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Online testing is a biased mess, and senators are demanding answers

We finally know who watches the (exam) watchers. 

On Thursday, six Democratic senators sent an open letter to the CEO of the online test-administering company ExamSoft. At issue are claims online proctoring and remote-testing software is biased against people of color and people with disabilities, and that it invades students’ privacy.

“We write to request information on the steps that your company has taken to protect the civil rights of students and ensure that ExamSoft is not creating barriers for students’ futures,” the senators write. 

For those fortunate enough to not have had their education derailed by the coronavirus pandemic, remote proctoring may be a foreign concept. It some cases, it literally involves a stranger watching you take a test through your webcam ostensibly to guard against cheating. In other instances, an opaque computer-vision system attempts to detect “abnormal exam-taker activity” — whatever that means. 

ExamSoft’s ExamMonitor feature is one such offering. According to the company’s website, it offers a “AI-driven remote proctoring solution that continuously observes exam takers with video and audio monitoring throughout the entire exam.”

The ExamMonitor brochure goes into more detail. 

“Once the exam has begun, ExamMonitor captures a continuous audio and video recording of the exam taker using both webcam and screen capture,” it explains. “Once the exam is completed, the exam footage is uploaded to ExamSoft and analyzed and reviewed by a trained professional.”

Allegations that remote proctoring software fails to register Black and brown students as, well, people, have dogged the technology from the start. 

“The @ExamSoft software can’t ‘recognize’ me due to ‘poor lighting’ even though I’m sitting in a well lit room,” wrote one student in September. “Starting to think it has nothing to do with lighting. Pretty sure we all predicted their facial recognition software wouldn’t work for people of color.”

The letter signatories — Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Sen. Ron Wyden, Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Sen. Tina Smith, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Sen. Cory Booker — expounded upon this issue in their Dec. 3 letter. 

“Students of color, and students wearing religious dress, like head scarves, have reported issues with the software’s inability to recognize their facial features, temporarily barring them from accessing the software,” they write. “Just as alarmingly, students have reported egregious situations in which monitoring features have flagged individuals with disabilities or physical conditions, such as tic disorders or muscle reflexes, as suspicious, and in which virtual ‘proctors’ failed to accommodate students’ disabilities.”

What’s more, the letter raises concerns regarding student privacy — noting that not only in some cases are students, and the interior of their homes, observed by an “unknown virtual proctor,” but that students must install software on their computers. 

“While all this information can be useful for maintaining integrity in testing and ensuring that student needs are being met, questions remain about where and how this data is being used before, during, and after tests, by both your company, the virtual proctors, and testing administrators,” write the senators. 

In September, Jason Kelley, the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s acting associate director of research, explained over email that remote proctoring software in general is fundamentally flawed.

“In many ways, [remote proctoring] software is indistinguishable from a different, nefarious type of software supposedly used to detect ‘cheating’ — spouseware,” he explained. “Overall, these tools are far more invasive than necessary, they won’t necessarily detect cheating, and they will likely exacerbate existing inequities in educational outcomes.”

SEE ALSO: Amazon quietly announces major expansion to neighborhood surveillance networks

We reached out to ExamSoft to see if it had a response to the senators’ concerns, and if it intends to respond to the letter. We received no immediate response. 

The senators are definitely expecting to hear back, however, and have asked that ExamSoft CEO Sabastian Vos respond by Dec. 17. Perhaps he can record, upload, and send along a video of himself doing so to ensure the integrity of the response process. 

Bypass geo-restrictions and stream securely with CyberGhost VPN

SAVE 82%: A three-year subscription to CyberGhost VPN is on sale for £1.99 per month as of Dec. 4, and includes an extra three months of coverage for free.

This might come as a surprise, but the online world is not free. It’s actually full of blockades, restrictions, and other pesky things that can stop you in your tracks.

