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Archive for July 17th, 2018

The White House Transcript Is Missing the Most Explosive Part of the Trump–Putin Press Conference

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Uri Friedman reports in the Atlantic:

It was perhaps the most explosive exchange in an incendiary press conference: Russian President Vladimir Putin appearing to frankly admit to a motive for, and maybe even to the act of, meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, despite repeatedly denying Russian interference in American politics during the rest of his appearance with Donald Trump in Finland on Monday.But the exchange doesn’t appear in full in the White House’s live-stream or transcript of the press conference, and it’s missing entirely from the Kremlin’s transcript of the event. The White House did not immediately provide an explanation for the discrepancy.

Understanding what Putin said depends on what you watch or where you look. If you watch the video of the news conference provided by the Russian government, or by news outlets such as PBS and the Associated Press, you will hear the Reuters reporter Jeff Mason ask a bombshell of a question: “President Putin, did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?”

Putin then responds with a bombshell of an answer, according to the English translation of his remarks that was broadcast during the press conference: “Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.”

But recordings of the exchange were muddled for two reasons. First, the English translation of Putin’s previous response was concluding as Mason began to speak. Second, the microphone seemed to pick up Mason’s question halfway through—making the latter half of it easier to hear. (Mason told me that he had held on to the microphone even though an official had tried to pull it away so that he could ask Putin a follow-up question. “I don’t know if they turned the sound off during the time when each of the presidents were speaking, or if it got flipped on and off. I certainly didn’t touch anything.”)Technical difficulties aside, there’s further ambiguity. It’s unclear whether Putin said “Yes, I did” in reference to the question of whether he wanted Trump to win the 2016 presidential race, or in response to the question about whether he directed Russian officials to help Trump win. “You could interpret that to mean he’s answering ‘yes’ to both,” Mason told me, but “looking at it critically, he spent a good chunk of that press conference, just like President Trump did, denying any collusion. So I think it’s likely that when he said ‘Yes, I did,’ that he was just responding to the first part of my question and perhaps didn’t hear the second part.”

But if you watch the White House live-stream of the press conference or look at the transcript published by the White House, the first half of Mason’s question is not there. Without it, the meaning of the exchange is substantially different.

Compare this transcript, of what actually happened, to the White House’s version. Here is the record of what took place, starting with the last part of Putin’s comments before Mason’s questions. Putin is describing his willingness to assist with Robert Mueller’s probe (bolding is mine):

Vladimir Putin: That could be a first step, and we can also extend it. Options abound, and they all can be found in an appropriate legal framework.

Jeff Mason: President Putin, did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?

Putin: Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.–Russia relationship back to normal.

And here’s the key section from the White House transcript, which makes it seem as though Putin is still talking about the Mueller probe:

PRESIDENT PUTIN: That could be a first step, and we can also extend it. Options abound, and they all can be found in an appropriate legal framework.

Q: And did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?

PRESIDENT PUTIN:  Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.–Russia relationship back to normal.

Another strange wrinkle comes from the Russian government’s English-language transcript of the press conference. In contrast to its footage of the press conference, which features what really happened, the transcript does not include any piece of that key exchange.

Transcripts published by the Federal News Service and Bloomberg Government mirror the White House transcript, while NPR’s contains the full exchange. Confusing matters further, C-span’s footage contains Mason’s full question but only the second half of Putin’s answer.The varying accounts of the same remarks highlight the profound confusion that Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin have generated in the past 24 hours. The discrepancies in the accounts of what was said also underscore the extent to which the Trump presidency has . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 July 2018 at 6:05 pm

When the police stop doing their job: Baltimore police stopped noticing crime after Freddie Gray’s death. A wave of killings followed.

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Brad Heath reports in USA Today:

Just before a wave of violence turned Baltimore into the nation’s deadliest big city, a curious thing happened to its police force: officers suddenly seemed to stop noticing crime.

Police officers reported seeing fewer drug dealers on street corners. They encountered fewer people who had open arrest warrants.

Police questioned fewer people on the street. They stopped fewer cars.

In the space of just a few days in spring 2015 – as Baltimore faced a wave of rioting after Freddie Gray, a black man, died from injuries he suffered in the back of a police van – officers in nearly every part of the city appeared to turn a blind eye to everyday violations. They still answered calls for help. But the number of potential violations they reported seeing themselves dropped by nearly half. It has largely stayed that way ever since.

