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The Lede Will the Govt Build 5G? Also, Happiness in Higher Ed, and the Monday Finance and Tax Story

The Lede, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018
By David Royse

THE LEDE 

WILL THE US NATIONALIZE THE NEW VERSION OF THE CELL NETWORK?

The need to get the nation upgraded to a 5G cell phone and data network is crucial if the United States isn’t going to again fall behind on communications technology. Nearly everyone agrees on that.  As I wrote in a previous version of The Lede, the move to 5G could be the thing that most affects your daily life that you’re not currently paying much attention to.

Axios reported over the weekend on an internal presentation from the Trump Administration that suggests the infrastructure improvement is so critical because of Chinese gains in this area that it is considering just taking over the build-out itself, rather than letting private companies to it. Nationalization.

From the Axios piece:

“The documents say America needs a centralized nationwide 5G network within three years. There’ll be a fierce debate inside the Trump administration — and an outcry from the industry — over the next 6-8 months over how such a network is built and paid for.”

“A source familiar with the documents’ drafting says (leaving it to the private sector) is really no option at all: a single centralized network is what’s required to protect America against China and other bad actors.

  • The source said the internal White House debate will be over whether the U.S. government owns and builds the network or whether the carriers bind together in a consortium to build the network, an idea that would require them to put aside their business models to serve the country’s greater good….

“In the memo, the Trump administration likens it to “the 21st century equivalent of the Eisenhower National Highway System” and says it would create a “new paradigm” for the wireless industry by the end of Trump’s current term.”

On the private side, the race to make 5G speed available to customers is happening in large part because of the interest in the Internet of Things. Connecting smart devices to each other through the Internet is one of the top interests for consumer tech companies right now.  Companies expect to spend about $5 trillion on Internet of Things applications in the next five years.

But it’s the government’s interest in competing with China that seems to be driving the idea of nationalizing the whole thing.

Again, from Axios:

“The memo argues that a strong 5G network is needed in order to create a secure pathway for emerging technologies like self-driving cars and virtual reality — and to combat Chinese threats to America’s economic and cyber security. A PowerPoint slide says the play is the digital counter to China’s One Belt One Road Initiative meant to spread its influence beyond its borders. The documents also fret about China’s dominance of Artificial Intelligence, and use that as part of the rationale for this unprecedented proposal.

  • “Eventually,” the memo says, “this effort could help inoculate developing countries against Chinese neo-colonial behavior.”

“AI arms race: The memo says China is slowly winning the AI “algorithm battles,” and that “not building the network puts us at a permanent disadvantage to China in the information domain.”

5G will transmit data at least 10 times faster – and maybe more than 50 times faster – than the 4G service available in most places now.

RELATED: Also from Axios, the quick followup story with reactions about how the idea “raises concerns” (You think?)

PAYING FOR IT – THE LEDETREE MONDAY FINANCE AND TAX STORY

As we move forward building a cool and hopeful new world, the debate will continue on how to pay for that world. Whether it’s new broadband infrastructure as with the 5G network mentioned above, advances in transportation technology aimed at making all our lives easier, or advances in medicine that could be on the verge of dramatically extending our lifespans and enhancing our healthspans, we’ll always be asking ourselves, who’s going to pay for this and how.

We want to take a look at interesting new finance and tax policy issues here each week. Not a rehashing of the same old tax debates we’ve had for decades, but looking at new issues.

Today, l did want to use an old tax issue to bring up a possible new one, in part because it might come up in Trump’s Tuesday State of the Union, and because there’s been some discussion in national media in the last few days about this.

The old tax is the federal gas tax. The 18.4 cent tax, which hasn’t been increased since 1993, is on the table for possible increase as the Trump administration looks for ways to pay for an infrastructure improvement plan that is almost sure to be part of the SOTU speech this week.

