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11 September 2018, Rome – “New evidence continues to signal that the number of hungry people in the world is growing, reaching 821 million in 2017 or one in every nine people, according to The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018 released today. Limited progress is also being made in addressing the multiple forms of malnutrition, ranging from child stunting to adult obesity, putting the health of hundreds of millions of people at risk. Hunger has been on the rise over the past three years, returning to levels from a decade ago. This reversal in progress sends a clear warning that more must be done and urgently if the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger is to be achieved by 2030. The situation is worsening in South America and most regions of Africa, while the decreasing trend in undernourishment that characterized Asia seems to be slowing down significantly. The annual UN report found that climate variability affecting rainfall patterns and agricultural seasons, and climate extremes such as droughts and floods, are among the key drivers behind the rise in hunger, together with conflict and economic slowdowns…”
“Initial coin offerings (ICOs)—a method of raising capital in exchange for digital coins or tokens that entitle their holders to certain rights—are a hot topic among legislators, regulators, and financial market professionals. In response to a surge in the popularity of ICOs over the past 18 months, regulators in a number of countries have banned ICOs. Other foreign regulators have cautioned that unregistered ICOs may violate their securities laws, issued guidance clarifying the application of their securities laws to ICOs, or proposed new rules or legislation directed at regulating ICOs. ICOs have also attracted the attention of U.S. securities regulators. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has cautioned that depending on their specific features, ICOs may qualify as offerings of “securities” subject to federal regulation. Whether an ICO involves an offering of “securities” has important legal consequences. Section 5 of the Securities Act of 1933 (Securities Act) requires issuers of securities to register their offerings with the SEC or conduct them pursuant to a specific exemption from registration. Issuers and sellers of securities also face anti-fraud liability under the Securities Act and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (Exchange Act). The SEC has the authority to investigate and punish violations of the securities laws, and has indicated that it will “vigorously” police the burgeoning ICO market for such violations. To determine whether a transaction involves an offering of “securities,” courts employ a four-part test outlined by the Supreme Court’s 1946 decision in SEC v. W.J. Howey Co. Under that test, a transaction qualifies as an offering of “securities” if it involves (1) an investment of money, (2) in a common enterprise, (3) with a reasonable expectation of profit, (4) to be derived from the efforts of others. In applying the Howey test, the Court has emphasized the importance of analyzing “the economic realities” of a transaction, as opposed to its form or the label that its promoters give it. Because ICOs are incredibly diverse, it is impossible to draw broad conclusions about their status under the securities laws, which will depend on fact-intensive inquiries into details that vary among different ICOs. As a general matter, though, ICOs are more likely to qualify as offerings of “securities” when token purchasers (1) are motivated primarily by a desire for financial returns (as opposed to a desire to use or consume some good or service for which tokens can be exchanged), and (2) lack a meaningful ability to control the activities on which their profits will depend. In light of these principles, attorneys have developed a method for structuring ICOs—the Simple Agreement for Future Tokens (SAFT)—that attempts to avoid classification of the tokens issued pursuant to certain ICOs as “securities.” However, whether the SAFT achieves its intended goal remains subject to significant debate…”
The National Academies of Sciences: “During the 2016 presidential election, America’s election infrastructure was targeted by actors sponsored by the Russian government. Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy examines the challenges arising out of the 2016 federal election, assesses current technology and standards for voting, and recommends steps that the federal government, state and local governments, election administrators, and vendors of voting technology should take to improve the security of election infrastructure. In doing so, the report provides a vision of voting that is more secure, accessible, reliable, and verifiable.” This Report is available Free in PDF.
