Art Meets Artificial Intelligence: Computer-Generated Works On Display

 A picture taken on November 1, 2019 at Sotheby’s in New York shows two paintings, from left, “La Baronne de Belamy,” (est. $20,000 – $30,000) a portrait from the same Famille de Belamy series that Christie’s offered last year and “Katsuwaka of the Dawn Lagoon,” (est. $8,000 – $12,000) a new work from the group’s second and more recent series (produced in 2019) of works called Electric Dreams of Ukiyo. PHOTO: Thomas URBAIN / AFP

 

Two paintings up for auction in New York highlight a growing interest in artificial intelligence-created works — a technique that could transform how art is made and viewed but is also stirring up passionate debate.

The art world was stunned last year when an AI painting sold for $432,500, and auctioneers are keen to further test demand for computer-generated works.

“Art is a true reflection of what our society, what our environment responds to,” said Max Moore of Sotheby’s.

“And so it’s just a natural continuation of the progression of art,” he added.

Sotheby’s will put two paintings by the French art collective Obvious up for sale on Thursday, including “Le Baron De Belamy.”

The European classic style portrait is part of the same series as “Portrait of Edmond Belamy”, which sold for more than 60 times the lowest estimate at Christie’s during the 2018 fall auctions.

The paintings were made using a technique called “generative adversarial network,” or GAN.

GAN involves feeding thousands of images of the same style into a computer until the machine concludes that it has created a new portrait that it thinks accurately reflects that style.

“Katsuwaka of the Dawn Lagoon” was created in a Japanese style using the same GAN algorithm.

Auctioneers have put modest prices on the two paintings. “Katsuwaka” has a pre-sale estimate between $8,000 and $12,000, while “Le Baron” has been priced between $20,000 and $30,000.

“We do not expect as big a result as last year,” said Pierre Fautrel, one of the three members of Obvious.

“We just want to see if there are people who are ready to buy around these prices and if the market will continue to build,” he added.

Moore said the sale of “Portrait of Edmond Belamy” showed that there is “a marketplace for this new body of work” but that it’s still “in the very early stages.”

“That will be a good indicator of where the market is,” he said.

In the fledgling artificial intelligence market, Obvious is not the most sought-after group of artists.

Not for everyone

Steven Sacks, owner of the bitforms gallery in New York says his client, the Canadian-Mexican artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer has already made around $600,000 for an AI artwork.

Whereas Obvious’s paintings are fixed, most of Lozano-Hemmer’s works use software to change in real time according to data about each viewer’s perspective.

Other prominent AI artists who are exhibiting their work across the world include Germany’s Mario Klingemann and Turkish-born Refik Anadol.

Klingemann also makes portraits, sometimes tweaking the input data with voluntary glitches to avoid replication. Anadol uses mostly video to produce abstract data-based animations.

Klingemann’s “Memories of Passersby I”, a stream of portraits created by a machine, sold for $40,000 at Sotheby’s in London in March.

Sacks and several other artists AFP spoke to were critical of the “Bellamy” sale last year.

They feel that that painting is not representative of the potential of AI and argue that Obvious is imitating other works whereas they are creating something new.

“For me it was a problem because it wasn’t authentic,” said Sacks, who subscribes to a school of thought that works made by AI should constantly be changing, usually on screens.

Some also criticize Obvious for giving the impression that AI can create works of art without human interference.

“An artist chooses. He lightens, he reinforces. Can a computer do that?” asks French painter Ronan Barrot, who has collaborated with British AI artist Robbie Barrat.

The debate continues to rage. Fautrel of Obvious denies that his collective merely imitates other artworks and sees AI as a “tool” and not an end in itself.

Despite their differences, they all agree the market for AI paintings is growing and that the sale of “Bellamy” has drawn attention to the burgeoning technique.

“I don’t think this new style is for everyone but I think you’re going to start catching the attention of a lot of people that aren’t necessarily art collectors but are very interested in the technology behind AI,” said Sotheby’s Moore.

AFP

NY Judge Orders Trump To pay $2mn In Damages To Charities

 

A New York judge on Thursday ordered Donald Trump to pay $2 million for using his former charity to further his political and business interests, adding to the president’s legal woes.

Justice Saliann Scarpulla of the New York Supreme Court told him to pay the damages to a group of non-profit organizations to settle a civil lawsuit brought by state Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat.

