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Phish Sends In The Clones As They Float Above MSG, Rescue Squad Saves Trey On NYE [Photos/Videos] – Live for Live Music

Posted: January 6, 2020 at 5:49 am

Phish rang in 2020 to a sold-out crowd at New York CitysMadison Square Garden like theyve done a dozen times before. While they have played other New Years Eve shows outside of the Big Apple over the years, no place feels quite as much like home as the Garden. The newest decades gag did not see the band pull off a midnight-to-sunrise set, a runaway golf cart marathon, a JEMP truck ride, or hot dog flight, but it was the third set that fans new and old will remember forever.

Looking back to previous Garden parties, the 12/31 calendar date does not typically top the other nights of the run in terms of musical exploration, expansive jams, or massive bust-outs, but that doesnt stop Phish from being unapologetically Phish at the transition of each new year.

Following their stellar, jam-filled 12/30 show on Monday night, the band took the stage loose and excited to have fun as the Disney sample from 2014s Chilling Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House Halloween set blared through the arena. The Martian Monster opener was followed by Buried Alive in its customary early-first set position. Digging further back into their massive repertoire, Trey Anastasio shined as Phish continued to get this show on the road with a sing-along AC/DC Bag.

The World Most Famous Arena in the central part of Manhattan was treated to a lengthier-than-usual Halleys Comet next, complete with an impressive light display by designer Chris Kuroda. Since Comet returned to orbit in 2009, it hasnt been given the improv treatment fans of earlier Phish years enjoyed, but Tuesday night was another story as Mike Gordon and Page McConnell developed a funky synth-bass groove that eventually morphed into Prince Caspian.

A standard, high-energy Sparkle and a short but potent Axilla led to the first banter of the antics-filled night. All four band members continued the hit in the head with a pan story tangent from the 12/30/19 show, adding a new layer to the true tale. After Storytime Trey amusingly placed the pan story version of himself in a hallucinated recreation of the classic Steven King movie, Carrie, Trey and Page joked that they were fuzzy on the rest of the details of the strange saga.

It was Gordon who finally chimed in on the saga of the pan with a useful new insight: You know, Im starting to figure something out here, Mike hypothesized. Its a different kind of pan! Its the panflute. Who was the guy from the TV commercials that played the pan flute?

Oh, I think, are you saying Zamfir? Fishman offered. I remember that guy! He continued, And there was a weird thing about that guy. That, uh, I think the guy died, but if you say his name, you can conjure him. All you gotta do is say his name, hes got one of those magical names. Fishman then put that theory to the test, calling out the pan flutists name. As he did, haunting pan flute melodies and TV infomercial audio began to play over the sound system. Just like that, Zamfir (a.k.a. tour manager Richard Glasgow), ambled onstage with his pan flute. Yes, it was just as strange as it sounds. Weird sh*t happens when you hit me in the head with that pan, Fishman confirmed. This is amazing, added Trey, doing his best to hold back his laughter.

Phish Zamfir Story 12/31/19

[Video: monihampton]

To finish the whacky story and introduce Maze, McConnell utilized the THX Deep Note effect introduced with much hilarity at the 11/30/19 show in Providence, Rhode Island. The Chairman of the Boards took the spotlight during the rocking Maze, jumping from organ to grand piano before Anastasio kicked off an always-welcome Fluffhead. Rise/Come Together closed the interesting first set, giving fans a few moments to discuss the Zamfir story and sit-in with appropriate confusion.

Punch You in the Eye opened the second set for the first time since the standout July 19th, 2017 rendition and immediately got the floor of the arena shaking once again. Wolfmans Brother was funkified by a juicy Clavinet-bass groove that Anastasio used as a launchpad for his intricate riffing. While the experimentation didnt exceed the 10-minute mark, Tuesday nights Wolfmans once again contained a dark improv section, as it has throughout 2019.

An excellent Light kicked off the strongest portion of the set with a synthy, ethereal section that moved into a heavy peak before Anastasio pulled the plug and dove into Twist. Gordon plucked away to create dank bass undertones that paired nicely with Fishmans choppy drum fills. The guitarist summoned the spirit of Jimi Hendrix and developed a dirty riff reminiscent of Foxy Lady as the entire band built upon the sinister Twist to combat the tranquil Light that came before it, completing a two-song segment thats surely worth revisiting.

Soul Planet reminded New Years Eve veterans of the 2017-2018 run inside the same venue, where a massive pirate ship brought the glowing-wristed fans into January 2018. A danceable, funky breakdown in Soul Planet was short-lived as the band transitioned into a relatively standard Mercury and a faster-than-usual, dynamically varied Possum to close out the second of three sets.

As the lights came up for setbreak number two, a swarm of stagehands descended upon the stage, presumably to set up for whatever shenanigans were coming in set three. Except Wait, are they putting everything away? Sure looks that way. As setbreak wore on, the crew quickly packed up all the gear on stage, leaving only a few nondescript black boxes and a chorus of confused queries of but what are they going to play on? echoing throughout the crowd as the clock approached midnight.

As the lights went down to beckon the final act of the nightthe stage still conspicuously emptythe voices of the band members began to emit from the PA. Hello? Hey, Trey? These microphones are not on, are they? asked Page. Nope, Treys voice responded. Our microphones are not on. No one in the Garden can hear a single word we say.

As the Garden roared with laughter, Page continued, unaware that the crowd could hear him, I am so excited right now, I cannot contain myself. I cant believe we are about to walk on stage and perform an entire set ofjazz ballads, a cappella, for our New Years extravaganza. Added a giddy Trey, 25 years into our career at MSG, we arefinally gonna give the people what they want and walk on stage and do an entire set of jazz a cappella ballads for our New Years set. Its gonna be perfect. The crowd cheered and groaned as they crossed their fingers that this was, indeed, a joke.

Fishman continued, That is, provided that Zamfir does not show up at the last second and hit us with a pan. Because whenthat has happened in the past strange things have occurred.

You know what I think, Mikes body-less voice added. I think thats him right there walking toward us! So weird. The requisite sound effects ensued as the Garden heard the pan flute master once again accost The Phish with his pan.

