"Orwellian" is an adjective describing the situation, idea, or societal condition that George Orwell identified as being destructive to the welfare of a free and open society. It connotes an attitude and a brutal policy of draconian control by propaganda, surveillance, misinformation, denial of truth, and manipulation of the past, including the "unperson" – a person whose past existence is expunged from the public record and memory, practised by modern repressive governments. Often, this includes the circumstances depicted in his novels, particularly Nineteen Eighty-Four.Nineteen Eighty-Four uses themes from life in the Soviet Union and wartime life in Great Britain as sources for many of its motifs.Orwell's ideas about personal freedom and state authority developed when he was a British colonial administrator in Burma. He was fascinated by the effect of colonialism on the individual, requiring acceptance of the idea that the colonialist exists only for the good of the colonised.There has also been a great deal of discourse on the possibility that Orwell galvanised his ideas of oppression during his experience, and his subsequent writings in the English press, in Spain. Orwell was a member of the Workers' Party of Marxist Unification militia and suffered suppression and escaped arrest by the Comintern faction working within the Republican Government. Following his escape he made a strong case for defending the Spanish revolution from the Communists there, and the misinformation in the press at home. During this period he formed strong ideas about the reportage of events, and their context in his own ideas of imperialism and democracy.This often brought him into conflict with literary peers such as W.H. Auden and Stephen Spender. Wikipedia.
News Article | May 9, 2017
Amazon has been releasing new talking speaker devices in its Echo family at a furious clip lately. A few weeks ago, the company announced the Echo Look, a camera-equipped version designed to live in your bedroom and take pictures of your wardrobe and recommend fashion tips to you, perfect for your #ootd posts on Instagram. Today, Amazon has announced the Echo Show, another camera-equipped device, though this one also comes with a 7-inch touchscreen. Like all of Amazon's Echo devices, it is designed to be mainly stationary in your home and contains the voice-activated virtual assistant Alexa, which dutifully fields your questions about the weather, sports scores, news, trivia, and various other matters, as well as places orders to your Amazon online shopping account. But unlike every single other Echo product, the Show can well, "show" you what it's doing on its touchscreen—displaying song lyrics, the time, weather forecasts, videos from YouTube, even feeds from other compatible security cameras or baby monitors in your home. And because it has a camera right at the top, it lets you do video calling with anyone else who downloads the Alexa App onto their Echo Show, iPhone/iPad, or Android device. This would seem a remarkable feature-set for a $229 device, were it not for the fact that many of us already have smartphones and tablets that can do all of these things and more, with added portability. "The Touchscreen Echo Nobody Asked For," as Gizmodo's Adam Clark Estes put it. The Echo Show's chunky, angular design with a giant speaker grill at the bottom also aren't winning it any design points among the commentariat (it does look an awful lot like a 90s-era early flatscreen TV, as some have pointed out). I too initially scoffed at the Echo Show, but then I started poring over Amazon's marketing for this thing and I realized something pretty dope and also kind of scary: Amazon has basically gone and made the tiny two-way video screen device from countless sci-fi books and movies. The ominous telescreen from 1984? Orwell couldn't have asked for a better physical model than the Echo Show. When Schwarzenegger tells himself to get his ass to Mars in Total Recall? If he'd just waited a bit, he could've used an Echo Show to do it. And the company is even encouraging you to buy multiple Echo Shows to throw in various rooms of your house (offering two for $358, a $100 discount). One photo on the Echo Show product page shows the device on a bedside table as a kind of futuristic alarm clock, another in the living room acting as an innocuous but clearly handy picture frame-cum-DJ. The message here is clear: Amazon wants you to be able to walk throughout your house and have Echo Shows ready to listen to you and "show" you whatever your heart desires, whether that's song lyrics, products, your relatives across the country, or your sleeping child. Forgetting for a moment the obvious privacy and security concerns raised by the Echo Show (and the Echo Look, and all of Amazon's Echoes, really), the larger question remains: In an age where we are already surrounded by screens of all sizes, is a tiny stationary internet-connected TV something people want and will actually find useful? Amazon's success with its speaker-only Echo products (which reportedly command over 70 percent of the US market of such devices, according to a recent survey), and the rise of video chatting in general would seem to bode very well for this product's future. If anything, it seems like the Echo Show is a better buy than the Echo Look: if you're buying something that can take pictures of you, shouldn't it be able to display them to you (without the need for an extra app)? More importantly, think of the Echo Show combined with some of the other sci-fi shit Amazon is pursuing: robotic stores with no cashiers, delivery drones. In that vein, the Echo Show is just the latest in Amazon's efforts to turn what once seemed fantastical into mundane reality. When talking about the most futuristic tech companies, my mind usually jumps to Apple or Google or maybe something like Baidu. But the Echo Show hammers home the point that Amazon, above almost all others, is making sci-fi come true. At least until Snapchat or someone else comes along with augmented reality that makes all devices with screens look old and jank. Subscribe to Science Solved It , Motherboard's new show about the greatest mysteries that were solved by science.
