University of Houston Charter school may be closing for good

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — The University of Houston Charter School may soon be closing its doors for good.

In an email sent to parents, the school’s principal said a resolution to close will be presented to the board of regents on Thursday afternoon during their meeting.

“I think a lot of parents are lost,” said Sara Martinez, a mom of two of the school’s students. “They don’t know what the next step is. HISD has its own failure to students at the moment.”

Martinez’s 7-year-old son, Nicolas, and 9-year-old daughter, Nadia, have been attending the charter school since they were three months old.

“There is a children’s learning center that is a day care/pre-school and they have been there since they were babies,” she said.

Meanwhile, parents like Veronica Bagley are hoping the close won’t happen.

“I was really upset, [it] really broke my heart,” she said. “My son loves this school. I’d appreciate it if it stays open.”

Parents hope to be heard, and with only a few months’ notice, they are in full panic mode and unsure of their children’s future.

“There really aren’t any options [in the area] and even now some deadlines to testing into magnet school are already over, so it really cuts your options down significantly,” said parent Sheila Pineda.

Eyewitness News reached out to the charter school but were told the person to speak with was not available to comment until Thursday.

Meanwhile, the university directed ABC13 to the online agenda for the board of regents meeting Thursday and issued a copy of the charter amendment resolution.

“We want a fighting chance,” said Martinez. “Maybe [we can] save the school.”

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Copyright © 2020 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.

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Start Spreading The (Good) News About Cybersecurity

CEO of NTT Research, leading research in physics & informatics, cryptography & information security, and medical & health informatics.

Bad news in cybersecurity gets a lot of attention. Headlines about data breaches and new forms of malware tend to outweigh any good news that comes from the field of cryptography.

Because this field is highly mathematical and operates on a lengthy time horizon, progress can be difficult to convey. As I discussed previously, it took about 15 years for the capabilities of attribute-based encryption (ABE) to move from a technical paper into the standards world and now possible deployments.

However, academic research is a leading indicator. Recent developments include a solid theoretical foundation for software obfuscation, a new defense for public-key cryptosystems and several ways to make machine learning (ML) more trustworthy.

Obfuscation Finds Terra Firma

For 20 years, cryptographers have been working on ways to make software “unintelligible” while preserving its functionality. The technical foundation for that black-box capability is called “indistinguishability obfuscation” (iO). It’s a powerful concept that has appeared in more than 100 papers.

Despite the potential applications, however, the constructions of iO itself were on shaky ground. Dr. Amit Sahai, the director of the Center for Encrypted Functionalities at UCLA, is the senior author of a breakthrough paper published in August 2020 titled, “Indistinguishability Obfuscation from Well-Founded Assumptions,” which was co-authored by cryptographers associated with NTT Research and the University of Washington. In a statement regarding the paper, Sahai said: “For years, the mathematical foundations of indistinguishability obfuscation were, quite frankly, a mess.”

The authors admit that it will take a lot more work to make iO efficient and practical. However, this mathematical proof should settle doubts about whether iO really works or even exists. It also means that going forward, we will be able to take advantage of many strong functionalities that could not be realized without iO.

Defense Against Active Attackers

In another paper that won one of the three Best Paper awards at August’s Crypto 2020, which is organized by the International Association for Cryptologic Research (IACR), cryptographers demonstrated a powerful enhancement to the security of widely used public-key cryptosystems. The paper, titled “Chosen Ciphertext Security from Injective Trapdoor Functions,” provides a way to transform a trapdoor function — which is the most basic and core functionality of current public-key cryptosystems — into one with the strongest security that protects against active or interactive attackers.

“Chosen ciphertext security is so critical that only cryptosystems meeting these standards should be considered for deployment today,” noted Dr. Brent Waters, NTT Research scientist and one of the paper’s co-authors.

How Trustworthy Is Machine Learning?

Cryptography is also relevant to ML. In a recent keynote address at our virtual summit, Dr. Shafi Goldwasser, the director of the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing at the University of California, Berkeley, summarized recent research indicating three ways that cryptography can strengthen ML.

In genome-wide association studies (GWAS), for instance, it is desirable to separate genomic samples

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Rocket Lab says recovered booster in “good condition,” some parts will re-fly

Rocket Lab successfully launched its “Return to Sender” mission 10 days ago. Then, for the first time, the company attempted to recover the Electron booster’s first stage from the ocean after this launch, and now Rocket Lab has provided a preliminary assessment of the vehicle’s condition.

