Wednesday, 18 July 2018

MIT Technology Review: Google slammed with $5 billion antitrust fine

JMIT Technology Review    
The Download

Good morning! Here are today's most important stories in emerging technology.
Google’s just been hit with Europe’s biggest ever antitrust fine

The European Union’s trustbusters want the search giant to cough up $5 billion as a penalty for using its Android mobile operating system to stifle competition.
The charge sheet: The EU alleges Google uses Android, which powers 80 percent of the world’s smartphones, to unfairly favor its own search engine and mobile apps by:

    forcing phone makers into contracts that require them to pre-install its search service and web browser in return for access to the Google Play app store and other products.
    making payments to large manufacturers and mobile network operators to get them to pre-install Google’s search engine exclusively on their phones.
    threatening to block phone makers’ access to its app store and search engine if they run versions of Android known as “forks” that haven’t been approved by the company.

What’s next: Announcing the EU’s decision, Margrethe Vestager, its antitrust chief, said Google must cease its anti-competitive behavior within 90 days or face additional penalties. Expect Google to challenge the EU’s ruling in court. The search behemoth has repeatedly claimed it faces stiff competition, from Apple in particular. It’s pointed to the fact that phone makers often install competing apps as well as its own as proof it isn’t suppressing competition.
Why this matters: The power of giant tech companies is a huge concern, as we recently highlighted. So far, Europe has led the way in challenging what it considers abuses of that power. It remains to be seen whether US trustbusters will follow its lead.

—Martin Giles

This company is giving away face recognition software to K-12 schools

RealNetworks launched a website yesterday that allows schools in North America to download and implement its face recognition software for free.
The trial: Called SAFR, the tech is currently being tested at a school in Seattle that the founder, Rob Glaser’s, kids attend.
What it does: The program monitors who is coming onto campus. For the Seattle trial, parents of students at the school register their faces with the software, which allows them to unlock a gate by smiling at a surveillance camera.
The controversy: Glaser sees his software as a way to improve safety in schools that circumvents the touchy subject of gun control legislation. But it’s likely to find itself in the middle of another debate, over whether the deployment of face recognition tech needs to be regulated. Glaser told Wired: ”In a country where there have been so many tragic incidents in schools, technology that makes it easier to keep schools safer is fundamentally a good thing.”

A new report says AI will replace as many jobs as it kills
The consulting firm PwC anticipates that AI will add as many jobs to the UK economy as are lost to the technology.
The predictions: The paper forecasts that about 20 percent of UK jobs will be automated by 2037—but 20 percent more jobs will also be created. Strictly speaking, the report suggests about 7 million will be lost and 7.2 million gained.
But… Take results like this with a big grain of salt. Job predictions that look nearly 20 years into the future make a lot of assumptions. As the authors write, “There are many uncertain factors that could tip the balance towards more optimistic or pessimistic scenarios.”
The takeaway: Companies, researchers, and consultancy groups disagree like crazy over how many jobs will succumb to automation. Reports from reputable groups help predict general trends, but instead of seeking out specific numbers related to technology-induced job loss, we need to figure out how to deal with it.

Coinbase is starting to look a lot like a traditional big tech company
The cryptocurrency exchange is growing up fast—and becoming more like the kind of company that cryptocurrency was supposed to circumvent.
Two big news items: Coinbase has announced that it's “exploring the addition” of five new crypto-tokens. Just as important, Bloomberg reported that Coinbase has the “green light” from US securities regulators to make three acquisitions that will pave the way for it to become one of the first licensed platforms for trading “tokenized” versions of traditional investments, like company shares.
A contentious backdrop: Landing on a big exchange like Coinbase boosts a crypto-token’s perceived value, so there is a lot of money is on the line. Complicating things is a lack of clarity from regulators regarding which coins are commodities, which are securities, and which may be something different altogether.
This looks familiar: Coinbase, which may be worth as much as $8 billion, has been in rapid expansion mode lately. Some have called it a budding “Google of crypto.” But isn’t that antithetical to the decentralized ideal to which many cryptocurrency enthusiasts adhere? Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
—Mike Orcutt

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We're curating a program that brings our editorial coverage to life and highlights the executives, technologists, and innovators you need to know. Secure your ticket to EmTech today!

Ten Fascinating Things

Our roundup of today's top tech news to get you thinking and debating.

Laying down the rules of the road for self-driving cars
Analytics firm Inrix has created a tool that helps cities organize all the rules it expects humans to follow to help train self-driving cars. (Wired)
+ ZOOX is building self-driving cars from the ground up rather than outfitting existing vehicles. (Bloomberg)

WhatsApp has fueled more than two dozen killings in India
False rumors spread through the app about child kidnappers are to blame. (NYT)

BMW is challenging Uber in Seattle
It is combining car-sharing and ride-hailing into one app. (GeekWire)

Supersonic travel is getting a second chance
Companies are hoping customers will pay top dollar for a fast trip. (WSJ)
+ NASA will test quieter supersonic booms over Texas this year. (TR)

Facebook doubles down on AI research
It will be expanding its AI staff and creating new university partnerships. (Washington Post)

If you take a DNA test, you might be in for a shock
People are discovering their parents aren’t who they thought they were. (The Atlantic)

Netflix continues to grow, but not fast enough
The company’s stock drop has prompted debate over whether current tech valuations are sustainable. (Axios)

A new VR horror game wants to make sure you’re scared
If you heart rate isn’t fast enough, it ramps up the fright level. (Digital Trends)

Britain is suffering from a lack of wind
And when the wind stops blowing, turbines stop spinning. (New Scientist)

Insect-bots on a plane
Rolls Royce is developing cockroach-sized robots to fix jet engines (CNBC)

Quote of the Day

“The fight to keep the internet open belongs in Congress, not at the Federal Communications Commission.”

—Republican congressman Mike Coffman from Colorado, the first Republican to sign a petition to force a vote on net neutrality.
Erin Winick


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Ghana Needs An Electoral Commissioner In The Martin Amidu-Mould

When President Akufo-Addo appointed Mr. Martin Amidu as Ghana's first Special Prosecutor, he demonstrated his committment to the fight against the high-level corruption slowly bleeding Mother Ghana dry. It was obvious to many that the president kept his own counsel in making the appointment -  because he understood clearly that it was the national interest, not party advantage, that  was the overriding factor he  had to consider.

The appointment of the Electoral Commission's new leadership, occasioned by the dismissal of Mrs. Charlotte Osei and her two deputies, ought to be guided by the same long-term national interest considerations. Ghana needs an  Electoral Commission that is truly independent, if it is to remain a stable and peaceful democracy. In light of that, today, we have culled an interesting story from the online UK magazine, The Week, which is our food-for-thought-contribution to a national conversation about the kind of leadership our nation needs for the Electoral Commission. The question is: Does Ghana need an Electoral Commissioner in the Martin  Amidu-mould?

Please read on:

The Week UK          

How Vote Leave broke the law
Jul 17, 2018
Probe concludes that pro-Brexit campaign breached spending rules


Questions have been raised about who bankrolled the Leave campaign

Brexit campaign group Vote Leave has been fined and referred to the police by the Electoral Commission for breaking electoral law.
See related
Brexit: UK watchdog probes Leave campaign funding

The independent watchdog found “significant evidence of joint working” between the group and another supposedly independent pro-Brexit organisation, BeLeave, that resulted in Vote Leave exceeding the £7m electoral spending limit by almost £500,000.

The long-awaited report said that Vote Leave passed on to BeLeave more than £675,000 that “should have been declared” by the former, reports The Guardian.

“Crucially, the cash was used to pay data firm Aggregate IQ and – a whistle-blower claimed - potentially enabled it [Vote Leave] to precisely target enough voters on social media to have swayed the Brexit result,” says The Independent.

Darren Grimes, the founder of BeLeave, and Vote Leave official David Halsall have been reported to the police. Vote Leave has been fined £61,000 and Grimes £20,000.

