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From: Sam8/6/2017 6:35:35 AM
   of 123
 
Rise of the machines

By Chico Harlan By Chico Harlan
Washington Post
August 5 at 6:00 PM



Rob Goldiez, co-founder of Hirebotics, configures a robot at Tenere Inc. in Dresser, Wis. (Ackerman + Gruber/For The Washington Post)
_____________________________________

The workers of the first shift had just finished their morning cigarettes and settled into place when one last car pulled into the factory parking lot, driving past an American flag and a “now hiring” sign. Out came two men, who opened up the trunk, and then out came four cardboard boxes labeled “fragile.”

“We’ve got the robots,” one of the men said.

They watched as a forklift hoisted the boxes into the air and followed the forklift into a building where a row of old mechanical presses shook the concrete floor. The forklift honked and carried the boxes past workers in steel-toed boots and earplugs. It rounded a bend and arrived at the other corner of the building, at the end of an assembly line.

The line was intended for 12 workers, but two were no-shows. One had just been jailed for drug possession and violating probation. Three other spots were empty because the company hadn’t found anybody to do the work. That left six people on the line jumping from spot to spot, snapping parts into place and building metal containers by hand, too busy to look up as the forklift now came to a stop beside them.

In factory after American factory, the surrender of the industrial age to the age of automation continues at a record pace. The transformation is decades along, its primary reasons well-established: a search for cost-cutting and efficiency.

But as one factory in Wisconsin is showing, the forces driving automation can evolve — for reasons having to do with the condition of the American workforce. The robots were coming in not to replace humans, and not just as a way to modernize, but also because reliable humans had become so hard to find. It was part of a labor shortage spreading across America, one that economists said is stemming from so many things at once. A low unemployment rate. The retirement of baby boomers. A younger generation that doesn’t want factory jobs. And, more and more, a workforce in declining health: because of alcohol, because of despair and depression, because of a spike in the use of opioids and other drugs.

In earlier decades, companies would have responded to such a shortage by either giving up on expansion hopes or boosting wages until they filled their positions. But now, they had another option. Robots had become more affordable. No longer did machines require six-figure investments; they could be purchased for $30,000, or even leased at an hourly rate. As a result, a new generation of robots was winding up on the floors of small- and medium-size companies that had previously depended only on the workers who lived just beyond their doors. Companies now could pick between two versions of the American worker — humans and robots. And at Tenere Inc., where 132 jobs were unfilled on the week the robots arrived, the balance was beginning to shift.

“Right here, okay?” the forklift driver yelled over the noise of the factory, and when a manager gave him a nod, he placed on the ground the boxes containing the two newest employees at Tenere, Robot 1 and Robot 2.\



Employees at Tenere in Dresser, Wis., take a smoke break. (Tim Gruber/For The Washington Post)
_______________________________

Tenere is a company that manufactures custom-made metal and plastic parts, mostly for the tech industry. Five years earlier a private-equity firm acquired the company, expanded to Mexico, and ushered in what the company called “a new era of growth.” In Wisconsin, where it has 550 employees, all non-union, wages started at $10.50 per hour for first shift and $13 per hour for overnight. Counting health insurance and retirement benefits, even the lowest-paid worker was more expensive than the robots, which Tenere was leasing from a Nashville-based start-up, Hirebotics, for $15 per hour. Hirebotics co-founder Matt Bush said that, before coming to Tenere, he’d been all across America installing robots at factories with similar hiring problems. “Everybody is struggling to find people,” he said, and it was true even in a slice of western Wisconsin so attuned to the rhythms of shift work that one local bar held happy hour three times a day.

Inside the factory, there have been no major issues with quality control, plant managers say, only with filling its job openings. In the front office, the general manager had nudged up wages for second- and third-shift workers, and was wondering if he’d have to do it again in the next few months. Over in human resources, an administrator was saying that finding people was like trying to “climb Everest” — even after the company had loosened policies on hiring people with criminal records. Even the new hires who were coaxed through the door often didn’t last long, with the warning signs beginning when they filed in for orientation in a second-floor office that overlooked the factory floor.

“How’s everybody doing?” said Matt Bader, as four just-hired workers walked in on a day when Robot 1 was being installed. “All good?”

“Maybe,” one person said.

Bader, who worked for a staffing agency that helped Tenere fill some of its positions, scanned the room. There was somebody in torn jeans. Somebody who drove a school bus and needed summer work only. Somebody without a car who had hitched a ride.

Bader told them that once they started at Tenere they had to follow a few important rules, including one saying they couldn’t drink alcohol or use illegal substances at work. “Apparently, we need to tell people that,” Bader said, not mentioning that just a few days before he had driven two employees to a medical center for drug tests after managers suspected they’d shown up high.

One worker stifled a yawn. Another asked about getting personal calls during the shift. Another raised his hand.

“Yes?” Bader asked.

“Do you have any coffee?” the worker said.

“I don’t,” Bader said.

After an hour the workers were heading back to their cars, one saying that everything “sounds okay,” another saying the “pay sucks.” Bader guessed that two of the four “wouldn’t last a week,” because often, he said, he knew within minutes who would last. People who said they couldn’t work Saturdays. People who couldn’t work early mornings. This was the mystery for him: So many people showing up, saying they were worried about rent or bills or supporting children, and yet they couldn’t hold down a job that could help them.

“I am so sick of hearing that,” Bader said. “And then they wonder why things are getting automated.”

***

The new robots had been made in Denmark, shipped to North Carolina, sold to engineers in Nashville, and then driven to Wisconsin. The robots had no faces, no bodies, nothing to suggest anything but mechanical efficiency. If anything, they looked similar to human arms, with silver limbs and powder blue elbows and charcoal-colored wrists.

Each had been shipped with a corresponding box of wires and controls. Each weighed 40.6 pounds. They had been specifically designed to replicate movements with such precision than any deviation was no greater than the thickness of a human hair — a skill particularly helpful for Robot 1, which had been brought in to perform one of the most repetitive jobs in the factory.

As the engineers prepared it for operation, Robot 1 had been bolted in front of a 10-foot-tall mechanical press. It was rigged with safety sensors and programmed to make a three-foot path of motion, one that it would use to make part No. 07123571. More commonly, Tenere called this part the claw.

The purpose of the claw was to holster a disk drive. Tenere had been making them for two years, at two separate mechanical presses, where workers fed 6-by-7 inch pieces of flat aluminum into the machine, pressed two buttons simultaneously, and then extracted the metal — now bent at the edges. Tenere’s workers were supposed to do this 1,760 times per shift.

Robot 1, almost programmed now, started trying it out. It snatched the flat metal from its left side, then swiveled back toward the press. It moved noiselessly. It released the part into the mouth of the machine, and as soon as it withdrew, down came the press to shape the metal into a claw: Wallop. The robot’s arm then retrieved the part, swiveling back to its left, and dropping the claw on a conveyor belt.

