Get real-time reactions during the presidential debates | Guardian Mobile Innovation Lab

In our latest experiment, you can sign up for Android notifications from Guardian columnists during the presidential debates wherever you are in the world

The Guardian Mobile Innovation Lab and the Guardian US opinion desk are sending experimental web notifications tonight during tonights presidential debate, with real-time opinions from Guardian columnists.

To sign up: Open this page in a Chrome browser from an Android phone (Samsung included) and tap to sign up. Web notifications are currently only available on Chrome on Android devices. They are meant for mobile but will work on Chrome browsers on desktop, too.

These experimental alerts will supplement the news alerts sent from the Guardians Android app with reactions from Guardian columnists Richard Wolffe and Lucia Graves. They will be sent at key moments throughout the debate, while the Guardian app news alerts will provide only the most important updates. (The alerts can also be received through desktop Chrome browsers but unfortunately not iPhones. Were working on a way to release iOS versions of our notifications experiments and hope to have that ready next month.)

During the debate, you will hear from the columnists with their quick takes on the candidates policy statements, their debating styles, and whos winning and whos losing.

This project is the latest installment in ongoing experimentation with notifications, part of the Mobile Labs mission to learn more about mobile storytelling. After the experiment, well send out a survey soliciting feedback on the experience.

Questions, suggestions or observations? Drop us a note:

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Donald Trump on trade and the economy: CNN’s Reality Check vets the claims

Washington (CNN)During his campaign, Donald Trump’s made many claims about trade and the economy. CNN’s Reality Check Team put the billionaire’s statements and assertions to the test.

The team of reporters, researchers and editors across CNN listened throughout the speech and selected key statements, rating them true; mostly true; true, but misleading; false; or it’s complicated.
Reality Check: Trump on trade deficit increasing 40% while Clinton was secretary of state
    June 22, 2016
    By Chris Isidore and Tami Luhby, CNNMoney
    Trump said Clinton should be “scorned” because the nation’s trade deficit with China soared 40% while she was secretary of state.
    “Our trade deficit with China soared 40% during Hillary Clinton’s time as secretary of state — a disgraceful performance for which she should not be congratulated, but rather scorned,” he said.



      Donald Trump: Hillary Clinton ‘a world-class liar’


    Actually, the trade deficit rose only 12% if you look between 2008 and 2012, which is the most accurate way to measure what happened under her tenure, which ran from early 2009 until early 2013, according to federal trade data.
    However, if you cherry-pick the data from 2009 to 2012, the deficit jumped 34%. But that’s because the trade gap narrowed during the depths of the recession in 2009.
    Either way, Trump’s assertion is exaggerated. Therefore, we rate it as false.
    Reality Check: Trump on losing nearly 1/3 of manufacturing jobs since NAFTA and China admitted to World Trade Organization
    June 22, 2016
    By Tami Luhby, CNNMoney
    Trump lashed out at Clinton’s support of trade agreements that he said were “among the most destructive ever signed.”
    Specifically, Trump cited the North American Free Trade Agreement, which then-President Bill Clinton signed in 1994, and China’s entrance into the World Trade Organization in late 2001, for which the former president smoothed the way.
    “We’ve lost nearly one-third of our manufacturing jobs since these two Hillary-backed agreements were signed,” Trump said.
    The presumptive Republican candidate is exaggerating the figures a bit. The nation has lost 27% of its manufacturing jobs since NAFTA was signed in 1994. The sector, which employed 16.9 million people back then, now has 12.3 million workers.
    But that masks the fact that the industry actually expanded it payrolls slightly under the remainder of Bill Clinton’s term.
    The bleeding really began in the early 2000s and continued through and immediately after the Great Recession.
    Manufacturers, however, have been adding jobs since early 2010. Employment is up 7.3% since then.
    Yet it’s not clear how much free trade deals drove the decline in manufacturing employment. Corporate America was already shifting jobs to lower-wage countries, and technology already made it more costly for U.S. companies to produce goods here. Also, today’s factory jobs require more education and skills, leaving many less-educated Americans on the sidelines.
    Trump also said that the nation will lose millions more jobs if Hillary Clinton is elected because she will adopt the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which the former secretary of state had supported but now opposes. His comments here are misleading, too, because only Congress has the power to ratify trade agreements.
    We therefore rate Trump’s statement as true, but misleading, because there were many other factors beyond trade that led to the decline in manufacturing employment after China entered the WTO.
    Reality Check: Trump started off with a ‘small loan’
    June 22, 2016
    By Jeremy Diamond and Sonam Vashi, CNN
    “I started off in Brooklyn, New York, not so long ago, with a small loan and built a business that today is worth well over $10 billion,” Trump said during a speech in Washington.
    We reported on this claim last October.
    That small loan from Trump’s father was worth $1 million, probably given before Trump entered the Manhattan real estate market in the early 1970s.
    If Trump’s father made the loan in 1968, the year his son graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, that $1 million would be worth $6.8 million in today’s dollars, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index inflation calculator.
    Trump has built up a multi-billion-dollar net worth, expanding his father’s lucrative real estate business to new heights. But while much of Trump’s success is a credit to his work, he was born into a successful, wealthy family, inheriting part of his father’s more than $200 million net worth.
    Trump’s narrative of self-making his entire fortune doesn’t quite hold up either — The Washington Post Fact Checker found that he profited from loans, loan guarantees, his father’s connections and trusts to help create his empire.
    Trump has boasted over and over that his net worth is $10 billion, but it’s unclear how true that really is. Last year, Forbes rated his net worth as $4.5 billion — less than half of what Trump claims. We’ve only gotten a glimpse of Trump’s financial details, especially as Trump has refused to release his tax returns (because he’s being audited, he claims), but we know he’s worth at least a billion.
    Given that for almost all Americans, $1 million is hardly a small loan, especially back in 1968, we rate his claim that he started his business with a “small loan” as false.
    Reality Check: Trump on paying for the wall with Mexico
    February 25, 2016
    By Tami Luhby, CNNMoney
    Trump has long said he wants to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and get the Mexican government to pay for it. More recently, he’s been tying the issue to America’s trade deficit with its southern neighbor.
    “We have a trade deficit with Mexico of $58 billion a year. And that doesn’t include all the drugs that are pouring across and destroying our country. We are going to make them pay for that wall. Now, the wall is $10 billion to $12 billion,” Trump said during the Republican debate in Houston, the last debate before Super Tuesday.
    It’s true that the trade deficit with Mexico was $58 billion last year. But that doesn’t mean the Mexican government can pay for the wall … not to mention whether they’d even agree to.
    The deficit means that private firms in Mexico have earned more money from trading with the U.S. than U.S. firms have earned from trade with Mexico, said Gary Hufbauer, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
    “It not like it’s a pot of money available to the Mexican government,” he said.
    So it’s false that the trade deficit gives Mexico the money to pay for the wall.
    CNN also looked at the cost of building the wall. Construction experts said a wall fashioned out of pre-casted concrete panels — similar to those that run alongside highways — would be the most workable choice.
    Based on the price of highway panels, the price tag for the wall alone would cost around $10 billion, which is not accounting for the cost of construction that would take at least four years over the border’s diverse terrain.
    Other construction estimates have come in much higher. A retired estimator and economist for one of the nation’s largest construction firms calculated it would cost nearly $25 billion, according to The Washington Post.
    We rate Trump’s claim that building the wall would cost between $10 billion and $12 billion as false.

