Whether you want to languish in luxury at an upmarket lodge, experience the sights and sounds of the bush from a safari tent or choose from a host of other affordable accommodation facilities – the world-renowned Addo Elephant National Park has it all.The park has proven itself to be one of South Africa’s most popular tourism destinations, with occupancy rates at its various accommodation facilities running at about 92% throughout the year.Added to this, several contractual partners and private concessions within the park have added an upmarket dimension to the park, attracting international tourists as well as having brought about numerous economic benefits to the park and surrounding community. The park, which was home to just 11 elephant when first proclaimed in 1931, is now sanctuary to more than 450 of these majestic creatures. It is also refuge to the Big Seven – making it one of South Africa’s key tourism destinations.Its 164 233 hectares are inhabited by abundant birdlife and a multitude of wildlife species including lion, black rhino, buffalo, leopard, spotted hyena, zebra, a variety of antelope species, as well as the unique flightless dung beetle. The Great White shark and seasonal Southern Right whale in the marine section complete the Big Seven.Situated in the malaria-free Eastern Cape, only a short drive away from Port Elizabeth, the park stretches across five biomes from the vast Darlington Lake, Zuurberg Mountains and dense bushveld of the Sundays River Valley to the indigenous forests at Woody Cape.These forests hug the largest coastal dune fields south of the Namib, overlooking the park’s marine area at Bird Island and St Croix Island.Privately owned concessionsThe privately owned concessions – Gorah Elephant Camp and Nguni Lodge – and contractual partners – RiverBend Lodge, Darlington Lake Lodge and Intsomi Lodge – when combined with the park’s own facilities, offer the visitor a multitude of choices, both in type of accommodation and price range says South African National Parks (SANParks) Frontier Region communications manager Megan Taplin.A new – and the biggest – contractual addition to the park, the 14 900 hectare Kuzuko Contractual Area has been stocked with elephant, lion, cheetah, black rhino and buffalo.Construction of a 48-bed luxury lodge was recently completed, while future concession and contractual opportunities are also possible within the park, with plans including the introduction of a canoe trail that will operate on the Sundays River – home to the park’s hippos.“A concession, usually signed for a period of 50 years or more, is where a private business is given the rights to operate a business, whether it’s a lodge or an activity, within a national park. The park still owns the land and infrastructure and receives a percentage of the concessionaire’s turnover. Concession opportunities are always put out on public tender to ensure that the process is transparent,” Taplin said.“The advantage to the park is that we can concentrate on our core business, which is biodiversity conservation, while still providing a range of offerings to visitors.”The advantage to concessionaires is that they can operate their businesses within a successful national park while not having to purchase land or set up a conservation system, while the advantage to contractual partners is that SANParks stocks their land with wildlife and runs it according to its conservation principles.“A contractual partner brings land into a national park. They also operate a business, usually a lodge with associated activities on the land, with the park receiving a percentage of the turnover,” Taplin said. “The advantage to SANParks is that we expand the park without having to purchase more land, and, we are able to offer more diversity of product to visitors, as with concessions.”Although somewhat controversial at the time, the commercialisation strategy adopted by SANParks at all of its parks thirteen years ago has today resulted in increased tourism, improved infrastructure in these areas, more jobs for surrounding local communities and broadened black economic empowerment (BEE) participation.Underlying the policy was the re-evaluation of what SANParks considered its core function – the management of biodiversity in protected areas and providing a foundation for tourism and recreation. Previously, the parks managed everything in the reserves, from doing laundry to fixing roads and providing hospitality services, often at significant financial loss.Park accommodationThe main camp of the park offers a wide variety of accommodation including chalets, rondavels, guest cottages, safari tents and forest cabins, to suit all tastes and pockets. It also runs at about 92% occupancy throughout the year, making it one of SANParks’ most popular rest camps.A unique feature here is the waterhole lookout point that is floodlit at night, as well as an underground hideaway allowing close encounters with wildlife at the waterhole. Guests also have access to a popular a-la-carte restaurant offering contemporary food with an African influence and a curio shop, both of which are private concessions.The park’s Matyholweni Rest Camp, located near the coastal town of Colchester at the Sundays River Mouth, provides a second gateway into the park.