“How fast do you want it?” Hirebotics co-founder Rob Goldiez asked a plant manager supervising the installation.

First the robot was cycling every 20 seconds, and then every 14.9 seconds, and then every 10 seconds. An engineer toggled with the settings, and later the speed bumped up again. A claw was being produced every 9.5 seconds. Or 379 every hour; 3,032 every shift; 9,096 every day.

“This motion,” Goldiez said, “will be repeatable for years.”

***



Bobby Campbell, 51, at his workstation. (Ackerman + Gruber/For The Washington Post)
_____________________________

Some distance away, in front of another mechanical press, was a 51-year-old man named Bobby Campbell who had the same job as Robot 1. He’d wound up with the position because of an accident: In February, he’d had too much to drink, tumbled off a deck at his daughter’s house, and broken his neck. When he returned after three months, Tenere pulled him out of the laser department and put him on light duty. Now, as the testing continued on a robot that he said “just looks like something you see in the damned dentist’s office,” Campbell was starting his 25th consecutive workday feeding claws to the machine. He’d punched the same two buttons that activated the press 36,665 times.

“Beat that robot today,” Campbell’s supervisor said.

“Hah,” Campbell said, turning his back and settling in at his station, where there were 1,760 claws to make and eight hours until he drove home.

He set his canvas lunch container on a side table and oiled his mechanical press. He cut open a box of parts and placed the first flat piece of metal under the press. A gauge on the side of the press kept count. Wallop. “1,” the counter said, and after Campbell had pressed the button 117 more times, there were seven hours to go.

Unlike the employees on the assembly line, Campbell worked alone. His press was off in a corner. There was no foot traffic, nobody to talk to, nothing to look at. Campbell stopped his work and removed a container of pills. He took a low-dose aspirin for his neck, another pill for high blood pressure. He snacked on some peppers and homemade pickles, fed 393 more parts in the machine, and then it was time for lunch. Four hours to go.

“Monday,” he said with a little shrug. “I’ll pick it up after I get some fuel.”

Campbell had been at Tenere for three years. He earned $13.50 per hour. He had a bad back, a shaved and scarred head, a tear duct that perpetually leaked after orbital surgery, and aging biceps that he showed off with sleeveless Harley-Davidson shirts. He liked working at Tenere, he said. Good people. Good benefits. Some days he hit his targets, other days he didn’t, but his supervisors never got on him, and the company had always been patient with him, even as he dealt with some personal problems.

He lived 31 miles and 40 minutes away, provided he didn’t stop. The problem was, sometimes he did. Along the drive home there were a dozen gas stations and minimarts selling beer, and Campbell said he couldn’t figure out why some days he would turn in. He’d tried everything he could think of to stop himself. Calling his daughters, calling his wife. Turning up the music and listening to Rod Stewart. He’d been to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, he said. He’d spent 28 days at a treatment center. He’d looked for jobs that would cut down on the commute. He’d faced a family intervention where the whole family read him letters, as he sat there feeling like what he called a “kindergartner.”

Sometimes, Campbell said, he almost thought he was through the worst — sober for weeks at a time — but then came Saturday, when he was supposed to work an eight-hour shift and instead clocked out after three hours, stopping on the way home and downing a 12-pack of beer before sundown. Then came Sunday, another 12 beers out on the lake. Now it was Monday, and Campbell said he was sure he’d be okay if he could just get home. There, his wife only allowed him to have nonalcoholic beers. But that was 31 miles away. “Just the uncertainty,” Campbell said, and he tried not to think about it, with the lunch break over, and 3 hours and 40 minutes to go.

He stepped onto the floor pad in front of the press and got back to work. A box of flat metal pieces was to his left, a hopper of finished claws sat on his right, and Campbell’s hands moved in a rhythm, grabbing and inserting. “As long as I’ve got parts in front of me, I’m all right,” he said. Twenty minutes without looking up. Then 40. Then nearly 60. The gauge said 912.

“All right,” Campbell said, when there was an hour left to go, still pressing the buttons.

He hummed a song. He whistled. He fed 11 pieces of metal to the machine in a minute, and then 13, then nine. His eyes darted from left to right. He nodded his head.

The press’s clutch was hissing and exhaling, hissing and exhaling, and Campbell added a last pump of oil to the machine with 15 minutes to go. Out came a few more parts, and he fed them into the hopper, checked the gauge, and shrugged. “Not so bad,” he said.

Time to go home. He had punched the buttons another 1,376 times, 384 shy of his target, and now he got in the car.

***



Hirebotics co-founders Matt Bush, left, and Rob Goldiez, right, work alongside a Tenere employee to set up the workstation for Robot 2. (Ackerman + Gruber/For The Washington Post)
_________________________________

Robot 2 had a different job than Robot 1. It was to be part of a team — the assembly line. The team worked along a 70-foot row of tables lined with workstations that were always at least a few workers shy, where employees snapped and riveted metal pieces, building silver, rectangular containers. Each container, by the time it reached the last assembly workstation, was outfitted with either 13 or 15 miniature drawer slots. It was the job of the third-to-last worker on the line to fill each with a claw. That would become the sole task of Robot 2, one that it started to test out after days of programming and setup.

The claws arrived at Robot 2’s station on a conveyor belt. From there, the robot made a three-foot motion of its own. Grabbing the claw with its gripper. Swiveling 90 degrees. Reaching its arm toward the container. And then, inserting the claw into one of the drawer slots with an intricate push: forward 80 millimeters, down five millimeters, forward another 20 millimeters, up eight millimeters, forward another 12.

“A delicate move,” Bush said.

One that Robot 2 would be able to make every seven seconds once it joined the line.

***


Annie Larson assembles parts on her line at Tenere, where she’s worked for six years. (Ackerman + Gruber/For The Washington Post)
__________________________________

Days earlier, Annie Larson, the woman who would work alongside Robot 2, had been at home, the end of another shift, laid out in a recliner sipping a Mountain Dew mixed with what she described as the cheapest vodka she could find. There’d been six years at Tenere of days like these. Trying to unwind. Alone in her one-bedroom apartment. Bedtime at 9. Alarm at 5:40 a.m. Out the door at 6:20. Into her old Chevy. Six miles up the street. Then into the Tenere parking lot, clocking in just before 7, the next day of trying to keep pace. Except this time, as a forklift came to a stop nearby, she saw four boxes being dropped off at the end of the line.

“What in the hell?” she thought.

Her line supervisor, Tom Johannsen, had told workers a few weeks earlier the robots were coming. But he hadn’t said when they would arrive, or what exactly they would do. He hadn’t described how they would look. He’d just said nobody was losing their jobs, and not to worry, and that Tenere was “supplementing some of the people we can’t find.”