News Article | May 9, 2017
MIDDLEFIELD, Ohio--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Middlefield Banc Corp. (NASDAQ: MBCN) today announced that the company’s board of directors has declared a quarterly cash dividend of $0.27 per common share payable on June 15, 2017, to shareholders of record on June 2, 2017. Middlefield Banc Corp., headquartered in Middlefield, Ohio, is a bank holding company with total assets of $1,071.5 million at March 31, 2017. The bank operates 14 full-service banking centers and an LPL Financial® brokerage office serving Beachwood, Chardon, Cortland, Dublin, Garrettsville, Mantua, Middlefield, Newbury, Orwell, Solon, Sunbury, Twinsburg, and Westerville. The Bank also operates a Loan Production Office in Mentor, Ohio. Additional information is available at www.middlefieldbank.bank. This press release of Middlefield Banc Corp. and the reports Middlefield Banc Corp. files with the Securities and Exchange Commission often contain “forward-looking statements” relating to present or future trends or factors affecting the banking industry and, specifically, the financial operations, markets and products of Middlefield Banc Corp. These forward-looking statements involve certain risks and uncertainties. There are a number of important factors that could cause Middlefield Banc Corp.’s future results to differ materially from historical performance or projected performance. These factors include, but are not limited to: (1) a significant increase in competitive pressures among financial institutions; (2) changes in the interest rate environment that may reduce interest margins; (3) changes in prepayment speeds, charge-offs and loan loss provisions; (4) less favorable than expected general economic conditions; (5) legislative or regulatory changes that may adversely affect businesses in which Middlefield Banc Corp. is engaged; (6) technological issues which may adversely affect Middlefield Banc Corp.’s financial operations or customers; (7) changes in the securities markets; or (8) risk factors mentioned in the reports and registration statements Middlefield Banc Corp. files with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Middlefield Banc Corp. undertakes no obligation to release revisions to these forward-looking statements or to reflect events or circumstances after the date of this press release.
News Article | May 11, 2017
MIDDLEFIELD, Ohio--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Middlefield Banc Corp. (NASDAQ: MBCN) completed the sale of 400,000 shares of common stock at the price of $40.00 per share on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. The offering was to accredited investors only, without the use of a general solicitation or general advertising. The gross proceeds of the offering were $16,000,000 before compensation to the investment bank acting as placement agent. As a result of the offering, the company now has 3,204,858 shares outstanding and a market capitalization at May 11, 2017 of approximately $147,000,000. Boenning & Scattergood, Inc. acted as sole placement agent in connection with the private placement, with Grady & Associates serving as legal counsel. Middlefield Banc Corp., headquartered in Middlefield, Ohio, is a bank holding company with total assets of $1,071.5 million at March 31, 2017. The bank operates 14 full-service banking centers and an LPL Financial® brokerage office serving Beachwood, Chardon, Cortland, Dublin, Garrettsville, Mantua, Middlefield, Newbury, Orwell, Solon, Sunbury, Twinsburg, and Westerville. The Bank also operates a Loan Production Office in Mentor, Ohio. Additional information is available at www.middlefieldbank.bank. This press release of Middlefield Banc Corp. and the reports Middlefield Banc Corp. files with the Securities and Exchange Commission often contain “forward-looking statements” relating to present or future trends or factors affecting the banking industry and, specifically, the financial operations, markets and products of Middlefield Banc Corp. These forward-looking statements involve certain risks and uncertainties. There are a number of important factors that could cause Middlefield Banc Corp.’s future results to differ materially from historical performance or projected performance. These factors include, but are not limited to: (1) a significant increase in competitive pressures among financial institutions; (2) changes in the interest rate environment that may reduce interest margins; (3) changes in prepayment speeds, charge-offs and loan loss provisions; (4) less favorable than expected general economic conditions; (5) legislative or regulatory changes that may adversely affect businesses in which Middlefield Banc Corp. is engaged; (6) technological issues which may adversely affect Middlefield Banc Corp.’s financial operations or customers; (7) changes in the securities markets; or (8) risk factors mentioned in the reports and registration statements Middlefield Banc Corp. files with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Middlefield Banc Corp. undertakes no obligation to release revisions to these forward-looking statements or to reflect events or circumstances after the date of this press release.
