Daily Archives: May 8, 2018

Felice mercoledì!

Imperial Library, Hofburg Imperial Palace, Vienna, Austria via: http://bit.ly/2HKNKgX

Imperial Library, Hofburg Imperial Palace, Vienna, Austria
via: http://bit.ly/2HKNKgX

Imperial Library, Hofburg Imperial Palace, Vienna, Austria via: http://bit.ly/2HKNKgX

De pe la Breaza: Bună dimineața!

De pe la Breaza: Bună dimineața

De pe la Breaza: Bună dimineața

A Lavender Night (photo by Albert Dros) – Valensole, Provence, France via: https://bit.ly/2EZ7MTd

A Lavender Night (photo by Albert Dros) - Valensole, Provence, France
via: https://bit.ly/2EZ7MTd

A Lavender Night (photo by Albert Dros) – Valensole, Provence, France via: https://bit.ly/2EZ7MTd

Trump pulls US out of Iran nuke deal | TheHill


Trump pulls US out of Iran nuke deal
Rebecca Kheel – 05/08/18 02:20 PM EDT

President Trump on Tuesday announced he will not renew sanctions waivers for the Iran nuclear deal, taking a step that could lead to the deal’s unraveling.

Keeping with the promise he made in January, Trump announced he has decided against continuing to wave sanctions as laid out in a 2015 pact between the United States, Iran, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Russia and China.

The deal provided Tehran billions in sanctions relief in exchange for curbing its nuclear program.

Trump had faced a Saturday deadline to renew the waivers on oil and banking sanctions that were lifted as part of the deal.

International inspectors and the deal’s signatories, including U.S. officials, have said Iran continues to comply with the terms of the agreement, but Trump has long derided the Obama-era accord as the “worst deal ever negotiated.”

Trump had kept the deal alive by waiving sanctions several times since taking office.

The president last renewed the waivers in January, though, he warned he would not do so again unless European allies agreed to “fix” the nuclear deal.

Trump has cited three main flaws in the deal: several provisions sunset, nuclear inspectors cannot demand to see some military sites, and the deal does not address other troubling behavior such as Iran’s ballistic missile program and support for terrorists.

The administration was negotiating with Germany, France and the United Kingdom for a supplemental deal to address those areas.

As the waiver deadline approached, the Europeans engaged in a flurry of activity to convince Trump to remain in the pact. French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson all visited the United States to make their case.

But the deal’s international critics were also active. Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a speech in which he declared “Iran lied” about its nuclear intentions.

Supporters of the deal say the United States withdrawing gives Iran an excuse to restart its nuclear program, effectively killing the pact. France and Germany have warned the end of the deal could mean a Middle East war.

But experts have said Iran is likely to stay in the deal even without the United States if it can continue getting benefits from the accord by being able to do business with European companies.

In a sign that Iran is not ready to walk away from the deal, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesdayahead of Trump’s announcement that Iran wants to keep “working with the world and constructive engagement with the world.”

“It is possible that we will face some problems for two or three months, but we will pass through this,” Rouhani said.

Trump expected to remove US from Iran nuke deal
The Hill
Iran says it will ‘most likely’ abandon nuke deal if Trump withdraws
The Hill
Condoleezza Rice defends Trump leaving Iran nuclear deal
The Hill
What Happens After Trump Pulls Out of the Iran Deal
New York Magazine
Trump to reveal U.S. decision on Iran nuclear deal

Watch “Ted Cruz to Zuckerberg: Is there Facebook political bias?” on YouTube

Watch “Trump Announces Withdrawal From Iran Nuclear Deal / Meet The Approved Opposition” on YouTube

Two cases of Ebola confirmed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo


The Ebola virus as seen through a microscope. File pic

The Ebola virus as seen through a microscope. File pic

Sky News

Two cases of Ebola confirmed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

At least ten more cases are suspected in the northwest of the African country, whose Ebola River gave the deadly virus its name.

By Sanya Burgess, News Reporter

17:52, UK, Tuesday 08 May 2018

Two cases of Ebola have been confirmed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), according to a government health official.

Jean Jack Muyembe, head of the national institute for biological research, said that at least ten more cases were also suspected in the northwestern town of Bikoro.

