Guns vs. Education

Since mass shootings have become such a frequent occurrence, it is no wonder Utica College located in Upstate New York sprang into action the minute they received threats from an individual, presently unidentified, who declared themselves armed with a weapon around on campus grounds. Utica College has approximately 5000 students who attend classes on campus and online. Due to the calamitous events that have transpired at about 11am Monday morning, all of these students as well as the staffs have been removed from campus grounds and are told to hang around safe places for the time being. The Utica College representatives have, in the meantime, called off all remaining classes and events for the day.

Around one o’clock past noon on Monday, Lieutenant Bryan Coromato of the Utica Police Department has updated the public in an email that states,

“This agency, along with other local, state, and federal agencies are on scene investigating the incident. At this time there is no substantiation to any reports of an active shooter or shots fired on the campus.”

A couple of hours following this incident, at 3 in the afternoon, Utica Police Department reassured the public of the lack of hostility that has been detected, in addition to the absence of physical forces and violence that has been reported through the platforms of social media such as Twitter. Nonetheless, they will continue this investigation to validate the authenticity of the threat in order to ensure the safety of the students as well as the staff.

Further updates about the incident can be found on the Utica College Twitter page.

While we are pleased to see this matter being handled with extreme precaution and severity, we cannot deny the inconvenience that it has ultimately caused to the people involved. A quick look through the search engine reveals the extent of people in distress. All things aside, this situation calls for a quick evaluation of the United States as a ‘first-world country’. Should a developed nation such as America be like this? Should people be in constant fear and distress for a possible massacre? Why aren’t we doing something to change that?

Politicians, news reporters and so forth are centering their attention on gun rights in relation to gun control only to waste away the time and effort with no tangible outcomes. The Second Amendment of the Constitution has safeguarded the right of the people to bear arms, so why do we insist on devoting all these resources to fight for a cause that we cannot win? Perhaps the states should better allocate these means towards a more promising approach, such as the gun reform package that has been proposed by the Senate of Florida State.

The notion of keeping teachers armed have been mocked and ridiculed on social media. It is important to take into consideration that those who are determined to execute their plans, will find a way to do so, despite of the rules and regulations that may restrict them temporarily. Hence, the enforcement of gun control does not guarantee the elimination of mass shootings whereas permitting the staffs and officials of schools or colleges will provide them with a promising self-defense line in times of need.

Furthermore, the Florida school shooting have illustrated the need for proper education, since shooters are no longer repeat offenders or hired assassins. They are the children who did not receive adequate care and attention from their role models. Take the Florida shooter for example, he has had an entire web page that described his aspirations to be a “shooter” as well as the refusal to attend class the morning of the shooting. All of this, however, was dismissed as a regular teenage defiance. Many children out there who are under foster care faces similar negligence and lack of sympathy by the adults around them. All of the aforementioned entities are aspects that could be improved with sufficient resources, and, in turn, eliminate these threats in the long run.

Featured Image via Flickr/skyandsea876

IBM to spend $240 million on an AI research lab at MIT

IBM will spend $240 million to fund a Watson-branded AI research lab at MIT, CNBC reports. At the facility, MIT and IBM researchers will collaborate to create AI algorithms, optimize AI hardware, study the societal implications of AI, and apply AI to the business world.

Researchers will work at the MIT campus as well as at IBM’s nearby Watson Health and Securities Center.

Tech companies are increasingly partnering with institutions of higher learning to develop and explore AI technology. DeepMind, an Alphabet subsidiary dedicated to AI research, has announced plans to open a research facility in Edmonton, Canada, at which the company will collaborate with researchers from the University of Alberta.

Alphabet says “more than a dozen [University of Alberta] graduates have joined…DeepMind.” DeepMind has sponsored the University’s machine learning lab.

The University of Alberta program marks DeepMind’s first expansion outside of the United Kingdom.

According to CNBC, Alphabet and Microsoft have both announced intentions to fund research at McGill University and the University of Montreal, both of which are located in Montreal. The combined total of the two tech giants’ contributions is less than $10 million.

As artificial intelligence technology becomes more viable in a widening array of business sectors, tech companies are increasing their focus on the field, notes Dario Gil, vice president of AI and Q (for quantum) at IBM, per CNBC.