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    What if North Korea’s missiles come from underwater?

    Hong Kong (CNN)The US and South Korean navies took to the seas Monday with a message for North Korea: Think twice before you threaten us.

    This so-called “show of force” comes during the same month in which North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test just days after successfully launching three missiles into the Sea of Japan.
      The North, for its part, claims it tested a nuclear warhead — which can be placed on top of a missile — though there is no way to verify that claim.
      And the possibility of pairing a nuclear warhead with a missile is all the more frightening when you consider the country has also been testing how to launch missiles underwater, where they’re harder to detect.
      “The question that some experts are raising is whether or not the North Koreans can actually mate a miniaturized nuclear warhead onto such a missile,” Alexander Neill, a North Korea expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies Asia,” told CNN.
      “If there’s evidence that they can do that — or they have done that — than this is major concern for the region.”
      Those tests come just after North Korea had what many experts believe to be its first successful submarine missile launch in August.
      “While this was a substantial improvement in North Korea’s demonstrated capabilities, it does not likely represent an operational submarine launched ballistic missile capability at this time,” John Schilling, an aerospace engineer and contributor to the North Korea monitoring project 38 North, told CNN in an email after the sub missile launch.

      The missile traveled 311 miles (500 kilometers) — and was the first projectile ever fired by the North Koreans to reach Japan’s air defense identification zone, according to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

      But even the possibility of an underwater missile launch poses a new set of problems for North Korea’s neighbors — it’s a wild-card factor that introduces “a new, complex dimension of threat for the ROK [Republic of Korea], the US, Japan and others … the ability to keep an adversary guessing, or at least to absorb an adversary’s resources in tackling a new threat,” says Neill.
      “This new capability will demand a response from the US and its allies,” he said. “It has introduced a new dynamic into the threat matrix on the Korean peninsula.”

      The one sub

      Based on pictures that were released by North Korea, the submarine is believed to be its more modern, Gorae-class sub — North Korea reportedly only has one — according to an analysis by IHS Jane’s.
      It’s also likely the only sub they have that can fire a ballistic missile.


      The Gorae submarine is largely shrouded in mystery — it’s not clear if the North Koreans are planning to use it as an experimental vehicle or whether it will be replicated and reproduced, Jane’s says.

      And the test itself was an audacious and risky move, Schilling says.
      “Testing from a submarine shows great confidence from the North Koreans, almost recklessly so,” he said.
      “The solid-fuel KN-11 is basically a new design, and North Korean missiles almost never work right on their first try. They took a big risk of damaging or sinking their only ballistic missile submarine, something we wouldn’t have expected this soon, and it paid off for them (this time). “
      The rest of North Korea’s fleet is mostly older, Soviet-era submarine equipment.
      The country has about 70 submarines in its fleet, according to various independent estimates.
      And those subs are louder and easier to detect, according to Neill.
      Some of them are older, Soviet-era pieces of equipment, while others were transferred from China in the 1970s.