News Article | May 10, 2017
Between the disclosures about the NSA, CIA and FBI's hacking tools, and the increasingly detailed ways advertisers tracks us on the internet, you'd be forgiven for feeling the world's descending into a weird dystopian sci-fi version of itself. You also wouldn't be alone. Satya Nadella, Microsoft's CEO, said during a speech Wednesday at Microsoft's Build developer conference in Seattle that he believed it's the tech industry's job to keep a truly terrible future, as imagined in George Orwell's "1984" and Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World," from happening. "What Orwell prophesied in '1984,' where technology was being used to monitor, control, dictate," Nadella said. "Or what Huxley imagined we may do just by distracting ourselves without any meaning or purpose. Neither of these futures is something that we want." So, he asked, what are we going to do? He proposed a set of principles that the technology could follow, such as empowering people and keeping them in the loop about what their technology can do. "There are unintended consequences of technology," he said. "It is up to us to ensure that some of the more dystopian scenarios don't come true."
News Article | May 10, 2017
At the start of its annual Build Conference, Microsoft sought to showcase applications with artificial intelligence that could tap into services in the internet "cloud" and even take advantage of computing power in nearby machines. Nadella spent time on stage at the Seattle conference stressing a need to build trust in technology, saying new applications must avoid dystopian futures feared by some. Nadella's presentation included images from George Orwell's "1984" and Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" to underscore the issue of responsibility of those creating new technologies. "What Orwell prophesied in '1984,' where technology was being used to monitor, control, dictate, or what Huxley imagined we may do just by distracting ourselves without any meaning or purpose— neither of these futures is something that we want," he said "The future of computing is going to be defined by the choices that you as developers make and the impact of those choices on the world." There is much discussion in the tech world about what AI will mean for society, especially since it is quickly driving change that could eliminate jobs, with applications such as self-driving trucks or "bots" which take over many skilled functions. "What happens to lower-level, blue-collar jobs that might be impacted?" Gartner research director of app design and development Jason Wong ask rhetorically. "That is part of the dystopia that can occur because of the abruptness of AI; in less than a generation we will be seeing things like driverless cars." Microsoft is infusing all of its products and services with AI, and enabling those who develop on its platform to imbue creations with customized capabilities, according to executive vice president of artificial intelligence and research Harry Shum. "We've been creating the building blocks for the current wave of AI breakthroughs for more than two decades," Shum said. Microsoft research has gone deep into areas such as machine learning, speech recognition, and enabling machines to recognize what they "see." "Now, we're in the unique position of being able to use those decades of research breakthroughs," Shum said. Microsoft rivals including Amazon, Apple, Google and IBM have all been aggressively pursing the promise and potential of artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence is getting a foothold in people's homes, with personal assistants answering questions and controlling connected devices such as appliances or light bulbs. Digital assistants already boast features such as reminding people of appointments entered into calendars and chiming in with advice to set out early if traffic is challenging. Microsoft's aim on Wednesday was on businesses and software developers, whether they be students building mobile games or professional technology teams. "Microsoft is trying to use AI for businesses to solve business problems and app developers to make applications better," said Moor Insights and Strategy principal analyst Patrick Moorhead. "Which is different from Amazon, Facebook, and Google whose primary business model is to mine personal information using AI to sell you things or put ads in front of you." Microsoft is taking a unique approach by letting developers customize gesture commands, voice recognition and more instead of making them conform to settings in "off-the-shelf" AI, according to the analyst. Microsoft executives used demonstrations to depict a near future in which artificial intelligence hosted online works with internet linked devices such as construction site cameras to alert workers of dangers, available tools, or unauthorized activities. Devices like smart surveillance cameras, smartphones, or factory floor machines were referred to as "edge computing," with the coordination of cloud power and intelligent edge devices improving productivity and safety on the ground. Nadella also told developers that some 500 million devices now run on Microsoft's latest Windows 10 operating system, creating a huge audience for their software creations. Microsoft's online Office 365 service has some 100 million commercial users monthly, while its Cortana digital assistant is used by 140 million people monthly. "The future is a smart cloud," Nadella said, predicting that mobile devices will take back seats to digital assistants that follow people from device to device. "It is a pretty amazing world you can create using intelligent cloud and intelligent edge."