James filed the lawsuit against the Trump Foundation in June last year, accusing it of “persistently illegal conduct” that included improper coordination between the charity and his campaign team during his 2016 White House bid.

Trump agreed to shut down his personal charity in December but the suit moved ahead regardless as prosecutors sought millions of dollars in restitution and penalties.

READ ALSO: Former NYC Mayor Bloomberg Preparing Presidential Run

“(The ruling) is a major victory in our efforts to protect charitable assets and hold accountable those who would abuse charities for personal gain,” James said in a statement.

The suit accused Trump of using foundation funds to settle lawsuits, promote his Trump-branded hotels, and for personal spending, including the purchase of a portrait of himself to display at one of his golf clubs.

It also said that in early 2016 while Trump was running for president, he organized what was billed as a Trump Foundation fundraiser but was actually a campaign event.

Trump accused James of “deliberately mischaracterizing this settlement for political purposes,” and said the resolution of the case was not damages, but simply donations to the charities.

“Every penny of the $19 million raised by the Trump Foundation went to hundreds of great charitable causes with almost no expenses,” he said in a statement.

“It has been 4 years of politically motivated harassment. (…) All they found was incredibly effective philanthropy and some small technical violations, such as not keeping board minutes.”

The ruling was the third legal setback Trump suffered in his native New York this week.

On Monday, a US appeals court ruled that he must release eight years of tax returns which he promised during the campaign to make public after an audit, but has since refused to share.

The same day, US magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll, who accuses Trump of rape, sued the president for defamation after he accused her of making up the allegation.

 

Former NYC Mayor Bloomberg Preparing Presidential Run

(FILES) File photo dated July 24, 2019 shows Michael Bloomberg addressing the NAACP’s (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) 110th National Convention at Cobo Center in Detroit, Michigan.

 

Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg is preparing to enter the crowded race to become the Democratic nominee for the 2020 presidential election, US media reported Thursday.

The 77-year-old is expected to file paperwork in at least one state this week declaring himself a candidate, according to multiple outlets including The New York Times.

Bloomberg had said back in March he wouldn’t run, but has been toying for weeks with the idea of seeking the White House after all, according to an advisor, who was quoted as saying he had yet to make a final decision.

The billionaire has, though, sent members of staff to Alabama to gather the necessary signatures required to register for that state’s primary ahead of the deadline Friday in anticipation of a bid, the reports said.

Alabama is not one of the earlier primaries but it has one of the earliest deadlines.

The move is the first clear sign that Bloomberg, long touted as a possible US presidential candidate, is getting ready to battle it out to take on President Donald Trump.

“We now need to finish the job and ensure that Trump is defeated –- but Mike is increasingly concerned that the current field of candidates is not well positioned to do that,” Bloomberg advisor Howard Wolfson said in a statement.

“Based on his record of accomplishment, leadership and his ability to bring people together to drive change, Mike would be able to take the fight to Trump and win,” Wolfson added, according to Bloomberg News.

Bloomberg, the co-founder and CEO of the media company that shares his name, is one of the richest people in the United States.

His huge personal wealth would likely shake up the contest at a time when frontrunner Joe Biden’s fundraising is sagging.

Bloomberg is perceived as a centrist figure close to Wall Street who views Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, two of the other Democratic frontrunners, as too left-wing.

“He thinks (leader) Joe Biden is weak and Sanders and Warren can’t win,” the New York Post quoted a source familiar with Bloomberg’s plans as saying.

Bloomberg’s entry would bloat an already crowded field of contenders, with 17 candidates currently vying for the right to take on Trump as the Democratic nominee.

‘Scared’

Bloomberg, who was elected mayor of the Big Apple in 2001 and served until 2013, is known to be opposed to some of the policies espoused by Warren and Sanders.

They regularly lash out at financiers and big corporations. Both have said they plan to hit the rich with bigger taxes.

“Welcome to the race, @MikeBloomberg!” tweeted Warren.

“If you’re looking for policy plans that will make a huge difference for working people and which are very popular, start here,” she added.

Warren accompanied the tweet with a link link to a calculator on her website which works out how much more billionaires would pay in tax under her presidency.

“The billionaire class is scared and they should be scared,” Sanders posted on Twitter, in a not-so-subtle reference to the reports about Bloomberg.

