Dollars

AZRAEL-DEFENDER OF HIS PEOPLE AGAINST THE SCOURGE THAT IS ISIS

People are also impressed by Azrael’s sense of humor. He mocks ISIS frequently. In one video, he even pokes fun at the group by using one of its walkie-talkies. In some ways, he is becoming a caricature of himself. Azrael has even been made into a cartoon showing him attacking a member of ISIS. But questions persist: do we know the real Azrael?

The real Azrael was born as Ayoub Faleh Al-Rabieia, according to news channel France 24. His age is unknown, although reports suggest he is between 37 and 40 years old. France 24 says he was known for studying athletics before going on to become a university lecturer. Azrael is known to have five children. He is also reportedly a Taekwondo master.

Azrael became a militant later on, but the impetus for these events is a mystery. France 24 said Azrael was originally fighting against America when they invaded Iraq. He may have even been on America’s list of terrorists. But nowadays, things are much different. The U.S. supports Azrael’s group in its war against ISIS.

In fact, the Iraqi public seems to believe in Azrael. His face adorns t-shirts sold in many markets of Baghdad. His actions have inspired hope in many people who have felt marginalized and frightened by the brutal conflict that has engulfed their country. They need his leadership more than ever before.

The militia has categorically denied that they shared images of decapitated fighters. Azrael told France 24 that he was a man of his word.  “I stand by my words. That’s why people prefer me instead of having a dishonest political who announces measures on TV but does nothing.”

Azrael does have his detractors. Some people believe that his militia have glamorized the violence of war by publishing the videos. Like other militias in the region, Amnesty International has accused the Imam Ali brigade of war crimes. They say Azrael’s groups are killing and displacing many Iraqis. And some people say they have circulated videos showing images like decapitated heads of ISIS members.

Sometimes Azrael even uploads videos to YouTube while engaged in battle, in order to dispute the claims of ISIS. Azrael says he has around 220,000 Facebook followers, a number that continues to grow. He is a force to be reckoned with.

Like others who have learned to leverage social media, Azrael has been able to get a remarkable number of views on his  videos. One of his first videos has already amassed two billion views.

Azrael seems to be a well organized machine, using two smartphones to record his attacks on ISIS and then post them to the internet, where they are shared on social media. Azrael and his cohorts are well built and strong, and they carry weapons like guns, grenades and smoke bombs.

The Imam Ali brigade have been important players in the battle against ISIS in Iraq. They were part of the forces which recaptured the Iraqi city Tikrit, which had fallen into terrorist hands. Azrael was captured on video firing a huge machine gun at ISIS in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, which was liberated from ISIS in June of 2016.

Azrael may have taken up arms after a call to action by the Ayatollah Sistani, a Shiite leader, who wanted me n to battle ISIS. Azrael was initiated and set up his own group, the Imam Ali brigade, which by most accounts he leads.

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Henry Sapiecha

Lucy Ogden-Doyle was only 14 when she learnt she may develop fertility problems. It was distressing news for someone who went to see her GP about irregular periods.

Her doctor said she might have a hormonal condition called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and she should drop five kilograms – despite then being 52 kilograms and 172 centimetres tall – to “pre-empt” weight gain, a symptom.

“It was quite a dramatic thing to tell someone so young that they may be infertile and to lose weight, which would have made me underweight,” Ms Ogden-Doyle, now 24, said.

“Two years later I had tests and I do have PCOS but I’m not showing the symptoms like excess hair or extra weight so, while it has been a negative experience, right now I’m not letting it affect me.”

The arts student is among one in five women diagnosed with PCOS, a deeply stigmatising condition. The figure is based on eight separate studies across six countries including Australia and China.

PCOS, which occurs when a woman’s ovaries or adrenal glands produce more male hormones than normal, is the most commonly diagnosed endocrine disorder in reproductive aged women.

In an opinion article in the latest British Medical Journal, Australian researchers argue that an expanded definition had inadvertently led to overdiagnosis, and therefore too much treatment and even harm.

