The Nigerian artist who is exploding the myth of the authentic African experience

Njideka Akunyili Crosby was 16 before she took her first art class. She talks about why most of the figures in her paintings appear to be doing nothing at all, Mean Girls at Yale, and the debt she owes Harlems Studio Museum

Njideka Akunyili Crosby is walking around the Victoria Miro gallery in east London, calmly examining her paintings. The collaged pictures of herself and her family lie on the floor, waiting to be hung; she brought the last two in her own luggage from Los Angeles, having stayed up all night before the flight to finish them.

She is seven months pregnant with her first baby, though you would barely notice. People in LA say, whats your birth plan, and Im like, I dont know! My whole mind has just been on this show, she says, her laughter resonating around the vast white room. She adds that, being from Nigeria, the whole fuss around pregnancy in California seems a little unnecessary. Im from the village, she says, wryly, and women there seem to give birth just fine without all this stuff.

She moved to the US at the age of 16, and discovered that her homeland didnt really matter to the outside world, other than as the scene of crises. I dont want to write off the horrible things that happen in various African countries, but were not all walking around thinking about Aids and Boko Haram all the time. Those things affect us, but lots of times our problems are the silly daily problems that you have here. How do I get a date? Will my pay cheque be enough for this dress I want to wear to the wedding?

Super
Super Blue Omo, 2016 by Njideka Akunyili Crosby. Photograph: Courtesy Norton Museum of Art

Her heroine is the author Chimananda Ngozi Adichie, who also moved from Nigeria to the US to study. They have met a couple of times: She has this short story where the main character goes to a writing workshop, and she writes about someone whose boss is sexually harrassing her. And the teacher says to her, Why dont you write about an authentic African experience? Well, what is authentic you think we dont have these issues in Nigeria, too? Stuck in traffic, 30 minutes late for a meeting that is the bulk of life. Its a horrible example, but even in the midst of a tragedy like the Ebola epidemic most people are probably just living their lives. Thats why so many of my figures [in the paintings] are really doing nothing. I think people sensationalise places in their heads, so I wanted to show just how normal life is in Nigeria.

Ike
Ike Ya, 2016 by Njideka Akunyili Crosby. Photograph: Courtesy the Artist and Victoria Miro, London

Akunyili Crosby left Nigeria with her older sister to study in Philadelphia. She considers herself an American artist, as well as an African one, having studied art at Swarthmore College and Philadelphia University of the Arts, before taking her MFA at Yale, where she was also a teaching assistant. None of this was expected she left Nigeria thinking she would become a doctor just like her father and several of her five siblings. Her earliest memory is of poring over her dads Atlas of Diseases, fascinated by the human body. Yet when, aged 16, she added painting a fun class to her really intense and science based community college courses, her art teacher encouraged her to take it further. That was my first painting class ever in my life, she says, clearly still surprised by how her life has turned out. Her teacher wasnt wrong though: she has since been awarded the Prix Canson 2016, the 2015 Next Generation prize at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, the 2015 Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize at the Studio Museum in Harlem, and was listed in Foreign Policys Leading 100 Global Thinkers of 2015.

Initially, her paintings seem reasonably simple, with their domestic scenes of living rooms, couples, families. But there are so many layers: the collaged materials she uses as background, taken from Nigerian popular culture, or portrait fabrics printed with peoples faces from her familys weddings. Her marriage to a white Texan, Justin Crosby, is there too, with their differencein colour, in family background. Although that difference became perhaps too obvious for her. Ifelt I was making too many pieces withthe couple in it, so then I thought, what if I take the couple out? How do Istill say everything I want to say? Itryto keep it interesting for myself becauseeach piece is a puzzle.

After growing up in the city of Enugu, Akunyili Crosby moved to a girls boarding school in Lagos. I was used to spending weekends and summers with my grandmother in the village. Kerosene lamps only, so everybody goes to bed when the sun sets at seven, and there is nothing to do. Get up at 5.30 and sweep the floor with palm fronds. So I experienced those two spaces, growing up, then went to Queens College, which is probably the most prestigious girls school in the country. It really was my first contact with a cosmopolitan life.

See Through, 2016 by Njideka Akunyili Crosby. Photograph: Courtesy the Artist and Victoria Miro, London

The reason for this change in circumstance is quite astounding, and Akunyili Crosby tells the story with great pride. Her mother, Dora Akunyili, who died in 2014, had studied pharmacy and taught at a university, among other jobs. Diagnosed as needing major surgery, she was given 12,000 from a work insurance fund to go to London and have treatment. But the London doctor said it was a misdiagnosis, so she went home again and gave the money back. Nigeria is not a country where anybody ever asks for your receipts, her daughter explains, and knowing how poor we were at the time, its amazing that she didnt keep it. But Dora was unaware that the story of the incredibly honest pharmacist rose up the ranks until one day, years later, she got a phone call at home from President Obasanjo. He was desperate to solve the problem of counterfeit and fake medicine that was killing so many Nigerians, and asked her to help. Akunyili was made head of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, took on frightening crime cartels and won becoming a national hero.

Does it make her daughter feel duty-bound to live a moral life? Oh yes! I always feel my life in Nigeria is quite different from my life in the States. Every time I come back, I go from being anonymous I hand my passport over and its the same every time. They look at it, look up at me, say, Are you who Ithink you are? I hope youre like your mother! And I say [she whimpers], Itry!