      The missiles

      The missile fired from a sub appeared to be a solid fuel KN-11 — “basically a new design,” Schilling said.


      The missile is typically nine meters (30 feet) long. It’s not clear what its range is.

      The timeline

      Though the North Koreans are getting closer, most experts believe they are still a ways away from having a viable submarine-based missile launch system.
      “We would expect the first deployment of an operational system to occur in about two years, with full capability involving multiple submarines a year or so after that,” Schilling said.
      “They might be able to put to sea with the one experimental submarine they presently have, some time next year, but that would be a risky move that would give only a very limited and unreliable capability.”

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      How Spotify is perfecting the playlist

      Matt Ogle of Spotify.
      Image: Eva O’Leary/Bloomberg Businessweek

      Until recently, Mike Perry assembled engines at a Volvo plant in Skovde, a medieval city in Sweden. But Perry wanted to be a famous DJ. At night he labored in a recording studio, writing and producing songs in a lush, throbbing style known as tropical house. It sounds like Jimmy Cliff was tweaked by Avicii, the electronic dance musician.

      Perry was 30 and hadnt had a breakthrough, so it looked as if hed be on the assembly line for years. Then, in April, he released a track called The Ocean, a bit of escapist pop. It wasnt long before he noticed the Spotify link to his song all over social media. The Ocean became so popular on the streaming service that Perry quit his job and spent the summer performing in Europe. Now he has almost 15.5 million monthly Spotify listeners, a number he still finds inconceivable. Its just opened so many doors, he says.

      At a certain point, Spotify contacted Perrys music manager to explain how the service had transformed his client from autoworker to house music luminary in months. It was simple: It had a lot to do with Spotifys music-recommendation technology. The company keeps track of what you listen to. Then it uses algorithms to see which other playlists contain the same songsand other songs that are on those lists but not on yours. Then it feeds you those new cuts in a personalized playlist, Discover Weekly, which is refreshed every Monday. Once The Ocean began showing up in Discover Weekly, Perrys days at Volvo were numbered.

      “We have a long belief that people were superior to algorithms. What we have found is that Spotifys algorithms are astonishingly accurate.”

      Like The Ocean, Discover Weekly, which made its debut in July 2015, is a hit. Matt Ogle, Spotifys erudite product lead for recommendations and discovery, says 40 million users have tried it, streaming more than 5 billion songs. Its moving the needle, especially for small-to-medium indie artists, Ogle says. Its also helped Spotify increase its monthly users from 75 million to 100 million at a time when its being challenged by Apple Music, the rival streaming service, and when artists such as Taylor Swift and Beyonc are withholding their work from Spotify because they say its stingy with royalties. Its easy to see why Discover Weekly has taken off. Listeners have access to more music than everbut thats overwhelming. Even though you can search across Spotify, people dont like to spend too much time searching, says Rahul Telang, co-author of Streaming, Sharing, Stealing: Big Data and the Future of Entertainment. Discover Weekly eliminates search altogether.

      Spotify and Apple are divided on how to make finding music easier. Apple Music relies heavily on human curators to pick songs. Spotify has those, too, but its more focused on algorithmic recommendations. In the past, such tech-driven music-discovery functions were weak, often suggesting artists and songs that people already knew and liked. What makes Discover Weekly different is that it unearths new cuts from among other users playlists that you will adore. We have a long belief that people were superior to algorithms, says Bob Lefsetz, author of the Lefsetz Letter, an online report on the music business. What we have found is that Spotifys algorithms are astonishingly accurate. If thats the caseand it appears to bethe power in the music industry may soon shift from traditional forces such as label executives and radio programmers to streaming savants such as Ogle and his teams of engineers.

      Finding music on the internet may seem relatively new, but its been around long enough that Ogle, 36, has spent his entire career doing it. Its a Thursday afternoon in August, and hes sitting in a glass-walled conference room named Blue in Green (in honor of the classic song performed by Miles Davis) in Spotifys New York office. He looks like a grad student with his tortoiseshell glasses, blue shirt, black pants, white sneakers, and no socks.

      Ogle grew up in Canada and went to the University of Alberta, where he double-majored in English and computer science. He plays piano and maintains a Twitter feed of quotes from the novels and short stories of Raymond Chandler. He also runs an e-mail newsletter that recommends a daily poem. It conveys the biggest impact with the fewest words, he says of poetry. A lot of things I work on are about finding the simplest thing that can evoke emotion in people.

      After graduating from college in 2004, Ogle went to work in London for, a British online radio provider that suggested bands, songs, and concerts. was revolutionary for its day. Ten years ago, we were going, People who play Beck also play Radiohead, he says. We were at that Amazon level of, People who bought this also bought toilet plungers. In 2011, Ogle left to open a London office for the Echo Nest, a Boston-based online music company that created algorithms that customers such as Spotify used to make recommendations.

