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US to delay some China tariffs until stores stock up for holiday shoppers • The New York Times
Ana Swanson:
<p>The Trump administration on Tuesday narrowed the list of Chinese products it plans to impose new tariffs on as of Sept. 1, delaying levies on cellphones, laptop computers, toys and other goods to spare shoppers from higher prices during the back-to-school and holiday seasons. Stocks soared on the news.

The move, which pushed a new 10% tariff on some goods until Dec. 15 and excluded others entirely, came as President Trump faces mounting pressure from businesses and consumer groups over the harm they say the continuing trade war between the United States and China is doing.</p>

Wiser heads prevailed. But the tariffs are still going to be a drag on the economy.
us  tariffs 
5 weeks ago by charlesarthur
How to pay for Medicare-for-all • The Week
Ryan Cooper:
<p>the economist argument that fee-for-service must be juicing spending has not held up either. Maryland undertook a major reform to many of its hospitals, moving to a "global budget program" in which several hospitals were paid a lump sum for the whole year instead of per procedure. A study released this year found it "did not reduce hospital use or price-standardized spending as policymakers had anticipated." Moreover, many other countries have used fee-for-service billing (both today and in the past) and have not experienced anything like America's turbo-charged cost increases.

So what is going on? Returning to the Papanicolas study, two big, obvious things jump out: drug prices and administrative costs. America paid roughly twice the rich country median for drugs in 2015, at $1,443 per person, with $1,023 of that in the form of retail pharmaceuticals. France paid $697, while the Netherlands paid just $466. Secondly, fully 8% of American health-care spending goes to administration — as compared to Germany at 5%, Canada at 3%, or Sweden at 2%.

Thus the first priority for a Medicare-for-all bill must be to cut administration spending to the bone. Given that this is largely down to providers having to navigate the hellishly complex and fragmented status quo system, this should be quite easy…

…Across virtually all medical services, Americans are being radically overcharged.

Indeed, many hospitals don't have the slightest idea of what their treatments really cost. As <a href="">this Wall Street Journal report explains</a>, when a Wisconsin hospital tried to figure out what it was clearing for a $50,000 knee replacement, after an 18-month investigation it found a mere $10,550 at most in overhead — and that's including steep US doctor salaries. A roughly 80% profit margin on the most common non-childbirth surgical procedure is the kind of thing that could begin to explain the howling excess of US medical spending.</p>
us  healthcare 
7 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Justice Department announces broad antitrust review of Big Tech • The Verge
Makena Kelly:
<p>“Without the discipline of meaningful market-based competition, digital platforms may act in ways that are not responsive to consumer demands,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Antitrust Division. “The Department’s antitrust review will explore these important issues.”

The investigation will address broad concerns over whether Big Tech is stifling competition, the Wall St Journal said, and will be separate from the department’s probes of Google and Apple that were reported earlier this summer that are intended to take a closer look at individual potential violations. The review reported today will look into search engines, social media platforms, and retail, but not focus on any individual company or practice.

<a href="">In a press release, the Justice Department said</a> the review “will consider the widespread concerns that consumers, businesses, and entrepreneurs have expressed about search, social media, and some retail services online.” The Department declined further comment beyond the release.

At Attorney General Barr’s confirmation hearing this past January, he told senators that he would like to see the Justice Department take a harder look at whether companies like Google and Amazon were abusing their market dominance.</p>

The press release is super-vague. If it were any more vague it would be written in white text on a white background.
us  antitrust 
8 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Huawei plans extensive layoffs in the US • WSJ
Dan Strumpf:
Huawei Technologies is planning extensive layoffs at its US operations, according to people familiar with the matter, as the Chinese technology giant continues to struggle with its American blacklisting.

The layoffs are expected to affect workers at Huawei’s US-based research and development subsidiary, Futurewei Technologies, according to these people. The unit employs about 850 people in research labs across the US, including in Texas, California and Washington state.

Huawei declined to comment. The exact number of layoffs couldn't be determined, but people familiar with the matter said they were expected to be in the hundreds. Some of Huawei’s Chinese employees in the US were being given the option of returning home and staying with the company, another person said.

Futurewei employees have faced restrictions communicating with colleagues in Huawei’s home offices in China following the May 16 Commerce Department decision to put Huawei on its so-called entity list, which blocked companies from supplying US-sourced technology to Huawei without a license, according to these people.</p>

I saw this division referred to by one person on Twitter as the “Thievery Division”. Ouch. Though he’s a hedge fund manager, so make your own jokes.
Huawei  us 
9 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Huawei gets its breather, sort of • The New York Times
<p> Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, said that the U.S. had “relaxed a bit” the licensing requirements from the Commerce Department for companies that sell to Huawei.

Another top official suggested the move would allow chip makers to continue selling certain technology to Huawei.

That could be good news for some U.S. tech companies, including Broadcom, Intel and Qualcomm, who all sell microchips to Huawei. American businesses “have lobbied the administration, saying that the ban will cut them off from a major source of revenue, while doing little to hold back Huawei’s technological advancement,” Mr. Tankersley and Ms. Swanson write.

But the reprieve is not a broad amnesty. Mr. Ross, speaking at an export-control conference in Washington, said the administration would continue efforts to protect America’s advanced technologies. “It is wrong to trade sensitive I.P. or source codes for access to a foreign market,” he said, “no matter how lucrative that market might be.”</p>

This sounds then like they'll allow sales of smartphone components. But what about parts that go into networking gear? Are those OK if the gear isn't sold in the US? I don't think the US knows what its policy is in any detail.
huawei  us  components 
10 weeks ago by charlesarthur
US bans AMD’s Chinese joint venture from developing, selling hardware • Extreme Tech
Joel Hruska:
<p>The United States added five Chinese companies to a blacklist on Friday, restricting their access to US technology. The so-called Entity List “identifies entities for which there is reasonable cause to believe, based on specific and articulable facts, have been involved, are involved, or pose a significant risk of being or becoming involved in activities contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.”

The companies in question are: Sugon, Higon, Chengdu Haiguang Integrated Circuit, Chengdu Haiguang Microelectronics Technology, and Wuxi Jiangnan Institute of Computing Technology. One of these, Higon (also spelled Hygon) is a fabless semiconductor joint venture between AMD and THATIC, responsible for selling x86 CPUs for the Chinese server market. THATIC is itself composed of two separate joint ventures — Chengdu Haiguang Microelectronics Technology and Chengdu Haiguang Integrated Circuit Design. If you look at the list above, both of these companies are on it.</p>

Sugon makes supercomputers ("exascale machines"). Seems possible that Hikvision, which is behind lots of CCTV cameras, will also join them on the blacklist.
china  us  tradewar 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
Is Heshmat Alavi, writer on Iran, a fake run by MEK opposition? • The Intercept
Murtaza Hussain:
<p>In 2018, president Donald Trump was seeking to jettison the landmark nuclear deal that his predecessor had signed with Iran in 2015, and he was looking for ways to win over a skeptical press. The White House claimed that the nuclear deal had allowed Iran to increase its military budget, and Washington Post reporters Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly asked for a source. In response, the White House passed along an article published in Forbes by a writer named Heshmat Alavi.

“Iran’s current budget is funded largely through ‘oil, taxes, increasing bonds, [and] eliminating cash handouts or subsidies’ for Iranians, according to an article by a Forbes contributor, Heshmat Alavi, sent to us by a White House official,” Rizzo and Kelly reported. The White House had used Alavi’s article — itself partly drawn from Iranian sources — to justify its decision to terminate the agreement.

There’s a problem, though: Heshmat Alavi appears not to exist. Alavi’s persona is a propaganda operation run by the Iranian opposition group Mojahedin-e-Khalq, which is known by the initials MEK, two sources told The Intercept.

“Heshmat Alavi is a persona run by a team of people from the political wing of the MEK,” said Hassan Heyrani, a high-ranking defector from the MEK who said he had direct knowledge of the operation. “They write whatever they are directed by their commanders and use this name to place articles in the press. This is not and has never been a real person.”</p>

So similar to 2001-2, when false intelligence from Iraq opposition members helped drive the US invasion of Iraq. Except that this time the administration didn't even bother to check whether the person existed.
iran  us  war 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
Acting budget chief seeks reprieve on Huawei ban • WSJ
Dan Strumpf:
<p>The request from Mr. Vought, dated June 4, asks for a delay in the implementation of portions of the National Defense Authorization Act… The delay, if enacted, would be a reprieve for Huawei, which has been the target of a series of US actions that threaten its dominance in telecommunications technology. In addition to the law targeting its business, they include last month’s Commerce Department order placing Huawei on a blacklist preventing the sale of American technology to the company, as well as an executive order that paves the way for a ban on Huawei from doing business in the US.

The letter says the NDAA rules could lead to a “dramatic reduction” in the number of companies that would be able to supply the government, and would disproportionately affect US companies in rural areas—where Huawei gear is popular—that rely on federal grants. The letter asks for the restrictions on contractors and on federal loan and grant recipients to take effect four years from the law’s passage, instead of the current two years, to give affected companies time to respond and give feedback.

“While the Administration recognizes the importance of these prohibitions to national security,” the letter states, “a number of agencies have heard significant concerns from a wide range of potentially impacted stakeholders who would be affected” by the rules as written.

In addition, the letter said “rural Federal grants recipients may be disproportionally impacted by the prohibition.”</p>

So Huawei is super-threatening, but not if it might mean people in rural areas (which tended to vote for Trump) might be inconvenienced in getting their hourly dose of Facebook?
huawei  us  tariff  defence 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
US requiring social media information from visa applicants • The New York Times
Sandra Garcia:
<p>Visa applicants to the United States are required to submit any information about social media accounts they have used in the past five years under a State Department policy that started on Friday.

Such account information would give the government access to photos, locations, dates of birth, dates of milestones and other personal data commonly shared on social media.

“We already request certain contact information, travel history, family member information, and previous addresses from all visa applicants,” the State Department said in a statement. “We are constantly working to find mechanisms to improve our screening processes to protect U.S. citizens, while supporting legitimate travel to the United States.”

In March 2017, President Trump asked the secretary of state, the attorney general, the secretary of homeland security and the director of national intelligence to put in effect “a uniform baseline for screening and vetting standards and procedures,” according to a memo published in the Federal Register. Requiring information about the social media accounts of visa applicants was part of that.
The move represents a step up from a September 2017 measure in which the Homeland Security Department proposed and enacted a regulation calling for the surveillance of social media use of all immigrants, including naturalized citizens.</p>

This is odd, because a couple of days before this story appeared I re-applied for an ESTA (the UK to US visa travel waiver - in effect the "visa that means you don't need a visa"), and though the social media question was there, it was optional. Has it changed now? Nobody seems to answer this (and I don't feel like pretending to fill out an ESTA to find out). The first refusals based on this content will be quite an event, though.
immigration  us  visa 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
July 2018: We estimate China only makes $8.46 from an iPhone – and that’s why Trump’s trade war is futile • The Conversation
Greg Linden, in July 2018:
<p>Start with the most valuable components that make up an iPhone: the touch screen display, memory chips, microprocessors and so on. They come from a mix of U.S., Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese companies, such as Intel, Sony, Samsung and Foxconn. Almost none of them are manufactured in China. Apple buys the components and has them shipped to China; then they leave China inside an iPhone.

So what about all of those famous factories in China with millions of workers making iPhones? The companies that own those factories, including Foxconn, are all based in Taiwan. Of the factory-cost estimate of $237.45 from IHS Markit at the time the iPhone 7 was released in late 2016, we calculate that all that’s earned in China is about $8.46, or 3.6% of the total. That includes a battery supplied by a Chinese company and the labor used for assembly.

The other $228.99 goes elsewhere. The U.S. and Japan each take a roughly $68 cut, Taiwan gets about $48, and a little under $17 goes to South Korea. And we estimate that about $283 of gross profit from the retail price – about $649 for a 32GB model when the phone debuted – goes straight to Apple’s coffers.

In short, China gets a lot of (low-paid) jobs, while the profits flow to other countries.

A better way of thinking about the US-China trade deficit associated with one iPhone would be to only count the value added in China, $8.50, rather than the $240 that shows up as a Chinese import to the U.S.

Scholars have found similar results for the broader US-China trade balance, although the disparity is less extreme than in the iPhone example. Of the 2017 trade deficit of $375bn, probably one-third actually involves inputs that came from elsewhere – including the US.

The use of China as a giant assembly floor has been good for the US economy, if not for US factory workers. By taking advantage of a vast, highly efficient global supply chain, Apple can bring new products to market at prices comparable to its competitors, most notably the Korean giant Samsung.</p>

You can argue about the minor detail, but this is broadly correct; and quite opposite to the general expectation. What the films of Foxconn workers in Shenzhen assembling and testing phones doesn't show is the container loads of components that have come in from abroad to be assembled.
China  us  trade  technology  apple 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Huawei supply freeze points to US-China tech cold war • Bloomberg
Tim Culpan:
<p>An initial Chinese version of Android – let’s call it Chandroid – won’t hold a candle to the original developed by Alphabet’s Google. Home-grown communications chips will be inferior to those offered by Qualcomm and Xilinx. But whereas past attempts to develop local products could flop because Western alternatives were still available, failure is no longer an option in the eyes of China’s top leadership.

The government will pump in more subsidies to make sure the industry doesn’t fall short, and much money will be wasted. Money can’t solve all problems. But given time, Chinese state funding will overcome enough challenges to make local alternatives viable, if not comparable to American technology. It’s unlikely the US has the political will to subsidize its own companies to the same extent. Initially, it won’t need to because of America’s current superiority. But Huawei’s position at the forefront of 5G mobile technology shows that this lead won’t be held forever.

So now the tech cold war has begun. The winner won’t be the side with the best fighters, but the one with the greater ability to endure the pain of prolonged losses.</p>

Huawei management had been considering the cutoff by Google for a year - which makes sense since it was last April that ZTE was told it couldn't have any components or software from the US. That was rescinded a month later, but clearly Huawei took it as a warning shot.

