Tony Blinken, President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser, said Sunday that a Russian threat to cease inspections of nuclear weapons as required by U.S.-Russian arms control treaties would be “a serious development.”
Blinken said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he’d seen news reports of those Russian threats — made in response to U.S. sanctions and other penalties for Russia’s seizure of the Crimea region of Ukraine — but that the Russian government had not communicated directly to the Obama administration on that matter.
Asked what Obama had accomplished so far in his efforts to deter or penalize Putin, Blinken said the president has been “mobilizing the international community in support of Ukraine to isolate Russia for its actions in Ukraine and to reassure our allies and partners.”
Blinked argued that the decline in value of the Russian ruble and the increased uncertainty about foreign investment in Russia are “exacting a real cost and a real consequence” for Putin’s decision to intervene in Crimea.
Russian parliamentary leaders signaled Friday that Russia is prepared to annex Crimea.
A referendum will be held in Crimea on March 16 to decide whether the region should join Russia or remain part of Ukraine. But Blinken said if the result of the referendum is that Crimea joins Russia, then “we won’t recognize it, and most of the world won’t, either.”
The future of TV is coming into focus,
and looks pretty great
Reuters: Joe Skipper
A technician works in the “Acquisition Room”, which receives television feeds from around the world.
If it doesn’t seem like the American television industry is in the middle of a dramatic transformation, that’s simply because the pieces are scattered all over the place. But they are starting to come together.
One transformative piece arrived earlier this week, when Dish Network secured the rights to include ABC, ESPN, and other popular channels owned by Disney in a TV service delivered entirely over the internet. Negotiating deals like that one has generally been the biggest impediment to internet TV in the United States.
Dish will reportedly charge between $20 and $30 a month for its planned offering, which it’s calling a “personal subscription service.” That doesn’t sound like traditional pay TV. Rich Greenfield, an analyst who is usually right about these things, figures Dish’s move will represent “a watershed moment for the media industry,” with Comcast and other large rivals doing something similar.
What exactly that is remains unclear, but there’s enough evidence floating around to make a strong prediction. And along with other recent developments, we can start to see what the near future of TV will look like.
It will be cheaper
At $20 to $30—less than half of what most American households pay for TV—Dish’s internet TV service will target young adults who balk at the cost of most TV subscriptions. They are more likely to cancel their cable service or never sign up for it at all. ”We think there is a group of individuals, 18-to-34-year-olds, who would love to have a lower-cost product with some of the top content out there,” Dave Shull, Dish’s chief commercial officer, told Bloomberg.
The spread of internet TV should also increase competition. Whereas cable companies tend to have near-monopolies in their respective regions of the US, the internet isn’t bound by local markets. Anyone should be able to choose among any of these internet TV services, and that should push prices down.
Limited channel lineup
But notice Shull said “some of the top content,” not all of it. Dish figures it doesn’t have to offer every channel out there. The service may only need some of the most desirable programming to attract its target audience. ESPN (popular among young men) and the Disney Channel (young parents) are a strong start.
In part, Dish is bending to the practical realities of the TV business. Negotiations with the big content companies can be torturous, and Dish may well have to go without, say, popular channels owned by 21st Century Fox, if they can’t reach a deal. But many TV customers don’t care about having hundreds of channels—in fact, they take umbrage at having to pay for a bundle of channels they don’t watch.
Apple last year appeared to be pursuing a similar strategy in its quest to launch a television set and internet TV service, seeking deals with some but not all content companies. DirecTV has also talked about offering smaller TV bundles over the internet, aimed at specific audiences like Hispanics or children.
Organized by subject
Channels are obviously an outdated way to organize television. They aren’t going away, but the experience of browsing TV is still rapidly improving.
Comcast has a new cable box that people don’t actually want to throw out the window. Its web-based interface lets you easily search for “movies” when you want to watch a movie—a long-overdue and welcome change. Why memorize the channel number of NBC Sports Network when you can just click “sports”?
Even better are Time Warner Cable’s apps for mobile devices and set-top boxes, which plainly demonstrate how watching TV gets easier when it moves to the internet. Here’s a demonstration by Greenfield:
Television is currently sold to households, but the phrasing of Dish’s “personal subscription service” suggests that it will be sold to individuals. It could resemble cellphone service plans, with discounts for families. In any event, selling individual TV subscriptions allows for more flexible pricing and greater personalization—of the choice of content, the interface, and maybe even the advertising.
Viewable on any screen
Personal subscriptions also make it easier to let people use more than one device. “Television” no longer refers to the big screen in your living room; that’s just one screen of many. You might prefer to use your phone or tablet or PC. They are all just “glass-covered internet machines.”
Some pay-TV services already let you watch on mobile devices within your home. True internet TV service would extend anywhere, relying on fast cellular connections when you aren’t connected to Wi-Fi. More to the point, taking the emphasis off your TV set and cable box allows for lots of creative possibilities. The most obvious is putting your “DVR” in the cloud, so you can schedule and view recordings from anywhere.
A better remote
Phones and tablets aren’t just for watching video; they can control video, as well. Plenty of existing examples suggest that your phone makes for a better TV remote than what’s on coffee tables in most living rooms today. The mobile remote can adapt to specific contexts, cutting down the number of buttons or offering you a keyboard when it makes sense. And switching between screens becomes simpler, too.
No more switching inputs
Most of the innovation in internet TV has previously been found in electronics that plug into television sets, like Apple TV, Roku devices, and Google’s Chromecast. (“Set-top box” is an outdated term for them.) But using them along with a traditional cable box is harder than it should be. Most people find it cumbersome to switch between one device for watching Netflix and another for live TV.
The next generation of TV services ought to solve that by fully integrating streaming video services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant Video. Users won’t have to switch inputs on their television sets, which may sound like a small improvement but could help make internet TV more mainstream.
Netflix recently agreed to pay Comcast for better delivery of its content. Some analysts believe that, as part of the deal, Comcast will put Netflix on future versions of its cable box. That would be a big step for the cable TV industry, which has generally been wary of internet-delivered competitors.
But, of course, Netflix isn’t like other networks. It doesn’t have any notion of airtime. Everything is played on demand. So you might think of that as a model for what other networks could end up looking like, as well.
HBO gets more accessible
You don’t have to imagine what on-demand HBO might look like because it already exists in the form of HBO Go, the network’s website and app for subscribers to the cable service. Many have argued that Time Warner should sell HBO Go on its own, without requiring a pay TV subscription, but that isn’t yet economic for the company.