I ask her what Yale was like, but she isnt too keen to talk about it. Have you seen Mean Girls? she asks, comically, or the season of Project Runway where everyone gangs up on Michael Costello? Arriving at the Studio Museum in Harlem, a space for black artists, was her salvation after that. Yale was not a community. But I think of the Studio Museum as a family. She says that almost every successful black artist in the US was nurtured there. In fact, she feels the debt so strongly that she recently gave them a substantial amount of money. I told my husband that in Nigeria there are two kinds of giving, and one of them hurts. I want to feel like I lost something. Thats howmuch they mean to me.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby: Portals is at Gallery II, Victoria Miro, London N1 7RW (020 7336 8109) from 4 October until 5 November 2016.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/oct/03/nigerian-artist-myth-authentic-african-experience-njideka-akunyili-crosby-harlem-studio-museum

Amazon’s Alexa saves the day in new ad campaign

An exasperated mom wants to know exactly how many minutes are in 18 years in this scene from the campaign.
Image: amazon/screenshot

It may not be immediately obvious why one should choose to put a computerized talking cylinder in charge of various household tasks.

Amazon is doing its best job of explaining with a new series of short of vignettes in which Alexa, the digital assistant programmed into its Echo device, solves a succession of everyday domestic conundrums.

The spots manage to convey a lot in these brief bursts of life, despite the only dialogue being a question or request posed to the gadget and a subsequent robotic reply.

In one, for instance, a proud mom asks Alexa whether it’s supposed to rain as she watches her son chalk an impressive mural on the front driveway.

Another consists only of a woman requesting that her butterfly’s birthday be added to her calendar.

In a third, a girl’s delighted discovery of a leafy branch prompts motherly praise followed by a hasty query about poison oak as the child itches her face.

Each manages to wed a sense of emotion and humor to the apparatus that might not be apparent in its stilted voice or lofty promises of the “Internet of things” revolution.

In addition to practical use cases, the videos seem to be a recognition that consumers must first trust a technology on a gut level before they welcome it into the intimate boundaries of their home life.

The campaign follows the release of a similar longer spot last week in which a well-meaning dad uses the Echo to cheer up his daughter after a break up.

The commercials mark Amazon’s second big advertising effort centered around the household assistant after a set of Super Bowl ads the e-commerce giants first featuring Alec Baldwin, Missy Elliot, Dan Marino and other stars.

In addition to the campaign, Amazon also announced a host of new features for the Echo including stock quotes from CNBC, news from CNN and general knowledge from social question-and-answer service Quora.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/10/03/amazon-echo-ad-campaign/

Story about man marrying granddaughter goes viral, is probably fake

Newsie
Image: Getty Images/CSA Images RF

If you wanted to trick a bunch of media outlets into picking up a fake viral story, how would you go about it?

First, you’d probably choose the state of Florida, which can probably start counting weird news stories among its major exports. Second, you’d throw up a website with a generic newspaper name. Third, come up with some sort of news story that is tailor-made to bring in the clicks.

And here we are, with the “Florida Sun Post,” and a story about a Miami millionaire who accidentally married his daughter.

All indications point to the story and the website being fake. That hasn’t stopped numerous media outlets from picking up the story, including The Independent, Elite Daily, Complex and UK tabloid The Sun. Those reports then spread further, with the New York Post, picking up the Sun‘s report.

The questionable nature of the story and website was first noticed by whoever runs the Twitter parody account @_FloridaMan, which is dedicated to weird Florida news.

Fake news continues to permeate the internet, with the occasional story getting picked up by mainstream outlets. Facebook has struggled to keep fake news out of its Trending Topics section now that it is almost entirely run by algorithms. A particularly infamous fake internet story circulated in 2014 about a woman who claimed to have gotten surgery to add a third breast.

Another fake story centered on a claim that Michael Jordan was going to move the Charlotte Hornets out of North Carolina. That was perpetrated in part by a fake ABC News website that has a similar web address and similar look to the real ABC News website.

Scratching the surface of the “Florida Sun Post” website reveals that the page was begun just a few days ago, as noted by the Twitter account.

The site itself also seems off in a variety of ways. Every story expect for the one that has gone viral is behind a paywall, and there seems to be almost no coherence to the stories on the various pages. Much of it has an international bent, including the “Sport” page, which includes cricket coverage.

Strangely enough, I could not find the viral marriage story anywhere on its site. The story appears to only be accessible if you have the direct link. The story also appears to be the only article outsides of a paywall. We did not want to pay the $4.99 to see what lay behind it.

The story itself is also very strangely written. There is no byline, although the post claims that the unnamed man talked to “reporters” and the woman talked to “journalists.”

Other stories on the website appear to be based on other reports, such as a teen in Pensacola fatally stabbing his older brother. That story was posted on Monday, although the Associated Press published about the incident on Friday.

Deeper parts of the website appear to be copy-and-paste jobs. The privacy page appears to be verbatim from freeprivacypolicy.com. The “terms” page is slightly most customized, and claims to have been last edited on Jan. 15, 2010.

I reached out to the website through its contact page, and received back an email that Google immediately deemed suspicious.

Despite what appears to be a very fake website possibly designed to go viral (the website’s pages are loaded with sponsored links that tend to generate a decent amount of cash when displayed on highly trafficked pages), the story had spread relatively wide by Monday morning.

The Independent appeared to be among he first outlets to aggregate the story. I reached out to them to ask if the article was under review. They did not immediately respond.