With that, the members of Phish slowly strode onstage in peculiar outfits as the piano intro to Send In The Clowns began to play. Fishman donned an inverted version of his ubiquitous muumuu (red dress, blue donuts), while the remainder of the band sported solid-color outfits and headset microphones: Page in blue, Trey in green, and Mike in yellow. True to their word, the four colorful musicians started into a (mostly) a cappella rendition of the classic number from the 1973 Stephen Sondheim musical, A Little Night Music. So theyre actually doing this, huh?

However, as Send In The Clowns continued, fans quickly became aware that something strange was afoot. With excitement, Trey altered the lyrics of the song to Send In TheClones. The rest of the lyrics proved to be telling, as well. File away me here at last on the ground, you in mid-air, one who keeps tearing around, one who cant move, making my entrance again with my usual flair and well maybe next year for later

As the band reached the end of Send In the Clones, Trey emphasized the songs final lines. Where are the clones? There ought to be clones! Send in the clones! Send in the clones! Send in the clones!

Phish Send In The Clones 12/31/19

[Video: monihampton]

After a moment of suspense, the band cleared the stage once again, only to reappear shortly after when four free-hanging, colored platforms filled with colored instruments matching the bands outfits descended from the ceiling. As Phish launched into First Tube while suspended in mid-air, dozens of clones of each memberwith outfits identical to those worn by the band, down to shaggy, red wigs worn by the Trey clones and the bald-spotted wigs for the Page clonesflooded the empty stage underneath the floating musicians.

The Phish clones would remain onstage throughout the set, performing elaborate, synchronized dance numbers and choral flourishes as their originators played overhead, rising and falling in time much like the lights on Kurodas rig. Later, theyd pull out a set of long, thin mirrors to reflect the stage lightingeffectively cloning Kuroda, as well.

As the final minutes of 2019 ticked away, the platforms were lowered back to normal stage level while the clones constructed appropriately colored risers behind the band out of the mysterious black cases left onstage at setbreak. The colorful Phish clones served as the backing choir the customary New Years countdown and ensuing Auld Lang Syne and balloon drop before helping the still-floating band usher in 2020 with a Sand extravaganza. The clones continued to dance and sing through the theatrical Sand as the bands platforms lifted and droppedthat is, except for Anastasios. Strangely, he had stopped moving with the rest of the band

Phish w/ Clones First Tube > Auld Lang Syne 12/31/19

[Video: monihampton]

A sense of anxiety soon began to set in for the Garden crowd. Was a clone going to replace Trey for good? Was he actually in danger? Was this all part of the gag? Phish loves to elicit that oh-so-familiar what the f*ck is going on? reaction from their fans, but even the band shared this sentiment as the reality of the situation set in. As the rest of the bands platforms dropped to stage level, Trey remained conspicuously suspended. The green-suited guitarist was, indeed, stuckthe band here at last on the ground, Trey in mid-air.

Heres where things got hairy. A long pause ensued as the MSG crew tried to figure out how to get Trey down while Anastasio no doubt reflected on the Murphys Law situation going on before his eyes: There he was, just after midnight on New Years Eve, at the dawn of a decade, in a green suit, at a sold-out Madison Square Garden, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the bands first MSG show with an elaborate, aerial stuntand his sh*t just broke in mid-air. The situation had moved beyond gag status. This was real. Trey was stuck hanging precariously above the Garden crowd with half a set still left to play. What in the world do you do from here?

After several minutes (which felt like an eternity) of waiting nervously, Trey began to cautiously joke about his current predicament. Well, he said with sincerity, I guess, if Im about to fall to my death, I might as well tell you guys all how much I love you. So much! At least this is gonna be one of the great rock and roll deaths that youll all be a part of. Kind of always wanted to go out with a bang, so

Fishman tried to add some levity to the situation, joking that I think youd just get maimed from there its not high enough for death. Dont worry. Death dont hurt very long But the comic relief did little to quell the mounting nervousness that permeated the Garden. Even Treys quip about how this would be a good time for him to do one of thoseEddie Vedder crowd divesyou guys will catch me, right? did little to ease the tension.

As fans will remember, the 12/30 Pan Story ended with Trey joking about how he felt like he had walked himself out onto the edge of a cliff with nowhere to go. As the New Years gag born from this bizarre tale went further off the rails with each moment Trey remained stuck, that imagery became all too real.

After receiving word from in his earpiece that they were not, in fact, going to be able to get him down, Trey cautiously decided that the show must go on: Hey Carm, Im just gonna play it from up here. F*ck it, just leave me up here.

With that decision, Trey cautiously started into Drift While Youre Sleeping, the Phish clones below continuing their choreographed antics. Its probably worth noting that, despite the admirable, rock-and-roll character of choosing to continue, all four band members were notably timid throughout the song. With Phish, you can never really be sure whats real and whats a joke, but the truth shined through in the music. Both Trey and the clones below his faulty platform were potentially in actual danger, and it took the band more than a few minutes to shift their focus from that fact back to the music being played.

Despite the understandable timidness, the clone-assisted set continued admirably with Whats The Use?. While clearly planned ahead of time (see: elaborately choreographed dancing), this song choice felt cosmically appropriate. Whats the use in worrying about how Treys going to get down? Were here, were plugged in, and weve got a wild show planned. May as well go for it.

Its also worth mentioning the clearly apparent difference in Treys body language and playing as his best friends and bandmates continued to rise and fall as planned. When he was suspended solo, he was noticeably reserved, but each time Page, Fish, and Mike rose to his level, he seemed to momentarily regain his full confidence. Plenty of strange things have happened at Phish shows over 35+ years. When Trey was alone above the stage, he seemed to feel exposed, even kneeling to play at points to help keep his balance on the edge of this cliff. But as soon as his bandmates were at his side, he was ready to conquer any obstacle in his path. If thats not Phish in a nutshell, I dont know what is.

The clones cleared the stage as the rest of the bands platforms rose to meet Treys above the stage for You Enjoy Myself. While the band members remained necessarily stationary on their platforms, the Phish clones returned to act out their usual YEM anticsfrom Mike and Trey clones bouncing on trampolines to Trey clones dancing to the Mike bass solo section. As the band moved into the Boy, Man, God, Sh*t section, the aerial guitarist put a noticeable emphasis on the Sh*t!, a tensely amusing nod to his sticky situation.

