Building use – Replicare C Thu, 23 Jun 2022 09:49:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Building use – Replicare C 32 32 How do you keep artists in Boston? The city is looking for solutions Thu, 23 Jun 2022 09:49:07 +0000

There’s a sign in Wayne Strattman’s studio with six words spelled out in thin glass tubes: helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon, mercury. Each is lit with the gas it describes. Helium glows with a light peach; neon, the most common, glows orange-red. Krypton is white, argon is fuchsia, xenon a muted blue, and mercury a bright azure. Although, technically, mercury is not a gas. “It’s a vapor,” Strattman said.

A sign on the wall of Wayne Strattman’s studio shows the different plasma colors of different gases. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Strattman is a glass and light artist. He designed museum displays, toys and movie sets. (The glowing green lights at the Borg regeneration stations in “Star Trek VIII: First Contact”? They were his.) His 1,500 square foot studio at 119 Braintree St. in Allston is full of abandoned prototypes and metal sculptures. glass. Strattman is particularly fond of decanters, which he keeps grouped together on a shelf. Inside one is a small figure – a man, his hand outstretched, holding a deep red heart.

“I originally made this decanter as a gift for someone I was dating,” says Strattman. “And she broke up with me, and I took her apart, drilled a hole in her heart, and put her heart in her hand. It’s called: ‘Can I give you something else?’ »

Strattman, as you might have guessed, is not the kind of guy to feign optimism.

Wayne Strattman's glass sculpture of a heartbroken man holding his heart is called
Wayne Strattman’s glass sculpture of a heartbroken man holding his heart is called “Can I give you something else?”. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

He has every reason to be pessimistic at the moment. The building where he rents his studio is about to be demolished and redeveloped into a laboratory and offices, which will cause more than 100 artists and artisans to lose their workspaces. Strattman despairs of finding an affordable replacement. And it’s not for lack of trying.

“There’s not a community, quite honestly, east of the Connecticut River where I probably haven’t been,” he says. “Sale prices are astronomical – they start well into the millions, for the most part, and rental rates are high. And also, lab space is claimed in Boston, basically within a radius of about 30 miles in any direction. So they take up all the small commercial spaces and drive the cost per square foot up to $30, $35, $40 per square foot. And artists simply don’t have the income to support themselves.

Artist Wayne Strattman in his glass and plasma studio in Boston.  (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Artist Wayne Strattman in his glass and plasma studio in Boston. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

This isn’t the first time Strattman has faced a move. He was one of a group of artists who won the right to keep their living and working studios in the South End Piano Factory after a bitter legal battle in the late 1990s only to see the owner gradually convert the building into luxury apartments.

“Over the years, I’ve testified before city council, written letters, participated in online petitions,” Strattman says. “It’s largely gone unanswered from the city.”

Strattman thinks Boston management needs to take responsibility for what happens to artists. The problem, he says, is worse than it has ever been. But his impression is that the city has little power to create or preserve spaces for artists.

“They do a lot of studies and so on, and that’s not what we need,” he says. “We don’t need more studies. The problem is obvious.

Glass artifacts created by glass and plasma sculptor Wayne Strattman.  (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Glass artifacts created by glass and plasma sculptor Wayne Strattman. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Strattman’s story is in many ways emblematic of the experience of creative workers facing pressure in Boston’s boiling real estate market, where live music venues struggle to stay afloat, artists lament a lack of space rehearsals and developers gobble up the industrial buildings that have long served the city’s painters, sculptors and artisans.

And Strattman is right that the city has few tools to help, despite a strong arts and culture office. The 14-person office has a $3 million operating budget, which it uses to fund artists and cultural organizations, support public art, and advocate for arts and culture across the city. But only one staff member is focused on the problem of disappearing cultural space – Melissa Meyer, the director of cultural planning. Meyer is often the go-to person for panicked artists worried about marketing their studios. By then it is usually too late for the city to intervene. “By the time people are talking about selling, he’s been sold,” Meyer says. “Or it’s really about to be sold.”

Meyer hopes that is about to change. Mayor Michelle Wu’s proposed budget for 2023 will allow the arts and culture office to hire two additional staff who can help it anticipate the travel issue. One will be a liaison with developers and the city’s planning and development agency. “It’s really almost a full-time job, following the development pipeline in the city,” Meyer said.

Boston Cultural Planning Project Manager Melissa Meyer talks to artists during a visit to Humphreys Street Studios in Dorchester.  (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Boston Cultural Planning Project Manager Melissa Meyer talks to artists during a visit to Humphreys Street Studios in Dorchester. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

The other new staff member would focus on community engagement, building relationships with artists and cultural organizations before a crisis hits.

“We really have to spend a lot of time on: where is the cultural work going now? What does it look like? What is in danger? said Boston arts and culture chief Kara Elliott-Ortega. “You know, how do we build relationships from scratch in order to understand when a building might come to market?”

