Bulgaria, Jan 13 (AP/UNB) — Plovdiv, the oldest city in Bulgaria, has been officially inaugurated as the European Capital of Culture for 2019.
Some 50,000 people gathered on a main square Saturday to watch the opening show dubbed "We are all colors" with 1,500 local and foreign artists on several stages. The entertainment included traditional Bulgarian folk dancers, 200 choir singers, a brass orchestra and a musical and laser spectacle.
Squeezed between the Balkan and the Rodopi Mountains, Bulgaria's second-largest city has survived for thousands of years on the crossroads between Western Europe and the Middle East. Plovdiv is in central Bulgaria, 144 kilometers (90 miles) southeast of Sofia, the capital.
Plovdiv claims to be the oldest continually inhabited European city, with more than 6,000 years of history. Evidence of that can be seen in many architectural landmarks dating back to Thracian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman times.
The city on both sides of the Maritsa River is also known for its ethnic diversity. Many of its 340,000 inhabitants belong to the country's Turkish, Roma, Armenian, Greek and Jewish minorities, all of which have quite a strong influence on the city's vibrant cultural life.
Examples of this influence were presented during the opening music, light and dance show under the motto "Together."
Some 350 cultural events are scheduled in Plovdiv this year, including one exhibition featuring fragments of the Berlin Wall to mark 30 years since its fall and another with 30 short films and debates on how art can foster liberty.
Plovdiv, the first Bulgarian city to become a European culture capital, was also named among The New York Times' list of 52 places to go in 2019. It shares the 2019 culture title with the Italian city of Matera.
"This year will be a turning point for Plovdiv. We have spent four years to prepare all events. I'm sure that Plovdiv will never be the same," Svetlana Kuyumdzhieva, the art director of Plovdiv 2019, told reporters.
Las Vegas, Jan 12 (AP/UNB) — Many of the hottest new gadgets are also the nosiest ones.
This week's CES tech show in Las Vegas was a showcase for cameras that livestream the living room, bathroom mirrors that offer beauty tips and gizmos that track the heartbeats of unborn children. All will collect some kind of data about their users, whether photos or monitor readings; how well they'll protect it and what exactly they plan do with it are the important and often unanswered questions.
These features can be useful — or at least fun — but they all open the door for companies and their workers to peek into your private life. Just this week, The Intercept reported that Ring, a security-camera company owned by Amazon, gave a variety of employees and executives access to recorded and sometimes live video footage from customers' homes.
Our data-driven age now forces you to weigh the usefulness of a smart mirror against the risk that strangers might be watching you in your bathroom. Even if a company has your privacy in mind, things can go wrong: Hackers can break in and access sensitive data, or your ex might hold onto a video feed long after you've broken up.
"It's not like all these technologies are inherently bad," says Franziska Roesner, a University of Washington computer security and privacy researcher.
But she said the industry is still trying to figure out the right balance between providing useful services and protecting people's privacy in the process.
AMAZON'S VIDEO FEEDS
Like other security devices, Ring cameras can be mounted outside the front door or inside the home; a phone app lets you see who's there. But the Intercept said the Amazon-owned company was also allowing some high-level engineers in the U.S. to view customers' video feeds, while others in the Ukraine office could view and download any customer video file.
In a statement, Ring said some Amazon employees have access to videos that are publicly shared through the company's Neighbors app, which aims to create a network of security cameras in an area. Ring also says employees get additional video from users who consent to such sharing.
At CES, Ring announced an internet-connected video doorbell that fits into the peepholes in apartment or dorm-room doors. Though it doesn't appear Ring uses facial recognition yet, records show that Amazon recently filed a patent application for a facial-recognition system involving home security cameras.
LIVING ROOM LIVESTREAM
It's one thing to put cameras in our own homes, but Alarm.com wants us to also put them in other people's houses.
Alarm's Wellcam is for caretakers to watch from afar and is mostly designed to check in on aging relatives. Someone who lives elsewhere can use a smartphone to "peek in" anytime, says Steve Chazin, vice president of products.
The notion of placing a camera in someone else's living room might feel unsettling.
Wellcam says video streaming isn't started until someone activates it from a phone and then it stops as soon as the person turns it off. Chazin says such cameras are "becoming more acceptable because loved ones want to know that the ones they care about are safe."
Just be sure you trust whom you're giving access to. You can't turn off the camera unless you unplug it.
French company CareOS showcased a smart mirror that lets you "try on" different hairstyles. Facial recognition helps the mirror's camera know which person in a household is there, while augmented-reality technology overlays your actual image with animation on how you might look.
CareOS expects hotels and salons to buy the $20,000 Artemis mirror - making it more important that personal data is protected.
"We know we don't want the whole world to know about what's going on in the bathroom," co-founder Chloe Szulzinger said.