Phish w/ Clones You Enjoy Myself 12/31/19

[Video: LazyLightning55a]

Unusually, the highlight of this YEM turned out to be the vocal jam, as the clone choir helped Trey conduct some call-and-response melodies with the crowd before eventually winding up in a clone theme of sorts to close things out.

We can assume that, at this point, the band had planned to exit the stage for an encore break. However, with Trey still stuck hanging over the Garden, Phish did what they do best: they improvised.

Thanks, everybody, thank you, a sheepishly giggling Trey announced, Okay, were gonna do something very strange here, but thats cool. Its fun. We just walked off, were back on. This is the encore, and then all four us are gonna watch you guys leave, and then were just gonna stay up here in the airuntil next year! Its the encore!

With that, Phish launched into the Tweezer Reprise that had gone missing on 12/30 as the clones once again took the stage for their final numbera climactic ending to a crazy set, to be sure. But for the crowd, the show was not over. No, we werent leaving until we were sure that Trey was safely on the ground.

As Mike, Page, and Fishman descended to the ground after Tweeprise and started to walk backstage, Trey laughed nervously. You guys are leaving me? What the hell?!

Bye, Trey, Fishman laughed. See you next year, added Page as a helpless Trey continued to laugh at his ongoing predicament.

As Trey continued to dangle, he took to his guitar to pass the time for a little (necessary) bonus improv, crafting an off-the-cuff ditty about how its time to leave. Its a whole new year, and someones coming to rescue me at least I hope so. This is pretty strange, but its kind of cool, I kinda like it up here, theyre gonna rescue me, goodbye, goodbye 2019, lets have a big cheerfor the rescue squad! he sang.

The crowd continued to cheerone could argue, louder than they did for any of the planned NYE anticsas the stage crew mounted Fishmans drum platform and rose to Treys assistance. They placed a bridge over to Treys platform and guided him over to the working lift to help him down. Once again, with nothing but time and an instrument in front of him, Trey sat down behind Fishmans kit and beat out an improvised Rescue Squad chant as he finallythankfullydescended to safety.

The Rescue Squad Saves Trey 12/31/19

[Video: LazyLightning55a]

[Video: monihampton]

The Phish Clones New Years gag was meant to be all fun, games, and spectacle, but after its precarious malfunction, it took on a more sincere air of significance. As we watched Trey dangle from the ceiling, fans throughout the Garden realized their deep love for this man and this band all over again. You cant just clone Trey Anastasio. Sure, its fun to see them do elaborate things like this, but everyone in the hallowed venue seemed to telepathically agree: Wed trade this admittedly amazing spectacle to ensure this mans safety and longevity any day of the week (or year, or decade). Now that hes down, however, were looking forward to the inevitable tsunami of memes, jokes, and future antics born from this stunt gone awry.

So goes the Phish Welcome to 2020. Lets maybe keep the New Years stunts on the ground this year.

Check out a gallery from 2019s Phish New Years Eve show below courtesy of photographerChris Capaci.

[Review by Ben Boivin & Andrew OBrien]

Setlist: Phish | Madison Square Garden | New York, NY | 12/31/19

Set 1: Martian Monster, Buried Alive, AC/DC Bag, Halleys Comet > Prince Caspian > Sparkle > Axilla, Maze, Fluffhead > Rise/Come Together

Set 2: Punch You in the Eye, Wolfmans Brother > Light > Twist > Soul Planet > Mercury > Possum

Set 3: Send in the Clowns[1], First Tube, Auld Lang Syne, Sand, Drift While Youre Sleeping, Whats the Use?, You Enjoy Myself

Encore: Tweezer Reprise, Rescue Squad[2]

[1] Phish debut, with lyrics changed to Send in the Clones; a cappella[2] Debut; only Trey.

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Phish Sends In The Clones As They Float Above MSG, Rescue Squad Saves Trey On NYE [Photos/Videos] - Live for Live Music

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Using ETF clones to save on fees – InvestmentNews

Posted: at 5:48 am

As pressure on fees continues across the financial services industry, financial advisers would be wise to never assume that theres not a cheaper version of the same product.

Sometimes that can mean finding cheaper versions of the same index-tracking fund within the same fund family, as will soon be possible for three exchange-traded funds offered by State Street Global Advisors.

According to recent prospectus filings, SSGA is converting three index ETFs to turn them into cheaper versions of three existing index ETFs. This means savvy advisers will be able to save their clients some fees just by swapping out ticker symbols on any new allocations from clients who have been investing in the more expensive versions.

Starting Jan. 24, the plans call for cheaper but identical versions of the $306 billion SPDR S&P 500 (SPY), the $19 billion SPDR S&P Midcap 400 (MDY), and the $1.4 billion SPDR S&P 600 Small Cap (SLY).

The cheaper version of SPY, which tracks the S&P 500 and has an expense ratio of 9 basis points, will be SPDR Portfolio Large Cap (SPLG), a $3.5 billion ETF that charges 3 basis points.

SPLG currently tracks an index of 700 large-cap stocks, but it will start tracking the S&P 500 with the change.

The clone for MDY, which charges 24 basis points, will be SPDR Portfolio Midcap (SPMD), a $1.9 billion fund that charges 5 basis points.

And the clone for SLY, which charges 15 basis points, will be SPDR Portfolio SmallCap (SPSM), a $1.6 billion ETF charging 5 basis points.

SSGA is currently waiving two-thirds of SLYs expense ratio to bring it in line with SPSM.

Matt Bartolini, head of SPDR Americas Research at SSGA, said the clone ETFs are designed for longer-term investors who might not be as concerned about the liquidity issues that could plague smaller funds.

He added that some large institutional investors and active traders will overlook higher fees on funds in exchange for their sizable options markets and liquidity profiles.

Some investors also like the ability to be anonymous when executing larger block orders, Mr. Bartolini said. What were doing is providing products with a purpose. Its more a function of providing choice to investors. You might hold SPLG for a strategic allocation and SPY in your liquidity sleeve.

Thats probably a handy tip for multibillion-dollar institutional traders. But for most financial advisers, the cheaper version will work just fine.

In terms of tradability, it would be difficult to do better than SPYs average daily trading volume of 47.8 million shares.

But at more than 708,000 shares, SPLGs average dialing trading volume is plenty high for most financial advisory clients.

