Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Giving You The Shirt Off My Back

"US backs MIT-led research into wearable devices" by Jon Chesto Globe Staff  April 01, 2016

A consortium of colleges and businesses led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has won a national competition to host a novel federally funded research program to turn clothing fibers and fabrics into wearable electronic devices, officials are expected to announce Friday.

Who knew buying a shirt could be that much trouble?

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is scheduled to join Governor Charlie Baker at MIT’s Sloan School of Management Friday to reveal that Advanced Functional Fibers of America, a new public-private consortium, was selected for the initiative.

“Here is a bold vision that’s not just manufacturing stuff that we know about but also enabling a whole new interpretation of the fabric industry,” said Yoel Fink, director of the MIT Research Laboratory of Electronics, who will lead the effort.

From Fink’s perspective, the possibilities are essentially endless. Clothing fibers could be designed to change color, monitor health, or even store energy.

Yeah, the NSA won't need to track location by phone anymore, and the FBI won't have to break into it.

“We’re going to start seeing fibers that do a lot more for you over time,” Fink said. “Suddenly, this 20 square feet of surface area that covers you starts having a functionality.”

Entrepreneurs would be able to come to the partnership with ideas, Fink said. In return, the partnership could use its network to provide research, development, and manufacturing capabilities for the best projects.

US Representative Joseph P. Kennedy, a Democrat from Brookline, said the federal selection of the MIT group is appropriate given the state’s long history in the textile industry.

The long outsourced and offshore textile industry?

The fiber initiative represents the latest and biggest win for Massachusetts in the federal government’s National Network for Manufacturing Innovation competition.

For $ome anyway.

Massachusetts researchers are already playing roles in two other US-backed manufacturing partnerships, one focused on photonics and the other on flexible electronics. But this is the first time that one of these high-tech manufacturing partnerships will be based here.

The federal government launched the manufacturing program in 2012 to improve technology in various products.

It's all linced to the false economy.

The MIT-led partnership will have a huge reach — universities, companies, and startup incubators from 28 states are expected to participate. Among local players are the University of Massachusetts’ Amherst and Lowell campuses and Quinsigamond Community College, according to the state secretary of economic affairs, Jay Ash.

Oh, they are going to spread the loot around to keep everyone in line.

Also seeQuinsigamond Community College evacuated again due to threat

Don't lose your shirt over it.

“This is big news for Boston and Cambridge,” Ash said. “But it’s also big news for Worcester, Springfield, and Lowell because they’re all going to be beneficiaries of the research that’s going to be done.” 


Skateboarding to Springfield
UMass Lowell announces $125 million fund-raising campaign
UMass says financial aid reaches new high of $255 million

Managed to dig those up for you.

Massachusetts companies include Bose Corp., Analog Devices Inc., New Balance Athletic Shoe Inc., and Ministry of Supply, a clothing startup in Boston, the Defense Department said, and Fink added that the Army’s Soldiers Systems Center in Natick will be involved.

They might lose their Balance.

The federal government has pledged $75 million to the effort over five years, while the Baker administration pledged to provide up to $40 million in state funds, with additional money coming from members of the consortium that could push the total contributions to more than $300 million.

Oh, that's nice. 

This as the social service sector in this state is shredded and GE gets a few hundred million to relocate

Can you really be under the illusion that the state of Ma$$achu$etts is working for you, fellow citizen? 


Baker has included money for the effort in an economic development bill he filed with the Legislature; that bill is slated to be discussed in a public hearing on Tuesday. Ash said the administration can provide some money to help get the program off the ground, even if that bill doesn’t become law.

Yes, they will find some way to fund the agenda-pushing $hit.

“We have enough money for our initial investment and we’ve been working with the Legislature, and we are very comfortable with what the Legislature has indicated to us,” Ash said. “If we were for some reason to fail to secure the funding, we’ve talked about ways with MIT to support the funding through other state resources or look to the private sector.”


You might want to change that shirt.

"Website seeks to make government data easier to view and understand" by Steve Lohr New York Times   April 05, 2016

NEW YORK — For years, the federal government, states, and some cities have enthusiastically made vast troves of data open to the public. 

(Blog editor sighs at the bulls** spewing forth from the NYT)

Acres of paper records on demographics, public health, traffic patterns, energy consumption, family incomes, and many other topics have been digitized and posted on the Web.

This abundance of data can be a gold mine for discovery and insights, but finding the nuggets can be arduous, requiring special skills.

