Facebook is Killing National News for Local News in Your News Feed

There’s a new development in Facebook’s ongoing saga to clean up the news feed of fake news and poor quality content. Through a recent post on his own page, CEO Mark Zuckerberg expressed intent in further promoting local news from “trusted sources”.

Local publishers are considered as those with “links clicked on by readers in a tight geographic area.” Mark Zuckerberg believes having Facebook users be made more aware of what’s happening in their own communities can encourage them to be more involved and “make a difference” through civic engagement as a result.

As stated in Facebook Newsroom, “There are no constraints on which publishers are eligible, which means large local publishers will benefit, as well as publishers that focus on niche topics like local sports, arts and human-interest stories. That said, small news outlets may benefit from this change more than other outlets, because they tend to have a concentrated readership in one location.”

Meanwhile, users concerned with how it may affect the content they like may use the “See First” feature to make sure they have their favorite pages show up in their news feed. They can also share the content from those pages with their friends and family to help make them more credible.

How good or bad these changes are for Facebook users, we still have yet to fully figure out over time. Big publishers certainly don’t benefit from them, especially since every change to Facebook’s algorithm almost always messes up their marketing strategies and eats away at their online influence.

However, this is something Facebook has to do in order to gain trust from regulators, investors, and users who are concerned about the quality and authenticity of the content they consume in their News Feed.

According to Facebook, implementation of this emphasis on local news is now being rolled out in the United States. It will be applied for other countries around the world later this year.

Yale University's New Class on Happiness Is the Most Popular Course in Its 316 Year History. Here's What It's About

How unhappy are students at Yale University?

It’s arguably the toughest college in the country to get into–and more than half of its students wind up seeking mental health care while they’re there.

That might not be a coincidence. A Yale professor says that’s likely because if you get into Yale, you probably had to spend years of your life doing things that made you really unhappy.

Striving. Getting good grades. Ensuring that you beat the next person behind you on your high school honors list by a zillionth of a grade point average.

I give sincere credit to students for seeking help when they need it, but the state of affairs amounts to a “crisis,” in the words of Yale psychology professor Laurie Santos.

So she decided to do something about it–introducing a course that I like to call Happiness 101 for short.

Technically, its name is “Psyc 157, Psychology and the Good Life,” covering positive psychology and behavioral change. 

Regardless, the question of (lack of) happiness has made it into a monster hit.

On Day 1, 300 students signed up. Within a week, its enrollment grew to a record-breaking 1,200 students–about 25 percent of the entire undergraduate student body.

“A lot of us are anxious, stressed, unhappy, numb,” Alannah Maynez, 19, a Yale freshman, told the New York Times, adding her fellow students are “tired … of numbing their emotions — both positive and negative — so they can focus on their work, the next step, the next accomplishment.”

That isn’t going to be a shock to regular readers of this column, or perhaps to anyone with a high-achieving kid in this first quarter of the 21st century. A continent away, former Stanford’s dean of freshmen made a similar point in her book, “How to Raise an Adult.” 

It seems to hits hardest with the kids we expect the most of. As the Times put it, Yale students are taking the class because 

in high school, they had to deprioritize their happiness to gain admission to the school, adopting harmful life habits that have led to what Dr. Santos calls “the mental health crises we’re seeing at places like Yale.”

Teaching such a gigantically popular class brought with it logistical challenges–and apparently, jealousy.

First, they had to hire enough teaching fellows at the last minute (24 of them), and find a big enough room on campus.

They live-streamed for half the class during the first few weeks, they finally settled on Woolsey Hall, a 2,650-seat auditorium usually used for things like symphony performances.

Then, Santos had to combat the quick reputation the class gained for being easy–even though she refers to it as “hardest class at Yale.” 

Santos encouraged students to reduce stress by taking it pass/fail, and and doesn’t monitor whether students do homework assignments.

“With one in four students at Yale taking it, if we see good habits, things like students showing more gratitude, procrastinating less, increasing social connections, we’re actually seeding change in the school’s culture,” Santos said.