And this could be a cold war that the US doesn't win, as Culpan hints.
us  china  tradewar  huawei 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
US births fall to lowest level since 1980s • WSJ
Anthony DeBarros and Janet Adamy:
<p>The number of babies born in the US last year fell to a 32-year low, deepening a fertility slump that is reshaping America’s future workforce.

About 3.79 million babies were born in the US in 2018, according to provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. That was a 2% decline from the previous year and marked the fourth year in a row that the number fell. The general fertility rate—the number of births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44—fell to 59.0, the lowest since the start of federal record-keeping.

With the latest decline, births in the US have fallen in 10 of the last 11 years since peaking in 2007, just before the recession. Many demographers believed that births would rebound as the economy recovered, but that trend hasn’t materialized.

Instead, experts say the continuing declines appear to be rooted in several trends, including teenagers and unmarried women having fewer babies, lower Hispanic fertility rates and the rise in women obtaining college degrees.

The decline has important implications for the US economy and workforce. The total fertility rate—an estimate of the number of babies a woman would have over her lifetime—has generally remained below the “replacement” level of 2.1 since 1971. A fertility rate falling farther below replacement level means that, without enough immigrants, the U.S. could see population declines and a workforce too small to support a growing segment of retirees.

Last year it fell to 1.7, a record low.</p>

The US also has the highest infant mortality of the G20 - <a href="">5.8 per thousand in 2017</a>.
us  births  fertility 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Health insurance deductibles soar, leaving Americans with unaffordable bills • LA Times
Noam N. Levey:
<p>At a time when healthcare is poised to be a central issue in the 2020 presidential election, these sources provide a comprehensive look at changes that have profoundly reshaped insurance.
The explosion in cost-sharing is endangering patients’ health as millions, including those with serious illnesses, skip care, independent research and the Times/KFF poll show.

The shift in costs has also driven growing numbers of Americans with health coverage to charities and crowd-funding sites like GoFundMe in order to defray costs.

And it is feeding resentments and deepening inequalities, as healthier and wealthier Americans are able to save for unexpected medical bills while the less fortunate struggle to balance costly care with other necessities.

“It feels like the system isn’t working,” said Andrew Holko, a 45-year-old father of two who is facing $5,000 in outstanding medical bills because of diabetes medications, cortisone injections his wife needs for pelvic pain, a recent trip to the emergency room for his nine-year-old daughter and other services.

Holko’s information technology job puts his household income above $80,000, close to the median for a family of four. But with a mortgage, student loans and two growing children, Holko says he has little extra to cover a $4,000 annual deductible.

Tomas Krusliak, a 27-year-old chef in western Virginia, took on two extra jobs to pay medical bills after his wife had a miscarriage.

This is one of a pair of pieces the LA Times ran (one an overview of how screwed up the US system is, where employers' plans cover less and less of individuals' likely costs, the other looking at individual cases).

Yet aside from a brief mention of the NHS, there's no view outside; no idea that it could be different. A failure of media, as much as anything.
Us  healthcare 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
How Russia sows confusion in the US vaccine debate • Foreign Policy
Katherine Kirk:
<p>The existence of a Russian disinformation campaign that could make Americans hesitant to vaccinate their children highlights something important about the Kremlin’s information war on the United States. Moscow’s goal has never been to advantage Republicans or Democrats. Instead, it is after a far bigger prize: the exacerbation of Americans’ distrust of one another and, in turn, the erosion of their confidence in society and the U.S. government.

A <a href="">recent study from David Broniatowski</a>, a professor at George Washington University, and his co-authors found that thousands of Russian accounts used to spread disinformation had seized on anti-vaccine messaging.

After combing through nearly 2 million tweets recorded between 2014 and 2017, the researchers found that Russian troll accounts were significantly more likely to tweet about vaccination than general Twitter users. They had turned to vaccines as a wedge issue in an effort to ramp up social discord, erode trust in public health institutions, and exacerbate fear and division in the United States.

Three tweets from the study go a long way toward capturing the style of this disorienting campaign. In one round of keystrokes, a Russian-backed account lashed out: “#vaccines are a parent’s choice. Choice of a color of a little coffin #VaccinateUS.”In one round of keystrokes, a Russian-backed account lashed out: “#vaccines are a parent’s choice. Choice of a color of a little coffin #VaccinateUS.” Another went with: “Did you know there was a secret government database of #vaccine-damaged children? #VaccinateUS.”

Moving toward the opposite pole of the discussion, a Russian troll account tweeted: “Do you still treat your kids with leaves? No? And why don’t you #vaccinate them? Its medicine! #VaccinateUS.” The study suggested that by giving the illusion of a grassroots debate, complete with content pushing both for and against vaccination, Russia could better tap into the fears and divisions among Americans—and exploit them.</p>

It's easy to suggest that social media is the problem, but it's credulity and lack of education that's the real problem.
russia  vaccine  us  socialwarming 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
Record 83% of surveyed US teens own an iPhone • MacRumors
Joe Rossignol:
<p>A record 83% of U.S. teens own an iPhone as of spring 2019, according to investment bank Piper Jaffray's semiannual "Taking Stock With Teens" survey of around 8,000 high school students. Respondents were roughly 54% male and 46% female with an average age of 16.3 years.

Meanwhile, 86% of U.S. teens expect their next smartphone to be an iPhone, matching an all-time high set in fall 2018. This metric has steadily grown in Apple's favor over the years, rising from 75% in spring 2016.

iPhone popularity among teens is a good sign for Apple, as many of them could stick with the iPhone as an adult. Teens also become locked into the Apple ecosystem at an early age, becoming accustomed to services like iMessage, Apple Music, and iCloud as well as accessories like the AirPods and Apple Watch.

The survey found that 27% of US teens own a smartwatch, while 22% of respondents plan to purchase an Apple Watch within the next six months. By comparison, 20% of teens said they plan to purchase an Apple Watch in the next six months in the year-ago survey. </p>

That's a lot of Apple Watches. Surely the peak audience.
us  students  iphone 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
Consumer genetic testing is creating a de facto national DNA database • Slate
Natalie Ram:
<p>Imagine the federal government enacted a law requiring all US residents to provide law enforcement with their DNA profile so police could solve more crimes. Would you be OK with such a system?

Imagine instead that the federal government established a database for which people could volunteer genetic profiles—but that the decision about whether to volunteer your DNA belonged not to you, but to your third cousin. Would you be OK with that?

Whether you like it or not, the United States has effectively already adopted this second system. Since April 2018, law enforcement investigations stemming from DNA searches in consumer genetics databases have led to nearly three dozen arrests. In every case, those ultimately arrested did not actually upload their own genetic profiles to any database. Rather, they were identified through partial matches between crime scene DNA samples and the genetic profiles of often-distant relatives shared on consumer platforms like GEDmatch or FamilyTreeDNA. By one estimate, more than 60 percent of Americans of European descent are already identifiable through the DNA of a third cousin or closer on one of these platforms, and nearly all such Americans may be findable soon. Meanwhile, Parabon Nanolabs, the leading private company selling genetic genealogy services to law enforcement, claims that it can identify criminal suspects out to ninth-degree relatives (e.g., fourth cousins)—widening the genetic web of indirect database inclusion still further.</p>

It's a DNA database by accident, rather as the tech companies created mass government surveillance by accident - their systems became so pervasive and comprehensive that they could then be exploited by the PRISM system, which ran on secret FISA court rulings.

Also, it's really unlikely that it will go away. Law enforcement will lobby endlessly to get loopholes to use private data. (Thanks Nic for the link.)
genetics  dna  us  testing 
march 2019 by charlesarthur
Fast-growth chickens produce new industry woe: ‘spaghetti meat’ • WSJ
Jacob Bunge:
<p>Chicken companies spent decades breeding birds to grow rapidly and develop large breast muscles. Now the industry is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to deal with the consequences ranging from squishy fillets known as “spaghetti meat,” because they pull apart easily, to leathery ones known as “woody breast.”

The abnormalities pose no food safety risk, researchers and industry officials say. They are suspected side effects of genetic selection that now allows meat companies to raise a 6.3-pound bird in 47 days, roughly twice as fast as 50 years ago, according to the National Chicken Council.

That efficiency drive has helped U.S. meat giants such as Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride, Perdue Farms Inc. and Sanderson Farms produce a record 42 billion pounds of chicken nuggets, tenders and other products in 2018. Now, it’s adding an estimated $200m or more in annual industry expenses to identify and divert breast fillets that are too tough, too squishy or too striped with bands of white tissue to sell in restaurants or grocery stores, according to researchers at the University of Arkansas.</p>

Eww. The US ambassador recently appeared on the UK's premier morning radio programme - the one listened to by politicians and the chatterati - and insisted that not only was US food healthier (more people, proportionally, get food poisoning in the US than the UK) but also that EU farming practices made it a museum. People weren't impressed.
food  chicken  us 
march 2019 by charlesarthur
Huawei accuses US of ‘political’ campaign against telecoms group • Financial Times
Yuan Yang:
<p>[Huawei chairman] Eric Xu questioned the US’s motives on Wednesday, pointing to Washington’s extensive surveillance programmes.

“Is [the US] truly thinking about cyber security and protecting the privacy of other countries’ citizens, or do they have other motives?” he said.

“Some say that because these countries are using Huawei equipment, it makes it harder for US agencies to obtain these countries’ data,” he added.

Mr Xu also revealed that Huawei would spend more than $2bn to restructure the code used in its telecoms services worldwide after a series of “confrontational” meetings with Britain’s cyber security agency over the issue.

The company is likely to face further criticism from the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre, the UK watchdog that reviews the company’s security systems, which last year noted the “repeated discovery of critical shortfalls” in the group’s technical processes. Last week, Huawei told the UK government it would take up to five years to address the concerns.

According to Mr Xu, the watchdog had demanded that Huawei rewrite the code it uses in telecoms products to be clearer and more readable, including legacy code written decades ago…

…Mr Xu also dismissed concerns about Huawei being blocked in Australia and New Zealand, saying: “The Australian market isn’t as big as [the Chinese city of] Guangzhou, and the New Zealand market isn’t as big as my hometown.”</p>
huawei  us 
february 2019 by charlesarthur
US market sell-through drops 10% YoY in 4Q18 • Counterpoint Research
<p>Research director Jeff Fieldhack stated, “We saw the same trends in 4Q as we saw during the whole year. Holding periods continued to creep longer. Upgrade percentages during the quarter were down and could be down as much as 3% on the year. Phone churn continues to be impressively low and was under 1% at three of the four major carriers. Lastly, carriers were more disciplined in their marketing spend and focused on EBITDA margins over winning net adds at all costs. These all contributed to lower smartphone sell-through numbers.”

Fieldhack added, “Prepaid did not consume the number of handsets in 2018 it consumed across 2017. Prepaid used to have a holding period well under one year. Today, holding periods are closer to postpaid holding periods due to the higher quality of devices. Devices with large displays and batteries, with lower-cost mid-tier processors, are the workhorses within prepaid. These devices have the longevity of higher ASP postpaid devices. In addition, the evolution of the refurbish and repair ecosystem makes it easier for consumers to either purchase a high-quality used device or repair a current device. We estimate the US absorbed almost 11.5m refurbished smartphones in 2018. These are meaningful numbers of consumers deciding not to buy new.”</p>

Then again, Apple had 47% of the market there, according to Counterpoint. Samsung was next with 23%. The biggest grower? You probably won't guess.

<img src="" width="100%" />
us  oem  apple  samsung  smartphone 
january 2019 by charlesarthur
US authorities unveil sweeping set of charges against China’s Huawei • WSJ
Kate O’Keeffe and Aruna Viswanatha:
<p>The Trump administration unveiled a sweeping set of actions—including criminal charges—against China’s Huawei Technologies in its latest salvo against the telecom giant, with authorities unsealing a set of indictments just days before US-China trade talks are set to resume.

In a pair of cases unsealed Monday, federal prosecutors accused Huawei of violating US sanctions on Iran and of stealing trade secrets from a US business partner, portraying the company as a serial violator of US laws and global business practices.

The charges contained in separate indictments in Brooklyn, NY, and Washington state were detailed by senior officials from the departments of Justice, Commerce and Homeland Security on the first day the government reopened after a 35-day shutdown—and just two days before negotiators for the US and China are set to resume trade talks in Washington, D.C.</p>

Now it's getting serious. Huawei clearly violated the Obama-era sanctions against selling equipment to Iran: the evidence <a href="">collected by Reuters</a> shows as much. The "trade secrets" is about <a href="">T-Mobile</a>. So this isn't new, in that sense.
huawei  us  china 
january 2019 by charlesarthur
A tiny screw shows why iPhones won’t be ‘assembled in U.S.A.’ • The New York Times
Jack Nicas:
<p>when Apple began making the $3,000 computer in Austin, Tex., it struggled to find enough screws, according to three people who worked on the project and spoke on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality agreements.

In China, Apple relied on factories that can produce vast quantities of custom screws on short notice. In Texas, where they say everything is bigger, it turned out the screw suppliers were not.

Tests of new versions of the computer were hamstrung because a 20-employee machine shop that Apple’s manufacturing contractor was relying on could produce at most 1,000 screws a day.

The screw shortage was one of several problems that postponed sales of the computer for months, the people who worked on the project said. By the time the computer was ready for mass production, Apple had ordered screws from China.

The challenges in Texas illustrate problems that Apple would face if it tried to move a significant amount of manufacturing out of China. Apple has found that no country — and certainly not the United States — can match China’s combination of scale, skills, infrastructure and cost…

…Apple has intensified a search for ways to diversify its supply chain, but that hunt has homed in on India and Vietnam, according to an Apple executive who asked not to be named because the executive was not authorized to speak publicly. The company’s executives are increasingly worried that its heavy dependence on China for manufacturing is risky amid the country’s rising political tensions with the United States and unpredictability, this person said.