Now, though, the boxes were being opened up, wires everywhere, and Larson started to worry. The machines looked too complicated. Maybe they’d break down. Maybe they couldn’t keep pace. Maybe they’d be just one more problem at the factory, and already, their boxes were getting in the way. Only six people were on the line, which meant Larson was leapfrogging from one workstation to the next, trying to do the work of two or three. She could feel everybody falling behind. She nearly tripped over a floor mat that had buckled to make space for the robot. Larson turned to one of the robot engineers and said, “We have no room over here. It sucks.” When the end-of-the-shift buzzer sounded, the line had made 32 fewer containers than it was supposed to, and that night, Larson said, she had more drinks than her usual one or two.

But then came the next day: Back again, on time. Always on time. Larson was one of the steadiest parts of an assembly team in which so many other workers had lasted for weeks or months. “My line,” Larson called it. Her supervisor called her “old school.” A manager called her “no nonsense.” Others moaned about the job during lunchtime breaks. Larson, wanting no part of that, pulled up a stool to the assembly line every day and ate by herself.

“If the job is that bad, go!” she said.

She was 48, and she had no plans to leave. Rural Wisconsin was tough, but so what; she couldn’t start over. Her roots were here. Her mother lived four blocks away. Her father lived six blocks away. Her son, daughter and grandchild were all within 15 miles. Larson couldn’t afford vacations or new clothing, but she paid every bill on time: $545 for rent, $33 for electric — every amount and due date programmed into her phone.

But it was the numbers at work that had been leaving her feeling more drained than usual lately. The team felt as if it was forever in catch-up mode. She and her co-workers were supposed to complete 2,250 containers per week. But with so many jobs unfilled, they missed the mark by 170 the week before the robots arrived. They were off 130 the week prior. The line got a pep talk from the supervisor, Johannsen, who said he could notice Larson in particular “getting frustrated.”

“Are there any claws in that box?” Larson said now, motioning across a table.

Another worker checked. “No.”

“Ugh,” Larson said, and she grabbed the empty box and darted down the line, pony tail bobbing. She returned 15 seconds later with an overflowing pile of claws. “Here,” she said, dropping the box on an assembly line table. She reached over to the pile of containers and began filling them. Fifteen claws. Then 30. Her shirt was darkened with sweat. Forty-five claws. Sixty.

“You’re power-hauling,” another worker said.

Her co-workers were always changing. For now, they were a Linda, another Linda, a Kevin, a Sarah, a Miah, a Valerie and a Matt. Valerie was a good worker, Larson said, and so was one of the Lindas. But a few of the others struggled to keep pace. Larson told them sometimes how they could be more efficient in their jobs. How they could line up rivets in parallel rows, for instance. But who was paying attention?

“There’s no caring,” Larson said. “No pride.”

Friday now, and Larson was tired. There was one more shift before the weekend, but this time, when she showed up for work, she saw something different at the end of the line. The robots no longer looked like a mess. Their wires had been tucked into control boxes. Their stations had been swept clean. They were surrounded by new conveyor belts.

“They’re pretty,” she said, and several hours later, mid-shift, she noticed an employee who’d missed the last few weeks with knee surgery wander over, stopping at the robot.

“Ohh,” the employee said, “they’re taking somebody’s job.”

“No, they’re not,” she said.

She was surprised by her response. That she had come to the robot’s defense. But then she looked at what the robot was going to do: Put a claw in the slot. Put another claw in the slot. Put another claw in the slot.

“It’s not a good job for a person to have anyway,” she said.

The end-of-the-shift buzzer sounded, and Larson got back into her car. Then back into the recliner, where she poured her drink and tried to think about how the assembly line was going to change. Maybe the robots would actually help. Maybe the numbers would get better. Maybe her next problem would be too many humans and not enough robots.

“Me and Val and 12 robots,” Larson said. “I would be happy with that.”

***



“Now hiring” can be seen on a sign and an inflatable air dancer outside Tenere in Dresser, Wis. (Tim Gruber/For The Washington Post)
_________________________________

Eight days after arriving in boxes, the robots’ first official day of work had arrived. In between the end of the overnight shift and the start of the first shift, the engineers did a last run-through and then picked up the touch screens that controlled the robots. Robot 1 began grabbing the metal rectangles, feeding them into the mechanical press, then extracting them as claws. Robot 2 began swiveling and grabbing the claws, placing them into a few containers that had been assembled overnight. The robots were six feet apart from one another, at stations producing the only noise in an otherwise quiet factory. Every 9.5 seconds: the wallop of the press. And then, the snapping of a claw sliding into a slot.

And then, the 7 a.m. buzzer to start the day.

In came the workers, some of whom took a moment to stand near the robots and watch.

“It’s pretty amazing,” one said.

“Gosh, it doesn’t take breaks,” another said.

“Can I smack it if I need to?” Larson asked, and then she said, “Okay, let’s go.”

The people took their stations. In one corner, Robot 1 was pounding out claws, laying them on a conveyor belt. Along a half-empty row of workstations, six people were constructing containers. At the end of that row, Robot 2 was filling those containers with claws. And at the other side of the factory, Campbell was stamping out claws the old way, feeding the metal and pressing the buttons, 320 in the first hour, even as he pulled a tissue out of his pocket every few minutes to dab his leaky eye.

“This machine is getting hot, I’m working it so hard,” Campbell said.

At the assembly line, Larson and the others were moving fast because they needed to. Robot 2 was filling a container with claws every 1 1/2 minutes, and the humans could barely keep pace. They shoveled 10 containers down the line, and Robot 2 filled them with claws. For a minute, as more containers were being riveted together, the robot sat idle.

“We have to keep leapfrogging,” Larson shouted. “The robot needs some work.”

Within an hour, the workers of the first shift had filled a shipping box with finished containers — the first batch made by both humans and robots. Then came a second box, and then a third, and then a buzzer sounded for a break. The work paused, and a manager, Ed Moryn, grabbed the Hirebotics engineers and asked them to follow.

He took them through a passageway and into another building, stopping at two more workstations where he said the company needed help. A press brake job. An assembly job. “Can we do these?” Moryn asked. The engineers studied the work areas for 15 minutes, took some measurements, and two days later offered Tenere one version of a solution for a company trying to fill 132 openings. Tenere looked at the offer and signed the paperwork. In September, the engineers would be coming back, arriving this time with the boxes holding Robot 3 and Robot 4.


washingtonpost.com

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From: Sam8/16/2017 2:56:42 PM
   of 123
 

Apple Readies $1 Billion War Chest for Hollywood Programming
DOW JONES & COMPANY, INC. 5:00 AM ET 8/16/2017

Symbol Last Price Change
160.83 -0.77 (-0.48%)
QUOTES AS OF 02:54:04 PM ET 08/16/2017


Apple Inc. (AAPL) has set a budget of roughly $1 billion to procure and produce original content over the next year, according to people familiar with the matter--a sign of how serious the iPhone maker is about making a splash in Hollywood.