However, a personal TV subscription priced as low as $20 a month would start to make add-ons like HBO, for another $10 to $15, seem more attractive. HBO might then reach customers outside of the roughly 100 million US households that currently pay for cable TV service. Someone might pay monthly fees of $20 for a basic personal subscription, $10 for HBO, $8 for Netflix, and $2 for some newfangled YouTube channel—a scenario that’s closer to an à la carte media menu.
On-demand that’s not awful
People want easier and more personal access to video, which is one way to explain the success of Hulu. Much of Hulu’s content is also available to pay TV subscribers through on-demand menus, but those interfaces are so poorly designed that people avoid them or don’t even know what’s available. Hulu is easy to use. HBO Go is easy to use. Netflix is easy to use. And people are willing to pay for that convenience.
An internet TV “channel” could resemble an on-demand menu with better design. Or the entire internet TV service could take that approach, emphasizing viewer control over what happens to be airing right now.
New channels emerging all the time
Once you’re thinking this way, it’s easier to see what other internet TV “channels” might look like—and, as importantly, where they would come from. Consider a few recent developments:
The PBS app for Apple TV is getting ravereviews for mixing a deep archive of content with new episodes of shows like Downton Abbey, Sherlock, and NewsHour.
All sorts of companies, from sports leagues to film studios, are in a position to form their own channels and sell content more directly—if only their licensing agreements allowed it. That will take longer than some other developments and may not make business sense for some content owners, but the opportunity is there.
Not as reliable
However, for all the promise of internet TV, there’s still the issue of delivering it without hiccups. US internet infrastructure, from one end to the other, just isn’t good enough to seamlessly stream video to everyone. The technology will improve, though, and reliability will likely become a selling point for services like Netflix.
Not so cheap
And while internet TV service looks at first blush much cheaper than traditional pay TV, it still requires a connection to the internet and lots of bandwidth. That will undoubtedly cost people more. Some internet service providers are among those likely to offer internet TV, so it will be interesting to see how they set their pricing to edge out competitors. People may end up feeling as boxed in by cable companies as they do today.
President Barack Obama has signed an executive order authorizing sanctions against “individuals and entities responsible for activities undermining democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine.”
By Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration slapped new visa restrictions Thursday against pro-Russian opponents to the new Ukraine government in Kiev, and cleared the way for upcoming financial sanctions, as the West began punishing Moscow for refusing to withdraw its troops from Ukraine’s Crimea region.
The new restrictions targeted an unspecified and unidentified number of people and entities that the Obama administration accused of threatening Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial borders. They were announced in Washington as Secretary of State John Kerry headed into a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Rome on the sidelines of a diplomatic forum about Libya.
The anticipated financial sanctions will penalize “those who are most directly involved in destabilizing Ukraine, including the military intervention in Crimea, and does not preclude further steps should the situation deteriorate,” the White House said in a statement.
“At the same time, as the president has said, we seek to work with all parties to achieve a diplomatic solution that de-escalates the situation and restores Ukraine’s sovereignty,” the statement said. “We call on Russia to take the opportunity before it to resolve this crisis through direct and immediate dialogue with the Government of Ukraine.”
A senior administration official said the new restrictions are aimed at Russians and Ukrainians in the strategic Crimea region. Crimea is a peninsula that hosts a major Russian navy base and is historically and culturally a stronghold of Russia.
Local government officials in Crimea are now seeking to separate from Ukraine, and on Thursday set a March 16 date for a referendum vote on whether the region should become part of Russia.
Ukraine’s unrest peaked in February, after months of pro-Western protests seeking the overthrow of the President Viktor Yanukovych in anger over economic woes and corruption. Yanukovych, who is pro-Russian, fled for protection just outside of Moscow, and Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Crimea in a show of force against the upstart government in Kiev.
Oscar nominee Barkhad Abdi is reportedly broke after getting paid $65,000 for his ‘Captain Phillips’ role.
“Captain Phillips” star Barkhad Abdi was on top of the world Sunday at the Oscars. Working the red carpet, doing interviews and mingling with Hollywood’s biggest stars.
But now that the lights have faded, it’s back to reality for the Hollywood newcomer who is reportedly broke. Abdi earned $65,000 for his role in Captain Phillips but he was given that money two years ago and has since spent it all. According to the New Yorker, which broke the story, “When Abdi is in Los Angeles to promote the film, he subsists on a per diem, The town car is available only for official publicity events. His clothes are loaners.”
After he finished working on the film, Abdi started working at a mobile phone store in Minneapolis, Minnesota. When the movie premiered he packed his bags and moved to L.A.
Captain Phillips had a $55 million budget and has since grossed $107 million domestically and $217 million worldwide, but Abdi reportedly hasn’t seen any bonuses or extra paychecks despite the film’s success.
And while a writer for Indie Wire acknowledges $65,000 for an actor’s first gig is fair, he also adds the New Yorker article may be just what the doctor ordered for the Somali actor.
“Sometimes, when a studio is embarrassed by negative PR like this … it tries to correct things. So it’s very possible that Sony Pictures will give Abdi a huge financial bonus in reaction to the New Yorker article, which would be fair and very well deserved.”
Also according to the Hollywood Reporter, Abdi has been cast in a new movie called, “The Place That Hits The Sun” about a South African Marathon runner who develops an unlikely friendship with a local bar owner.
So, it might not be long before he cashes in another big paycheck. Though Abdi didn’t take home an Oscar, he did manage to grab a BAFTA award for his “Captain Phillips” role and was nominated for a Golden Globe and a Screen Actor’s Guild award.
Oscars: ’12 Years a Slave’ screenplay rift between
Steve McQueen, John Ridley boils over
AP / Steve McQueen
By Jeff Sneider The WrapLong before each came away with an Academy Award, “12 Years a Slave” director Steve McQueen and screenwriter John Ridley were embroiled in a bitter feud regarding credit for the film’s Oscar-winning screenplay, a fight they kept quiet for the good of the campaign before it came to a head Sunday night at the Dolby Theater.Ridley turned down McQueen’s request for shared screenplay credit, TheWrap has learned. He won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay on Sunday and did not thank the director in his acceptance speech, striding past him on his way to the podium but pausing to hug director David O. Russell. Some observers interpreted McQueen’s unsmiling applause as half-hearted.McQueen later took the microphone at the end of the evening when “12 Years a Slave” won Best Picture, and made no mention of the writer. While McQueen lost the Best Director award to Alfonso Cuaron (“Gravity”), he was one of five producers to win Best Picture for “Slave” along with Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner and Anthony Katagas.Also from TheWrap.com:Oscars: How ’12 Years a Slave’ Won the Big OneApparently, the bad blood between McQueen and Ridley has persisted for some time. McQueen has paid respect to Ridley’s contribution in interviews, though he has never been effusive in his praise, not that McQueen often is (outside of Michael Fassbender). An individual familiar with the frosty situation tells TheWrap that McQueen has iced Ridley out to the point of rudeness – he barred people from speaking to Ridley and insisted that the writer be seated at separate tables at awards shows late in the season, including the BAFTAs.That’s where McQueen berated Ridley’s wife while the writer was in the bathroom, trying to snatch up her BAFTA souvenirs and leaving her in tears, according to two insiders who passed along details of the outburst.
