by Adam Wollner
September 23, 2013 5:38 PM
An empty Senate meeting room, just outside the chamber, is seen Monday in Washington. Only a week remains for Congress to pass a funding bill in order to avoid a government shutdown.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
In seven days, the federal government runs out of money.
While the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a resolution Friday that keeps the government funded through Dec. 15, the measure also defunded President Obama’s signature health care law — which means it has virtually no chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate.
If a budget resolution doesn’t hit President Obama’s desk before Oct. 1, that’s a big problem: the government will be forced to close its doors.
With that prospect looming, here are eight things you should know about the possible shutdown:
It won’t be the first time
Since a new budgeting process was put into place in 1976, the U.S. government has shut down 17 times. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan each dealt with six shutdowns during their terms in office, lasting anywhere from one day to two and a half weeks.
The last actual shutdown came in 1996 — though the government came close during budget negotiations in 2011.
The last shutdown lasted three weeks
The three-week shutdown that lasted from December 16, 1995 to January 6, 1996, ranks as the longest in U.S. history. As a result, about 284,000 federal workers were furloughed, and around 475,000 essential employees went without a paycheck, although they were eventually reimbursed.
They weren’t the only ones inconvenienced. Some benefits for military veterans were delayed and cleanup at more than 600 toxic waste sites was stopped. The government also shut down for six days in mid-November 1995, initially resulting in the furlough of 800,000 federal employees. The Congressional Research Service reported the shutdowns cost taxpayers a combined $1.4 billion.
Only the “essentials”
Only federal employees deemed “essential” would continue to come to work during a shutdown. Employees who qualify as essential include those involved in national security, protecting life and property and providing benefit payments.
That means members of the military, border control agents, air traffic controllers, the FBI and the TSA are among those who would remain on duty. The president and members of Congress are also exempt from furlough and must decide which of their respective staff members to keep around during a shutdown.
The checks are in the mail
Even in the event of a shutdown, Social Security beneficiaries will still find their checks in their mailboxes and doctors and hospitals will receive Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. However, if the government does not resolve the budget situation by Nov. 1, those entitlement program payments could be delayed by up to two weeks.
Even in a shutdown, the Postal Service delivers
One reason Americans will get their entitlement checks: a government shutdown would not hit the operations of the U.S. Postal Service. Government agencies that the Treasury Department does not directly fund, like USPS, would be relatively unaffected in the short term by a shutdown. Some postal employees would likely face furlough, but it wouldn’t be enough to completely close down the agency.
National parks and museums? Forget it
Have plans to visit a national park or go sightseeing in the nation’s capital? You might want to cancel them. During the Clinton-era shutdowns, 368 national parks closed, resulting in the loss of 7 million visitors. In Washington, D.C., the public would be unable to visit the monuments and museums that millions of tourists flock to every year. The Capitol building would remain open, though.
Visa and passport delays
Those hoping to enter or leave the country during a shutdown would likely experience some difficulty. The government was unable to process around 200,000 pending passport applications and a daily average of 30,000 visa and passport applications by foreigners during the 1995-96 shutdowns. This would not only result in a headaches for would-be travelers, but a loss in millions for the airline and tourism industries.
Who would be blamed for a shutdown?
Generally speaking, no one comes out looking good if the government shuts down. A Pew Research poll conducted Sept. 19-22 shows 39 percent of Americans would blame Republicans if a shutdown were to occur, compared to 36 percent who would fault the Obama administration and 17 percent who would hold both sides responsible. According to a Pew poll from a comparable period during the 2011 budget battle, the public spread the blame around nearly identically.
What Triples Your Risk of Being Depressed?
By Jim Clifton and Deepak Chopra
If economics aspires to be a science — “the dismal science” as it was traditionally called — it must recognize that the most relevant economic data are human. The rise and fall of GDP, mean household spending, and consumer confidence are useful statistics, but ultimately the “units” of the American economy are bodies and souls. What’s going on with them?
