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George Pell's memorial hijacked by protestors

<p>The memorial service for Cardinal George Pell has ended with calls to the police, after protestors clashed outside St. Mary's Cathedral in Sydney. </p> <p>Australia's highest ranking Catholic was honoured in a service on Wednesday, when Pell supporters approached child abuse activists who were peacefully tying ribbons to fences at the cathedral.</p> <p>Supporters of the previously convicted sex offender were reportedly shouting angrily at the silent protesters as evening prayer was wrapping up.</p> <p>In recent days, a support group for clergy abuse survivors, Loud Fence, had been tying colourful ribbons as a symbol of solidarity. </p> <p>But church security has repeatedly been cutting them down.</p> <p>In another bold statement against the Cardinal, comedians from The Chaser attempted to gain entry into the memorial service as they carried a fake coffin filled with "evidence". </p> <p>Comedian and <em>The Chasers War on Everything</em> star, Charles Firth, along with Chaser colleague, Lachlan Hodson, clashed with police on the steps of the Cathedral as they claimed they had "a whole lot of evidence to bury alongside him", saying it's what Pell "would've wanted".</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">The Chase have attempted to storm George Pell's memorial while his body lies in state at Sydney's St Mary's Cathedral. 😳👇 <a href=""></a></p> <p>— The Daily Telegraph (@dailytelegraph) <a href="">February 1, 2023</a></p></blockquote> <p>As one guard tries to stop the comedian from taking a step further, Firth tells him, "Don't touch me, I'm not an altar boy".</p> <p>"Wait a minute, is this an issue of consent? I don't understand, that's never worried you before," he said. </p> <p>As security urge Firth and Hodson to move away, the comedian tells the guards that he'll take the fake coffin to another parish as that's "normally the way it works".</p> <p>Cardinal Pell died in Rome in January after complications from hip surgery. He was 81. </p> <p>Pell was widely seen as the right-hand man of Pope Francis and the third most powerful figure in the church, before he was arrested in Australia for historic child sex abuse crimes within the church. </p> <p>The Cardinal was imprisoned in 2019 after he was found guilty of sexually abusing two 13-year-old choirboys in the 1990s and spent just 12 months in Barwon Prison near Melbourne before the Australian High Court quashed his convictions following an appeal.</p> <p>Despite being sentenced to six years in prison with a non-parole period of three years and eight months, there were no further trials and Pell walked free after more than 400 days in prison.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Nine News / Reddit</em></p>


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How AI is hijacking art history

<p>People tend to rejoice in the disclosure of a secret. </p> <p>Or, at the very least, media outlets have come to realize that news of “mysteries solved” and “hidden treasures revealed” generate traffic and clicks. </p> <p>So I’m never surprised when I see AI-assisted revelations about famous masters’ works of art go viral. </p> <p>Over the past year alone, I’ve come across articles highlighting how artificial intelligence <a href="">recovered a “secret” painting</a> of a “lost lover” of Italian painter Modigliani, <a href="">“brought to life” a “hidden Picasso nude”</a>, <a href="">“resurrected” Austrian painter Gustav Klimt’s destroyed works</a> and <a href="">“restored” portions of Rembrandt’s 1642 painting “The Night Watch.”</a> <a href="">The list goes on</a>.</p> <p><a href="">As an art historian</a>, I’ve become increasingly concerned about the coverage and circulation of these projects.</p> <p>They have not, in actuality, revealed one secret or solved a single mystery. </p> <p>What they have done is generate feel-good stories about AI.</p> <h2>Are we actually learning anything new?</h2> <p>Take the reports about the Modigliani and Picasso paintings. </p> <p>These were projects executed by the same company, <a href="">Oxia Palus</a>, which was founded not by art historians but by doctoral students in machine learning.</p> <p>In both cases, Oxia Palus relied upon traditional X-rays, X-ray fluorescence and infrared imaging that had already been <a href="">carried out and published</a> <a href="">years prior</a> – work that had revealed preliminary paintings beneath the visible layer on the artists’ canvases. </p> <p>The company edited these X-rays and <a href="">reconstituted them as new works of art</a> by applying a technique called “<a href="">neural style transfer</a>.” This is a sophisticated-sounding term for a program that breaks works of art down into extremely small units, extrapolates a style from them and then promises to recreate images of other content in that same style.