“The skill here is just incredible,” Mr. Cook said at a conference in China in late 2017. Making Apple products requires state-of-the-art machines and lots of people who know how to run them, he said.

“In the U.S., you could have a meeting of tooling engineers and I’m not sure we could fill the room,” he said. “In China, you could fill multiple football fields.”</p>

Cook has been making this point about China's scale for years - and it remains true regardless of trade wars. (Nice implication that it was a paucity of screws that prevented the Mac Pro selling more.)
apple  manufacturing  us  china 
january 2019 by charlesarthur
Federal prosecutors pursuing criminal case against Huawei for alleged theft of trade secrets • WSJ
Dan Strumpf, Nicole Hong and Aruna Viswanatha:
<p>Federal prosecutors are pursuing a criminal investigation of China’s Huawei Technologies Co. for allegedly stealing trade secrets from U.S. business partners, including the technology behind a robotic device that T-Mobile US Inc. used to test smartphones, according to people familiar with the matter.

The investigation grew in part out of civil lawsuits against Huawei, including <a href="">one in which a Seattle jury found Huawei liable</a> for misappropriating robotic technology from T-Mobile’s Bellevue, Wash., lab, the people familiar with the matter said. The probe is at an advanced stage and could lead to an indictment soon, they said.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.

A Huawei spokesman declined to comment. The company contested the T-Mobile case, but conceded that two employees acted improperly.</p>

US feds starting the year as they mean to go on: by finding old civil cases and seeing whether they can hang a criminal case around it.
huawei  us 
january 2019 by charlesarthur
Canadian authorities arrest CFO of Huawei Technologies at US request • WSJ
Kate O'Keeffe and Stu Woo:
<p>Canadian authorities in Vancouver have arrested Huawei Technologies Co.’s chief financial officer at the request of the U.S. government for alleged violations of Iranian sanctions, the latest move by Washington to crack down on the Chinese cellular-technology giant.

A spokesman for Canada’s justice department said Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver on Dec. 1 and is sought for extradition by the US. A bail hearing has been tentatively scheduled for Friday, according to the spokesman. Ms. Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, Ren Zhengfei, serves as the company’s CFO and deputy chairwoman.

Ms. Meng’s arrest comes amid a year-long U.S. government campaign against a company it views as a national-security threat. In the past year, Washington has taken a series of steps to restrict Huawei’s business on American soil and, more recently, launched an extraordinary international outreach campaign to persuade allied countries to enact similar curbs.</p>

Holy cow. And speaking of "similar" curbs...
huawei  china  us  arrest 
december 2018 by charlesarthur
Washington asks allies to drop Huawei • WSJ
Stu Woo and Kate O'Keeffe:
<p>The US government has initiated an extraordinary outreach campaign to foreign allies, trying to persuade wireless and internet providers in these countries to avoid telecommunications equipment from China’s Huawei Technologies Co., according to people familiar with the situation.

American officials have briefed their government counterparts and telecom executives in friendly countries where Huawei equipment is already in wide use, including Germany, Italy and Japan, about what they see as cybersecurity risks, these people said. The US is also considering increasing financial aid for telecommunications development in countries that shun Chinese-made equipment, some of these people say.

One US concern centers on the use of Chinese telecom equipment in countries that host American military bases, according to people familiar with the matter, such as Germany, Italy and Japan. The Defense Department has its own satellite-and-telecom network for especially sensitive communications, but most traffic at many military installations travels through commercial networks.

The international effort pushes out the battle lines of a US campaign to keep Huawei electronics out of the US. Some officials see the initiative as part of a broader technological Cold War between US-led allies and China for control of a world that is increasingly digitally connected—and thus increasingly vulnerable to surveillance and malfeasance.</p>

Wow. Huawei is deeply embedded in the UK's communications network, and an analyst meeting this week heard that it's the only company really doing 5G - everyone else is trying to catch up.

This story makes me think that Bloomberg's story a little while back - about Apple and Amazon having subversive chips inserted in Chinese factories - was part of a US attempt to destabilise trust in Chinese factories and manufacturers.
us  huawei 
november 2018 by charlesarthur
You snooze, you lose: insurers make the old adage literally true • ProPublica
Marshall Allen:
<p>[Tony] Schmidt, 59, has sleep apnea, a disorder that causes worrisome breaks in his breathing at night. Like millions of people, he relies on a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, machine that streams warm air into his nose while he sleeps, keeping his airway open. Without it, Schmidt would wake up hundreds of times a night; then, during the day, he’d nod off at work, sometimes while driving and even as he sat on the toilet.

“I couldn’t keep a job,” he said. “I couldn’t stay awake.” The CPAP, he said, saved his career, maybe even his life.

As many CPAP users discover, the life-altering device comes with caveats: health insurance companies are often tracking whether patients use them. If they aren’t, the insurers might not cover the machines or the supplies that go with them.

In fact, faced with the popularity of CPAPs, which can cost $400 to $800, and their need for replacement filters, face masks and hoses, health insurers have deployed a host of tactics that can make the therapy more expensive or even price it out of reach.

Patients have been required to rent CPAPs at rates that total much more than the retail price of the devices, or they’ve discovered that the supplies would be substantially cheaper if they didn’t have insurance at all.

Experts who study health care costs say insurers’ CPAP strategies are part of the industry’s playbook of shifting the costs of widely used therapies, devices and tests to unsuspecting patients.</p>

It would be OK to check whether people are using them - but pricing them out of reach? Truly, US health insurers are the problem, not the solution.
Us  health  insurance  surveillance 
november 2018 by charlesarthur
Why PC builders should stock up on components now • PCMag UK
Michael Kan:
<p>NZXT is a popular PC desktop case vendor, but the California-based company recently had to raise its prices.

The reason? The new US tariffs on Chinese imports includes PC cases. In September, the Trump administration imposed the 10% duty, which also cover motherboards, graphics cards, and CPU coolers from the country. As a result, NZXT had to introduce a 10% price increase on PC cases to deal with the added costs, VP Jim Carlton told PCMag in an interview.

And building a PC could get even more expensive in 2019; US tariffs on Chinese-made goods will rise from 10% to 25% in January.

"If I needed to build a system in the next six months, I'd definitely build it before the end of the year," Carlton told us.

For PC builders, the tariffs risk adding a few hundred dollars to the total cost of components for a custom desktop. "If it's a $2,000 purchase on 25 per cent tariffs, it's going to be a $2,500 purchase," Carlton said. "So we are very concerned with the direction of where this is going."

"I don't have a 10 per cent [profit] margin I can just throw away and absorb the tariffs," he added. "And certainly no one has a margin for 25 per cent."

But retail consumers won't be the only buyers affected by the tariffs. MBX Systems is another US provider of hardware systems, which focuses on enterprise customers. The Illinois-based company specializes in assembling servers, which are then resold by its clients, such as cybersecurity firms.

Last month, the company told its customers the bad news; more than 30 component suppliers—including Intel, Samsung, and Seagate—had been affected by the tariffs, forcing server component costs to go up.

"We've seen anywhere from reluctant acceptance by the customer—where they're not going to increase the cost to the end user—to others that will push back heavily," MBX Systems president Chris Tucker told PCMag.</p>

Looking outside China doesn't help: manufacturing prices are higher.. by at least the tariff amount. Trade wars: not so easy to win.
china  us  pc  pricing 
november 2018 by charlesarthur
GDP: Trump tariff, trade war hit to economy • Business Insider
Bob Bryan:
<p>There's mounting anecdotal evidence that President Donald Trump's trade war is causing trouble for the US economy and businesses. But Friday's report on third-quarter gross domestic product may be the best hard evidence yet that the tariffs are causing major disruptions in the economy.

GDP rose at an annualized rate of 3.5% in the third quarter. But the contribution of net exports of goods and services — the measure of how much trade added or subtracted to GDP growth — was a dismal -1.78 percentage points.

It was the largest negative contribution to GDP growth for trade in 33 years; in the second quarter of 1985, trade subtracted 1.91 points.

In other words, if trade were a net neutral, neither adding to nor subtracting from GDP growth, third-quarter GDP growth would have been a dynamite 5.3%.

If trade had matched its average contribution since 2015, a 0.33-point drag, GDP growth would have come in at 5%.</p>

It is counterintuitive that what looks like a really strong GDP figure is hiding problems, but inventory build by companies trying to get ahead of tariffs in the past quarter won't be repeated. Which implies a big GDP slowdown in the next quarter.

Of course, if the Democrats get a solid (or even middling) win in the midterm elections, Trump and his media proxies will blame them. If the Republicans hang on, any slowdown will be someone else's fault.
gdp  us  trade  tariffs 
november 2018 by charlesarthur
Amazon tried to sell ICE its faulty facial recognition tech • ExtremeTech
Joel Hruska:
<p>while HSI [Homeland Security Investigations] and ERO [Enforcement and Removal Office] may be different divisions of DHS [US Department of Homeland Security], there’s a much more immediate, simple reason to oppose the deployment of these programs or their sale to law enforcement: They don’t work well. If you’re white, a program like Rekognition is up to 99% accurate. If you aren’t, accuracy craters. According to tests performed by the MIT Media Lab, facial recognition software solutions from IBM, Microsoft, and Face++ misidentified darker-skinned women as men 35% of the time. Men with darker skin tones were misgendered in 12% of cases, up to 7% with lighter-skinned women, and 1% of the time with lighter-skinned men. As I’ve written about before, human beings are far too likely to believe that computers are infallible to be handed software in which between 1 in 3 and 1 in 14 people are likely to be misidentified or tagged mistakenly.

While these tests didn’t include Rekognition, the ACLU tested Amazon’s solution in July by running the members of Congress through the Rekognition database. The test resulted in 28 false positives for crimes. People of color represent 20% of Congress but accounted for 40% of the false positives the Rekognition system kicked back.

It’s as crystal-clear a demonstration of how supposedly neutral algorithms can cause racist behavior as you’d imagine. Because facial recognition training data sets are overwhelmingly white and male (one popular set is more than 75% male and more than 80% white), the system only learns to read white, male faces. Because it can’t read faces that aren’t white and male, its error rates are vastly higher when applied to anyone else. Because that information isn’t disclosed or made apparent when law enforcement deploys these systems — and Rekognition is already being used by law enforcement across the country — you have a supposedly neutral algorithm making blatantly racist decisions by virtue of having been trained to recognize white faces well and black faces poorly.</p>
facialrecognition  amazon  us  dhs  error  machinelearning 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
Use of internet, social media, digital devices plateaus in US • Pew Research Center
<p>The shares of US adults who say they use the internet, use social media, own a smartphone or own a tablet computer are all nearly identical to the shares who said so in 2016. The share who say they have broadband internet service at home currently stands at 65% – nearly identical to the 67% who said this in a survey conducted in summer 2015. And when it comes to desktop or laptop ownership, there has actually been a small dip in the overall numbers over the last two years – from 78% in 2016 to 73% today.

<img src="" width="100%" />

A contributing factor behind this slowing growth is that parts of the population have reached near-saturation levels of adoption of some technologies. Put simply, in some instances there just aren’t many non-users left. For example, nine-in-ten or more adults younger than 50 say they go online or own a smartphone. And a similar share of those in higher-income households have laptops or desktops.</p>

Notice that dip in desktop/laptop use, while tablet use inched up. Although I suspect that tablets plus smartphones have consumed that gap in PC use.

If that's continued in two years' time, it'll be a clear trend. Check back in 2020!
pc  tablet  smartphone  us  demographic 
september 2018 by charlesarthur
Tariffs start to drag on US economy as trade deficit widens • Bloomberg
Sho Chandra:
<p>Economists at Amherst Pierpont Securities and Capital Economics trimmed their estimates for gross domestic product growth this quarter. Before Thursday’s data, the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey was for 3 per cent expansion.

While analysts said the trade deficit partly reflected an expected drop in soybean exports following a second-quarter surge ahead of Chinese-imposed tariffs, and economic growth is projected to remain solid, the numbers illustrate how the trade war is spurring volatility in the data. In addition, the widening deficit runs contrary to Trump’s aim of a narrower gap and underscores the challenges of achieving that goal amid strong domestic demand -- which tends to boost imports -- and retaliatory tariffs from abroad.

“The data are grim,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics Ltd., said in a note, referring to the August goods trade gap. “The administration’s narrative, that the second-quarter drop in the deficit was a result of their trade policies, has now fallen apart, as it was always likely to do.”

…While economists say it may be too early to detect the exact impact from trade disputes, the data bear watching as the headwind and uncertainty look unlikely to dissipate. Thursday’s reports come after the US and China imposed tariffs on each other in late August, which followed others implemented in early July. The US added tariffs on another $200bn of Chinese imports this week - the largest escalation of the trade war so far.</p>

This is only the effects of the very earliest tariffs, from July and a little from August. The bigger impact is yet to come. Though economists will be delighted to have a laboratory where they can demonstrate what tariffs do to an economy.
us  tariffs  economy 
september 2018 by charlesarthur
The Kavanaugh accusations: what teens think • The Atlantic
Joe Pinsker:
<p>Stephen L. Miller, a writer for Fox News’s website, tweeted that the allegations didn’t amount to sexual assault, but rather “drunk teenagers playing seven minutes of heaven.” The radio-show host and columnist Dennis Prager advised his readers not to be shocked if a future Republican nominee “is accused of sexual misconduct … from when he was in elementary school.” Going back to an even earlier developmental stage to make her point, the Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker wondered, “What’s next, his potty training?" On Instagram, Donald Trump Jr. engaged in his own infantilizing of Ford’s accusations, likening the scene she described to the result of a schoolyard crush.

These statements were intended to diminish the seriousness of what Ford alleged happened, but, intentionally or not, they also diminish a whole category of humans: teenagers. And many teenagers, as they themselves are proud to report, have a sophisticated, nuanced understanding of sex and consent—one that invalidates the low expectations that so many adults appear to have of them.