The widening of the definition (to include the sonographic presence of polycystic ovaries) in 2003 led to a dramatic increase in cases, from 5 to 21 per cent.

Lucy Ogden-Doyle has polycystic ovary syndrome. The definition of the term is problematic

Lead author Tessa Copp, a PhD student at Sydney University, said many women were being “given a lifelong disease label” in their teenage years when symptoms such as acne and irregular periods overlapped with signs of puberty.

She referred to three studies that found the prevalence of PCOS by age decreased rapidly after 25, suggesting the symptoms may be transitory for some women.

“A lot of my friends had it and were feeling quite dissatisfied because there’s no cure, nothing you can do, except to undergo treatments that focus on alleviating symptoms,” she said.

“Some cases are severe and they will benefit from the label, but women with milder symptoms may experience harm from the overdiagnosis and overtreatment.”

The authors said women diagnosed with PCOS had higher levels of depression, anxiety, poorer self-esteem, negative body image, disordered eating and decreased sexual satisfaction.

They said it was unclear whether these impacts were due to the condition, its symptoms, or from the psychological effect of being labelled a PCOS sufferer.

“It’s associated with infertility, hypertension and type 2 diabetes, so it labels women as abnormal but the consequences are not the same for everyone,” Ms Copp said.

The authors argue that, given the uncertainties, the risk of psychological harm and the impacts of applying a one-size-fits-all diagnostic criteria to a wide-ranging set of symptoms, it was important for doctors not to rush diagnosing women.

“We need better understanding and research to characterise the benefits and harms of diagnosis and treatment for women with both severe and milder symptoms,” Ms Copp said.

“Instead of diagnosing women in adolescence, note they’re at risk, follow up with them over time and use treatments that target the symptoms.”

Call to action

The article comes as influential health groups, including the Consumers Health Forum and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, launch a call to action to address overdiagnosis in general and “the problem of too much medicine”.

In an initial statement via a Wiser Healthcare collaboration, they said there was an urgent need to develop a national action plan.

“Expanding disease definitions and lowering diagnostic thresholds are recognised as one driver of the problem, and the processes for changing definitions require meaningful reform,” it said.

Dr Ray Moynihan, from Bond University and a Wiser Healthcare member, said the problem of too much medicine was driven by many factors, including the best of intentions.

“PCOS appears to be a strong example of the problem of expanding disease definitions or lowering diagnostic thresholds that are potentially labelling too many people,” he said.

PCOS is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, high blood pressure and poorer psychological wellbeing.

Wondering where the highest paid people in tech go to college? There’s a good chance it’s one of these 10 universities according to a new study.

Graduation Internet Training Education Learning Computer Diploma

A new study from job site Paysa has ranked colleges around the world based on the salaries of their graduates in tech fields.

That six of the 10 schools are located in the United States is unsurprising. What is surprising, however, is which schools make the cut and which don’t—and their geographic locale inside the country.

The study doesn’t take university size into account—only average salary of graduates. That may be a factor for why some of the top of the list aren’t the largest universities, but it doesn’t explain a stranger statistic: The top five are all in the greater Seattle area or just across the bridge in Vancouver.

SEE: 10 bucks to snag an interview for your dream job? AI wants to help new college grads (TechRepublic)

Geographical oddities aside, here are the top 10 colleges with the highest earning graduates in tech.

