Posts Tagged Technology

THE ONLY WALL THAT DONALD TRUMP WILL EVER BUILD IS THE ONE BETWEEN HIM AND THE AMERICAN PEOPLE!

A couple of months ago, Donald Trump was appointing his 36 year-old son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as his Special Emissary, who would settle the age-old dispute between the Israelis and the Arabs in Palestine.  Now, since that job went nowhere fast, Jared has been tapped to reform the Federal Government.  Really!

According to Trump, Jared Kushner will head the new “White House Office of Innovation”, supplying ideas from the Business World to the White House, with emphasis on Data and Technology.  And as always with Donald, it will be “details to follow.”  This idea has been contrived many times over the past century, and was never implemented–perhaps, because it borders on insanity!

Running a government like a business seems to make sense; but, only to a person who did not, or cannot, think it through!   Last night, when a good friend, Liberal Arts through-and-through, read about it, she shrieked with laughter.  Now, what does she get, that Donald and Jared don’t?   Or was Mr. Trump just thinking hyperbolically? Now, remember that both Donald and Jared have only dealt with closely held, family owned companies.  Not a real corporation!

Businesses  are formed and operated to turn a profit and, those that don’t go out of business. Governments, on the other hand, are formed communally, by the people, to provide for common needs, such as:  National Defense; Local Security; Public Education; Safe Commerce and Transportation; Prevent Pandemics; Scientific Research; etc.  Whereas ineffective businesses ceases to exist, governments generally do not.  A citizen registers their dissatisfaction at the ballot box; but, an unhappy customer must do so by taking their business elsewhere.

I believe that this Office of Innovation idea is just another Trumpian boondoggle, and perhaps just one more distraction from his major problems.  They are well-known globally, such as:  the possible Trump-Russia Collusion; his disastrous health care plan; his sliding “Favorability Rating”, etc.  Many Americans today, even some who had voted for him, have begun to seriously question whether Donald Trump can govern, at all!

Donald Trump”s Cabinet Officers, and the various Agency Heads, are mostly a coterie of billionaires and other “Swamp Creatures”, who have little experience, if any, in the policy areas in which they were appointed, and no apparent interest in succeeding at the task.  The are loyal ideologues, who seem to be embellishing their resumes, and available for photo-ops, with Donald, on a moment’s notice.

Budget-wise, Donald’s plan seems to be taking a meat-axe to departments that he has some ideological problems with.  We already have a larger Defense Budget than the next seven nations (some say ten) combined.   Is the 30% slice out of State your idea of attacking Secretary Clinton?  But, 120 former generals have voiced their outrage over cutting the State Department, especially by such a large amount.  Doesn’t Trump or Tillerson realize that money spent building hospitals, fighting malaria, and providing potable water to rural areas, will work more in our favor than all of the bombs and missiles you can fire?

Donald doesn’t need to reorganize the Federal government into something that it was never intended to be!  Rather, he should transform the government into that “Fine-oiled machine”, which he has claimed it to be, by merely re-organizing his Regime!  This whole thing is a distraction, intended to divert attention away from his possible collusion with Russia, the real position that Bannon is functioning, and whether he will ever get anything through Congress! 

Trump should fire his key appointees–confirmed or not–and nominate/appoint capable people, who are ready to champion their respective departments.  Ditch the Shadow Government, including Steve Bannon, who appears to head it!  Donald will never bring America together if he has disruption and feuding within his Regime, while purposely holding rally’s, where he spews hatred and divisiveness.

Donald Trump should have realized, by now, that the only Wall that he will ever build, if he keeps on his current path, will be the one between him and the American People!

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DATA MINING TO SAVE THE WORLD!

Our supermarket, with stores all over Florida, stocks shelves according to the store-specific demographic—elderly, families with children, Hispanic, Asian, West Indian, Kosher, etc—which they know from what products are regularly purchased in each one.  Likewise, my computer distracts me with unwanted pop-up ads, for products based on the web sites I frequent.  So, what has the established purveyors of global health statistics been doing with those numbers, to solve life-or-death problems globally?  Apparently, not much!

