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Saturday 21 October 2017, 08:50AM
How can we make the world a better place? How can we foster understanding and unity between people from different nations and cultures? How can we help build a sustainable future for our planet? These are the big questions that we have all pondered at one time or another and there are surely as many different answers as there are people in the world. For American philanthropist Shelby Davis, however, there is one simple answer to all these questions: Education. Shelby and his wife Gale recently visited United World College Thailand’s (UWCT) campus in Phuket to extend their US$1 million Davis Impact Matching Fund to the school. Over the last two decades Shelby’s generous and steadfast support has propelled the greater umbrella organisation United World Colleges (UWC) further on its mission to make education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for a peaceful and sustainable future. Founded in 1962 at the height of the Cold War, UWC was the vision of German educationalist Kurt Hahn, who in 1933 was exiled to the UK after speaking out against the Nazis. Having witnessed the catastrophic results of World War II, Hahn sought to unite bright young students, aged between 16 and 19 and from many different nations, to become champions of peace through an education based on shared learning, collaboration and understanding. Hahn believed deeply in the power of education to change the world and that if young people from diverse backgrounds could be educated together, devastating future conflicts could be avoided. In the late 1990s, at the invitation of his friend Phil Geier (then President of UWC-USA) Shelby Davis visited the UWC-USA’s New Mexico campus. He was deeply impressed by the students he met there and by Hahn’s educational vision. As a result of that first fateful visit, Shelby has gone on to donate countless millions in scholarship funding to the 17 UWC schools across the globe and millions more with university scholarships for thousands of UWC graduates going to select American post-secondary institutions. “I went to UWC in New Mexico and I was blown away by the talent of the kids. They came from 80 different countries and were all boarding together, there was every race, religion and culture you can imagine,” said Shelby. “I could see right away that this was a microcosm of the world. They have kids from all over the world and they learn to live together, to respect differences and still get along. It’s a lesson the world needs to learn… because the alternative is violence,” he added. Shelby himself is living proof of the value of education, with a degree from Princeton University in hand, he was able to land a job at The Bank of New York. Once there, he rapidly rose through the ranks to become Head of the Research Department and the bank’s youngest vice president since US Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. In 1969, Davis struck out on his own and founded the investment management firm Davis Selected Advisers. Once again his education stood him in good stead, and through savvy investment in the burgeoning mutual fund industry, he built his considerable fortune over the next three decades. Shelby says that the UWC mission resonates strongly with him due to his own background and upbringing. His father was a respected businessman and diplomat who advised two US Presidents and his mother was a philanthropist and scholar of world affairs who championed women’s rights. “I grew up with it, my parents were both internationalists, they both got PhDs and Masters degrees at Columbia and the University of Geneva – which is the home of the League of Nations – they knew people from all over the world and they made sure I visited countries with them.” He credits his incredibly generous philanthropy to the lessons taught to him by his parents, who imparted to him their philosophy of “learn, earn, return”. “We have a saying in my family, that my father and mother taught me… in the first 30 years you focus on learning; in the next 30 years you focus on earning; and in the last 30 years… if you’re lucky… you focus on returning,” he said. This wise advice was foremost in Shelby’s mind when he began providing scholarships for academically high-achieving students who lacked the financial means to attend a UWC school. However, when the first batch of his UWC scholarship students graduated, he realised that many of them, despite being academically selected for enrollment at a prestigious university, would be unable to pay the high fees. “To me it was a waste of talent, it was stranding kids that were getting into good universities because they didn’t have the money. Now, I don’t have the ability to cure Alzheimer’s, or invent something new, but I knew that education creates possibilities. If you have an education, you have more possibilities in life, so I’m all for funding kids to have more possibilities,” he said. Determined to fix the problem Shelby, together with Phil Geier, created the Davis-UWC Scholars Program – with the aim of “advancing international and cross-cultural understanding on US college campuses and ultimately throughout the world”. Since its inception in 2000, the program has provided scholarships to 7,686 scholars for students from over 150 countries and is the largest international scholarship program for undergraduates in the world. The need-based scholarships are available to every UWC graduate who gains acceptance and matriculates at one of the 100 US universities involved in the program. By his own estimate, Shelby provides “between 30 to 40 million dollars” per year to fund the Davis-UWC Scholars Program. As increasing numbers of UWC students graduate and take up a Davis Scholarship, the yearly funding costs rises inexorably – but if Davis is daunted by the magnitude of his ongoing