The top 10 highest paid alumni bodies

Graduation Internet Training Education Learning Computer Diploma

1. Seattle University

  • Location: Seattle, WA
  • Type: private
  • Average tech graduate salary: $265,869

2. Pacific Lutheran University

  • Location: Tacoma, WA
  • Type: private
  • Average tech graduate salary: $265,153

3. Simon Fraser University

  • Location: Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
  • Type: public
  • Average tech graduate salary: $263,574

4. City University of Seattle

  • Location: Seattle, WA
  • Type: private
  • Average tech graduate salary: $263,386

5. Central Washington University

  • Location: Ellensburg, WA
  • Type: public
  • Average tech graduate salary: $254,778

6. Tsinghua University

  • Location: Beijing, China
  • Type: public
  • Average tech graduate salary: $254,710

7. Harvard University

  • Location: Cambridge, MA
  • Type: private
  • Average tech graduate salary: $253,970

8. Lomonosov Moscow State University

  • Location: Moscow, Russia
  • Type: public
  • Average tech graduate salary: $252,874

9. University of Cambridge

  • Location: Cambridge, UK
  • Type: public
  • Average tech graduate salary: $252,645

10. University of Toronto

  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Type: public
  • Average tech graduate salary: $252,639

SEE: The Ultimate Learn to Code 2017 Bundle (TechRepublic Academy)

To see the full study, including infographics on cost vs. value, college representation at large tech firms, and statistics on women in tech, read the full study available on Paysa’s website.

Henry Sapiecha

Is this the end for ‘Do Not Track’, the web-tracking privacy service?

The most shocking internet privacy laws.

Twitter was one of the first companies to support Do Not Track (DNT), the website privacy policy. Now, Twitter is abandoning DNT and its mission to protect people from being tracked as they wander over the web.

DNT seemed like a good idea. By setting DNT on in your web browser, websites that supported DNT could neither place nor read advertising cookies on your device. Well, that was the idea anyway.

Any web browser or application that supported DNT added a small snippet of code to its request for a web page: DNT=1. This meant websites and services that observed DNT shouldn’t track you on the internet.

This would protect your online privacy. You might think that meant “Don’t collect and store any information about me without my explicit permission.”

Wrong.

From day one in 2012, that isn’t how it worked. According to Sarah Downey, an attorney and privacy advocate, the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA), which represent most online advertisers, have their own interpretation of Do Not Track: “They have said they will stop serving targeted ads but will still collect and store and monetize data.”

However, Twitter played fair by the spirit of DNT rather than the law. Unfortunately, they were one of the few companies that did. DAA, for example, publicly abandoned DNT in 2013. With the advertisers and privacy advocates unable to agree on basic principles, DNT increasingly offered users no privacy protection worth the name.

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Henry Sapiecha

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AS A NEWLYWED in the 1980s, a Japanese martial arts master named Ichiro expected only good things.

He and his wife, Tomoko, lived among the cherry blossoms in Saitima, a prosperous city just outside of Tokyo. The couple had their first child, a boy named Tim. They owned their house, and took out a loan to open a dumpling restaurant.

Then the market crashed. Suddenly, Ichiro and Tomoko were deeply in debt. So they did what hundreds of thousands of Japanese have done in similar circumstances: They sold their house, packed up their family, and disappeared. For good.

“People are cowards,” Ichiro says today. “They all want to throw in the towel one day, to disappear and reappear somewhere nobody knows them. I never envisioned running away to be an end in itself … You know, a disappearance is something you can never shake. Fleeing is a fast track toward death.”

The New York Post reports, of the many oddities that are culturally specific to Japan — from cat cafes to graveyard eviction notices to the infamous Suicide Forest, where an estimated 100 people per year take their own lives — perhaps none is as little known, and curious, as “the evaporated people.”

Since the mid-1990s, it’s estimated that at least 100,000 Japanese men and women vanish annually. They are the architects of their own disappearances, banishing themselves over indignities large and small: divorce, debt, job loss, failing an exam.

“The Vanished: The Evaporated People of Japan in Stories and Photographs” (Skyhorse) is the first known, in-depth reportage of this phenomenon. French journalist Léna Mauger learned of it in 2008, and spent the next five years reporting a story she and collaborator Stéphane Remael couldn’t believe.

“It’s so taboo,” Mauger tells The Post. “It’s something you can’t really talk about. But people can disappear because there’s another society underneath Japan’s society. When people disappear, they know they can find a way to survive.”

These lost souls, it turns out, live in lost cities of their own making.

