Microsoft 365 Is The Office And Windows Bundle Targeted At Business Users

Microsoft has just unveiled Microsoft 365, which bundles together Office 365, Windows 10, and Enterprise Mobility + Security, giving “a complete, intelligent and secure solution to empower employees.”

Microsoft Announces New Office 365 Plans For Businesses

Essentially, Microsoft 365 is a new way for enterprises to purchase Office and Windows together, bundling the company’s mainline software into a single subscription. In addition, it’ll also offer users Microsoft 365 Business, debuting via public preview come Aug. 2. It includes Office 365 Business Premium and security and management features for Office software and devices running Windows 10.

Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella unveiled both types of bundles at its Inspire partner conference, attended by 17,000 people, who were there to hear about Microsoft’s partnerships and other plans.

Microsoft says the workplace is changing, especially by virtue of teams often being distributed globally. From such trends, the company observes a new culture that’s emerging. Its new plans are a reflection of those.

Microsoft 365 Enterprise And 365 Business Plans And Release Date

Microsoft 365 Enterprise will be offered in two plans: Microsoft 365 E3 and Microsoft 365 E5. Both will launch on Aug. 1. Microsoft hasn’t laid the details on pricing yet, but says it’ll depend on the specific plan and “other factors.”

Microsoft 365 Business, meanwhile, will launch its full stable release later this fall following the public preview on Aug. 2. It will cost each user $20 a month.

Ahead of both release dates, Microsoft will let users try three applications coming to both Office 365 Business Premium and Microsoft 365 Business. These applications include Microsoft Connections, an email marketing service; Microsoft Listings, a publishing tool for business information; and Microsoft Invoicing, which is pretty self-explanatory.

The company has also included MileIQ, its mileage tracking app, into Office 365 Business Premium. In addition, Microsoft has also launched Azure Stack, which allows businesses to host their own hybrid cloud. Several companies including HP, Lenovo, and Dell are all building systems to run Azure Stack, the first shipments of which launches September.

Microsoft’s cloud business has been one of its most profitable units in recent years, a sort of saving grace from the tumble of its Windows Phone venture and other less alluring products and services. As the company treads the way of the cloud further, we might see Microsoft approach cloud-based services more extensively going forward.

“We are incredibly enthusiastic about Microsoft 365 and how it will help customers and partners drive growth and innovation,” said Microsoft.

Thoughts about Microsoft new Office 365 bundles? Feel free to sound off in the comments section below!


Love Mac and Cheese? But What About the Sprinkling of Harmful Chemicals in it?

Love Mac and Cheese? But What About the Sprinkling of Harmful Chemicals in it?

Talk about comfort food and the sinful Mac and Cheese comes to mind. Easy to make and delicious till the last bite, it has been a favourite dish across the globe. There are even readymade Mac and Cheese packs available in the stores to make life easier. But along with your spoonful of macaroni, have you been also taking in a sprinkling of chemicals? In a recent study, experts at the University of Adelaide and the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute joined hands to examine over 1000 male participants who were consuming such cheese products as part of their diet. Traces of phthalates, a harmful chemical commonly used in plastic products, adhesives, soaps, etc, were found in close to 99.6% of the participants.

The prevalence of lifestyle and metabolic ailments like type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and high blood pressure was found to have increased in participants with high phthalate levels. The presence of such chemicals in the body was attributed to consuming food items packed in plastic.
As per a recent study conducted by the Coalition for Safer Food Processing & Packaging, 29 out of 30 cheese products were found to have traces of phthalates with natural cheese products recording the least and processed cheese items containing highest amount of phthalates. “Phthalates can migrate into food products during processing, packaging, and preparation. Phthalates tend to be found at higher levels in highly processed or fatty foods.” noted the report as stated on Kleanupkraft’s webpage.

phthalate via kleanupkraftImage via Kleanupkraft
Though the group of chemicals is never intentionally added to food products, they travel easily from food containers or bottles to the actual food items. These are easily absorbed by body cells and get absorbed into the system.
Phthalates are also capable of disrupting the hormonal balance and cause fertility issues in both men and women. Cheese products were tested for phthalate content as dairy products have been tied to being one of the greatest sources of direct exposure to phthalates (DEHP) in young children and women. The report called for further research to measure phthalate content in various food items and formulation of relevant policies to regulate and monitor the same in food products.



