Items filtered by date: Thursday, 25 May 2017

5 facts about Evelyn Glennie

The extraordinary percussionist uses her whole body to hear.


Early adaptation Percussionist Evelyn Glennie has been profoundly deaf since the age of 12, which forced her to develop her ability to hear through the rest of her body. She initially honed this ability by feeling the wall in her music room in high school as her percussion teacher tuned a timpani. “I could feel the vibrations in my hands and lower parts of my legs, so I got the pitch that way,” she told Modern Drummer in 1989. “I can also put my fingertips on the edge and feel it that way. There are countless ways of really hearing a particular instrument.”

Shoes off She performs barefoot or in stocking feet to help her feel the vibrations through the floor (Her 1990 autobiography was titled Good Vibrations). “The body’s like a huge ear,” she told the Globe and Mail in 2011.

Trailblazer Initially, Glennie was rejected when she applied to study at the Royal Academy of Music in London because they weren’t sure how to handle her deafness. “If you refuse me for those reasons as opposed to the ability to perform, and to understand, and love the art of creating sound, then we have to think very, very hard about the people you do actually accept,” she told them, as she explains in a 2003 Ted Talk. She auditioned again, and they accepted her, which had a ripple effect on applications to music institutions across the country. “Every single entry had to be listened to and experienced,” she says, and then judged based on musical ability rather than rejected based on other criteria.

Video link:

Full trophy case Glennie has gone on to a much-lauded career. She was the first to perform a percussion concerto at the Royal Academy and the first percussionist named Dame Commander of the British Empire in 2008.

New sound Glennie joins the Land’s End Ensemble for their 20th anniversary celebration on Friday and a performance of a new piece for drum kit and piano trio composed by Land’s End’s artistic director, Vincent Ho. Glennie and Ho previously collaborated on The Shaman, a percussion concerto that was performed at Carnegie Hall’s Spring for Music Festival in May 2014.

Land’s End Ensemble with Evelyn Glennie: Friday, May 26 at Bella Concert Hall, MRU. $44 – $69.


Lascañas' DDS claims 'flooded with loopholes'

MANILA – The first counts, but the second, not so much.
The Senate committee that heard the claims of a former Davao City policeman he killed on the orders of then mayor and now President Rodrigo Duterte said the fabled Davao Death Squad (DDS) did not exist. There was no proof either of “a state-sponsored policy to commit killings to eradicate illegal drugs in the country.”
In a report released on Monday, May 22, the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs also noted that retired policeman Arturo Lascañas was a “credible witness” the first time he testified before the Senate.
During that October 2016 appearance, he denied the existence of the death squad and refuted allegations by another alleged hitman-turned-whistleblower.
Lascañas would later recant that testimony and appear before the Senate in March 2017.
The second testimony, the committee noted, “is flooded with loopholes and uncertainty on material facts. Apart from the lack of corroborating evidence, his testimony was easily negated and destroyed by established facts, legal presumptions, and resolutions of government agencies concerned.”
The committee also pointed out that Lascañas was unable to present any other proof of his claims, aside from his actual confession.
The report was signed by committee chairman Panfilo Lacson, vice chairperson Gregorio Honasan II, and members Joseph Victor Ejercito, Emmanuel Pacquiao, Senator Nancy Binay, as well as ex-officio member Vicente Sotto III.
Senators Grace Poe and Ralph Recto also signed the report, but with notes. Both said they agreed on the recommendations.
Only Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, who had taken custody of Lascañas, said he did not concur and expressed plans to interpellate the report.
Whistleblower cop
Senior Police Office 3 (SPO3) Lascañas was among the cops who testified before the Senate in October 2016, partly to refute claims made by Edgar Matobato, a self-confessed hitman who claimed he was part of the DDS.
Lascañas retired in December 2016. Shortly after, he sought the protection of religious members and went into hiding. In his first press conference after retirement and in several media interviews, he said he changed tunes because he had a “spiritual renewal” and now wanted to tell the truth.
During Lascañas' second testimony, senators assailed him for flip-flopping on his claims, and argued this would be a basis to doubt his allegations. Lascañas initially denied knowing Matobato, but his 2017 testimony corroborated most of Matobato’s claims.
Still, the Senate committee said Lascañas’ retraction “does not necessarily vitiate his original testimony,” meaning the supposed “loopholes” in his first appearance did not take from the accuracy of his first sworn statements.
“His testimony solemnly given should not be lightly set aside and that before this can be done, both the previous testimony and the subsequent one be carefully compared, the circumstances under which each was given be carefully scrutinized, the reasons or motives for the change carefully scrutinized, in other words, all the expedients devised by man to determine the credibility of the witness should be utilized to determine which of the contradictory testimonies represent the truth,” the report said.
Quoting a Supreme Court decision, the committee pointed out that it’s the witness – and not his first statement – that stands to be “impeached” if a witness recants his earlier statement.
The committee recommended to increase the penalty for witnesses who commit perjury, noting that Lascañas’ testimony “only highlights the fact that there are individuals who have the audacity to spread falsity before the august body.”
It also recommended revisions in Senate rules, particularly when it comes to punishing witnesses who make false testimonies: “As it is current worded, the Section does not punish a witness who gives incompatible/inconsistent testimonies. This allows a witness to change his/her position, or recant his/her previous testimony without fear of penalty.” –