Even as the stock market soars, the unequal distribution of wealth, which reached an all-time U.S. high in 2012 (with the top 1% grabbing 20% of all incomes), also implies inequality in physical and mental well-being. We are breaking recent records there, too. It is well documented that the greatest burden on the economy is skyrocketing healthcare costs.
At $2.5 trillion annually, America’s healthcare bill is three times the size of the defense budget and nearly twice the size of the whole Russian economy. It is also roughly twice the size of the entire Indian economy, and India has a billion-plus population.
When you compare America’s per person health care spending to comparable societies, things look even worse. The U.S. spends more than $8,000 annually per person on healthcare, where Canada and Germany each spends roughly $4,500 per person, while the United Kingdom spends about $3,500, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development. Yet even as we lavishly outspend those countries, Americans have shorter life spans and generally worse health outcomes. In other words, citizens in comparable societies live longer but spend half the money we do on healthcare or less.
What’s afflicting our bodies to such an extent that the medical system may not be able to manage a turnaround? One big answer: epidemic rates of obesity and diabetes. Obesity is the primary cause of Type 2 diabetes and a major contributor to chronic disease in general, including hypertension and coronary artery disease. If the United States solved the obesity problem, its economy would arguably roar back, unburdened by unsustainable healthcare costs. The news that our obesity epidemic has stopped rising and in the case of school children may even be declining, is a start, although long overdue.
But the country can’t reliably tackle obesity, which is correlated with low income levels, or turn the economy around, if many of its citizens are depressed. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index just uncovered that being unemployed, dropping out of the workforce, or working part time while wanting full-time work are the strongest predictors of having depression. Unemployed adults and those not working as much as they would like to are about twice as likely to be depressed as Americans who are employed full time.
Clearly our society has a crisis of body and soul – and often both together, since depression significantly raises a person’s risk for disease almost across the board. Economists don’t realistically figure these human factors into their predictions, and we’ve only scratched the surface. Well-being also declines from a host of things specific to America: chronic stress, uncertainty over keeping a job, anxiety over lost pensions, pressure to increase productivity (already the highest in the world but constantly pushed to rise even higher), and the longest work week in the developed world, along with the lowest vacation time.
The cure for the worst things is a full-time job. Gallup workplace data show that the ultimate job is one in which you get to do what you do best every day, your manager encourages your development, and your opinion counts. When and if every American can have this “therapy” of full-time meaningful employment, then depression, stress, and anxiety will subside, and the average person will become much more motivated to tackle chronic health problems like obesity. The human factor can never be over-emphasized if we intend to get the economy roaring again, but more importantly, if we intend to take well-being seriously and not simply raw economic data.
The “Dream Job”| Sages and Scientists: Mallika Chopra – Part 1
This mantra drives Ben Kaufman and his successful startup Quirky, an online community of designers, makers, and enthusiasts to invent new consumer products and get them to market fast. A similar commitment to opening up innovation motivates us at GE, and we’re excited to partner with Quirky—we’re sharing hundreds of GE’s patents with Quirky’s inventors and challenging them to build applications we can’t dream of. We’re also asking them to create connected products that help us live smarter at home. (www.quirky.com/ge)
Realizing that we don’t have all the answers — that to solve big problems you need many perspectives and partners — is humbling but invigorating. Collaboration is a powerful force for progress and innovation. Even if you could have all the answers, why would you want to? People with different views and passions solve problems differently.
At GE, we’ve seen this firsthand by partnering with startups, researchers and others with great ideas who comes from less traditional paths. Working together in open challenges, for example, we’re tackling breakthroughs from smart grid technology to breast cancer detection. With Kaggle, an online community of more than 80,000 data scientists, we’ve found algorithms and predictive models that can help airlines navigate their planes more efficiently and hospitals make the patient experience more seamless. Sharing access to information, technology, expertise, scale and now patents—instead of hoarding them—can be the crucial instigator for creating something more.
