the Bathini family, have preserved the tradition and kept the herbal formula under wraps, shared only among male descendants.
“My great-great-grandfather, Veeranna Goud, passed this secret formula to his sons and they passed it on to their sons and now we are the fifth generation to keep the tradition,” said Kakarna Alkananda, who helps oversee the distribution, though she is not privy to the formula.
It is said that the fish travels down the throat and relieves any phlegm or congestion.
“My mother has been taking this treatment for seven years now, and it has brought her much relief. She’s breathing easier, and her attacks have become less frequent,” said Aash Mohammed, who traveled for more than 20 hours by train from the Indian capital New Delhi with his family.
The Bathini family has to call the treatment “prasadam” which roughly translates as “an offering” after a local organization that works to dispel superstitious beliefs won a lawsuit forbidding them from describing the treatment as “medicinal.”
Still, the practice enjoys support despite objections from scientific groups and others who say there is no proof behind it, and even call it unsanitary.
People buy their fish from the government fisheries department stall on site. Though the treatment is free, each fish costs 40 rupees or about 50 cents. After collecting the live fish in a plastic bag filled with water, each person gives it to an attendant working with the Bathini family, who squeezes a yellow herbal paste in the fish’s mouth and helps them swallow it.
Thousands have used the “prasadam” this year, according to organizers.
The local government sets up the makeshift structure for the event while overseeing security and sanitation measures.


New research explores how a short trip to space affects the human body

New research explores how a short trip to space affects the human body
Updated 12 June 2024
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New research explores how a short trip to space affects the human body

New research explores how a short trip to space affects the human body
  • Research on four space tourists is included in a series of studies on the health effects of space travel, down to the molecular level

DALLAS: Space tourists experience some of the same body changes as astronauts who spend months in orbit, according to new studies published Tuesday.
Those shifts mostly returned to normal once the amateurs returned to Earth, researchers reported.
Research on four space tourists is included in a series of studies on the health effects of space travel, down to the molecular level. The findings paint a clearer picture of how people — who don’t undergo years of astronaut training — adapt to weightlessness and space radiation, the researchers said.
“This will allow us to be better prepared when we’re sending humans into space for whatever reason,” said Allen Liu, a mechanical engineering professor at the University of Michigan who was not involved with the research. 

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with four private citizens onboard, lifts off in this time-exposure photo from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39-A, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. New research presents the largest set of information yet regarding how the human body reacts to spaceflight. (AP/File)


NASA and others have long studied the toll of space travel on astronauts, including yearlong residents of the International Space Station, but there’s been less attention on space tourists. The first tourist visit to the space station was in 2001, and opportunities for private space travel have expanded in recent years.
A three-day chartered flight in 2021 gave researchers the chance to examine how quickly the body reacts and adapts to spaceflight, said Susan Bailey, a radiation expert at Colorado State University who took part in the research.
While in space, the four passengers on the SpaceX flight, dubbed Inspiration4, collected samples of blood, saliva, skin and more. Researchers analyzed the samples and found wide-ranging shifts in cells and changes to the immune system. Most of these shifts stabilized in the months after the four returned home, and the researchers found that the short-term spaceflight didn’t pose significant health risks.
“This is the first time we’ve had a cell-by-cell examination of a crew when they go to space,” said researcher and co-author Chris Mason with Weill Cornell Medicine.
The papers, which were published Tuesday in Nature journals and are now part of a database, include the impact of spaceflight on the skin, kidneys and immune system. The results could help researchers find ways to counteract the negative effects of space travel, said Afshin Beheshti, a researcher with the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science who took part in the work.


Russia races to save entangled humpback whale in the Arctic

Russia races to save entangled humpback whale in the Arctic
Updated 11 June 2024
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Russia races to save entangled humpback whale in the Arctic

Russia races to save entangled humpback whale in the Arctic
  • Video shot by a marine biologist shows the whale with some sort of net and rope wrapped tightly around its body near the flippers

MOSCOW: Russian marine specialists are racing to save a humpback whale which has become entangled in a fishing net north of the Arctic circle.
Video shot by a marine biologist shows the whale, who has been named Stanislav, with some sort of net and rope wrapped tightly around its body near the flippers.
After tourists on the Kola Peninsula, in Russia’s far north, spotted the stricken mammal, biologists searched over 120 km (75 miles) of coastline before identifying it, according to Svetlana Radionova, head of Russia’s natural resources watchdog Rosprirodnadzor.
“The whale entangled in the nets has been found alive,” Radionova said on Telegram, adding that specialists would try to get close to it and cut off the net.


Turkish student arrested for using AI to cheat in university exam

Turkish student arrested for using AI to cheat in university exam
Updated 11 June 2024
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Turkish student arrested for using AI to cheat in university exam

Turkish student arrested for using AI to cheat in university exam

ISTANBUL: Turkish authorities have arrested a student for cheating during a university entrance exam by using a makeshift device linked to artificial intelligence software to answer questions.
The student was spotted behaving in a suspicious way during the exam at the weekend and was detained by police, before being formally arrested and sent to jail pending trial.
Another person, who was helping the student, was also detained.
A video released by police in the southwestern province of Isparta showed how the student used a camera disguised as a shirt button linked to artificial intelligence software via a router hidden in the sole of the person’s shoe.
A police officer in the video scans a question to show how the system works, with the AI software generating the correct answer, which is recited through an earpiece.