“AI as a field has been going on for many decades, but it is quite obvious right now it has raised to a level of centrality for every major technology company, including us and frankly every other business and area,” Gill told CNBC.

Research at the new IBM-MIT facility will center around the cyber security and healthcare fields. In the healthcare sector, IBM says it has already developed technology by which Watson can analyze “genetic testing results” to improve the precision of cancer medication. Watson also has the potential to discover new drugs that might aid patients who are resistant to established treatments, according to IBM.

But, some say Watson has thus far failed to deliver on the promises its creators made on its behalf.

Since IBM began marketing and selling Watson as a cancer treatment resource in 2014, less than 50 hospitals have adopted the system, which IBM envisioned as a new industry standard.

Watson has the capacity to gather and sift through unfathomable amounts of data with inhuman speed, but the human beings must tell the computer how to interpret the data it collects. In other words, Watson struggles to synthesize data. Therefore, some have cast doubt on IBM’s claims that the computer can identify novel medications and treatment methods.

Given IBM’s commitment to study the healthcare applications of AI at the MIT facility, researchers at the new lab will likely work to hone Watson’s cancer treatment abilities.

In February, IBM made Watson available as a cyber security “cop.” The company said it had “trained [the robot] on the language of cyber security.” IBM found that human cyber security teams analyze more than 200,000 “security events” every day, and waste 20,000 hours per year “chasing false positives.” Were these processes automated, cyber security could become more efficient and effective.

And with hackers developing new threats at an accelerating rate, the workload of cyber security teams is ever-increasing.

Of course, there will be kinks to iron out in Watson’s cyber security functionality as well.

As yet, the practical experience of AI powerhouses like Watson is limited. “The field of artificial intelligence, despite its progress, is in its infancy,” Gil said.

Still, artificial intelligence is increasingly hard to ignore. As more and more minds collaborate to refine robots like Watson, and as such robots gain more and more “hands-on” experience, AI is poised to become an integral part of the business world.

Featured Image via Wikimedia Commons

Sit Back and Relax: Autonomous Shuttles on UM Campus

The University of Michigan will be introducing two fully autonomous vehicles to its campus to shuttle students and faculty this fall. University officials announced the pilot program at the MCity test facility for autonomous and connected cars. The goal is to field test the vehicles while also observing both passenger and driver public perception.

This endeavor joins the recent increased attention autonomous vehicles has received lately as tangible steps to hopefully implement in the future on a grander scale. Two 15 passenger self-driving shuttles will travel along a two-mile loop through Michigan’s North Campus during normal business hours. This ensures that the conditions under which the shuttles are tested attempt to remain as fixed as possible, allowing for more accuracy.

Researchers have installed additional cameras on the exterior to examine how both drivers and pedestrians respond to autonomous vehicles on the road, and vice versa. Mcity Director and University of Michigan professor Huei Peng wishes to also utilize interior cameras to also examine passenger responses in order to gauge public perspectives regarding this new technology. The vehicles are also equipped with sensors and accurate GPS in order to accurately determine the operation of the vehicles as well as their location. University officials have stated that the autonomous shuttles will complete their 2-mile circuits roughly every ten minutes.

Peng also addresses the intent to track rider and usage pattern while also directly interviewing passengers regarding their experience. With constructive feedback Peng hopes the data gathered will help improve future designs in regards to safety and efficient operation. Furthermore, there are expectations to expand the operational hours beyond normal business hours, depending on the success of the pilot program, positive data provided. In order to maximize usage and potential data, the shuttle services will be free to all students, faculty and staff.

Mcity is a public-private partnership led by the University of Michigan directed at the speedy development of vehicle technology. The vehicles themselves were manufactured by French autonomous car start up Navya, an affiliate of MCity. While this is Navya’s first program in the U.S., there are Navya autonomous models operational in numerous countries around the world.

The success of this pilot program does not only impact Navya, MCity and the University of Michigan, but also future endeavors for autonomous vehicles. Success could revolutionize both public and private transport, with goals on improving the security and efficiency of future models in performance and production. Transportation plays a key role in culture paradigm shifts, and should autonomous cars become successful, opportunities for other forms of autonomous transportation also open up.