Combined with the company's marketing clout and global reach, that immediately makes Apple(AAPL) a considerable competitor in a crowded market where new media players and traditional media companies are vying to acquire original shows. The figure is about half what Time Warner Inc.'s HBO spent on content last year and on par with estimates of what Amazon.com Inc. spent in 2013, the year after it announced its move into original programming.

Apple (AAPL) could acquire and produce as many as 10 television shows, according to the people familiar with the plan, helping fulfill Apple(AAPL) Senior Vice President Eddy Cue's vision of offering high-quality video--similar to shows such as HBO's "Game of Thrones"--on the company's streaming-music service or a new, video-focused service.

Apple (AAPL) declined to comment.

The budget will be in the hands of Hollywood veterans Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, poached in June from Sony Corp. to oversee content acquisition and video strategy. They exited their Sony contracts a month early and started working this month from Apple's(AAPL)Los Angeles offices, where they are taking over programming responsibilities from the Apple Music team, according to the people familiar with the matter.

Elbowing into the crowded video business won't be easy. Amazon and Netflix Inc. have considerable head starts and far bigger programming budgets. Apple(AAPL) also has to avoid jeopardizing its 15% cut of subscriptions from its app stores for video services like Netflix and HBO Go--a growing contributor to its $24.35 billion in annual services revenue.

Programming costs can range from more than $2 million an episode for a comedy to more than $5 million for a drama. An episode of some high-end shows such as "Game of Thrones" can cost more than $10 million to produce.

The back-to-back success of the original shows "House of Cards" and "Orange Is the New Black" is credited with building Netflix's business. At the time they were released the company's annual budget for original and acquired programming was about $2 billion; this year it is expected to spend more than $6 billion.

For its video service to gain relevance, Apple(AAPL) needs at least one hit, according to the people familiar with the plan. The company's initial video efforts--"Planet of the Apps," launched in June on Apple Music, and "Carpool Karaoke," launched last week--were criticized by reviewers.

With $215.64 billion in revenue last fiscal year and more than $261 billion in cash on its balance sheet, though, Apple(AAPL) could quickly ramp up spending on content.

Mr. Van Amburg and Mr. Erlicht have begun meeting with Hollywood agents and holding discussions about shows Apple(AAPL) could acquire, the people familiar said. The men also hired former WGN America President Matt Cherniss to oversee development, the people said.

Mr. Cherniss will assist with finding programming. He previously worked with Mr. Erlicht and Mr. Van Amburg to bring the Sony shows "Underground" and "Outsiders" to WGN. Mr. Cherniss also has movie experience, having worked as a production executive at Warner Bros.

Apple (AAPL) is eager to shore up its existing video business--renting movies and TV shows through iTunes--which has been challenged by the rise of video-subscription services that offer programming for a monthly fee. Last year, iTunes generated an estimated $4.1 billion in revenue, but its share of the movie rental-and-sales market has declined to less than 35% from 50% in 2012.

Apple (AAPL) is hoping that original video bolsters the appeal of movie rentals and other iTunes offerings--a critical piece of its services business, which also includes App Store sales, Apple Pay and Apple Music. The company aims to double that business to about $50 billion by 2020.

Joe Flint contributed to this article.

By Tripp Mickle Apple Inc. (AAPL) has set a budget of roughly $1 billion to procure and produce original content over the next year, according to people familiar with the matter, as the iPhone maker shows how serious it is about making a splash in Hollywood.

Combined with the company's marketing clout and global reach, the step immediately makes Apple(AAPL) a considerable competitor in a crowded market where both new and traditional media players are vying to acquire original shows. Apple's(AAPL) budget is about half what Time Warner Inc.'s HBO spent on content last year and on par with estimates of what Amazon.com Inc. spent in 2013, the year after it announced its move into original programming.

Apple (AAPL) could acquire and produce as many as 10 television shows, according to the people familiar with the plan, helping fulfill Apple(AAPL) Senior Vice President Eddy Cue's vision of offering high-quality video, similar to shows such as HBO's "Game of Thrones," on the company's streaming-music service or possibly a new, video-focused service.

Apple (AAPL) declined to comment.

The budget will be in the hands of Hollywood veterans Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, poached in June from Sony Corp. to oversee content acquisition and video strategy. They exited their Sony contracts a month early and started working this month from Apple's(AAPL)Los Angeles offices, where they are taking over programming responsibilities from the Apple Music team, according to the people familiar with the matter.

Elbowing into the video business won't be easy. Amazon and Netflix Inc. have considerable head starts and far bigger programming budgets. Apple(AAPL) also has to avoid jeopardizing its 15% cut of subscription revenues from its app stores for video services like Netflix and HBO Go, money that is a growing contributor to its $24.35 billion in annual services revenue.

Hollywood has become a major battleground as consumers increasingly sever cable subscriptions and transition to streaming services like Netflix or Hulu. The disruption has fueled competition between tech and traditional media companies eager to sell subscriptions or generate advertising revenue with new entertainment programming. It has also fueled a major increase in scripted programming, which rose to more than 500 shows during the recently concluded 2016-17 television season, nearly double the total in 2011.

In addition to Amazon and Apple(AAPL), Facebook Inc. has begun acquiring original programming like a reality show on NBA player Lonzo Ball's family, and Alphabet Inc.'s Google has announced a $35-a-month streaming TV service.

Netflix has aimed to outflank tech rivals by recruiting star TV producers like Shonda Rhimes, who developed ABC hits like "Grey's Anatomy" and "Scandal." Meanwhile, Walt Disney Co. announced this month it will pull its movies from Netflix and launch its own streaming service.

David Hill, a former senior executive at 21st Century Fox Inc., said Apple's(AAPL) recent entertainment hires give the company a chance to catch up with established players like Netflix and Amazon. But he said that the flood of new scripted shows is making it increasingly harder to succeed in attracting viewers.

"There's just not enough time," Mr. Hill said.

Programming costs can range from more than $2 million an episode for a comedy to more than $5 million for a drama. An episode of some high-end shows such as "Game of Thrones" can cost more than $10 million to produce.

The back-to-back success of the original shows "House of Cards" and "Orange Is the New Black" is credited with building Netflix's business. At the time they were released the company's annual budget for original and acquired programming was about $2 billion; this year Netflix is expected to spend more than $6 billion.

For its initiative to gain relevance, Apple(AAPL) needs at least one hit, according to the people familiar with the plan. The firm's initial video efforts via Apple Music -- "Planet of the Apps," launched in June and, "Carpool Karaoke," out last week -- were criticized by reviewers.

With $215.64 billion in revenue last fiscal year and more than $261 billion in cash on its balance sheet, Apple(AAPL) could quickly ramp up spending on content.