The arts and culture office is also set to receive a windfall if a proposal from Mayor Wu passes: $20 million in American Recovery Act funds to be used over three years.

“It would be a historic level of investment in the arts in the city,” Elliott-Ortega said.

The Arts and Culture Office plans to distribute most of ARPA’s money directly to artists and cultural organizations in the form of grants. But the funds are meant to offset pandemic-related losses and are strictly limited on capital investments. That means the city can’t use the money to buy or develop property for the arts — a pretty big caveat for a potentially transformative investment.

“I wish I could say we’re going to buy five buildings with that money, and I can’t say that,” Elliott-Ortega says. But she sees the money as an opportunity to access new resources. “The arts office doesn’t have loan officers,” she explains. “We don’t have a room full of engineers and real estate finance professionals like other departments maybe do as part of their process because we’ve never had the funding to do real estate work. “

The relief money will also allow the office to reallocate about half a million dollars from the operating budget to grants for cultural facilities. These grants could be used to help organizations improve their spaces, or even invest in securing property. But half a million dollars does not approach the scale of what is needed. Buying property is expensive — and there’s no doubt that the best way to preserve cultural space is to buy it.

119 Braintree Street, a building where many artists currently work, should be demolished to be redeveloped.  (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
119 Braintree St., a building where many artists currently work, is set to be demolished for redevelopment. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

In the absence of dedicated public funding for arts venues, the arts and culture office is trying to harness the development boom to benefit artists and is reviewing existing programs to adapt.

For example, there is a zoning requirement in a section of the South End that requires developers to either incorporate affordable commercial or cultural spaces into their buildings or contribute to a fund for cultural and commercial spaces in the neighborhood. What if the city developed a version of this program and Boston developers had to contribute to a central fund to preserve and build cultural space?

“If there were no restrictions on funds coming from these projects and we could just direct them into a citywide fund, that would be a huge step,” Elliott-Ortega said.

Kara Elliott-Ortega, Boston Arts and Culture Leader at the Strand Theater in 2019. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Kara Elliott-Ortega, Boston Arts and Culture Leader at the Strand Theater in 2019. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

A city-wide fund would solve two problems. Currently, the city’s main tool for creating cultural space is to ask developers to integrate it into proposed developments. Often this results in a space that is too small or otherwise inappropriate for the actual needs of the artists. “What we see happening is a lot of spaces in bigger projects, and that never really meets the need, or [making up for] loss of space,” says Elliott-Ortega.

With an arts venues fund, the arts and culture office could provide grants to artists and cultural organizations trying to buy space and support them in carrying out development projects. The money could be invested where the need is greatest, not just where development is booming.

But perhaps Elliott-Ortega’s greatest hope is for the city to build its own arts center to replace the cultural spaces — studios, rehearsal complexes, concert halls — that have been lost. “It would be a great symbol, I hope, for the artist community that the city really cares about this, that we understand the importance of this and that we move the level of resources necessary,” she says.

The city is far from able to execute such a project – years or even decades, which will be too late for many artists. This is the challenge now facing the Arts and Culture Office as it considers how to use increased funding: finding a way to preserve and replace the rapidly disappearing cultural space – before it’s not too late for everyone.

Robotic lightning bolts take flight | MIT News Tue, 21 Jun 2022 04:00:00 +0000

The fireflies that light up dark backyards on warm summer evenings use their luminescence for communication – to attract a mate, ward off predators, or attract prey.

These twinkling insects also sparked inspiration from MIT scientists. Taking inspiration from nature, they built flexible light-emitting artificial muscles for insect-scale flying robots. The tiny artificial muscles that control the robots’ wings emit colored light during flight.

This electroluminescence could allow robots to communicate with each other. If sent on a search and rescue mission in a collapsed building, for example, a robot that finds survivors could use lights to signal others and call for help.

The ability to emit light also brings these microscopic robots, which weigh little more than a paperclip, one step closer to autonomous flight outside the lab. These robots are so light that they can’t carry sensors, so researchers have to track them using bulky infrared cameras that don’t work well outdoors. Now they’ve shown they can track the robots precisely using the light they emit and just three smartphone cameras.

“If you think of large-scale robots, they can communicate using many different tools – Bluetooth, wireless, all those sorts of things. But for a tiny robot with limited power, we have to think about new modes of communication. This is a major step towards piloting these robots in outdoor environments where we don’t have a state-of-the-art motion tracking system,” says Kevin Chen, who is the assistant to D. Reid Weedon, Jr. Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS), Head of the Soft and Micro Robotics Lab at the Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE), and senior author of the paper.

He and his collaborators achieved this by incorporating tiny light-emitting particles into the artificial muscles. The process adds only 2.5% more weight without affecting the robot’s flight performance.