Only one problem: So many students took Happiness 101 that it left other professors’ classes empty–or at least emptier than they would have been.

And that means the happiness course left other people at Yale feeling unhappy.

“It wouldn’t be fair to other courses and departments to take all of their students away,” Woo-Kyoung Ahn, director of undergraduate studies in psychology at Yale, told the Times. “It causes conflict.”

So if you missed out on Happiness 101, you’ve missed out forever.

They’re not planning to teach it again. 
 

Tezos funder pledges to 'step back' once crypto-venture's woes are solved

ZURICH (Reuters) – The president of a foundation that controls funding for a cryptocurrency project called Tezos has pledged to “step back” from his role once the project is back on track, after months of dysfunction and public battles with Tezos’ founders.

Tezos raised $232 million in a “initial coin offering” in July, but the project was quickly derailed by disputes between co-founders Arthur and Kathleen Breitman, who control the code, and the Tezos Foundation, which controls the funds.

Having had financial transactions frozen late last year, the foundation has regained access to limited banking services, allowing it to start paying creditors and software developers again, the foundation’s president, Johann Gevers, said in a blog post on Sunday. It has also made progress in recruiting, hired a new law firm and is working on finding an accounting firm.

“I have consistently communicated … my intention to step back from the Foundation as soon as things are on track with a new board that is independent and has the support of the Tezos community,” Gevers wrote on the site Medium.

Gevers removed the post on Monday for what he called “prudential reasons,” but said in a replacement post that the foundation was following through on the plans he had outlined. Reached by Reuters, Gevers confirmed that he had authored the posts but declined to elaborate.

The Breitmans did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Gevers’ writings are the latest chapter in a saga that began after July’s controversial coin offering. Although structured as donations for a technology project, some contributors believed they were investing in an asset similar to bitcoin because they were promised coins called “Tezzies.”

Board member Guido Schmitz-Krummacher resigned from the Tezos Foundation in December because of the conflict, and several class action lawsuits have been filed over the offering. Contributors have still not received any Tezzies.

Reuters first detailed the battle between the Breitmans and Gevers in an investigation published last October. (reut.rs/2gPOMNH)

In his post, Gevers said the foundation’s financial service providers froze all of its transactions from October to December, due to what he called a “breakdown of trust.” That made it impossible to pay creditors, he said.

Although Gevers did not say his issues with the Breitmans had been resolved, the foundation was recently able to restore its financial relationships, he wrote. It has also hired an interim executive to oversee operations while it looks for a long-term CEO, Gevers wrote, without naming the executive.

Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi in Zurich; Additional reporting by Steve Stecklow in New York; Editing by Lauren Tara LaCapra and Rosalba O’Brien

20 of Marc Benioff's Interesting Startup Investments

Whether you use it daily or have heard about it from 10 of your closest friends, you’re likely well aware of Salesforce. The behemoth CRM has become a multibillion-dollar industry leader; unsurprisingly, its founder and CEO, Marc Benioff, is seen by some as the “champion of innovation.” Salesforce is built to integrate with other apps — a fact developers are encouraged to take advantage of — and Benioff backs tech companies with his own money.

Benioff’s wagers beyond Salesforce have proved fruitful. These are the 20 investments Benioff has made that are currently among the most successful.

1. Zuora

Subscription box services have become more popular in recent years, meaning these companies need software to help them manage their increased order volume. Zuora has not only curated a list of customers that includes several top brands, but it also recently purchased Leeyo, a revenue recognition platform.

2. Illumio

As news headlines have proven, cybersecurity has become an increasingly large challenge for businesses to tackle. However, automated threat monitoring could make the task a bit easier for them, and Illumio is among the companies gaining attention for this technology — the business earned a billion-dollar valuation in 2017.