YOU’LL FIND MILLIONS of apps in the Google Play store, many of them written using the powerful, stable, workhorse programming language Java. If it were a car, Java would feature a fast, reliable engine but not antilock brakes, power steering, or cup holders. Totally drivable. Not exactly a joy ride.

In May Google gave Android developers another option when it announced it would start supporting a new programming language called Kotlin, which offers most of the same basic features as Java plus the coding equivalent of seat warmers and a killer sound system. This means programmers can write safer, more reliable code with less work. That’s good news for users because it should translate into apps with fewer bugs and crashes. But it’s even better news for programmers, because it means spending more time working on the interesting parts of code and less on more routine matters—the things that make programming a rewarding career or hobby. “Working with it just brings a smile to your face,” says Christina Lee, an Android developer at Pinterest and Kotlin enthusiast.

Companies like Pinterest, Basecamp, and Square had already been using it, but now that it has the official support of Google, you can expect to find Kotlin in more and more places. “Kotlin is what our development community has already asked for,” Android product manager Stephanie Saad Cuthbertson said during the announcement of Kotlin support at Google’s IO conference in May.

Works Well With Others

Although the first official release of Kotlin came only last year, the language has a history that stretches back to 2010. It was created by a Czech company called JetBrains, which makes software for programmers and project managers. But the team didn’t make Kotlin to sell. They made it to solve their own development problems.

More than 70 percent of its products were built with Java, says Hadi Hariri, a developer evangelist at JetBrains, but most of the rest were written in Microsoft’s C# language. The team saw a lot to like in C#, and were getting sick of some of Java’s old fashioned ways. Using Java means writing out lots of code that other languages tend to handle automatically. Something as simple as printing the phrase “Hello World” can take up three lines of code in Java, but usually only takes three words in modern languages.

That means extra work, much of it fairly repetitive. And all that extra code—”verbosity” in programming lingo—makes programs more cluttered and makes it easier to make mistakes. “The biggest issue with programming languages is that when you look at some code, you’ve got to figure out what the code is doing,” says Hariri. “It translates into a lot of noise that really isn’t necessary to understand the problem it’s trying to solve.”

The JetBrains teams really wanted to use a more modern language, but they still had many applications written in Java that would need to be maintained. It just wasn’t practical to re-write all of their existing Java applications in C# or some other language. What they needed was a language that was compatible with Java, so that they could add new features to old applications using the new language without completely rewriting the applications from scratch.

A few such options existed. Scala was gaining popularity at the time, thanks in part to its use at Twitter. But Hariri says it wasn’t as fast or as simple as the JetBrains crew would have liked. “It’s a very powerful language that, if misused, could end up badly,” he says. Groovy and Clojure, meanwhile, employed different programming paradigms altogether.

So the JetBrains team built their own language that had all the features they wanted and a strong focus on compatibility with Java. And instead of keeping the project internal, JetBrains open-sourced the project. JetBrains doesn’t profit directly from Kotlin’s use among developers, but the company hopes to make money off of it through increased interest in their Kotlin-supporting core products. Perhaps more importantly, JetBrains benefits from giving away Kotlin for free in the form of feedback and improvements from the larger Java community.

The company released a preview version of the language in 2011, and it turned out many other people were looking for something along those lines. One of them, Jake Wharton, an Android engineer at payments company Square, has been following Kotlin since its beginning. “Once you start using the language you can tell it was built by someone who spent a lot of time programming in Java,” Wharton says.

In 2015, he prepared a document to explain to his bosses at Square why they should sign-off on his Kotlin use. He published the paper on the web and soon many other people were using it to sell their bosses on Kotlin. “Jake’s well known in the Android community, he’s written open source libraries that we all use,” says Dan Kim, an Android developer at the software company Basecamp, says about Whaton’s paper. “It showed people that if Jake believes in it, it’s got at least a shot at being pretty good.”