Pew: “About half (52%) of American adults lived in middle-class households in 2016. This is virtually unchanged from the 51% who were middle class in 2011. But while the size of the nation’s middle class remained relatively stable, financial gains for middle-income Americans during this period were modest compared with those of higher-income households, causing the income disparity between the groups to grow. The recent stability in the share of adults living in middle-income households marks a shift from a decades-long downward trend. From 1971 to 2011, the share of adults in the middle class fell by 10 percentage points. But that shift was not all down the economic ladder. Indeed, the increase in the share of adults who are upper income was greater than the increase in the share who are lower income over that period, a sign of economic progress overall…”
Also Via Pew: Are you in the American middle class? Find out with our income calculator By Richard Fry and Rakesh Kochhar: “About half of American adults lived in middle-income households in 2016, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of government data. In percentage terms, 52% of adults lived in middle-income households, 29% in lower-income households and 19% in upper-income households. Our calculator, updated with 2016 data, lets you find out which group you are in – first compared with other adults in your metropolitan area and among American adults overall, and then compared with other adults in the United States similar to you in education, age, race or ethnicity, and marital status…”
Most Americans continue to get news on social media, even though many have concerns about its accuracy: “About two-thirds of American adults (68%) say they at least occasionally get news on social media, about the same share as at this time in 2017, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Many of these consumers, however, are skeptical of the information they see there: A majority (57%) say they expect the news they see on social media to be largely inaccurate. Still, most social media news consumers say getting news this way has made little difference in their understanding of current events, and more say it has helped than confused them (36% compared with 15%). Republicans are more negative about the news they see on social media than Democrats. Among Republican social media news consumers, 72% say they expect the news they see there to be inaccurate, compared with 46% of Democrats and 52% of independents. And while 42% of those Democrats who get news on social media say it has helped their understanding of current events, fewer Republicans (24%) say the same. Even among those Americans who say they prefer to get news on social media over other platforms (such as print, TV or radio), a substantial portion (42%) express this skepticism….”
Study – comprehensive overview of Google’s collection methods and exactly what information it collects on you
“In light of recently turning 20 years old, Google reigns as one of today’s tech giants. The company has two main ways of collecting user data: active and passive. Active tracking is usually consciously understood by the user, such as signing into a range of accounts (YouTube, Google Search, Gmail, etc.). Passive data collection, however, can possibly occur without the user’s knowledge, which comes in the form of publisher tools, applications, and advertiser tools. A study, conducted by Professor of Computer Science at Vanderbilt University Douglas C. Schmidt and his team, provides a comprehensive overview of Google’s collection methods and exactly what information it accumulates. Highlighting just a few findings, the Android OS platform helps Google gather user details (name, birthdate, zip code, and sometimes credit card information), location coordinates, and phone activity. [h/t Marcus Zillman]
In experiments with a dormant Android phone running Chrome actively in the background, the device communicated with Google a whopping 340 times within a 24-hour period. Breaking that figure down even further, it equates to 14 data communications every hour. The full report is available online, and you can watch a quick summary in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkwmAR_G2X0
“With unemployment at over a decade low, wages at all-time highs, and poverty on the decline, the U.S. economy is flourishing — or so it would seem. For Americans struggling financially it can be difficult to feel encouraged by such optimistic reports. It is a common complaint among ordinary Americans and economists alike: economic measures might be indicative of overall economic performance but rarely connect to the lived experiences of Americans. For example, while the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, most agree this is not a livable wage. The Economic Policy Institute, a non profit think tank, calculated the income families need to secure a modest, yet adequate standard of living in counties and metro areas across the United States. Americans entering the workforce or starting a family have thousands of cities to choose from — and some are more expensive places than others. In order to illustrate what it looks like to live in the most and least expensive places, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed monthly living expenses from EPI’s family budget calculator in the most expensive metro areas based on the Bureau of Economic Analysis’ regional price parities. According to the EPI, compared with federal measures of poverty, its family budgets provide a more accurate and complete measure of economic security in America. In an email to 24/7 Wall St., EPI research assistant Zane Mokhiber explained, “Wherever housing and childcare is expensive, cities are expensive, and vice versa.” By contrast, food, transportation, and health care costs tend to be relatively uniform across the the nation’s major cities.
