I was in Vietnam about this time last year. President Obama also happened to be in Hanoi at the same time, working to enhance America’s internationally presence and improve trade relations with twelve Pacific Rim partners. Vietnam and the other countries rejoiced at his arrival after a torturous past of wars and corruption that was crippling the economies of Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Obama helped broker the twelve-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Many trade experts saw TPP as the single most valuable tool America had for shaping the geo-economic future of the region our way and for pressuring China to open its markets.
TPP also included restrictions on foreign state-owned enterprises that dumped subsidized products into our markets, intellectual property protections for rising U.S. technologies – like free access for all cloud computing services. Like any trade deal, TPP would have challenged some U.S. workers but it would have created opportunities for many others, because big economies like Japan and Vietnam were opening their markets. For decades we had allowed Japan to stay way too closed because, because it was an ally in the Cold War, and Vietnam, because it was an enemy. Some 80 percent of the goods from our 11 TPP partners were coming into the U.S. duty free already, while our goods and services were still being hit with 18,000 tariffs in their countries – which TPP eliminated.
We could have even helped the economic reformers in China. They were hoping that the emergence of TPP “would force China to reform its trade practices more along American lines and to open its markets . . . We failed the reformers in China.”
P.S. Happy Fourth of July weekend. Enjoy. Back on Wednesday, July 5th.
Americans don’t really seem to care about economic competition when it comes to ensuring safety at U.S. airports. Things are different in Europe as we all know, but if Google has developed the best computer algorithms to identify concealed weapons in airport checkpoint body scanners in the U.S., wouldn’t the rest of the world want to do the same? Not so, I’m afraid. Those “wild and crazy” European Union officials are more concerned about Google’s business practices on their continent and want to exact some hefty fines that will delay many proven screening techniques in airports throughout Europe. I am not making this up!
So in the land of the free and the brave, we have industry-wide contests to select winners in developing the best body-scanning technology to identify concealed weapons on airline travelers. A $1.5 million contest to be exact, run by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It’s all about artificial intelligence for which the U.S. seems to be taking the lead in a large number of technological screening endeavors. For the rest of the world, this may all seem too “robotic”, but let’s face it, we need to make some changes quickly for safety’s sake The world’s traveling population is growing astronomically, and we need to rely more on available technological resources. We don’t need more “friendly skies”; we need more vigilance that technolgy can provide whereever we may be on land or in the skies. European resistance for the sake of a “level economic playing field” is misguided.
Please trust me, I am not advocating that America has all answers for airline safety world-wide. But I do believe that we can help in making airline travel safer wherever you may be traveling.
Back in my Peace Corps years, we were all eager to change the world. At least over a thousand of us who were in India in the mid to late sixties, but that all changed when Indira Gandhi sent us home. I have been back to India on two different occasions over the past decade. Technology has played a major role in India’s economic growth as a source of customer service and technical support to the rest of the world. But now many current local Indian authorities are increasingly clamping down on Internet and telecommunications access across the country. They have cited national security as the primary reason for restricting access. It also seems that local and state officials can conjure up other rationales. In one case, officials suspended social media apps to prevent cheating during a state exam for government accountant positions.
If India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to show American investors that his country has “the most open economy in the world,” he would do well to address these local practices from the national level. As I was often reminded during those Peace Corps years, India is the world’s largest democracy! The Indian government has taken steps to bring the country into the 21st Century: Its policies to reduce red tape, attract foreign businesses and expand digital services have enormous potential. It would be a shameful regression if these reforms fail to reach that potential because of suspended WiFi.
I know that Prime Minister Modi is not trying to change the world like those idealistic Peace Corps Volunteers of the sixties, but I believe that he can do something to preserve India’s digital future.
Ray Myers India 29
Facebook used to be a fun place. As we all well know, that is not necessarily the case today. Unfortunately it has also provided a means for terrorist networking. I know this is not the happy “talk” that I like to post on this site, but we can not afford to be naive in how social networking is being used. But do you really think artificial intelligence will save us from this blight of hatred and terrorism in which Facebook seems to play a large part? I am not very reassured from what I read on both sides of the equation.
Let’s start somewhere. This is a needed form of network censorship.
