Brazil artists turn former government building into creative centre

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Creativity is blooming in one of the least likely of places in Brazil.

The 13-storey Ouvidor building in the heart of Sao Paulo used to be a local government building before it fell out of use.

Empty and derelict, the site was wasted until 300 painters, sculptors, circus performers and musicians moved in, transforming it into an artistic hub.

Now, they want the house officially declared a creative centre.

Al Jazeera’s Daniel Schweimler reports from Sao Paulo.


Doctoral Student in Religion Delves into Printmaking for Insights on Suffering

Stephanie Gehring Ladd and one of her prints

Stephanie Gehring Ladd, a doctoral student in Religion at Duke’s Graduate School, received a grant to take a printmaking course at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and to spend time in a Durham printmaking studio. Her aim was to gain insight into the process of intaglio printmaking in order to enhance her observational powers in writing about prints and inform her dissertation on attention to suffering in the work of Simone Weil and Käthe Kollwitz.

Ladd was among 19 graduate students from five schools at Duke who received Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants in 2016 for training beyond their core disciplines. Her faculty mentor was Paul J. Griffiths. She shared this update.

I took a printmaking course at UNC this fall, and Professor Brian Garner was fantastic to work with. He let me custom-tailor a course within his Introduction to Intaglio, so that I was able to focus on the intaglio printmaking techniques most used by the artist I am studying, Käthe Kollwitz. She mainly did copper etching, with a shading technique called aquatint, and I produced one small print (it’s a long process!) using copperplate etching and aquatint.

I learned an enormous amount about how her work was done—the main striking thing about etching is that it is a process that goes backwards, compared to drawing. In a drawing, you put down your lightest lines first, and then darken as you want to in the places where you’d prefer it to be darker. But in intaglio, once a piece of the plate is “open” (i.e., the protective ground is removed so that it can be etched, either by scratching or scraping or by washing off the ground), it is difficult to cover it back up in a precise way. This means that the first lines one puts in end up being the ones that get etched over and over in each round; therefore, they are the darkest. So instead of the first lines ending up being the lightest lines, the first ones are the darkest.

While intaglio prints can look a great deal like pen and ink drawings, they require enormously more planning in order to execute. The “fresh from the artist’s pen” look that they can have is, therefore, quite deceptive. It’s been a great gift having the GSTEG grant.

This internal funding mechanism from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies encourages graduate students to step away from their core research and training to acquire additional skills, knowledge or co-curricular experiences that will give them new perspectives on their research agendas. Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants are intended to deepen preparation for academic positions and other career trajectories.

Read about other 2016-2017 recipients’ experiences:

  • Nanotechnology at Los Alamos
  • Christian Engagement with Architecture
  • Singapore’s Urbanization
  • Brazilian Governance
  • Capitalism, Slavery and Freedom

Image: Copper intaglio print by Stephanie Gehring Ladd; Stephanie with her baby


Unions urge parents to turn education cuts into election battleground

Kevin Courtney, NUT general secretary.

Kevin Courtney, NUT general secretary: ‘We want to put pressure on every candidate … to pledge to oppose school cuts in their constituency and elsewhere.’ Photograph: Getty

Teaching unions say they will carry the fight against budget cuts affecting schools directly to parents and voters, with the National Union of Teachers’ general secretary vowing to make education funding a key election issue.

Kevin Courtney told the union’s annual conference the snap election was an opportunity to challenge the funding shortages in England.

“In the run-up to this election, parents must demand of all politicians: will they invest in our country, will they invest in our children?” he told delegates in Cardiff.

“I don’t believe there’s a parent anywhere in this country who voted for their child’s class size to go up, or voted for their child to lose the opportunity to do art or dance or music.

“So parents must now demand clarity from candidates seeking office. We want to put pressure on every candidate in every constituency to pledge to oppose school cuts in their constituency and elsewhere.

“We can reach parents with this and we can make a difference in the general election.”

Courtney, in his first union address since his election as general secretary, demanded that the government publish its consultation on the controversial national funding formula planned for schools in England.

“It would be an absolute disgrace if they did not publish their response to this before the general election. Parents need to know what they are voting for, they need to know what the parties are saying about the funding of their children’s schools,” he said.

But if the Conservative party attempted to appease unhappy MPs “by taking more money from London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Nottingham, then I’m saying to Theresa May: expect industrial action from this union, and expect it soon”, he added.

Courtney accused the Tories of breaking their previous election manifesto pledge on school funding. “Because that Conservative manifesto promise was broken, across the country we’re seeing class sizes going up, we are seeing arts, dance, drama, music taken off the curriculum. We’re seeing thousands of teaching assistants made redundant or not replaced,” he said.

The NUT’s call on funding was joined by other unions, including those representing headteachers.