The slums in Sanya. Picture: Zanpei

The city of Sanya, as Mauger writes, isn’t located on any map. Technically, it doesn’t even exist. It’s a slum within Tokyo, one whose name has been erased by authorities. What work can be found here is run by the yakuza — the Japanese mafia — or employers looking for cheap, off-the-books labour. The evaporated live in tiny, squalid hotel rooms, often without internet or private toilets. Talking in most hotels is forbidden after 6pm.

Here, Mauger met a man named Norihiro. Now 50, he disappeared himself 10 years ago. He’d been cheating on his wife, but his true disgrace was losing his job as an engineer.

Too ashamed to tell his family, Norihiro initially kept up appearances: he’d get up early each weekday, put on his suit and tie, grab his briefcase and kiss his wife goodbye. Then he’d drive to his former office building and spend the entire workday sitting in his car — not eating, not calling anyone.

Norihiro did this for one week. The fear that his true situation would be discovered was unbearable.

“I couldn’t do it anymore,” he tells Mauger. “After 19 hours I was still waiting, because I used to go out for drinks with my bosses and colleagues. I would roam around, and when I finally returned home, I got the impression my wife and son had doubts. I felt guilty. I didn’t have a salary to give them anymore.”

On what would have been his payday, Norihiro groomed himself immaculately, and got on his usual train line — in the other direction, right toward Sanya. He left no word, no note, and for all his family knows, he wandered into Suicide Forest and killed himself.

Today, he lives under an assumed name, in a windowless room he secures with a padlock. He drinks and smokes too much, and has resolved to live out the rest of his days practising this most masochistic form of penance.

“After all this time,” Norihiro says, “I could certainly take back my old identity … But I don’t want my family to see me in this state. Look at me. I look like nothing. I am nothing. If I die tomorrow, I don’t want anyone to be able to recognise me.”

Yuichi is a former construction worker who vanished in the mid-1990s. He’d been taking care of his sick mother, and the expenses involved — home health care, food, rent — bankrupted him.

“I couldn’t handle failing my mother,” he says. “She had given me everything, but I was incapable of taking care of her.”

What Yuichi did next may seem paradoxical, perverse even — but in Japanese culture, in which suicide is considered the most dignified way to erase the shame one has visited upon their family, it makes sense. He brought his mother to a cheap hotel, rented her a room, and left her there, never to return.

He disappeared to Sanya.

An alley in the slums known as Sanya in Tokyo. Picture: Google Maps

Here, Yuichi says, “You see people in the street, but they have already ceased to exist. When we fled from society, we disappeared the first time. Here, we are killing ourselves slowly.”

“Evaporations” have surged in Japan at key points: the aftermath of World War II, when national shame was at its apex, and in the aftermath of the financial crises of 1989 and 2008.

A shadow economy has emerged to service those who want never to be found — who want to make their disappearances look like abductions, their homes look like they’ve been robbed, no paper trail or financial transactions to track them down.

Night-time Movers was one such company, started by a man named Shou Hatori. He’d run a legitimate moving service until one night, in a karaoke bar, a woman asked if Hatori could arrange for her to “disappear, along with her furniture. She said she could not stand her husband’s debts, which were ruining her life.”

Hatori charged $3,400 per midnight move. His clientele was vast: from housewives who’d shopped their families into debt to women whose husbands had left them to university students who were sick of doing chores in their dorms.

He refused to give specifics to the authors, but he eventually quit; as a child, Hatori himself had disappeared with his parents from Kyoto, after they found themselves in debt. He believes that his former line of work was a kindness.

“People often associate [this] with cowardice,” he says. “But while doing this work, I came to understand it as a beneficial move.”

Hatori wound up serving as a consultant for a Japanese TV show about the phenomenon. “Flight by Night” was a hit in the late 1990s, a fictionalised anthology series based on true vanishings. A company based on Hatori’s, called Rising Sun, was integral to the show’s plot, summarised online:

“Need help managing your finances? Up to your ears in debt? Rising Sun is the consulting firm you need on your side. Too late for stopgap measures? Is running away or suicide the only way out? Turn once again to Rising Sun. By day, Genji Masahiko runs a reputable consulting firm, but by night, they help the desperate find a new life.”

