Captain Cannonball sails the high seas as a pirate – – Destin Log and Walton Log

Walks of Life is a monthly feature that highlights people in different careers and explains how their career influences their life. In todays Walks of Life feature, meet cruise captain Cliff Atwell.

First Mate Kirby Jake Scarborough shows off some pirate treasure aboard the Buccaneer Pirate Ship in Destin. [DEVON RAVINE|DAILY NEWS}By Savannah Evanoff

Cliff Atwell never pictured himself with long locks, coarse facial hair or a sword at his side.

For his identity as Captain Cannonball aboard Southern Stars Buccaneer Pirate Ship in Destin, these things are practically a requirement. Atwell provides family pirate adventures for up to 22 cruise trips a week in the summer.

I truly believe God put me where he wanted me to be, because never in my life did I want to be on a tour boat dressing like a pirate, acting like a pirate, Atwell said. However, I have found out that on this boat Ive been able to meet some really good people.

February marked Atwells 10th anniversary with Southern Star, and his fifth year as captain of the pirate cruise ship.


Atwell has known what he wanted to do since he was 15.

He was raised in Destin and he noticed the success of boat captains, Atwell said. The community respected captains, he said.

The day I was old enough to get my captains license, I got it, Atwell said. I became a captain. I started out on private yachts and charter boats here in Destin.

For most of his life, Atwell was a charter boat captain. He would fish and take people to fish in the Gulf of Mexico.

In the late 1990s, Atwell watched the fishing industry shift as it became regulated and knew it was time for his own transition. In 1997, he started work with Southern Star, as a captain for evening dolphin cruises.

In 2011, the Southern Star owners, Steve and Wendy Wilson, approached Atwell about being captain of a new Destin pirate ship endeavor.

I said, I dont want to be captain of a pirate ship; Im not interested, Atwell said. I like it here. Im fine. I dont want to be captain.

After no significant arm-twisting, Atwell and his wife, Nicole, agreed to help promote the giant pirate ship, a fantasy come to life. The two dressed up as pirates for YouTube promotions and parades, he said.

It wasnt long before the Wilsons approached Atwell a second time.

Cliff Atwell reflects on the past five years he has played Captain Cannonball, captain of the Buccaneer Pirate Ship in Destin. [DEVON RAVINE|DAILY NEWS]They were like, Listen, you say you dont want to be a pirate, but youre perfect for it, so you need to do it, Atwell said. I said, OK, Ill try, Ive loved it ever since.

Now Atwells once-short hair hangs to his shoulders in curls, and he wears pirate attire head to toe from a sash across his waist to black, folded-over boots on his feet.

People think he just dresses like a pirate, but its a full interactive cruise, Atwell said. The children who participate are happier when they get off the boat, he said.

They got to experience something you cant experience anywhere else, not even in Disney World, Atwell said. In Disney World, you cant interact with the pirates, you cant get your pictures up there with the pirates, and you cant be one of the pirates. Here, they can do it all.

Atwell has had some memorable times on the Buccaneer pirate cruise, he said.

He fondly remembers a blind boy in a wheelchair who attended the cruise. Atwell asked the boys mother for permission to take the boys hand and let him see him as best he could.

I took my pirate hat off and I ran his hand all over it and I let him feel the hat, the feathers, the pins and everything on it, Atwell said. I let him feel my face and my beard, then across the baldric, where my sword and everything goes. He was in awe.The boy asked the color of Atwells shirt, piecing together a mental picture of the pirate who stood before him.

Thats probably the one that touched me the most, Atwell said.

Little pirates

Captain Cannonball poses with Sonia Muthuveeran, Adela Trevino, Alina Muthuveeran, 3, and Marlon Muthuveeran aboard the Buccaneer Pirate Ship in Destin. [DEVON RAVINE|DAILY NEWS]They say a captain is only as good as his crew.

Atwell knows this well, said Annie Graham, aka the gypsy pirate Anna Marie. Hes trained her and Kirby-Jake Scarborough to be the best possible crew, she said.

Id never been on a boat before in my life until I walked on for this interview, Graham said. Theres not a thing on this ship that I cant do and that I havent done crawling in the bilge, doing engine maintenance, soaking up oil, pumping things out. Hes a great teacher.

People dont realize how dangerous the situation can be on the ship, but Graham never worries, she said.