Sure, there are issues to figure out—we can’t give away our best ideas for free. But the debate between open and proprietary needs to be less either or. There is a growing spectrum of ways to unlock value for more people. Openness marries speed to scale, with shared risk and reward. While inventors and their ideas also need to be protected to reward and incentivize innovation. That’s why we are so passionate about our shared vision with Quirky, of opening up patents to others and also keeping royalties intact.
At GE, we’re fortunate to have some of the world’s best inventors, who have created more than 30,000 patents. But we haven’t imagined all of the limitless ways they can bring new products and solutions to new markets quickly. We’re betting that a host of new Thomas Edisons–high school honor students, moonlighting engineers, and hobbyists — will use our breakthroughs in areas as diverse as optical systems, electronics and material coatings as launchpads. Take for example, dual cool jet technology we designed to cool electronics on jets, it will soon be cooling laptops and tablets. Opening up allows the same technology making flight more efficient to land in your pocket. Imagine what millions of people can think up next.
AppGratis pulled from the App Store. Here’s the full story.
by Simon Dawlat
I’m Simon Dawlat, CEO at AppGratis.
I founded AppGratis back in 2008, and have been running it ever since.
Today, for the first time, my company is dealing with an incredibly difficult moment.
A few hours before starting to write this, I landed in São Paulo, Brazil on a visit to our local office here. I turned on my iPhone after an exhausting 12-hour redeye from Paris, only to receive notifications for over 75 missed calls, and a seemingly infinite flow of unread text messages.
I almost fainted.
These things only happen when a relative or a friend dies, or gets caught in a terrible accident. I immediately thought that someone in my family had passed away during my flight and couldn’t touch my phone for a few minutes. Scared. Paralyzed. Trying to imagine what the terrible news could be.
But by now Apple has issued an official statement, and the Wall Street Journal has published it. And as you’ve guessed, my friends and relatives are fine. They’re just worried for me now.
Friday, April 5th was the day Apple decided to pull AppGratis out of the App Store, leaving our 12 million iOS users wondering where one of their favorite apps had gone, my 45 employees wondering if they’d still have a job next week, my partners and investors in shock, and myself with an absolutely crazy situation to deal with, thousands of miles away from our headquarters.
First of all I want to reassure our users, our clients, our investors, our friends:
Even if our iOS apps are momentarily unavailable, your app recommendation service, AppGratis, is very much up and running. If you’re part of the 12 million lucky people to have downloaded our app before last Friday, know that it will keep updating everyday with new free apps and cool discounts. So will our website, and so will our daily newsletter.
Our iOS apps may have been unavailable now for a few days, but at the same time, a few million free apps have been downloaded through AppGratis since last Friday.
So for now, it’s business as usual in AppGratis’s world.
Second, I want to set a few things straight:
I’ve read a lot of comments and media features saying things like “R.I.P. AppGratis” …
I want to tell these people the reports of our death are greatly exaggerated.
Also, some people have been wildly speculating on whether or not we may have been using illegal tactics to secure more than 5% of the iOS marketshare in the US. As the CEO of a 45-person company, all who I’ve hired myself and deeply respect and care for, it’s pretty obvious that I would never have crossed Apple’s rules so foolishly, risking the jobs of so many people and the destiny of a company it took me four years to build.
Part 1. What happened with our Apps.
In the Fall of 2011, we made quite a big product mistake. As we were starting to roll out AppGratis into new countries, we decided to use one specific app for each territory we wanted to address, basically running several instances of our flagship app on a country-by-country basis. It seemed a light and easy solution that enabled us to go global very quickly. But very soon, not only did we end up with more than 20+ different apps to maintain in the App Store (a nightmare for our engineering team), we also quickly hit Apple’s iOS guideline 2.20, stating that:
Developers “spamming” the App Store with many versions of similar Apps will be removed from the iOS Developer Program.
We hit a first wall in the form of an update being rejected in October 2012 for 2.20.