As they’ve watched the week’s news unfold, some of them have gotten frustrated. “They just keep saying ‘He was in high school—boys will be boys,’” says Maurielle, a 17-year-old from Houston. “But I’m in high school—I don’t want that to happen to me.” She went on, “It feels alienating reading what's happening, because they’re blaming so much on the fact that they were in high school and they were young.” Julianna, a 17-year-old from outside of Pittsburgh, said she also rejected what she called “the whole ‘But maybe they didn’t know better at that age’ argument.” (I am referring to Maurielle, Julianna, and the other teenagers interviewed for this article only by their first name, to protect their identities.)</p>

What these teenagers think of Kavanaugh will colour what they think of the people who (one expects, with some confidence) will confirm him. If you ever wondered how politicians lose the trust of those they are meant to work for, it's by actions like this.
kavanaugh  us  sexism 
september 2018 by charlesarthur
Behind your rising health-care bills: secret hospital deals that squelch competition • WSJ
Anna Wilde Mathews:
<p>The Wall Street Journal has identified dozens of contracts with terms that limit how insurers design plans, involving operators such as Johns Hopkins Medicine in Maryland, the 10-hospital OhioHealth system and Aurora Health Care, a major system in the Milwaukee market. National hospital operator HCA Healthcare Inc. also has restrictions in insurer contracts in certain markets.

The U.S. spends more per capita on health care than any other developed nation and will soon spend close to 20% of its GDP on health. Americans aren’t buying more health care overall than other countries. What they are buying is increasingly expensive. Among the factors driving spending is the opaque way the price of health care is set, a problem exacerbated by the hidden details in agreements between insurers and health-care providers.

“No hospital system should be able to exercise market power to demand contract agreements that prevent more competitively priced networks,” said Cigna’s chief medical officer, Alan Muney, in a written statement provided by the company.

A health plan that excludes a costly system can be more than 10% less expensive for consumers and employers, according to insurance-industry officials. A plan that includes all providers but steers patients away from the costlier ones can save 3% to 7% or more, these people said.

Restrictive hospital-insurer contracts have helped prevent even big employers, including Walmart Inc. and Home Depot Inc., from moving forward with plans they were exploring to try to lower costs and improve quality for their workers.</p>

The WSJ is quietly chipping away at the gigantic vested interests which are pushing US health costs into the skies, though it is ideologically unable to suggest that the best solution is to move to a monopsony - that is, a single buyer (the government) for all healthcare. The irony is that that solution would roughly halve health costs: the EU average is 10.1% of GDP (in 2013).

But the catch: healthcare costs are part of US GDP. Putting it into government (and reducing the cost) would make GDP seem to fall quite substantially. And of course you'd put a lot of people in insurance companies out of work. (This doesn't seem like a justification for keeping them in work, though.)
health  us 
september 2018 by charlesarthur
New Russian hacking targeted Republican groups, Microsoft says • The New York Times
<p>Microsoft Corporation <a href="">said that it detected and seized websites</a> that were created in recent weeks by hackers linked to the Russian unit formerly known as the G.R.U. The sites appeared meant to trick people into thinking they were clicking through links managed by the Hudson Institute and the International Republican Institute, but were secretly redirected to web pages created by the hackers to steal passwords and other credentials.

Microsoft also found websites imitating the United States Senate, but not specific Senate offices or political campaigns.

The shift to attacking conservative think tanks underscores the Russian intelligence agency’s goals: to disrupt any institutions challenging Moscow and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

The Hudson Institute has promoted programs examining the rise of kleptocracy in governments around the world, with Russia as a prime target. The International Republican Institute, which receives some funding from the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development, has worked for decades in promoting democracy around the world.

“We are now seeing another uptick in attacks. What is particular in this instance is the broadening of the type of websites they are going after,” Microsoft’s president, Brad Smith, said Monday in an interview.

“These are organizations that are informally tied to Republicans,” he said, “so we see them broadening beyond the sites they have targeted in the past.”

The International Republican Institute’s board of directors includes several Republican leaders who have been highly critical of Mr. Trump’s interactions with Mr. Putin, including a summit meeting last month between the two leaders in Helsinki, Finland.</p>

Not that Fancy Bear and its cohorts only limits itself to Republicans. It's likely they were behind <a href="">this cyberattack on a Democratic candidate in California last week</a>.
microsoft  hacking  fancybear  us  politics 
august 2018 by charlesarthur
Why solar is likely to power the home of the future • The Verge
Angela Chen on US trends, noting that 2m out of 90m US homes have solar panels - but California recently made it a requirement that new homes have solar panels:
<p>If solar becomes ubiquitous, we’ll likely see it being integrated with smart energy management systems in the home, predicts Bywater. These will regulate the battery, the home by using different sensors, and the solar panels. “The real trick is for the system to know how to make someone comfortable and how to be aggressive on conserving energy,” he says. It should know the optimal temperature of the home and how to change it based on utility rates and the time of day to save money.

Ultimately, says Baca, “we’re personally looking forward to a day when solar is as ubiquitous as AC.” Very few places had air conditioners when the technology first became available, and now it’s rare to find a builder who would create a new home without it. “People think something’s missing when it’s not there,” he says. “I think that’s where we’re going with solar, and I hope we see it sooner rather than later.”</p>

Given the preponderance of air conditioning (AC) systems in the US and its creaking electrical grid, you'd think the power companies would be encouraging local generation like crazy.
us  solar 
august 2018 by charlesarthur
US ban on China’s ZTE forces telecoms to rethink business: sources • Reuters
Eric Auchard:
<p>[Russian and emerging markets carrier] Veon was especially hard hit, suffering launch delays at its Italian joint venture and in Ukraine, near network outages in Bangladesh, and lesser disruptions at its Pakistan operations, sources at the Amsterdam-based operator told Reuters. “Veon has decided to second source everything,” a person familiar with the strategy shift at Veon said of moves to reduce dependence on any one supplier of network gear.

“We don’t want the company to be in the same position we were in when the U.S. (ban on ZTE) came out: It caused massive problems in three or four of our markets,” the source said.

Perhaps the biggest setback was for Italian mobile operator Wind Tre, which had a €1bn ($1.17bn) contract with ZTE to upgrade radio equipment.

The ban forced ZTE to abandon more than half of the remainder of the contract, and Wind Tre will use gear from network supplier Ericsson instead, sources told Reuters.

The original deal had marked ZTE’s biggest breakthrough into the European market, which has been dominated by regional players such as Ericsson of Sweden and Nokia of Finland.</p>

It still feels as though Trump let ZTE off the hook too easily. What has China offered, exactly?
zte  us  networks 
july 2018 by charlesarthur
Airline pilot shortage: United States at a critical point • CNN Travel
Peter Gall:
<p>In the 1970s, when most of today's airline pilots like myself were growing up, piloting for an airline was considered a prestigious career.

The job offered not only high salaries and nice schedules with many days off, but also a respected position in society. In the early 1990s, pilot salaries approached $300,000 in today's dollars for some international pilots.

What's more, during this time, the military had a steady and consistent demand for pilots. A young aspiring aviator could go into the military to receive all of his or her flight training. Once these pilots had fulfilled their military commitment, they were almost guaranteed a good job flying for a major airline.
Today, this is no longer the case. The career of the airline pilot has lost its luster.

This is due in part to deregulation. The 1978 Airline Deregulation Act kicked off the era of the low-cost carrier. As a result, airlines such as Pan-Am went out of business. Then, the 9/11 attacks left the airlines in poor financial condition.

Five of the six major legacy airlines in the United States declared bankruptcy: US Airways, Delta, Northwest, United and American Airlines. I clearly recall a day a couple weeks after 9/11, when one of my flights, from Washington DC to Orlando, Florida, boarded just one passenger.

From my own experience, I can attest to many pilots like myself who were forced to vacate their captain position and go back to first officer, resulting in their pay dropping from roughly $190,000 per year to $75,000 per year.

Meanwhile, the number of pilots supplied by the military has dwindled. Much of this is due to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles. In the 1980s, roughly two thirds of airline pilots were ex-military. Recently, that percentage has dropped to less than one-third. The Navy predicts a 10% pilot shortage in 2020, while the Air Force predicts its own 1,000-pilot shortage by 2022.

This means many young aspiring aviators now have to pay for their own flight training.</p>

End of an era? Or start of a worrying trend? Won't supply and demand sort this out, or is the inherent delay between the two so large it will undermine it?
airline  pilots  us 
july 2018 by charlesarthur
Clash of the titans: Chinese and US tech giants go at it in emerging markets • The Economist
<p>According to CBInsights – a data firm – Tencent, Alibaba and its Ant Financial affiliate have backed 43% of all Asian “unicorns”, meaning startups worth more than $1bn. Alibaba’s investment in Lazada, South-East Asia’s largest e-commerce platform, has soaked up $4bn. Jack Ma, Alibaba’s founder and boss, has pledged $8bn to India alone.

Their different approaches reflect the way the Western and Chinese firms make money. Google and Facebook earn the bulk of their revenue from advertising against services their users flock to. This requires little localisation, bar a bit of website translation to attract native users.

Chinese firms’ competitive advantage, by contrast, has historically come from being able to process payments and organise distribution of goods in a country where doing such things had previously been tricky. A business based on solving such nuts-and-bolts problems is hard to export. “For that sort of thing, it is difficult to have a one-size-fits-all approach for different countries,” says Tan Yinglan of Insignia Ventures Partners, a tech-investment firm. Being a distribution expert in Singapore (whose former postal monopoly is now 14% owned by Alibaba) brings little insight into distributing packages throughout Indonesia’s 17,500 islands, say. Nor does the ability to process payments in Vietnam smooth transactions in Brazil or in Nigeria, with their vastly different banking and regulatory systems. Such intricacies, in other words, might be better delivered by local entrepreneurs who can be bought out once they have cracked them.

How are these differing strategies panning out on the ground? The most intense Sino-American rivalry thus far is focused on India and South-East Asia. The scale of investment reflects the stakes: Indian start-ups received $5.2bn in Chinese tech money last year, according to Tracxn, a data provider, up from $930m in 2016. Forrester, a market-research group, says that Chinese tech giants (including Didi and spent $6bn on acquisitions in South-East Asia in 2017.</p>

Quite a clash where these two strategies come together.
china  us  tech  giants 
july 2018 by charlesarthur
Facebook algorithm flags, removes Declaration of Independence text as hate speech •
<p>Since June 24, the Liberty County Vindicator of Liberty County, Texas, has been sharing daily excerpts from the declaration in the run up to July Fourth. The idea was to encourage historical literacy among the Vindicator's readers.

The first nine such posts of the project went up without incident.

"But part 10," writes Vindicator managing editor Casey Stinnett, "did not appear. Instead, The Vindicator received a notice from Facebook saying that the post 'goes against our standards on hate speech.'"

The post in question contained paragraphs 27 through 31 of the Declaration of Independence, the grievance section of the document wherein the put-upon colonists detail all the irreconcilable differences they have with King George III.

Stinnett says that he cannot be sure which exact grievance ran afoul of Facebook's policy, but he assumes that it's paragraph 31, which excoriates the King for inciting "domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages."

The removal of the post was an automated action, and Stinnett sent a "feedback message" to Facebook with the hopes of reaching a human being who could then exempt the Declaration of Independence from its hate speech restrictions.

Fearful that sharing more of the text might trigger the deletion of its Facebook page, The Vindicator has suspended its serialization of the declaration.</p>

facebook  algorithm  declarationofindependence  us 
july 2018 by charlesarthur
Supreme Court clears way for sales taxes on internet merchants • The New York Times
Adam Liptak:
<p>Internet retailers can be required to collect sales taxes in states where they have no physical presence, the <a href="">Supreme Court ruled on Thursday</a>.

Brick-and-mortar businesses have long complained that they are disadvantaged by having to charge sales taxes while many of their online competitors do not. States have said that they are missing out on tens of billions of dollars in annual revenue under a 1992 Supreme Court ruling that helped spur the rise of internet shopping.

On Thursday, the court overruled that ruling, Quill Corporation v. North Dakota, which had said that the Constitution bars states from requiring businesses to collect sales taxes unless they have a substantial connection to the state.

Shares in Amazon were down just 1% in morning trading after the ruling, at $1,731.59. But other e-commerce companies suffered far tougher blows: Shares in Etsy, the marketplace for artisanal crafts, fell 4.5%, to $42.21, while those in Wayfair, a popular home goods seller, were down 3.2%, at $112.42.

Writing for the majority in the 5-to-4 ruling, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said the Quill decision had distorted the nation’s economy and had caused states to lose annual tax revenues between $8bn and $33bn.

“Quill puts both local businesses and many interstate businesses with physical presence at a competitive disadvantage relative to remote sellers,” he wrote. “Remote sellers can avoid the regulatory burdens of tax collection and can offer de facto lower prices caused by the widespread failure of consumers to pay the tax on their own.”</p>

This has long looked anomalous: if you buy things on the internet, why not pay sales tax? European countries levy VAT on online sales, including software, wherever the "purchase" is made. The tax benefit for some states could be substantial - though <a href="">South Dakota has an annual budget of about $4bn</a>, and reckons this will bring in $50m. A side point: South Dakota doesn't have income tax; instead it applies sales and "use" taxes. A touch <a href="">regressive</a> there, people.
internet  salestax  supremecourt  us 
june 2018 by charlesarthur
Tech CEOs criticize separating families at the US border • Mashable
Rachel Kraus:
<p>The tech industry isn't staying silent. In addition to Apple's Tim Cook, CEOs Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Jack Dorsey (Twitter), Dara Khosrowshahi‏ (Uber), Susan Wojcicki (YouTube), and others have taken to social media to speak out. Many have also pledged donations, with Zuckerberg leading a fundraising effort that has so far raised over $25,000.

In a Tuesday memo to Uber employees, Uber execs said the company's legal team is looking into connecting families with lawyers and already donated $100,000 to a nonprofit helping separated children, according to Business Insider.