Joining Chen on the paper are EECS graduate students Suhan Kim, the lead author, and Yi-Hsuan Hsiao; Yu Fan Chen SM ’14, PhD ’17; and Jie Mao, associate professor at Ningxia University. The research was published this month in IEEE Letters on Robotics and Automation.

A luminous actuator

These researchers previously demonstrated a new fabrication technique for building flexible actuators, or artificial muscles, that flap the robot’s wings. These durable actuators are made by alternating ultra-thin layers of elastomer and carbon nanotube electrode in a stack, then rolling them into a spongy cylinder. When a voltage is applied to this cylinder, the electrodes compress the elastomer and the mechanical stress causes the wing to flap.

To make a glowing actuator, the team incorporated light-emitting zinc sulfate particles into the elastomer, but had to overcome several challenges along the way.

First, the researchers had to create an electrode that wouldn’t block light. They built it using highly transparent carbon nanotubes, which are only a few nanometers thick and allow light to pass through.

However, zinc particles ignite only in the presence of a very strong, high-frequency electric field. This electric field excites the electrons in the zinc particles, which then emit subatomic particles of light called photons. The researchers use a high voltage to create a strong electric field in the flexible actuator, then drive the robot at a high frequency, causing the particles to light up brightly.

“Traditionally, electroluminescent materials are very energy-intensive, but in a sense we get that electroluminescence for free because we’re just using the electric field at the frequency we need to fly. We don’t need new actuation, new wires or anything. It only takes about 3% more energy to make the light shine,” says Kevin Chen.

While prototyping the actuator, they found that adding zinc particles reduced its quality, causing it to break down more easily. To circumvent this problem, Kim mixed zinc particles only in the top layer of elastomer. He thickened this layer by a few micrometers to accommodate any reduction in power output.

Although this makes the actuator 2.5% heavier, it emits light without affecting flight performance.

“We pay a lot of attention to maintaining the quality of the elastomer layers between the electrodes. Adding these particles was almost like adding dust to our elastomer layer. It took many different approaches and many tests, but we found a way to ensure the quality of the actuator,” says Kim.

Adjusting the chemical combination of the zinc particles changes the color of the light. The researchers made green, orange and blue particles for the actuators they built; each actuator shines in a solid color.

They also changed the manufacturing process so that the actuators could emit multicolored and patterned light. The researchers placed a tiny mask on the top layer, added zinc particles, then hardened the actuator. They repeated this process three times with different masks and colored particles to create a light pattern that spelled MIT.

In pursuit of fireflies

After refining the manufacturing process, they tested the mechanical properties of the actuators and used a luminescence meter to measure the intensity of the light.

From there, they conducted flight tests using a specially designed motion tracking system. Each light-emitting actuator served as an active marker that could be tracked using iPhone cameras. The cameras detect every color of light, and a computer program they developed tracks the robots’ position and attitude to within 2 millimeters of state-of-the-art infrared motion-capture systems.

“We are very proud of the quality of the tracking result, compared to the state of the art. We were using inexpensive hardware, compared to the tens of thousands of dollars that these large motion tracking systems cost, and the follow-up results were very close,” says Kevin Chen.

In the future, they plan to improve this motion tracking system so that it can track robots in real time. The team is working to incorporate control signals so the robots can turn their light on and off during flight and communicate more like real fireflies. They are also studying how electroluminescence might even improve certain properties of these soft artificial muscles, says Kevin Chen.

“This work is really exciting because it minimizes the overhead (weight and power) for light generation without compromising flight performance,” says Kaushik Jayaram, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder, who did not participate in this research. “The wing-beat synchronized flash generation demonstrated in this work will facilitate motion tracking and flight control of multiple microrobots in low-light environments, both indoors and outdoors.”

“While the light production, reminiscence of biological fireflies, and potential use of communication shown in this work are extremely exciting, I think the real impetus is that this latest development could prove to be an important step towards demonstration of these robots outdoors under controlled laboratory conditions,” adds Pakpong Chirarattananon, an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at City University of Hong Kong, who was also not involved in this work. illuminated potentially act as active markers for external cameras to provide real-time feedback for flight stabilization to replace the current motion capture system. Electroluminescence would allow less sophisticated equipment to be used and robots to be tracked remotely, perhaps via another larger mobile robot, for real-world deployment. It would be a remarkable breakthrough. I’d love to see what the authors do next.

This work was supported by the MIT Electronics Research Laboratory.

Philadelphia firefighter dies in building collapse; 5 other people rescued Sun, 19 Jun 2022 01:40:00 +0000 Four of his comrades and a city employee were pulled alive from the rubble, a fire official said.

The collapse of 300 W. Indiana Ave. in the city’s Fairhill neighborhood happened shortly before 3:30 a.m. — about 90 minutes after firefighters were called to battle the blaze there — and sent colleagues rushing to rescue those trapped inside, 1st Deputy Fire Marshal Craig Murphy said.

