Virtuosos new Cruise Tool gives members a competitive edge

first_img Posted by NEW YORK — It’s now easier for agents to search for and book cruises with Virtuoso’s new Cruise Tool.A joint venture with Passport Online, the new online tool is a white-label version of Virtuoso’s cruise booking engine that’s been customized for Virtuoso advisors and their specific needs. It enables advisors to find, compare, quote and book cruises directly from one central location, Virtuoso.com, and makes marketing and selling cruises quicker, simpler and more effective.It also allows for ClientBase Live Connect integration and segmented reporting, and offers professional email marketing materials, cabin availability, interactive deck plans, full ship information and the ability to easily modify bookings.The tool was refined during Passport Online’s participation in Virtuoso Incubator, the industry’s first program designed to foster new advisor-focused technology. Virtuoso Incubator vets companies based on advisor need, refines through real-time testing, then introduces tools to improve the sales process and enhance client relationships. A group of Virtuoso advisors assessed the tool in real-world situations and provided feedback that enabled Passport Online to create this version tailored exclusively for Virtuoso members.More news:  Help Princess Cruises break the world record for largest vow renewal at seaVirtuoso Cruise Tool is currently available to Virtuoso’s Canadian and U.S. advisors. The company has plans to expand into other markets. The Canadian Press Virtuoso’s new Cruise Tool gives members a competitive edge Sharecenter_img << Previous PostNext Post >> Tags: Virtuoso Wednesday, February 1, 2017 last_img read more

Nicaragua canal survey off to rocky start marked by fear and mistrust

first_imgAccording to studies by specialists from the Institute of Geology at China’s Earthquake Administration, [Nicaragua’s] volcanoes will not negatively affect the normal operation of the Gran Canal of Nicaragua. With the adoption of the most advanced international design theories, and adequate construction measures, it is guaranteed that the canal will not suffer damages in the event of an earthquake, nor will [an earthquake] negatively affect the project.The CRCC also states that since 2013, several experts have been conducting field studies of the route’s topography, geology and hydrology, resulting in detailed studies of the canal route. Shouldn’t those studies be shared with the public? Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel González – whose country shares a border with Nicaragua on the Río San Juan, which joins Lake Nicaragua to the Caribbean Sea – thinks so. In comparison, if you want to find out the environmental impact and mitigation efforts of the ongoing $5.25 billion Panama Canal expansion project, all 11 chapters of the assessment are posted online for anyone to peruse. Last week as I was driving through the sweltering Nicaraguan countryside in the southwestern department of Rivas, a convoy of soldiers traveling at midday on the Inter-American Highway caught my eye. It’s not unusual to see troop movements in a Central American country with an army, but these guys looked liked they were on assignment.A check of the local social media rumor mill revealed chatter that police and soldiers were indeed moving about Rivas in the presence of “chinos,” and it was somehow related to the Gran Canal project.Rivas is ground zero for President Daniel Ortega’s ambitious $40 billion, 278-kilometer interoceanic canal. The canal promises to make Nicaragua — the second poorest nation in the Americas — “one of the richest countries in Central America,” according to plans published by the China Railway Siyuan Survey and Design Group Co., Ltd., and apparently approved by the secretive Hong Kong Nicaragua Development company, or HKND, which is tasked with designing and building the canal.The Pacific point of entry is the mouth of the Brito River, in Rivas, where a large petroleum port and free trade zone are scheduled to be built. Not far from that, a tourism complex is being planned. The Brito free trade zone, according to the plans, will cover approximately 29 square kilometers and provide residential housing space for 40,000 people and create 113,000 jobs.Three months remain before the start of construction on the massive infrastructure project that will profoundly change the landscape of this volcanic isthmus. Skeptics have asked a lot of questions about the company HKND and the canal. Those inquiries often are met with glaring silence or vaguely worded company press releases. But last week, Rivas residents got a taste of the future – and they didn’t seem to like it very much.Those soldiers I saw turned out to be armed escorts, along with police, for Chinese land surveyors from the Changjiang Institute of Survey, Planning, Design and Research Co., Ltd., one of the Asian giant’s top state-owned engineering firms. The same company built the Three Gorges hydropower project on the Yangtze River in China. The world’s largest hydroelectric dam set the record for number of displaced people (1.2 million) and cities and towns flooded (13 cities, 140 towns, 1,350 villages), according to the environmental group International Rivers, and resulted in “floating archipelagoes of garbage,” according to The New York Times. Soldiers accompany Chinese land surveyors in Rivas, Nicaragua. (Screengrab from Confidencial’s “Esta Semana”)The weekly TV program “Esta Semana,” hosted by Carlos F. Chamorro of the news magazine Confidencial, produced a recent investigation on the land surveying. Chamorro, who is highly critical of the Ortega regime and its canal plans, sent reporter Wilfredo Miranda to Rivas to take a closer look at what’s going on (see the video above, in Spanish). There, Confidencial found residents who felt violated and intimidated by soldiers, police and Chinese company representatives.Land surveyors arrived several times and entered properties without permission, Rodrigo Velásquez, a community organizer in Orejuelo, a village on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, told Confidencial. “They’re obligating residents to sign.” It’s unclear what exactly residents are being asked to sign. The slips of paper, in both Mandarin and Spanish, could be permission waivers for surveyors to enter their properties. Or their purpose could be more nefarious. Residents had no idea what was happening.“They didn’t say anything, they just entered como Pedro por su casa,” said resident María del Carmen Junes, using a Spanish idiom that translates as, “like they owned the place.”“They enter the homes without permission and don’t explain much,” chimed in a Gringo named Chuck Stone. “There isn’t very much transparency here.”The Chinese inspectors asked to see land titles and deeds, offering to pay “double” the cadastral value of locals’ homes and promising to relocate the occupants, although they didn’t say where, when or how.Octavio Ortega, president of a foundation of Rivas municipalities called FUNDEMAR, told Confidencial that the announcement of the canal’s route has caused wild speculation and the skyrocketing of the cost of land – up to 10 times normal market prices, in some cases. “You can’t even imagine,” Octavio Ortega said. “With what money are these people going to be able to afford to relocate?” Maybe they’ll find some of that affordable housing in the Brito free trade zone, but no one really knows because the company isn’t talking. Neither is Daniel Ortega. A projected map of the Brito free trade zone in Rivas, Nicaragua. (Screengrab from the “Proyecto de Desarrollo Integral del Gran Canal de Nicaragua”)A few days after the surveyors’ confrontation with residents, the company ERM, which is tasked with conducting environmental impact assessments for the project, held a closed-door meeting with a select group of locals. But they didn’t extend invitations to everyone in the area who will be affected by looming expropriations.A letter shown in the Confidencial report states the purpose of the meeting was to conduct a “dialogue and an exchange of ideas regarding the social and economic reality of the area with a small group of invitees who have been selected for the role they play in the community. … For this reason, we ask you not to extend this invitation to other members of the community because it would be impossible to comply with the methodology or the foreseen goals with a large group.” A Confidencial reporter who tried to attend the meeting was asked to leave.Said Chamorro:The testimonials in this report contradict what the Chinese company HKND says, in that their employees will only enter properties after obtaining expressed written consent. Evidently they are committing abuses that are aggravated by the presence of the police and the military, who shouldn’t be participating in an activity that is supposed to be strictly administrative.The message, to me, that they’re conveying to the people is one of force and intimidation. But the problem at the heart here is that the government continues putting “la carreta delante de los bueyes” [the cart before the horse]. Before threatening expropriations, they should first present the financial, commercial and environmental studies that show the viability of this canal project. And they should present a detailed timetable of how they will execute this project.Because the only thing they’re doing now is generating more uncertainty among the people while conducting surveys for expropriations – which by the way, are based on an unconstitutional law that doesn’t guarantee that landowners will be paid market value for their properties. And that’s why HKND has no response to these questions.RoadmapWhile communities in San Jorge, Rivas, are small and sometimes isolated, the canal will stretch 278 kilometers to the Caribbean coast – a length 3.5 times greater than the Panama Canal. Near the Caribbean, plans call for the creation of a new artificial lake called Atlanta. Covering 395 square kilometers – about the size of the U.S. city of Denver – Lake Atlanta is to become a “center for ecology, tourism and aquaculture.” (And, hopefully, no floating archipelagoes of garbage like those created by Three Gorges Dam.)On Ometepe Island, which Lonely Planet calls “Fantasy Island” because of its unique archaeology, geology and natural beauty, and at three other locations, developers will build large tourism resorts: Locations of planned tourism centers along the proposed interoceanic Nicaragua Canal. (Screengrab from the “Proyecto de Desarrollo Integral del Gran Canal de Nicaragua”)It’s hard to say what those tourism centers will look like, but they’ll probably be similar to this, which will be built on the Pacific coast: A golf resort planned for the Pacific coast. (Screengrab from the “Proyecto de Desarrollo Integral del Gran Canal de Nicaragua”)Rivas also will get a new class-4E airport. If it’s anything like Managua’s Augusto C. Sandino International Airport, the interior likely will be adorned in a similar fashion (notice the Chinese flag covering Nicaragua’s own flag; I have no idea what the Mandarin writing says. Can anyone lend us a hand with the translation? *Update: We found out what it says, see the end of the story.): Travelers arriving to Managua’s international airport are greeted by this painted advertorial in Mandarin, which offers money transfers to China of up to $500 for a $23 fee. The Tico TimesWhile the promise of converting the region’s poorest country into one of the richest is enticing and a worthwhile goal, what’s troubling is the profound lack of transparency regarding the process. In addition, the long-term social and environmental consequences – not to mention machtpolitik, sovereignty and even identity concerns – of such an elephantine effort are at the very least worthy of discussion and robust debate.Yet, with little information, more than half of the country’s citizens favor the canal, saying it will “help the economy, promote tourism, generate jobs and improve the country’s image,” and only one in 10 oppose it (that number might increase with more land surveys). Even my cab driver, a young, edgy, outspoken man in his 20s who lives near the Costa Rican border, thinks the canal will finally restore the glory the Nicaraguan nation deserves (and put Panama to shame, as he described it).Others, like the Nicaraguan Academy of Science, fear the promise that the canal will deliver Nicaraguans to the economic promised land is a myth. In a 178-page report (download the PDF here), the Academy noted a “series of difficulties in conducting an in-depth analysis on the proposal includes a broad lack of documentation, as essential information has not been forthcoming in a transparent manner. Although we have the canal’s concession law, this lacks any type of specific explanation about the project’s route, which makes it complicated to formulate an independent analysis.” Facebook Comments What we do know about the Gran Canal de Nicaragua is that it will cut across Lake Nicaragua (Lago Cocibolca), where Ometepe is located, the largest freshwater lake in Central America and an important source of drinking water. In 2008, Daniel Ortega – under CAFTA’s Environmental Cooperation Program – asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help clean up the lake and deal with its sewage and wastewater treatment problems. So what will be the environmental impact on the lake when 5,100 ships – including 400,000-ton grain carriers and 320,000-ton petroleum tankers – traverse it annually? What are the potential consequences and mitigation plans in place if one of those fuel ships has an accident?And what about seismic activity? Here’s the CRCC’s response on that: What is the implementation schedule and when will the feasibility studies including the technical, economic and environmental impact of the canal be finished and disclosed?Will these studies, paid by HKND, be subjected to the scrutiny of impartial national and international experts?If these studies are still ongoing, and therefore the viability of the project and its environmental impact is still unknown, how can they affirm that the construction of the canal will start in December?What will be the environmental impact of dredging Lake Nicaragua and how will its excavation and dredging affect the country’s most important strategic water resources?Who will oversee our national interests given the fact that the Ortega-created Grand Canal Authority has demonstrated little authority and no autonomy?center_img Those are some pretty hefty – yet reasonable – questions to ask. So when can we expect some answers? Or will they just come to us, out of the blue, on a hot, sunny day while driving down the Inter-American Highway?Further recommended reading: the Nicaraguan Academy of Sciences report on the Gran Canal of Nicaragua, in Spanish (download the PDF here.)UPDATE: Thanks to our inquisitive friend Bill H., we translated the Mandarin writing on the wall at Managua’s airport says. It says you can send money to China up to $500 for a $23 fee. There are 445 service venues in the district. Guess they’re expecting a lot of Chinese workers to walk through those airport gates and a large demand for money transfers. Outside Nicaragua, industry insiders seem perplexed and baffled by the ambitious plan. “If the Nicaragua canal will ever be built, the final cost will be much higher than $40 billion,” Chaim Sacham, a former senior executive with Zim Integrated Shipping Services, told JOC.com (link requires registration). “This is not to say that it will not be built, but if it will be built, it will be a waste of a lot of money, and it will not bring any positive ROI for many years, if at all.”Plus, some say the Panama Canal expansion will render Nicaragua’s canal irrelevant. So why build it all?Here’s what Sacham told JOC.com’s Editor-at-Large Peter T. Leach:“To the best of my knowledge, HKND Group and its chairman, Wang Jing, have nothing to do with engineering and/or construction,” Sacham said. “However, under the exclusive contract, Wang can skip building the canal (and making any payments to Nicaragua) and instead simply operate lucrative tax-free side projects. This leads me to say that if this canal will ever be built, it will not be by HKND Group but by others, and it will take much longer than the five years that they are saying it will take.”Chamorro summed up the skepticism best, when he asked the following questions in a July column titled, “Digging in the Dark“: Nicaragua’s proposed canal route. (Screengrab from the “Proyecto de Desarrollo Integral del Gran Canal de Nicaragua”) Related posts:Nicaragua’s ambitious interoceanic canal will cross Lake Nicaragua, officials say Secrecy still prevails as Nicaragua gets set to break ground on $50 billion interoceanic canal Activists visiting Washington blast Nicaragua’s $50 billion canal project as ‘illegitimate’ US concerns grow over possible Nicaragua Canal land expropriation, ambassador sayslast_img read more