“An agreement between the Mayibuye Ndlovu Development Trust and the park sees a percentage of the turnover from Matyholweni channelled for use in local community projects,” Taplin said. “The trust consists of representatives from eight surrounding communities, local government, the Sundays River Valley Tourism Forum and the park.”For a secluded experience in magical forest, Narina Bush Camp at the foot of the Zuurberg Mountains and on the banks of the Wit River can be reached by car, hiking or horse trail. Visitors can access the camp by crossing a river bridge and walking about 500 metres through forest.The Langebos huts are available to hikers on the two-day Alexandria Hiking Trail, as well as those simply wanting an overnight stay in the forest, while the seven kilometre Dassie Day Trail begins at the huts and the breathtaking Woody Cape coastline of the park is a short drive and walk away.For a more rustic experience, try out Kabouga Cottage near the town of Kirkwood, or the Mvubu Campsite, nestled on the banks of the Sundays River.Private concessions and contractual partnersGorah Elephant Camp, the first private concession in the park, opened in 2000 within the main game area. It boasts ten luxurious tented suites and an elegant farmstead, restored to its 19th century colonial splendour. Guests can explore the bush with experienced rangers in open vehicles, on foot or horseback.RiverBend Lodge, situated in the Nyati area of the Park, offers eight luxurious double suites and inter-leading rooms for families. Longhope Villa has a private house with its own guide and chef. Game drives are conducted inside the national park or in RiverBend’s 5 000 hectare reserve, which is teamed with giraffe, white rhino, gemsbok and the endangered bontebok.Guests can also enjoy mountain drives and walks, tours to RiverBend Citrus Farm and cultural and historical excursions.Nguni River Lodge has spectacular views over a pristine floodplain encircled by mountains. Its eight African-style suites offer spectacular views over a floodplain, with sightings of abundant wildlife. Guided game drives on open land rovers and walks led by professional guides offer close encounters with the Big Five and more.The luxurious Darlington Lake Lodge, which offers only five en-suite rooms and seven en-suite tents, overlooks the lake. The lodge also has a fully equipped conference facility.Intsomi Lodge is situated in the Alexandria Forest along the park’s coastal section. The 1 000 hectare property, Langvlakte, has been the site of recent wildlife introductions by the park. Eight luxury twin-bedded chalets are situated within the majestic indigenous forest.Guests begin their journey at the forest, passing through a valley where indigenous antelope and zebra roam, continuing onto a grassy ridge to overlook an uninterrupted vista of the coastline. An impressive conference centre, in a hideaway setting, offers professional catering. Other activities on offer include guided walks, drives, hikes and horse trails.For alternative nearby accommodation, ranging from comfortable to luxury, visit Greater Addo for a list of guesthouses, guest farms, hotels and game parks in the area.This article was first published in Eastern Cape Madiba Action, winter 2008 edition. Republished here with kind permission.
Cayetano: Senate, Drilon to be blamed for SEA Games mess Private companies step in to help SEA Games hosting Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next MOST READ Switzerland’s Roger Federer reacts as he plays against Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer during their men’s singles fourth round match on day eight of The Roland Garros 2019 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 2, 2019. (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP)Roger Federer said Dominic Thiem was right to be angry at being kicked out of his own press conference so that Roland Garros organizers could accommodate a defeated Serena Williams.Austria’s Thiem, the fourth seed in the men’s event and the 2018 runner-up, was conducting his post-match press obligations after reaching the last 16 on Saturday.ADVERTISEMENT Analysis: Of course Serena Williams unsatisfied by Paris run Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. However, he was then informed that the main interview room was needed by American superstar Williams who had just suffered a third round loss to Sofia Kenin.It was the 23-time Grand Slam title winner’s earliest exit at a Slam in almost five years and she was eager to be away from the tournament site as quickly as possible.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSPrivate companies step in to help SEA Games hostingSPORTSPalace wants Cayetano’s PHISGOC Foundation probed over corruption chargesSPORTSSingapore latest to raise issue on SEA Games food, logistics“It’s a joke,” fumed 25-year-old Thiem to media officers after being told he should finish his interviews in a smaller room.“I have to leave the room because she’s coming. What the hell, I don’t care. I can also do whatever I want.” Two-day strike in Bicol fails to cripple transport ‘A game changing day:’ Gordon releases Senate panel report on ‘ninja cops’ probe PLAY LIST 02:29‘A game changing day:’ Gordon releases Senate panel report on ‘ninja cops’ probe00:50Trending Articles01:07Trump talks impeachment while meeting NCAA athletes02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City02:49World-class track facilities installed at NCC for SEA Games02:11Trump awards medals to Jon Voight, Alison Krauss LATEST STORIES ‘Rebel attack’ no cause for concern-PNP, AFP DA eyes importing ‘galunggong’ anew View comments Catholic schools seek legislated pay hike, too Ethel Booba twits Mocha over 2 toilets in one cubicle at SEA Games venue However, French sports daily L’Equipe claimed that Williams had no preference over where she carried out her press conference.