Other tech industry leaders that have called for change include representatives from Airbnb, Box, eBay, Cisco, and others. 

Microsoft also issued a statement saying that it is "dismayed by the forcible separation of children from their families at the border." That comes after reports of employee anger over Microsoft's cloud computing deal with Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE). Microsoft managed to overcome its dismay long enough to reassure the public that "Microsoft is not working with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or U.S. Customs and Border Protection on any projects related to separating children from their families at the border."

Tesla's Elon Musk also expressed his support with a puzzling series of tweets.</p>

I'm surprised this policy survived the weekend, but increasingly it feels as though it cannot survive the indignation - and funding - being aimed at it. The stain on the US administration's character is spreading.
tech  families  us  policy 
june 2018 by charlesarthur
Why it's so hard for innovative smartphone makers to succeed • Fortune
Aaron Pressman:
<p>Most [US] smartphone sales still occur in physical retail stores, about 88% as of the first quarter, Counterpoint Research says. And, as the carriers have thousands of stores spread across the country, they capture three-quarters of the offline market, with Apple [retail stores] — not a venue that will be selling any startup’s phones ever — grabbing much of the remainder.

That has left the startups trying to sell directly to consumers, both from their own websites and those of big e-commerce retailers like Amazon and Best Buy. But, that slender 12% segment of the market is highly fragmented. Here, the carriers plus Apple combine for only about two out of every five phones sold online, Counterpoint says. Amazon sells slightly more than one out of every five phones sold online, many through its “Prime Exclusive” line up. The remainder of online sales mostly go through the websites of retailers like Best Buy, Walmart, and Target.

A lot of smartphone buyers want either some handholding from a human sales associate or some hands-on time with the device, Counterpoint analyst Maurice Klaehne explains.

“It is a complicated purchase, as these devices are frequently sold bundled with a plan, service upgrade, or accessories,” Klaehne notes. “People often need help in these situations to get their phone set up, data transferred to the new device, and have new features explained.”</p>

I honestly don't see why anyone would start a smartphone business now. There are too many incumbents who have the top end sewn up; and the bottom end is a piranha tank with zero profits.
Smartphone  us  retail 
june 2018 by charlesarthur
US mobile market update – Q1 2018 • Chetan Sharma
• Smartphone penetration stood at 94%.
• For the first time, there were more connected smart watches added to the network than postpaid or prepaid phones. Connected smart watches (read Apple Watch) have proved to be a surprise hit for the operators.
• The quarter saw a sharp decline (biggest decline ever) in connected tablets indicating waning interest from consumers in the segment. This might have implications to the 5G strategy for OEMs.
• Connected cars and IoT continue to dominate the net-adds. Their share of the net-adds reached historic highs in Q1 2018. In fact, the combined category commanded well over 90% share for the first time.
Again, connected vehicles was the biggest net-adds category for the quarter which was dominated by AT&T.
• While the operators struggled to maintain growth, the overall wireless market continues to grow rapidly thanks to the continued explosion on the 4th Wave by new digital players.
• Net Income rose 10% while Capex and Opex declined sharply.</p>

A stagnant market; if the TMobile/Sprint merger comes off, I’d expect downward pressure on prices.
Also: handset renewal cycle is now an average of 3 years.
Us  mobile 
may 2018 by charlesarthur
The LocationSmart scandal is bigger than Cambridge Analytica. Here’s why no one is talking about it • Slate
Will Oremus:
<p>Motherboard reported last week that <a href="">Securus had been hacked</a>, with the credentials of 2,800 authorized users stolen, most or all of them presumably working in law enforcement or at prisons. (Securus’ main business involves helping prisons crack down on inmates’ cellphone use.) It’s a safe bet that some of those users had access to the same location-tracking tools that the Missouri sheriff abused.

So how was Securus getting all that data on the locations of mobile-phone users across the country? We learned more last week, when ZDNet confirmed that one key intermediary was a firm called LocationSmart. The big U.S. wireless carriers—AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile—were all working with LocationSmart, sending their users’ location data to the firm so that it could triangulate their whereabouts more precisely using multiple providers’ cell towers. It seems no one can opt out of this form of tracking, because the carriers rely on it to provide their service.

It gets worse. A Carnegie Mellon researcher poking around on LocationSmart’s website found that he could use a free trial service to instantly pinpoint the location of, well, <a href="">just about anyone with a mobile phone</a> and wireless service from one of those major carriers. He did this without any permission or credentials, let alone a warrant.</p>

And why is it not a big story? Oremus thinks because it's not about Trump getting elected, unlike the Cambridge Analytica story. I disagree: I think it's because we're so used to tracking each other that it has become ordinary. What isn't ordinary - with the Cambridge Analytica story - is foreign interference and dark media aimed at changing peoples' minds.
location  privacy  us 
may 2018 by charlesarthur
ZTE estimates at least $3bn in losses from US ban • Bloomberg
<p>ZTE Corp. is estimating losses of at least 20bn yuan ($3.1bn) from a US technology ban that’s halted major operations as clients pull out of deals and expenses mount, people familiar with the matter said.

The telecoms gear and smartphone maker however is hopeful of striking a deal soon and already has a plan in place - dubbed “T0” - to swing idled factories into action within hours once Washington agrees to lift its seven-year moratorium on purchases of American chips and components, said the people, who asked not to be identified talking about private negotiations. The company declined to comment.

Shenzhen, China-based ZTE depends on US components, such as chips from Qualcomm, to build its smartphones and networking gear. The ban, for breaching terms of a settlement over sanction-breaking sales to Iran, has all but mothballed China’s second-largest telecoms gear maker and become entangled in a trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies. On Tuesday, President Donald Trump said he’s reconsidering US penalties as a favor to Chinese President Xi Jinping and may instead fine the company more than $1bn.

The US action has spooked potential clients during the crucial first-half IT spending season and even prompted some to renege on agreed deals, the people said. ZTE’s shelling out an estimated 80m to 100m yuan in daily operational expenses alone while most of its 75,000 employees sit idle, the people said.</p>

Meanwhile, the US Congress has <a href="">blocked any move</a> to let ZTE back in. The limbo continues; the losses so far wipe out ZTE's net income over the past 12 years.
zte  us  trump 
may 2018 by charlesarthur
Overall Q1 US smartphone sales dip 11% YoY, Apple grows a record 16% YoY • Counterpoint Research
<p>Research Director Jeff Fieldhack said, “Dips in sales coming off a holiday period are to be expected, however there are several other factors that make this the weakest Q1 in recent years. For one, postpaid device promotions were not as enticing in the first quarter—most requiring a new line.  In addition, prepaid did not receive its usual February and Q1 bump as prepaid service promos cooled. The ramp-down of government subsidized ‘Lifeline’ programs have cut into prepaid device volumes. BYOD and refurbished devices also continue to impact new device sales.”

<strong>Exhibit 1: Monthly market pulse – OEM & market sales growth (YoY %) Trends</strong><br /><img src="" width="100%" /><br />

• Apple growth percentage is declining during launch periods. However, it has gained overall US market share because of its increasing installed base and B2B and prepaid channel improvements<br />• Samsung growth curve is slipping. There is increased difficulty maintaining momentum through product lifecycles<br />• During periods of prepaid [PAYG] weakness, ‘others’ performance declines. "Others" saw a drastic dip during the first quarter.<br />• The overall US market growth is on a downward slope outside of Apple launch periods.</p>

Down to 38.7m in the first quarter; the first time it has been below 40m for three years. The peak has passed.
smartphone  us  america 
may 2018 by charlesarthur
ICE just abandoned its dream of ‘extreme vetting’ software that could predict whether a foreign visitor would become a terrorist • Washington Post
Drew Harwell:
<p>Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials told tech-industry contractors last summer they wanted a system for their “Extreme Vetting Initiative” that could automatically mine Facebook, Twitter and the broader Internet to determine whether a visitor might commit criminal or terrorist acts or was a “positively contributing member of society.”

But ICE dropped the machine-learning requirement from its request in recent months, opting instead to hire a contractor that can provide training, management and human personnel who can do the job. Federal documents say the contract is expected to cost more than $100m and be awarded by the end of the year.

After gathering “information from industry professionals and other government agencies on current technological capabilities,” ICE spokesperson Carissa Cutrell said, the focus of what the agency now calls its Visa Lifecycle Vetting program “shifted from a technology-based contract to a labor contract.”</p>

Crouching ovation for this one. You know they're going to do much the same, but with humans. The reality is that predicting how (a tiny number of) people will become radical or dangerous is difficult; the best indicator, at present, seems to be a record of domestic violence. But that doesn't fit narratives.
Ice  machinelearning  us  immigration 
may 2018 by charlesarthur
Chinese tech giant on brink of collapse in new US cold war • The New York Times
Raymond Zhong:
<p>One of China’s most internationally successful technology suppliers, with about $17 billion in annual revenue, ZTE is facing a death sentence. The Commerce Department has blocked its access to American-made components until 2025, saying the company failed to punish employees who violated trade controls against Iran and North Korea.

American microchips power ZTE’s wireless stations. American optical components go into its optical fiber networks. Google’s Android operating system runs its smartphones. As the Trump administration threatens a trade war to stymie China’s plans for promoting advanced industries, the firm’s travails are proving an apt demonstration, for China’s leaders, of exactly why the country needs to be more self-sufficient in technology.

President Xi Jinping recently issued a rousing call to action, according to the state news agency Xinhua.

“By tightening our belts and gritting our teeth, we built ‘two bombs and one satellite,’” Mr. Xi said, referring to a Mao-era weapons development program. “This was because we made best use of the socialist system — we concentrated our efforts to get great things done. The next step is to do the same with science and technology. We must cast away false hopes and rely on ourselves.”

ZTE’s moment of crisis, if it leads to the company’s collapse, could also show how the tech cold war might ripple around the world.

The company has 75,000 employees and does business in more than 160 countries. It is the No. 4 smartphone vendor in the United States. And its telecommunications gear supports the digital backbone of a great swath of the developing world.</p>

Watching ZTE go down is like watching the death of the Titanic. Just a little tilt, and then more and more... but China's reaction is going to make a big difference. If China becomes self-sufficient in hardware, the balance of power will change dramatically.
zte  us  china 
may 2018 by charlesarthur
Huawei, Failing to Crack U.S. Market, Signals a Change in Tactics - The New York Times
Raymond Zhong and Paul Mozur:
<p>Last week, the company laid off five American employees, including William B. Plummer, the executive who was the face of its Sisyphean efforts to win over Washington, according to people familiar with the matter. Huawei has also been dialing back its political outreach in the United States, these people said — which could end a decade of mostly fruitless efforts to dispel Washington’s accusations that the company has ties to the Chinese government.

Huawei’s tactics are changing as its business prospects in the United States have darkened considerably. On Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission voted to proceed with a new rule that could effectively kill off what little business the company has in the United States. Although the proposed rule does not mention Huawei by name, it would block federally subsidized telecommunications carriers from using suppliers deemed to pose a risk to American national security.

Like other major tech companies, whether American or Chinese, Huawei (pronounced “HWA-way”) has been caught in the crossfire as the Trump administration ratchets up efforts to stop China’s high-tech ambitions. The two countries are waging a new kind of cold war, and with each increasingly suspicious of the other’s technology, winners are chosen based on national allegiances.

Huawei’s latest moves suggest that it has accepted that its political battles in the United States are not ones it is likely to win.</p>

It's doing OK in Europe, and very well in Asia and elsewhere, but the US now seems to be a closed market.
huawei  us 
april 2018 by charlesarthur
FCC moves to block wireless carriers from using subsidies to buy Chinese telecom gear • WSJ
John McKinnon:
<p>US regulators adopted a measure on Tuesday aimed at barring wireless carriers from using federal subsidies to buy telecommunications gear made by Chinese manufacturers.

The vote by the Federal Communications Commission was 5-0.

The measure would prohibit US carriers from using federal universal-service subsidies to buy equipment from companies seen as posing a national security threat. Universal-service subsidies total almost $9bn a year. They support service for high-cost rural areas, for schools and libraries and for low-income consumers and residents of tribal lands.

The FCC will receive public comment and gather more information before approving a final rule in the coming months. Several commissioners suggested they would want to weigh national-security benefits against the plan’s potential effects on consumers.

The plan could hit smaller rural phone companies and internet providers that sometimes depend on Chinese-made equipment. Large wireless providers such as AT&T have long steered clear of Chinese companies like Huawei. Huawei has been effectively barred from big US businesses since a 2012 congressional report alleged the Chinese government could force the company to assist in espionage or cyberattacks—an accusation that Huawei has denied.</p>

The squeeze on Chinese technology companies is intensifying abruptly. First ZTE, now this.
huawei  us  networks 
april 2018 by charlesarthur
UK and US move on Chinese group, citing national security • FT
Nic Fildes, Shawn Donnan and Pan Kwan Yuk:
<p>Britain and the US have moved against one of China’s largest telecoms equipment makers, adding to a growing list of restrictions imposed by western governments on Chinese companies on national security grounds.

The measures taken against ZTE Corp, which cuts it off from US suppliers and bars it entirely from doing business in the UK, comes amid a particularly aggressive move by the Trump administration, which has already used the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US, a secretive national security body, to block or force changes to several Chinese-linked deals.

It also is likely to add to mounting economic tension between Washington and Beijing, which are locked in a rhetorical trade war that threatens to impose tariffs on $150bn in bilateral trade.

US commerce department officials insisted the move was not related to other actions taken in recent weeks by the White House, noting ZTE’s violations were first investigated by the Obama administration. But experts said the sanctions were part of a growing anti-China backlash not only in London and Washington, but also Germany, Australia and Canada.

“Things are pretty rocky right now,” said Matthew Goodman, an expert on US-Asian economic ties at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.</p>

The US said ZTE had supplied Iran and North Korea with equipment; the UK says ZTE's ownership by the Chinese government raises security concerns.