“What officers are doing is they’re just driving looking forward. They’ve got horse blinders on,” says Kevin Forrester, a retired Baltimore detective.

The surge of shootings and killings that followed has left Baltimore easily the deadliest large city in the United States. Its murder rate reached an all-time high last year; 342 people were killed. The number of shootings in some neighborhoods has more than tripled. One man was shot to death steps from a police station. Another was killed driving in a funeral procession.

What’s happening in Baltimore offers a view of the possible costs of a remarkable national reckoning over how police officers have treated minorities.

Starting in 2014, a series of racially charged encounters in Ferguson, Missouri; Chicago; Baltimore; and elsewhere cast an unflattering spotlight on aggressive police tactics  toward black people. Since then, cities have been under pressure to crack down on abuses by law enforcement.

So has the U.S. Justice Department. During the Obama administration, the department launched wide-ranging civil rights investigations of troubled police forces, then took them to court to compel reforms. Under President Donald Trump, Washington has largely given up that effort. “If you want crime to go up, let the ACLU run the police department,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a gathering of police officials in May.

Whether that scrutiny would cause policing to suffer – or crime to rise – has largely remained an open question.

In Baltimore, at least, the effect on the city’s police force was swift and substantial.

Police typically learn about crime in one of two ways: either someone calls for help, or an officer sees a crime himself and stops to do something. The second category, known among police as an “on-view,” offers a sense of how aggressively officers are doing their job. Car stops are a good example: Few people call 911 to report someone speeding – instead, officers see it and choose to pull someone over. Or choose not to.

Millions of police records show officers in Baltimore respond to calls as quickly as ever. But they now begin far fewer encounters themselves. From 2014 to 2017, dispatch records show the number of suspected narcotics offenses police reported themselves dropped 30 percent; the number of people they reported seeing with outstanding warrants dropped by half. The number of field interviews – instances in which the police approach someone for questioning – dropped 70 percent.

“Immediately upon the riot, policing changed in Baltimore, and it changed very dramatically,” says Donald Norris, an emeritus professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, who reviewed USA TODAY’s analysis. “The outcome of that change in policing has been a lot more crime in Baltimore, especially murders, and people are getting away with those murders.”

Police officials acknowledge the change. “In all candor, officers are not as aggressive as they once were, pre-2015. It’s just that fact,” says acting Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle, who took command of Baltimore’s police force in May.

Tuggle blames a shortage of patrol officers and the fallout from a blistering 2016 Justice Department investigation that found the city’s police regularly violated residents’ constitutional rights and prompted new limits on how officers there carry out what had once been routine parts of their job. At the same time, he says, police have focused more of their energy on gun crime and less on smaller infractions.

“We don’t want officers going out, grabbing people out of corners, beating them up and putting them in jail,” Tuggle says. “We want officers engaging folks at every level. And if somebody needs to be arrested, arrest them. But we also want officers to be smart about how they do that.”

The change has left a perception among some police officers that people in the city are free to do as they please. And among criminals, says Mahogany Gaines, whose brother, Dontais, was found shot to death inside his apartment in October.

 “These people don’t realize that you’re leaving people fatherless and motherless,” Gaines says. “I feel like they think they’re untouchable.”

A wave of violence

On a sticky morning in May, the Rev. Rodney Hudson slips on a black “Sermonator” T-shirt and walks down the street from his west Baltimore church, a gray stone edifice two blocks from where police arrested Gray. A few days earlier, a drug crew from another neighborhood set up camp on the corner across the street. Hudson says  the dealers nearly got into a gunfight with the crew that usually works across from the elementary school down the block.

Since Gray’s death, at least 41 people have been shot within a short walk of Hudson’s church.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 July 2018 at 5:18 pm

Plutonium is missing, but the government says nothing

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One endemic problem of strongly hierarchical organizations is that problems are hidden away and covered up rather than exposed and solved. We see this in the military, in the church, in police departments, in universities, and now in Rick Perry’s Department of Energy. Patrick Malone and Jeffrey Smith report at the Center for Public Integrity:

Two security experts from the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory drove to San Antonio, Texas, in March 2017 with a sensitive mission: to retrieve dangerous nuclear materials from a nonprofit research lab there.