Bloomberg has switched between the Republican and Democratic parties over the years and also served as an independent mayor.

He has used some of his fortune to back Democratic politicians and fund policies that he believes in — including the fight against climate change and anti-vaping efforts.

Bloomberg considered running as an independent in 2016 but opted not to for fear of splitting the Democratic vote.

Trump Booed At UFC Bout In New York

US Secret Service agents watch the crowd during the Ultimate Fighting Championship at Madison Square Garden in New York on November 2, 2019. ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP

 

 

President Donald Trump was booed for the second time in a week at a sporting event Saturday as he watched mixed martial artists brawl in a cage in New York.

Trump sat around 15 feet away as UFC fighters delivered vicious kicks and punches to the face and body of their opponents, regularly drawing blood, at Madison Square Garden.

The president was seen clapping and at one point stood up for a better view as 20,000 pumped-up fans screamed and swore amid an electric atmosphere at the pay-per-view spectacle.

Jeers rang out as Trump, wearing a dark suit and red tie, punched his fist and waved at the crowd as he walked into the arena shortly before 10pm (0300GMT).

READ ALSO: Rescuers Retrieve Two Bodies From South Korea Chopper Crash

Many fans also cheered the US leader and there was no repeat of the loud chants of “lock him up” that greeted his appearance at a World Series baseball game last weekend.

“We’d be having more fun if he wasn’t here,” 50-year-old Anna Torres, who booed loudly with her boyfriend, told AFP.

Some spectators, however, were delighted to see the president, who has a fight of his own on his hands back in Washington with the Democrats’ bid to impeach him.

“It’s disrespectful to boo because he is our president,” said Nico Ferranti, 30, adding that he was unsurprised to see the president turn up.

“He’s from New York and he likes this kind of stuff. Back in the day he was on Wrestlemania,” said Ferranti, referring to Trump’s infamous scripted bodyslam of WWE President Vince McMahon in 2007.

Several dozen protesters carrying placards with slogans such as “Trump/Pence Out Now!” and “Headlock Him Up”, in reference to a UFC move, demonstrated outside the Manhattan venue.

Inside, the president, 73, looked concerned as a lightweight fighter delivered a brutal left kick to his rival’s face during the first bout on the main card.

The contact, which left the fighter sprawled on the ground for around 30 seconds, drew loud gasps from the capacity crowd as they watched the slow-motion replay of his face being squished.

Trump, who spent three hours at the fight night, could be seen clapping in support when the felled fighter finally got to his feet.

He also heards fans chant “USA” as an American brawler triumphed over his Bulgarian counterpart.

In the crowd, sporadic, alcohol-fueled fights broke out. At least two people were dragged away by security in just one section.

Down below, ring girls wearing just shorts and a bra walked around the periphery of the cage carrying boards above their heads displaying the number of the next round.

– ‘The Rock’ –

The president attended with sons Donald Jr and Eric, and several Republican leaders. All three Trumps retweeted a video showing spectators applauding the TV reality star turned politician.

“I cheered for him,” said Ilya Dibner, who had travelled from Philadelphia for the event.

“I may not agree with his policies but it’s cool he’s sitting out there with the people when he could be in a box.”

Trump has long been a fan of UFC, hosting events at his hotels, and is known to be close to its president Dana White, who has publicly backed POTUS.

He was due to stay overnight at Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue before leaving Sunday morning, a departure that coincides with New York’s marathon, adding to fears of traffic chaos in the Big Apple.

Trump’s visit came two days after he announced that he and his family would be changing their main residency from New York to Florida, where tax rates are lower.

Trump left shortly before 1:00 am after Jorge Masvidal defeated Nate Diaz for the “BMF” belt in the night’s final fight. Wrestler-turned actor Dwayne Johnson, known as “The Rock”, presented the belt.

AFP

Five Key Things About Fentanyl And America’s Opioids Crisis

Tablets believed to be laced with fentanyl are displayed at the Drug Enforcement Administration Northeast Regional Laboratory on October 8, 2019, in New York. Don Emmert / AFP

 

 

Jury selection has begun in a landmark federal case on Ohio on whether drug companies can be held responsible for the opioids epidemic that is raging across America.

The case is seen as a test for the entire pharmaceuticals industry, which stands accused of fueling the crisis by aggressively promoting painkillers that can become dangerously addictive.