Cheap city break Spot of winter sun Get inspired

first_imgCheap city break? Spot of winter sun? Get inspired for your next trip, be it a weekend escape or a few days away, somewhere new or an old favourite, with these great value flights – all starting at less than £46 return.1. Dublin from £20Ok, it’s cliché, and the Guinness Storehouse at St James’s Gate may lack the atmosphere of city centre pubs, but when in Dublin, as they say. And its Gravity Bar bar offers one the best views of the city. You’ll find yourself in this rooftop bar at the end of a tour through the production, history and famous advertising campaigns of Dublin’s most famous export.Find a hotel in Dublin 2. Warsaw from £38Whether you want to spend your spare time checking out the city’s cultural attractions, or simply drinking as much Tyskie as possible while still getting let back on the plane, one essential Warsaw experience is a visit to a ‘milk bar’. They’re not bars that serve milk, but old style Communist-era restaurants knocking out great value grub. Try Bar Mleczny Zlota Kurka, one of the most famous in the city.More: 8 best things to do in Warsaw ReturnOne wayMulti-cityFromAdd nearby airports ToAdd nearby airportsDepart14/08/2019Return21/08/2019Cabin Class & Travellers1 adult, EconomyDirect flights onlySearch flights Map 5. Bremen from £36Get your Christmas market kicks in Bremen, which hosts one of the most popular on the Continent. It’s on right up until 23 December, if need to pick up some last-minute gingerbread. Or go for a rock-bottom bargain break in the New Year, when the city will be much quieter. Be sure to explore the Schnoor – an old fishing quarter now brimming with cool cafés, shops and galleries.More: 11 of the best Christmas market city breaks for under £60 4. Turin from £40Next to Neapolitan pizza, Turin’s Fiat 500 has got to be one of Italy’s most famous exports. Four wheeled icons are not all that Italy’s fourth largest city specialises in. Visitors flock to the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist to gaze upon the Turin Shroud, believed to bear the imprint of Christ’s face on his way to the cross. Take a break from all that racing around with a gelato (it’s winter? whatever!) from Pepino, the first parlour to put ice cream on a stick and dip it in chocolate to make… choc ice.center_img 6. Malaga from £34As anyone who’s visited will tell you, the quickest way to the coast of the Costa Del Sol is to head straight from Malaga airport down the N340. But while the Malaga car rental desks are the first port of call for those desperate to reach the beach, out-of-season visitors to southern Spain should stop right there to explore Malaga itself.More: 10 best things to do in Malaga: a local’s guide 3. Riga from £26Don’t be put off by its attractiveness to stag partying Brits, for the more civilised attractions of Latvia’s capital are coming to the fore. Riga has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in recognition of its world-class collection of Jugendstil (German Art Nouveau) architecture. Take a trip to the top of St Peter’s Church for an incredible 360 degree view of this Baltic beauty. RelatedCheap flights for less than £100Flight route Current estimated price Newcastle to Warsaw, Poland £28 London to Rome, Italy £46 Birmingham to Geneva, Switzerland £52 Liverpool to Berlin, Germany £53 Edinburgh to Amsterdam, Netherlands £83 Bristol to Copenhagen, Denmark £8910 quick getaway flights for under £40Did you know that in the UK, the highest level of monthly rainfall occurs in October? Which begs the question of why on Earth you would want to stay here when you could book a flight to one of these ten places for less than the cost of a video…6 flights for under £35Six flights, six destinations, six ideas for autumn and winter breaks to suit even the smallest of budgets.last_img read more

SDLP Ballyarnett candidate Rory FarrellSDLP Ballya

first_img SDLP Ballyarnett candidate Rory FarrellSDLP Ballyarnett election candidate Rory Farrell has said “nearly 40% of DLA claimants lose money when moved to PIP”. Personal Independence Payment (PIP) replaced Disability Living Allowance (DLA) when Welfare Reform was introduced to Northern Ireland. ShareTweet Government statistics show that nearly 8,000 DLA claimants across Derry City & Strabane District Council were reassessed under PIP rules since 2016, and that 38% of people received a reduced award or no award at all. The controversial PIP medical assessments are carried out by private firm Capita.Mr Farrell said: “Welfare cuts are here and the sick and disabled are paying the price. “The latest figures for Derry City and Strabane District Council show that 20% of DLA claimants applied for PIP but their claims were rejected as they didn’t score enough points. ballyarnettCAPITANearly 40% lose out at Capita PIP assessments – FarrellPIPRory FarrellSDLP “A further 18% qualified for PIP, but at a lower rate than DLA. “That’s over 3,000 people living in our council area that are victims of welfare cuts. “That’s over 3,000 local people that have been disadvantaged by the decision of Sinn Fein, the DUP and Alliance to endorse Tory austerity.“Thankfully, many people have successfully challenged these decisions. “The medical assessments conducted by Capita often lead to inaccurate awards and these are regularly overturned at appeal tribunals. This is further evidence that the current process is unfair and needs to change.”The SDLP candidate added: “People with illnesses and disabilities are being let down by the PIP and many are being forced into a lengthy appeal process. “The entire system, including Capita’s role in it, needs serious attention to ensure people get the financial support they need and deserve.”Nearly 40% lose out at Capita PIP assessments – Farrell was last modified: March 7th, 2019 by John2John2 Tags:last_img read more

