She defines one of the most poignant moment s of her life as the one where her mother got her a canvas to fit her six-year-old frame so as she could draw. For Simona Bocchi, sculptor, painter, interior-designer, jewelry designer, the desire to create forms out of nature grew in her as constantly as her creativity did. Italian by birth and essence, Bocchi has made India her home over the last few years. Bocchi was born in Monza, Italy and her initial enlightenment in her field happened in her academic sojourn through art schools in Milan, Brera, Wimbledon, finally graduating in Carrara. She came to India in 2006, invited to organise an exhibition in Delhi by the Italian Embassy. And then there was no looking back. Her experience in India brought her closer to the spiritual search she had been on forever and Udaipur soon became her home. Also Read – ‘Playing Jojo was emotionally exhausting’The lady who chiseled magic out of the famous Carrara marble pieces, now honed her art along the finesse of miniatures from Jaipur, ethereal sculptures from Khajuraho brought to stunning culmination in the magic called India. Traditional met the contemporary and through the intricate process of from being to non-being, knowing to unknowing, Bocchi weaves in each experience of creation with its uniqueness into her work. Bocchi dabbles in sculpture, in paintings and in jewelery designs where she pours herself out. She loves creating pieces, working in tandem with interior designers, that create a dialogue with the space explains Bocchi. Her work speaks to her even before the process is on its way, that is just what differentiates simple artistry from pure genius. Also Read – Leslie doing new comedy special with NetflixBocchi says that she is fascinated by the balance of the yin and the yang and her creations stem from that like the living, breathing, pulsating mass of energy that transforms a piece of granite, marble, bronze, jute or even silver into a stunning piece of art. When I feel the masculine energy in me I like liberating it by making a piece that needs that kind of physical effort from me, on other days when I feel more feminine I prefer to use soft touches, brush tips to create what I want, explains Bocchi. She likes playing with the sense of movement in metal and wax as much as she likes the raw physicality of a piece of marble. It has happened at times that while I have been working on a particular vision, I cut away a piece of rock to expose a surface that isn’t a part of what I have perceived as my art, but it fits in so perfectly – I let it remain that way says Bocchi.This unique flexibility and adaptability to the process of creation makes every work of her as fluid as they are perfect end products of her vision. That is how nature works, she says, adding that conserving nature is one of the most vital themes for her – that is where the most famous symbol of the tree comes in for her. This fascination with the creative forces is perhaps why the theme of Shiva and Parvati inspires her so much. It is the ultimate cosmic fusion of not only the love of a man and a woman, but of creation and energy, she says. This fascination has transformed into her creation – Shiva Shakti. Bocchi’s spiritual growth is intricately woven into her India chapter. While she was always interested in the inner universe, her thoughts found form in India, through her travels and her work. She made it a point to visit the Kumbh Mela, in India answers you seek are right there, the people are more open, you come far closer to the real sense of spirituality here than anywhere in the world she says. Currently working on a personal exhibition scheduled for next year and at the same time concentrating on her book, Bocchi has come from the land of renaissance to the land of spirituality and like the indomitable force of nature, her art keeps flowing and growing.
Kolkata: A three-day Budget session will be started at the Assembly on Friday, with Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi delivering his inaugural speech. The first day of the Assembly session coincides with the day when the Centre will present its last vote on account in Parliament.State Finance minister Amit Mitra will present the state government’s Budget at the Assembly on Monday and discussion on the same would taken place in detail on Tuesday. Like every year, Governor Tripathi will highlight various projects of the state during his speech, as well as the achievements of the government in the last one year. The Opposition parties on Thursday raised their protests saying that no question-answer session on the Governor’s speech is scheduled to be held. They claimed that the incident is unprecedented. A senior minister of the state government has, however, refuted the Opposition’s claim saying that the question-answer sessions would take place later. Citing some examples, the minister said the question-answer sessions were held later in some earlier occasions as well and is nothing new.