Local health officials in Democratic Republic of Congo reported 21 patients showing signs of hemorrhagic fever and 17 deaths in the affected area before an Ebola outbreak was confirmed on Tuesday, the health ministry said.

Medical teams have taken five samples from suspected active cases and two tested positive for the Zaire strain of the Ebola virus, the ministry said in a statement.

It is the ninth time Ebola has been recorded in the DRC.

Last year, eight people were infected and four people died after an outbreak of the disease.

Ebola virus disease, formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal illness in humans.

The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.

It is believed to be spread over long distances by bats, which can host the virus without dying. These animals then infect other tree-dwelling creatures such as monkeys.

Ebola can often spread to humans from infected bushmeat.

Hygienists wearing protective suits disinfect the toilets of the Ebola treatment centre in Lokolia, on October 5, 2014
Ebola is a difficult illness to contain and efforts to stop it spreading are vital
The World Health Organisation reports that the first Ebola outbreaks occurred in remote villages in Central Africa, near tropical rainforests.

The two-year outbreak in West Africa that began in 2014 involved major urban areas as well as rural ones. More than 11,300 people died and some 28,600 were infected, most of them in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

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Sporadic cases of Ebola have occurred since the epidemic was brought under control, with a small number of patients being confirmed in 2017.

The disease was first detected in 1976 in two simultaneous outbreaks, one in what is now Nzara, South Sudan, and the other in Yambuku in the DRC. The latter occurred near the River Ebola, after which the disease is named.

Why Is the Mona Lisa So Famous? | Britannica.com


Why Is the Mona Lisa So Famous?
WRITTEN BY: Alicja Zelazko
PUBLISHED: 05/03/2018
Mona Lisa, oil on wood panel by Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1503-06; in the Louvre, Paris, France. 77 x 53 cm.
© Everett-Art/Shutterstock.com
Five centuries after Leonardo da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa (1503–19), the portrait hangs behind bulletproof glass within the Louvre Museum and draws thousands of jostling spectators each day. It is the most famous painting in the world, and yet, when viewers manage to see the artwork up close, they are likely to be baffled by the small subdued portrait of an ordinary woman. She’s dressed modestly in a translucent veil, dark robes, and no jewelry. Much has been said about her smile and gaze, but viewers still might wonder what all the fuss is about. Along with the mysteries of the sitter’s identity and her enigmatic look, the reason for the work’s popularity is one of its many conundrums. Although many theories have attempted to pinpoint one reason for the art piece’s celebrity, the most compelling arguments insist that there is no one explanation. The Mona Lisa’s fame is the result of many chance circumstances combined with the painting’s inherent appeal.

There is no doubt that the Mona Lisa is a very good painting. It was highly regarded even as Leonardo worked on it, and his contemporaries copied the then novel three-quarter pose. The writer Giorgio Vasari later extolled Leonardo’s ability to closely imitate nature. Indeed, the Mona Lisa is a very realistic portrait. The subject’s softly sculptural face shows Leonardo’s skillful handling of sfumato, an artistic technique that uses subtle gradations of light and shadow to model form, and shows his understanding of the skull beneath the skin. The delicately painted veil, the finely wrought tresses, and the careful rendering of folded fabric reveal Leonardo’s studied observations and inexhaustible patience. And, although the sitter’s steady gaze and restrained smile were not regarded as mysterious until the 19th century, viewers today can appreciate her equivocal expression. Leonardo painted a complex figure that is very much like a complicated human.

Many scholars, however, point out that the excellent quality of the Mona Lisa was not enough by itself to make the painting a celebrity. There are, after all, many good paintings. External events also contributed to the artwork’s fame. That the painting’s home is the Louvre, one of the world’s most-visited museums, is a fortuitous circumstance that has added to the work’s stature. It arrived at the Louvre via a circuitous path beginning with Francis I, king of France, in whose court Leonardo spent the last years of his life. The painting became part of the royal collection, and, for centuries after, the portrait was secluded in French palaces until the Revolution claimed the royal collection as the property of the people. Following a stint in Napoleon’s bedroom, the Mona Lisa was installed in the Louvre Museum at the turn of the 19th century. As patronage of the Louvre grew, so too did recognition of the painting.

