‘I lucked out a bit’ – UK skier James Woods wins first world title

James Woods

James Woods on his way to gold at the FIS World Championships. Photograph: Jeff Swinger/EPA

Great Britain’s James Woods has been crowned world champion for the first time after winning the men’s ski slopestyle competition in Utah.

The 27-year-old defied difficult weather conditions to edge out Norwegian teenager Birk Ruud and US double Olympic medallist Nick Goepper.

Woods said: “It feels good. Obviously I couldn’t be more proud. I’ve put a lot of effort in over the years as everybody has.”

“It was a bit of a wild day to be honest with you,” Woods added. “We’re hanging off the side of a mountain here – judging the weather conditions, assessing the wind, knowing what the snow is doing. Today was a pretty close call whether it was going to be fair. I only care whether conditions are fair and everybody’s safe. I lucked out a little bit, but you’ve got to take it haven’t you?”

Woods had previously won a world silver medal in Voss in 2013 and bronze at Sierra Nevada in 2017. And victory was especially sweet for the Sheffield star who missed out on a Winter Olympic medal in Pyeongchang last year by just 1.2 points.

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 James Woods on the podium following the men’s slopestyle worldc hampionship race. Photograph: Rick Bowmer/AP

Woods had looked set to snatch a podium place in South Korea until Goepper edged him out with the final run of the competition.

Woods’s medal is Britain’s third of the championships after Charlotte Bankes and Izzy Atkin took silver and bronze in snowboard-cross and Ski Big Air, respectively.

[“source=theguardian”]

World leaders head to Davos as uncertainty darkens the global outlook

A demonstrator holds a 'Stop The Shutdown' sign during a rally with union members and federal employees to end the partial government shutdown outside the White House in Washington, D.C.

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A demonstrator holds a ‘Stop The Shutdown’ sign during a rally with union members and federal employees to end the partial government shutdown outside the White House in Washington, D.C.

As a legion of heads of state and business leaders head to Davos for the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) next week, world affairs are as unpredictable and unstable as ever.

In the 12 months since the last forum, global trade relations and diplomacy as well as domestic politics have been fractious, to say the least.

Since President Donald Trump first announced tariffs on a selection of Chinese imports last January, the U.S. and China have gone on to impose tariffs of $250 billion and $110 billion on each other’s goods, respectively. Washington is currently witnessing its longest ever shutdown because of an impasse over funding for a border wall and Brexit remains as chaotic and unclear as ever just weeks before the U.K.’s departure from the EU.

The forum released a “Global Risks” report Wednesday in which it noted that “global risks are intensifying but the collective will to tackle them appears to be lacking.”

In continental Europe over the last year, we’ve seen a populist government take charge in one of Europe’s major economies, Italy, and a demise of mainstream politicians that could lead to a power vacuum — and moral crisis — in the region.

Rise of populism and protectionism risking multilateral relations, analyst says

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced in October that she is to retire from politics and her party continues to cede voters to the left and right, meanwhile an increasingly unpopular French President Emmanuel Macron is dealing with ongoing and often violent protests on the streets of Paris.

John Drzik, president of Global Risk and Digital at risk management firm Marsh, told CNBC that cybercrime, critical infrastructure and environmental threats, as well as changes in geopolitics, are among the biggest risks facing the world right now.

“The rise of nationalist agendas around the world is creating friction among states as well as weakening multilateral institutions,” he told CNBC’s Joumanna Bercetche.

“It’s not just in the U.S., here in the U.K. you have Brexit, but in Brazil, Italy, Austria and Hungary there are lots of populist political figures who are getting elected and changing the agenda to be more protectionist and more nationalist and, as a result, weakening the multilateral bonds that were there and that’s expected to continue into 2019.”

The global economy is not looking too great either as trade concerns continue to concern business and rattle financial markets.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) cited trade tensions when it downgraded its global growth forecast for 2019 last October. The IMF expects global growth of 3.7 percent in 2019, down 0.2 percentage points from an earlier forecast in its World Economic Outlook report.

The World Bank, meanwhile, sees global growth at 2.9 percent in 2019 amid tightening financial conditions. The European Commission is also downbeat about the region’s growth, forecasting a lackluster 2 percent growth in the EU in 2019.