</p> <p>Essentially, Oxia Palus stitches new works out of what the machine can learn from the existing X-ray images and other paintings by the same artist. </p> <p>But outside of flexing the prowess of AI, is there any value – artistically, historically – to what the company is doing?</p> <p>These recreations don’t teach us anything we didn’t know about the artists and their methods. </p> <p>Artists paint over their works all the time. It’s so common that art historians and conservators have a word for it: <a href="">pentimento</a>. None of these earlier compositions was an Easter egg deposited in the painting for later researchers to discover. The original X-ray images were certainly valuable in that they <a href="">offered insights into artists’ working methods</a>.</p> <p>But to me, what these programs are doing isn’t exactly newsworthy from the perspective of art history.</p> <h2>The humanities on life support</h2> <p>So when I do see these reproductions attracting media attention, it strikes me as soft diplomacy for AI, showcasing a “cultured” application of the technology at a time when skepticism of its <a href="">deceptions</a>, <a href="">biases</a> and <a href="">abuses</a> is on the rise.</p> <p>When AI gets attention for recovering lost works of art, it makes the technology sound a lot less scary than when it garners headlines <a href="">for creating deep fakes that falsify politicians’ speech</a>or <a href="">for using facial recognition for authoritarian surveillance</a>. </p> <p>These studies and projects also seem to promote the idea that computer scientists are more adept at historical research than art historians. </p> <p>For years, university humanities departments <a href="">have been gradually squeezed of funding</a>, with more money funneled into the sciences. With their claims to objectivity and empirically provable results, the sciences tend to command greater respect from funding bodies and the public, which offers an incentive to scholars in the humanities to adopt computational methods. </p> <p>Art historian Claire Bishop <a href="">criticized this development</a>, noting that when computer science becomes integrated in the humanities, “[t]heoretical problems are steamrollered flat by the weight of data,” which generates deeply simplistic results. </p> <p>At their core, art historians study the ways in which art can offer insights into how people once saw the world. They explore how works of art shaped the worlds in which they were made and would go on to influence future generations. </p> <p>A computer algorithm cannot perform these functions.</p> <p>However, some scholars and institutions have allowed themselves to be subsumed by the sciences, adopting their methods and partnering with them in sponsored projects. </p> <p>Literary critic Barbara Herrnstein Smith <a href="">has warned about ceding too much ground to the sciences</a>. In her view, the sciences and the humanities are not the polar opposites they are often publicly portrayed to be. But this portrayal has been to the benefit of the sciences, prized for their supposed clarity and utility over the humanities’ alleged obscurity and uselessness. At the same time, she <a href="">has suggested</a> that hybrid fields of study that fuse the arts with the sciences may lead to breakthroughs that wouldn’t have been possible had each existed as a siloed discipline. </p> <p>I’m skeptical. Not because I doubt the utility of expanding and diversifying our toolbox; to be sure, some <a href="">scholars working in the digital humanities</a> have taken up computational methods with subtlety and historical awareness to add nuance to or overturn entrenched narratives.</p> <p>But my lingering suspicion emerges from an awareness of how public support for the sciences and disparagement of the humanities means that, in the endeavor to gain funding and acceptance, the humanities will lose what makes them vital. The field’s sensitivity to historical particularity and cultural difference makes the application of the same code to widely diverse artifacts utterly illogical. </p> <p>How absurd to think that black-and-white photographs from 100 years ago would produce colors in the same way that digital photographs do now. And yet, this is exactly what <a href="">AI-assisted colorization</a> does. </p> <p>That particular example might sound like a small qualm, sure. But this effort to “<a href="">bring events back to life</a>” routinely mistakes representations for reality. Adding color does not show things as they were but recreates what is already a recreation – a photograph – in our own image, now with computer science’s seal of approval.