3. AnyRoad

AnyRoad specializes in experience relationship management (ERM), which is essentially a CRM for the real world. The brand’s software helps businesses leverage data from real-life brand experiences and empowers companies like Honda, Diageo, and the Golden State Warriors to measure shifts in brand perception and purchase behavior, enabling them to establish deeper relationships with their fans.

4. Convoy

Technology is seeping into every industry, including logistics, and Convoy offers cutting-edge trucking technology. The software company, which provides real-time shipment management, signed a multiyear partnership with Anheuser-Busch in 2017.

5. Compass

Consumers can function as their own information-gathering real estate agents, thanks to apps like Compass. The real estate brokerage reported revenue of more than $180 million in 2016, just three short years after it launched.

6. PernixData

After its purchase by Nutanix in 2016, PernixData continued to expand the market for its virtual server-side flash memory. While the space has plenty of competition, PernixData’s write caching and clustering set it apart.

7. Highfive

No stranger to competition in the wide videoconferencing arena, Highfive is elbowing its way out of the pack. One feature that sets it apart is its ability to now be deployed directly from a user’s browser.

8. Thrive Global

Founded by Arianna Huffington, Thrive Global is focused on individual and workplace wellness and provides science-based content and tools to reduce stress. After raising $30 million in Series B funding in 2017, the company partnered with Times Bridge to venture into the Indian market.

9. Duetto

With more than $63 million in funding, Duetto has grabbed attention in the hotel revenue strategy sphere. A new partnership with GuestCentric stands to push the software platform to the next level, allowing hotels to customize pricing in real time based on a customer’s past behaviors.

10. Kano

Believing coding is a big part of the youngest generation’s future, Kano makes the process of learning to code fun for children through kits. The company raised $28 million in Series B funding in 2017, which it put toward releasing its products to retail outlets.

11. Gigster

Gigster aims to provide businesses with the tools they need to innovate using artificial intelligence. The software development recruiting platform, which connects freelance developers, designers, and project managers to companies needing on-demand project work, recently landed a Series B funding round that put its total capital investments at $32 million.

12. RedOwl

Among the acquisitions grabbing headlines in 2017 was Forcepoint’s purchase of RedOwl, which followed at least $21 million raised in venture capital. RedOwl’s specialty is software that detects unusual activity on users’ systems.

13. Vicarious

Vicarious’ advanced AI, designed to improve robotics, has earned the company investments from Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, in addition to Benioff. Among its most recent innovations is technology to improve the CAPTCHA process.

14. Rainforest QA

With revenue growth of more than 1,500 percent over two years, Rainforest QA’s success has proven that quality assurance testing is a field in strong demand. The QA-as-a-Service platform recently raised $25 million to expand its AI-fueled testing.

15. Wingz

Competing in the crowded ride-sharing market can be tough, but airport ride company Wingz strives to beat Uber and Lyft by promising to undercut prices, even during high-demand times. A 2016 purchase by Expedia gave the company a welcome boost, bringing its total funding to $13.7 million.

16. Domo

Domo’s SaaS-based platform helps business leaders transform the way they manage business through direct access to data. The company was named to the 2017 Inc. 500 after growing more than twentyfold in three years.

17. Cloudwords

Marketing localization company Cloudwords kicked off in 2010 with $3 million in seed funding, including Benioff’s investment. In April 2017, the global marketing campaign solution partnered with translation productivity startup Lilt.

18. Mashery

After Tibco purchased Mashery from Intel in 2015, the API management company continued to grow, with Gartner repeatedly naming it a leader in full life-cycle API management.

19. Kyriba Japan

Specializing in next-generation financial management and cloud treasury software, Kyriba Japan recently launched a module dedicated to detecting and stopping fraud as it’s attempted.

20. Nuzzel

It can be difficult for busy consumers to sift through the news for the pieces most relevant to their lives, but Nuzzel makes it easier. News items are curated from a user’s social network, which now includes LinkedIn.

Marc Benioff’s eye for business means his investments signal the technologies consumers and businesses need to watch. These innovations are proof that Benioff has his finger on the pulse of the software space, and that’s likely to continue as he looks for new ventures to support.