I know no matter what conditions were going out in that were safe and the children are safe, Graham said. Hes really good about keeping the ship stable and secure.

Atwell turned him into a mate, Scarborough said.

Hes taught me everything I know about boats, Scarborough said. Hes been like a big brother really.

During a cruise, the three actors interact, often fighting over treasure and threatening mutiny, Graham said. There is a power play between Graham and Atwells characters, she said.

Rings festoon the fingers of Captain Cannonball, captain of the Buccaneer Pirate Ship in Destin. [DEVON RAVINE|DAILY NEWS]He plays the role of the authoritative captain, but I am the one essentially running the show on the stage, Graham said. Its a constant, Well, Im the captain so you should do this, and Well, Im down here actually doing it, so you just drive the ship.

The children on the trip become little pirates and join the crew at the end of the trip, Scarborough said.

They become buccaneers themselves, Scarborough said. Its pretty awesome watching them come from nervous kids walking on board, then were able to turn them into little pirates.

Girl pirates are the toughest of all, though, Scarborough said.

Theyll challenge (Atwell) and yell at him Throw him overboard, Scarborough said. He gets this look on his face of total shock. You dont know whats going to come out of a kids mouth, especially when youve got them all hyped up and theyre all excited and were talking about treasure.

Atwell has the hardest job on the boat, Scarborough said.

Hes responsible for up to 149 souls, Scarborough said. Hes responsible for being an actor, being a DJ running the music simultaneously and running the ship. I would be very surprised if you found anyone else who could just step right into that job.

Atwell enjoys being in a career with no boss man assigning him deadlines, he said.

Its really nice to have a job that you come to work and enjoy it, Atwell said. In the beginning, I never did want to dress like a pirate and come to work, but once I started doing it, its a lot of fun.

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Captain Cannonball sails the high seas as a pirate – – Destin Log and Walton Log

Udacity adds robotics and digital marketing Nanodegree programs, 21 new hiring partners – TechCrunch

Today at the inauguralUdacity Intersect conference, the online education startup announced new robotics and digital marketing variants of its popular Nanodegrees an effort to expand its corpus of 21st century skills-based courses. In addition to the new degrees, Udacity is adding 21 new hiring partners spanning the automotive, defense, tech, hardware and telecommunicationsindustries. And, lastly, the company is partnering withDidi Chuxing for a new $100,000 competitionto build safety features for self-drivingcars.

More than 20,000 students have been a part of Udacity Nanodegree programs. Spanning topics like deep learning and VR development, the programs offer students studies that aremore rigorous than a certificate and less intensive than a full degree. The new Nanodegreesannounced today expand the reach of Udacity into marketing and robotics.

This is a blueprint for anyone in higher education, said Sebastian Thrun, co-founder and chairman of Udacity.

Udacitys addition of the Deep Learning Nanodegree might have been a tip-off that the startup would be looking to cater to robotics enthusiasts. The first of two new Nanodegrees will be for robotics. Automation is a hot topic and any future involving machine intelligence will involve software-enabled hardware to increase efficiency. Students interested in this program will need a background ofcalculus, linear algebra, stats, basic physics, Python and computer algorithms.

It is easy to think that Udacity is reaching into uncharted territory with its new Digital Marketing Nanodegree program, but as marketing becomes more reliant on digital channels, new approaches are needed to prepare students for the rapidly changing career. And unlike the Robotics Nanodegree, the Digital Marketing Nanodegree will not require any prerequisite knowledge.

Each program will take three months to complete. Applications for the Robotics and Digital Marketing Nanodegree will open on March 8th and remain open until April 17th. Each term will cost $1,200.

The team also provided an update on Udacitys self-driving car efforts.Udacitys relationship with Didi is going beyond traditional partners. The two are launchinga new competitionto build anAutomated Safety and Awareness Processing Stack (ASAPS) for autonomous vehicles. And, of course, another partner,Velodyne, will be providing the necessary data to fuel the efforts. The competition will have two rounds and begin on March 22nd, with the winners getting $100,000 and the right to implement their code in Udacitys actual self-driving vehicle.

Udacity has made an effort to brand itself as a solution for the education asymmetries that plague the economy. This meant working in tandem with more than 50 hiring partners to both tailor curriculum toemployers needs and match students to prospective jobs.

Students end up at thesecompanies and open up doors to us, added Thrun. Its working, its kind of amazing.