</p> <h2>Art as a toy in the sandbox of scientists</h2> <p>Near the conclusion of <a href="">a recent paper</a> devoted to the use of AI to disentangle X-ray images of Jan and Hubert van Eyck’s “<a href="">Ghent Altarpiece</a>,” the mathematicians and engineers who authored it refer to their method as relying upon “choosing ‘the best of all possible worlds’ (borrowing Voltaire’s words) by taking the first output of two separate runs, differing only in the ordering of the inputs.” </p> <p>Perhaps if they had familiarized themselves with the humanities more they would know how satirically those words were meant when Voltaire <a href="">used them to mock a philosopher</a> who believed that rampant suffering and injustice were all part of God’s plan – that the world as it was represented the best we could hope for.</p> <p>Maybe this “gotcha” is cheap. But it illustrates the problem of art and history becoming toys in the sandboxes of scientists with no training in the humanities.</p> <p>If nothing else, my hope is that journalists and critics who report on these developments will cast a more skeptical eye on them and alter their framing. </p> <p>In my view, rather than lionizing these studies as heroic achievements, those responsible for conveying their results to the public should see them as opportunities to question what the computational sciences are doing when they appropriate the study of art. And they should ask whether any of this is for the good of anyone or anything but AI, its most zealous proponents and those who profit from it.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>. </em></p> <div style="caret-color: #000000; color: #000000; font-style: normal; font-variant-caps: normal; font-weight: 400; letter-spacing: normal; orphans: auto; text-align: start; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px; -webkit-text-size-adjust: auto; -webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; text-decoration: none; --tw-border-spacing-x: 0; --tw-border-spacing-y: 0; --tw-translate-x: 0; --tw-translate-y: 0; --tw-rotate: 0; --tw-skew-x: 0; --tw-skew-y: 0; --tw-scale-x: 1; --tw-scale-y: 1; --tw-scroll-snap-strictness: proximity; --tw-ring-offset-width: 0px; --tw-ring-offset-color: #fff; --tw-ring-color: rgba(51,168,204,0.5); --tw-ring-offset-shadow: 0 0 #0000; --tw-ring-shadow: 0 0 #0000; --tw-shadow: 0 0 #0000; --tw-shadow-colored: 0 0 #0000; background-color: transparent; border: 0px; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px; outline: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline;" data-react-class="Tweet" data-react-props="{&quot;tweetId&quot;:&quot;1401526342513049603&quot;}"> <div style="--tw-border-spacing-x: 0; --tw-border-spacing-y: 0; --tw-translate-x: 0; --tw-translate-y: 0; --tw-rotate: 0; --tw-skew-x: 0; --tw-skew-y: 0; --tw-scale-x: 1; --tw-scale-y: 1; --tw-scroll-snap-strictness: proximity; --tw-ring-offset-width: 0px; --tw-ring-offset-color: #fff; --tw-ring-color: rgba(51,168,204,0.5); --tw-ring-offset-shadow: 0 0 #0000; --tw-ring-shadow: 0 0 #0000; --tw-shadow: 0 0 #0000; --tw-shadow-colored: 0 0 #0000; background-color: transparent; border: 0px; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px; outline: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; caret-color: #000000; color: #000000; font-family: 'Libre Baskerville', Georgia, Times, 'Times New Roman', serif; font-style: normal; font-variant-caps: normal; font-weight: 400; letter-spacing: normal; text-align: start; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; word-spacing: 0px; -webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; text-decoration: none;"> <div style="--tw-border-spacing-x: 0; --tw-border-spacing-y: 0; --tw-translate-x: 0; --tw-translate-y: 0; --tw-rotate: 0; --tw-skew-x: 0; --tw-skew-y: 0; --tw-scale-x: 1; --tw-scale-y: 1; --tw-scroll-snap-strictness: proximity; --tw-ring-offset-width: 0px; --tw-ring-offset-color: #fff; --tw-ring-color: rgba(51,168,204,0.5); --tw-ring-offset-shadow: 0 0 #0000; --tw-ring-shadow: 0 0 #0000; --tw-shadow: 0 0 #0000; --tw-shadow-colored: 0 0 #0000; background-color: transparent; border: 0px; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px; outline: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline;"> </div> </div> </div> <p style="caret-color: #000000; color: #000000; font-style: normal; font-variant-caps: normal; font-weight: 400; letter-spacing: normal; orphans: auto; text-align: start; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px; -webkit-text-size-adjust: auto; -webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; text-decoration: none; --tw-border-spacing-x: 0; --tw-border-spacing-y: 0; --tw-translate-x: 0; --tw-translate-y: 0; --tw-rotate: 0; --tw-skew-x: 0; --tw-skew-y: 0; --tw-scale-x: 1; --tw-scale-y: 1; --tw-scroll-snap-strictness: proximity; --tw-ring-offset-width: 0px; --tw-ring-offset-color: #fff; --tw-ring-color: rgba(51,168,204,0.5); --tw-ring-offset-shadow: 0 0 #0000; --tw-ring-shadow: 0 0 #0000; --tw-shadow: 0 0 #0000; --tw-shadow-colored: 0 0 #0000; background-color: transparent; border: 0px; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px 0px 18px; outline: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline;"> </p>