“Put me in another room, a smaller one, but now,” she was reported to have said.With Williams reportedly becoming increasingly impatient, officials looked to rescue the situation by moving Thiem to another room.“That’s really impolite,” she was heard to say.Thiem had defeated Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 while Williams was stunned 6-2, 7-5 by Kenin.There was a backlash on social media over the incident.“Wait your turn for the press room like everyone else,” tweeted former Australian player Sam Groth.“Thiem, still in the draw having won, would have agreed to a press time and has a round of 16 match to prepare for, Serena just has her jet on the tarmac!” PDEA chief backs Robredo in revealing ‘discoveries’ on drug war Federer leapt to the defense of Thiem, describing him as “a superstar, a male superstar”.“I think the one who is still in the tournament gets priority, that’s how I see it,” said Federer after easing past Leonardo Mayer to reach his 54th quarter-final at the majors.“There must have been a misunderstanding or maybe they should have kept Serena still in the locker room, not waiting here in the press centre. “I don’t know exactly what happened. I understand Dominic’s frustration. I don’t think he’s mad at Serena or anybody. I just think it was an unfortunate situation.”There was no indication as to who had decided to shift Thiem mid-flow on Saturday night.ADVERTISEMENT
Local farmers are set to benefit from grant funding through the Jamaica Diaspora Agriculture Taskforce (JDAT) Investor Circle, micro farming enterprise social fund.The initiative will be officially launched at the Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show in Clarendon on August 6.Speaking with JIS News Chairperson of JDAT, Kimone Gooden said the project’s aim is to create a mechanism for farmers “to be able to ask for a grant, get it quickly, prove that they use the funds appropriately, and get the support that they need.”She informed that the Investor Circle will be accepting applications for funding at Denbigh.Farmers may also apply online at www.jdat.callingalljamaicans.org, or request a copy of the application form by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.Ms. Gooden noted that grants are disbursed within 30 days and will be given based on the merit of the application.She explained that the first instalment will be paid to start the requested project, while the final instalment will be paid after a progress review.The Jamaica Diaspora Agriculture Taskforce was created for members and organizations in the Diaspora who are passionate about Agriculture.The Taskforce is committed to combining forces and impacting the sector in the following key ways: supporting the economic viability of the Jamaican farmer through professional development and education targeted to local/export market readiness and expanding the export market; bolstering food security by focusing on projects that will help to reduce the importation of foreign food; and promoting an organic option in Jamaica.Meanwhile, Co-Chair of JDAT Denise McLaughlin explained that, it was identified that farmers needed further support, adding that the organisation continually receives requests from farmers for assistance.This, she said, is the basis on which the Investor Circle was formed, adding that the group consists of persons within the Diaspora who have pooled their resources, in an effort to provide the grants.For his part, President of the Jamaica Agricultural Society, Norman Grant, said that he is looking forward to the launch of the funding project, noting that he was appreciative of the work of the taskforce.In the meantime, Miss Gooden said that if the investor circle is successful, “we will be looking to replicate it across the other Diaspora taskforces, as collectively we can do so much more.”
zoomIllustration. Image Courtesy: Pxhere under CC0 Creative Commons license Monaco-based dry bulk shipping company Scorpio Bulkers has entered into agreements to sell two Kamsarmax vessels.The company said that the 2015-Chinese-built units were sold for USD 48 million to unaffiliated third parties. The vessels in question are the 82,000 dwt SBI Electra and 81,000 dwt SBI Flamenco.The bulkers would be delivered to their new owner in the second quarter of 2019.Scorpio Bulkers believes that the transaction would allow the company more financial flexibility. The company estimated that its liquidity would increase by around USD 18.6 million after the repayment of the vessels’ outstanding debt.Additionally, the company provided an update to time charter equivalent (TCE) rates for the first quarter of 2019.Approximate average daily TCE rates for voyages fixed so far for the first quarter of 2019 are USD 11,000 per day for the company’s Kamsarmax fleet and USD 9,100 for the Ultramax fleet. The TCE rates include vessels on previously announced time charter-out agreements.“After a down-trending month of January and a very weak February, time charter rates have consistently improved for the last few weeks as demonstrated by the BPI and BSI indexes,” Emanuele Lauro, Chief Executive Officer at Scorpio Bulkers, said.