The commission said it had shared its investigation files with the Metropolitan Police in order “to investigate whether any other offences had been committed outside the watchdog’s remit”, reports the BBC.

Vote Leave also returned an incomplete and inaccurate spending report, with nearly £234,501 reported incorrectly, and invoices missing for a total of £12,849.99 of spending.

Labour MP David Lammy, a supporter of the anti-Brexit Best for Britain group, said: “This news makes the narrow referendum result looks dodgier than ever. It's validity is now in question.”
What is Vote Leave accused of?

According to Vote Leave, the draft report outlines four allegations against the campaign: that it made an inaccurate return of campaign expenditure, is missing a number of invoices and receipts, failed to comply with a statutory notice, and exceeded the spending limit for a political campaign.

The allegations centre on a £680,000 donation passed on by the campaign to a separate youth Brexit group called BeLeave, led by student Darren Grimes.

Whistle-blowers claim that the two groups worked together closely – which is not permitted by electoral law – and that the donated money was actually used by Vote Leave.

BeLeave was “simply a proxy of Vote Leave itself”, with the cash diverted in order to keep the main campaign under the Electoral Commission’s £7m spending limit, according to activist and former Vote Leave volunteer Shahmir Sanni.

Sanni alleges that the cash was used to pay data firm Aggregate IQ for targeted social media messaging for both groups, Sky News reports.

Electoral rules also stipulate that different campaign groups can work loosely together but they must not have a “common plan”.

The nature of the relationship between the two groups has been an issue of contention since the 2016 referendum. The Daily Mirror says Vote Leave has “faced two years of questions” over its financial dealings with Grimes.
What has Vote Leave said?

A Vote Leave spokesperson said the report contains “a number of false accusations and incorrect assertions that are wholly inaccurate and do not stand up to scrutiny”.

It was “astonishing” that none of the campaign members were interviewed by the watchdog while it carried out its investigations, the spokesperson claimed, adding: “All this suggests that the supposedly impartial commission is motivated by a political agenda rather than uncovering the facts. The commission has failed to follow due process, and in doing so has based its conclusions on unfounded claims and conspiracy theories.”

The group were said to be “considering their options” but “were confident the ruling would be overturned”.

Elliott has denied all of the allegations against Vote Leave and accused the watchdog of not following “due process” in its investigation.

He told Sky News: “They’ve listened to these, quite frankly, marginal characters... but haven’t had evidence from Vote Leave side of things.

“I think it is a huge breach of natural justice that they haven’t wanted to listen to our opinions and our story and we were the people running the campaign.”

In an interview with the BBC, Elliott added: “I believe we acted both within the letter of the law and also the spirit of the law and the spirit of how you should conduct a campaign.

“We got the designation, Vote Leave, as the officially designated campaign for Leave, on the basis that we would be working with other groups – we wouldn’t just solely be working on our own, we would work alongside other groups and encourage them, and encourage their activities.”
What has the Electoral Commission said?

Bob Posner, the commission's director of political finance and regulation, said: “The Electoral Commission has followed the evidence and conducted a thorough investigation into spending and campaigning carried out by Vote Leave and BeLeave.

“We found substantial evidence that the two groups worked to a common plan, did not declare their joint working and did not adhere to the legal spending limits. These are serious breaches of the laws put in place by Parliament to ensure fairness and transparency at elections and referendums.”

Posner continued: “Vote Leave has resisted our investigation from the start, including contesting our right as the statutory regulator to open the investigation. It has refused to cooperate, refused our requests to put forward a representative for interview, and forced us to use our legal powers to compel it to provide evidence.

“Nevertheless, the evidence we have found is clear and substantial, and can now be seen in our report.”

Read more: UK News
Vote Leave
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Tuesday, 17 July 2018 J. Graff: What Robert Mueller Knows - And 9 Areas He'll Pursue Next

Examining the public bread crumbs of Mueller’s investigation gives some indication about what’s left that we don’t /sknow—the active and ongoing investigative work that Mueller’s team is pursuing that hasn’t seen the light of day.
Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

    07:00 am

What Robert Mueller Knows—and 9 Areas He'll Pursue Next

The special counsel has collected a mountain of evidence in the Trump-Russia investigation, but so far only a tiny amount of it has been revealed in official indictments. Here are nine areas where we should expect answers as the inquiry unfolds.
Author: Garrett M. Graff BY Garrett M. Graff

When the history books are written, Rod Rosenstein might just be the most interesting figure of the Russia investigation—the beleaguered deputy attorney general whose memo in his first days on the job was used to justify the firing of James Comey.

After that he quickly appointed Robert Mueller as the special counsel and spent the following year supervising his investigation while under immense pressure from President Trump and congressional wolves seeking to undermine his credibility, even impeach him.

As congressional Republicans have sought to undermine the Justice Department’s integrity and independence, Rosenstein has made numerous short-term, tactical concessions to his critics, bending traditional rules and handing over documents to Congress about confidential sources and ongoing investigations—compromises that previous administrations would never have made.

Why would anyone put up with the abuse, vitriol, and daily haranguing from the president’s Twitter account that Rosenstein has endured? Why would Rosenstein seemingly set precedents that undermine the core principles of the Justice Department, an institution that he’s devoted nearly his entire career to serving?

I have a simple theory: In a world of hedgehogs and foxes, Rosenstein today is the ultimate hedgehog.

Rosenstein knows one very big, monumental, history-shaping thing—how Trump’s presidency will end—and he’s wagered that if he can hang on long enough, justice will be done and the good guys, in his eyes, will win. His early actions, around Comey’s firing, will be vindicated by history when seen by the light of his bravery and personal sacrifice and refusal to be bullied into quitting, a move that would almost surely lead to Mueller’s investigation being shut down or circumscribed by whichever Trump appointee takes over supervising it next.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein knows what he’s protecting by staying in his job and fighting each day to preserve Mueller’s investigation
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Remember, Mueller is keeping Rosenstein informed and has returned to him regularly for briefings, to ask for permission to expand his investigation in key ways, and to hand off parts of the investigation to other Justice Department units. Which is all to say: Rosenstein knows how the next dominoes fall.

Which means Rosenstein knows what he’s protecting by staying in his job and fighting each day to preserve Robert Mueller’s investigation—and to ensure it has the time to come to a public denouement that he surely already knows. Rosenstein is fighting a guerilla war against Republicans on Capitol Hill and Donald Trump, knowing that he can lose lots of small battles because ultimately he will win the war.

The reason that Rosenstein has stayed on appeared to be on full display Friday, as he—and he alone—announced the historic indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence officers responsible for the 2016 attacks on the presidential election. It was only the second time Rosenstein has personally issued the special counsel’s indictments, the other being February’s equally monumental indictment of the Russians involved in the Internet Research Agency’s social media campaigns during the election.

It was hard not to view Friday’s press conference as a victory lap of sorts by Rosenstein, as he announced that the US government had proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the Russian military attacked American democracy—an announcement he made just one day after a marathon, 12-hour Republican congressional pigpile on the FBI agent, Peter Stzok, who helped launch that very investigation and execute it in secret throughout the fall 2016 campaign.

The highly detailed, 29-page indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence officers was a reminder, too, of the incredible level of detail known by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team.

The sheer volume of what Robert Mueller knows is staggering. Perusing his various court filings since last September makes clear he knew the individual changes Paul Manafort made in a specific Microsoft Word document; he knew that Dutch lawyer Alex van der Zwaan was lying about what he did on behalf of Manafort and Gates; he knew the specific times Russia military intelligence officers were searching specific words way back in 2016; he knew the specific cryptocurrency transactions used to register the Russian intelligence agency accounts; he knows what the hired trolls at the Internet Research Agency were writing in emails to their family members in 2017; he knew the messages Manafort was sending on encrypted messaging services.

