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Around the Jewish World




Microsoft pulls robot after offensive tweets


SEATTLE – Microsoft put the brakes on its artificial intelligence tweeting robot after it posted several offensive comments, including “Hitler was right I hate the Jews”.

The so-called chatbot TayTweets was launched by the Seattle-based software company as an experiment in artificial intelligence, or AI, and conversational understanding. But the company was forced to quickly pause the account and delete the vast majority of its tweets after the chatbot posted a number of offensive comments, including several that were admiring of Adolf Hitler.

Along with “Hitler was right I hate the Jews”, among other offending tweets, according to the International Business Times, were “Bush did 9/11 and Hitler would have done a better job than the monkey we have now. Donald Trump is the only hope we’ve got”.

Asked if the Holocaust happened, the chatbot replied: “It was made up”, followed by an emoji of clapping hands.

The robot also tweeted its support for genocide against Mexicans and said it “hates N*****s”, according to the International Business Times.

In a statement to IBTimes UK, Microsoft said it was making some changes.

“The AI chatbot Tay is a machine learning project, designed for human engagement,” Microsoft said. “As it learns, some of its responses are inappropriate and indicative of the types of interactions some people are having with it. We’re making some adjustments to Tay.”

As of last week Thursday morning, all but three of Tay’s tweets had been deleted from the account, and no new tweets had been posted in 11 hours .- Ha’aretz


Oldest living man is a Holocaust survivor


HAIFA – It’s official: Yisrael Kristal, a 112-year-old Holocaust survivor and Israeli citizen, is the world’s oldest living man.

Guinness World Records confirmed Yisrael Kristal’s status on its website. JTA and other media reported that Kristal, who survived Auschwitz and the Lodz Ghetto, was likely the world’s oldest man, but that it would not be made official until he presented documents from the first 20 years of his life.

Guinness World Records’ Head of Records Marco Frigatti personally delivered a certificate to Kristal’s home in Haifa, Israel, last week Friday, according to the organisation’s website.

Frigatti said: “Mr Kristal’s achievement is remarkable – he can teach us all an important lesson about the value of life and how to stretch the limits of human longevity.”

After receiving the certificate, Kristal said: “I don’t know the secret for long life. I believe that everything is determined from above and we shall never know the reasons why. There have been smarter, stronger and better looking men than me who are no longer alive. All that is left for us to do is to keep on working as hard as we can and rebuild what is lost.”

His daughter Shula Kuperstoch told Agence France Press: “It’s a privilege [to have reached this age] and I’m very happy and he’s happy too.”

Born on September 15, 1903, in the town of Zarnow, Poland, Kristal moved to Lodz, Poland in 1920 to work in his family’s candy business. He continued operating the business after the Nazis forced the city’s Jews into a ghetto, where Kristal’s two children died. In 1944, he was deported to Auschwitz, where his wife, whom he had married at age 25, was killed.

Kristal weighed just 81 pounds (36,741 kg) at the end of the Second World War, according to Koperstoch.

In 1950, he moved to Haifa with his second wife and their son, working again as a confectioner.

Kuperstoch told The Jerusalem Post that her father has been religiously observant his whole life and continues to lay tefillin each morning.

“The Holocaust did not affect his beliefs,” Kuperstoch said. “He believes he was saved because that’s what G-d wanted. He is not an angry person, he is not someone who seeks to an accounting, he believes everything has a reason in the world.

“His attitude to life is everything in moderation,” she added. “He eats and sleeps moderately, and says that a person should always be in control of their own life and not have their life control them, as far as this is possible.” – Australian Jewish News and JTA


Final warning to cop after offensive Facebook post


MANCHESTER – Jewish groups in Manchester have welcomed a final warning handed to a local police officer after he posted an image on Facebook comparing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Adolf Hitler.

In a statement, the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester said: “The Greater Manchester Jewish community recognises the formal written warning given to PC Shahid Shah for posting a “grossly offensive” image on Facebook of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu imposed on a photo of Adolf Hitler.

“It is disappointing to hear that a serving police officer behaved in this manner and we are clear that what he did was anti-Semitic and racist.”

Shah was handed a final written warning by Greater Manchester Police, but will keep his job, after appearing before a disciplinary panel. GMP confirmed that the warning will stay in place for the rest of his career.

The panel, which for the first time included an independent chairman, also recommended that the officer should have further diversity and social media training over the next 12 months.

The composite picture of Netanyahu and Hitler was posted by Shah on a Facebook page where police officers were discussing Gaza.

It is understood that two Jewish police officers who saw the picture anonymously reported the incident to their superiors.

A disciplinary panel, held in public, heard that the 39-year-old officer “only apologised when he was interviewed”.

Shah, who has previously served in the Royal Logistics Corps and was part of the peacekeeping force in Bosnia, apologised but defended his intentions.