Christopher Murray earned his Ph.D. in Medical Health Economics from Oxford, and a Medical Degree from Harvard.  Dr. Murray, however, neither practices medicine, nor does he even follow the stock market.  While researching his Dissertation at Oxford, he realized how sorely inconsistent, and useless, many of the statistics amassed by the various institutional bureaucracies actually were.

The focus was mostly limited to Early Childhood (ages 0 to 5) and Maternal Deaths. The World Health Organization and World Bank statistics for Life Expectancy for Men in Congo, for instance, between 1980 and 1984, differed by 15 years, with similar discrepancies for other nations, as well.  In another case, identical statistics for a particular disease were reported, for economically disadvantaged Somalia as it was for Sweden, which has one of the world’s best health care systems.  My supermarket, on the other hand, knows shopping patterns and re-supply needs, for each of its stores, and acts on them in order to enhance profits.  Why not enhance Global Health?

It appears that political motives might be involved, such as maintaining an organization’s level of stature within the overall Global Health arena, perhaps, are of greatest importance.  And focusing on Children’s Deaths might possibly make the fund-raising efforts much more engrossing.  But, why raise the funds to collect the statistics and, then, fail to act effectively on them?

Also, wouldn’t the elimination, or even the control, of a particular global health  problem, such as Small Pox, enable those resources to be shifted to other life-threatening diseases?  Wasn’t that the original purpose—perhaps a long, long time ago—to collect meaningful data, analyze it, set realistic expectations, and get the data and the appropriate resources out to the field?

Dr. Christopher Murray, a New Zealander by birth, met Dr. Alan Lopez, an Australian, at WHO Headquarters, in Geneva, Switzerland, and they began a collaboration to bring some sense to the global health statistics field.  They realized, however, that WHO would not be a suitable launching pad!  Throughout the ensuing 30 years, Murray and Lopez have encountered considerable skepticism among some in the Establishment, primarily at WHO.  But many other groups, within the global health care community, have embraced their ideas, and even promoted them to colleagues.

Besides expanding the data collection landscape beyond just Early Childhood and Maternal Deaths, Murray and Lopez also included Disabilities—illnesses which generally do not kill people—into their metric.  Early on, Chris Murray had developed his own measure of heath, the Disability-Adjusted Life Years, or DALYs.  The DALY reflects the average degree of health for a nation, from which Labor’s legitimate contribution to the GDP might be identified, as well as the potential future demand for health care services.

For instance, let’s assume that a 75 year-old person, in perfect health, is assigned a DALY of 75.  (Apparently there was apparently nothing to adjust for.)  Then, a similar-aged person, who developed a partially incapacitating illness, assigned a 20% disability rating at age 40, would have a DALY of 68 (40 + [80% of the remaining 35 years]). This metric is much more relevant to Labor and National Ministers of Public Health.  (Also, the disability ratings would be updated regularly, by country.)

With their Global Burden of Disability metric in hand, Murray and Lopez began selling the on-line concept to National Ministers of Public Health.  The fact that anyone—ministers, politicians or the general public—can access the data base, free of charge, (http://www.healthdata.org), means that the Public Health Ministers can more easily sell it to their colleagues, refute politicians’ objections, and encourage a buy-in by the general population.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had provided initial funding, which began the (now) Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, at the University of Washington.  The Gates Foundation had recently begun focusing on health care in impoverished nations, and its recognition of the importance of comprehensive statistical analysis in monitoring its funding, provided obvious legitimacy.  The metric’s focus can also be narrowed to individual cities, or regions, as is currently the case for Seattle, Washington, as well as a few other areas.

Additionally, the benefits of education have been cited, time and again, in various areas, and it appears to very specifically have a direct correlation with health care—especially for women and girls.  For instance, IHME has found that national health care seems to improve by ten percent with just one additional year of school, on average.  When China had a stunning surge in its GDP of ten percent; however, that only improved health care by one percent.