I am really wondering when we will begin to see so-called Presidential rule-making that will truly Make America Great Again? I thought maybe it will be in the ways we can make college more affordable for eager young Americans and their families. What was I thinking? Instead, we seem to be back to the old “buyer beware” mentality. What a concept! If you want a higher education degree, just go online and send in your money and you too can join the ranks of those diploma-holders from America’s higher education institutions. But what if you really get nothing in return except a diploma that does not actually mean much in our competitive economic environment.
The Trump administration is delaying rules developed during the Obama years that would put an end to predatory lending practices at the higher education level that were identified and outlawed prior to the change in administrations. Some states have challenged this action by the Education Department to halt this regulatory process. Maura Healey, the Massachusetts attorney general, called the delay a violation of federal law and a “betrayal of students and families across the country who are drowning in unaffordable debt.” She said she would challenge it in court. She’s right!
So what will actually happen? Maybe nothing, and that would let predatory lending go scot-free. That would truly be a tragedy for the American educational system.
P.S. I will be back online next Friday, 6/23. A little late spring break!
No more tiresome packing chores. All you need is a friendly app on your favorite device, and off you go. Let’s just call it an online concierge service and, oh yes, you will need to pay. This payment will cover the costs of having your traveling wardrobe stored somewhere where you can just send a short text to let your packers know that you are ready to travel. Costs will vary across different service providers, but one example are the rates charged by one company, DUFL. It costs $99 per round trip, plus $9.95 a month for storage.
Instead of packing your own suitcase, travelers can rely on companies such as DUFL which started in 2015 and now has warehouses in three cities and 30 employees who clean, press and pack their customers’ clothes and toiletries for them. When a trip is approaching, customers use DUFL’s website or app to select items from their personal closet in DUFL’s cavernous warehouse. (Photographs of every piece of clothing are uploaded.). DUFL then launders or dry cleans the clothes and packs them in a way that reminds customers of a shopping spree. And not to worry, FedEx will deliver the bags to your home.
What a convenience and time saver for the busy business traveler! All it takes is the right wardrobe and a little expendable income.
Okay men, maybe it’s time to break some of those old male stereotypes in the digital age of the twenty first century. Some women, you know who you are, may say it is a hopeless cause. All men really want is someone to listen to them and go easy on the advice. It seems like the most preferred female response is a simple, “Mm hmmm.” But now that we are in the digital age, men may finally find that they can open up more freely through texting and other social media, expressing their most innermost thoughts. Well, as they say, “good luck with that.” Even in the case of the youngest social media users, sex may be be the key determinant in how they choose to express themselves (or not) online.
I am not sure that this online behavior has been scientifically documented, but there seems to be plenty of anecdotal data to suggest some behavioral differences in this regard. Here is one writer’s experience: “A few months ago . . . my nephew, now seven years old, got his first cellphone. There was his number on our family group text, a long message chain that my sisters and I use as a place to deposit our complaints about the day and his puns. So far, his contributions have been a string of plane and car emojis. Excited though, to have this new way to talk to him, I sent him a message. I saw the flickering bubbles that showed he was typing back. Then nothing. For the next twelve hours, his side of the conversation was blank. Finally, a day later, a single response: ‘Hey.'”
In defense of our seven year old “brother,” it may just be overwhelming to keep up with older aunts whether they are conversing online or in person. Be strong, young man! Maybe not so silent.
Sometimes it’s just good to say (or tweet) nothing, and I think yesterday was a good time for the so-called President to do just that. But I have a feeling he will be back. How can he not? Let’s just call it an “obsession” to be polite. Don’t we all want to know what he thinks about everything? Or whom he wants to attack or harangue at any given time? Oh, for those of you who may have been otherwise preoccupied yesterday, Jim Comey, the former FBI DIrector fired by Trump, testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee about alleged lies (obstruction of justice) that Trump has made publicly and in private. They cover a wide variety of topics, but the majority seem focused on inquiries over contacts with Russian officials.