But if there was any question over whether the story was gaining steam, Drudge Report still has an active link to the Independent post, meaning the paper has little incentive not to keep on receiving that sweet, sweet Drudge traffic.

The Drudge Report also linked out to the Independent‘s story from its website and twitter account.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/10/03/fake-news-story-man-marries-granddaughter/

14 Meerkat users on why they used the live video app

Meerkat, a livestreaming app, was removed from the app stores last week.
Image: meerkat screenshot

Meerkat is dead. The mobile app that ignited a live-steaming revolution when it made its debut at South by Southwest 2015 was removed from the iOS and Android app stores Friday.

Its funeral has been long awaited as the app battled for attention with Twitter’s Periscope and Facebook Live. Meerkat founder and CEO Ben Rubin announced a pivot for his company back in March and released his latest project, Houseparty, an app for group video calls, last week.

But the community that Meerkat helped build is alive and well. Mashable asked 14 of the earliest users and some of the most-followed app personalities why they used Meerkat and how it influenced their lives. They told us in their own words:

Tiffany Diamond

advertising producer

Meerkat was an amazing platform for connecting with people around the world. It was the first time that a social network felt real in creating friendships and getting to know people.

There’s friends I made through Meerkat that I still have today. Meerkat was a close knit community that supported each other. I’m blessed to have amassed over 100,000 followers on the platform, which helped in getting me comfortable in front of the camera, which led to me launching my own YouTube channel.

When Meerkat was at its peak it was definitely the most fun social media experience I ever had. From celebrating birthdays and engagements to even watching people sky dive. Meerkat invited me into people’s lives. Sad that it’s over, but the friendships remain!

Geoff Golberg

digital marketing consultant

Meerkat ushered in a new era of livestreaming. Their focus on equipping users with tools and features to foster a two-way, participatory environment was second to none. With far fewer resources than Periscope/FB Live, they managed to ship meaningful updates to their product at an alarming rate.

Meerkats early focus on community (and that early community was incredibly unique!) was their special sauce. They were fortunate to have an exceptional community manager, Niv Dror (currently at Product Hunt), on their team. Unfortunately, after Nivs departure, Meerkat lost their community focus and instead opted to chase Hollywood/celebrities. That, ultimately, is what led to their demise.

Victoria Fratz

actress and social media influencer

When asked to describe what it was I loved about Meerkat, so many streams, events, and meet ups came to mind. One particular stream that stuck out was the time I visited the Meerkat HQ and got lost in the streets of San Francisco. Fortunately, I was streaming and walking, albeit in circles, and my viewers came to the rescue. They went over to Dave Grossblatt’s stream, another frequent Meerkater who specialized in showing viewers around SF, and told him where I was. That day turned into such an adventure! I started my morning on a mission to get coffee, got lost, met Dave (and got coffee), and then spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out with my new friend while he gave me a tour of San Francisco’s charms.

That stream is the perfect representation for why I love Meerkat so much and will forever be grateful for what the app gave me. For me it was always about these amazing interactions I was having with viewers from all around the world. They could tune into whatever escapades I was up to and tell me stories of their own, give recommendations, or just tell me they liked my smile which made my day! So for my friends at Meerkat, thank you guys for what you created. It changed my life in such an amazing way and there will always be a part of me that’s still the #MeerkatQueen

Image: courtesy of victoria fratz

Steve Isaacs

managing creative director in digital at bpg advertising

From the first moment of my first stream, I was hooked. The ease and simplicity of the interface, the cute animated Meerkat when it was trying to connect, everything just felt right. I started streaming during SXSW, and to everyone there it seemed like something truly transformative was taking place. The idea of an interactive window into someone else’s world was intoxicating.

Niv, who watched over the Meerkat community, made the whole thing feel like a family. Those months were, without question, the best time Ive ever had on the Internet with any social network, app, community or product. I felt that it was inevitable that Meerkat was going to take over the world. The wide open feeling of broadcasting with random folks anywhere in the world and finding some kind of connection, I truly feel is the best of what the Internet is capable of achieving, and to this day I dont think anyone has done it quite as well as Meerkat did.

Ryan Bell

founder of Summit.Live and creative strategist

Meerkat began beautifully at SXSW and helped start a large movement in disruptive media that were still catching up to. We look at Facebook and Periscope now and see them just beginning to do some of the things that Meerkat did a year ago. Saying farewell to Meerkat is strange because it may have died from moving too fast.

Goodbye to something amazing that was a catalyst and an amplifier. As the space grows and matures I often feel as though the innovations that Meerkat seemed to aim towards would have been welcome now. It was truly ahead of its time.

Cathy Hackl

CEO of Cathy Hackl Consulting

Meerkat started the live video revolution. It was the first time I felt I could experience SXSW in real time without being there and made me excited for the future of video. As one of the first people in the PR & social media community to use Meerkat, I saw it not only as a fun app, but a tool crafted for storytelling in an authentic, immediate and raw way. Thank you Meerkat for starting it all.

Suzanne Nguyen

millennial marketer

Meerkat day’s may be over, but the impact it had on me still lingers on. Because the platform was my training ground to be where I am today. Thank you and may you RIP Meerkat.

Nguyen made a Snapchat Story chronicling the rise and fall of Meerkat.