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D.B. Cooper, the changing nature of hijackings and the foundation for today’s airport security

<p>Though many Americans may associate airport security with 9/11, it was a wave of hijackings in the late 1960s and early 1970s that laid the foundation <a href="">for today’s airport security protocols</a>.</p> <p>During that period, a hijacking occurred, on average, <a href="">once every five days globally</a>. The U.S. dealt with its own spate of mile-high crimes, convincing reluctant government officials and airport executives to adopt the first important airport security protocols.</p> <p>The subject of <a href="">a new Netflix docuseries</a>, hijacker D.B. Cooper emerged as something of a folk hero during this era. While other more violent hijackings might have played a bigger role in prompting early airport security measures, it was the saga of Cooper that captured the imagination of the American public – and helped transform the perception of the overall threat hijackings posed to U.S. air travel and national security.</p> <h2>Incidents become impossible to ignore</h2> <p>The first airplane hijacking happened in <a href="">1931 in Peru</a>. Armed revolutionaries approached the grounded plane of pilot Byron Richards and demanded that he fly them over Lima so they could drop propaganda leaflets. Richards refused, and a 10-day standoff ensued before he was eventually released.</p> <p>That remained a somewhat isolated incident until the <a href="">late 1940s and 1950s</a>, when several people hijacked airplanes to escape from Eastern Europe to the West. In the context of the Cold War, Western governments granted these hijackers <a href="">political asylum</a>. Importantly, none of the airplanes hijacked were flown by U.S. carriers.</p> <p>Beginning in the early 1960s, however, hijackers began targeting U.S. airlines. Most of these individuals were <a href="">Cubans</a> living in the U.S. who, for one reason or another, wished to return to their native land and were otherwise blocked due to <a href="">the U.S. embargo</a> against Cuba.</p> <p>U.S. officials responded by <a href="">officially and specifically making hijacking a federal crime</a>. Though the new law didn’t stop hijackings altogether, the crime remained relatively rare. When they did occur, they usually didn’t involve much violence.</p> <p><a href="">Officials wanted to downplay hijackings as much as possible</a>, and the best way to do this was to simply give the hijacker what they wanted to avert the loss of life. Above all, airline executives wanted to avoid deterring people from flying, so they resisted the implementation of anxiety-inducing security protocols.</p> <p>That changed in 1968. On July 23 of that year, members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine <a href="">hijacked an El Al flight</a> from Rome to Tel Aviv. Though that 39-day ordeal ended without any loss of life, it ushered in a new era of more violent – often politically motivated – hijackings of international airlines.</p> <p>From 1968 to 1974, U.S. airlines experienced <a href="">130 hijackings</a>. Many fell into this new category of politically motivated hijackings, including what has become known as the <a href="">Dawson’s Field hijackings</a>. In September 1970, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hijacked four aircraft, including three belonging to U.S. carriers, and forced them to land at Dawson’s Field in Libya. No hostage lives were lost, but the hijackers used explosives to destroy all four aircraft.</p> <p>Additionally, and more worrying to U.S. officials, two different groups of hijackers, <a href="">one in 1971</a> and <a href="">another in 1972</a>, threatened to crash planes into nuclear power plants.</p> <h2>Cooper inspires copycats</h2> <p>Amid this dramatic rise in the number of hijackings, on Nov. 24, 1971, a man known to the American public as <a href="">D.B. Cooper</a> boarded a Northwest Orient 727 flight from Portland, Oregon, to Seattle. Shortly after takeoff, he showed a stewardess the contents of his briefcase, which he said was a bomb. He then instructed the stewardess to take a note to the cockpit. In it, he demanded US$200,000 in $20 bills and four parachutes.</p> <p>Upon arrival in Seattle, Cooper allowed the other passengers to deplane in exchange for the money and the parachutes. Cooper then ordered the pilot to fly to Mexico but low and slowly – <a href="">no higher than 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) and under 200 knots (230 mph, 370 kph)</a>. Somewhere between Seattle and a fuel stop in Reno, Nevada, Cooper and the loot disappeared out the back of the aircraft via the 727’s <a href="">aft stairwell</a>. No one knows for sure what happened to him, though some of the money was recovered in 1980.