Just yesterday, I went on to the WHO web site, and I noticed that it still doesn’t appear to have embraced the IHME’s GBD concept.  In 2012, Dr. Richard Horton, Editor of the prestigious peer-review medical journal, “The Lancet”, suggested that Murray’s and Lopez’s GBD Metric is on a par with the Human Genome Project. And, then, he went on to say that: “Even Galileo was considered a radical in his time.”

NOTE:  The compelling story of Dr. Christoper Murray, and his collaboration with Dr. Alan Lopez, is a compelling, and vitally, important one.  It is eloquently told in “Epic Measures”, by Jeremy N. Smith.

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HOW MIGHT DONALD TRUMP HELP VLADIMIR PUTIN?

The Russian Economy is in a shambles.  Too much of its budget has historically been used to upgrade its military technology, to the detriment of the needs of the Russian People.  The Energy Sector accounts for 47.5% of its Economic Production, and it has failed to diversify much of the rest beyond banking and commodities.

The economic sanctions, which were increased by the West in early 2014, after Russia annexed Crimea and began encouraging civil war in Eastern Ukraine, have surely hurt its trade activities.  Slumping oil and gas prices during that period, by 35% and 22%, respectively, reduced the Russian access to Dollars.  At the same time, the 87% decline of the Ruble, versus the Dollar, has made many imports cost-prohibitive.

Besides the inflation that the weak Ruble has caused, and the scarcity of consumer goods, unemployment has risen, wages have decreased, and there seems to be no relief in sight for the average Russian worker.  Russians still make family outings to the malls, which were built during the oil boom; however, many stores are closed, and the shelves are quite empty in those that remain.  It’s just something to do during those long Russian winters.

A friendly American President, who seems less inclined to cooperate with an apparently splintering European Union, might cause the sanctions to be eased—either nation by nation, or across-the-board. There has been talk about several European nations initiating more active trade with Russia.  Such improved trade options might ease the Russian economy into a somewhat better situation.

Donald Trump, along with many of his Cabinet nominees, seems to be advocates of fossil fuels, and they claim that man-made climate change is a hoax.  So far, Mr. Trump has not shown any interest in the Paris Accord.  This scenario seems to suggest a reduced interest in alternative energy sources and, thus, an increased demand for gas, oil and coal.

Apparent Secretary of State-Designate Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon-Mobil, would certainly be Donald Trump’s go-to guy, with regard to Russia.  His so-called personal relationship with Vladimir Putin has been a symbiotic one:  Rex was selling and Vlad needed to buy!  When the sanctions were increased in 2014, the transfer of vital technology, from Exxon-Mobil to Russia’s Rosneft Oil Company, was blocked.  Such a transfer under a Trump Administration, might become more likely, and it would give Exxon-Mobil access to a sector in Russia’s Arctic Region.

We’ll never know, for sure, if Russia helped Donald Trump win the Election; but, Vladimir Putin surely needs Donald’s and Exxon-Mobil’s help now!  Trust me!

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WHERE IS THE SAME OUTRAGE AND SENSE OF URGENCY TO REPLACE OUR OUTMODED ESPIONAGE LAWS AS THERE WAS IN ATTACKING HILLARY CLINTON?

Secretary Hillary Clinton’s Email usage at the State Department, as well as that of several close staff members, was insanely dangerous to our National Security!  But, the Nation itself has also been grossly at fault!  Neither party appears to have even suggested writing new legislation–even now–to replace the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918.   Those were the outdated laws, which were often cited during the blatantly-political House Oversight Committee Hearings, regarding the Clinton Email

During World War I, the 1917 Law declared it illegal to discourage draftees from reporting for military service; and the 1918 Law made it illegal to voice Anti-War Opinions, or to obstruct the sale of War Bonds. But, consider the facts: the U.S. has not had a Military Draft since Vietnam in the early 1970s; War has not been declared since December of 1941; and the Nation has not issued War Bonds since World War II. Furthermore, neither of those Acts are relevant to the accusations against Secretary Clinton during her tenure at the State Department!.

The ancient Espionage and Sedition Acts are certainly incapable of protecting America in today’s Digital Age.  Where is a commensurate outrage and activities to replace those World War I Laws?

