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Donald Trump on Wednesday (June 20) issued an executive order rescinding the policy of separating the children of immigrants and refugees from their parents at the US-Mexico border. But 2,342 children have already been forcibly separated from their parents—exposing them to the kind of stress experts say can have serious, negative long-term consequences for their development. And the order signed by Trump makes no move to reunite those children with their families.
Adversity in general is bad for kids. Things like poverty, racism, abuse, exposure to violence abuse can all produce what neuroscientists and development experts call toxic stress. Those issues do not have simple solutions. But the forcible, sudden separation of children from their parents is entirely avoidable.
“Here we have taken away what science has said is the most potent protector of children in the face of any adversity—the stability of the parent-child relationship,” says Jack Shonkoff, director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.
“This is not a scientific issue—it’s a fundamental, moral disaster.”
Why family separations are so devastating
When children are forcibly, abruptly separated from a parent or trusted caregiver, stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol flood their systems. Over time, those hormones can start killing off neurons, causing both short- and long-term consequences that may cause learning and behavioral problems and/or physical and mental health issues, Shonkoff explains.
Children’s stress response systems, if persistently triggered over more than a brief encounter, can affect the immune system, the cardiovascular system, the metabolic system—and even alter the physical structure of the brain. The longer the separation, the worse the impact of the stress is likely to be.
“Every day that goes by that they remain separated from their parents is producing continuing activation of their stress responses, which is having a wear and tear effect on their developing brain and all of their biological systems,” Shonkoff says.
According to the attachment theory, developed in 1958 by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, young children’s sense of security is rooted in their relationships with caregivers. That in turn shapes their social, cognitive, and emotional regulation skills. Separating a child from the caregiver puts the child’s long-term development at risk.
“The effect is catastrophic,” Charles Nelson, a pediatrics professor at Harvard Medical School, told the Washington Post. “There’s so much research on this that if people paid attention at all to the science, they would never do this.”
Since 2000, Nelson and his team have studied thousands of Romanian orphans to understand the neurological impact of separating children from their parents. They found that children separated from their parents in the first two years of life scored lower on IQ tests later in life. Their self-regulation was worse, and their stress reaction systems seemed broken: the things that would cause a typically-developing child to stress out would not have the same effect on them. MRI scans showed that by age eight, these children had less gray and white matter in their brains than children raised by their own families. (White matter is the “information super highway” that moves information around, whereas gray matter is the brain’s central processor.) “Nelson’s work revealed that the orphans’ brains bear marks of neglect,” Nature wrote.
“Children who experience profound neglect early in life, if you don’t reverse that by the age of two, the chance they will end up with poor development outcomes is high,” Nelson told Quartz.
The US government’s policy is intended to be a temporary separation, not a permanent removal. But once parents and children have been separated by the US government, reuniting them can be incredibly difficult. As The Guardian reports, “Some parents have struggled to find their children, some of whom are being flown to shelters around the country. With no clear process in place, it’s possible some families will never be reunited.”
Science shows there can be enormous consequence to breaking that bond. “As a rule, the longer a child spends in an adverse or neglectful environment, the more difficult it will be to shift that child’s developmental trajectory back to even keel,” said Nelson.
“The only buffer you have is a parent. Take that way and everything falls apart.” Shonkoff is quick to point out that the children being taken from their parents and housed in temporary shelters by the Department of Health and Human Services are already at risk. They have been traveling for weeks or months, usually fleeing from various other forms of adversity—drugs, violence, poverty—and the sole, and most important, source of comfort and stability they have had through that disorienting experience was a parent.
“The unexpected forcible separation from your parents is worse than the ravages of being in a war zone, or being a victim of oppression, or living in deep poverty,” Shonkoff told Quartz. “In all of those, the only buffer you have is a parent. Take that way and everything falls apart.”
What happens to the children in US custody?
The separation is hurtful enough to children’s development; but the conditions of custody themselves can also add to the toxic stress experienced by these kids. And there’s reason to believe that the US government is not always a trustworthy custodian.
For example, a 2016 report found that the Department of Health and Human Services unwittingly released a dozen minors into the custody of human traffickers. And an investigation by The Texas Tribune and Reveal found that one of the shelters funded by the government to house and educate children separated from their parents, the Shiloh Treatment Center, has repeatedly abused and neglected children. A recent court filing with the California District Court alleges that children in the care of Shiloh were forcibly injected with psychotropic medications and told that they would not be released or see their parents unless they took the medication. Immigrant children being housed at a juvenile detention center in Virginia allege that they were handcuffed, beaten, and put into solitary confinement.
Shonkoff has been studying the effect of stress on development since he became a pediatrician in the South Bronx 35 years ago. People have been asking him the same question: What can we do to help? His response is crystal clear: “There’s just one program that should be a priority—to reunite them with their parents immediately,” he says. “Not minimize the consequences of the separation.”
“If children were being fed poison—it’s like asking the question, ‘What’s the antidote for the poison?’ The first thing is to stop giving them poison.”
What happens next
Under the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy, 100% of immigrants attempting to make unauthorized entry into the US at the Mexico border are referred for criminal prosecution. That policy still stands. But under the new executive order, immigration officials from the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which handles the placement of undocumented immigrant children into shelters or with sponsors, will find or build facilities that can hold parents and children together. That could take time.
The language of the executive order has been left intentionally vague. It states that it will be the policy of the administration to detain families together “where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources.” The order to keep families together also only applies to children traveling with one or more parent—but many of the kids crossing the border are traveling with another family member, like a grandparent or a sibling.
In other words, the president’s executive order has not closed the loopholes that permitted these types of family separations to happen in the first place. And it does little to address the trauma and potential long-lasting damage that the US government needlessly inflicted on the more than 2,300 children.
Shonkoff and Nelson say that is always possible to help kids who have suffered trauma. Indeed, we must. “It’s never too late,” Shonkoff said. But every moment matters. Reunification needs to happen immediately, and future policies must be grounded in the incontrovertible biology of parent-child bonds.
This reporting is part of a series supported by a grant from the Bernard van Leer Foundation. The author’s views are not necessarily those of the Bernard van Leer Foundation.
When Kenya launched M-Akiba, a mobile-only government bond, last year, the goal was to offer ordinary citizens access to the nation’s capital markets. All they needed to buy to invest in the government bonds was a mobile money account.
Given mobile money is so ubiquitous in Kenya with over 27 million users—many of whom were unbanked—M-Akiba promised the government access to a new capital base. The bond offered minimum purchase amounts at $30—far less than the $490 previously required for government bonds—with 10% annual interest and a tenor of three years.
One year after it was launched, a study by FSD Africa, a non-profit focused on finance sector development, shows while M-Akiba recorded some success, there is significant room for improvement. As the government hoped, the mobile-only bond helped unlock a new investor base for bonds as 85% of buyers were purchasing a government bond for the first time. M-Akiba also drew buyers from almost all of Kenya’s 47 counties.
But the bond launch also had some failings: the government only raised 8% of its target as less than 5% of the over 300,000 people who registered for the bond actually made a purchase. FSD Africa’s study blames the low uptake on a confusing purchase process which “gave no clear, immediate instruction for how to complete the purchase” as well as a lack of understanding of the product’s key details, including interest rates. The timing of the launch—135 days before Kenya’s general elections—also saw the marketing campaigns for the bond swamped by election-related messaging. More significantly, uncertainty over the incoming government and how the money would be used “may have made people hold on to cash instead of investing.” the study says.
The launch of the bond wasn’t just about encouraging Kenyans to save. The Kenyan government needs a new pool of cheap money to finance large infrastructure projects. Only 2% of government bonds in Kenya are bought and sold by individual investors. In 2016, Kenya had a gross domestic savings rate of 8.4%, well below the sub Saharan Africa average of 16.9%, according to the World Bank.
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For architecture fans, a visit to Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture laboratory Taliesen West is a necessary pilgrimage. Spread across 620 acres (250 hectares) in the Arizona desert, Taliesin West is where the masterful design mind gestated and developed several tenets of his revolutionary organic architecture philosophy. Experiments done at Wright’s winter home resulted in his best known projects including New York’s Guggenheim Museum and Usonian houses across the US.
Knowing that traveling to the desert campus isn’t always possible for everyone, the Chicago-based Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation unveiled a new online 3D portal in New York City yesterday (June 20). Developed with the Swiss geographical survey company Leica Geosystem, the so-called “Frank Lloyd Wright 3D Laboratory” is possibly the most ambitious online architecture tour in terms of scale.
Using a Leica’s latest surveying tool that measures 360,000 points per second, specialists spent a week scanning every nook, object and cactus in Taliesin West’s main buildings. The data was combined with images from an advanced 3D camera used to produce virtual reality experiences and 360° photos typically featured in commercial real estate online tours.
The ambitious architecture scanning project primarily serves the Foundation’s preservation efforts. Because Wright changed aspects of the buildings on the fly—often sketching ideas on butcher paper for his student to build—there are no accurate blueprints of the 81-year old property. “Taliesin West is an extremely complicated building,” explains Fred Prozzillo, the Foundation’s VP of preservation. “Everything is handmade, everything is custom, everything is designed with the environment.” He says that having digital models and accurate measurements finally gives him a basis for future preservation efforts.
The Foundation’s CEO Stuart Graff explains that the 3D Lab was also developed to consider the needs of people with limited mobility. Taliesin West’s terraced campus makes it especially difficult for visitors in wheelchairs to traverse its various levels. Now they can thrill in the sensation of traveling inside Wright’s spaces through VR goggles. Graff says that they also plan to scan Wright’s Taliesin estate in Wisconsin.
Wright at Taliesin studio in Spring Green, Wisconsin.
Disseminating Wright’s legacy comes at a crucial moment as designers seek to both create building and solve growing ecological challenges, says Graff. “More than an architect of buildings, Wright was an architect of ideas whose time has come now with great urgency as we face great challenges to sustainability,” he explains. Taliesin West, whose walls are made with local desert rocks, offers a model for eco-conscious buildings that are perfectly in sync with the landscape.
Lionized as a father of “green architecture,” Wright’s fundamental aspiration was to design structures that harmonize the needs of modern inhabitants with the natural environment. He experimented with local building materials, designed roofs to maximize sunlight throughout a room and breezeways that cooled spaces without the use of air conditioning. A highlight of every Taliesin West visit is standing on the connecting corridor where one feels oddly cool while gazing at the arid Sonoran desert vista—an indelible experience not conveyed through the online 3D tour.
Breezeways, Wright’s natural airconditioning.
Graff says Wright would have embraced all the digital technology and gadgetry if he was alive today. “Experimentation, innovation is at the heart of Frank Lloyd Wright’s 70-year career,” he explains. “‘What’s possible’ is the credo of his work.”
For young women in Malawi, the possibility of contracting HIV is ever-present. As of 2016, over 14% of women in their late 20s lived with the condition, a rate three times greater that of men; prevalence in some other sub-Saharan African countries is even higher.
A growing body of research supports one surprisingly effective solution: To help young women stay healthy, try giving them cash.
Cash transfer programs have emerged as one of the most influential global development policies of the last few decades, with programs rolling out in countries from Mexico to Kenya to India to the United States. Around one billion people now receive cash transfers, which typically come from governments, across 130 countries, according to the World Bank (pdf).
Research suggests giving poor people money outright really does work. Cash transfers are cheaper to administer than programs that focus on education or job training, and they allow people to make decisions about what the best investment might be based on their specific circumstances.
Mounting evidence suggests that cash transfers don’t just fight poverty—they also give poor women in particular a major boost. Studies in Malawi, South Africa, Mexico, and beyond show that with cash comes financial independence for women—a change that both empowers girls and young women to make more far-sighted choices in love and education and decreases domestic violence among adults, which gives their daughters a chance to flourish.
Avoiding the wrong sexual partners
In 2008, the World Bank funded a study that sought to find out whether cash transfers could have an impact on young women’s sexual health in Malawi. The idea was that some extra cash might allow young women to stay in school and get married later—factors associated with a lower chance of getting HIV.
For two years, the researchers randomly selected 800 girls between the ages of 13 and 22 in the Zomba district of Malawi to receive between $1-5 a month, and their parents an additional $4-10 a month. On average, a family received a total of $10 a month, about 10% of the typical Malawian family’s monthly income.“A little more pocket money can make a big difference about who these young women date.”
Eighteen months after the start of the program, researchers compared the women who’d received cash to a control group about 500 women who were not enrolled in the program. The results? The women who received the cash were healthier. While 3% of the women in the control group tested positive for HIV, only 1.2% of the women in the program tested positive. Three percent of the women in the control group had herpes, compared to less than 1% of the young women who’d received cash. Survey data also showed that women who did not receive cash were far more likely to lose their virginity and have sex regularly.
Clearly, the cash made a big difference. But why?
Economist Sarah Baird, one of the researchers on the study, has a surprising explanation about why the cash transfers worked: Basically, the cash allowed girls and young women to go out out with younger guys.
“A little more pocket money can make a big difference about who these young women date,” Baird says. “They relied on [older] sexual partners for basic support like uniforms and school fees. As soon as the girls got the cash transfers from us, they were like, We are not going to date you anymore. Now I can date my classmate.”
Baird cautions that we shouldn’t necessarily think of the older guys in question as exploiting the young women. It’s just that they happened to older, and so they were more likely to expect sex and have sexually transmitted diseases. She also notes that this explanation is mostly based on interviews with participants in the study, rather than quantitative evidence—although the data do show more of the women in the control group say they had a sexual partner over 25.
One participant explained the impact of the program in an interview: “[A]fter the program, I had money, and if the time came for me to date a boy, I would look for the one who is pleasing me, not just choosing someone who does whatever … provided he is giving me money.”Giving a young woman a small amount of cash appears to allow her to date the way she wants to—not as she deems necessary.
It’s not the only study to find such an effect. A similar experiment, conducted in the Mpumalanga district of South Africa from 2010 to 2011, also found that cash had important impacts on dating. This experiment, funded by the US National Institute of Health, involved giving girls between the ages of 13-20 and their parents $10-20 a month under the condition that the girl went to school. The researchers found that, on average, the girls selected for the program started having sex later and had fewer sexual partners. They also faced less physical violence within those relationships.
The South Africa study’s researchers hoped to find that young women would be less likely to contract HIV than a control group. They found no effect. But the lack of impacts in this case is not damning to the idea that cash transfers can be good for women’s sexual health. As the World Bank economist Berk Ozler points out, this program was not targeted at a group of women particularly vulnerable to contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
Regardless of the health outcomes, giving a young woman a small amount of cash appears to allow her to date the way she wants to—not as she deems necessary. This seems like an excellent investment in women’s futures.
Decreasing domestic violence in marriages
One feature of most cash transfer programs today is that the cash is directed towards the mother in a household. Policymakers figured women would be more likely to spend it on their children’s education and health, while a man might be more likely to blow it on drugs and gambling—what researchers call temptation goods. Studies have shown, that indeed, women are more likely to spend cash transfers on their kids (pdf). Thankfully, there is no evidence that men spend the money frivolously—they just tend to spend it on housing and other physical assets.
In addition to allowing empowering women to direct money towards their priorities, programs that give the cash to mothers also have had a surprising, and very welcome, secondary effect: They reduce intimate partner violence.
Globally, one in three women have experienced intimate partner violence. Women with fewer financial resources are particularly likely to experience this brutality.In Ecuador, monthly transfers of $40 led to about a 25% reduction in intimate partner violence.
Domestic violence has profound effects on the next generation. Children raised in violent households are more likely to experience developmental delays and high rates of anxiety and depression. Young girls particularly suffer emotionally. A 2014 study in the US found that while exposure to domestic violence increased physical aggression in boys, for girls, it often led to worse social skill development.
Decreasing intimate partner violence was not the original aim of cash transfer programs. In fact, initially, program designers worried that concern that cash transfers directed to women could actually make things worse: Perhaps quarrels between couples over how to spend the money would lead to even more domestic violence.