But there was a catch. Although it was possible to build Android apps with Kotlin without Google’s official support, it was a risk. If Google made changes to the way Android worked, apps written in an unsupported language might not work the way developers intended. And if Google ended up announcing support for, say, Apple’s Swift or its own language Go, many managers might be left feeling they’d bet on the wrong horse. Google’s announcement last May meant that companies could adopt Kotlin without fear.

To Android and Beyond

Although one of Kotlin’s biggest selling points is that it can be mixed and matched with Java, it has appeal far beyond companies with vast amounts of old Java code they still need to use. Lee started using Kotlin at the startup Math Camp before it was acquired by Pinterest simply because her team thought it was the best language for their needs. “We started from scratch,” she says. “The app was 100 percent Kotlin, there was no Java in there.”

And its applications extend well beyond Google’s platform. Like Java, it can be used to write apps that run on desktops and servers as well. Plus, JetBrains has released tools for translating Kotlin code into code that can run on iOS or even in web browsers. All of which is to say, you can expect to find yourself using apps written in Kotlin more and more often in the coming months and years. Let’s just hope those virtual cup holders to bring a smile to users’ faces as well as coders’ faces.


Look back at Mac OS X’s history with 5K versions of all the default wallpapers

Mac OS X / macOS has been a fundamental part of Apple’s modern-day renaissance. Throughout the years, the company has graced each version of its computer operating system with default desktop wallpaper that has ranged from instantly iconic to, well, some really nice pictures of mountains.

But most of the older wallpapers were never really designed to be used on a higher-resolution screen, so if you’ve been looking to use the classic Aqua wallpaper from OS 10.3 Panther or 10.5 Leopard’s famous Aurora on your fancy new 5K Mac, you’ve been pretty much out of luck.

Fortunately, Apple aficionado Stephen Hackett of 512Pixels, in partnership with Twitter user @forgottentowel, has created a centralized place to find upscaled 5K resolution versions of every main OS X wallpaper ever made. They’re ideal on a Retina display with your current-gen iMac or MacBook Pro.

Image: Apple

As a warning, there’s only so much you can do even with upscaling the older images to modern resolutions, so while you shouldn’t expect razor-sharp crispness, it’s still better than using the original 1024 x 768 OS 10.1 wallpaper that natively shipped with Cheetah.


How Technology Can Help You Engage Your Audience the Right Way


If you’re looking for a scapegoat for just about any of the world’s issues, you probably know technology makes a good choice. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people talk about how technology and being “plugged in” is making relationships harder than ever.

For some, I’m sure that’s probably true. At the end of the day, though, technology is a tool, and your relationships with other people — including your audience — depend on how you use it.

For marketers, technology presents an opportunity for you to reach and connect with your audience. Content marketing tools, for example, help you plan and craft your brand’s most engaging messages. Social media tools help you get them into the hands of the right people. Marketing automation platforms help you streamline and automate your processes, among other things.

The only catch? You can’t entirely remove the human element from the equation and let technology do it all.

Learn the Golden Equation: Technology + authenticity = engagement

If you had your choice between an engaging, personalized message from an authentic thought leader at a company and boring, automated content coming from an impersonal corporate logo, which would you prefer? It’s no contest: We’d all choose personalized content from real humans.

Marketers can use technology to create that content, deliver it, measure their efforts — any number of things. But tech, as ever-present as it is, won’t magically result in audience engagement and stronger relationships. Like I said, it’s a tool that needs to be used to make your job of connecting with your audience easier than before.

Sadly, too many brands forget their role in building those relationships and overlook the human elements that are necessary to make their messages resonate. They then wonder why engagement is low, assuming technology has created this huge trust barrier and made it harder to connect instead of looking in the mirror to find the root of the problem: They haven’t humanized their brands or used the right content to communicate that.

Make the shift from me to you

Talking “at” versus talking “with”: It’s a big distinction. Too many companies are knee-deep in the former, pushing out information like that boorish uncle at your folks’ annual Fourth of July picnic who simultaneously says everything and nothing.