      At the Echo Nest, Ogle created his own online music recommendation applications. He came up with one in 2011 called Drinkify that paired artists and cocktails. It directed Prince fans, for example, to get pumped up with a blend of cinnamon-laced Red Bull and Finlandia vodka. Drinkify attracted media interest, but Ogle decided it was too much trouble to turn it into an actual product. There are a lot of issues monetizing anything to do with alcohol, he says, sighing. Ogle ran into different obstacles when he co-founded a music-related social network in 2012 called This Is My Jam. The problem: It was designed for PC users when everyone was listening to music on smartphones.

      His friends at the Echo Nest didnt hold Ogles failures against him. In 2014, Spotify acquired it and put him in charge of new-music discovery offerings. Ogles first assignment was to fix Spotifys moribund Discover page, which fewer than 3 percent of users bothered with. The experience wasnt very good, he says. First you have to find the screen, and then you have to look at the grid of albums and go, Well, that cover looks interesting. Then you click on it and have 12 tracks. Which one do you play? There was no way to explore it quickly. But engineers messing with the page had come up with something promising at a company hack week: a method of generating personalized mix tapes by tapping into user-generated playlists.

      Ed Newett, the engineer who came up with the prototype, gave Ogle a demonstration. Ogle was delighted when the first track to surface was a tune hed never encountered by Jan Hammer, the Czech-born jazz-fusion synth pioneer from the 70s. It hit all my sweet spots, he says. I was like, This feels like a deep cut. This feels like a person picked it for me. The challenge for Spotify was translating the tech into something more welcoming than the Discover page. Thats where Ogle came in. Without Matt, we wouldnt have made it an actual product, Newett says. Some engineers wanted to send users a personalized playlist every day. After Ogle got involved, the group decided that once a week would be better and chose Monday, to give people something to look forward to when they returned to work.

      One of the early mockups of Discover Weekly spewed out as many as 100 songs at a time. Ogle balked. If someone showed up on your doorstep with a five-cassette set, you might think, ‘Ugh,’ he says. We kept making it shorter until we landed on two hours of music, about 30 songs. The team also decided to include a few familiar covers or tracks so listeners would be more willing to sample unfamiliar ones. A discovery service needs to be anchored in something so youll have confidence in it, says Dave Rodger, Spotifys vice president for product engagement and Ogles boss.

      On the eve of Discover Weeklys unveiling, Spotify arranged for 30 journalists to test the serviceand it promptly wiped out all the writers other playlists. Luckily, Spotifys engineers were able to re-create the deleted ones in three hours, averting what might have been a PR snafu. There was more drama on the way. Every Sunday, Ogle and his team would create a playlist for each of Spotifys 75 million users and store it on a database maintained in Sweden. Early on, the playlist surge overwhelmed the system. It wasnt unusual for Ogle to get calls at 4 a.m. on Monday mornings from angry Swedish colleagues who were trying to keep the database from crashing. It got so bad that one Monday in September 2015, the system failed, and Spotify wasnt able to update any Discover Weekly playlists. But by Tuesday the problem was fixed, and everybody got new music. Afterward, Ogle and his teams calculated how many songs Discover Weekly devotees had streamed in three months. It was more than a billion. We popped open a bottle of champagne, Newett says. Since then, theyve expanded into new kinds of personalized playlists. In August, Spotify unveiled Release Radar, which surfaces the latest songs by peoples preferred artists.

      Ogle says users are streaming fewer of their old favorites and listening to newer acts instead. That should hearten unknowns who fantasize about being the next Mike Perry. But it should unsettle big record companies and their star acts. The more Spotify steers people to independent artists, the more negotiating power it has with the labels and music-publishing companies to which it currently pays 70 percent of its revenue in royalties. Spotify declined to say how much money Discover Weekly generates.

      The company is in contract negotiations with the three biggest labels, Universal Music, Sony, and Warner Music Group. They take issue with Spotifys free, ad-supported tier, which doesnt compensate them as richly as its paid-subscription one that has 40 million users. But Spotify needs all the users it can get, because it hopes to go public soon. The more it can mint its own stars, the less it needs the labels glittering rosters. This is very strategic, says Mike Doernberg, chief executive of ReverbNation, an online music company that works with emerging artists. The best thing Spotify can do is popularize more artists so it becomes the gatekeeper of consumption.

      Ogle is giving Spotify more weapons to fight off not just Apple but Pandora and, which are expected to start rival services in the coming months. Ogle doesnt sound worried. Hes noticed that Discover Weekly users often address the service on Twitter as if its a friend who knows them intimately. Theyre even forgiving when Spotifys algorithm misfires. Ogle could be talking about Amber Reyes, who recently tweeted: Nice @spotify you made up for the horrible discover weekly playlist last week. I love every single song on this weeks. #epic #nice save.

      This article originally published at Bloomberg here

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      Robots: Lifesavers or Terminators?

      (CNN)Machines are rapidly learning to think on their own, but will the robot revolution lead to a modern utopia — or an apocalypse?

      Government officials say autonomous vehicles will make transportation safer, more accessible, more efficient and cleaner and last week, the Department of Transportation released guidelines for the testing and deployment of automated vehicles, which detail how the vehicles should perform, and include a model for state policies.
        Self-driving vehicles are just the tip of the autonomous revolution.
        In 2016, autonomous robot doctors perform surgery; algorithms invest your money; robocops patrol shopping malls; and if you end up in hospital, a computer system can determine how quickly you get treated.
        Many decisions made by autonomous machines have moral implications — yet little is determined about what ethics machines follow, or who decides what those ethical assumptions should be.