“12 Years a Slave” took the top prize at the BAFTAs that night and McQueen failed to thank Ridley during his acceptance speech. That was no oversight, since McQueen read his prepared speech off a piece of paper. Additionally, at the Golden Globes, McQueen didn’t thank Ridley until another producer whispered in his ear and reminded him to pay his respects, if only to prevent the media from speculating about the growing rift.
While some hoped McQueen and Ridley could settle their differences by Oscar night, it was not to be, as ABC cameras caught McQueen in the middle of what appeared to be begrudging applause when Ridley’s Oscar win was announced.
McQueen was onboard to direct “12 Years a Slave” when he recruited Ridley, who agreed to draft it on spec. McQueen had a hand in shaping the script that Ridley turned in, but when he asked the writer for shared credit – not uncommon in Hollywood – Ridley politely declined, an individual with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap.
McQueen was nonplussed and appealed to Fox Searchlight, which ultimately sided with Ridley. Brad Pitt, who produced “Slave” and plays a small role in the film, was even forced to step in at one point and mediate. (It didn’t help that Pitt was also in the midst of a PR battle with Paramount over the fact that his company Plan B, based at the studio at the time, failed to offer it a chance to finance and distribute “12 Years a Slave” before taking the project to New Regency.)
McQueen begrudgingly agreed to hold his tongue for the sake of the movie. (“12 Years a Slave” is a non-Writers Guild project and not subject to mediation.) McQueen, Ridley, Pitt and Fox Searchlight executives all knew what was at stake — and how easily a Best Picture win could slip through their fingers if public discord leaked to the media.
Their silence proved to be a wise decision: The slavery drama ended up winning three Oscars, including Best Picture, which McQueen accepted as a producer; and adapted screenplay, which Ridley accepted on his own behalf.
Fox Searchlight and representatives for McQueen did not respond to repeated requests for comment by TheWrap. A representative for Ridley said she could not reach him but that the writer had thanked McQueen in previous speeches.
Coincidentally, Ridley has been in a similar situations before. He went toe-to-toe with David O. Russell over the screenplay for “Three Kings.” Ridley wrote the original script on spec but it was so heavily rewritten by Russell that he only received a ‘story by’ credit, a snub that still rubs the writer the wrong way.
No matter: McQueen and Ridley both woke up Monday morning next to a little gold man named Oscar. As they say, winning heals everything.
NJ student’s feud with her parents
headed to court
By Associated Press
MORRISTOWN, N.J. (AP) — A northern New Jersey honor student is suing her parents for financial support and to force them to pay for her college.
A judge in Morristown has scheduled a hearing Tuesday in the lawsuit filed by 18-year-old Rachel Canning.
Canning claims her parents threw her out of their Lincoln Park home when she turned 18.
Canning’s father, retired Lincoln Park police Chief Sean Canning, tells The Daily Record of Parsippany that his daughter voluntarily left home in October because she didn’t want to abide by reasonable household rules, such as being respectful, keeping a curfew and doing some chores. She’s been living in Rockaway Township with the family of her best friend. The newspaper reports that the friend’s father, former Morris County Freeholder John Inglesino, is funding the lawsuit.
Obama in ‘direct’ confrontation with
Putin on Ukraine
Washington (AFP) – President Barack Obama told President Vladimir Putin on Saturday that Russia’s dispatch of troops to Ukraine flouted international law and warned he was courting political isolation if the incursion continues.
Obama also spelled out the right of the people of Ukraine to chart their own destiny and symbolically began to line up the long-time Western alliance against Russia, calling the leaders of France and Canada.
The US leader’s 90-minute telephone call with Putin represented the kind of direct confrontation between the men who run the White House and the Kremlin rarely seen since the end of the Cold War.
The White House account of the call was unusually detailed and blunt, hinting at tense exchanges as fractures deepened in a diplomatic relationship that has been deteriorating since Putin returned as president in 2012.
“President Obama expressed his deep concern over Russia’s clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the White House said.
Obama told Putin that his actions were a “breach of international law, including Russia’s obligations under the UN Charter, and of its 1997 military basing agreement with Ukraine.”
The White House statement appeared designed to underscore the gravity of the situation, and as a message to political opponents who say Obama shows insufficient steel as a leader and declines to enforce US red lines.
Asked about the tone of the call, a senior US official resorted to diplomatic parlance indicating an uncomfortable conversation, describing it as “what you’d expect: candid and direct.”
Obama’s national security team met at the White House to mull options on Ukraine, a day after the president warned that Putin’s actions would incur “costs.”
Obama told Putin those costs would entail an immediate halt from the US side to preparatory talks on the G8 summit in the Olympic resort of Sochi on the Black Sea in June.
The crisis deepened after Putin secured an endorsement by lawmakers to send troops to Ukraine.
Officials in Kiev had earlier said Russia had already dispatched 30 armored personnel carriers and 6,000 additional troops into Crimea to help pro-Kremlin militia gain broader independence from the new pro-EU leaders in Kiev.
Obama called on Putin to de-escalate the situation by pulling his troops back to Russian barracks in the Crimean peninusla.
But in a sign his appeal fell on deaf ears, a Russian readout of the call hinted at an expansion of the operation, as Putin reserved the right to protect Russian interests in eastern Ukraine.
Obama did use the call to recognize deep cultural ties between Ukraine and Russia and to state that there was a need to protect ethnic Russians in the former Soviet republic.
But the proper way to do that, he said, was through a dialogue with the government in Kiev formed following the ouster of the pro-Russian president Viktor Yanucovych.
He suggested the dispatch of international observers appointed by the United Nations Security Council and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to safeguard ethnic Russians.
Obama also stated strong support for the Kiev government and pledged to work with bodies like the International Monetary Fund, the OSCE and NATO to mitigate its deepening economic crisis and ensure its democratic aspirations.
The US president also called French President Francois Hollande and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, leaders of Atlantic nations along with Britain, which formed the backbone of post-war Western resistance to the Soviet Union.
The leaders expressed “grave concern” over Russia’s intervention into Ukraine, a White House statement said.
Washington also upped the diplomatic offensive at the United Nations.
US Ambassador Samantha Power branded Russia’s parliamentary approval “as dangerous as it is destabilizing.”