Perhaps predictably, the companies are negotiating to possibly avoid trial, thereby avoiding a precedent-setting verdict.

Fentanyl is the primary synthetic opioid available in the United States, a class of drug that was responsible for almost 32,000 overdose deaths last year.

Here are five things to know in order to understand the crisis:

What is fentanyl?

Fentanyl was first developed in 1959 and introduced to the US market in the 1960s as an intravenous anesthetic.

It is used to manage severe pain — for example, among cancer patients or those receiving end-of-life care.

It is up to 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

But it is also produced illegally and trafficked into the United States — primarily from China and Mexico — in the form of powder or tablets, and sometimes gets mixed with heroin and cocaine.

Fentanyl can be lethal in a dose of as little as two milligrams, equivalent to a few grains of sand.

How many deaths?

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported more than 400,000 deaths from opioid overdoses from 1999 to 2018. On average, about 130 Americans die each day.

While the crisis first erupted in the 1990s, the number of deaths exploded starting 2013, when fentanyl use began to surge.

Last year, the number of fatal overdoses fell for the first time in 20 years in the United States, but deaths due to the use of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids mounted, totaling 32,000.

– Where does it come from? –
Powdered fentanyl can be bought on the dark web or even business trading sites like Weiku.com, according to Roger Bate, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who published a report on the drug earlier this year.

A kilo sourced from China can be purchased in the United States for as little as $1700, which is then used to create up to a million pills that, when sold for $10 to $20, each generate millions in revenue, according to the DEA.

Mexican gangs also play a large role in producing and distributing the drug, with precursor chemicals first smuggled into Mexico via the southwestern United States.

Some illicit fentanyl products are also brought into the United States via Canada, which until 2017 did not allow authorities to open the contents of mail weighing less than 30 grams.

Who’s to blame?

Experts agree that in part, the crisis stems from the prescription use of painkillers gone wrong. Doctors seeking to manage their patients’ pain overprescribed medications, and some users became addicted.

One of those medications is OxyContin, which is made by Purdue Pharma. The US firm got clearance to offer the drug for a wider range of problems, and use skyrocketed.

Purdue is most widely blamed for fueling the epidemic, and is one of the defendants in the complex Ohio case. It has been seeking a settlement since filing for bankruptcy.

It and other companies like Johnson & Johnson are now facing an avalanche of legal action led by state attorneys general or local authorities.

The CDC puts the “economic burden” of the opioids crisis at a whopping $78.5 billion a year. That includes the costs of health care, lost productivity and the prison system.

A study published this week by the Society of Actuaries put the total cost for 2015-2018 at $631 billion.

What is the US government doing?

The administration of US President Donald Trump designated the opioids epidemic a “public health emergency” in October 2017. That freed up public funds to battle the crisis and improve treatment.

Beyond the obvious federal efforts to combat drug trafficking, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in April 2018 launched the HEAL Initiative — Helping to End Addiction Long-Term.

That project is aimed at pinpointing scientific solutions to the issues of effective pain management. In fiscal 2019, $945 million was devoted to the initiative.

Most US states have been aggressive in their efforts to prosecute drug companies over the crisis.

Four Killed In NYC Shooting

At least four people died and three were wounded in a shooting at a social club in New York early Saturday, police said.

No one has been arrested over the shooting, which took place in Brooklyn, and the motive and exact circumstances are not known, a New York police official told AFP.

The shooting on the borough’s major artery Utica Avenue took place at the Triple A Aces Private & Social Rental Place, what NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea called “an illegal gambling location.”

Four men were pronounced dead at the scene, while two other men and a woman suffered non-life threatening injuries, the police official said.

Shea told journalists at a briefing there was evidence of gambling, specifically cards and dice, and that preliminary investigations indicated that a minimum of 15 shots were fired.

Shea said it was too early to tell whether the dispute was gambling or perhaps robbery-related.

Two firearms were recovered and the police official said he “would not be shocked if we recovered more.”

Homicide detectives were on the scene, and Shea said nothing indicated that the crime was gang-related.

The social club where the shooting took place is in the diverse Crown Heights neighborhood, and the victims ranged in age from 32 to 49.

The shooting comes one month after the city saw its lowest number of shootings of any September since the NYPD started its CompStat crime tracking program in 1994.