Image: suzanne nguyen

Brian Fanzo

CEO of iSocialFanz

I wasn’t a video blogger, I’m not someone that loves to consume video, the concept of live streaming wasn’t something I thought would have valuable for me and my business. That all changed thanks to a fuzzy little animal that lived in my phone that created a community, that bled yellow and transformed my business my passion, my belief in the power of community.

For many Meerkat created the mobile live streaming buzz at SXSW, that is now dominated by Facebook and Twitter. For me I believe Meerkat did far more than pioneer this new way of having conversations with your community via video. It gave early adopters social media power users and many they didn’t feel that they could get their voice heard a community, a platform and ultimately friends around the world.

Vincenzo Landino

creative director at Aftermarq

As one of the first users of Meerkat, it was one of those platforms that instantly changed the game for me. The community of friends that I was able to make is beyond anything I’ve ever seen on social media. Digital avatars turned into live talking faces.

One of my favorite memories was the epic 7 hour karaoke live stream that helped launch my love for live video: “At 9:00 on a Saturday evening, the crowd shuffled in, there was my phone in front of me with people telling me what to sing!” That little live-stream launched me into another level and have since had live video projects with Barilla Pasta, Edelman Digital, Tinder, DC United, numerous events and conferences and a 1 Billion impression campaign with Applebees and BTC Revolutions. All of this happened because of Meerkat.

Chris Strub

social media consultant for Humana

Meerkat created an environment that inspired connections worldwide through unprecedented authenticity. While the app itself may be gone, many of us continue to cherish the genuine friendships made last summer.

Anthony Quintano

engagement editor at Honolulu Civil Beat

What I enjoyed most was the connection the users had with the creators of the app. Ben Rubin and his team were the best example of how a company should listen to their users and give them what they want. The transparency with users as they improved the platform was another important part of what I loved Meerkat. They were always letting users know when features were coming, and what they were. No secrecy around where the app was going. Every user felt like they had the founders attention and would be heard.

Gregg Weiss

VP of social media at Mastercard

Meerkat changed everything. It wasn’t just an app; it was a community. Meerkat didn’t just turn our phones into live streaming devices they turned our phones into ways to make new friends and build a unique community of people who supported each other’s content.

The excitement after the launch and each time a new feature came out was something I’ve never experienced before. For me, it felt like the digital-nerd version of when the Beatles came to the US in the 1960s. Meerkat mattered. It stood for something. It brought people together. The Meerkat brand was strong. The people behind it were approachable and truly cared about the community. And the community cared about each other. Some of the people I interact with most on other platforms now are people I met on Meerkat.

Liza Dixon

masters student

I will never forget the experience of opening Meerkat for the first time. In a sea of highly curated, overly-photoshopped social platforms, Meerkat was an instant standout. The raw nature of participatory, live video attracted a different kind of communityone in which mistakes were a celebrated and key to its allure.

It was a powerful experience to have in your hands a tool which allowed you to travel to places you would likely never have gone and engage real-time with people you would have never met otherwise. For the countless hours I spent streaming, what I received in return from viewers can never be measured. It is a real gift to be a part of this community. I put it this way because even though our favorite little animal is gone from the App Store, the community founded by Meerkat is still flourishing.

Joe Wilson

writer, director and creator of PlayShorts and Vampire Mob

Meerkat was the place where I met friends I still speak to daily, some of whom have crashed on my couch. It’s also where I self diagnosed my resting b**** face. Life changer!

Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/10/03/meerkat-app-eulogy/

15 Stories Of Terrible Neighbors That Will Make Your Blood Boil

Unless we arelucky enough to live in a secluded area with a nice, long driveway that removes us from society (ah, the dream), neighbors can be a huge problem.

Sure, neighbors can also be lovely people, and can even become some of our very best friends. It really all depends on how your lifestyles match together. Sometimes, though, we are vastly different people from our neighbors, and sometimes neighbors can be, well, a little wackadoo.

These 15 stories from neighbors range from simply annoying to flat-out nuts. Luckily, no one gets hurt in these tales, but some of them sure are creepy! I’m so glad that I haven’t had any of this happen to me. The worst thing that happens in my apartment is when one of the neighbors cooks food that doesn’t smell particularly yummy.

Have you ever had a neighbor as bad as the ones below? Maybe some repeat 3 a.m. partiers, or parents that let their petscome into your backyard and destroy your magnolia bushes?

Let us know your crazy stories in the comments. And

[H/T: Reddit 1, 2, 3]

Thumbnail source: Flickr

1.

1.

“I was cooking steak and bacon on the porch in the summer and they called the fire department once for the smoke.” Randrath

2.

2.

“Cop here. I went to a disturbance call where two neighbors were blowing leaves at each other with leaf blowers. They were actually mad while doing this.” jkorpela

3.

3.

“My neighbor cut the Cable with her garden sheers, I presume an argument over the bill. She wouldn’t let the cable company in to repair it. So they had to bypass her house; my house and about 6 others had no TV, phone or internet for 8 days.” Bbrhuft

4.

4.

“Looked out of my window to see my neighbor leaning over my 6ft high fence, and stretching right into my yard to saw some of the main branches off my tree. My tree had never extended over the fence and her limb-hacking killed it.

“A few months later, she cut one of the wires attached to our boundary fence that was holding up a shade cloth in my backyard. I called the cops on her. And a couple of weeks later, all the plants along our boundary fence mysteriously died, and seriously damaged some of my trees…” gadget_girl

5.

5.