The mirror doesn't need an internet connection to work, she said. The company says it will abide by Europe's stronger privacy rules, which took effect in May, regardless of where a customer lives. Customers can choose to share their information with CareOS, but only after they've explicitly agreed to how it will be used.
The same applies for the businesses that buy and install the mirror. Customers can choose to share some information — such as photos of the hair cut they got last time they visited a salon — but the businesses can't access anything stored in user profiles unless users specifically allow them to.
Some gadgets, meanwhile, are gathering intimate information.
Yo Sperm sells an iPhone attachment that tests and tracks sperm quality. To protect privacy, the company recommends that users turn their phones to airplane mode when using the test. The company says data stays on the phone, within the app, though there's a button for sharing details with a doctor.
Though such data can be useful, Forrester analyst Fatemeh Khatibloo warns that these devices aren't regulated or governed by U.S. privacy law. She warns that companies could potentially sell data to insurance companies who could find, for instance, that someone was drinking caffeine during a pregnancy — potentially raising health risks and policy premiums.
New, York, Jan 11 (AP/UNB) - There's no end in sight to the partial federal shutdown and, more distressing to federal workers, no paycheck in sight either.
The shutdown has furloughed 380,000 federal workers and forced an additional 420,000 to work without pay. President Donald Trump has said he is willing to keep the government closed for months or even years to get his demands met. But even if an agreement is reached and the government reopens, it could be some time before anyone earns a fresh paycheck or gets potential back pay.
It's a burden that few American households can bear without strain. Some experts weigh in with tips on how to cope:
Prioritize your bills
Sit down and take a good look at what bills are due, or will be due soon.
Rank your obligations by importance in case you cannot meet them all. Mortgage and utility bills should top the list, followed by credit card payments and any other revolving debt. Consider making just the minimum payments on your credit cards for now. Then look at any other spending to figure out what is essential and what can be trimmed. Limit spending to must-have items only until pay resumes.
Contact the lenders for your mortgage, credit cards, auto loans and any other expenses to discuss your options.
The upside is that companies are aware of the situation and a number of them are offering help.
Chase, for one, has been automatically refunding overdraft or monthly service fees for customers who had direct deposit of federal government paychecks to savings and checking accounts since the shutdown began. It also is offering various hardship options for its auto, credit card and mortgage customers. AT&T said that it will waive late fees, provide extensions and otherwise work with customers on flexible payments for phone, internet and television service as long as the shutdown is in effect.
Several large banks, such as Bank of America and Wells Fargo, are also making their hardship programs available to federal workers and others hurt by the shutdown. The terms vary but typically include options for delayed payment, waived fees or loan modifications on various products. Smaller banks are taking steps as well: Oceanfirst Bank in New Jersey said it will grant forbearance or temporarily suspend mortgage payments for up to 90 days for borrowers whose income is affected by the shutdown.
But you must contact the companies to get any sort of assistance.
It's time to find some money to tide you over.
Households without emergency savings should consider other sources of cash, such as selling assets, be it stock or unused items around the house. Other options include withdrawals from a Roth IRA, which are tax and penalty free; borrowing from cash value life insurance policies; or tapping a home equity line of credit.
Consider borrowing from family, if it isn't too fraught with complications.
There are decent opportunities to borrow elsewhere as well. Some banks, such as Navy Federal Credit Union are offering certain customers affected by the shutdown a loan of up to $6,000 at 0 percent APR. Others, such as USAA, are offering low-interest loans to certain impacted workers. The American Federation of Teachers, a union that represents a number of federal government employees, is also offering interest-free loans for its impacted members.
Try and avoid riskier sources for money, such as raiding your retirement stash or college savings for the kids; the long-term negatives might not be worth the short-term relief. Avoid title loans or payday lending as the interest rates are exorbitant. While some use of credit cards is understandable, be aware that those balances may become due before your pay resumes.
You may be able to seek unemployment depending on your job and where you live. Unemployment rules are determined by state law, so whether you qualify is based the state you live in, said Tom Spiggle, founder of Spiggle Law Firm in D.C.
A word of warning: You'd be obligated to repay the state for any benefits you received if you are granted unemployment but later receive back pay.
Get a side hustle
Federal workers can find another paying job as long as there is no ethics rule or statute that prohibits it, Spiggle said. Some positions may prohibit you from doing related work but may allow you to do unrelated work.
The U.S. Coast Guard suggested employees hold garage sales or offer to babysit, walk pets or housesit to earn cash — tips that were perceived by many as tone-deaf and were later removed from a support program website. But sadly, it may come to that for many families. The flexibility and cash found through the gig economy may prove essential for some workers.
Barbara O'Neil, a financial planner and professor at Rutgers University, suggests workers should inventory their skill set and think about ways to convert those into an income stream.