Former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort faces a series of indictments brought by the special counsel for money laundering and is scheduled for trial next month.
Zach Gibson/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Even those who think they know turn out to be surprised by the scale and specificity of what Mueller knows. Last month, the senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner, joked to donors, “If you get me one more glass of wine, I’ll tell you stuff only Bob Mueller and I know. If you think you’ve seen wild stuff so far, buckle up. It’s going to be a wild couple of months.” But after Friday’s indictment, Warner said—impressed—that the “vast amount of information” in Mueller’s latest documents were new to him and the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Mueller’s four buckets of indictments—stretching from the IRA’s information operations to the Russian intelligence active cyber attacks to the Kremlin-backed business deals of Paul Manafort to the 2016 Trump campaign contacts of George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn—appear to outline the possible four corners of a conspiracy that stretches from the Kremlin to Trump Tower, one that involves Putin-friendly oligarchs, the Russian military, and senior level campaign and transition officials whose motives weren’t necessarily “America first.”

What lies in between those four corners is presumably what Mueller and Rosenstein know—and we can expect that the next round of indictments to begin to connect those dots, particularly in regard to the role of Americans who participated, wittingly or unwittingly, in the attacks. Rosenstein has been careful to point out that neither the the indictments aimed at the GRU—Russian’s main intellegence arm—nor the IRA allege the involvement of Americans, yet those words seem carefully chosen to stave off President Trump’s immediate outrage while preserving the possibility that future indictments will very much target Americans.

Examining the public bread crumbs of Mueller’s investigation, though, gives some indication about what’s left that we don’t know—the active and ongoing investigative work that Mueller’s team is pursuing that hasn’t seen the light of day. In broad buckets, there are at least nine significant areas of the investigation yet to be penciled in by Mueller.

Spoiler alert: Nearly all of these open avenues involve not only Americans, but sometimes even senior campaign, transition, and White House aides to Donald Trump.

While it’s entirely possible that some investigative avenues for Mueller’s team won’t pan out into criminal charges, we do know that he and the FBI have had sustained, sometimes even years-long interest in the following lines of inquiry—none of which have yet appeared publicly in court:

1. How do Erik Prince, the Seychelles, and the inauguration fit in?

The Blackwater mercenary founder (and brother to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos) traveled to the remote islands in the Indian Ocean just before Trump’s inauguration to have a secret meeting with a Kremlin official. He’s denied the meeting had anything to do with Trump—saying it was a routine business meeting for himself—but the FBI met him at Dulles to question him, and Mueller has reportedly gathered Prince’s telephone records. Similarly, Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, who—oddly—attended Trump’s inauguration just days after meeting with Trump lawyer Michael Cohen at Trump Tower and was at the infamous RT TV dinner in Moscow in 2015 with Putin, Michael Flynn, and Jill Stein, was surprised on the tarmac at a US airport by FBI agents from Mueller’s team when he visited the US.

2. How do the UAE, Qatar, and Jared Kushner fit in?

While we’ve mostly talked about Mueller’s probe as focusing on Russia, there are clearly some adjacent questions about other foreign influence in Washington involving Republican donor Elliott Broidy, among others. A key Middle East go-between, Lebanese-American businessman George Nader, is both cooperating with Mueller’s investigation and has testified before his grand jury—indicating a line of inquiry that hasn’t resulted in any public charges but is somehow central to Mueller’s underlying investigation.

Qatar itself evidently gathered information about the UAE’s campaign to influence Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner but opted against handing it over to Mueller. The special counsel has also been looking into Kushner’s friend Rick Gerson, in part over another, separate meeting in the Seychelles in 2017. Unlike the probe into Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, Mueller hasn’t handed this thread of the investigation off to another office, which appears to indicate that in ways not yet clear to the general public, the UAE and Qatari questions are related to the underlying Russia probe. This open line of inquiry could be related to why Kushner has still not been able to receive the highest level of security clearance for his work at the White House.

3. What role did Sergey Kislyak, the GOP convention, and the finances of the Russian Embassy play?

The former Russian ambassador to the US (who was replaced in September by Anatoly Antonov) has been a puzzling figure over the nearly 18 months since the investigation began. It was his meetings with now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention—a convention that saw still unexplained attempts to make the platform more pro-Russia—that led to Rosenstein taking charge of the investigation. And ongoing revelations about meetings with Sessions and Jared Kushner and telephone calls with Michael Flynn have given him a shadowy Rasputin-like presence in the entire affair.

As the full scope of the Russian effort becomes clear, it’s all but certain that such a high-level, coordinated attack would have never been attempted against the US without Kislyak’s knowledge; he was—and is—a well-wired, savvy, loyal, longtime diplomat, a native Ukrainian who chose to remain Russian when the Soviet Union broke apart and whose term as ambassador coincided with increased espionage efforts against the US (at least one of which involved attempting to recruit future Trump aide Carter Page).

Add to all of that the news from Buzzfeed that Mueller is scrutinizing numerous suspicious payments and cash withdrawals from the embassy as well as hints about how Russians like Alexander Torshin might have sought to cultivate the National Rifle Association and Mueller’s apparent interest in the NRA’s funding, and it seems like the special counsel is zeroing in on the way Russian money might have flowed through the American campaign illegally. Indeed, Torshin appears to be a central figure in a new criminal complaint, filed Monday, charging a 29-year-old Russian gun rights advocate Maria Butina with acting as an unregistered foreign agent, as part of a conspiracy to make connections and influence the NRA and the GOP.

4. How do Roger Stone, Wikileaks, and other Americans and Brits fit into the GRU indictment?

As Rosenstein noted, the GRU indictment stopped short of charges against anyone who interacted with the Russian hackers who masqueraded as “Guccifer 2.0,” but there are lots of bread crumbs about those interactions in the indictment that could, with additional facts, be grounds for possible criminal charges. A US congressional campaign solicited and received files on its opponent from Russia. Guccifer 2.0 interacted with “another entity,” certainly Wikileaks, about leaking the stolen Democratic files and the best timing to do so.

And longtime Trump aide Roger Stone says he thinks his interactions with Guccifer 2.0 are mentioned in the indictment too—perhaps not surprising, since Stone notably tweeted in August 2016 that it will soon be “Podesta’s time in the barrel,” months after the GRU had stolen Podesta’s emails but months before they were released publicly.

There are numerous previous indications that Mueller is keenly focused on Wikileaks and Stone. At least seven Stone associates have been questioned by Mueller’s team, including Stone’s social media aide last month and the sometimes-twitchy Trump adviser Sam Nunberg back in March.

FBI agents that same month intercepted another informal adviser at the airport in Boston to ask about Wikileaks and Stone. Stone himself has even made the odd statement that he’s “prepared” to be indicted. Stone associate Michael Caputo, another Trump campaign aide, told ABC back in March after being interviewed by Mueller’s team that the questions posed to him were focused on Stone: “In general they're talking about, you know, Guccifer and DCLeaks and Wikileaks. They’re talking about the timing of some things that happened at the campaign and at the convention.”

Beyond just Stone, there are numerous open questions about Wikileaks, identified only as “Organization 1” in Friday’s indictments. Relatedly, Mueller appears to have zeroed in on British politician Nigel Farage and other self-described “Bad Boys of Brexit,” including businessman Aaron Banks, who met repeatedly with the Russian ambassador in the UK as the Brexit campaign unfolded.

5. What did Mueller learn from George Papadopoulos, Rick Gates, and Michael Flynn?

Perhaps the most notable unanswered question in the Trump investigation so far is what Papadopoulos (whose loose lips kicked off the entire original FBI probe), former Manafort business partner Rick Gates, and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn all traded for leniency in their own guilty pleas. Mueller has handed out nearly 200 criminal charges so far against dozens of targets. And yet—by all appearances—not a single one of those charges have stemmed from information provided by his cooperating witnesses. What did they give Mueller?

At the same time, the special counsel appears to be moving toward sentencing Papadopoulos, meaning that his role in the investigation might be nearing an end, while Flynn’s role will apparently continue into the fall. At the same time, though, it seems clear that Flynn is under the impression that he will off scot-free: His team announced this past week, prematurely it appears, that he plans to join a new DC consulting firm—not exactly the behavior of someone who thinks he’s heading to federal prison.

