“Like I said the other day in an interview, I know where the bathroom is now. It gets as simple as that. Year 2 is much easier than Year 1. I’m accustomed to the detail of these things that I didn’t know last year. I learned last year so it kind of puts me over the hump.”Both players will have to battle Kirk, who has looked fluid and confident early in OTAs.“I think I am 100 percent ready,” said Kirk, who had 71 catches for 919 yards and 10 TDs his junior season at Texas A&M before declaring for the NFL Draft. “I know that is why Mr. [Michael] Bidwill, Mr. Keim, and Coach Wilks drafted me, because they wanted me to come in and play and help them win games. At the end of the day, that is what I am here to do.”Butler, the Oakland Raiders seventh-round pick (No. 209) in 2013, played the past three seasons with the Cowboys. He caught 43 catches for 794 yards and six touchdowns while serving mostly as the No. 4 receiver behind Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley.“I can pretty much do everything,” said Butler, who is 6-foot-2, 220 pounds. “I can take a slant to the house. I can catch a go-ball — that was all I did in Dallas — but I can do it all. If you look at my plays in Oakland and in Dallas, I could catch short balls and make plays or catch the deep ball and score touchdowns or climb over a defender to make a catch. Top Stories “If it works out and you do what you’re supposed to do, it’s blessing to get that opportunity. If you don’t do what you’re supposed to do, you can at least say ‘Hey, I had the opportunity and it didn’t work out,’ rather than saying, ‘I was doing it but they never gave me the opportunity.’”Cardinals general manager Steve Keim and coach Steve Wilks convinced Butler that he would have that opportunity in Arizona.Butler isn’t alone in wanting to secure the No. 2 wide receiver opposite Larry Fitzgerald, however.Related LinksCardinals OL Justin Pugh: Don’t include me on your injury-prone listCardinals hit the field for OTAs; David Johnson, Josh Rosen impressA pair of recent draft picks – 2018 second-round pick Christian Kirk (No. 47) and 2017 third-round pick Chad Williams (No. 98) – are Butler’s top competition, but J.J. Nelson, Cobi Hamilton, Carlton Agudosi and others are also in the mix.The Cardinals need more than one of those players to take a quantum leap from previous production.Fitzgerald led the Cardinals last season with 109 receptions for 1,156 yards and six touchdowns. The next-closest players in receptions were running back Andre Ellington (33), tight end Jermaine Gresham (33), Jaron Brown (31), Nelson (29) and John Brown (21). Nelson was second in yards with 508. The 5: Takeaways from the Coyotes’ introduction of Alex Meruelo Former Cardinals kicker Phil Dawson retires Grace expects Greinke trade to have emotional impact 8 Comments Share “And then, I can go block. I had to do that a lot, being a guy that might not that many opportunities in the pass game. I’m a bigger guy so it’s kind of expected.”Injuries, performance and matchups could make the competition for this spot a fluid process, but all three players know that opportunities like this don’t come often in the NFL.“I’m viewing it like I view everything else. I’m just staying hungry,” Williams said. “There’s an opportunity there but there’s always an opportunity. You can’t just run through the door, you’ve got to kick the door down with what you do so I’m just trying to get better, one day at a time.” “Everybody sees themselves as a guy that can excel and get better,” Butler said. “Even Larry, every day, he is talking about getting better. You don’t want to stay stagnant.“Now, you have to do great work with the little opportunity that you might get to get to the next level, but it’s not a bad thing to not like the situation you’re in. You just have to take care of that situation and that’s why I left (Dallas). I felt like I took care of my situation and now the only way I’m going to get where I want to get to be is if I leave. My old team let go of a lot of pieces that people felt were in my way but I still I like where I’m at now.”Williams was a bit of a disappointment in his rookie season, catching just three passes and simply struggling to get on the field, a reality that is increasingly common with rookie receivers as they adjust to significantly different styles of play in the NFL.He only played six games.“I’m not mad about how last season went because God makes no mistakes,” Williams said. “I feel like I learned so much last season. At this mark last year, I was a little timid, a little unsure. It got overwhelming at times but then you just have to calm down, ease back and realize it’s just football at the end of the day. Derrick Hall satisfied with D-backs’ buying and selling TEMPE, Ariz. – When Brice Butler entered NFL free agency this spring, he had two goals in mind: escape what he felt was a dead-end situation in Dallas and find a place where the door to his dream role was still open.“Just getting opportunity in this league is huge,” Butler said. “People think that if you’re on a team or you’ve got a tryout that means an equal opportunity to get on the field and that’s not necessarily true at all. You don’t always get the opportunity even if you feel you deserve it. Dallas Cowboys’ Brice Butler reacts after scoring touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
Orange Poland has struck a deal to sell its Wirtualna Polska (Virtual Poland) web portal to O2 for PLN375 million (€90 million). O2 is acquiring the portal with finance provided by private equity group Innova Capital’s European Media Holding.Orange said the sale was in line with its strategy of focusing on its core business. There was speculation earlier this year that the site might be acquired by pay TV provider Cyfrowy Polsat, which was denied by the operator.Innova Capital’s Krzysztof Krawczyk said the combination of O2 and Wirtualna Polska would create the leading Polish web portal and that Innova Capital would look for further acquisition opportunities in this area.After the merger O2 Poland and Wirtualna Polska will operate under the combined name Grupa Wirtualna Polska.Wirtualna Polska CEO Grzegorz Tomasiak said the combination of the pair’s expertise would lead to the creation of new products and advertising opportunities and guarantee the dynamic development of the group.The deal is expected to close in the first quarter, subject to regulatory approval.Wirtualna Polska has about 13 million users and is ranked as the country’s number two site after Onet.pl, which German media group Axel Springer last year acquired for PLN960 million.
Reed HastingsNetflix CEO and chairman Reed Hastings has kept hold of both roles, after shareholders at its annual general meeting reportedly rejected a motion that would have separated the two positions.According to a Wall Street Journal report, 53% of shareholders voted against the resolution to create an independent chairman, with a spokesman telling the paper “Netflix has demonstrated extraordinary long term success under the leadership of Reed and the board.”Last year, a similar proposal to divide the CEO and chairman roles – which Hastings has held since Netflix went public in 2002 – reportedly passed with 73% of the vote, but no action was taken.The WSJ reports that shareholder resolutions seeking an independent chairman “tend to win strong support, but rarely pass.”According to a New York Times report, two big proxy advisory firms, Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass, Lewis & Company, as well as two prominent pension funds, backed the request for an independent board chairman.Separately, Forbes reported yesterday that Hastings is now the first “on-demand billionaire” with his personal wealth now valued at more than a billion dollars thanks to a surge in Netflix’s share price this year.Hasting’s stock and options in the company are now estimated to be worth more than US$900 million, while his other assets are said to include around US$120 million in post-tax profits from stock sales over the past five years.