Globalization 4.0

Against this backdrop, there’s plenty to talk about at this year’s Davos then when the heads and officials of over 100 governments meet, as well as top executives from over 1,000 global companies. Designed to foster private and public cooperation, the forum’s main objective is “to improve the state of the world.” This year’s theme is focused on “Globalization 4.0.”

WEF’s founder Klaus Schwab said in November that the world is experiencing “an economic and political upheaval that will not cease any time soon” adding in a WEF editorial that “the forces of the Fourth Industrial Revolution have ushered in a new economy and a new form of globalization.”

Schwab said that a slow and uneven recovery since the global financial crisis meant “a substantial part of society has become disaffected and embittered, not only with politics and politicians, but also with globalization and the entire economic system it underpins.”

We are underinvested in environmental infrastructure, analyst says

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He said populist discourse had confused globalization, which has been seen to have negative connotations in some populist narratives, with globalism.

“Globalization is a phenomenon driven by technology and the movement of ideas, people, and goods. Globalism is an ideology that prioritizes the neoliberal global order over national interests. Nobody can deny that we are living in a globalized world. But whether all of our policies should be ‘globalist’ is highly debatable.”

Put simply, Schwab said the challenge for global leaders is “to restore sovereignty in a world that requires cooperation.” He advised that rather than closing off economies through protectionism and nationalist
politics, a new social compact is needed between citizens and their leaders, so that everyone feels secure enough at home to remain open to the world at large.”

“Failing that, the ongoing disintegration of our social fabric could ultimately lead to the collapse of democracy,” he said.

[“source=cnbc”]

Facebook: Backlash Threatens World’s Biggest Platform

Facebook: Backlash Threatens World's Biggest Platform

Facebook, the world’s largest social network, faces a growing backlash over privacy and data protection, with revelations this week about sharing data with business partners adding to pressure.

Here is a summary of the main issues in the Facebook controversy:

What are the latest revelations?
A New York Times report said some 150 business partners had access to personal data from Facebook users and in some cases, their friends, including private messages. Facebook said these were well-known and previously disclosed partnerships allowing “integration” of Facebook with other services, but some analysts said people were not fully aware of the arrangements.

“It wasn’t clear to the public that these relationships were embedded within Facebook,” said Jennifer Grygiel, a Syracuse University professor specialising in social media.

What are the other issues for Facebook?
Facebook has been hammered for failing to stop information manipulation and misinformation, including from Russian organisations in the 2016 US election. The company has acknowledged that Cambridge Analytica – working on the Donald Trump campaign – obtained profile data on tens of millions of Facebook users, but claimed that the political consultancy violated Facebook’s terms of service.

Facebook and other social media networks have struggled to deal with hate speech, bullying and foreign influence campaigns. These issues have sparked investigations in Washington and worldwide.

“It has become problematic to society and democratic institutions,” Grygiel said. “We need to look at these platforms in a very broad sense to make sure all of their business practices are not a harm to society.”

What is Facebook doing?
Facebook leaders have promised more transparency in hearings in the US Congress and elsewhere, and has stepped up efforts to find and root out fake accounts and foreign influence campaigns. But critics complain the wave of revelations suggest a disturbing pattern of disregard for data protection and privacy.

“It seems every few months there is a different revelation about how Facebook mismanaged something that deals with our data and privacy,” said Adam Chiara, a professor of communication at the University of Hartford.

“We’re all just waiting to find out which straw it is that will eventually break the camel’s back.”

What are the consequences for Facebook?
Facebook’s shares skidded more than seven percent Wednesday following the Times report and a lawsuit by the District of Columbia alleging violations of user privacy. The stock has lost more than 35 percent from its 2018 highs, wiping out tens of billion in market value.

So far, however its user base and revenues have seen little impact despite a number of high-profile calls to quit or delete Facebook. The number of active users rose to more than 2.2 billion in the third quarter and revenues rose 33 percent year-over-year for the company, which also operates Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and sells Oculus virtual reality hardware.

What can Facebook do to restore trust?
Facebook critics say the company’s problems have been exacerbated by a governance structure that gives co-founder Mark Zuckerberg virtual control through super-voting shares.