Messrs. Van Amburg and Erlicht have begun meeting with Hollywood agents and holding discussions about shows Apple(AAPL) could acquire, the people familiar said. The men also hired former WGN America President Matt Cherniss to oversee development, the people said.

Mr. Cherniss will assist with finding programming. He previously worked with Messrs. Erlicht and Van Amburg to bring the Sony shows "Underground" and "Outsiders" to WGN. Mr. Cherniss also has movie experience, having worked as a production executive at Warner Bros.

Apple (AAPL) is eager to shore up its existing video business -- renting movies and TV shows through iTunes -- which has been challenged by the rise of video-subscription services that offer programming for a monthly fee. Last year, iTunes generated an estimated $4.1 billion in revenue, but its share of the movie rental-and-sales market has declined to less than 35% from about half in 2012.

Apple (AAPL) is hoping original video bolsters the appeal of movie rentals and other iTunes offerings -- a critical piece of its services business, which also includes App Store sales, Apple Pay and Apple Music. It aims to double that business to about $50 billion by 2020.

--Joe Flint contributed to this article.

Write to Tripp Mickle at Tripp.Mickle@wsj.com

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From: Sam8/18/2017 1:08:25 PM
   of 123
 
Forget Amazon. Here's the real reason retail stocks are slumping

VITALIY KATSENELSON
Special to The Globe and Mail
Updated: 3 days ago August 14, 2017
beta.theglobeandmail.com;

Retail stocks have been annihilated recently, despite the economy eking out growth. The fundamentals of the retail business look horrible: Sales are stagnating and profitability is getting worse with every passing quarter.

Jeff Bezos and Amazon get most of the credit, but this credit is misplaced. Today, online sales represent only 8.5 per cent of total retail sales. Amazon, at $80-billion (U.S.) in sales, accounts only for 1.5 per cent of total U.S. retail sales, which at the end of 2016 were around $5.5-trillion. Although it is human nature to look for the simplest explanation, in truth, the confluence of a half-dozen unrelated developments is responsible for weak retail sales.

Consumption needs and preferences have changed significantly. Ten years ago, people spent a pittance on cellphones. Today, Apple sells about $100-billion worth of i-goods in the United States, and about two-thirds of those sales are iPhones. Apple's U.S. market share is about 44 per cent, thus the total market for smart mobile phones in the United States is $150-billion a year. Add spending on smartphone accessories (cases, cables, glass protectors, etc.) and we are probably looking at $200-billion total spending a year on smartphones and accessories.

Ten years ago (before the introduction of the iPhone), smartphone sales were close to zero. Nokia was the king of dumb phones, with U.S. sales of $4-billion in 2006. The total dumb-cellphone-handset market in the United States in 2006 was probably closer to $10-billion.

Consumer income has not changed much since 2006, thus over the past 10 years, $190-billion in consumer spending was diverted toward mobile phones.

It gets more interesting. In 2006, a cellphone was a luxury only affordable by adults, but today 7-year-olds have iPhones. Phone bills per household more than doubled over the past decade. Not to bore you with too many data points, but Verizon Wireless' revenue in 2006 was $38-billion. Fast-forward 10 years and it is $89-billion – a $51-billion increase. Verizon's market share is about 30 per cent, thus the total spending increase on wireless services is close to $150-billion.

Between phones and their services, this is $340-billion that will not be spent on T-shirts and shoes.

But we are not done. In the United States, the combination of health-care inflation in the mid-single digits and the proliferation of high-deductible plans has increased consumers' direct health-care costs and further chipped away at discretionary dollars. U.S. health-care spending is $3.3-trillion, and just 3 per cent of that figure is almost $100-billion.

Then there are soft, hard-to-quantify factors. Millennials and millennial-want-to-be generations (speaking for myself here) do not really care about clothes as much as people may have 10 years ago. After all, high-tech billionaires wear hoodies and flip-flops to work. Lack of fashion sense did not hinder their success, so why should the rest of us care about the dress code?

In the 1990s, casual Fridays were a big deal – yippee, we could wear jeans to work! Fast-forward 20 years, and every day is casual. Suits? They are worn to job interviews or to impress old-fashioned clients. Consumer habits have slowly changed, and we now put less value on clothes (and thus spend less money on them) and more value on having the latest iThing.

All this brings us to a hard and sad reality: The United States is over-retailed. It simply has too many stores. Americans have four or five times more square footage per capita than other developed countries. This bloated square footage was created for a different consumer, the one who, in the 1990s and 2000s, was borrowing money against the house and spending it at the local shopping mall.

Today's post-Great Recession consumer is deleveraging, paying off debt, spending money on new necessities such as mobile phones and paying more for the old ones such as health care.

Yes, Amazon and online sales do matter. Ten years ago, only 2.5 per cent of retail sales took place online, and today that number is 8.5 per cent – about a $300-billion change. Some of these were captured by bricks-and-mortar online sales, some by e-commerce giants like Amazon and some by brands selling directly to consumers.

But as you can see, online sales are just one piece of a very complex retail puzzle. All the aforementioned factors combined explain why, when gasoline prices declined by almost 50 per cent (gifting consumers with hundreds of dollars of discretionary spending a month), retailers' profitability and consumer spending did not flinch – those savings were more than absorbed by other expenses.

Understanding that online sales (when we say this we really mean Amazon) are not the only culprit responsible for horrible retail numbers is crucial in the analysis of retail stocks. If you are only looking at "who can fight back the best against Amazon?" you are solving only one variable in a multivariable problem: Consumers' habits have changed; the United States is over-retailed; and consumer spending is being diverted to different parts of the economy.

As value investors, we are naturally attracted to hated sectors. However, we demand a much greater margin of safety from retail stocks, because estimating their future cash flows (and thus fair value) is becoming increasingly difficult. Warren Buffett has said that you want to own a business that can be run by an idiot, because one day it will be. A successful retail business in today's world cannot be run by by an idiot. It requires Bezos-like qualities: being totally consumer-focused, taking risks, thinking long term.

Vitaliy Katsenelson, CFA, is chief investment officer at Investment Management Associates in Denver, Colo. He is the author of Active Value Investing and The Little Book of Sideways Markets. His strategy for investing in an overvalued stock market is spelled out in this article.

The author does not own or hold short positions in Amazon. His firm owns a position in Apple

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From: Sam8/22/2017 11:28:01 AM
   of 123
 
the1a discussion of sugar.

Tuesday, Aug 22 2017 • 11 a.m. (ET)
The Sugar Story: A Spoonful Of Addiction Makes The Profits Go Up?
the1a.org

Our decisions about what to eat are driven by much more than hunger. Social trends, agricultural science and multimillion-dollar industries can make certain vegetables hip or carbs passé, while concerns for overall health sit on the sidelines.