        Machine ethical dilemmas

        In Florida in May, Joshua Brown died when an autopilot system did not recognize a tractor-trailer turning in front of his Tesla Model S and his car plowed into it — the first fatality involving an autonomous vehicle.


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        Experts like Musk, physicist Stephen Hawking, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates have warned that AI could be more dangerous than nuclear weapons.
        In July this year, Musk tweeted a link to the “Skynet” Wikipedia page — the all-knowing computer network from robot dystopia “Terminator” — suggesting AI might bring a robot apocalypse. The tweet was a response to a $2 million Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) challenge, encouraging hackers to build an autonomous hacker to be used in warfare.
        “Lethal autonomous weapons systems can locate, select, and attack human targets without human intervention,” Stuart Russel, who serves on the Scientific Advisory Board for the Future of Life Institute together with the likes of Hawking and Musk, tells CNN.
        He thinks AI weapons will be more effective and cheaper to use compared to biological, chemical and nuclear weapons; making lethal weapons easily accessible to the “wrong people.”
        He says AI might develop into a “new class of scalable weapons of mass destruction, that small groups could use to attack large populations.”

        Robots: Heroes or terminators?


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        Whether or not autonomous machines’ impact will be positive or negative depends both on who regulates the technology and what it’s used for.
        Some experts say robots might become more ethical than humans.
        In the 1990s, Americans like Bruce McLaren and the husband-and-wife ethicist team Susan and Michael Anderson developed ethical reasoning programs able to “morally outperform” the average person.
        “After all, the bar isn’t very high. Most human beings are hardly ideal models for how to behave ethically,” Anderson, who is working with her husband to incorporate ethical reasoning systems in autonomous machines, tells CNN.
        McLaren, on the other hand, is worried about weapon-enabled drones given autonomy and that machines will replace (rather than advise) human decision makers in ethical questions.
        “Autonomous cars will lower fatalities while lethal autonomous weapons will lower barriers to warfare and might unintentionally start World War III,” Wallach says.
        Allen says that just like all technology “one can expect positives and negatives.”
        “The chief worry is that the people will adjust their behavior to machines, rather than the other way around.”

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        iHeartRadio will be offering a music subscription service

        Usher performs at hi iHeartRadio Album Release Party on AT&T Live at Pier 15 on September 16, 2016 in New York City.
        Image: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for iHeartRadio

        iHeartRadio has launched two new subscription options as it looks to grow its online business as a complement to its existing dominance of the U.S. radio scene.

        iHeart remains a major force in the music industry thanks to its 850 radio stations. The company, formerly known as Clear Channel Communications, has been pushing into the digital realm, counting around 90 million users for its radio streaming app.

        Now, the company is entering into uncharted waters. iHeart for years relied on playing music for free over the radio and making money off advertisements in between.

        The streaming services mean that iHeart is now looking to charge customers to listen to music, and kick back a portion to the music industry just like Spotify, Pandora and just about every other operation.

        For decades radio has remained the No. 1 medium to reach consumers, fostering a sense of community and engaging listeners through entertaining on-air personalities and curated music and content, said Bob Pittman, Chairman and CEO of iHeartMedia, in a press release. “Whileother streaming services have taken a music collection approach to digital streaming, no one has yet built a service incorporating on demand technology with real live radio and at a scale that only iHeartMedia can, with its reach of over a quarter of a billion people every month.”

        The first option iHeartRadio Plus is meant to combine the company’s existing online radio offering with elements of on-demand listening. The company said it hopes that people who already have a subscription will buy this as an add-on.

        The second iHeartRadio All Access is a full-on music subscription service akin to Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and the growing raft of smaller competitors.

        The services won’t debut until January 2017, and iHeart declined to talk about how much the services would cost.

        Once maligned, streaming subscription services have become the saviors of the music world, helping to pull the industry out of a steep decline.

        Read more:

        Did You Know? Set Bucket Load Timespan

        Did you know you can now limit loading data to a specific date or a relative timespan? Click the “settings” link underneath the bucket name on the bucket shelf, and you will find a new option called “Show Events Since:” under Advanced Settings. To limit loading data to a specific date, simply type in the [&hellip
        The post Did You Know? Set Bucket Load Timespan appeared first on .

        Thanks to for these Posts and details

        The tech titans wont beat disease itll be the little people

        Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan may feel good about donating $3bn to medical research, but its a drop in the ocean

        So, is $3bn a lot of money? Of course it is. Is $3bn enough to banish or manage all disease in the world within the next 84 years? Of course it isnt. Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan have announced a plan to invest 3bn in medical research over the next 10 years. They claim this sum will enable them to play a key role in curing, preventing or managing all disease by the end of this century.

        In comparison to what governments spend on basic medical research, $3bn is, of course, a negligible amount. From 2015 to 2016, the UK government is investing 5.8bn in science and research funding. Making a conservative assumption that this amount stays broadly stable for a decade the government will have contributed 58bn (or $75bn) towards science and medical research during the same time-span that Zuckerberg and Chan have pledged $3bn.