In summary, the company said in an update on its website, “We couldn’t have asked for a better outcome of our first recovery attempt and the team is thrilled.” The rocket came back in such good condition, the company added, “We will re-qualify and re-fly some components.”

The November 20 flight marked the first time Rocket Lab has fished an Electron out of the Pacific Ocean. The rocket was picked up in the waters off the coast of New Zealand, where the small booster launches from. Founder Peter Beck said the company wanted to assess the health of the first stage—and make necessary modifications to heat-shield and flight software—before going to the final step of catching the Electron rocket midair, with a helicopter.

Although they had conducted a number of tests before this mission, the company’s engineers weren’t entirely sure what they would get back after the Electron rocket experienced temperatures in excess of 2,400°C and speeds of 2.35km/s during its descent.

Video of Electron first-stage separation.

To accommodate this turbulent environment as Electron screamed back through the atmosphere, Rocket Lab added reaction-control-system thrusters to reorient the first stage for re-entry. A parachute system was also added to slow its descent lower in the atmosphere.

So how did the rocket’s heat shield withstand these conditions?

“The stage held up remarkably well,” the company said. “The carbon composite structure was completely intact. As expected, the heat shield on the base of the stage suffered some heat damage during re-entry. It was never designed for this load case, but before we strengthen the heat shield we wanted to see just how much heat it could take unchanged. With a wealth of data on this now, our team has already started working on upgrades for future recovery missions.”

What the news release does not say is how well the rocket’s engine section, with its nine Rutherford engines, fared during re-entry. Neither has the company released photos of the engine section itself. This suggests there is still significant work to be done to protect this area during re-entry.

“Data is great”

However, it seems likely that Rocket Lab will get there. The company’s engineers are now inspecting and analyzing “every inch” of the recovered first stage so that they can refine its recovery systems ahead of the next attempt. This will not take place on Rocket Lab’s next launch—the “Owl’s Night Begins” mission for Synspective, a Japanese Earth-imaging company, due to launch as soon as December 12.

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Salesforce Trailhead Training – Good For Career Owners, A Fresh Challenge For HR Managers

More than 20 years ago, Oracle executive Marc Benioff believed companies of all sizes, not just large companies, needed an information technology platform to drive their future success. He teamed up with three colleagues and successfully pitched his idea to investors, which included Oracle boss Larry Ellison. The company Salesforce was founded in 1999, offering a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software system to potential users. The company knew from the start it needed to train both its own and its customers’ workers in the system, and more recently realized it could exploit that training through a new division called Trailhead, launched in 2014. In this article, I will describe how Trailhead is already challenging fundamental assumptions in Human Resource Management. In a future article, I will argue Trailhead is sponsoring a new kind of space, a “career ecosystem,” in which to host participants’ careers.

From the outset, the Salesforce founders’ egalitarian values and their desire to cast a wide net meant that people of any age, from anywhere and any background, could sign up for free training. Upon completing a course, a participant could sit an exam to qualify for a corresponding certificate. Each certificate testified its holder had learned a matching range of skills, that could be applied in either the Salesforce organization or one of its customers. In turn, workers could demonstrate growing levels of proficiency through a comprehensive certification system.

The approach worked well enough until 2014, when Salesforce saw a wider opportunity. Salesforce was still expanding its software product and adding new learning material. However, there were other skills frequently sought both inside and outside the Salesforce organization that reached beyond direct use of its own software. New courses in soft skills (e.g. empathy, leadership) and practical skills (e.g. public speaking, project management) could help employees in Salesforce’s and its customers’ field offices around the world to gain added value from the Trailhead platform. In 2019, a further “myTrailhead” option was made available for customers to offer additional training for their own staff through the Trailhead platform.

I was introduced to two Salesforce specialists, both employees of customer organizations, to explore how Salesforce training was working out for them. One got started back in 2001, soon after Salesforce went public. The other joined in more recently, in 2016. Each of their stories is remarkable in its own way.