“My parent’s next-door neighbor (who is also my mother’s cousin) sued them 3 or 4 times over property disputes and once because his adult son allegedly fell over a decorative rock to prevent said neighbor from parking on my parent’s lawn. The guy’s house has been condemned but they still live there.” princessaurus_rex

6.

6.

“When I was a baby the old lady who lived above us put a hose through the window into my cot.” gotn

7.

7.

“‘Blower Dude’ as the whole family refers to him. When we moved in he told my dad none of the neighbors got along with him (gee, wonder why) and then said since there were no deciduous trees on his property he would be blowing any leaves that fell into his yard over our fence.

“This guy used his leaf blower 4-5 times a day. He would spend hours carefully blowing the snow off his chain link fence while it was still snowing. Wanna sleep in? You’ll have to make it through his two backyard passes before 10, so good luck.” Reddit user

8.

8.

“Our neighbor two houses down always comes sprinting out of his house to flip off the ice cream truck. It’s pretty funny.” akantho

9.

9.

“Our neighbor complained to the HOA that my cat was staring at her.” elizardbreathjones

10.

10.

“The neighbors upstairs keep overflowing their washing machine which causes flooding in our house. Now I have anxiety whenever I hear water running.” crossyourheart

11.

11.

“Spends his nightspeering into everyone’s windows and yards from his windows or porch with his infrared goggles. Occasionally leaves notes like ‘nice movie you were watching in your living room last night’ on the mailboxes.” emlgsh

12.

12.

“The neighbor who stole our stuff all the time. I’m pretty sure she stole my first Nintendo DS. One day my mom was housesitting for her and she opened a cupboard and it was full of our stuff.” iammrsbug

13.

13.

“My friends and I started rollerblading and they started putting gravel and semi-large stones in the road. They once threw rocks at us while we were riding our bikes.” alecbrownbear

14.

14.

“Bagpipes. All. The. Time.” Avatar_ZW

15.

15.

“My house was yellow. My neighbor wouldn’t stop complaining about how they hated the color. Then one time when I was away on a business trip, they had it painted white and tried to stick me with the bill.” The-Horse-Yeller

Have you ever had a terrible neighbor before? Let us know your story and

Read more: http://www.littlethings.com/terrible-neighbor-stories/

Clinton-Backed Branch Of Foundation Donor Gm Now Caught In Major Scandal

October 23, 2011: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gets out of a GM “Spark” while touring the GM Powertrain plant in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.  (Reuters)

Hillary Clinton had glowing words for the General Motors plant in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, when she traveled there in 2011 as secretary of state to announce the joint venture — of GM and an Uzbekistan state-owned firm — as a finalist for a State Department award.

It is a collaboration between Uzbek and American companies, and it will serve as a symbol of our friendship and cooperation, Clinton said, touting the plants newest, most advanced technology.

The visit came a year after the General Motors Foundation had contributed $684,455 in vehicles to the Clinton Foundation.

Fast-forward several years, and GM-Uzbekistan is now embroiled in a massive scandal, reportedly facing charges of fraud, money laundering, and embezzlement, a legal case that has reached high-ranking government officials in the country.

Clinton isnt tied to any of the allegations. But its another example of how Clinton Foundation donations and subsequent State Department actions have put the Democratic presidential nominee in an awkward position. The 2011 praise wasnt a one-off, either. Clintons State Department again made GM Uzbekistan a finalist for the Award for Corporate Excellence in 2012.

Peter Flaherty, president of the watchdog National Legal and Policy Center, said the GM branchs recent turmoil casts doubt on Clintons judgment. 

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This episode is another example for the Clintons of how, if you do business with them, they will do something for you, Flaherty told FoxNews.com. Any enterprise in Uzbekistan is going to be suspect. It is notoriously corrupt, and the government dominates everything. A company there seems like an unlikely nominee for a corporate excellence award.

Earlier this year, authorities detained GM Uzbekistan General Director Tohirjon Jalilov. Uzbek prosecutors also have reportedly been investigating the GM ventures business partners and officials with Uzbekistans National Security Service. Uzbek Deputy Prime Minister Ulughbek Rozikulov was reportedly questioned in the matter.

Asked for comment, Clinton campaign spokesman Josh Schwerin noted the U.S. government had honored GM well before Clinton served as secretary of state — referencing that in 2006, GMs joint venture in Colombia actually won the award. It was merely a finalist under Clinton.

While GM did receive the Secretary of States 2006 Award for Corporate Excellence from the Bush administration, it did not receive the award while Secretary Clinton was in office, Schwerin told FoxNews.com. Further, it appears that the legal issues you refer to began several years after Clinton left office. The fact remains that Hillary Clinton never took action as secretary of state because of donations to the Clinton Foundation.

GM owns 25 percent of the company established in 2008, while UzAvtosanoat, an Uzbek firm, controls 75 percent.

We are aware that one of the suspects arrested was an Uzbek national who worked at the joint venture company and also UzAvto, and he has been dismissed by the joint venture, GM spokesman Patrick Morrissey told FoxNews.com. We cant comment on any other law enforcement actions.

Morrissey also said that U.S. auto bailout money GM received was not directed toward its international operation. He said no U.S. government financial support of any kind was provided to GM Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov — whose 27-reign earned him the reputation of a ruthless tyrant — reportedly uncovered the alleged misconduct this spring regarding an elaborate export-import scheme for vehicles that were supposed to be sold in Russia but were instead allegedly shipped back to Uzbekistan and sold at higher prices to maximize profits for executives. Karimov, who died in September, is most remembered for having his troops kill 700 unarmed protestors in 2005, and running a centralized economy.