The success of the pilot program on a university campus also allows students to directly experience change, providing a more practical and tangible example of current efforts to reevaluate our daily lives instead of the more theoretical. Hopefully these programs cater to student participation beyond that of merely a data point, in order to inspire and educate future research.

Featured Image via Flickr/DoNotLick

Owing Student Loans Can Cost You Your Tax Refund

The cost of college has gone up exponentially in the last few years. The only way some can afford to get the education they want is to take out student loans. However, it can be quite difficult to take care of a home, children, and other expenses as well as pay back your loans. So, if you stopped paying them, you might be in for quite a shock when you do your taxes. Not paying your federal student loans could prevent you from getting a tax refund.

Due to what is known as a tax refund “offset,” the government is given the ability to withhold any refunds from student borrowers who have fallen behind on their payments. The question is, what happens to the money that you don’t get back in your taxes? Simple, the government applies the refund to your loan balance. 

This isn’t something that the government will suddenly spring on borrowers. Borrowers will be notified beforehand that they won’t be receiving their refunds or other government payments. But in some cases, like for instance if a borrower has moved, then they won’t be notified right away that their refunds will be withheld. There’s always the chance that someone might be so in over their head in finances that they just toss their mail aside.

While the government will send a letter in the mail, most of the time letters that come from the Treasury Offset Program are riddled with bureaucratic language that can make it a bit difficult for people to understand. Plain and simple, even if you are notified you still might have no clue what’s going on.

The Internal Revenue Service says that the average federal tax refund can get up to $2,800 for most. That’s quite a chunk of money to be missing and can have a big impact on a borrower’s financial situation.

One thing that people can do is to decrease the number of withholdings from their paychecks. This will cut down on the size of possible refunds. Yet Persis Yu, who is the director of the Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project, says that this might not help some people since they’ll be receiving refunds from income tax credit.

At the end of last near there were over 8 million federal student loan borrowers who were in default, according to Department of Education’s statistics. Loans enter the default stage after there has been a lack of payment for over 270 days which is roughly nine months.

Are people able to prevent the offset of their tax refund? After receiving the letter of notification, borrowers are usually given at least 65 days to appeal a referral to the offset program. There is the option of requesting a file on your loan which, if done quick enough, can buy borrowers some time. After that, borrowers can still appeal but refunds will still be withheld while a decision is made.

If the borrower happens to be married and filing jointly, the spouse of the borrower has the option to file a claim with the I.R.S. and get the portion of the refund that belongs to them.

But how do borrowers stop continued withholdings of their tax refunds? If the federal student loans of the borrower are in default, the government can withhold any refunds ad apply them to the loans. Repaying the loan in full is an option that majority of borrowers don’t have. To get out of the default status, a borrower should go for loan rehabilitation or loan consolidation.

Loan rehabilitation gives the borrower a chance to make an agreement with their lender. This agreement will give the borrower nine affordable payments to make. The payments must be on time to return the loan to good standing. After that, the borrower might be eligible for flexible programs that provide lower monthly income-based payments.

On the other hand, loan consolidation allows the borrower to refinance the defaulted loans into a new loan. Both options have their ups and downs. Consolidation is by far the fastest way to get loans out of default. Rehabilitation, however, provides a better outcome from the borrower’s credit report.

Finally, many borrowers might be under the misconception that tax refunds withheld while their loans are in default may count toward the nine payments during loan rehabilitation. But that’s not the case at all. When in loan rehabilitation, borrowers must make all their payments voluntarily for them to count toward the agreement.

“The Hang New York”: What’s Happening in the City

Even though the supply of information is never ending, there are still not too many platforms informing the younger, educating crowd based in New York of what’s going on in their areas and most importantly within their own and other faculties. This is where The Hang New York comes in.

Living in the city that never sleeps can be overwhelming when it comes to coping with everything happening in New York City.

There are many apps, websites and other variations of information channels on events in the city such as what to do that’s cheap, shows, concerts, festivals and the list goes on.