A forthcoming paper in the World Bank Research Observer, shared with Quartz by the researchers, examined the 14 major studies across the world that assessed the impact of cash transfers on intimate partner violence. The women who were part of these studies typically range from their early 20s to their 40s. The researchers show that eleven of these studies found a reduction in domestic violence, two found no change, and only one found an increase. That’s a miraculous finding.There are two main reasons cash reduces violence: Women get more power in their relationships, and life gets less stressful.
It’s difficult to say exactly how much cash transfers reduce intimate partner violence. Transfers differ in the amount of cash given and in terms of the prevalence of intimate partner violence in the program’s location. In Ecuador, for example, monthly transfers of $40, or about 35% of that family’s typical spending, led to about a 25% reduction in intimate partner violence during the program. This was a fairly typical case.
So what happened?
Melissa Hidrobo, an economist at the International Food Policy Research Institute and one of the authors of the World Bank Research Observer study, tells Quartz that there are two main reasons cash reduces violence: Women get more power in their relationships, and life gets less stressful.
In her research examining the impact of cash transfer programs in Ecuador and Bangladesh, women who received cash often tell Hidrobo that it gives them more control in their relationship. Many husbands, accustomed to being the sole breadwinner in a household, adjust their behavior toward wives who suddenly have means of their own. Women can also use their cash as a way of sending a warning: If the husbands don’t change, women have the means to leave.
“When I got that [transfer], it was both of us [who were head of the household],” one Ecuadorian woman told Hidrobo in an interview. “With what I got, I could buy food and all, and he could pay for other things.”
An even bigger factor in reducing intimate partner violence, it seems, is that the extra money reduced stress. Globally, studies find that financial stress makes intimate partner violence more likely. According to Hidrobo’s research, cash transfers lead to fewer arguments about how to allocate money. An extra $10 a month might mean each partner gets the minimum they need to spend on their priorities—whether that be housing, a new business, on their children’s education. Hibdrobo says cash recipients she has interviewed often report more amicable relationships when it comes to finances.
The best quantitative evidence that reductions in stress from cash transfers is key to reducing intimate partner violence, is that, even when the money was given to men, researchers still found a significant reduction in violence. A program in Mali where cash transfers were targeted at men saw intimated partner violence reduced by around 20%.
The bad news (sort of)
The effect of cash transfers on young women’s relationships, sexual health, and intimate partner violence is very good news. Yet there is one important caveat. When the cash transfers go away, it appears that so too do the important effects on women.
Two years after the cash transfers ended, the researchers who conducted the program for young women in Malawi returned to measure the long-term impact. The results were incredibly disappointing. Nearly all the impacts on the program had disappeared. The women who received cash were just as likely to have HIV and be married.
Basically, as soon as the young women lost the cash support, they immediately went back to making the same choices they had before the cash was there. This shouldn’t be surprising, according to Sarah Baird. Nothing had really fundamentally changed for these women. The cash helped, but it was not enough to change their lives. Perhaps a larger sum, which would have allowed them to invest in education, would have made a bigger difference.Cash transfers are a palliative solution, not a transformative one.
Melissa Hidrobo says that the evidence also suggests that when cash programs go away, the level of intimate partner violence in families receiving the support ticks right back to where it was. In fact, this appears to be a problem with cash transfer programs more generally. While they are good for poverty reduction while people receive them, more and more studies are showing that the effects don’t last.
This makes sense. Cash transfers should only have long-term impacts if people are able to use them to make investments that will help them after the transfer ends—by launching a business, say, or getting a degree. But good investments options don’t exist for many of the people receiving transfers, and if they do, recipients often don’t have the skills to make those investments. In effect, cash transfers are a palliative solution, not a transformative one.
This doesn’t mean that cash transfers are a bad idea. Most of the largest-scale cash transfer programs are run by governments, and sustained over long periods of time. The dissipation of impacts is a bigger deal for short-term programs run by NGOs. A recent World Bank report (pdf) on the state of cash transfer programs shows government-run cash transfers dwarf those of NGOs.The world is quick to blame young people for their circumstances—particularly young women from low-income backgrounds.
Still, it would be ideal if short-term cash transfer programs can create long-term positive change. Hidrobo says that one promising option is to have complementary education programs that go along with the cash. For an experiment that Hidrobo studied in Bangladesh, some women were given cash conditional on their attending a nutritional education program, while others were just given cash. Hidrobo’s analysis suggests that while the effect on intimate partner violence dissipated for those only given cash once it went away, the impact has stuck around for those who also received the nutrition program.
Because of cultural norms, many women in rural Bangladesh mostly stay in their homes, with little social interaction with those out the family. The training program gave these women opportunities to build new relationships with people—a program they might not have attended without the cash incentive. It is through these relationships, Hidrobo thinks, that the decrease in intimate partner violence is sustained. Even after the program ends, these women are more likely to visit other women in the community, and those women will see physical evidence that they were abused. This may shame men into changing their behavior.
Here’s the thing to remember about these programs: A cash transfer is not a silver bullet. It won’t change society; a woman given a modest amount of cash will not magically find her job prospects improved, or a sexist society transformed. Tackling women’s sexual health issues and intimate partner violence means improving women’s economic opportunities and reducing the gender pay gap, which in turn makes it easier for women to form healthier relationships, and leave bad ones—for their own good and their children.
Still, cash programs are a promising and simple way to dramatically improve the lives of the most vulnerable women. They also offer a reminder that the world is often to quick to blame young people for their circumstances—particularly young women from low-income backgrounds. But often, all these women need to advance in life are the privileges that come from having a little extra money.
Bob Iger, Disney’s CEO, saw Comcast’s $65 billion bet (paywall) on 21st Century Fox, and raised it.
Disney, which agreed to buy Fox six months ago, upped its bid for Rupert Murdoch’s media empire by more than a third, to $71.3 billion in cash and stock Wednesday (June 20). Comcast offered $35 in cash per share for Fox last week, above the $28 in stock Disney originally planned to pay. The latest offer works out to $38 per share in cash and stock.
“Raising its bid above that of Comcast is a ‘smart strategic poker move,'” wrote Daniel Ives, at GBH Insights, in a note on June 20, “as this remains the golden assets Iger and Disney crave to catalyze its streaming and content ambitions over the coming years.”
But, for Iger, this is much more than a poker game. He’s playing for his legacy.
The 67-year-old stayed beyond his planned retirement age to help Disney navigate its biggest hurdle—the shift from traditional TV to digital video.
A blockbuster deal, the biggest of his career, is a fitting way for Iger to solve the problem. Iger, who began his career at ABC in 1974, survived two big mergers at the company: He oversaw the TV group after it merged with Capital Cities in 1985, and was president of Capital Cities/ABC when it was bought by Disney in 1996. His last 13 years at the helm of the House of Mouse have been defined by big, strategic acquisitions. When Disney’s lifeblood—animation—was floundering in the 2000s, he reinvigorated it by acquiring Pixar. He bought Marvel in 2009 when the comic-book publisher’s movie studio was on the cusp of building its cinematic universe, and leveraged that into a cavalcade of blockbuster films, TV shows, toys, merchandise, and theme park rides. He turned Star Wars into an even bigger force after acquiring Lucasfilm. And he took a controlling stake in streaming technology company BAMTech to shore up Disney’s streaming future.
Iger also took on founder Walt Disney’s penchant for fusing art with technology after taking the top job in 2005. Under his watch, ABC became one of the first US TV networks to put episodes of its biggest shows on iTunes, and later online for free. Disney’s studios, like Lucasfilm, Pixar, and Walt Disney Pictures, were at the forefront of technology in filmmaking. And the company invested heavily in technology in toys and games, and its parks, including RFID-enabled bracelets that serve as customers’ passes, resort keys, and wallets throughout its parks, and in immersive experiences like Pandora, based on the world from Avatar.
But Iger also been criticized for waiting too long to make Disney’s beloved movies and TV series available to audiences online directly from Disney. That would have allowed it to better weather the changes many TV networks are facing as audiences turn to on-demand subscription video services like Netflix and Amazon.
Historically, nearly half of Disney’s operating income has come from media networks and much of that is from the fees pay-TV companies like Comcast and DirecTV pay to carry its channels, especially the coveted sports network ESPN. Iger has been careful not to shake those trees too much. Disney’s sports subscription, ESPN Plus, for example, doesn’t include games and broadcasts that air on ESPN’s TV channels, making it a complement to the TV network rather than a replacement. Analysts including Rich Greenfield at BTIG Research say Iger clung to the TV bundle for too long and needs to go all in on streaming (login required), or its online platforms will never come close to being as profitable as traditional TV has been for the company.
Fox is pivotal here. It gives Disney a diverse slate of content that could be used to build out its three streaming services: ESPN Plus; its family-friendly platform, due out next year; and Hulu, which Disney would gain control over if it acquired Fox’s stake. Hulu would become the home for more general audience content, like series from National Geographic, FX, and Fox TV Productions.
Fox also has more control over global distribution than Disney does, with pay-TV companies like Sky in Europe and Star in India, which carry Disney TV channels.
What’s more, Fox would give Disney a deep executive bench to set it up for a future without Iger, who has delayed his retirement four times already. “Reorganizing our company, which we did a few months back, we did it very specifically with the idea of moving many of those executives into key roles at the Walt Disney Company,” said Iger, on a call with investors today, “and using the combination of our talent to help grow the company as well.”
Iger has agreed to remain at Disney through 2021 to help with the Fox transition. The board has not yet named a successor. If the merger falls through, Iger could make an early exit.
Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, 58, would surely walk away from the Fox bidding war with a bruised ego if he lost. He hasn’t forgotten his failed takeover of Disney in 2004, a year before Iger became boss.
But it’d be an even harder pill for Iger to swallow, after six months of planning for the future of a combined Disney and Fox. The failure of a merger that was meant to correct his biggest misstep in adapting to viewers’ changing behavior could overshadow his entire legacy.
Even in environmentally conscious Scandanavia, it’s hard to sell electric vehicles (EV). That’s in part due to the people selling them. “Dealerships and sales personnel pose a significant barrier for [EV] uptake,” states a study published in May in the journal Nature. “Dealers have little to no incentive to properly sell EVs, even in a Nordic region so steadfastly committed to decarbonizing transport.”
To study this, Danish university researchers sent undercover shoppers to visit 82 car dealerships in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Buyers were asked to remain neutral with no initial inclination toward any type of vehicle. Over the course of 126 car-shopping encounters, the researchers quantified sellers’ interactions with the buyers. They found that salespeople tended to systematically misinform shoppers about EVs, if not dismiss or ignore EVs entirely (77% of the time). In the minority of cases when EVs were mentioned, most steered buyers toward gasoline or diesel vehicles.
Part of it was unfamiliarity: The researchers recorded conversations, and found that many sales staff lacked knowledge of electric drive technology. But deliberate misinformation was rife. “Do not buy this [EV] it will ruin you, it will ruin you financially,” said one quote from the sales process. “We have this electric vehicle [but] it only goes 80 km,” said another, falsely.
Changing this will require carrots as well as sticks for dealers, argue the authors. Selling an EV can take two to four times longer, as many customers outside the early adopter set are not yet familiar with the technology. Profits on EV sales can also be lower than standard cars, as well, leading sellers to push conventional models. (Premium cars and SUVs tend to command higher profit margins than passenger vehicles, and not all EV models turn a profit for their manufacturers.)
EVs should reach price parity with conventional vehicles around 2025, and the economics should then change dramatically, since electric cars will then both cost less to make and operate. But as nations gear up for bans on internal combustion engines in the coming decades, and incentivize EV manufacturers with millions of dollars, they can’t forget about one of the most crucial steps: the point of sale.
The town of Liberal, population 20,000, lies on the southern edge of Kansas, right where your thumb would be if you grabbed Oklahoma by its western-facing panhandle. The map around the town is barren. The nearest cities—Wichita, Oklahoma City—are hours away.
That isolation has not stopped immigrants from finding their way to Liberal. From around 40% in 2000, the Hispanic population is now the majority, at 60%. And while English is still the lingua franca in Liberal, Spanish-speaking immigrants have enriched it, subtly changing the way residents of all ethnicities speak to one another.
The existence of this new “Liberal accent” has been discovered by researchers at Kansas State University. They started out by interviewing high schoolers on sports teams with different ethnic makeup. “We were thinking that these teams—based on the ethnic groups that were participating in them—would sound different,” Trevin Garcia, a graduate student at KSU, told Atlas Obscura. “What we found was that they’re all really talking the same.”
“Talking the same” in this case means using a version of Kansas English that has taken on aspects of Spanish. One characteristic of this is the softening of the hard, nasally sound on words with “a” followed by an “n.” In many parts of the American midwest, “a” sounds different in that case. The “a” in “bat” is softer and less nasal than the one in “band.” But in Liberal, that distinction is going away, as Mary Kohn, a linguist who worked on the research, explains here:
Spanish is also affecting the rhythm of English in Liberal. Most native English speakers have a tendency to emphatically emphasize a syllable in a given word. Like the first syllable in “FA-scinating,” or the second in “out-RAGE-ous.” Spanish also stresses certain syllables—almost always the second-to-last one—but the effect is less pronounced, making speech sound more even. One recording of a Liberal resident, interviewed by the KSU researchers, demonstrates this (pay attention to both instances of the word “visit”):https://qz.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/liberal2.wav
Because Liberal is relatively isolated, and its demographic changes have been swift, the evolution of language appears to be especially quick there. But similar evolution is no doubt happening across the country. As the population of Spanish speakers in the US grows, they learn English, but they change it, too.
This is the kind of shift that worries American who fear losing their identity. But more immigrants only makes that identity richer, says Kohn.
“There has always been this fear that language change is somehow dangerous or scary or will prevent communication,” she said, according to a press release. “When we see language change, what we really see is that a community is continuing to develop and grow. It’s a sign that we have a vibrant and lively community present. The only kind of language that doesn’t change is a dead language.”
Why would the companies that make your phone want you to use it less? If tech is “hijacking your brain” with their “irresistible” products, as some tech critics claim, why are these companies now acting against their own interests? Perhaps the tech giants have had a change of heart or have been persuaded by public pressure to change their ways?
I studied the sophisticated psychology these companies deploy to keep people hooked and wrote a book about how they do it. At first glance, it appears their business model would benefit from addiction. The more you use your phone, the more money they make through the apps you buy and the ads you view.
However, the addiction story falls short when considering the long-term interests of these companies. Apple and Google are making it easier for consumers to cut back on phone use because it is in their interest to do so. In this case, what’s good for the user is also good for these companies’ bottom lines.
Apple and Google don’t want you to get addicted. Addiction is a compulsive harmful behavior. Rather, they’d prefer you form healthy habits with your digital devices.
Safety = Sales
Consider why you wear a seat belt. In 1968, the Federal Government mandated that seat belts come equipped in all cars. However, 19 years before any such regulation, American car makers started offering seat belts as a feature. The laws came well after car makers started offering seat belts because that’s what consumers wanted. Car makers who sold safer cars sold more.
Similarly, thousands of third-party apps have given smartphone owners ways to moderate tech use with tools to help them monitor how much time they spend online, turn off access to certain sites, and reduce digital distraction—tools very similar to what Apple and Google recently announced. I started writing about this burgeoning trend, in what I called “attention retention” devices, back in early 2015 and today there are more digital wellness products than ever.
As they often do with successful apps built on their platforms, Apple and Google took note of what consumers wanted and decided to incorporate these features as standard—just as car makers did with seat belts in the 1950s. They also went beyond what app makers can do by adding features only the operating system makers can offer, like batch notifications to reduce the frequency of intraday interruptions and the ability to put the phone in “shush” mode by flipping it over.
The history of innovation is littered with examples of new technologies causing unintended harm. As cultural theorist Paul Virilio said, “When you invent the ship, you also invent the shipwreck.” Although the devices these modern shipbuilders make certainly have potential negative consequences, like overuse, it’s also in their interests to make their products less harmful.
With few exceptions, when a product harms people, consumers tend to use it less often or find better alternatives. The feature fight between these two tech rivals benefits everyone. The move to help users create healthy habits with their devices is an example of competition making products better.