In all of the 25 cities where goods and services are most expensive — with the exception of the Riverside, California, metro area — average monthly housing costs for a family of four are $1,200 or higher. Childcare costs for families living in these cities average between $1,000 and nearly $3,000 per month. In 10 of the cities on this list, monthly childcare costs exceed housing expenses…”
Knowledge@Wharton: “Technically speaking, the financial crisis of 2008, the biggest economic meltdown in the U.S. since the Great Depression, lasted a little more than 18 months, and ended long ago. From December 2007 to June 2009, the GDP contracted sharply, and then the economy began growing again. At ground level for many, though, the world has never been quite the same. “One in five employees lost their jobs at the beginning of the Great Recession. Many of those people never recovered; they never got real work again,” says Wharton management professor Peter Cappelli, director of the school’s Center for Human Resources. “The spike in disability claims was in part caused by the difficulty laid-off people had in securing any jobs. A generation of young people entering the job market had their careers disrupted by it. The fact that this age group continues to delay buying houses, having children, and other markers of stable, adult life is largely attributed to this.” “It was a very traumatic event. Vast numbers of lives were changed forever undoubtedly when you look at the economy as a whole,” says Wharton management professor Matthew Bidwell.
The Great Recession accelerated a number of trends and arrested the development of others. “The fact that so many people took temporary jobs, often as contractors, was pushed along by the downturn, in part because employers were so unsure about the future but also because workers had no choice but to take them,” says Cappelli. “Good employee-management practices took a big step back during this period because employees were willing to put up with anything as long as they had a job.” What we could have taken away from the financial crisis was the resolve to take steps so that it should never happen again, Cappelli says. “But it’s easier to ignore that, so we are.”…
Project Syndicate – Jim O’Neill: “In the decade since the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the start of the global financial crisis, the world economy has registered stronger growth than many realize, owing in large part to China. But in the years ahead, global economic imbalances and troubling trends in the business world will continue to pose economic as well as political risks….Following the crisis, I predicted that the US and China would have to swap places to some extent over the course of the next decade. China needed to save less and spend more; and the US needed to save more and spend less. Judging by their current accounts today, both countries appear to have made significant progress. In 2018, China’s surplus will have fallen to around .5-1% of GDP, which is remarkable considering that its GDP has more than doubled since 2008. Equally remarkable, the US will register a deficit of 2-2.5% of GDP, which is within the 2-3% range that many economists consider sustainable. Other global indicators, however, are not as encouraging. Back in 2008, the eurozone ran a current-account deficit of 1.5% of GDP, with Germany recording a surplus of around 5.5%. But Germany’s large surplus owed much to large deficits in other eurozone countries, and that imbalance gave rise to the euro crisis after 2009. Worryingly, Germany’s surplus has since ballooned to around 8% of GDP. As a result, the eurozone now has a surplus close to 3.5%, despite, and probably because of, years of weak domestic demand in the Mediterranean member states. This is surely a sign of further instability ahead. In fact, the slow-brewing crisis in Italy may be a harbinger of what awaits the bloc…”
- “Each year from January to June, hundreds of scientists from around the world crunch the numbers on the previous year’s climate, reviewing and cataloging everything from sea level, to the number and strength of hurricanes in every part of the ocean, to the size of the Arctic sea ice pack. Led by scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information and published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorology Society, this year’s report offers insight on global climate indicators, extreme weather events, and other valuable information on the state of the climate.” Press Release Full Report
- Interactive map of extreme events & anomalies – “As part of the annual State of the Climate reports, editors and contributors pull together a map of the year’s noteworthy extreme events and climate anomalies. This interactive version of the 2017 map provides additional details about the events as well as maps and other data visualizations to put the year’s extremes into context. Color-coding of the dots on the map indicates which events were consistent with seasonal patterns that often occur during La Niña, which developed in late 2017 (hint: they almost all had to do with seasonal hurricane activity).” Read more
Google launches Touring Bird – helps travelers explore, compare, and book tours, tickets, and activities from multiple providers
Tourbird FAQ: “Touring Bird helps travelers explore, compare, and book tours, tickets, and activities from multiple providers in top destinations around the world—all in a single place. What can I do with Touring Bird? With Touring Bird, you can:
- Find everything in one place – When you select a destination city, you’ll see popular attractions, suggested tours and activities along with prices, options for free guided tours, and recommendations from locals and travel bloggers.