        Then theres the US government. Most of its basic medical research is channelled through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), federally funded health institutes that have been responsible for some of the biggest medical breakthroughs in history. The NIHs budget from 2014 to 2016 was more than $30bn annually $90bn in three years. Assuming this stays fixed, the US government will direct more than $300bn towards medical research and science over the next 10 years.

        Zuckerberg and Chans hearts might be in the right place. They may genuinely believe that their money is exceptional, that their pledged $3bn is imbued with some sort of entrepreneurial elixir that will magically transform the figure from what it represents in reality less than 1% of the US governments budget for health research to what they proclaim their money will do: render disease obsolete by 2100.

        But there are justifiable reasons to treat their proclamations with scepticism. Not from a place of resentment or a Scrooge-like dislike of charity, but because the refusal to examine the plausibility of their claims risks a disservice to the millions whose charitable donations amount to a sum that is far greater than what US tech billionaires contribute.

        The vast majority of charitable expenditure in the US comes from the millions of poor and middle-income citizens scrimping and saving and putting aside proportionally more money from their take-home salaries than the US rich contribute as a ratio of their incomes.

        The first reason to temper the hype around Zuckerberg and Chans gift is the obvious: it hasnt been spent yet. Its a mere pledge. And there are precedents for not taking philanthropists at their word when they vow to surrender their fortunes.

        The last 10 years have been littered with examples of philanthropists reneging on promised billions. Richard Branson made a much-publicised pledge in 2006 to spend $3bn on clean energy technologies over 10 years . By 2014, as Naomi Klein reported, his outlay was less than $300m.

        Chan and Zuckerberg may well be acting in good faith. They seem sincere. And its touching the way they speak about their daughters life and the way she inspires them.

        But theres also reason to worry well never know how much money theyre actually contributing to charitable causes, regardless of how many press conferences or TED talks were treated to over the next decade.

        The entity they have established to disburse their wealth the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is legally insulated from the disclosure requirements that traditional US philanthropic foundations face. We may never know and we have no legal right to know whether any of the promised money is actually going to charity at all.

        Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder, with his wife, Melinda, at a meeting in 2011 with villagers in Jamsot, near Patna, India. Photograph: Aftab Alam Siddiqui/AP

        How is this possible? Because the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is a for-profit limited liability company. By establishing such a vehicle for their giving, the couple are legally able to direct all of their so-called philanthropic gifts towards for-profit investment ventures. They could legally offer an unknown amount to, say, a golf buddy to set up a string of fast-food franchises and then brand this venture as charitable even when its not.

        This might seem outlandish, but there are plenty of precedents to suggest that it could happen. The last 20 years have seen the philanthropic landscape shift in strange ways, permitting the unfathomable to become commonplace with unclear benefits for the most impoverished people living in wealthy nations and for those in poor countries.

        The biggest change in philanthropy has been the emergence of something that the sociologist Darren Thiel and I term rich-to-rich giving. Increasingly, philanthropists such as Bill and Melinda Gates are choosing to offer massive, non-repayable charitable grants to some of the worlds wealthiest corporations, driven by the assumption that enriching already rich companies will lead to trickle-down benefits for the poor.

        Scholastic, Mastercard, Sanofi these are just three companies picked at random from the Gates Foundations public registers of grants disbursed over its 16-year existence. In Scholastics case, the Gates Foundation offered millions to the company, positioning it to profit handsomely from providing educational materials to high schools; when it comes to Mastercard, the money is aimed at helping the credit card company to expand its business operations in Nairobi; in Sanofis case, on medical research towards underfunded diseases.

        Pharmaceutical R&D, education materials, expansion in Nairobi these are just causes, but are the recipients worthy of the gifts, given how little financial risk theyre actually assuming? In each of these cases, the money was a direct grant with no onus on the companies to repay the donations, regardless of how profitable the grants become.

        Even as corporate America shirks from its tax obligations, lobbying for ever greater tax exemptions across the world, corporate populists like the Gateses seem determined to reward highly lucrative pharmaceutical and credit card companies with free money.

        The economist JK Galbraith used to scornfully compare trickle-down economic policies to what he described as the horse and sparrow theory of economic growth: the idea that if you feed the horses enough oats, something will pass through to the road for the sparrows.

        The new philanthropist kings are generous with their oats. The horses are certainly well fed. But what about the sparrows? Remarkably, even as wealth gaps between the rich and the poor grow more alarming, even as average wages stagnate, the unsung multitude of everyday citizens manage mini-miracles of giving every day.

        In 2014, Americans gave more than $350bn to charity. It was the highest total amount in 60 years. Of that amount, foundations such as the Gates Foundation cumulatively offered only 15%. The vast majority 72%, more than $258bn in total came from individual donations. And of those individuals donations, a great deal came from those who could afford to give the least. For decades, study after study has shown that lower-income Americans give proportionally more of their incomes to charity than do upper-income Americans, as Judith Warner has pointed out in the New York Times.

