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Instead of entering a hotel search and receiving a page with hundreds of options, new data-driven travel agents—using humans, AI or both—are tailoring options based on a traveler’s personal preferences. These new agents use chatbots or messaging to communicate with travel bookers. Elaine Glusac, writing at The New York Times, offers these examples of data-driven travel planners.

Pana caters to frequent travelers. For a monthly fee, Pana is available 24 hours. It uses member profiles and past trips to funnel travel requests to human agents.

Mezi uses chatbots to handle travel booking. If a complicated issue arises then humans get involved; afterward they train the bots to handle it in the future. The more you book with Mezi, the more it learns about your preferences.

Savanti Travel helps frequent travelers cut costs while gaining status with travel companies. It doesn’t operate on commission to avoid the urge to find more expensive bookings.

Hello Hipmunk is a travel-planning messaging system. It runs through Facebook Messenger, Skype or Slack, and lets you topic hop as if you were talking to a human. It can offer tips such as on the cheapest times to travel.

Flightfox specializes in complicated itineraries. The service books flights only; for a fee, agents find the best prices and send you links so you can do the booking yourself. It also uses points systems to find the best deals.

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Facebook has confirmed it experienced a widespread outage impacting users’ ability to access the social network and Instagram across the U.S. and parts of Europe on Wednesday morning.

The outage started around 8:20 a.m. ET, according to DownDetector.com, a site that monitors service disruptions. Users of the social platforms reported difficulty accessing the Facebook through its apps and website.

 

The outages impacted users not only in the U.S. but Greece, the UK, Poland and other European countries. Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, was also down for a short time, the company confirmed.

 

 

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The World Health Organization has delivered more than a million doses of antibiotics to Madagascar amid a raging epidemic of plague in which at least 33 people have died and 230 others have been infected, the BBC reported.

The first confirmed death from the epidemic began on August 28th in the town of Moramanga,.“Plague is curable if detected in time. Plague first arrived in Madagascar from Indian steamboats in 1898 before spreading through other harbors and then into the mainland along railroad construction lines. 

 

 

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An independent panel pulled together by the Australian government released a report this week trying to hash out the difficulties that governing bodies will face in rewriting laws for humans engaging self-driving systems. That panel, called the National Transport Commission (NTC), wants to develop a clear set of laws by 2020, and its paper (PDF) solicited feedback from key industry players as the panel moves forward.

Though it may seem obvious that a drunk person should be allowed to be taxied home by a fully autonomous car, the question is less clear if you have to determine just how autonomous an autonomous vehicle needs to be for a drunk person to operate it. The government should want drunk people to engage a high-level autonomous driving system if the alternative is driving themselves home, but if they’ll be penalized for being drunk while they’re “in control” of an autonomous vehicle, uptake of self-driving systems may be slow.

Instead, the NTC argues, drunk driving offenses should only apply to drunk people who are manually operating their vehicles but not to people who have merely started an autonomous car. The present rules “exist because a person who starts or sets in motion a conventional vehicle while under the influence clearly has an intention to drive,” the NTC writes.

The questions are being raised in the US, too. At the Governors’ Highway Safety Association meeting this week, US authorities discussed open container laws in autonomous vehicles. Currently, it’s illegal to have an open alcohol container in a car while you’re driving US roads. But should that apply in fully autonomous systems where no one is driving?

Who makes these rules and enforces them is its own debate in the US, too, with the Trump administration largely calling for a continuation of the Obama administration’s “light regulatory touch” philosophy when it comes to automakers building self-driving cars. In Congress, the House passed a bill last month directing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to adopt some guidelines for self-driving cars analogous to its regulation of manually driven cars.

AILEEN MCCRILLIS
NYU health sciences library

The Association of American Medical Colleges predicted that by 2030, the United States would have a shortage of up to 104,900 physicians. To try to curb this impending crisis, a wave of new medical schools have opened in the last decade. Eleven schools have been accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education in the last five years, and eight more are currently under consideration.

As a condition of accreditation, these new schools must provide access to “well-maintained library resources sufficient in breadth of holdings and technology” to support the school’s educational mission, however, many medical schools are deciding that large print collections are no longer a vital component of those resources.

Paperless Libraries

Charles Stewart, associate dean and chief librarian of City College of New York, of the City University of New York system, said that his institution chose to go a paperless route for the newly opened CUNY School of Medicine on the City College campus for much the same reason — 24-7 access. “Stewart says they chose the all-electronic option since their medical school clearly wanted instant e-access to all their resources.

 

The Frank H. Netter School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University, which accepted its first students in 2013, is designed as a paperless institution. The school has a library space where students can read and study, but the vast majority of the library’s resources are online. Bruce Koeppen, dean of the school, said that by making most of the library’s holdings electronic, it ensured that students and faculty could access information “anywhere and anytime, even when the library is closed.”

Hybrid Approach

The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, opened in 2010, with just 50 books on its shelves, however, the students quickly pushed to expand this collection to 4,000 books, saying that they preferred to use physical materials for studying. The school noted, however, that it did not want to increase its print collection beyond the current level.

Fay Towell, director of libraries at the Greenville Hospital System, said that it was interesting that students at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville, which opened in 2012, frequently requested access to both print and electronic resources. Given the small size of the library, and the prohibitive cost of providing both print and online versions of texts, Towell said the library had to be selective. She noted that often journals might cost more electronically than in print — “if a journal cost is $4,000 electronically and $400 in print, then the library makes space for print,” she said.

Roger Schonfeld, director of the Library and Scholarly Communication Program for Ithaka S+R, pointed out that when medical libraries thin their print collections, it does not necessarily mean that the campus loses access to those physical materials. “Whether the collections are moved to an off-site facility, or the library participates in a shared print program, it is almost always still possible to provide access to a print version on those occasions when it is necessary to do so.” The trend for thinning print collections is not unique to medical libraries, said Schonfeld — many science and engineering libraries have done the same.

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