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WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR NEWS? AND, HOW DEEPLY DO YOUR UNDERSTAND IT?

In America today, and perhaps many other countries, the primary sources for news seems to vary with age. According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 40% of Americans get, at least, some of their news on-line.  Considering the primary news sources—TV, Internet, Radio and Print Newspapers—the twenty-somethings get 50% from the internet, and 27% from TV. The 65+ demographic’s primary sources , on the other hand, are 85% TV and 48% newspapers. (Remember: the Pew statistics reflect “Some of their news”, not “Most of their news”).

Over time, as the younger generation grows in proportion to the population, and successive generations follow, this disparity in news sourcing will change even further.  No doubt, this shift in news sourcing is of concern for the Journalism and Media industries; however, given the current heated political environment, this divergence will, no doubt, add more confusion to the election process every four years. The Pew report is linked, as follows: http://www.journalism.org/2016/07/07/the-modern-news-consumer/pj_2016-07-07_modern-news-consumer_1-01/.

To an extent, the differences in where various demographics receive their news will lead to a confusing Tower of Babel; especially, when the complexity of many of today’s major issues is also factored in. Consider what major concerns might face the next President: the Federal budget process; global warming; potential global pandemics; cyber-warfare; nuclear proliferation; and the economy, just to name a few. Listening to, and reading from, knowledgeable and politically-unbiased news sources are the only way to even begin to understand such topics.

Just consider the United Kingdom, where the Brexit Movement caused many working-class Britons to vote, on June 23, to leave the European Union.  Only a few days later, however, once they realized that they had been sold a bill-of-goods, some Brits started marching in the streets, asking to vote again.  Unfortunately, they had not realized when it counted, that the promises they were given were hollow, the economists were right and, by then, the Brexit Leaders had strayed out of the limelight. It was too late!

There’s nothing wrong with whatever you watch or read, from any news source; but, make sure that, when you cast your vote during this coming election, you can decipher between fact and fiction.  For comprehensive analysis on many of the important issues, I would suggest the following sources: NY Times; Washington Post; Chicago Tribune; Miami Herald; CBNC-TV; Bloomberg; AP; The Guardian (UK); the U. S. CDC; the U. S. CFPB; or many other US Government web sites.

NOTE:  Don’t worry about reading a “Mainstream Media” source. In many cases, that’s just political code for saying that it’s reporters ask too many pointed questions.

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WHAT MIGHT WARS OF THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE?

Much of the political rhetoric spewed against Islamic State currently seems mostly based on the racist anti-Muslim agenda of certain politicians.  The strategic planners in our Defense Department place ISIS toward the bottom of our potential National Security risks.  Russia and China, by far, are at the very top of the Pentagon’s List of Risks.

Surely, terrorism will always be a risk in any peaceful country.  It always has been, and always will!  An advantage that we, in America, have is that our anti-terrorism activities are coordinated through one governmental entity, the FBI, as compared to 30 national defense entities across Europe.  Also, the Muslim Community here is somewhat better assimilated.  Again, terrorist attacks, by groups such as ISIS, are at the bottom of our Defense Department list of priorities.

The planning for Future Wars is coordinated by Deputy Secretary of Defense, Bob Work.  The so-called “Third Offset Strategy”, is fully-integrated with the knowledge and cooperation of our allies.  The First Offset (or Advantage) Strategy was initiated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in the 1950s, and it used nuclear power to compensate for the Soviet Union’s manpower advantage.  At the height of the Cold War (1970s and 80s), the Second Offset Strategy emphasized: long-range, precision-guided weapons: stealth aircraft; and new intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

Currently, as our list of potential adversaries has increased, the Third Offset Strategy has classified our anticipated sources of danger as follows: Russia and China are the very highest priority; then Iran (an exporter of terrorism) and North Korea (only because Kim Jong-Un is unstable and has primitive nuclear weapons); and various rogue states and non-government organizations, such as ISIS, are at the bottom. Although they all pose dangers to America and our allies, it always are makes sense to prioritize risks.