In the past, brands would develop an idea or a message and push it out for everyone and their mother to see, whether those recipients truly cared to see it or not. In my business and marketing book, “Top of Mind,” I call this “Me Marketing,” where marketers only push out what they want and focus on themselves in the process. (I’ve yet to meet one person who truly enjoys getting spammed with a ton of promotional emails that were clearly sent out en masse with no personalization at all.)

Today, effective brands and marketers are taking a different approach. They have shifted to what I call “You Marketing” and have begun creating content for the actual audience members receiving it.

There’s a much greater focus on what audiences want and how they like to receive information, engage with content, and work with brands. Marketers need to listen to and authentically engage with audiences, and they need to do it on that audience’s terms. Technology can help.

Pursue new technology for better relationships

One example of a tool that’s taking the modern customer experience and running with it is PingPilot. Launched by SCORCH, this software aims to change the conversation between businesses and individuals by allowing people to choose their preferred means of communication. The means of conversation can change depending on the client’s needs — live chat, voice, and SMS are all viable channels. Essentially, businesses move over and give consumers the keys to the car, as well as the wheel.

Over time, this allows brands and consumers to forge sincere bonds based on trust and live interactions, not chatbots or automated replies. Each touchpoint becomes an opportunity to build a better understanding of customers; data from these interactions can improve the company’s marketing stack and explode lead generation, not to mention conversions.

This is a prime example of how technology actually helps build stronger personal relationships and connections, not replace them.

Everyone loves to hate something, but it’s time to pull back from blaming technology left and right. Instead of cursing a technology-rich world that’s made Snapchat filters and hashtags so ubiquitous you hardly notice them anymore, it’s wiser to look deeper into what those selfies and hashtags mean to the people who make, view, and engage with them. Authenticity between brands and audiences has technology at its core, but it takes human hands, minds, and hearts to execute it.

John Hall is the CEO of Influence & Co., a keynote speaker, and the author of “Top of Mind.” You can book John to speak here.


Apple is still selling very old and expensive computers – these are the ones you shouldn’t buy

Image result for Apple is still selling very old and expensive computers - these are the ones you shouldn't buy

Apple is still selling you computers with 2013 specs for 2017 price tags.

While these computers will work fine, they have outdated specs that don’t warrant their high price tags. You should steer your wallet well clear of them.

I’ve listed the Apple computers you shouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole, and added suggestions of computers you should consider instead.

Some of these computers are part of Apple’s recent back-to-school promotion , where you can get a free pair of $300 Beats Solo3 Wireless headphones. Yet, even with the free pair of headphones, some computers aren’t worth your time or money.


sing technology to bring focus to the classroom

Image result for Using technology to bring focus to the classroomWhen I think back to my school days one thing I really had an issue with was concentration – not much has changed since, and this was before mobile phones, iPads or even dare I say it, the internet. Luckily with the help of new innovations coming our way, the future of our children’s education is looking brighter. There is learning at your own pace, interacting directly with your teacher simultaneously to your desk neighbour and games, yes games, to help you concentrate more. Now that doesn’t sound like a bad deal, does it?

One such innovation is an interactive schooldesk created by Tip Tap Tap. Founders Juan Martinez, Kevin O’Mahoney and Stephen Collins all met through their work at Nimbus research centre in Cork Institute of Technology. With Martinez researching touch sense technology in everyday objects and O’Mahoney researching gesture interaction the pair’s works interlinked and out of it came a desk for school children to enhance learning in the classroom.

The desks are wooden and designed for early years learning, the three- to eight-year-old age bracket. Sandwiched between the wood is a layer of technology as company chief executive Stephen Collins explains.

“Right now inside in the classroom a teacher will ask a question, kids will raise their hands and generally only one or two kids are chosen to give the answer, the other 20-25 kids have to wait for the next question.

“The idea behind Tip Tap Tap is when a teacher runs a mathematical application through our cloud-based system – let’s say two plus two is on the white board – every child in the classroom can participate and interact with the learning content. Every child can use the desk simultaneously to respond and submit their answers.


The desk itself is laser-etched with both an alpha-numerical keypad and also a central portion which houses one of the key features on the desk. This basically means if a child places printed material on that area of the desk – it might be an A4 paper with join the dots on it – we can track the child joining the dots through the printed material once that printed material is sitting on the desk.”

