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US paying athletes to 'disrupt' Winter Olympics: China state media

The United States is paying athletes to "create disturbances" during the Beijing Winter Olympics, Chinese state media reported Saturday.

The accusations come just a week before the start of the most politicised Games in recent memory and immediately drew a denial from the US embassy in China.

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Trump's Texas rally haunted by the 'reality' that the House Jan 6th investigation is closing in: legal experts

In a column for MSNBC, Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe and former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut claim Donald Trump's rally in Texas on Saturday will be all about putting on a brave face as the House committee investigating the Jan 6th insurrection closes in on the former president and his plot to steal the 2020 presidential election.

With the select committee now focusing on a plan to use fake electors to overturn the actual results at the state level in key states, the legal experts claim that things are not looking good for the former president as he tries to rally his base at his "Save America" rally in Conroe Saturday .

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How to be a god: we might one day create virtual worlds with characters as intelligent as ourselves

Most research into the ethics of Artificial Intelligence (AI) concerns its use for weaponry, transport or profiling. Although the dangers presented by an autonomous, racist tank cannot be understated, there is another aspect to all this. What about our responsibilities to the AIs we create?

Massively-multiplayer online role-playing games (such as World of Warcraft) are pocket realities populated chiefly by non-player characters. At the moment, these characters are not particularly smart, but give it 50 years and they will be.

Sorry? 50 years won’t be enough? Take 500. Take 5,000,000. We have the rest of eternity to achieve this.

You want planet-sized computers? You can have them. You want computers made from human brain tissue? You can have them. Eventually, I believe we will have virtual worlds containing characters as smart as we are – if not smarter – and in full possession of free will. What will our responsibilities towards these beings be? We will after all be the literal gods of the realities in which they dwell, controlling the physics of their worlds. We can do anything we like to them.

So knowing all that…should we?

Ethical difficulties of free will

As I’ve explored in my recent book, whenever “should” is involved, ethics steps in and takes over – even for video games. The first question to ask is whether our game characters of the future are worthy of being considered as moral entities or are simply bits in a database. If the latter, we needn’t trouble our consciences with them any more than we would characters in a word processor.

The question is actually moot, though. If we create our characters to be free-thinking beings, then we must treat them as if they are such – regardless of how they might appear to an external observer.

That being the case, then, can we switch our virtual worlds off? Doing so could be condemning billions of intelligent creatures to non-existence. Would it nevertheless be OK if we saved a copy of their world at the moment we ended it? Does the theoretical possibility that we may switch their world back on exactly as it was mean we’re not actually murdering them? What if we don’t have the original game software?

Can we legitimately cause these characters suffering? We ourselves implement the very concept, so this isn’t so much a question about whether it’s OK to torment them as it is about whether tormenting them is even a thing. In modern societies, the default position is that it’s immoral to make free-thinking individuals suffer unless either they agree to it or it’s to save them (or someone else) from something worse. We can’t ask our characters to consent to be born into a world of suffering – they won’t exist when we create the game.

So, what about the “something worse” alternative? If you possess free will, you must be sapient, so must therefore be a moral being yourself. That means you must have developed morals, so it must be possible for bad things to happen to you. Otherwise, you couldn’t have reflected on what’s right or wrong to develop your morals. Put another way, unless bad things happen, there’s no free will. Removing free will from a being is tantamount to destroying the being it was previously, therefore yes, we do have to allow suffering or the concept of sapient character is an oxymoron.

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Revenge: the neuroscience of why it feels good in the moment, but may be a bad idea in the long run

dThe UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, is fighting to stay in power after it emerged that he attended several parties during the country’s strict lockdowns in 2020 and 2021. His former adviser Dominic Cummings, who was sacked by Johnson in 2020, has been accused of being the mastermind behind a number of carefully orchestrated leaks about the gatherings – amounting to a pretty spectacular case of revenge.

Most of us have dreamt about revenge at some point in our lives, and perhaps even achieved it. But is it ultimately a good idea – will it make us wiser and happier in the long term?

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As spiritualism’s popularity grows, photographer Shannon Taggart takes viewers inside the world of séances, mediums and orbs

The word séance conjures images of darkened rooms, entranced mediums, strange occurrences and spirit voices. For many contemporary audiences, these visions might seem like something out of the past, or perhaps a movie, rather than a living belief system.