The only thing you can to do bypass these restrictions is to invest in a VPN. These security services hide your real IP address and encrypt your traffic, so that you can browse, shop, and stream anonymously. There are plenty of popular services to consider, and CyberGhost VPN is one of the best options for streaming.

CyberGhost VPN subscribers get access to over 6,000 servers worldwide, protection for up to seven devices at the same time, and around the clock customer support. Users also get strong connection speeds and apps for all your devices, meaning you should be able to unlock popular streaming sites like Netflix with ease.

A three-year subscription to CyberGhost VPN is on sale for £1.99 per month as of Dec. 4, saving you 82% on list price. This plan includes an extra three months of coverage for free, and a generous 45-day money-back guarantee.

Enjoy total online freedom with CyberGhost VPN.

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Here’s how to watch the Premier League for free this weekend

TL;DR: Sign up for a trial of Amazon Prime to watch the Premier League for free this weekend.

You may have heard the news that Amazon has bagged the rights to a bunch of Premier League games in December, and you might be resigned to missing out on these fixtures without an Amazon Prime membership. Do not despair, because there’s something you can do.

You can watch every game for free if you sign up for a 30-day trial of Amazon Prime. The final round of games takes place on Dec. 30, which means a free trial of Amazon Prime would grant you access to all the remaining fixtures on the calendar.

After the trial comes to an end, you’ll have the option to continue with a membership for £7.99 per month or £79 a year. Your subscription will automatically renew for the full price at the end of the 30-day trial period, but you can cancel this at any time. Just don’t forget to cancel if you’ve only signed up for the football.

You may be tempted to continue with Amazon Prime given the many benefits that members receive. Prime members get things like free and fast shipping for eligible purchases, streaming of movies, shows, and music, shopping deals, and unlimited reading. 

Watch the Premier League for free this weekend with Amazon Prime.

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JFK assassination conspiracy theory debunked after 57 years ‘Something everybody missed’

President John Fitzgerlad Kennedy was shot on November 22, 1963, while riding in a presidential motorcade with his wife Jackie Kennedy through Dallas Texas. At 12.30pm local time, lone gunman Lee Harvey Oswald, a former US Marine, ambushed the motorcade from a nearby building, fatally shooting the US president and Texas governor John Connally. Just 70 minutes after the attack, Oswald was apprehended by police and was executed on live TV the following day by nightclub owner Jack Ruby while being transferred from the city jail to the county jail.


In the years that followed the tragic event, the JFK assassination has been plagued by a wide array of conspiracies and fringe theories attempting explaining why Oswald killed the president.

The theories have covered a wide manner of possibilities, such as Oswald was not acting alone or, even more bizarrely, that aliens were somehow involved in the shooting.

And just three years ago, FiveThirtyEight reported that a staggering 61 percent of people still believe JFK’s death was a much more complex affair with multiple parties involved.

Gonzalo Soltero, a book author and professor at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, has investigated one these conspiracy theories, debunking claims Oswald’s intentions can be explained through a trip he took to Mexico in 1963.

Professor Soltero wrote about his investigation in his book Conspiracy Narratives South of the Border – Bad Hombres Do the Twist.

READ MORE: JFK bombshell: Complex relationship between Lee Harvey Oswald and CIA

JFK assassination: Lee Harvey Oswald mugshot

JFK assassination: Was Lee Harvey Oswald part of a Cuban intelligence network? (Image: GETTY)

JFK assassinatio: Photo of president's motorcade

JFK assassination: Photo taken moments after the US president was shot in Dallas, Texas (Image: GETTY)

He said: “Just over a month before Kennedy’s killing, Oswald took a bus from Texas to Mexico City.

“He arrived Friday morning, September 27, 1963 and left very early on Wednesday, October 2, according to American and Mexican intelligence.

“Was Oswald a kind of rogue James Bond who went south of the border to consort with communists, Cuban revolutionaries and spies – or just a deranged killer?