The new partners added today fit the trend of connecting availableNanodegrees directly to open jobs. iRobot and Megabots are both in need of students with an understanding ofmechatronics. But beyond just robotics, Udacity has added companies, large and small, with a global reach.

The startupplans to continue adding new hiring partners and including them in discussions about futurecurriculum. But Thruninsists that there is more thatneeds to be done.

The single thingthat works best is instilling confidence and helping students prep for interviews and get theirCV into shape, insisted Thrun. Youd be shocked at how many people lack the confidence to ace their interview.

To get there, Udacity has been building itscommunity of graduates and putting them to use helpingnew students. Some graduates, like Omar Albeik, a Syrian refugee studying in Istanbul, are hired to develop websites and other side projects, sometimes for Udacity and sometimes for other companies. Other former studentsevaluate project submissionsand offer mentorship.

Albeik, who contributed back to Udacity as part of its Blitz team, didnt sign up for Udacity because of its pitch to help with securinga job. Instead, it was about the ability to try to experiment with something without being forced to commit to it.

When I started learning, I was learning for the sake of learning, said Albeik. I wanted to choose what area to go into and Nanodegrees helped me discover.

But for when the time comes, the corporate relationships certainly dont detract. Thefull list of new hiring partners is below:




Fiat Chrysler

Lockheed Martin



Innovation Works

Ross Intelligence









IBM Brazil

Telefonica Vivo Brazil



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Udacity adds robotics and digital marketing Nanodegree programs, 21 new hiring partners – TechCrunch

The Architecture of Artificial Intelligence – Archinect

Behnaz Farahi Breathing Wall II

Let us consider an augmented architect at work. He sits at a working station that has a visual display screen some three feet on a side, this is his working surface, controlled by a computer with which he can communicate by means of small keyboards and various other devices. Douglas Engelbart

This vision of the future architect was imagined by engineer and inventor Douglas Engelbart during his research into emerging computer systems atStanfordin 1962. At the dawn of personal computing he imagined the creative mind overlapping symbiotically with the intelligent machine to co-create designs. This dual mode of production, he envisaged, would hold the potential to generate new realities which could not be realized by either entity operating alone. Today, self-learning systems, otherwise known asartificial intelligence or AI, are changing the way architecture is practiced, as they do our daily lives, whether or not we realize it. If you are reading this on a laptop or tablet, then you are directly engaging with a number of integrated AI systems, now so embedded in our the way we use technology, they often go unnoticed.

As an industry, AI is growing at an exponential rate, now understood to be on track to be worth $70bn globally by 2020.This is in part due to constant innovation in the speed of microprocessors, which in turn increases the volume of data that can be gathered and stored. But dont panicthe artificial architect with enhanced Revit proficiency is not coming to steal your job. The human vs. robot debate, while compelling, is not so much the focus here but instead how AI is augmenting design and how architects are responding to and working with these technological developments. What kind of innovation is artificial intelligence generating in the construction industry?

Assuming you read this as a non-expert, it is likely that much of the AI you have encountered to this point has been weak AI, otherwise known as ANI (Artificial Narrow Intelligence). ANI follows pre-programmed rules so that it appears intelligent but is in effect a simulation of a human-like thought process. With recent innovations such as that of Nvidias microchip in April 2016, a shift is now being seen towards what we might understand as deep learning, where a system can, in effect, train and adapt itself. The interest for designers is that AI is, therefore, starting to apply itself to more creative tasks, such aswriting books, making art, web design, or self-generating design solutions, due to its increased proficiency in recognizing speech and images. Significant AI winters’, or periods where funding has been hard to source for the industry, have occurred over the last twenty years, but commentators such as philosopher Nick Bostrom now suggest we are on the cusp of an explosion in AI, and this will not only shape but drive the design industry in the next century. AI, therefore, has the potential to influence the architectural design process at a series of different construction stages, from site research to the realization and operation of the building.

1. Site and social research

By already knowing everything about us, our hobbies, likes, dislikes, activities, friends, our yearly income, etc., AI software can calculate population growth, prioritize projects, categorize streets according to usage and so on, and thus predict a virtual future and automatically draft urban plans that best represent and suit everyone. -Rron Beqiri on Future Architecture Platform.