News Article | May 24, 2017
The US and other governments around the world needed a lot of help getting data from Apple devices last year. The number of national security orders issued to Apple by US law enforcement doubled to about 6,000 in the second half of 2016, compared with the first half of the year, Apple disclosed in its biannual transparency report. Those requests included orders received under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, as well as national security letters, the latter of which are issued by the FBI and don't require a judge's sign-off. Critics of national security letters, like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, say they "allow the FBI to secretly demand data about ordinary American citizens' private communications and Internet activity without any meaningful oversight or prior judicial review." Companies that receive national security letters are subject to gag orders, which means they can't even disclose they've received such orders -- unless the letters become declassified. That's what happened in Apple's case. It disclosed late Monday, as part of its most recent transparency report, that one of the national security orders it received came in the form of a declassified national security letter. It didn't provide any more information about the letter, including when it originally received the order or what the order involved. Other companies have shared more information about the requests when they're declassified. Apple on Tuesday declined to comment beyond its transparency report, as did the US Department of Justice. National security letters were enabled by the USA Freedom Act, which passed in 2015. As part of the regulations, the FBI has to re-examine past national security letters and decide which can be declassified. Those started being reported by recipients a year ago. Apple's not the only company that's received national security letters. Twitter disclosed in January that it received two from the FBI in the last two years that previously came with gag orders not to discuss them. Google, Yahoo and Cloudflare also have published national security letters received from the FBI, some dating back to 2013. For more on Apple's National Security Letter, see the coverage by CNET sister site ZDnet, which first reported on Apple's transparency report. Apple has long helped US law enforcement agencies pull data from locked iPhones. But its willingness to help has changed over the past couple of years as the number of requests increase and as the government faces backlash over its surveillance tactics. Apple fought a very public battle against the FBI last year, and it has taken a strong stance in favor of protecting customer privacy. The FBI's attempt last year to force Apple to unlock an iPhone used by a terrorist set up a grand legal battle between security and privacy. On one side was Apple, a massive tech company envisioning a future similar to the one in George Orwell's novel "1984" (which, coincidentally, has become a bestseller again after President Donald Trump's inauguration). On the other was the world's most powerful government, pointing to the threat of a terrorist attack if it can't get access to vital information. The stakes were sky-high. Cybersecurity experts said the dispute could have far-reaching implications for everything from how private our personal photos are to how tech companies operate in other countries. But the battle ended in a draw when the FBI in March suddenly said it didn't need Apple's help anymore to unlock the phone. Along with disclosing the number of national security orders it has received, Apple on Monday said it received 4,254 device requests in the US in the second half of 2016, down from 4,822 in the first six months of the year. It gave information in 78 percent of the cases in both halves of the year. Most device requests come from law enforcement agencies helping iPhone owners who've requested help locating lost or stolen devices. Other requests relate to fraud investigations. Apple also said it received 2,231 account information requests across the globe in the second half of 2016. In the US, the total was 1,219. It gave data in regard to 79 percent of the global requests and 83 percent of the US orders. In the first half of the year, it provided data for 84 percent of the 1,363 US requests it received. The company said "examples of such requests are where law enforcement agencies are working on cases where they suspect an account may have been used unlawfully or in violation of Apple's terms of service. Account-based requests generally seek details of customers' iTunes or iCloud accounts, such as a name and address; and in certain instances customers' iCloud content, such as stored photos, email, iOS device backups, contacts or calendars." Life, disrupted: In Europe, millions of refugees are still searching for a safe place to settle. Tech should be part of the solution. But is it? CNET investigates. Tech Enabled: CNET chronicles tech's role in providing new kinds of accessibility.