Although they are certainly designed to be persuasive and user-friendly, we aren’t slaves to our technologies and it behooves us to stop thinking we’re powerless. The tech companies are taking steps to help users rein in device overuse. Now it’s our turn to put these features to use, buckle down, and buckle up.
Here’s the gist:
- Although it may seem against their interests, Apple and Google know helping people use their phone less is good for their businesses.
- With very few exceptions, when a product harms people, they use it less or look for alternatives.
- Apple and Google have an incentive to fix harmful aspects of their just like car makers have an incentive to make cars safer.
The Indian-American doctor Atul Gawande wears a lot of different hats: surgeon, staff writer for the New Yorker, best-selling author, and MacArthur Genius. Now, he’s also been named the CEO of a new non-profit health care venture launched by Amazon, JP Morgan, and Berkshire Hathaway.
But when he was younger, Gawande wasn’t at all convinced about following in the footsteps of his immigrant parents by going into medicine.
“It’s almost a given that the children of two Indian immigrant doctors are expected to be doctors themselves…In many ways, I spent a lot of time trying to escape that,” he said in an interview with Boston Magazine last year.
Nevertheless, today Gawande is almost a household name, and his articles and books on health care and medicine are widely read around the world, including India. Less know, however, is the incredible journey of his parents, part of a pioneering generation of Indian immigrants who built a new life in the US.
The back story
Atmaram Gawande was born in 1934 to a family of seven brothers and five sisters in the village of Uti, Maharashtra, in western India. After graduating from the Nagpur Medical College in 1962, the elder Gawande moved to New York City to train in general surgery, where he ended up meeting Sushila, a paediatrician who he would go on to marry. Sushila herself had moved to the US from Ahmedabad, Gujarat.
In 1973, a few years after Atul and his younger sister Meeta were born, the Gawandes decided to move to Athens, Ohio, a small town that was looking for doctors.
BTW, two foreign-born MDs who went to serve rural Ohio when others didn't: my mom (pediatrics) and dad (urology). In 1965, 1995, and 2005: pic.twitter.com/nhpqHy8dir
— Atul Gawande (@Atul_Gawande) February 4, 2017
In Athens, Gawande senior went on to become a well-known urologist at the O’Bleness Memorial Hospital, serving over 25,000 local patients. The Gawandes also became known there for their philanthropy, which Sushila would later attribute to the principles of Mahatma Gandhi whose emphasis on social justice was something she and her husband tried to follow.
The couple also made significant contributions to education in India and the US. In Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district, the doctors helped establish the Gopika Sitaram Gawande College, which serves some 2,000 students in the hinterlands. They also funded a chair in Indian religion and philosophy at Ohio University’s College of Arts & Sciences.
Their daughter Meeta went to law school while Atul studied biology and politics at Stanford, before becoming a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, where he read politics and philosophy. After working in politics for a while, which included being part of Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign, he finished medical school and went on to become a surgeon and a public health researcher. In 1998, he joined the New Yorker as a staff writer, working on stories about medicine and health care. Eventually, he even went on to write a number of successful books.
In 2011, his father passed away at the age of 76 after battling cancer, an experience Atul detailed in his most recent book, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, released in 2014. In it, he recalled fulfilling his father’s wish of having his ashes spread in three places: the family’s hometown of Athens, his village in Maharashtra, and in River Ganga.
The family’s life-long commitment to health care continues with Gawande’s next step.
In a statement on June 20, Gawande said the new Amazon, JP Morgan, and Berkshire Hathaway-backed venture to lower health care costs is aligned with his own goal to improve health care delivery in the US, a mission that his parents, too, worked towards for decades.
Since 2010, Greece has undergone three bailouts worth a staggering total of nearly €310 billion ($360 billion).
The aid money was made available to Greece’s government from other euro-zone member states and the International Monetary Fund over the past eight years.
During the first, Greece received €73 billion. This program was superseded by a second one in 2012, that handed over about €150 billion. The final bailout, which began in mid-2015, was €86 billion. Around €47 billion of this third bailout has been disbursed so far. In two months, the third program is scheduled to end, though Greece’s economic problems will linger on.
To understand the magnitude of Greece’s total bailout, here’s what it best compares to:
Hong Kong’s economy, which was about $340 billion in 2017 (pdf)
Malaysia’s economy, which was around $337 billion last year
It’s bigger than Denmark’s economy, which was $330 billion in 2017
Larger than Exxon Mobil, which has a market value of $340 billion, Johnson & Johnson ($327 billion), and Bank of America ($298 billion)
It’s just smaller than JPMorgan, the largest bank in the US, which has a market value of $366 billion
It’s the size of 16 Deutsche Banks, which has fallen from prosperity to a market value of less than €20 billion
It’s half the size of the US’s mega defense budget, which has been increased to more than $700 billion this year
And finally, it’s double the size of the UK’s health budget for the past fiscal year, though admittedly Britain’s National Health Service is underfunded.
I placed my first ad in the Craigslist “personals” section four years ago. If memory serves me correctly, it was under the Strictly Platonic category, with the subject, “Tell me about yourself…” Posting the ad was an attempt to connect with similar-minded people over the stories and secrets that we all keep, nudging open the curtain that separates our perfectly curated external lives from our imperfect inner ones.
It’s funny: I have no memories of the night I posted that original ad, in which I asked people to share with me their deepest, darkest secrets—the stories they could tell no one else. I only remember the vague feelings that led to the whimsical decision to post, and then waking up the next day to an inbox full of replies. It’s strange to not clearly remember something that completely changed my life.
Four years—and more than 300 interviews and thousands of responses—later, my full-time job has become to listen to strangers tell me about things they’ve never told anyone else. It’s completely anonymous, and it’s free. The average length of a meeting is about two hours, during which I listen, take notes, and ask the occasional question. It is an exercise in radical listening and compassion, in building a space where people can simply be themselves without fear of the judgment or stigma that often follows confessions.
In March, Craigslist pulled its personals section in response to a sex-trafficking bill that holds platforms liable if they are found to be facilitating sex trafficking and prostitution. The reaction was not without merit: over the years, websites like Craigslist and Backpage had become online marketplaces for illegal sexual activity. Craigslist’s decision marked the end of the 23-year-old section, where people gathered for many reasons, often benign. In its spartan design, the personals section was in many ways the predecessor to our myriad online dating platforms, facilitating casual sex, unsolicited nudes, and the occasional relationship. But for many people, myself included, it was much more than that.
When I first posted my ad, I was working for a boutique lobbying shop in Washington, DC. It was my first “real” job out of law school, but it wasn’t for me.
The things I valued about myself—my empathy, my listening skills, and my ability to connect with people on a deeper and more meaningful level were handicaps at my lobbying job. “Don’t be empathetic; get your bottom line at any cost,” I was told. “Don’t listen—lean in, speak up, stand out. Connect, yes: go to happy hours, have your business cards ready—present yourself as successful, happy, and fulfilled. Remember names. Remember employers. Remember a detail of someone’s life that shows you were listening. Remember: how can they be useful?”
“How’s the new job?”
“Oh, I absolutely love it.” Now smile.
I felt so alienated, so disconnected from everyone else. If only we could break out of our one-track lives and and connect on something deeper: on the imperfect details, on the things that keep us up at night, on the memories that make us freeze mid-laugh. Yet I felt trapped, an indentured servant to my student loan debt.
On Craigslist, I wasn’t alone. I found a community craving the same thing I did: a connection. That’s what the ad was about. It invited people to “tell me about yourself”—but really tell me. Tell me what you can’t tell your therapist, your mom, your best friend, your coworker in the next cubicle—because you’re afraid she’ll forever see you differently now. You’re afraid you’ll bear your heart out and someone will laugh, or think you stupid and naïve, or think you misguided in your intentions. Tell me what it feels like to spend a day in your head. Tell me because it’s anonymous. Tell me because you’ll never see me again and because you have nothing to lose. Tell me because I’m with you now. I hear you. I see you.
On Craigslist, I wasn’t alone. I found a community craving the same thing I did: a connection. Something real. What Craigslist provided for us was an anonymous space where we could be ourselves with nothing to lose. In its scrambled email addresses, some of us found safety: to confess trauma, addiction, unhappiness, ennui, regret, guilt, shame.
In the two years I used Craigslist, until I started hearing from people directly by email, I don’t remember receiving any solicitations or obscene photos. I found what I had hoped for: people who wanted to be heard.
Yet, along the way, the Craigslist personals section became synonymous with seediness, with sex, drugs, and prostitution, risky situations, and illicit affairs. This reputation wasn’t always deserved. If there’s anything that the last four years have taught me it’s that there’s always more than meets the eye—that in today’s society it’s easy to stereotype, to dismiss, to typecast, to categorize and put away. If we bother to dig just beyond that façade, to listen and look a little deeper, we can almost always discover a story worth listening to—worth telling.
So, thank you, Craigslist personals, for allowing us an intimate look at humanity in extremis. Thank you for the connections you facilitated, for the stories you helped tell, and for helping us listen a little longer, challenge our assumptions, and understand a little better. Thanks for allowing us our confessions.
This article is part of Quartz Ideas, our home for bold arguments and big thinkers.
After eight years and more than €300 billion ($346 billion) in bailout money, Greece is tantalizingly close to exiting its latest aid program.
The third and current bailout, involving €86 billion and starting in 2015, is scheduled to end on Aug. 20. So far, only €47 billion of that amount has been disbursed. Today, euro-area finance ministers are meeting in Brussels to discuss Greece’s economic progress and iron out the final aspects of the bailout. They are expected to unleash a final €12 billion tranche and decide on how much future debt relief Greece can expect, the main area of contention between Athens and its chief creditor, Germany.
While Greece might be formally exiting the program in two months, it won’t be unshackled from Brussels. Athens will have to undergo quarterly reviews of its finances (more frequent than during the bailouts) and adhere to strict budget constraints. The indebted nation will be expected to sell off more state assets, such as the main airport. In exchange, Greece will get annual payments that come from the profits European central banks made on the holdings of Greek bonds, Bloomberg reported yesterday (paywall).
After two unsuccessful bailouts, a snap election, and almost falling out of the euro zone, the past few years have been so troubling for Greece that the severity of the economic crisis looks more like several historic crises rolled into one. The important question now is: Has Greece come out of this period with a stronger, healthier economy that it can (almost) sustain on its own?
“It is no exaggeration to say that the principal victim of the economic crisis was Greece,” Pierre Moscovici, the European commissioner for economic and financial affairs, wrote on his blog about how Greece has changed in the past eight years. Greece’s economy has shrunk by more than 20% since 2009. While it’s far away from a recovery, there are early signs of life. The economy grew 1.4% in 2017, the most since before the financial crisis, and in the first quarter of 2018, Greece was one of Europe’s faster growing economies. But this is still a nascent recovery, and economic growth fluctuates a lot from quarter to quarter. It may just continue to limp along.
In May 2010, when Greece signed its first bailout agreement, the unemployment rate in the country was 10%. Now, it’s double that. It’s come down from a peak of nearly 28% in mid-2013 but remains, by far, the highest jobless rate in the region.
The latest data shows that more people in Greece are at risk of poverty than when the bailouts began. It’s likely that cuts to government spending and strict austerity measures that were required to receive the aid money have played a part here. Meanwhile, future prospects for the economy are also hampered by the severe migration (paywall) and brain drain Greece suffered as a result of the crisis. Since 2008, hundreds of thousands of Greeks have left the country. With youth unemployment still above 40%, it’s difficult to attract talent needed to rebuild the economy.
The scary reality of Greece’s economic situation is matched by its finances. Almost half of the loans on the books of Greek banks are to debtors who are unlikely to be able to make their payments, a far worse state than other nations in the region. The share has climbed from about 10% in 2010.
Finally, good news! Greece’s 10-year bond yields may be almost 400 basis points higher than Germany’s, the region’s benchmark, but this still constitutes good news. At around 4%, Greece’s bond yields have come down enough to make it easier for the nation to repay its debts—of which there is plenty, with public debt at 180% of GDP—and some investors are confident enough to buy bonds from the country again. Access to capital markets will be integral to the nation’s success post-bailout, and low bond yields are a sign of health for Greece.
The same can’t be said for the stock market, which is still a reminder of some of the darker days of the recent crisis. In July 2015, the nation shut its stock market as it went into default on its debt; banks were closed and capital controls were imposed. When trading resumed the following month, bank shares plummeted 30%, the daily limit, right at the open. The third bailout began the same month. In spite of a near-global stock market boom, Greece hasn’t made up its losses from before this period.
Greece’s economic struggles have a long, long history, and given the current state of the economy it’s unlikely that this bailout exit will be the last hurdle to cross. However right now, the nation has retreated out of Europe’s spotlight, which shines instead on Angela Merkel’s attempts to hold onto power in Germany amid a migration standoff and the new populist government in Italy—which some fear will become the new Greece—confronting Brussels on budgeting, migration, and relations with Russia.
Xi sells Seychelles on the seashore. This twist on a familiar tongue-twister doesn’t precisely describe how India’s jump to international military power status was thwarted, but isn’t entirely inaccurate. Back in 2011, China considered building a military base on an island in the Seychelles. India objected, but its protests were rendered moot once China shifted its attention to Djibouti. In 2015, Narendra Modi visited the Indian Ocean nation, the first such visit by an Indian prime minister in over three decades, and sealed a deal to develop Assumption Island as an Indian naval base. Now, it was China’s turn to try and scuttle the agreement.
Three years on, after a number of fire-fighting attempts by top Indian diplomats, Modi’s outreach to the Seychelles feels like an episode of Presumption Island. The Seychellois president Danny Faure has terminated the naval base plan ahead of a visit to India. Perhaps he will receive as cold a welcome in New Delhi as the one accorded to Modi’s outreach to the Seychelles feels like an episode of Presumption Island. Canada’s Justin Trudeau, who was greeted on arrival by Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, a man virtually no Indian would be able to recognise on sight. Trudeau hasn’t forgotten the snub, which will certainly rebound on India at some point.
We don’t know how much of a role China played in spurring protests against the Indian base, but I’m sure it was not negligible. President Xi Jinping and his colleagues take no prisoners in securing what they perceive as China’s interests. Consider another Modi initiative from his early days in power which seemed innovative but ended in a shambles: his visit to Mongolia. The idea was that, as China’s “string of pearls” threatened to encircle India, New Delhi would perform a counter-encirclement. In effect, Modi was saying to Xi, “I see your Hambantota and raise you Ulaanbataar.” He promised Mongolia a billion dollar credit line to secure the nation against any Chinese threat. The next year, following a visit to Mongolia by the Dalai Lama, China struck, blockading the landlocked nation and strangling its economy. The Mongolians turned to India for the promised relief, but found none forthcoming. Modi’s targeting of China turned out to be as feeble as the archery skills he had demonstrated on his Mongolian visit. Ulaanbataar was forced into a humiliating apology to a Chinese leadership that rules by the Nixonian dictum, “When you’ve got them by the balls, their hearts and minds follow.”
Coining weird acronyms is among Modi’s favourite occupations, and in Wuhan last month he produced a new one, STRENGTH. Unfortunately, he misspelled it as STREANH while expanding on its meaning. The gaffe, like mistakes politicians commonly make, was good for a quick laugh, but the fact that it happened in China felt queerly appropriate. Faced with a ruthless and more powerful adversary, Modi has made a series of inept moves with respect to traditional allies such as Nepal, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives, aside from the missteps in Mongolia and Seychelles. It feels like he is all hat and no cattle, to use a Texan phrase for boastful people who fail to back up their tough talk.