Their task, according to documents and interviews, was to ensure that the radioactive materials did not fall into the wrong hands on the way back to Idaho, where the government maintains a stockpile of nuclear explosive materials for the military and others.

To ensure they got the right items, the specialists from Idaho brought radiation detectors and small samples of dangerous materials to calibrate them: specifically, a plastic-covered disk of plutonium, a material that can be used to fuel nuclear weapons, and another of cesium, a highly radioactive isotope that could potentially be used in a so-called “dirty” radioactive bomb.

But when they stopped at a Marriott hotel just off Highway 410, in a high-crime neighborhood filled with temp agencies and ranch homes, they left those sensors on the back seat of their rented Ford Expedition. When they awoke the next morning, the window had been smashed and the special valises holding these sensors and nuclear materials had vanished.

More than a year later, state and federal officials don’t know where the plutonium – one of the most valuable and dangerous substances on earth – is. Nor has the cesium been recovered.

No public announcement of the March 21 incident has been made by either the San Antonio police or by the FBI, which the police consulted by telephone. When asked, officials at the lab and in San Antonio declined to say exactly how much plutonium and cesium were missing. But Idaho lab spokeswoman Sarah Neumann said the plutonium in particular wasn’t enough to be fashioned into a nuclear bomb.

It is nonetheless now part of a much larger amount of plutonium that over the years has gone quietly missing from stockpiles owned by the U.S. military, often without any public notice.

Unlike civilian stocks, which are closely monitored by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and openly regulated – with reports of thefts or disappearances sent to an international agency in Vienna — the handling of military stocks tended by the Department of Energy is much less transparent.

The Energy Department, which declined comment for this story, doesn’t talk about instances of lost and stolen nuclear material produced for the military. It also has been less willing than the commission to punish its contractors when they lose track of such material, several incidents suggest.

That nontransparent approach doesn’t match the government’s rhetoric.

Protecting bomb-usable materials, like the plutonium that went missing in San Antonio, “is an overriding national priority,” President Obama’s press office said in a fact sheet distributed during the fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit that he hosted in late March 2016, a Washington event attended by more than 50 heads of state.

The administration boasted in the declaration that America’s security standards for military-grade materials “meet or exceed the recommendations for civilian nuclear materials” made by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency. It also touted the strength of its tracking of such materials, which it said would “ensure timely detection and investigation of anomalies, and deter insider theft/diversion.”

The United States also boasted about its transparency, explaining that it “has published studies and reviews of nuclear security incidents, including lessons learned and corrective actions taken.”

President Donald Trump, speaking to a military audience at Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia, on Aug. 21, 2017, parroted the Obama administration’s refrain that “we must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us, or anywhere in the world for that matter.”

The Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, released in February, similarly emphasized the threat posed by nuclear terrorism, and asserted that “preventing the illicit acquisition of a nuclear weapon, nuclear materials, or related technology and expertise by a violent extremist organization is a significant U.S. national security priority.”

But America’s record of safeguarding such materials isn’t sterling. Gaps between the amount of plutonium that nuclear weapons companies have produced and the amount that the government can actually locate occur frequently enough for officials to have created an acronym for it – MUF, meaning “material unaccounted for.”

Just a cat or a brick

The gaps have shown up at multiple nodes in the production and deployment cycle for nuclear arms: at factories where plutonium and highly-enriched uranium have been made, at storage sites where the materials are held in reserve, at research centers where the materials are loaned for study, at waste sites where they are disposed, and during transit between many of these facilities.

Production of the bomb materials was so frantic during the Cold War that a total of roughly six tons of the material – enough to fuel hundreds of nuclear explosives – has been declared as MUF by the government, with most of it presumed to have been trapped in factory pipes, filters, and machines, or improperly logged in paperwork. (That figure, which dates from 2012, has not been publicly updated.)

For nearly 40 years, “DOE officials and their predecessors … did not have an effective capability within their accounting systems to know if significant quantities of” bomb-grade uranium were being diverted to illicit use, according to Charles Ferguson, a physicist who is now director of the Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board at the National Academies of Sciences.

The Government Accountability Office declared in Sept. 2015 that the department also had never conducted an authoritative inventory of the location and quantity of plutonium loaned by the United States to other nations, and that eleven foreign sites with U.S.-made bomb-grade uranium had not been visited by U.S. inspectors in the previous 20 years. Many sites inspected before 2010 lacked rigorous security systems, the GAO warned.