Gathering information about a project and its constraints is often the first stage of an architectural design process, traditionally involving traveling to a site, perhaps measuring, sketching and taking photographs. In the online and connected world, there is already a swarm-like abundance of data for the architect to tap into, already linked and referenced against other sources allowing the designer to, in effect, simulate the surrounding site without ever having to engage with it physically. This information fabric has been referred to as the internet of things. BIM tools currently on the market already tap into these data constellations, allowing an architect to evaluate site conditions with minute precision. Software such as EcoDesigner Star or open-source plugins for Google SketchUp allows architects to immediately calculate necessary building and environmental analyses without ever having to leave their office. This phenomenon is already enabling many practices to take on large projects abroad that might have been logistically unachievable just a decade ago.The information gathered by our devices and stored in the Cloud amounts to much more than the material conditions of the world around us

The information gathered by our devices and stored in the Cloud amounts to much more than the material conditions of the world around us. Globally, we are amassing ever-expanding records of human behavior and interactions in real-time. Personal, soft data might, in the most optimistic sense, work towards the socially focused design that has been widely publicized in recent years by its ability to integrate the needs of users. This approach, if only in the first stages of the design process, would impact the twentieth-century ideals of mass production and standardization in design. Could the internet of things create a socially adaptable and responsive architecture? One could speculate that, for example, when the population of children in a city crosses a maximum threshold in relation to the number of schools, a notification might be sent to the district council that it is time to commission a new school. AI could, therefore, in effect, write the brief for and commission architects by generating new projects where they are most needed.

Autodesk. Bicycle design generated by Dreamcatcher AI software.

2. Design decision-making

Now that we have located live-updating intelligence for our site, it is time to harness AI to develop a design proposal. Rather than a program, this technology is better understood as an interconnected, self-designing system that can upgrade itself. It is possible to harness a huge amount of computing power and experience by working with these tools, even as an individual as Autodesk president Pete Baxtertold the Guardian: now a one-man designer, a graduate designer, can get access to the same amount of computing power as these big multinational companies. The architect must input project parameters, in effect an edited design brief, and the computer system will then suggest a range of solutions which fulfill these criteria. This innovation has the potential to revolutionize how architecture is not only imagined but how it is fundamentally expressed for designers who choose to adopt these new methods.

I spoke with Michael Bergin, a researcher at Project Dreamcatcher at Autodesks Research Lab, to get a better understanding of how AI systems are influencing the development of design software for architects. While their work was initially aimed at the automotive and industrial design industries, Dreamcatcher now is beginning to filter into architecture projects. It was used recently to develop The Livings generative design for Autodesk’s new office in Toronto and MX3Ds steel bridge in Amsterdam. The basic concept is that CAD models of the surrounding site and other data, such as client databases and environmental information, are fed into the processor. Moments later, the system outputs a series of optimized 3D design solutions ready to render. These processes effectively rely on cloud computing to create a multitude of options based on self-learning algorithmic parameters. Lattice-like and fluid forms are often the aesthetic result, perhaps unsurprisingly, as the software imitates structural rules found in nature.future architects would be less in the business of drawing and more into specifying requirements of the problem

The Dreamcatcher software has been designed to optimize parametric design and link into and extend existing software designed by Autodesk, such as Revit and Dynamo. Interestingly, Dreamcatcher can make use of a wide and increasing spectrum of design input datasuch as formulas, engineering requirements, CAD geometry, and sensor informationand the research team is now experimenting with Dreamcatchers ability to recognize sketches and text as input data. Bergin suggests he imagines the future of design tools as systems that accept any type of input that a designer can produce [to enable] a collaboration with the computer to iteratively target a high-performing design that meets all the varied needs of the design team. This would mean future architects would be less in the business of drawing and more into specifying requirements of the problem, making them more in sync with their machine counterparts in a project. Bergin suggests architects who adopt AI tools would have the ability to synthesize a broad set of high-level requirements from the design stakeholders, including clients and engineers, and produce design documentation as output, in line with Engelbarts vision of AI augmenting the skills of designers.

AI is also being used directly in software such as Space Syntaxs depthmapX, designed at The Bartlett in London, to analyze the spatial network of a city with an aim to understand and utilize social interactions and in the design process. Another tool, Unity 3D, is built from software developed for game engines to enable designers to analyze their plans, such as the shortest distances to fire exits. This information would then allow the architect to re-arrange or generate spaces in plan, or even to organize entire future buildings. Examples of architects who are adopting these methods include Zaha Hadid with the Beijing Tower project (designed antemortem) and MAD Architects in China, among others.