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Our top message is that there is insufficient funding in the education system. We call on all political parties to commit to investing in education as part of a long-term economic plan.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said his union would also campaign over the school funding cuts. “There are crises, like teacher recruitment and the £3bn of cuts the government expects schools to make, that should not be forgotten during the election campaign,” he said.

“We will lobby every party to make sure that their policies on education are based on evidence and are at the forefront of their campaigns.”

The NUT had previously passed a motion rejecting the government’s plans to revive selective schools in England.

“This union is clear. Justine Greening and Theresa May’s ‘grammar schools for everyone’ is just an oxymoron,” Courtney said. “We believe Theresa May has been very nervous of using a legislative route. She has no electoral mandate for it but she is now seeking one. So this debate is now very public.”


Kasisto Announces KAI Insights to Transform Banking Data into Intelligent Conversations

SAN JOSE, Calif., March 6, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Today at the Bank Innovation Conference, Kasisto announced KAI Insights, significantly extending the capabilities of its conversational AI platform that powers smart bots and virtual assistants for financial institutions. With Insights and Conversation tightly integrated as part of the KAI Banking platform, bots and assistants can seamlessly process banking data to predict customers’ financial needs and make actionable recommendations – all via human-like conversations.

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More than 70 percent of consumers would be willing to receive computer-generated banking advice, as noted in a recent Accenture survey of 33,000 consumers across 18 countries. In addition, Gartner estimates that by 2020, customers will manage 85 percent of their relationship with a business without interacting with a human. Kasisto’s customers are paving the way toward that future by defining how consumers will engage with their banks.

On its own, a financial institution’s raw data is not enough to drive intelligent conversations and actionable recommendations. With KAI Insights, the disparate and often uncategorized data is continually augmented and enriched so Kasisto’s conversational engine can leverage the high quality data, understand users and generate a customized, personalized, contextual response in the way people actually speak and text with one another. KAI Insights takes data analysis to the next level by creating data-driven triggers based on patterns and events which are used by the conversational engine to offer proactive recommendations, contextual promotions and real-time notifications. The combination of insights and conversation is what enables KAI-powered assistants and bots to become powerful “do engines” – predicting needs, solving problems and fulfilling requests for consumers.

With KAI, financial institutions meet the increasing demands and expectations of their customers who want immediate answers, personalized recommendations and excellent user experiences. It enables entirely new omni-channel banking experiences that help:

  • Reduce customer care costs by eliminating and qualifying customer inquiries. KAI-powered bots and assistants proactively inform customers about transactions and patterns, and suggest actions to self serve.
  • Increase sales of products and services with contextual offers. KAI-powered bots and assistants cross-promote and upsell with personalized call-to-actions.
  • Improve customers’ financial well-being and literacy. KAI-powered bots and assistants provide data-driven recommendations and insights to help customers manage their money.
  • Increase brand loyalty by highlighting unrealized features and benefits to consumers about current products and services.

“We have significant traction in the market and valuable experience under our belt deploying KAI at various financial institutions,” said Zor Gorelov, CEO and Co-Founder of Kasisto. “With this production experience, we’ve learned that often there is a need to augment banking data to fully unleash the benefits and power of our conversational platform. That’s why it is so important to have Insights and Conversation working hand in hand. The heavy lifting that Insights does with the data is really what makes the conversation intelligent, and ultimately a more personal and meaningful banking experience.”

KAI Insights creates experiences that help financial institutions increase engagement and conversion in entirely new ways, such as:

  • Proactively asking a customer if they want to set a travel alert on a credit card after they made an airline purchase and walking them through creating the alert
  • Suggesting that a customer move money from their savings account to checking to cover a bill that is due soon.
  • Informing a customer about a credit card benefit, like extended warranty, after a large purchase at an electronics store.
  • Notifying a customer when a goal is achieved, like eating out less, and recommending that they open a savings account.

Kasisto licenses KAI Banking to financial institutions, including the world’s most innovative retail banks, credit card companies, brokerage houses and wealth management firms. Publicly announced customers include DBS Bank, Mastercard and Varo Money, while other leading financial institutions are in various stages of piloting the platform.

About Kasisto
Kasisto was founded in 2013 with the vision of enabling companies to engage and transact with their customers through intelligent conversations, anytime, anywhere. Kasisto’s conversational AI platform, KAI, offers enterprises a comprehensive AI technology stack combined with industry-specific domain expertise to make bots and virtual assistants well versed in the businesses they serve. As an SRI International spin-off, Kasisto leverages decades of research and development in artificial intelligence. KAI Banking enables financial institutions to add virtual assistants and smart bots to their mobile apps, websites and leading messaging platforms. With an emphasis on great user experience, KAI-powered virtual assistants and smart bots are easy to implement, customize and maintain. For more information visit and follow @kasistoinc on Twitter.

[“Source- finance”]