Asked for comment, National Nuclear Security Administration spokesman Greg Wolfe said in an email on June 29 that his agency is still working with DOE on that inventory, three years later. He did not say when it would be finished. . .

Continue reading.

There’s much more in the article.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 July 2018 at 3:30 pm

In India, Summer Heat Could Soon Be Unbearable. Literally.

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I still remember how Dana Perino in the White House made the claim that global warming is good for you. (This was in the George W. Bush administration, where there seemed to be an affirmative action program to hire more idiots.) In the NY Times Somini Sengupta reports how global warming is treating India:

On a sweltering Wednesday in June, a rail-thin woman named Rehmati gripped the doctor’s table with both hands. She could hardly hold herself upright, the pain in her stomach was so intense.

She had traveled for 26 hours in a hot oven of a bus to visit her husband, a migrant worker here in the Indian capital. By the time she got here, the city was an oven, too: 111 degrees Fahrenheit by lunchtime, and Rehmati was in an emergency room.

The doctor, Reena Yadav, didn’t know exactly what had made Rehmati sick, but it was clearly linked to the heat. Dr. Yadav suspected dehydration, possibly aggravated by fasting during Ramadan. Or it could have been food poisoning, common in summer because food spoils quickly.

Dr. Yadav put Rehmati, who is 31 and goes by one name, on a drip. She held her hand and told her she would be fine. Rehmati leaned over and retched.

Extreme heat can kill, as it did by the dozens in Pakistan in May. But as many of South Asia’s already-scorching cities get even hotter, scientists and economists are warning of a quieter, more far-reaching danger: Extreme heat is devastating the health and livelihoods of tens of millions more.

If global greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current pace, they say, heat and humidity levels could become unbearable, especially for the poor.

It is already making them poorer and sicker. Like the Kolkata street vendor who squats on his haunches from fatigue and nausea. Like the woman who sells water to tourists in Delhi and passes out from heatstroke at least once each summer. Like the women and men with fever and headaches who fill emergency rooms. Like the outdoor workers who become so weak or so sick that they routinely miss days of work, and their daily wages.

“These cities are going to become unlivable unless urban governments put in systems of dealing with this phenomenon and make people aware,” said Sujata Saunik, who served as a senior official in the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs and is now a fellow at the Harvard University School of Public Health. “It’s a major public health challenge.”

Indeed, a recent analysis of climate trends in several of South Asia’s biggest cities found that if current warming trends continued, by the end of the century, wet bulb temperatures — a measure of heat and humidity that can indicate the point when the body can no longer cool itself — would be so high that people directly exposed for six hours or more would not survive.

In many places, heat only magnifies the more thorny urban problems, including a shortage of basic services, like electricity and water.

For the country’s National Disaster Management Agency, alarm bells rang after a heat wave struck the normally hot city of Ahmedabad, in western India, in May, 2010, and temperatures soared to 118 degrees Fahrenheit, or 48 Celsius: It resulted in a 43 percent increase in mortality, compared to the same period in previous years, a study by public health researchers found.

Since then, in some places, local governments, aided by the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group, have put in place simple measures. In Ahmedabad, for instance, city-funded vans distribute free water during the hottest months. In the eastern coastal city of Bhubaneswar, parks are kept open in afternoons so outdoor workers can sit in the shade. Occasionally, elected officials post heat safety tips on social media. Some cities that had felled trees for construction projects are busy trying to plant new ones.

The science is unequivocally worrying. Across the region, a recent World Bank report concluded, rising temperatures could diminish the living standards of 800 million people.

Worldwide, among the 100 most populous cities where summer highs are expected to reach at least 95 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050, according to estimates by the Urban Climate Change Research Network, 24 are in India.

Rohit Magotra, deputy director of Integrated Research for Action and Development, is trying to help the capital, Delhi, develop a plan to respond to the new danger. The first step is to quantify its human toll.

“Heat goes unreported and underreported. They take it for granted,” Mr. Magotra said. “It’s a silent killer.”

On a blistering Wednesday morning, with the heat index at 111 degrees Fahrenheit, he and a team of survey takers snaked through the lanes of a working-class neighborhood in central Delhi. They measured temperature and humidity inside the brick-and-tin apartments. They spoke to residents about how the heat affects them. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more in the article.

