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Topic Reading-Vol.2653-7/17/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Biased and wrong? Facial recognition tech in the dock
What is face recognition, or FR? It is a method of identifying or verifying the identity of a person by the images of their faces. Face recognition systems use computer algorithms to pick out specific, distinctive details about a person’s face, such as distance between the eyes or shape of the chin. Then, they convert the information into mathematical data and compared with data of a face recognition database. Facial data can be collected from social media, Closed-circuit Television (CCTV), traffic cameras, published or private photos, or organizations’ database without being recognized by the person. So, if the face of a known terrorist is captured by security cameras in a public place like an airport or station, face recognition system alerts the authority for attention or action. It surely saves time and could save lives.
However, how reliable face recognition technology is? Unfortunately, it varies by situation and object. The angle and brightness of the image, and the skin color and gender of the object all affect the accuracy of the identification system. Also, there are technical difficulties that are unique to machines. For example, differentiating photos of a blueberry muffin and the face of a chihuahua dog isn’t an easy task for facial recognition.
Some authorities use FR aggressively to identify criminals, unwanted or suspicious people in public places. In fact, there are hundreds of millions of CCTV cameras installed in China. On the other hand, law enforcement agencies of San Francisco are banned to use facial recognition for fear of threatening civil liberties and making false alerts.
Is technology always flawless, or close to perfect? Which is more reliable, human eyes or AI-powered face recognition?
Enjoy reading the article and think if you feel more secure in an airport with face recognition security system.


Topic Reading-Vol.2652-7/16/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Amazon at 25: The story of a giant
Born on July 5, 1994, in a Seattle metropolitan area in Washington, Amazon celebrated its 25th birthday this month. The company initially sold books at its online marketplace and later added electronics, CDs and DVDs, games, apparel, groceries and toys to its offering. Just in five years, its sales surpassed well over the one-billion-dollar mark. The rapidly growing online giant retailer opened its distribution services to small businesses, introduced prime membership and subscription services, launched electronic reading and smart devices, started on-demand cloud computing platforms, and stepped into brick-and-mortar retail business. Now, Amazon is the world’s largest online retailer and internet company and US’s second largest employer and technology company by revenue. It is now one of three most valued companies with Microsoft and Apple, which made the founder and chairman Jeff Bezos the wealthiest person in the world, who just made the world most expensive divorce settlement.
What Amazon will be doing in the next 25 years? Will we see extraterrestrial delivery services by amazon spacecraft? That might not be in the not so far future.
Enjoy reading the article and imagine how much you’ll be paying to Amazon next year.


Topic Reading-Vol.2651-7/15/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Destination trouble: Can overtourism be stopped in its tracks?
With rising middle class, increasing budget airlines and massive cruise liners, and influencing travel websites and social media, tourism has been flourishing for the last few years. In 2018, there were 1.4bn international tourist arrivals, according to the World Tourism Organization (UNTWO), a rise of 6% over the previous year. Some of the popular travel destinations are visited by more tourists than the local residents daily. Although tourists bring and spend money that creates jobs and boosts the economy, too many visitors could cause trouble to local communities. Indeed, overtourism is becoming a major problem to popular tourist destinations, and they are trying to find a way to balance tourist demand with the peace and life of the local community. Some cities like Venice, Italy have started levying entrance fees to day trippers who tend not to spend so much money. Such tourist tax varies by season to reduce peak-season visitors and boost slower-season visitors. Others like Amsterdam, Netherlands, and Reykjavik, Iceland are promoting other cities in their countries to divert tourists. To maintain order, Rome, Italy now bans bars to serve alcohol between 2 am and 7 am and fines people who drink in the street after 10 pm.
Overtourism seems to be another case of imbalance between the economy and the environment.
Enjoy reading and learn what this newly created word “overtourism” means.


Topic Reading-Vol.2650-7/14/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
A group of US billionaires is calling for a wealth tax
Wealth tax is a tax on the total value of personal assets, such as money, bonds, stocks, real estate, cars (and boats and airplanes), valuable properties like antiques and paintings, pension plans, and unincorporated businesses. Poor people don’t have such assets. People of the middle-class may have just enough assets to get by for now, and hopefully for after retirement. Only the rich own more than enough personal assets to spend or waste, donate or give, or inherit or succeed at will. They usually try their very best to minimize taxes they have to pay.
Now, some very wealthy Americans are calling for a tax on their wealth to tackle climate change and reduce inequalities. They seem to be generous enough to institute such a progressive initiative trying to make changes. But not all the rich will agree with being levied more taxes as they already paid income tax, sales tax or inheritance tax when they obtained their assets. In other words, it’s double taxation. Also, there are non-financial assets that are unique and hard to value, such as vehicles, antiques, private business.
Will this move help solve the problems? How much additional tax burden can they bear?
Enjoy reading the article and think who should be paying a wealth tax and how much.


Topic Reading-Vol.2649-7/13/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Obesity 'causes more cases of some cancers than smoking'
The fatter a person is, the higher the risks for cancer are. And the risks become even higher if the person is overweight or obese for a longer period. Furthermore, those who are overweight or obese are more likely to suffer from cancer than smokers, according to a UK research institute.
Though the link between obesity and the biomechanisms is still yet to be known, the research shows bowel, liver, kidney, and ovarian cancers are caused more by obesity than smoking. However, smokers shouldn’t feel relieved by these research findings as smoking still is the top cause of cancer overall in the UK. The problem is while smokers are decreasing in number, those who are overweight or obese are increasing. And the potentially fatal problem is increasing child obesity. Indeed, they are obese for a much longer period than their parents.
An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but a candy bar certainly does the opposite.
Enjoy reading the article and think twice before your next snack or dessert.


Topic Reading-Vol.2648-7/12/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
What to drink to help you sleep
What do you avoid eating or drinking after dinner to enjoy a sound sleep? Those who are sensitive to caffeine try to refrain from taking caffeine-rich drinks like coffee, green tea, and some soda.
Then does sweet chocolate that you may find on the bed in your hotel room get you a sweet dream? Sorry. It also contains caffeine. You also need to brush your teeth again.
What about a nightcap? Milk, whether warm or not, might be of some help but definitely not alcohol. It only helps you fall asleep but disrupts your sleep quality.
One thing seems to be sure. None of the things in your hotel room, in the fridge or minibar, helps you sleep better but water. Yes, water. You certainly want to be adequately hydrated when you go to bed.
Whether it’s psychological or biological, try whatever helps and avoid whatever disrupts your sound sleep.
Enjoy reading the article and think which of the tips you may want to try tonight.


Topic Reading-Vol.2647-7/11/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Assam NRC: Are India’s ‘unwanted people’ being driven to suicide?
Assam is a state in northeastern India known for its wildlife, archeological sites, silk, and tea. It is bordered by Bhutan to the north and Bangladesh to the south.
Recently, the state has been intensifying its effort to identify who are locals and who are not.  Those who migrated from its eastern neighbor Muslim-majority Bangladesh, or East Pakistan before its independence in 1971 may lose their citizenship. Four million people have already been excluded from the national register of citizenship list and many of them are feared to face either detention or deportation if they cannot prove their residence prior to 1971. It is a fatal blow to those who have already lived in the state for more than a few decades. They have nowhere to go once they lose their citizenship. Some of those in despair about their future have killed themselves. India was a dreamland and has been their homeland.
Is this just a sort of legal procedure or ethnic cleansing? Could the same thing happen to Hispanic Americans in the US?
Read the article and think how desperate they were when they moved to India from their homeland.