This technology gives the teacher a digital image of what the child has done and in some cases the teacher can correct work and give direct feedback.

Another innovation in the early learning space is Nuala Kelly’s BubbleSkool. Intended for children from fourth class up to Junior Certificate students. The software suite offers the user to input original curriculum content which is then broken down into smaller sentence structures to highlight different sentence parts aiding the child to memorise the words. BubbleSkool is the original model which is now going through a redesign to keep it current with advanced graphics and design.

“So I have the concept, it’s about trying to develop it into a tool or a package that would appeal to young teenagers and 12-year-olds,” says Kelly.

“As a parent I’ve a child who is dyslexic but a very high achiever and is well able to learn. I thought he would have been at a disadvantage because he wouldn’t have the processing speed, or the reading speed that other children his age would have, therefore it’s an uneven playing pitch. I was trying to find something to level things up for him that he could learn the same things his class mates were learning but be able to learn it in his way.”

Adaptive learning is something Edtech Company Adaptemy specialise in. Their products are aimed at secondary school education and work very much on the premise that not one size fits all when it comes to student learning. The software they have designed profiles the learning capabilities of each student and delivers the course work to them accordingly.

“It’s really popular in Junior Cert maths in Ireland, that’s where we started in Junior Cert and Leaving Cert maths, the Junior Cert here it’s very popular. It works very well first of all in maths because a lot of people suffer and it’s a very important subject, says chief executive Conor O’Sullivan.

“We started with maths because that was the most urgent then we moved to science and we’ll work our way through the subjects after that.”

Adaptemy is also at use in Spain, Germany and most recently Slovakia. While they don’t sell directly to schools they licence their technology to educational publishers and it is used in schools in Ireland through the Folens Build Up product.

Poor concentration

We all know that lack of concentration can be a key factor to how well a child learns, not alone for children diagnosed with ADHD but in general there are so many other factors that can lead to poor concentration in the classroom.

Using brainwave technology Dublin-based company Cortechs have come up with a unique headset and game that can help tap into the child’s concentration, improving their learning capabilities. With a BSc in Neuroscience and PhD in neuropathology, founder Áine Behan says: “We build brainwave technology that builds resilience into how we can adapt our brain for better use. You can use brainwave technology to retrain your brain to learn to regulate behaviours and improve behaviours. We’ve built this in to games for viewer platforms. We currently sell a game and headset bundle that kids, aged six to 10, can then use to become more attentive or more focused.

“The headset that you’re wearing has this little sensor that sits on your forehead and from that location on your brain we can tell how focused and relaxed you are by the brainwave electrical activity that goes on underneath the sensor. It is then sent by Bluetooth to the backend of our game Zip and that basically allows Zip to respond and reward you within the game for the more alert and the more focused you are in the game.”

Cortechs recently piloted the game Zip and the Misty Mountain in St Oliver’s National School in Clonmel, Co Tipperary. The children aged between six and nine used the game three times a week for six weeks.

“Kids love it, they adapt very easily to it. With the pilot what we’ve seen is the brainwaves correlate with how much attention the kids are paying, the whole idea is repeated game play. The kids can become more focused and attentive over time. With a significant number of the kids what we can see is that they are moving their baseline of paying attention, it’s improving and they’re spending longer periods of time being more attentive. That’s what the anecdotal evidence is showing us from the pilots and with the design of the game and with how the kids are interacting with the game we’ve received positive feedback from both the parents, teachers and principals.”

I can see how every one of these products could have improved my early learnings. Just imagine, if we were as lucky as the school children of today, being exposed to new developments in learning through new innovations embracing new technologies, goodness knows where I might have ended up…


Nipun “Javatinii” Java Clicks His Way to 2nd Bracelet of the Summer in $1,000 Event

Nipun Java


It didn’t take Nipun “Javatinii” Java days to win a World Series of Poker gold bracelet. No, it only took them a little more than half a day. Java took on a field of 951 players and emerged victorious after just 14 and a half hours. For his victory, he won $237,668 as well as his second World Series of Poker gold bracelet of the summer after coming out on top in the $1,000 Tag Team Event back in June together with Aditya Sushant.

