Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Globe Mind Games

"Brain-training games don’t work, a study suggests" by Jenna Gallegos Washington Post  July 10, 2017

WASHINGTON — The first large study to rigorously examine brain-training games using cognitive tests and brain imaging adds to evidence that they are not particularly good at training brains and have no more effect on healthy brains than video games.

The research is another blow to companies such as Lumosity that have been accused of falsely claiming their programs can improve mental performance.

In early 2016, Lumosity paid a $2 million fine to settle charges of misleading advertising. While its commercials boasted that Lumosity games are based on the science of neuroplasticity, the Federal Trade Commission and an open letter from 69 brain scientists insisted the research does not support claims that brain games make people smarter or stave off mental decline.

While a study conducted by Lumosity in 2015 suggested that brain-training games improve performance on some mental tasks better than crossword puzzles do, other studies have shown no effect.

Caryn Lerman and Joseph Kable at the University of Pennsylvania were interested in whether brain-training games could help people control risky or impulsive behaviors.

See: Impulse Blog

The ‘‘executive control network,’’ or ECN, is important for self-control, planning, and goal-setting. When we’re focused on a task and forming memories, the ECN is activated. When we begin to daydream, our ‘‘default mode network’’ takes over.

Other studies have suggested cognitive exercises such as brain games increase activity in the ECN, but few have shown translation of that increase into everyday activities.

‘‘People who choose immediate rewards over long-term benefits are more likely to engage in risky behaviors,’’ said Lerman. To measure inclinations toward impulsive decisions in the study, researchers had volunteers rapidly make a series of hypothetical choices.

For example, would they prefer to receive $20 now or $40 in a month?

The answer seems like a no-brainer, but imagine if the question was instead: Should I eat a piece of cake now, or lose a pound this week?

We make these kinds of decisions all the time, and our ECN is involved.

The researchers predicted that playing brain-training games that require memory and focus might activate the ECN of healthy young adults more than regular video games, leading to improved decision-making.

Volunteers played the games five times a week for half an hour. They were tested periodically for performance on a variety of mental tasks.

In addition to immediate-reward versus long-term-benefit choices, participants were monitored for risk avoidance, memory, ability to stay focused amid distractions, and cognitive flexibility.....

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Related:

These Days Young Men In America Are Working A Lot Less And Playing Video Games A Lot More

US Intel Agency Funding Research Into Wildly Accurate Mind Reading Technology

Also see: Don't Snap to Strangers

"Snap Inc. shares fell below their initial public offering price amid questions about the company’s ability to grow as fast as initially expected and after wider declines recently in technology stocks worldwide. To regain value, the company will need to prove that its advertisements are a must-buy, not just an experiment, and will need to keep innovating on its product as Facebook copies its most popular features, analysts have said. Many technology stocks, including Facebook, Apple Inc., Nvidia Corp., and Microsoft Corp., declined in the past month after analysts began raising red flags on some of the high valuations....."

It snapped back, huh?

"This social video app is popular, but not profitable" by Hiawatha Bray Globe Staff  July 11, 2017

Has Boston given birth to the next Snapchat?

Fam, a social video app launched in December by local startup Smack Inc., has enjoyed explosive growth, but Fam’s founders are still trying to figure out how to turn its popularity into profits.

Happily, the company’s investors ponied up additional cash. Since its founding, Smack has received nearly $3.9 million in funding from backers including Flybridge Capital Partners, Boston Seed Capital, New Enterprise Associates, Bessemer Partners, and Norwest Venture Partners.

Still, Fam faces serious long-term challenges. The app is free, and so far, Smack executives have no idea how they will make any money off it.

Moreover, its reliance on Apple for its popularity could become a problem, said Matt Britton, the chief executive of Crowdtap, a social media marketing company in New York.

“They’re building it on the back of another product,” said Britton.

If Fam’s rapid growth continues, there’s nothing to stop Apple from simply adding the same features to iMessage, and driving Fam out of business. “It’s a pretty easy thing for them to do,” Britton said.

Stuto is betting that Apple won’t do it. “We do not believe that is their intention,” but even if Apple stays on the sidelines, Smack has to find a way to make money off the Fam app. Advertising is the obvious play, but how do you display ads in a video chat app?

