Home' Greymouth Star : March 13th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Friday, March 13, 2015
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uLetters to the editor
1852 - Familiar symbol of the United States,
Uncle Sam, makes his debut as a cartoon
character in the New York Lantern.
1865 - During the US Civil War, the
Confederate Congress under President
Jefferson Davis signs a bill allowing slaves to
join the army in exchange for freedom.
1881 - Russia’s Tsar Alexander
II is assassinated and succeeded by
1900 - British forces under
Frederick Roberts capture
Bloemfontein, South Africa.
1943 - A plot to kill German
leader Adolf Hitler ends in failure
when a bomb planted by German officers on
his plane fails to detonate.
1992 - A 6.2 magnitude earthquake rocks
Turkey, claiming at least 570 lives.
1995 - Death of Odette Hallowes, a World
War Two British heroine, the first woman to be
awarded the George Cross for gallantry for her
work as an agent in German-occupied France.
1996 - A gunman in D unblane, Scotland,
shoots to death 16 children and a teacher
before shooting himself.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Joseph Priestley, English chemist and
clergyman, (1733-1804); Holy Roman
Emperor Joseph II (1741-1790); Hugo Wolf,
Austrian composer (1860-1903); Mike Stoller,
US songwriter (1933-2011); Neil
Sedaka, US singer (1939-); Joe
Bugner, boxing champion (1950-);
William H Macy, US actor (1950-);
Deborah Raffin, US actress (1953-
2012); Dana Delany, US actress
(1956-); Adam Clayton, Irish rock
musician of U2 fame (1960-);
Annabeth Gish, US actress (1971-); Emile
Hirsch, American actor (1985-).
“The history of the world is the verdict of
the world.” — Friedrich von Schiller, German
“ He Himself bore our sins in His body on the
cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for
righteousness; by His wounds you have been
healed.” — (1 Peter 2.24).
Zealander today was
working on average
four months of the
year for the Government, said the leader of the
Social Credit League, Mr V F Cracknell in
an address to a public meeting in Greymouth
last night. “ This has come about because our
economy is so loaded with debt and interest
that successive governments have had to
increase taxation to the stage where it is taking
a third of our earnings,” he said.
“Then, as if that were not enough, they have
borrowed heavily at high rates of interest, so
that our national debt is now over the £1000
million mark. If you add your local body debt
which is about £300 million you will find that
we are paying one million pounds a week in
interest. All this goes into the cost structure so
that costs are spiralling all the time and wages
never catch up.
“ Where is it all going to end? How long can
we go on like this?” he asked.
Girl Guides will embark on selling 116,335
biscuits tomorrow morning as part of their
annual fundraising drive. Mrs V F O’Keefe,
one of the organisers of the Greymouth drive
said that in other years all the biscuits were
sold. “ There are usually none left by lunchtime
and sales are very brisk,” she said.
All the selling will be done by the guides and
brownies themselves, each troop covering its
respective area. In conjunction with the biscuit
selling, the guides will be canvassing for the
‘once a guide always a guide’ campaign. This is
being run all over New Zealand in conjunction
with the boy scouts.
uFood for thought
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team of computer
scientists at Google has
proposed a way to rank
search results not by
how popular Web pages
are, but by their factual
Can Google tell which ‘facts’ on the Net
The Internet, we know all too well, is a
cesspool of rumour and chicanery.
But in a research paper published by
Google in February — and reported over
the weekend by New Scientist — that
could, at least hypothetically, change. A
team of computer scientists at Google
has proposed a way to rank search results
not by how popular web pages are, but by
their factual accuracy.
To be really clear, this is 100%
theoretical: It is a research paper, not
a product announcement or anything
equally exciting. (Google publishes
hundreds of research papers a year.)
Still, the fact that a search engine could
effectively evaluate truth, and that Google
is actively contemplating that technology,
should boggle the brain. After all, truth
is a slippery, malleable thing — and
grappling with it has traditionally been an
exclusively human domain.
Per this recent paper, however, it is not
too difficult for computers to determine
whether a given statement is true or
false. Basically, to evaluate a stated fact,
you only need two things: the fact and a
reference work to compare it to.
Google already has the beginnings of
that reference work, in the form of its
Knowledge Graph — the thing that
displays ‘August 15, 1990’ when you
search ‘Jennifer Lawrence birthday,’ or
‘American’ when you search ‘Obama
Google culls those details largely from
ser vices like Freebase, Wikipedia and
the CIA World Factbook; a separate,
internal research database, called
Knowledge Vault, can also automatically
extract facts from the text on Web pages.