Talking the walk
The most compelling counter to such a view is the action on which rests his administration’s reputation for projecting military power: the targeting of launching sites for terrorists commonly referred to as “surgical strikes”. The government has given us no details about what Indian soldiers did in the early hours of Sept. 29, 2016, but there’s little doubt the operation was larger and more coordinated than any previously launched across the Modi has made a series of inept moves with Nepal, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. Line of Control (LOC). Whatever its exact scale, it did no more to deter insurgents than demonetisation, called Modi’s “surgical strike on black money,” did to curb tax evasion. Since that bold act, dozens of Indian soldiers have succumbed to attacks by Pakistani soldiers crossing the LOC, shelling from across the border, militant attacks on army camps mirroring the one in Uri which led to the “surgical strike,” militant ambushes on patrols, and gunfights in Kashmiri towns. Security forces have given as good as they got, but the larger story is of escalation on both sides with great loss of life and civic disruption with no end in sight. According to official figures, Pakistan violated the ceasefire along the LOC an incredible 1,252 times in the first five months of 2018. In the official account, Pakistan is always the violator and India the responder, but whatever the truth of that, a ceasefire violated hundreds of times is no ceasefire at all.
It is astonishing, then, that Amit Shah, in his maiden speech in the Rajya Sabha (upper house), claimed, “Kashmir has never been so safe in the last 35 years. We handled the Kashmir issue very well.” Even Modi’s most ardent devotees might be fazed by Shah’s sanguine description of the state of Kashmir. That might be why the BJP has pulled the rug from under the Jammu and Kashmir government’s feet. It does not want to enter the 2019 election owning the mess in the northern state and is, therefore, positioning itself as an outsider despite holding the reins of power in the state and at the Centre for years. It might work since Modi’s failure to walk the talk has thus far been successfully camouflaged by his ability to talk the walk.
This post first appeared on Scroll.in. We welcome your comments at email@example.com.
Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, gave birth to a girl today (June 21), joining a tiny club of two for world leaders who gave birth while in power.
Ardern announced the birth on Facebook. She was due to give birth on June 17, but her partner Clarke Gayford posted a photo yesterday showing her still working:
— Clarke Gayford (@NZClarke) June 20, 2018
The prime minister said she would take six weeks off before returning to work. Her partner will stay at home to take care of their baby.
No sitting leader has given birth while in office for almost three decades. The last person who did so was the late Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who gave birth to her daughter Bakhtawar in 1990 when she was in office. She also gave birth to her son Bilawal while she was campaigning in 1988. She told the BBC that her decision to campaign while pregnant was a response to former president and military general Zia ul-Haq’s assumption that she could not take part in politics as a pregnant woman. She also kept her next pregnancy a secret—and was promptly criticized by some in Pakistan after giving birth that as a new mother she would not be able to devote herself fully to the task of running a country.
In New Zealand, Ardern’s pregnancy is largely seen as a mark of progressiveness that’s still rare among developed nations. Former prime minister Helen Clark, for example, lauded Ardern and her partner’s parenting arrangement as an example of gender equality.
Congratulations to @jacindaardern & @NZClarke on the birth of their daughter today. What a proud day for Jacinda & Clarke & for us all. New life, new hope. Parenting arrangements are #genderequality in action. This is 21st C NZ. #ProudKiwi https://t.co/w52w8CJLSJ
— Helen Clark (@HelenClarkNZ) June 21, 2018
Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified Jacinda Ardern’s partner, Clarke Gayford, as her husband.
Two of India’s biggest consumer goods companies are sparring again, this time over a men’s fairness cream advertisement.
Emami, based in Kolkata, has got a local court to pass a temporary order restraining rival Hindustan Unilever (HUL) from airing a campaign that shows its brand, Fair and Handsome, in a poor light. With a revenue of Rs2,540 crore in the financial year 2018, Emami sells a range of popular personal care brands such as Zandu balm, Navratna oil, and BoroPlus cream across India.
The ad for HUL’s Fair & Lovely Men’s Fairness Cream, which began airing recently, has Bollywood star Siddharth Malhotra urging consumers to “choose wisely” between its “original” and the “other”—Fair and Handsome—a tube of which is also placed in the video.
A screen grab from the ad spot aired by Hindustan Unilever.
Following Emami’s plea earlier this week, a court in Serampore, near Kolkata, passed an order on June 19 restraining HUL from circulating and displaying the commercial till July 06. HUL has also been barred from publishing the advertisement in print or any other medium, Emami said in a statement on June 20.
In an email, an Emami spokesperson said that the recent commercial has caused “direct disparagement to Emami’s Fair and Handsome Fairness Cream for Men, by showing and naming the Fair and Handsome pack directly in communication.”
Emami also sent legal notices to seven television networks—Star India, Sun TV Network, Sony Pictures, Viacom 18, Zee Entertainment, 9 X Media, and B4U Television Network—barring them from airing the commercial.
The company’s prompt actions come at a time when India’s market for whitening products—estimated at Rs2,000 crore—is becoming fiercely competitive. For the longest time firms wooed only women. But thanks to a boom in the male grooming products available now, men are also queuing up. In fact, urban Indian men believe that fair skin can improve their professional prospects, a 2015 report by research agency Nielsen showed.
That is why companies including L’Oréal, HUL, Emami, and Nivea have invested heavily in skin-brightening products for men.
Emami’s Fair and Handsome was among the first male-specific whitening products, launched back in 2005 and helped build the category in the country. The brand has an over 60% market share in the segment, according to Nielsen.
HUL’s Fair & Lovely has been around for decades, though a product for men was only introduced in 2007.
In any case, this isn’t the first time the two brands are fighting it out over an advertisement.
In 2017, HUL moved the Advertising Standard Council of India (ASCI), an ad industry watchdog, over a Fair and Handsome commercial. Mumbai-based HUL challenged the veracity of several claims made in Emami’s ad. The complaint was, however, rejected by the ASCI.
HUL did not respond to e-mail queries sent by Quartz.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is used in the production of a wide variety of food and drink products. But with at least five CO2 producers across northern Europe offline, a shortfall in the gas is causing shortages in beer, fizzy drinks, and meat.
Britain is particularly affected because the seasonal shutdown of the plants has meant that the UK has only one big plant producing CO2 left.
The British Beer and Pub Association, along with individual beer producers and pubs, has warned of the crisis caused by the shortage. Without naming companies, the trade association said the shortfall has caused beer production shortages. Heineken, the UK’s biggest brewer, said its CO2 supplier was facing “a major issue” in the UK. Meanwhile, one of Britain’s biggest pub chains, Wetherspoons, said it’ll be forced to pull a number of beers and fizzy drinks from its menu soon.
CO2 is also vital in both the production and packaging of meat. Already nine of the UK’s largest poultry plants have warned of the “critical” shortage of CO2 affecting output.
The Food and Drink Federation said this week that the industry is worried about the CO2 shortage, while the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers said it will meet the Department for Food and Rural Affairs and the Food Standards Agency to discuss what the potential knock-on effects to the nation’s food industry will be.
Strange things are happening in India’s banking system and nobody seems to know why.
On June 20, the finance ministry announced that B Sriram, managing director (MD) of State Bank of India (SBI), the country’s largest lender, will head IDBI Bank for three months as its MD and CEO. Sriram will not relinquish his post at SBI, though. This move followed the appointment earlier this month of MK Jain, the CEO of IDBI Bank, as deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of India, a position vacant since August 2017.
Sriram’s appointment may be a cause for concern as, despite both being government-owned, SBI and IDBI Bank are competitors and are listed on the stock exchanges.
“I can’t recall any other time when someone at one bank was given the leadership role at another bank without them resigning from the previous role,” a research analyst at a domestic brokerage house told Quartz, requesting anonymity. “But the condition of IDBI Bank is already so bad that it can’t be left without a CEO till the government can find a full-time replacement.”
IDBI Bank has the highest ratio of bad loans among all banks in the country, with its gross non-performing assets (NPA) standing at 27.95% in March.
Indian lenders are battling a leadership vacuum at the top. Sriram’s concurrent roles at SBI and IDBI Bank only show how dire the situation is.
Another loan fraud
And there’s more bad news for the sector.
On June 20, Ravindra Marathe, chairman and managing director (CMD) of public sector Bank of Maharashtra (BoM), along with five other bank officials, was arrested for sanctioning loans to a Pune-based real estate firm, D S Kulkarni Developers (DSKDL), without due diligence.
“Bank officers colluded with DSKDL by misusing their power and authority with dishonest and fraudulent intention,” the Pune police officials reportedly said.
Marathe was appointed by the Narendra Modi government in 2016after his predecessor, Sushil Muhnot, was sacked following allegations of corruption against him. While the government had not offered any explanation for the pink slip issued to Muhnot, it had reportedly expressed reservations about him occupying two bank-owned houses in violation of norms.
Now both Marathe and Muhnot are in the dock for different reasons.
In the last six months, apart from dealing with a staggering pile of bad loans, the country’s banking sector has found itself embroiled in one controversy after another. Frauds, nepotism and favouritism charges, and a lack of corporate governance, are some of the other problems plaguing the sector.
India, along with Tanzania, featured at the bottom of a ranking of the internet usage-to-population ratio, Pew Research Center’s recent findings show. In both countries, just one in four adults accessed the web. In comparison, South Korea, the most heavily connected society, has 96% of adults using the internet.
Pew’s results are based on interviews conducted in 38 countries between March and April 2017. The sample size in each country was around 1,000.
Another measure of internet penetration is smartphone-ownership. India stood last in line on this metric, too, with just 22% of its adult citizens owning such devices, according to Pew.
Just 22% of Indian adults own smartphones.
And it doesn’t help that smartphone adoption in India has also stalled.
In the first quarter of 2018, smartphone sales plateaued while those of feature phones doubled, Counterpoint Research data show. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean people lack web access. The recent proliferation of cost-effective 4G-enabled feature phones in India is likely bringing more people online.
However, the country’s overall internet penetration nearly plateaued between 2017 and the year prior. And despite the upward climb of social-media users in the country, just one in five Indian adults use the likes of Facebook and Twitter, the Pew data revealed.
Weak numbers are just one of the shortcomings as far as internet penetration in India is concerned. It is also rife with inequalities. Not surprisingly, younger and more educated Indians make up for most of the user base, Pew found, while women are being left behind. “Men are at least 10 percentage points more likely than women to own smartphones in India, Mexico, Ghana, Kenya, Chile and Hungary,” Pew researchers Jacob Poushter, Caldwell Bishop, and Hanyu Chwe wrote.
In one ad, a nervous woman in a cafe drinks a few glasses of a carbonated beverage and works up the courage to confess her love to a man. In another, after sipping on a drink, a woman jumps on a male volleyball player and plants kisses on him—prompting a crowd of other women to shout, “You’re so brave, we envy you!”
Now, China’s media regulators have ordered broadcasters to stop showing these ads, citing (link in Chinese) they “misguide the development of young people.” The crackdown, and the ads themselves, show how Chinese society is awkwardly balancing progressive attitudes about gender alongside traditional conservative values—and plain old sexism.
The ads are for Taiwan-headquartered snacks giant Want Want’s sparkly malt beverage called Sawow, which is 3.5% alcohol by volume, and available in flavors like peach and lychee. They’re sold in pink bottles, some of which have slogans printed on them that read “I need courage.” At a promotional event in March, the company’s brand manager described the drink as “a new cocktail specifically for the female market.”
Regulators also banned Want Want’s ads for a non-alcoholic, flavored milk drink called O Pao depicting budding young romance in its spots. Want Want didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.
Taken as a whole, the ads reflect complicated perceptions about female sexuality in China.
On the one hand, several of the ads show women taking a proactive role in their sex lives, a reflection of increasingly open attitudes about sex in Chinese society. More and more Chinese people have begun having sex before marriage since the ’90s—though limited sex education in schools is a sign of the continued discomfort around teenage sexuality.
Elizabeth LaCouture, who teaches gender studies at the University of Hong Kong, says that the ads link alcohol consumption with forming relationships, which is especially problematic given how they appear to target underage consumers.
“Before we celebrate gender liberation, we should think about how the alcohol functions in the advertisements,” she says. “In the end, the product and the advertisements suggest the need to teach and discuss responsible alcohol consumption in Chinese secondary schools and on Chinese university campuses, and how to have healthy dating relationships without alcohol.”
Some of the Sawow ads, such as the woman in the cafe making a move (video in Chinese) or the one involving the volleyball player (video in Chinese), depict shy women becoming more sexually confident. In one of the O Pao ads showing young couples being affectionate, one woman lifts up her boyfriend playfully.
But other ads featuring women losing their inhibitions as they drink appear uncomfortably out of touch in light of the #MeToo moment, which has steered public attention to women’s experiences of harassment and men’s understanding (and misunderstanding) of consent.
For example, a heartbroken woman in one ad (video in Chinese) is seen sipping Sawow alone on the couch and pretending to flirt with the male model on a magazine cover as she become increasingly tipsy.
In another innuendo-filled ad (video in Chinese), two women—one shy and one confident—are depicted sitting at a bar. “Is this your first time?” the confident woman asks, and the other woman nods. “The first time is very important. Choose the right one, and life is a little more joyful. Choose the wrong one, and your life is missing a little something,” she continues. After drinking Sawow, the shy woman loses her inhibitions on the dance floor.
On hot summer days in Bengaluru, India, it is common to see public water taps on roadsides hissing and spurting as water struggles to come out. People crowd around the tap with pots of brightly coloured plastic, burnished brass, or steel, waiting for their turn. Many of these people have come from homes without such luxuries as indoor plumbing and will return carrying enough water to last several days. More privileged citizens have water piped to their houses in larger quantities—and more frequently. But even for them, interrupted water supply and rationing have always been a fact of daily life.
Bengaluru is perhaps one of India’s most globally visible cities, owing to its reputation as India’s Silicon Valley. Corporate buildings and malls with shimmering glass facades vie for space with residential high rises and villas, bolstering the city’s popular image as a vibrant and booming metropolis with an entrepreneurial young population. But informal settlements and slums coexist alongside this image of prosperity, and residents—poor and affluent alike—face the trials of living in a city starved of water: a legacy of colonial policies that relied on vast Droughts are shaped by each city’s development over time. technological solutions to solve local problems.
Bengaluru is not alone in its water woes—cities across the globe struggle to meet water requirements every day. Although Cape Town’s water crisis has eased, residents are still limited to using 50 litres of water each, per day. Other settlements are also affected. In Mexico City, water supply is frequently interrupted while, in Brazil, São Paulo’s main water reserves were below 15% as of 2017. Indonesia’s capital Jakarta, meanwhile, is facing severe groundwater depletion. Droughts are shaped by each city’s development over time—and these recent shortages have shown just how shaky the infrastructure which supplies their water has become.
A history of water
Take Bengaluru, for example—the city tends to be naturally arid, because of its location in the rain shadow of the Western Ghats hill range. Records from the 6th century onwards show that successive rulers of the city invested in creating an interconnected, community-managed system of tanks and open wells. The shallow aquifers of the wells were recharged by the tanks across an elevation gradient that harvested rainwater.
Since around 1799, different authorities took control of the tanks—first the colonial state, and later on the independent Indian government. These tanks were the main water supply infrastructure for almost a century, though they faltered during periods of drought and famine. To meet the rising demand, the Municipal and Public Works Departments considered deepening reservoirs or building new ones. By 1885, the city’s water supply was running low, and the colonial government responded by setting up piped infrastructure, bringing water from sources 30km away including the Hesarghatta and then the TG Halli reservoirs. But none of these fixes could meet demand for very long.
Meanwhile, given the new dependency on piped water infrastructure, the old tanks and wells became disused, polluted, or built over. After India gained independence in 1947, the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) was established. In response to the city’s water supply issues, the board floated the idea of pumping in water from the river Cauvery—more than 100km upstream from Bengaluru. The project started in 1974 and continues to this day, reaching its fifth stage in 2018.
With the threat that water would run out still looming large, authorities have since explored other possibilities. In 2016, the state government proposed to divert water from the Yettinahole river, 300kms from Bengaluru. Scientists also explored the feasibility of constructing a reservoir under the Arabian Sea to impound that water for supply. The central government of India went a step further and considered transferring surplus water from the north flowing river Godavari into the southern Cauvery.
Given the new dependency on piped water, the old tanks and wells became disused. The estimated costs of these large-scale proposals were massive—billions of dollars could be spent without delivering guaranteed water security. Instead, the authorities seek to reallocate limited supplies of water—though even that is done unfairly and unevenly.