One of the major food trends of the last half-century was the movement away from fat. But, research published last year found that the fight against fat was fueled in part by sugar interests. As the New York Times reports:

The documents show that a trade group called the Sugar Research Foundation, known today as the Sugar Association, paid three Harvard scientists the equivalent of about $50,000 in today’s dollars to publish a 1967 review of research on sugar, fat and heart disease. The studies used in the review were handpicked by the sugar group, and the article, which was published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, minimized the link between sugar and heart health and cast aspersions on the role of saturated fat.

Now, with the research in doubt, with diabetes and obesity rates high and with questions rising about whether sugar is addictive, more and more people are turning away from a decades-long sugar habit.

Guests

Gary Taubes Author of "The Case Against Sugar;" Science writer; @garytaubes

Michael Moss Author of "Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us;" former investigative reporter for The New York Times; @MichaelMossC

Courtney Gaine PhD, RD President and CEO, the Sugar Association in Washington, DC

Related Links

There’s a Sugar Shock Ahead, in a World That’s Eating Smarter – Bloomberg
50 Years Ago, Sugar Industry Quietly Paid Scientists To Point Blame At Fat – NPR
How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat – New York Times
A Big Tobacco Moment for the Sugar Industry – The New Yorker

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From: Sam8/22/2017 12:25:33 PM
1 Recommendation   of 123
 
Why do people believe myths about the Confederacy? Because our textbooks and monuments are wrong.
False history marginalizes African Americans and makes us all dumber.
By James W. Loewen July 1, 2015
James W. Loewen, Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Vermont, is the author of "Lies My Teacher Told Me" and "The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader."

[There are additional links and videos in the original. I am just posting the whole article here for people who don't have access to WaPo.]
washingtonpost.com

History is the polemics of the victor, William F. Buckley once said. Not so in the United States, at least not regarding the Civil War. As soon as the Confederates laid down their arms, some picked up their pens and began to distort what they had done and why. The resulting mythology took hold of the nation a generation later and persists — which is why a presidential candidate can suggest, as Michele Bachmann did in 2011, that slavery was somehow pro-family and why the public, per the Pew Research Center, believes that the war was fought mainly over states’ rights.

The Confederates won with the pen (and the noose) what they could not win on the battlefield: the cause of white supremacy and the dominant understanding of what the war was all about. We are still digging ourselves out from under the misinformation they spread, which has manifested in our public monuments and our history books.

Take Kentucky, where the legislature voted not to secede. Early in the war, Confederate Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston ventured through the western part of the state and found “no enthusiasm, as we imagined and hoped, but hostility.” Eventually, 90,000 Kentuckians would fight for the United States, while 35,000 fought for the Confederate States. Nevertheless, according to historian Thomas Clark, the state now has 72 Confederate monuments and only two Union ones.

Neo-Confederates also won parts of Maryland. In 1913, the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) put a soldier on a pedestal at the Rockville courthouse. Maryland, which did not secede, sent 24,000 men to the Confederate armed forces, but it also sent 63,000 to the U.S. Army and Navy. Still, the UDC’s monument tells visitors to take the other side: “To our heroes of Montgomery Co. Maryland: That we through life may not forget to love the thin gray line.”

In fact, the thin gray line came through Montgomery and adjoining Frederick counties at least three times, en route to Antietam, Gettysburg and Washington. Robert E. Lee’s army expected to find recruits and help with food, clothing and information. It didn’t. Instead, Maryland residents greeted Union soldiers as liberators when they came through on the way to Antietam. Recognizing the residents of Frederick as hostile, Confederate cavalry leader Jubal Early ransomed $200,000 from them lest he burn their town, a sum equal to about $3 million today. But Frederick now boasts a Confederate memorial, and the manager of the town’s cemetery — filled with Union and Confederate dead — told me, “Very little is done on the Union side” around Memorial Day. “It’s mostly Confederate.”

Neo-Confederates didn’t just win the battle of public monuments. They managed to rename the war, calling it the War Between the States, a locution born after the conflict that was among the primary ways to refer to the war in the middle of the 20th century, after which it began to fade. Even “Jeopardy!” has used this language.

[ Why people convince themselves that the Confederate flag represents freedom, not slavery]

Perhaps most perniciously, neo-Confederates now claim that the South seceded over states’ rights. Yet when each state left the Union, its leaders made clear that they were seceding because they were for slavery and against states’ rights. In its “Declaration of the Causes Which Impel the State of Texas to Secede From the Federal Union,” for example, the secession convention of Texas listed the states that had offended the delegates: “Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa.” Governments there had exercised states’ rights by passing laws that interfered with the federal government’s attempts to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act. Some no longer let slave owners “transit” across their territory with slaves. “States’ rights” were what Texas was seceding against. Texas also made clear what it was seceding for — white supremacy:

We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.

Despite such statements, neo-Confederates erected monuments that flatly lied about the Confederate cause. For example, South Carolina’s monument at Gettysburg, dedicated in 1963, claims to explain why the state seceded: “Abiding faith in the sacredness of states rights provided their creed here.” This tells us nothing about 1863, when abiding opposition to states’ rights provided the Palmetto State’s creed. In 1963, however, its leaders did support states’ rights; politicians tried desperately that decade to keep the federal government from enforcing school desegregation and civil rights.

[ The racist assumptions behind how we talk about shootings]

So thoroughly did this mythology take hold that our textbooks still stand history on its head and say secession was for, rather than against, states’ rights. Publishers mystify secession because they don’t want to offend Southern school districts and thereby lose sales. Consider this passage from “ The American Journey,” probably the largest textbook ever foisted on middle school students and perhaps the best-selling U.S. history textbook:

The South Secedes

Lincoln and the Republicans had promised not to disturb slavery where it already existed. Nevertheless, many people in the South mistrusted the party, fearing that the Republican government would not protect Southern rights and liberties. On December 20, 1860, the South’s long-standing threat to leave the Union became a reality when South Carolina held a special convention and voted to secede.

The section reads as if slavery was not the reason for secession. Instead, the rationale is completely vague: White Southerners feared for their “rights and liberties.” On the next page, the authors are more precise: White Southerners claimed that since “the national government” had been derelict ” — by refusing to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act and by denying the Southern states equal rights in the territories — the states were justified in leaving the Union.”

[ Only white people can save themselves from racism.]

“Journey” offers no evidence to support this claim. It cannot. No Southern state made any such charge against the federal government in any secession document I have ever seen. Abraham Lincoln’s predecessors, James Buchanan and Franklin Pierce, were part of the pro-Southern wing of the Democratic Party. For 10 years, the federal government had vigorously enforced the Fugitive Slave Act. Buchanan supported pro-slavery forces in Kansas even after his own minion, territorial governor and former Mississippi slave owner Robert Walker, ruled that they had won an election only by fraud. The seven states that seceded before Lincoln took office had no quarrel with “the national government.”