The global watchdog group Transparency International ranked Uzbekistan 153 on its corruption index, with a transparency score of just 19.

So, there are reasons to doubt the legitimacy of the prosecution, said Flaherty.

Everything in Uzbekistan is political, so I wouldnt put a lot of faith in the criminal justice system, Flaherty said. But it seems like the Clintons still are not very discerning about who they associate with.

General Motors Corporation has contributed between $50,000 and $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation. Also, in February 2010, the General Motors Foundation announced a donation of 30 pickup trucks to the Clinton Foundation, which GMs Morrissey said were valued at $684,455, to be used in relief efforts in Haiti. Hillary Clinton delivered the remarks at the GM Uzbekistan plant the following year, and the company was a finalist for the State Department honor in back-to-back years.

In a statement to FoxNews.com, the Clinton Foundation noted most of the other GM donations to the foundation went for the Clinton Global Initiative.

GM was a member of the Clinton Global Initiative for several years, and their financial contributions to the Foundation are totally comprised of CGI membership fees, the statement said. In this time, they partnered on a wide range of commitments, from initiatives to expand clean energy in their automobile lines, to a training program for NGO leaders, to an effort to promote HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention in China.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2016/10/04/clinton-backed-branch-foundation-donor-gm-now-caught-in-major-scandal.html

Bill Clinton Calls Obamacare ‘Crazy System’ While Campaigning In Michigan

Former President Bill Clinton speaks, Monday, Oct. 3, 2016 at Northbank Center in downtown Flint, Mich.  (Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP)

Former president Bill Clinton appeared to take a shot at President Obama’s signature health care legislation during a campaign stop in Michigan on Monday, calling it a “crazy system” that “doesn’t make any sense.” 

Clinton was in Flint, Michigan for a campaign event for his wife and was on the topic of government-run marketplaces under ObamaCare when he made the remarks, The Daily Caller reported.

“It doesn’t make any sense. The insurance model doesn’t work here,” he said. 

He added that ObamaCare “works fine” for people with “modest” incomes eligible for government subsidies but that “the people that are getting killed in this deal are small business people and individuals who make just a little too much to get any of these subsidies,” the Daily Caller reported. 

Youve got this crazy system where all of a sudden 25 million more people have health care and then the people are out there busting it, sometimes 60 hours a week, wind up with their premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half, Clinton said. Its the craziest thing in the world. 

Clinton’s comments on ObamaCare were immediately seized upon by the Republican National Committee, who put out video clips of his speech. 

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Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2016/10/03/bill-clinton-calls-obamacare-crazy-system-while-campaigning-in-michigan.html

Barnsley and Middlesbrough see pupil exclusion rises of 300% – BBC News

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The biggest increases in fixed term exclusions were recorded in Middlesbrough, Barnsley and North Lincolnshire

The number of pupils expelled from schools in some parts of England has risen by more than 300% in three years.

There were 5,800 permanent exclusions in 2014-15 compared with 4,630 three years ago, government figures show.

Fixed term or temporary exclusions rose from 267,520 to 302,980 in the same period.

Some councils where large rises have been recorded said the increase reflected a greater willingness to tackle “poor behaviour”.

The largest rises were seen in Middlesbrough, Barnsley and North Lincolnshire.

Both Barnsley and Middlesbrough also had the highest exclusion rates, with about one in six of all school children being excluded for a fixed period last year.

Not only has the number of fixed term exclusions increased, but the average number of days children are excluded for has increased steadily over three years – from 4.18 days in 2012-13, to 4.23 in 2013-14 and 4.38 in 2014-15.

Middlesbrough saw the largest increase in fixed term exclusions, up 357% from 750 in 2012-13 to 2,080 in 2014-15.

The council says the rise reflects efforts by head teachers to tackle poor behaviour.

“Exclusions are a measure of last resort when all other avenues have been exhausted, and are designed to change behaviour and improve life chances,” a spokesman for Middlesbrough Borough Council said.

“Poor behavioural standards by students damage not only their own chances but the prospects of those around them.”

Barnsley saw a rise of 303% and North Lincolnshire 110% during the same period.

See how many pupils were excluded by schools in your area with our interactive map.

Image copyright Tableau

Both Teesside and North Lincolnshire have suffered thousands of steel industry job losses in the past two years.

Tony Draper, former president of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and current head at Water Hall Primary School in Northamptonshire, said there might be a correlation between particularly high levels of exclusions and wider economic uncertainty in some areas.

“Families in financial difficulty, or with difficult personal circumstances are examples of this, so that could explain the regional variations in the statistics,” Mr Draper said.

He also warned school finances were “at breaking point” meaning some measures which might stave off the need for exclusions, such as counselling, support work or clubs, “may be lost”.

‘Sexual misconduct’

Alison Ryan, senior policy adviser with the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said there was a “perfect storm” in some parts of England where long-term unemployment, local authority service cuts, teacher shortages and a lack of available provision for children with special educational needs was severely damaging the prospects of some children.

Persistent disruptive behaviour accounted for the lion’s share – 79,590 – of fixed term exclusions, followed by 52,710 for verbal abuse, and 54,370 for assaulting a pupil.