Theres an old story about a trucker driving north

first_imgThere’s an old story about a trucker driving north on the Montreal highway in Vermont. Seeing an average of three gas stations per mile, he concludes that there must be plenty of gas all the way to the North Pole. Urban legend doesn’t say what became of him (or why he thought he could drive to the North Pole), but I’m guessing he ended up stranded on a desolate stretch of highway somewhere in northern Manitoba. Our trucker’s mistake is an admittedly extreme example of what statisticians call extrapolation error, which occurs when you wrongly assume that current conditions will continue into the future. It happens in investment markets all the time, only instead of a frigid night alone in a truck, the markets will punish your bad judgment with a deluge of red ink in your brokerage account. As today’s guest author David Hunter will explain, extrapolation is all the rage right now—as it often is when markets are hot. He says that those who assume the stock market will rise in 2014 just because it rose in each of the five years prior are suffering from an acute case of Extrapolation Fever—a wealth-threatening disease whose symptoms include over-confidence, loss of judgment, and ultimately, a lighter wallet. As some background, David Hunter has been in the investment business for 36 years, working his way up to Chief Investment Officer of a billion dollar money management firm. Today, he’s Chief Investment Strategist of KCCI, where he uses cycle analysis to predict where major investment markets are headed for readers of his newsletter The Contrarian Value Investor. As the name of his newsletter implies, David is a contrarian to the core. You’ll read his take on precious metals, stocks, bonds, and much more in his 2014 forecast below. Be warned: you won’t agree with everything you’re about to read. But David’s analysis is sound and well-reasoned, so take heed nonetheless. The US dollar will be another beneficiary of the “flight to safety” trade. I know that a lot of investors are concerned about the long-term prospects for the dollar, given the lack of fiscal discipline in our government and the seemingly reckless expansion of QE in this cycle. There is also talk that the dollar could lose its reserve-currency status or at least see it greatly diminished. While that may happen, it is not going to happen anytime soon. World investors will still flock to the dollar in a crisis. I am forecasting the dollar index to rise by 20-25% in 2014. I think we may see the dollar and the euro trade at parity at some point later this year. I am also near-term bearish on the commodity currencies, such as the Australian and Canadian dollars. I expect their economies to be hit particularly hard, as commodities take it on the chin during the bust. The Japanese yen has declined by over 25% versus the dollar in the past 15 months. There is undoubtedly more downside ahead, but I am not sure I would want to be short the yen here, given the nearly universal view that it will continue to trade lower. There are far too many traders short the yen right now for me to be comfortable with that trade. It wouldn’t take much to trigger a short-covering rally here. I don’t think I want to be either long or short the yen right now. I continue to be a bear on precious metals and commodities. I turned bearish on gold in September of 2012, when it hit $1,800 and have had a target of $1,000 ever since. This is still my target, although I believe it could spike as low as $800 in a washout trade before reversing. I believe gold is likely to put in a major bottom in the first half of this year, but right now there are still far too many people trying to call a bottom every time we get an uptick. We need to see more capitulation and more panic selling before any kind of major bottom can be called. By the time we get to a true bottom, I expect to see some of the so-called gold bugs and many of the inflationists throw in the towel. We’re getting closer, but I think that bottom is still months away. I continue to expect silver to track gold. My downside target for silver remains at $13. Copper, on the other hand, is not nearly as far along in its downtrend. I think copper prices could drop in half this year. China is still overproducing, and demand for copper is likely to be hit hard in the upcoming global contraction. I see a lot of analysts promoting the copper producers, particularly Freeport McMoran, suggesting these stocks offer great value here. I would just caution that a sharp drop in copper prices would cause earnings to disappear. Under this scenario, the dividend would likely be cut or eliminated. From both a technical and fundamental perspective, I can see these stocks falling 50-70% from here. Energy is another area where prices could come under severe pressure in 2014. I am looking for WTI crude to fall below $50 and natural gas to decline to $2. We may be on the verge of the first global deflationary cycle in some 80 years. That is not likely to be an environment where commodities thrive. I would caution investors against evaluating commodity stocks here using normalized earnings. The environment these producers will be operating in will be far from normal. Weak earnings and questions about future demand will take a toll on these stocks. Conclusion It is not often that we see such unanimity on Wall Street. As the market has marched higher, more and more investors have joined the ranks of the bulls. As a 40-year observer of the markets, I have seen the same thing happen at each market top. Essentially, the momentum of the tape begets more momentum and causes perception to change from glass half-empty to glass half-full. Lots of fundamental rationale is provided to explain a bullish viewpoint, but more often than not, it is the momentum of the market that is driving the crowd’s bullishness at or near a top. What I have also observed over the years is that the sentiment can quickly shift into glass half-empty if and when momentum shifts decidedly to the downside. In other words, momentum works both ways. Shifts from bullish to bearish can lead to dramatic declines when coming off a major top. I think this might be even more the case this time around. More than ever before, we have investors all watching for the same technicals on their computers in an effort to spot a reversal. This means that more than ever before, we will likely have investors all acting on those signals at essentially the same time, creating a stampede for the exits. This long market run, without so much as a 10% correction, has conditioned investors to make every effort to stay fully invested until there are clear signs of a momentum break. My guess is that we will see a high-volume reversal once the market definitively crosses under the 200-day moving average. For the S&P, the 200-day moving average is around 1,695. Until the market breaks that level, weakness will be bought. However, once that line is penetrated in a decisive manner, we are likely to see the sell-off accelerate. The setup is such that a reversal this time around could be faster and steeper than what we witnessed in 2008. Investors hoping to have their cake and eat it too by staying fully invested until the momentum reverses are likely to learn an age-old lesson: the market rarely accommodates. Extrapolation fever is alive and well on Wall Street, and most pundits are forecasting another positive year, fueled by accelerating economic growth and another good year of corporate profit growth. This contrarian obviously disagrees. I think 2014 may well turn out worse than 2008-‘09 from both an economic and market perspective, with corporate profits cut in half. If that proves to be the case, 2014 will go down as the worst year in the post WWII era. My targets remain 500 on the S&P and 5,000 on the Dow. This is certainly an outlier forecast, one that most investors will consider highly unlikely. I have been here before. At every major cycle top, my forecasts have been received skeptically and viewed as outliers. It is the nature of investor psychology. As much of a bullish consensus as there is regarding equities, there is an even larger bearish consensus regarding long-duration Treasuries. When an asset is as hated as the long bond is today, it is usually a good time to go against the crowd and buy. In my opinion, we are looking at one of the great relative value trades in history. If we get the global deflationary contraction that I am forecasting, we could see as much as a 10,000 basis-point spread between equity returns and the 30-year Treasury bond, in favor of the bond. Ironically, investors are about as bearish of the long bond as they have ever been. I remain near-term bearish of gold and continue to expect it to trade below $1,000 in upcoming months. However, gold is still in a secular bull market and will likely undergo a major reversal to the upside later this year. Overall, 2014 is likely to be a year of many major reversals, some for the better and some for the worse. Danger and opportunity are two sides of the same coin the editors at Casey Research are very familiar with. To protect yourself from the first and seize as much as possible of the second, diversification is key. Right now, you can get the ultimate diversification—by receiving all eight of our monthly newsletters for one low price—with our limited-time Casey OnePass offer. Click here for the details. The point to all this history is that at cycle tops, investors get caught up in the momentum and develop a rationale to explain why that momentum will continue despite historically full valuations. It is interesting that this time around there does not seem to be one dominant sector. Rather it is the market in general, along with various unrelated groups. Among the popular groups in potentially unsustainable uptrends are social media, biotechnology, private equity, REITs, consumer staples, and health care. Other groups could probably be listed as well. The theme this time around is not as clearly defined as we saw in the other five cycles. I think that is because this cycle is very different from previous cycles. We have had a subpar recovery driven by unprecedented levels of QE and historically low interest rates. This cycle, investors flocked to areas that could provide growth that was not dependent on a robust economy, as well as to stocks that could provide superior income. Another defining characteristic of this cycle is the substantial flows into exchange-traded funds (ETFs). When the market does begin a major reversal, ETFs will undoubtedly accelerate the decline, as the funds are forced to unload stock positions to meet liquidations. This cycle differs from all of the other cycles in the post WWII era. Not only have we experienced subpar growth, the economy is very close to deflation. I think these differences are causing many analysts to misjudge the risks and timing of a cycle turn. I keep hearing analysts say interest rates are still so historically low that despite the sharp rise last year, rates are not at levels that will hurt the economy. In previous cycles, that would likely have proven true. However, in this subpar recovery, where inflation is almost nonexistent, the 150 basis-point rise in rates last summer may be enough to put the economy in reverse. It certainly has already had a significant impact on mortgage refinancing and housing. In addition, general merchandise sales are slowing. On the other hand, autos sales are being propped up by the same kind of loose financing that led to the credit crisis five short years ago. Some lessons are never learned, I guess. Personal disposable income has gone negative for the first time since 2008. I expect overall retail sales will soon follow. Some economists are forecasting a pickup in capital expenditures, but with end demand slowing, there is little chance that we’ll see that. Exports can also be expected to weaken given the problems in the emerging markets as well as China and Europe. The consensus may believe the economy is gaining strength, but more likely, we are about to see economic weakness. Recession, not normalized growth, will be the story of 2014, and that’s certainly not on most investors’ radar screens. A US recession would be bad enough, but add in the potential for some major global problems and there is the real possibility of a downturn that is worse than the credit crisis of 2008-‘09. I recognize that many analysts are making the case that Europe is on the mend and will see recovery this year. Of course that is possible, but I think it is more likely that global weakness triggers a sharp reversal there, accompanied by a banking crisis and an involuntary liquidation cycle. The ECB has done little more than move debt around. The banks are loaded with risky sovereign debt, particularly the banks in Spain and Italy. It is difficult to understand why we are not yet seeing the Italian and Spanish sovereign debt spreads widen, given the state of their finances. Perhaps it is because the banks there have loaded up on that debt, as has Japan. The ECB shovels out the money, and the banks load up on their own country debt. Despite the current relative calm, no one should doubt that Europe is a house of cards. China is another accident waiting to happen. I know most investors assume China will successfully manage its transition from an export-based manufacturing economy to one that relies more on domestic consumption, and do so without growth slipping below seven percent. I think that is unlikely, particularly given the huge credit imbalances that are plaguing the country. In the past five years, credit there has grown from $9 trillion to $24 trillion. The Chinese credit bubble is far bigger than was the 2008 bubble here in the US. If it bursts this year, as I think is quite possible, it will send China’s economy, as well as the global economy, into a tailspin. There have been a few signs of late, indicating that China is finding it difficult to contain the problem. Whenever the authorities have attempted to rein in the shadow banking credit, they have been forced to quickly reverse themselves. More and more non-accruing loans are piling up on bank balance sheets. The Chinese authorities have a very difficult balancing act which they are trying to execute. The odds are very much stacked against them pulling it off successfully. The emerging-market economies are also coming under pressure and facing some significant capital outflows. These countries, as well as Japan, are accidents waiting to happen. We may not know precisely what the catalyst will be or when a crisis will be triggered, but we do know that the risks of a global deflationary bust are quite high, and contrary to current consensus opinion, I think those risks are rising, not falling. Dan Steinhart Managing Editor of The Casey Report 2014 Outlook By David A. Hunter, CFA Investors entered the new year in a very positive frame of mind. The consensus view on the Street is for another good year for the equity markets, albeit not as strong as what we witnessed in 2013. Most forecasts have the US markets up somewhere between high single digits and low double digits. The current conventional view is that the economy is finally reaching escape velocity and moving into a more normalized phase. The expectation of many investors is that this stronger economic growth will fuel better top- and bottom-line growth and propel the equity markets to ever-higher levels. The belief is that with this improved growth, the markets can move higher, even if interest rates move gradually higher and even if the Fed continues to taper. Generally, investors believe that the bull market is nowhere near a top, given that valuations are not stretched, at least by some measures, and that inflation and interest rates are still historically low. Over and over, one hears that a correction could come at any time, but that such a correction would be healthy and would not likely exceed five to ten percent. “Buy the dip” remains a common theme, but now we are hearing more and more pundits advise that investors buy now and not wait for a dip. The justification for buying now, rather than waiting for a pullback, is that prices could move even higher before any pullback were to occur. It is very clear that the Street is now as bullish as it has been in many years. In fact, the Investors Intelligence Survey is indicating a level of bullishness that is typically seen at tops. In the history of the Survey, the recorded level of bearishness has never been lower than it is today. This is just one of many reasons why this contrarian believes a major top is near at hand, with a historically significant bear market to follow. Between 1973 and today, we have had five cycle tops: 1973, 1980, 1991, 2000, and 2007. Each of those cycles was driven by a different sector that went parabolic in the later stages of the cycle, indicating that the end of the cycle was drawing near. In 1973, it was the so-called “nifty 50,” a group of 50 stocks that represented the dominant companies of that time. Valuations were driven up to irrational levels as the pension fund managers bought into the idea that these companies were so dominant that their returns would remain superior to the rest of the market for years to come. They became known as “one decision” stocks because portfolio managers considered them buy and hold stocks. These stocks got bid up to unheard-of valuations. The problem was that institutional portfolios became so concentrated in these stocks that when the economy and fundamentals turned negative, the stocks came under severe selling pressure as everyone headed for the exits at once. In 1980, it was the energy and other commodity stocks that captured the fancy of Wall Street. Inflation was soaring, propelled by oil and commodity prices that were rising to levels never seen before. As a result, investors piled into these stocks, and they went straight up. The assumption was that commodity price inflation was going to allow these companies to produce above average returns for many years. Then recession came, and the stocks plunged. In 1991, the big-name consumer growth stocks went parabolic. They had appreciated many-fold during the disinflation of the ‘80s, as their steady growth rates were capitalized at ever lower rates. At the height of their popularity, their valuations relative to capital goods stocks were at 60-year highs, a clear sign of excess. The ‘90s were all about technology and capital goods stocks rising from that 60-year relative low and ultimately ending in a speculative valuation bubble unlike any that had preceded it. As everyone is well aware, a tech bust soon followed. After that came the credit bubble that drove financials and other credit-related stocks to unsustainable levels, only to see these same stocks collapse when the bubble burst. As bullish as Wall Street is toward equities, they are even more bearish of long-duration Treasury securities. Rarely do we see the kind of unanimity of opinion that we have now regarding the direction of interest rates. It is a foregone conclusion in most investors’ minds that the 30-year bull market in bonds has ended, and that interest rates are going up from here. The fact that the Fed has begun to taper, along with the current consensus view that the economy is accelerating, has solidified in investors’ minds that the path of least resistance for rates is up. The forecasts vary as to how sharply rates will rise from here, but most forecasters are projecting 10-year rates to rise to 3% this year, with some analysts suggesting they might rise to 4% or higher. Throughout my career, my most successful calls have come when virtually nobody agrees with me, and that is certainly the situation now regarding interest rates. I continue to forecast rates falling to new lows. I think 10-year rates could fall below 1% and 30-year rates to as low as 1%. For many, perhaps most investors, this forecast will be seen as highly improbable, if not outlandish, but let me assure you, there is logic behind this forecast. If my prediction of a sharp global deflationary contraction proves accurate, we will see US Treasuries bid up aggressively in a “flight to safety” trade. If we are experiencing a financial crisis equal to or greater than the 2008 crisis, something akin to “2008 on steroids,” investors everywhere will be seeking shelter from the storm. Treasuries are still viewed by most as the safest security in the world. If we do see the economy go into steep decline, there is no doubt the Fed will ramp up QE to even higher levels. In fact, I believe we are likely to see QE expand by $10-$15 trillion in the next two years, as panicked policymakers do all they can to prevent a global economic and financial collapse. With the Fed buying trillions of Treasury securities at the same time that investors are also looking to buy, it is easy to see how rates could fall to 1%. Some might find it hard to believe that anyone would consider investing for 30 years at 1%, but remember we are likely to be looking at deflation of 3% or more. Thus, even at 1%, these bonds would be yielding at least 4% in real terms, and this at a time when most assets are delivering sharply negative returns. I am not nearly as sanguine about the rest of the bond market. In a bust, spreads will widen dramatically. I would focus on the highest quality bonds and fight the urge to trade down the risk curve to pick up yield. I would stay far away from the high-yield area, as there is great potential for this market to implode were a bust to occur. I also think there is a lot of potential trouble ahead in the municipal market. If we see a sharp reversal in the residential real estate market, it is likely to have a major impact on municipalities, which rely so heavily on property taxes to fund their operations.last_img read more