A project described by the MIT Media Lab on Monday seeks to ease that challenge and to make the value of government data available to a wider audience.

The project, called Data USA, bills itself as “the most comprehensive visualization of US public data.” It is free, and its software code is open source, meaning that developers can build custom applications by adding other data.

Cesar A. Hidalgo, an assistant professor of media arts and sciences at the MIT Media Lab who led the development of Data USA, said the website was devised to “transform data into stories.” Those stories are typically presented as graphics, charts, and written summaries.

The media lab worked with the consulting and auditing firm Deloitte, which provided funding and expertise on how people use government data sets in business and for research.

You know, the ones that botched several state and federal websites.

“The goal was organize and visualize data in a way that a lot of people think about it,” said Patricia Buckley, director of economic policy and analysis at Deloitte and a former senior economist at the Commerce Department.

Revolving door.

Type “New York” into the Data USA search box, and a drop-down menu presents choices — the city, the metropolitan area, the state, and other options.

Select the city, and the page displays an aerial shot of Manhattan with three basic statistics: population (8.49 million), median household income ($52,996) and median age (35.8).

Lower on the page are six icons for related subject categories, including economy, demographics, and education.

If you click on demographics, one of the data stories appears, based largely on data from the American Community Survey of the US Census Bureau.

Using colorful graphics and short sentences, it shows the median age of foreign-born residents of New York (44.7) and of residents born in the United States (28.6); the most common countries of origin for immigrants (the Dominican Republic, China, and Mexico); and the percentage of residents who are US citizens (82.8 percent, compared with a national average of 93 percent).

Data USA features a selection of data results on its home page. They include the gender wage gap in Connecticut; the racial breakdown of poverty in Flint, Mich.; the wages of physicians and surgeons across the United States; and the institutions that award the most computer science degrees.

Hal R. Varian, chief economist of Google, who has no connection to Data USA, called the site “very informative and aesthetically pleasing.” The fact the government is making so much data publicly available, he added, is fueling creative work like Data USA.

And it all looks like worthless shit to me.

Data USA embodies an approach to data analysis that will most likely become increasingly common, said Kris Hammond, a computer science professor at Northwestern University. The site makes assumptions about its users and programs those assumptions into its software, he said.

“It is driven by the idea that we can actually figure out what a user is going to want to know when they are looking at a data set,” Hammond said.

Can you tell what they don't want?

Data scientists, he said, often bristle when such limitations are put into the tools they use. But they are the data world’s power users, and power users are a limited market, Hammond said.


Time to get running:

"New Balance accuses Pentagon of reneging on sneaker deal" by Jon Chesto Globe Staff  April 12, 2016

New Balance is renewing its opposition to the far-reaching Pacific Rim trade deal, saying the Obama administration reneged on a promise to give the sneaker maker a fair shot at military business if it stopped bad-mouthing the agreement.

Get in line. We've had over seven years of them.

After several years of resistance to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a pact aimed at making it easier to conduct trade among the United States and 11 other countries, the Boston company had gone quiet last year. New Balance officials say one big reason is that they were told the Department of Defense would give them serious consideration for a contract to outfit recruits with athletic shoes.

But no order has been placed, and New Balance officials say the Pentagon is intentionally delaying any purchase.

New Balance is reviving its fight against the trade deal, which would, in part, gradually phase out tariffs on shoes made in Vietnam. A loss of those tariffs, the company says, would make imports cheaper and jeopardize its factory jobs in New England.

The administration has made the pact a priority. It could be voted on by Congress later this year, though possibly not until after the November elections.

When all the lame ducks will ram it through in the dead of night against the will of the people.

“We swallowed the poison pill that is TPP so we could have a chance to bid on these contracts,” said Matt LeBretton, New Balance’s vice president of public affairs. “We were assured this would be a top-down approach at the Department of Defense if we agreed to either support or remain neutral on TPP. [But] the chances of the Department of Defense buying shoes that are made in the USA are slim to none while Obama is president.”

Thank God it won't be that much longer.

The administration says the issues of foreign tariffs and of whether the Pentagon should be required to buy shoes made domestically are entirely separate.

New Balance disagrees. Though most of the company’s shoes are made overseas, domestic manufacturing is a big priority for owner Jim Davis, a longtime Republican donor.

The company employs about 1,400 people at its five New England factories — one in Brighton, one in Lawrence, and three in Maine. Company officials say they are looking to add workers to those plants, and they see a major military contract, with potentially as many as 200,000 shoe orders a year, as a way to help reach that goal.