6. What’s in those 291,000 Michael Cohen documents?

The investigation into Trump lawyer and consigliere Cohen was spun off to New York federal prosecutors and appears to be moving quickly—a federal judge put Stormy Daniels’ lawsuit against Cohen on hold because of the likelihood he will soon be indicted. We know that prosecutors seized upward of 291,000 items from Cohen and that Cohen has been steadily dropping hints in recent days that he’s preparing to cooperate with prosecutors, including changing his Twitter bio to reflect he’s no longer Trump’s lawyer. What crimes will Michael Cohen be charged with—and what can he tell prosecutors in exchange for leniency?

7. What’s up with that Trump Tower meeting?

The email to Donald Trump Jr. from Rob Goldstone that kicked off the now infamous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 has always appeared as if it were picking up on a previous conversation. Goldstone wrote, in part, “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” a phrase that seems to indicate that he knows Don Jr. is already aware that Russia is supporting his father. Why was it phrased that way? And what transpired at the meeting with Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer Natalia V. Veselnitskaya—and after?

Nearly every Trump campaign figure of consequence was in the room—Manafort, Kushner, and Don Jr.—and we now know the meeting came just as Russia ramped up its efforts with the IRA and GRU to hurt Hillary and help Trump. The fallout from that meeting, as it became public last summer, appears to be a central part of Mueller’s investigation into obstruction of justice. If Mueller’s probe can be thought of as five distinct inquiries, this final obstruction question is the only one he has left uncharged—for now.

8. How relevant is Cambridge Analytica and was there a coordinated effort by the Trump campaign or associates to gather intelligence or untoward opposition research on Hillary Clinton?

We know that Mueller has been examining the notorious—and now defunct—data firm behind Trump’s victory that was funded by top GOP donor Robert Mercer, including interviewing former employees and the banks that worked with it. Investigators have evidently told those one-time employees that their focus is on the firm and “associated US persons,” a phrase that seems to imply interest in as-yet-unknown Americans coordinating with the British firm.

But that’s just one part of a spate of loose threads regarding the tech efforts of the Trump campaign in 2016, including a series of Wall Street Journal interviews with longtime Republican operative Peter Smith (just days before he killed himself last spring) in which he outlined how he’d assembled a team to find Hillary’s stolen emails in the summer of 2016. Smith said at the time he was working with Flynn, but there are more unanswered questions than answers about the entire effort.

Focusing on the same timeframe, Mueller’s GRU indictment seems to go out of its way to connect Trump’s famous July 2016 “Russia if you’re listening” comments to the fact that the GRU hackers began to attack Clinton’s personal email accounts after business hours that same day. Given that federal indictments are carefully written and edited mercilessly, it seems impossible to imagine that that phrasing was included by happenstance.

9. Do people like Carter Page and Felix Sater matter?

It’s hard to keep track of the numerous figures who float in and out of the Trump-Mueller-Russia investigation orbit; some, like Michael Caputo, may not end up mattering at all in the final outcome. Yet there are others, like Carter Page—who was a target of a federal counterintelligence surveillance warrant through much of 2016—and Felix Sater, a one-time intelligence asset himself, who may be bit players in the entire matter or may end up proving to be consequential figures.

These nine distinct areas of open questions are hardly encyclopedic—this list doesn’t even count unanswered questions about, for instance, the role of the Russian intelligence service FSB in its own attacks on Democratic targets (an operation known as Cozy Bear) or loose ends from previous indictments, like the activities of DC superlobbyists Tony Podesta and Vin Weber. And it doesn’t count the numerous salacious questions still unproven in the Steele dossier, like what exactly happened at the Moscow Ritz?

Potentially most consequentially of all, these nine questions are separate from one of the central questions of the Mueller probe: Is Bob Mueller done with Paul Manafort? The former Trump campaign chairman is moving toward trial later this month on charges related to a money laundering scheme apparently unrelated to the Trump campaign—and he’s in jail pending trial after allegedly attempting to tamper with witnesses while out on bail—but that doesn’t mean that Mueller won’t bring additional charges or that Manafort won’t decide to cooperate with Mueller in exchange for leniency. Manafort is in his late sixties, facing hundreds of years in prison, and, if convicted on an even a few charges in what experts say is a particularly strong case by Mueller, might never walk free again—unless, that is, he has something big to offer the special counsel.

Does he? That’s a question Rosenstein himself may not yet know the answer to, but you can be sure that the deputy attorney general knows most of the answers to the rest of these questions already.

After all, the signature lesson of Mueller’s inquiry at every turn has been that his investigators knows far, far, far more than anyone in the public expected. Just ask the GRU military intelligence officers who are sitting in their office wondering how Mueller knew that on June 15, 2016, between 4:19 pm and 4:56 pm Moscow local time, they searched the web for the English phrase “company’s competence” hours before it appeared in the inaugural blog post by “Guccifer 2.0”?

Editor's note, 1:39 pm PDT, July 16, 2018: This article has been updated to reflect the indictment of Maria Butina.

Garrett M. Graff (@vermontgmg) is a contributing editor for WIRED and the author of The Threat Matrix: Inside Robert Mueller's FBI. He can be reached at
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Monday, 16 July 2018

Professor Atukwei Okine Was A Literary Giant - And Foremost Pan-Africanist

A literary giant, the poet Professor Atukwei Okine, has passed away. Professor Atukwei Okine secured his place in the Pantheon of great Africans - as an outstanding performance poet - long ago. Sadly, now he too has left this world, to undertake the final journey that in the end  every African must embark on: to join those inhabiting the land of the spirits of our ancestors, on the other side, so to speak.

Professor Atukwei Okine was a rarity - the educated African who was not an Uncle Tom: but a committed Pan-Africanist who even though laboured unceasingly in the Ivory Tower of academia, at the same time also cared a great deal about the continent's fate, and was always keen to promote the welfare of ordinary people. It was typical of the man that on one occasion, having read an article of mine in which I urged the Ghana Cocoa Board to secure the cocoa industry's future, by switching to organic cocoa production, he telephoned to thank me for the article - and hoped the authourities would take note of it and act accordingly.

Despite being a preeminent intellectual,  he was also down to earth, and constantly sought to encourage his fellow Africans to be proud of and  uphold their traditional culture and stick to their  communal societal values. His own personal life was a shining example to others in that regard.  He was very proud of his Ga Dangbe heritage. And who can forget his long Agbadas and other dashing African-style clothing he donned habitually? Ditto forget his activism and radical ideas for the continent? It was not for nothing that he led the Pan African Writers Association (PAWA) for so many years.

A personification of what Ghana's first leader, President Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, called the African Personality, Professor Atukwei Okine livened many important occasions - including national events - with renditions of his powerfullany evocative poems that resopnated with millions of lettered Africans. He will be remembered till the very end of time.  And even though one mourns with members of his family and closest friends - as does the whole nation, literally - one is also pleased and proud that Mother Ghana produced such a distinguished and caring Pan-Africanist who was also a literary giant. Literally. May his soul rest in peace.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Investopedia/Julia Hawley: Private Banking Versus Wealth Management

Private Banking Versus Wealth Management
By Julia Hawley | Updated June 13, 2018 — 9:00 AM EDT

Private banking and wealth management are terms that overlap. However, the financial services offered through private banking and through wealth management differ slightly.

Wealth management is a broader category that involves dealing with the optimization of a client's portfolio, taking into account his aversion to, or comfort with, risk, and investing financial assets according to his plans and goals. Wealth management can be practiced on a portfolio of any size (though, as the name implies, it's geared toward the well-off: There must be some money to manage in the first place). Private banking, by comparison, typically refers to an envelope solution for high-net-worth-individuals (HNWIs) wherein a public or private financial institution employs staff members to offer high-net-worth clients personalized care and management of their finances.
The Primary Difference

The primary difference between private banking and wealth management is that private banking does not always deal with investing. Private bank staff may offer clients guidance on certain investment options, but not all banks will be involved in the actual process of investing assets for their clients. Most clients utilizing private banking services open deposit accounts of one kind or another.