        And thats on top of what citizens already contribute through simply paying their tax. Its the struggling sparrows bolstering the budgets of bodies such as the National Institutes for Health, leading to impressive gains in life expectancy, in drops in global maternal mortality, in major breakthroughs in HIV/Aids research, in improvements in cutting malaria and polio deaths.

        Yes, wealthy philanthropists have contributed. But if you look at what governments spend on medical research, gifts from individual philanthropists stack up in only the tiniest way.

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        Probation reforms far from complete, warn MPs – BBC News

        The government’s promised “rehabilitation revolution” in England and Wales is “far from complete”, an influential committee of MPs has said.

        There was “no clear picture” of how the probation system was performing, two years after changes had been announced, the Public Accounts Committee said.

        And it said IT problems had “undermined the pace of change”.

        The government said it was committed to delivering the “vital reforms” and reducing re-offending rates.

        Government changes announced in 2014 have seen the probation service split in two, with:

        • Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) supervising low- and medium-risk offenders
        • a new National Probation Service (NPS) taking over the supervision of high-risk offenders

        The aim of is to reduce the human and economic cost of reoffending.

        ‘Serious uncertainty’

        But in a report published on Friday, the Public Accounts Committee said: “The Ministry of Justice is now more than two years into these ambitious reforms, intended to reduce reoffending, but they are far from complete.

        “There is still no clear picture of how the new system is performing in important areas of the reforms.”

        It said information and communications technology (ICT) systems in probation were “inefficient, unreliable and hard to use”.

        “Failure” to deal with these problems and “serious uncertainty over the impact on providers of lower than expected business volumes” had also “undermined the pace of change”.

        Image caption Meg Hillier, who chairs the committee, said there was a risk the Ministry of Justice had “bitten off more than it can chew”

        The MPs also said it was unclear whether the extension of supervision after release to offenders sentenced for less than 12 months was “having the desired impact”, saying almost 60% of people who received short prison sentences “reoffend within a year”.

        The committee acknowledged the “scale of challenges” facing the MoJ in the coming years, particularly in delivering “ambitious” changes to the courts and prisons systems in England and Wales at a time of “increasingly constrained resources”.

        “But it is crucial that the ministry completes the ‘rehabilitation revolution’ it has started and makes good on its promise to reduce the huge economic and human cost of reoffending,” it said.

        Labour MP Meg Hillier, who chairs the committee, said there was a real danger the MoJ had “bitten off more than it can chew”.

        ‘Academies of crime’

        “Ambition is one thing, but, as our committee continues to document across government, delivering positive results for taxpayers and society in general is quite another,” she said.

        “‘Revolution’ is a potent word the government may regret using to describe its reforms to rehabilitation.

        “After two years, these are far from complete, and there remain serious risks to achieving the performance levels expected by the end of 2017.”

        Image caption Justice Minister Sam Gyimah said public protection was the government’s “top priority”

        Justice Minister Sam Gyimah said: “We are carrying out a comprehensive review of the probation service to improve outcomes for offenders and communities.

        “Public protection is our top priority, and we will not hesitate to take the necessary action to make sure our vital reforms are being delivered to reduce reoffending, cut crime and prevent future victims.”

        Commenting on the report, Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Jonathan Marks QC said that without his party in government to pursue reform “we have seen progress grind to a halt”.

        He said the rates of reoffending were not only a “massive waste of public money” but “disastrous” for the public and bad for people “stuck in the cycle of reoffending”.

        He also accused the government of inaction on reducing the prison population and said many prisons in England and Wales were “academies of crime”.

        The Lib Dems wants to replace short jail terms with “robust” community sentences and “greater use of tagging” for sentences of less than 12 months.

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        Meet Snapchat’s ‘dudeocracy’ of talent

        Despite some clumsy partnerships with brands and scrappy tools, Snapchats most evangelistic users say this is the new platform for emerging talent

        A meeting of Snapchat evangelists held in the heart of Londons hipster Silicon Roundabout district could have been ripe for mockery. And there was a lot of social media buzzwordery, with popular Snapchatters, brands and ad agencies talking about how the social app is evolving.

        Most of the Snapchat users at SnapHappen an independent event not organised by Snapchat itself describe themselves as storytellers and great artists, even those whose stories are bro-tastic vlogs or top-five listicle videos, and whose art is often promotional content for brands. The first mention of thinking out of the box came after 10am, but it wasnt the last unfortunate quote.

        Im what you call a predator: producer, director, editor, said social star Julius Deinwith an admirably straight face.

        There isnt a single person on this planet that doesnt live their lives fully on Facebook, said social media consultant Chris Kubbernus, perhaps forgetting that more than five billion people dont use the social network.

        Sceptics write off Snapchat as a morass of empty self-publicists whose content is driven by their desire for ultimately meaningless social signals. Its a generational shift, Kubbernus said. Our parents lived in the generation of the cold war, a generation of surveillance, and communism was lurking. They were wary of being bugged, he added.

        Our generation is bugged when were NOT surveilled when we dont get the likes, when we dont get people looking at us. And thats a total generational shift.

        If Laurel and Hardy were 16 years old right now, would they not have started their art, their talent, their creativity on Snapchat, or Vine? said Ben White of NMCN, a company that matches brands with social influencers. We would never refer to them as an influencer or a creator. We talk about them as writers, actors, directors. Comedy geniuses.