News Article | April 27, 2017
MIDDLEFIELD, Ohio--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Middlefield Banc Corp. (NASDAQ: MBCN) today reported financial results for the 2017 first quarter ended March 31, 2017. 2017 First Quarter Financial Highlights Include (on a year-over-year basis unless noted): “The 2017 first quarter represents the completion and successful integration of the Liberty Bank, N.A. acquisition,” stated Thomas G. Caldwell, President and Chief Executive Officer. “Liberty’s immediate financial contribution was significant in the first quarter, which helped Middlefield achieve significant growth in profitability, loans, and deposits. While we are encouraged by the near-term financial success the Liberty acquisition represents, we are excited about the acquisition’s long-term potential. Through Liberty, we have enhanced our management team, added three highly productive branches, and expanded our geographic reach to Cuyahoga and Summit Counties. Middlefield’s larger scale and improved scope allow the company to improve profitability, while offering customers a broader range of community-oriented financial products. We also continue to be encouraged by our organic loan growth, which increased 4.8% from December 31, 2016 and 20.4% from March 31, 2016.” Net income for the 2017 first quarter was $2.1 million, or $0.78 per diluted share, compared to net income for the 2016 first quarter of $1.5 million, or $0.79 per diluted share. Annualized returns on average equity (“ROE”) and average assets (“ROA”) for the 2017 first quarter were 8.73% and 0.84%, respectively, compared with 10.57% and 0.92% for the 2016 first quarter. During the 2017 first quarter, Middlefield incurred one-time costs associated with the Liberty acquisition of $249,032, or $0.06 per share. Adjusted for these one-time acquisition costs, Middlefield had net income of .84 per diluted share, ROE of 8.9%, and ROA of 0.85% for the 2017 first quarter. Mr. Caldwell continued: “Over the past two years, there has been a significant amount of consolidation of banks across the state of Ohio. We believe this creates gaps in the local markets for community-oriented banks, such as Middlefield, to serve customers who desire local, personalized, and results-oriented financial products and services. Middlefield has created a strong and unique platform to capitalize on this trend and expand our market share throughout our two distinct and compelling Ohio markets. I am encouraged by the successful integration of Liberty, the performance of our new Sunbury branch and Mentor LPO, and the talented team of proven, experienced, and motivated bankers we have assembled. As a result, I am pleased with the direction we are headed and expect 2017 to be another good year for Middlefield.” Net interest income for the 2017 first quarter was $8.8 million, compared to nearly $6.3 million for the 2016 first quarter. The 38.5% increase in net interest income for the 2017 first quarter was primarily a result of a 48.7% increase in interest and fees on loans. The net interest margin for the 2017 first quarter was 3.84%, compared to 3.87% for the same period of 2016. Noninterest income for the 2017 first quarter was up 66.2% to $1.5 million, primarily a result of gains on the sales of investments and loans, as well as on earnings on bank-owned life insurance. Noninterest expense for the 2017 first quarter was $7.3 million, an increase of approximately $1.9 million from the 2016 first quarter. The higher noninterest expenses were primarily because of additional operating expenses as a result of the Liberty acquisition, higher salaries, employee benefits, and operating expenses to support the company’s growth objectives. “Asset quality remains strong as a result of Middlefield’s focus on proactive risk management and stable economic trends within our local markets,” said Donald L. Stacy, Chief Financial Officer. “Despite a 37.8% increase in our loan portfolio, nonperforming loans declined 23.7% over the twelve-month period ended March 31, 2017. We had $64.4 million in cash and cash equivalents on our balance sheet at March 31, 2017 and loans to deposits were 98.5%. I am pleased with the 577 basis point improvement in total loans to assets, which increased from 72.33% at March 31, 2016 to 78.1% at the end of the 2017 first quarter. Middlefield incurred nearly $250,000 of one-time expenses associated with the Liberty merger. We believe we will experience improved leverage of our fixed operating expenses as we benefit from the Liberty acquisition and grow our new Sunbury branch and Mentor LPO. In addition, we continue to focus on improving noninterest income to diversify our income streams and offset higher operating expenses.” Total assets at March 31, 2017 increased 46.2% to $1,071.5 million, from $732.9 million at March 31, 2016. Net loans at March 31, 2017 were $830.4 million, compared to $524.0 million at March 31, 2016. The 58.5% year-over-year improvement in net loans was across all loan categories, and was a result of organic growth and the contribution of the Liberty acquisition. Specifically, commercial mortgage loans increased 80.9%, residential mortgage loans increased 26.0%, commercial and industrial loans increased 93.5%, real estate construction loans increased 39.2%, and consumer installment loans increased 305.6%. Total deposits at March 31, 2017 increased 34.6% to $849.9 million from $631.4 million at March 31, 2016. The company continues to proactively manage its cost of funds and control deposit growth. The investment portfolio, which is entirely classified as available for sale, was $110.5 million at March 31, 2017, compared with $142.6 million at March 31, 2016. Tangible stockholders’ equity increased 36.5% to $80.6 million for the 2017 first quarter, compared to $59.1 million at March 31, 