Computational Architecture Digital Grotesque Project

3. Client and user engagement

As so much of the technology built into AI has been developed from the gaming industry, its ability to produce forms of augmented reality have interesting potential to change the perception and engagement with architecture designs for both the architects and non-architects involved in a project. Through the use of additional hardware, augmented reality has the ability to capture and enhance real-world experience. It would enable people to engage with a design prior to construction, for example, to select the most appealing proposal from their experiences within its simulation. It is possible that many architecture projects will also remain in this unbuilt zone, in a parallel digital reality, which the majority of future world citizens will simultaneously inhabit.

Augmented reality would, therefore, allow a client to move through and sense different design proposals before they are built. Lights, sounds, even the smells of a building can be simulated, which could reorder the emphasis architects currently give to specific elements of their design. Such a change in representational method has the potential to shift what is possible within the field of architecture, as CAD drafting did at the beginning of this century. Additionally, the feedback generated by augmented reality can feed directly back into the design, allowing models to directly interact and adapt to future users. Smart design tools such as Materiable by Tangible Media are beginning to experiment with how AI can begin to engage with and learn from human behavior.

Computational Architecture Digital Grotesque Project

4. Realizing designs and rise of robot craftsmen

AI systems are already being integrated into the construction industryinnovative practices such asComputational Architectureare working with robotic craftsmen to explore AI in construction technology and fabrication. Michael Hansmeyer and Benjamin Dillenburger, founders of Computational Architecture, are investigating the new aesthetic language these developments are starting to generate. Architecture stands at an inflection point, he suggests on their website, the confluence of advances in both computation and fabrication technologies lets us create an architecture of hitherto unimaginable forms, with an unseen level of detail, producing entirely new spatial sensations.

3D printing technology developed from AI software has the potential to offer twenty-first-century architects a significantly different aesthetic language, perhaps catalyzing a resurgence of detail and ornamentation, now rare due to the decline in traditional crafts. Hansmeyer and Dillenburgers Grotto Prototype for the Super Material exhibition, London, was a complex architectural grotto 3D-printed from sandstone. The form of the sand grains was arranged by a series of algorithms custom designed by the practice. The technique allowed forms to be developed which were significantly different to that of traditional stonemasonry. The aim of the project was to show that it is now possible to print building-scale rooms from sandstone and that 3D printing can also be used for heritage applications, such as repairs to statues.The confluence of advances in both computation and fabrication technologies lets us create an architecture of hitherto unimaginable forms

Robotics are also becoming more common on construction job sites, mostly dealing with human resources and logistics. According to AEM, their applications will soon expand to bricklaying, concrete dispensing, welding, and demolition. Another example of their future use could include working with BIM to identify missing elements in the snagging process and update the AI in real-time. Large scale projects, for example, government-lead infrastructure initiatives, might be the first to apply this technology, followed by mid-scale projects in the private sector, such as cultural buildings. The challenges of the construction site will bring AI robotics out of the indoor, sanitized environment of the lab into a less scripted reality. Robert Saunders, a researcher into AI and fabrication at the University of Sydney, told New Atlas that “robots are great at repetitive tasks and working with materials that react reliablywhat we’re interested in doing is trying to develop robots that are capable of learning how to work with materials that work in non-linear ways like working with hot wax or expanding foam or, more practically, with low-grade building materials like low-grade timber. Saunders foresees robot stonemasons and other craftsbots working in yet unforeseen ways, such as developing the architect’s skeleton plans, in effect, spontaneously generating a building on-site from a sketch.

Ori System by Ori

5. Integrating AI systems

This innovation involves either integrating developing artificial technologies with existing infrastructure or designing architecture around AI systems. There is a lot of excitement in this field, influenced in part by Mark Zuckerbergs personal project to develop networked AI systems within his home, which he announced in hisNew years Facebook postin 2016. His wish is to develop simple AI systems to run his home and help with his day-to-day work. This technology would have the ability to recognize the voices of members of the household and respond to their requests. Designers are taking on the challenge of designing home-integrated systems, such as theOri Systemof responsive furniture, or gadgets such asEliqfor energy monitoring. Other innovations, such as driverless cars that run on an integrated system of self-learning AI, have the potential to shape how our cities are laid out and plannedin the most basic sense, limiting our need for more roads and parking areas.