The identity of the portrait’s sitter soon became more intriguing. Although many scholars believe that the painting depicts Lisa Gherardini, wife of the Florentine merchant Francesco del Giocondo, no records of such a commission from Francesco exist, and the sitter has never been conclusively identified. The unknown identity has thus lent the figure to whatever characterization people wanted to make of her. During the Romantic era of the 19th century, the simple Florentine housewife who may have been portrayed was transformed into a mysterious seductress. The French writer Théophile Gautier described her as a “strange being…her gaze promising unknown pleasures,” while others went on about her perfidious lips and enchanting smile. The English author Walter Pater went so far as to call her a vampire who “has been dead many times, and learned the secrets of the grave.” The air of mystery that came to surround the Mona Lisa in the 19th century continues to define the painting and draw speculation.

Meanwhile, the 19th century also mythologized Leonardo as a genius. Throughout the centuries after his death, he was well regarded—but no more so than his esteemed contemporaries Michelangelo and Raphael. Some scholars have noted, however, that, as interest in the Renaissance grew in the 19th century, Leonardo became more popularly seen not only as a very good painter but also as a great scientist and inventor whose designs prefigured contemporary inventions. Many of his so-called inventions were later debunked, and his contributions to science and architecture came to be seen as small, but the myth of Leonardo as a genius has continued well into the 21st century, contributing to the Mona Lisa’s popularity.

The writers of the 19th century aroused interest in the Mona Lisa, but the theft of the painting in 1911 and the ensuing media frenzy brought it worldwide attention. When news of the crime broke on August 22 of that year, it caused an immediate sensation. People flocked to the Louvre to gape at the empty space where the painting had once hung, the museum’s director of paintings resigned, accusations of a hoax splashed across newspapers, and Pablo Picasso was even arrested as a suspect! Two years later the painting was found in Italy after an art dealer in Florence alerted the local authorities that a man had contacted him about selling it. The man was Vincenzo Peruggia, an Italian immigrant to France, who had briefly worked at the Louvre fitting glass on a selection of paintings, including the Mona Lisa. He and two other workers took the portrait from the wall, hid with it in a closet overnight, and ran off with it in the morning. Unable to sell the painting because of the media attention, Peruggia hid it in the false bottom of a trunk until his capture. He was tried, convicted, and imprisoned for the theft while the painting toured Italy before it made its triumphant return to the Louvre. By then, many French people had come to regard the work as a national treasure that they had lost and recovered.

The Mona Lisa was certainly more famous after the heist, but World War I soon consumed much of the world’s attention. Some scholars argue that Marcel Duchamp’s playful defacement of a postcard reproduction in 1919 brought attention back to the Mona Lisa and started a trend that would make the painting one of the most-recognized in the world. He played against the worship of art when he drew a beard and mustache on the lady’s face and added the acronym L.H.O.O.Q. (meant to evoke a vulgar phrase in French) at the bottom. That act of irreverence caused a small scandal, and other cunning artists recognized that such a gag would bring them attention. For decades after, other artists, notably Andy Warhol, followed suit. As artists distorted, disfigured, and played with reproductions of the Mona Lisa, cartoonists and admen exaggerated her further still. Over the decades, as technology improved, the painting was endlessly reproduced, sometimes manipulated and sometimes not, so that the sitter’s face became one of the most well known in the world, even to those who had little interest in art.

A tour of the painting to the United States in 1963 and to Japan in 1974 elevated it to celebrity status. The Mona Lisa traveled to the United States in no less than a first-class cabin on an ocean liner and drew about 40,000 people a day to the Metropolitan Museum in New York City and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., during the portrait’s six-week stay. Large crowds greeted the portrait in Japan about ten years later. What’s more, as travel has become increasingly affordable since the late 20th century, more and more individuals have been able to visit Paris and pay their respects in person, contributing to the unyielding crowds of today.