Piped water supply systems cater only to central Bengaluru, while the outskirts rely on alternatives including domestic bore wells or private water tankers, tapping into and depleting deep groundwater aquifers. These services are typically used by the urban poor, but operated on a for-profit basis, which means they actually come at higher costs than the heavily subsidised centralised water supply system.
An alternative approach
While governments have floundered, Bengaluru has seen a resurgence of citizen-led collectives working to protect and rejuvenate the old tanks and open wells—and open them up to poor and disadvantaged citizens. These collectives have also innovated, exploring how treated sewage can contribute to the supply. In Jakkur Lake, for instance, treated sewage is filtered through a human-made wetland and into the lake itself, fostering a healthy ecosystem as well as helping to recharge groundwater.
Initiatives have blossomed online, too: the Facebook page Open wells of India and the world is a place where members can upload photographs of any open wells they encounter, along with their location. By documenting many little known open wells which survive across the city and beyond, it provides a fascinating glimpse into the potential such options hold for harnessing and storing rain water. One particularly poignant image was shared by local man Vishwanath Srikantaiah: a massive open well, recharged by the Jakkur lake.
An open well near Jakkur lake, replenished.
The efforts of Biome, India Cares Foundation and Friends of Lakes—combined with the local expertise of traditional well diggers—have restored seven public wells within the city’s well-known Cubbon Park. Thanks to an approach that combines local knowledge and innovative problem solving, the wells now produce about 65,000 litres of water per day and help to meet the water demands of the park.
Grand technological visions have proved incapable of meeting Bengaluru’s needs since colonial times. But local, community-led measures to manage and replenish water have a good chance of creating a water-secure, resilient city: an object lesson for those planning cities for the future.
Hita Unnikrishnan, Newton International fellow, University of Sheffield; Harini Nagendra, professor of sustainability, Azim Premji University, and Vanesa Castán Broto, professorial fellow, University of Sheffield. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. We welcome your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In recent years a small handful of private US universities began accepting gaokao scores for college admissions—a sign of the growing overseas recognition for one of China’s toughest exams. Now, for the first time, a US state university will too.
The University of New Hampshire (UNH), a state university with around 15,000 students, will begin to admit Chinese students based on their gaokao scores, without having to see scores from the usual college exams, the SAT or ACT, first. Applications are due by Oct. 1 and students will be able to enroll by January—a semester earlier than usual. According to the New Hampshire Union Leader paper, Chinese students make up nearly half of UNH’s international students. The university, which set up a bilingual page for the application process, says it’s also waiving a $65 application fee and accepting results from the Duolingo online test in place of the usual English skills testing.
Erika Mantz, head of media relations for the university, told Quartz that the decision was “part of UNH’s commitment to attracting more and stronger applicants from around the world.”
Gaokao, the grueling college-entrance exam, is taken over two days across China every June, and many students spend a year preparing for it intensively. Of the more than 9 million students who take it, only 2% among them (link in Chinese) will get good enough scores to enter top-ranked universities in China.
Outside China, the gaokao is used for college admissions in Canada (pdf, p.2) Australia (pdf), and New Zealand (pdf). In the US, acceptance of the exam has been slower—only a handful of small private universities like St. Thomas University, University of San Francisco, and Suffolk University are accepting gaokao scores in their admissions process, starting around 2015. For the gaokao, the UNH decision is the biggest sign of stateside recognition yet.
“The gaokao admission program has been a success so far,” Kellie Samson, spokeswoman for the University of San Francisco, told Quartz. “We have met our goal of enrolling an average of 5-10 students per year, and as a collective group, they are outperforming our other Chinese students by a considerable margin. The type of gaokao students we have targeted are bright students who were clearly prepared to succeed at the highest academic levels.” The school, which has about 11,000 students, presently has over 880 Chinese students enrolled.
US universities have made greater efforts to attract Chinese students in recent years to boost revenues, and as international student enrollment has fallen under the Trump administration. During the 2016 to 2017 academic year, 350,755 Chinese students came to the US, and contributed about $12 billion in tuition and living expenses to the economy, or over 30% of the total generated by international students. Many parents in China spare no financial effort in supporting their children’s education, and studying abroad has become an increasingly popular choice in the last decade.
In China, many have expressed doubts that the gaokao is a good measure of a student’s ability, as it seems to reward purely rote learning. However, Paul Fitzgerald, president of the University of San Francisco, notes that there are similar doubts about the traditional US admissions test, the SAT. “Many studies have shown that the SAT is not a very good predictor of how well students will do at university,” he said. “[And gaokao] tests whether students are able to master a given body of knowledge, as well as their ability to work hard and consistently.”
Separating the children of immigrants from their parents under the Trump administration’s now-rescinded “zero tolerance” policy was devastating in its own right. But one of the most horrific consequences of the policy is that it’s put those children into the care of government-funded shelters accused of neglect and child abuse.
An investigation conducted by The Texas Tribune and Reveal, published Wednesday (June 20), found that more than $1.5 billion of taxpayer money has gone to fund private companies operating shelters for migrant children that have been accused of “serious lapses in care, including neglect and sexual and physical abuse.” One shelter in particular, the Shiloh Treatment Center in Manvel, Texas, has come under the spotlight for medical mistreatment of children. Yet the government has continued to funnel unaccompanied migrant children who cross the border to those shelters, along with some of the more than 2,000 children who have been split from their parents since the White House enacted its “zero tolerance” policy in May.
Here are some of the most disturbing abuse allegations at the Shiloh Treatment Center and other facilities where migrant children are being detained, according to an ongoing class-action lawsuit against the federal government that draws on anonymized testimony.
Four children at one shelter died of asphyxiation because of physical restraints
“The Daystar facility in Manvel, Texas had a capacity of 141 children. Between 1993 and 2002, three teenagers died at Daystar from asphyxiation due to physical restraints. In most cases, the children were hog-tied. Beyond these deaths, there were reports of sexual abuse and staff making developmentally disabled girls fight for snacks. Numerous stakeholders, including the district attorney, spoke out against Daystar, but the facility kept its license. In November 2010, a fourth child died in what was ruled a homicide by asphyxiation due to physical restraints. Daystar’s license was still not revoked until January 2011.”
The staff at Shiloh subjected children to verbal abuse
One child says:
“Some of the staff at Shiloh would provoke the children there and make us angry intentionally. They made us act violently so then we had to be given shots. The staff would insult us and call us names like ‘son of a whore.’ They often did it in English but I understood some English so I would know what they were saying and get really angry.”
Shiloh forced children to take psychotropic drugs
“[Redacted name] was transferred to Shiloh RTC in June of 2016 where he remained until December 2016. … During his time at Shiloh RTC, was placed on numerous psychotropic medications. … This combination of drugs includes four different classes of medication, the majority of which, four of the six, are antipsychotics with very limited FDA-approved uses in children and adolescents. The use of multiple antipsychotic medications at the same time is inconsistent with medical guidelines. … In addition to the regular psychotropic medications he was placed on, was forcibly medicated on several occasions at Shiloh RTC, as well. … An independent psychologist who evaluated concluded that the multiple diagnoses was assigned while at Shiloh RTC were not justified based on his behavior and clinical presentation. … These diagnoses resulted in the prescription of inappropriate medications that had adverse side effects, including weight gain of almost 100 pounds.”
Children are handcuffed and kept in small cells, receiving just one hour outside each day
“Youth in secure facilities report being handcuffed, locked in cells, and pepper sprayed … Children strapped into chairs, and bags placed over their heads; one youth thought, ‘They are going to suffocate me.'”
The Office of Refugee Resettlement unnecessarily keeps children in shelters for weeks, months, or even years
One anonymous youth says:
“I was supposed to be released [to my dad] at the end of this month, but I was told that I am a bit aggressive, so I am still here. My brother was murdered recently, so I have been more sad than normal.”
The mother of a son held at a facility says that she was asked to prove that she didn’t have cancer before her son would be released:
“I believe that a mother has a right to take care of her son, even if she is incapacitated, although I am not. It occurred to me that they were looking for an excuse to deny me my son.”
Even as blockchain mania is in some cases being replaced by blockchain skepticism, projects using the distributed ledger technology are still being rolled out. One of the latest is a partnership between consulting firm EY and technology giant Microsoft.
The companies say the network, initially to be used for rights and royalties processing by Microsoft’s game publishers, will eventually have a much wider purpose. It’s meant for any industry in which assets or intellectual property are licensed and royalties accrue based on contracts. Users could include developers, music publishers, authors, or production houses, which generate millions of transactions each month in paid royalties.
For Microsoft, the gaming-partner blockchain network is expected to handle millions of transactions each day, making it one of the largest such ecosystems for enterprise use.
A key question is whether blockchain systems are better than regular technology. It’s entirely reasonable to think a distributed-ledger network will be an upgrade from an old manual process. Yet is it cheaper and faster than regular technology that hasn’t been sprinkled with crypto pixie dust?
Paul Brody, EY’s global innovation leader for blockchain, told Quartz this system is better than some other off-the-shelf technology because of its decentralized nature—it provides tools to process transactions between multiple entities without relying on a centralized party:
There are two reasons why a blockchain is a much better solution for this particular challenge. The first comes from smart contracts themselves, which allow for a much more flexible approach to business logic. Smart contracts are much more flexible tool for handing lots of unique business agreements while ingesting lots of transactions and preserving the privacy between parties. Secondly, this isn’t just about Microsoft and their business partners–it is ultimately intended to be a general tool set for any company to do digital rights and royalty contracts with any other. That means no centralized control and each company being assured of its own operational privacy.
The Bank for International Settlements (pdf) recently pointed out that the widely distributed blockchain behind crypto assets like bitcoin uses far more energy and memory storage than existing electronic payments systems, and it can’t process nearly as many transactions. The Basel-based bank acknowledged, however, that the underlying technology could be useful in other fields.
The BIS also suggested that so-called permissioned distributed ledgers, which use a smaller network of nodes to validate transactions, could be more efficient than bitcoin’s ledger system—and potentially even more efficient than other types of technology. The project between EY and Microsoft uses Quorum’s permissioned distributed ledger and Microsoft’s Azure cloud infrastructure.
Instagram on Wednesday (June 20) announced a new in-app feature and standalone app that will allow users to post videos of up to 60 minutes. Dubbed IGTV, it is expected to roll out in coming weeks.
Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom made the announcement during an event in San Francisco today, exactly five years after the company first added video to its platform. Each of IGTV’s channels will belong to a “creator,” some of whom were present at the event—social media star Lele Pons, for example, gave a preview of her IGTV cooking show—but Instagram emphasized in its announcement that anyone can be a creator.
IGTV sends somewhat of a mixed message from a platform whose parent company, Facebook, has vowed to turn social-media time into “time well spent.” But it’s also an obvious effort on Instagram’s part to compete with YouTube and its army of influencers.
One big differentiator between IGTV and YouTube: The former uses full-screen vertical video. In a press release, Instagram said this is because IGTV is “built for how you actually use your phone,” unlike the more traditional horizontal format.
Business-wise, the move makes perfect sense. According to market-research firm eMarketer, video makes up 17% of all US digital ad spending, and an increasing number of people are watching video on their phones. Systrom said Wednesday that Instagram now has 1 billion monthly users, and the Pew Research Center recently reported that 72% of US teenagers say they use Instagram. (By comparison, 85% use YouTube.) Instagram Stories, the feature that lets users post short, temporary video segments, has been a huge hit for the platform.
“We believe this is a smart strategy and a clear shot across the bow at YouTube and looking to court content from that platform,” Daniel Ives, an analyst at GBH Insights told Quartz. “Instagram is in a position of strength and this is both an offensive and defensive strategic move for them.”
It could be a good moment for Instagram to pounce, as YouTube has come under fire for allowing exploitative and fake content on its platform (a problem Instagram is not immune to either). Some YouTube influencers are also unhappy with the video platform, whose algorithm they say encourages frequent posting that leads to burnout and mental health problems. What remains unclear is how exactly advertising and revenue will work on IGTV, and whether Instagram, like YouTube, will make money off of its video influencers.
A Facebook spokesperson said the company will be exploring ways to monetize IGTV, but will not be doing so immediately. “Creators are both entertainers and a source of inspiration and identity for young people, and we’re excited for even more of them to emerge with IGTV,” the spokesperson said. “We are committed to helping them build their careers and make a living doing this work.”
Though a logical business move, IGTV does raise questions about Facebook’s ostensible new mission to fix some of problems it has created, including social media addiction. Earlier this year, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said his priority is to make sure that time spent on Facebook is “time well spent,” a phrase borrowed from critics of Silicon Valley’s monopoly on our attention. Instagram is even working on a feature that would help users measure and limit time spent on the platform. IGTV’s 60-minute videos will add up quickly.
Disney didn’t give any ground on its effort to buy most of 21st Century Fox, topping Comcast’s $65 billion offer with a $71 billion winning bid on Wednesday.
US immigration policy has been a windfall for organizations running child detention centers. The largest one, based in Austin, reportedly made $458 million in 2018.
Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday putting an end to his widely-criticized practice of separating families at the US-Mexico border. The White House has faced an emotional backlash over its “zero tolerance” policy toward immigrants and refugees seeking asylum at the border, with many members of the public expressing shock that the government would enforce a practice so cruel as to forcibly tear children away from their parents.
But this isn’t the first time in US history that such a thing has happened. The so-called “tender age” shelters at which children under the age of 13 are being held are eerily reminiscent of the golden age of American orphanages, which were shut down by progressive activists in the aftermath of World War II over concerns about the lasting trauma they inflicted on children.
The history of American orphanages
The first orphanage was established (pdf) in the United States in 1729. By 1850, there were 56; by 1900, there were an estimated 1,000 orphanages throughout the country, where an estimated 100,000 children lived. The conditions in the orphanages were horrific: Many children were placed as indentured servants in remote areas of the country, and the orphanages disproportionately targeted children of color, who were removed from their families at a much higher rate than white children.
One of the darkest and least-known features of the American orphanage system was that a majority of the children placed in those institutions were not actually orphans. Most had one or two living parents who were too poor to care for them, or had been deemed otherwise unfit to do so. Many of the children had been rescued from poorhouses, where conditions were often much worse. A review of the Protestant Orphan Asylum in St. Louis, Missouri from 1847 to 1869, for example, revealed that only 27% of the children had no parents.
In essence, this means that orphanages, both those run by private charities and by state and local governments, actively orphaned children, based on criteria like race or socio-economic status. In this way, they deprived children of their most important support system—their parents.
“When they defined who to admit, they defined who was an orphan,” said Matthew Crenson, a professor at Johns Hopkins University and author of The Invisible Orphanage: A Pre-history of the American Welfare System. “The institution in effect created the clientele by its admission decisions—kids with tubercular parents, kids with poor parents, kids with dead parents.”
In the early 1900s, progressive activists began a movement to shut down orphanages and send unaccompanied children to foster families instead of institutions. The consensus that emerged from this movement—namely, that all children deserved individualized care and education in a family setting—formed the basis of the child welfare policies that we know today. After WWII, orphanages slowly disappeared, thanks notably to the financial assistance provided to states and families by the passage of the Social Security Act in 1935.
But the so-called “tender age” shelters in Texas, which the AP reports house many children under the age of 5, are effectively a reprisal of the orphanages of the past.
What are “tender age” shelters?
Federal officials said on Tuesday that, since May, they have separated 2,342 children from their families, with some of these—estimated numbers are not available—being diverted to so-called “tender age” shelters.
There has been much confusion over the organization and intake policies of these shelters. The Department of Health and Human Services has released very little information about the welfare of the children. But volunteers and immigration lawyers who have entered the facilities have described scenes of chaos, confusion, and most of all, childhood trauma. Crenson told Quartz, “These are not kids who grew up in well-ordered, safe homes—they probably need help, they probably suffered, and I wonder whether the people who run these facilities have the willingness or the capacity to give them the treatment they need.”