It was with 20 players left that Java first made it onto the radar. He picked off a bluff from “topkoks”who was running extremely hot at the time, eliminating three players in the span of 20 minutes. Java made a call with just top pair to pick off “topkoks” all-in bluff shove on the river to become the chip leader with 20 left. From there it was easy riding for Java to make the final table.

Java exchanged the chip lead several times with “WhyTry” who ended up finishing in 11th place for $13,211. In one hand, Java flopped a full house and was able to get tons of value out of “WhyTry” to put a stranglehold on the top position. Java then eliminated “AznBlazer469” in 10th place to come to the final table in second place just behind Jason “jadedjason” James who eventually finished 2nd.

Java stayed mostly quiet for the final table, picking good spots and waiting to have the goods to get it in. He eliminated Sean “Hurricane27” Legendre in 7th place in a cooler spot where Legendre had kings and “Javatinii” was holding aces. Again, during four-handed play, Java called a shove from Evan “YUDUUUUUUUUU” Jarvis, when Java was holding kings and Jarvis was only holding nine-ten off. Java held up and took the chip lead with just three players left.

Heads-up play lasted for a while with James doubling up first by winning a coin flip with pocket eights against Java’s ace-ten, but Java doubled right back with ace five against James’ pocket queens after an ace hit the turn. The end of it all came when Java flopped two pair against James’s flush and straight draws. The turn and river bricked out and Nipun “Javatinii” Java was able to take down the tournament and the $237,668 first prize.

Place Player Name Country Prize (USD)
1 Nipun “Javatinii” Java United States $237,668
2 Jason “jadedjason” James Canada $146,202
3 Richard “jklolz” Tuhrin United States $103,326
4 Evan “YUDUUUUUUUUU” Jarvis Canada $73,911
5 Vinny “Mr_Sinister” Pahuja United States $53,595
6 Jeffrey “Jeffrey27rj” Turton United States $39,510
7 Sean “Hurricane27” Legendre United States $29,415
8 Steven “meditations” Enstine United States $22,185
9 Stanley “stanman420” Lee United States $17,075

That wraps up Event #71: $1,000 Online No-Limit Hold’em but Saturday marks the beginning of Event #73: $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em Main Event – World Championship, and PokerNews will be here with coverage of it all, so don’t miss a thing.

WSOP Online Event

Be sure to complete your PokerNews experience by checking out an overview of our mobile and tablet apps here. Stay on top of the poker world from your phone with our mobile iOS and Android app, or fire up our iPad app on your tablet. You can also update your own chip counts from poker tournaments around the world with MyStack on both Android and iOS.


A political solution in Syria? How the latest ceasefire deal suits Vladimir Putin, Bashar al-Assad and Iran

Image result for A political solution in Syria? How the latest ceasefire deal suits Vladimir Putin, Bashar al-Assad and IranRussia hopes the “breakthrough” Syrian ceasefire it brokered this week will align the US with President Vladimir Putin’s plans for the war-torn country.

Details of the agreement between Putin and US President Donald Trump Friday to create a de-escalation zone in southwestern Syria remain under negotiation. But scepticism abounds on whether the plan to end a war that in which an estimated 470,000 people have died can succeed where others failed.

Yet something has changed, as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in his comments on the deal, which starts on Sunday with a preliminary ceasefire in areas along the Jordanian border.

Describing the deal with the US as a breakthrough, Putin said at a news conference in Hamburg Saturday that it should become a prototype for a series of zones across Syria that would be administered in coordination with the government in Damascus.

“If we succeed in doing this, we will create an undoubtedly good base and the prerequisites for a political solution in Syria in general,” he said.

Assad is going to retake most of Syria, and there is nothing the US can do about it

Although Putin and all sides are committed to Syria’s territorial unity, the plan would temporarily lead to something like Germany after the second world war, when the allied powers divided the country into four administrative zones, according to Fyodor Lukyanov, who leads Russia’s Council on Foreign and Defence Policy.