Although the Mona Lisa is undoubtedly good art, there is no single reason for its celebrity. Rather, it is hundreds of circumstances—from its fortuitous arrival at the Louvre to the mythmaking of the 19th century to the endless reproductions of the 20th and 21st centuries—that have all worked together with the painting’s inherent appeal to make the Mona Lisa the world’s most famous painting ever.

Mona Lisa, oil on wood panel by Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1503-06; in the Louvre, Paris, France. 77 x 53 cm.
Why Is the Mona Lisa So Famous?
Stack of international newspapers (world news; news; paper)
A Brief History of Press Freedom
Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) print by John Smith after Gottfried Kneller, 1662-1742. English mathematician, astronomer and physicist. English scientist and mathematician
Understanding Newton’s Laws of Motion

©2018 Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Trump Is Expected to Leave Iran Deal, Allies Say – The New York Times


Trump Is Expected to Leave Iran Deal, Allies Say

President Trump has called the accord a “disaster” and vowed during the 2016 presidential campaign to kill it.CreditAl Drago for The New York Times

President Trump has called the accord a “disaster” and vowed during the 2016 presidential campaign to kill it.CreditAl Drago for The New York Times
By David E. Sanger and Steven Erlanger

May 7, 2018
WASHINGTON — President Trump is expected to announce on Tuesday that he is withdrawing the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, European diplomats said after concluding that they had failed to convince him that reneging on America’s commitment to the pact could cast the West into new confrontation with Tehran.

If the diplomats are correct, the announcement will be the most consequential national security decision of Mr. Trump’s 15 months in office — though it could be eclipsed in coming weeks by his direct negotiation with North Korea’s leader over surrendering its nuclear arsenal.

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© 2018 The New York Times Company

Grenfell Tower: fire-resistant cladding plan was dropped

Grenfell Tower: fire-resistant cladding plan was dropped
Robert Booth

A costed proposal to fit Grenfell Tower with panels that did not burn was dropped amid pressure from the Conservative council to slash the cost of the refurbishment, the Guardian has been told.

A cladding company which fits nonflammable aluminium panels claimed it provided a £3.3m quote to fit its system to the 24-storey tower in west London at the request of Leadbitter, Kensington and Chelsea’s preferred contractor in 2013.

But a few months later the council decided Leadbitter wanted to spend too much on the refurbishment and put the contract out to tender to save £1.3m. It selected Rydon, which provided a lower price but fitted the building with combustible cladding which caught fire on 14 June 2017, killing 72 people in what lawyers for victims have called a “national atrocity”.

If the solid aluminium cladding had been chosen it would have almost certainly saved lives, fire safety experts said, and it could also have been cheaper. The council’s housing arm ended up agreeing to a budget which put the cost for the plastic-filled aluminium panels and synthetic insulation which burned so fiercely at £3.5m – £200,000 more than the quote for the noncombustible materials.

Peter Hillyard, the director of D+B Facades, said his company was asked to provide costs for solid aluminium sheets which do not spread flame, backed with mineral wool insulation which does not burn. He said the thought his company’s safer and cheaper system was not used sent “a shiver down my spine”.

Geoff Wilkinson, an independent fire safety expert, said that if D+B’s version was used it would have performed better in the fire.

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“There would have been little or no fire spread, so the lives lost at Grenfell may have been prevented,” said Stephen Mackenzie, an independent fire safety consultant.

The emergence of the proposal will heighten scrutiny of the procurement decisions made by the Kensington and Chelsea Tenants Management Organisation (KCTMO), which managed the building, and the council, which owned it.

Scotland Yard detectives are investigating possible manslaughter and corporate manslaughter charges. They are also looking into “any failings of duty of care owed to victims of the fire”.

D+B’s system has passed the full-scale British Standard 8414 fire test. By contrast, Grenfell was clad in a combustible synthetic insulation, faced with aluminium composite panels that had a combustible polyethylene core. The system has since been shown to fail the fire test.

Researchers claim the panel system used for Grenfell had a calorific value equivalent to 12,000 litres of petrol, while the insulation foam added the equivalent of almost another 20,000 litres. The foam has also been shown to release cyanide gas when it burns and it is feared this may have contributed to the death toll.

There was sustained pressure from the council to cut costs on the project despite the authority being in “robust” financial health, according to accounts for 2014. It had £235m in usable reserves and had underspent its budget for services by £23m.