This heat, which will in time affect all the tropics, is likely to cause the same sort of mass migration that we will see from the rise in sea level.

And still the GOP denies the problem.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 July 2018 at 3:16 pm

Why Nature Prefers Couples, Even for Yeast

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Jordana Cepelewicz writes in Quanta:

We tend to think about two biological sexes: male and female. But before the evolution of eggs and sperm — before sex cells began to diverge in size and form — organisms couldn’t be classified by sex. The same holds true for many fungi, algae and protozoans today. Instead of sexes, these species have mating types, with sex cells that differ at the molecular level but not anatomically. And those mating types don’t necessarily come in pairs.

Take the social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum, which has three: Each type can mate with members of the other two. Coprinellus disseminatus, a white-capped mushroom, has 143, each able to find a partner among the 142 others. The hairy, fan-shape fungus Schizophyllum commune boasts more than 23,000 mating types (though its more intricate reproductive strategy means that not every type can mate with every other).

Yet most species still have only two mating types. George Constable, a research fellow at the University of Bath, and Hanna Kokko, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Zurich, wanted to know why. In a paper published last month in Nature Ecology & Evolution, they developed a model that predicts how many mating types will emerge in a species based on just three fundamental ecological elements: the mutation rate (which introduces new types), the population size and — perhaps most surprisingly — the frequency of sex. Their work not only provides insights about the basic biology of these kinds of organisms, but could also contribute to our understanding of how the male and female sexes ultimately evolved.

Many scientists believe mating types evolved early in life’s history as a barrier against behaviors like inbreeding that might be harmful to a population or species. If an organism has sex with an incompatible mating type (including its own mating type), then the union generally produces no offspring.

That restriction aside, logic suggests that species should benefit from having as many mating types as possible. With two types, only half the population is eligible as a mate for any individual. With three, that rises to two-thirds — and so on as more mating types join the mix. Should a mutation lead to the appearance of a new type, it wouldn’t be stuck with the problem of finding a rare match for itself in the population; instead, it would be able to mate with everyone else, thereby producing offspring more quickly and growing its numbers.

“The intuitive expectation is that this should happen for larger and larger numbers of mating types, until you have thousands of them,” Constable said.

To date, the hypotheses about why the number of mating types only rarely soars to enormous heights revolve around considerations of stability. Maintaining just two types may be the better way to go: It allows for simpler, more efficient pheromone-signaling networks, and for an easier sorting system when it comes to passing on organelles from parent to offspring cells. But these theories don’t account for a slew of exceptions.

Then something occurred to Constable. “I realized that we’d been assuming that these species have sex all the time,” he said. That assumption made a huge difference in his predictions about how populations would evolve, because during periods without sex, mating type becomes a neutral trait: Chance events dictate the dominance of some types and the disappearance of many others.

According to the model, large populations that rely relatively more on sex to reproduce can sustain a greater number of mating types, while those having less sex cannot. Constable and Kokko wondered just how rare sexual reproduction would have to be to explain as few as two mating types. Very, very rare, as it turned out: just once every few thousand generations.

“At first, I was kind of disappointed,” Constable said. “That seemed really low.” But when he and Kokko turned to examples from nature, they found that their model’s predictions held up well. “That’s the beauty of it,” said Bart Nieuwenhuis, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Munich. Amoebas, fungi and other organisms that have two mating types tend to have sex very infrequently, opting most of the time for the faster, less energy-intensive process of asexual reproduction: Some species of yeast, for instance, have sex once in every 1,000 to 3,000 generations, when stressful environmental conditions make it advantageous for them to mix up their genes and improve their odds of evolving new beneficial traits.

Meanwhile, those species that do have hundreds or thousands of mating types, Constable said, are known as some of “the most sexual fungi in the fungal kingdom.” His model also seems to explain other observed sexual patterns, such as the ability of some species to switch their mating type or to reproduce with members of their own type.

“It takes a bit of a long-standing mystery and proposes a solution that is really quite simple, and that ties directly into the biology of these organisms in a clear way,” said Jussi Lehtonen, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Sydney.In doing so, according to Kokko, it also highlighted that what we understand about fundamental biology, based on just a handful of model organisms (like mice, fruit flies or E. coli), fails to capture the real diversity of even the most basic functions that occur in nature. “Researchers [can be] a bit myopic when it comes to understanding diversity. Not all life obeys the most familiar rules,” Kokko wrote in an email. She hopes her research will inspire further empirical study of these other, less orthodox species. (Such work might also help scientists build on her model by adding species-specific mechanisms like pheromone signaling and organelle inheritance, which remain important parts of the story.)

