Archive for February, 2015

The most commonly used language models are very simple (e.g. a Katz-smoothed trigram model). There are many improvements over this simple model however, including caching, clustering, higher-order n-grams, skipping models, and sentence-mixture models.

The standard n-gram model is very very simple. It is based on conditional probability and discrete Markov chain for words. The mathematics is well-known so all the hard problems lie in making claims regards these very simple mathematical models describing any real human language. I first got interested in this text analysis when working for Henry Jarecki while talking to Chris Thorpe about his chatter idea. Chris is really talented at coding and had brilliant ideas regarding what can be done with text analysis from unusual chatter on the web. This simple Markov chain model is also good for analysis of the protein shape determination problem and analysis of DNA words and so on. It’s a very basic idea like the idea of a vector space. One uses vector spaces for too many things to expect deep results.


Smoothing refers to solving problems that appear when empirical n-word probabilities are zero while the real probability is not, leading to problems in applications of nlp. Classing refers to similarity of words in the models and doing the model not on the original lang and doing it instead on a formal lang on classes of words.

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We’re interested in poems and love songs, not english lang, so we don’t care for the claims for the general english nl.  We regard the lang of love and poetry to be a different lang than english.


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The Islamic State militant identified on Thursday as Mohammed Emwazi, shown in a propaganda video released last year.

LONDON — Mohammed Emwazi was 6 when his parents moved to West London from his birthplace in Kuwait, and he seems to have lived a normal life, studying hard and graduating in computer sciences from the University of Westminster in 2009.

But he came to the attention of the British intelligence services in May that same year, detained as he landed in Tanzania with two friends on what he described as a celebratory safari. British officials thought he and his friends were headed to Somalia, to fight with the terrorist group Al Shabab, and allegedly tried to recruit him as an informant before shipping him back home.

Mr. Emwazi was identified on Thursday as the masked Islamic State fighter called “Jihadi John,” and his journey from computer student to a murderous spokesman for the Islamic State is only beginning to come clear. How and when he was radicalized, and whether the British intelligence services were at fault — either dealing with him too harshly or not identifying him as a serious threat soon enough — is already the subject of hot debate.

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The Evolution of ISIS

The Evolution of ISIS

How has ISIS, a 21st-century terrorist organization with a retrograde religious philosophy, spread from Iraq to Syria, Libya and beyond?

Video by Quynhanh Do on Publish Date December 13, 2014.

The dilemma for security services is the same all over the West, whether in Britain, France or now in the United States, as some young Muslims are becoming radicalized or seeking to join a jihad. Given important constitutional and legal protections, how do counterterrorism and police officials draw the line when they find enough evidence to suspect someone, but do not have enough to prosecute them, or even to keep them under legal surveillance?

“When you have a lot of evidence but not enough to prosecute what do you do?” asked Shashank Joshi, a senior research fellow at Royal United Services Institute, a British research institution. “Doing nothing is not practical or acceptable under today’s conditions.”

Mr. Emwazi was called “Jihadi John” by the foreign hostages he guarded, a number of whom he apparently beheaded in widely circulated videos. First named on Thursday by The Washington Post website, his identity was confirmed by a senior British security official, who said that the British government had identified Mr. Emwazi some time ago but had not disclosed his name for operational reasons. The identification was also confirmed in Washington by a senior United States military intelligence official.

Information is still vague about Mr. Emwazi, with Britain officially refusing to confirm that he is indeed “Jihadi John” because of what are described as continuing operations.

But Mr. Emwazi appears in 2011 court documents, obtained by the BBC, as a member of a network of extremists who funneled funds, equipment and recruits “from the United Kingdom to Somalia to undertake terrorism-related activity.”

Mr. Emwazi is alleged to be part of a group from West and North London, sometimes known as “the North London Boys,” with links to Al Shabab, organized by an individual, whose name was redacted, who had returned to London in February 2007.

Another person associated with that group was Bilal al-Berjawi, who was born in Lebanon but brought to West London as a baby. He fought in Somalia and rose through the ranks of Al Shabab and Al Qaeda in Africa before being killed in a drone strike in January 2012, according to Raffaello Pantucci, also a fellow at the Royal United Services Institute.

Mr. Berjawi traveled to Kenya in February 2009, telling his family he was heading for a safari; he and a friend were detained in Nairobi and shipped back to London, but made it to Somalia in October that year.

The neighborhood group “is a tight community and it’s very probable that they knew each other and were part of the same crew,” Mr. Pantucci said.