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — The number of reported influenza-related deaths in the San Diego region this flu season has reached 142 — a record high, county health officials reported Wednesday.In comparison, there were 14 deaths in San Diego County at the same time last year.It’s the most deadly flu season since the county began collecting records two decades ago, health officials said. The previous deadliest flu season was in 2014-2015, when 97 people died.Though deaths have continued to rise in January, health officials say a drop in the overall number of cases for two consecutive weeks could be a sign of a peak.There were 2,070 lab-confirmed cases in the county last week, down from 3,046 the week before.“Unfortunately, after a high number of flu cases is reported, deaths typically follow,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer.“We continue to monitor flu activity in the region to see if cases and emergency room activity will continue to drop and determine whether the season has peaked.”Wooten said the record number of deaths could be due to the use of an electronic reporting system, which makes it easier for medical professionals to report and identify flu-related deaths.Public health officials say it’s not too late to get vaccinated.“The flu vaccine is the best public health tool we have, and an annual flu shot is recommended to everyone over six months,” Wooten said.“The vaccine helps your body develop protection in two weeks and can lessen severity if one gets the flu. The vaccine is matched with all four circulating strains.”In addition to getting vaccinated, health experts say people should wash their hand thoroughly and often, use hand sanitizer, stay away from sick people, avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth, and avoid contact with others in the event they fall ill.Vaccines are available at doctors’ offices and retail pharmacies.Those without insurance can go to a county public health center to get vaccinated. For a list of locations, visit www.sdiz.org or call 2-1-1. January 17, 2018 Categories: Local San Diego News Tags: Flu, Flu season FacebookTwitter KUSI Newsroom Updated: 3:21 PM KUSI Newsroom, Posted: January 17, 2018 Number of flu-related deaths in San Diego rises to record high 142
NEW YORK – The Grand Ballroom of The Yale Club in Manhattan was packed with some of magazine media’s brightest minds on Thursday to celebrate Folio:’s list of the top 100 innovators, entrepreneurial thinkers, and industry-disruptors from over the past year.The annual list, which is comprised of the best thought-leaders from the industry, recognizes honorees for the tangible impact they’ve had in their jobs, on their companies and brands, or on the industry at large. Representing every sector of magazine media, including consumer, b2b, regional, enthusiast, and association, the honorees set a theme of thanking their hard working teams and bosses who allowed them to execute their ideas. So this happened today- thanks @foliomag #Folio100 @InformaPLC @VitafoodsEurope pic.twitter.com/2UBKSmKDKq— Heather Granato (@HeatherGranato) December 6, 2018 Thank you @foliomag for such an honor to be named a 2018 Folio: 100 Honoree. Here I am just before heading to the event. #Folio100 #williamjacksonlifestyle pic.twitter.com/RbcQGSAz35— William Jackson, MBA, GQ Insider (@Austinpublisher) December 6, 2018 GIE Media in the Big Apple. Special afternoon representing our company with @lawnlandscape’s Justin Armburger at the 2018 @foliomag 100 awards. pic.twitter.com/4EbRUOvlJi— Guy Cipriano (@GCIMagazineGuy) December 6, 2018 “We had a terrific year and for that we have an amazing team that shows up everyday to reveal the truth and grow consumer power,” said president and CEO of Consumer Reports Marta Tellado, who is responsible for transforming one of the most trusted resources by leverage its rigorous research.This year, the list includes C-level visionaries, such as Condé Nast’s first chief data officer, Karthic Bala, who has worked diligently to strengthen the 109-year-old company’s focus on data and analytics, and founder and chief business officer of InFluential Magazine William Jackson, who created a portfolio of award-winning publications that reach millions readers every issue.“We’re doing really exciting things and taking an iconic publishing company and really transforming it for this new digital age that we’re all learning how to understand,” said C-suite honoree, Alec Casey, who serves as CMO of Trusted Media Brands.Also on the list were senior executives, including the new SVP and publisher of one of the highest profiting magazines in the industry, Cece Ryan; Yankee Magazine’s VP and publisher Brook Holmberg, who successfully transformed a regional publication into a national brand; and Meredith’s VP of brand licensing, Steven Grune, who oversees of all of Meredith’s licensing activities, spanning more than 60 partnerships.Doug Olson, president of Meredith Magazines and one of the executive honorees, said in his acceptance speech, “We had a really good year last year, but I promise you, the best is yet to come.”The strategists on the list are those who have worked over the past year to grow their brands and companies through new revenue streams and with innovative ideas. Included in this category are Adam Krefman, senior director of festivals and activations at Pitchfork, who has taken the Pitchfork Music Festival Chicago to new heights year-over-year by maxing out every inch of Union Park; Joann Kropp, Informa Engage’s VP of global data solutions, who is a visionary in the audience monetization space; and Bustle Digital Group’s Kate Robinson, who, as the SVP of content distribution and partnerships, has brought video to the forefront of her division.“I want to thank Hearst, who always lets us try new things and take risks,” said strategist honoree Patrick Varone, who is the VP of audience development at Best Products.And to round out the list are the industry creators who work to reach the hearts and minds of millions of readers around the country and the world. From video producers like David Popp at the enthusiast video magazine MR Video Plus, to the newly appointed, digital-minded editor-in-chief of a major women’s lifestyle and fashion magazine Cosmo, Jessica Pels, these creators know what it takes to stay competitive in the crowded media space.Congratulations once again to all of the honorees in year’s class of the Folio: 100! Read all about the 100 honorees here.