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"Google is launching an initiative based in its Cambridge office to study how humans interact with artificial intelligence, taking on the practicalities of questions that just a few years ago might have been purely philosophical. The People + AI Research initiative , announced Monday, will examine what professionals like doctors, farmers, and musicians might need from AI design; study the ways engineers build machine learning systems; and look for ways to make the technology more inclusive. Google said the initiative will be carried out with its existing staff in Cambridge. It is being led by Martin Wattenberg and Fernanda Viégas, senior staff scientists at Google Brain, the company’s research unit for artificial intelligence. It will also work with outside researchers, including Brendan Meade, a professor of earth and planetary science at Harvard University, and Hal Abelson, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology."

News outlets want right to negotiate jointly with Google and Facebook


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Time to open up the court files:

"S. Boston suspect lurked in garage before murders, prosecutors say" by Michael Levenson Globe Staff  July 10, 2017

As the victims’ relatives sat in the front row, some wiping away tears, the man accused of brutally stabbing two South Boston doctors confidently strode into a Suffolk Superior coutroom on Monday to face charges of murder, home invasion, armed robbery, and kidnapping.

“Hey, good morning,” Bampumim Teixeira said, greeting Clerk Magistrate Edward Curley. “What’s up?”’

Either amazingly cavalier or he has no idea where he is.

A prosecutor soon provided the details, giving the clearest indication yet that authorities believe Teixeira was attempting to rob the two doctors, Lina Bolaños, and her fiancé, Richard Field, of jewelry and ended up killing them in their penthouse on the 11th floor of the Macallen building in South Boston.

Suffolk Assistant District Attorney John Pappas said there is no evidence Teixeira had any relationship with the doctors, although he knew the building, having worked there as a concierge last year.

On May 5, the day of the murders, Teixeira was first seen lurking around the building — which is outfitted with numerous security cameras — around 2:40 p.m., Pappas said. Just before 4 p.m., Teixeira snuck into the garage, carrying a backpack with duct tape, a knife, two fake guns, and a mask, he said.

Pappas did not say how Teixeira got up to the 11th floor, but the details the prosecutor provided suggested Teixeira may have taken the stairs and then hidden in a utility room outside the victims’ condo. The utility room has a peep hole and was unlocked, Pappas said.

Bolaños returned home at 5 p.m, and Field at 6:30 p.m. Sometime soon after, Field texted a friend that there was a gunman in the house, Pappas said.

Boston police were called at 8:38 p.m. by the concierge in the building, who had been contacted by the recipient of the text. The friend called police as well.

Officers arrived minutes later, found keys to the condo in the hallway, and used them to get inside. The penthouse was dark, with the lights off, and police shot Teixeira at least two times — fearing, because of Field’s text, that Teixeira was armed, Pappas said.

When he was arrested, Teixeira told officers another armed person was inside the condo, but no one else was located or implicated in the crime.

How come the cops kill innocent black guys, but the ones that deserve to die live?

Inside the home, police found a gruesome scene: The victims, bound with duct tape and other materials, were stabbed to death, Pappas said. Their bodies were found in separate areas of the condo.

Police also found a carving knife, and a bright yellow shirt like the one Teixeira was seen wearing when he was walking around the building and sneaking into the garage, Pappas said.

They also found the backpack he had been wearing, which contained what is known as a tactical knife and personal belongings of Bolaños’ and Field, the prosecutor said. Another backpack, found just inside the condo door, was stuffed with Bolaños’ jewelry, Pappas said.

He told reporters outside the courtroom he was not going to comment on a motive for the killings, “but, clearly, given the statement that we provided to the court today, I think you can surmise what the motive was, in part.”

The murders shook residents of the building and devastated the families, coworkers, and friends of the victims. Bolaños, 38, was a pediatric anesthesiologist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Hospital. Field, 49, was an anesthesiologist at North Shore Pain Management, a business he helped start.

Relatives of the victims did not speak to reporters, but Pappas said some of them had traveled from out of state for the 15-minute court session. “They’re very, very vested in the case, and we expect they’re going to be actively involved and be present throughout the proceedings,” he said.

Three days after the killings, Teixeira, who is 30 and had served time for bank robbery, was initially arraigned in a hospital bed, as he recovered from being shot by police. During that session, he kept his eyes down and was mostly silent.

