|Photo by: Marc Israel Sellem|
New Worlds: Computers for culture
By JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH
Differences in culture remain a dominant factor hindering our ability to understand one another.
Even though the world is often described as a “global village,” differences in
culture remain a dominant factor hindering our ability to understand one
another. Identifying cultural differences is a major challenge facing
intelligence agencies, which has given rise to the field of “cultural
intelligence” (abbreviated as CULINT) involving the better understanding of
strategic competitors and opposition. Unlike “signals intelligence” (SIGINT),
which relies heavily on advanced technologies, CULINT has traditionally remained
the province of human experts and evaluations.
A recently developed
methodology challenges this longstanding dogma. In a recent paper selected for
presentation at the 2012 European Intelligence and Security Informatics
Conference, Ben- Gurion University of the Negev education department chairman
Prof. Yair Neuman, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Prof. Newton Howard and
BGU master’s degree student Danny Livshitz present a novel methodology that
paradoxically uses the shortcomings of automatic machine translation to better
understand different cultures.
The paper, entitled: “Can Computers Help
Us to Better Understand Different Cultures? Toward a Computer-Based CULINT” will
be presented this August at a conference in Odense, Denmark.
seeks to identify our own shortcomings in understanding various cultures, while
producing surprising results. For instance, it was found that historic American
political speeches understood from the perspective of the Arab language were
wrongly perceived as sentimental and emotionally loaded compared to the original
meaning,” explains Neuman. “By identifying these biases, we can better
understand and adjust our thinking.”
The researchers add that this
methodology is a promising new tool for computer- based CULINT, but is currently
only in the beginning stages of its development.
GETTING TO RITUAL BATH
Jewish women who observe the laws of family purity according to the
rules set down over 3,000 years ago have to take many details into
consideration. It’s not just counting seven “clean days” without blood after
menstruation and then going to the ritual bath. The Talmud requires women to
calculate (and refrain from intimacy during the relevant period) the exact
Hebrew date her previous period began, a 30-day interval between the last two
periods and the average time between one period to another.
always done this without help, but in today’s digital age, some women find a
computer program helpful in doing the calculation. A number of such programs are
available, all aimed at avoiding intimacy at a time when a woman may become
ritually impure due the onset of her period.
But now a free application
for smartphones to calculate one’s mikva date has been issued by an organization
to memorialize Rivkah and Gavriel Holtzberg, the Chabad emissaries who were
murdered by terrorists in Mumbai a few years ago.
The application is
available at www.MikvahCalendar.com and has been endorsed by leading rabbis in
the field. It uses the raw data and produces the date when the woman goes to
immerse herself in the ritual bath.
A new study that
looked at hunger trends over a decade found that nearly 15 percent of Americans
over 60 – more than one in seven or 8.3 million people – face the threat of
“In 2005, we reported that one in nine seniors faced the threat
of hunger,” said University of Illinois Prof. Craig Gundersen, the executive
director of the National Soybean Research Laboratory who led the data analysis
on the study. “So, unlike the population as a whole, food insecurity among those
60 and older actually increased between 2009 and 2010.”
problem is that food insecurity is also associated with a host of poor health
outcomes for seniors such as reduced nutrient intakes and limitations in
activities of daily living,” Gundersen said. “Consequently, this recent increase
in senior hunger will likely lead to additional nutritional and health
challenges for our country.”
The increases in senior hunger were most
pronounced among the near poor, whites, widows, non-urban residents, the
retired, women and among households with no grandchildren present.
may be surprising is that out of those seniors who face the threat of hunger,
the majority have incomes above the poverty line and are white,” Gundersen
Other key findings in the study are that those living in states in
the South and Southwest, those who are racial or ethnic minorities, those with
lower incomes, and those who are younger, ages 60 to 69, are most likely to be
threatened by hunger.