Cheryl Feldman was a young New York hairdresser in 2001 when she tore her right rotator cuff and was advised to look for a different line of work. The owner of the salon gave Cheryl a temporary position in secretarial work, where she figured out how to use the Microsoft Access database system. When the temporary position closed, the owner recommender to her husband, the VP of Manufacturing in a large healthcare company, that he employ Cheryl. The VP soon had her spending “four days a week working with five different systems” to deliver a weekly Friday report using data already a week old.

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Are those 529 college savings plans still a good idea?

Dear Liz: Last week we had an infant come into this world and we’re already thinking about college. I know you’ve addressed this before, but things change and I was wondering if the 529 plan is still the way to go? If our son decides not to go to college, what are the tax consequences?

Answer: Congratulations! Yes, state-sponsored 529 college savings plans are still a great way for many families to save for future college costs. The money grows tax deferred and withdrawals are tax free when used for qualified education expenses.

Even if your son opts not to go to a four-year college, he will likely need some kind of post-secondary education. Withdrawals from 529 plans can be used to pay for any accredited school in any state, including community college and trade schools.

On the off chance that he doesn’t get any kind of schooling, or conversely gets a full ride, you can change the beneficiary so that the money pays for the education of a sibling or other close relative, including yourself. And if nobody wants to use the money for schooling, you can simply withdraw it. The earnings will be taxed and subject to a 10% penalty.

A collection of advice on selling collections

Dear Liz: I concur with your advice regarding selling collections. I am a retired licensed marriage and family therapist. I’ve witnessed clients struggle with caring for a loved one and their things. One family started taking photos of their loved one with much-treasured collectible objects, and recording the stories told about them. This offered increased connection and understanding across the generations. With this recorded story, it was easier to release and sell the things. And there were a few treasures that family members asked to keep, pleasing their elders immensely!

Answer: What a lovely idea! As collectors know, it’s all about the story and many would embrace the chance to share theirs.

Dear Liz: A friend collected and has some wonderful pieces of Japanese items such as antique tonsu chests and porcelain, some of which are quite valuable. When she was updating her estate plan, her attorney suggested she ask me, as a friend and fellow collector, to be an adviser to her family about disposing of these items following her death (assuming she predeceases me). My contact info was then shared with her loved ones. Another trick I have seen is to have copies made of receipts with identifying information and prices paid placed inside drawers of valuable furniture. Whether these items are sold at auction, estate sale or upscale consignment, the information is extremely valuable in helping to determine authenticity. Naturally this information should also stored with legal documents. Prior to recent surgery I also shared my information with my sister, and went over the location in my files for all pertinent information. It can be difficult for heirs to differentiate between Baccarat crystal, vintage Wedgwood china and top quality French copper with goods sold in off-price discount chains.

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BYU’s No. 14 Ranking Causes Upheaval Among College Football Gurus, And For Good Reason



a blurry image of a person playing football: Dax Milne #5 of the BYU Cougars catches a pass and scores a touchdown in the first half against the Houston Cougars at TDECU Stadium on October 16, 2020 in Houston, Texas.


© Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images
Dax Milne #5 of the BYU Cougars catches a pass and scores a touchdown in the first half against the Houston Cougars at TDECU Stadium on October 16, 2020 in Houston, Texas.

Brigham Young University decided a few years ago to go independent as a college football team, meaning they could play anyone, anywhere at anytime. It meant tough road games against great programs or home games against lesser-known up-and-comers.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed a lot of things about college football. Some colleges decided to postpone their seasons until further notice, and independents like BYU, Notre Dame, Army, Navy, Liberty and others scrambled to find teams to play.

Notre Dame found a temporary home in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) for a single season, and they have a full schedule of Power 5 teams. BYU, on the other hand, stayed independent, and had to schedule some lesser-known teams like UT-San Antonio and North Alabama. This was because teams from major conferences were forced to cancel all, or most, non-conference games.

BYU is 9-0 for the season and Notre Dame is 8-0. Notre Dame’s biggest win of the season was a 47-40 win at home against Clemson in double overtime. Clemson was without their top player—quarterback Trevor Lawrence. BYU’s biggest win was on the road at Boise State, 51-17.

BYU quarterback Zach Wilson is mentioned among Heisman Trophy favorites this season. Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book is mentioned among Heisman contenders.