Duterte told Trump to 'keep the pressure' on N. Korea

By the Rappler Investigative Team
This story was put together in partnership with The Intercept, which obtained the transcript of President Duterte's April 29 phone conversation with President Trump and shared it with Rappler.
MANILA – While publicly calling on the United States and North Korea to "show restraint", Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte asked US President Donald Trump in private to "keep the pressure" on North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.
In a phone conversation with Trump last April 29 – a transcript of which was obtained by Rappler in cooperation with The Intercept, an award-winning digital magazine that has reported on classified documents – Duterte shared Trump's disdain for Kim.
Duterte said Kim is a "madman" who is "laughing always", has a "dangerous toy in his hands", and can only be stopped by China, "the last card" to avert "so much agony and suffering for all mankind."
The "confidential" transcript revealed the views of Duterte and Trump on North Korea, and uncovered the complicated dynamics between the US, China, and the Philippines.
The authenticity of the document was confirmed by a Palace source. Names on the document were also confirmed by another source in the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The transcript revealed the following:
·         Duterte, in public, urges both North Korea and the US to "show restraint," but in his private conversation with Trump, asked the US to "keep the pressure" on North Korea.
·         Duterte views China as having the ace against North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.
·         Duterte, in public, claims that Trump asked him to call Chinese President Xi Jinping to intervene in the Korean Peninsula crisis. The transcript showed that it was Duterte who volunteered to do this.
·         While the Philippine leader curses at the US in public, Duterte told Trump on behalf of ASEAN leaders, "We support you," as they seek US intervention in the Korean Peninsula crisis. Trump pointed out "we are all counting on China" in dealing with North Korea.
Rappler is quoting verbatim from the transcript, keeping intact the errors in punctuation and spelling, which a Palace source described as "nothing extraordinary" – especially if done in a hurry.
Assessing Kim Jong-Un
The transcript begins with Duterte thanking Trump for calling, and Trump saying he hopes it is not too late in the evening. It was around 10 pm on April 29.
Duterte replied it was all right, as he was just having dinner with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Trump said he knows Duterte doesn't sleep much, "just like me."
Trump proceeded to congratulate Duterte on his "unbelievable job" in the war on drugs. Duterte thanked Trump, calling illegal drugs "the scourge of my nation now."
Trump said he understand this, and he thinks the US "had a previous President who did not understand that" – in reference to former US president Barack Obama, who criticized Duterte's bloody anti-drug campaign.
According to the transcript, Trump then said, "So how is everyone doing, how is the Phls doing?"
This was where Duterte opened the topic of the Korean Peninsula, urging Trump to "keep on the pressure" on North Korea.
"We are doing fine Mr president but in the ASEAN summit every member state was really nervous about situation in Korean peninsula but we would like to tell you that we support you and keep the pressure because as long as those rockets and warheads are in the hands of Kim Jon Un we will never be safe as there's not telling what will happen next," Duterte said. (The transcript misspelled the name of the North Korean leader.)
Trump shot back, "Whats your opinion of him, Rodrigo? Are we dealing with someone who stable or not stable?"
Duterte answered: "He is not stable, Mr President, as he keeps on smiling when he explodes a rocket. He even has gone against China which is the last country he should rebuke. But it seems from his face – he is laughing always and theres as dangerous toy in his hands which could create so much agony and suffering for all mankind."
Trump replied that Kim "has got the powder but he doesn't have the delivery system."
"All his rockets are crashing. That's the good news," Trump added, saying the problem is "when he gets that delivery system."
Duterte: 'The ace has to be with China'
The US president then asked Duterte about China. "Does China have power over him?"
Duterte replied: "Yes at the end of the day, the last card, the ace has to be with China. Its only China. He is playing with his bombs, his toys and from the looks of it, his mind is not working well and he might just go crazy one moment. China should make a last ditch effort to tell him to lay off. China will play a very important role there."
Trump said the US has "a lot of firepower" in the region, including two nuclear submarines, "the best in the world." He also said, "I've never seen anything like they are but we don't have to use this but he could be crazy so we will see what happens."
Duterte replied, "Every generation has a mad man – in our generation is Kim Jung Un – you are dealing with a very delicate problem."
"We can handle it," Trump said.
Duterte replied, "But you can keep the pressure on him."
Trump said he hopes China "solves the problem." He said China has the means "because a great degree of their stuff come through China."
At this point, Duterte offers to call Chinese President Xi Jinping. "I will try to make a call to President Xi Jinping and I will try to tell him that if we will remain to be peaceful, China has the card. The other option is a nuclear blast which is not good for everybody."
'We are all counting on China'
Trump said of Xi, "You can tell him I am counting on him. I have a very good relationship with him. I had him in Florida for two days and got to know him well. He is a good guy."
Duterte promised to call Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua to facilitate the phone call. "It will be good if you can keep on the pressure on Kim but actually we are all worried as we are all within the striking distance of his rockets. We are afraid," the Philippine leader said.
Trump then told Duterte: "We cant let a madman with nuclear weapons let on the loose like that. We have a lot of firepower, more than he has, times 20 but we don't want to use it. You will be in good shape."
"We believe it, we know it all along," Duterte said.
Trump replied, "Pls call China and tell them we are all counting on China. Tell the President – we became friends for two days – he was great."
At this point, Trump shifted the conversation to their possible meeting either in Manila or Washington.
"Work it out with your staff," Trump told Duterte. "Seriously, if you want to come over, just let us know."
"Just take care of yourself, and we will take care of North Korea," Trump said.
Duterte replied by saying he will relay his message to other ASEAN leaders.
"Thank you for the concern. God bless you Mr President," Duterte said.
Trump answered, "Take care of yourself, Rodrigo. God bless you."
Reacting to the transcript obtained by The Intercept, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Wednesdaypointed out, "Under Philippine law, there is criminal and civil liability attached to the hacking, unauthorized disclosure, and use of illegally or inadvertently obtained confidential government documents."
The DFA then pointed out that Duterte and Trump "have a good and warm working relationship," and that the agency supports the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
The agency ended its statement saying: "While we value the need for transparency and the people's right to information, release of certain pieces of information, whether accurate of inaccurate, can affect national security and regional peace and stability."
"As such, we appeal to the sense of responsibility and patriotism of all concerned," the DFA said. –