Whichever database we’re talking about,
Google structures these ‘lil factoids as
things called ‘knowledge triples’: subject,
relationship, attribute. Like so:
( Jennifer Lawrence, birthday, August 15,
(Barack Obama, nationality, American)
(Somalia, capital, Mogadishu)
So to check if a fact found in the wild is
accurate, all Google has to do is reference
it against the knowledge triples in its giant
internal database. And to check whether a
web page or a website is accurate, Google
would just look at all the site’s knowledge
triples and see how many do not agree
with its established body of facts.
The distant suggestion, these researchers
write, is that Google’s version of the truth
would iterate over time. At some point,
perhaps even Google’s hotly debated
and much-studied ranking algorithm
— the creator and destroyer of a million
websites! — could begin including
accuracy among the factors it uses to
choose the search results you see.
That could be huge, frankly: In one
trial with a random sampling of pages,
researchers found that only 20 of 85
factually correct sites were ranked highly
under Google’s current scheme. A switch
could, theoretically, put better and more
reliable information in the path of the
millions of people who use Google every
day. And in that regard, it could have
implications not only for search engine
optimisation — but for civil society and
It ’s worth noting, in fact, that the
comes straight from the Google report,
which would seem to imply that the
technology ’s creators envision it as a tool
against stubborn misconceptions and
“How do you correct people’s
misconceptions?” Matt Stempeck, the guy
behind Lazy Truth, asked New Scientist
recently. “People get very defensive. (But)
if they ’re searching for the answer on
Google they might be in a much more
Increasingly, information intermediates
like Google have begun to take that
suggestion seriously. Just three weeks ago,
Google began displaying physician-vetted
health information directly in search
results, even commissioning diagrams
from medical illustrators and consulting
with the Mayo Clinic “for accuracy.”
Meanwhile, Facebook recently launched
a new initiative to append a warning
to hoaxes and scams in News Feed, the
better to keep them from spreading.
It ’s unclear exactly what Google plans to
do with this new technology, if anything
at all. Still, even the possibility of a search
engine that evaluates truth is a pretty
incredible breakthrough. And it definitely
gives new meaning to the phrase “let me
Google that for you.”
— New Zealand Herald
Can Google tell?
Legalising gambling in Italy was
supposed to help curb the mafia.
Unfortunately, prosecutors say, it has only
created new opportunities for the mob.
Cash-strapped Italian governments
desperate for revenue have relaxed the
rules on betting over the past two decades,
to the point that Italians now wager $80
billion euros ($86 billion) a year — nearly
equal to 5% of gross domestic product.
About half of that is poured into
400,000 video slot machines, twice as
many as in United States gambling capital
Nevada, which have become ubiquitous
in the espresso bars where Italians stop
several times a day for coffee, sandwiches
One of the arguments in favour of
legalisation was that it would help fight
organised crime by bringing a mafia-run
underground industry into the open. But
crimefighters say it has instead provided
the perfect cash-only business for
mobsters, always on the lookout for legal
ways to earn and launder money.
“Criminal clans earn a robust profit”
from their “very diffuse” investments
in legal gambling, Diana De Martino,
a magistrate at the national anti-mafia
prosecutors’ office says.
Prosecutors say crime groups that
used to invest and hide their drug
or racketeering profits in agriculture
or trucking are now turning to more
profitable legalised gambling.
The national reach of slot machines also
helps the mafia spread from traditional
strongholds in Italy’s poor south to the
richer north, causing wider damage to an
economy that has been stagnant for 15
years and is now in recession.
In one high-profile case in Milan,
Italy’s northern financial capital, a
court convicted 13 people of extortion,
loansharking, money laundering and
being members of a mafia clan. Family
patriarch Francesco Valle, who had
relocated to Milan from Calabria in the
south, and his son Fortunato were given
the longest sentences of 24 years.
The court found that the Valles had
run a traditional loansharking ring,
threatening and beating businessmen who
had borrowed money and fallen behind on
payments, often taking over their debtors’
real estate holdings and businesses.
Among the millions of euros in assets
the group had accumulated in Milan was
a legal gambling business, which included
more than 1000 slot machines.
“They started out with a few (slot)
machines in three or four bars. In the
space of three or four years they had
created an empire,” De Martino said.