Teaching or implying that the Confederate states seceded for states’ rights is not accurate history. It is white, Confederate-apologist history. “Journey,” like other U.S. textbooks, needs to be de-Confederatized. So does the history test we give to immigrants who want to become U.S. citizens. Item No. 74 asks them to “name one problem that led to the Civil War.” It then gives three acceptable answers: slavery, economic reasons and states’ rights. (No other question on this 100-item test has more than one right answer.) If by “economic reasons” it means issues with tariffs and taxes, which most people infer, then two of its three “correct answers” are wrong.

The legacy of this thinking pervades Washington, too. The dean of the Washington National Cathedral has noted that some of its stained-glass windows memorialize Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee. There’s a statue of Albert Pike, Confederate general and reputed leader of the Arkansas Ku Klux Klan, in Judiciary Square.

The Army runs Fort A.P. Hill, named for a Confederate general whose men killed African American soldiers after they surrendered; Fort Bragg, named for a general who was not only Confederate but also incompetent; and Fort Benning, named for a general who, after he helped get his home state of Georgia to secede, made the following argument to the Virginia legislature:

What was the reason that induced Georgia to take the step of secession? This reason may be summed up in one single proposition. It was a conviction .?.?. that a separation from the North was the only thing that could prevent the abolition of her slavery. .?.?. If things are allowed to go on as they are, it is certain that slavery is to be abolished. .?.?. By the time the North shall have attained the power, the black race will be in a large majority, and then we will have black governors, black legislatures, black juries, black everything. .?.?. The consequence will be that our men will be all exterminated or expelled to wander as vagabonds over a hostile Earth, and as for our women, their fate will be too horrible to contemplate even in fancy.

With our monuments lying about secession, our textbooks obfuscating what the Confederacy was about and our Army honoring Southern generals, no wonder so many Americans supported the Confederacy until recently. We can see the impact of Confederate symbols and thinking on Dylann Roof, accused of killing nine in a Charleston, S.C., church, but other examples abound. In his mugshot, Timothy McVeigh, who bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, wore a neo-Confederate T-shirt showing Abraham Lincoln and the words “Sic semper tyrannis.” When white students in Appleton, Wis. — a recovering “sundown town” that for decades had been all white on purpose — had issues with Mexican American students in 1999, they responded by wearing and waving Confederate flags, which they already had at home, at the ready.

Across the country, removing slavery from its central role in prompting the Civil War marginalizes African Americans and makes us all stupid. De-Confederatizing the United States won’t end white supremacy, but it will be a momentous step in that direction.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated. A previous version gave incorrect figures for the ransom paid by Frederick, Md., residents to Confederate troops; they paid $200,000, not $300,000, which would be worth about $3 million now, not $5 million. Also, it misstated the year South Carolina dedicated its monument at Gettysburg; it was 1963, not 1965. And an earlier version of this story incorrectly linked to a different textbook named “American Journey.”



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To: Sam who wrote (95)8/22/2017 12:38:44 PM
From: Sam
   of 123
 
How people convince themselves that the Confederate flag represents freedom, not slavery

Historian John M. Coski examines the fights over the symbol's meaning in "The Confederate Battle Flag: America's Most Embattled Emblem."

By Carlos Lozada June 19, 2015
washingtonpost.com


In the days since the horrific mass shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., the presence of the Confederate battle flag — on the shooting suspect’s license plate, and one still flying on the grounds of the state Capitol in Columbia, S.C. — has reignited a long-standing debate over the Confederate symbol. “Take down the flag,” Ta-Nehisi Coates writes in the Atlantic. “Take it down now. Put it in a museum. Inscribe beneath it the years 1861-2015.”

John M. Coski, the historian at the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, authored a 2006 book titled “The Confederate Battle Flag: America’s Most Embattled Emblem,” as dispassionate a history as one might find on such a subject. (In its review, the New York Times said the book “brings some needed rationality to a debate driven by the raw emotion of soul injury.”) In his opening chapter, Coski examines the debates within the South — then and now — over the the flag, what it represents, and the origins of the argument that it embodies freedom rather than oppression. Excerpts:

Defenders of the flag have insisted vehemently that the Confederacy did not exist to defend or preserve slavery, and they impugn the motives and intelligence of those who argue that it did. . . . [Historian] James McPherson’s study of soldier motivations suggested that most Confederate soldiers did not fight consciously for the preservation of slave property. Confederate soldiers believed they were fighting, above all, to defend their states, their country, and their homes from invasion and to preserve the individual and constitutional liberty that Americans won in 1776. . . .

Historians and partisans in the flag debate can disagree legitimately with the logic of their argument, but they cannot deny the reality of the perception of those who suffered the consequences of invasion. If we wish to understand why many people perceive the Confederate flag as a symbol not of slavery but of liberty, we must understand that a war which “somehow” was caused by slavery (as Lincoln said in his second inaugural address) also necessarily entailed the destruction of an exercise in self-determination. . . .

Modern neo-Confederate orthodoxy not only denies that slavery was the cause of the war but posits that the Confederacy’s reason for being was the defense of constitutional liberty against Big Government. Furthermore, according to this reasoning, the growth of an intrusive federal government in modern times can be traced directly to the defeat of the Confederacy. Anti-government ideology has combined with historical analysis and ancestor veneration to give the Confederacy and its symbols exalted status as icons of freedom.

While generations since 1865 have embellished this orthodoxy, it originated in the rhetoric of Confederate leaders seeking to justify secession and win support for their new nation. . . . This “Confederately correct” orthodoxy that the South fought for independence, not slavery, rankled a few southern realists, including the editors of the Richmond-based Southern Punch in 1864:

” ‘The people of the South,’ says a contemporary, ‘are not fighting for slavery but for independence.’ Let us look into this matter. It is an easy task, we think, to show up this new-fangled heresy — a heresy calculated to do us no good, for it cannot deceive foreign statesmen nor peoples, nor mislead any one here nor in Yankeeland. . . Our doctrine is this: WE ARE FIGHTING FOR INDEPENDENCE THAT OUR GREAT AND NECESSARY DOMESTIC INSTITUTION OF SLAVERY SHALL BE PRESERVED, and for the preservation of other institutions of which slavery is the groundwork.”

After the war, a few ex-Confederates expressed similar disgust with the insistence that defense of slavery had not been the cause of the war. Confederate veteran Ed Baxter unashamedly told a reunion in 1889: “In a word, the South determined to fight for her property right in slaves; and in order to do so, it was necessary for her resist the change which the Abolitionists proposed to make under the Constitution of the United States as construed by them. . . Upon this issue the South went to war, I repeat that the people of the South had the right to fight for their property”. . . . Famed Confederate partisan leader Colonel John S. Mosby was equally forthright. “I’ve always understood that we went to war on account of the thing we quarreled with the North about,” he wrote a former comrade in 1894. “I’ve never heard of any other cause than slavery.”