Anything under 100,000 shares in a day is something an investor wants to be mindful of, as long as your trade size can easily get executed in a given day based on historical trading volume, said Todd Rosenbluth, director of mutual fund and ETF research at CFRA.

Tighter spreads are a byproduct of liquidity and trading volume, he added.

There is some precedent for this kind of fund cloning.

In 2012, for example, BlackRock launched iShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (IEMG) as a 14-basis-point version of iShares MSCI Emerging Markets (EEM), which charges 68 basis points.

The original fund, which was launched in 2003, has $30 billion, while the newer, cheaper version has grown to $62 billion.

Its a similar story for the $74 billion iShares MSCI Core EAFE ETF (IEFA), which was launched in 2012 as a clone to $64 billion iShares MSCI EAFE ETF (EFA), which has been around since 2001.

The upstart version charges 7 basis points, which compares to 32 basis points for the original version.

SSGA also has some experience in fund cloning.

In 2018 it launched SPDR Gold MiniShares Trust (GLDM) as a 10-basis-point version of the widely popular SPDR Gold Trust (GLD), which charges 40 basis points.

The original version, launched in 2004, manages more than $43 billion in a category known for trading, while the newer version is at $1.1 billion.

In addition to acknowledging the distinct investor appetites that clone funds often target, Mr. Rosenbluth said SSGA might also be playing some defense, at least when it comes to the S&P 500-tracker SPY.

While SPY is still the largest and most popular ETF tracking the S&P 500, it has been steadily losing market share to the $130 billion Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (VOO), which charges 3 basis points, and the $200 billion iShares Core S&P 500 ETF (IVV), which charges 4 basis points.

According to Mr. Rosenbluth, five years ago SPY had 69% of the market share of market-cap-weighted S&P 500 index ETF assets.

That share dropped to 55% two years ago, and to 48% at the end of 2019.

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Don’t throw food in the trash in Vermont, or ask about salary history in New Jersey. Here are 7 state law changes for 2020 – USA TODAY

Posted: December 28, 2019 at 11:44 pm

A slew of state laws take effect in 2020 ranging from mandatory compostingto child abuse registriesto access to diaper changing stations. One state will even begin banning expiration dates for gift certificates.

A few of the more notable changes:

Food scraps can't goin Vermont landfillsbeginningJuly 1. Residents will have four ways to handle rotten leftovers anditems such aspeels, eggshells, seeds, pits, coffee grounds and oils, according to the state's environmental conservation department.

Vermonters can use a household compost bin, buy a Green Cone solar digester to break down the scraps, feed scraps to pigs or leave it to the composting professionals.Theuniversal recycling lawwillrequiretrucking companies to provide food scrap collection services to nonresidential customers and multi-unit apartment complexes, the Burlington Free Press reported.

Restaurants, supermarkets and cafeteriasmust alsocomply with the law, which is the firststate law of its kind. The state hopes to reach a 60% recycling rate through mandatory composting.

Citing a need to respect human life, Arkansas will not allowpublic funding for human cloning or"destructive embryo research," which the statedefinesas medical procedures or investigations that kill or injure developing humans. ACT 653 also blocks state funds from stem cell research involving embryos, the stage lasting to eight weeks after fertilization.

Under the law effective Jan. 1, no state educational institutions can do human cloning for scientific research, either.It does not block state funds frominvitro fertilization.

Businesses in Washington state will be prohibited from putting expiration dates on gift cards beginning July 1.HB1727 will also prevent gift certificate users from being hit by inactivity or service charges.

However, ifa gift card is part of rewards orloyalty program, itcan still expire. The law will also not apply to gift certificates given to charitable organizations as a donation.

Restaurants, stores and other buildings with public restrooms in Illinois musthave at least one babydiaper changing stationunderHB 3711. Effective Jan. 1, the law requires buildings either have a station in both a women's and men's restroom, or a station in a unisex restroom. Building owners must also display a sign near restroom entrances to show that a sanitary andsafe changing station is inside.

Public buildings in New York must now have changing tables in bathrooms for both genders.(Photo: Wittayayut, Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Diaper duty: John Legend speaks out about why he changes diapers

Exceptions to the law include bars and nightclubs that don't allow minors, as well as cases where adding a station isn't feasible or would prevent people with disabilities from navigating the restroom.

In federal buildings, theBathrooms Accessible in Every Situation (BABIES) act already requires diaper changing stations in men's and women's restrooms. California has a law similar to Illinois, whileNew Yorkrequires stations in new or renovated public restrooms.

At the beginning of the new year, Nevada will joina dozenother states inpreventinginsurers from denying coverage to patients because ofpreexisting conditions. The federal Affordable Care Act currently protectspeople with preexisting conditions from that and higher coverage costs, but the act is facing legal challenges. A federal appeals court struck down a major partof the ACA last week, which could lead to a Supreme Court case.

'Unconstitutional': Federal appeals court strikes down key part of Affordable Care Act

Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak said Nevada'sAB 170will keep health care protections in place if the ACA is eliminated. States with similar protectionsin placefor preexisting conditionsinclude Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont and Washington,according to the Commonwealth Fund.

In Georgia, HB 478 will create stricter requirements to list a person on the state's child abuse registry, upping the age from 13 to 18.Previously, the state entered offenders who were minors into the database and didn't remove them until they turned 18,could prove they had been rehabilitated or more than a year passed since the date of the act that prompted the last case.

Effective Jan. 1, the law also updates theprocess to get a name expunged from the state registry. If a judge refuses to remove an offender from the registry after a hearing, the offender can request another three years later.

The state established the registry, which the public cannot view,in 2016. Each year, the state receives about 140,000 reports of child maltreatment, according to theGeorgia Division of Family and Children Services.

Employers cannot screen applicants based ontheir salary history under a New Jersey law effective Jan. 1.AB 1094also prevents hiring managers from requiring that an applicant's salary history falls within a minimum or maximum criteria.

If a worker voluntarily provideshis or her previous salaries, wages or benefits, employers can use the information to determine compensation, however. More than 15 other states, including California, Hawaii and Maine, have similar bans on salary history screening, HR Dive reported.