“The message is pull back your forces. Let us engage in political dialogue, engage with the Ukrainian government which is reaching out to you for that dialogue,” Power said.
But meaningful action on the crisis at the UN seems unlikely, given Russia’s veto power as a permanent Security Council member.
Before Putin and Obama connected, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu.
A US defense official said there had been “no change” to Washington’s defense posture in the European region.
Another official said that Obama did not take part in the wider meeting of his national security officials, but was briefed by National Security Adviser Susan Rice and other key aides.
Washington appears to have limited options to change Putin’s calculations.
In addition to snubbing the G8 summit, it could cut off economic and trade cooperation that Moscow wants to deepen, or impose sanctions on Russian finance institutions or key officials.
Obama could order a show of military support for US allies in eastern Europe through NATO, but wants to avoid a Cold War-style chess match with Moscow.
He also needs Russian support for several key foreign policy priorities including nuclear talks with Iran and destroying Syria’s chemical arms.
Obama launches ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ to help
young minority men
by Liz Goodwin Yahoo News
Detroit automakers worry about
UAW money struggles
UAW’s financial struggles worry Detroit automakers, who have grown
accustomed to labor peace
By Tom Krisher AP auto writer
A Word of Warning on Gold:
Investor Fear May Be Fading
By E.S. Browning
Gold is the stuff myths are made of.
Among the myths: It is a store of value, a hedge against inflation or a hard alternative currency.
Its behavior over recent decades suggests that it has been inconsistent in those roles. It has done better as something simpler: a bet on fear.
Gold rose on basic economic fears in the 2000s but fell starting in 2011 as those fears abated. Now fears are spreading again about waning Federal Reserve stimulus and about global growth. Gold has rebounded 11% since mid-December.
Experienced gold analysts are warning clients to be careful: If the fears subside, the price of gold could do the same.
“Gold goes up as an insurance policy and then it is sold at a loss when people no longer want insurance,” said Rhona O’Connell, head of metals research and forecasts at Thomson Reuters GFMS, a research firm known for its work on gold.
Gold could move higher temporarily, but Ms. O’Connell says its price is likely to have trouble making significant gains before 2016 because economic confidence has improved.
Sameer Samana, senior international strategist at brokerage firm Wells Fargo Advisors, suggests clients use gold’s rebound to sell anything they have left.
“What we have found in our work is that a broad basket of commodities is a better hedge against inflation, a greater diversification and a better hedge against the dollar,” Mr. Samana said.
Gold does well “when you are very nervous about the world,” he said.
He prefers copper, aluminum and zinc in a time of recovery.
Gold differs from other investments in an important way: It isn’t very useful. Some is used for rings, watches, dental implants and electronic connectors. But the vast majority is hoarded as bars, coins or, in developing countries, heavy jewelry that serves more as a protection against disaster than an adornment.
Unlike stock, gold doesn’t offer a stake in a business’s results. It doesn’t pay dividends or interest. It doesn’t grow crops like farmland or provide shelter like a building. It is useful when people are fearful and flee to it.
Gold soared in the 1970s amid oil crises, runaway inflation and a volatile stock market. When the economy recovered gold collapsed.
Gold rebounded in the troubled 2000s but peaked in 2011, the year Standard & Poor’s downgraded U.S. sovereign debt and stocks fell nearly 20%. Economic stability since then has put a lid on gold.
Particularly disappointing, gold has never come close to returning to its 1980 record once inflation is taken into account.
Gold futures hit a record $825.50 in New York on Jan. 21, 1980, which in today’s dollars is $2,481.98. Gold’s 2011 high was $1,950.15 in today’s dollars, 27% short of a record. On Friday, gold futures closed at $1,323.90.
Stocks have hit inflation-adjusted records repeatedly since 1980, most recently in December and January. Gold hasn’t. It is barely halfway back to its 1980 record, taking inflation into account.
Gold in that time has worked better as a speculative bet on fear than a store of value. Because Western economies tend to experience more stability than fear, gold is typically a risky holding there.
The Permanent Portfolio, a San Francisco mutual fund that invests in bonds, gold, stocks and foreign investments, ballooned to $17 billion a year ago from $57 million in 2000. Now it is back to $9 billion.
Michael Cuggino, its president, says gold wasn’t the only reason for redemptions; investors have fled bonds and other conservative investments. Some money has returned to his fund since gold began recovering in December.
Still, “when people got concerned about gold in the second quarter of last year, there were more redemptions than previously,” he said. He is optimistic about gold but sees the mentality shifting. Investors, he said, are more concerned about returns than protection.
One reason for gold’s recent rebound is demand in China and India, where economic worries have risen. Swiss refineries have worked overtime to recast big bars favored by Western banks into smaller ones preferred in Asia.
1 of 3. A man is silhouetted against a video screen with an Facebook logo as he poses with an Dell laptop in this photo illustration taken in the central Bosnian town of Zenica, August 14, 2013.
Credit: Reuters/Dado Ruvic
(Reuters) – Facebook Inc will buy fast-growing mobile-messaging startup WhatsApp for $19 billion in cash and stock, as the world’s largest social network looks for ways to boost its popularity, especially among a younger crowd.
The acquisition of the hot messaging service with more than 450 million users around the world stunned many Silicon Valley observers with its lofty price tag.
But it underscores Facebook’s determination to win the market for messaging, an indispensable utility in a mobile era.
Combining text messaging and social networking, messaging apps provide a quick way for smartphone users to trade everything from brief texts to flirtatious pictures to YouTube clips — bypassing the need to pay wireless carriers for messaging services.
And it helps Facebook tap teens who will eschew the mainstream social networks and prefer WhatsApp and rivals such as Line and WeChat, which have exploded in size as mobile messaging takes off.
“People are calling them ‘Facebook Nevers,’” said Jeremy Liew, a partner at Lightspeed and an early investor in Snapchat.
WhatsApp is adding about a million users per day, Facebook co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said on his page on Wednesday.
“WhatsApp will complement our existing chat and messaging services to provide new tools for our community,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “Since WhatsApp and (Facebook) Messenger serve such different and important users, we will continue investing in both.”
Smartphone-based messaging apps are now sweeping across North America, Asia and Europe.
“Communication is the one thing that you have to use daily, and it has a strong network effect,” said Jonathan Teo, an early investor in Snapchat, another red-hot messaging company that flirted year ago with a multibillion dollar acquisition offer from Facebook.
“Facebook is more about content and has not yet fully figured out communication.”
Even so, he balked at the price tag.
As part of the deal, WhatsApp co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Jan Koum will join Facebook’s board, and the social network will grant an additional $3 billion worth of restricted stock units to WhatsApp’s founders, including Koum.