commitment, he hid it well. “I’ve been lucky in the mutual fund business. The money rolled in and now the money is rolling out under the philosophy of ‘earn, learn, return’. I’m glad I found something really big to focus on – it’s consuming to tell you the truth. I’ve visited every UWC school at least once and I tell the kids it keeps me young at heart. It makes you much more optimistic, more vibrant and more energetic I think,” he shared. “We’re in a global world and a global workplace, so kids from various parts of the world need to learn to live and work together, and maybe, as we integrate the world, we can have a better chance of having global peace,” he said.While Davis has high hopes for every UWC student who takes up a scholarship, it is also clear that he believes a good education is not merely a means to an end, but an end in itself. “The UWC teachers often tell me ‘this kid is going to be the next president, or a great scientist’. But if they are just good in their community and make a difference in their community, at their job, with their families, I don’t really care… as long as they have an open mind, an open heart, and open eyes to the world. That’s what we need – more of those citizens.” Learn more at: www.uwcthailand.ac.th or www.davisuwcscholars.org
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Friday 6 October 2017, 09:30AM
Liam Gallagher has a confession to make. "I am this big-mouthed guy who comes out with rude stuff." But the former Oasis frontman, whose name seems forever associated with the phrase "foul-mouthed rant", insists that he is misunderstood. "I am also a guy who is full of melancholy," the singer told AFP as his first solo album "As You Were" comes out Friday. "There is a sadness deep inside me. I am that kind of guy. I am not here to talk about my state of mind but, hey, I have the right to, haven't I?" Life has not been a bed of roses for the younger of the two Gallagher brothers since the break-up of the Manchester band, which during their 1990s pomp boasted to being "bigger than The Beatles". Their spectacular implosion minutes before they were due on stage at the Rock en Seine festival near Paris in 2009 has gone down in music legend. Liam apparently threw a plum at his older brother Noel and the two started fighting backstage, with Liam picking up Noel's guitar and "wielding it like an axe". The brothers have since mostly communicated by trading insults in public.   'Last four years were tough' "It's real, real good to come back after all these years," said Liam, now 45 and a father of four. "The last four years were very tough for me personally," he said, referring to his divorce from his second wife, Nicole Appleton, the former All Saints star. Artistically there's not been much morning glory either. His attempt to rekindle Oasis's strutting magic with two other former band members petered out in 2014 after what he admitted were "two failed albums". But now he is back and raring to make the critics eat their words. He boasted in an interview with AFP -- peppered with expletives -- that he can write "good songs" and "good albums". He said he can almost hear the detractors sharpening their knives. In an interview with GQ magazine in August, he suggested critics would be mocking him for his two divorces, illegitimate children, with "two failed bands behind him, three bad haircuts". But his new album, "As You Were", is full of "good songs, good vocals, rock 'n' roll, mate", he insisted. "Stuff you won't have to think too much about." He said it has no long guitar solos, no drum solos, "no mad wizardy keyboard, just bang-in-your-face". "It's good," he declared. Gallagher said that if the album doesn't go down well "I don't know what I'll do", hinting he might quit altogether.   Insulting Noel on Twitter While Liam, who brought his dark onstage charisma to Oasis, has been struggling, Noel, who had the songwriting talent, has been thriving. His two solo albums "Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds" and the tellingly-titled "Chasing Yesterday" have been both warmly received. Which has got to be galling for his younger brother given their love-hate competitive relationship? "I never thought about people comparing what I do with Noel's work," Liam told AFP in a telephone interview. Yet it is hard to ignore the timing of his album's release -- only six weeks before Noel's third album "Who Built the Moon?" With both with albums and tours to promote, the Gallagher brothers are butting heads again -- or at least Liam is. He tried to wind up his brother with a series of tweets on Friday, alleging poor ticket sales for one of Noel's shows next April in Britain. "So Mr Kiss Arse struggling to sell tickets in Nottingham ha ha ha ha. Come and open for me if you want. Will be like the good old days." Hours earlier he had ridiculed his brother's American fans. "You lot need your heads testing" for being willing to pay "350 dollars to go and see rkid (my brother) in the USA". Noel -- now 50 -- held his tongue, as is his wont these days. A silence which spills over into their private dealings. "We do not speak anymore," Liam told AFP. "And to be honest at this moment I don't couldn't care less." But blood is thicker than water, and Liam has not given up completely on the idea of an Oasis reunion, even though his older brother is notably more reticent. Noel recently complained that "every day people try to Jedi mind-trick me" into getting the band together again. But for now he said he was happy to go it alone, insisting he was still "totally awesome". Asked by Rolling Stone magazine if he might be tempted for $50 million in a decade's time, he replied, "I'm in!" In the meantime, Liam Gallagher is resigned to wait. "If one day he wants to reform the band -- because it was him who left -- I am ready," he said. "I am hopeful that one day it will happen."
