Spot the Deepfake

Great story for discussion today: Even experts have a hard time telling a deepfake video from a real one.  Scientists for internet companies are trying to help tell the truth from the elaborately-faked.

“For decades, computer software has allowed people to manipulate photos and videos or create fake images from scratch. But it has been a slow, painstaking process usually reserved for experts trained in the vagaries of software like Adobe Photoshop or After Effects.

Now, artificial intelligence technologies are streamlining the process, reducing the cost, time and skill needed to doctor digital images.”

Fires in Australia, Koalas at Risk

Lots of potential in this story today out of  Australia, about koalas being burned in an out-of-control wildfire 250 miles north of Sydney.  Some reports say hundreds of koalas may have been incinerated.

“The victims were carried in one by one, their paws burned and fur singed, suffering from dehydration and fear. Their caretakers bandaged their wounds, swaddled them and laid them in baskets with the only thing that was familiar — the leaves of a eucalyptus tree.

As catastrophic fires have burned more than two million acres in Australia, dozens of koalas have been rescued from smoldering trees and ashen ground. The animals, already threatened as a species before these latest blazes ravaged a crucial habitat, are being treated in rescue centers, and at least one private home, along the country’s east coast.

‘They are terrified,’ said Cheyne Flanagan, the clinical director of the Koala Hospital, in Port Macquarie, the only facility of its kind in the world. She added that what was happening to the koalas was ‘a national tragedy.'”

School segregation, vaping and weather

Possibilities for today:

-As a segregated school in a segregated city, we talk rather often about school integration.  So today’s story about a city in Baltimore that was planned as an integrated community now fighting about a school desegregation plan might be a nice fit, today or down the road.

-Who doesn’t like talking about the weather?  As my students shiver, we can talk about how this cold front is affecting other parts of the country, like the Texas town where the “feels like” reading dropped from 92 degrees to 31 degrees in a single day.

-Another possibility: 17-year-old boy receiving a double-lung transplant in Detroit after his lungs were damaged by vaping.  Doctors say without the transplant, he would have faced “certain death.”

How to Start Teaching about China?

Today, I’m tempted by a story tucked away in the business section.  It’s about new rules China has established for young gamers: no video games after 10 p.m., no more than 90 minutes of gaming on weekends, among other restrictions released by the Chinese government this week in an effort to curb video game addiction and address related issues.  I’ll admit, the story first caught my eye because of the real problems video games end up causing in classrooms.  But then I also started thinking about it as an entry point to talking about the government of China, about censorship and regulations, about even the freedoms we have in a democracy and what they mean to our society.  (It reminded me a bit of a story shortly after I started class news meetings about threats to the Great Firewall of China, which led me to search for that story.  That led me to this valuable link, of the Times’ coverage of internet censorship in China.) Of course, you don’t have to be ready to teach all of this just to talk about the story, not even close.  But it could raise all sorts of questions you could answer together as a class as you learn, or even just be a referral point once studies are underway.

Another awesome possibility, from the arts section: an artist’s re-enactment of the 1811 slave uprising,  planned for this weekend in Louisiana.

And from Munich, a look inside the effort to build the world’s first flying taxi. And, of course, an obituary, this off a geophysicist who used magnetism for explorations.

11/6 discussion ideas: black cats, Netflix, obits and supermarkets

Some article possibilities from today’s New York Times:

-“Farm towns that produce beef, corn and greens to feed the world are becoming America’s unlikeliest food deserts as traditional grocery stores are forced out by fewer shoppers and competition from dollar store chains. Their exodus has left rural towns worried about how they can hold on to their families, businesses and their future if there is nowhere to buy even a banana.”

-A woman who called 911 after a bullet punched through her car’s rear window in Coral Springs, Fla., waited so long for help that she finally drove herself to the police station. Why the delay?  The 911 supervisor was busy watching Netflix, according to the internal disciplinary report.

-From the obits, novelist Ernest Gaines (The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman) dies at 86 and playwright William B Branch (A Letter from Booker T, and In Splendid Error) dies at 92.

-A black cat ran onto the field at MetLife Stadium and the Giants never recovered.

-Also, air pollution in New Delhi, India has become so dire that the government declared a public health emergency, shutting primary schools for days.  NASA satellite images show large swaths of India’s northern plains smothered by haze, and streets are blanketed in an opaque haze.