Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Nov 12, 2018 in Stuff You Should Know

Deadly Shooting in California

It was supposed to be just a fun night out. But for a dozen people at a California bar, the evening ended in tragedy.

Last Wednesday evening at about 11:20 pm, during “College Country Night,” Ian David Long entered the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California, dressed all in black and wearing a hood. He shot the security guard at the door, threw smoke bombs to cause confusion, and then opened fire with a legally-purchased Glock 21 .45-caliber pistol. By the end of his rampage, twelve people were dead, including Sgt. Ron Helus, the 54-year-old police officer who rushed to the scene. At least fifteen more people were injured. Long, 28, the lone gunman, was also found dead.

Many of the people in the bar were college students from nearby Pepperdine University. Because people this age have grown up with the threat of active shooter situations, many of them are familiar with what to do. The students inside the Borderline fled through windows and fire escapes or hid. Police say that if it weren’t for this quick thinking, it’s likely that even more people would be dead.

So far, police have no motive for the shooting. Long was an ex-Marine who served as a machine gunner in Afghanistan from 2010-2011. Authorities suspect that he may have been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While mass shootings are always tragic, the young ages of the victims make this one especially heartbreaking. Several of the people who were inside the bar but survived told police that this was not the first mass shooting they had experienced: they were also at the Las Vegas country music festival where a gunman opened fire in October 2017.

Dig Deeper Use Internet resources to determine how many mass shootings have taken place in the United States so far this year. If this trend continues, calculate how many more will occur by the end of 2018.

Who Will Be the Next Speaker?

When Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives last Tuesday for the first time in eight years, it meant that they now are going to have to do some reorganizing. In 2006, Democrat Nancy Pelosi became the first female Speaker of the House. (This means she plays the role of the leader of the majority party in that chamber of Congress.) But when the Republicans took control in 2010, Pelosi was relegated to the position of House Minority Leader. Now that the Democrats are back in charge, she is ready to step up again. But do Democrats want her to?

Nancy Pelosi is very unpopular0–as many nationally known politicians often tend to be. In fact, if you watched any campaign ads during this election season, you probably saw Republicans accusing their Democratic opponents of being “Nancy Pelosi liberals.” Even among some members of her own Democratic Party, Pelosi lacks a solid basis of support. In fact, only about six out of ten Democrats view Pelosi favorably (only one out of every ten Republicans do). And about twenty Democratic lawmakers have already indicated that they won’t vote for her as speaker of the House. It is primarily younger Democrats who speak out most vocally against Pelosi, insisting that the party is in need of new, fresh leadership. Left-leaning activists also don’t like her because, in their view, she isn’t progressive enough.

The question is, though, who would replace her? Several names have been floated, including Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, and Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, Pelosi’s current second-in-command. But Democrats have to ask themselves if it’s a good idea to spend time bickering over their next legislative leader, instead of using their newfound momentum to push forward their agenda.

Dig Deeper It’s pretty uncommon for a former speaker to assume that role again. Use Internet resources to find out the last time this happened, and the name(s) of the speaker(s) involved.

Bad Fall for RBG

It seems like the U.S. Supreme Court is always in the news these days, and this week is no different. On Wednesday evening, Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fell in her office and fractured three ribs on her left side. This is considered a major injury because Ginsburg is 85 years old, and for people of that age, there is a reasonable risk that she could contract pneumonia as a result. Despite this, RBG (as she is popularly referred to) seems to be taking her injury in stride. In fact, the justice didn’t even know at first that her ribs were broken. She went home after her fall and continued to experience pain during the night. So on Thursday morning she went to the hospital and was admitted for observation and treatment. By the next day, according to her family, she was up and working in her hospital room, and even cracking jokes.

Ginsburg has served on the Supreme Court for longer than any other current justice: 25 years. During that time, she has never missed a case, even though she has battled serious illnesses such as colorectal and pancreatic cancer, as well as undergoing a heart procedure. She also experienced broken ribs in 2012 and continued to work through it. Despite her relatively advanced age, Justice Ginsburg works out two to three times per week with a personal trainer. Her routine is aimed at older adults and is focused on strength and weight training.

Because the next sitting of the Supreme Court isn’t until November 26, it’s likely that Justice Ginsburg will be able to continue her legacy of perfect attendance.

Dig Deeper What was the response of liberal Americans to news of the Ginsburg injury? Why do you think they were so concerned?

Computer Art Sells Big

You’ve probably heard of the famous artists Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet. But have you heard of the up-and-coming new artist, “min G max D x [log(D(x))] + z [log(1—D (G(z)))]”?

These days, computers can do almost anything. But can they make art? Apparently, yes? A portrait called “Edmond de Belamy” has become the first work of art produced by artificial intelligence. It was sold last Thursday at a Christie’s auction in New York City for a shocking $432,500. That’s nearly 45 times the highest initial estimate of its value!

Cyborg's head

Is computer-generated art as good as human art?

The portrait, which is a canvas depicting the head and shoulders of a man dressed in black and wearing a white collar, is slightly blurry. But how was it actually created? Three friends from Paris–Pierre Fautrel, Hugo Caselles-Dupre, and Gauthier Vernier, who together form the collective Obvious–began by using an algorithm called a GAN (generative adversarial network) and “feeding” it 15,000 images of portraits from different time periods. The algorithm was able to find similarities between the works before using this information to begin producing its own. Then Obvious printed the image, framed it, and signed it using a piece of the algorithm.

Edmond de Belamy is part of a ten-portrait series. While it’s clear from the amount of this first portrait sold for that there is a market for AI-produced art, plenty of experts in the art field are critical of the process. And those of you who want to know the name of the bidder willing to pay nearly half a million dollars for the portrait will be disappointed: the buyer wishes to be kept anonymous.

What Do You Think? In your opinion, can portraits produced by computers, such as Edmond de Belamy, be considered “real” art? Why or why not?