Behnaz Farahi is a young architect who is employing her research into AI and adaptive surfaces to develop interactive designs, such as in her Aurora and Breathing Wall projects. She creates immersive and engaging indoor environments which adapt to and learn from their occupants. Her approach is one of manydifferent practices with different goals will adapt AI at different stages of their process, creating a multitude of architectural languages.

Researchers and designers working in the field of AI are attempting to understand the potential of computational intelligence to improve or even upgrade parts of the design process with an aim to create a more functional and user-optimized built environment. It has always been the architects task to make decisions based on complex, interwoven and sometimes contradictory sets of information. As AI gradually improves in making useful judgments in real-world situations, it is not hard to imagine these processes overlapping and engaging with each other. While these developments have the potential to raise questions in terms of ownership, agency and, of course, privacy in data gathering and use, the upsurge in self-learning technologies is already altering the power and scope of architects in design and construction. As architect and design theorist Christopher Alexander said back in 1964, We must face the fact that we are on the brink of times when man may be able to magnify his intellectual and inventive capacity, just as in the nineteenth century he used machines to magnify his physical capacity.To think architecturally is to imagine and construct new worlds, integrate systems and organize information

In our interview, Bergin gave some insights into how he sees this technology impacting designers in the next twenty years. The architectural language of projects in the future may be more expressive of the design teams intent, he stated. Generative design tools will allow teams to evaluate every possible alternative strategy to preserve design intent, instead of compromising on a sub-optimal solution because of limitations in time and/or resources. Bergin believes AI and machine learning will be able to support a dynamic and expanding community of practice for design knowledge. He can also foresee implications of this in the democratization of design work, suggesting the expertise embodied by a professional of 30 years may be more readily utilized by a more junior architect. Overall, he believes architectural practice over the next 20 years will likely become far more inclusive with respect to client and occupant needs and orders of magnitude more efficient when considering environmental impact, energy use, material selection and client satisfaction.

On the other hand, Pete Baxter suggestsarchitects have little to fear from artificial intelligence: “Yes, you can automate. But what does a design look like that’s fully automated and fully rationalized by a computer program? Probably not the most exciting piece of architecture you’ve ever seen. At the time of writing, many AI algorithms are still relatively uniform and relatively ignorant of context, and it is proving difficult to automate decision-making that would at first glance seem simple for a human. A number of research labs, such theMIT Media Lab, are working to solve this. However, architectural language and diagramming have been part of programming complex systems and software from the start, and they have had a significant influence on one another. To think architecturally is to imagine and construct new worlds, integrate systems and organize information, which lends itself to the front line of technical development. As far back as the 1960s, architects were experimenting with computer interfaces to aid their design work, and their thinking has inspired much of the technology we now engage with each day.

Behnaz Farahi Aurora

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The Architecture of Artificial Intelligence – Archinect

Dalai Lama Interview Fuels New Fire in China-Tibet Spat – Foreign Policy (blog)

Foreign Policy (blog)
Dalai Lama Interview Fuels New Fire in China-Tibet Spat
Foreign Policy (blog)
… from China for decades amid harsh crackdowns from Beijing, but has since walked back his stance to autonomy under Chinese rule. Nearly 150 Tibetans have self-immolated to protest heavy-handed Chinese government oppression in the past eight years, …
Watch John Oliver Interview Dalai Lama Over Reincarnation

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Dalai Lama Interview Fuels New Fire in China-Tibet Spat – Foreign Policy (blog)

Interview with Deo Ssekitooleko Representative of Center for Inquiry International Uganda – Conatus News

Interview with Deo Ssekitooleko Representative of Center for Inquiry International Uganda

In brief, what is your family story?

I was born in a poor African family. I firstsaw my biological father when I was ten years old. I am the heir of my late father, Fulgensio Ssekitooleko. He was a very committed catholic, very social, and a committed humanitarian. I grew up with my mother Noelina Nalwada which was typically asingle-parent household (but atother times I had step-fathers). I am the only child. My fathers children, apart from one, died after getting infected with HIV/AIDS in the 1980s and 1990s. My mother is an atheist, agnostic or skeptic. When I tried to enter a catholic seminary, she abused me and challenged me whether I hadever seen somebody who has ever seen God or returned from death.