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Friday 6 October 2017, 09:16AM
Google on Wednesday unveiled new versions of its Pixel smartphone, the highlight of a refreshed line aimed at weaving artificial intelligence deeper into modern lives. The company also introduced its new Pixel ear buds that the company says are capable of real-time translation of conversations in different languages Google software and artificial intelligence were common threads in the gamut of new devices it unveiled to step up its challenge on the hardware front to rivals such as Apple and Amazon The new Pixel 2 and larger Pixel 2 XL are the first Google-made phones to be released since the California tech giant announced the acquisition of key segments of Taiwan-based electronics group HTC. The upgraded smartphones will be available for order as of Wednesday in six countries starting at $649 (B21,000) for five-inch display Pixel 2, and $849 (B28,000) for the six-inch Pixel 2 XL. The new aluminum-body smartphones along with Google's upgraded connected speakers and new laptop computer all aim to infuse artificial intelligence to make the devices more user-friendly, built around the Google Assistant -- the rival to Amazon's Alexa, Microsoft's Cortana and others. Google vice president Rick Osterloh said Google's new devices "are simple to use and they anticipate your needs." Osterloh told the product launch event in San Francisco: "You interact with your devices naturally with your voice or by touching them." Google, by bringing in a team of engineers from HTC, aims to emulate the success of Apple iPhones by controlling the hardware as well as the software used in the premium-priced handsets. The revamped camera in the smartphone retains a single lens, but seeks to improve images via "computational photography," an artificial intelligence tool that can enhance pictures. Analyst Ian Fogg of IHS Markit said in a tweet that the new smartphone "adds incremental improvements on the great v1" while noting that "Google's challenge is to solve production limits which hurt the original." Fogg said the use of computation to improve images with a single lens "is technically impressive."   Mini speaker, mini camera  Google announced a slimmed down version of its connected speaker called Google Home Mini starting at $49 (B1,600) in the United States, stepping up its challenge to market leader Amazon. The new Google Home Mini is available for pre-order in the seven countries where the device is offered, and will go on sale in stores October 19, the company said. The new speaker, which responds to voice commands using artificial intelligence, is less than half the price of Google's first generation speaker and makes this "more accessible to more people," said Google hardware designer Isabelle Olsson. A premium version of the speaker -- a $399 (B13,000) Google Home Max unveiled Wednesday -- offers more power and audio quality for music aficionados. The new Google Clips camera -- one of the surprises of the event -- "looks for smiles (and) moments, because the software is in the camera," said Google product manager Juston Payne. "It's like having my own photographer shooting and choosing my best moments for me," Payne said of the $249 (B8,0000 device.   A new Pixelbook laptop was touted as a "high performance" computer powered by its Chrome operating system and designed as a rival to Microsoft's Surface and Apple's iPad Pro. With a 12.3-inch display, the device is a convertible PC that can be used as a tablet and is sold starting at $999 (B33,000) for US customers.   Real time translation A demonstration given as Google unveiled a host of new products infused with its digital “Assistant” smarts got people playfully referring to Pixel Buds as an internet-Age version of alien "Babel Fish" depicted in famed science fiction work "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." In the literature, inserting a Babel Fish in an ear enabled a person to understand anything spoken in any language. Pixel Buds, synched to freshly-introduced second-generation Pixel smartphones, promised real-time translations of conversations involving any of 40 languages. A demonstration at the event included a two-way conversation with one person speaking English and the other Swedish. "That was one of the best tech demos I've seen in a long time," said Current Analysis consumer devices research director Avi Greengart. "If it works like that in the real world, that is a 'Wow, we are living in the future' moment." VentureBeat reporter Dean Takahashi reacted to the demo by firing off a tweet saying "The Babel Fish is here." Pixel Buds were priced at 159 dollars and will be available in the US beginning in November. Ear buds can be controlled with touches, swipes, or spoken commands, allowing users to among other things select music, send texts and get directions, a demonstration showed.   'AI-first world'  Google chief executive Sundar Pichai said the new devices showcase the tech giant's artificial intelligence. "We've been working hard continuing our shift from a mobile-first to an AI-first world," he said. "We are working on software and hardware together, because that is the best way to drive computing forward." The launch comes in the wake of Apple's announcement of a new line of iPhones, and Amazon's upgrades to its Echo speakers powered by its Alexa digital assistant "It is a portfolio designed to take Google into more parts of your life, particularly in your home," Reticle Research analyst Ross Rubin said of the array of devices the internet giant unveiled on Wednesday. "Amazon is focusing on a range of price points and designs; Google is focusing on a range of experiences."
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