- Customize and compare options across multiple providers.
- We offer a unique “build-your-own package” feature for each destination’s top attractions. You can select exactly the options you want, then compare filtered offerings by price to find the best match. For example: Say you want to visit the Eiffel Tower on a certain day with access to the tower’s summit and skip-the-line access, followed by a lunch cruise on the Seine. You can—within seconds—find tour packages across multiple major providers (such as Viator, GetYourGuide, and Expedia) that meet those criteria, without having to comb through endless tour descriptions on different booking agency websites to determine what’s included or not.
- Explore by interest, traveler type, and activity type – Touring Bird curates hundreds of activities for every interest and type of traveler—from first-timers looking for classic experiences to those seeking more off-the-beaten-path activities, from families with kids to party animals to couples looking for romance. All offerings can be further filtered by type of activity, such as walking tours, classes, or social dining…”
How to Find a Novel, Short Story, or Poem Without Knowing its Title or Author: “Locating a novel, short story, or poem without knowing its title or author can be very difficult. This guide is intended to help readers identify a literary work when they know only its plot or subject, or other textual information such as a character’s name, a line of poetry, or a unique word or phrase.” Created by Peter Armenti, Digital Reference Specialist, Library of Congress. [h/t gov-info: The Government Info Librarian blog]
Via LLRX.com – Exploring the global LegalTech ecosystem: Fueled by a combination of mushrooming LegalTech startups, an increasing interest from corporate legal departments, law firms looking into LegalTech strategies and most importantly, the legal media, LegalTech has come in the legal industry’s mainstream consciousness. Headline grabbing articles like “Machines are going to replace lawyers” or “Robo-lawyers are here to take your jobs” have become du jour. As an industry analyst, Eric Chin goes beyond the buzz to explore the state of the global LegalTech market by gauging size, funding and corporate activities across different jurisdictions.
Via LLRX.com – Three TextExpander Snippets You Should Be Using to Save Time Immediately: Brett Burney recommends and demonstrates an application from which we can all benefit: Text Expander – its saves you time immediately because it can type for you. And not only does TextExpander save you time, but it’ll also make you a better typist because it’s 100 percent accurate every single time. No typos or misspellings.
Engadget – We requested our personal information from dozens of companies. Here’s what they gave us — and what they didn’t: “The average American, one study tell us, touches their phone 2,600 times per day. By the end of a given year, that’s nearly a million touches, rising to two million if you’re a power user. Each one of those taps, swipes and pulls is a potential proxy for our most intimate behaviors. Our phones are not only tools that help us organize our day but also sophisticated monitoring devices that we voluntarily feed with interactions we think are private. The questions we ask Google, for instance, can be more honest than the ones we ask our loved ones — a “digital truth serum,” as ex-Googler and author Seth Stephens-Davidowitz writes in Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are. Hoover up these data points and combine them with all of our other devices — smart TVs, fitness trackers, cookies that stalk us across the web — and there exists an ambient, ongoing accumulation of our habits to the tune of about 2.5 quintillion (that’s a million trillion) bytes of data per day. Sometimes that data gets spliced, scattered and consolidated across a web of collaborators, researchers and advertisers. Acxiom, for instance, claims 1,500 data points for each of the 500 million people in its database, including most US adults. Just in the past few months, Facebook was reported to have asked hospitals, including Stanford University School of Medicine, to share and integrate patients’ medical data with its own (the research project has since been put on hold). In April, gay dating app Grindr was revealed to have shared customers’ HIV status with two app-optimization companies. And who suspected completing an online personality test would pave the way for President Donald Trump’s targeted political advertising?…”
Axios: “When Amazon invited cities to compete for its second global headquarters a year ago today, it got reams of data from the 238 entrants — enough to learn details of the cities’ future plans that a lot of their residents don’t even know about, Axios’ Erica Pandey reports.