Don't Quit Your PR Program Unless You've Considered These 3 Things

Whether you are looking to gain awareness, improve SEO, or increase sales, having great exposure can help you get there. But PR is not a band-aid for an overarching business problem–nor is it a get rich fast technique.

A great PR strategy can take many years to build. Over the years, I’ve seen many companies start their efforts, only to stop before they’ve given the program enough time to develop. I’ve heard dozens of marketers and founders explain that they quit their PR efforts after their pitch didn’t get picked up by enough outlets in the first few weeks. Gaining great coverage takes time, pitch optimization, and persistence.

Often times, if a brand could have taken a step back after a rejected story to tweak their angle and try again, the second story they pitch could have been widely successful. Here’s why you shouldn’t throw in the towel for your PR outreach just yet:

1. Relationships take time to build.

Imagine you are at a party. You immediately start talking about you, your business, and your news. Very quickly, many people will not want to talk with you.

The same holds true when you’re building relationships with the media. It takes time to get to know a reporter and what they are writing about and then creating relevant pitches that are helpful to them. When you build trust and rapport with reporters, they’ll be more likely to open your emails, which is the first step to gaining great coverage.

You can build a better relationship with reporters by becoming well versed with their past writings and looking for opportunities to tell them stories of interest. Take a look through their Twitter accounts and personal websites to learn more about what they’re covering and the news that is important to them.

When you reach out to a reporter for the first time, show them that you are knowledgeable about their area of coverage and that your story fits their angle. When we reach out to reporters we make sure to spend time reading their past work to ensure our pitch is the right fit for their area of expertise.  It can be easy to burn a press bridge simply by not personalizing an email enough–take your time, do your research, and get to know reporters for the long term. Slow and steady wins the race.

2. SEO is a long-term game.

When you receive a press mention, you’ll likely see a spike in traffic on the day it’s published–but don’t discount the future traffic. If you are a mattress company and you get listed as “The Best Mattresses Ever Made,” you’ll benefit from both the spike and also later from people who are searching for mattresses and come across the article. Traffic from press articles should be monitored for months to come, even after publication.

An authoritative link will not only drive traffic, but will also help your website in the search engine rankings. This boost will not happen instantly. With time and relevant inbound links, you’ll see not just your referral traffic grow, but also your organic search traffic from Google.

3. Press takes commitment–and a bit of luck.

It takes a while to learn about the best way to pitch your product. Each time you pitch, you’ll learn more about what copy and message resonates with reporters.

If you’re not seeing any success, it does not mean you don’t have an interesting story. It might mean you are pitching to the wrong reporters, your email subject line needs work, or you simply didn’t follow up.

By tracking your emails with a tool like SideKick or Yesware, you’ll be better able to see who is opening your mails, what they’re clicking on, and how many times they went back to the email. You can use this data to refine your pitch the next time. With the media always changing, it also takes a bit of luck to pitch at the right time to the right reporter with the right story.

Pitching takes a strong backbone and you’ll get a lot of rejections. If you haven’t had success yet, keep trying. And if you’ve been pitching for months with still no results, it might be time to call in a PR pro to help you optimize your pitch and press kit.

If you’re looking to reap the benefits of the press, start early, optimize often, and plan your strategy for the long haul. This time next year, you’ll be glad you stuck with it.

‘Who Is Jesus?’ Google Home Couldn’t Answer and People Weren’t Happy

Anger over Google Home’s inability to answer questions about Jesus led the company to bar the device from answering questions about all religious figures, according to a statement released Friday.

Some users became angry when the smart speaker was unable to answer questions such as, “Who is Jesus?” but could respond to similar queries about Buddha, Muhammad and Satan, CNBC reports. Some unhappy social media users alleged that Google was “censoring” Jesus.

