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Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Unify Project, Star of Cleveland's Amazon HQ2 Bid For Some Reason, is Finally Hiring

Posted By on Thu, Aug 23, 2018 at 2:05 PM

The first page of Cleveland's Amazon bid. - SAM ALLARD / SCENE
  • Sam Allard / Scene
  • The first page of Cleveland's Amazon bid.
The Unify Project, the early-stage nonprofit-supporting nonprofit described in Cleveland's failed Amazon HQ2 bid as "the most broad-reaching effort ever mounted to use big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning to end poverty" is finally hiring.

Four positions are available at the organization, which has tweaked its mission from ending poverty to "enabling sustainable upward mobility." The focus on leveraging big data, machine learning and blockchain tech to do so, however, remains intact.

Nearly a year after it was described as having assembled "the brightest minds in medicine, education and philanthropy," the Unify Project is now getting around to putting together its core team. The new employees will have as their central task building an operating system to optimize the economy.

Job descriptions for a data scientist, a simulation modeling lead, a big data engineer and a software developer are all now up on the Unify Project's website.

The job descriptions lend some insight into the Unify Project and its goals. (The Amazon bid was woefully deficient in that regard.) Here's a description of the operating system that the Unify Project intends to build:

The Unify OS will be a real world, real time analytical engine. The Unify Technology PlatformTM consists of 3 parts: UnifyDbTM, UnifyAiTM, and UnifyPnTM. UnifyDb will be an open real-time dataset containing billions of curated big data points linking social programs to individual prosperity and economic outcomes. UnifyAi will be a machine learning engine that works atop UnifyDb to measure cause & effect, greatly reduce bias, predict outcomes, and recommend high return investments. UnifyPn will be a payment network that enables controlled, transparent, and fully accountable incentives and payments via blockchain-enabled smart contracts and a renewable private cryptocurrency.
Who can say how all these dots connect? Among other questions, Scene remains unclear what — through this operating system — people will be investing in. Social programs that have proven successful? Also, how is a payment network with a renewable private cryptocurrency related to any of this?

We're content to wait and see for now, but "curated big data" and "predict[ing] outcomes" makes us, shall we say, uneasy.

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If we return to the Amazon bid, we'll remember that one of the Unify Project's goals was to "shift from a charity to an investment model," in order to build an inclusive economy that empower all to live in prosperity.

We're not sure how an operating system will do that, but we look forward to finding out. At this point, we're just keeping tabs. It's important to continue to note the evolution of this organization which, before it even existed, was hailed as one of the region's top five selling points; an organization that offered Amazon the opportunity to collaborate on the "world's most ambitious urban renewal effort." 

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Cuyahoga Falls School Assigns Homework Asking Who 'Deserves' to Survive the End of the World

Posted By on Thu, Aug 23, 2018 at 12:30 PM

We're all doomed, and it's up to a sixth grader hoping to make the honor roll to determine if we're worthy of survival. - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Wikimedia Commons
  • We're all doomed, and it's up to a sixth grader hoping to make the honor roll to determine if we're worthy of survival.

Sixth graders at Roberts Middle School in Cuyahoga Falls are starting off the new school-year with a bang, assigning children the responsibility of determining who deserves to survive the end of the world based on factors like race, religion, age, occupation and sexual orientation. It's like a combination of 12 Angry Men and the horror film Circle, only for children's academic success.

A concerned Cuyahoga Falls councilmember Adam Miller (Ward 6) brought it to public consciousness during a meeting on Wednesday. Then a copy of the assignment was provided to Cleveland 19, and it's a proverbial trash fire of racism, classism, homophobia, sexism, ageism, ableism and every other disgusting -ism you could imagine.

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In order to teach children how to play God, and how to place value on human life as if they were the Jigsaw Killer in Saw, they were all told to save eight passengers of the possible 12.

The parent who provided a copy of the assignment to Channel 19 left their child's "rankings," on the paper, which is horrifying considering their kid decided that a professional athlete who happens to be gay and a Native American woman who cannot speak English are not worthy of surviving, putting them on the same level of "unworthiness" as a racist armed police officer accused of using excessive force and an accountant with a substance abuse problem. Joy.

Roberts Middle School declined to comment to Cleveland 19, and the Cuyahoga Falls School District has also been contacted seeking comment.

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Two Moms Had a Screaming Fight at the W. 117th Street Aldi Monday While Their Kids Cried

Posted By on Thu, Aug 23, 2018 at 12:06 PM

COURTESY OF ALDI STORES
  • Courtesy of Aldi Stores

Between new clothes, an endless list of classroom supplies, a dramatic shift in day-to-day scheduling and figuring out how to find time to make lunch for the next day, back to school season can be extremely stressful. Apparently, a group of moms hit their boiling point Monday at the Aldi location on West 117th Street when a fight broke out.

An anonymous source, who witnessed the event, told Scene that the women involved appeared to be "stereotypical soccer moms," and broke out into a "literal brawl." Children and their fighting mothers were reportedly crying alike, and multiple squad cars were called to diffuse the situation.