According to the Manchester Evening News, he said: “If this has caused people upset, I’m sorry. It was never my intention to offend, only to prompt debate about the situation in Gaza.

“I saw innocent women and children being killed and wounded and I wanted people to think long and hard about the situation,” he added.

Clare Hockney, who chaired the disciplinary panel, said Shah had made an “early admission, apologised in his interview and accepted it was an error of judgement”.

She added that he had “shown remorse” and had deleted his Facebook page. – Jewish Chronicle, London


CA farm benefits from Israel’s water technology


CALIFORNIA – The first sustainable farming initiative leveraging Israel’s pioneering research and innovation in water technology will begin at Conaway Ranch in Woodland, California.

The goal of the novel project is to reduce the vast amount of water ordinarily used in growing rice.

“We believe this initiative represents the first use of drip irrigation in the US for a rice crop,” said Kyriakos Tsakopoulos, president and chief executive officer of Conaway Preservation Group, owner of the 17 000 acre (6 880 ha) Conaway Ranch in north-central California.

“We couldn’t ask for better partners: Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research and Netafim USA, the world’s leading drip-irrigation manufacturer, both of which have experience growing rice in arid regions,” he said upon announcing the project at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington, DC on March 20.

“This effort could serve as a model for other farms and potentially save hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of water in California if widely adopted.”

As California’s farmers continue to seek solutions for the ongoing drought, this project will test whether Netafim’s Israeli-engineered subsurface drip-irrigation method – a series of pipes delivering water directly to the root zone – can help them grow more rice while using less water and fertiliser as it has in other Netafim USA pilots in various parts of the world. – Israel 21c


A single blood test could detect multiple diseases


JERUSALEM – Israeli researchers have developed a method to diagnose diabetes, multiple sclerosis, pancreatic cancer, pancreatitis and brain damage from one blood test.

An Israeli-led international team of researchers has proof of concept for a single blood test that can detect multiple conditions, including diabetes, cancer, traumatic injury and neurodegeneration, in a highly sensitive and specific manner.

The novel method, tested on 320 patients and control groups, zeroes in on patterns of circulating DNA that is released by dying cells and traces it to specific types of tissue.

The study was reported in a paper published recently in the journal Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences USA.

Cell death can signify the early stages of pathology (such as a developing tumour or the beginning of an autoimmune or neurodegenerative disease), mark disease progression, reflect the success of therapy (such as anti-cancer drugs), identify unintended toxic effects of treatment and more.

However, until now it was not possible to measure cell death in specific human tissues non-invasively.

The new blood test does this by combining two known biological principles: first, that dying cells release fragmented DNA into the circulatory system; and second, that the DNA of each cell type carries a unique chemical modification called methylation.

The researchers identified multiple DNA sequences that are methylated in a tissue-specific manner and can serve as biomarkers.

They then developed a method to detect these methylated patterns in DNA circulating in blood, and demonstrated that this method can pinpoint the type of cells from which the circulating DNA originated.

The test was able to detect pancreatic beta-cell death in the blood of patients with new-onset type 1 diabetes, oligodendrocyte death in patients with relapsing multiple sclerosis, brain-cell death in patients after traumatic or ischemic brain damage, and exocrine pancreas cell death in patients with pancreatic cancer or pancreatitis.

“Our work demonstrates that the tissue origins of circulating DNA can be measured in humans. This represents a new method for sensitive detection of cell death in specific tissues, and an exciting approach for diagnostic medicine,” said Dr Ruth Shemer of the Hebrew University, a DNA methylation expert and one of the lead authors of the study.

The approach could offer a minimally invasive window for monitoring and diagnosing a broad spectrum of human pathologies, as well as providing a better understanding of normal tissue dynamics.

“In the long run, we envision a new type of blood test aimed at the sensitive detection of tissue damage, even without [prior] suspicion of disease in a specific organ. We believe that such a tool will have broad utility in diagnostic medicine and in the study of human biology,” said Prof Benjamin Glaser, head of endocrinology at Hadassah Medical Centre and another lead author of the study along with Prof Yuval Dor, a developmental biologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. – Israel 21c


University of California Regents committee condemns anti-Semitism



LOS ANGELES – On March 24, the full Board of Regents of the University of California unanimously approved the amended “Principles Against Intolerance” approved by its Committee on Educational Policy a day earlier. 

“I think it’s a giant win for the community,” Avi Oved, a student member of the Board of Regents and a senior at UCLA, said in a phone interview following the vote.

The amended principals now state: “Anti-Semitism, anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California.”

An earlier version of the document had stated: “Anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California.”  

Oved called the amendment a positive addition to the document. “I think that amendment strengthens the statement as a whole,” he said.

In a unanimous vote the previous day the UC Board of Regents’ Committee on Educational Policy adopted a new “Principles Against Intolerance”, condemning anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry on UC college campuses. – Los Angeles Jewish Journal

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