Menomonee Fallsbased EnSync Inc has named the ma

first_imgMenomonee Falls-based EnSync Inc. has named the managing partner of restructuring advisory firm Novo Advisors as interim chief executive officer after Bradley Hansen resigned last week.Operating as EnSync Energy Systems, the company makes distributed energy systems and controls for residential and commercial use. It is currently facing delisting from the New York Stock Exchange if it does not complete a reverse stock split or show continuous price improvement by July 7.The company, previously known as ZBB Energy, has not traded above 50 cents per share since the fall of 2017 and has not been above $1 per share since 2016. EnSync has narrowed its losses with a shift to a power purchase agreement-based sales model. In its most recent earnings report, the company showed a nearly 16 percent increase in revenues and a 12 percent drop in expenses. EnSync also said it would need to raise additional capital to fund its business plan.Hansen had been president and CEO of EnSync since July 2015 and was also chief operating officer from May 2014 until being promoted to CEO. He also led the company’s Chinese joint venture starting in 2011. He resigned from his position and the company’s board last week Wednesday, according to securities filings.The same day, EnSync retained Novo Advisors to provide restructuring advisory and consulting services. Sandeep Gupta, co-founder and managing partner of Novo Advisors, has been named interim CEO and chief restructuring officer of EnSync. Gupta was also appointed to the company’s board of directors.Gupta’s expertise focuses on “the development of short-term liquidity forecasts, break-even analyses, and performance/profit improvement studies to mergers and acquisitions and liquidation analyses for healthy and distressed businesses across a wide array of industries,” according to EnSync’s securities filing. Get our email updatesBizTimes DailyManufacturing WeeklyNonprofit WeeklyReal Estate WeeklySaturday Top 10Wisconsin Morning Headlines Subscribelast_img read more

A new archive and learning zone dedicated to the d

first_imgA new archive and learning zone dedicated to the disability arts movement is set to inspire a new generation of young people to fight for their rights.The NationalDisability Arts Collection and Archive (NDACA) facility was launched last weekat the High Wycombe campus of Buckinghamshire New University, and features morethan 3,500 pieces of artwork, most of which is stored in digital or physicalform in the archive.It is thefirst study space to be dedicated to learning about the disability artsmovement, and it includes both an archive repository and the NDACA learningwing, which features original pieces from the disability arts movement.The idea behindthe learning zone was to create a physical experience that recreates what itwas like to be involved in the early years of the disability arts movement inthe 1980s and 1990s.The hope isthat it will encourage both disabled and non-disabled people to learn moreabout the movement’s contribution to the fight for rights and to changing howdisabled people are viewed by society.So there areartefacts such as Tony Heaton’s Shaken Not Stirred sculpture, which has been recreated using theoriginal charity collection cans, and which played a key part in the 1992 BlockTelethon protest against ITV’s charity Telethon and its “patronizing positionof disabled people as pitiful receivers of charity”.There arephotographs and newspaper cuttings from the direct action protests of theCampaign for Accessible Transport, which helped lead to the first DisabilityDiscrimination Act in 1995.There are alsocopies of every edition of Disability Arts in London (DAIL) magazine, which waspublished by London Disability Arts Forum – set up in 1986 to provide acultural wing of the disabled people’s movement – and a library of books andother literature.And visitorscan take away free tee-shirts with slogans from the disabled people’s movement,such as Piss On Pity and Proud Angry Strong, and Tear Down The Walls and NotDead Yet fridge magnets.There arealso hydraulic desks for wheelchair-users; a chill-out room, featuring NDACAcushions; and tactile versions of Heaton’s Shaken Not Stirred and Great Britainfrom a Wheelchair sculptures.The archiveroom includes almost all of Tanya Raabe-Webber’s Who’s WhO collection ofportraits of leading disabled figures, tee-shirts donated by activists who tookpart in disability rights protests, and boxes and boxes of other artefacts,such as magazines, postcards and photographs.The openingof the learning zone and archive room is just the latest stage in a projectthat stretches back more than 30 years to conversations between Heaton, NDACA’sfounder, and fellow disabled artist Allan Sutherland about the need for a collectionand archive that would capture the history of the disability arts movement andensure that key artefacts were not lost for ever.A 364-pagetimeline of the disability arts movement, written by Sutherland, will soon beadded to the NDACA website and will be available to download, while there will also bea physical copy of it in the NDACA learning zone.The closelinks between the disability arts movement and the wider disabled people’smovement are clear throughout the NDACA wing.There are exhibitssuch as a framed copy of Vic Finkelstein’s Fundamental Principles ofDisability, and a black and white photograph featuring many of the movements’ leadingfigures, such as Barbara Lisicki, Colin Barnes, Alan Holdsworth, VicFinkelstein, Sutherland and Heaton, Mike Oliver, Anne Rae, David Hevey, andAdam Reynolds.Students andstaff at the university will use the facilities for their own learning andteaching, while postgraduate students from other universities are alreadyvisiting the collection.Members ofthe public will also be able to visit the NDACA learning zone by booking inadvance, and can make appointments through the NDACA website.There arealso plans for artefacts from the archive, including some of Raabe’s portraits,to tour the country and hopefully be exhibited internationally.Hevey, theNDACA project and creative director and chief executive of Shape Arts,which is delivering the project – whose photography features in the archive – saidthe message of the learning zone was “simple but not simplistic” and about theremoval of barriers in society.The NDACAwing is, he said, “full of character” and “a space in which you can feel thepower of the disability protest movement”.Thedisability arts movement helped to make disabled people more visible insociety, he said, and helped usher in the Disability Discrimination Act in1995.He said: “Itchallenged society, achieved great social change and inspired a remarkable bodyof creative work.”Hevey,probably best known for producing and directing BBC’s 1997 ground-breakinghistory series The Disabled Century, said the success of the disability artsmovement was “clearly a message to contemporary disabled people facing barriersand fighting for justice and fighting reactionary positions and austerity”.He said: “Wewant people to say, ‘Yes, disabled people are winners and they can change theworld.’“If thishelps to contribute to the fight against austerity, that’s OK by me.”He added: “Victoriesare worth promoting. I think it will inspire a new generation to say, ‘If theycan win, we can win.’” Funding forthe project has mainly come from the National Lottery Heritage Fund – whichcontributed more than £850,000 – with other funding from Arts Council Englandand the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.The NDACAproject has already seen the launch of its interactive website, which allowsvisitors to access digital copies of some of the movement’s most significantwork, read essays about significant disabled artists, and by the end of thisyear will also feature about 50 short films.Heaton said:“The learning wing is the realisation of a dream I had more than 30 years ago –to collect the unique heritage, and demonstrate the power, of the disabilityarts movement.“One thatfought barriers, helped change the law and made great culture about thosestruggles.”Alex Cowan,NDACA’s archivist, has worked with significant figures in the disability artsmovement over the last three years to identify “standout material” from theirpersonal collections.He said: “Iam proud to have been able to participate in a cultural movement that hasshaped British art, society and politics and to have played my part inhighlighting disabled people’s long struggle for individual and collectiverecognition.”The university’s link with NDACA originally came through the music theatre company Signdance Collective, which was previously the university’s resident theatre company.Theuniversity has other close links with the creative and cultural industries, andthree of its film and television production students have worked voluntarily asrunners on some of the short films produced as part of the NDACA project.ProfessorNick Braisby, the university’s vice-chancellor, said: “We are proud to host theNDACA wing, which represents the significant importance of the disability artsmovement and all that it achieved.“We lookforward to welcoming researchers to the university, and giving our students andstaff access to the archive which will inform our curriculum and teachingacross our course portfolio.”StuartHobley, head of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, London, said NDACA was “amajor milestone for disability heritage”, with its “stories of ordinary peoplewho led extraordinary lives and changed the UK’s arts and political landscape”.He said: “A core aim of all National Lottery funded projects is to make heritage accessible to as many people as possible and this archive and learning wing is a fantastic example of how this can be achieved.” Picture: David Hevey in the new NDACA learning zoneA note from the editor:Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations. Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009. Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS…last_img read more