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Don't throw food in the trash in Vermont, or ask about salary history in New Jersey. Here are 7 state law changes for 2020 - USA TODAY

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What a time to be alive: Reproductive breakthroughs of the 2010s that changed life as we know it – FOX 10 News Phoenix

Posted: at 11:44 pm

This undated screen grab shows the cell-division of two fertilized human embryos during the first 24 hours of embryonic development following IVF treatment at a private clinic in London. ( Jim Dyson/Getty Images )

LOS ANGELES - Some of the scientific advancements of the 2010s have been truly mind-blowing, and perhaps none more so than the leaps and bounds weve made in the realm of reproduction.

This was not only the decade in which the first three-parent baby was born, it was the era when a rogue scientist chose to make edits to a set of twin girls DNA, making real the long-imagined scenario of genetically altering human beings while simultaneously thrusting the deeply complicated ethical discussions surrounding this practice into the limelight.

These are the five most life-altering breakthroughs in reproduction from the past decade.

In 2018, Chinese biophysics researcher He Jiankui announced that he had used the gene-editing tool CRISPR to modify the genes of two twin girls before birth. He and his team said that their goal was to make the girls immune to infection by HIV through the elimination of a gene called CCR5.

When the news broke, many mainstream scientists criticized the attempt, calling it too unsafe to try. Where some people saw the potential for a new kind of medical treatment capable of eradicating genetic disease, others saw a window into a dystopian future filled with designer babies and framed by a new kind of eugenics.

At the time, Dr. Kiran Musunuru, a University of Pennsylvania gene-editing expert, said Hes work was unconscionable... an experiment on human beings that is not morally or ethically defensible.

Other experts believe Hes work could propel the field of gene editing forward.

The twins, known as Lulu and Nana, have continued to make headlines since their birth. The gene modification that He claims to have carried out may have caused some unintended mutations in other parts of the genome, which could have unpredictable consequences for their health long term something many scientists who argue against Hes work cite as a reason to hold off on using gene-editing technology on humans.

Only time will tell what will happen to Lulu and Nana and if the edits to their DNA ultimately help or hurt them, but their story pushed the topic of human gene-editing and the ethics surrounding it to the forefront of the global scientific community.

In 2016, a technique called mitochondrial transfer was used successfully for the first time to create a three-parent baby grown from a fathers sperm, a mothers cell nucleus and a third donors egg that had the nucleus removed.

This technique was developed to prevent the transmission of certain genetic disorders through the mothers mitochondria. The majority of a three-parent babys DNA would come from his parents in the form of nuclear DNA, and only a small portion would come from the donor in the form of mitochondrial DNA.

A team led by physician John Zhang at the New Hope Fertility Center in New York City facilitated the birth of the first three-parent baby in April 2016.

Using human pluripotent stem cells, researchers were able to make the precursors of human sperm or eggs. In other words, they reprogrammed skin and blood stem cells to become an early-state version of what would eventually become either sperm or an egg.

"The creation of primordial germ cells is one of the earliest events during early mammalian development," Dr. Naoko Irie, first author of the paper from the Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute at the University of Cambridge told Science Daily. "It's a stage we've managed to recreate using stem cells from mice and rats, but until now few researches have done this systematically using human stem cells. It has highlighted important differences between embryo development in humans and rodents that may mean findings in mice and rats may not be directly extrapolated to humans."

A 2018 study showed that gene editing can allow two same-sex mice to conceive pups, and two female mice were able to successfully create healthy pups that then went on to reproduce themselves.

A team of researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, led by developmental biologist Qi Zhou, were able to use gene editing to produce 29 living mice from two females, seven of which went on to have their own pups. They were able to produce 12 pups from two male parents, but those offspring were not able to live more than two days.Whether or not the method can one day be used in same-sex human reproduction is still up for debate.

For the first time ever, Chinese scientists were able to clone two primates using the technique that produced Dolly the sheep, the first mammal to be cloned from an adult somatic cell via nuclear transfer.

The two cloned female macaques were named Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, and their successful birth opened up the possibility of using the same cloning method to one day clone humans.

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What a time to be alive: Reproductive breakthroughs of the 2010s that changed life as we know it - FOX 10 News Phoenix

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The Mandalorian fans think episode 5 ending teases Boba Fettheres why – Polygon

Posted: December 13, 2019 at 2:33 pm

This weeks episode of The Mandalorian was heavy on the fan service, as Mando and everyones favorite little green Force-user traveled to Tatooine. In an episode full of references, including a trip to the Mos Eisley Cantina, nothing got fans online stirring quite as much as a brief tease that closed the episode. But was it actually Boba Fett?

[Ed. note: this post contains spoilers for the first five episodes of The Mandalorian, as well as speculation about future episodes]

In the closing seconds of The Gunslinger, a fresh pair of boots enters the frame, and walks up to the corpse of Fennec Shand (played by Ming-Na Wen). Immediately, Star Wars fans scrutinized the boots, the only real details provided through the shows dim cinematography, and concluded this masked character must be Star Wars most famous bounty hunter.

Fans quickly cited Bobas appearance in the post-Special Edition versions of A New Hope as having a similar tracking sound to the one in the episode, and even called out the noises of the character walking as being similar to those in The Empire Strikes Back. But if this is Boba Fett, he would have to have gotten an entirely new wardrobe ... and also cheated death by escaping a slow and painful demise in the Sarlacc pit.

We dont get many shots of Boba Fetts full cape in the series, but as we can see from this image of him in The Empire Strikes Back hes only wearing a small half-cape that rests on his left shoulder. The Mandalorians new character wears a near body-length cape. And its not like Boba is the only one to wear something like that. Further muddying the fan theory is Carl Weathers Greef Karga, who wears a long duster in many of his scenes, and who we know is still on Mandos trail.

But if we throw out the fact that the cape looks nothing like Boba Fett, and the fact that the sounds of his boots being similar could mean anything, the idea of him surviving the Sarlacc pit isnt necessarily impossible. As C-3PO says, the Sarlacc digests its prey over the course of a thousand years. Thankfully, this means that youve got a pretty healthy amount of time to escape, especially if youve got a jet pack.

In the old expanded universe, now part of the retired Legends series rather than official canon, Boba Fett did exactly that. Despite being initially eaten by the Sarlacc the bounty hunter managed to activate his jet pack and fly out of the beast and survive. While this isnt part of Disneys Skywalker Saga continuity, it did seem like it might be in the cards early on.