“The Hang NY is a media platform where millennials are able to find out about the latest, most exclusive and exciting events in the city that never sleeps, New York City,” the website states, “Parties, festivals, conferences, workshops, we have got you covered!”

The company is founded by Ericka Sanchez, who graduated from New York Institute of Technology in Advertising in 2014. The 22-year-old entrepreneur started the website as a blog and with time it developed into a successful business.

The Hang New York allows college and university students to be aware of what’s happening within the city. It’s a main goal for the project to implement the different institutions attended by the younger crowd of New Yorkers which is right now being established.

On you are able to click through all sorts of event happening in the city allowing you to be up to date with what’s going on in the big apple.

Applicants Don’t Need to Take an Admissions Test at George Washington University

Whenever a student considers starting college, there are a myriad of formalities to complete. With school test scores, application forms, university evaluations, tuition fees, education loans and so many other things, one could do with taking something off the check list.

George Washington University has decided to do just that and make the application process a bit less stressful for students. The university has decided to actually do away with the entrance test that a potential applicant would normally have to take to be admissible.

The University has officially stated that the SAT or ACT test is no longer required to be taken. Administrators from the university even expressed their fears that the students would probably not apply anymore after this decision was made.

The University has come up with a “test-optional” policy for the undergraduate students. Laurie Koehler, the Senior Associate Provost at the university said,

“The test-optional policy should strengthen and diversify an already outstanding applicant pool and will broaden access for those high-achieving students who have historically been under represented at selective colleges and universities, including students of color, first-generation students and students from low-income households. We hope the test-optional policy sends a message to prospective students that if you are smart, hard-working and have challenged yourself in a demanding high school curriculum, there could be a place for you here.”

Image: Via George Washington University

University of Keele Student Discovers Planet

A student at the University of Keele in the United Kingdom has indeed discovered a planet. But that isn’t the most interesting part, what makes this a good story is how it was done.

Tom Wagg, a fifteen year-old boy that has gusto for science, learned that his University had a group that studied planetary bodies outside of our solar system. Wagg was keen to be a part of this group as soon as he could.

The boy was assigned to look at data sets and find any proper planet candidates. Within the next three days of being a part of the club, Wagg discovered a planet.

Today, Wagg is 17 years old and researchers have proved the existence of the planet that Wagg has discovered. A remarkable feat for a student this young truly makes him a wunderkind.

The planet that he discovered is 1000 light years away from our galaxy. The planet is catalogued under the name WASP-142b, since it is the 142 planet discovered by the WASP collaboration. Apparently, the planet is the same size as Jupiter and takes only two days to orbit its star.

Wagg said, “I’m hugely excited to have a found a new planet, and I’m very impressed that we can find them so far away.”

MBA Graduating Students of 2015 Will Have No Problem Finding Jobs

Congrats grads! As graduation is near so is the search for jobs, but luckily for the MBA graduates of  2015 this is the best time to be entering the job market.

Companies are on the prowl for business graduates more so now than they have been in decades as a report shows.

The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) did a study that showed corporations will hire the most students graduating with MBAs in 2015 than they have since 2003.

They found that 84 percent of companies said they will hire MBA students, a 10 percent jump from last years study. This is the highest year-over-year jump since 2011.


Not just any grad qualifies though; 90 percent of employers in the U.S said they would fill the positions to B-school or better students. Though 82 percent more employers than last year would prefer fresh out of school employees to fill their missing positions.

In Europe only 56 percent of companies said they would hire fresh MBA grads for their companies. As for Asia and Latin America 75 percent of their companies would hire MBA grads.

For MBA graduates the best place to look is in the energy and utilities sector; 96 percent of companies in these fields reported saying they would hire the grads for their finance or general management positions.

Technology sectors also would hire MBA graduates; 96 percent of technology companies said they are seeking MBA grads from B-schools for their marketing positions.

Not only to MBA graduates have the upper-foot on finding a job in today’s market, but companies are also raising salaries for the positions ready for the MBA students. One in five companies said they would increase their pay to higher than the rate of inflation.

An MBA student can expect to make around $100,000 out of college. Higher than last years median for an MBA student and double the amount of the average college graduates salary for this year.


All findings were according to the GMAC’s study.