All posts tagged: city council

Robots Have Not Revolutionized Caregiving

Robots Have Not Revolutionized Caregiving

The first thing Pepper told me was that he was running out of battery. “He’s got about 15 minutes before he dies,” Emanuel Nunez Sardinha, a Ph.D. candidate in robotics at Bristol Robotics Laboratory, told me. That turned out to be plenty. Sardinha greeted Pepper; then I did. I asked Pepper how he was doing, to which he replied, “How are you doing?” Then Sardinha resumed telling me about the sorts of things Pepper, a friendly, wide-eyed robot designed to assist humans through social interaction, can do, such as talking through an exercise routine while demonstrating upper-body movements (he doesn’t have legs). But Pepper can get “nervous” in crowds—that is, his voice recognition short-circuits in an environment with multiple people talking—which is what seemed to happen at the lab that day. He kept piping up unprompted as we chatted, flustering Sardinha, who, with a gentle apology to Pepper, put him to sleep. For such an underwhelming little robot, Pepper has managed to inspire remarkable faith in his potential over the years. He wasn’t designed for …

AI Is Taking Water From the Arizona Desert

AI Is Taking Water From the Arizona Desert

One scorching day this past September, I made the dangerous decision to try to circumnavigate some data centers. The ones I chose sit between a regional airport and some farm fields in Goodyear, Arizona, half an hour’s drive west of downtown Phoenix. When my Uber pulled up beside the unmarked buildings, the temperature was 97 degrees Fahrenheit. The air crackled with a latent energy, and some kind of pulsating sound was emanating from the electric wires above my head, or maybe from the buildings themselves. With no shelter from the blinding sunlight, I began to lose my sense of what was real. Microsoft announced its plans for this location, and two others not so far away, back in 2019—a week after the company revealed its initial $1 billion investment in OpenAI, the buzzy start-up that would later release ChatGPT. From that time on, OpenAI began to train its models exclusively on Microsoft’s servers; any query for an OpenAI product would flow through Microsoft’s cloud-computing network, Azure. In part to meet that demand, Microsoft has been …

Labour council raises tax by 21pc – but cuts bin collections and dims streetlights

Labour council raises tax by 21pc – but cuts bin collections and dims streetlights

Birmingham residents will have to endure reduced services despite rises in council tax adding £350 to average bills – AARON CHOWN/PA Street lighting is to be dimmed and bin collections will be made fortnightly at England’s largest local authority – as council tax soars by 21 per cent. Labour-run Birmingham City Council, which declared itself effectively bankrupt last year, is making £300 million of cuts over the next two years. At the same time, council tax will rise by 10 per cent in April and 10 per cent the year after – adding £350 to average bills. Residents will have to endure reduced services despite the extra tax bills, along with increased charges for burials being introduced. The authority also plans to slash spending on highway maintenance – putting drivers at risk of potholes. Up to 600 council staff could lose their jobs as part of the cuts. John Cotton, the Labour council leader, said he was “really sorry that we find ourselves in this position”, adding that they were “really difficult decisions to take”. …

‘Bankrupt’ council at centre of budget-cut protest holds ‘Queering Nutrition’ event

‘Bankrupt’ council at centre of budget-cut protest holds ‘Queering Nutrition’ event

A council refuse collector empties bins in Birmingham on the day the city council announced it was unable to balance its budget and was, in effect, ‘bankrupt’ – Mike Kemp/In Pictures A ‘bankrupt’ council that became the subject of protests over proposed budget cuts has held a ‘Queering Nutrition’ event. The brainchild of Birmingham city council’s public health division, the workshop explores the “interaction between the LGBTQ+ community and our food system”. Forthcoming sessions will cover “approaches to care for non-binary and gender diverse individuals with dementia”, delivered by Newman University through an “intersectional lens”, and “alternative cervical screening for marginalised groups” and “inclusive language in healthcare settings”, led by Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. The 21-session programme comes as leaders formulate plans to plug a £300 million funding gap. Gary Sambrook, Conservative MP for Birmingham Northfield, said: “Since the council’s bankruptcy was announced I’ve had countless meetings with community groups, people who rely on council service, and with councillors about the future of libraries and youth services. Spend money wisely “Labour’s …

What the Housing Shortage Is Doing to American Environmentalism

What the Housing Shortage Is Doing to American Environmentalism

Environmentalism has never been a stable ideology, and its adherents have never been a monolithic group. But, in Minneapolis, the green community has fractured as a wide array of self-described environmentalists find that they don’t agree on very much anymore. Back in 2018, Minneapolis generated national headlines for being the first major American city to eliminate single-family zoning. Under a plan called Minneapolis 2040, the city legalized duplexes and triplexes in all residential neighborhoods. The plan led to a frenzy of ambitious regulatory changes meant to yield denser, transit-accessible, and more affordable homes across the city. The stated goals of Minneapolis 2040 included housing affordability and racial equity, but supporters also stressed the environmental benefits of funneling population growth toward the urban core instead of outlying counties. “All the evidence and data shows that when you reduce your carbon footprint by, for instance, not having a 45-minute commute in from the suburbs … it helps the environment,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey told me at a downtown ice-cream shop in September. “It’s really simple, right?” Maybe. …

Social worker suspended for saying there are ‘two sexes’ wins tribunal

Social worker suspended for saying there are ‘two sexes’ wins tribunal

Rachel Meade, left, has won a case against Westminster City Council and Social Work England – Tom Moore A social worker who was suspended over her belief that there are “two sexes” has won a landmark tribunal against a Labour council. Rachel Meade, 55, was given a final written warning by Westminster City Council and formally sanctioned by Social Work England (SWE) after a member of the public complained about Facebook posts she had liked and shared. This included sharing a petition to “save women’s sports”, a post calling to review rules allowing male prisoners who identify as female into women’s prisons, and a meme of a woman saying she was being imprisoned “for saying that Ian Huntley is a man”. The social worker of more than 20 years was suspended for a year and later brought an employment tribunal claim against both bodies, which she won on Tuesday. It is the first case of its kind where an employer and regulator have both been found liable for discrimination in relation to gender-critical beliefs, which …

Mother Survived the Nazis. Father Survived the Soviets.

Mother Survived the Nazis. Father Survived the Soviets.

“Should I mention that I saw Anne Frank in Belsen? Do you think they’d be interested in that?” I was in my late teens when my mother was first asked to give a talk about her experiences as a German refugee and Dutch Jew in the Second World War. Until the late 1970s, people rarely asked her about it, and she didn’t want to be a bore. Then things began to change. Within a few years of her first speech, she was giving lectures in schools quite regularly. She was invited to Downing Street and talked with the prime minister about knowing the Franks, and about her father’s work fighting fascism and his encounter with Hermann Göring. The BBC made a documentary in which my mother met the daughter of a prominent Nazi. She was forever telling her story. No one, however, ever asked Dad to tell his. The interest in what happened to him never came. It still hasn’t come. Yet my father was the victim of one of the war’s greatest crimes: Stalin’s …