When Disney brought Fantastic Four director Josh Trank on-board to direct his own Star Wars Story spin-off movie, rumors swirled that the film would focus on Boba Fett though based on the track record of Star Wars Story films, it certainly could have been a prequel. When Trank and Lucasfilm parted ways, the film was initially thought to be handed off to Logan and Ford v Ferrari director, James Mangold. However, after Disney changed its plans for the Star Wars franchise, the Boba Fett spin-off seemed to be all but canceled.

Boba Fetts appearance in The Mandalorian would mean a significant new twist in the canon, and while there isnt much evidence at the moment, his potential presence could serve an important purpose to the shows story. As we learned in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, Boba Fett is a clone of his father Jango Fett, who provided the genetic basis for the entire Clone Army created on Kamino. Jango wanted a son, and in return for offering his DNA, the Kamino scientists delivered.

While it hasnt been explicitly talked about in the series so far, Kamino and cloning could both play interesting roles in The Mandalorian. Dr. Pershing, the Imperial doctor accomplice of The Client who hopes to extract some kind of material from Baby Yoda, has a patch on the arm of his uniform that set off alarms for Star Wars scholars.

The only other place in the Star Wars universe a similar patch has appeared is in the cloning facility on Kamino. The same symbol appears on the arms of each clone soldier being trained on the planet.

The possibilities for bringing cloning back to Star Wars seem clear: either Baby Yoda is really a clone or even the Empire wants to replicate the genes of a lil kiddo who can wield the Force. Either way, it certainly seems like cloning is involved. In the extended universe of Legends canon, we know that Emperor Palpatine was a fan of the cloning process, even cloning himself multiple times as a way to outrun his own mortality something that could be relevant to his return in The Rise of Skywalker later this year.

If Baby Yoda hails from the cloning labs, maybe even the ones on Kamino, then it could make sense to bring in Boba Fett, the storys most famous clone, as a threat existential or otherwise. This would also make for a very sensible way to resurrect the fan-favorite bounty hunter, while also giving him an important and interesting relationship to the story.

While all this cloning nonsense would certainly make the return of Boba Fett seems plausible, all were missing now is the evidence. Fans may want to believe, and Boba himself may fit The Mandalorians subtly teased cloning twist well, but well just have to wait and see whether or not the show drags the bounty hunter out of the Sarlacc pit or not.

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DNA Embedded Into Everyday Objects Creates Perfect Clones of the Stanford Bunny – Nature World News

Posted: at 2:33 pm

Dec 11, 2019 03:29 AM EST

DNA stores nature's information. It's one of the best data storage on Earth and can beat even the most advanced cryptography techniques to date. The sequence of the same molecules of the same number can mark the difference between a banana and a slime mold, which sounds eerily like existing encryption techniques.

This is why computational biologist Yaniv Erlich thought of something that could be considered as a sort of "DNA of Things".

Since DNA can compress a large amount of information, Erlich is among those that have been working on DNAas data storage. One of his recent forays into the field is on how DNA could be integrated into everyday objects. By doing this, Erlich suggests that interconnectivity between gadgets could be brought about not just in how they communicate with each other over wavelengths (an industry favorite calledthe Internet of Things, or IoT for short), but also in how the information is embedded into the material of the gadgets themselves.

Along with nanoparticles specialist and partner for the project Robert Grass, Erlich went to ETH Zurich to borrow their 3D printer. Grass previously created a method to encase DNA molecules in glass shells and 2013 had developed a way to create silica particles such that when a positive electrical charge came into contact with negatively charged DNA, the silica particle would stick to it. The thin film made it possible for the fragile molecule to survive changes in temperature, pH levels, and UV light, thereby limiting the chance of losing the information encoded.

The 3D figure the duo created using this technique was that of a bunny figurine-the Stanford Bunny, to be exact. As one of the first images students learn to generate in 3D modeling, the bunny was used as both homage and something of an inside joke.

The figurine's polymer matrix was composed of trillions of Grass's microscopic beads, each containing molecules of synthetic DNA, which was encoded with a blueprint of the Stanford Bunny. The figurine itself, then, contained the instructions on how a 3D printer could replicate all the curves and contours of the Stanford Bunny. Cutting off a piece of the figurine, it would be possible to create an exact clone of itself, much like how cells in a body could instruct it to heal and renew itself. Or, as Erlich puts it, like pulling a rabbit out of a rabbit.

Putting theory into practice, Grass's team took a small piece of the original bunny they made and dissolved the plastic and glass away, converted the DNA left into a digital file and uploaded it to a 3D printer to create another replica of the bunny figurine. At the end of it, the researchers created up to five consecutive generations of bunnieswithout losing any data during the production process, described in detail in Nature Biotechnology.

This groundbreaking study not only demonstrates the use of cloning non-organic material but also redefines the ways data storage could be secured. Aside from storing health records into medical implants, the team also recommends the viability of the DNA of Things as a way to facilitate the development of self-replicating machines. While the tools used in the experiment such as the 3D printer are still either commercially unavailable or significantly expensive, the scalability of the DNA of Things was thoroughly explored by the team and proves to be worth further study.

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Dead dogs and cats cloned by grieving owners to have a piece of them back’ – Daily Star

Posted: at 2:33 pm

Grieving pet owners are forking out thousands of pounds to clone their beloved pets in a bid to keep their memories alive.

Cloning gives owners the chance to extend the loving bond they shared with their pet but with an identical twin animal.

ViaGen Pets and Equine is able to clone cats, dogs and horses by taking tissue cells from an animal which are then frozen and stored.

Once the pet owner is ready to begin cloning, the company uses a small portion of cells to form an embryo which is then transferred into a surrogate dog.

ViaGen offers Genetic Preservation for a cool $1600 (1200) with cloning services ranging anywhere from $50,000 (38,000) to $85,000 (65,000) depending on the animal.

But for some - the price tag doesn't matter as pet owners usually preserve their pet's DNA during harrowing times.

ViaGen Client Service Manager Melain Rodriguez said: "Most clients are preserving their pet's DNA when the pet is approaching the end of its life or just after the pet has passed away.

"The pet is often the best dog, cat or foal they've ever had and the thought of being without their animal is too much to bear.