Mosby, [South Carolina politician Robert Barnwell] Rhett, [Confederate President] Davis, [Vice President Alexander] Stephens, and other Confederates had no difficulty conceding what their descendants go to enormous lengths to deny: that the raison d’être of the Confederacy was the defense of slavery. It follows that, as the paramount symbol of the Confederate nation and as the flag of the armies that kept the nation alive, the St. Andrew’s cross is inherently associated with slavery. This conclusion is valid whether or not secession was constitutional. It is valid whether or not most southern soldiers consciously fought to preserve slavery. It is valid even though racism and segregation prevailed among nineteenth-century white northerners.

Modern Americans looking for this kind of definitive judgment go wrong, however, in concluding further that the St. Andrew’s cross was only a symbol of slavery. Historians emphasize that defense of African-American slavery was inextricably intertwined with white southerners’ defense of their own constitutional liberties and with nearly every other facet of southern life. Descendants of Confederates are not wrong to believe that the flag symbolized defense of constitutional liberties and resistance to invasion by military forces determined to crush an experiment in nationhood. But they are wrong to believe that this interpretation of the flag’s meaning can be separated from the defense of slavery. They need only read the words of their Confederate ancestors to find abundant and irrefutable evidence.

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From: Sam8/31/2017 9:56:39 PM
   of 123
 
The Future Of Work
By Laura Pellicer & Frank Stasio 9 hours ago

archived at wunc.org


A conversation with Vincent Conitzer, professor of computer science, economics and philosophy at Duke University, and Vivienne Ming, theoretical neuroscientist, technologist and entrepreneur about artificial intelligence and the future of work.

Computer kiosks have replaced positions humans once held at the grocery store and at fast food restaurants, and as the technology behind artificial intelligence advances, many wonder where that leaves the humble human being. Do humans have a job in the future economy, or will their role lie outside the workforce?

Host Frank Stasio speaks with technology and innovation experts about how workers will need to adapt to complement rather than combat machines. They also discuss how people should educate their kids in an AI-centric world. He is joined by Vincent Conitzer, professor of computer science, economics and philosophy at Duke University, and Vivienne Ming, theoretical neuroscientist, technologist and entrepreneur. She is also the co-founder of the education technology company Socos and the staffing industry technology ShiftGig.

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From: Sam9/9/2017 9:16:18 AM
   of 123
 
Apple iPhone toppled: Huawei takes second spot in global sales for first time
In July, Huawei became the world's second biggest smartphone vendor by marketshare.

By Liam Tung | September 7, 2017 -- 11:02 GMT (04:02 PDT) | Topic: Mobility
zdnet.com


Huawei is not hugely popular in the US, but sales in China, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East moved it into second spot behind Samsung in July. (Image: Counterpoint)

Seven years after entering the smartphone race, Huawei now sells more smartphones worldwide than Apple -- yet none of the Chinese company's models is in the world's top 10, according to research firm Counterpoint.

Wrenching the No. 2 slot from Apple is a notable achievement given that Huawei, which formerly only sold telecoms equipment, launched its first Ascend smartphone for Western markets in 2010.

Huawei is still not a hugely popular brand in the US, but sales in China, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East helped propel it into second spot behind Samsung in July, according to Counterpoint.

And it's not winning on price alone. Counterpoint puts Huawei's rapid growth down to investment in R&D and manufacturing, marketing and sales channel expansion.

The company's analysts reckon Huawei and other Chinese brands such as Xiaomi and Oppo have stifled growth prospects for Apple and Samsung in China, Europe, and Latin America by "outsmarting and outspending" them in sales, marketing, backed by better hardware.

Despite Huawei's coup, the analyst firm highlights a number of weaknesses in Huawei's current state. The company has released high-end, big-screen flagships such as the P10 and Mate 9, but not a single Huawei phone is among the world's top 10 best-selling models. Or, as Counterpoint analyst Pavel Naiya put it, Huawei still lacks a "true hero device."

Apple on the other hand has three iPhone models in the top 10, which is led by the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. Following Apple's current flagships are the Oppo R11, Oppo A57, Samsung Galaxy S8, Xiaomi Red Note 4X, the Galaxy S8 Plus, iPhone 6, Galaxy J7 Prime, and Galaxy A5.

"While Huawei has trimmed its portfolio, it likely needs to further streamline its product range like Oppo and Xiaomi have done -- putting more muscle behind fewer products," said Naiya.

Huawei is also over-reliant on China, where it leads with a fifth of all smartphone sales, and doesn't have a strong presence in South Asia, India, and North America. It may be able to address this shortcoming in the US next year, with the firm reportedly having locked in a deal with AT&T to launch the Mate 10.

Still, the firm's analysts believe Huawei, Oppo, Vivo, and Xiaomi are now as important to the global supply chain as Samsung and Apple, which has helped them to deliver more competitive features, including thin bezels, in-house chipsets, augmented reality, and better cameras than before.

That Huawei has overtaken Apple now was in the cards. According to IDC's second quarter shipment figures, Apple had a 12-percent share of worldwide smartphone shipments, with 1.5 percent year-on-year growth, compared with Huawei's 11.3-percent share on the back of 19.6-percent growth.

However, with the imminent arrival of the iPhone 8, Huawei's lead over Apple could be short-lived.

PREVIOUS AND RELATED COVERAGE
iPhone 8 could be bad news for Android handset makers

If Apple can use a high-priced iPhone 8 to offset a price cut for the rest of the iPhone line, makers like Samsung and LG could be in for a world of hurt.

Flagship launches from Samsung, Apple will propel smartphone sales: IDC

According to IDC, the upcoming iPhone 8 launch will drive iPhone shipments up by 9.1 percent in 2018.

MORE ON SMARTPHONES

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From: Sam9/12/2017 11:23:10 AM
   of 123
 
Constitutional
A podcast about the story of America

With the writing of the Constitution in 1787, the framers set out a young nation’s highest ideals. And ever since, we’ve been fighting over it — what is in it and what was left out. At the heart of these arguments is the story of America.

As a follow-up to the popular Washington Post podcast “ Presidential,” reporter Lillian Cunningham returns with this series exploring the Constitution and the people who framed and reframed it — revolutionaries, abolitionists, suffragists, teetotalers, protesters, justices, presidents – in the ongoing struggle to form a more perfect union across a vast and diverse land.

washingtonpost.com

Episodes at the link

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From: Sam9/15/2017 11:29:44 PM
   of 123
 
Why Hillary Clinton's Book Is Actually Worth Reading
It’s the rare interesting work by a politician—and it offers an important critique of the press.

James Fallows 11:10 AM ET

theatlantic.com

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