That is on top of the $16 billion in cash and stock that Facebook will pay.
“Goodness gracious, it’s a good deal for WhatsApp,” Teo said.
Shares in Facebook slid 5 percent to $64.70 after hours, from a close of $68.06 on the Nasdaq.
Facebook said on Wednesday it will pay $4 billion in cash and about $12 billion in stock in its single largest acquisition, dwarfing the $1 billion it paid for photo-sharing app Instagram.
The price paid for Instagram, which with just 30 million users was already considered overvalued by many observers at the time.
Facebook promised to keep the WhatsApp brand and service, and pledged a $1 billion cash break-up fee if the deal falls through.
Facebook was advised by Allen & Co, while WhatsApp has enlisted Morgan Stanley for the deal.
(Credit: Getty Images)commentary Comcast proposes to take over Time Warner Cable in a $45 billion deal. It claims the merger would benefit consumers. Nonsense!One perspective on this is the distinction between conduit and content. Verizon’s optical fiber or Comcast’s coaxial cable is the conduit over which video, Internet, and telephone services are carried to our homes. The television programs we watch are the video content.At the local level, there is conduit competition between the cable company (Comcast or Time Warner Cable) and the telephone company (Verizon or AT&T). But there’s no competition between Comcast and Time Warner Cable or between Verizon and AT&T. These supersize firms have carved up the United States, with each sharing the provision of the conduit with the other — what is called a duopoly. Government believes duopoly is better than monopoly.The problem is that the cable companies own content — the telephone companies do not. Comcast, for instance, owns NBC, Universal Pictures, and cable networks. An acquisition of Time Warner Cable by Comcast would create a gigantic content business with incredible control over content pricing, packaging, and programming. And this supercontent is what the telephone companies would be forced to purchase to resell to their customers.Decades ago the cable television companies were allowed to own both the cable conduit and also content providers. Government allowed this as an incentive to the fledgling cable companies. But today cable companies are far from fledgling, and past polices need to be revisited in light of today’s realities.Another perspective on this is the use of the Internet to go directly to video content providers, thereby bypassing the video provided by the cable company. This is a threat to the lucrative video business of the cable company. One way to counter this threat is to own as many content providers as possible and stipulate and control access to the content. This proposed acquisition would create a supersize content provider with tremendous market domination and control.Monopoly might be evil and duopoly a little better. But the combination of conduit and content on the scale of this proposed acquisition would truly be evil squared. Decades ago, movie theaters (the conduit) and movie producers (the content) had to be separated and broken apart. It is time again for government to separate conduit from content and break up the power of the cable companies. If government allows this acquisition, as a condition the content business must be spun off.Correction, 8:55 a.m. PT:The original version of this story misstated the content holdings of Time Warner Cable. The company owns locally oriented TV channels in several states and is no longer affiliated with former parent company Time Warner, which owns CNN, HBO, and Warner Bros.
Star criminologist hopes to make
difference in return to
By Justin Fenton Thu Feb 20, 2014, 07:23 AM CST
BALTIMORE — In the late 1990s, David M. Kennedy came to Baltimore riding high in criminology circles, eager to prove his unorthodox approach — which had reduced gun violence in Boston and Minneapolis — could work in one of America’s most dangerous cities.
It was, by most measurements, a disaster and an experience that pushed him to the brink.
Fifteen years later, Kennedy is ready to try again, buoyed by successes in more than 60 other cities and widespread embrace of a philosophy once questioned as a gimmick. Those who worked with him are not surprised that Baltimore wants to give it another shot, but that he is willing to return.
“I’m shocked that he’s coming back,” said Jill Myers, a former city prosecutor who worked closely with Kennedy during his first visit.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake personally recruited Kennedy last fall during a visit to John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, where he is a professor. She became hooked after reading “Don’t Shoot,” his 2011 memoir documenting his approach, and called on him as homicides were rising in Baltimore.
Often referred to as “Ceasefire,” the idea centers on shutting down drug markets and reducing shootings through face-to-face sessions, or “call-ins,” where police, prosecutors, clergy and community members confront those believed responsible for violence. Suspects are told the authorities will come at them hard if shootings continue — but are offered an alternative path through mentoring opportunities and other programs.
Ceasefire is currently being praised by officials in Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Oakland, Calif., which all saw steep declines in murders last year.
“I think it’s pretty revolutionary,” said Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, who has integrated the ideas into daily policing there. “It’s becoming a part of our DNA. It’s really limitless.”
Baltimore has been a dark chapter in Kennedy’s 30-year career. In his book, he called the city “hell,” the most chaotic criminal environment he’d seen to that point. And he noted that political wrangling within law enforcement — the worst he’s seen to date — led to the premature demise of his anti-violence work in the city.
He began working with the city while Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke was in power, but Martin O’Malley was less enthusiastic about the program after he took over in 1999. Kennedy wrote in his book that O’Malley read his mail during their contentious first meeting, and never bought in.
Rawlings-Blake says she’s firmly onboard with Kennedy’s approach and believes the time is right to bring it back.
“For a myriad of reasons, we’re in a different moment,” Rawlings-Blake said of Kennedy’s past experience here. “We’ve come a long way … and having the experience of seeing some success, I saw an opportunity to reintroduce something that I believe has the potential to bring dramatic results.”
Kennedy, whose account of his time in Baltimore also describes a personal struggle with insomnia, exhaustion and a frightening experience with a prescription drug meant to treat those problems, said he has since refined his approach and demonstrated that it will work in places small and large.
“We know more than we did then,” Kennedy said. “The opportunity to try to do it right this time is something very valuable to me.”
Law enforcement officials in Baltimore and Maryland have been using principles of Ceasefire in recent years, crediting a sharper focus on the most violent offenders for the decline in shootings and homicides in the city from 2008 to 2011. Officials have also done a handful of stripped-down call-ins.
To that end, Rawlings-Blake, who announced the program during her recent State of the City address, said Ceasefire will “harmonize” and build on what is already being done. The cost of the program is estimated at $380,000, which will come from the city’s general fund.
Gov. Martin O’Malley did not respond to specific questions about Ceasefire, but said in a statement that his administration “stands ready to support the city in any and all efforts to protect the public’s safety.”
Cooperation is essential to the program’s success, advocates say, because all the partners following through on the crackdown threats and offers of assistance lends the program credibility.
Officials from other agencies said they have been briefed in recent weeks. A spokesman for the state agency that oversees parole and probation said it is “not actively participating” in Baltimore Ceasefire, but would consider it. U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein called the program “consistent with what we’ve been doing” and said his office would participate.