As with the American orphanages of the 1800s, there are many opportunities for abuse and ill-treatment of children in “tender age” shelters. An investigation by The Texas Tribune and Reveal found that one of the shelters being used for children separated from their parents, the Shiloh Treatment Center, has received more than $25 million in grants since 2013, despite the fact that Texas officials have repeatedly found that it violated basic standards of care. A recent court filing with the California District Court alleges that children in the care of Shiloh were forcibly injected with psychotropic medications and told that they would not be released or see their parents unless they took the medication.
With Trump’s order, the policy of separating kids from their parents appears to be over—but the US immigration system has already turned more than 2,000 kids into “unaccompanied alien children.” Their parents, fighting from detention facilities hundreds of miles away to find a way to get their children back, would certainly disagree.
This reporting is part of a series supported by a grant from the Bernard van Leer Foundation. The author’s views are not necessarily those of the Bernard van Leer Foundation.
If the movies teach us anything, it’s that the US government has a small room with a few stressed-out bureaucrats worrying about every disaster that might arise. Volcanos? Absolutely. Pandemic influenza? You got it. Today, we heard from the killer asteroid team.
The bad news? NASA is not going to be able to find all the asteroids big enough to cause serious devastation on Earth by 2020—or even 2033. Also: For a hypothetical attempt to send a spacecraft to divert an seriously dangerous incoming asteroid, we’ll need a ten year heads-up to build it and get it to the asteroid.
The good news? They’re working on it. “If a real threat does arise, we are prepared to pull together the information about what options might work and provide that information to decision-makers,” Lindley Johnson, NASA’s Planetary Defense Officer, told reporters.
The meat of the announcement today from was the conversion of a 2016 strategy document (pdf) produced by the Obama administration into a set of coordinated goals (pdf) across the government, from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to the Department of Energy. Sensible stuff— figuring out how better to track asteroids; predict their behavior; re-route or break them apart; and work better with international partners to routinely improve the world’s ability to do this.
Even though asteroid impacts are rare, they’re serious. You might remember the 2013 impact of a meteoroid in Chelyabinsk, Russia, which exploded in the air and released enough energy to injure a thousand people, mostly due to shattered windows. It was fairly small: Just 20 or 30 meters across, which means the network of telescopes we rely on to hunt asteroids didn’t spot it before it entered Earth’s atmosphere—and probably won’t find others of that size, either.
NASA, under orders from Congress, is focused on finding asteroids bigger than 140 meters across—that is, those that are large enough to devastate an entire region. We still have a lot to do in that regard, per Johnson, who says that “we’ve found about 8,000 near-Earth asteroids at least 140 meters across, but two thirds of such objects remain to be discovered.”
The chart above shows that we’ve found most of the asteroids that could end life on Earth, but we’ve found far fewer of the smaller kind, which could still devastate life for millions of people.
Equivalent area of destruction for a Tunguska-sized asteroid over New York City.
NASA cites the 1908 airburst of a 40 to 60 meter asteroid over Tunguska, Russia, which leveled 2,000 square kilometers of forest. If that were to happen over New York City, it would cause millions of casualties.
NASA says it would be unlikely to detect an near-Earth object of this size with more than a few days of warning. That’s why the first big action item in this report is for NASA, the US Air Force and the National Science Foundation to come up with a plan to invest in new telescopes to hunt these asteroids.
The amount of funds available for Planetary Protection is increasing, with the Trump administration requesting $150 million from lawmakers next year, mostly to fund a mission to demonstrate a spacecraft called DART that could deflect an Earth-bound asteroid. But strangely, Johnson would not discuss specific technologies for hunting asteroids during the media briefing on the report.
One option is NEOCam, a proposed telescope that would hunt for asteroids. But that program may be under stress now that important questions are being raised about its predecessor project, called NEOWise. That effort used a different telescope to measure near-Earth objects, but Nathan Myhrvold, a former Microsoft technologist with a Ph.d in physics, has challenged the results, publishing a new peer-reviewed paper arguing that they are far more uncertain than NASA’s researchers suggest.
Johnson didn’t have much to say about the controversy when asked by a reporter, saying the NEOWise data “is extensively utilized by the overall scientific community as the best data available on the population of near-Earth asteroids as we know them.”
But as the graph above shows, the best is far from good enough.
Tesla needs a bigger factory. The electric carmaker’s Fremont, California plant was already “busting at the seams” last year to produce the luxury Model S and Model X SUV. Now with the company aiming this month for Model 3 production to reach 5,000 cars a week—and annual production to hit 500,000 cars—it’s in desperate need of manufacturing space.
The solution? A giant tent.
This timelapse imagery shows the tent coming together adjacent to the Fremont plant between May 27 and June 18:
Musk tweeted that the company used “scrap we had in warehouses” to help complete the facility in a matter of weeks.
Needed another general assembly line to reach 5k/week Model 3 production. A new building was impossible, so we built a giant tent in 2 weeks. Tesla team kfa!! Gah, love them so much
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 19, 2018
Building permits pulled by BuildZoom show that Tesla applied to erect the structure valued at $2.8 million beginning in November 2017, including a “Tesla Sprung 3 Temporary Structure,” as well as foundations, sprinkler systems, and equipment installation. Musk seemed satisfied enough to declare that Tesla was better off than its conventional counterparts in an adjacent building costing hundreds of millions of dollars.
“Not sure we actually need a building,” he tweeted. “This tent is pretty sweet…It’s actually way better than the factory building.” Tesla’s newest acquisition, German automation company Grohmann, is now racing to finalize the company’s third general assembly line under the tent-like “sprung” structure (it appears to be constructed of aluminum and tensioned fabric). You can see reported ground-level images of the facility here.
This is not standard for the auto industry, to say the least, says Arthur Wheaton of Cornell University’s labor and industrial relations program. Automakers have built temporary structures in the past, usually to house excess inventory or to deal with emergencies. Ford once built temporary structures to shelter thousands of unfinished Explorer SUVs missing seats as supplier issues were worked out.
That’s of a different order than making use of a facility designed to be temporary to serve as a permanent installation housing tens of millions in sensitive machinery, computers and unfinished cars, Wheaton says. Weather or a natural disaster could spell disaster. “It’s a sign of desperation, but it could work out,” he says. “It seems appropriate that the P.T. Barnum of the auto industry puts production under the Big Top.”
Tesla has few options. With its Fremont plant at capacity, the company must invest in a new factory or find incremental capacity elsewhere. Wheaton estimates a factory making mass-market vehicles must operate at 80% capacity or more, churning about 200,000 vehicles per year to be profitable. Tesla wants to hit its target of 500,000 cars per year by the end of 2018, but that goal remains in doubt.
Investing in a new factory will take years and billions of dollars Tesla can’t afford until it gets it Model 3 production back on track.
It’s the tent or bust.
Depending where you live in the world, your options for supporting refugees during world refugee week (and any time) vary considerably.
You might phone your political representative and argue for more compassionate refugee resettlement policies, or volunteer with organizations that connect refugees with jobs, training, education, and health care. (They’ll also happily take your donations.) Or you could hire refugees as employees.
But since researchers have demonstrated that refugees are “disproportionately entrepreneurial,” there’s also usually an opportunity to shop at refugee-run businesses. That’s a great way to stimulate economic activity and jobs, while picking up, perhaps, a vintage camo jacket with African wax fabric accents.
WeWork, the fast-growing co-working company, is hosting Refugee Creator Marketplace events in Chicago, London, and Mexico City, over the next few days to celebrate World Refugee Week.
Chicago’s event begins tonight at WeWork Kinzie, and will feature artisans such as Scents of Syria, whose ghar soaps, crafted from laurel and olive oil, are sold in reusable pouches embroidered with Arabic words and Arabesque motifs.
London’s marketplace, co-produced with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, is scheduled for Thursday, June 21, at WeWork Waterhouse Square. Watch for designs from Made51, whose accessories and homewares put a contemporary spin on a traditional designs, and are made by refugees from countries including Afghanistan, Burundi, and Mali. As with all of these events, there will be traditional foods, some made by refugee chefs, available for purchase or sampling.
And on June 22, WeWork Torre Reforma Latino in Mexico City will invite locals to shop for refugee-made goods from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Colombia, Congo, Perú, and Venezuela.
Such pop-up market nights have already been held in Denver and New York, but if you missed them WeWork can direct you to any vendors selling online. NaTakallam (“We speak” in Arabic), which appeared at the New York event, for instance, is an online-only venture and a brilliant idea: it connects refugee speakers of Arabic, mainly from Syria and Iraq, with people who want to study the language in virtual one-to-one lessons.
All the marketplaces are part of WeWork’s Refugee Initiative, which began last year, when the company pledged to hire 1,500 refugees over five years. Now that project (which also involves language and coding classes) is expanding to Brazil and Colombia, places that have seen an influx of refugees from Venezuela, where the economy is slowly collapsing.
Purchasing something from a businesses that supports refugees or sells refugee-made goods sends benefits both ways. For the maker, it can help a person who has left their country behind to find a renewed sense of direction, using an old or newly acquired talent. And for the buyer it can be an introduction to an unfamiliar food or craft, offering welcome diversity in places where clothes and restaurants are mired in sameness.
Like few other shopping experiences, it’s truly a win-win.
American study abroad students tend to get a bad rap in Europe. And whether they’re falling out of a club at 4am or talking loudly in a silent metro carriage, that’s probably where they’re doing it: Europe. American university students have long flocked predominately to the continent to expand their educational and recreational horizons.
But that’s starting to change. Data from the Institute of International Education (IIE) shows that American students are increasingly skipping Europe to head elsewhere. From 2004 to 2016 (the most recent year for which data was available), nearly 6% fewer American students headed to host nations in Europe, while students heading to nations in Asia, Latin America, and elsewhere were on the rise.
That said, the vast majority of American students are still heading to Europe. In 2016, more than half (54.4%) still took off for the continent, down from 60.3% in 2004.
And what about non-American students who head to the US for their semester abroad? In 2017, Asian students made up the majority of foreign students in America, with six of the top 10-most represented countries of origin being Asian.
|Place of Origin||% of total|
Since the 1950s, when the world was first introduced to the flexible, durable wonder of plastic, 8.3 billion metric tons of it has been produced. Plastic doesn’t biodegrade, so technically, all of that tonnage is still sitting someplace on the planet. And a lot of it is in China.
That’s because when hundreds of countries around the world said they were “recycling” their plastic over the past few decades, half the time what they really meant was they were exporting it to another country. And most of the time, that meant they were exporting it to China. Since 1992, China (and Hong Kong, which acts as an entry port into mainland China) have imported 72% of all plastic waste.
But China has had enough. In 2017, China announced it was permanently banning the import of nonindustrial plastic waste. According to a paper published Wednesday (June 20) in the journal Science Advances, that will leave the world—mostly high-income countries—with an additional 111 million metric tons of plastic to deal with by 2030. And right now, those countries have no good way to handle it.
As of 2016, the top five countries exporting their plastic to China were the US, the UK, Mexico, Japan, and Germany.
For example, that year, the US exported 56% of its plastic waste to China, with another 32% going to Hong Kong (of which most is then exported to China). The US exported its remaining 12% to Mexico, Canada, and India. Germany, meanwhile, exports 69% of its plastic to China.
But because flows of plastic are convoluted, it’s possible these numbers don’t tell the whole story. For example, the researchers note that the UK exports 51% of its plastic to Germany, but given how much plastic Germany exports to China, it’s seems plausible that much of the UK’s plastic ultimately ends up in China. The same goes for Mexico, which exports 55% of its plastic to the US. The US, in turn, exports most of its plastic to China. But the researchers write the United Nations trade data on which they based their research does not monitor flows of plastic between countries, so “we do not know whether that waste is then processed domestically or exported to Hong Kong or China,” they write.
China has in the past tried to limit plastic imports. In 2013, the country implemented a “Green Fence” policy of restricting the types of plastic waste it would accept, with the goal of reducing contamination. The policy lasted only a year, but it was enough to rattle the waste industry. “As a result, plastic recycling industries experienced a globally cascading effect since little infrastructure exists elsewhere to manage the rejected waste,” the researchers write.
That’s already happening again, and now the ban is permanent.
The rule went into effect on January 1, 2018, and plastic immediately began piling up in several European countries, the port of Hong Kong, and the US. “My inventory is out of control,” Steve Frank, who owns recycling plants in Oregon, which up until then had exported most of its materials to China, told the New York Times at the time. He hoped he’d be able to start exporting more waste to countries like Indonesia, India, Vietnam, Malaysia—“anywhere we can”—but “they can’t make up the difference,” he said.
At the end of the day, even the 111 million metric tons of plastic that the researchers found would be back in the laps of countries who used to export to China is still a fraction of all the plastic that gets produced.
“We know from our previous studies that only 9% of all plastic ever produced has been recycled, and the majority of it ends up in landfills or the natural environment,” Jenna Jambeck, an associate professor at the University of Georgia’s college of engineering who co-authored the study, said in a statement. “Without bold new ideas and system-wide changes, even the relatively low current recycling rates will no longer be met, and our previously recycled materials could now end up in landfills.”
Donald Trump famously contends that trade wars are easy to win. But they’re certainly not easy to start.
Arithmetically speaking, that sounds doable. After all, the US imported $506 billion worth of Chinese products in 2017.
But there’s a catch. In order to find $200 billion worth of Chinese products to apply duties to, the US risks eating into American consumers’ spending power, as analysis by Panjiva, a research firm, demonstrates. That’s because the US is astonishingly reliant upon Chinese goods.
The White House wants to impose duties only on goods that won’t hit American households, as officials flagged in their last trade action. That’s a tough balance to strike because tariffs are essentially taxes, ones that are usually paid by consumers. Now, higher price tags aren’t always bad for the US economy as a whole; increased prices can translate into more profits for domestic companies, raises for US workers, and more government revenue. But if sticker prices rise sharply, Trump could face voter backlash in the November midterm elections, loosening his party’s stranglehold on Congress.
One way of preventing that is to put tariffs on goods that can be bought from somewhere besides China. As it happens, sources in the administration say that the next round of tariffs will target products for which China supplied 33% or less of total imports, reports Reuters.
There’s just one problem: China dominates the share of a lot of US imports. For instance, nearly all US laptop imports and nine-tenths of foreign-made toys come from China. Only about $66 billion of US imports from China meet that one-third threshold, according to Panjiva. (The research firm’s calculations also omit goods like washing machines and steel that already face tariffs or that have been ruled out by lobbying efforts, which adds up to about $80 billion.)
If the administration wants to levy tariffs on $100 billion worth of Chinese goods, as Trump originally pledged, it will have to include products for which China supplied 44% (or less) of US total imports, according to Panjiva. A similar analysis by Reuters put the threshold slightly lower, at 40%.
Finding $200 billion worth of Chinese goods to slap tariffs on will force the White House to up that threshold to 65%. That will mean including tariffs on phone network equipment—things like telephone sets and modems, says Panjiva. Last year, the US imported around $23 billion worth of Chinese goods in that category.
Of course, to avoid stoking voter ire, Trump’s team also should aim to exclude anything sold directly to consumers, and instead focus on products bought by businesses—which may nonetheless pass on costs to consumers.
Even at the 33% threshold, coming up with the new list of products targeted for tariffs is going to be tough. Of the top 25 items that might be considered, 12 are consumer goods, including $5 billion worth of Chinese-made PCs and $2 billion of cotton sweaters and outerwear.
That does leave $5 billion in car parts and nearly $1 billion in truck tires from China available for inclusion in Trump’s retaliation list. But if he needs those big numbers to add clout to his threatened auto imports tariffs, the president is going to have to find something else to tax instead.
Being a parent means living in a state of total responsibility. When you gaze upon your beautiful baby, you do so with the understanding that for the next decade-and-a-half, at minimum, it will be your job to know where this small, wondrous person you’ve made is, every minute of every day, without exception. There are moments when this overwhelms me, where I long to just sit in a café and sip a cup of coffee, or go see a movie without asking anyone, without making arrangements.
But not lately. These days it feels like an enormous privilege to know exactly where my children are.