Almost half of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video subscribers in the UK rarely watch ‘normal’ TV anymore, according to a new study.Some 43% of SVOD users have rejected linear TV services (referred to as ‘normal’ TV in the study), the research from subscription commerce specialist Zuora and UK-based research house YouGov.In total, 27% of the adult British population (13.9 million) now subscribes to an SVOD service, with six million (12% of the adult population) no longer interested in linear offering as a result.Taken in isolation, 58% of the 25-34 SVOD subscriber demographic has given up on ‘normal TV’, while around 44% of 16-24s said they were SVOD subscribers, compared with 26% for cable and satellite services. The older 45-54 demo showed contrasting behaviour, with 23% taking SVOD services and 49% cable and satellite platforms.Zuora’s data showed Netflix is by far the biggest SVOD platform in the UK, with a staggering 12.4 million subs (24% of the adult population). Sky Go was second with 7.2 million, Amazon third with 6.7 million and Now TV with 3.1 million.A Zuora spokesman said Netflix figure did not specify whether this included non-active accounts and Virgin Media pay TV users who receive the service as part of their package.The average UK subscriber spends £17.53 (US$21.71) monthly on video streaming services, which Zuora said suggests “many sign up to multiple services simultaneously due to a lack of price and content options which would suit subscribers’ more individual viewing needs”.The average monthly spend on cable and satellite platforms was £60.83, which highlights the fact Sky and Virgin Media still focus on flat fees for large channel bundles.Another finding of the report, A Nation Subscribed: 2016 State of the UK Subscription Economy, showed that four million Brits with SVOD services did not plan to ever buy a DVD or Blu-Ray again.“The popularity of video streaming services in the UK seems to be unabated as the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime have changed the way we consume content forever,” said Zuora CEO Tien Tzuo.“The heat is on for streaming providers to sign up as many hungry UK viewers as they can, and the winner in this race will be the company that not only delivers the most compelling content, but also the right price packages that meet each subscriber’s individual expectations.”More findings from the report:• 59% say Netflix, Amazon and other SVOD services are ‘integral’ to their lives• 81% cite the ability to enjoy content ‘in a way that suits them’ was a main benefit of SVOD services• 75% cite new content suited to their tastes• 56% cite the ability to stream on multiple devices• Two million Brits subscribe to at least on subscription product or service (including financial services, online and software storage, food and drink services, music streaming services and media publications)
Gold prices remain near historic highs – and that has a significant impact on the bottom line of the gold producers. Barrick Gold Corp. (ABX), for example, currently boasts a profit margin of over 30%, better than twice that of IBM and almost ten times that of Walmart. While ABX sells for just 1.6 times its book value, IBM sells for 10X.Interest rates remain at historic lows, producing a negative real return for bond holders. Unless and until investors are able to capture a positive yield – a potential stake through the heart of gold – there is no lost-opportunity cost for holding gold. And bonds are increasingly at risk of loss should interest rates be pressured upwards, as they inevitably will be.Sovereign money printing continues – because it must. In today’s iteration of Groundhog Day, the Europeans are once again meeting in an attempt to fix the unfixable, but the growing consensus – because there is no other realistic option left to them – is that they will have to accelerate, not decelerate the money printing. Ditto here in the US, where a fiscal cliff is fast approaching due to the trifecta of the expiring Bush tax cuts, mandated cuts in government spending from the last debt-ceiling debacle and the new debacle soon to begin as the latest debt ceiling is approached. The problems in important economies such as China and Japan are as bad, and maybe even worse (in the Weekend Reading section at the end of this edition is a very worthwhile article on the Chinese economic slowdown.) Broad market movements. The saturated levels of analysis mean that, within a fairly tight range, all the stocks now move more or less together. Thus, with few exceptions, a big upswing or downswing in the broader market will send almost all stocks up or down together. To help make the point, I randomly pulled a chart of IBM and compared it against SPY (the S&P 500 tracking ETF) for the last year. Note the lockstep price movements:OK, IBM is a big company, so it will have a lower beta than many companies, but the point remains that saturated coverage of the stocks greatly reduces the odds of any one issue breaking free from the larger herd, unless there is…A surprise. All of these analysts, and all of their computerized analysis, help form a certain future price expectation for each security based on past financial metrics (earnings growth, return on equity, and so forth). Other than the broad market movement just referenced, or moves in line with a sub-sector of the larger market (e.g., if oil falls, oil-sector stocks will move up or down in sync), for a company to deviate in any substantial way from analyst expectations, by definition requires a “surprise” to occur.Of course, such a surprise can be positive, but because these companies are so closely watched, it is more likely to be negative. In the former category, a positive surprise might come in the form of an unexpectedly strong new product launch á la the iPad. In the latter, less happy category of surprise, it can be the blow-out of a big well in the Gulf of Mexico… or any one of a million other unanticipated vagaries of fate.As investors, recognizing these fundamental realities is important because it points to where above-average market opportunities are most likely to be found (or not). And that brings us back to the whole idea of being a contrarian. As I mentioned, “Wall Street” has never much liked the precious metals, and by extension the gold stocks. Given the length of the gold bull market – which, in our view, reflects systematic risk in all the fiat currencies, but which Wall Street views as an indication of a fatiguing trend confirmed by the underperformance of the gold stocks – traditional portfolio managers are unhesitant in giving the boot to the few gold shares that somehow made it into their portfolios against their better judgment.If our thinking is not clouded by our own bias, then it would behoove us as good contrarians to buy these shares from the eager sellers at such unexpectedly favorable prices. So, is our own bias leading us to believe in gold and gold stocks when virtually the entire army of analysts won’t even consider them? Some inputs: Dear Reader,Sitting here in the wee hours on the fringe of the Memorial Day holiday, first cup of coffee at hand and an excellent live version of Safe from Harm by Massive Attack playing at moderate decibels, I suspect that my contribution to today’s missive will be somewhat shorter than usual. If for no other reason than that the kids have the day off and it’s been one of “those” weeks, so the idea of putting away the tools early is tugging at my sleeve.To that end, a bit later on I will share the reprint of a controversial article that I have had on my desk for a couple of weeks. It’s long and may evoke all manner of reactions (though hopefully none of them violent), but will also make you think.Before we get to that, however, some quick comments on gold and other commodities.The Golden ConstantGlancing at the news most days, it’s hard not to feel like Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day. In the event you are unfamiliar with the movie, in it Murray’s character becomes trapped in the same day… day after day.In the current circular condition, we have the powers-that-be assuring us that the next high-level meeting will finally produce a permanent fix to the broken economy, essentially solving the sovereign debt crisis. Then, in no more than a few days, or at most a couple of weeks, the fix is revealed to be flawed and the crisis again sparks into flames. Followed shortly thereafter by yet another high-level meeting – and the cycle begins anew.While the characters may change – one week it is Greece, the next it is Spain, the next it is France, the next it is the US, the next it is Greece again, etc., etc. ad nauseam – the detached observer who steps back to a distance sufficient to view the larger picture can only come to the conclusion that we are now well outside of the bounds of the normal business cycle.As we here at Casey Research have written on this topic at great length, I don’t intend to dwell on this topic today, but I did want to loop back in just long enough to comment on the recent price action in commodities, especially gold, in the face of the continuing crisis.Today, a glance at the screen reveals that gold is trading for $1,565. For comparative purposes, as revelers warmed up their vocal cords to sing in the New Year on the last trading day of 2011, gold exchanged hands at $1,531. And exactly one year ago to the day, gold traded at $1,526 for a one-year gain of a modest 2.6%.A year ago, the S&P 500 traded at 1,325, while today it trades at 1,318, a small loss. Yet, have you noticed we don’t hear much about the imminent collapse of the US stock market, as we do about gold? This perma-bear sentiment about gold on the part of what some people lump together under the label “Wall Street” is especially apparent in the gold stocks.Using the GDX ETF as a proxy for the sector, we see that the shares of the more substantial gold producers are off by an unpleasant 24% over the last year. More on the topic of gold shares momentarily, but first let’s round things out by also looking at the price action of a couple of other core components of the global economy.For instance, a year ago, a barrel of WTI crude sold for a tick over $100. A couple of weeks ago, it was still selling for $102, though it has slid a bit to $91 today. Even so, that is still considerably higher than where it traded as recently as New Year’s 2008, when it was just $38 per barrel. Since that low, the price of oil has made a steady advance and for the last year and a half has traded right around $100/bbl.Then there is the matter of base metals. Copper, for example, traded at $8,980 per tonne a year ago, and is today at $8,289, a loss of almost 11%. Likewise, the iron ore price is off by 15% over the last year, and zinc is off by 13%. Even the minor monetary metal with industrial applications, silver, is off 8.39%.With that “baseline” in place, I would like to now turn to the current outlook for gold, and touch on some of the other commodities as well.Gold. In the context of its secular bull market, and given that absolutely nothing has gotten better about the sovereign debt crisis – only worse – gold’s correction is nothing to be concerned about.I know the technical types will point to levels such as $1,540 as important resistance points – and there’s no question that if gold was to break decisively below that level, and especially below $1,500 – that a lot of autopilot trades would kick in and put further pressure on gold.Yet, when you view the market through the lens of hard realities, which is to say, by focusing on the intractable mess the sovereigns have gotten the world into… in Europe, in Japan, in China and here in the US… then viewing gold at these levels as anything other than an opportunity is a mistake.Gold Stocks. As far as the gold stocks are concerned, I consider today’s levels to be extraordinarily compelling for anyone looking to build up a portfolio, or to average down an existing portfolio.I say this for a number of reasons, starting with the contrarian perspective that this may now be the most unloved sector of the stock market. No one wants anything to do with gold stocks, and hasn’t for some time now. As a consequence, the sellers will soon dry up, leaving almost nothing but buyers to push the sector back to the upside.This contrarian perspective is important because in today’s world literally thousands of competent equities analysts plop down at the desk each trading day with the sole purpose of searching for prospective investments. Many of these analysts are backed by huge firms with billions of dollars at risk in the markets, and so are armed with high-powered computational tools of the sort that was unimaginable even a few years ago. All of these analysts, armed with all their computational power, habitually scan a universe that totals about 4,000 publicly traded companies. Realistically, however, even a thin analytical screen will weed out all but perhaps 400 of those companies as being potentially suitable for investment.Thus, you have thousands of high-priced and well-armed securities analysts crunching pretty much the same data on a very small universe of possible investments. Given this reality, is it any surprise that securities are so tightly correlated? Which is to say, is it any surprise that these securities all trade right in line with the valuations that the analytical screens ultimately derive that they should? Which means there are really only two possible circumstances under which any of these stocks move up, or move down, by any significant degree: Debt at all levels remains high. With historic levels of debt, rising interest rates are a no-fly zone for governments, because should these rates go up even a little bit, the impact on the economy and on the ability of these governments to meet their obligations would be dramatic and devastating. This fundamental reality ensures a continuation of policies aimed at keeping real yields in negative territory, meaning that the monetization/currency debasement in the world’s largest economies will continue apace.To get a sense of just how bad things are and how soon the wheels might come off, sending gold and gold stocks to the moon as governments throw all restraint in money printing to the wind to save themselves and their overindebted economies – here’s a telling excerpt and a chart from a recent article by Standard & Poor’s titled, The Credit Overhang: Is a $46 Trillion Perfect Storm Brewing?Our study of corporate and bank balance sheets indicates that the bank loan and debt capital markets will need to finance an estimated $43 trillion to $46 trillion wall of corporate borrowings between 2012 and 2016 in the U.S., the eurozone, the U.K., China, and Japan (including both rated and unrated debt, and excluding securitized loans). This amount comprises outstanding debt of $30 trillion that will require refinancing (of which Standard & Poor’s rates about $4 trillion), plus $13 trillion to $16 trillion in incremental commercial debt financing over the next five years that we estimate companies will need to spur growth (see table 1).While the authors of the S&P report try to find some glimmer of hope that roughly $45 trillion in debt will be able to be sold off over the next four years – even their base case casts doubt on the availability of the “new money” shown in the chart above. Note that this is the funding they indicate is required to fund growth. Which is to say that should the money not be found, the outlook is for low to no growth for the foreseeable future.It is also worth noting that the analysis assumes that something akin to the status quo will persist – which is very unlikely given the pressure building up behind the thin dykes keeping the world’s largest economy’s intact. The landing of even a small black swan at this point could trigger a devastating cascade.We have said it before, and we’ll say it again: there is no way out of this mess. At least not without acute pain to a wide swath of the citizenry in the world’s most developed nations. While this pain will certainly be felt by sovereign bond holders (and already has been felt by those who owned Greek issues), it will quickly spread across the board to banks, businesses and pensioners – in time wiping out the lifetime savings of anyone who is “all in” on fiat currency units.In this environment, gold isn’t just a good idea – it’s a life saver. And gold stocks are not just a good contrarian opportunity, they are one of the few intelligent speculations available in an uncertain investment landscape. By speculation, I mean that, at these prices, they offer an understandable and reasonable risk/reward ratio. Put another way, every investment – even cash – has risk these days. With gold stocks, you at least have the opportunity to earn a serious upside for taking the risk… and the risk is much reduced by the correction over the last year or so.Now, that said, there are some important caveats for gold stock buyers.With access to capital likely to dry up, any gold-related company you own must be well cashed up. In the case of the producers, this means a lot of cash in the bank, strong positive cash flow and a manageable level of debt. (Our Casey BIG GOLD service – try it risk-free here – constantly screens the universe of larger gold stocks for just this sort of criteria, then brings the best of the best to your attention.)In the case of the junior explorers that we follow in our International Speculator service (you can try that service risk-free as well), the companies we like the most have to have all the cash they need to clear the next couple of major hurdles in their march towards proving value. That’s because a company can have a great asset but still get crushed if it is forced to raise cash these days… and the situation will only get more pronounced when credit markets once again tighten as the global debt crisis deepens.Beware of political risk. Despite the critical importance of the extractive industries to the modern economy, the industry is universally hated by politicians and regular folks everywhere. If your company – production or exploration – has significant assets in unstable or politically meddlesome jurisdictions, tread carefully. And it’s important to recognize that few jurisdictions are more politically risky than the US. This doesn’t mean you need to avoid all US-centric resource stocks – but rather that you need a geopolitically diversified portfolio that you keep a close eye on at all times (something we do on behalf of our paid subscribers every day).Know your companies. Some large gold miners are also large base-metals miners. And at this juncture in time, personally I’m avoiding base-metals companies like a bad cold. While most base-metals companies have already been beaten down – and hard – over the last year and a half, the fundamentals remain poor. Specifically, they not only have the risk of rising production costs and political meddling, but unlike gold – where the driving fundamental is its monetary role in a world awash with fiat currency units – the base-metals miners depend on economic growth to sustain demand for their products. In a world slipping back into recession – or perhaps, in the case of Japan and China, tripping off a cliff – betting on a recovery in growth is not a bet I’d want to make just now.Having gone on longer than anticipated, I will now edge for the exit on this topic by pointing out that while it is hard to accurately predict the timing of major developments in any one economy, let alone the global economy, there are a number of tangible clues we can follow to the conclusion that the next year will be a seminal one in terms of this crisis.For starters, there is the next round of Greek elections on June 17, the result of which is likely to be the anointment of one Alexis Tsipras as the head of state. An unrepentant uber-leftist whose primary campaign plank is to tell the rest of the EU to put their austerity where the sun doesn’t shine, the election of Tsipras would almost certainly trigger a run on the Greek banks, followed by a cut-off of further EU funding and Greece’s exit from the EU. And once that rock starts to slide down the hill, it is very likely that Spain and Portugal will follow… after that, who knows? As I don’t need to point out (but will anyway), June 17 is right around the corner, so you might want to tighten your seat belt.A bit further out, but not very, here in the US we can look forward to the aforementioned fiscal cliff. Or, more accurately, the political theatrics around the three colliding co-factors in that cliff (the approach once more of the debt ceiling, the expiring tax cuts and mandated government spending cuts). While the outcome of the theatrics has yet to be determined, it’s a safe bet that the government will extend in order to pretend while continuing to spend – and by doing so, signal in no uncertain terms that the dollar will follow all of the sovereign currency units in a competitive rush down the drain.Bottom line: Be very cautious about industrial commodities as a whole, at least until we see signs of inflation showing up in earnest, but don’t miss this opportunity to use the recent correction to fill out that corner of your portfolio dedicated to gold and gold stocks.(Silver? Personally, I own some silver investments and believe it will do just fine over time – but I see no big rush to build a bigger position today as the metal’s industrial applications are likely to be a drag on its price for the next little while.)And now, a quick detour for a look at the downgrade of Japan this week, then on to the controversial article I mentioned at the onset of this week’s musings.Japan’s Debt ConundrumBy Robert Ross, Casey ResearchOn the heels of Fitch’s sovereign credit downgrade to A plus (the fifth-highest investment grade), Japan’s government debt continues to swell. With its debt at over 200% of its GDP, the Land of the Rising Sun appears to be embarking on a trek into the debt-laden unknown.(Click on image to enlarge)A ballooning government debt is often associated with sovereign debt crises, as market shocks can send the interest rate paid on the debt to unsustainable levels. Coupled with Japan’s shrinking population (and thus tax base), the country is setting itself up for a hairy situation (data for both charts are from the IMF’s World Economic Outlook Database).