But more surprisingly, also for a new guideline 2.25, stating that:
Apps that display Apps other than your own for purchase or promotion in a manner similar to or confusing with the App Store will be rejected.
And – gasp! – also for guideline 2.12, stating that:
Apps that are not very useful, unique, are simply web sites bundled as Apps, or do not provide any lasting entertainment value may be rejected.
Given the crazy amount of work and passion we’ve put into AppGratis, and given how highly-requested and praised by our users the app has been, let alone the fact that AppGratis is filling a major gap in a fairly broken App Discovery world, this was the hardest one to understand.
And to be very honest with you, all of this was very confusing from the beginning, especially since these new guidelines seemed scarily open to any kind of subjective interpretation.
Luckily at this point, we were contacted by our usual Apple App Review team member, C. [allow me not to mention full names here for personal privacy reasons]. I can honestly say that C. has been a great person to work with, investing crazy amounts of time in the conversation, making herself very available at all times, always listening to our arguments, and guiding us through the necessary changes we needed to bring AppGratis into the App Store. C. was later joined by K. a similarly helpful manager at App Review.
An actually quite long conversation resulted in:
Regarding 2.25: we were able to make a strong point on the fact that AppGratis had nothing in common with the App Store. The App Store is a 1M+ hosted app catalog. AppGratis is like a media reviewing one Apple product a day like thousands of other sites, blogs, and apps on this planet – dramatically different mechanics. We got OK-ed on this one, since our app was later approved (and has been live for months).
Regarding 2.12: as we stated in another blog post, AppGratis has a very simple user-facing interface. But its back-end is a wild beast. We were able to show to C. and K. the depth, complexity, and usefulness of our product on the technical side of things, and also how important our editorial-based recommendations were to our users. We also got OK-ed on this one.
Regarding 2.20: we eventually agreed to come up with a major update of our app that would consolidate all our existing apps into one. We actually had seen this one coming and already had a beta of such a product in development. We shifted our 10 engineers’ efforts onto finishing it, and got it to Apple’s servers in record time. Everyone pulled together. 45 people, working to make finding apps simple again.
Apple approved the v3 version of AppGratis for iPhone in November 2012, and a little while after that, we closed our $13,5M Series A with new investors: Iris Capital, sponsored by Orange and Publicis, and other financial players. And we got back to work, thinking that 2013 was going to be an exciting year. Since then, not only has Apple approved the v3 version for iPhone, but it actually approved our iPad version less than a week ago, as well.
Yes, you read well.
A. week. ago.
This came to us as a very strong validation of the amazing value created by our product for the whole App Store ecosystem, something we were intimately convinced of since the very beginning, and eventually had the opportunity to discuss with Apple, with a positive outcome.
We were about to launch and announce our iPad version. The launch was in place. Newsletters ready to go. Unique editorial content created for 30+ markets ready to go. The app had been approved. I was on a plane to Brazil…and…
And then last Friday, a few days after Apple had approved our latest iPad version, a new App Review team member named R., who no one on my team had ever had contact with before, came pretty much out of the blue and after trying to call me three times without being able to get hold of me (I was on a plane), decided to pull out our apps because of guideline 2.25 and also – re-gasp! – because of guideline 5.6, stating that:
Apps cannot use Push Notifications to send advertising, promotions, or direct marketing of any kind.
Yet another surprise for us since we only send one “system notification” a day to our users, coming in the form of a generic, opt-in only “Today’s deal is here!” message, which is precisely how Apple recommends developers to use its push notification service.
Part 2. What happened on Apple’s side.
Initially, I thought we’d been caught in an internal communication accident and not the victim of a supposed “ban on third-party apps.” We checked the apps of our competitors, all of them were available for download. All the lights had been green for the past few months with Apple, so it seemed very unlikely that such a company would change its mind pretty much overnight, in what looks today like an extremely volatile action.
Early Monday, R. gave me a follow-up call. He basically couldn’t go beyond repeating multiple times that our app had been pulled out due to guideline 2.25 and 5.6.