Yesterday, the president of the United States signed a piece of paper vowing to change his policy of separating families who come to our border with Mexico. That could be good news for the people camped out on the other side of that border, desperate to seek asylum in the US as they flee the same gangs Donald Trump himself has referred to as “animals,” or trying to escape other kinds of violence, or poverty. But there is still no plan to reunite the close to 2,500 children who have been taken from their parents and scattered across the country, from Texas to Michigan to New York City. It’s not clear where migrant families will be held together, nor whether the family separations will continue as facilities are prepared.
The world is full of bad things, I know. This ongoing nightmare though, the thought of what these families are going through—it has shaken all the parents I know to their core.
Where are your shoes? Did you try a bite of your beans? Did you wash your hands? How was school? Were you gentle? Did you ask nicely? Can you say thank you? These are the questions that parents ask over and over again, driving ourselves bananas. These are the questions children need to be asked. Is someone asking those questions in the detainment centers?
It’s not just Rachel Maddow who feels overwhelmed by the thought of so much reckless cruelty, it’s a friend crying on the subway while reading about “tender age centers” filled with babies and toddlers, hysterical with fear and confusion. It’s my former student, herself a mother, reporting on wave after wave of breaking news in Texas, then going to therapy to process it all.
Right now it feels wrong to call the babysitter and book three hours instead of two for Friday night so that there’s time for one more cocktail, or to chide your partner for feeding the children too much bacon and not enough green things, with the constant awareness of so many other parents in a state of abject emotional agony. The thought of what they are going through floats through my day like a specter, insinuating itself into whatever my own family is doing.
When I wake up to breastfeed my six-month-old daughter in the middle of the night, I wonder about the story of the baby taken out of her mother’s arms as she did the same. As a journalist, my first thought is about whether this story is true—it sounds made for a headline. As a mom though, I wonder what that baby is eating now. Is formula constipating her? How long did she hold out before taking a bottle? Did anyone help that mom get a breast pump to relieve her of the buildup of milk her child wasn’t there to drink? How much pain was she in before someone helped her with that? Is she still pumping, in a cell somewhere, hoping to get her baby back soon?
Other questions flood in. Are there enough workers to hold the babies, to play with them so they continue to develop socially? Are workers banned from comforting and cuddling children by rules meant to prevent inappropriate touching? Do the centers know to put young babies down to sleep on their backs?
When I tell the toddler he can have toast with peanut butter or yogurt with strawberries for breakfast, I’m thinking about what the children in detention centers are eating. Is it the same stuff as public school lunches? Is there enough? Did he manage to get his pants on? Is his t-shirt on backwards? Who is dressing these children? How do they keep track of them, when some are too young to talk? Will they be reunited with their parents? How did we allow this to happen?
At pre-school drop-off my sweetly ferocious boy repeatedly asks for one more hug. I keep giving them out, because I can. The teachers, I can tell, are slightly impatient with my indulgence. A teacher asks me to help reinforce the concept of gentle play and awareness of smaller kids at home. I agree and start worrying about how to make sure my big galoot doesn’t turn into a bully. My son is tall for his age and gets in over his head with older kids. He’s loud and precocious, but also shy and easily wounded.
What would happen to him in one of those places? Who would help him make sure he got to the bathroom in time, and clean him up if he didn’t? Who would give him one more hug? Who is supervising the older children at the tent camp that the government is being so secretive about? Are the younger kids being bullied?
Who is working there, and what was the screening process as the government scrambled to implement this policy? Doesn’t this seem like a perfect set of conditions for violence and sexual abuse? Yesterday there were reports that private shelters contracted to hold migrant children have been accused of “serious lapses in care, including neglect and sexual and physical abuse” and even of injecting children with psychotropic drugs.
Am I losing it a little? I feel physically ill just thinking about this, and then disgusted with myself for crying over something that is unlikely to ever happen to my family—because of something as random as where we were born, and our whiteness.
As I’m working, I periodically scroll through the news to see the latest horrors, while simultaneously knocking small items off my to-do list, like checking when the baby’s next pediatrician visit is. What are the vaccination rates like in Central America? Are babies who haven’t yet been vaccinated being held in centers where something like pertussis or measles could quickly spread? Is there adequate medical attention for children who may have been traumatized even before they were taken from their parents, and are now in a strange place, all alone? What’s the longest I’ve been away from my kids? Maybe four days for the toddler. Eight hours, at the most, for the baby.
Bedtime is the worst. The inexorable march toward sleep starts at dinner time and ends well before 8pm, with grubby bodies bathed, books read, and snuggles dispensed. I rush to the baby when she fusses, instead of giving her time to settle herself. My toddler talks me into an extra puzzle, a snack, or yet another reading of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
It’s impossible to remain a bedtime hardliner when I’m thinking about little children curled up on the floor in a former fucking Walmart, under a space blanket, in a place where they don’t know anyone. Is this scarier than crossing the desert, or riding on a train through an unknown country? Is this scarier than the pervasive gang and drug violence they may have known at home?
I also think about the parents, lying on similar floors, with no way to know where their children are. Do they imagine chubby little hands gripped tight in their palms? Can they still smell their baby’s warm head? Do they sleep? Will that frantic feeling—the one I have only the faintest hint of knowing and yet can feel with my whole body—ever leave them?
People living in rural America are more likely to suffer from obesity than those living in and near cities. And while there are a number of reasons for this, public health experts in the world’s largest economy say there aren’t enough programs being deployed to help people overcome the problem.
The finding, presented in a pair of newly published studies carried out by researchers at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, raises more questions than it does offer answers. To be sure, these are not the first studies to identify a disparity in obesity rates between people living in cities with more than a million people and more sparsely populated rural areas. They add to a growing body of evidence showing as much, increasing pressure on the public health community to figure out why the disparity exists and how to best go about solving the problem.
Some research has shown that higher-than-average fried food consumption in the so-called “stroke belt” of America—southern states including North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Louisiana—raises the risk for obesity and stroke. Other studies have found that living in isolated parts of the country generally translates to having fewer healthy food options when shopping.
Regardless of the individual contributing causes of greater risk of obesity in rural areas, experts are mostly in agreement that more effective programs are needed in rural areas to assist people in learning how to live healthier lives.
One of the more surprising things to come out of the most recent studies, according to the researchers, is that there’s an increased likelihood of severe obesity among rural children and adolescents, as compared to those living in urban areas. Severe obesity is defined as when a person’s body mass index is calculated at 40 or higher. Body mass index is measured by taking a person’s weight in kilograms and dividing that number by their height in meters squared. Of the nearly 7,000 children and adolescents analyzed between 2013 and 2016 by the researchers, the rate of severe obesity was almost 5% higher in rural areas than in urban areas.
Across all of the youth and adults analyzed in these studies—17,655 people—higher rates of obesity and severe obesity were linked to older age and lower level of head-of-household education, regardless of where they lived. Another trend that cuts across the rural/urban divide is that obesity is more common among non-Hispanic black and Hispanic youth compared with non-Hispanic white youth.
Donald Trump delivered a speech to the National Federation of Independent Businesses yesterday (June 19) that included a claim which left many listeners confused.
His remarks centered on the importance of small businesses, and covered one of his favorite bugbears, NAFTA. Apparently as an example of how the US is “treated horribly” under the deal, Trump digressed into this anecdote:
There was a story two days ago, in a major newspaper, talking about people living in Canada, coming into the United States, and smuggling things back into Canada because the tariffs are so massive. The tariffs to get common items back into Canada are so high that they have to smuggle them in. They buy shoes, then they wear them. They scuff them up. They make them sound old or look old.
No, we’re treated horribly. Dairy. Dairy. Two-hundred and seventy-five percent tariff. So basically that’s a barrier without saying it’s a barrier.
Trump’s comment, which appeared to refer to this story from the New York Post, seemed to suggest that Canada is putting high tariffs on shoes made in the US, much like the tariffs Canada puts on dairy products to protect its own industry. To avoid the high markups, Canadians are traveling to the US, buying shoes, scuffing them to evade paying duties on their new purchase at the border, and smuggling them into the country.
It’s a “time-honoured Canadian pastime,” as the Toronto Star’s Washington correspondent Daniel Dale put it, for Canadians to shop in the US and sneak a couple items past customs. But Trump’s comments included some fundamental misunderstandings that led many journalists to take to Twitter to express their bewilderment. They even inspired a Twitter Moment.
For one thing, the US makes almost no shoes at this stage, despite the very high tariffs it places on footwear. More than 98% of footwear sold in the US is made elsewhere, mostly in Asia. To add to the confusion, Canadians coming into the US and shopping at American businesses is good for the US.
I'm scratching my head — isn't the smuggling part our problem? The cross-border shopping is great for the US, non?
— Jennifer Ditchburn (@jenditchburn) June 19, 2018
In other words: in this shoe example, Canadians are spending money at US businesses to buy Asian-made goods. Yay America. Then they're – sometimes – hiding these products from Canadian customs to avoid Canadian tariffs on Asian goods. Why is this bad for America? Who knows.
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) June 19, 2018
The US footwear industry’s business and trade association, Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA), issued a blunt reply in response to the comments. “The President seems misinformed about footwear trade,” said Matt Priest, president and CEO of the FDRA. “NAFTA is not treating footwear consumers in America unfairly, the American government itself has not lowered footwear duties in a meaningful way in over 80 years.”
Priest also stated: “On behalf of the American footwear industry, we welcome anyone from anywhere to come and purchase shoes in America. It helps both our brands and retailers grow. Period.”
Executives from Amazon, JPMorgan Chase, and Berkshire Hathaway have named doctor Atul Gawande the CEO of their joint healthcare company, a startup announced in January that’s intended to serve as an alternative medical system for the companies’ employees.
Gawande has a long history of criticizing healthcare in the US. In addition to being a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and a professor at Harvard Medical School, he has found wide acclaim as an author and as a staff writer for The New Yorker. His 2009 piece “The Cost Conundrum” (paywall) described in detail how one town in Texas was spending thousands of dollars on care for its senior citizens, yet failing to provide better care. His books The Checklist Manifesto and Complications both boil healthcare improvements down to a science.
In the US, employers provide access to private healthcare coverage for more than 150 million people. The setup arguably has some advantages over public systems, but it’s also exclusive and incredibly expensive, accounting for 18% of US GDP in 2016, without evidence of measurably better health outcomes than less costly systems. This new venture aims to streamline the medical process by putting doctors, insurers, and patients all on the same page, and taking more advantage of cost-effective services like telemedicine.
Some in the medical industry are skeptical that the Amazon-JPMorgan-Berkshire venture will be able to solve America’s healthcare problems or lead to more widespread reform. But Gawande struck a confident note in the announcement of his hiring, saying, “I have devoted my public health career to building scalable solutions for better health-care delivery that are saving lives, reducing suffering, and eliminating wasteful spending both in the US and across the world.”
Gawande will take on his new role beginning July 9. According to STAT, he has told friends and family that he is not giving up his jobs as a surgeon, professor, or writer. Presumably one or more of these roles comes with the offer of health insurance. For many Americans patching together their livelihood by juggling multiple jobs, this often isn’t the case.
This post has been updated.
Donald Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order to stop separating immigrant children from their parents at the border. Instead, he’s going to lock up whole families together.
Under the new order, the Trump administration will continue to prosecute all immigrants apprehended between ports of entry—a policy known as “zero tolerance.” The difference is that children will now be detained with their parents, instead of being sent to separate holding facilities.
The US president’s latest stance on family separation is an about-face on his positions on the issue, which had swung from saying it was absolutely necessary to blaming it on Democrats. It came amid mounting pressure from the American public, international leaders, members of his party, and his own wife, Melania Trump, to end the policy.
cont’d: Melania has had several private conversations with Trump, apparently pushing him to do all he can to keep families at the border intact, whether via a legislative route, or acting alone to stop the process.
— Kate Bennett (@KateBennett_DC) June 20, 2018
The new measure raises a new set of problems for the Trump administration. The most pressing is finding where to house adults and children together. In his order, Trump made the US Defense Department responsible for finding facilities for that purpose, even if it means building new ones. He’s also enlisting other agencies to help care for the detainees.
Trump is also bracing for legal challenges. His family detention policy likely violates a court settlement that mandates how the federal government should treat immigrant children. Under the Flores settlement, authorities are not allowed to hold children for long periods of time. After immigrant advocates sued the Obama administration for locking whole families in detention, a federal court extended the Flores protections to children traveling with relatives. (It was those protections that Trump was trying to skirt by separating adults from children.) The Trump administration will likely be subject to the same kind of lawsuit.
The executive order instructs attorney general Jeff Sessions to ask for the federal court’s permission to change the terms of the Flores agreement so that the families can be kept in custody until their cases are resolved. Republicans in Congress had also come up with several proposals to detain children along with their parents, though their chances of passing are slim.
Even if Trump’s haphazard strategy fails legally, he’s likely already succeeded in changing perceptions. Next to separating families, jailing them together might seem like a better option, says Pratheepan Gulasekaram, a law professor at Santa Clara University.
“Because of the extremes of government and human behavior, we’re becoming numb to what eight years ago was already a horrific thing, to lock up families that are coming to seek asylum in the US,” he added.
But don’t expect the change in policy to end the Trump administration’s public relations crisis. Immigrant advocates immediately condemned family detention. They are unlikely to let up on their scrutiny over how the federal government handles immigrants. “Our experience defending families in detention, first in Artesia, New Mexico and now in Dilley, Texas, has taught us that family detention is never humane,” said Beth Werlin, executive director of the American Immigration Council, in a statement.
The ACLU weighed in as well.
An eleventh-hour executive order doesn't fix the harm done to thousands of children and their parents.
Trump's order replaces one crisis for another: children don't belong in jail at all, even with their parents, under any circumstances.
— ACLU (@ACLU) June 20, 2018
Italy’s populist government, only in power since the beginning of June, is already taking steps to implement its nationalist agenda. First, it turned away a rescue vessel loaded with over 600 refugees. This week its interior minister said he wants to take a census of the country’s Roma minority—and throw out those who don’t have citizenship.
Matteo Salvini, leader of the right-wing League party, said he had asked officials to prepare a dossier on “the Roma situation.”
“We will try to understand how we can intervene, doing what years ago was called the census, we can now call it the registry…to understand what we are dealing with,” Salvini told a regional broadcaster (video in Italian). “The Italian Roma, unfortunately, you have to keep in Italy.”
The Roma are already widely discriminated against, living often in poverty on the fringes of society, with little access to government benefits and services. Salvini highlighting them as a menace to society is a chilling reminder of how Italy has persecuted the Roma in the past.
How Mussolini targeted the Roma
Italian dictator Benito Mussolini enacted laws against the minority in 1938, and an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 Roma were killed in the Nazi genocide of World War II. More recently, in 2008, president Silvio Berlusconi declared a “Nomad Emergency,” giving the local authorities emergency powers to monitor Roma in camps, harass them, and evict them under the guise of national security.
Elisa De Pieri, Amnesty International’s Italy researcher, said Salvini’s comments tap into existing hostility. “Anti-Roma feelings were already very high in Italy, and they tend to be the favorite scapegoat of the League and other right-wing parties,” De Pieri said. “The Roma have been subjected to a disproportionate amount of hate crimes and hate speech in the past decade.”
She notes that the Berlusconi “emergency” helped to put the blame on them for rising crime, despite no evidence.
A backlash against Salvini
Salvini was slammed by Luigi di Maio, leader of the Five Star Movement, who called the idea of an ethnic census “unconstitutional.” Former prime minister Paolo Gentiloni tweeted: “Yesterday refugees, today Roma, tomorrow guns for all. How hard it is to be bad.”
Salvini, whose nationalist views resonate with many in Italy, vowed not to back down, tweeting that if the left proposed a Roma census, it would be fine, but “if I propose it, it’s RACISM.”
About 180,000 Roma people are estimated to live in Italy, about half of them citizens. Amnesty said that the Roma to whom Salvini has referred are the 26,000 or so who live in camps, noting that “there is already a lot of data available on where they are and how they live.”
“This census of Roma people in Italy was tried already tried in 2008, and that census, together with other measures linked to that emergency, were declared unlawful in the courts,” said De Pieri. “It’s simply illegal under the Italian constitution and, of course, under EU law.”