(Click on image to enlarge)As with any well-known macro-trend, there are speculators eager to capitalize on it.Enter Kyle Bass, one of the few hedge fund managers who made a killing when he bet against housing during the subprime mortgage bust. He and his fund have now set their sights on Japan, specifically shorting Japanese yen and Japanese government debt.His thesis is simple: with a debt-to-GDP ratio over 200% and a contracting population, it’s only a matter of time before a sovereign debt crisis sets in, thus triggering a rise in Japanese interest rates – which the government would be unable to service with a shrinking and aging tax base.So far this strategy hasn’t worked as Bass intended: according to ValueWalk, Bass’ fund lost 29% of its value in April alone.That’s not to say Bass’ assumptions are incorrect. But there are alternative ways of looking at Japan’s situation.Many blame the 2011 earthquake and subsequent reconstruction efforts for the ballooning debt, while some, like Business Insider columnist Joe Weisenthal, think Japan will never implode.Weisenthal’s main point is that Bass’ analysis is simplistic and incorrect. He says that the debt-to-GDP ratio is a lousy measure of anything because “it’s measuring a stock (total debt) to a flow (a country’s national income for the year).” And “beyond that, debt-to-GDP just doesn’t tell you anything about interest rate risk or credit risk.”Weisenthal is entitled to his opinion, but we think Bass will eventually be proven right – although his fund could go broke in the meantime.The Japanese problem is real, and a sovereign default – outright or inflationary – along with the rising rates that lead up to it are inevitable. But as we have said many times before, just because something is inevitable doesn’t make it imminent.The Spirit of Geert WildersDavid again. As a setup, I was sent the following article by a friend a couple of weeks ago. As is often the case these time-pressed days, I figured I would give it a quick scan. But it quickly sucked me in and kept me riveted until the end. The article is about the author’s decision to write the introduction to Geert Wilders’ new book. For those who are unfamiliar with the name, Wilders is a Dutch politician who has spoken out against the unchecked immigration of Muslims into his country. Or, more to the point, the refusal of the Muslims to integrate into the Dutch culture. As a consequence of his views, Wilders is now, literally, a hunted man. I don’t usually pay all that much attention to this particular topic of cultural assimilation or the millennia-long conflict between the ancient religions, mostly because it has no immediate personal relevance: here in the little New England town, or in Argentina – the two places I spend the most time, Islamic/Christian tensions are non-existent. In addition, I am very skeptical about anti-immigration arguments and the knock-on scapegoating of “foreigners” that has caused so much pain to innocents trying to better their lives over the course of human history.Yet, Mark Steyn’s article, which I am reprinting in its entirety here, followed by some research I did, struck me as important in understanding the challenges facing Europe (and elsewhere)… challenges related to religious and cultural conflicts, as well as those emanating from out-of-control political correctness. In other words, challenges that are almost impossible to meet head on. I’ll have a bit more to say after the article. The Spirit of Geert WildersBy Mark SteynWhen I was asked to write a foreword to Geert Wilders’ new book, my first reaction, to be honest, was to pass. Mr. Wilders lives under 24/7 armed guard because significant numbers of motivated people wish to kill him, and it seemed to me, as someone who’s attracted more than enough homicidal attention over the years, that sharing space in these pages was likely to lead to an uptick in my own death threats. Who needs it? Why not just plead too crowded a schedule and suggest the author try elsewhere? I would imagine Geert Wilders gets quite a lot of this.And then I took a stroll in the woods, and felt vaguely ashamed at the ease with which I was willing to hand a small victory to his enemies. After I saw off the Islamic enforcers in my own country, their frontman crowed to The Canadian Arab News that, even though the Canadian Islamic Congress had struck out in three different jurisdictions in their attempt to criminalize my writing about Islam, the lawsuits had cost my magazine (he boasted) two million bucks, and thereby “attained our strategic objective — to increase the cost of publishing anti-Islamic material.” In the Netherlands, Mr. Wilders’ foes, whether murderous jihadists or the multicultural establishment, share the same “strategic objective” — to increase the cost of associating with him beyond that which most people are willing to bear. It is not easy to be Geert Wilders. He has spent almost a decade in a strange, claustrophobic, transient, and tenuous existence little different from kidnap victims or, in his words, a political prisoner. He is under round-the-clock guard because of explicit threats to murder him by Muslim extremists.Yet he’s the one who gets put on trial for incitement.In 21st-century Amsterdam, you’re free to smoke marijuana and pick out a half-naked sex partner from the front window of her shop. But you can be put on trial for holding the wrong opinion about a bloke who died in the seventh century.And, although Mr. Wilders was eventually acquitted by his kangaroo court, the determination to place him beyond the pale is unceasing: “The far-right anti-immigration party of Geert Wilders” (The Financial Times) . . . “Far-right leader Geert Wilders” (The Guardian) . . . “Extreme right anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders” (Agence France-Presse) is “at the fringes of mainstream politics” (Time) . . . Mr. Wilders is so far out on the far-right extreme fringe that his party is the third biggest in parliament. Indeed, the present Dutch government governs only through the support of Wilders’ Party for Freedom. So he’s “extreme” and “far-right” and out on the “fringe,” but the seven parties that got far fewer votes than him are “mainstream”? That right there is a lot of what’s wrong with European political discourse and its media coverage: Maybe he only seems so “extreme” and “far-right” because they’re the ones out on the fringe.And so a Dutch parliamentarian lands at Heathrow to fulfill a public appearance and is immediately deported by the government of a nation that was once the crucible of liberty. The British Home Office banned Mr. Wilders as a threat to “public security” — not because he was threatening any member of the public, but because prominent Muslims were threatening him: The Labour-party peer Lord Ahmed pledged to bring a 10,000-strong mob to lay siege to the House of Lords if Wilders went ahead with his speaking engagement there.Yet it’s not enough to denormalize the man himself, you also have to make an example of those who decide to find out what he’s like for themselves. The South Australian senator Cory Bernardi met Mr. Wilders on a trip to the Netherlands and came home to headlines like “Senator Under Fire For Ties To Wilders” (The Sydney Morning Herald) and “Calls For Cory Bernardi’s Scalp Over Geert Wilders” (The Australian). Members not only of the opposing party but even of his own called for Senator Bernardi to be fired from his post as parliamentary secretary to the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. And why stop there? A government spokesman “declined to say if he believed Mr Abbott should have Senator Bernardi expelled from the Liberal Party.” If only Bernardi had shot the breeze with more respectable figures — Hugo Chávez, say, or a spokesperson for Hamas. I’m pleased to report that, while sharing a platform with me in Adelaide some months later, Bernardi declared that, as a freeborn citizen, he wasn’t going to be told who he’s allowed to meet with.For every independent-minded soul like Senator Bernardi, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, or Baroness Cox (who arranged a screening of Wilders’ film Fitna at the House of Lords), there are a thousand other public figures who get the message: Steer clear of Islam unless you want your life consumed — and steer clear of Wilders if you want to be left in peace.But in the end the quiet life isn’t an option. It’s not necessary to agree with everything Mr. Wilders says in this book — or, in fact, anything he says — to recognize that, when the leader of the third-biggest party in one of the oldest democratic legislatures on earth has to live under constant threat of murder and be forced to live in “safe houses” for almost a decade, something is badly wrong in “the most tolerant country in Europe” — and that we have a responsibility to address it honestly, before it gets worse.A decade ago, in the run-up to the toppling of Saddam, many media pundits had a standard line on Iraq: It’s an artificial entity cobbled together from parties who don’t belong in the same state. And I used to joke that anyone who thinks Iraq’s various components are incompatible ought to take a look at the Netherlands. If Sunni and Shia, Kurds and Arabs can’t be expected to have enough in common to make a functioning state, what do you call a jurisdiction split between post-Christian bi-swinging stoners and anti-whoring anti-sodomite anti-everything-you-dig Muslims? If Kurdistan’s an awkward fit in Iraq, how well does Pornostan fit in the Islamic Republic of the Netherlands?The years roll on, and the gag gets a little sadder. “The most tolerant country in Europe” is an increasingly incoherent polity where gays are bashed, uncovered women get jeered in the street, and you can’t do The Diary of Anne Frank as your school play lest the Gestapo walk-ons are greeted by audience cries of “She’s in the attic!”According to one survey, 20 percent of history teachers have abandoned certain, ah, problematic aspects of the Second World War because, in classes of a particular, ahem, demographic disposition, pupils don’t believe the Holocaust happened, and, if it did, the Germans should have finished the job and we wouldn’t have all these problems today. More inventive instructors artfully woo their Jew-despising students by comparing the Holocaust to “Islamophobia” — we all remember those Jewish terrorists hijacking Fokkers and flying them into the Reichstag, right? What about gangs of young Jews preying on the elderly, as Muslim youth do in Wilders’ old neighborhood of Kanaleneiland?As for “Islamophobia,” it’s so bad that it’s, er, the Jews who are leaving. “Sixty per cent of Amsterdam’s orthodox community intends to emigrate from Holland,” says Benzion Evers, the son of the city’s chief rabbi, five of whose children had already left by 2010. Frommer’s bestselling travel guide to “Europe’s most tolerant city” acknowledges that “Jewish visitors who dress in a way that clearly identifies them as Jewish” are at risk of attack, but discreetly attributes it to “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” “Jews with a conscience should leave Holland, where they and their children have no future,” advised Frits Bolkestein, former Dutch Liberal leader. “Anti-Semitism will continue to exist, because the Moroccan and Turkish youngsters don’t care about efforts for reconciliation.”If you’re wondering what else those “youngsters” don’t care for, ask Chris Crain, editor of The Washington Blade, the gay newspaper of America’s capital. Seeking a break from the Christian fundamentalist redneck theocrats of the Republican party, he and his boyfriend decided to treat themselves to a vacation in Amsterdam, “arguably the ‘gay-friendliest’ place on the planet.” Strolling through the streets of the city center, they were set upon by a gang of seven “youngsters,” punched, beaten, and kicked to the ground. Perplexed by the increasing violence, Amsterdam officials commissioned a study to determine, as Der Spiegel put it, “why Moroccan men are targeting the city’s gays.”Gee, that’s a toughie. Beats me. The geniuses at the University of Amsterdam concluded that the attackers felt “stigmatized by society” and “may be struggling with their own sexual identity.”Bingo! Telling Moroccan youths they’re closeted gays seems just the ticket to reduce tensions in the city! While you’re at it, a lot of those Turks seem a bit light on their loafers, don’t you think?But not to worry. In the “most tolerant nation in Europe,” there’s still plenty of tolerance.What won’t the Dutch tolerate? In 2006, the justice minister, Piet Hein Donner, suggested there would be nothing wrong with sharia if a majority of Dutch people voted in favor of it — as, indeed, they’re doing very enthusiastically in Egypt and other polities blessed by the Arab Spring. Mr. Donner’s previous response to “Islamic radicalism” was (as the author recalls in the pages ahead) to propose a new blasphemy law for the Netherlands.In this back-to-front world, Piet Hein Donner and the University of Amsterdam researchers and the prosecutors of the Openbaar Ministrie who staged his show trial are “mainstream” — and Geert Wilders is the “far” “extreme” “fringe.” How wide is that fringe? Mr. Wilders cites a poll in which 57 percent of people say that mass immigration was the biggest single mistake in Dutch history. If the importation of large Muslim populations into the West was indeed a mistake, it was also an entirely unnecessary one. Some nations (the Dutch, French, and British) might be considered to owe a certain post-colonial debt to their former subject peoples, but Sweden? Germany? From Malmö to Mannheim, Islam transformed societies that had hitherto had virtually no connection with the Muslim world. Even if you disagree with that 57 percent of Dutch poll respondents, the experience of Amsterdam’s chief rabbi and the gay-bashed editor and the elderly residents of Kanaleneiland suggests at the very minimum that the Islamization of Continental cities poses something of a challenge to Eutopia’s famous “tolerance.” Yet the same political class responsible for this unprecedented “demographic substitution” (in the words of French demographer Michèle Tribalat) insists the subject remain beyond discussion. The British novelist Martin Amis asked Tony Blair if, at meetings with his fellow prime ministers, the Continental demographic picture was part of the “European conversation.” Mr. Blair replied, with disarming honesty, “It’s a subterranean conversation” — i.e., the fellows who got us into this mess can’t figure out a way to talk about it in public, other than in the smiley-face banalities of an ever more shopworn cultural relativism.That’s not enough for Geert Wilders. Unlike most of his critics, he has traveled widely in the Muslim world. Unlike them, he has read the Koran — and re-read it, on all those interminable nights holed up in some dreary safe house denied the consolations of family and friends. One way to think about what is happening is to imagine it the other way round. Rotterdam has a Muslim mayor, a Moroccan passport holder born the son of a Berber imam. How would the Saudis feel about an Italian Catholic mayor in Riyadh? The Jordanians about an American Jewish mayor in Zarqa? Would the citizens of Cairo and Kabul agree to become minorities in their own hometowns simply because broaching the subject would be too impolite?To pose the question is to expose its absurdity. From Nigeria to Pakistan, the Muslim world is intolerant even of ancient established minorities. In Iraq half the Christian population has fled, in 2010 the last church in Afghanistan was razed to the ground, and in both cases this confessional version of ethnic cleansing occurred on America’s watch. Multiculturalism is a unicultural phenomenon.But Europe’s political establishment insists that unprecedented transformative immigration can only be discussed within the conventional pieties: We tell ourselves that, in a multicultural society, the nice gay couple at Number 27 and the polygamous Muslim with four child-brides in identical niqabs at Number 29 Elm Street can live side by side, each contributing to the rich, vibrant tapestry of diversity. And anyone who says otherwise has to be cast into outer darkness.Geert Wilders thinks we ought to be able to talk about this — and indeed, as citizens of the oldest, freest societies on earth, have a duty to do so. Without him and a few other brave souls, the views of 57 percent of the Dutch electorate would be unrepresented in parliament. Which is a pretty odd thing in a democratic society, when you think about it. Most of the problems confronting the Western world today arise from policies on which the political class is in complete agreement: At election time in Europe, the average voter has a choice between a left-of-center party and an ever so mildly right-of-left-of-center party and, whichever he votes for, they’re generally in complete agreement on everything from mass immigration to unsustainable welfare programs to climate change. And they’re ruthless about delegitimizing anyone who wants a broader debate. In that Cory Bernardi flap Down Under, for example, I’m struck by how much of the Aussie coverage relied on the same lazy shorthand about Geert Wilders. From The Sydney Morning Herald:“Geert Wilders, who holds the balance of power in the Dutch parliament, likened the Koran to Mein Kampf and called the Prophet Muhammad a pedophile . . . ”The Australian:“He provoked outrage among the Netherlands’ Muslim community after branding Islam a violent religion, likening the Koran to Hitler’s Mein Kampf and calling the Prophet Mohammed a pedophile.”Tony Eastley on ABC Radio:“Geert Wilders, who controls the balance of power in the Netherlands’ parliament, has outraged Dutch Muslims by comparing the Koran to Hitler’s work Mein Kampf and calling the Prophet Muhammad a pedophile . . . ”Golly, you’d almost think all these hardworking investigative reporters were just cutting-and-pasting the same lazy précis rather than looking up what the guy actually says. The man who emerges in the following pages is not the grunting thug of media demonology but a well-read, well-traveled, elegant, and perceptive analyst who quotes such “extreme” “fringe” figures as Churchill and Jefferson. As to those endlessly reprised Oz media talking points, Mein Kampf is banned in much of Europe; and Holocaust denial is also criminalized; and, when a French law on Armenian-genocide denial was struck down, President Sarkozy announced he would immediately draw up another genocide-denial law to replace it. In Canada, the Court of Queen’s Bench upheld a lower-court conviction of “hate speech” for a man who merely listed the chapter and verse of various Biblical injunctions on homosexuality. Yet, in a Western world ever more comfortable in regulating, policing, and criminalizing books, speech, and ideas, the state’s deference to Islam grows ever more fawning. “The Prophet Mohammed” (as otherwise impeccably secular Westerners now reflexively refer to him) is an ever greater beneficiary of our willingness to torture logic and law and liberty in ever more inane ways in the cause of accommodating Islam. Consider the case of Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, a Viennese housewife who has lived in several Muslim countries. She was hauled into an Austrian court for calling Mohammed a pedophile on the grounds that he consummated his marriage when his bride, Aisha, was nine years old. Mrs. Sabaditsch-Wolff was found guilty and fined 480 euros. The judge’s reasoning was fascinating:“Pedophilia is factually incorrect, since pedophilia is a sexual preference which solely or mainly is directed towards children. Nevertheless, it does not apply to Mohammad. He was still married to Aisha when she was 18.”So you’re not a pedophile if you deflower the kid in fourth grade but keep her around till high school? There’s a useful tip if you’re planning a hiking holiday in the Alps. Or is this another of those dispensations that is not of universal application?A man who confronts such nonsense head on will not want for enemies. Still, it’s remarkable how the establishment barely bothers to disguise its wish for Wilders to meet the same swift and definitive end as Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh. The judge at his show trial opted to deny the defendant the level of courtroom security afforded to Mohammed Bouyeri, van Gogh’s murderer. Henk Hofland, voted the Netherlands’ “Journalist of the Century” (as the author wryly notes), asked the authorities to remove Wilders’ police protection so that he could know what it’s like to live in permanent fear for his life. While Wilders’ film Fitna is deemed to be “inflammatory,” the movie De moord op Geert Wilders (The Assassination of Geert Wilders) is so non-inflammatory and respectable that it was produced and promoted by a government-funded radio station. You’d almost get the impression that, as the website Gates of Vienna suggested, the Dutch state is channeling Henry II: “Who will rid me of this turbulent blond?”There’s no shortage of volunteers. In the Low Countries, a disturbing pattern has emerged: Those who seek to analyze Islam outside the very narrow bounds of Eutopian political discourse wind up either banned (Belgium’s Vlaams Blok), forced into exile (Ayaan Hirsi Ali), or killed (Fortuyn, van Gogh). How speedily “the most tolerant country in Europe” has adopted “shoot the messenger” as an all-purpose cure-all for “Islamophobia.”It’s not “ironic” that the most liberal country in western Europe should be the most advanced in its descent into a profoundly illiberal hell. It was entirely foreseeable, and all Geert Wilders is doing is stating the obvious: A society that becomes more Muslim will have less of everything else, including individual liberty.I have no desire to end up living like Geert Wilders or Kurt Westergaard, never mind dead as Fortuyn and van Gogh. But I also wish to live in truth, as a free man, and I do not like the shriveled vision of freedom offered by the Dutch Openbaar Ministrie, the British immigration authorities, the Austrian courts, Canada’s “human rights” tribunals, and the other useful idiots of Islamic imperialism. So it is necessary for more of us to do what Ayaan Hirsi Ali recommends: share the risk. So that the next time a novel or a cartoon provokes a fatwa, it will be republished worldwide and send the Islamic enforcers a message: Killing one of us won’t do it. You’d better have a great credit line at the Bank of Jihad because you’ll have to kill us all.As Geert Wilders says of the Muslim world’s general stagnation, “It’s the culture, stupid.” And our culture is already retreating into pre-emptive capitulation, and into a crimped, furtive, (Blair again) subterranean future. As John Milton wrote in his Areopagitica of 1644, “Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience.” It is a tragedy that Milton’s battles have to be re-fought three-and-a-half centuries on, but the Western world is shuffling into a psychological bondage of its own making. Geert Wilders is not ready to surrender without exercising his right to know, to utter, and to argue freely — in print, on screen, and at the ballot box. We should cherish that spirit, while we can.Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is the author of After America: Get Ready for Armageddon. This article is adapted from his foreword to Geert Wilders’ Marked for Death: Islam’s War against the West and Me.David again.While the situation in Europe will, of course, differ from place to place, my own observations from a recent visit to Montreux, Switzerland and Paris confirmed that the culture of the continent is definitely morphing into what appears to be a permanent admixture of Islam and non-Islamic faiths. The difference between the two is that other than some small sub-sects, for example the Hassidic Jews, most people don’t (literally) wear their religions on their sleeves – or try to shape their adopted societies to their own religious dictates (even the Hassids don’t do that).Thus, while the full impact of this cultural crash may not be felt for many years, as time passes it is hard to see how this doesn’t become yet another serious problem for Europe – the equivalent of another world war.In the interest of trying to head off a lot of angry emails, or worse, allow me to clarify that I never believe in lumping large groups of people in the same category. It is only ever a small percentage of any group that causes most of the trouble. In Europe, most people – regardless of religion – just want to go about their lives in peace. Unfortunately, when the small subset acts out, then everyone associated with that subset pays the price… in time the anti-this and the anti-that rhetoric turns into physical actions with all sorts of unpleasant consequences.Is it any wonder why so many of the 240 or so property owners at “Casey’s Gulch” in the tranquil wine-growing region in the Northwest of Argentina hail from Europe?Friday FunniesThanks to friend and colleague Dennis Miller for sending along a link to a great collection of photos along the lines of the one below. Check them out.(Click on image to enlarge)Weekend ReadingCash Confiscation – Just Because. The police in Tennessee confiscated $22,000 in cash from a New Jersey driver… without due process or probable cause… just because “common people do not carry this much U.S. currency.” They call it “Policing for Profit.”China Slows Down. A must-read for investors in industrial commodities, or anyone who thinks that the world is back on track to a normal recovery. Here’s the story.Coming Soon to a Media Outlet Near You: Government-Sanctioned Propaganda. The slip down the slope continues with an amendment in yet another defense authorization bill that would strike down the current ban on domestic dissemination of government propaganda. Here’s the story.And with that, I am outta here! Have a great weekend, and for those of you here in the US, a wonderful holiday. Which, for me, begins right… now.David GallandManaging DirectorCasey Research
Compliments: “Use lots of flashing ‘cha-chings’ and compliments to make the players feel good about themselves.” Fake currency: “Train the players to spend your fake currency.” Switcheroo: “Offer the players a way to spend real currency for your fake currency (so they’ll forget they’re spending money).” Image: South Park Studios/Comedy Central The discussion came in an episode titled “Freemium Isn’t Free,” in which the show lambastes the business model employed by freemium games because they generate the bulk of their revenues from a small percentage of people who essentially get addicted to the games. We’re not here to judge the business model. But just to give you an idea of why South Park might want to lampoon it, consider the report that app testing firm Swrve came out with in early 2014, claiming that about 50% of a typical freemium game’s in-app purchase revenue comes from less than 0.2% of players. That can still translate into big bucks, however, if you have a big user base. Take King Digital Entertainment (KING) for example; it’s the owner of Candy Crush and other mobile games. In the fourth quarter of 2014, the company had 533 million monthly active users. Only about 2% of KING’s users are paying customers, but the company was still able to generate approximately $2.3 billion in revenue during 2014. Freemium gaming is an interesting example of a much bigger, growing field called “persuasive technology.” Persuasive technology arose from “captology,” which is short for “computers as persuasive technology.” It’s a term that was coined in 1993 by Stanford researcher B.J. Fogg, who at the time was working as a doctoral student in experimental psychology, attempting to figure out how to computerize persuasion. In Fogg’s words, he was trying to answer the question: “How could you use the power of computers to change what people believed, how they behaved, and how could this then be applied to improve the world in some way?” Captology was later broadened to include smartphones, apps, and other technologies that could be used to influence peoples’ attitudes and behavior. Despite Fogg’s claim that the goal of his research was to “improve the world in some way,” the idea of persuasive technology rubs many the wrong way. But the fact is that it’s everywhere today, so it’s important to at least know what it is—especially if you want to know when a company is trying to persuade you. The roots of today’s persuasive technology date back to at least the 1930s when psychologist B.F. Skinner showed that he could induce desired behaviors in animals through “operant conditioning,” which basically means changing the subject’s behavior using various types and schedules of reinforcements. According to part of the Wikipedia definition: “It encourages the subject to associate desirable or undesirable outcomes with certain behaviors.” Pretty simple. We can all probably remember instances when our own behavior was modified in this way, especially if we think back to our youth. Building on Skinner’s work (which was actually built on the ideas of Edward Thorndike) and other researchers in the decades since, in 2007 Fogg developed a model for technology designers—the Fogg Behavior Model or FBM—that describes behavior as the result of a trigger coinciding with right the proportion of both motivation and ability. According to Fogg’s Behavior Model website, which is aimed at helping organizations determine what kind of behavior they want to encourage in order to develop an appropriate trigger: Using my Behavior Model (FBM) as a guide, designers can identify what stops people from performing behaviors that designers seek. For example, if users are not performing a target behavior, such as rating hotels on a travel web site, the FBM helps designers see what psychological element is lacking …. What makes my Behavior Model different from previous work? First, the FBM shows how behavior is the result of three specific elements coming together at one moment. Next, the FBM explains the subcomponents of each element. In addition, the FBM shows that motivation and ability can be traded off (e.g., if motivation is very high, ability can be low). Finally, the FBM applies most directly to practical issues of designing for behavior change using today’s technology. Fogg’s been a consultant for Nike, American Express, and many other companies. He also holds persuasive technology boot camps about once a month at his guest home in California wine country. These always sell out—a good indicator of how highly his work is esteemed by organizations of all types who want to enhance the persuasive aspects of their technologies. Nir Eyal is another big name in the world of persuasive technology. He promotes a scheme called “the hook,” which is a method to build habit-forming products by leading users through a four-step loop consisting of a trigger, an action, a variable reward, and an investment. The MIT Technology Review article titled “Compulsive Behavior Sells” by Ted Greenwald provides a good explanation of the hook in action: It starts with a trigger, a prod that propels users into a four-step loop. Think of the e-mail notification you get when a friend tags you in a photo on Facebook. The trigger prompts you to take an action—say, to log in to Facebook. That leads to a reward: viewing the photo and reading the comments left by others. In the fourth step, you inject a personal stake by making an investment: say, leaving your own comment in the thread. According to Eyal, the final stage, investment, closes the loop by “loading the next trigger” and kicking off a repetitive cycle. Again, to quote Greenwald’s article: Take Twitter. When you make an investment by posting a tweet, a follower’s reply to your contribution triggers an e-mail notification to your in-box, inciting you to take yet another spin through the cycle. If you’re someone who compulsively checks Facebook and/or Twitter, you might be feeling a bit used and abused at this point. If so, perhaps you can take solace in the fact that there’s a big push to design persuasive technologies that help us improve our lives too. Take Jawbone, the maker of popular fitness-tracking bands. The company is much more than a simple hardware maker. Its recently launched UP2 tracker wristband pairs with the UP app on a user’s smartphone to provide what the company calls Smart Coach, “an intelligent system that learns your habits, and gives you personalized guidance and feedback to help you reach your goals.” A couple of examples of Smart Coach in action would be: · The system knows you have a goal of walking 5,000 steps per day; and one day you fall short. It might send you a message telling you that you only reached XX% of your goal today and ask if you want to try again tomorrow. You’d then reply with one click indicating whether you were in or not, and then Smart Coach might follow that up with an encouraging text that reads something like “Sleep well tonight. You can start fresh tomorrow.” · The system knows you like to go to bed at 11 p.m., but you stay up later than you wanted to. It might send you a message the next morning which reads, “You missed your bedtime last night, so slip into those PJs a little earlier tonight and perfect your routine.” Again, you could reply whether you were in or not with one click, and the system would follow it up with a message that reads something like, “After less than 6 hours of sleep, foods high in fat seem more appealing. Try some energy-boosting protein for breakfast.” According to product manager Kelvin Kwong, Smart Coach is based on “our best understanding of how the brain works to get you to act.” And it apparently works. Kwong cites studies which have shown that it helps “people get to bed 23 minutes earlier on average and move 27% more during the day.” That’s not insignificant. The point of all this is simply that for better or worse, the era of ubiquitous persuasive technology has arrived, and it isn’t going anywhere. And the more digital our lives become, the more opportunities the persuaders will have to draw us into their loops. You’ve probably heard of so called “freemium” mobile gaming. Think Angry Birds and Candy Crush. According to the brilliant and hilarious show South Park, a successful freemium game is based on five principles: Simplicity: “Entice the player with a simple game loop.” Waiting: “And make the game about waiting, but let the player pay not to wait.” Furthermore, the game “has to be just barely fun. If the game was too fun there would be no reason to micropay in or order to make it more fun.”