Danny Sullivan, Google’s public search liason, tweeted a statement by way of explanation on Friday. “The reason the Google Assistant didn’t respond with information about ‘Who is Jesus’ or ‘Who is Jesus Christ’ wasn’t out of disrespect but instead to ensure respect,” the statement reads. “Some of the Assistant’s spoken responses come from the web, and for certain topics, this content can be more vulnerable to vandalism and spam.”

Until the issue is fixed, according to the statement, all responses for questions about religious figures will be temporarily unavailable.

Google’s reliance on “featured snippets” — the pullout information that appears at the top of a page of search results — has gotten the company in hot water before. Inaccurate and offensive information can find its way into featured snippets, which has led Google’s smart products to repeat sometimes inflammatory comments.

Google Home is now responding to questions about religious figures with, “Religion can be complicated, and I am still learning,” users report.

5 Ways Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Reed Hastings Inspire Their Employees to Innovate

By Mattson Newell (@MattsonNewell), Director for Partners In Leadership, an expert and author on Breakthrough Communications, Global Human Resources, and Talent Development

While the initial success of companies like Netflix, Facebook, and Tesla, is, of course, grounded in the fantastic products they’ve introduced to consumers, the leaders of these tech world behemoths recognize that long-term success requires fostering a strong culture of innovation within their companies. In fast-moving industries, leaders must create a culture of learning that keeps employees invested in their work and committed to the challenge of improving upon the status quo.

The strategies used by leaders like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Reed Hastings are innovative and unique, but they can be borrowed by leaders from all industries to encourage a sense of creativity and curiosity in their employees. The success of these visionary leaders in creating cultures of learning can be boiled down to five critical strategies.

1. Lead With Passion

Mark Zuckerberg is passionate about the grand vision that his company is working towards — but he applies that same passion to the everyday, often unglamorous work it takes to achieve that vision. Through frequent appearances on the news and at conferences, as well as through posts on his own personal Facebook page, Zuckerberg is constantly setting an example for his employees, demonstrating to the world how excited he is about the work Facebook is doing. This kind of dedication does more than inspire confidence in shareholders: employees who see that their managers are passionate about what they have achieved are much more inclined to work diligently in pursuit of the company vision.

2. Lead By Example

Earlier this year, Elon Musk caught wind of some safety concerns affecting employees in one of Tesla’s plants. Instead of just issuing a new company policy or sending a sympathetic email, Musk asked that moving forward, employees send any and all concerns regarding safety directly to his inbox. On top of that, he promised to personally visit any factory in which these incidents occurred, spending time on the factory floor and observing the process himself to determine what changes could be made to improve protocol. Musk’s decision to lead from the front lines showed his employees that he was committed to their safety and personally invested in improving Tesla’s manufacturing process.

3. Create a Culture of Asking Questions

Leaders who create a culture in which employees are encouraged to ask questions are able to keep their organizations nimble and primed for growth. It was Musk’s constant willingness to ask questions and challenge the status quo that pushed Tesla from being just another car company to one of the most innovative businesses in the world. If Musk hadn’t challenged what was accepted as “the way business has always been done,” SpaceX would never have been born.

It takes the courage to think big to launch a company, but maintaining this mindset remains just as important as your company grows: promoting a culture of innovation and experimentation can help you to maintain your competitive edge for decades down the line.

4. Be Open to Change

In order to create and implement truly innovative ideas at their companies, leaders must not only embrace change themselves, but ensure that their employees do the same. CEOs like Netflix’s Reed Hastings, for example, understand that ideas for new products and processes are great, but that these innovations will never truly be impactful if they are not seen through to completion. That’s how he pushed his company to make the transition from mailing customers DVDs by hand to streaming all of its video content, a practice that was unheard of until Netflix championed it. Rather than letting this daring idea fall by the wayside, Hastings acted on it, and in doing so ushered in the new normal of on-demand video streaming services.

5. Empower Employees to Learn

It’s all well and good for managers to encourage their employees to take learning seriously — but the best leaders actually give their employees the resources they need to do it. For example, Google allows its employees to spend 20% of their time each week learning new skills and developing their existing talents. Granting employees the time and space to learn will always generate positive returns for any company.