The United States is spending an awful lot on its new family separation policy. The huge influx of mostly Central American children in need of care will require new facilities and a wave of hiring, show multiple reports on recent government contracts.
Building new “tent cities”
It costs $775 per night to keep a child in the “tent cities” being constructed to house rising numbers of migrant minors who have been separated from their parents, reports NBC News. That’s more than three times the cost of keeping detained children in a permanent shelter, and it’s twice the cost of keeping children in already established detention centers with their parents.
The big cost difference is due to the fact that shelters and detention centers are permanent structures, while the temporary tent cities are emergency structures that must be constructed and staffed on short notice.
Even in pre-existing shelters, extra staffing required to replace parents’ care for children’s basic needs will cost money. Firms profiting from the policy, like General Dynamics, have been advertising jobs to care for the influx of children, some as young as three-months-old.
According to Bloomberg, the government plans to pay more than $450 millions to a nonprofit called Southwest Key Programs to care for migrant children. (The extent to which the organization is “not for profit” is debatable: CEO Juan Sanchez was paid $1.5 million in 2016.)
Over 2,340 children have been taken from parents illegally crossing the border since early May. Children are kept in government custody for an average of two months.
Another week, another new item for Fortnite Battle Royale.
In a content update by Epic Games yesterday (June 19), stink bombs were added to Fortnite for the first time. When thrown, they create an obscuring yellowish cloud that deals 5 damage every half-second for players standing within their area. Stink bombs last for nine seconds and can be found in floor loot, chests, and vending machines. They have an “Epic” (purple) rarity.
Fortnite’s stink bombs are nothing to sniff at
While stink bombs may seem tame compared to Fortnite’s other damage-dealing throwables like grenades and sticky grenades, don’t be fooled: These items can pack a punch over time. They have a maximum possible damage of 90, but their power to obscure sight, confuse enemies, and potentially direct movement in battle is especially valuable. Toss stink bombs strategically to keep enemies out of their own bases, away from the high ground, or scattered from their teammates.
Stink bombs + thermal scope assault rifles = a powerful combo
The stink bomb is particularly useful when combined with Fortnite’s newest gun: the thermal scope assault rifle. The thermal scope AR is able to track enemies via heat signatures, which makes it a powerful accompaniment to the visual chaos perpetrated by a stink bomb. Try tossing a couple of stink bombs into a fight, posting up in a safe location, and taking potshots using the orange heat signature from a thermal scope AR. It’s a good (and safe) antidote to the monotony of getting into an endless series of awkward, jump-heavy shotgun battles.
Cheerful and helpful workers are beloved by their bosses, and just about everyone else, really. Enthusiastic optimists make for great colleagues, rarely cause problems, and can always be counted on.
But they may not necessarily make the best employees, says Adam Grant, the organizational psychologist and Wharton professor.
Speaking in Chicago at the annual conference of the Society for Human Resource Management, Grant said he separates workers along two axes: givers and takers, and agreeable and disagreeable. Givers share of themselves and make their colleagues better, while takers are selfish and focused only on their own interests. The agreeable/disagreeable spectrum is what it sounds like: some workers are friendly, some are grouchy.
Grant has found there’s no correlation between being friendly and being a giver, nor being a grump and a taker. Givers and takers both can be either agreeable or disagreeable.
While the worst employees are disagreeable takers— in a slide, Grant compared them to the vicious Lannisters on Game of Thrones—the agreeable takers are deceptively terrible, fooling colleagues into thinking they’re generous while secretly undermining the organization.
|Agreeable||Agreeable givers||Agreeable takers|
|Disagreeable||Disagreeable givers||Disagreeable takers|
The agreeable giver may seem like the ideal employee, but Grant says their sunny disposition can make them averse to conflict and too eager to agree. Disagreeable givers, on the other hand, can be a pain in the ass, but valuable to an organization, Grant says.
They’re more likely to fight for what they believe in, challenge the status quo, and push the organization to make painful but necessary changes, he says. And because they’re stingy with praise, when it’s offered, it generally can be trusted.
Disagreeable givers “can get more joy out of an argument than a friendly conversation” and be tough to work with, Grant says. But for organizations eager to avoid complacency and determined to improve, they also can be invaluable.
A new kind of art auction is taking paintings out of the picture. You can go online and buy shares in an iconic Andy Warhol work using cryptocurrency—but the physical object will not hang in your home, and you can’t own it all.
Today (June 20), the first such blockchain art auction begins. Up for sale is a 1980 Warhol silkscreen called 14 Small Electric Chairs. Only 49% of the painting—so just under 7 small electric chairs—is available for purchase. The other 51% will remain with the current owner, Eleesa Dadiani. That means she’ll hold chief control over the artwork, but offer digital certificates of ownership to successful bidders.
14 small electric chairs, 1980.
Dadiani owns the gallery Dadiani Fine Art and is known as “the Queen of Crypto.” She has accepted cryptocurrency for art purchases before, though not in an online auction that offers shares. She claims this new approach will change the way art is bought and sold and will open the art market to many, if not the masses.
The gallery owner told The Times of London on June 7 that the move reflects a shift “in consciousness, money and culture.” Investors seeking creative options are “becoming more and more open to expanding their portfolio, which they’ll able to do with this Warhol,” she says.
Dadiani doesn’t yet know where exactly the work will go once it’s nearly-half-sold. That will be decided with investors. She suggests “giving it back to the public” by displaying it in galleries internationally.
The painting—a 79-inch by 32-inch silkscreen—is valued at $5.6 million, which is about 850 Bitcoin right now. The reserve price is set at $4 million. Digital certificates in the work can be purchased using Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH) and a cryptocurrency called ART, created by Maecanas Fine Art, the blockchain platform selling the work.
Maecanas Fine Art is, essentially, serving as the online auctioneer. The platform claims to be “democratizing access to fine art” with this new approach to ownership and investment. The Maecanas website proposes that art owners and galleries can use the blockchain platform to raise money for new purchases, without seeking high-interest art loans by selling shares in works they already own. For “high net worth investors” who want to diversify their portfolios, buying shares rather than whole works would allow them to jump into the art world without setting up a major fund dedicated to the luxury endeavor. As works gain value over time, shares will too, so a resale of a painting or sculpture could lead to profits for shareholders. Marcelo García Casil, chief executive of Maecanas Fine Art, told The Times, “We’re making history. This Warhol is the first artwork of many more to come.”
As for Warhol, who died in 1987, he’d probably be pleased with the auction scheme—perhaps even deeming it artistic. The artist was an unabashed capitalist who began his career in advertising and thoroughly embraced consumer culture, making it the subject of fine art. He wasn’t subtle about his love of money—in 1982, he painted dollar signs. Warhol had plenty of business acumen himself. He famously said, “Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.”
BlockBoxes are shipping containers measuring 500 sq ft (45 sq m) and adapted to hold 100,000 cryptocurrency mining chips. They sell for $1 million each (or rent for $70,000 per month).
Google’s Brain Team is using AI to predict the future of patients after admission to a hospital, including length of stay, chance of return, and even the probability of death.
Square’s stock had already been up 88% this year. But on Monday, after news broke that the payments firm received New York’s much craved (and maligned) cryptocurrency license, Square’s stock reached $66.33, the highest since it went public in 2015.
Michael Cohen is very unhappy.
So unhappy, he’s “willing to give” information about his former boss, president Donald Trump, to federal investigators, his friends are telling CNN.
Cohen has plenty to be upset about. He’s under a high-profile investigation by the FBI, huge suspicious payments have been found flowing through his shell company, and his legal team is being overhauled. Now, Cohen “associates” are telling the Wall Street Journal that the former Trump Organization lawyer is upset that the president isn’t paying his legal fees.
The message seems pretty clear: “Pay my lawyers or I flip.”
The Trump campaign already paid nearly $230,000 to Cohen’s lawyers between October and January, to cover fees related to the Russia investigation. The Trump family also helped pay for a review of documents seized by the FBI from Cohen’s office and home, according to the Journal.
However, the president isn’t footing the bill for Cohen’s regular fees in the New York probe. Those fees have been mounting ever since the FBI probe into Trump’s Russia ties apparently discovered something incriminating related to Cohen and turned them over to New York prosecutors some time before the FBI raided (paywall) his offices on April 9.
Trump has been publicly blasé about his former lawyer’s ordeal. “I always liked Michael Cohen,” he told reporters on Friday, in a much-remarked-upon use of the past tense. “I haven’t spoken to Michael in a long time.”
Cohen is widely believed to know where all the Trump Organization’s figurative bodies are buried. He has long played fixer to the president, notably paying hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels before the election, and the FBI raid itself signals that prosecutors believe he has plenty interesting of information to share.
A record 16.2 million people were forcibly displaced as a result of persecution, conflict or generalized violence in 2017. This is the highest number recorded by UN High Commissioner for Refugees. On average, 44,000 were displaced every day in 2017—about one person every two seconds.
The figure brings the total worldwide population of forcibly displaced people to a new high of 68.5 million, according to the UNHCR. That’s more than the population of France.
The agency’s report, issued ahead of today’s World Refugee Day (June 20), notes that the crises in South Sudan and Myanmar have significantly added to the increase, which was largely tied to deteriorating situations and enduring conflicts in countries around the globe. The vast majority of displaced people sought safety in neighboring countries: According to the report, 85% of refugees are in developing countries.
Turkey remained the world’s leading refugee hosting country in terms of absolute numbers, followed by Pakistan and Uganda. More than two-thirds of refugees originated from just five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar, and Somalia.
Lebanon, where 1 in 6 people is a refugee, continued to host the largest number of refugees relative to its national population. Jordan (1 in 14) and Turkey (1 in 23) ranked second and third.
Overall, children aged 18 or under made up about half of the refugee population in 2017.
The US received the largest number of new claims for asylum, with 331,700 in 2017. In contrast, Germany saw a sharp decline in 2017. The European economic powerhouse received 198,300 new applications, a 73% drop from 2016. Italy received the third-largest number, with 126,500.
Like a good book, the best compliment anyone can give a new video game is that they just can’t put it down. But taken to an extreme, excessive gaming can tilt into unhealthy territory. This week, the World Health Organization lent credence to the seriousness of the issue by adding “gaming disorder” to its manual of disease classifications.
In the latest revision of the manual, ICD-11, WHO classifies compulsively playing video games as a mental health condition, similar to gambling addiction. Under the new guidelines, symptoms of gaming disorder include being unable to control how often you play video games; giving the activity priority over everything else in your life; and persisting in this behavior despite negative consequences. In order for doctors to diagnose patients with gaming disorder, WHO says the symptoms must have been present for at least a year, and that the effects have to be severe enough to “result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.”
The addition to the disease manual turns out to be pretty controversial. At the heart of the debate among medical professionals is the question of whether excessive gaming is itself a disease—or the symptom of other mental health problems.
The science of gaming addiction
Scholars from around the world are already debating WHO’s move. In a letter of concern published on November 9, 2016, a dozen academics write that “the premature inclusion of Gaming Disorder as a diagnosis in ICD-11 will cause significant stigma to the millions of children who play video games as a part of a normal, healthy life.” They warn that a “moral panic” over gaming might lead kids with normal gaming habits to be diagnosed as having a disorder, which could stigmatize them and set them on a course of treatment they don’t need.
Joan Harvey, a psychologist and spokeswoman for the British Psychological Society, agrees with this concern. “People need to understand this doesn’t mean every child who spends hours in their room playing games is an addict, otherwise medics are going to be flooded with requests for help,” she told CBS News.
Beyond the potential issue of over-diagnosing kids with the disorder, some medical professionals argue that addiction to gaming is actually symptom of an underlying condition like depression or ADHD. In the open-access debate on the WHO decision, scholars write that problematic gaming might be “better viewed as a coping mechanism associated with underlying problems of a different nature.” Existing research on gambling disorder, arguably the closest behavioral addiction to gaming disorder, shows that gambling addiction is frequently accompanied by other psychiatric disorders. And so “misclassifying such problems as Gaming Disorder could lead to worse treatment outcomes for patients,” according to the researchers.
Was the WHO right in recognizing gaming disorder?
That said, there are definite upsides to the new WHO classification. For one thing, classifying the disorder means it might become easier for patients with gaming problems to get their insurance companies to reimburse treatment programs. So far, that’s been almost impossible, despite the fact that intensive gaming rehabilitation programs like reSTART cost $25,000, a price that is prohibitive for many American families.
“It’s going to untie our hands in terms of treatment, in that we’ll be able to treat patients and get reimbursed,” Petros Levounis, the chairman of the psychiatry department at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, told The New York Times.
The new classification will give also give children, parents, and health-care providers reason to take problematic gaming behaviors more seriously. The ICD-11 is currently used by more than 100 countries, meaning that the official diagnosis can now be used by health care workers, including doctors, around the world.
How big of a problem is gaming addiction?
The US video games industry made $36 billion last year, according to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), and more than 2.6 billion people play video games around the world. The ESA’s 2017 survey (pdf) of 4,000 US households found that 65% had at least one person who plays video games regularly, defined as playing three or more hours of video games per week.
But estimates of how many of those people are actually addicted to gaming are harder to come by. A 2009 survey by Harris Polls, the results of which were published in the journal Psychological Science, found that 8% of American video game players between eight and 18 years old “exhibited pathological patterns of play.” But a March 2017 study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that only between 0.3%-1.0% of Americans who play video games might qualify for a potential acute diagnosis of Internet gaming disorder. And the WHO’s own experts claim that gaming disorder affects no more than 3% of gamers, according to the Associated Press.
Meanwhile, the video game industry has a vested interest in making sure that people play as many video games as possible. That’s why, in its 2017 annual report, the Entertainment Software Association directly called out the WHO, writing that ones its goals was to build “stronger relationships with our colleagues around the world in 2017 is helping us in 2018 to present a united front against the World Health Organization’s unnecessary plan to classify playing video games too much as a disorder.”
It’s hard to identify the precise point at which gaming tips from a favorite pastime into a problem. But research shows that at a certain point, too much time playing video games is associated with negative consequences. A 2012 study, for example, showed that gaming addicts had lower cognitive functioning. For that reason alone, holding gaming behaviors up to closer scrutiny can only be a good thing.
This reporting is part of a series supported by a grant from the Bernard van Leer Foundation. The author’s views are not necessarily those of the Bernard van Leer Foundation.
General Electric’s time in the Dow Jones Industrial Average is finally up—because its share price has dropped too far down.
“Many people have lost faith in us,” John Flannery, the new CEO of the 126-year company, said earlier this year in the company’s annual report. “I have not.”
Despite Flannery’s optimism, getting booted from the Dow is a reflection of how far GE has fallen. When the index was started in 1896, GE, just a four years old, was one of the original members. For more than a century, it has consistently held a place in the Dow as one of America’s industrial titans.
The reason GE is out is stock-market math. Last year, it was the worst performing stock in the Dow. Already this year it’s fallen another 25% and is lagging far behind the other 29 stocks the index.
GE will be replaced by Walgreens Boots Alliance, the retail company that specializes in pharmaceuticals. In the past 10 years, its share price has doubled, as GE’s has halved. As S&P Dow Jones Indices explains, Walgreens Boots will “contribute more meaningfully to the index” because the relative prices of all the stocks matter its overall composition. Even though the company’s share price has fallen 11% this year, the switch will better reflect the changing nature of the US ecnomony, in which healthcare companies have become more important.
GE, in the Dow consistently since 1907, has been served eviction notices twice before. This third time might stick. Its recent credit ratings have seen GE repeatedly downgraded and given a negative outlook. The company is dealing with cash problems, withering demand for power turbines, and a still-bloated portfolio of businesses it wants to trim down.
At the end of last year, GE recorded a $10-billion quarterly loss, in large part due to a massive charge relating to an US Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into its insurance unit that will hang on the balance sheet for seven more years. Fitch, which downgraded GE’s credit rating just last week, said the company needs to go through an “extensive restructuring” and investors should be prepared for more bad earnings reports.
Time out of the spotlight might be just what the CEO needs to figure out what kind of company GE can be.