Wealth management employees, including financial advisors, provide advice to clients to help them improve their financial standing and assist clients in investing assets with the goal of generating high returns. In general, private banking can extend to encompass wealth management, but wealth management firms cannot provide clients with private banking facility services.
Private Banking

In general terms, private banking involves financial institutions that provide financial management services to HNWIs. In some instances, an individual may be able to obtain these services with assets less than $100,000, but most private banks (or private bank divisions) set a benchmark of at least six figures. Private banking tends to be exclusive and is reserved for clients with substantial amounts of cash and other assets to be deposited into accounts and to be invested.

Private banking provides investment-related advice and aims to address the entire financial circumstances of each client. Private banking services typically aid clients in protecting and maintaining their assets. Employees designated to aid each client work to provide individualized financing solutions. These employees also help clients plan and save for their retirement and structure plans for passing accumulated wealth on to family members or other indicated beneficiaries.

There are consumer banks of every size with private banking divisions. These divisions offer considerable perks to HNWIs to obtain them as clients. Private banking clients with large accounts generally receive enviable rates and concierge-like service, guaranteeing them instant access to the employees working with their accounts. Private banking clients never have to wait in line or use a teller for services. A private banking client can contact the lead advisor working with his account and complete just about any transaction, from cashing a check to moving large sums of money from one account to another.

These perks are all part of the banking institution’s plan to benefit financially. Banks pursue wealthy clients because their business generates significant sums of money in profit for the bank, guarantees repeat business and brings in new business. Private banking clients, specifically the ultra-wealthy, discuss the specialized and elite treatment they receive with other wealthy individuals. These are new potential clients. Often, these new potential clients are mentioned to private banking divisions by current clients. The divisions then send out invitations to potential clients and often acquire their accounts through such invitations.

Private banking divisions also find new clients through the course of completing normal lending activities. The banks can access tax returns and additional personal documents and discover other potential clients through this information. Invitations are also extended to these individuals, and often private banking divisions acquire clientele by doing so.

Banks draw a line when it comes to individuals who are pursued and contacted to become potential clients, and this line rests in different places for different institutions. The mass-affluent market is the major target, meaning individuals with investable assets in excess of $250,000. Some banks set a much higher bar, targeting only those individuals who have minimum amounts of investable assets in the millions.

Clients utilizing private banking services pay for the specialized treatment they receive. The bank that wealthy clients use has a guarantee of a large pool of money, in the form of the clients' substantial checking account balances, to lend and utilize. The bank also makes money from the steeper interest charges on larger mortgage and business loans taken out by rich clients. The real money maker for these banks, though, is the percentage earned on assets under management (AUM), which is generally quite large with HNWIs. Charging even a very small percentage fee for services that involve huge sums of money generates substantial income for the bank.

Specialized treatment by private banking divisions can’t completely hide some of the drawbacks, however. The turnover rate at banks tends to be high. A client may have built a relationship with an employee managing his account, and then the next month that employee is gone and replaced by someone the client likely doesn't know. The client's experience with the new employee may or may not be what he is looking for, and many private banking divisions lose clients over this.

These divisions may offer many services, but they may not be a master of all of them. Banks are not experts at everything, so the level of expertise the client receives is likely to be lower than if he had used a specialist in a particular area. Finally, private bankers are paid by the bank, so their primary loyalty is to their employer and not to their clients.
Wealth Management

Private wealth management generally involves advice and execution of investments on behalf of affluent clients. Firms that specialize in these practices are the primary sources for clients looking to invest in a variety of funds and stocks. Wealth management advisors also help with financial planning, manage client portfolios and perform a variety of other financial services in relation to a client’s private financing choices.

Private wealth management services are provided by larger financial institutions, such as Goldman Sachs, but they may also be provided by independent financial advisors or portfolio managers multi-licensed to offer multiple services and who focus on high-net-worth clients.

A wealth management advisor sits down one-on-one with each client and discusses goals, comfort levels with risk, and any other stipulations or restrictions the client may have in regard to the investment of his assets. The wealth management advisor then composes an investment strategy that incorporates all information gained from the client to help the client achieve his goals. The advisor continues to manage the client’s money and utilizes investment products that coincide with the client's stipulations.

Wealth management advisors cannot always offer clients the same specialized and concierge-like services that private banking offers. However, in most cases, these financial advisors spend a great deal of time with clients. These advisors also cannot open banking accounts for clients, but they can assist them in determining the right kind of accounts to open at the bank of the client's choosing.
Private Equity

Neither private banking nor wealth management is the same as private equity investing – though the latter often deals with the same target clientele.

Categorized as an alternative asset class, private equity is defined vaguely as a pool of funds raised from investors or borrowed from other financing sources used to obtain equity ownership positions in small, high-growth companies. It's called "private" because the stock in these companies does not trade on public stock exchanges. Although some large investment banks do it, these funds are typically put together by specialist firms, known as private equity firms: Some of the better-known include The Blackstone Group, Bain Capital (founded by Mitt Romney) and TPG Capital.

Along with institutional investors, private equity investment is most commonly offered to extremely wealthy individuals – known as accredited investors – as minimum investments often start at $250,000. It's an attractive option because of its potential for higher-than-average returns. But, because there's also a high degree of risk, low-net-worth investors who are assumed to be less sophisticated are not able to participate directly in private equity offerings.

In recent years, however, the popularity of private equity investment has spread across a wide range of investor classes, including those who may not be able to acquire the common $250,000 minimum to participate in a private equity offering. They might be able to purchase stock in publicly traded private equity firms, for example. Alternatively, some mutual funds are available to less-wealthy investors, focusing on pooling the shares of private equity firms and the funds those firms manage. Typically, the minimum investment is not as restrictive in a private equity mutual fund, but very few exist and most have short track records. Some separately managed funds offer investors entry into the private equity world with a minimum investment as low as $50,000, but those are also difficult to find.
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Friday, 13 July 2018

[NASA HQ News] Students from Missouri, Mississippi to Call Space Station r

July 13, 2018
Students from Missouri, Mississippi to Call Space Station

NASA Expedition 56 astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor will speak with summer camp students gathered at Saint Louis Science Center on Wednesday, July 18. She is pictured here during an Hydrogen Sensor Oxygen Generation System Remove and Replace.

Credits: NASA

Students in St. Louis and southern Mississippi will get to ask questions of NASA astronauts on the International Space Station during two events next week as part of NASA’s Year of Education on Station. Both Earth-to-space calls are 20 minutes long and will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website. These calls connect kids with astronauts to learn more about the International Space Station, science and exploration.

Saint Louis Science Center in St. Louis, hosts the first downlink on at 12:20 p.m. EDT Wednesday, July 18. Summer camp attendees visiting the center will connect with NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor. The Saint Louis Science Center is at 5050 Oakland Ave., St. Louis. Media interested in attending should contact Mindy Peirce at or 314-286-4683.

NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, Mississippi, hosts the next downlink at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, July 19. Second-to-10th-grade Astro Camp participants from Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas and will speak with NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold. The event takes place at Stennis’ Infinity Science Center, 1 Discovery Circle, Pearlington, Mississippi. Media covering the event should contact Valerie Buckingham at or 228-668-3898.

NASA Expedition 56 astronaut Ricky Arnold will speak with Stennis Space Center Astro Camp participants on Thursday, July 19. He is pictured here troubleshooting the Combustion Integrated Rack.

Credits: NASA

Linking students directly to astronauts aboard the space station provides unique, authentic experiences designed to enhance student learning, performance and interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Astronauts living in space on the orbiting laboratory communicate with NASA’s Mission Control Center in Houston 24 hours a day through the Space Network's Tracking and Data Relay Satellites (TDRS).

Auñón-Chancellor also will participate in an interview with the Wall Street Journal Digital Network at 9:50 a.m. July 19. The interview covers space medicine and the space station’s contributions to advance knowledge about long-duration spaceflight.

ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Alexander Gerst will connect with the KRAFTWERK Open Air Concert in Stuttgart, German, at 3:50 p.m. (9:50 p.m. Stuttgart time) Friday, July 20.

Follow the astronauts on social media at:

See videos and lesson plans highlighting research on the International Space Station at:


Care2 Healthy Living/Michelle Schoffro Cook: 11 Ways to Naturally Boost Your Testosterone Levels

Care2 Healthy Living | 11 Ways to Naturally Increase Your Testosterone Levels
11 Ways to Naturally Increase Your Testosterone Levels

    By: Michelle Schoffro Cook
    July 12, 2018

    About Michelle
    Follow Michelle at @mschoffrocook

If you’re suffering from low energy, low libido, little motivation, poor memory, depression or infertility, you may want to consider giving your testosterone levels a boost. There are many natural ways to do so. Some of my preferred methods include:
Exercise on a Daily Basis

One of the best ways to boost your testosterone levels involves becoming active. Regular daily exercise, including weight training, can have a significant effect on hormone levels. In a study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, researchers found that those who exercised regularly had higher testosterone production than those who were sedentary. Research published in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition found that exercise was even more effective than dieting at boosting testosterone levels among obese men. Considering that losing excess weight is also an effective method to boost testosterone levels, this study demonstrates just how effective exercise can be.

11 Ways to Naturally Increase Your Testosterone Levels

Both dieting and overeating can interfere with testosterone production. Eating heavy, fried foods or hormone-laden non-organic dairy and meat can seriously interfere with your hormone levels. Your body needs adequate amounts of good quality complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids and protein to manufacture testosterone. These foods are best found in a whole foods diet with nuts, whole grains, legumes, seeds, fruits and vegetables.
Vitamins A and C

Chronic stress can result in a reduction in testosterone levels. According to research in the Journal of Ayub Medical College, scientists found that supplementation with ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and alpha tocopherol (vitamin E) prevented the testosterone-reduction effects of stress, thereby enabling the body to keep its testosterone levels higher. Typical doses for these nutrients include: vitamin C 500 milligrams and 400 IU vitamin E in mixed tocopherol form.
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Research shows that even one week of sleep deprivation can cause a reduction of testosterone levels. Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), research showed that men who had 5 hours of sleep or less per night for one week had 15 percent lower testosterone levels. By restoring sleep levels to 7 or 8 hours nightly you can offset this drop.
Stress Management

Whether you’re into yoga, meditation, tai chi, journaling, walking, running, cycling or some other form of stress reduction, finding ways to lower stress can help maintain or increase testosterone levels.
Vitamin D

In a year-long study published in the journal Hormone and Metabolic Research, researchers found that supplementing with 3332 of vitamin D boosted testosterone levels by 25 percent compared with no change in the placebo group. While moderate sun exposure helps boost vitamin D, it isn’t usually enough to reach these levels. To boost your vitamin D levels you can supplement with vitamin D3, which is the natural version of this nutrient, unless you’re vegan then choose vitamin D2. The study dose is fairly high so be sure to consult your holistically-minded physician first.

Zinc is a critical mineral to hormone production so it’s no surprise that research shows it boosts testosterone levels in those who are deficient in the nutrient. In a study published in Renal Failure, researchers found low levels of both zinc and testosterone among dialysis patients. When peoples’ diets were supplemented with zinc, testosterone levels increased. A typical dose of zinc is 10 milligrams.
B Complex Vitamins to Boost Fertility

Infertility can be one of the problems linked to low testosterone levels. In a study published in Fertility and Sterility, researchers found that combining zinc and B vitamins boosted fertility, presumably by raising testosterone levels. Add a 50 or 100 milligram vitamin B-complex supplement to your daily diet. Note that some of these nutrients will be measured in micrograms instead.

Research shows that regular ingestion or supplementation with gingerroot can boost testosterone levels. You can add fresh ginger to your soups, stews, curries and many other dishes. Of course, you can also supplement with ginger herbal capsules to increase the amount of ginger you get. Follow package directions for the product you select.

Also known as Withania somnifera, research shows that this Indian herb can naturally increase testosterone. Published in the International Journal of Fertility and Sterility found that daily doses of the herb boosted testosterone levels. Follow package directions for the product you select.
Other Herbs

Other herbs like horny goat weed (Mucuna puriens) and Tribulus terrestris have been found in some people to help boost testosterone levels. Follow package directions for the product you select.

Consult your physician before adding herbs or supplements to your daily regime.
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Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is the publisher of the free e-newsletter World’s Healthiest News, the Cultured Cook, co-founder of BestPlaceinCanada, and an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include: Be Your Own Herbalist: Essential Herbs for Health, Beauty, & Cooking.

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Recommended by
Janet B
Janet Babout an hour ago

Janis K
Janis K2 hours ago

Thanks for sharing.
Renata B
Renata B2 hours ago

It seems to me that in this world there is already too much testosterone.
RICKY S2 hours ago

Cindy S
Cindy S4 hours ago

great tips
Sherry K
Sherry Kohn5 hours ago

Many thanks to you !
Danuta W
Danuta W6 hours ago

Thanks for posting .
Roxana Saez
Roxana Saez12 hours ago

Peggy B
Peggy B13 hours ago

Sue H
Sue H14 hours ago

Helpful information, thanks.
view all 12 comments

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    11 Ways to Naturally Increase Your Testosterone Levels

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McKinsey & Company/Wang, Woetzel, Seong, Manyika, Chui, & Wong: Digital China: powering the economy to global competitiveness

McKinsey & Company
Report - McKinsey Global Institute - December 2017
Digital China: Powering the economy to global competitiveness
By Kevin Wei Wang, Jonathan Woetzel, Jeongmin Seong, James Manyika, Michael Chui, and Wendy Wong
Executive Summary (PDF–1MB) Full Report (PDF–3MB) Briefing Note (PDF–503KB)

China, already a global force in digital technologies, is set to experience huge shifts in revenue and profits as businesses digitize, boosting the economy’s international competitiveness.

China has become a force to be reckoned with in digital technologies at home and around the world. As a major worldwide investor in digital technologies and one of the world’s leading adopters of the technologies, it is already shaping the global digital landscape and supporting and inspiring entrepreneurship far beyond its own borders.
How digital technology is powering China’s economy to global competitiveness
China is home to one-third of global “unicorn” startups and processes 11 times the mobile payments as the United States. What’s next as businesses digitize?

But there is much more to come. As China digitizes, industries will experience huge shifts in revenue and profit pools across the value chain. This creative destruction is happening globally as the world digitizes, but it is likely to happen more quickly and on a relatively larger scale in China given a combination of inefficiencies in traditional sectors and massive potential for commercialization.

In this report, the McKinsey Global Institute assesses the strengths of China’s digital system, the degree of digitization of industries, and the scope for value shift and creation. Part 1 looks at China’s position in the global digital landscape. Part 2 introduces the MGI Industry Digitization Index for China, which reveals large variations among sectors in terms of their digitization. Part 3 takes a more detailed look at how three digital forces (disintermediation, disaggregation, and dematerialization) can restructure value chains and increase the magnitude of disruption in four sectors (consumer and retail; automotive and mobility; healthcare; and freight and logistics) and discusses how much scope there is for digitization to shift (and create) value. In Part 4, we look at what policy makers can do to encourage China’s digital economy, and, finally, in Part 5, we discuss what choices companies can make to prepare for the impending wave of change and why digital strategy matters more in China.
1. China is home to dynamic digital innovators and is a leading global investor in the latest technologies

Digital China is already more advanced than many observers appreciate. In e-commerce, China accounted for less than 1 percent of the value of worldwide transactions only about a decade ago; that share is now more than 40 percent. The current value of China’s e-commerce transactions is estimated to be larger than in France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States combined. Penetration of mobile payments among China’s Internet users grew from just 25 percent in 2013 to 68 percent in 2016. In 2016, the value of mobile payments related to individuals’ consumption was $790 billion, 11 times that of the United States. One in three of the world’s 262 unicorns is Chinese, commanding 43 percent of the global value of these companies (Exhibit 1).
Exhibit 1
China's digital economy is a story of commerical success and investor excitement.