“Our department lost a member bravely fighting a fire and then caught in a building collapse after the fire was over,” he said.

“We just finished pulling … our brothers out of here. The next few weeks are going to be tough,” Murphy told reporters on Saturday morning.

Details about what led to the fire in the building and what it housed were not immediately available. City records describe it as a three-story structure in a commercial/mixed-use part of town.

Four firefighters and a municipal licensing and inspection worker were rescued and sent to hospital. The licensing officer was released and all four firefighters remained hospitalized Saturday morning in stable condition, Murphy said.

Later Saturday, officials identified the deceased firefighter as Lt. Sean Williamson, 51, according to a city news release. Williamson was a 27-year veteran of the fire department, the statement said.

Williamson was “one of our most experienced lieutenants,” Fire Marshal Adam K. Thiel said during a briefing.

“I’m almost speechless,” Thiel said. “I haven’t finished crying.”

Officials identified the other five injured as Fire Marshal Lt. Sylvester Burton; Lt. Clarence Johnson; firefighter Dennis Daly; firefighter Robert Brennan, Jr.; and Thomas Rybakowski, supervisor of the city’s licensing and inspections department.

The Office of the Fire Marshal is investigating the cause of the fire with the assistance of the ATF, according to the statement. No cause has yet been determined, he added.

A search and rescue operation after a fire

Firefighters were called to the building at 1:53 a.m. to a box alarm and found a fire, which they put out, Murphy said.

As firefighters focused on displaced residents and “surveyed” — looking for remaining fires in hidden spaces — the building collapsed, Murphy said. Eight occupants of the property were safely evacuated, according to the city’s news release.

Firefighters comb through the rubble.

A person jumped from the second floor to avoid being trapped. Others were taken down systematically, Murphy said.

During rescue efforts, rescuers had a “dialogue” with those trapped, including tapping on the debris “so someone could tell someone was in there,” Murphy said.

Three firefighters and the inspector were initially trapped but rescued and taken to hospital, according to the press release.

It was a “lean-to/pancake collapse,” Murphy said, as some collapsed material could have fallen flat on a surface, other material could have leaned against a wall, creating from space. “There were a lot of empty spaces,” Murphy said.

At the site, firefighters and others stood by or walked around a large pile – more than with their heads held high – of metal, wood and other debris, video from the affiliate showed. from CNN WPVI.

Williamson was one of two fire department members who were trapped under debris after the collapse, according to the city’s news release. He was pronounced dead at the scene around 6:45 a.m., officials said.

The other member, Brennan, was taken to hospital and is in stable condition, the statement said.

The fire response for the building collapse was brought under control shortly after 7:10 a.m., he added.

At least nine agencies aided in recovery efforts, including the Philadelphia Police and American Red Cross, Fire Department added on Twitter.

CNN’s Michelle Watson and Paradise Afshar contributed to this report.

Kaplan Construction begins work on a 99,831 m² mixed-use building: NEREJ Fri, 17 Jun 2022 06:06:39 +0000

Roxbury, MA Kaplan Construction has begun construction work on a new six-story, 99,831 square foot building at 2147 Washington St. on behalf of co-developers, New Atlantic Development and DREAM Development. Built on the site of a former parking lot, 2147 Washington is expected to be completed by the summer of 2024. Kaplan has been hired to provide pre-construction and general contracting services.

“Kaplan has extensive experience working on tight urban sites and we know they will continue to work with us and our neighbors to make the process as smooth as possible.” said Brian Goldson, one of the owners of New Atlantic Development. “We specialize in the development of affordable, mixed-income and housing/work housing, with an emphasis on supporting the city’s local artist community. Working with Kaplan was therefore a natural choice. 2147 Washington will provide much-needed housing in Roxbury and support economic opportunities for resident artists and the surrounding community by providing spaces that foster creative entrepreneurship.

Designed by DREAM Collaborative, the design arm of DREAM Development, the first floor will include 2,000 square feet of cafe/dining space for the Haley House Bakery Café; 4,400 artist creation spaces s/f; and 2,200 square feet of flexible retail/commercial space. The project will also provide 31 parking spaces serving the occupants of the building in an underground garage.

Floors 2 to 5 will offer 62 affordable rental units. Half of the units will be marketed to artists and individuals engaged in the creative economy. The sixth floor will feature 12 condominium units for sale – four at 70% AMI affordable, four at 100% AMI and four at market price. The current program includes a mix of units of eight studios, 33 T2, 28 T2 and 5 T3, as well as a rental office. A community space will be included on the second floor for the enjoyment of residents.

2147 Washington is designed to Passive House standards in accordance with the City of Boston’s new Zero Net Energy Ordinance. In accordance with the new energy standards, the building will be equipped with solar panels to offset its demand from the grid. The project team will also work closely with the City of Boston throughout the project to maximize community engagement, local hiring, and MBE/WBE participation.