Chao Centers Liu Distinguished Visitor Series at Rice to highlight Taiwans National

first_imgAddThis Share1MEDIA ADVISORYDavid Ruthdavid@rice.edu713-348-6327Jeff Falkjfalk@rice.edu713-348-6775Chao Center’s Liu Distinguished Visitor Series at Rice to highlight Taiwan’s National Palace MuseumHOUSTON – (Jan. 4, 2017) – Two scholars and museum curators will discuss the history and impact of Taiwan’s National Palace Museum as part of the Chao Center for Asian Studies’ Liu Distinguished Visitor Series at Rice University Jan. 11. The museum has a permanent collection of nearly 700,000 pieces of ancient Chinese imperial artifacts and artworks — one of the largest collections of its type in the world.The National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan. Credit: Taiwan Tourism BureauAt the event, Lisette Lou, head of administration of the National Palace Museum in Taipei, will give remarks, followed by a discussion between her and Jay Xu, director of the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. Shih-shan Susan Huang, associate professor of art history at Rice, will moderate the discussion, which will be followed by a reception.Through the support of Rice alumnus Frank Liu and his wife, Cindy, the series is designed to enliven the research, education and community outreach activities of the Chao Center by bringing some of the world’s most distinguished scholars and artists to campus.What: Chao Center’s Liu Distinguished Visitor Series featuring Lisette Lou and Jay Xu.When: 4-6 p.m. Jan 11.Where: The event will be held in Rice’s BioScience Research Collaborative, Room 280, 6500 Main St. Parking is available in the BRC garage located on Dryden Road between Main Street and Travis Street.Members of the news media who want to attend should RSVP to Jeff Falk, associate director of national media relations at Rice, at jfalk@rice.edu or 713-348-6775.For a map of Rice University’s campus with parking information, go to www.rice.edu/maps.-30-Related materials:National Palace Museum: www.npm.gov.tw/en.Chao Center for Asian Studies: http://chaocenter.rice.edu.Follow the Chao Center via Twitter @ChaoCenter.Follow Rice News and Media Relations via Twitter @RiceUNews.last_img read more

Russias US Election Hacks Are Worse Than We Thought

first_img Tom Brant This story originally appeared on PCMag Voting systems across the U.S. were far more susceptible to Russian hacking efforts during last year’s presidential election than was previously known, according to evidence uncovered during the federal government’s investigation and a leaked classified intelligence report.A wave of attacks in the summer and fall of 2016 targeted and accessed a campaign finance database and software that poll workers were supposed to use on Election Day, Bloomberg reports, citing people with knowledge of the government’s investigation into the hacking. The FBI previously confirmed that hackers breached voter registration databases in Illinois and Arizona, but the investigation has since determined that voting systems in 39 states were compromised, according to Bloomberg. The Obama administration complained about the hacking to Russian officials via rarely used diplomatic channels, including a “red phone,” before ultimately sanctioning Russia in December for its involvement in the hacks.A classified report from the National Security Agency that The Intercept published last week provides some insight into the investigation. “Russian intelligence obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple U.S. state or local electoral boards,” the NSA wrote, although “the types of systems we observed Russian actors targeting or compromising are not involved in vote tallying.”Russian president Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied the hacking accusations, although he recently appeared to suggest that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton may have prompted private Russian hackers to attempt to compromise the U.S. election of their own accord.”If they are patriotically minded, they start making their contributions — which are right, from their point of view — to the fight against those who say bad things about Russia,” Putin said of the hackers during a TV interview earlier this month. June 14, 2017 Russia’s U.S. Election Hacks Are Worse Than We Thought Fireside Chat | July 25: Three Surprising Ways to Build Your Brand Image credit: via PC Mag 2 min read News reportercenter_img Next Article Add to Queue Enroll Now for $5 Russian hackers compromised voting software in 39 states during the 2016 presidential election, far more than originally thought, according to Bloomberg. Russia Learn from renowned serial entrepreneur David Meltzer how to find your frequency in order to stand out from your competitors and build a brand that is authentic, lasting and impactful. –shareslast_img read more

Cisco Explains the Benefits of Deploying AI and Machine Learning for IT

first_imgCisco Explains the Benefits of Deploying AI and Machine Learning for IT and Business Ops PRNewswireJune 11, 2019, 4:53 pmJune 11, 2019 Cisco helps IT teams better understand network behavior and predict issues with new artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities Cisco announces software innovations designed to make managing and securing networks easier. As today’s businesses increasingly invest in digital technologies, IT teams are struggling under the amplified workload. To alleviate this burden and allow IT to focus on delivering innovation, Cisco is introducing new artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities to allow IT teams to function at machine speed and scale through personalized network insights. As part of its broadened capabilities offering, Cisco is also unveiling innovations to more effectively manage users and applications across the entire enterprise network – from campus networks and wide-area networks, to data centers and the IoT edge.IT teams currently face a daunting challenge. According to 451 Research, nearly two-thirds of organizations report that their IT teams are facing increased workloads; but increased IT headcount is in the cards for only about one-third of companies in the coming year. At the same time, it has never been more imperative for IT to deliver great digital experiences in this hyper-competitive landscape. Bridging the gap between the needs of a business and the resources available requires innovative network automation and analytics tools, powered by data and underpinned by artificial intelligence and machine learning.Cisco, as a leader in networking and security, collects one of the most well-informed, context-rich telemetry data sets in the IT industry. Now, Cisco is leveraging new software capabilities designed to utilize deidentified and aggregated data, which when combined with Cisco’s 35 years of institutional knowledge building the world’s networks, results in more intelligent solutions that allow IT teams to operate more effectively.Marketing Technology News: Forging MarTech with Big Data: Salesforce Eyes Tableau’s Big Data Expertise with $15.7 Billion DealThese new capabilities will grant IT teams:More Visibility: No two networks are the same. Environments are always changing. Cisco continuously collects relevant data from local networks and correlates it against the aggregate deidentified data set to create highly individualized network baselines. These baselines constantly learn and adapt as the number of devices, users and applications evolves, and as environments change.Greater Insights: Network complexity has grown beyond the human scale of processing. Cisco uses machine learning to correlate the immense amount of data coming from the network against the individualized network baselines to uncover the issues that will have the greatest impact on the network. This improves issue relevancy, alerting IT of the issues that matter most. It also discovers trends and patterns, so IT can pre-emptively identify issues before they become a problem.Guided Actions: Cisco uses machine reasoning algorithms and automated workflows to perform the logical troubleshooting steps that an engineer would execute to resolve a problem. This helps IT detect issues and vulnerabilities, analyze the root cause and execute corrective actions faster than ever.“As the pace of change and diversity of the environment continues to rapidly evolve, Cisco is committed to continually simplifying our solutions,” said Scott Harrell, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Cisco’s Enterprise Networking Business. “Artificial intelligence and machine learning can enable businesses to efficiently discern which issues to prioritize, becoming more nimble and proactive. This will have a profound effect on network operations and the IT teams that run them. At Cisco, we’re future proofing our networks and the workforce through automation and intelligence.”Marketing Technology News: Domo IoT Cloud Now Integrates with Zendesk Data Platform to Deliver Better Customer ServiceReducing Complexity with the Multidomain NetworkTo help customers simplify the unprecedented complexity of modern IT, Cisco is building an architecture that spans every domain of the intent-based network — campus, branch, WAN, IoT, data center and cloud.  Cisco has created solutions optimized to meet the unique needs of each of these networking domains. Today, Cisco is introducing new integrations, so users have a secure, consistent experience no matter where, when or how they connect. The new integrations allow for end-to-end:Network segmentation: The integration of Cisco SD-Access with Cisco SD-WAN and Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) makes it easier for IT teams to consistently authorize, onboard and segment users and devices across campus, branch, data center and cloud networks, even when users and applications change. Because of this segmentation, IT is able to safeguard against unauthorized access to sensitive data and critical applications.Application experience: Cisco now automatically conveys application requirements between the data center and the WAN, allowing the network to select the best path and prioritize traffic even if applications move or change. This allows IT teams to dynamically elevate application performance across the enterprise and branch.Pervasive security: As an industry leader in cybersecurity, Cisco is leveraging its security innovations across all domains. By extending the ability to detect threats in encrypted traffic across public clouds, and by protecting the campus, branch and WAN against threats, Cisco is providing the end-to-end security customers need.Cisco’s Ecosystem Drives InnovationAs the network becomes increasingly programmable, Cisco’s ecosystem of partners and developers has been crucial to drive innovation. To help organizations keep up with the relentless pace of change, Cisco DevNet, the company’s developer program, has introduced community-backed efforts to make adopting networking technology easy and accessible. This includes machine learning and artificial intelligence developer resources, which include use cases and resources to get started with new applications; the Cisco DevNet Automation Exchange, which contains a curated repository of code for all levels of network automation use cases; and the Cisco DNA Center Platform, which helps networking professionals and software developers alike to build new applications and integrations.Marketing Technology News: ATX Adds OTT Video Streaming Capabilities to Media Distribution SolutionAvailability, Licensing and ServicesCisco AI Network Analytics will be a standard part of Cisco DNA Assurance and will be available in the next version of Cisco DNA Center, generally available summer of 2019. Cisco AI Network Analytics capabilities will be included in the Cisco DNA Advantage software licensing tier.The multidomain network integrations will be available with the next version of Cisco DNA Center, generally available summer of 2019. These integrations will be included in the Cisco DNA Advantage software licensing tier.Cisco Customer Experience for Cisco DNA solutions accelerates deployment of next-gen intent-based networking solutions while reducing risk and disruption. The Cisco Customer Experience portfolio of services delivers expert guidance, best practices and innovative tools to help customers transition with greater ease and confidence. This also allows them to innovate faster, stay competitive, extract more value and realize faster ROI.Marketing Technology News: Smartsheet Announces General Availability of Smartsheet Gov at AWS Public Sector Summit AIAutomation ExchangeIoTmachine learningNews Previous ArticleBest Cities for Entrepreneurs: Small Business Trends Announces 2019 RankingsNext ArticleBenefitfocus June Software Release Unveils Tools and Functionality to Automate Benefits & Delivers Insights to Improve Consumers’ Lives Across Platform and Mobile Applast_img read more