I asked how he and his team could have possibly changed their minds overnight, pretty much pulling the plug on a 45-person company. He seemed very detached regarding the gravity of the situation, and was unable to let me know on what specifics these decisions had been made.
A few minutes after we hung up, the Wall Street Journal published a very concise statement issued by Apple, confirming that AppGratis had been pulled out for violating guidelines 2.25 and 5.6.
For us, obviously, it’s a hard hit.
And as I’m about to push the ‘publish’ button on this story, I’m still in absolute shock as to what is happening to us.
But our mission is far from finished.
Part 3. Far from finished.
First and foremost, we’re still responsible for the daily app digest of more than 12 million iOS users in the world. While we stand in total disbelief that Apple actually made the decision to cut a service used by so many of their users, those people still have AppGratis on their iPhone and iPad. And we owe them new app deals every day.
And that is pretty much where we stand, still stunned that Apple took the decision to destroy so much value within their own ecosystem, but more than ever convinced that what we’re doing is good, and accomplishing a much needed mission in a broken App Discovery world.
Now for the courageous ones that have read it all, a few action items :
1. If someone in charge at Apple reads this and wants to discuss the matter more in-depth, I’m happy to jump over to Cupertino anytime to prove to you that we’re on a mission for good. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org, so feel free to email me anytime.
2. If you are a user of AppGratis, a friend, a client, an app developer, or just a person that thinks AppGratis is good for the world, please share this post.
3. Finally, to my team, as always: keep pushing. You guys are doing an absolutely amazing job. And I know that right now, some of you are sad and scared. I am too.
But even in dark times, every problem has a solution.
And we are going to find one.
More announcements will come very soon.
By Aryn Baker / MingoraDec. 19, 2012
Illustration by Sliman Mansour for TIME
Google’s Plans to Kill Groupon
Written by Michael Levanduski
Among the many options digital marketers find themselves faced with today, one of the more useful tools that quite a few marketers have taken advantage of are offers, deals and coupons. As far as most people are concerned, the best place to turn with plans of starting an offer or coupon campaign is to Groupon. The company is widely known as the best option in the online deal field, but it seems that they are soon to have a huge amount of competition to deal with. Not only is Google the dominating name in things like search advertising, display advertising, and even mobile advertising, but the company has decided to begin their takeover of the online deal business as well. Sorry Groupon, but you probably should have seen it coming.
After all, after looking back at beginnings, Google was working on offers and deals as marketing tools all the way back to 2010. Groupon, which is a company that began sometime in 2008, did not really bring online coupons to the level of popularity they are at today until 2011. With Google keeping back a bit for the past few years, the company has had time to test, develop and improve their coupon and offer tools to match the consumer wants and needs. However, Google has tools at their disposal that Groupon does not, allowing the company to take their deal offerings for advertisers to a whole new level.
Now that Google has been testing their offers and daily deals for a few years, they are making the tools public and available to the millions of advertisers that use Google’s resources for their marketing campaigns. Evidence that Google was planning to build upon their deals and offers has been seen for a few months now, as they slowly extended their service. Now, the company is tying their deals and coupons into their AdWords tool, making it available for all AdWords advertisers to use.
The actual presentation of these deals and offers to online consumers is actually very simple, but promises to be incredible effective. Advertisers will now have the option, while setting up the usual search ads one would set up in AdWords, to include a deal or offer within the advertisement. Beneath the text and link of the advertisement will appear the description of the offer. Next to this description will appear a yellow-orange button that says View Offer. With this tool, advertisers will be able to take advantage of two ad formats at the same time, all within AdWords and all from Google.
With that stated, it is incredibly simple to see just how heavy of a competition Groupon has on its hands here. Simply stated, there is a good change that Groupon will lose its top spot in the online offers business, as Google has already dominated many of the other marketing methods that the company has delved into. Now that this feature has been released, we can probably expect a growth in the usage of deals and coupons by advertisers, as well as a growth in use of AdWords itself.