We obtained the police report that states a 22-year-old Caucasian woman was screaming that she was assaulted by a 38-year-old Caucasian woman at the Aldi while buying groceries. Both of the women were reported to be very thin, giving the battle a Shakespearean tone of "though she be but little, she is fierce."

The police report indicates that no one was actually assaulted, meaning the women's gigantic display of screaming and crying was seemingly over nothing, or that the 22-year-old severely overreacted to whatever did happen. The three officers on scene and Aldi employees alike told the 22-year-old woman to never return to the store again.

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Proposed Ohio Constitutional Amendment Backed by Facebook Founders Would Reform Sentencing for Nonviolent, Low-Level Drug Offenders

Posted By on Thu, Aug 23, 2018 at 11:33 AM

WIKIA COMMONS
  • Wikia Commons

The Ohio Ballot Board yesterday certified the ballot language for Issue 1, a proposed Ohio constitutional amendment that would eliminate prison sentences for many low-level, nonviolent drug possession convictions, among other criminal justice reforms, that will appear on the November ballot.

The Ohio Organizing Collaborative is currently spearheading the Ohio Issue 1 campaign, an allegiance of community organizers, church groups and labor unions looking to achieve racial, social and economic justice for all Ohioans. The group landed a major influx of cash from the philanthropic organizations funded by Facebook co-founders Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz, in addition to Zuckerberg's wife Priscilla Chan, which dropped $2 million in total to the campaign trying to pass the issue.

According to state campaign finance reports filed earlier this month and covered by Cleveland.com yesterday, The Chan ZuckerBerg Initiative's advocacy arm contributed $1 million while The Open Philanthropy Project donated another million to the campaign's efforts.

If adopted, the amendment would:
  • Require sentence reductions of incarcerated individuals, except individuals incarcerated for murder, rape, or child molestation, by up to 25% if the individual participates in rehabilitative, work, or educational programming.
  • Mandate that criminal offenses of obtaining, possessing, or using any drug such as fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, LSD, and other controlled substances cannot be classified as a felony, but only a misdemeanor.
  • Prohibit jail time as a sentence for obtaining, possessing, or using such drugs until an individual's third offense within 24 months.
  • Allow an individual convicted of obtaining, possessing, or using any such drug prior to the effective date of the amendment to ask a court to reduce the conviction to a misdemeanor, regardless of whether the individual has completed the sentence.
  • Require any available funding, based on projected savings, to be applied to state administered rehabilitation programs and crime victim funds.
  • Require a graduated series of responses, such as community service, drug treatment, or jail time, for minor, non-criminal probation violations.
COURTESY OF PRISON POLICY INITIATIVE
  • Courtesy of Prison Policy Initiative

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, the United States incarcerates more people per capital than any other nation, and one out of every five incarcerated people are imprisoned for drug charges. Of those individuals, 456,000 are held for possession, trafficking, or other nonviolent drug offenses.

That's nearly half a million people that taxpayers are paying to lock up and nearly half a million people that, upon release, will have criminal records, reducing employment prospects and increasing the likelihood of longer sentences for any future offenses.

Pfeifer and Louis Tobin of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association say the measure has several flaws that they think will make Ohio less safe.

In arguing against the amendment, the attorneys say that it's sending a message to children is that drugs are not dangerous and a message to drug traffickers that doing business in Ohio is low risk.

The attorneys also believe that because the language dealing with drug trafficking offenses uses the word "conviction" instead of offense, courts wouldn't be able to use prison as a threat to get someone into drug treatment programs and that costs for drug treatment and rehabilitation would be shifted to local governments.

Given the fact that it's already been proven that anti-drug programs like "Just Say No" and D.A.R.E. are totally ineffective, mentioning the 'message it sends to children' sounds like a leading tactic.

The bottom line is that Ohio spends more than $1.8 billion per year on a
prison system where too many people who pose little public safety risk are incarcerated while treatment and prevention programs suffer. Issue 1 would redirect tens of millions of dollars annually in prison spending to addiction treatment and victims of crime, and that seems like a step in the right direction.

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The Cleveland Garlic Festival Takes Place This Weekend at Shaker Square

Posted By on Thu, Aug 23, 2018 at 11:24 AM

CLEVELANDGARLICFESTIVAL.ORG
  • Clevelandgarlicfestival.org
Northeast Ohio is prime garlic-growing territory, so it makes perfect sense to honor the stinking rose with its very own festival.

A fundraiser for the North Union Farmers' Markets, the Cleveland Garlic Festival features music, wine and beer vendors, food competitions, top chef grill-offs and countless vendors peddling garlic-scented foods.

Continue reading »

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What Ifs and What Might Have Beens Take Center Stage in 'Bloomsday' at None Too Fragile Theater

Posted By on Thu, Aug 23, 2018 at 9:56 AM

PHOTO CREDIT: BRIAN KENNETH ARMOUR
  • Photo credit: Brian Kenneth Armour
Oh, if we could only talk to our younger selves and give them advice on how to handle their affairs, romantic and otherwise. How wonderful our lives might have turned out!