2016. On a per-share basis, tangible stockholders’ equity was $28.15 at March 31, 2017, compared to $31.42 at March 31, 2016. At March 31, 2017, the company had a Tier 1 leverage ratio of 8.95%, compared to 8.73% at March 31, 2016. During the 2017 first quarter, the company paid cash dividends of $0.27 per share, which represents a dividend payout ratio of 36.0%. The provision for loan losses was $0.2 million for the 2017 first quarter, compared to $0.1 million for the same period a year ago. Nonperforming assets at March 31, 2017 were $9.7 million, compared to $12.0 million at March 31, 2016. Net charge-offs for the 2017 first quarter were $0.4 million, or 0.02% of average loans, annualized compared to $0.1 million, or 0.10% of average loans, annualized at March 31, 2016. The allowance for loan losses at March 31, 2017 stood at $6.7 million, or 0.80% of total loans, compared to $6.4 million or 1.20% of total loans at March 31, 2016. The following table provides a summary of asset quality and reserve coverage ratios. Middlefield Banc Corp., headquartered in Middlefield, Ohio, is a bank holding company with total assets of $1,071.5 million at March 31, 2017. The bank operates 14 full-service banking centers and an LPL Financial® brokerage office serving Beachwood, Chardon, Cortland, Dublin, Garrettsville, Mantua, Middlefield, Newbury, Orwell, Solon, Sunbury, Twinsburg, and Westerville. The Bank also operates a Loan Production Office in Mentor, Ohio. Additional information is available at www.middlefieldbank.bank. This press release of Middlefield Banc Corp. and the reports Middlefield Banc Corp. files with the Securities and Exchange Commission often contain “forward-looking statements” relating to present or future trends or factors affecting the banking industry and, specifically, the financial operations, markets and products of Middlefield Banc Corp. These forward-looking statements involve certain risks and uncertainties. There are a number of important factors that could cause Middlefield Banc Corp.’s future results to differ materially from historical performance or projected performance. These factors include, but are not limited to: (1) a significant increase in competitive pressures among financial institutions; (2) changes in the interest rate environment that may reduce interest margins; (3) changes in prepayment speeds, charge-offs and loan loss provisions; (4) less favorable than expected general economic conditions; (5) legislative or regulatory changes that may adversely affect businesses in which Middlefield Banc Corp. is engaged; (6) technological issues which may adversely affect Middlefield Banc Corp.’s financial operations or customers; (7) changes in the securities markets; or (8) risk factors mentioned in the reports and registration statements Middlefield Banc Corp. files with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Middlefield Banc Corp. undertakes no obligation to release revisions to these forward-looking statements or to reflect events or circumstances after the date of this press release.
News Article | May 7, 2017
Speculative fiction usually starts with a “what if”: what if there was an environmental reckoning? What if we didn’t have enough water? What if the world was running out of food? What if that was coupled with a catastrophic global financial crisis? What would Australia look like? And how would its citizens cope? Debut novelist Sally Abbott, 57, didn’t start with the dystopian scenario, although her novel is certainly dystopian; she began with her characters. For her protagonist, Clare, the best years of her marriage – and her life – seem to be behind her. At night she walks, with no particular destination in mind, around the town in which she lives with her mute husband, subsisting on ever-diminishing government-issued food parcels. After she returns home from her walks, she fills diary after diary with meaningless notes. But even in these straitened circumstances, Clare has a lot to lose. There’s been an economic collapse and the government is in the process of shutting down “non-viable” country towns, forcing people to leave their homes and move to the city. The waiting list for a depressing box-like apartment on the city fringe is years and years. Even those with almost nothing feel like there is still further yet to fall. The story of Closing Down “grew very slowly”, Abbott tells Guardian Australia. “I began it around five years ago and I didn’t really write it in a structured, linear way. It was the main characters – the main people that I played around with in the beginning – they were very real for me and vivid.” At the time, Abbott was a student of the Faber Academy under the tutelage of the writer Sophie Cunningham. She and other would-be novelists met once a week to develop their work in progress. By the time the course finished, Abbott had about 35,000 words of a manuscript. Abbott won the $10,000 inaugural Richell prize for emerging writers in 2015 for her partly completed manuscript. Named for the late Hachette publisher Matt Richell, the prize invites unsigned authors to submit the first three chapters of a manuscript plus a synopsis. Abbott came across the prize on Twitter and had enough of a manuscript to enter. Her work was chosen over 969 other submissions, and she was later offered a publishing contract, giving her almost seven months to hand in the finished manuscript. Much of the work features a strong sense of place. Before moving into public relations, Abbott, who now lives in Castlemaine in central Victoria, worked as a journalist in regional areas. While Abbott says she deliberately set the novel “in a non-place”, she nevertheless “did a lot of driving through the Wimmera and the Grampians, and there are all these little towns that, unless you go off the highway, you don’t even know they