Enlarge ImageEA is taking harassment more seriously. James Martin/CNET When Amira Virgil is playing the world-building game The Sims, she likes to craft different characters, create houses for them and tell stories about their lives.She’s well known within the player community of Electronic Arts’ game, in part because she created modifications that gave characters more racially diverse skin tones and hair. She also started a website for people to share their own mods and other creations, called The Black Simmer. Often, she’s streaming a live broadcast of her play online, sharing her Sims exploits with hundreds of fans under the username Xmiramira. But every once in a while, people join her stream to cause trouble. Enlarge ImageThe Sims world-building game is one of the most popular video games ever made, with more than 200 million copies sold. Electronic Arts One way they do that is to change their username to include racially charged language when they leave comments while she’s streaming. They’d include words “like ghetto, N-word and slurs,” she said.Virgil isn’t alone.Which is why EA held its first large-scale meeting, called the Building Healthy Communities Summit, with 230 gaming influencers it calls Game Changers who it flew in to the meeting to discuss the problem.Sitting in the conference room nestled in the Loews Hollywood Hotel ahead of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, in Los Angeles, EA’s head of community engagement, Adam Tanielian, asked the roomful of influencers whether any of them had seen or been the target of bullying or harassment online. Nearly every hand shot up.”It’s a really crappy thing,” Tanielian said. Over the next three hours, EA outlined how it plans to combat this issue. It’s going to start releasing regular reports about the health of its online communities. It’s going to offer new tools to players to help tamp down on toxicity. And it’s going to bring together a council of players to regularly discuss these issues and what the company can do about it.EA said it also wants to inspire its players to help make change, too. That includes hearing about positive behavior from influencers they look up to. “You guys have a lot of power to try to solve some of these issues, or at least provide solutions,” Tanielian said.The company’s efforts come at a time when the video game industry is larger and more influential than ever. Its worldwide sales topped $137.9 billion last year, according to data from industry watcher Newzoo, more than music and movies combined. Online communities, such as the more than 250 million people who’ve signed up to play the hit online battle game Fortnite, are swelling with millions of players.Maintaining those large networks of gamers playing together has caused many companies to rethink the way they approach the lives people lead in the worlds they’ve created.Enlarge ImageEA’s Chris Bruzzo said the company feels a responsibility to work on these issues. James Martin/CNET In the past, companies largely left players to sort themselves out. But now, with multiplayer aspects of games like EA’s Battlefield war simulation franchise growing in popularity alongside gaming social networks like Microsoft’s Xbox Live, companies say they’re compelled to start influencing the culture of players in their games for the better.”There was a period of time where it was accepted — that’s how games are,” said Chris Bruzzo, EA’s head of marketing, who also helped head up its healthy communities summit. “We’ve started to hear more and more from players that this wasn’t something they wanted to tolerate anymore.”Of course, harassment and bullying are pervasive on social networking. And EA isn’t the only gaming company attempting to tackle these issues. In May, Microsoft posted its community standards, and committed to more moderation tools to help people avoid toxic players. Ubisoft, ahead of its E3 press conference Monday, played a video of the rapper and actor Ice-T talking about how to handle gaming online.”Video games are for everyone, and we need to keep a safe environment for the enjoyment of all, but not everyone’s cool like that,” he said. Tags Yves Guillemot, CEO of Ubisoft, said the company has been more actively discussing these issues in part because he feels it’s part of the company’s responsibility when creating online games that connect players.”Because our games are more and more social, we want those games to be safe. We want people to come in and feel good,” he said. “It is our job to make sure it’s as safe as possible.” There are also organizations like the Fair Play Alliance, a collection of companies working to encourage healthy communities. And there are anti-bullying nonprofits such as Ditch The Label, which EA supports financially, that promote equality and study the effects of toxic behavior.”Bullying is real, and it has real and devastating consequences,” said Liam Hackett, head of Ditch The Label, who spoke at the event. He said Ditch The Label’s data found that one in 10 victims of bullying has considered suicide and that one in five people has quit a game because of how they’re treated by other players. Bullying is real, and it has real and devastating consequences. Liam Hackett, head of Ditch The Label Now playing: Watch this: E3 2019 Aug 3 • E3 journalists see their personal info exposed by security flaw Aug 19 • Borderlands 3: FL4K, new endgame content and everything else we know Our E3 breakdown: Microsoft’s Project Scarlett looks… “It’s already hard enough being a content creator,” she said. But she’s often had to narrow her focus on playing with her community, rather than entering public matches for video games like Activision Blizzard’s popular multiplayer shooting game Overwatch, because of the environment