A street in Kabukicho. Picture: Google Maps

Whatever shame motivates a Japanese citizen to vanish, it’s no less painful than the boomerang effect on their families — who, in turn, are so shamed by having a missing relative that they usually won’t report it to the police.

Those families who do search turn to a private group called Support of Families of Missing People, which keeps all clients and details private. Its address is hard to find, and its headquarters consist of one small room with one desk and walls sooty with cigarette smoke.

The organisation is staffed with detectives — often with evaporations or suicides in their own family histories — who take on these cases pro bono. They average 300 cases a year, and their work is difficult: Unlike the United States, there is no national database for missing people in Japan. There are no documents or identifiers — such as our Social Security numbers — that can be used to track a person once they begin travelling within the country. It is against the law for police to access ATM transactions or financial records.

“Most of the investigations end part way through,” says Sakae Furuuchi, a detective who serves as the group’s director. He cites the prohibitive cost of hiring private detectives: $500 a day, up to $15,000 a month — impossible for those whose loved one has fled due to debt.

“The people who flee debt and violence change their names and sometimes their appearances,” Sakae says. “The others aren’t thinking people will try to find them.”

Sakae was able to find one young man who disappeared at age 20. He hadn’t come home after taking an exam, and by chance, one of his friends spotted him in southern Tokyo. Sakae wandered the streets until finding the student, who was, Mauger writes, “shaking from shame … He had not taken the exam for fear of failing it and disappointing his family. Tempted by suicide, he had not found a way to take his life.”

Another case, unresolved, involved the young mother of a disabled 8-year-old boy. On the day of her son’s school musical, in which he was performing, the mother disappeared — despite promising the boy she’d be sitting in the front row.

Her seat remained empty. She was never seen again. Her husband and child agonise; the woman had never given any indication she was unhappy, in pain, or had done something she thought wrong.

Sakae remains hopeful.

“She’s a mother,” he tells Mauger. “Maybe her path will lead her back to her loved ones.”

The sheer cliff of Tojinbo, one of the most known suicide spots in Japan. Picture: AFP/Harumi Ozawa

In many ways, Japan is a culture of loss. According to a 2014 report by the World Health Organisation, Japan’s suicide rate is 60 per cent higher than the global average. There are between 60 and 90 suicides per day. It’s a centuries-old concept dating back to the Samurai, who committed seppuku — suicide by ritual disembowelment — and one as recent as the Japanese kamikaze pilots of World War II.

Japanese culture also emphasises uniformity, the importance of the group over the individual. “You must hit the nail that stands out” is a Japanese maxim, and for those who can’t, or won’t, fit into society, adhere to its strict cultural norms and near-religious devotion to work, to vanish is to find freedom of a sort.

For younger Japanese, those who want to live differently but don’t want to completely cut ties with family and friends, there’s a compromise: the life of the otakus, who live parallel lives as their favourite anime characters, disappearing from time to time into alternate realities where, in costume, they find themselves.

“Running away is not always about leaving,” a young man named Matt told Mauger. “We dream of love and freedom, and sometimes we make do with a little — a costume, a song, a dance with our hands. In Japan, that is already a lot.”

This story originally appeared on the New York Post and was republished with permission

Originally published as Japan’s mysterious ‘evaporating people’

Henry Sapiecha

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July 15 2016 – 7:34AM

Warren Buffett donated about $US2.2 billion ($2.9 billion) of stock in his annual gift to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, betting that risk takers at the group will make breakthroughs in global health and US education even as they acknowledge that some efforts will be unsuccessful.

“Some of the projects we fund will fail,” the Gateses wrote in a message on their website. “We not only accept that, we expect it — because we think an essential role of philanthropy is to make bets on promising solutions that governments and businesses can’t afford to make. As we learn which bets pay off, we have to adjust our strategies and share the results so everyone can benefit.”