More than 8,000 pupils were excluded for drug and alcohol offences and 2,250 related to sexual misconduct.

Bullying accounts for about 3,000 of fixed term exclusions and 30 permanent exclusions each year.

The mother of one victim of persistent bullying in Essex said the school’s decision to exclude the perpetrator ended up being the only option after all other efforts failed.

The bullying, she said, had been “awful” and had taken a huge toll on her daughter.

Ms Ryan said exclusions also had significant consequences on those excluded.

“If you are alienated at school you are more likely to end up not in employment or training and in the justice system at a later stage,” she said.

The rise in the past four years follows a period steady decline in the numbers and rate of exclusions before 2012-13.

The Department for Education was approached for comment but did not respond.

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Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-37340042

Life on the road as a female lorry driver – BBC News

Image caption From hairdressing to haulage, Leonie John is embarking on a new career

The haulage industry has a shortage of drivers, so the government is urging companies to encourage more women to get behind the wheel. But what’s life on the road like for a female trucker?

“I’ve never been out on a job by myself before,” says Leonie John, as she smoothly pulls her 44-tonne truck out of a tight junction.

The 22-year-old former hairdresser now works for C M Downton, a haulage company with its headquarters in Gloucester and depots around Britain.

She started her apprenticeship in February, has gained the necessary qualifications and soon she’ll be driving HGVs on her own all the time.

Leonie always wanted to be a lorry driver – she says she hates being “stuck in one place” – but she thinks at least one aspect of her former life has helped with her new one.

“When I was a hairdresser I had to keep to appointment times and not keep people waiting. Now I’m a lorry driver, I have to keep to a delivery schedule and not be late. So it was useful practice.”

Image caption Trailer straps have to be tightened before departure
Image caption There is a physical element to lorry driving, particularly before setting off

Haulage associations estimate there’s a current shortfall of 45,000-60,000 drivers, with another 40,000 due to leave the industry by 2017.

MPs on the Commons Transport Select Committee have urged companies to expand their female workforce, which currently makes up just 8% of the 400,000 qualified drivers.

They also want the industry to come up with plans to attract more people from ethnic minority backgrounds.


Driver shortages

  • 92% of the 400,000 people holding both an LGV licence (also known as HGV) and a Driver Certificate of Professional Competence are men
  • More than 60% of LGV drivers are aged 45 years or over (compared with 35% in the general working age population)
  • About 1% of LGV drivers are under 25
  • It was reported in 2010 that only 3% of the road haulage workforce in England was from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background

Source: Transport Committee


At Downton’s Gloucestershire base there are 210 drivers – six are women.

Leonie describes the job as “quite active”, as there are many vehicle checks to be made – she finds a blown bulb at the back of the trailer before she sets off.

Straps have to be tightened to ensure the loads are secured, and the surrounding curtains have to be pulled open and closed, which takes a bit of heaving.

“I would recommend being a driver,” she says. “You get to go out and see the world. And it’s nice knowing you’ve delivered something that’s going to appear in the shops for people to buy.”

But with day shifts being anything from 11 to 14 hours, life on the road can take its toll.

“My partner has a five-year-old daughter and there was a period where I didn’t see her much. It is tough and the hours are long.”

Her initial apprenticeship period paid 180 a week. During her training, when she drives alongside a mentor, she says she’ll get 4.50 an hour. Whenever she is out on her own, that rises to 9.

Leonie says it “is a struggle for women in the industry” because it is so dominated by men.

“I told my dad I wanted to become a lorry driver and he wondered if there was something about the job that meant it wasn’t for women, because so few of them did it.”

She thinks having better facilities would help.

“Some of the facilities at service stations and depots where we deliver to can be awful. There’ll be one toilet for all drivers to use, and it won’t have been cleaned enough. It’s not nice for women to deal with that.”


Lorry life

  • Prospective lorry drivers must be over 18 and have a full UK or EU driving licence
  • The cost of training depends on where you live, how long you’ve had your basic licence and which new licence you require
  • Cat C licences are for vehicles with a rigid-based body weighing more than 7.5 tons – such as fire engines and rubbish trucks. Starting salaries are about 24,000 per year
  • Cat C+E licences are for any vehicle over 7.5 tons that has a detachable or separate trailer. Starting salaries for these are about 28,000 per year

Source: HGV Training


In a recent survey of nearly 2,000 people, the Freight Transport Association found a common belief that lorry drivers were mostly older, overweight males and that the job involved long hours and was expensive to train for.

James Hookham, the FTA’s deputy chief executive, also says there is a wrongful perception that it is very physical.

“Modern cabs are like spaceships these days, with automatic gears and steering and lots of creature comforts.”

He says the industry does, though, need to offer women more flexible hours in order to fit with family life, and he agrees that poor roadside facilities are a problem.

Annette Stagg, 53, of Elton in Cheshire, grew up in the haulage business as her father ran a company, but only became a driver for C M Downton later in life.

She agrees women “don’t need to be Superman” to deal with the physical aspects of the job: “If you have a puncture you pull over, call the depot and a specialist team come out to change the tyre.

Image copyright Downton
Image caption Annette Stagg says being a lorry driver gives her a sense of freedom in her job

“The lorry cabs are all high-spec and quite secure. Once you’re locked inside at night, then the only way in would be through smashing a window. And there’s a phone in the cab with a direct line to the police. So I feel quite safe sleeping in one.”