However, one of my last stepfathers who was both a devout catholic and a believer in African traditional religion influenced me to be a very religious person (Catholic) in my early youth. My mother knew how to fight for my (and her) rights, so I never understood issues concerning human rights violations during my youth except when seeing teachersapply corporal punishment to my fellow students. As I was growing up, I was not aware of the massive human rights abuse by the governments of the day, but, once in a while, I could hear whispers about somebody who has disappeared or killed by the government. Those were regimes of president Iddi Amin Dada, and the second regime of Apollo Milton Obote as he was fighting guerrillas lead by Yoweri Museveni the current president of Uganda

I am married to Elizabeth, and we have been togetherfor 17 years. We have four children: Sylvia (16 years), Diana (12), Julius (11), and Nicholas (3).

Are there any others things about your personal story you would like to share? I grew up striving to succeed in education so that I could escape poverty, ignorance, and unfairness in society. My mothers relatives were always exploited by witchdoctors who claimed to have healing-powers and thus could curediseases including HIV/AIDS. My uncles and aunts gave away their land to witchdoctors in order to get cured from HIV/AIDS, but they later died leaving no property to their offsprings.

In the years to come, the Pentecostal movements emergedpromising prosperity on earth, good health and many other opportunities. The two groups, i.e. the traditional religions and the Pentecostals, were undermining the struggle against HIV/AIDS, exploiting poor people. Yet, nobody could talk about them or challenge them.

This was a traumatising experience. I never knew whether this was a human rights issue or mere belief, or ignorance. As the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights defends the right to belief, all governments have gone on to include that article in their constitutions.

This means that ignorant people can be exploited in the name of belief as it is their human right to be exploited as long as they believe. This has been one of my most traumatising struggles in life. I have lost so manyrelatives out of their ignorance of science concerninghealth issues. Yet, governments cannot do anything about this because the politicians are also superstitious and the laws protect the charlatans.

In Uganda, almost 80 per cent of FM radio stations spend most of their time promoting the work of faith healers and witchdoctors. Rationalists do not have resources to own a radio station or to buy time on radio and television.

In my struggleto promote rationalism, I founded the Uganda Humanist Association. I became the East African Representative of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (2007-2012). Now, I am the Ugandan Representative of the Center for Inquiry International.

As advocacy campaigns are difficult, we now engage with local communities to talk about science and superstition in health and community development. Our work is now to invite whoever happens to be involved to discuss these issues openly and inform communities of the dangers of superstition in health and community development.

As of now, I have personally suspended armchair conference-hall humanism. I am in the trenches of community practical humanism. Whatever little I do, I feel proud that at least I am part of the struggle to rationaliseAfrican communities.

What are your religious/irreligious, ethical and political beliefs? I grew up as a staunch Catholic, and then at university I became a radical secular humanist. Now, having interacted with various so-called humanists and observed their limitations (especially in building harmony, inclusive communities, practical approaches to society problems, and a general lack of openness)I have reviewed my humanism.

I am now a free thinking, liberal, practical humanist. I do not mind other peoples beliefs on the condition thatthey do not infringe on the rights, happiness, and welfare of other human beings. I can work with Catholics on a health project, but I tell them point blank that the use of condoms should not be underminedand that family planning is essential in our families.

I tell Pentecostals that by preaching miracles such as faith-healing they are committing homicide. However, I enjoy my intellectual philosophical humanism as we debate Darwinism, the Big Bang theory, the environment, and the future of humanity among others. Politically, I am a social welfare democrat. Democracy should not be only about elections, but on how society shares opportunities and resources and how it promotes harmony.

I do not support the winner takes it all type of democracy. I prefer proportional representation in government as a form of democracy,as is the case in many countries which suffered the madness of the second world war.

How did you become an activist and a sceptic? When I enrolled inhigh school, I was still a very confused young man. I had experienced a lot in my childhood. My Biology teacher, the late Mathias Katende, made an explosion in my brain and changed my ideological worldview. He introduced evolutionary biology to us.

The more he taught, the more we became confused. All along, I had prepared myself to go to heaven and meetMary, the mother of Jesus, and escape worldly problems. However, by the time I entered University to study Botany, Zoology, and Psychology, I had become completely healed from this ideological and philosophical trauma.

At University, we got more lessons on evolution, but the lecturers were not as committed to evolution as my high school teacher. In fact, most students never took evolution seriously. They just wrote their examinations and moved on with life.