This is Kaplan’s fourth project in the city in recent memory. In 2020, Kaplan oversaw a 55,000 square foot interior design for the new Horizons for Homeless Children’s Early Years Center and Headquarters at 1785 Columbus Ave. Later that year, Kaplan completed a fit-up for a family clinic in the same building in Boston. Health care program for the homeless. Kaplan also recently managed the adaptive reuse of 9 Williams St., a 51,250 square foot landmark building in Dudley Sq. that underwent a complete gut renovation to create a 30-unit mixed-income apartment building and a commercial space on the ground floor.

Project team members for this project include:

  • Co-developers: New Atlantic Development & DREAM Development
  • Architect: DREAM Collaborative
  • General contractor: Kaplan Construction
  • Structural engineer: RSE Associates
  • MEP/FP Engineer: Norian Siani Engineering
  • Civil Engineer: Meridian Associates, Inc.
  • Landscape Architect: Deborah Myers Landscape Architects

Here are the tools to change our behaviors. It’s time for us to use them | Comment Wed, 15 Jun 2022 06:03:04 +0000

This month marks an important milestone in the journey of one of the construction industry’s premier initiatives with the launch of the Construction Innovation Hub’s Value Toolkit on June 20. Like many milestones such as turning 21 or passing a driving test, the day itself can be full of anticipation, excitement and energy so make sure it reflects all the work undertaken to date. However, what’s really important is not how far you’ve come so far, but what happens after that point.

When I was appointed to the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) in 2016, one of the first meetings I attended was the presentation of Mark Farmer’s Review of the UK Construction Labor Model – or the Modernize or Die report – which proved to be a forerunner of UK industrial strategy in 2017 and an important benchmark I must rely on in CLC’s 2018 Procuring for Value report. The cumulative impact of these touchpoints is far greater than the sum of their parts, as each marks a milestone on our industry’s journey to source better, and the launch of the Value Toolkit is well course another important event in the development of this trip.

Our industry is often criticized for throwing the baby out with the bathwater as governments change, policy is revised and funding is redirected. However, often what really happens is that evolution takes place and, although perhaps repackaged or rebranded, work continues to solve the challenges of our industry.

He brings with him the real tools to show people how to change their behaviors – not just the imperative of “you must”, but the know-how to change.

We know that we have evolved considerably in both the public and private sectors in our procurement processes where 10 years ago, maybe even five years ago, cost was still the only relevant factor for most customers. We are now in a world where we have governance in the form of the Construction Playbook, clearly defined upgrade and zero carbon targets and where the ESG (environmental, social and governance) agenda plays an important role for investors, developers and end customers. ‘ decision making. However, although we are no longer at the beginning, we are certainly not at the end of our sourcing journey.

We must also remember that the value toolbox is not something that has been imposed on our industry. Led by the Construction Innovation Hub, it has always been a collaboration between industry and government, and now that it has been developed, it is a tool that will remain in the public domain for all to use.

>> To read also: Not just another toolbox

>> To read also: Companies chosen to pilot Value Toolkit on projects

He brings with him the real tools to show people how to change their behaviors – not just the imperative of “you must”, but the know-how to change – unlocking Pandora’s box on how to integrate environmental factors, social value, and other non-monetary values ​​in the procurement process. For those who already know that the future is different from the past, it’s more than words but a platform for practical action with an app, training and how-to guides.

In short, it’s about better decision making – looking at projects and programs holistically, with more than cost in mind.

Let’s refresh ourselves on what the ambition of the Value Toolkit has set itself. As the Construction Innovation Hub states, it was “developed in partnership with over 200 industry and government experts to help redefine value and how to measure it. The Value Toolkit enables value-based decision-making focused on achieving better social, environmental and economic outcomes, improving the industry’s impact on current and future generations.

In short, it’s about better decision making – looking at projects and programs holistically, with more than cost in mind.

So if June 20 marks a milestone for the Value Toolkit, where should we be looking to go next on this journey? Although born out of centrally funded projects, enabling clients to fulfill the Construction Playbook’s mandate to use a value-based approach, I am already confident that its use will spread much more widely. My ambition is to see the toolkit 100% adopted by central government funded projects in the future, and for this to trickle down to local government funded projects where the value of using the toolkit tools in their purchases would be significant.

Similarly, private sector clients who wish to demonstrate the ESG credentials of their projects would benefit massively from using the toolkit, as would planning assessments, where clearly documented assessments of the impacts of proposed projects are essential. A single framework that works across central and local government and the private sector that was the result of collaboration between industry and government will surely bring efficiencies that will benefit everyone.