"Preserving the DNA through Genetic Preservation offered the pet parent hope and peace.

"It helps keeps the pet's memory alive and give the pet parent hope, knowing that they could clone that pet someday."

Melain speaks from experience and revealed she took steps to preserve both of her dogs after they passed away a year ago.

She said: "I have two of my own dogs' cells cryopreserved.

"They both passed away about a year ago and the older one Zeus was 13 when passed.

"He was my husband's sidekick and best buddy.

"We'd love to clone Zeus someday and have a little piece of him back."

Melain is also the mum pet mum to gorgeous cloned Bengal cat Benji.

The cat Benji was cloned from was owned by a friend of Melain who is a Bengal cat breeder.

He cloned his favourite male cat Prestige and 2 kittens were born as a result.

"In most situations, the client wants to take all kittens or puppies that are born, but because this owner was a friend of mine, and he knew how much I loved Prestige, he was gracious enough to give Benji to me and he kept the other kitten," Melain told Daily Star Online.

Prestige and Benji are extremely similar and have the same temperament but do differ.

Melain said: "Benji is a bit more rotund than Prestige.

"Benji loves to eat in his spare time but Prestige loves to chase girl cats in his spare time."

Melain said ViaGen manage the pet owners expectations by making sure they understand the animal is not a reincarnation of the original pet but an identical twin.

She said: "The cloned animal will most likely have different experiences that will help mould the personality of the pet but the underlying temperament and intelligence of the pet is highly influenced by its genetics which will be the same.

"If a pet has a disease or illness that is genetically linked - then the pet owner needs to be aware that the cloned animal will have the same genetics and the same genetic potential to develop that same disease or illness at some point in its life."

The self-proclaimed animal lover said she understands some may not understand the need for the service but the company fulfils a need that cannot be met in any other manner.

She said: "We understand that many people believe strongly that breeders should not increase the dog or cat populations with new puppies or kittens until shelters are no longer needed for unwanted dogs or cats.

"But we also see a space for responsible breeders and we have seen where our services can fulfil a need that cannot be met in any manner."

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Huge Outlay on Voice Cloning Market Growth Analysis and Forecasting with Major Players are Baidu Inc, Google LLC, Lyrebird.ai, iSpeech AG, VivoText…

Posted: at 2:33 pm

The Research Corporation report says, A global Voice Cloning Market focused on in-depth analysis of the market with detailed analysis of market size and growth. The analysis includes market share by value, product and region. The report also provides a detailed analysis of online sports betting in terms of global value. This report provides a detailed analysis of the European Voice Cloning Market. This includes market by value, market share by product, and market size of key products. The report also provided a brief regional analysis of North America Country (United States, Canada), South America, Asia Country (China, Japan, India, Korea), Europe Country (Germany, UK, France, Italy), Other Country (Middle East, Africa, GCC).

Voice cloning is a highly desired feature for personalized speech interfaces. We introduce a neural voice cloning system that learns to synthesize a person's voice from only a few audio samples. In speech synthesis, generative models can be conditioned on text and speaker identity

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Chatbot and AssistantsAccessibilityDigital GamesInteractive GamesOthers (Announcement Systems, Text Readers, and Talking Avatars)

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Huge Outlay on Voice Cloning Market Growth Analysis and Forecasting with Major Players are Baidu Inc, Google LLC, Lyrebird.ai, iSpeech AG, VivoText...

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Master the art of face swapping with OpenCV and Python by Sylwek Brzczkowski, developer at TrustStamp – Packt Hub

Posted: at 2:33 pm

No discussion on image processing can be complete without talking about OpenCV. Its 2500+ algorithms, extensive documentation and sample code are considered world-class for exploring real-time computer vision. OpenCV supports a wide variety of programming languages such as C++, Python, Java, etc., and is also available on different platforms including Windows, Linux, OS X, Android, and iOS.

OpenCV-Python, the Python API for OpenCV is one of the most popular libraries used to solve computer vision problems. It combines the best qualities of OpenCV, C++ API, and the Python language. The OpenCV-Python library uses Numpy, which is a highly optimized library for numerical operations with a MATLAB-style syntax. This makes it easier to integrate the Python API with other libraries that use Numpy such as SciPy and Matplotlib. This is the reason why it is used by many developers to execute different computer vision experiments.

At the PyData Warsaw 2018 conference, Sylwek Brzczkowski walked through how to implement a face swap using OpenCV and Python. Face swaps are used by apps like Snapchat to dispense various face filters. Brzczkowski is a Python developer at TrustStamp.

Histogram of oriented gradients (HOG) is a feature descriptor that is used to detect objects in computer vision and image processing. Brzczkowski demonstrated the working of a HOG using square patches which when hovered over an array of images produces a histogram of oriented gradients feature vectors. These feature vectors are then passed to the classifier to generate a result having the highest matching samples.

In order to implement face detection using HOG in Python, the image needs to be imported using import OpenCV. Next a frontal face detector object is created for the loaded image detector=dlib.get_frontal_face_detector(). The detector then produces the vector with the detected face.

Face landmark detection is the process of finding points of interest in an image of a human face. When dlib is used for facial landmark detection, it returns 68 unique fashion landmarks for the whole face. After the first iteration of the algorithm, the value of T equals 0. This value increases linearly such that at the end of the iteration, T gets the value 10. The image evolved at this stage produces the ground truth, which means that the iteration can stop now. Due to this working, this stage of the process is also called as face alignment.

To implement this stage, Brzczkowski showed how to add a predictor in the Python program with the values shape_predictor_68_face_landmarks.dat such that it produces a model of around 100 megabytes. This process generally takes up a long time as we tend to pick the biggest clearer image for detection.

The convex hull is a set of points defined as the smallest convex polygon, which encloses all of the points in the set. This means that for a given set of points, the convex hull is the subset of these points such that all the given points are inside the subset. To find the face border in an image, we need to change the structure a bit. The structure is first passed to the convex hull function with return points to false, this means that we get an output of indexes. Brzczkowski then exhibited the face border in the image in blue color using the find_convex_hull.py function.