At university, by luck, a friend gave me a book on discovering religions. I read about most religions, worldviews, and philosophies. I found Humanism to be more related to my new worldview. I wrote to the British Humanist Association and got a positive response from Matt Cherry who encouraged me to form a humanist organisation. That was the birth of the Uganda Humanist Association.

He connected me to the center for Inquiry International through Norm Allen who was the Director of African Americans for Humanism (AAH). The Free Inquiry Magazines that Norm sent us opened our eyes wider on how humanity sees itself. Later, we were to work with the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) on many secular projects.

Do you consider yourself a progressive?

I am very progressive. I have always been evolving in my ideological, philosophical, cultural, and political views. I used to be a staunch believer in American democracy, but now I am more rotated towards European Social Parliamentary Democracy. I used to hate Chinas politics, but now I see it relevant in order to maintain orderliness and social welfare to a country (that has over one billion people) under one authority. I am a progressive because I am ever open to new challenges, new ideas, and new world views for the good of humanity and the environment at large.

Does progressivism logically imply other beliefs, or tend to or even not all?

I dont look at progressivism as a confined ideology or philosophy. If so, then I need more education about it. In my view, progressivism should be open to all aspects of human life including but not limited to culture, beliefs, politics, philosophy, and views about the environment among others.

How did you come to adopt socially progressive worldview?

As I explained earlier, it is a combination of my childhood experience, my culture, my environment, and possibly my inherited biological genes. I am lucky to have been introduced to evolutionary theory by my high school biology teacher and through reading various related literature including Richard Dawkins The Blind Watchmaker. The works of Philosophers such as Thomas Paines The Age of Reason taught me critical reasoning skills. Studying the American revolution was equally important in my political thought development. I was humbled by the sacrifices of Nelson Mandela and his colleagues to liberate South Africa from apartheid. Julius Nyereres trials with community socialism in order to liberate Tanzanians from poverty and to unite them into one nation was a positive human commitment. I can not forget reading the life of Bill Clinton in his voluminous autobiography. It is a story of moving from no where to the top of the mountains of his country.

Thank you for your time,Deo Ssekitooleko Contacts: Email: [emailprotected] The website is being worked on.

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Interview with Deo Ssekitooleko Representative of Center for Inquiry International Uganda – Conatus News

Violent Protestors Misunderstand the First Amendment – Blogging Censorship (blog)

‘The Bell Curve’ Author Charles Murray (Flickr)

Allison Stanger, Professor of International Politics and Economics, was to moderate.However, the event did not proceed as planned; students at the talk shouted Murray down and made it impossible for him to speak.He and Stanger moved the discussion to a different location, where the interview was live-streamed.That, unfortunately, was not the end of it.When they left, Stanger and Murray were confronted with angry protesters who tried to block their way.A melee ensued, during which Stanger was injured.

Stanger posted a commentary about the incident on Facebook.We cannot improve on her words.

I apologize for the impersonal and lengthy nature of this communication, but I wanted to provide a general response to

Posted by Allison Stanger onSaturday, March 4, 2017

Stanger and Middlebury responded appropriately, repudiating the violent and disruptive protests and reaffirming their commitment to the free exchange of ideas. Their improvisation allowed the talk to proceed, albeit in a lesser forum and format.

This incident, and earlier ones at Berkeley, University of Washington, and other institutions, reveal a disturbing trend, and a lack of understanding of what forms of protest the First Amendment does, and does not, protect.

Briefly, the Constitution protects the right to peaceful protests.Institutions and government officials are permitted to adopt neutral rules to regulate where and when such protests take place, as long as they are applied consistently and do not unnecessarily interfere with the ability of protesters to convey their message to their intended audience.

However, the First Amendment DOES NOT allow protesters to prevent someone else from speaking, and it does not sanction violence or intimidation. Middlebury, as a private institution, is not constrained by the First Amendment and has considerable leeway in setting and enforcing its own rules.Even at a public university, however, administrators would be justified in removing and disciplining students who disrupt a public event.Any institution, whether public or private, is entitled to rely on law enforcement to prevent and respond to violence or threats of violence, and protesters who engage in such behavior do so at their peril.

Perhaps more important, protesters need to understand a more basic principle: the right to speech exists for all, or for none. Anyone who wishes to exercise that right is obliged to acknowledge that others enjoy equivalent rights.

Once you violate that principle, speech rights for all are at risk.

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Violent Protestors Misunderstand the First Amendment – Blogging Censorship (blog)