Kolkata: Actor-turned-politician and founder of Makkal Needhi Maiam Kamal Haasan will campaign for the Trinamool Congress candidate of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Haasan announced the same after holding a meeting with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at Nabanna on Monday.”The meeting was excellent. Makkal Needhi Maiam is in alliance with Trinamool Congress for Andaman and we hope this special relationship will evolve in future. I am going to campaign for their candidate in Andaman and for this I am going there on April 6,” Haasan told reporters after his meeting with Banerjee that lasted more than an hour. Also Read – Rs 13,000 crore investment to provide 2 lakh jobs: MamataThe Chief Minister said that Trinamool Congress has forged an alliance with the party which Hassan had floated on February 21 last year, from his hometown of Rameswaram. “He came to wish me well. There will be a public meeting at Andaman in support of Trinamool’s candidate, which Haasan will address. On behalf of our party, Sujit Bose will be present,” Banerjee said. Trinamool Congress has nominated Ayaan Mondal to contest for the Lok Sabha seat in the islands. Mondal is the grandson of eight-time MP from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Manoranjan Bhakta, who had won on a Congress ticket. Also Read – Lightning kills 8, injures 16 in stateBishnu Pada Ray of BJP is the sitting MP of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. In 2014, he had won by a margin of 7,812 votes. When questioned whether Haasan will campaign for Trinamool in Bengal, he said: “I will consider this. But right now my hands are full. There are 40 seats in Tamil Nadu and my first concentration will be on that state. But my love for Bengal and Kerala will continue.” He also maintained that MNM is a small regional party and the alliance will be taken forward step-by-step, following discussions with the Chief Minister. It may be mentioned that Andaman and Nicobar Islands has only one Lok Sabha constituency, which represents the entire Union Territory. Haasan has recently proved himself to be a sharp critic of the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, calling him a “rich man’s guard.”
Corrections & AmplificationsBitcoins, in case you haven’t already heard all the buzz about them, are virtual coins traded directly between two individuals online. They’re exchanged anonymously without a trace and without ever passing through a single bank or other financial institution.As a business owner, questions likely arise. How much is a Bitcoin worth? Should my business accept them? Is it legal? Is this the payment method of the future?There’s a lot to consider before deciding if accepting the decentralized, crypto-currency is right for your company. Here are four common questions about Bitcoin, explained:1. What are Bitcoins and how much are they worth? They are essentially pieces of computer code — mathematical algorithms, actually — that represent monetary units. Bitcoins are purchased online using real analog money via Bitcoin exchanges and private sellers. They’re then used to trade goods and services on the internet, sometimes illegally. However, more reputable online vendors are beginning to accept Bitcoins, including WordPress, Reddit and dozens of Etsy vendors.Approximately 11 million Bitcoins are currently in circulation. In all, only 21 million will be generated through the year 2140. A single Bitcoin is worth approximately $117 U.S. dollars, according to Tokyo-based Mt. Gox K.K., the leading Bitcoin trading exchange. Values can fluctuate dramatically from day to day.Related: The Bitcoin Buzz and How Young Entrepreneurs are Cashing In2. Are Bitcoin transactions safe?They are generally considered safe. Bitcoin transaction are secured using what’s called public key cryptography encryption, a two-part encryption process that involves a combination of public and private data. Each transaction is publicly verified by the peer-to-peer community network of Bitcoin users.But Bitcoins are merely code, and cybercriminals can hypothetically hack them. Cybercriminals recently attacked Mt. Gox and Bitcoin-stealing malware continues to spread via Skype.3. Why would I want to accept them as payment? Bitcoin can be attractive to business owners mainly because there are zero bank or credit card transaction fees to accept it, which can lead to higher profit margins, more competitive pricing and the ability to operate globally at lower cost. Also, Bitcoin transactions are not subject to tax since Bitcoin is not an official form of money issued by any government. And Bitcoin transactions are completed instantaneously and anonymously, without having to go through a third-party bank, credit card company or PayPal.But the U.S. Treasury Financial Crimes Enforcement Network has issued rules about Bitcoin transactions and the IRS is expected to follow suit.4. How can I begin accepting Bitcoin payments? The first step is to create an account with a Bitcoin merchant solution that can help you accept Bitcoins. Mt. Gox is the most popular choice, but there are several