Updated at 9:25 p.m. ETPuerto Rico’s governor updated the island’s official death toll for victims of Hurricane Maria on Tuesday, hours after independent researchers from George Washington University released a study estimating the hurricane caused 2,975 deaths in the six months following the storm.The researchers’ findings had been long-awaited. Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló commissioned the independent study in February, after months of public pressure over his administration’s failure to adequately count the number of hurricane dead. At the time he commissioned the study, the governor said the research team would have the Puerto Rican government’s full cooperation, including access to all mortality data.As a result of Maria, researchers estimate 22 percent more people died during the six months after the storm than would have had the hurricane not struck. They also said those most likely to have died were poor people and the elderly.”The results of our epidemiological study suggest that, tragically, Hurricane Maria led to a large number of excess deaths throughout the island,” Carlos Santos-Burgoa, the study’s lead researcher, said in a statement. “We hope this report and its recommendations will help build the island’s resilience and pave the way toward a plan that will protect all sectors of society in times of natural disasters.”Since December, the government’s official hurricane death toll has been stuck at 64, though the government has acknowledged that number was likely far too low and would be adjusted once the researchers had completed their study.In addition to their new death count estimate, researchers found that the Puerto Rican government did a poor job communicating with the public about the death count — and more broadly did not have an adequate disaster communications plan in place, which the researchers said contributed to public confusion.According to interviews, researchers found that many health and forensics officials on the island also were uninformed about how to document hurricane-related deaths.Speaking to reporters in San Juan on Tuesday, the governor acknowledged he’d made mistakes. “This could have been done differently,” Rossello said. “I recognize all that,”In the absence of a rigorous effort by Puerto Rico’s government to count its dead in the weeks and months after the storm, several media outlets and outside researchers worked to arrive at their own figures. Most recently, Harvard University researchers published a study that estimated the number of hurricane-related deaths likely ranged from about 800 to 8,500. That study had a wide margin of error because it was based on household surveys.In addition to updating the island’s official death count Tuesday, the governor said he had created a commission to look into how his government could execute a number of recommendations the study’s authors made for handling a death count after future disasters. And he said he had begun speaking to architects at the University of Puerto Rico about designing a memorial honoring the dead.The George Washington University researchers said their findings are more accurate because they are based on access to government mortality data and death certificates, and account other variables, including the number of people believed to have left Puerto Rico after the hurricane. Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
About 9.4 million people are likely HIV-positive and don’t know it. That’s a key finding from a new report from UNAIDS — and it’s why the theme of this month’s World AIDS Day is “Know your HIV status.”That’s an important message, HIV/AIDS specialists say, at a time when the disease no longer makes headlines.”Some people are under the erroneous impression that the epidemic is done,” says Wafaa El-Sadr, global director of the public-health organization ICAP and a professor at Columbia University. But HIV/AIDS remains an enormous problem around the world, she says: “Two million new infections in the past year; still about a million deaths every year.”Knowing your status, she says, is “the foundation” for preventing new infections.But simply knowing your status is not enough to stop the HIV/AIDS epidemic, El-Sadr and other global-health specialists say.”My big issue with just knowing your status as a theme is that it puts all the burden on the individual,” says Chris Beyrer, the Desmond M. Tutu Professor of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, a past president of the International AIDS Society and a doctor whose research has focused on epidemiology and human rights. While individual responsibility is important, it won’t stop the epidemic on its own, he says.And the systems are not universally in place to stop new transmissions and improve the health of those who are HIV-positive, Beyrer says.Coming Up With The 9 Million EstimateAbout 37 million people around the world live with HIV, UNAIDS estimates in its new report. About one-quarter of those people, though, don’t know it.You may wonder how it’s possible to calculate a number of people who have HIV but have not been tested to confirm their status.UNAIDS estimates this number by collecting data on the rate of infection in a country and then applying it to a country’s total population. The theory is that people in remote areas might not have access to testing and that others avoid testing because of the stigma.Researchers then make an educated guess for populations that haven’t been tested in each country.”Estimation methods have been refined over time” by different researchers, Beyrer says, and such estimates are now “well-accepted.”The State Of TestingPeople aren’t being tested for the reasons you’d expect: fear of facing stigma and discrimination if a person learns they are HIV-positive. Then there are more practical concerns: from living far from where testing is offered to long wait times to be tested at health facilities.Not to mention that some people are nervous about blood draws, part of the standard HIV testing procedure. But there is an alternative to the blood test that’s becoming more common: a test using oral fluids (including saliva).”Studies do confirm that the oral fluid test for HIV antibodies is highly accurate,” says Peter Godfrey-Faussett, science adviser at UNAIDS. “Ninety percent is a good summary figure.”(He does note that if the test is self-administered the results are slightly less accurate than tests in a lab with “more sophisticated machinery” — and that the oral fluid tests raise some concerns because “there are not as many antibodies in oral fluid as there are in blood.” For example, someone taking preventive PrEP medication is not a good candidate for an oral fluid test to monitor HIV status.)When a test does come back positive, the subject may have many fears that are rooted in misinformation, says El-Sadr. People worry, she says, that they’ll never be able to have sex again or have children or find a spouse.Yet as Beyrer puts it: “We’re in a new era, really, where the antiviral therapy, the AIDS treatments, are so good and so powerful that people living with the virus can live essentially normal lives and also not be infectious for partners” or to their children.The upside of being tested, of course, is that someone who is HIV-positive can take medications to keep AIDS at bay. But that doesn’t always happen.The Next Step After A Test”Knowing your status if you don’t have access to drugs is not terribly helpful,” says Beyrer.”We have a significant problem,” he says — both in the United States and around the world. “We have huge gaps — huge rips in the social safety net for the unstably housed, for the mentally ill, for people with substance use.””Knowing your status in that kind of setting?” he asks. “Necessary but insufficient.”Whether they know their status or not, about half of people living with HIV — more than 19 million people — still do not have the virus under control, the UNAIDS study found. They estimated that number by looking at health data as well as how many HIV drugs are distributed.Treatment and prevention through medicine are two of the major ways to halt the epidemic, Beyrer explains. Those who test negative for HIV but are at risk of contracting the virus because, for instance, of their sexual activity or drug use, can take PrEP, a pill that lowers the chances of infection.Many of the same challenges to getting tested exist around prevention and treatment. There may not be a nearby clinic with an ample supply of affordable medication in many places, and stigma and discrimination are still widespread.Take, for example, the story of Bisi Alimi. The first person in Nigeria to come out as gay on national television, he tested positive for HIV in 2004. But it would be another five years before he had access to life-saving antiviral treatments. It was much easier for heterosexual couples to access HIV care in Nigeria, he says — in large part because of laws against being gay and other forms of discrimination.After his positive diagnosis, he met with a sexual health counselor. But otherwise, gay men in Nigeria had little support or resources to stay healthy, he says — including access to medical care for HIV.”I lived five years waiting to die,” he says. By the time he was tested again in 2009 to see how much the virus had progressed, he met the technical definition for advanced AIDS.But this time, he was living in the U.K. and was immediately linked to health care services and support networks.”Treatment was the key,” says Alimi, who is now the executive director of the Bisi Alimi Foundation and an Aspen Institute fellow. He began taking antiviral medication and also found support within the HIV-positive community.”And that was what changed everything for me,” he says. “It wasn’t just the test. It was what happened after the test.”Melody Schreiber (@m_scribe on Twitter) is a freelance journalist in Washington, D.C. Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.