        He added that for illustrators, comics, magicians and many others, Snapchat is just a platform for talent.

        Yusuf Omar, mobile editor for the Hindustan Times, urged the audience to look beyond the gimmicks… look beyond the doggy tongue [filter] and see how you can tell the sexual abuse story.

        An eyebrow-raising quote, but he said Snapchat can be used to distribute serious journalism. Omar used Snapchat to interview survivors of sexual abuse in India, using the apps comic lenses digital masks superimposed on the face of the person being filmed used to conceal their identities. His team also distribute pieces made on Snapchat to other social media platforms.

        Pieces produced entirely on a phone get four times more views than pieces produced on DLSRs and other equipment, he said. The storytellers on mobile phones are thinking about how that [mobile] audience wants to digest that content. When you produce content on a mobile, you start thinking about that.

        Social media encourages more positive stories, Omar said. Good news is driving traffic infinitely more. People want stories of hope and aspiration.

        Audience participation at the SnapHappen conference. Photograph: Stuart Dredge for the Guardian

        SnapHappen showcased some persuasive arguments for the significance of this social app with its 150 million-plus active users. Some have created quirky digital art using the apps limited set of tools, embellishing photos using Snapchats doodle tool, or creating stop-motion animation where viewers tap through each frame themselves.

        Snapchat doesnt make it easy for its creators. Its full of limitations and obstacles that we have to overcome, like 10-second video limits and viewers tapping through your stories, said Snapchatter Tristan TristanTales De Burgh.

        Norwegian artist Geir Geeohsnap Pedersens Random People project augments photos of strangers in public with his own characters and digital props, making sure to obscure their faces to preserve their privacy.

        The tough life of baby frogs.. #geeohsnap #snapchatartist #randompeople #baby #kermit

        A photo posted by Geir Pedersen (@geeohsnap) on

        Like other artists, he is finding an audience on Snapchat as well as on other social apps such as Instagram. Hes less a Snapchatter than a talented illustrator who happens to have found his path to prominence on an un-traditional medium.

        Snapchat is for curious people. When you go into Snapchat for the first time, you have to explore the app a lot. Its not very user-friendly, he said. My content really fits for a Snapchat channel because people are curious about how Im doing this.

        Other Snapchatters are making money by partnering with brands. Each speaker had a long list of partners to mention: Disney, Nintendo, 20th-Century Fox, Coca-Cola, Red Bull, AT&T, General Electric, Gucci, Microsoft, Hyundai and Starbucks.

        Brands offer creators the surest way of making money from the app, but there have been some clumsy examples of brand partnerships on YouTube, Instagram and other social services. Ive said no to some brands because they want to promote, promote, promote, promote… I would probably lose most of my fans, said Pedersen. You have to do it in a creative, storytelling way.

        Creators are people, not billboards, White said. When you come as an advertiser, you cant just go in and say youve got to put this on your Snapchat and push this message. If you do, once that campaigns over, youre left with a loss of fans..

        Two things seem to be holding back any deluge of marketing dollars for Snapchatters: the infamous lack of metrics on Snapchat, including how many followers a star has, and how many times their stories have been viewed. You can work with that if its an experimental budget. Itll be fine, nobody cares! said Thomas Hansen, CEO of Snaplytics, one of the startups trying to plug the gap in Snapchat public analytics.

        But once you move in to real content and a real budget, you have to show the CMO [chief marketing officer] what you spent the time doing. After the month is up, did the video do good? Snapchat is not really a scalable channel as it is.

        Shaun Shonduras McBride is a popular Snapchatter. Photograph: Stuart Dredge for the Guardian

        The beauty of Snapchat is the rawness of the content, said Ben Anderson, who advises brands and musicians on using Snapchat. If you look at Instagram, its a polished, artistic platform, but Snapchat works for brands or people who want to do stuff that is creative and throwaway.

        That rawness may be the is another thing holding brands back from spending big money on the Snapchat. Some brands quickly went to Instagram stories because it was comfortable. It wasnt dick pics, Kubbernus said. Theres this big stigma in the industry that Snapchat is rogue. he continued. This is why brands are dying in this age, because theyre playing it safe. They think they can remove all the risk and get all the upside.

        Snapchat is working hard to convince the media and advertising industries that it is a safe place to shift their marketing budgets to. But some creators feel that Snapchat sees them as more annoyance than asset, reflected in issues like the lack of analytics and poor features for promoting their accounts. I dont know what Snapchats plans are. They dont work very well with brands, and they dont work very well with influencers, so who knows where its going, said Shonduras.

        Does Snapchat risk losing the support of its most dedicated users if they dont feel valued by the app? Hop on Snapchat now and ride it as well as you can, but dont have that be your entire business plan, said Shonduras. I pretty much hate everything about Snapchat. Its so hard to grow, they dont feature people, I dont have a profile picture, my content disappears but the challenges of Snapchat, thats what makes it fun, he said.

        Yusuf Omar did has best not to drink the Kool-Aid. The more social media experts I meet, the more I realise were just making it up.

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