The council had originally only wanted to spend £6m on Grenfell, but later set the budget at £9.7m when it realised it also needed to replace the heating system. In July 2013, however, the council’s housing committee reported that Leadbitter, which was interested in the nonflammable cladding, was on course to spend £11.3m and so it put the contract out to tender and launched a cost-cutting programme which it called “value engineering”.

The following summer, with Rydon on board, the council’s tenants management organisation emailed the project team: “We need good costs for Cllr Feilding-Mellen [deputy leader in charge of housing].” At that point £300,000 was removed from the cladding budget and zinc panels were replaced with the aluminium composite material with the plastic core.

At least 300 other tall buildings in England are clad in similar systems to Grenfell and need to be reclad after they failed fire safety tests. The system D+B proposed for Grenfell is now being used to replace the dangerous failed cladding on several of those towers.

A leaked report prepared for detectives has already claimed that the insulation on Grenfell “provided a medium for fire to spread up, across and within sections of the facade”. The Building Research Establishment found the fire would not have spread beyond the fourth floor flat where a fridge freezer had malfunctioned if the tower had not been clad in the combustible materials.

“Leadbitter sent us quantities as directed by Studio E Architects,” Hillyard said. “Based on quantities alone our budget was £3.3m. We provided figures based on our own ‘A1 non-combustible’ cladding system and our high quality composite windows. All went quiet and the next time we heard anything was in August 2013 when the tender notice was issued.

“Kensington and Chelsea were inviting main contractors to express interest under a ‘design and build’ contract. This was the last we heard and received no further requests from Rydon, who won the contract for the work.”

Sir Martin Moore-Bick, the chair of the Grenfell Tower inquiry which opens in full on 4 June, has said he wants to find out “what decisions about the exterior of the building … were made, by whom and when”? He also wanted to know whether the cladding and insulation met building regulations and standards, who was responsible if they didn’t and “what factors or motives influenced the decisions”.

Bouygues, which now owns Leadbitter, declined to comment on the cost plan for noncombustible cladding, citing the police investigation and public inquiry”.

Rydon, the council and KCTMO also declined to comment for the same reasons.

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‘Cryptojacking’ Software Attack Hits Hundreds of Websites – CoinDesk

‘Cryptojacking’ Software Attack Hits Hundreds of Websites
David Floyd

Hackers have injected hundreds of websites running the Drupal content management system with malicious software used to mine the cryptocurrency monero.

This latest incident was uncovered by Troy Mursch, the security researcher behind the website Bad Packets Report. He wrote Saturday that more than 300 sites had been compromised by hackers who installed the browser mining software Coinhive, which mines the cryptocurrency monero, by exploiting a vulnerability in an outdated version of the Drupal content management system (CMS).

“Cryptojacking,” as similar attacks are called, has become a common problem in recent months. Whereas hackers used to favor ransom attacks – in which they would scramble victims’ data and demand ransoms in bitcoin or another cryptocurrency in order to decrypt it – they now increasingly infect websites with software that harnesses visitors’ computers to mine cryptocurrency on the attackers’ behalf.

Mursch told CoinDesk that while cryptojacking is not as overt as ransomware, it “continues to be a problem – especially for website operators.”

He explained:

“This is because Coinhive and other cryptojacking services (malware) are simply done with JavaScript. Every modern browser and device can run JavaScript, so as such, everybody can mine cryptocurrency and unfortunately Coinhive has been used and abused time and time again. [In] this particular case, Drupal users need to update [as soon as possible].”

Affected sites include the San Diego Zoo, the National Labor Relations Board, the City of Marion, Ohio, the University of Aleppo, the Ringling College of Art and Design and the government of Chihuahua, Mexico. A full list of affected sites is available on this spreadsheet.

Visitors to affected websites may not even notice that their computers are running the cryptographic functions used to generate monero for hackers. The attacks slow users computers down, however, and can cause wear and tear on computers’ processors.

Not all Coinhive users are malicious, however. Salon, a news outlet, and UNICEF use the software to raise funds, but only run it with visitors’ permission.

Hacker image via Shutterstock.

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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