she encounters. “I don’t want to deal with the racism, sexism and general toxicity that comes with being in the gaming space,” she said. As much as influencers might be able to help, she added, companies like EA and platforms like YouTube need to actively help solve some of these issues too.”It’s up to them to them to foster and create environments, and better to moderate the situations that we encounter on a day-to-day basis,” Virgil said. “It’s up to them, because there’s only so much we can do.” Jul 26 • Doom Eternal: QuakeCon ‘Year of Doom’ keynote shows more ‘Battlemode’ action 4:22 Brittney Brombacher, co-founder of the podcast What’s Good Games, said at EA’s event that bad behavior can also build on itself and affect the community. “Toxicity breeds toxicity,” she said.An increasing number of companies are taking notice. Last week, YouTube said it would take away advertising from the conservative personality Steven Crowder for using homophobic slurs against journalist Carlos Maza, a writer and video host at Vox. And some advertisers said they would no longer run ads on at least two gaming YouTube channels whose criticism and personal attacks went against their “strict” guidelines for advertising placement. Looking to the communityEA knows a thing or two about online behavior. The company’s run afoul of gamers many times.When EA began promoting its World War II-inspired shooting game Battlefield V last year, players immediately seized on the promotional materials that featured a woman on the cover. It wasn’t historically accurate to show a woman on the front lines, critics said. When the company stood up to them, saying don’t buy it if you don’t like it, the backlash grew got even worse. Ultimately, the game’s sales underperformed expectations despite a positive reception among some critics.EA was criticized for putting a woman on the cover while promoting Battlefield V, a World War II-inspired game. EA It’d be easy to dismiss EA’s Building Healthy Communities Summit as a knee-jerk reaction to all that. After all, EA’s sales and usage of its games are tied to customers being happy. Any effort to help everyone be nicer to one another could be dismissed as self-serving.But Bruzzo said it’s more than that. A player at a competitive event for EA’s Madden NFL football series shot and killed one of his competitors last year. Bruzzo said the company realized it didn’t just need to make sure the events were safe, but also to make sure there was mental health support for players too.”On the empathy side, there is work to be done,” he said. There are no clear answers yet. During a breakout discussion about research EA had done around the impacts of disruptive player behavior, attendees grappled with how involved any company should be in these issues and where the line should be drawn between banter, trash talk and hurtful actions. Some attendees said they’re frustrated by incessant harassment by other players. Some people in particular try to undermine them in a game, such as by accusing them of cheating. Some attendees said they’re targeted by disruptive players in an effort to make them look bad during a live stream.”Disruptive behavior doesn’t just disrupt the game, it disrupts people’s actual life,” said Andy Castell a 25-year-old gaming YouTuber from the UK who’s part of EA’s Game Changers influencer program. He often makes videos about playing EA’s FIFA soccer game at his channel, AJ3, which has nearly 1.5 million subscribers. “It’s obviously very important to create as positive an environment as possible in the game.”Castell said he hasn’t struggled too much with disruptive behavior himself, but he can see why it’s a problem. Solving this issue, he said, will take a delicate community discussion that doesn’t come off as paternalistic. “It’s hard in the environment that social media currently is, because you look like someone on a high horse trying to tell everyone they’re wrong, and people will take offense to it,” Castell said. “It does feel like the world’s playing catchup to this beast that’s just running out of control.”Finding solutionsFor now, EA’s focused on starting conversations. It held the Building Healthy Communities Summit ahead of E3 with its Game Changers influencers, and it made those commitments to releasing research and building tools to fight toxicity. It also plans to meet with other companies to swap ideas and to work with gamers themselves to come up with features and rules to help reduce these issues.”It’s going to be challenging to expect any one of the companies in this space will be able to ‘solve it,'” Bruzzo said.Virgil, of The Black Simmer, said she hopes this represents EA’s first steps toward seeking out more diverse perspectives — and not just from its player base but in its employee ranks as well. I don’t want to deal with the racism, sexism and general toxicity that comes with being in the gaming space. Amira Virgil, The Black Simmer reading • Gaming can be toxic toward women and minorities. Electronic Arts wants to help fix that • See All Aug 28 • Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order trailer, gameplay footage and everything we know Culture Tech Industry Gaming Comments 22 E3 2019 Share your voice Activision Electronic Arts (EA) Microsoft