Teixeira had completed a nine-month sentence in April for two robberies at the Summer Street branch of Citizens Bank in downtown Boston in 2014 and 2016.

Oh, so he had a record, huh? 

Only nine months for bank robbery?

About two weeks before the killings, Teixeira unexpectedly reached out to a former girlfriend and told her that she would never see him again and that he did not plan on living for long, the woman told the Globe shortly after the murders.

On Monday, Teixeira kept his head up and spoke clearly as he pleaded not guilty to all charges. Curley ordered Teixeira to remain behind bars without bail, a decision Teixeira’s attorney, Steven J. Sack, did not contest. Teixeira is due back in court Sept. 12 for a pretrial conference.

He thinks he is O.J. Simpson.

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Hate to bring it up, but he an immigrant?

"Man charged with beating scooter driver with baseball bat" by Travis Andersen Globe Staff  July 10, 2017

An Everett man allegedly tried to kill a scooter driver in downtown Boston Friday by pummeling him with a metal baseball bat “at least 16 times,” prosecutors said Monday.

The 49-year-old victim survived the attack, and the suspect, Travis El-Saadi, was ordered held on $15,000 bail Monday at his arraignment in Boston Municipal Court.

The victim, who suffered a deep laceration to his head, told police that El-Saadi cut him off and then exited his gold-colored vehicle with the metal bat. The car was an Acura, according to prosecutors.

El-Saadi began striking the man as he sat on his scooter and continued the assault while the victim was lying “defenseless” on the ground, said Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Benjamin Megrian.

Witnesses provided police with El-Saadi’s license plate, which investigators used to track him to the Dorchester autobody shop where he works. He was later apprehended there.

El-Saadi’s lawyer, Jason Stelmack, said there was a potential “self defense motive” or “defense of others” motive that he may raise as the case progresses.

He said El-Saadi’s only prior record was a juvenile arrest on a charge that was dismissed several years ago.

El-Saadi is a graduate of Lynn Classical High School, Stelmack said, and has worked at an autobody shop for three years. He also plans to attend Bunker Hill Community College in the fall, Stelmack said.

He declined to comment outside court.

El-Saadi’s father also had no comment, except to say that “I’m already screwed up with the whole thing, so just leave me alone for a while.”

If El-Saadi posts bail, he must refrain from driving and stay sway from the alleged victim in the case.

El-Saadi, who wore a Lynn Classical hooded sweatshirt and blue track pants, quietly answered “yes sir” when asked if he understood the conditions.

He is due back in court Aug. 1.

At one point, Judge Thomas Horgan asked prosecutors why they were seeking the driving ban.

Megrian noted that the case is a road rage incident and said, “I don’t believe the defendant is safe to be on the road.”

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War refugee?

"Standoff with man barricaded inside car near Kiss 108 studio in Medford ends" by Travis Andersen and Aimee Ortiz Globe Staff   July 10, 2017

MEDFORD — A tense standoff between SWAT officers and a man who barricaded himself inside a vehicle outside a radio station ended peacefully around 4:30 p.m. Monday, when he surrendered, authorities said.

A live feed of the incident that a witness posted online showed the 38-year-old man getting out of a red vehicle in a parking lot on Cabot Road as SWAT team members converged on him and took him into custody. He was later placed on a stretcher.

Around 1:30 p.m., police arrived outside the Kiss 108 radio station after receiving reports that someone was driving around the parking lot and wielding “several edged weapons,” said Lieutenant Joseph Casey of the Medford Police Department. Police made contact with the man, but he refused to stop, leading officers on a slow pursuit through the parking lot.

Modern day Airhead, huh, with an O.J.-type chase to boot!

Eventually, he was boxed in by the building’s loading dock, and a police negotiator was brought in. The man did not move for several hours, but eventually surrendered and was taken to a hospital.

“He was suffering some sort of mental health crisis,” Casey said.

Police said they did not believe the man ever left his car. At one point in the standoff, he threw several weapons from the car.

No injuries were reported.

Niyiah McConnell, 33, a Mattapan woman who works in the area, said she was smoking a cigarette when the man pulled up in his car and asked her to “play the ax song.”