In the initial College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings Tuesday night, Notre Dame was listed at No. 2 by the CFP committee. BYU was ranked No. 14. There are eight teams ahead of BYU that have a

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As college basketball tips amid a swirling pandemic, few believe it’s a good idea

During a recent conversation with an athletics director about the fragile state of the college football season, a fairly startling possibility was raised.

Baylor earns No. 1 spot in preseason men’s basketball poll

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“We may play more football games than basketball games before it’s over,” said this athletics director, who spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the topic. 

It wasn’t a joke. 

From NFL plays to college sports scores, all the top sports news you need to know every day.

College basketball will begin Wednesday, but nobody in the sport could argue that it’s ready.

Just as college football decided, fractured as it was, to push through and play this fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the sport of college basketball has also decided to move ahead and accept whatever disruptions may occur. The reasons for that are clear. After canceling the NCAA tournament in 2020, there simply must be one in 2021 so that the NCAA can collect $850 million from its television contract and distribute most of that money to schools that are already struggling financially. 



a young man holding a basketball: Baylor returns guard Jared Butler (12) and guard Davion Mitchell (45) in this year's quest for a NCAA national title, shown during a game last season at West Virginia.


© Ben Queen, USA TODAY Sports
Baylor returns guard Jared Butler (12) and guard Davion Mitchell (45) in this year’s quest for a NCAA national title, shown during a game last season at West Virginia.

But while the NCAA announced last week that it will hold every round of tournament games in a single metropolitan area — likely Indianapolis — to cut down on travel and other variables, plans for the regular season have been particularly ill-conceived. In fact, every hour seems to reveal another failure as opening week games are being canceled across the country and teams are traveling to multi-team tournaments in places like South Dakota and Connecticut — some on commercial flights — and having either players or coaches test positive for COVID-19 upon arrival. 

It portends what another athletics director called “one choppy (expletive),” with teams likely to be constantly starting up and shutting down for several days at a time due to a positive test and the subsequent contact tracing. 

It will help if the CDC reduces quarantine guidelines from 14 days to seven or 10, as a CDC official suggested to the Wall Street Journal could occur. But because of the small rosters relative to football and the close contact inherent in practice, any positive tests are going to be a massive problem, potentially causing teams to miss four or five games. 

As Alabama coach Nate Oats told reporters Tuesday, “It’s going to be really hard to have a season if everyone in the country decides they’re going to shut down for two weeks with one positive.”

Given that college basketball conferences basically decided not to pursue costly plans to put teams in bubbles, nobody’s really sure what the right approach would be. One power conference coach told USA TODAY Sports it was probably the right thing to play, another said if

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‘That Good Night’ review: Charismatic performance caps John Hurt’s career

Movie release dates are often delayed for a myriad of reasons, especially in these uncertain times, and in the case of “That Good Night” it’s a particularly bittersweet late arrival. This lovely and moving and witty British drama that was filmed in 2015 marked the final lead film role for Sir John Hurt, who passed away from pancreatic cancer in January of 2017 at the age of 77. That the versatile Mr. Hurt (“Midnight Express,” “Alien,” the “Harry Potter” films and we could go on and on) is playing a formidable creative artist who is dying of cancer in the film makes it all the more poignant.

Based on a 1996 play by N.J. Crisp, “That Good Night” travels a very familiar road and we’re never in doubt as to where it will end, but thanks to director Eric Style’s beautiful shots of the wondrous locales in the Algarve in Portugal; a sharp screenplay by Charles Savage, and a suitably career-crowning performance by Hurt (with fine supporting work from the small ensemble cast), this is a lovely and old-fashioned character study with some sly humor and, of course, more than a couple of reach-for-the-tissues moments.

Although “That Good Night” was made before the recently released “Blackbird,” it has echoes of that September release, which starred Susan Sarandon as a family matriarch with a terminal illness who has decided to end her life on her own terms. But whereas Sarandon’s Lily has informed her family of her decision and in fact has gathered them together for a goodbye weekend, Hurt’s Ralph Maitland, a famous novelist and screenwriter, has told only one person of his intentions: an urbane, unnamed visitor in a cream-colored suit who is a member of a secret society that facilitates the euthanasia process, but only after rigorous questioning to determine whether the “customer,” so to speak, is 100% certain of the death wish. The Visitor, as he is referred to in the closing credits, is played by the formidable Charles Dance, and the scenes in which Hurt and Dance verbally fence are golden.