“This is the beginning of the soft partition of Syria,” he said. “De-escalation is a euphemism for zones of responsibility, where the different sides will agree which power is responsible for which part of the country.”

The outlines of the Russian proposal approved in Friday’s meeting between Trump and Putin were borrowed from talks between Iran, Russia and Turkey to create de-escalation areas in other parts of the country, Lukyanov said.

Taken together, the two plans represent the Russian military’s strategy for exiting the conflict, Lukyanov said.

They also show how the situation on the ground has transformed over the last year. Syria’s second city, Aleppo, fell back under regime control and the US-led campaign to drive Islamic State (IS) from its self-declared caliphate advanced significantly.

That has left the US with a decision to make on what to do once IS is defeated.

It can wrestle with Iran, Russia and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for control of recaptured areas of Syria.

Or it can declare mission accomplished, agree to oversee the security of zones near the borders with its core allies, Israel and Jordan, and leave most of Syria to Assad, said Joshua Landis, director of the Centre for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. Both Russian and US Syria analysts believe Friday’s decision indicates the latter.

There is a new security architecture being imposed in the Middle East and Iran is the beneficiary

“Assad is going to retake most of Syria, and there is nothing the US can do about it,” Landis said. “There is a new security architecture being imposed in the Middle East and Iran is the beneficiary.”

Tillerson said clearly in his remarks after the Trump-Putin meeting that the Syria deal was a starting point for a wider cooperation with Russia after IS’s defeat. The issue then, he said, would be to pacify other areas of the country.

“By and large, our objectives are exactly the same. How we get there, we each have a view,” Tillerson said. “Maybe they’ve got the right approach and we’ve got the wrong approach.”

The agreement could fall apart quickly. The forces who are not party to the deal – including Assad’s forces, Iranian-led militias and al-Qaeda-linked rebels – exist on the ground in southern Syria as well in the North, where a ceasefire crafted by the Russians and the Americans last year collapsed within two weeks.

In addition, so far the only monitors on offer to police the de-escalation zone are Russian. How others might become involved and in what capacity is under negotiation, the State Department official said. The Russian view of how the zones will work is also minimalist and favourable to the Assad regime.


Google is funding the creation of software that writes local news stories

Google’s Digital News Initiative has committed £622,000 ($805,000) to fund an automated news writing initiative for UK-based news agency, The Press Association. The money will help pay for the creation of Radar (Reporters And Data And Robots), snappily named software designed to generate upwards 30,000 local news stories a month.

The Press Association has enlisted UK-based news startup Urbs Media for the task of creating a piece of software that turns news data into palatable content. Once up and running, the team is hoping the software will be able to fill in some of the gaps that are currently being under-serviced as the universal financial strain being experienced by newsrooms around the world deepens.

It’s similar to a model The Associated Press has employed for a while now here in the States, mostly tackling financial and niche sports stories. A quick Google News search of the tell taletagline This story was generated by Automated Insights” reveals hits from news outlets across the U.S.

In a news release heralding the financial commitment, Press Association Editor-in-Chief Peter Clifton called the move a “genuine game-changer,” stressing that the partnership will focus on stories that might not otherwise be written up as local newspapers continue to die off in this massive fourth-estate extinction. Of course, he was also quick to add that the move won’t do away with the human touch entirely.

 Image result for Google is funding the creation of software that writes local news stories

“Skilled human journalists will still be vital in the process,” he explained, “but Radar allows us to harness artificial intelligence to scale up to a volume of local stories that would be impossible to provide manually.” People will be involved in the curation and editing of the stories and, hopefully, help limit the possibility of accidentally publishing incorrect information in an era when “fake news” is an equally barbed insult on all sides of the political spectrum.

Will robotic writers replace or simply support the work of their human counterparts? A little bit of both, probably. Human news writers regularly point out that AIs tend to lack nuance and a flare for language in the stories they churn out. That’s probably a fare criticism, but it’s easy to see how the rise of robotic news could be a justification — if not a direct cause — for further job loss in the industry. If writers are going to be let go anyway, surely having some software to fill in the gap will help cushion the the blow.