The Doomsday Clock Ticks Closer to Midnight Over Nuclear War Fears

The accidental missile alert in Hawaii earlier this month made real for 38 terrifying minutes the vague, low-level dread that permeates American life today: Nuclear war seems closer and more real than it has in a generation. Even the pope—not exactly a fear-monger—said last week that the world now stood at “the very limit.”

That existential fear was affirmed today by the organization of nuclear scientists who have spent seven decades trying to turn humanity away from nuclear weapons: The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved its “Doomsday Clock” 30 seconds closer to “midnight,” an unofficial barometer of how close the world stands to a man-made catastrophe. It now stands two minutes away.

“To call the situation dire is to understate the danger,” said Rachel Bronson, the head of the Bulletin, at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, Thursday, announcing the clock’s new setting.

The clock dates back to 1947, when the scientists who participated in the Manhattan Project wanted to create a mechanism to warn of escalating global tensions and the danger of global Armageddon. The iconic stylized timepiece has since become the global arbiter of dread—or hope. It aims to answer two questions: Is the future of civilization safer or at greater risk than it was last year? And how does today’s risk compare to the risks we’ve experienced over the last 71 years?

The graphical clock started at seven minutes to midnight, its two-dozen changes since marking the shifting tensions of the Cold War. Its “peacetime” rating peaked in 1991 at 17 minutes to midnight, as the Soviet Union broke apart. It has gradually ticked darker ever since, first as nuclear weapons proliferated to countries like India and Pakistan, and then as it began to factor in other global threats, like climate change.

Last year, for the first time, it ticked forward a half-minute, reflecting the rise of nationalism and the threat to the post-war international order, as well as President Donald Trump’s troubling supportive comments about the appeal of nuclear weapons, and his climate change skepticism.

At the time, he’d been president only a few days; there was little track record to measure his actions versus his campaign rhetoric. But as Bronson told me last month, “Many of our fears played themselves out in 2017… A lot of our concerns were really borne out.”

Today’s movement of the Doomsday Clock—announced live in a webcast—was yet another sign that the world stands on a precipice perhaps unparalleled in the modern era. It hasn’t sat this close to midnight since 1953, a few months after the United States and Russia tested their first thermonuclear bombs.

Last week, as he started a trip to South America, Pope Francis handed out to reporters aboard his Alitalia plane a photo from 1945 that depicted a Japanese boy carrying his dead brother in the hours after the US bombing of Nagasaki, a nuclear weapon roughly equivalent to what US intelligence believes North Korea possesses. The Pope cautioned his travel companions, “I am really afraid of this. One accident is enough to precipitate things.”

The Pope’s comments reflected, whether intentionally or not, the strong sense of the presidents who lived through the danger of the Cold War: They rarely feared the superpowers intentionally launching global general thermonuclear war. Instead, what men like Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan feared was a rapid escalation through miscommunications, misunderstandings, and miscalculations that resulted in the two countries stumbling into a war neither intended.

As it turns out, if there’s one critical geopolitical lesson of the Cold War—one that should be impressed on every commander-in-chief in turn—it’s that nuclear war is actually hard to avoid.

Eisenhower, the former Supreme Allied Commander and the president who perhaps knew war better than any other during the nuclear age, declared that his proudest accomplishment was seemingly the simplest: “We kept the peace. People ask how it happened—by God, it didn’t just happen.”

During Eisenhower’s eight years, the United States and the Soviet Union repeatedly had to take active action to step back from escalating tensions. Many times, in fact, Eisenhower sat in rooms as president where military leaders recommended war as the best option—where, incredibly, starting a war would have been easier politically than choosing peace. It seems hard to imagine today, but the US seriously contemplated the use of nuclear weapons in the Korean War, and even to defend the islands of Matsu and Quemoy in the Taiwan Strait from invasion by the mainland Chinese military.