</p> <p>Cooper wasn’t the first person to hijack an American airliner and demand money. That dubious honor belongs to <a href=",33009,909374,00.html">Arthur Barkley</a>. Frustrated with his inability to get government officials to take seriously his dispute with the IRS, on June 4, 1970, Barkley hijacked a TWA aircraft, demanding $100 million and a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court. Barkley’s efforts failed, and he ended up confined to a mental institution.</p> <p>The idea that Cooper might have succeeded, however, clearly inspired several imitators. While it remains uncertain whether Cooper lived to enjoy the fruits of his escapade, none of his imitators did. They included <a href="">Richard McCoy, Jr.</a>, <a href="">Martin J. McNally</a> and <a href="">Frederick Hahneman</a>, all of whom successfully parachuted out of the aircraft once they received their ransom payments, only to be eventually caught and punished.</p> <h2>Tightening the screws</h2> <p>In response to the spate of more violent and costly hijackings, the U.S. government established the <a href="">first anti-hijacking security protocols</a>. Most of them aimed to prevent hijackers from getting on aircraft in the first place. The measures included a hijacker profile, metal detectors and X-ray machines. Specific to Cooper, airlines retrofitted aircraft with a devise known as a <a href="">Cooper vane</a> that made it impossible to open aft stairwells during flight.</p> <p>The protocols put in place in the 1970s also laid the foundation for the expansive security measures taken after 9/11. A series of court cases upheld the constitutionality of these early measures. For example, <a href="">United States v. Lopez</a>, decided in 1971, upheld the use of the hijacker profile.</p> <p>More importantly, in <a href="">United States v. Epperson</a>, a federal court ruled in 1972 that the government’s interest in preventing hijackings justified the requirement for passengers to pass through a magnetometer at the airport. And in 1973, the Ninth Circuit Court, in <a href="">United States v. Davis</a>, declared that the government’s need to protect passengers from hijackings rendered all searches of passengers for weapons and explosives as reasonable and legal.</p> <p>These rulings upholding early anti-hijacking measures helped create <a href="">the strong legal grounds</a> for the rapid adoption of the more rigorous security protocols – including detailed identification checks, random pat-downs and full body scans – adopted after 9/11.</p> <p>The mystery surrounding the fate of Cooper may have afforded him an outsized place in American popular culture, but his crime should also be remembered as one in a consequential wave of hijackings that finally forced the U.S. government, airline executives and airport officials to adopt the first versions of the security measures travelers take for granted today.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>

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"It has to stop": Karl's blunt plea after anti-vaxxers hijack student's death

<p>Karl Stefanovic used his platform on <em>The Today Show</em> to plead with those spreading misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine. </p> <p>The TV host discussed the high profile case of Year 12 student Tom van Dijk, who passed away last week after suffering from a cardiac arrest while swimming with his family. </p> <p>Karl went on to say that Tom's school was forced to step in when a flood of social media messages incorrectly linked his untimely death to the COVID-19 vaccine. </p> <p>"He had a cardiac arrest. So what happens? Thousands of faceless keyboard warriors take it upon themselves to seize on his awful death in front of his family, circulating false information, blaming his death on vaccinations," he said.</p> <p>"His school already dealing with grief amongst students was forced to confirm he hadn't even had a vaccination yet."</p> <p><span>"Imagine the added stress on that poor young man's family...their pain and their tragedy made worse by lies on social media."</span></p> <p><span>Karl went on to say the spread of misinformation is dangerous and "it has to stop".</span></p> <p>Tom van Dijk died on August 21, which was confirmed by his school principal, John Couani, at St Pius X College in Chatswood, Sydney.  </p> <p>Couani reiterated Karl Stefanovic's claims about vaccine misinformation, saying he is unsure why the dangerous rumours started in the first place. </p> <p><span>The misinformation is horrific, there was nothing to do with mental health, this is purely a health issue,” he said. </span></p> <p><span>“The school did not force students to be vaccinated — the school is not in a hotspot or local government area of concern, nor was it eligible for the priority vaccination program — we’ve made no statement calling for vaccinations of students.”</span></p> <p><em>Image credit: Channel Nine</em></p>


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