While it will be able to use open-source Android (AOSP), ZTE is going to be stuffed in trying to sell handsets outside China. It won't be able to get Google's Play Store or other apps. ZTE was, until now, the fourth-biggest phone vendor in the US (says analyst Avi Greengart).

And the network equipment business, a far more lucrative space, is in effect shot in two gigantic markets. ZTE is toast.
zte  us  uk  iran 
april 2018 by charlesarthur
A new, huge review of gun research has bad news for the NRA • Vox
German Lopez:
<p>RAND’s report does not come out in favor of more or less gun control. Instead, the team compiled the best research that’s available so far into <a href="">charts and in-depth evaluations</a> — the result of a review of dozens of studies, focused on 13 policies and eight outcomes. Here are the overall findings, which only included studies that met RAND’s rigorous standards:

<img src="" width="100%" />

The RAND report emphasizes that much of the research on gun policy is still in its infancy. You can see that in the chart above in all the white and gray space — we still don’t have answers to a lot of important questions when it comes to gun policy, including the effects on defensive gun use, hunting and recreation, and police shootings.

But the answers we do have point in one direction. On the gun control front, there’s moderate evidence that background checks reduce suicide and violent crime, limited evidence that prohibitions associated with mental illness reduce suicide, moderate evidence that those prohibitions reduce violent crime, and supportive evidence that child-access prevention laws reduce suicides and unintentional injuries and deaths.</p>

Data! What the argument is lacking so far. And here are the RAND conclusions, very briefly summarised, from its executive summary:
• Supportive evidence
-Child-access prevention laws may decrease suicide.
-Child-access prevention laws may decrease unintentional injuries and deaths.

• Moderate evidence
- Background checks may decrease suicide.
- Background checks may decrease violent crime.
- Prohibitions associated with mental illness may decrease violent crime.
- Stand-your-ground laws may increase violent crime.

• Limited evidence
- Bans on the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines may increase the price of banned firearms.
- Concealed-carry laws may increase unintentional injuries and deaths.
- Concealed-carry laws may increase violent crime.
- Minimum age requirements may decrease suicide.
- Prohibitions associated with mental illness may decrease suicide.
us  guns  studies  data  nra 
march 2018 by charlesarthur
US lawmakers worry about rise of fake video technology • The Hill
Ali Breland:
<p>Senator Ron Wyden (Democrat, Oregon), one of the most vocal members of Congress on tech issues, painted a grim picture about what the advances could mean for the future of discerning truth in media. 

“Since we can't rely on the responsibility of individual actors or the platforms they use, I fully expect there will be a proliferation of these sorts of fictions to a degree that nearly drowns out actual facts,” Wyden told The Hill.

“For those who value real information, there will still be some reliable publications and news outlets, and their credibility will need to be guarded all the more intently by professional journalists,” he added.

Rep. Adriano Espaillat (Dem, NY), who has targeted fake news in the past through legislation, also told the The Hill that he’s concerned. 

Espaillat said that he is worried about the potential for foreign governments to use counterfeit audio and videos to manipulate the American public.

Lawmakers' fears are backed up by concern from experts, who say that manipulated videos are another dangerous addition to the rising trend of fake news.

"Democracy depends on an informed electorate, and when we can't even agree on the basics of what's real, it becomes increasingly impossible to have the hard conversations necessary to move the country forward," said Renee DiResta, one of the first researchers to sound the alarm on how social media platforms were being manipulated by foreign actors. 
"The cumulative effect of this is a systemic erosion of trust, including trust between people and their leaders," she added.</p>

Encouraging that they're trying to get in front of this. That hardly ever happens. And Renee DiResta is always worth seeking out - she sounded the alarm over anti-vaccine idiots on Facebook, and how its echo chamber enabled them.
Fakenews  video  politics  us 
february 2018 by charlesarthur
Trolls on twitter: how mainstream and local news outlets were used to drive a polarized news agenda • Medium
Jonathan Albright has done extensive (as in, <em>really</em> extensive work on how (Russian-controlled?) troll accounts went to work in the US election:
<p>The chart below is the top-line breakdown of where these 11-plus thousand external links in my set of 36.5k troll tweets from 2016 pointed to. This includes the expanded short URLs and redirects. This shows the news outlets the troll accounts (through tweeting, retweeting, and tweet-quoting) tended to re-broadcast from the middle of 2016 through election day:

<img src="*qxzDom0huWdY1pf0s3_vnQ.png" width="100%" />
<em>Top 25 most-linked news sources across 11.5k troll tweets (using thousands of expanded short links)</em>

Looking at this breakdown, a result from this sample of tens of thousands of tweets is that the most-shared news outlets from 11.5k links across 388 troll accounts in the six months leading up to the election isn’t your typical hyper-partisan “fake news.”

Sure, Breitbart ranks first, but it’s followed by a long list of what many would argue are credible — if not mainstream — news organizations, as well a surprising number of local and regional news outlets.

Another result from this analysis is the effect of “regional” troll accounts, aka the fake accounts with a city or region name in the handle (e.g., HoustonTopNews, DailySanFran, OnlineCleveland), which showed a pattern of systematically re-broadcasting local news outlets’ stories.

The linking pattern is also consistent: a large number of story links are Bitly-wrapped, and links to local outlets often originate through RSS or Google Feedproxy — to some degree co-opting local outlets’ content streams in an attempt to establish themselves and connect with local audiences.</p>

The collapse in local news outlets in the US (largely mirrored in the UK) magnifies this effect.
Russia  trolls  twitter  us  election  interference 
february 2018 by charlesarthur
Six top US intelligence chiefs caution against buying Huawei phones • CNBC
Sara Salinas:
<p>Six top U.S. intelligence chiefs told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday they would not advise Americans to use products or services from Chinese smartphone maker Huawei.

The six — including the heads of the CIA, FBI, NSA and the director of national intelligence — first expressed their distrust of Apple-rival Huawei and fellow Chinese telecom company ZTE in reference to public servants and state agencies.

When prompted during the hearing, all six indicated they would not recommend private citizens use products from the Chinese companies.

"We're deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don't share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks," FBI Director Chris Wray testified.

"That provides the capacity to exert pressure or control over our telecommunications infrastructure," Wray said. "It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information. And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage."</p>

Paranoia? Or justifiable caution? After all, nothing is proven here, and other western governments (including the UK) don't have those concerns - though I don't know if anyone at GCHQ would use a Huawei phone. Wonder what they do use?
Huawei  us  security 
february 2018 by charlesarthur
Army rips out Chinese-made surveillance cameras overlooking US base • WSJ
Dan Strumpf:
<p>The U.S. Army said it removed surveillance cameras made by a Chinese state-backed manufacturer from a domestic military base, while a congressional committee plans to hold a hearing this month into whether small businesses face cybersecurity risks from using the equipment.

Fort Leonard Wood, an Army base in Missouri’s Ozarks, replaced five cameras on the base branded and made by Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co. , said Col. Christopher Beck, the base’s chief of staff. He said officials at the base acted after reading media reports about the company.

“We never believed [the cameras] were a security risk. They were always on a closed network,” Col. Beck said. The decision to replace the cameras was meant to “remove any negative perception” surrounding them following media reports, he added, without elaborating…

…A Defense Department spokesman said the Hikvision cameras at Fort Leonard Wood weren’t connected to the military network. He said the department is conducting a review of all network-connected cameras on the base to ensure they are “in compliance with all security updates.” The spokesman declined to comment on whether Hikvision cameras are in use at other military facilities.</p>

There's no threat but they don't want it to look bad? That's shonky. However plenty of these cameras are amazingly insecure; the Mirai and Reaper botnets feast on this stuff.
us  army  cctv  china 
january 2018 by charlesarthur
How a Radio Shack robbery could spur a new era in digital privacy • The New York Times
There's a Supreme Court case with a decision expected in June which could have a huge effect on privacy law in the US:
<p>The case concerns Timothy Ivory Carpenter, who witnesses said had planned the robberies, supplied guns and served as lookout, typically waiting in a stolen car across the street. “At his signal, the robbers entered the store, brandished their guns, herded customers and employees to the back, and ordered the employees to fill the robbers’ bags with new smartphones,” a court decision said, summarizing the evidence against him.

In addition to presenting testimony, prosecutors relied on months of records obtained from cellphone companies to prove their case. The records showed that Mr. Carpenter’s phone had been nearby when several of the robberies happened. He was convicted and sentenced to 116 years in prison.

Mr. Carpenter’s lawyers said cellphone companies had turned over 127 days of records that placed his phone at 12,898 locations, based on information from cellphone towers. Prosecutors could tell whether he had slept at home on given nights and whether he attended his usual church on Sunday mornings.

“Never before in the history of policing has the government had the time machine it has here,” said Nathan Freed Wessler, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents Mr. Carpenter. Mr. Wessler said prosecutors should be required to obtain a warrant when they seek more than 24 hours’ worth of location data.</p>
privacy  us  digital 
november 2017 by charlesarthur
America is now an outlier on driving deaths • The New York Times
David Leonhardt:
<p>This week, millions of Americans will climb into their cars to visit family. Unfortunately, they will have to travel on the most dangerous roads in the industrialized world.

It didn’t used to be this way. A generation ago, driving in the United States was relatively safe. Fatality rates here in 1990 were roughly 10% lower than in Canada and Australia, two other affluent nations with a lot of open road.

Over the last few decades, however, other countries have embarked on evidence-based campaigns to reduce vehicle crashes. The United States has not. The fatality rate has still fallen here, thanks partly to safer vehicles, but it’s fallen far less than anywhere else.

As a result, this country has turned into a <a href="">disturbing outlier</a>. Our vehicle fatality rate is about 40% higher than Canada’s or Australia’s. The comparison with Slovenia is embarrassing. In 1990, its death rate was more than five times as high as ours. Today, the Slovenians have safer roads.</p>

The main cause? Excessive speed and failure to use seatbelts (one in seven Americans doesn't).
driving  us  statistics 
november 2017 by charlesarthur
Russian journalists publish massive investigation into St. Petersburg troll factory's U.S. operations • Meduza
<p>The Internet Research Agency, Russia’s infamous “troll farm,” <a href="">reportedly</a> devoted up to a third of its entire staff to meddling in U.S. politics during the 2016 presidential election. At the peak of the campaign, as many as 90 people were working for the IRA’s U.S. desk, sources told RBC, revealing that the entire agency employs upwards of 250 people. Salaries for staff working in the U.S. department apparently range from 80,000 to 120,000 rubles ($1,400 to $2,100) per month.

The head of the IRA’s U.S. desk is apparently a man originally from Azerbaijan named Dzheikhun Aslanov (though he denies any involvement with the troll factory).

In August and September this year, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter suspended 118 communities and accounts run by the St. Petersburg “troll factory,” disabling a network capable of reaching 6 million subscribers. In 2016, at the height of the U.S. presidential campaign, this network reportedly produced content that reached 30 million people each week.

A source also told RBC that the Internet Research Agency spent almost $80,000 over two years, hiring roughly 100 local American activists to stage about 40 rallies in different cities across the United States. The activists were hired over the Internet, communicating in English, without their knowledge that they were accepting money or organizing support from a Russian organization. According to RBC, internal records from the IRA verify its role in these activities.

The main activity in the troll factory’s U.S. desk was to incite racial animosity (playing both sides of the issue), and promoting the secession of Texas, objections to illegal immigration, and gun rights.</p>
russia  us  election  hacking  socialwarming 
october 2017 by charlesarthur
2017 US music sales are up 17%; streaming is up 48% • Recode
Peter Kafka:
<p>More than 30 million people are now paying for a subscription streaming service in the U.S., which pushed streaming revenue up 48%, to $2.5 billion, in the first half of the year. Streaming now accounts for 62% of the U.S. music business.

And that’s pushing the overall music business back up again, after a fall that started in 1999, with the ascent of Napster, and didn’t stop until a couple years ago. Retail sales were up 17%, to $4bn, and wholesale shipments were up 14.6%, to $2.7bn.

Meanwhile, iTunes-style digital download sales continue to fall. They’re down 24 percent. Because why buy songs for a dollar when you can legally stream (almost) anything you want for a price that ranges between zero and $10 a month?

One surprise: Physical sales — things you buy that you can hold in your hand, like in the olden days — are nearly flat, down just 1%. That’s partly because of you hipsters and your facial hair, who pushed vinyl sales up 3%. But it’s also because some of you still like CDs, and maybe you’re always going to like CDs. Those sales were only down 3%.</p>

What I find puzzling is that anyone is paying for downloads, given that Spotify has a free tier. Except, I guess, the instances where albums are only released for download. But that can't be a substantial number.
spotify  streaming  us 
september 2017 by charlesarthur
Partisanship, propaganda, and disinformation: online media and the 2016 US presidential election • Berkman Klein Center
<p>In this study, we analyze both mainstream and social media coverage of the 2016 United States presidential election. We document that the majority of mainstream media coverage was negative for both candidates, but largely followed Donald Trump’s agenda: when reporting on Hillary Clinton, coverage primarily focused on the various scandals related to the Clinton Foundation and emails. When focused on Trump, major substantive issues, primarily immigration, were prominent. Indeed, immigration emerged as a central issue in the campaign and served as a defining issue for the Trump campaign.

We find that the structure and composition of media on the right and left are quite different. The leading media on the right and left are rooted in different traditions and journalistic practices. On the conservative side, more attention was paid to pro-Trump, highly partisan media outlets. On the liberal side, by contrast, the center of gravity was made up largely of long-standing media organizations steeped in the traditions and practices of objective journalism.

Our data supports lines of research on polarization in American politics that focus on the asymmetric patterns between the left and the right, rather than studies that see polarization as a general historical phenomenon, driven by technology or other mechanisms that apply across the partisan divide.</p>

And yes, Facebook and Twitter are in there.
socialmedia  research  politics  us 
september 2017 by charlesarthur
Russians have hacked dozens of US energy companies, researchers say • Buzzfeed
Kevin Collier:
<p>A hacker group linked to the Russian government has acquired an unprecedented level of access to companies that supply power to the US power grid, a cybersecurity firm says.