The mother-of-two says she has generally been well accepted by male drivers.

“There’s a hell of a lot of camaraderie and banter among the drivers. As soon as they see the hi-vis jacket they start chatting to you and we have a laugh. They don’t really give a damn if you’re a woman or not.

“They call me a pup in training, because I haven’t been doing it 30 years. But I’m glad I got into it, because I love my job.”

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-37236082

Are killer bots about to do away with smartphone apps? – BBC News

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Too many apps? Maybe a friendly chatbot would make like easier

Is the smartphone app doomed?

To look at the stats you wouldn’t think so: Apple has two million of them in its App Store and Google Play has a few hundred thousand more than that. Total app downloads have passed the 150 billion mark.

But some are wondering whether apps are about to be replaced by something smaller, smarter and faster.

Bots.

These programs, thanks to AI [artificial intelligence] software in the cloud, can chat to humans via text, extract the meaning and then act on it.

They are little digital helpers.

Any time you see a live chat box open up on a retailer’s website, or order a taxi or flowers through chat platforms such as WeChat and Facebook Messenger, you’re most likely talking to a bot.

App fatigue?

Despite the vast choice of apps open to us, the average number we use is 27, according to research by Nielsen. This hasn’t changed for years.

And the problem with apps – and their seemingly endless updates – is that they eat up our smartphone storage capacity alarmingly quickly.

Developers often get a raw deal as well. One estimate suggests that 94% of the cash generated by apps in Apple’s App Store goes to just 1% of publishers, and those firms also get 70% of all downloads.

Image copyright charles taylor
Image caption Bots might soon be helping people interact with companies more intuitively

“One of the worst things about the App Store is the App Store itself, because it’s such a walled garden,” says Ted Nash of Tapdaq, who was a veteran app developer while still a teenager.

Apple’s oversight of all apps slows down development and forces programmers to include specific chunks of code that look after adverts, usage statistics and other metrics, he says.

Add to this the trouble of making apps work across lots of different devices and keeping up with changes to Apple software, and it’s no wonder some people are disillusioned, he says.

So is app fatigue setting in?

The joy of text

“Apps used to be the big thing,” says Kriti Sharma, head of mobile development at accounting software firm Sage. “But many more people are messaging than are posting on social media these days.”

This is why she thinks bots are the natural successors to apps – the interface is instantly familiar to customers.

Ms Sharma started her coding career at Barclays, where she co-created its Pingit banking app and oversaw its mobile portfolio.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Messaging apps have made people very familiar with text-based conversations

For companies or brands that want meaningful interaction with customers, a conversation mediated by a bot could work well, she believes.

Sage is developing a bot called Pegg that acts as a smart business assistant. It will help small business owners keep track of outgoings and expenses, making tracking cashflow easier.

“Bots don’t have to be super-complicated,” says Ms Sharma. “But over time they must add a lot more value for a customer.”

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption As people are used to chatting by text, bots should be easy to use, some argue

Bots are more credible because good progress has been made in writing artificially intelligent software, she says. And also because many companies now have huge amounts of data they can use to fine-tune bot responses.

Another advantage bots have over apps is the speed with which they can be developed, deployed and updated, she argues.

‘Bots are the new black’

This growing interest is being inflated by work at Facebook, Microsoft and Google, as well as by newer firms such as Slack and HipChat. And start-ups such as Begin, Growbot, Butter, Wisdom and Operator are also helping to take bots mainstream.

One catalyst for the interest was Facebook’s announcement earlier this year of a bot framework that streamlines the bot-creation process.

One report suggests that this massive amount of interest has unleashed a $4bn (3bn) flood of venture capital funding into big and small bot developers.

“Bots are the new black,” says Jon Moore, chief product officer at rail ticket booking service, The Trainline.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Buying rail tickets is easy by app, but could a chatbot make planning a complex journey easier?

Although most people now use The Trainline via a smartphone and many regular users have installed its app, the company is keen to investigate what bots can do, Mr Moore says.

For booking train tickets, a website or an app is profoundly better than using a bot, he maintains, but there are times when an app falls short and a conversation handled by a bot may be better.

“We’re just at the point of saying it’s another interesting piece of technology,” he tells the BBC. “We expect that they are going to be useful to us, though it won’t work for every context and circumstance.”

‘Immensely complicated’

Tapdaq’s Ted Nash warns that though bots might look straightforward, they’re not necessarily an easier option.

“A bot is a much more simple technology from a customer perspective, but the AI that powers it is immensely complicated to do,” he says.

That difficulty often means that bots are pretty crude.

“A lot of them now have pre-defined inputs and responses,” says Mr Nash. “The only way they are going to become truly ubiquitous is when they can respond as a human would.”

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Tech firms are interested in text chat because they may be able to monetise it, analysts say

But even before they do that, says Nick Lane, chief analyst at consultancy MobileSquared, bots are likely to be useful for smoothing out the interactions between customers and companies.

“We’ll see bots helping out with customer engagement, queries and product enquiries,” he says.

But there is danger in relying too much on a technology still in the early stages of development, he warns.

“Some companies are wondering if they can put their business and reputation in the hands of a computer program.”

There is another reason why technology firms are keen to use text-based chatbots, says Mr Lane.

“It could be that they see this interaction as another form of data mining,” he says. “People should ask how that information and conversation is going to be used.

“One way or another there is a model evolving around that communication that will see it being monetised.”


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Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-37154519