All day Thursday, Trump had nothing to say – on his preferred medium of Twitter or anywhere else. He let others do his talking. A president who earlier in the week had been spoiling for a fight with Comey – and who sees his Twitter feed as both megaphone and weapon – was convinced by others to lie low according to about a dozen White House officials and other Republicans close to him. As Representative Peter King advised: ” . . . avoid any temptation to respond to what the Democrats are saying . . . there was no reason to say anything, to get bogged down in the swamp. Be presidential, go out and do the job, and don’t take the bait.” Good advice from a seasoned politician wouldn’t you say?
But who knows what Trump will do? It might sound too much like hard work. When would he have time to golf, fly down to Mar-a-Lago?
I would have thought that being President (so-called) of the United States was a full-time job, but I have certainly underestimated the current resident of the White House. Maybe he will rename this residence if he stays around long enough, but he is not really there that often. And most of the “conflicts of interest” concerns that I worry about don’t seem to bother government ethics watchdogs in Washington or, if they do, I am not hearing that much about it. Let’s face it, he has enough children and a large business organization so that he can hide safely in the shadows, and never be seen as a business benefactor. It’s all in the branding and getting the shrewdest legal expertise. Land of the free and the brave!
So what does all this have to do with technology? Let’s just say that they have free wi-if in all the rooms. Now that we have gotten that out of the way, we can explore what this new business venture is really all about. Don’t worry, you probably won’t see the Donald’s name displayed in any prominent way, so let’s just wink and go our merry way. The Trump Organization calls this new budget-friendly hotel line, the American Idea. This new hotel chain is making its debut in Mississippi, where Republicanism reigns. What a concept! Here is some of the promotional jargon: “a new three-star hotel chain with a patriotic flair, echoing (his) campaign slogan about putting America first and reflecting the organization’s promise to enter into new deals only in the United States.” America Idea will feature artifacts of American culture in the hotels, such as an old Coca-Cola machine in the lobby or American-made sundries in the rooms. Make America Great Again.
The South will Rise Again!
Before there was Facebook and Twitter (I do remember), people would actually talk to each other face-to-face. They were not as concerned about the number of retweets or likes they received on social media (there was none). Maybe they just wanted to have a few close friends or family members that they could always count on to be around whenever they needed them, or just wanted to enjoy each other’s company. In our virtual world of today when can choose to be connected to our friends and family whenever, and in whatever ways we choose. But living in the virtual world full time may actually deprive us of having a longer life. Feeling isolated and disconnected from the real world can actually make us sick.
Recent research suggests that being unpopular (in the real world) can be hazardous to our health. In fact, it might even kill us. Yet most don’t realize that there’s more than one type of popularity and social media may not supply the one that makes us feel good. This same research also reveals that there is more than one type of popularity, and most of us may be investing in the wrong kind. We can be popular by simply being likeable. Likeability reflects kindness, benevolent leadership and selfless, prosocial behavior. This same research suggests that this form of popularity offers lifelong advantages, and leads to relationships that confer the greatest health benefits. We may be built by evolution to care deeply about popularity, but it’s up to us to chose the nature of the relationships we want with our peers. It may also mean that we step away from Twitter once in a while.
May we all live long and prosper in real time. 🖖
Just two days ago, I wrote about how Twitter was being used as a online messenger of love, particularly when you can Direct Message your beloved. Unfortunately, it seems that it also can be used as a messenger of hate, as recently witnessed in Europe. Twitter has been cited as failing to meet European standards for removing hate speech online. The battle betweeen European policy makers and tech companies over what should be permitted online has pitted freedom of speech campaigners against those who say hate speech – in whatever form – has no place on the Internet.
Twitter has said that it had invested in new reporting procedures to allow individuals to flag problems with hate speech, and it was striving to balance people’s right to freedom of expression with the need to police material on its network. The European Union members are particularly concerned over the increases in terrorist attacks on their soil. After the recent attacks in Manchester, England, Theresa May, the country’s Prime Minister, called on tech companies to strengthen their monitoring of extremist speech online. And in Germany, lawmakers are planning new legislation that could lead to fines of up to $50 million of companies do not act quickly in policing harmful material on their digital services.
Maybe we shouldn’t worry so much about Europe anymore. So-called President Donald Trump certainly doesn’t seem to care, particularly when they talk about climate change and NATO defenses. We have friends in Russia.