China’s venture capital industry is increasingly focused on digital. Overall, China’s venture capital sector has grown rapidly, from just $12 billion, or 6 percent of the global total, in 2011–13 to $77 billion, or 19 percent of the worldwide total, in 2014–16. The majority of venture capital investment is in digital technologies such as big data, artificial intelligence (AI), and financial technology companies. China is in the top three in the world for venture capital investment in key types of digital technology including virtual reality, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, robotics, drones, and AI.

Three factors suggest that there is huge upside for digital in China:

    The big and young Chinese market is enabling rapid commercialization of digital business models on a large scale.
    Three of China’s Internet giants—Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent, or BAT—are building a rich digital ecosystem now growing beyond them.
    The government gave digital players space to experiment before enacting official regulation, and it is becoming an active supporter as an investor and consumer.

The impact of digital China on the global economy has been increasing. China ran an annual surplus in digital services of $10 billion to $15 billion over the past five years. Its outbound venture capital totaled $38 billion in 2014–16, up from $6 billion in 2011–2013.
Section 2
2. Chinese industries lag behind their counterparts in advanced economies on digitization, but the gap is rapidly closing

China is already a global leader in the consumer-driven digital economy. The next wave of digital transformation in China is likely to come from broader adoption of digital technologies by businesses in different sectors that will restructure value chains and boost productivity.
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Overall, digitization of industries in China still lags behind that of the United States by a considerable margin, but that gap is narrowing rapidly. In 2013, the United States was 4.9 times more digitized than China; in 2016, that figure had fallen to 3.7 times.

The new MGI Industry Digitization Index for China (using the same methodology as in MGI research on digitization in Europe and the United States) assesses where its sectors stand on digitization relative to each other and reveals that Chinese industries are at very different stages (Exhibit 2).
Exhibit 2
Digital forces can shift (and create) between 10 and 45 percent of the industry revenue pool across players by 2030.

As in other economies, the most digitized sectors in China include information and communications technologies (ICT), media, and finance. In ICT, China’s Internet companies are rapidly ramping up investment in digital infrastructure. To give an idea of the size of this investment, demand for servers from China’s tech giants is as large as the entire national demand of countries such as Brazil and South Korea.

China’s consumer-facing industries and sectors associated with government rank higher relative to other sectors compared with their counterparts in Europe and the United States. Chinese consumers are enthusiastically embracing digital technologies, and the industries that serve them have had to respond by investing in digital assets and processes. There has been massive investment in government-associated sectors, too. In utilities, China was already the world’s largest market for smart grids by investment in 2013. In 2015, about 310 million households were using smart meters, a penetration rate of more than 80 percent, compared with 56 percent in 2013.
Section 3
3. Three digital forces can potentially shift (and create) 10 to 45 percent of the industry revenue pool across players by 2030

As China digitizes, industries will experience huge shifts in revenue and profit pools across the value chain, doubtlessly involving a degree of disruption that will create losers and winners—and disproportionate value for the latter.

Digital disruption is likely to be on a relatively large scale in China due to a combination of the rapid pace of economic growth and changes in the economy, the prevalence of inefficiency across sectors, and massive potential for commercialization at scale.
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We simulated the potential impact of three digital forces in China:

    Disintermediation. This is a major trend in China. Alibaba and others have disrupted the retail industry by cutting out a middle layer and linking suppliers and consumers directly through digital platforms. Industries with high margins on offline channels, a lack of information transparency due to multiple layers between suppliers and customers, and a highly fragmented landscape are ripe for this type of digital disruption.
    Disaggregation. Digital attackers are disrupting traditional business models and reinventing industries by disaggregating huge assets into many pieces, turning them into services, and serving fragmented consumer bases. Industries that have high value, high durability, and fluctuating utilization are the main territory for this type of disruption. Digital disruption through disaggregation is increasingly prominent in China, shared mobility being a prime example.
    Dematerialization. This digital force changes products or processes from physical to virtual, unbundling demand with digital delivery and enabling consumers to receive products or services anywhere, anytime. In China, the pace of this conversion has been faster than elsewhere in categories such as music and e-books, and the upside for digital attackers far larger than in other countries.

We analyzed about 300 use cases in four key sectors that offer different opportunities: consumer and retail, automotive and mobility, healthcare, and freight and logistics.

Our simulation suggests that by 2030, digitization can potentially shift (and create) value equivalent to 10 to 45 percent of the industry revenue pools in the four sectors analyzed (Exhibit 3). Digital forces will shift value from old business models to new ones, from slow-moving incumbents to nimble digital attackers, and from one part of the value chain to another. For large traditional companies, this means that a substantial portion of their revenue could be at risk, lost to new products, services, and business models from digital attackers. This is especially the case if incumbents operate in vulnerable areas of the value chain and industries and companies are slow to react due to organizational inertia. Nevertheless, they can actively embrace digital, offer digital solutions, and become sources of new competition.
Exhibit 3
The MGI Industry Digitization Indeax shows wide variation in levels of digitization in China.

The pattern of impact of the three digital forces varies by sector. Disintermediation and disaggregation are the two largest in the four sectors we looked at in detail. In both cases, digital platforms play an important role. Dematerialization has the smallest overall impact in our simulation.

    Consumer and retail. This wave of digitization in China was largely driven by the e-commerce revolution, but we expect an even more significant transformation to unfold in the years ahead. Our simulation finds that digitization can shift and create value—on the order of 13 to 34 percent of industry revenue pool. The major force in play is disintermediation to deliver a new retail experience. In addition to continued growth of e-commerce as online sales penetrate further into rural areas, into smaller cities, and across borders, three additional trends are unfolding and transforming this sector: the continued evolution of an integrated omnichannel experience for consumers mixing offline and online, a transition toward data-driven business models, and a possible move upstream by digital platforms. The impact of disaggregation (the sharing of goods and services, and the rental of secondhand or used goods) and dematerialization is relatively small. These forces are likely to occur as companies meet demand in specific categories and niche markets.
    Automotive and mobility. The digitization of cars is gathering pace, and digital solutions will reshape the mobility of China, which is now the world’s largest automotive market. Our simulation finds that digitization can shift (and create) value equivalent to between 10 and 30 percent of the automotive-industry revenue pool. Disaggregation, notably through shared mobility, can facilitate an ongoing shift from an ownership model to a service-driven one. Disintermediation enables OEMs and component and technology suppliers to establish direct relationships with consumers, influencing their decisions. Car connectivity can enable component suppliers or providers of technology solutions to bypass OEMs and establish direct relationships with customers through offerings such as in-car entertainment, operating systems, and other value-added services.
    Healthcare. Digital solutions can be used to build a patient-centric system. China has substantially improved its healthcare services, but the system faces a range of challenges that digital technologies can help to address. Our analysis finds that digitization can shift and create value on the order of 12 to 45 percent of healthcare spending. If a “big bang” scenario were to happen, combining significant developments such as healthcare big data, AI-empowered treatment, and Internet of Things–enabled services, the impact could be the largest of the four sectors we analyzed.
    Freight and logistics. Players can reach customers faster and cheaper through digital. The cost of logistics as a percentage of GDP is around double the figure in the United States, reflecting operational and structural challenges. Our simulation finds that digitization can shift and create value equivalent to between 23 and 33 percent of the industry’s revenue pool. Disintermediation (or digital intermediation) through e-forwarding in ocean shipping and establishment of direct channels in road transportation and express delivery can improve operational efficiency. Disaggregation through crowdsourcing can improve matching of demand and supply. Dematerialization through 3-D printing and paperless solutions can reduce the flow of shipments.