IX Open Highlights Index Exchange Drives New Programmatic Industry Leaps in Identity

first_imgIX Open Highlights: Index Exchange Drives New Programmatic Industry Leaps in Identity, Speed and Partner Value Globe NewswireJune 13, 2019, 2:40 pmJune 13, 2019 Keynote event highlighted by flurry of product announcements enhancing connections among trusted publishers, favored brands and global consumers on the trusted webIndex Exchange (IX), the world’s largest independent ad exchange, recently unveiled new and powerful innovations that foster real-time, personalized connections between brands and audiences at its IX Open event series. Headlining a range of product announcements, Index Exchange debuted its IX Library, comprised of the programmatic industry’s most powerful set of solutions for Identity and user experience on the trusted web. The company also detailed new features that enhance speed to deliver more value to both publishers and the brands that rely upon them for trusted content, bringing parity with the Walled Gardens and leveraging machine learning.Marketing Technology News: Vidyard Expands Offering to Bring Personalized Video App to Any Sales Professional, No Matter How They WorkIndex Exchange’s cornerstone product, the IX wrapper, was rebranded to the IX Library. The wrapper evolved from its beginnings as a revolution over the waterfall to a platform product with a robust ecosystem. In its next phase, it brings even more innovation, adaptation, and optimization for partners. There are three standalone versions of the IX Library, outlined below:Identity Library – IX is opening its expansive Identity products to all publishers, increasing the scope of Identity enriched inventory available on the trusted web. The Identity Library packages up Real-Time Identity (RTI) adapters in a simple installation, designed to operate seamlessly with a Publisher’s header bidding set up, agnostic to solutions already in place on the page.Wrapper Library – IX’s most popular product offering requires little integration work by publishers and also comes with the Identity Library. The managed service accesses IX’s team of experts to maximize header bidding configurations and is complemented by a fully functional user interface. It includes all adapters including IX RTI Adapters, and it automatically connects with Google Ad Manager (GAM).Custom Library – Custom Library is IX’s most versatile product, which allows publishers the ability to integrate RTI Adapters and Bidding Adapters within their own solutions on each page. It helps publishers customize a product offering that works for any use case and includes three modules: PostBid, Universal, and Manual. As with the Wrapper Library, the Custom Library also comes with the Identity Library.Other key product release announcements at the event series included:Adaptive Timeouts – By measuring device and network conditions, the Adaptive Timeout feature leverages machine learning via an algorithm that determines a custom, intelligent timeout for each individual user on each individual page view. This includes a time landscape, which is the time it takes from a bid request to a bid response for each participating bidder. By adaptively modifying timeouts, the feature ensures the maximum number of bids make it to the publisher, thereby increasing revenue, while improving user experience in each unique condition.RTI Integration with LiveIntent – IX announced its integration with LiveIntent via the RTI Framework. By adding LiveIntent’s robust identity graph driven by email, marketers gain more choice and can target key people-verified audiences tied to a validated and active email hash. The LiveIntent RTI adapter will be available for beta testing in the US only at this time.Matched Audiences – IX is extending the ability to support audience-based deals using people-based graphs, via its newly unveiled Matched Audiences product. Matched Audiences are buyer specific, CRM-based audience segments powered by the third party graphs. Any DSP with deal ID support can now transact on people-based audiences, empowering buyers to reach their most important customers across high quality publishers, in real-time. This product is currently in beta.Marketing Technology News: AdQuick.com Releases Campaign Genius, so Marketers can Plan and Optimize Out of Home (OOH) Advertising Campaigns in MinutesIX also previewed a variety of upcoming features:Publisher Sonar – Publisher Sonar is a new extension to the IX Library which unlocks people-based advertising in a world without third party cookies. By removing the barrier of transaction in cookie-less environments, Publisher Sonar will increase the breadth of inventory available to transact through Identity solutions, including LiveRamp’s Authenticated Traffic Solution, in the trusted web today. IX has a robust history in providing unique solutions to publishers at scale and are applying that same mentality to Publisher Sonar with an accountable, publisher-first design with no black boxes, fingerprinting or browser hacks. Publisher Sonar will be available in beta later this summer.Blackbird – With the introduction of Blackbird, IX is offering industry leading opt-out controls for consumers, via a simplified and persistent people-based opt out. Users can generate or upload a hash of their email address, which will be used to opt out the user from all people-based advertising. This opt out status will be federated to participating companies, with the goal of ensuring consumers are in control of how their data is used across all advertising experiences. Blackbird will be released in beta later this summer.“IX Open is always one of our most exciting weeks of the year because we get to share new products that will undoubtedly improve the programmatic ecosystem, while helping our partners achieve their goals more efficiently and effectively,” said Andrew Casale, President and CEO of Index Exchange. “With the consumer perception of ad tech on the decline largely driven by mainstream media attention, it’s imperative we put consumer trust at the forefront of any future solutions brought to market. The features we’ve launched do exactly this, and we look forward to putting the consumer first and pioneering a more trusted ecosystem on the road ahead.”This new evolution of Index Exchange’s Header Bidding and Identity technology is another step towards further democratizing digital advertising. IX hosted IX Open events in Orange County, London and Paris.Marketing Technology News: Nami ML Emerges from Stealth to Unveil the Future of Mobile App Subscriptions Andrew CasaleIndex ExchangeIX OpenMarketing TechnologyNewsProgrammatic Industry Previous ArticleIssuu Launches Adobe InDesign Extension with New Issuu Story CloudNext ArticleTripleLift and KPEX Announce Partnershiplast_img read more

MFiles Makes Microsoft Office 365 the Single Point of Access to All

first_imgM-Files Makes Microsoft Office 365 the Single Point of Access to All Enterprise Information MTS Staff WriterJuly 5, 2019, 4:46 pmJuly 5, 2019 AI-Powered Intelligent Information Management Platform Simplifies Daily Work and Drives User Adoption by Enabling Access to External Repositories and Systems From Directly Within Microsoft Office 365M-Files Corporation, the intelligent information management company, announced the general availability of significant enhancements to its Microsoft Office 365 solutions.M-Files now seamlessly integrates within the familiar user interfaces of Microsoft SharePoint Online, Outlook and Teams, providing easy access to out-of-the-box document management, compliance and governance features via the user interface where they work most throughout the day.From directly within Microsoft SharePoint Online, Outlook and Teams, M-Files provides direct access to enterprise data stored in a variety of external repositories and line of business applications, such as on-premises file shares, OneDrive for Business, SharePoint Server, Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, legacy ECM systems, such as OpenText, and CRM and ERP applications, including Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics 365, all without needing to migrate any data. Users can now access this data directly via the Microsoft SharePoint Online, Outlook and Teams user interfaces instead of toggling between these Office 365 apps and other applications. In addition to this new level of unified access to information spread across the enterprise, M-Files offers a full set of purpose-built content services, including cloud and on-premises repositories, version history, security, workflows, electronic signatures, compliance support and more.M-Files also employs artificial intelligence to automatically analyze documents to classify them, extract information insights and ensure proper handling of sensitive information, such as personally identifiable information (PII), as required by regulations such as GDPR and CCPA. Modern AI-powered features, including auto tagging and auto classification, create deep insights into the meaning, value and sensitivity of documents and other information, guiding users and automating processes to maintain governance and compliance.Marketing Technology News: Chris Torres Writes First Ever Marketing Advice Book for the Tours and Activities IndustryWith the new integrated solutions, Microsoft Office 365 users benefit from the metadata-driven architecture of M-Files that allows content to be automatically and dynamically secured and accessed in the right context, regardless of where it’s stored. For example, the corporate legal team can access the latest version of an agreement through the case folder in Outlook, while the project team has access to the same file through a project team site in SharePoint, and the customer success team can access the agreement via the Agreements channel in Teams. Access to content is authorized via single sign-on to Azure AD, and documents are automatically secured based on their metadata.“Our business relies on Microsoft Office 365 applications, so optimizing its use and maximizing the associated ROI is very important to us,” said Guillaume Malet, IT Manager, Induni. “The value of solutions for specific business cases is immediately enhanced when they work well with Office 365, and M-Files is doing just that by enabling information access across the enterprise without the need for data migration. This helps our employees be more productive, enabling them to find the information they need while focusing on the task at hand in the user interface with which they’re most familiar.”Marketing Technology News: Taptica International Rebrand Reflects Video Advertising Leadership“We’re making Microsoft Office 365 the lens through which one can see and access essentially any information across the enterprise, in context,” said Mika Javanainen, vice president of product marketing at M-Files. “According to Gartner, the full value of Office 365 is often not realized until data is migrated, so we focused on addressing that by breaking down siloes to enable enterprises to maximize their investment in Office 365 on day one. This eliminates a major barrier to adoption while also helping identify what content needs to be migrated into Office 365 based on how and if it’s being used day to day.”“Businesses rely on Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft Office 365 as core elements of the modern digital workplace,” said Mike Ammerlaan, director, Microsoft 365 Ecosystem at Microsoft Corp. “M-Files enhances the utility of both to enable true digital business with support for business process automation, governance and compliance.”Marketing Technology News: LivePerson Wins 2019 Artificial Intelligence Breakthrough Award crmM-FilesMarketing Technology NewsMicrosoft Office 365 solutionsMicrosoft SharePoint OnlineNews Previous ArticleRedPoint Announces Digital Acquisition Platform for Targeted Ad ExperiencesNext ArticleBlueCrest Wins Two Direct Commerce Awardslast_img read more

Study Racial disparities found in oral anticoagulant use

first_img Source:https://www.upmc.com/media/news/112818-essien-oral-anticoag Reviewed by Kate Anderton, B.Sc. (Editor)Nov 28 2018Black patients with atrial fibrillation are significantly less likely to receive oral anticoagulants–particularly newer, more effective versions–than white and Hispanic patients, according to a new study published today in JAMA Cardiology.First author Utibe R. Essien, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor in the University of Pittsburgh Division of General Internal Medicine, used the Outcomes Registry for Better Informed Treatment of Atrial Fibrillation II registry (ORBIT-AF II) to source patient data for the study. He conducted the research during his fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital.Related StoriesStudy: Two-thirds of pneumonia patients receive more antibiotics than they probably needResearch sheds light on sun-induced DNA damage and repairBordeaux University Hospital uses 3D printing to improve kidney tumor removal surgeryRegistry data for 11,100 white patients, 646 black patients and 671 Hispanic patients with atrial fibrillation collected from February 2013 through June 2016 was included in the analysis. After controlling for clinical and sociodemographic factors, black patients had 25 percent lower odds of receiving any oral anticoagulant drugs compared to their white and Hispanic counterparts, and 37 percent lower odds of receiving the easier to use and likely safer direct-acting oral anticoagulants. There was no difference in prescriptions between whites and Hispanics.”For patients with atrial fibrillation, long-term oral anticoagulant use can reduce their risk of stroke. Even after our analysis adjusted for socioeconomic factors, black patients were still less likely to receive these types of drugs,” said Essien. “Blacks with atrial fibrillation are already at a higher risk of complications, so improving health literacy and reducing disparities related to medication use could help improve their overall quality of care and reduce complications.”Many factors, including limited access to specialists, out-of-pocket costs, medication adherence and implicit bias, have been suggested as possible reasons for the disparities in care for patients with atrial fibrillation, but further research is needed to address and correct these issues.last_img read more