- Why it matters: The information effectively provided Amazon with a database of granular details about the economic development prospects of every major metropolitan area in the United States (and some in Canada).
- The database could help with expansion decisions that go way beyond HQ2.
Amazon’s warehouses are within 20 miles of 31% of the U.S. population, while Walmart owns stores within 20 miles of 98% of the population, says Cooper Smith, an industry analyst at Gartner L2…”
To Restore Civil Society, Start With the Library. This crucial institution is being neglected just when we need it the most. By Eric Klinenberg (@EricKlinenberg), a professor of sociology and the director of the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University
“…But the problem that libraries face today isn’t irrelevance. Indeed, in New York and many other cities, library circulation, program attendance and average hours spent visiting are up. The real problem that libraries face is that so many people are using them, and for such a wide variety of purposes, that library systems and their employees are overwhelmed. According to a 2016 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, about half of all Americans ages 16 and over used a public library in the past year, and two-thirds say that closing their local branch would have a “major impact on their community.” Libraries are being disparaged and neglected at precisely the moment when they are most valued and necessary. Why the disconnect? In part it’s because the founding principle of the public library — that all people deserve free, open access to our shared culture and heritage — is out of sync with the market logic that dominates our world. But it’s also because so few influential people understand the expansive role that libraries play in modern communities…
Libraries are an example of what I call “social infrastructure”: the physical spaces and organizations that shape the way people interact. Libraries don’t just provide free access to books and other cultural materials, they also offer things like companionship for older adults, de facto child care for busy parents, language instruction for immigrants and welcoming public spaces for the poor, the homeless and young people…”
Data Protection: Actions Taken by Equifax and Federal Agencies in Response to the 2017 Breach. GAO-18-559: Published: Aug 30, 2018. Publicly Released: Sep 7, 2018:
Hackers stole the personal data of nearly 150 million people from Equifax databases in 2017. How did Equifax, a consumer reporting agency, respond to that event? Equifax said that it investigated factors that led to the breach and tried to identify and notify people whose personal information was compromised. In addition, three federal agencies that use Equifax services made their own security assessments and modified contracts with Equifax. Moreover, other federal agencies that oversee consumer reporting agencies started investigating Equifax and gave further advice to consumers on how to protect themselves against security breaches.”
HathiTrust Blog: “HathiTrust now includes 4,000 California Assembly and Senate publications in its digital repository, available as a featured collection available for reading access worldwide. The result of a collaboration between the California Office of Legislative Counsel and librarians at the University of California, Stanford University, and the California State Library, the project was initiated at the University of California’s California Digital Library (CDL) by Heather Christenson, the current HathiTrust Program Officer for Federal Documents and Collections. “Everyone on this project, from our partners in higher ed to the California state government, recognizes the importance of preserving government publications. We couldn’t have done it without collective will and effort, and HathiTrust’s commitment to digital preservation makes this possible,” says Christenson. The collected California legislative materials include introduced bills, amended bills, and statutes of the California Assembly and Senate, some dating back to 1849, as well as published materials that support, augment, or contextualize the bills. Anyone may access the public domain materials in the HathiTrust Digital Library to browse, read, or download one page at a time. Individuals affiliated with one of HathiTrust’s 140+ member institutions have special access to download full-work PDFs of the volumes. Data mining and textual analysis can also be performed on the publications using tools in the HathiTrust Research Center. The collection is not yet comprehensive, as there are gaps in the series for each publication type, and work will continue to locate copies of missing volumes, to digitize them, and to include them in this set of open materials…”