Share Smith Collection/Gado/Getty ImagesA couple in Portland, Ore., discovered that their Amazon Echo had recorded their conversation and sent it to one of their contacts.As secret recordings go, the Portland couple’s conversation was pretty mundane: They were talking about hardwood floors.But their Amazon Echo was listening and recording their discussion. The device then sent the recording to someone in their contacts — without the couple’s knowledge.The wife, identified only as Danielle, told Seattle TV station KIRO 7 that they learned something was amiss when they received a phone call from the husband’s employee who lived in Seattle, telling them what he had inadvertently received. He told them to unplug their Alexa devices right away.Danielle says she and her husband went around the house unplugging their devices — which they had in each room, controlling their home’s temperature, lights and security.The employee sent the couple the sound file that the Echo had sent to him, and they were shocked to realize they had essentially been bugged.“I felt invaded,” Danielle told KIRO. “A total privacy invasion. Immediately, I said, ‘I’m never plugging that device in again, because I can’t trust it.’ “How did this happen? Here’s Amazon’s explanation of the unsettling episode:“Echo woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like ‘Alexa.’ Then, the subsequent conversation was heard as a ‘send message’ request. At which point, Alexa said out loud ‘To whom?’ At which point, the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customers contact list. Alexa then asked out loud, ‘[contact name], right?’ Alexa then interpreted background conversation as ‘right’. As unlikely as this string of events is, we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely.”That’s right — at least five times in a row, Alexa heard background conversation and misconstrued it as very specific directives. And it all happened without the people in the room knowing that the device was listening, much less recording their conversation and shipping it out, supposedly on their behalf.Last year, a North Carolina man said the same thing had happened to him: His Echo recorded 20 seconds of his conversation and sent it to his insurance agent without his knowledge.Why was the Echo recording the conversation in the first place?“Amazon’s Echo uses seven microphones and noise-canceling tech to listen out for its wake word,” Washington Post technology columnist Geoffrey Fowler explains. “Doing so, it records about a second of ambient sound on the device, which it constantly discards and replaces. But once it thinks it hears its wake word, the Echo’s blue light ring activates and it begins sending a recording of what it hears to Amazon’s computers.”While “home assistants” such as the Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple HomePod have been big sellers in the past few years, they’ve brought with them a litany of privacy and practical concerns.There was the time an Echo ordered a $170 dollhouse for a 6-year-old who asked Alexa for one. And the time Burger King ran an ad that said, “OK Google, what is the Whopper burger?” — causing Google Home devices to dutifully reply with info from the Whopper Wikipedia page.NPR’s own reporting has spurred voice-activated snafus: Morning Edition ran a story in 2016 about the Echo, which included the phrases “Alexa, give me a news bulletin” and “Alexa, turn on CNN. Set the temperature to 70 degrees.” Some Echos at home complied — by playing an NPR newscast and resetting a listener’s thermostat.But while those episodes had the air of slapstick, these recorded-conversation incidents show what can happen when people welcome devices that are always listening.“The Amazon Echo, despite being small, is a computer — it’s a computer with microphones, speakers, and it’s connected to the network,” Daniel Kahn Gillmor, a staff technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, told the Post. “These are potential surveillance devices, and we have invited them further and further into our lives without examining how that could go wrong. And I think we are starting to see examples of that.”Have an Echo and want to know what it has been recording?Fowler offers this advice: “Go into the Alexa app, tap Settings —> History, and then listen to the recordings Alexa has made of you and your family. (While you’re there, you can also delete them).”Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
Pu Ying Huang for The Texas TribuneLizzie Pannill Fletcher speaks to her supporters at her election party in Houston on May 22, 2018. Fletcher will face the Republican incumbent, U.S. Rep. John Culberson, in NovemberLizzie Pannill Fletcher, the Democratic candidate trying to unseat U.S. Representative John Culberson, said she’s raised more than a million dollars in the past three months.Culberson has not yet released his fundraising numbers for the second quarter of this year. Culberson has held that seat for 17 years. According to a press release over the second quarter of 2018, more than 75 percent of Lizzie’s funds came from within Texas, with more than 68 percent coming from Houston-area residents.Fletcher’s campaign said she’s now raised more than 2 million dollars in the battle for Texas’ seventh congressional district.“Our campaign is powered by people in this community, who have seen John Culberson choose Washington politics over people here in Houston,” Lizzie said in a press release.“I am extremely proud of the outpouring of local support that has come since day one of our campaign. The momentum we are creating, coupled with the broad coalition we continue to build, will help switch this seat and bring TX-07 the representation we deserve in Congress,” Lizzie said.7th Congressional District in West Houston has had a Republican representative since the 1960s. Share