The seemingly esoteric rules those organisms live by might even help us understand traits we do find familiar. . .

Continue reading.

Some great photos at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 July 2018 at 2:57 pm

Posted in Science

A Short Guide to Hard Programming Problems

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Kevin Hartnett writes in Quanta:

How fundamentally difficult is a problem? That’s the basic task of computer scientists who hope to sort problems into what are called complexity classes. These are groups that contain all the computational problems that require less than some fixed amount of a computational resource — something like time or memory. Take a toy example featuring a large number such as 123,456,789,001. One might ask: Is this number prime, divisible only by 1 and itself? Computer scientists can solve this using fast algorithms — algorithms that don’t bog down as the number gets arbitrarily large. In our case, 123,456,789,001 is not a prime number. Then we might ask: What are its prime factors? Here no such fast algorithm exists — not unless you use a quantum computer. Therefore computer scientists believe that the two problems are in different complexity classes.

Many different complexity classes exist, though in most cases researchers haven’t been able to prove one class is categorically distinct from the others. Proving those types of categorical distinctions is among the hardest and most important open problems in the field. That’s why the new result I wrote about last month in Quanta was considered such a big deal: In a paper published at the end of May, two computer scientists proved (with a caveat) that the two complexity classes that represent quantum and classical computers really are different.

The differences between complexity classes can be subtle or stark, and keeping the classes straight is a challenge. For that reason, Quanta has put together this primer on seven of the most fundamental complexity classes. May you never confuse BPP and BQP again.


P

Stands for: Polynomial time

Short version: All the problems that are easy for a classical (meaning nonquantum) computer to solve.

Precise version: Algorithms in P must stop and give the right answer in at most ntime where is the length of the input and is some constant.

Typical problems:
• Is a number prime?
• What’s the shortest path between two points?

What researchers want to know: Is P the same thing as NP? If so, it would upend computer science and render most cryptography ineffective overnight. (Almost no one thinks this is the case.)


NP

Stands for: Nondeterministic Polynomial time

Short version: All problems that can be quickly verified by a classical computer once a solution is given.

Precise version: A problem is in NP if, given a “yes” answer, there is a short proof that establishes the answer is correct. If the input is a string, X, and you need to decide if the answer is “yes,” then a short proof would be another string, Y, that can be used to verify in polynomial time that the answer is indeed “yes.” (Y is sometimes referred to as a “short witness” — all problems in NP have “short witnesses” that allow them to be verified quickly.)

Typical problems: 
• The clique problem. Imagine a graph with edges and nodes — for example, a graph where nodes are individuals on Facebook and two nodes are connected by an edge if they’re “friends.” A clique is a subset of this graph where all the people are friends with all the others. One might ask of such a graph: Is there a clique of 20 people? 50 people? 100? Finding such a clique is an “NP-complete” problem, meaning that it has the highest complexity of any problem in NP. But if given a potential answer — a subset of 50 nodes that may or may not form a clique — it’s easy to check.
• The traveling salesman problem. Given a list of cities with distances between each pair of cities, is there a way to travel through all the cities in less than a certain number of miles? For example, can a traveling salesman pass through every U.S. state capital in less than 11,000 miles?

What researchers want to know: Does P = NP? Computer scientists are nowhere near a solution to this problem.


PH

Stands for: Polynomial Hierarchy

Short version: PH is a generalization of NP — it contains all the problems you get if you start with a problem in NP and add additional layers of complexity.

Precise version: PH contains problems with some number of alternating “quantifiers” that make the problems more complex. Here’s an example of a problem with alternating quantifiers: Given X, does there exist Y such that for every Z there exists W such that Rhappens? The more quantifiers a problem contains, the more complex it is and the higher up it is in the polynomial hierarchy.

Typical problem:
• Determine if there exists a clique of size 50 but no clique of size 51.

What researchers want to know: Computer scientists have not been able to prove that PH is different from P. This problem is equivalent to the P versus NP problem because if (unexpectedly) P = NP, then all of PH collapses to P (that is, P = PH).