Kennedy was born in Brooklyn and raised in the Detroit suburbs. Known for his distinctive long hair and penchant for dark clothing, he studied moral philosophy at Swarthmore College and got involved in criminology while working as a case-study writer at Harvard University.
His work over more than 20 years in America’s worst neighborhoods has led him to the conclusion that the conditions in inner cities are “not only unconscionable, they are infinitely worse than almost anyone can imagine.” But he says less than one-half of 1 percent of a city’s population is at risk of killing someone or being killed. Getting to them, and in turn their networks, can bring down violence.
“What looks like a lost neighborhood is a neighborhood with a handful of people whose names we can learn,” Kennedy said. “If we change their behavior, we change the dynamic. This is not a theory. This is work we know how to do.”
Former Baltimore police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, a Ceasefire supporter, said the program requires a broad-based, coordinated effort. “People screw up when they think this is a Police Department initiative. It’s an ideology that has to be embraced on many, many levels. There’s a thousand ways to screw it up if people don’t believe in it at its core.”
Bealefeld said the opportunities and threats must be perceived as authentic.
“You can’t show up and hand out pamphlets. You have to be ready to really move a kid out of the neighborhood, into housing, and into a job so he could give up a life of violence,” Bealefeld said. “On the other side, if a kid doesn’t avail himself of that and continues to engage in violence, you have to be ready with the resources to drop an anvil on his head.”
Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts, who has known Kennedy since his days in the Long Beach, Calif., Police Department, agreed.
“If you’re giving them threats or promises that you can’t follow up on, and a crime happens and they don’t get popped, you’re a toothless tiger,” he said in a recent radio interview.
Ceasefire promises no magic wand. Sustaining the work has been an issue, and there are limits to the number of people who can be helped. In Cincinnati, where officials credit the program with reducing homicides, far more people sought jobs than the city could
Kennedy and his team came to Baltimore in 1998, the last year Baltimore recorded 300 homicides.
They sat down with police and charted the city’s killings, coming up with more than 3,000 people connected to half of the killings. The killings commonly occurred in or around drug shops, even though the motives were typically over respect or vendettas, he found. Call-ins were eventually held in Park Heights, Cherry Hill and Oliver.
But the effort never really got going. Officials weren’t consistent in maintaining interest and resources, those involved say. The U.S. attorney at the time, Lynn A. Battaglia, publicly pulled federal authorities out of the effort, telling The Baltimore Sun at the time that it was a “massive undertaking. None of us want to be part of a potential failure.” Police and prosecutors were openly fighting with each other.
O’Malley, meanwhile, was moving to a zero-tolerance strategy using advisers and police officials from New York.
“There was just chaos in the law enforcement community,” recalls Hathaway Ferebee, who runs the Safe and Sound youth advocacy group and was a key partner. “It was about who would lead, and what kind of reports would be given on the success of individual agencies.”
Baltimore did see a decline in homicides in 2000, dropping to 253, at that time the lowest level in a decade. Some of the reductions were seen in areas where call-ins were held. But the effort fell apart, and homicides began to rise again.
The “Boston Miracle,” which saw a drastic reduction in youth homicides in that city in the mid-1990s, is perhaps how Kennedy is still best known, but he’s since created a national network that allows cities to discuss and build on his ideas.
A Philadelphia City Council hearing last week featured testimony from some of the 103 young men who had been targeted for intervention in South Philadelphia; they testified about the difference it made in their lives.
Officials there believe the effort played a role in Philadelphia’s historic drop in homicides: from 331 in 2012 to 247 last year.
“Some of these guys were the worst of the worst. Nobody would’ve thought they’d be at a City Council hearing, advocating for a program that turns your life around,” said Philadelphia Councilman-at-large Dennis M. O’Brien. “Some of the toughest guys are the first ones to call.”
McCarthy, the Chicago superintendent, was an early fan of Kennedy’s work and says police are quietly using Ceasefire principles in six of its most violent police districts (there are 22 districts overall) and plan to expand it to nine. He said some critics believe the intervention work is “making a deal with the devil.”
“What you’re doing is trying to talk sense into people, while not compromising our law enforcement hammer,” McCarthy said. He said police there have adapted the call-in approach to its regular response to shootings.
“We had a murder last night, and today we’re working up all the players from these two or three particular gangs that are involved,” he said. “We’ll be going to their residences and basically doing the same thing you do at the call-in — sitting down with their family members and saying, ‘We don’t want to see you in a body bag.’ ”
Kennedy, who has relatives in and around Baltimore and said he loved visiting the city’s farmers’ markets, will be less hands-on this time, advising a local government official who will oversee the program.
He chooses his words carefully when discussing the past. He is eager to see the program work, which will take time, and says too much scrutiny could torpedo the effort.
“Some cities decide they want to implement it and not say anything, which means people think nothing’s happening, or others say they’re going to do it, and people start looking at their watch,” he said. “You have to ignore that noise and move on.”
A 22-year-old student from the central city of Valencia in Venezuela died on Wednesday after being shot in the head during an anti-government demonstration, her family said.
Genesis Carmona, who was studying tourism and was also a local beauty queen, was shot during a demonstration on Tuesday.
“How long are we going to live like this? How long do we have to tolerate this pressure, with them killing us?” a relative who asked not to be named told Reuters. “She only needed one more semester to graduate,” he added.
She is one of six victims of the political unrest that has gripped the South American country since imprisoned protest leader Leopoldo Lopez urged supporters to keep fighting for the departure of the socialist government.
Three people were killed in Caracas after an opposition rally a week ago, and a fourth person died after being run over by a car during a demonstration in the coastal town of Carupano. The death of a further victim, a woman who died after an ambulance taking her to hospital was blocked by opposition protesters, was announced late on Wednesday. Scores more people have been arrested or injured.
Tensions have risen in Venezuela since Lopez, a 42-year-old Harvard-educated economist, turned himself in to troops on Tuesday after spearheading three weeks of often rowdy protests against President Nicolas Maduro’s government.
“We cannot underestimate those fascist groups whose boss is behind bars,” President Maduro said in a nationally televised speech late on Wednesday. “I’m not playing with democracy. I do not accept that they challenge the Venezuelan people and our Constitution.”
In a pre-recorded video that was to be released in the event he was jailed Lopez told his supporters: “Today more than ever, our cause has to be the exit of this government,” he said, sitting by his wife. “Let’s fight. I will be doing so.”
Lawyers: Free man wrongfully
locked up for decades
By Michael Graczyk
BAY CITY, Texas (AP) — Attorneys for a Texas man who was kept in prison for more than three decades after his murder conviction was overturned have asked a court to free him so he can get on with his life, saying he’s suffered enough from the mishandling of his case and that key trial evidence has gone missing.