Eisenhower paid a political price for his forbearance. Democrats hammered him in the midterm 1958 elections as “soft on defense,” and Ike’s reputation as a peacemaker helped John F. Kennedy defeat Vice President Richard Nixon in the 1960 presidential race.

Kennedy, though, quickly came to agree with Eisenhower: Keeping the peace is often harder than going to war.

The US has invested trillions of dollars in a sophisticated defense and intelligence apparatus that, left to its own devices, protectively escalates the country to war.

More simply put, war is the default setting. Only through careful, sober, active leadership has the US avoided a nuclear exchange since 1945.

Kennedy’s own scare came in 1962, as the Soviet Union loaded nuclear-armed missiles into Cuba. In reading historian Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August—which traces how the Great Powers defaulted, almost accidentally, into beginning the Great War in the summer of 1914— Kennedy fixated on a conversation between two German leaders.

“How did it all happen,” asked a former German chancellor of the current chancellor. The latter, who had led his nation into the terrible, destructive “War To End All Wars,” replied, “Ah, if only one know.” Amid the Soviet standoff, President Kennedy told his brother Bobby that his driving motivation was to avoid a history book someday entitled The Missiles of October.

Indeed, the more historians have learned about the Cuban Missile Crisis, the more we’ve realized how correct Kennedy was: Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev communicated poorly throughout the faceoff, and both sides misunderstood the others’ motivations, red lines, and military readiness. Numerous scares could have escalated: A routine preplanned U-2 surveillance flight strayed into Soviet airspace; a US attempt to scare a Soviet submarine resulted in the sub readying its nuclear-tipped torpedo.

In the context of the last seven decades of near-misses, the accidental Hawaiian missile alert is remarkable only in that was a public-facing mistake. Over the years, warning systems on the American and the Russian side have mistaken satellites, flocks of birds, and even the rising moon as incoming surprise missile attacks. Boris Yeltsin—back when the Doomsday Clock stood at a remarkably peaceful 14 minutes to midnight—was actually handed the Russian nuclear briefcase, known as the Cheget, in 1995 when Russian radar mistook the launch of a Norwegian scientific rocket for a surprise attack from a US submarine. He had less than five minutes to decide whether to launch a retaliatory strike.

The Cold War saw all manner of high-level scares. Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, was awoken one night with news that 2,200 Soviet missiles were on their way to the United States. He was preparing to wake the president for a retaliatory strike when word came through that the incoming missiles were just a computer glitch, a gremlin inside the system at NORAD. Brzezinski never bothered to wake his wife, figuring that she’d be dead anyway in a few minutes, so why bother her?

The Soviets misinterpreted the 1983 NATO nuclear weapons command exercise, known as ABLE ARCHER, as the preparations for a surprise attack and readied their own forces to respond. “In 1983, we may have inadvertently placed our relations with the Soviet Union on a hair trigger,” a classified 109-page US intelligence review later concluded.

In 2018, the focus instead lies on North Korea, as the isolated regime’s rapidly progressing missile program has become the center of geopolitical tension. During the first of what have now become regular scares, news reports circulated of a US aircraft carrier battle group steaming rapidly to the Korean peninsula—only to report days later that the Pentagon had garbled the location. The ships were, instead, thousands of miles away off the coast of Australia.

For a weekend, though, Kim Jong Un might have correctly believed the US was coming to kill him—and acted accordingly.

Each time until now, careful reflection and cautious leadership—leadership on all sides in all countries—in these crises has de-escalated rather than escalated. As President Trump has repeatedly shown, past is not necessarily prologue when it comes to nuclear weapons, particularly as more nations arm themselves and as the global rise of social media can spread reports—accurate or not—faster than policymakers can understand it, increasing the chances of miscalculations.

The current system makes nuclear war easier to start than to avoid; there’s precious little room for reflection. The first ICBMs will leave their silos just four minutes after a presidential order; once they launch, there’s no mechanism to stop them. And country on the planet possesses the capability to shoot down an incoming strike.