For the past 20 years, American photographer Shannon Taggart has explored modern spiritualism, a religion whose adherents believe in communication with the dead.

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Trump-loving Lee Zeldin's floundering campaign for NY governor getting financial boost from unregistered PAC

According to a report from the Daily Beast, former Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) is under scrutiny for accepting a substantial contribution for his struggling campaign to become governor of New York from an unregistered PAC linked to his doctor.

At the center of the controversy is $60,829 that has been funneled into the New York Republican's campaign by Conquering Cancer PAC, "an outfit that formed last summer and, to date, appears to have never contributed to any other candidate," the Beast's William Bredderman reports.

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Kansas man traveled to DC to kill ‘Antichrist’ Biden: report

A Kansas man who claiming God directed him to the nation’s capital is charged with threatening to kill President Joe Biden, whom he referred to as the Antichrist. On Tuesday, Scott Ryan Merryman called police in his hometown of Independence, telling them he was going to see the president, according to a Maryland arrest warrant obtained by The Daily Beast. When contacted by an FBI agent Wednesday, Merryman allegedly said he planned to “lop off the head of the serpent in the heart of the nation.” That agent, whom said Merryman later threatened to kill him too, reached out to the Secret Service. ...

Biden considers Judge Childs, among others, for Supreme Court nomination -White House

By Nate Raymond

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. District Court Judge J. Michelle Childs is among those being considered by President Joe Biden for nomination to the Supreme Court, a White House spokesperson said on Friday.

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Student caught with backpack filled with weapons at NYC school

NEW YORK — A student at a Manhattan public school was found with a backpack stuffed with weapons, sources told the Daily News on Friday. The 14-year-old student at Intermediate School 70 in Chelsea showed off a knife to another pupil, who reported it to the principal about 11:45 a.m. on Thursday, sources said. School safety agents and administrators observed that the teen was acting strangely, and searched his backpack. Inside, they found four knives, a set of brass knuckles, an expandable baton, fireworks and a laser pointer. The boy was not arrested and hit with weapons possession charges as...

Thousands of flights canceled as Eastern US braces for winter storm

A truck delivers road salt in preparation for a winter storm at the Boston Public Works Department yard on January 28, 2022

New York (AFP) - Thousands of flights in the United States were canceled Saturday as parts of the East Coast braced for a shellacking by a powerful winter storm packing heavy snow and high winds.

Places in the North East, including New York and Boston, were expected to bear the brunt of the far-reaching system, which is also predicted to pummel the Mid-Atlantic. 

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Joni Mitchell says boycotting Spotify over Covid 'lies'

Joni Mitchell said she was pulling her songs from Spotify

Los Angeles (AFP) - Singer Joni Mitchell said Friday she was pulling her music from Spotify over "lies" on the streaming service about Covid-19, just days after fellow musical titan Neil Young did the same.

In a post on her website, the "Big Yellow Taxi" singer said she was supporting Young, who clashed with Spotify over its wildly popular "Joe Rogan Experience" podcast.

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NY priest is charged with molesting a Philadelphia boy decades ago

A Staten Island priest has been charged with molesting a Philadelphia boy from 1995 until 2002, beginning when the child was 10 years old. The Rev. James Garisto, 73, who spent nearly 40 years as a priest, teacher, and school administrator in the Archdiocese of New York, was arrested Thursday and charged with endangering the welfare of children, corruption of minors, and indecent assault. Garisto, who owned a home in Fishtown at the time of the assaults, is accused of attacking the child hundreds of times. He was released from police custody Thursday after posting 10% of his $75,000 bail. The ...

‘Some real bulls—’: Chris Brown reacts to being sued for allegedly drugging and raping woman on yacht

Chris Brown is hitting back at sexual assault claims in a new lawsuit. The Grammy Award-winning R&B crooner is being sued by a woman, identified only as Jane Doe, who alleges that she was drugged and raped by Brown on a yacht that was docked near Diddy’s Florida home on Dec. 30, 2020. Brown, 32, took to Instagram Story early Friday to send a message to his 103 million followers amid the latest accusations “I hope yall see this pattern of (cap emoji — which according to urban dictionary say ‘is basically another word for lying’),” the “Loyal” singer wrote. “Whenever I’m releasing music or proje...