In a country plagued by gun violence, New York state has some of the strictest rules concerning purchasing, possessing and carrying firearms, particularly in the city and its suburbs.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dating to 2017 showed that the state’s death rate due to firearms was 3.7 per 100,000 people.

The state legislature passed the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act in 2013, which among other provisions bans most assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines.

The act also requires ammunition dealers to conduct background checks.

Earlier this year, new measures were introduced, including a ban on bump stocks — which can allow faster shots — and a longer mandatory waiting period to conduct background checks for some firearm sales.

The Giffords Law Center, which ranks states according to the strength of its gun laws, puts New York state at six out of 50.

According to the research center, 54 percent of the state’s gun deaths are the result of suicide, also noting that gun violence there has a disproportionate impact on urban communities of color.

Black men make up just nine percent of the state’s population, the law center said, but account for nearly 64 percent of the state’s gun homicide victims.

AFP

Buhari Returns To Abuja After Attending UNGA In New York

President Muhammadu Buhari returns to Abuja

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has returned to Abuja, the nation’s capital after participating at the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York.

The presidential aircraft carrying the president, his aides and some members of his entourage landed at the presidential wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja, on Saturday morning.

President Buhari departed via the JFK Airport en-route to Nigeria at about 11 am local time.

READ ALSO: UNGA: Buhari Departs New York For Abuja

The president, who left Abuja on Sept. 22 for New York, participated actively in the main and high side events of the UNGA74.

At the Summit, President Buhari used the opportunity to articulate the priorities of the Nigerian government to the world.

He also participated in high-level side events on Water and Sanitation as well as ‘SDG Integration – Bridging the Policy Planning – Budgeting Gap for the Achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.’

Before his departure to New York, the President met with a delegation of Nigerian Youth Climate Activists in New York, led by the Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor.

Buhari Departs Abuja To Attend 74th UNGA In New York

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has departed Abuja for New York where he will be attending the 74th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

The president who departed on Sunday morning, will be the 5th on the list of presidents to address the assembly.

According to the Minister for Foreign Affairs Geoffery Onyeama, President Buhari will use the opportunity to articulate the priorities of the Nigerian government to the world.

Read Also: Garcés Hands Over To Nigeria’s Mohammed Bande As UNGA President

He also noted that Nigeria is hoping to partake in engagements that will help the country have seats in several organisations such as the International Maritime Organisation, the World Heritage Committee, and the International Civil Aviation Council.

Nigeria will also be pushing for the UN’s support in the war on terror, the humane treatment of migrants, as well as Nigeria’s quest to recharge lake Chad.

Buhari To Attend UN General Assembly In New York

President Muhammadu Buhari will travel to New York, United States to participate in the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA74).

President Buhari will depart Abuja for New York on Sunday to attend the conference which will be declared open on Tuesday, September 17.

This was disclosed on Wednesday in a statement signed by the Special Adviser to the President, Femi Adesina.

The President’s participation at this year’s gathering of world leaders coincides with Nigeria’s Presidency of UNGA.

Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Professor Tijjani Muhammad-Bande was on June 4, 2019, elected as the President of UNGA74.

This marks the second time Nigeria would be occupying the position following late Major-General Joseph Nanven Garba’s election during UNGA44 in 1989.

The theme for UNGA74 is, “Galvanizing Multilateral Efforts for Poverty Eradication, Quality Education, Climate Action and Inclusion.”

Adesina in the statement added that President Buhari is scheduled as Number Five Speaker on the first day of the debates.

“The President is expected to underscore his administration’s commitment to building on the achievements of its three-point agenda following the renewal of his electoral mandate by the majority of Nigerians. He will also reaffirm Nigeria’s position on salient global issues.”

President Buhari and members of his delegation are expected to participate in the Climate Action Summit with the theme, “A Race We Can Win. A Race We Must Win,” convened by the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres; the High-Level meeting organized by the President of UNGA74 on Universal Health Coverage with the theme, “Moving Together to Build a Healthier World”; UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development; High-Level Dialogue on Financial Development as well as High-Level Meeting to Commemorate and Promote the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

In addition to the above meetings, the Nigerian delegation is expected to participate at the Side-Events organized by the country’s Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

“These include: SDGs Integration – Bridging the Policy Planning – Budget Gap for the Achievement of SDGs, organized by the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals; Promotion of International Cooperation to Combat Illicit Financial Flows and Strengthen Good Practices on Assets Recovery and Return to Foster Sustainable Development, organized by the Office of the National Coordinator/CEO, African Union Development Agency-New Partnership for Africa’s Development/African Peer Review Mechanism (AUDA-NEPAD/APRM) in collaboration with the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other anti-corruption bodies.”