are there”. Abbott had read an academic paper that questioned the viability of many of Australia’s tiny towns, and the seeds of the book were sown. Dystopian fiction is having something of a moment, with Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale being adapted for television and Orwell’s 1984 reappearing in the bestseller lists nearly 70 years after it was published. Climate fiction, or “cli-fi”, a sub-genre in which Closing Down might sit, also reflects our very real anxieties about climate change and the resulting economic and social catastrophes. In the near future of Abbott’s novel, in an echo of Cormac McCarthy, many of those that are displaced by the regional town closures take to the road, walking along the shoulder and camping out. Abbott also imagined food shortages caused by extreme weather events, and, perhaps controversially, invokes the spectre of foreign ownership, imagining that Australia has sold most of its rural and regional areas to the Chinese government, which farms it for its own population. “I was reading about longer-term impacts about climate change, drought, storms and famine,” says Abbott. “And there were also stories about artificial foods and meat made out of chemicals. I wondered how sustainable into the future it was for people around the world to keep eating the way we are eating.” “I know there are bleak parts of the book but I also hoped to some extent that there was a note of optimism. It’s important that as the world gets more difficult for people – that kindness to strangers is as important as it ever has been.” • Closing Down by Sally Abbott is published by Hachette and is available now
News Article | April 19, 2017
Wiseguyreports.Com Adds “Drilling Jars -Market Demand, Growth, Opportunities and analysis of Top Key Player Forecast to 2021” To Its Research Database Massive investments are made by oil & gas companies to explore and drill deep water reserves. Rising global energy demand provoked companies to invest in hydrocarbon exploration. Government policies and initiatives regarding hydrocarbon exploration activities supposed to assist the global market. Whereas, unstable crude oil prices are expected to inhibit the market growth. More shale gas reserves and deep water oil and gas reserves offer vast opportunities to the drilling jars market. North America accounted for the largest drilling jars market due to massive hydrocarbon potential. Accelerated efforts to produce unconventional energy from shale gas resulted in drilling more number of wells in North America. Shale gas boom in US played a vital role in the global drilling jars market. Some of the key players in the drilling jars market include Schlumberger Limited, Cougar Drilling Solutions Inc., National Oilwell Varco, BICO Drilling Tools, Inc., Wenzel Downhole Tools Ltd., Knight Oil Tools, Odfjell Drilling Ltd, Tasman OMM, Toro Downhole Tools, AOS Orwell Limited Company, TTGM International (USA), Inc, Cougar Drilling Solutions Inc., VNIIBT-Drilling Tools Ltd., and Oilwell Varco. Regions Covered: • North America o US o Canada o Mexico • Europe o Germany o France o Italy o UK o Spain o Rest of Europe • Asia Pacific o Japan o China o India o Australia o New Zealand o Rest of Asia • Rest of the World o Middle East o Brazil o Argentina o South Africa o Egypt What our report offers: - Market share assessments for the regional and country level segments - Market share analysis of the top industry players - Strategic recommendations for the new entrants - Market forecasts for a minimum of 7 years of all the mentioned segments, sub segments and the regional markets - Market Trends (Drivers, Constraints, Opportunities, Threats, Challenges, Investment Opportunities, and recommendations) - Strategic recommendations in key business segments based on the market estimations - Competitive landscaping mapping the key common trends - Company profiling with detailed strategies, financials, and recent developments - Supply chain trends mapping the latest technological advancements For more information, please visit https://www.wiseguyreports.com/sample-request/353828-drilling-jars-global-market-outlook-2015-2022
News Article | May 3, 2017
The idea of the human mind as the ultimate domain of absolute protection from external intrusion has persisted for centuries. In a masque written by John Milton in 1634 a young woman is bounded to an enchanted chair by a debauched man named Comus. Despite being restrained against her will, she claims: “Thou canst not touch the freedom of my mind,” confident of her capacity to protect her mental freedom from any external manipulation. In 1913, historian John Bagnell Bury wrote: “A man can never be hindered from thinking whatever he chooses so long as he conceals.” Today, however, this presumption might no longer hold. Cutting-edge neurodevices, such as sophisticated neuroimaging and brain-computer interfaces (BCI), enable to record, decode and modulate the neural correlates of mental processes. Research shows that the combination of neuroimaging technology and artificial intelligence allows to “read” correlates of mental states including hidden intentions, visual experiences or even dreams with an increasing degree of accuracy and resolution. While these advances have a great potential for research and medicine, they pose a fundamental ethical, legal and social challenge: determining whether, or under what conditions, it is legitimate to gain access to, or to interfere with another person’s neural activity. This question has particular social relevance since many neurotechnologies have moved away from a solely clinical setting and into the commercial domain, where they are no longer subject to the strict ethical guidelines of clinical research. Today, companies like Google and Verizon use neuroimaging technology and other neuromarketing