Nearly every piece of gear that military recruits wear is made in the United States, per a 1940s-era law known as the Berry Amendment. But for many years, athletic shoes were exempt, largely because of a lack of sufficient domestic options.

Hoping to change that, New Balance and other companies worked toward making an all-American shoe. New Balance even purchased an expensive machine to make midsoles, a key component that was nearly always made overseas.

In 2014, the Pentagon relented. With competition among US manufacturers, officials said they were ready to consider domestically made shoes.

LeBretton said a representative for the Obama administration then asked New Balance to accept a compromise version of the trade deal, partly in exchange for a pledge of help getting the Department the Defense to expedite the purchase of US-made shoes.

Did some horse-trading, 'eh?

But that help never arrived, LeBretton said. The agency still hasn’t ordered any US-made sneakers.

The problem, according to the Department of Defense, is that none of the three New Balance shoes offered for consideration met the agency’s cost requirements and one didn’t meet durability standards.

And some cheap foreign import will?

The administration portrays the delay as quality and cost control. But New Balance sees it as foot-dragging, and as reason enough to revive its fight against the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“The Department of Defense has basically played a shell game with domestic footwear manufacturers to protect the profits of their [base stores],” said LeBretton, who added that the company has offered to sell its shoes to the military with no retail markup. “They’ve put up roadblock after roadblock. Our shoes are ready to go. It’s a bureaucracy run amok.”

A spokesman for the Office of the US Trade Representative said the Obama administration supports New Balance’s efforts to develop a shoe that’s compliant with the Berry Amendment. He said it is a mistake for the company to use that issue as a reason not to support the separate trade accord.

“It is unfortunate that, despite a strong outcome in TPP that advances the interest of US footwear workers, New Balance now appears to be changing its position on TPP in response to the Pentagon’s separate procurement process,” spokesman Matt McAlvanah said in a statement.

New Balance’s stance also drew criticism from the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America, which argues that eliminating the Asia tariffs would be good for consumers and could allow US companies to invest more in domestic operations. “We would have loved to have had all duties eliminated on Day One,” said Matt Priest, the group’s president. “That’s not what we got. We got a compromise.”

But like New Balance, Representative Niki Tsongas is tired of waiting for the domestic shoe contract.

The Lowell Democrat is trying to include legislation in the next big defense spending bill that would ensure the department’s purchase of US-made shoes for recruits. She is expected to have assistance from members of Maine’s delegation.

Wolverine Worldwide, another company looking to build an all-US running shoe for the military, backs the Asia-Pacific deal and will also support Tsongas’s legislation. Spokesman David Costello said Wolverine, whose Saucony brand is based in Lexington, is also frustrated by the delays. Landing a Pentagon contract, he said, could create a positive impact that would ripple throughout Wolverine’s and New Balance’s supply chains and support smaller companies that make components for the shoes.

Executives at New Balance recognize that they risk alienating a big potential customer by challenging the US government over the trade agreement.

But LeBretton said it’s worth the gamble.

“We make a lot fewer shoes in the US than we do overseas, but the point is we’re trying to make more here, not less,” LeBretton said. “When agreements like this go into place, what that says to us is that our president and our trade negotiators, they don’t want us to make more products here.”

We already knew that. It's all lip service from those $cum. 

It's also another reason for the Trump effect.


Btw, you can't see the TPP agreement (unless you live in New Zealand).

You know, footwear is the most important part of your attire:

"New Balance puts pressure on Pentagon" by Jon Chesto Globe Staff  April 13, 2016

New Balance CEO Rob DeMartini criticized the Defense Department on Tuesday, saying the agency has refused to seriously consider buying the company’s American-made athletic shoes for military personnel.

DeMartini spoke to the media a day after the sneaker maker renewed its opposition to the Obama administration’s Pacific Rim trade deal, claiming the administration had gone back on an assurance that the company would get a chance to compete for military business in exchange for ending its vocal objections to the agreement.

The Boston company has been aggressively pursuing a Pentagon contract for years. It appeared to have a major breakthrough two years ago when the Defense Department decided to honor the Berry Amendment with regard to athletic shoes for recruits. That 1940s-era law essentially requires the purchase of domestically manufactured clothing and equipment for recruits. There had been an exemption for sneakers because of the lack of American-made options.

 Lack by design, btw.

But since that time, New Balance claims that the agency has been stonewalling, and not showing a sincere interest in the all-American shoes the company wants to make for the military. 