So it is likely that Mr. Emwazi’s own safari a few months later in May, from Britain to Germany to Tanzania, using the name of Muhammad ibn Muazzam, set off alarms with the British security services, and that he had started on the road to radicalism even before his encounter with MI5 in 2009.

Asim Qureshi, research director at CAGE, a British advocacy organization opposed to what it calls the “war on terror,” met with Mr. Emwazi in the fall of 2009. Mr. Emwazi was very angry over his treatment at the hands of British security services, Mr. Qureshi said, and the two stayed in contact for two years.

Mr. Qureshi said he is not 100 percent sure that Mr. Emwazi, whom he described as “extremely kind, extremely humble and extremely soft-spoken,” is the masked Islamic State terrorist.

But he nonetheless blamed Mr. Emwazi’s treatment for his radicalization, describing harassment by police officers at airports, pressure on Kuwait to cancel a visa and on one occasion, Mr. Emwazi being “roughed up” and “strangled by a police officer” before being sent home.

“This is not somebody who ever said, ‘I hate the system, I reject the system,’” Mr. Qureshi said. “It’s someone who said, ‘I don’t like the environment but I’ll work within the system to effect change.’”

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A visual guide to the crisis in Iraq and Syria.

OPEN Graphic

As ever, there is a set of conflicting interpretations, with some seeing a young Muslim man treated badly, put into a headlock, barred from traveling and induced to betray his friends, and those who say that such treatment is not any excuse — or reason — for repeatedly cutting off the heads of civilians taken hostage.

Further, there are others who are wondering how security services can identify potential terrorists like Mr. Emwazi, but then fail to recognize what risk they pose.

CAGE, which embraces its notoriety, emphasized similar circumstances in the case of Michael Adebolajo, who attacked and hacked to death a British soldier, Lee Rigby, outside a London barracks in May 2013. Mr. Adebolajo claimed he had been detained in Kenya and “tortured” by British officials who suspected he was traveling to Somalia to join Al Shabab, and MI5 also tried to turn him into an informer.

Mr. Emwazi, returning from Tanzania, was detained again at an airport in the Netherlands and questioned by Dutch and British security officials.

Mr. Emwazi later moved to Kuwait, his birthplace, working for a computer company, and he returned to London at least twice, Mr. Qureshi said. British counterterrorism officials detained Mr. Emwazi in June 2010, fingerprinting him and searching his belongings. In July of that year, Mr. Qureshi said, Mr. Emwazi was not allowed to return to Kuwait, which had apparently refused to renew his visa, and Mr. Emwazi blamed the British government.

“I had a job waiting for me and marriage to get started,” he wrote in a 2010 email to Mr. Qureshi. “But now I feel like a prisoner, only not in a cage, in London.”

In his statement, Mr. Qureshi said of Mr. Emwazi, “He desperately wanted to use the system to change his situation, but the system ultimately rejected him.”

Mr. Qureshi said he had last heard from Mr. Emwazi in January 2012. By 2013, he was in Idlib, Syria, helping to guard Western hostages and in August 2014, presided over the first of the beheading videos of those hostages.

Even if Mr. Emwazi’s version of events, as passed on by Mr. Qureshi, is true, Mr. Pantucci asked, “Is it justifiable to go and behead journalists and aid workers because you have cops causing you trouble?”

Mr. Joshi said there were doubts about CAGE’s “crude and simplistic” narrative of radicalization because of police mistreatment, saying that there was evidence of Mr. Emwazi’s involvement with Somalia before he was ever detained, and long before the Syrian civil war and the rise of Islamic State.

J.M. Berger, a fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington and co-author of a newly released book on the history of ISIS, also said that the narrative of police harassment, while it may have contributed to his radicalization, does not explain it. “Malcolm X and MLK got a lot more pressure from police, and neither decided that decapitating people is the right response,” he said.

There were similar law enforcement issues in the case of three young men in Brooklyn who became fascinated with Islamic State. There are benefits to waiting and watching rather than rushing to disrupt a plot the moment it is detected, said Diego G. Rodriguez, chief of the F.B.I.’s New York division.

“We’re always trying to identify these folks, their hierarchy, their network,” he said.

“There are no rules as to how long cases should cook, no recipe,” said Andrew M. Liepman, a former deputy director at the National Counterterrorism Center who is now a senior policy analyst at the RAND Corporation. “Lots of factors must be weighed.”

Suspects in Western countries must break the law or have provided sufficient evidence to be taken into custody, he said. “Both we and the British have struggled with this.”

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  • Natàlia de Varsgaard1:19pm

    Natàlia de Varsgaard
    So I have ZERO regrets in anti-Jew hate speech at all