The Apple Watch Just Got the Perfect Rival: Microsoft’s Band BY CHRISTINA BONNINGTON 10.31.14 | 6:30 AM


microsoftband2

 Microsoft

If Microsoft wanted to grab a slice of the impending Apple Watch audience, it couldn’t have crafted a better plan than with its just-released Microsoft Band. The company’s first wearable piggybacks off of the style and functions we’re already familiar with in today’s activity trackers. But with nifty features, a more affordable price tag, and a broader potential audience, Microsoft is taking a different approach than Apple and other wearable makers.

First, and most importantly,the wristband is not a watch replacement. It’s designed to be worn 24-hours a day on your less dominant hand. It can track your activity and sleep patterns, and if you have a favorite watch, it wouldn’t be weird to wear it on your other wrist.

This is a vastly different approach than Apple’s. Indeed, the Apple Watch is designed to replace the watch already on your wrist. To that end, the company spent a tremendous amount of resources to develop a product that’s not just functional, but also good looking enough to wear every day. It comes in an incredible number of varieties: You can get it with a gold band, a chain link band, a silicone band, and in different colors, textures, and types of clasps. It’s a fashion item. Microsoft’s Band is, at its heart, a generic fitness band.

But more importantly, the Microsoft Band is cross-platform. This is huge as it’s something Apple can’t, and will not, do. Microsoft Health, the Band’s corresponding software platform, is available on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone making the tracker itself cross-platform, too. This opens the Band up to a huge audience (virtually all smartphone owners) rather than, in Apple’s case, limiting the product to devotees of its insular ecosystem.

For Microsoft, this means a chance to introduce folks on other operating systems to its mobile platform by offering a taste of its hardware quality and a sense of the software experience. It could even compel users to dive deeper into the Windows Phone realm. And while Windows Phone is a moderate success abroad, in the U.S., its marketshare is still paltry.

The Band also has some interesting features. More and more people want a wearable to perform heart-rate tracking; It does that. For pale folks like me, the inclusion of a UV monitor for getting a pulse on the day’s UV index is useful. It also includes GPS for those who want to track their run routes without having to strap on a wearable and tote a smartphone. The Band is also designed to get multi-day battery life, depending on how much you use some of these other battery-intensive features like GPS. Another cool feature: Guided workouts, which should offer ways to optimize your workout right on your wrist. And Windows Phone users also get access to Cortana through the band.

Unless things change, the first Apple Watch will not include GPS (it relies on the GPS in your phone) or a UV monitor, but it does offer 24-hour heart-rate detection.

Article continues:

http://www.wired.com/2014/10/ms-band-vs-apple-watch/

Hollywood pumps cash to candidates – By Judy Kurtz October 31, 2014, 06:00 am


Celebrities are putting on a money-raising show, digging into their wallets in a last ditch effort to help Democrats and Republicans before Election Day.

David Letterman, Ben Affleck, former NFL quarterback John Elway, and “Scandal’s” Shonda Rhimes were among those pitching in to help their candidates of choice with cash right before next week’s midterm elections.

The donations made in this past fundraising cycle are largely being funneled to high-stakes matchups that could either keep the Senate in Democratic hands or tilt it to GOP control.

But in some cases, A-listers may be opening their checkbooks for old pals.

“Late Show” host Letterman was one of several high-profile donors to Sen. Al Franken’s reelection campaign. The Minnesota Democrat had worked to fend off Republican businessman Mike McFadden but is expected to survive.

Franken and Letterman have a long history together — the “Saturday Night Live” alum first appeared on the late-night funnyman’s CBS show back in 1987. Franken has the distinction of being the sole recipient of Letterman’s political dollars over the years. Letterman, who’s retiring in 2015, cut a check for $5,100 this year to Franken, and donated to him twice in 2008, and once in 2011.

The television comedian isn’t the only celeb that Franken has in his star-packed (and humor-filled) fundraising arsenal. With donations from comedy mega-producer Judd Apatow, “Cheers” actor Ted Danson, fellow former “SNL” comic Will Forte, and singer Nancy Sinatra, Franken comes in near the top of the list of candidates for the most money contributed to his campaign by Hollywood.

Article continues:

http://thehill.com/blogs/in-the-know/222397-hollywood-puts-on-a-fundraising-show

Cash For Halloween Candy? Dentists’ Buyback Program Is Booming – October 31, 2014 4:57 AM ET


Dr. Curtis Chan, a dentist in Del Mar, Calif., loads up a truck with 5,456 pounds of candy to deliver to Operation Gratitude during the Halloween Candy Buy Back on Nov. 8, 2013. Dr. Chan personally collected 3,542 pounds of candy from patients.