“Facebook is becoming a classic example of how poor corporate governance ensures that when things go wrong, they go wrong for longer and things get much worse than if shareholders could oust the management,” Richard Windsor, a technology analyst who authors the Radio Free Mobile blog, wrote earlier this month.

Carolina Milanesi, analyst at the Creative Strategies consultancy, said “A normal company would have got rid of somebody, they would have sacrificed somebody to try and show a change.”

Grygiel said Facebook needs to do more than public relations, with more substantive changes.

“Mark Zuckerberg needs to relinquish some power,” Grygiel said. “Facebook  needs oversight from its own board.”

What about regulation?
Lawmakers have stepped up calls for tighter regulation of privacy and data use, and the calls became louder this week.

US Senator Ron Wyden said he is calling for “a tough new consumer privacy bill to punish companies — and even put CEOs in jail — if they lie about protecting your privacy.”

Some US activists want to follow the European model for data protection that requires better notice and consent for how personal data is used.

“Americans deserve a clear law that protects their personal data and privacy. We don’t have that right now, and until we do, we’ll continue to see examples of companies using personal data in ways that surprise users,” said Michelle Richardson of the Center for Democracy & Technology, a digital rights group which has drafted a template legislation.

But Grygiel said she sees little “political will” in Congress tighten data protection rules.

“I was quite shocked nothing moved forward in the wake of the tech hearings (earlier this year),” she said.

“Maybe it’s because these are American companies and they don’t want to push them out of the country.”

[“source=ndtv”]

Govt proposes to replace UGC with new commission

The new Higher Education Commission of India Act is likely to be tabled in Parliament during the monsoon session. Photo: Mint

The new Higher Education Commission of India Act is likely to be tabled in Parliament during the monsoon session. Photo: Mint

New Delhi: The Union government on Wednesday unveiled the draft of a bill to replace higher education regulator University Grants Commission (UGC) with a Higher Education Commission.

The new commission to be established through an Act will not have grant-making authority, will promote reduced inspection system and will focus more on quality outcome at universities and colleges.

Human resource development (HRD) minister Prakash Javadekar, who claimed this is a key education reform, said the new body will be more representational. Its board will have senior bureaucrats from the ministries of HRD, skills and entrepreneurship, and science and technology, in a way ending the monopoly of HRD ministry in regulating higher education.

“The draft Act is in accordance with the commitment of the government for reforming the regulatory systems that provide more autonomy to higher educational institutes to promote excellence and facilitate holistic growth of the education system,” Javadekar said in a tweet.

He said the new Act will separate grant-making functions, end inspection raj, focus on academic quality and empower the new commission to enforce quality issues.

According to the draft bill, university and college managements found wanting and violating penalty imposed by the commission “shall be liable for prosecution as per procedure laid down under the Criminal Procedure Code and may be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend up to three years”.

The new body will specify learning outcomes for colleges and universities, prescribe teaching, assessment, research standards.

UGC reform was part of the BJP’s general election manifesto in 2014. To be sure, a similar restructuring was discussed and promoted by the previous United Progressive Alliance government but could not become a law due to lack of support from the parliament.

Over the last four years, the HRD ministry has deliberated on several models like a single regulator for higher education by merging UGC, National Council of Teacher Education (NCTE) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE); however, the plans were not taken forward.

“This Act provides for establishing the Higher Education Commission of India repealing the University Grants Commission Act, 1956,” said the draft bill which is open for public feedback till 7 July.

“Whereas for promoting uniform development of quality of education in higher educational institutions, there is a need for creation of a Body that lays down uniform standards, and ensures maintenance of the same through systematic monitoring and promotion, Whereas the existing regulatory structure as reflected by the mandate given to University Grants Commission required redefinition based on the changing priorities of higher education and allow its growth,” underlines the draft bill on need for a change.

The new commission shall consist of a chairperson, vice chairperson and 12 members to be appointed by the central government. The secretary of the commission will act as the member-secretary. Of the 12 members, three members will represent union government namely: secretary of higher education, secretary of ministry of skill development and entrepreneurship and secretary, department of science and technology. Besides, there will be an “industry doyen” among the board members.