The defendants have admitted some
of the crimes, including usury, although
they deny being members of an organised
crime ring and are appealing the
“The defence argument has always
been that we are not a mafia association,”
Amedeo Rizza, lawyer for Francesco Valle,
Proponents of the industry say that
even if the mob has infiltrated it, keeping
gambling legal still reduces opportunities
“Prohibition creates a bigger criminal
market, not a smaller one,” said Massimo
Passamonti, president of Italy’s main
Legalisation has also created jobs: some
25,000 people are directly employed in
gambling, with another 100,000 in related
activities, Passamonti said. Nevertheless,
he acknowledged that rapid growth had
made the industry harder to defend.
“ We realised the excessive supply (of
slot machines) was having a negative
impact on society and could turn everyone
against us,” Passamonti said.
The swift proliferation of slot machines
has brought a backlash from opponents,
who argue that betting inflicts social costs,
mainly on the poor.
Simone Feder, a psychologist, helped
found an anti-gambling movement called
the ‘No Slot Movement ’. He says that
of Italy’s 15 million regular gamblers,
800,000 are addicts. Many have lost their
life savings, homes and families.
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s
government is weighing new restrictions
which it says will reduce the
number of slot machines by around
According to a draft of new rules, slot
machines would be banned in small coffee
bars, while venues with a large number
of machines would have to put them in a
“I have met many in the industry who
are aware of the fact that in Italy there
are too many opportunities to gamble and
so there is a widespread need to rein it in
order to safeguard public health,” Paolo
Baretta, the government undersecretary in
charge of drafting a new law said.
Regulated slot machines are required to
pay out 75% of their revenue over time
in winnings. Of the remaining 25%, the
State claims slightly more than half in
taxes, leaving operators with the rest to
cover costs and profit.
According to Filippo D’Albore, a major
in Italy’s financial police, slot machines
can be rigged: they can be disconnected
from the central server that monitors
them, and fixed to pay out less than they
should or hide revenue from taxes.
De Martino, the prosecutor, said those
found guilty of misreporting slot machine
transactions are usually fined rather than
jailed, reducing the risk.
Although there are no official estimates
for tax evasion in the gambling industry, a
pressure group called the National Anti-
usury Council calculates that slot machine
operators evaded as much tax as the entire
gambling industry paid in 2012.
New opportunities for the mob
A man reads a newspaper next to slot machines in a coffee bar in Rome.
Dragons’ Den multi-millionaire Peter
Jones has said that his children will not
get a penny if they decide not to work.
The 48-year-old entrepreneur is worth
about $926 million, according to the
Sunday Times Rich List.
But he told Radio Times magazine that
the amount of pocket money — about
$50 a month — he gives his five children,
aged from eight to 21, caused arguments.
“My pocket money is based on
incentive. It’s like, ‘ You’ve got to clean
your room, to get this’, and if they don’t
do it, they don’t get the money. It’s a bone
of contention,” he said.
“I want my kids to be polite and
respectful, stand on their own two feet.
“In the future if they want to go and
do charitable work, then I’ll fund that
“I’ve said that rather than me
buying them a house, I’ll give them a
contribution on top of what they
“So if they earn 20,000 a year, I’ll
give them a tiny contribution on top.
If they decide not to work, they don’t
get anything. I want them to do it for
In 2008, tv chef Nigella Lawson vowed
that she would not pass on all her money
to her children when she dies, saying: “I
am determined that my children should
have no financial security. It ruins people
not having to earn money.”
Jones, who has invested $6.8m of his
personal wealth during his time in the
Den, said that he was frustrated by the
lack of business training in the national
“I’ve been campaigning as much as I
can. I’ve been an advocate for 10 years
now, across two governments — first
with Gordon Brown, then with David
Cameron — on enterprise, and really
encouraging, pushing, cajoling, to do
everything we can to embed enterprise in
our national curriculum, and I continue
to be disappointed that we just pay lip
ser vice to the issue.
“ We talk about going back to basics,
and we talk about times tables. We’re far
too obsessed with times tables. While it
is important for us to be able to add up,
obviously, we take it as read that our kids
should be able to do that.”
The businessman, who runs an
entrepreneurs’ foundation for schools,
said: “ What ’s bizarre is, we sadly don’t
have a British dream.
“I’ve been harping on for ages ... When
you go and meet venture capital firms
in America, and you go to look at their
policies, there’s an incredible sense of
pride in the American dream.
“But our British dream doesn’t seem
to exist. I’m not saying that it has never
existed — I’m sure it once did — but it
doesn’t seem to exist now. We need to go
back to grass roots — and it’s all about
education, encouragement and support.”
How a millionaire does pocket money
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