In addition to restructuring value chains, adoption of digital technologies by businesses can boost sector productivity and generate impact equivalent to between 3 and 14 percent of the industry revenue pool. Some digital tools boost top-line growth, and others reduce cost. There is a significant opportunity for Chinese companies both to catch up with best practices and use the strengths of China’s digital ecosystem.
Section 4
4. Policy makers can continue to facilitate the digital economy in a number of ways

Local and national governments in China have already done a significant amount to encourage the expansion of the digital ecosystem. They can continue to act in four areas:
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    Continue to be an important investor in, and consumer of, digital technologies and infrastructure. The government can create a market for frontier technologies such as robotics and AI, encouraging long-term investment and innovation by companies, and continue to invest in expanding the infrastructure needed to address the divide between China’s digital haves and have-nots. Digitizing government operations could make a substantial contribution to China’s consumption of digital technologies.
    Promote dynamic and healthy competition to fuel innovation and serve the interests of consumers. Although market concentration enables China’s digital giants to invest at scale in cutting-edge technologies, there are concerns that digital monopolies offer a good deal to consumers. It is important that the government acts to counter any abuse of market power and to ensure dynamic and healthy competition through legislation and ensuring that entry barriers are low so that new players can compete with incumbents. Opening up government data can help to set a level playing field.
    Manage labor markets during digital disruption. Job churn will inevitably increase as new digitized sectors undermine traditional ones. In our base-case simulation, we found that 176 million to 253 million jobs can be created due to macroeconomic factors, and 161 million to 281 million jobs can be destroyed due to digital forces and automation. Given that China’s labor supply might decline from 773 million today to 757 million by 2030, the digital shock to the labor market appears manageable—as long as government, companies, and individuals all contribute to making the transition as smooth as possible through education reform, skills training, job-redeployment programs, and measures to increase labor mobility.
    Contribute to global debates on digital governance to reach consensus. There is intense debate around the world about how to react to and govern the digital world. It benefits all governments to collaborate on issues such as cybersecurity, digital standards, intellectual property rights, and digital sovereignty. China is already involved in many discussions on such topics, and it should continue to play its full part to reach global consensus.

section 5
5. Best practices suggest six priorities for businesses as china digitizes

Given the scale of China and the pace of transformation into a digital economy, companies that are slow to respond face a great risk of being left behind. Conversely, widespread inefficiencies in China’s sectors and huge opportunities for commercialization mean that those who act boldly can reap considerable rewards. McKinsey’s experience working with companies around the world suggests that six approaches are vital and effective in China:

    Adopt bold strategies. Previous MGI research has found that bold, large-scale responses to digital disruption pay off three times as much as less aggressive reactions. Widespread inefficiencies in China’s sectors (where productivity is only 15 to 30 percent of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average) suggest very large upside potential for disrupters.
    Use the power of China’s vast digital ecosystem. The influence of digital giants is bigger in China than in other economies because they not only have massive user bases, but also are active investors and providers of cross-sector digital solutions. Companies can be in a stronger position if they are part of an ecosystem, creating their own if necessary. Companies should consider how best to collaborate with large digital platforms.
    Maximize value from analytics by using China’s massive data pools. Gathering and using data is increasingly a core competitive advantage for companies. China is superbly positioned because of the huge scale of data gathered every day. There are also arguably more opportunities to monetize data given that Chinese consumers are more willing to share their data than many of their international counterparts.
    Build an agile organization for digital transformation. Digital disruption is accelerating, and businesses need to be agile to respond rapidly. Chinese companies tend to be hierarchical, which arguably makes them inflexible. One way to address this is to reorganize in smaller teams.
    Digitize operations based on a solid transformation program. The scope for transformative digitization programs in Chinese companies is extremely large given the fact that the economy is still growing robustly, digital technologies are transforming the economy so quickly, and so many businesses are unprepared. The largest impact can be achieved through a comprehensive and structured transformation program.
    Engage with China’s policy and regulation. The government has made it clear that digitization of the economy is a major priority. It is in companies’ interest to keep abreast of policy and regulatory developments, understand how they may affect business, and determine what business opportunities may be available from working with government.

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About the author(s)
Jonathan Woetzel is a director of the McKinsey Global Institute, where Jeongmin Seong is a senior fellow, James Manyika is the chairman and a director, and Michael Chui is a partner; Kevin Wei Wang is a senior partner in the Hong Kong office, and Wendy Wong is an alumna of the Hong Kong office.
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Accenture/Melanie Cutlan: Embracing for Blockchain: Why You Need to Prepare for This Transformative Technology


The intelligent operations blog
April 05, 2018
Embracing for Blockchain: Why You Need to Prepare for This Transformative Technology
By: Melanie Cutlan

According to Accenture’s Intelligent Operations research, over 90 percent of enterprises feel they need to partner closely across the ecosystem to exploit market opportunities. But many players struggle to forge such close relationships due to data and process constraints that make it difficult to link their operations. Blockchain promises to change all that.

What is blockchain?

Most of you have probably heard the term “blockchain” by now. But many still don’t fully understand what it is, and prevailing misconceptions only further cloud the issue. At its essence, blockchain is a powerful new tool that enables traditionally independent players to work together to streamline and integrate processes. It overcomes the limitations of traditional database models, building trust into every transaction via attributes those traditional models don’t have. So all parties have controlled access to a single, shared copy of data, rather than relying on redundant, siloed systems. When deployed across a value chain, blockchain can deliver greater security, improved cost efficiency, more reliability, and optimized reconciliations—which can translate into hundreds of millions of dollars in gains for everyone involved.

In other words, blockchain is about new ways of sharing information together, rather than hoarding data at the center—distributing data across a network, putting you in control of where and how you interact with data that matters to you and your value chain partners. And it extends current efforts to automate key aspects of a company’s operations. Think of it this way: Streamlining operations is all about data, exceptions, and processing. That’s what automation does today. We operations professionals try to handle as many situations as possible with analytics, Robotic Process Automation, and other applied intelligence tools. What are we missing? Refining the process to be as straightforward and transparent as possible so we don’t have to automate things after the fact. That’s blockchain.

#Blockchain will eventually simply become part of the fabric of how you do business. Blog post by @melcutlan.

Blockchain can have a big impact on a company’s operations and the broader value chain, especially in three high-profile areas.

For instance, it can dramatically improve efficiency and working capital in finance and accounting, infuse greater transparency across the supply chain, and reduce vendor risk in sourcing and category management.

Blockchain also can transform entire industries, especially those with processes that have yet to benefit from digital technologies.


One example is using blockchain to manage commercial contracts, as Accenture is doing. Accenture and the companies with which it engages go through extensive efforts in finalizing contracts for services and managing them over the contract lifetime. The process is one that involves many people, steps and revisions. Accenture has developed a platform that digitizes paper contracts and puts them on a shared blockchain database. Every party can use the database to securely view, propose, revise, and execute contracts—ensuring everyone is working off of the same version. Select Accenture clients will participate in testing the platform, with broader expansion on the horizon to any company looking to leverage blockchain’s benefits for managing contracts. In the future, the platform has the potential to employ “smart contracts,” which are developed, agreed, and managed by code, and are suited for simple and transactional components of an agreement. Such contracts will help create further efficiencies in a process that desperately needs them.

Companies need to begin mobilizing now to determine how to use this transformative technology to tap value trapped in key operational processes.

A good first step is to evaluate processes using a formal framework to determine potential blockchain use cases, impacts, and benefits. Such a framework can help companies carefully think through how they’ll approach blockchain, what they want to accomplish and, importantly, whom they choose to collaborate with. We believe now is the time to start integrating Blockchain into your long-term strategy.

Blockchain certainly isn’t a one-size fits all answer to value partner challenges, but it opens the door for new ways of sharing information that will drive value. We believe it’s a capability that will eventually simply become part of the way you do business together

Blockchain is real and its potential benefits are significant. And it should be an important part of every company’s agenda.
Blockchain for Business Operations from Accenture Operations
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Melanie Cutlan
Melanie Cutlan

Technology Innovation Senior Principal, Accenture Operations
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