A Trump Administration official said late last week at the U.S. Conference of Mayors that the Administration was ambivalent about raising the gas tax – “don’t support it, we don’t oppose it either.” he said 

Support for a gas tax hike is mixed. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce last week called for raising the tax. The Chamber, which it calls a motor vehicle user fee, argued that it’s acceptable to many drivers, noting that since 1993, “39 states have raised their own state motor fuel user fees. This includes red and blue states alike, including over the past several years: Indiana, Tennessee, South Carolina, Oregon, and New Jersey.”

But some in Congress, including a top Senate Republican, John Cornyn, say the gas tax is becoming a thing of the old world – and it’s already a declining source of revenue because people are driving more fuel efficient cars. And the car world is moving away from gasoline anyway and toward electric motors – some car makers are in the midst of a major electric push, and some countries overseas may have have most drivers in electric cars in less than a decade, with the U.S. expected to follow.

Some states are already studying what a world with far less gasoline would mean for their tax systems. Oregon has been the leader on this issue. testing a per-mile charge, measuring miles driven with a device that you plug into your car.

As I pointed out in The Lede earlier this month, not only could a miles-driven tax help states collect money no matter how cars are fueled, it also could let states incentivize driving different routes or at different times as a traffic congestion management device, much as some cities do now with tolling.

Oregon’s not the only state – California is starting a pilot on what it calls a Road ChargeWashington State will test the idea this year, And, as the Brookings Institution reports, Connecticut, Delaware, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania have all applied for federal support to test how a vehicle miles traveled tax could work across multiple states.

Have a look at a good piece in Britain’s Financial Times on Oregon’s experiment.

ON THE ROAD: STARTING THE WORK WEEK 

Have to travel for work this week? Keep an eye two separate storms that will bring accumulating snow to the East this week. 

College of Wooster, Wooster, Ohio, Kauke Hall, in the snow

LEDETREE GOES TO COLLEGE

Today’s look at interesting things coming out of American universities

DON’T WORRY BE HAPPY

At Yale, the most popular course topic is … Happiness.

Interesting story on Friday from the New York Times’ David Shimer

“On Jan. 12, a few days after registration opened at Yale for Psyc 157, Psychology and the Good Life, roughly 300 people had signed up. Within three days, the figure had more than doubled. After three more days, about 1,200 students, or nearly one-fourth of Yale undergraduates, were enrolled.

“The course, taught by Laurie Santos, 42, a psychology professor and the head of one of Yale’s residential colleges, tries to teach students how to lead a happier, more satisfying life in twice-weekly lectures.

“’Students want to change, to be happier themselves, and to change the culture here on campus…’”

(By the way, that photo above isn’t Yale – it’s my alma mater, The College of Wooster in Ohio)

HOW WE WILL LIVE: BIONIC HAND CAN PLAY THE PIANO

Today’s story on cool, practical research out of our universities, doubles ore mas my effort to bring you something you haven’t seen before, sort of.

If there was ever a reason to play Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, it might be that you’d lost your hand and thought you’d never play the piano again, but then you got a prosthetic developed at Georgia Tech and learned to play again.

Wow.

I say you sort of haven’t seen this before, because you sort of have. It’s very similar to Luke Skywalker’s prosthetic hand from Star Wars.

The first amputee to use it, a musician who lost part of his right arm five years ago, is now able to play the piano for the first time since his accident. Jason Barnes was electrocuted during a work accident in 2012, forcing doctors to amputate his right arm just below the elbow. Barnes no longer has his hand and most of his forearm but does have the muscles in his residual limb that control his fingers.

The Georgia Tech researchers were able to make the fingers move the way Barnes wants by using ultrasound technology (the same kind used to see babies in the womb).

From the story: “When Barnes tries to move his amputated ring finger, the muscle movements differ from those seen when he tries to move any other digit. Weinberg and the team fed each unique movement into an algorithm that can quickly determine which finger Barnes wants to move. The ultrasound signals and machine learning can detect continuous and simultaneous movements of each finger, as well as how much force he intends to use.”

Again, Wow.