As we head into our launch day with government and industry stakeholders from public and private sector organizations, we need to remember why this approach is crucial to the future of the built environment. We have to put it into context over the past five years where, among other fallout from short-sighted decision-making, we’ve seen supply chains and even the Carillion Monolith fall, the devastating impact of Grenfell where the procurement was driven by cost not value and the current market we find ourselves in through global and national events that challenge us daily in our project decisions.

Now is the time to use the tools at our disposal to ensure that we think before we build – or even think before we make the decision not to build at all.

Ann Bentley is a member of the Rider Levett Bucknall Global Board of Directors, a member of the Construction Leadership Council and a contributor to the Value Toolkit.

Activists go after buyers of stolen antiques : NPR Sun, 12 Jun 2022 15:23:31 +0000

Still from a Clooney Justice Foundation video showing the storage and warehouse at the Ain Dara archaeological site in northern Aleppo Governorate, Syria. The facility was later looted by various armed groups and bulldozed at some point between 2019 and 2020.

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Still from a Clooney Justice Foundation video showing the storage and warehouse at the Ain Dara archaeological site in northern Aleppo Governorate, Syria. The facility was later looted by various armed groups and bulldozed at some point between 2019 and 2020.

The Clooney Foundation for Justice

It is common knowledge that non-state armed groups in the Middle East finance themselves with oil and ransoms. But a close third in the pipeline that feeds warlords and terrorists around the world? Looting and sale of antiquities.

If the activists have their way, the buyers and dealers of these stolen cultural relics will face criminal repercussions.

The Docket, a project of the Clooney Foundation for Justice, has conducted an international investigation into the smuggling of antiquities from the Middle East and North Africa, examining the network that supplies looted artifacts to collectors and dealers Westerners. He is sharing his findings with law enforcement in hopes it will lead to criminal prosecution of those who purchased these artifacts, which he says makes them complicit in war crimes and funders of terrorism.

Currently, there are a few recent examples of high profile individuals, such as Jean-Luc Martinez, former director of the Louvre, accused of allegedly buying looted antiquities. But such cases are few and far between.

“We believe that these investigations … will not be successful unless the public pays very serious attention to the matter, unless the antiquities of the conflict begin to be considered as tainted as the diamonds. blood, ivory trade or other forms of trafficking,” said Anya Neistat, legal director of The Docket, sharing some of the project’s findings with reporters in DC on Wednesday.

Here’s why: Antiquities looted from countries like Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya have been sold online for years. Their sales fund armed groups in those countries, funding their weapons and recruitment efforts. These recruits then commit atrocities such as the rape and genocide of Yazidis, a religious minority in the Middle East.

The looting continues, even though the presence of the Islamic State in Syria has diminished. Neistat said Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, which currently controls Syria’s Idlib region, continues to dig in the area. Additionally, many items looted between 2012 and 2016 are just coming onto the market.

Looting licenses issued by ISIS

The looting was so formalized that ISIS had a system to license and tax looters, said Amr Al-Azm, professor of history and archeology at Shawnee State University in Ohio.

“Ultimately, ISIS was involved in every step of the looting and trafficking process,” he said, including “bringing in its own crews, using heavy machinery to dig whole mountains…when you invest that kind of money in that kind of stuff.” work, you get a return on your investment. So we know it paid off.

Looters digging at a site in Syria in 2014.

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Looters digging at a site in Syria in 2014.

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In 2020, Interpol noted that 19,000 stolen artifacts were recovered during two international art trafficking crackdowns. But there’s no way to really know just how big this market is – partly due to false paperwork – and how much money is actually being made from the sale of these antiques.

“I was able to see a group of artifacts that were looted and we can show them to experts and estimate their value. But we never got the full picture,” Al-Azm said. , who is also the co-director of the research project on antiquities trafficking and the anthropology of heritage.

But what is clear is that Western collectors are buying without fear of reprisal, despite provisions already present in international law that prohibit looting and include it as a war crime. Looting is also a criminal offense in most European jurisdictions and in the United States.

But the system is such that between online sales, the use of Hawala (an informal money transfer system) and the presence of free ports (places for storing shipments that are essentially jurisdictional black holes) in places like Geneva or Dubai, buyers and resellers can operate without much, if any, legal scrutiny.

Antonia David, legal program manager for The Docket, said dealers and galleries funding terrorist groups through their purchases should also be held accountable.

David pointed to what The Docket advocates as a universal standard in these cases: “You don’t necessarily have to prove that the accomplice shares the same intent as the direct perpetrator.” In other words, for galleries and dealers, it is not necessary for them to know that they were paying for the antiquities to finance an armed group. Just that they paid.

Crack down on buyers

Sam Andrew Hardy, head of illicit trade research at the Heritage Management Organization, said there are already ways to punish people who sell artwork looted during the Holocaust.

“So why not do it for antiquities looted during other devastating massacres or occupation?” He asked.

When a dealer or collector is caught in the act of buying a looted good, he often only incurs a simple slap on the wrist, or even a fine, and is required to return the object in question.