Over the past fifteen years, as the U. S. military was distracted, fighting two wars, and depleting its Defense Budget, Russia and China were able to narrow the gap with our technological superiority. Both have grown their budgets substantially, increased their technology development programs, and they were able to observe both what our military did well, and notice its weaknesses.  Also, their cyber-intel warriors were able to hack into our computers, and steal technology—saving themselves time and money.

The T-O Strategy will include more coordination with our NATO Allies, as well as encourage them to increase their own defense budgets to the agreed-upon two percent of their respective GDPs.  In the future, research will be mostly carried-out in a combination of academic and commercial labs, rather than in government facilities.  Future weapon development will be developed and funded similar to how Boeing and SpaceX have taken on the mission of re-supplying the International Space Station with the rocket systems, which they funded and developed.

Besides traditional battlefields, look for: greater use of miniature air, land and sea-based drones; continued stealth technology; ships with lower manpower requirements; advanced manufacturing, to include robotics and 3-D systems; and guided bomb and missile systems. Future wars will also make greater use of cyber-technology, not only in hacking to gain intelligence, but in jamming, providing false intelligence or even, planting viruses to incapacitate enemy systems.  As in our daily lives, the advantages of digital technology can harm us when they become inoperable or malfunction.

Traditionally, the U. S. has had the unquestioned quickest and most comprehensive system of technology management, from development to useful application.  That requires: a combination of government-funding, as necessary; a rational regulatory environment; and the coordination of academia and corporate management.  It seems like Academia and Industry will be ready to go; but, the question is: Will Congress?

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AS TIME GOES BY, THE NEXT GENERATION OF “TREKKIES” IS IN THE WINGS!

It has been 50 years since that first episode of the original Star Trek, “The Man Trap”, was first aired on NBC-TV, in September of 1966.  The show was subsequently cancelled in 1969; however, it’s popularity only grew in syndication.  Over the years, its loyal fan-base—Trekkies—never waned.  And, the original cheesy version eventually gave way to several, more modern TV spin-offs, movies, board and video games, books, etc.

My young son, Andrew, told me as we watched it together, many, many, MANY times, in the 1980s, that the secret attraction was that it was based on actual science.  Real science fiction!  Sure, it used poetic license to enable the crew to walk on planets without helmets and restrictive suits. But, without that accommodation, the storyline would surely not have been effective.

Besides science, Star Trek addressed a myriad of other topics, which caused its viewers—the many loyal “Trekkies”—to actually think.  Consider:  Captain Kirk dealing with a veritable ”United Planets” of a crew, which included non-human members from other planets; the Save-the-Whales theme in one of the full-length movies; saving the life of a maniacal killer; and political/philosophical considerations regarding travel between time periods, such as the episode when Kirk and Spock  visited a Nazi-controlled like planet, similar to America in the late 1940s.  

The partnership between the Star Trek franchise and NASA (our Space Agency) is legendary among fans and agency employees alike.  In fact, many of the scientists, and perhaps some astronauts, have said that the show was responsible for developing their interest in science, at an early age.  Maybe they watch it today on the International Space Station!

There are a number of devices today, versions of which the average person first saw on Star Trek.  For instance: the “Communicator”, that each of the crew wore, is a version of a smart phone; Captain Jean Luc Picard had a device similar to a computer pad in his ready room; the medical crew carried Tri-corders, a version of which is used today by some physicians, providing a patients’ vital signs; and 3-D printers which have been used like Replicators.  Some other items are, no doubt. still in the works.

The show opens with a voice-over, spoken by Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner): “Space, the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its 5-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no (wo)man has gone before.”  To me, this establishes a real curiosity for the viewers’ own adventure, which surely will follow.

Now, my dilemma begins.  I know how important Star Trek had been in awakening our son Andrew’s academic interests, not only in science, but in other subjects, as well.  It also established a curiosity, his willingness to question what this all meant.  Not just the What, but the How, Why and potential Final Outcome! How do I fight the urge to encourage my three and a half-year old grandson, Henry,  to eventually become a Trekkie?

LIVE LONG AND PROSPER!

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