research services to detect consumer preferences and hidden impressions on their advertisements or products. Attempts to decode mental information via neuroimaging are also occurring in court case, sometimes in a scientifically questionable way. For example, in 2008, an Indian woman was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment on the basis of a brain scan showing, according to the judge, “experiential knowledge” about the crime. The potential of neurotechnology as a forensic tool has raised particular attention in relation to lie detection for interrogation purposes. In spite of experts’ skepticism, commercial companies such as No-Lie-FMRI and Government Works Inc. are marketing the use of FMRI- and EEG-based technology to ascertain truth and falsehood via brain recordings. In parallel, armed forces are testing neuromonitoring techniques to detect deficiencies in a warfighter’s brain activity and utilizing brain stimulation to increase their alert and attention. In 2015, the journal Science released a special issue titled “The End of Privacy,” highlighting how new technological trends from big data to ubiquitous Internet connections, make “traditional notions of privacy obsolete.” In a sense, neurotechnology can be seen as just another technological trend that might erode our privacy in the digital world and there is little we can do about it. However, given the intimate link between mental privacy and subjectivity we might not be so willing to accept this conclusion. In his famous 1984, George Orwell projected a future where “nothing was your own except the few cubic centimeters inside your skull.” In fact, when mental information is no longer secluded, nothing is secluded, and the very notion of subjectivity—the quality of existing in someone's mind rather than the external world—becomes empty. According to a new article, as neurotechnology disseminates outside the clinical setting, we are facing a societal challenge: determining what rights individuals are entitled to exercise in relation to their mental dimension. According to the authors—myself from the University of Basel and Roberto Andorno from the University of Zürich—this challenge might require the reconceptualization of existing human rights and even the creation of new neurospecific human rights. A right to cognitive liberty, widely discussed among neurolawyers, would entitle individuals to make free and competent decisions regarding their use of neurotechnology. A right to mental privacy would protect individuals against the unconsented intrusion by third parties into their brain data as well as against the unauthorized collection of those data. Breaches of privacy at the neural level could be more dangerous than conventional ones because they can bypass the level of conscious reasoning, leaving individuals without protections from having their mind involuntarily read. This risk does not apply only to participants in predatory neuromarketing studies and disproportionate uses of neurotechnology in courts, but to general individuals as well. With the growing availability of Internet-connected consumer-grade brain-computer interfaces, more and more individuals are becoming users of neurodevices. Last week Facebook unveiled a plan to create brain-computer speech-to-text interface to translate thoughts directly from brain signals to a computer screen, bypassing speech and fingertips. Similar attempts are being made by major mobile communication providers, Samsung in particular. In the future, brain control could replace the keyboard and speech recognition as a primary way to interact with computers. With interconnected neurotools becoming potentially ubiquitous, novel possibility for misuse will arise—cybersecurity breaches included. Computer scientists have already demonstrated the feasibility of hacking attacks aimed at extracting information from BCI-users without authorization. In addition, research shows that connected medical devices are vulnerable to sabotage. Neuroscientists at Oxford University suggest that the same vulnerability affects brain implants, a phenomenon labeled “brainjacking.” Such possibilities of misuse might urge a reconceptualization of the right to mental integrity. This right, recognized by international law (Article 3 of the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights) as a right to mental health, should not only protect from mental illness but also from illicit and harmful manipulations of people’s neural activity through the misuse of neurotechnology. Finally, a right to psychological continuity might preserve people’s personal identity and the continuity of their mental life from unconsented external alteration by third parties. Psychological continuity is an important issue in the context of national security, where mandatory personality-changing interventions might be justified in light of greater strategic goals. Brain interventions that reduce the need for sleep are already in use in the military, and it’s easy to imagine interventions that make soldiers more belligerent or fearless. These possibilities have already raised attention among legislators. Back in 1999 a European Parliament committee called for a global ban of research “which seeks to apply knowledge of the chemical, electrical, (…) or other functioning of the human brain to the development of weapons which might enable any form of manipulation of human beings.” Calibrated normative approaches should guarantee the alignment of neurotechnology development and personal freedoms. At the same time, they should avoid fear-mongering, unrealistic narratives that might harm scientific progress. An open debate involving neuroscientists, legal experts, ethicists and general citizens is required to maximize the benefits of advancing neurotechnology while minimizing unintended risks.