The Sage of Omaha and Berkshire Hathaway’s CEO isn’t likely to want to leave his investing powerhouse.

“If you succeed in everything you’re doing in charity, you’re attempting things that are too easy,”: Warren Buffett. Photo: Thomas Lohnes

Buffett, 85, contributed 15 million Class B shares of his Berkshire Hathaway stock to the foundation Wednesday, according to a regulatory filing Thursday. He made a pledge in 2006 to hand over a total that equates to 500 million shares, and each year he gives 5 per cent of the remaining total.

Through last year, he donated more than $US17 billion of stock to the foundation. The annual sums have often climbed because of gains in the share price.

Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has donated over $US17 billion of stock to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation Photo: AP

‘Too Easy’

While he is known for looking for a margin of safety with Berkshire’s investments and often faults himself when his stock wagers sour, Buffett is more tolerant of bets going bad in philanthropy. “If you succeed in everything you’re doing in charity, you’re attempting things that are too easy,” the Berkshire chairman and chief executive officer said in 2011.

The Gates Foundation has donated more than $US36 billion, including for projects that expand access to immunisations in developing countries and provide financial services to poor communities. Bill Gates, the 60-year-old co-founder of Microsoft Corp., has acknowledged it’s been more difficult to make advances improving US education than in boosting mortality rates for children.

Henry Sapiecha

Does a $100,000 bonus for a job well done beat a pat on the back?

US oil and gas company Hilcorp’s 1350 employees think so.

Every single employee – no matter how junior – received a $US100,000 ($137,000) bonus this year as part of a company-wide incentive program called “Dream 2015” to double the company’s size.

“It’s just a true gift”: Hilcorp receptionist Amanda Thompson. Photo: Fox26

The bonus motivated everyone to do their absolute best, said Ms Thompson, who has worked with the company for 10 years.

She told Fox 26 nobody was going to give “any less than 100 per cent each day”.

Hilcorp’s payout has been hailed as the ultimate Christmas bonus by newspapers looking for good news stories, even though the bonus was paid in the US spring.

The reward came after the privately held company realised its goal of doubling its oilfield production rate, net oil and gas reserves and equity value over five years.

It’s not the first time that the Houston-based company has given enormous bonuses.

When Hilcorp doubled its size in 2011 as part of an earlier program called “Double Drive”, each employee was rewarded with a $US50,000 voucher to spend on a “dream” car or cash.

As with many privately held US companies, the billionaire owner Jeffery Hildebrand prefers to stay out of the news.

But the company has developed a reputation as one of the best places in the US to work. And not just because of the generous bonuses and incentives.

In Fortune magazine’s annual list of great places to work, employees used words such as empowerment, freedom, responsibility and communication to describe the company.

“When you suggest an idea to upper management, they really listen to you and most of the time they will go along with the idea you suggested,” one employee said. “I never had that before with any other company.”

Fortune said the company had a “we are all in this together” culture, which manifested itself in “open book management, rich bonuses averaging 33% of pay and outrageous rewards for meeting certain goals”.

Many companies claim that their employees are their most valuable resource, but Hilcorp employees seemed to believed the claim.

The company’s core values include: “Work Like You Own the Company”, “When Hilcorp Wins, We All Win” and “Get Better Every Day”.

The company’s website says Hilcorp is a company where the employees have the autonomy to make decisions, a place where all its employees can develop and grow a career in a field they are passionate about.

“We are committed to unlocking energy for the betterment of our employees and our communities,” it says.

“We are a place where the employees share in the success of the company. At Hilcorp, we work together as a team; we focus intensely on a common goal and dedicate ourselves to the long-term.

“Simply put, we work hard, smart, accomplish our goals and share the reward for achieving our objectives. This is the Hilcorp Way.”

The company was not available for further comment

Henry Sapiecha

 

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