Adesina added that the meeting will further boost the profile of President Buhari as the African Union anti-corruption champion.

“The Federal Ministry of Water Resources is also organizing a side-event on Sanitation and Hygiene Campaign for a Clean Nigeria: Sharing Lessons and Key Insights.

“This is crucial for Nigeria as donor nations and organisations are willing to support the country’s target to end open defecation by 2025,” he said.

The Nigerian leader is also billed to hold bilateral meetings with some leaders of other delegations; chief executive officers of big companies keen to invest in the country; Aliko Dangote and Bill Gates on sustaining the polio-free campaign as well as issues on human capital projects and development.

Before returning to Abuja at the conclusion of his engagements, President Buhari will meet with a select group of top America-based Nigerian businessmen and potential investors.

The President will be accompanied to New York by Governors Abdullahi Sule, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu and Adegboyega Oyetola of Nasarawa, Kebbi and Osun States respectively; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; Minister of Environment, Dr Muhammad Mahmoud; Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed; and Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire.

Also on the President’s delegation are: Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management & Social Development, Sa’adiya Farouk; Minister of Water Resources, Engr. Suleiman Adamu; Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu; National Security Adviser, Maj-Gen. Babagana Monguno (retd); Director-General, National Intelligence Agency, Amb. Ahmed Rufai Abubakar; National Coordinator/CEO, NEPAD, Princess Gloria Akobundu; and Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDGs, Mrs Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire.

Cancer-Fighting Pizza, Scrotum Study Win Spoof Nobel Prizes

 

A study of whether pizza made and eaten in Italy wards off cancer and an inventor of a diaper-changing machine are among the winners of this year’s spoof Nobel prizes.

Scientists who measured children’s saliva and those examining the pleasure of scratching an itch were also honored at the 29th annual Ig Nobel Prizes, which celebrate the sillier side of science.

The awards were due to be handed out on Thursday at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

READ ALSO: WHO Urges World Leaders To Protect Health From Climate Change

The prizes aim to “celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology,” organizers said of the event, which features a traditional onstage paper airplane toss.

The top honor in the anatomy category went to Roger Mieusset and Bourras Bengoudifa for their 2007 work measuring scrotal temperature asymmetry in naked and clothed postmen in France.

Fritz Strack of the University of Würzburg won the psychology prize for “discovering that holding a pen in one’s mouth makes one smile, which makes one happier — and for then discovering that it does not.”

The winners receive $10 trillion in cash in essentially worthless, inflation-ravaged Zimbabwean money.

They were allotted 60 seconds to make a speech. If winners over-ran they were going to be cut off by an eight-year-old girl repeating, “Please stop, I’m bored.”

Like every year, the awards were going to be presented by real Nobel laureates, with four attending Thursday’s ceremony.

A Japanese team took home the chemistry prize for estimating the total saliva volume produced per day by a typical five-year-old child.

Iman Farahbakhsh of Iran won the engineering award for his machine that changes babies’ diapers, which was patented in the US last year.

An international team received the anti-Nobel Peace Prize for measuring the pleasurability of scratching an itch while Silvano Gallus took the medicine award for collecting evidence that pizza might protect against illness and death, but only if it is made and consumed in Italy.

Marc Abrahams, editor of “Annals of Improbable Research” magazine, was to close the ceremony by saying: “If you didn’t win an Ig Nobel Prize tonight — and especially if you did — better luck next year.”

Rihanna Stages Savage X Fenty Show At New York Fashion Week

Rihanna performs onstage during Savage X Fenty Show Presented By Amazon Prime Video – Show Sneak Peak at Barclays Center on September 10, 2019 in Brooklyn, New York. Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Savage X Fenty Show Presented by Amazon Prime Video /AFP

 

Rihanna’s A-list bash, Vera Wang’s return to the runway, and Proenza Schouler’s eighties power suits — AFP takes a look at the highlights from the fourth full day of New York Fashion Week on Tuesday.

 Rihanna dominates 

Pop icon Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty lingerie show was the week’s most anticipated but exclusive event and doubled as an invitation-only concert, featuring some of music’s buzziest acts such as Migos and Halsey.