Symantec, a California-based firm that provides cybersecurity services and worldwide research against online threats, says the group, which it’s nicknamed Dragonfly 2.0, <a href="">may have compromised</a> more than a dozen American companies in recent months.

Dragonfly – also called Crouching Yeti, or Energetic Bear, depending on which researcher you talk to – was an established hacker group that attacked energy sector targets around the world from at least 2011 until 2014, when it went quiet after its tactics were exposed by public research. Researchers at Symantec have declined to specifically cite Russia as the culprit, though they do say it’s a state-sponsored attack. Researchers at other firms, like CrowdStrike and FireEye, have tied Dragonfly to the Russian government.

“This is the first time we’ve seen this scale, this aggressiveness, and this level of penetration in the US, for sure,” Eric Chien, technical director of Symantec’s Security Technology & Response Division, told BuzzFeed News.

“What we’re seeing is them getting into dozens, as far as we know, likely more, of organizations who are basically energy companies. We’re talking about organizations who are supplying power to the power grid,” Chien said.</p>

Not "on-off" capability, but concerning even so.
symantec  us  power  hacking 
september 2017 by charlesarthur
What do US wireless operators want in the next iPhone? • BTIG Research
Walter Piecyk:
<p>We estimate that iPhones represent nearly half of all smartphones in the United States. Wireless operators and investors are therefore very interested in what technologies and spectrum bands are included each year as they can determine whether these companies are able to leverage their network and spectrum investments. Adding spectrum to a network doesn’t do much good if the smartphones don’t take advantage of it. Unfortunately, the operators don’t really know for sure what is included in each iPhone prior to its launch. So, here’s a quick review of what each national wireless operator in the United States would like included this year.</p>

This is pretty technical, but would be useful to anyone who's really into phone/network interaction.
iphone  us  wireless  modem 
september 2017 by charlesarthur
Russian election hacking efforts, wider than previously known, draw little scrutiny • The New York Times
Nicole Perlroth, Michael Wines And Matthew Rosenberg:
<p>The calls started flooding in from hundreds of irate North Carolina voters just after 7 a.m. on Election Day last November.

Dozens were told they were ineligible to vote and were turned away at the polls, even when they displayed current registration cards. Others were sent from one polling place to another, only to be rejected. Scores of voters were incorrectly told they had cast ballots days earlier. In one precinct, voting halted for two hours.

Susan Greenhalgh, a troubleshooter at a nonpartisan election monitoring group, was alarmed. Most of the complaints came from Durham, a blue [Democrat]-leaning county in a swing state. The problems involved electronic poll books — tablets and laptops, loaded with check-in software, that have increasingly replaced the thick binders of paper used to verify voters’ identities and registration status. She knew that the company that provided Durham’s software, VR Systems, had been penetrated by Russian hackers months before.

“It felt like tampering, or some kind of cyberattack,” Ms. Greenhalgh said about the voting troubles in Durham.

There are plenty of other reasons for such breakdowns — local officials blamed human error and software malfunctions — and no clear-cut evidence of digital sabotage has emerged, much less a Russian role in it. Despite the disruptions, a record number of votes were cast in Durham, following a pattern there of overwhelming support for Democratic presidential candidates, this time Hillary Clinton.

But months later, for Ms. Greenhalgh, other election security experts and some state officials, questions still linger about what happened that day in Durham as well as other counties in North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Arizona.</p>
election  hacking  us 
september 2017 by charlesarthur
Struggling Americans once sought greener pastures—now they’re stuck • WSJ
Janet Adamy and Paul Overberg on how people aren't moving for jobs any more in the US:
<p>For many rural residents across the country with low incomes, government aid programs such as Medicaid, which has benefits that vary by state, can provide a disincentive to leave. One in 10 West Branch residents lives in low-income housing, which was virtually nonexistent a generation ago. Civic leaders here say extended networks of friends and family and a tradition of church groups that will cover heating bills, car repairs and septic services—often with no questions asked—also dissuade the jobless and underemployed from leaving.

Tom Quinn, president of the local Kirtland Community College, says the rationale boils down to: “I’ve got good social services. I’m stuck in one big rut. If you ask me to go to Indianapolis, I can’t—even if there’s a job there.”

<img src="" width="100%" />

“People can’t move,” says Mandi Chasey, county economic development director.

Another obstacle to mobility is the growth of state-level job-licensing requirements, which now cover a range of professions from bartenders and florists to turtle farmers and scrap-metal recyclers. A 2015 White House report found that more than one-quarter of U.S. workers now require a license to do their jobs, with the share licensed at the state level rising fivefold since the 1950s.

Janna E. Johnson and Morris M. Kleiner of the University of Minnesota found in a nationwide study that barbers and cosmetologists—occupations that tend to require people to obtain new state licenses when they relocate—are 22% less likely to move between states than workers whose blue-collar occupations don’t require them.</p>

Remarkable: a combination of housing costs, healthcare costs, and weird licensing. Since when did a barber require a licence? Why?
us  mobility 
august 2017 by charlesarthur
The government should fight ‘corporate villainy’ in tech, Senator Cory Booker says • Recode
Eric Johnson:
<p>“We’ve got to start having a conversation in this country: How are we going to measure the success of the tech sector?” [Democratic senator] Booker asked. “Is it by its ability to create a small handful of billionaires, or the ability for us to create pro-democracy forces — empowering individuals, improving quality of life, improving financial security, expanding opportunity — the kind of things we want largely for democracy?”

Booker compared the size and power of Silicon Valley to Wall Street and indicated that he’d like to see America being more aggressive, like the E.U., which levied a $2.7 billion fine levied on Google last month.

“We have regulatory agencies that just aren’t doing their jobs,” Booker said. “You see this with big banks. The entire crisis we just came through, what’s amazing to me is we haven’t learned the lessons and we’re not protecting the consumer.”

“So should the U.S. government take a look at Google?” Romm asked.

“I think the U.S. government absolutely should take a look at Google,” Booker said.

“On grounds for an antitrust case?”

“I think the U.S. government should be far more active in antitrust actions because when they have taken actions, it’s often created collateral benefits to society.</p>
us  technology  legal  antitrust 
july 2017 by charlesarthur
Will the death of US retail be the next Big Short? • FT
Robin Wigglesworth has a long read on this:
<p>Private equity firms and hedge funds that specialise in corporate upheaval — so-called distressed debt investors that snap up struggling companies, taking them over in a restructuring and hopefully engineering a recovery — are largely shunning traditional retail, wary of the immense challenges, according to restructuring advisers.

Victor Khosla, founder and senior managing partner of Strategic Value Partners, a $6bn distressed debt hedge fund, says the list of troubled retailers his firm now monitors is “extraordinarily long”, but he is staying well away.

“Trying to figure out the bottom is hard. We have spent a lot of energy understanding these businesses, and have concluded that the vast majority of them are uninvestable,” he says. “Many of these were great businesses at some point in time, but the internet and changing consumer habits have destroyed them.”

Some retail chief executives who have managed to build relatively successful digital operations complain that their share prices are too low and are unfairly punished for the broader industry malaise. That may be, but “I remember hearing homebuilders say the same in 2006”, one hedge fund manager recalls, pointing out that even for traditional retailers the shift will be painful, given that people tend to make less impulsive purchases on the internet.

“A lot of incidental consumption doesn’t happen online. Most people don’t wander the digital aisles,” he says. A dollar spent in a shop in practice only translates to 80-90 cents online, even though costs are lower. Data released on Friday showed that core retail sales in June fell for a second month running for the first time since early 2015.</p>

It's a terrific piece. You've heard about the impending death of US retail; this puts in the essential numbers. It might not be the next big short, but it's a short, as one hedge fund manager puts it.
us  retail 
july 2017 by charlesarthur
American democracy is now under siege by both cyber-espionage and GOP voter suppression • The Nation
Ari Berman:
<p>In September 2010, the District of Columbia unveiled a pilot project to enable overseas residents and people serving in the military to vote over the Internet, and invited users to test the system. Within 36 hours, University of Michigan computer scientist J. Alex Halderman and his team were able to hack into it, flipping votes to candidates named after famous computers, like HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and playing the Michigan fight song, “The Victors,” after every recorded vote. Amazingly, it took two days for election officials in DC to notice the hack and take the system down. The pilot project was eventually scrapped.

Though online voting remains a distant prospect in American politics, this wasn’t the first election system that Halderman hacked. On June 21, 2017, he testified before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee in a hearing on “Russian Interference in the 2016 U.S. Elections.” “My conclusion,” Halderman told the committee, “is that our highly computerized election infrastructure is vulnerable to sabotage, and even to cyber-attacks that could change votes.”

“Dr. Halderman, you’re pretty good at hacking voting machines, by your testimony,” Senator Angus King of Maine observed. “Do you think the Russians are as good as you?”

“The Russians have the resources of a nation-state,” Halderman replied. “I would say their capabilities would significantly exceed mine.”

It is now clear that Russian interference in the 2016 elections went far beyond hacking Democratic National Committee e-mails; it struck at the heart of America’s democratic process. “As of right now, we have evidence of election-related systems in 21 states that were tar-geted,” Jeanette Manfra, the chief cyber-security official at the Department of Homeland Security, testified at the Senate hearing.</p>

Strangely, nobody on the winning side (the GOP) seems overly concerned about this.
us  democracy  voting  hacking 
july 2017 by charlesarthur
U.S. officials say Russian government hackers have penetrated energy and nuclear company business networks • The Washington Post
Ellen Nakashima:
<p>Russian government hackers were behind recent cyber-intrusions into the business systems of US nuclear power and other energy companies in what appears to be an effort to assess their networks, according to US government officials.

The US officials said there is no evidence the hackers breached or disrupted the core systems controlling operations at the plants, so the public was not at risk. Rather, they said, the hackers broke into systems dealing with business and administrative tasks, such as personnel.

At the end of June, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security sent a joint alert to the energy sector stating that “advanced, persistent threat actors” — a euphemism for sophisticated foreign hackers — were stealing network log-in and password information to gain a foothold in company networks. The agencies did not name Russia.

The campaign marks the first time Russian government hackers are known to have wormed their way into the networks of American nuclear power companies, several US and industry officials said. And the penetration could be a sign that Russia is seeking to lay the groundwork for more damaging hacks.</p>

Must just be preparation for that impenetrable joint cyber security thingamajig they're going to set up jointly.
russia  hacking  us 
july 2017 by charlesarthur
Demographics of mobile device ownership and adoption in the US • Pew Research Center
<p>A substantial majority of Americans are cellphone owners across a wide range of demographic groups. By contrast, smartphone ownership exhibits greater variation based on age, household income and educational attainment.</p>

The demographics are the second group here - you have to scroll down the page past the smartphone ownership growth data. Notable falloff among those over 65, those who didn't graduate from high school (equivalent to secondary school in UK, ie like leaving school after GCSE), those earning under $30,000pa. The latter two - or all three - groups might intersect substantially. Rural ownership is also comparatively low.
smartphone  us 
july 2017 by charlesarthur
EPA: Pruitt will launch program to 'critique' climate science • E+E News
Emily Holden:
<p>US EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is leading a formal initiative to challenge mainstream climate science using a "back-and-forth critique" by government-recruited experts, according to a senior administration official.

The program will use "red team, blue team" exercises to conduct an "at-length evaluation of US climate science," the official said, referring to a concept developed by the military to identify vulnerabilities in field operations.

"The administrator believes that we will be able to recruit the best in the fields which study climate and will organize a specific process in which these individuals ... provide back-and-forth critique of specific new reports on climate science," the source said.

"We are in fact very excited about this initiative," the official added. "Climate science, like other fields of science, is constantly changing. A new, fresh and transparent evaluation is something everyone should support doing."

The disclosure follows the administration's suggestions over several days that it supports reviewing climate science outside the normal peer-review process used by scientists. This is the first time agency officials acknowledged that Pruitt has begun that process. The source said Energy Secretary Rick Perry also favors the review.

Executives in the coal industry interpret the move as a step toward challenging the endangerment finding, the agency's legal foundation for regulating greenhouse gases from cars, power plants and other sources. Robert Murray, CEO of Murray Energy, said Pruitt assured him yesterday that he plans to begin reviewing the endangerment finding within months.</p>

This may be the first ever example of gaslighting with the sole purpose of enabling (greenhouse) gaslighting. The problem though is that if the US indulges in this sort of lies-for-truth replacement, everyone suffers.
climatechange  us  epa 
july 2017 by charlesarthur
Researcher finds Georgia voter records exposed on internet • Associated Press
Frank Bajak:
<p>The true dimensions of the failure were first reported Wednesday by Politico Magazine. The affected Center for Election Systems referred all questions to its host, Kennesaw State University, which declined comment. In March, the university had mischaracterized the flaw’s discovery as a security breach.

Logan Lamb, a 29-year-old Atlanta-based private security researcher formerly with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, made the discovery last August. He told The Associated Press he decided to go public after the publication last week of a classified National Security Agency report describing a sophisticated scheme, allegedly by Russian military intelligence, to infiltrate local U.S. elections systems using phishing emails.

The NSA report offered the most detailed account yet of an attempt by foreign agents to probe the rickety and poorly funded U.S. elections system. The Department of Homeland Security had previously reported attempts last year to gain unauthorized access to voter registration databases in 20 states — one of which, in Illinois, succeeded, though the state says no harm resulted.

It also emboldened Lamb to come forward with his findings. Lamb discovered the security hole — a misconfigured server — one day as he did a search of the Kennesaw State election-systems website. There, he found a directory open to the internet that contained not just the state voter database, but PDF files with instructions and passwords used by poll workers to sign into a central server used on Election Day, said Lamb.