However, time may be an issue for those working without pay. Spiggle said there has been some speculation that the TSA agents who called in sick were doing so to work other jobs to make ends meet. He warns that is an improper use of sick leave and could get a worker disciplined or even fired.
If you find you cannot get by, look into what public assistance is available. Call 211 or visit www.211.org to find out what human services programs are available in your community. Examples include SNAP — the supplemental nutrition assistance program — energy assistance and food pantries. Several food pantries nationwide have made themselves available for those individuals or families at risk of going hungry due to the shutdown.
Talk it out
There is a sense of powerlessness to this situation that is frustrating for workers, said Dennis Nolte, vice president and financial planner at Sea Coast Investment Services in Florida. Workers have "have no earthly idea when they'll be able to go back to work" and are stuck in an odd limbo between employed and unemployed. He recommends talking to friends or relatives or forming a group with co-workers to commiserate about uncertainty to help keep the stress in check.
Dhaka, Jan 5 (UNB) – The English edition of novel ‘Jononi’ written by Bangladeshi writer Mostofa Kamal is going to hit internet marketplace Amazon this January.
The London-based Olympia Publishers will bring the piece to market.
“This is one of my best novels, I have ever wrote and I think the book getting published from Olympia Publishers in London is more prestigious than receiving any state awards,” Mostofa Kamal said in his reaction.
“I’m expressing my gratitude to the publishers as well as thanking them for taking the initiatives and I also thank translator Dulal Al Mansur for converting it into English,” the noted Bangladeshi journalist added.
Last year, another book consists of three magnetic narratives – ‘Taliban, Pak Colonel and a Young Lady’, 'Flaming Eventide', and 'The Flatterer"--written by Mostofa Kamal with the title ‘Three Novels’ was also released on Amazon.
The Notion Press published the novel simultaneously from India, Singapore and Malaysia in September last year.
Online bookshop rokomari.com has been distributing the novels in Bangladesh market.
Mostofa Kamal entered the world of writing in 1984. In almost all branches of literature, his free movement is obvious.
So far he has written a total of 104 books as of now while his most popular novels are Janani, Agnikonya, Agnipurush, Agnimanush, Hello Colonel, Paromitake Shudhu Bachate Cheyechhi and Jinat Sundori o Mantri Kahini.
He has been working as a professional journalist since 1991 and has been performing duties as an executive editor for the Bengali daily Kalerkantho since 2012.
Chicago, Jan 5 (AP/UNB) — A suburban Detroit woman and South Side Chicago man are recovering in a Chicago hospital following rare triple transplant surgeries that gave them the healthy heart, liver and kidney each needed — and a new friendship they never expected.
University of Chicago Medicine doctors announced Friday that they successfully completed the triple organ transplants on Sarah McPharlin, a 29-year-old woman of Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan, and Daru Smith, a 29-year-old father from Chicago's South Side, within 30 hours of one another.
McPharlin had two transplants canceled earlier in the year, pushing her surgery back.
"Maybe because it's only luck that both of those transplants were supposed to be at the same time," Nir Uriel, the director of heart failure, transplant and mechanical circulatory support for the hospital, said at a news conference Friday. University of Chicago Medicine has performed the most heart-liver-kidney transplants in the world.
Just eight minutes after a medical team finished Smith's liver transplant on Dec. 20, hospital staff learned that donor organs were available for McPharlin. Smith, who finished surgery that day, became only the 16th person in the U.S. to undergo a heart-liver-kidney transplant and hours later on Dec. 21 McPharlin became the 17th. Each surgery required a 22-person team, with some staffers working on both patients. The hospital also performed five other organ transplants during that time period.
Smith and McPharlin, who had her first heart transplant at the age of 12, arrived at the Chicago hospital in November. But neither knew they were both seeking a triple transplant when they first met during pre-therapy sessions ahead of surgery. The sessions were quiet and patients didn't share details about their transplants. But McPharlin's mother, who quit her job as a school teacher in Michigan to be with her daughter for treatment, pried out of Smith that he was awaiting the same organs as McPharlin.
"It's been mind-blowing and amazing, having someone go through the process with me, gave me more motivation," Smith, a truck driver, said during a video interview at the hospital Friday.
The pair, who are recovering on the same hospital floor, share walks and give each other high-fives when they pass one another in the hallways. Their families are already planning a dinner together in the city once the two are released and feeling better. Nurses say they notice a difference in recovery for the two compared to other transplant patients, because they have gone through the same unusual and debilitating surgery together.
McPharlin and Smith notice too.
"It was so cool to know we would be able to see each other progress together," McPharlin, an occupational therapist, said Friday. "It was really cool to see how Daru was getting up in the hall and I knew eventually, or pretty soon, I would be doing the same."