Over 70% of Singaporean Respondents Open to Ad-Funded Subscription Video On-Demand (Svod) Service at a Reduced PriceBrightcove Inc., the leading global provider of cloud services for video, published its annual OTT TV market study for Asia, The 2019 Asia OTT Research Report, conducted with research partner YouGov, a global public opinion and data company.The study polled 9,000 participants across nine countries in Asia, including 1,000 consumers in Singapore. The survey was designed to uncover insights into consumer preferences around OTT services, including subscription tiers and motivators driving subscriptions; how much consumers are willing to pay; their tolerance to advertising and ad-supported subscriptions; and openness to a shoppable TV experience post-programming. The report is co-sponsored by Evergent, a leading provider of cloud-based, user lifecycle management solutions for video service providers; and SpotX, a leading global video advertising and monetisation platform.Marketing Technology News: Taptica International Rebrand Reflects Video Advertising LeadershipKey findings for Singapore include:47% of ‘Lapsed’ respondents are planning to sign-up for OTT services again in the future.The top three reasons for respondents subscribing to multiple OTT services were: content not being available on any single OTT service (47%), the desire for more content options (45%), and to satisfy content needs for their family (35%).Thinking about the future, 31% of respondents in Singapore want to pay nothing and watch ads as a trade-off to consuming content, 19% elected to pay nothing and watch no ads, and 17% would like to pay a higher fee to not see ads.When asked how much would respondents be willing to pay for OTT services, 24% of respondents stated less than USD $1 per month, 22% would pay USD $1–$4 per month, and 25% would pay USD $5–$9 per month.30% of respondents in Singapore found one ad as an acceptable advertising load per ad break and 20% were open to two ads per break.58% of respondents said they might be open to a hybrid model, where reduced monthly subscription packages also serve ads — depending on the price, whereas 19% said they would definitely sign up, representing a potential market size of 77% of respondents polled favouring this option.Offline downloads (45%), using less mobile data when streaming (42%) and access on mobile (40%) were the top three OTT service features most wanted by respondents in Singapore.When asked if respondents would be open to purchasing product as seen on TV, 61% of respondents were receptive to the idea of shoppable TV.Marketing Technology News: Selligent Marketing Cloud Study Reveal Digital Marketers Struggle to Deliver Consistent Omnichannel ExperiencesGreg Armshaw, Head of Sales, Asia, at Brightcove said, “Our research findings show that Singaporeans are more price sensitive than any other consumers in the region. Price sensitivity could be due to being wary about incremental costs to subscribe to OTT services. OTT TV service providers in Singapore need to focus on not just a compelling content library but also price plans with high level of flexibility to opt-in and out of subscriptions with ease. At Brightcove, we consult with media organizations of all sizes about how to succeed in local markets, as well as provide insights into what kind of customized OTT monetisation strategies would work best in specific markets.”Marketing Technology News: LivePerson Wins 2019 Artificial Intelligence Breakthrough Award Brightcove Publishes Over-the-Top (OTT) TV Research with Insights on Adoption, Payment, and Advertising Preferences in Singapore PRNewswireJuly 3, 2019, 4:37 pmJuly 3, 2019 brightcoveEvergentMarketing TechnologyNewsOTT Research ReportOTT TVYouGov Previous ArticleKlarna and BigCommerce Expand Partnership GloballyNext ArticleOptmyzr Announces Release of Campaign Automator
Back to the Stone Age: 17 Key Milestones in Paleolithic Life Before being destroyed by a newly constructed highway, a 9,000-year-old Neolithic site just outside of Jerusalem is getting an exhaustive excavation, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority. The humans who lived there during the Neolithic (the last period of the Stone Age) were a sophisticated bunch. Many of them were likely farmers who had stored hundreds of thousands of seeds — including lentils, chickpeas and beans — in storage facilities. These ancient people also kept domesticated goats, according to animal remains found at the site, and they traded with neighboring regions, such as what is now Turkey, Jordan and the Red Sea. “This is the first time that such a large-scale settlement from the Neolithic Period — 9,000 years ago — [has been] discovered in Israel,” Hamoudi Khalaily and Jacob Vardi, archaeologists and excavation directors at the site, who work with the Israel Antiquities Authority, said in a statement. “At least 2,000 [to] 3,000 residents lived here — an order of magnitude that parallels a present-day city.” [See Photos of the Neolithic Excavation]Advertisement Largest Neolithic Excavation on Record in IsraelArchaeologists are excavating a 9,000-year-old farming settlement in Israel that dates to the Neolithic. Credit: Yaniv Berman/Israel Antiquities AuthorityVolume 0%Press shift question mark to access a list of keyboard shortcutsKeyboard Shortcutsplay/pauseincrease volumedecrease volumeseek forwardsseek backwardstoggle captionstoggle fullscreenmute/unmuteseek to %SPACE↑↓→←cfm0-9接下来播放Better Bug Sprays?01:33关闭选项Automated Captions – en-US facebook twitter 发邮件 reddit 链接https://www.livescience.com/65956-largest-neolithic-settlement-in-israel.html?jwsource=cl已复制直播00:0002:4502:45Your Recommended Playlist01:33Better Bug Sprays?04:24Sperm Whale Befriends Underwater Robot01:08Why Do French Fries Taste So Bad When They’re Cold?00:29Robot Jumps Like a Grasshopper, Rolls Like a Ball02:31Surgical Robotics00:29Video – Giggly Robot关闭 Photos: 2,000-Year-Old Roman Road and Coins Discovered in Israel Originally published on Live Science.by Taboolaby TaboolaSponsored LinksSponsored LinksPromoted LinksPromoted LinksYou May LikeVikings: Free Online GamePlay this for 1 min and see why everyone is addicted!Vikings: Free Online GameUndoTruthFinder People Search SubscriptionOne Thing All Liars Have in Common, Brace YourselfTruthFinder People Search SubscriptionUndoGundry MD Total Restore SupplementU.S. Cardiologist: It’s Like a Pressure Wash for Your InsidesGundry MD Total Restore SupplementUndoKelley Blue Book2019 Lexus Vehicles Worth Buying for Their Resale ValueKelley Blue BookUndoLivestlyThe List Of Dog Breeds To Avoid At All CostsLivestlyUndoBirch Gold GroupThis IRS Tax Law is Sweeping the U.S.Birch Gold GroupUndo Photos: Roadside Dig Reveals 10,000-Year-Old House in Israel Archaeologists have known about this location, called the Motza site, for decades. However, now that the government plans to build a new highway entrance and roundabouts there, the Israel Antiquities Authority sent a team to do a full-scale excavation of the Neolithic settlement, Vardi told Live Science. It quickly became the largest excavation of a Neolithic site in the country, he said. During the Neolithic, hunter-gatherer groups began farming and making permanent settlements. So, the archaeologists expected to find something smaller, less sophisticated. Instead, they found large buildings with rooms where Neolithic people once lived, public facilities and places for rituals. Alleyways ran between the buildings, showing that the settlement had an advanced layout. Some buildings even had plaster floors. The team also uncovered human burials beneath and around the houses. Some of the burials also held burial goods, likely offerings that may have been given to help the deceased in the afterlife. Some of these grave goods came from far away — including obsidian beads from Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) and seashells from the Mediterranean and Red Sea — indicating that the people at this site traded with neighboring regions. The excavation also uncovered several stone and mother-of-pearl bracelets, which, given their small size, were likely worn by children or adolescents, Vardi said. He added that one burial showed that these bracelets were worn on the upper arm. The site also has thousands of stone arrowheads for hunting, axes for felling trees and sickle blades and knives, as well as figurines whose styles date to the Neolithic. Radiocarbon dating of the seeds found at the site indicate that people lived there between 9,000 and 8,800 years ago, Vardi said. In addition to farming and keeping goats, these people also kept cows and pigs; they also hunted game, such as gazelle, deer, wolves and foxes, according to animal remains found there. “Based on the data that we have and from the fauna, we have a pretty good notion that the people at the site were farmers and they were specialists in what they did,” Vardi said. After the Neolithic period ended, people continued to live there. It’s clear why this spot was so desirable, Vardi said, as it’s near a large spring and several smaller springs that supply fresh water. The site is now 3.1 miles (5 kilometers) from Jerusalem, on the banks of the Sorek Stream. The entire Motza site is about 0.1 square miles (30 to 40 hectares). As the excavation wraps up, the team still has a lot on its plate. They plan to publish several papers and articles for the public on the site, as well as put some of the artifacts in museums for public viewing, Vardi said.