LEADING YOUR BEST LIFE

MEDICAL MUSHROOMS?

Display of ground chaga

What? First pot, now ‘shrooms? Similar to how the search for relief from ailments has led many in medical science to question whether there’s something to the cannabis plant, there also has in the last couple years been renewed interest in the possibility that certain types of mushrooms may be good for more than a pizza, or a hallucination.

I first got interested in this because Four Sigmatic Foods advertises incessantly on one of the podcasts I listen to regularly  (see advertising works). Then, on a trip to Canada recently, I saw a bag of ground up chaga mushroom that you filter water through and drink it like coffee. I bought some and brought it home. I didn’t suddenly become super human, but it tasted fine. I don’t know what I think, and whether I’m ready to give up my regular coffee.

But, I do know that I’m now hearing about these mushroom elixirs everywhere. Today, Fast Company has a story on the industry set to go mainstream in 2018. Here’s the stunning sentence – one you might want to read twice if you’re thinking of investing in something but don’t know what. “Indeed, the mushroom market is expected to hit $50 billion in the coming years.”

READ THE FULL STORY AT FAST COMPANY

MORE ON LEADING YOUR BEST LIFE:

SMARTPHONE STRESS REDUCTION APPS CAN WORK, IF THEY TEACH ACCEPTANCE

There are apps that can help you with “mindfulness” and a new study from Carnegie Mellon University finds that such apps (or at least the one used in the study) can measurably reduce stress. The study suggests, however, that a particular part of the mindfulness training is critical – teaching yourself to accept the way things are in a particular moment. There’s a growing body of research showing that cortisol build up – which is caused by stress – is particularly damaging, health-wise, over a lifetime. The people who used the stress management tool with acceptance training in the CMU randomized, controlled study, showed lower levels of cortisol – by 50 percent – and their blood pressure was measured 20 percent lower than people in two groups that were tracked and weren’t using an app with acceptance training.


“Not only were we able to show that acceptance is a critical part of mindfulness training, but we’ve demonstrated for the first time that a short, systematic smartphone mindfulness program helps to reduce the impact of stress on the body,” study leader, Emily Lindsay, now a post-doc at the University of Pittsburgh, said in anarticle on the research on the CMU website. “We all experience stress in our lives, but this study shows that it’s possible to learn skills that improve the way our bodies respond to stress with as little as two weeks of dedicated practice. Rather than fighting to get rid of unpleasant feelings, welcoming and accepting these feelings during stressful moments is key.”

The randomized study involved more than 150 adults, each of whom used one of three smartphone apps for 20 minutes a day, but only one group had a program that included the acceptance training component.

So you want to know what app it was that helped these people reduce their stress, right? Of course you do. It’s the EBM for stress app, (EBM stands for Evidence Based Mindfulness). Sadly, it’s not on the app store – it’s being made available to employers and doctors to share with their employees and patients.

MORE ON THE ACTUAL SCIENCE OF MINDFULNESS

Meditation and mindfulness practice seems to lead to actual physical changes in the brain.

There is a growing body of seriously scientific evidence around the idea that the mind can be trained to sharply focus even under stress, and that it can be trained to regulate emotions that can often get in the way of clear thinking.

And, we are now starting to learn that it may actually change the brain.

A skeptical neuroscientist talks about her research into this in this Ted Talk

Here’s a couple more stories that caught my eye:

Search for Life on Other Planets Could Get Boost from Biosignatures

Flying Florida  Man: High court says Florida man can’t land his helicopter at his Massachusetts home

Finally, if you find yourself missing President George W. Bush – or  Will Ferrell’s GWB – and you missed Saturday night’s SNL open, it’s pretty good

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About David Royse

David Royse is the Editor-in-Chief of Ledetree.com. He has been a professional journalist for more than 20 years, including stints with The Associated Press and The News Service of Florida. He enjoys writing about health and medical science, and hopeful stories about scientific breakthroughs and new technology.

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