“When asked to return the items, they are often kept anonymous, to save them from blushing, or do so publicly and are commended for their ethical behavior,” said Hardy, who also closely tracks items that have been dug. since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February and cross the borders into Belarus and Russia.

Looted items donated to The Docket team during fieldwork in Lebanon in 2020.

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The Clooney Foundation for Justice

Looted items donated to The Docket team during fieldwork in Lebanon in 2020.

The Clooney Foundation for Justice

Neistat shares this frustration. She told reporters that even after being caught, often repeatedly, dealers often see a spike in their business because “the only thing that mattered in the market was that the items were authentic…and it there is no better proof than the items being returned.”

When asked if collectors or dealers aren’t treated as priority criminals because of their often wealthy connections and influential positions, she replied, “Absolutely.”

“Some of the cases just dissolve… There’s not even an official statement that the case has been closed,” Neistat said. “And in many of those cases, we’re talking about very well-connected people.”

The Docket hopes its investigations will lead to prosecutions and dismantle the market — a goal that Al-Azm says is more urgent than most people realize.

“Let me help put it at the top of your list,” he said. “The next time someone hijacks a plane and flies into a building, it could be funded by some rich white guy buying mosaics.”

City of Clarksville moves ahead with plans to reclaim historic building through eminent domain Fri, 10 Jun 2022 19:05:00 +0000

CLARKSVILLE, In. (WAVE) – The Clarksville, Indiana City Council is moving forward in condemning the former Colgate factory, known for its large historic clock face on top.

The Clarksville City Council plans to use eminent domain to get their hands on the historic buildings at 1410 South Clark Boulevard.

When the buildings were first constructed in 1820, the facility served as Indiana’s first state prison. It was sold to the Colgate Company in 1924 and eventually to its current ownership group in 2007. The owners are listed as Clarks Landing Enterprise, LLC, and if the city wants to take ownership from them, they will have to do so. courts.

The city council says the historic buildings are not being taken care of and if no action is taken they will be forced to demolish the buildings in the near future, but they will have to prove it in court.

Council passed a resolution on Tuesday saying it wanted to prove there was reasonable cause to take action against the owners so they could maintain the integrity of the historic property. There are a few reasons why eminent domain may apply.

“[The reasons] basically there are unsafe buildings on the property, buildings unsuitable for human habitation or dilapidated buildings,” said attorney Greg Fifer, who represents the city. “We think it’s pretty open and obvious from a public perspective that there are many

The city will need to hire an appraiser and send an offer to the owners at market value in order to proceed with the eminent domain.

The city council said it has not spoken with the owners of the property, but does not expect them to accept an offer, which would mean it would play out in court.

It could take over a year for everything to unfold.

WAVE – Louisville and southern Indiana NBC affiliate. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @wave3news.(VAGUE)

Copyright 2022 WAVE. All rights reserved.

Protecting Web Browsing Data From Hackers | MIT News Thu, 09 Jun 2022 04:00:00 +0000

Malicious agents can use machine learning to launch powerful attacks that steal information in ways that are hard to prevent and often even harder to investigate.

Attackers can capture data that “leaks” between software programs running on the same computer. They then use machine learning algorithms to decode these signals, allowing them to obtain passwords or other private information. These are called “side channel attacks” because the information is acquired through a channel not intended for communication.

MIT researchers have shown that machine learning-assisted side-channel attacks are both extremely robust and poorly understood. The use of machine learning algorithms, which are often impossible to fully understand due to their complexity, is a particular challenge. In a new paper, the team investigated a documented attack that was thought to work by capturing leaked signals when a computer accesses memory. They found that the mechanisms behind this attack were misidentified, which would prevent researchers from designing effective defenses.

To study the attack, they removed all memory access and noticed that the attack became even more powerful. Next, they looked for information leak sources and discovered that the attack was actually monitoring events that interrupt other processes on a computer. They show that an adversary can use this machine learning-assisted attack to exploit a security hole and determine which website a user is browsing with near-perfect accuracy.

With this knowledge in hand, they have developed two strategies that can thwart this attack.

“The focus of this work is really on analysis to find the root cause of the problem. As researchers, we should really try to dig deeper and do more analytical work, rather than blindly using black-box type machine learning tactics to demonstrate one attack after another. The lesson we’ve learned is that these machine learning-assisted attacks can be extremely misleading,” says lead author Mengjia Yan, Homer A. Burnell Career Development Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) and member of Computer Science. and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL).

The lead author of the article is Jack Cook ’22, a recent computer science graduate. Co-authors include CSAIL graduate student Jules Drean and Jonathan Behrens PhD ’22. The research will be presented at the International Symposium on Computer Architecture.