“I dug into that question while researching my book on conspiracy narratives in Mexico, and I think I found something everybody else missed: a hole in the story of the very man who started a tenacious conspiracy theory about Oswald’s Mexico trip.”

As the story goes, Oswald travelled to Mexico where he visited the Cuban and Soviet embassies to obtain travel visas to the countries.

America at the time was gripped by the Cold War and US citizens were barred from visiting both nations.

JFK assassination: Police photo of Lee Harvey Oswald

JFK assassination: Lee Harvey Oswald was apprehended shortly after the shooting (Image: GETTY)

JFK assassination: Jack Ruby mugshot

JFK assassination: Jack Ruby killed Oswald the day after the shooting (Image: GETTY)

While at the Soviet embassy, CIA documents reveal Oswald brandished a gun before he broke down in tears and left.

By all accounts, he was desperate to leave the US, which has led some to believe he was involved with foreign intelligence.

Oswald’s whereabouts in the next three days are unknown, but he is said to have met a 28-year-old reporter for El Sol de Tampico named Óscar Contreras Lartigue.

According to Mr Contreras, Oswald was a staunch supporter of the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and had been desperate to cross over to Cuba.

Mr Contreras was investigated in 1967 by the CIA to learn more about Oswald’s actions in 1963, although he claimed he knew nothing of his plans to assassinate the US president other than his desire to leave for Cuba.

He shared the same story in 2013 for an interview in The New York Times.

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JKF assassination: Oswald posing with a rifle

JFK assassination: Oswald posing in a backyard with a rifle (Image: GETTY)

JFK assassination: Dallas location of shooting

JFK assassination: The spot where the US president was shot in 1963 (Image: GETTY)

But according to Professor Gonzalo, there are holes in this well-documented story that cast doubt on Mr Contreras’ account of events.

In particular, he believes the dates do not match up for when the reporter said he worked at El Sol de Tampico and when Oswald was in Mexico City.

Instead, he argued it was unlikely Mr Contreras, who died in 2016, would have met Oswald while working hundreds of miles away from Mexico City, in Tampico.

He said: “Óscar Contreras became the reporter for ‘Crisol’ on June 6, 1963, and continued writing the gossip column in September and October that year.

“While Lee Harvey Oswald was in Mexico City, Contreras was 300 miles away in Tampico.

“In flamboyant prose, faded back issues of the local paper show, he chronicled the sumptuous wedding receptions, quinceañeras and yacht excursions of Tampico’s high society.

“I believe the Sol de Tampico archives discredit Contereras’ account.”

If the pair never met, then the details of Oswald’s trip to Mexico in 1963 are once again shrouded in darkness, although Professor Gonzalo thinks the Mexico lead is a futile one.

He wrote in an article for The Conversation: “There are other conspiracy theories, including that Oswald had a Mexican mistress who took him to a party of communists and spies.

“But it’s more likely Mexico holds no hidden clues to JFK’s assassination.

“Conspiracy theories offer assurances of depth and closure, a promise that the biggest enigma of the 20th century is solvable.

“But from what we know about what Oswald did and didn’t do in Mexico City, he was a volatile, disorganized loner who couldn’t even handle travel logistics.

“JFK’s assassination is a cold case. And in Mexico, only exhausted leads remain.”

End of the world claims: Preacher warns of December 21 doomsday signs of Christ’s return

Pastor Paul Begley addresses ‘end of the world’ claims

A triple whammy of supposedly prophetic events will strike this month with conspiracy theorists predicting signs in the heaven will spell the end of the world. On December 21 this year, the planets Saturn and Jupiter will come together in the night skies for a so-called great conjunction. The astronomical event will mark the first conjunction of the two gas giants in 20 years and, more importantly, it will be the .


The conjunction has already been interpreted by some as a sign of Biblical significance, but the conspiracy theories do not end there, because the 2012 Mayan calendar has been resurrected once more.