Alzheimers and brain health could soon be detected using an eye exam

first_imgThe team found that there were tell-tale signs of changes in the retinal blood vessels among those who have a mild cognitive impairment, a known precursor for Alzheimer’s disease. This is due to changes in the retinal nerve layers with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s. We know that there are changes that occur in the brain in the small blood vessels in people with Alzheimer’s disease, and because the retina is an extension of the brain, we wanted to investigate whether these changes could be detected in the retina using a new technology that is less invasive and easy to obtain.Dilraj S. Grewal, Lead Author He said that they used a non-invasive technology called optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA) to measure the blood flow in each of the layers of the retina. Some of the changes detected were in capillaries or blood vessels that measured less than the width of a human hair he explained.Fekrat said, “Ultimately, the goal would be to use this technology to detect Alzheimer’s early, before symptoms of memory loss are evident, and be able to monitor these changes over time in participants of clinical trials studying new Alzheimer’s treatments.”The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, 2018 Unrestricted Grant from Research to Prevent Blindness and the Karen L. Wrenn Alzheimer’s Disease Award. We’re measuring blood vessels that can’t be seen during a regular eye exam and we’re doing that with relatively new noninvasive technology that takes high-resolution images of very small blood vessels within the retina in just a few minutes. It’s possible that these changes in blood vessel density in the retina could mirror what’s going on in the tiny blood vessels in the brain, perhaps before we are able to detect any changes in cognition.”Sharon Fekrat, Senior Authorcenter_img By Dr. Ananya Mandal, MDMar 12 2019Reviewed by Kate Anderton, B.Sc. (Editor)Soon, an eye examination may be all that is needed to confirm a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, according to researchers at Duke’s Health.4 PM production | ShutterstockDuke Eye Center recently recruited and studied the retinas of over 200 individuals to see if there were any differences between those with Alzheimer’s and those without. The results of the study titled, “Retinal Microvascular and Neurodegenerative Changes in Alzheimer’s Disease and Mild Cognitive Impairment Compared with Control Participants,” were published in the latest issue of the journal Ophthalmology Retina.The results showed that people who have a healthy brain function have a dense microscopic network of blood vessels in the retina, which can be observed through an eye examination. This web-like network of vessels was much less pronounced in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.The data is based on retinal images from 133 healthy participants and 39 individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. Age, gender, level of education was adjusted for all cases and controls to remove the influence of bias in the results.Duke ophthalmologist and retinal surgeon Sharon Fekrat, senior author of the study said that the differences were significant among cases and controls: Source:Retinal Microvascular and Neurodegenerative Changes in Alzheimer’s Disease and Mild Cognitive Impairment Compared with Control Participants. Ophthalmology Retina. 2019.last_img read more

Uranium toxicity might have caused obesity and diabetes in Kuwait finds new

first_imgBy Dr. Liji Thomas, MDJul 9 2019According to a new research report, the extremely high prevalence of diabetes and obesity in the Gulf nation of Kuwait might be linked to the very high levels of uranium in these individuals. This in turn could be associated with the large amounts of depleted uranium dumped here in the form of US munitions during the Gulf war of 1990-91.More than half of the Kuwait population is obese and a quarter are diabetic. Prolonged uranium uptake is already known to be associated with the development of diabetes and impaired kidney function. It causes both radiation-induced and chemical toxicity to the human kidneys, lungs and liver through a variety of mechanisms. Quite low exposures of 50 ppb (parts per billion) to 20 ppm (parts per million) can cause uranium poisoning with impaired renal function. In the present study, the researchers took samples of saliva from 94 healthy 10-year-old children in Kuwait at two time points, once in 2012 and then again in 2014. This was then analyzed for a range of biomarkers, including 2PY. The children were also assessed for blood pressure, height, and weight at each visit.The results showed that at the second measurement, over 50% of the previously healthy children had become obese and showed signs of the metabolic syndrome. This is characterized by high blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and has an increased risk of cardiovascular disease later in life.Related StoriesMetformin use linked to lower risk of dementia in African Americans with type 2 diabetesUCR biomedical professor to investigate how body’s cannabis-like molecules influence obesityNew anti-obesity drug trial set to launch at Alberta Diabetes InstituteIn the obese subgroup of children, researchers observed high salivary levels of a chemical called N1-methyl-2-pyridone-5-carboxamide (2PY). Among all the biomarkers, 2PY was most strongly associated with obesity in these children. While practically everyone has some 2PY in their saliva, high levels were found only in the saliva of children from Kuwait who had become obese. A group of comparably obese children from Maine and Massachusetts whose saliva was also measured, as a control group, failed to show the same rise in 2PY levels. This study is the first to report the association of rising 2PY levels with obesity.2PY is formed from the vitamin niacin or nicotinamide found in meat, fish, mushrooms and nuts. 2PY inhibits an enzyme called PARP-1 which is required for repairing damaged DNA, and is related to poor renal function in humans. In rats, it is known to be associated with long-term exposure to low-level uranium.Goodson comments, “The implication is that these children may be suffering from uranium toxicity, which may be contributing to the high rates of obesity and diabetes in Kuwait.” The uranium is probably from the contamination caused by the estimated 300 tons of US weaponry dropped on the country during the Gulf war in 1990-91. The central part of the country, where the munitions were dropped, is also the same area where soil radioactivity from 238U is at a peak and where the military is most active. It has the highest prevalence of obesity and the greatest elevations in salivary 2PY levels, while the border areas have the lowest.The presumption is that the ingestion of low amounts of uranium over a long time has led to this metabolic disorder. However, confounding factors such as the large-scale adoption of a Westernized diet in the country following the war also must be considered.The link between salivary 2PY and uranium exposure has so far been demonstrated in rats only, and therefore uranium levels need to be assessed in saliva and in blood before this association is confirmed in humans. Moreover, 2PY is only an indirect biomarker for uranium. Direct uranium measurements in blood and saliva in the Kuwaiti population are necessary to examine the premise that these metabolic conditions are really due to uranium toxicity. Journal reference:Goodson Jo Max, Hardt Markus, Hartman Mor-Li, Alqaderi Hend, Green Daniel, Tavares Mary, Mutawa Al-Sabiha, Ariga Jitendra, Soparkar Pramod, Behbehani Jawad, Behbehani Kazem, “Salivary N1-Methyl-2-Pyridone-5-Carboxamide, a Biomarker for Uranium Uptake, in Kuwaiti Children Exhibiting Exceptional Weight Gain”, Frontiers in Endocrinology,DOI:10.3389/fendo.2019.00382, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fendo.2019.00382/full Kuwait City, Kuwait – circa April 1991 : Burned shell of Kuwait AIrways headquarters in Kuwait City following Operation Desert Storm in Persian Gulf War. Image Credit: Karenfoleyphotography / Shutterstocklast_img read more

Gates says billionaires should pay significantly more taxes

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates says billionaires should pay “significantly” more in taxes Bill Gates says he has paid more than $10 billion in taxes over a lifetime but billionaires like him should pay “significantly” more because they benefit more from the system. © 2018 AFP The Microsoft co-founder, the world’s second richest man after Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, was critical of a recent US tax overhaul that slashed corporate taxes and lowered the top bracket for individual income.”I’ve paid more taxes, over $10 billion, than anyone else, but the government should require the people in my position to pay significantly higher taxes,” he said in an interview Sunday with CNN.He said the tax overhaul passed in December favors the rich despite Republican claims it will help the middle and working classes.”People who are wealthier tended to get dramatically more benefits than the middle class or those who are poor, and so it runs counter to the general trend you’d like to see, where the safety net is getting stronger and those at the top are paying higher taxes,” he said.With a sixth of the US population living in what he called “disappointing” conditions, he said US policymakers need to think about rising inequality and ask, “Why aren’t we doing a better job for those people?” Explore further Ireland to start collecting $15 billion in tax from Apple This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. Citation: Gates says billionaires should pay ‘significantly’ more taxes (2018, February 19) retrieved 18 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2018-02-gates-billionaires-significantly-taxes.html read more

Ridesharing platforms may be taking the place of managers in the gig

Ratings, ride assignments and other aspects of Uber’s ride-sharing computer platform in some ways subtly serve as the manager for the company’s drivers, according to an international team of researchers. Provided by Pennsylvania State University Egypt court suspends ban on Uber and Careem Citation: Ride-sharing platforms may be taking the place of managers in the gig economy (2018, April 24) retrieved 18 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2018-04-ride-sharing-platforms-gig-economy.html Explore further This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. In a study of Uber drivers’ discussions, the researchers said that the ride-sharing company’s platform seems to perform similar roles to human managers. However, the drivers have little ability to voice grievances, pitch ideas to work better with customers, or influence policy changes as they might with a human manager, said Benjamin Hanrahan, assistant professor of information sciences and technology.”There has been some work on algorithms as managers and how people interact with algorithmic management, but this looks more deeply at how the platform embodies the management philosophy and how you can judge the ethical nature of that management philosophy,” said Hanrahan.According to the researchers, Uber’s platform primarily addresses the needs of people who are looking for a ride, which may mean that drivers’ concerns do not have equal weight.”All of Uber’s different management decisions are embodied in the platform as the company’s platform is actually doing the management,” said Hanrahan. “When we looked at it, Uber’s platform seems to focus on one user—the person who wants a ride—somewhat at the expense of the drivers.”Most Uber drivers indicated they joined the ride-share service because of the autonomy it offered. However, the platform reinforces the idea that the job is a blur between employee and independent contractor, said Hanrahan.”Uber—at least legally—views drivers as independent from the company,” said Hanrahan. “But if you look at the way the platform relates to the drivers, they are treated as employees, in some ways, and as contractors in others. The drivers, who identify as independent, tend to chafe when they perceive the platform is trying to manage them.”For example, if drivers are independent, they should have more say in who they choose as riders, but the platform does not allow drivers to make those choices, Hanrahan added.The researchers, who present their findings at the CHI Conference today (April 24) in Montreal, studied posts on an active Uber internet forum, which is independent from the company. The site has 93,000 active members and 150,000 discussions. They focused mainly on the most relevant posts in the advice, complaints and technology sections from January 2014 to April 2017.”What we were really looking at is what were these drivers dealing with—what did they like about driving, what did they not like about driving, and what role did the platform have in this,” said Hanrahan.The researchers framed their study in stakeholder theory, a management ethics concept that suggests that a company’s managers should make decisions based on the considerations of all parties, including workers, rather than just basing their initiatives exclusively on stockholders.In the future, the researchers will study using interfaces to improve the relationship between the driver and rider, said Ning F. Ma, doctoral student in information sciences and technology, who worked with Hanrahan.”We want to present the driver, not just as a driver, but as a person with the back stories of the area and present them as someone who is a local expert,” said Ma. “The drivers could recommend places to riders through the interface, for example. We’re thinking of installing a tablet in the dashboard of the vehicle as one possible interface for this.”Hanrahan said this is a step toward making the driver more integral in Uber’s stakeholder structure.”This is one of the grander directions we’re taking,” said Hanrahan. “How can you make the stakeholder structure simpler and make it more driver- and rider-run?” read more