A secondary surprise

Cook started the project while taking Yan’s advanced seminar course. For a class assignment, he tried to replicate a machine learning-assisted side-channel attack from the literature. Previous work concluded that this attack counts the number of times the computer accesses memory when loading a website and then uses machine learning to identify the website. This is called a website fingerprinting attack.

He showed that previous work relied on faulty analysis based on machine learning to incorrectly identify the source of the attack. Machine learning cannot prove causation in these types of attacks, Cook says.

“All I did was remove the memory access and the attack still worked as well or even better. So, I wondered, what actually opens the side channel ? ” he says.

This led to a research project in which Cook and his collaborators embarked on a careful analysis of the attack. They designed an almost identical attack, but without memory access, and studied it in detail.

They discovered that the attack actually records a computer’s timer values ​​at fixed intervals and uses this information to infer which website is being accessed. Essentially, the attack measures computer occupancy over time.

A fluctuation in the timer value means that the computer is processing a different amount of information in that interval. This is due to system interrupts. A system interrupt occurs when computer processes are interrupted by requests from hardware devices; the computer must interrupt what it is doing to process the new request.

When a website loads, it sends instructions to a web browser to run scripts, display graphics, load videos, and more. Each of these elements can trigger many system interrupts.

An attacker monitoring the timer can use machine learning to infer high-level information from these system interrupts to determine which website a user is visiting. This is possible because the interrupt activity generated by a website, like, is very similar each time it loads, but very different from other websites, like, Cook explains.

“One of the really scary things about this attack is that we wrote it in JavaScript, so you don’t need to download or install any code. All you have to do is open a website. Someone could embed that into a website and then theoretically be able to spy on other activity on your computer,” he says.

The attack is extremely successful. For example, when a computer is running Chrome on the macOS operating system, the attack was able to identify websites with 94% accuracy. All of the commercial browsers and operating systems they tested delivered an attack with over 91% accuracy.

There are many factors that can affect a computer’s timer, so figuring out what led to an attack with such precision is like finding a needle in a haystack, Cook says. They conducted many controlled experiments, removing one variable at a time, until they realized the signal must arrive for system interrupts, which often cannot be handled separately from the attacker’s code.


Once the researchers understood the attack, they devised security strategies to prevent it.

First, they created a browser extension that generates frequent interruptions, like pinging random websites to create bursts of activity. The added noise makes it much more difficult for the attacker to decode the signals. This dropped the attack’s accuracy from 96% to 62%, but it slowed down computer performance.

For their second countermeasure, they modified the timer to return values ​​close to the actual time, but not. This makes it much harder for an attacker to measure computer activity over an interval, Cook says. This mitigation reduced the accuracy of the attack from 96% to just 1%.

“I was surprised how such a small mitigation like adding randomness to the timer could be so effective. This mitigation strategy could really be implemented today. affect how you use most websites,” he says.

Building on this work, the researchers plan to develop a systematic analysis framework for machine learning-assisted side-channel attacks. This could help researchers find the root cause of more attacks, Yan says. They also want to see how they can use machine learning to discover other types of vulnerabilities.

“This paper introduces a new interrupt-based side-channel attack and demonstrates that it can be used effectively for website fingerprinting attacks, where previously such attacks were considered possible due to side-channels. cache sides,” says Yanjing Li, an assistant professor in the University of Chicago’s Department of Computer Science, who was not involved in this research. “I liked this article immediately after reading it for the first time, not only because the new attack is interesting and successfully challenges existing notions, but also because it highlights a key limitation of attacks by ML-assisted side channel – blindly relying on machine learning. models without in-depth analysis can provide no understanding of the real causes/sources of an attack, and may even be misleading. This is very insightful and I think that it will inspire many future works in this direction.

This research was funded, in part, by the National Science Foundation, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab.

Jan. 6 hearings give Democrats a chance to revamp midterm message Tue, 07 Jun 2022 15:10:18 +0000

WASHINGTON — Seventeen months after a mob of Donald J. Trump supporters stormed the Capitol with bogus allegations of a stolen election, House Democrats plan to use a historic series of hearings to investigation starting this week in an attempt to refocus voters’ attention on January 6. aimed at directly tying Republicans to an unprecedented plot to undermine democracy itself.

With their control of Congress at stake, Democrats plan to use made-for-TV moments and a carefully choreographed rollout of revelations across six hearings to remind the public of the magnitude of Mr. Trump’s efforts to nullify the election. , and to persuade voters that the upcoming midterm elections are a chance to hold Republicans accountable.

It’s an uphill battle at a time when polls show voters’ attention is focused elsewhere, including on inflation, rising coronavirus cases and record gasoline prices. But Democrats argue the hearings will give them a platform to more broadly argue why they deserve to stay in power.

“When these hearings are over, voters will know how irresponsibly complicit Republicans have been in trying to throw out their vote and how far Republicans will go to win power for themselves,” Rep. Sean Patrick said. Maloney, Democratic campaign chairman.