Charles Dance plays a member of a secret society advising Ralph on how to take his own life.
Trinity Creative Partnership

Looking frail and occasionally suffering lapses of thought, Ralph putters about his magnificent villa in a constant state of crabbiness, forever complaining about this or that, issuing caustic remarks that bounce off his long-suffering but still adoring and much younger second wife, Anna (Sofia Helin), a former nurse who fell in love with Ralph when he was hospitalized for a heart condition and has never looked back. She’s stuck with him, and she’s OK with that. Ralph invites his estranged son Michael (Max Brown) for a weekend visit, much to Michael’s surprise, but things get off to a rocky start when Michael shows up with his girlfriend Cassie (Erin Richards), who immediately feels the sting of Ralph’s rude

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Not finding life on Venus would be disappointing. But it’s good science at work

Repetition, repetition

The truth is, the story of Venus’s putative phosphine is not a simple case of a sensational finding being shot down upon further scrutiny. In fact, the rush of follow-up research is welcomed; science is doing its thing. This is especially true when it comes to the search for extraterrestrial life—after all, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

“I think this is a perfect example of how the scientific process works,” says Paul Byrne, a planetary scientist at North Carolina State University, who also wasn’t involved in the studies. “It certainly makes sense that there would be other studies that would try and get at this question.”

The first preprint paper to cast doubt on the original was actually written in part by Greaves herself. After failing to secure more time on telescopes to verify her team’s initial finding—the pandemic has made telescope access difficult and in some cases impossible—she and her colleagues turned to an archive of infrared observations made in 2015 and couldn’t find any sign of phosphine. 

This is frustrating, of course, but as Byrne says, “the absence of proof of a given detection is not proof of absence. It just might mean the problem is more complex than we’d like.” Maybe phosphine doesn’t actually exist on Venus, or maybe it varies over time. Or perhaps the archival observations Greaves analyzed didn’t probe deeply enough into the clouds. 

Replicability is actually a common problem when it comes to these kinds of investigations. Our current characterization of methane on Mars, for example, is under intense debate: NASA’s Curiosity rover has a has a history of detecting enormous spikes of methane on the planet, while ESA’s Trace Gas Orbiter, designed to study the gas on Mars with far more sensitive instruments than Curiosity, has found bupkis. The same goes for the detection of water plumes on Europa by the Hubble Space Telescope: subsequent investigations have struggled to find them.

Still processing

Another problem that plagues the phosphine findings is data processing. The two other preprints were written by teams that tried to reprocess the original data used by Greaves and her team, suspecting that the original analysis was flawed. It’s often a challenge to pull signals out of the massive amounts of noise found in telescopic data. Researchers in the original study used a technique called polynomial fitting, which is supposed to remove background noise around the spectral region where phosphine signals should pop up. But as National Geographic reports, the way they went about it might actually have introduced false phosphine signals. 

Both of these new preprints reprocessed the data from scratch, without using Greaves’s method. One focused solely on the ALMA data and failed to find phosphine. The other paper looked at both the ALMA and JCMT data. Researchers found no phosphine signal in the ALMA data and detected a signal in the JCMT set that might be explained by sulfur dioxide gas. 

Moreover, the ALMA observatory recently found an error in its calibration system used

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Pet cemeteries show faith that good dogs go to heaven : Research Highlights

Climate change

Climate change drives vegetation gains in patches of the high Arctic tundra.

Parts of the treeless Arctic tundra have become greener as rising temperatures stimulate plant growth.

Low-resolution satellite imagery and some observations made on the ground have suggested that the Arctic tundra, an often-frozen landscape dotted with hardy small plants, has become greener since the 1980s. Now, Logan Berner at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and his colleagues have analysed high-resolution images from the Landsat Earth-observing satellites.

The team found that between 1985 and 2016, 37% of the Arctic tundra, including parts of western Eurasia and North America, grew substantially greener. And since the turn of the century, the highest latitudes have experienced the most intense greening.

Temperature records show that the Arctic air and soil grew warmer in summer, on average, over the study period. However, most areas did not become greener. And about 5% of the area studied became browner rather than greener.

Changes in Arctic vegetation affect how carbon cycles through the soil and atmosphere, how wildlife and people make use of the landscape, and how vulnerable the tundra is to wildfires.

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