Attorney Jeffrey Newberry wrote in a recent court petition that the state clearly violated Jerry Hartfield’s right to a speedy trial by waiting decades to retry him for the 1976 death of Eunice Lowe, who was beaten to death at the Bay City bus station where she worked as a ticket agent.
“The most serious prejudice a defendant can suffer in being denied a right to a speedy trial is to have his defense possibly impaired,” Newberry wrote. He urged State District Judge Craig Estlinbaum to free Hartsfield “with prejudice,” meaning the state couldn’t retry him on the same charges.
Hartfield, 57, was convicted in 1977 of killing Lowe and sentenced to death, but that conviction was overturned three years later. After prosecutors unsuccessfully appealed that ruling, then-Gov. Mark White commuted Hartfield’s sentence to life in prison in 1983.
Hartfield, who is described in court documents as an illiterate fifth-grade dropout with an IQ of 51, didn’t challenge his continued detention until 2006, when a fellow prisoner pointed out that once his conviction was overturned, there was no sentence to commute. Appeals courts agreed and ordered Hartfield freed or retried. Hartfield is scheduled to stand trial again in April for Lowe’s slaying.
In a court filing, Matagorda County District Attorney Steven Reis rejected the assertion that Hartfield should go free. While acknowledging that the state “may be partially responsible” for the delay in retrying Hartfield, Reis argued that prosecutors didn’t act in bad faith and that Hartfield bears some responsibility.
This handout image provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows Jerry Hartsfield. Hart …
Hartfield “failed to proffer any evidence that he wanted a speedy trial during this period,” Reis wrote. No evidence supports a finding that Hartfield “actually wanted a new and speedy trial,” that he did anything before 2007 to assert that his right to a speedy trial had been violated, or that the state deliberately acted to delay a retrial, Reis contends.
Newberry contends that the state was solely responsible for the retrial delay.
“Had the state carried out the (appeals court) mandate, Hartfield would not have needed to file the documents that he began filing,” he wrote. “Mr. Hartfield has affirmatively demonstrated that his ability to present a defense has been prejudiced by the delay.”
Newberry also says authorities haven’t been able to find some evidence used to convict Hartfield, including a pickaxe used in the attack or Lowe’s car, which was stolen and later recovered. Furthermore, a Texas Ranger who was a key witness for the prosecution at Hartfield’s 1977 trial has since died, he wrote.
Estlinbaum asked both sides to address some legal questions before he rules on the matter.
At the time of the killing, Hartfield, who grew up in Altus, Okla., was working construction at nuclear power plant near the bus station where Lowe worked. He was arrested within days of the killing in Wichita, Kan., and was convicted and sentenced to death in 1977.
Hartfield disputes a confession police said he gave them that was among the evidence used to convict him. Prosecutors also had an unused bus ticket found at the crime scene that had his fingerprints on it and testimony from witnesses who said he had talked about needing $3,000. Reis said Hartfield led authorities to Lowe’s car in Houston and that his fingerprint was on a piece of broken Dr Pepper bottle found beside Lowe’s body.
Five guys you should NEVER date
10:22 am Jan 17, 2014Emma MarkezicThese men are blacklisted from your love life…
Ahhh, summer. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping: everyone is in the mood for love. And how! But while I’m all for libidinous discovery, don’t think party season means you go treating your sex life like a birthday cake and letting everyone have a slice. It’s really more of a chocolate-covered strawberry: you only have one so you’re going to have to share it with someone you really like, right?
And while this proverbial fruit is yours to portion out to whoever you see fit, there are a few men you should deny a nibble. In fact, even entertaining the idea of nookie with these bros is bad juju. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.The power bro…This bro is better known as “your boss” – and sleeping with the boss is akin to running through the office naked while flinging manure at people; you’re both going to end up seriously embarrassing yourselves and have to leave with your tail between your legs.There is no good way this tryst can end; even if you end up whipping it into a perfectly good LTR, the power will be forever out of whack. No man who’s above you on the corporate ladder should ever be above you in bed. So run away – run far away. Keep your career intact and your ponytail held high.What to do and what never EVER to do on a first date… as acted out in celeb GIFS. Naturally.The bro you’re just not that into…If this bro was a smell, he would be BO. He’s reeeeeally stuck on you. You know it darn well, too, but maintain he’s “just a friend… actually more like a brother” to anyone who asks. And while you’re more sexually attracted to a carrot, a one-off throwdown can be an enticing option when you’re feeling lonely.After all, he’ll be so glad to be involved he’ll put in more effort than an X Factor contestant. What you will find, however, is that engaging in sexy times with this dude, far from making you feel like a sexual superhero of a humanitarian, will actually make you feel dirtier than a mud runner.If you’re not that into him, buy a fresh packet of AAAs and spend the night with yourself instead.The too-close-for-comfort bro…This is a bro you’re probably already friends with, because at some point he dated your best friend, your yoga pal or perhaps even your sister. But here’s something I probably shouldn’t need to say: never, ever, in a million years, shtup your sister’s ex. Firstly, this isn’t Shakespeare: it won’t end well (not that Shakespeare ever did – mass suicide, anyone?). And secondly, while some may be grotesque bottom-dwellers, there are enough fish in the sea for you to catch a freshy.Although may I suggest we stop referring to single people as fish and start referring to them as diamonds instead. Because there are plenty of diamonds in the minefield of dating. You just have to keep an eye out.
The way-too-close-for-comfort bro…Been eyeing up your flatmate? This is the laziest way to get laid ever invented. Sure, he’s seen you without make-up, regularly walks around the house sans shirt, and has been known to cook you spaghetti bolognese on a Sunday night – but don’t go getting living together confused with living together.There are only two ways this can end: happily ever after or with you packing all your stuff into boxes. If it’s the first one, it’s probably more likely to go down after you’ve moved out and put some effort into maintaining your friendship anyway. If you are ever feeling tempted to cross over the hallway, I strongly urge you to repeat this mantra: I must leave home to find a bone, I must leave home to find a bone…The blanket bro…This bro is comfortable and familiar, like an old blanket. Sleeping with him is akin to riding a bike: you know the gears and the saddle, you’ve done this ride so many times you don’t even need to wear a helmet any more. He’s your ex, and goshballs it’s hard not to sleep with him when the chance arises. And it’s not like it adds another notch to your belt, seeing as he was about three notches back.But this is worse for your head than a bottle of vodka over a Geordie Shore marathon. Letting your past into your future is a recipe for calamity; put the ex in extraction and move along.The good news is that leaves just about everyone else open for business: the guy next door, the dude at the bar, even that bloke your mate knows who’s squatting in the abandoned terrace. They are all better for you than the bros on this list. So enjoy a summer joy ride or two and stay safe, Australia.