High Senate official wins award for torture

MANILA -- A top official of the Senate is one of the 317 Martial Law victims to have received last May 8 the first tranche of monetary compensation from the government for the human rights abuses they suffered during the period.
Senate Secretary Lutgardo Barbo is among the more prominent personalities found by the Human Rights Victims Claims Board (HRVCB) 1stDivision to be a “human rights violation victim,” citing his arbitrary detention, torture and sexual offense at the hands of military agents in 1980.
“It is a welcome development, but this amount could not possibly repay the fears that I felt for my life and for my family during the time. I suppose no amount of money could pay for what we have lost,” he said.
Barbo, a former Eastern Samar governor and president of the Philippine Normal University (PNU), said that he is grateful that the government is finally “taking concrete steps to help those who have suffered so much during those dark years.”
“The scars of those years remain, even after all these decades.  Even among the victims who still live, Martial Law took away a part of their lives that they are never going to get back,” said Barbo.  
According to the resolution penned by the HRCVB first decision on his claim, Barbo was arrested at San Fernando, Pampanga by operatives of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) in September of 1980.
He was detained in relation to the September 6, 1980 explosion in the YMCA building in Manila, which authorities blamed on the anti-Marcos ‘Light-a-fire movement,” since his name appeared in the telephone book of Victor Burns Lovely Jr., the alleged bomber.
Barbo proved to be an “unusual target” compared to most individuals pursued by the security services during Martial Law, as he was already a legal counsel for the Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company Philippines at the time. 
However, his status did little to protect him from the armed men, who forced him at gunpoint to come with them.
“When I told them that I was a lawyer, they said, “Huwag kang mag-lalawyer lawyer dito ah. They told me to be cooperative if I wanted to live,” he said. 
Paraded as “one communist terrorist big fish” by the military, Barbo was eventually brought to Camp Aguinaldo, where he was subjected to repeated beatings and long hours of interrogation, as agents would insult him, spit at him and threaten to shoot him in his genitals or his head.
The same agents also offered to free him and even schedule him a meeting with President Ferdinand Marcos, if he would “testify against then Senator Jovito Salonga.” Barbo refused the deal, which angered his captors.  
Barbo said his worst ordeal was when he was forced to strip naked by a military interrogator, who then hit and probed his private parts with a wooden stick.  
“Right then, I thought that I was going to die. I prayed for more than thirty minutes, and ignored everything that they were saying or doing to me,” he said.
“What was painful really is to be humiliated like that, and to be mentally and physiologically tortured,” he said.
Barbo was detained for two months, until his wife, lawyer Rebecca Barbo, and his mother –in-law Nieves Bautista Ambulo, secured his release. However, he was placed on house arrest and was forced to report to Camp Crame every week.
While it has been nearly four decades since his detention, Barbo said that the traumatizing experience remained with him through the years.
“For years, whenever I am in a room, I made sure to keep the door open. I could not stand to be locked inside a room – I felt like the ceiling and the walls were going to close in on me,” he said.
 However, Barbo said that he wished no ill to the military men who were involved in his arrest and torture.
“There had been a time that I wanted to seek revenge, for what they did. But I eventually found out that the commanding officer who was largely responsible for my torture had live a wretched life after the Marcos years,nasira ang buhay. In the end, I only felt remorse,” he said.
Barbo said that he has since made it his mission to help those, who like him, suffered abuses at the hands of law enforcers and government officials.
In 1988, the Supreme Court, through a decision penned by former Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee, gave a rare commendation to Barbo “for his fearless and unrelenting pursuit of the cause of truth and justice” as lawyer for the families of three fish merchants who were arrested and became missing persons in Eastern Samar during Martial Law.
The reparations and the HRVCB are mandated under the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 or RA 10368, signed by former President Benigno Aquino III.
The HRVCB has earlier said that the second tranche will be given after the board finishes going over the 75,000 claims of human rights violations that have been submitted.