After claims the world would cease to exist on December 21, 2012, conspiracy theorists have had to seriously reconsider their prophecies.

The theory, which stated the world would end on the day the Mayan calendar ran out, is making the rounds once again after .

Instead, conspiracy theorists have claimed an 11-day discrepancy between the defunct Julian calendar and the modern-day Gregorian calendar has shifted the doomsday date by eight years.

READ MORE: Bible discovery: Goliath the giant may have not been so big after all

End of the world: Jesus Christ and Maya calendar

End of the world 2020 prophecy: Why are some people saying doomsday could soon strike? (Image: GETTY)

End of the world 2020: The Maya calendar

End of the world 2020: It has been claimed the Mayan calendar will end on December 21, 2020 (Image: GETTY)

December 21 is also the day of the winter solstice, which will mark the astronomical start of winter.

On this day, the planet’s north pole will be most tilted away from the Sun.

The days also happens to be the birthday of Paul Begley, an Indiana-based evangelist, TV host and online personality known for his outrageous end of the world claims.

Pastor Begley has now opened up about the looming date, stating the Mayan were most likely wrong but December 21 could still set in motion the .

According to Christian scripture, the return of the Messiah will be preceded by signs in the heavens and the Earth, as well as upheaval and unrest among the people.

Pastor Begley, who hosts the weekly TV series The Coming Apocalypse, fervently believes we are living in the end times and it is a matter of time before Armageddon unfolds.

He said: “If you subtract those 11 days from the 268 years we’re no longer using the Julian calendar, and if you go and subtract those 11 days off from every year, that means the end of the world according to the Mayans was December 21, 2012.

“But December 21, 2012, would actually be December 21, 2020.

“Is this doomsday? Is this the end of the world? Well, maybe?

“I don’t think so, Matter of fact, from prophecy, no.

“But could it be a sign of the soon coming of Jesus Christ, or could it be a ?”

The firebrand preacher then read from the Gospel of Luke, which speaks of Jesus describing the end days.

Verse 10 reads: “Then he said to them: ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.

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End of the world 2020: Jesus Christ the messiah

End of the world 2020: Many people are waiting for the prophesied return of Jesus Christ (Image: GETTY)

End of the world 2020: The Holy Bible

End of the world 2020: Do you think prophecies in the Bible will come to pass? (Image: GETTY)

“‘There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.'”

According to Pastor Begley, many of these signs are already unfolding, such as worldwide food disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

In his opinion, the great conjunction on December 21 is going to be a “great sign” of the Second Coming.

He said: “Guys, are you serious? There shall be signs and fearful sights in the heavens.”

Scripture, however, makes a clear point about not attempting to date set the return of Christ.

The Christian Messiah said in Matthew 24: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

“As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”

Some experts have also suggested prophesying Jesus’s return in this fashion is a borderline un-Christian endeavour.

Stephen Witmer of the Pepperell Christian Fellowship in Pepperell, Massachusetts, said: “As the theologian G.C. Berkouwer once said, we’re not called to reckon the time of Jesus’s return — we’re called to reckon with it, to allow it to fruitfully shape our lives in the present.”

Czech Hunter Reports Rifle-Stealing Deer To Police

PRAGUE (Reuters) – Czech police are seeking help in an unusual case after a deer turned the tables on hunters and snagged a pursuer’s rifle on his antlers before running away.

The deer, frightened by a dog, ran toward one of the hunting party, tore his sleeve and caught a strap of a 0.22 Hornet rifle on his antlers, police said on Tuesday.

“The rifle, which the hunter had slung over his left arm – fortunately without ammo – slipped on the deer’s antlers and disappeared with him,” the police said.

Police said another hunter later spotted the deer about a kilometre (0.6 miles) away, still carrying the gun.

“The hunters searched the forest but did not find the gun. He had no other choice than to report the incident to the police,” the police said, adding anyone who finds the weapon should contact authorities.

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