AlgorithmWatch, non-profit research, and advocacy organization released its report titled ‘Automating Society: Taking Stock of Automated Decision-Making in the EU’, in cooperation with Bertelsmann Stiftung ( a private operating foundation) supported by the Open Society Foundations, yesterday. The report includes findings compiled from 12 EU member states and the level of the EU surrounding the development and application of automated decision-making systems in all the countries. The report is based upon these findings and makes certain recommendations for policymakers in the EU and the Member States parliaments, the EU Commission, national governments, researchers, civil society organizations, and the private sector (companies and business associations). Let’s have a look at some of the key recommendations mentioned in the report. Focus on the application of ADMs that impact society The report states that given the popularity of ‘ Artificial Intelligence’ right now, it is important to understand the real current challenges and impact of this tech on our societies. It gives an example of how ‘Predictive analytics’ that is used for determining the maintenance issues on production lines for yogurt, should not be the real concern rather predictive analytics used for tracking human behavior is where the real focus should be. The report states that there is a need for these systems to be democratically controlled in our society using a combination of regulatory tools, oversight mechanisms, and technology. Automated decision-making systems aren’t just a technology The report mentions that considering automated decision-making systems as just a technology while not considering it as a whole shift the debate surrounding questions of accuracy, and data quality. All parts of the framework should be considered while discussing the pros and cons of using a specific ADM application. What this means is that more questions should be asked around: What data does the system use? Is the use of that data legal? what decision-making model is applied to the data? Is there an issue of bias? why do governments even use specific ADM systems? Is automation being used as an option to save money? Empower citizens to adapt to new challenges As per the report, more focus should be put on enhancing citizens’ expertise to help them better determine the consequences of automated decision making. An example presented in the report is that of an English online course called “Elements of Artificial Intelligence” created to support the goal of helping Finnish people understand the challenges in ADM. The course was developed as a private-public partnership but has now become an integral part of the Finnish AI programme. This free course teaches citizens about basic concepts and applications of AI and machine learning with about 100,000 Finns enrolled in the course. Empower public administration to adapt to new challenges Just like empowering citizens is important, there’s also a need to empower the Public administration to ensure a high level of expertise inside its own institutions. This can help them either develop new systems or to oversee outsourced development. The report recommends creating public research institutions in cooperation with universities or public research centers to teach, train, and advise civil servants. Moreover, these institutions should also be created at the EU level to help the member states. Strengthen civil society’s involvement in ADM The report states that there is a lack of civil society engagement and expertise in the field of automated decision making even in some large Member States. As per the report, civil society organizations should assess the consequences of ADM as a specific and relevant policy field in their countries and strategies to address these challenges. Also, grant-making organizations should develop funding calls and facilitate networking opportunities, along with governments making public funds available to civil society interventions. Don’t look at only data protection for regulatory ideas The report mentions how Article 22 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has been under a lot of controversies. According to Article 22, Automated individual decision-making, including profiling, “the data subject shall have the right not to be subject to a decision based solely on automated processing, including profiling, which produces legal effects concerning him or her or similarly significantly affects him or her”. Many people have developed a consensus around it, saying that it’s limited and that the use cases of ADM systems cannot be regulated by data protection. It talks about the importance of discussion around developing governance tools and states that stakeholders should look at creative applications of existing regulatory frameworks such as equal-pay regulation. This would further help them address new challenges such as algorithmically controlled platform work (Gig Economy) and explore the new avenues for regulation of the effects of ADM. Need for a wide range of stakeholders (including civil liberty firms) to develop criteria for good design processes and audits The report mentions that on surveying some of the countries, they found out that governments claim that their strategies involve civil society stakeholders just to bring “diverse voices” to the table. But, the term civil society is not well defined and includes academia, groups of computer scientists or lawyers, think tanks, etc. This leads to important viewpoints getting missed since governments use this broad definition to show that ‘civil society’ is included despite them not being a part of the conversation. This is why it is critical that the organizations focused on rights be included in the debate. For more coverage, check out the official AlgorithmWatch report. Read Next 2019 Deloitte tech trends predictions: AI-fueled firms, NoOps, DevSecOps, intelligent interfaces, and more IEEE Computer Society predicts top ten tech trends for 2019: assisted transportation, chatbots, and deep learning accelerators among others Unity introduces guiding Principles for ethical AI to promote responsible use of AI