Wait, what? Scientist discovers snakes that hunt in packs

By Euan McKirdy, CNN

Get ready to update your nightmares. 

A scientist from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville has discovered that a species of snake, the Cuban boa, hunts in groups, and through teamwork improve their chances of catching prey. 
It's the first time that reptiles have been observed to have been involved in "coordinated hunting," where individual animals take into account the location of others of the same species to maximize their hunting successes. 
The study's author, Vladimir Dinets, observed the snakes hunting fruit bats in Cuba. Taking up positions across a cave mouth at dawn and dusk, the individual snakes would position themselves in a way as to improve the odds of the pack making a kill. 
"Snakes arriving to the hunting area were significantly more likely to position themselves in the part of the passage where other snakes were already present, forming a 'fence' across the passage and thus more effectively blocking the flight path of the prey, significantly increasing hunting efficiency," the study's abstract states.
And if a pack of 1 to 2 meter (3 - 6 ft) long snakes working together wasn't enough to give you heart palpitations, they do it by hanging upside down from the roofs of caves. 
"After sunset and before dawn, some of the boas entered the passage that connected the roosting chamber with the entrance chamber, and hunted by suspending themselves from the ceiling and grabbing passing bats."
Dinets, an Assistant Research Professor in the university's Department of Psychology, observed the positions that each boa took up each morning and evening when they arrived at the hunting site and ascertained that they would pick places that would help block the bats' path in and out of the cave, improving the hunt's effectiveness.
He says that the behavior represents a sophistication that previously had gone unnoticed in reptiles. 
"Coordinated hunting requires higher behavioral complexity because each animal has to take other hunters' actions into account."
He said that previous studies had shown that cooperative hunting didn't necessarily increase food intake for all the participants, but instead might have a social function. 
Other instances of snakes hunting together have been observed, he concludes, including the BBC's heart-in-mouth Planet Earth II segment of Galapagos racers hunting a baby iguana, but it's far from certain that there is any coordination between individual animals. 
Dinets' research is the first time that the phenomenon has been scientifically recorded.
  • Published in Tech

The Brain Literally Starts Eating Itself When It Doesn't Get Enough Sleep

The reason we sleep goes far beyond simply replenishing our energy levels every 12 hours - our brains actually change states when we sleep to clear away the toxic byproducts of neural activity left behind during the day.

Weirdly enough, the same process starts to occur in brains that are chronically sleep-deprived too - except it's kicked into hyperdrive. Researchers have found that persistently poor sleep causes the brain to clear a significant amount of neurons and synaptic connections, and recovering sleep might not be able to reverse the damage.

A team led by neuroscientist Michele Bellesi from the Marche Polytechnic University in Italy has examined the mammalian brain's response to poor sleeping habits, and found a bizarre similarity between the well-rested and sleepless mice.