In a linear filtering of an image, the value of an output pixel is a linear combination of the values of the pixels. Brzczkowski put forth the example of Affine transformation which is a type of linear mapping method and is used to preserve points, straight lines, and planes. On the other hand, a non-linear filtering produces an output which is not a linear function of its input. He then goes on to unveil both the transitions using his own image. Brzczkowski then advised users to check the website learnOpenCV.com to learn how to create a nonlinear operation with a linear one.

A Delaunay triangulation subdivides a set of points in a plane into triangles such that the points become vertices of the triangles. This means that this method subdivides the space or the surface into triangles in such a way that if you look at any triangle on the image, it will not have another point inside the triangle. Brzczkowski then demonstrates how the image developed in the previous stage contained face points from which you can identify my teeth and then create sub div to the object, insert all these points that I created or all detected. Next, he deploys Delaunay triangulation to produce a list of two angles. This list is then used to obtain the triangles in the image. Post this step, he uses the delaunay_triangulation.py function to generate these triangles on the images.

To recap, we started from detecting a face using HOG and finding its border using convex hull, followed it by adding mouth points to indicate specific indexes. Next, Delaunay triangulation was implemented to obtain all the triangles on the images.

Next, Brzczkowski begins the blending of images using seamless cloning. A seamless cloning combines the attributes of other cloning methods to create a unique solution to allow sequence-independent and scarless insertion of one or more fragments of DNA into a plasmid vector. This cloning method also provides a variety of skin colors to choose from.

Brzczkowski then explains a feature called pass on edit image in the Poisson image editing which uses the value of the gradients instead of the identities or the values of the pixels of the image.

To implement the same method in OpenCV, he further demonstrates how information like source, destination, source image destination, mask and center (which is the location where the cloned part should be placed) is required to blend the two faces. Brzczkowski then depicts a string of illustrations to transform his image with the images of popular artists like Jamie Foxx, Clint Eastwood, and others.

In computer vision, the Lucas-Kanade method is a widely used differential method for optical flow estimation. It assumes that the flow is essentially constant in a local neighborhood of the pixel under consideration, and solves the basic optical flow equations for all the pixels in that neighborhood, by the least-squares criterion. Thus by combining information from several nearby pixels, the LucasKanade method resolves the inherent ambiguity of the optical flow equation. This method is also less sensitive to noises in an image.

By using this method to implement the stabilization of the face swapped image, it is assumed that the optical flow is essentially constant in a local neighborhood of the pixel under consideration in human language. This means that if we have a red point in the center we assume that all the points around, lets say in this example is three on three pixels we assume that all of them have the same optical flow and thanks to that assumption we have nine equations and only two unknowns.

This makes the computation fairly easy to solve. By using this assumption the optical flow works smoothly if we have the previous gray position of the image. This means that for face swapping images using OpenCV, a user needs to have details of the previous points of the image along with the current points of the image. By combining all this information, the actual point becomes a combination of the detected landmark and the predicted landmark.

Thus by implementing the Lucas-Kanade method for stabilizing the image, Brzczkowski implements a non-shaky version of his face-swapped image. Watch Brzczkowskis full video to see a step-by-step implementation of a face-swapping task.

You can learn advanced applications like facial recognition, target tracking, or augmented reality from our book, Mastering OpenCV 4 with Python written by Alberto Fernndez Villn. This book will also help you understand the application of artificial intelligence and deep learning techniques using popular Python libraries like TensorFlow and Keras.

Getting to know PyMC3, a probabilistic programming framework for Bayesian Analysis in Python

How to perform exception handling in Python with try, catch and finally

Implementing color and shape-based object detection and tracking with OpenCV and CUDA [Tutorial]

OpenCV 4.0 releases with experimental Vulcan, G-API module and QR-code detector among others

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Master the art of face swapping with OpenCV and Python by Sylwek Brzczkowski, developer at TrustStamp - Packt Hub

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In the digital age fraudsters dupe AIIMS of 12 crore by cloning cheques and signatures – National Herald

Posted: November 30, 2019 at 10:43 am

Fraudsters siphoned off 12 crore from two bank accounts of India's premier medical institute, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), by allegedly using 'cloned cheques' over the past one month.

The money has been siphoned off from the bank accounts the medical institute has with the State Bank of India (SBI). The bank has initiated an internal enquiry into the matter.

A top placed source in Delhi Police told IANS on the condition of anonymity, "This is a case of cyber crime. The accounts from which 12 crore have been withdrawn are operated by the AIIMS director and the Dean. 7 crore were withdrawn from the account operated by the Director whereas 5 crore were withdrawn from the account held on the name of the Dean."

If sources are to be believed, the AIIMS in its report sent to the Union Health Ministry held responsible for the fraud.

The SBI has also alerted all its branches and advised its employees against paying high value cheques issued by AIIMS, New Delhi.

A Delhi Police source said: "The hospital administration has already informed the Economic Offences Wing of Delhi Police, which has initiated a probe."

A hospital source said that the fraudsters made attempts to siphon off over 20 crore from SBI's non-home branch in Dehradun and 9 crore from Mumbai in the last one week by allegedly using the cloned cheques. However, they failed in their attempts.

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Media reports in 2016 had reported that a gang of five persons, who were involved in a fraud involving encashment by forging bank cheques had been busted in Uttar Pradesh

The gang initially tried taking photographs of cheques issued by companies. They then duplicated the cheques by chemically altering the number and forging signatures by tracing the signature. They also called the bank and obtained the balances in the account giving some details such as the last payment made.

Media reports had quoted police as saying that the gang used the cheque leaves issued to themselves while opening the account and created the forged cheques by altering the Cheque Number. They managed to encash the Account Payee cheques.

The Reserve Bank of India had come up with a set of guidelines for banks to ensure preventive measures to lower cheque frauds. One measure aimed to employ mobile technology in the form of SMS alerts to be sent out as soon as a cheque is received for clearing

Another step to scrutinise large value cheques was to alert customers via phone calls and obtain confirmations from the drawer/payer of the cheque. RBI had stated that banks should exercise extra caution while clearing cheques that are above a certain threshold value.

Account holders were also advised to follow the following steps:

What is surprising is that the AIIMS Director or Dean apparently were neither alerted nor were the recipients of SMS alerts.

Attempts to contact the Director, AIIMS for a comment proved abortive. We will update the report as and when we hear from them.

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In the digital age fraudsters dupe AIIMS of 12 crore by cloning cheques and signatures - National Herald

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