AG Urges Restoring Voting Rights to Ex-
WASHINGTON February 11, 2014 (AP)
By PETE YOST Associated Press
Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday urged states to restore voting rights to former prison inmates, an issue he said primarily affects African-Americans.
Eleven states continue to restrict voting rights after a person has served a prison sentence and is no longer on probation or parole, the attorney general said at a symposium on the criminal justice system.
“Across this country today, an estimated 5.8 million Americans — 5.8 million of our fellow citizens — are prohibited from voting because of current or previous felony convictions,” said Holder. “It is time to fundamentally rethink laws that permanently disenfranchise people who are no longer under federal or state supervision.”
He said 2.2 million black citizens, or nearly one in 13 African-American adults, are banned from voting because of these laws, and said the ratio climbs to one in five in Florida, Kentucky and Virginia.
Holder’s remarks on restoring voting rights are part of the attorney general’s initiative seeking fundamental change in the nation’s criminal justice system.
Last August, Holder instructed federal prosecutors to stop charging many nonviolent drug defendants with offenses that carry mandatory minimum sentences. He said long mandatory terms have flooded the nation’s prisons with low-level drug offenders and diverted money away from crime fighting.
In Tuesday’s remarks on disenfranchising former prisoners, Holder brought up the issue of race.
“These laws, with their disparate impact on minority communities, echo policies enacted during a deeply troubled period in America’s past — a time of post-Civil War discrimination,” he said. “Although well over a century has passed since post-Reconstruction states used these measures to strip African-Americans of their most fundamental rights, the impact of felony disenfranchisement on modern communities of color remains both disproportionate and unacceptable.”
Holder said that because of these laws, about 10 percent of Floridians and 8 percent of people in Mississippi are disenfranchised. Iowa moved away from automatic restoration of rights following the completion of a criminal sentence to a process requiring intervention by the governor, he said.
On the positive side, he said 23 states, including Nebraska, Nevada, Texas and Washington state, have enacted recent improvements and Virginia has adopted a policy that automatically restores the voting rights of former prisoners with nonviolent convictions. The Virginia policy was done by order of the governor. Holder says legislation is the key to permanent change.
The 11 states identified by the Justice Department as restricting voting rights are Arizona, Florida, Alabama, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, Wyoming, Tennessee and Virginia.
Fact: We are outliving our brains. Life expectancy in the United States today is about 80 years old. Girls have a one in three chance of living to 100, while boys have one in four. The problem? Our cognitive brain performance peaks in our early 40s. That means mental functions like memory, speed of thinking, problem-solving, reasoning, and decision-making decline in the last 30 or 40 years of life.
The truth is most people don’t consider their brain health until they’re faced with injury, disease, or simply getting old. But just as we’ve come to realize that we can improve our physical health through diet and exercise, we can improve our cognitive health too. It’s simply a matter of engaging in the right mental workouts.
Science now strongly supports the fact that our brains are one of the most modifiable parts of our whole body. Our brains actually adapt from moment to moment, depending on how we use them; they either decline or improve, and which direction they go depends on us and the way we challenge them.
Our research team at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas is working on how to improve brain performance at all ages, and our findings show that making our brains stronger, healthier, and more productive requires actually changing the way we use them every single day. And that’s where where daily changes come in. We all must first abandon toxic habits that are depleting brain resources, and also incorporate complex thinking into our daily routines. Ready to make your brain smarter? Here are a few scientifically proven ways to do it. Related: What You Should Never Do After 9 p.m. Quiet Your Mind “Don’t make any rash decisions!” Somewhere along the line, we’ve all been given that advice, and it actually applies to your brain too, which can often better solve complex problems when you step away to reflect on ideas and crucial decisions rather than acting without weighing choices. A halt in constant thinking slows your mind’s rhythms, allowing it to refresh. Employ a “Five by Five” principle where you take a break from whatever you’re doing five times a day for at least five minutes to reset your brain. When we let our brain work behind the scenes, we have our best “aha” moments. And don’t we all want more of those? Translate Your World Move away from surface-level, uninspired thinking and eschew predictable thoughts by pushing past the obvious and really think. For example, when asked what a movie was about, most people would give a play-by-play of events that occurred. To boost brainpower, instead think of the major themes of the film and relate it to personal situations in your own life and how they apply. Think back on one of your favorite movies or books from the past year and generate five to eight different take-home messages you can glean from it.
This process, called synthesized thinking, strengthens the connections between different areas of our brains. Our brains actually become quickly jaded by routine since they were built to dynamically shift between details and the big picture. They also hate information downloading, so it helps to think like a reporter. When taking in large amounts of information, try to explain it in a few sentences. Kick off meetings with provocative big ideas. Power your important email messages with simple but thought-evoking subject lines. Related:5 Ways to Crate Om at the Office Stop Multi-tasking We are inundated with more and more tasks every day. Relentless simultaneous input and output fatigues the brain and reduces productivity and efficiency. You may think that by doing two or three things at once – like participating in a conference call while writing a couple of emails – you are moving faster through your day. But nothing could be further from the truth. Our to-do lists keep getting longer while performance and accuracy slip. So, when working on higher-order thinking tasks that matter, allow your focus to be completely uninterrupted for at least 15 minutes at a time and then gradually increase the length of those intervals. Move Your FeetRecently published research shows that aerobic exercise stimulates positive brain change and memory gains faster than we previously thought possible. Adding regular aerobic exercise that elevates your heart rate to your routine at least three times a week for an hour won’t just help with physical health, it will also increase brain blood flow to key memory centers in the brain and improve our memory for facts. When you combine complex thinking with aerobic exercise, brain health benefits are amplified.
Until recently, we thought that cognitive decline was an inevitable part of getting old, but the good news is that’s officially not the case. Toxic habits and a life on autopilot are key culprits for unnecessary cognitive decline. Our research has shown that healthy adults who use these strategies can regain lost cognitive performance, improve blood flow in the brain, speed up communication between its regions and expand its structural connections. And you can actually evoke some of these positive changes in a matter of hours. Adopting this new, healthier way of thinking translates into real-life benefits that support our ability to make decisions, think critically, reason and plan. In other words, shaping your brain by engaging in the right kind of daily mental exercise has the power to reverse brain aging and actually make you smarter. So boost your brainpower! You have nothing to lose.Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD, author of “Make Your Brain Smarter,” is founder and chief director of the Center for BrainHealth, and a Distinguished University Professor at The University of Texas at Dallas. More on Yahoo: Too Much of This Might Double Your Risk of DementiaShould We Stop Calling Obesity a Disease? 3 Surprisingly Easy Things You Can Do to Live Longer