PSPACE

Stands for: Polynomial Space

Short version: PSPACE contains all the problems that can be solved with a reasonable amount of memory.

Precise version: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 July 2018 at 2:26 pm

Posted in Math

“I’m Bill Browder. Here’s the Biggest Mistake Putin Made When Trying to Get Access to Me Through Trump.”

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Bill Browder has an interesting piece in TIME. The editor notes:

Browder is the founder and CEO of Hermitage Capital Management and was the largest foreign investor in Russia until 2005. Since 2009 when his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, died in prison after uncovering a $230 million fraud committed by Russian government officials, Browder has been leading a campaign to expose Russia’s endemic corruption and human rights abuses

Browder writes:

I wasn’t watching the Donald Trump–Vladimir Putin press conference from Helsinki. But when my phone started burning up with messages, I knew something was going on. I quickly discovered that Putin had mentioned me by name. No journalist had asked about me. He just brought me up out of the blue.

Putin offered to allow American investigators to interview the 12 Russian intelligence agents just indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in exchange for allowing Russians to have access to me and those close to me. This is no idle threat. For the last ten years, I’ve been trying to avoid getting killed by Putin’s regime, and there already exists a trail of dead bodies connected to its desire to see me dead. Amazingly, Trump stood next to him, appearing to nod approvingly. He even later said that he considered it “an incredible offer.”

I’m lodged so firmly under Putin’s skin because I’m the person responsible for getting the Magnitsky Act passed in the United States in 2012. This is a law that allows the U.S. government to freeze assets and ban visas of human-rights violators around the world. Some of these human-rights violators had killed Sergei Magnitsky, my Russian lawyer who was murdered in a Moscow jail for uncovering a massive $230 million government-corruption scheme that we’ve since traced to known Putin cronies. In essence, Putin received some of the proceeds of this crime, and he is terrified that the Magnitsky Act could be applied to his offshore fortune, which is probably one of the largest amassed in modern times.

The Helsinki summit is not the first time my name has come up at a Putin press conference. Back in 2006 at the G-8 Conference in St. Petersburg, a young reporter for the Moscow Times asked why I’d been denied an entry visa to Russia and declared a threat to national security, all with no explanation. She pointed out that I was the biggest foreign investor in the Russian stock market, and that the prime minister of the United Kingdom had asked Putin about my situation earlier that day.

Putin frowned. “To be honest, I don’t know why this particular person has been refused entry to Russia. I can imagine that this person has broken the laws of our country, and if others do the same we’ll refuse them entry, too.”

“This person.” Putin almost never utters the names of his enemies — except for mine, which he lately seems to utter at every opportunity. To my mind, this can only mean that he is seriously rattled.

Since 2012, Putin has made it perhaps his largest foreign policy priority to have the Magnitsky Act repealed. But none of his efforts have worked. Not only has it not been repealed, it’s spread to six additional countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, the Baltic states and Gibraltar. There are eight other countries with Magnitsky Acts on deck: Sweden, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Australia, South Africa and Ukraine. The Magnitsky Act is going viral, and countries that have Magnitsky Acts are sanctioning Putin’s cronies, who I imagine soon will be sanctioned by other countries as well.

In addition, the Global Magnitsky Justice Campaign has investigated and found the $230 million that Sergei Magnitsky exposed and was killed over. There arenow a number of live law-enforcement investigations around the worlddetermining just who benefited from this crime. These have resulted in tens of millions of dollars of frozen assets. Furthermore, these investigations don’t only put at risk the beneficiaries of this crime, but the benificiaries of many other similar crimes. These people are ready to kill to keep their money. Losing it would be devastating.

Putin’s latest allegation that I donated $400 million to Hillary Clinton is so ludicrous and untrue that it falls into delusion. I’ve never made a political donation to Hillary Clinton or any other political candidate. It’s in the same category as other Russian government allegations against me: they accused me of being a serial killerthey accused me of being a CIA/MI6 agent determined to destroy the Russian government; and they accused me of somehow stealing $4.8 billion of IMF money back in the 1990s that was destined for the Russian Treasury. These guys have seriously lost their cool and are beginning to make mistakes.

The biggest mistake that Putin made in his offer today to effectively swap me for the 12 Russian agents is that he went to the wrong head of state. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 July 2018 at 1:47 pm

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