Like the cells elsewhere in your body, the neurons in your brain are being constantly refreshed by two different types of glial cell - support cells that are often called the glue of the nervous system.

The microglial cells are responsible for clearing out old and worn out cells via a process called phagocytosis - meaning "to devour" in Greek.

The astrocytes' job is to prune unnecessary synapses (connections) in the brain to refresh and reshape its wiring. 

We've known that this process occurs when we sleep to clear away the neurological wear and tear of the day, but now it appears that the same thing happens when we start to lose sleep.

But rather than being a good thing, the brain goes overboard with the clearing, and starts to harm itself instead.

Think of it like the garbage being cleared out while you're asleep, versus someone coming into your house after several sleepless nights and indiscriminately tossing out your television, fridge, and family dog.

"We show for the first time that portions of synapses are literally eaten by astrocytes because of sleep loss," Bellesi told Andy Coghlan at New Scientist.

To figure this out, the researchers imaged the brains of four groups of mice:

  • one group was left to sleep for 6 to 8 hours (well-rested)
  • another was periodically woken up from sleep (spontaneously awake)
  • a third group was kept awake for an extra 8 hours (sleep-deprived)
  • and a final group was kept awake for five days straight (chronically sleep-deprived).

When the researchers compared the activity of the astrocytes across the four groups, they identified it in 5.7 percent of the synapses in the well-rested mouse brains, and 7.3 of the spontaneously awake mouse brains.

In the sleep-deprived and chronically sleep-deprived mice, they noticed something different: the astrocytes had increased their activity to actually eating parts of the synapses like microglial cells eat waste - a process known as astrocytic phagocytosis. 

In the sleep-deprived mouse brains, the astrocytes were found to be active across 8.4 percent of the synapses, and in the chronically sleep-deprived mice, a whopping 13.5 percent of their synapses showed astrocyte activity.

As Bellesi told New Scientist, most of the synapses that were getting eaten in the two groups of sleep-deprived mice were the largest ones, which tend to be the oldest and most heavily used - "like old pieces of furniture" - which is probably a good thing.

But when the team checked the activity of the microglial cells across the four groups, they found that it had also ramped up in the chronically sleep-deprived group.

And that's a worry, because unbridled microglial activity has been linked to brain diseases like Alzheimer's and other forms of neurodegeneration.

"We find that astrocytic phagocytosis, mainly of presynaptic elements in large synapses, occurs after both acute and chronic sleep loss, but not after spontaneous wake, suggesting that it may promote the housekeeping and recycling of worn components of heavily used, strong synapses," the researchers report.

"By contrast, only chronic sleep loss activates microglia cells and promotes their phagocytic activity ... suggesting that extended sleep disruption may prime microglia and perhaps predispose the brain to other forms of insult."

Many questions remain, such as if this process is replicated in human brains, and if catching up on sleep can reverse the damage.

But the fact that Alzheimer's deaths have increased by an incredible 50 percent since 1999, together with the struggle that many of us have in getting a good night's sleep, means this is something we need to get to the bottom of - and fast.

The research has been published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

  • Published in Tech

Militant groups hit the streets to denounce martial rule

Just like back in the 1970s, members of various militant groups and their support organizations are again taking their fight into the streets of Manila to denounce the government’s imposition of martial law in Mindanao.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general Renato Reyes said on Friday that different groups decided to convene in Mendiola to voice out their strong opposition in martial law.

“Today (Friday) we march to Mendiola in solidarity with the people of Marawi and Mindanao. We condemn in no uncertain terms the attacks of the Maute group against the civilians of Marawi,” Reyes said in a statement.

Other groups joining the sentiments of Bayan were people’s rights advocate Karapatan and Suara Bangsamoro, a Mindanao-based war survivor organization. The members dubbed the protest move as “Black Friday.”

During the Marcos regime, militant and leftist groups joined together in holding anti-martial law street demonstrations particularly in Mendiola and Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila, only to be met by violent dispersals from law enforcers.

Reyes said the groups strongly “oppose President Rodrigo Duterte’s martial law and the human rights violations it (entails).”

Bayan said that the administration should address the root causes of the armed conflict as the “only means of achieving a just and lasting peace in Mindanao.”

“The raging conflict in Mindanao is rooted in poverty, inequality, rights violations including the right to the self-determination. These will require more than just a militarist solution,” Reyes added.

“Black Friday” protesters will gather in the afternoon at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila and will be proceeding to Mendiola. Participants are encouraged to wear black t- shirts to show their condemnation of martial law. Eiriel Rain Dollete/ trainee/JPV/rga

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