Every life is full of lots of things, but it’s usually regret that leads the way. What if I hadn’t decided to be a proctologist? What if I had bought Google stock the first week it was available? And, of course, what if I had hooked up more meaningfully with that person I found so damned attractive when I was in my twenties?

Those “what ifs” have been powerful fodder for all kinds of stories, movies and plays for eons. And so it is in the inventive Bloomsday by Steven Dietz, now at None Too Fragile Theater. One couple’s story is spun around and through the warp and weft of the dense novel Ulysses by James Joyce. And just as in the novel, chronological time is considered merely a playground where a person can conduct conversations with himself, herself, and others at any time in their history.

In less skillful hands, this premise could become grindingly precious, but Dietz is a deft wordsmith and his dialogue is immediately accessible (unlike many of Joyce’s convoluted phrasings) and quite pleasing. And the cast, under the well-tuned direction of Katia Schwarz, fashions a lovely, wistful “what might have been” romance.

It begins with the 50-something Robert looking at Cathleen when she was 20, leading a tour through Dublin on Bloomsday, the day when Joyce freaks dress up in period costume as characters from his enormous tome. It’s named after Leopold Bloom, one of the story’s protagonists who rides a stream-of-consciousness wave on a single day in Dublin.

Robert is a professor who teaches Ulysses, reluctantly, since he considers it a mountain of over-praised drivel. But once he spies young Cathleen, standing a few feet away just as she was when he was also young, he is mesmerized. And so are we, as Robert and Cathleen begin to communicate: He speaks ruefully, knowing how things eventually turned out; she chats innocently, in the glow of her ignorance of the future.

As Robert notes, the words in Ulysses are meant for the ear rather than the eye. Joyce’s interminable sentences, often connected nonsensically by colons, are feasts of words that are both fulsome and fucking impenetrable. Happily, Dietz’s take on all that goes down much easier.

This game of hide and seek is played across two acts, and it maintains its hold thanks to some wonderful performances. As Robert, Tom Woodward is amusing and as he registers his distaste for Joyce’s masterwork (he refers to the opus as a “debauchery of run-on sentences”). But his deep fondness for Cathleen shines through that cynicism, and you ache for the longing he feels when he met that girl on that one, singular day.

As young Cathleen, Brooke Turner finds the core of her character’s naïve essence and turns it into irresistible charm. Particularly in the second act, Turner’s delightful reactions to young Robert (who at that time was known as Robbie) and his descriptions of his car are properly giddy.

The older version of Cathleen, called Cait, is played by Derdriu Ring with the dry snap and sass that comes with old older age. Her well-earned cynicism about relationships comports fittingly with Robert’s dark view of Ulysses in particular and life in general.

What works especially well in this production is the way Turner and Ring find a way to match their portrayals, so that we totally believe that each are different versions of the same person. Those differences are stark, and yet the actors create so many attitudinal and postural through-lines that it seems perfectly believable that they share identical DNA.

The fourth character in the play is Robbie, Robert’s younger self, and Nicholas Chokan has some effective moments with this somewhat under-written role. He is properly awkward and at a loss, when dealing with Cathleen, and that feels real.

But Chokan never quite captures the younger version of Robert—the body energy and sly wit—as crafted by Woodward. This is apparent in Act Two when Robbie clearly falls ass-over-teacup for Cathleen. That is the time when we yearn to see how budding love is transporting Robbie in ways that will inform and haunt his future years. But Chokan plays Robbie’s stiff cluelessness a bit too long, and the love connection never feels fully sealed.

Still, director Schwarz makes most of the scenes work with precision and deep empathy. This is particularly true at the end when Robert and Cait, dressed in turn of the 20th century garb, share a table as strangers while their more passionate younger selves cavort in the background. It is a fitting tableau that ends this play on precisely the right note. It indicates that our lives are often ruled by choices that we might have made differently, if only we could see the results of our decisions without that persistent bugaboo of time getting in the way.

Bloomsday
Through September 1 at None Too Fragile Theater, 1835 Merriman Rd., Akron (enter through Pub Bricco), 330-962-5547, nonetoofragile.com.

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Another Adorable Baby Rhino Was Just Born at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Posted By on Thu, Aug 23, 2018 at 9:30 AM

PHOTO COURTESY CLEVELAND METROPARKS ZOO
  • Photo courtesy Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
A second rhinoceros was recently born at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, park officials announced today. This time, an eastern black rhino calf was born to 25-year-old Inge, a mama of four.

Earlier this year, baby Lulu joined the Metroparks Zoo rhino family, and now seven rhinos have been born at the park in total.

Pregnant for nearly 16 months, Inge is doing well and is being given time to connect with her child out of view of visitors.

"We're very excited to welcome our second eastern black rhino calf born here at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo this year," Cleveland Metroparks Zoo Executive Director Christopher Kuhar said in a satatement. "We hope these significant births inspire guests to learn more about this critically endangered species and how they can help protect eastern black rhinos in the wild."

Check out more pictures of the adorable, knock-kneed newborn below:

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