More harm than good Assessing the nuclear arsenal tipping point

first_img A table from the paper details the number of starvation deaths that could be expected based on the millions of tons of smoke created by nuclear blasts of varying sizes. Credit: Joshua Pearce and David Denkenberger “We should be clear this analysis represents a severe underestimate on the number of dead Americans,” Pearce says. “We assume severe rationing, which is the best way to keep the most people alive when there is this level of food shortage. It means anyone who would die of starvation is immediately cut off from food.”I don’t think rationing would go overly smoothly—a lot more people would die in violence internally than what we estimated based on lack of calories.”Putting numbers to the evaluation, Pearce and Denkenberger examined the threat potential of a 7,000-weapon arsenal, a 1,000-weapon arsenal and a 100-weapon arsenal. Playing out a hypothetical scenario, the researchers explain that if the U.S. used 100 nuclear weapons against China’s most populous cities, initial blasts would likely kill more than 30 million people. This would kill a higher fraction of the population than even severe pandemics, providing plenty of deterrence to prevent another nation from attacking. Sunlight would decrease 10 to 20 percent and precipitation 19 percent (and in some places, even more).Pearce and Denkenberger, based on previous work, built a model of the burnable material in cities, how much would burn in a nuclear attack, how much of that would turn into smoke, and how much of that smoke would make it into the upper atmosphere. Then they used the result of climate and crop simulations to predict the impact on food supply. They coupled this with food storage to predict how many people would starve.The agricultural loss from this so-called “nuclear autumn” would range from 10-20 percent, enough to cause widespread food shortages in wealthier nations and mass starvation in poorer nations.Starvation could result because nuclear weapons would cause cities to burn, putting smoke into the upper atmosphere and blocking sunlight for years. This could cause lower rainfall and lower temperatures, potentially causing winter-like weather in the summer, called “nuclear winter.” Less severe reduction in sunlight is called “nuclear autumn,” which could still cause many millions of people to starve.It is clear that even 100 nuclear weapons is more than enough to dramatically reshape the globe, and Pearce and Denkenberger argue it’s also more than enough to deter other countries. Maintaining more than that number, the authors state, is not only against the best interest of a nation to protect its people, but also cost a significant amount to maintain.Policy recommendationsIn addition to a large arsenal reduction, Pearce and Denkenberger make other policy recommendations. They argue that the Department of Defense should extend its nuclear disaster modeling past the initial blast to include potential deaths caused by nuclear autumn.Says Denkenberger: “The U.S. government should greatly increase focus on producing alternative food to provide for survivors in the case of nuclear war; with supply chains cut-off, all food Americans eat will have to come from within the nation’s borders.””It is not rational to spend billions of dollars maintaining a nuclear arsenal that would destabilize your country if they were ever used,” Pearce says. “Other countries are far worse off. Even if they fired off relatively few nuclear weapons and were not hit by any of them and did not suffer retaliation, North Korea or Israel would be committing national suicide.” To put that number in perspective, the U.S. and Russia each currently have thousands of nuclear weapons. Both nations hew to the concept of nuclear deterrence—more firepower is intimidating and makes other countries think twice before picking a fight.More than 100 nuclear weapons in a nation’s arsenal does more harm than good—as using them can destabilize the country that uses them even in a best-case scenario.Joshua Pearce, professor at Michigan Technological University, and David Denkenberger, assistant professor at Tennessee State University and director of Alliance to Feed the Earth in Disasters (ALLFED), co-authored an article published today in the journal Safety.In “A National Pragmatic Safety Limit for Nuclear Weapon Quantities”, Pearce and Denkenberger examined direct negative physical consequences of the use of nuclear weapons to the nation firing them, including impacts such as starvation and global supply chain disruption coupled with the cost to maintain an extensive arsenal.To summarize: A nation willing to use its nuclear weaponry against another must determine whether it has the ability to survive the problems of its own making.There are nine nuclear weaponized nations: the U.S., Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea. There are approximately 15,000 nuclear weapons globally. Under the disarmament proposed in the paper, this number would drop to 900 or fewer.”With 100 nuclear weapons, you still get nuclear deterrence, but avoid the probable blowback from nuclear autumn that kills your own people,” Pearce says. “Defense expenditures post-9/11 show we care about protecting Americans. If we use 1,000 nuclear warheads against an enemy and no one retaliates, we will see about 50 times more Americans die than did on 9/11 due to the after-effects of our own weapons.”Pearce notes this is the first study to quantitatively demonstrate just how dangerous the use of nuclear weapons is even for the aggressor nation that fired off the nukes. Citation: More harm than good: Assessing the nuclear arsenal tipping point (2018, June 13) retrieved 18 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2018-06-good-nuclear-arsenal.html The consequences of environmental blow-back include a significant drop in global temperature because of soot from nuclear blasts blocking the sunlight from reaching Earth’s surface, decreased precipitation, a drop in food production because of blocked sunlight and less moisture, increased ultraviolet radiation resulting from a badly damaged atmosphere, and non-functioning supply chains. Credit: Sarah Bird/Michigan Tech Provided by Michigan Technological University Explore further This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. One hundred. That’s the number researchers argue is a pragmatic quantity of nuclear weapons for any nation to have. After-effects of nuclear aggressionIn the paper, Pearce and Denkenberger write, “No country should have more nuclear weapons than the number necessary for unacceptable levels of environmental blow-back on the nuclear power’s own country if they were used.”The consequences of environmental blow-back include a significant drop in global temperature because of soot from nuclear blasts blocking the sunlight from reaching Earth’s surface, decreased precipitation, a drop in food production because of blocked sunlight and less moisture, increased ultraviolet radiation resulting from a badly damaged atmosphere, and non-functioning supply chains. Can we track the world’s nuclear weapons?last_img read more

US gears up for antitrust battles with Big Tech

first_img This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. US preparing antitrust probe of Google: report Explore further The US administration is stepping up scrutiny of Big Tech firms, which could result in a series of drawn-out legal battles aimed at reining in—and potentially breaking up—giants such as Google, Amazon and Facebook. The Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission have carved out territory for the investigations to set the stage for reviews of the dominance of the largest of the Silicon Valley firms, media reports said.According to the Wall Street Journal, the Justice Department will lead the Google probe, leaving the FTC to review the competition practices of Amazon and Facebook.Separately, the House Judiciary Committee announced its own investigation into “competition in digital markets,” saying: “A small number of dominant, unregulated platforms have extraordinary power over commerce, communication, and information online.”The moves comes amid a rising “techlash” stemming from privacy and data protection lapses at tech firms, and growing concerns about the sheer dominance of these firms. Politicians on both sides of the political aisle have been stepping up criticism, and some presidential candidates have called for the biggest firms to be broken up.Analysts say the political winds have shifted against Silicon Valley firms, which had been among the most admired US companies, following revelations on how much personal data they are scooping up.”Google knows just about everything there is to know about us,” said Jack Gold, analyst at the consultancy J. Gold Associates.Gold said Google and Facebook, the dominant players in online advertising, have developed sophisticated tools to gather data on users.”It gives them a leg up,” Gold said. “They can target ads much better than anyone else. The question is whether there is anybody who can compete with them.”Sound and furyBut some legal scholars say antitrust enforcers will face an uphill battle in taking on Big Tech. Under most legal interpretations, the government will need to show tech firms abused their monopoly position and harmed consumers—a difficult task with respect to Google and Facebook, which offer most services for free.”I see this as a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” said Larry Downes, project director at Georgetown University’s Center for Business and Public Policy. “The law hasn’t changed. You can’t just go after companies because you don’t like them.”Downes said probes are unlikely to find that tech firms have violated the “consumer welfare standard,” which has guided policy for more than four decades.But the rise of Big Tech has prompted a rethinking of that standard, said Maurice Stucke, a former Justice Department lawyer now on the law school faculty of the University of Tennessee.”The consumer welfare standard is not the law,” Stucke said, arguing that there is no need to show higher prices if tech firms stifle competition.EU roadmap?Stucke said European antitrust actions against Google have created a “road map” for US officials that may help accelerate their probes.”All of the areas the Europeans identified could be brought by the US,” he said.Stucke noted that US antitrust enforcers have an advantage over their EU counterparts with the ability to require “structural” remedies, or a break-up of dominant firms as was done in the 1980s with telecom monopoly AT&T and in the initial ruling against Microsoft, which was overturned on appeal.But US and EU law are vastly different on antitrust, according to Eric Goldman, director of the High-Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University.”European law cares about competitors while US law cares about competition, and that makes a huge difference,” he said. Rutgers University law professor Michael Carrier agreed that a case against Google could be challenging: “I’m not sure if the consumer has been harmed, so an antitrust case could be harder than it seems.”‘It looks very fishy’Christopher Sagers, a professor of antitrust at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, said there may be legitimate grounds to review Google for favoring its own services, but that courts may be cautious.Additionally, he said President Donald Trump’s complaints about tech bias against conservatives have muddied the waters.”It could be the Trump administration is trying to appease a conservative base which believes Silicon Valley tech firms are censoring political speech,” Sagers said.Sagers said that despite tough talk by some officials, the Trump administration has been noticeably lax on other, less politically sensitive antitrust cases.”It looks very fishy,” Sagers said. “If you’re bringing the biggest set of antitrust cases since the Great Depression, why are you letting all these other mergers go through?”Sagers said court-ordered breakups are extremely rare, and that a more likely outcome would be an injunction or order to stop stifling competition.But any remedy against Google would likely be complicated if it involved oversight of its search algorithm, according to Sagers, because it would likely mean a government-appointed monitor—a difficult sell to free-speech defenders.”People would say it’s big government,” Sagers said. “And a court might be quite sympathetic to that argument.” © 2019 AFP Citation: US gears up for antitrust battles with Big Tech (2019, June 4) retrieved 17 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-06-gears-antitrust-big-tech.html Credit: CC0 Public Domainlast_img read more