others to choose from, including BitPay and BitMerch. Exchanges like these convert Bitcoins to U.S. dollars and other currencies for a nominal fee. For example, Mt. Gox charges up to 0.6 percent from each party for each payment.Next, you’ll want to post an image on your main website or online store that reads “Bitcoin accepted here.” If you sell goods and services from a brick and mortar location, your customers can pay in Bitcoins using a mobile phone app like Paytunia Bitcoin Wallet or Blockchain. Both require a QR code, so be sure to place one near your checkout area.Related: A Look at ‘Bitcoin’ Currency Corrections & Amplifications: A previous version of this story misstated how many Bitcoins are expected to be in circulation by the year 2140. In all, only 21 million will be generated. How Success Happens Listen Now May 20, 2013 Hear from Polar Explorers, ultra marathoners, authors, artists and a range of other unique personalities to better understand the traits that make excellence possible. 3 min read
Google CEO, Sundar Pichai testified before the House Judiciary Committee earlier this week. The hearing titled “Transparency & Accountability: Examining Google and its Data Collection, Use, and Filtering Practices” was a three-and-a-half-hour question-answer session that centered mainly around user data collection at Google, allegations of political bias in its search algorithms, and Google’s controversial plans with China. “All of these topics, competition, censorship, bias, and others..point to one fundamental question that demands the nation’s attention. Are America’s technology companies serving as instruments of freedom or instruments of control?,” said Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House Republican leader. The committee members could have engaged with Pichai on more important topics had they not been busy focussing on opposing each other’s opinions over whether Google search and its other products are biased against conservatives. Also, most of Pichai’s responses were unsatisfactory as he cleverly dodged questions regarding its Project Dragonfly and user data. Here are the key highlights from the testimony. Allegations of Political Bias One common theme throughout the long hearing session was Republicans asking questions based around alleged bias against conservatives on Google’s platforms. Google search Bias Rep. Lamar Smith asked questions regarding the alleged political bias that is “imbibed” in Google’s search algorithms and its culture. Smith presented an example of a study by Robert Epstein, a Harvard trained psychologist. As per the study’s results, Google’s search bias likely swung 2.6 million votes to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 elections. To this Pichai’s reply was that Google has investigated some of the studies including the one by Dr. Epstein, and found that there were issues with the methodology and its sample size. He also mentioned how Google evaluates their search results for accuracy by using a “robust methodology” that it has been using for the past 20 years. Pichai also added that “providing users with high quality, accurate, and trusted information is sacrosanct to us. It’s what our principles are and our business interests and our natural long-term incentives are aligned with that. We need to serve users everywhere and we need to earn their trust in order to do so.” Google employees’ bias, the reason for biased search algorithms, say Republicans Smith also presented examples of pro-Trump content and immigration laws being tagged as hate speech on Google search results posing threat to the democratic form of government. He also alleged that people at Google were biased and intentionally transferred their biases into these search algorithms to get the results they want and management allows it. Pichai clarified that Google doesn’t manually intervene on any particular search result. “Google doesn’t choose conservative voices over liberal voices. There’s no political bias and Google operates in a neutral way,” added Pichai. Would Google allow an independent third party to study its search results to determine the degree of political bias? Pichai responded to this question saying that they already have third parties that are completely independent and haven’t been appointed by Google in place for evaluating its search algorithms. “We’re transparent as to how we evaluate our search. We publish our rater guidelines. We publish it externally and raters evaluate it, we’re trying hard to understand what users want and this is what we think is right. It’s not possible for an employee or a group of employees to manipulate our search algorithm”. Political advertising bias The Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia also asked Pichai about political advertising bias on Google’s ad platforms that offer different rates for different political candidates to reach prospective voters. This is largely different than how other competitive media platforms like TV and radio operate – offering the lowest rate to all political candidates. He asked if Google should charge the same effective ad