Like I said, been seven years of that stuff.

“DoD has consistently moved the goal post,” DeMartini told reporters at the company’s Brighton headquarters. “They’ve gone as far to say our shoes haven’t measured up. That’s ridiculous. We've been in this business for 110 years.”

The office of the US trade representative maintains that the two issues — the Pentagon business and the trade accord — should be treated separately, and that New Balance’s needs were taken into consideration in the trade talks. The Obama administration has made getting the accord approved by Congress a major priority for its final year, although the vote might not happen until after the November elections.

Matt McAlvanah, a spokesman for the federal trade agency, said it worked hard to ensure that the trade deal provides economic benefits for New Balance and the rest of the footwear industry. He noted that Ambassador Michael Froman met with New Balance workers in Maine in one of his first trips as US trade representative.

“Our negotiators met extensively with New Balance to achieve a strong TPP outcome,” McAlvanah said in a statement. “We are disappointed that New Balance has changed its position on TPP based on factors outside the agreement. The Department of Defense makes procurement decisions following its own processes and quality and affordability requirements.”

Defense Department officials claim the shoes New Balance has offered for consideration to the Pentagon do not meet its cost standards, and one of the models did not meet durability standards. A spokesman for the department couldn’t be reached on Tuesday for comment.

Yeah, and we all know how frugal and fastidious the Pentagon is with money. 

Related: 2.3 Trillion Dollars Missing from DOD

It's up to $8.5 now, and whatever hit the Pentagon destroyed those files.

When the company last year turned neutral on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a pact aimed at making trade easier among the United States and 11 other countries, it did so after opposing the pact for several years.

One reason that switch happened, company officials said, was because New Balance was promised an audience with a top-ranking Pentagon official to discuss the opportunity to provide shoes for military recruits.

“We had a commitment from the trade ambassador [Michael Froman] that he would help to facilitate that meeting, and to the best of our knowledge, that simply has not happened,” DeMartini said. “We’re not getting the treatment that our American workers need and deserve.”

DeMartini said the company is worried that the trade accord’s phase-out of tariffs on shoes made overseas, particularly in Vietnam, will happen too quickly and will put New Balance’s domestic manufacturing at a competitive disadvantage. New Balance employs about 1,400 people at five New England factories, and is the last major company to manufacture athletic shoes in this country.

And the U.S. government is $crewing them over co$t!

New Balance still makes the bulk of its shoes overseas. But owner Jim Davis, a longtime Republican contributor, is a big believer in American manufacturing and sees the military business as a way to add jobs in his factories. A contract with the Pentagon could result in the purchase of as many as 200,000 shoes or more a year.

War is always good for the economy.

DeMartini said the company is willing to offer these shoes at no markup to the Pentagon.

“We know American workers can make shoes for American soldiers,” he said. 

Can they change color like the shirt?


I have nothing left to give you today, readers.


"Big data booms in Massachusetts" by Amanda Burke, 03/08/2016

In Massachusetts, big data is big business.

A new report finds that 53 new big data companies have come to Massachusetts since 2014, bringing the number to 537 — a jump of about 10 percent.

The report by Mass Big Data, a project of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, also found that the number of schools offering data science certificate or degree programs rose from zero to five within the past three years:  Harvard, Northeastern, UMass Dartmouth, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Becker College. UMass Amherst recently opened new center for data science, although it does not have a degree program in data science.

Former Governor Deval Patrick launched an initiative two years ago to make Massachusetts a leader in the emerging big data industry. The report is an update to a 2014 inaugural report.

The report did not look at how Massachusetts compares to other states, focusing instead on how the industry is maturing here.

The report defines a big data company as one “whose main products and/or services directly relate to big data.” This includes industries that are heavily reliant on data analysis: marketing, financial tech, business analytics, and the life sciences.

Investors have taken note. The previous two years have seen an inflow of $2.4 billion in reported private investment in big data companies in the state. In addition, 194 big data projects in areas such as cybersecurity and the life sciences received federal funding. Since 2013, $115 million, most of it from the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Science Foundation, has been awarded to Massachusetts companies.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology received the most federal grants —  23 since 2013 — followed by Harvard with 22.

Pat Larkin, director of the Innovation Institute at MassTech, said the state’s research institutions are driving the growth in big data.

“Big data, data science, data analytics… I see nothing but growth for big data’s capability in the state,” Larkin said.

I $ee a total $urveillance society where we are all naked.