“It was an open invitation to anybody pretending to even know a little bit about computers to get into the system,” said Marilyn Marks, an election-transparency activist whose Colorado-based foundation participated in a failed lawsuit that sought to bar the use of paperless voting machines in next week’s election.</p>

Linked to this rather than Politico because of Lamb's action: the NSA story that the Intercept ran (leaked, remember, by someone who heard an Intercept podcast wondering about extent of Russian hacking) prompted Lamb to come forward. Dominoes fall.

More to the point, the US's election system is beginning to look unfit for purpose in the modern world. Sure, I take the point (American readers) that US elections can involve multiple topics on big ballot papers. That doesn't mean the answer is insecure, unauditable systems for convenience, though.
nsa  russia  us  hacking  voting 
june 2017 by charlesarthur
Don't blame China for the fall of American steel • Bloomberg Gadfly
David Fickling:
<p>With Trump's Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross set to announce possible anti-dumping measures to protect the U.S. industry as soon as this week, though, it's worth asking whether that relationship is as straightforward as it seems. After all, about the closest thing the global steel industry has to a fundamental law of nature is the steel intensity curve.Poor countries use very little steel per unit of gross domestic product. As they industrialize, this steel intensity increases rapidly, to the point where the country starts to transition toward consumer-led growth. At that point, steel intensity starts to slip again, as spending shifts from industrial products like machinery and buildings, to less metal-intensive categories, such as yoga mats and degustation menus:

<img src="" width="100%" />
<em>Steel intensity curves. Source: EY</em>

Considered in the context of the evolution of steel intensity, it's clear that U.S. metal output isn't declining because of overseas competition, but because as America gets richer, it's buying different stuff.

Employment is also suffering because the steel the U.S. does still produce is being made more efficiently: Labor productivity in the U.S. primary metal sector has risen from 54 in 1987 to 115 in 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

You have to squint quite hard to even see Chinese steel imports to the U.S., when compared to the size of the domestic trade. </p>
steel  us  trade 
june 2017 by charlesarthur
How to hack an election without really trying • Matt Blaze
Blaze (for those who don't know) is an expert cryptographer who demonstrated in the 1990s that the Clinton administration's plan for "key escrow" was fatally flawed. When it comes to hacking, he's reliable. He wrote this - and then the addendum - on the NSA report into election hacking:
<p>In the immediate term, we need to find out the extent to which county election systems have been compromised. Every voting machine as well as every computer on every county election office network in the US needs to be carefully forensically examined, and any evidence of compromise investigated. That might be an expensive and laborious process, but it is our only hope of unraveling the extent to which our elections were tampered with (if they were at all), to say nothing of cleaning up any malware left behind for the next election.

In the longer term, we need better, more secure, robust and auditable voting systems. Many states are still using insecure touch-screen "DRE" systems that have been shown to suffer from serious, exploitable vulnerabilities and that provide no ability for meaningful recounts. Our democracy deserves better than that, and we now have even more reason to demand it.

Update 13 June 2017: According to <a href="">this Bloomberg News article</a>, the attack (and the investigation) was indeed more widespread than this particular NSA document would suggest, and involved voter registration databases and possibly other election systems in at least 39 states. It remains unclear if the ultimate intended targets were the registration systems themselves (which would disrupt election operations) or other county backend voting infrastructure (including voting machines and tallying software) that might share the same networks (which could compromise the tally). The full extent is simply unknown at this point. This underscores the the need to throughly forensically examine every one of the thousands of state, local and county voting system and network in the US for evidence of malware and tampering. This would be a non-trivial undertaking, and does not appear to have been been done yet, at least at any scale. But until this occurs, there is simply no way to be sure of any damage, or if any systems might still be running left behind compromised software during the next election.</p>

In the UK we counted more than 30 million paper votes in a single night. It only takes organisation, and it's pretty resistant to hacking.
hacking  election  russia  us 
june 2017 by charlesarthur
The US has forgotten how to do infrastructure • Bloomberg
Noah Smith:
<p>There is reason to suspect that high US costs are part of a deeper problem. For example, construction seems to take a lot longer in the US than in other countries. In China, a 30-story building can be completed in only 15 days. In Japan, giant sinkholes get fully repaired in one week. Even in the US of a century ago, construction was pretty fast - the Empire State Building went up in 410 days.

Yet today, it takes the US many years to spend the money that Congress allocates for infrastructure. New buildings seem to linger half-built for months or years, with construction workers often nowhere to be found. Subways can take decades. Even in the private sector, there are problems - productivity in the homebuilding sector has fallen in recent decades.

That suggests that US costs are high due to general inefficiency - inefficient project management, an inefficient government contracting process, and inefficient regulation. It suggests that construction, like health care or asset management or education, is an area where Americans have simply ponied up more and more cash over the years while ignoring the fact that they were getting less and less for their money. To fix the problems choking US construction, reformers are going to have to go through the system and rip out the inefficiencies root and branch.

Unfortunately, this is going to be hard, given all the vested interests and institutional inertia blocking deep reform of the construction sector. As [Matt] Yglesias <a href="">ruefully notes</a>, a study by the Government Accountability Office looking into the problem of high train-construction costs was recently killed by Congress, with no explanation given.</p>

Before you kneejerk, the article goes through possible culprits (salaries; unions; land acquisition costs; geography) and finds none explains it. A side-by-side comparison of two projects, one in the US and one elsewhere, would be educative. But it seems the GAO has been told not to look into this either.
economics  infrastructure  us 
june 2017 by charlesarthur
American retail’s fast, furious decline • National Review
Kevin D. Williamson:
<p>The migration of retail out of shops and onto the Internet has been significant — last year saw online retail pass a symbolically important milestone, accounting for 51% of all purchases — but it wasn’t radical or unexpected. In fact, the retail building boom really kicked off at the same time as the rise of online commerce: in the middle to late 1990s. Which is to say, the retail-space bubble inflated in parallel with two other important bubbles: the dot-com bubble and the much more significant housing bubble.

When housing prices were skyrocketing around the turn of the century, Americans did not use all that new wealth to pay down household debt or start high-tech enterprises in their garages or anything like that: They monetized that equity and bought gigantic televisions. They bought new furniture and clothes and shoes, and the consumer-goods market began to look like another one of those can’t-miss propositions that come along and cause trouble every few years. Retailers and developers responded by building new shops and strip malls, taking advantage of millennial-era cheap money to leverage the hell out of themselves in the quest for growth and volume. They loaded themselves up with debt that is perfectly bearable when profit margins are 11% but deadly when they’re 7%.

In addition to cheap money, they also took advantage of a lot of free money: Note that even as it struggles with a zombie mall and high vacancy rates in nearby retail centers, Midwest City is using tax dollars to subsidize the development of yet more retail space on the other side of town, the world of Panera and Starbucks. More retail space means more sales-tax revenue, and if you take a short-term and relatively narrow view — the typical political view — then spending a few million dollars to make sure that whatever new conglomeration of Pei Wei, HomeGoods, and Lane Bryant is getting built gets built in your taxing jurisdiction rather than the one next door looks like a pretty good investment. Which it is.

Until it isn’t.</p>

Again, the collapse of US retail is going to be one of the stories that will come upon people gradually, and then suddenly, and the economic effects have a wide blast radius. People lose jobs. Cities lose tax revenue from people and retailers. You don't have to pull on that thread for long to see bad effects.
Retail  jobs  taxes  us 
may 2017 by charlesarthur
Americans hang up on landlines as cellphone homes dominate • Associated Press
Anick Jesdanun:
<p>Deborah Braswell, a university administrator in Alabama, is a member of a dwindling group — people with a landline phone at home.

According to a U.S. government study released Thursday, 50.8% of homes and apartments had only cellphone service in the latter half of 2016, the first time such households attained a majority in the survey. Braswell and her family are part of the 45.9% that still have landline phones. The remaining households have no phone service at all.

More than 39 percent of U.S. households — including Braswell’s — have both landline and cellphone service. The landline comes in handy when someone misplaces one of the seven cellphones kicking around her three-story house in a Birmingham suburb. “You walk around your house calling yourself to find it,” she says.

It’s also useful when someone breaks or loses a cellphone and has to wait for a replacement.

Renters and younger adults are more likely to have just a cellphone, which researchers attribute to their mobility and comfort with newer technologies.

The in-person survey of 19,956 households was part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health Interview Survey, which tracks landline use in order to assure representative samples in ongoing health studies. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 1 percentage point.</p>

<a href="">Full data here</a>. The percentage of households only with mobiles has gone from a couple of percent in spring 2003 to over 50%. (One takes it their internet is "bare cable" where the ISP doesn't tie provision to having a landline phone contract - as is effectively obligatory in the UK.)

However the data show that poorer households are less likely to have a landline (66% v 49%); ditto for renters v homeowners (71% v 41%).
mobile  household  us 
may 2017 by charlesarthur
Technology-enabled gig workers and labor • Pew Research Center
<p>Participation in technology-enabled gig work varies by a number of factors, with age being among the most prominent. Some 16% of 18- to 29-year-olds have earned money from online gig work platforms in the last year – roughly five times the share among those ages 50 and older (3%). The median age of U.S. adults who are gig platform earners is just 32 years old. When it comes to the specific types of work that they do, young adults are especially likely to gravitate towards online task work. Fully 12% of 18- to 29-year-olds have earned money doing online tasks, but that share falls to 4% for Americans ages 30 to 49 and just 1% among those 50 and older.

Along with these differences by age, platform work is also more prevalent among blacks and Latinos than among whites. Some 14% of blacks and 11% of Latinos have earned money in the last year from online gig work platforms, but just 5% of whites have done so.</p>

Around 8% of American adults have done some sort of gig work. You can interpret the above paragraphs two ways: gig work is producing new opportunities for work; or it's simply providing a new method to exploit people who didn't have rights before and don't get them now.
gig  us  work 
may 2017 by charlesarthur
This 3D map shows the price per square foot of US housing markets • Visual Capitalist
Jeff Desjardins:
<p>A county-level analysis may be the easiest to understand, and by using average price per square foot we have a more universal denominator. After all, a house bought in Hawaii might be more expensive than a small loft in New York City – but it might also be 5x the size.

The visualization above focuses in on price per square foot at the county-level – and the results are clear: New York, San Francisco, and Aspen (Pitkin County) stand out.</p>

This is a remarkable piece of work. Is there anything comparable for the UK? You'll probably be able to recognise San Francisco and New York on the coasts. But there's a giant spike in the middle of the US that might puzzle you - until you look at its name.

No doubt someone will also overlay voting from the 2016 election onto this too.
housing  price  data  us 
march 2017 by charlesarthur
Drug firms poured 780m painkillers into West Virginia amid rise of overdoses • Charleston Gazette-Mail
Eric Eyre:
<p>Rural and poor, Mingo County has the fourth-highest prescription opioid death rate of any county in the United States.

The trail also weaves through Wyoming County, where shipments of OxyContin have doubled, and the county's overdose death rate leads the nation. One mom-and-pop pharmacy in Oceana received 600 times as many oxycodone pills as the Rite Aid drugstore just eight blocks away.

In six years, drug wholesalers showered the state with 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills, while 1,728 West Virginians fatally overdosed on those two painkillers, a Sunday Gazette-Mail investigation found.

The unfettered shipments amount to 433 pain pills for every man, woman and child in West Virginia.

“These numbers will shake even the most cynical observer,” said former Delegate Don Perdue, D-Wayne, a retired pharmacist who finished his term earlier this month. “Distributors have fed their greed on human frailties and to criminal effect. There is no excuse and should be no forgiveness.”

The Gazette-Mail obtained previously confidential drug shipping sales records sent by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey's office. The records disclose the number of pills sold to every pharmacy in the state and the drug companies' shipments to all 55 counties in West Virginia between 2007 and 2012.

The wholesalers and their lawyers fought to keep the sales numbers secret in previous court actions brought by the newspaper.

The state's southern counties have been ravaged by a disproportionate number of pain pills and fatal drug overdoses, records show.

The region includes the top four counties — Wyoming, McDowell, Boone and Mingo — for fatal overdoses caused by pain pills in the U.S., according to CDC data analyzed by the Gazette-Mail…

…For more than a decade, the same distributors disregarded rules to report suspicious orders for controlled substances in West Virginia to the state Board of Pharmacy, the Gazette-Mail found. And the board failed to enforce the same regulations that were on the books since 2001, while giving spotless inspection reviews to small-town pharmacies in the southern counties that ordered more pills than could possibly be taken by people who really needed medicine for pain.</p>

The narrative among some is that these opioids are coming from Mexican drug dealers. Nothing of the sort: this is drugs companies. They, however, blame unscrupulous doctors and pharmacies; though this clearly shows that they overlooked suspicious situations which benefited them financially.

Though as the followup article explains, the state's pharmacy board <a href="">then ignored actionable data</a>.
drugs  addiction  us 
march 2017 by charlesarthur
The fake freedom of American health care • The New York Times
Anu Partanen, an exported Finn, on the madness of US healthcare funding:
<p>Overall, Americans spend far more of their hard-earned money on health care than citizens of any other country, by a very wide margin. This means that it is in fact Americans who are getting a raw deal. Americans pay much more than people in other countries but do not get significantly better results.

The trouble with a free-market approach is that health care is an immensely complicated and expensive industry, in which the individual rarely has much actual market power. It is not like buying a consumer product, where choosing not to buy will not endanger one’s life. It’s also not like buying some other service tailored to individual demands, because for the most part we can’t predict our future health care needs.</p>

It's the latter point which is key. Will you get cancer? You don't know. If you do, will it be easy or difficult to treat? Same answer. How much healthcare will you need in the future? None of us knows for sure. But if you spread the cost over the widest possible group, by funding it from taxes and then providing it as needed, you can make broadly accurate estimates about healthcare needs. The only problem is delivery. The US system is so far from optimal that it's a testament to the power of ideology that it is retained.
healthcare  us 
march 2017 by charlesarthur
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