rates to political candidates. Pichai explained that their advertising products are built without any bias and the rates are competitive and set by a live auction process. The prices are calculated automatically based on the keywords that you’re bidding for, and on the demand in the auction. There won’t be a difference in rates based on any political reasons unless there are keywords that are of particular interest. He referred the whole situation to a demand-supply equilibrium, where the rates can differ but that will vary from time to time. There could be occasions when there is a substantial difference in rates based on the time of the day, location, how keywords are chosen etc, and it’s a process that Google has been using for over 20 years. Pichai further added that “anything to do with the civic process, we make sure to do it in a non-partisan way and it’s really important for us”. User data collection and security Another highlight of the hearing was Google’s practices around user data collection and security. “Google is able to collect an amount of information about its users that would even make the NSA blush. Americans have no idea the sheer volume of information that is collected”, said Goodlatte. Location tracking data related privacy concerns During Mr. Pichai’s testimony, the first question from Rep. Goodlatte was about whether consumers understand the frequency and amount of location data that Google collects from its Android operating system. Goodlatte asked Pichai about the collection of location data and apps running on Android. To this Pichai replied that Google offers users controls for limiting location data collection. “We go to great lengths to protect their privacy, we give them transparency, choice, and control,” says Pichai. Pichai highlighted that Android is a powerful smartphone that offers services to over 2 billion people. User data that is collected via Android depends on the applications that users choose to use. He also pointed out that Google makes it very clear to its users about what information is collected. He pointed out that there are terms of service and also a “privacy checkup”. Going to “my account” settings on Gmail gives you a clear picture of what user data they have. He also says that users can take that data to other platforms if they choose to stop using Google. On Google+ data breach Another Rep. Jerrold Nadler talked about the recent Google plus data breach that affected some 52.5 million users. He asked Pichai about the legal obligations that the company is under to publicly expose the security issues. Pichai responded to this saying that Google “takes privacy seriously,” and that Google needs to alert the users and the necessary authorities of any kind of data breach or bugs within 72 hours. He also mentions “building software inevitably has bugs associated as part of the process”. Google undertakes a lot of efforts to find bugs and the root cause of it, and make sure to take care of it. He also says how they have advanced protection in Gmail to offer a stronger layer of security to its users. Google’s commitment to protecting U.S. elections from foreign interference It was last year when Google discovered that Russian operatives spent tens of thousands of dollars on ads on its YouTube, Gmail and Google Search products in an effort to meddle in the 2016 US presidential election. “Does Google now know the full extent to which its online platforms were exploited by Russian actors in the election 2 years ago?” asked Nadler. Pichai responded that Google conducted a thorough investigation in 2016. It found out that there were two main ads accounts linked to Russia which advertised on google for about 4700 dollars in advertising. “We found a limited activity, improper activity, we learned from that and have increased the protections dramatically we have around our elections offering”, says Pichai. He also added that to protect the US elections, Google will do a significant review of how ads are bought, it will look for the origin of these accounts, share and collaborate with law enforcement, and other tech companies. “Protecting our elections is foundational to our democracy and you have my full commitment that we will do that,” said Pichai. Google’s plans with China Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee was the first person to directly ask Pichai about the company’s Project Dragonfly i.e. its plans of building a censored search engine with China. “We applauded you in 2010 when Google took a very powerful stand principle and democratic values over profits and came out of China,” said Jackson. Other who asked Pichai regarding Google’s China plans were Rep. Tom Marino and Rep. David Cicilline. Google left China in 2010 because of concerns regarding hacking, attacks, censorship, and how the Chinese government was gaining access to its data. How is working with the Chinese govt to censor search results a part of Google’s core values? Pichai repeatedly said that Google has no plans currently to launch in China. “We don’t have a search product there. Our core mission is to provide users with access to