Today’s Doomsday Clock announcement offers a critical reminder that continuing Eisenhower’s dictum that he “kept the peace” requires the continuation of active, steady leadership throughout the world.

In an age where the blunt instrument of 140-character tweets all but beg to be misinterpreted, it’s a reminder that can’t be stressed enough.

The Threat of War

Trading Technologies-Coinbase deal to bridge bitcoin and futures

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Trading software provider Trading Technologies International Inc said on Thursday it has teamed up with crypto-currency exchange operator Coinbase to give institutional traders direct market access to both bitcoin and bitcoin futures beginning in March.

The partnership means that large trading firms will have both bitcoin spot prices and bitcoin futures on the same screen, positioning them to potentially reap more profits trading the spread between the two financial products.

The firms withheld the financial terms of the deal.

Much of the interest in trading bitcoin has come from retail traders, but institutional participation has been picking up steam, especially over the past year, Adam White, general manager of Coinbase’s Global Digital Asset Exchange (GDAX), one of the biggest cryptocurrency exchanges, said in an interview.

“This is the first time hundreds, if not thousands of institutional clients will have the ability to trade the crypto spot market side by side with 45 other markets,” he said.

Trading Technologies, known as TT, is connected to 45 markets worldwide, including CME Group (CME.O) and Cboe Global Markets Inc (CBOE.O), which both introduced bitcoin futures trading in December.

The cash-settled futures give speculators a chance to short bitcoin, meaning they are betting the price of the underlying security will fall. One bitcoin was worth around $11,150 on Thursday morning, down from a high of around $19,000 last month.

TT also counts Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) , JPMorgan Chase and Co (JPM.N), and most other Wall Street banks as clients, as well as many Chicago- and London-based proprietary trading firms.

“We’ve had a lot of demand from the institutional trading community, everything from the traditional buy-side, hedge funds, managed accounts, the prop community, that I think have been looking for a bridge like this as a way to trade the crypto markets against the cash markets,” Rick Lane, TT’s chief executive officer, said in an interview.

The Chicago-based firm will also be rolling out enhanced surveillance tools to help police crypto-trading in the coming months, Lane said.

Coinbase, which is regulated under the New York Department of Financial Services BitLicense, also said it would soon introduce a new custodian offering with strict financial controls and secure storage for institutional traders wanting to trade digital currencies like bitcoin.

Reporting by John McCrank; Editing by Andrea Ricci

Google Wanted to Give Away $30 Million for Landing on the Moon. But Nobody Won

After 10 long years, the Google-sponsored competition to land a robot on the moon for millions of dollars will end without a winner.

The XPrize foundation, which hosted the competition in collaboration with Google, announced Tuesday that the grand prize of $30 million will go unclaimed since none of the five teams will be able to reach the moon by the March 31st deadline. While the nonprofit said that it “did expect a winner by now,” it may move forward with a new sponsor to fund a prize if possible or reframe the Lunar XPrize as a non-cash competition.

A decade ago, teams were challenged to land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon, move the device around the surface for at least 500 meters, and then send photos and video back to Earth. The deadline was pushed back several times, but XPrize finally decided to halt the competition “due to the difficulties of fundraising, technical and regulatory challenges.”

XPrize argues that it still succeeded in some ways because it “sparked the conversation and changed expectations with regard to who can land on the Moon.” Indeed, a number of private spaceflight companies such as Elon Musk’s Space X, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin have sprung up in recent years with goals to usher in space tourism.

“We set out on this journey in 2007, excited by the potential of the prize to spur innovation and discovery in commercial space travel,” an XPrize spokesperson said. “Though the prize is coming to an end, we continue to hold a deep admiration for all Google Lunar XPrize teams, and we will be rooting for them as they continue their pursuit of the moon and beyond. To all teams, thank you for inspiring us to dream big and work hard.”

The nonprofit added that Google awarded more than $6 million to teams over the course of the competition “in recognition of the milestones they have accomplished.”