In a spectacle that dominated New York’s Fashion Week celebrity models, including the Hadid sisters and Joan Smalls, made appearances alongside artists like Normani.

A-listers entered Brooklyn’s Barclays Center for the show from Rihanna, a fashion and beauty mogul who unveiled the launch of her new luxury line with French powerhouse LVMH earlier this year.

Now in its second year, her hugely popular lingerie catwalk will stream on Amazon’s Prime Video service on September 20.

Setting herself up as the anti-Victoria’s Secret — a thin-obsessed brand that this year canceled its annual catwalk — Rihanna’s line features body-inclusive pieces from bombshell lace-up corsets and sheer floral thongs, to tomboy boyshorts and high-neck bralettes.

Despite — or perhaps because of — a social media ban inside the Barbadian star’s show, it still dominated Tuesday’s conversation as stars and stylists alike scrambled to exist in the shadow of Rihanna’s Instagram account, @badgirlriri.

Vera Wang returns 

Designer Vera Wang returned to the catwalk for the first time in several years, and told AFP it was “great timing” thanks to the streamlined event that has gone from seven to five days.

“There was almost 400 shows at one point, which I think you lose any kind of perspective,” she said. “So I think this new editing made me feel it was right for us to come back, particularly with what we do which is really couture level, sewing and draping and cutting.”

For her return Wang, made famous by her wedding dress creations, proposed her vision of sensuality that featured confections of body-revealing tulle, and suspenders reminiscent of garter-belts.

“I dress a lot of Hollywood and I wanted to do my version of Hollywood when I’m not dressing a star in particular,” Wang said.

 New decade incoming 

Inspired by the notion of a new decade, Coach designer Stuart Vevers “wanted a collection that was about change and also something that was stripped-back and upbeat, optimistic and looking forward to the new decade.”

Originally a specialist in bags and accessories, Coach has always kept leather firmly anchored in its DNA.

But while it featured in this year’s collection, Vevers did not make it the central element, playing with the brand’s legacy while lending a fresh touch.

The British designer — who presided over the launch of Coach’s ready-to-wear line in 2015 — went back to basics, offering jackets, skirts, and leather pants, often matching.

1980s power 

Models looked particularly statuesque stalking Proenza Schouler’s runway, where architectural tailoring paired with belted feminine draping was the theme.

This year’s ready-to-wear collection featured sharp-shouldered power-jackets paired with sensuous cowlneck layering in sleek neutrals, often accessorized with thick, oversized hoop earrings.

Some sported voluminous pants while others wore slim-but-flowing maxi skirts over opaque matte black or white tights with strappy-heeled sandals.

Designers Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez pulled together many of the more feminine looks with waist-nipping belts or timeless trenchcoats given contemporary flavor with details like asymmetric buttons.

AFP

New York Remembers 9/11 Attacks, 18 Years On

 

New York honoured Wednesday the almost 3,000 people killed on September 11, 2001 in a solemn ceremony at Ground Zero where hijacked Al-Qaeda planes brought down the Twin Towers.

Relatives of victims, police officers, firefighters and city leaders gathered at the National September 11 Memorial to mark the 18th anniversary of the deadliest single attack on US soil.

They held poignant moments of silence at 8:46 am (1246 GMT) and 9:03 am, the precise times that the passenger jets struck the North and South Towers.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and his predecessors Michael Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani were among those who attended.

In what has become an annual tradition, relatives began reading out the long list of those who were killed, saying a few words about those who died, in a ceremony that takes almost four hours.

“We love you, we miss you and you will always be America’s heroes,” said one woman after reading out the names of her brother and cousin.

Relatives hugged and consoled each other and left roses at the memorial. Some held up placards with images of their loved ones who were killed.

Bagpipes played as police officers walked into the ceremony carrying the US flag before the US national anthem was played.

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump welcomed victims’ families and survivors to the White House where they marked the anniversary with a moment of silence.

Trump was then scheduled to head to the Pentagon where he was due to speak.

Al-Qaeda hijacked a total of four planes. The third hit the Pentagon and the fourth, Flight 93, crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

In addition to those killed on September 11, thousands of first responders, construction workers and residents have since developed illness, many of them terminal, as a result of inhaling the toxic fumes.