“I asked him, excuse me, what song?” she said. “And he pulled out a big [expletive] ax and put it back in his hand like he was about to throw it at me.”

The man then said, “I want them to play the ax song,” McConnell said.

“That’s when I was like, oh my gosh, he has a weapon, he has a weapon, and [I] started to run back” inside, she said.

Casey said he did not know whether the man was looking for the radio station or whether he had requested a song. Police said they have not decided whether to file charges against him.

I'm sorry, but this kiss smells like crisis drill crap.

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Took at least 10 of you to all gather around calm like, huh?

"Reward offered in death of former Lowell resident shot while using phone" by Travis Andersen Globe Staff   July 10, 2017

City officials in San Francisco are offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the person who killed Calvin Riley, a former Lowell resident who was shot last summer while playing the popular ‘‘Pokemon Go’’ game in a California park.

The reward was announced in a statement Friday from the office of US Representative Jackie Speier, a Democrat who represents San Francisco and the surrounding area.

“With the generosity of the city of San Francisco, I am hoping that witnesses will step forward and help solve this homicide,” Speier said in the statement. “While the capture of the killer won’t bring back their son, the Rileys would have some closure involving this horrific loss to their family. Importantly, residents of San Francisco would also have certainty that a killer is removed from their streets preventing this person from killing again.”

Riley’s mother, Kariann, appeared with Speier on Monday at a news conference at Aquatic Park in San Francisco, near the site of the August 2016 murder.

“It’s so important to our family to have closure, to find the person that shot my baby boy in the back, and make it so that he can’t hurt anybody else,” Kariann Riley told reporters during an emotional plea for witnesses to come forward.

Speier echoed those comments during the briefing.

“We do know that money motivates people,” Speier said, adding that she is “imploring” anyone with information about the suspect “who committed this unspeakable crime to please come forward.”

The 20-year-old Riley had graduated from Serra High School in San Mateo, Calif. and was a student at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton at the time of his death, according to Speier’s office.

Also Monday, the US Park Police said they are trying to locate two “vehicles of interest” in the case. One is a “2006-2009 dark in color Audi A3 Wagon,” and the other is a “2013 white 4-door Hyundai Sonata,” the Park Police said in a statement.

In addition, police released a sketch of a young man with short dark hair who was seen leaving the area where the murder occurred.

The $50,000 reward announced Monday is a matching grant for an earlier reward that Riley’s family had offered with private funds. The Park Police are also offering a separate $10,000 reward,

Riley had lived in Lowell before moving to California, according to his Facebook page, a San Joaquin Delta athletic site, and a fund-raising page that his family set up after the shooting. He listed his favorite baseball team as the Red Sox on the San Joaquin Delta website and identified Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia as his favorite player.

Shortly after the murder, his college coach, Reed Peters, described him as “a great person from a great family; a 20-year-old with his best years ahead of him. Calvin was a huge part of our team success in reaching the 2016 California Community College Athletic Association baseball final four.”

Anyone with information about the case can call investigators.....

I don't publish phone #s.

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Related:

"An 11-year-old boy is facing criminal charges after assaulting a Lowell police officer with a knife around 5 p.m. Sunday, according to Lowell Captain Tim Crowley. The officer was on patrol on Read Street when he noticed a crowd of people gathering around a house, Crowley said. When the officer approached, he saw the boy charge outside with a knife held over his head, aiming for a boy outside. The officer intervened and was cut on his finger and his elbow. He was taken to Lowell General Hospital, Crowley said. Crowley said an incident involving a child this young is uncommon in Lowell. “Kids should be out riding their bikes and having fun, not attacking each other with knives,” he said. The boy was charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and assault and battery on a police officer."

Also see:

"A federal judge is being asked to decide whether Connecticut has violated the rights of dog owners by holding animals deemed dangerous for years on what amounts to a canine death row. Kim Miller hopes it will lead to a reprieve for her dogs, Kato and Kleo, Rottweilers who have been held since being ordered destroyed in October 2012. Miller said the pair, who were 1 and 2 years old at the time, got out of her Hamden yard and bit a neighbor only after they were attacked with sticks and bats....."

May God help them and grant them a stay.

App aims to help stop violence against women in Mexican city

Hundreds of women disappear in Ciudad Juárez each year. 

Don't come north.

Don't go south, either.