information and getting access to information is an important right (of users) so we try hard to provide that information”, says Pichai. He added that Google always has evidence based on every country that it has operated in. “Us reaching out and giving users more information has a very positive impact and we feel that calling but right now there are no plans to launch in China,” says Pichai. He also mentioned that if Google ever approaches a decision like that he’ll be fully transparent with US policymakers and “engage in consult widely”. He further added that Google only provides Android services in China for which it has partners and manufacturers all around the world. “We don’t have any special agreements on user data with the Chinese government”, said Pichai. On being asked by Rep. Marino about a report from The Intercept that said Google created a prototype for a search engine to censor content in China, Pichai replied, “we designed what a search could look like if it were to be launched in a country like China and that’s what we explored”. Rep. Cicilline asked Pichai whether any employees within Google are currently attending product meetings on Dragonfly. Pichai replied evasively saying that Google has “undertaken an internal effort, but right now there are no plans to launch a search service in China necessarily”. Cicilline shot another question at Pichai asking if Google employees are talking to members of the Chinese government, which Pichai dodged by responding with “Currently we are not in discussions around launching a search product in China,” instead. Lastly, when Pichai was asked if he would rule out “launching a tool for surveillance and censorship in China”, he replied that Google’s mission is providing users with information, and that “we always think it’s in our duty to explore possibilities to give users access to information. I have a commitment, but as I’ve said earlier we’ll be very thoughtful and we’ll engage widely as we make progress”. On ending forced arbitration for all forms of discrimination Last month 20,000 Google employees along with Temps, Vendors, and Contractors walked out of their respective Google offices to protest discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace. As part of the walkout, Google employees laid out five demands urging Google to bring about structural changes within the workplace. One of the demands was ending forced arbitration meaning that Google should no longer require people to waive their right to sue. Also, that every co-worker should have the right to bring a representative, or supporter of their choice when meeting with HR for filing a harassment claim. Rep. Pramila Jayapal asked Pichai if he can commit to expanding the policy of ending forced arbitration for any violation of an employee’s (also contractors) right not just sexual harassment. To this Pichai replied that Google is currently definitely looking into this further. “It’s an area where I’ve gotten feedback personally from our employees so we’re currently reviewing what we could do and I’m looking forward to consulting, and I’m happy to think about more changes here. I’m happy to have my office follow up to get your thoughts on it and we are definitely committed to looking into this more and making changes”, said Pichai. Managing misinformation and hate speech During the hearing, Pichai was questioned about how Google is handling misinformation and hate speech. Rep. Jamie Raskin asked why videos promoting conspiracy theory known as “Frazzledrip,” ( Hillary Clinton kills young women and drinks their blood) are still allowed on YouTube. To this Pichai responded with, “We would need to validate whether that specific video violates our policies”. Rep. Jerry Nadler also asked Pichai about Google’s actions to “combat white supremacy and right-wing extremism.” Pichai said Google has defined policies against hate speech and that if Google finds violations, it takes down the content. “We feel a tremendous sense of responsibility to moderate hate speech, define hate speech clearly inciting violence or hatred towards a group of people. It’s absolutely something we need to take a strict line on. We’ve stated our policies strictly and we’re working hard to make our enforcement better and we’ve gotten a lot better but it’s not enough so yeah we’re committed to doing a lot more here”, said Pichai. Our Take Hearings between tech companies and legislators, in the current form, are an utter failure. In addition to making tech reforms, there is an urgent need to also make reforms in how policy hearings are conducted. It is high time we upgraded ourselves to the 21st century. These were the key highlights of the hearing held on 11th December 2018. We recommend you watch the complete hearing for a more comprehensive context. Read Next As Pichai defends Google’s “integrity” ahead of today’s Congress hearing, over 60 NGOs ask him to defend human rights by dropping Drag Google bypassed its own security and privacy teams for Project Dragonfly reveals Intercept Google employees join hands with Amnesty International urging Google to drop Project Dragonfly