Dr. Curtis Chan, a dentist in Del Mar, Calif., loads up a truck with 5,456 pounds of candy to deliver to Operation Gratitude during the Halloween Candy Buy Back on Nov. 8, 2013. Dr. Chan personally collected 3,542 pounds of candy from patients. Courtesy of Dr. Curtis Chan

If your little ghosts and goblins dump their candy on the living room floor tonight, go ahead: Let them at it. They can sort, then trade, and gorge on their favorites.

But if you’re like many parents, by tomorrow morning you may want to get rid of some of this candy glut.

One possible solution? Check out the Halloween Candy Buy Back program, which was founded by dentist Chris Kammer in Wisconsin. Kammer’s office offers $1 a pound to buy back candy collected by the young trick-or-treaters in his practice.

Troops in Afghanistan pass out candy that was collected by dentists in the buyback program and shipped by Operation Gratitude.

Troops in Afghanistan pass out candy that was collected by dentists in the buyback program and shipped by Operation Gratitude. Courtesy of Operation Gratitude

Think of it as cash for candy. And the idea is catching on.

This year, more than 2,500 dentists and orthodontists have signed up to participate. (There’s a zip code locator, if you want to find a dentist near you.) By comparison, about 300 dentists participated in 2007, the first year the program expanded nationally.

And where does all this candy end up? It’s shipped to U.S. troops overseas, as part of an Operation Gratitude care packages.

Kammer says he started the program when he realized that, for many kids, the treat-eating season dragged on for weeks.

No child needs to have a shopping bag full of candy, Kammer argues. “The thought of that makes me shudder.”

When he started experimenting with the idea of the candy buyback years ago, his own children were not big fans. “They said, ‘Dad, that’s a terrible idea,’ ” he says.

Article continues:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/10/31/360126776/cash-for-halloween-candy-dentists-buy-back-program-is-booming

Americans are more afraid of getting hacked than they are of getting mugged – Updated by Anand Katakam on October 30, 2014, 3:13 p.m. ET


According to a Gallup poll, Americans worry more about getting hacked than they do about any other crime:

Gallup Survey

69 percent of Americans worry about their credit cards being hacked and 62 percent worry about the theft of data from their computers — far higher than the share who report worrying about more grievous crimes such as burglary and murder.

Americans’ fears aren’t wholly unfounded. There have been a number of large-scale attacks in recent years, compromising millions of user’s data. The chart below shows how many millions of users have been affected by the biggest data breaches on record:

Statista and Information is Beautiful

(Statista / Information is Beautiful)

This is the first Gallup poll to ask about hacking worries, and thus the firm has no historical data to show when or how quickly it came to dominate Americans’ fears. But these statistics do reflect the increase in cybercrime and decline in other crimes in recent years. As the rate of violent crime has gradually decreased over the past 20 years, security breaches among businesses have gone up.

85 percent of households earning above $75,000 a year reported worrying about a credit card hack, as opposed to only 50 percent of households earning under $30,000 a year. Hacking typically worries people from higher income groups more because they are likelier to have access to credit cards and cloud computing.

http://www.vox.com/2014/10/30/7131579/hacking-american-greatest-fear-crime

Dark money: Despite $4 billion spent, midterms hinge on hidden funding – by Ben Piven October 31, 2014 5:00AM ET


Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at Oct 31, 2014 1.55

Ten years ago, it was 527 groups and Pioneer bundlers for George W. Bush. In 2008, Barack Obama took the nation’s top office by storm as soft money ruled. Last election cycle, super PACs were all the rage. In 2014, campaign finance reform has given way to dark money, with unknown sources of indirect campaign spending dropping hundreds of millions of dollars to influence federal races.

“Who are these people, and what do they want with the state’s Senate race? Who are these interests, and what is motivating them?” asked Sheila Krumholz, director of the Center of Responsive Politics, in reference to the burgeoning political fundraising tactic.

Dark money, about $200 million of which has been spent nationally this election cycle, is secretive money generated by nonprofit organizations whose primary purposes are not legally considered “political”.

“We can see where the money comes from going to the candidates’ campaigns and going to some of the outside groups,” Krumholz said. “But for politically active nonprofits, we have absolutely no idea who’s bankrolling their efforts.” She blamed anonymous donors for giving voters “inaccurate, misleading and deceptive information to make up their minds.”

The North Carolina Senate race between incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan and Republican challenger Thom Tillis has set records for out-of-state funding: $75 million as of Oct. 30. The candidates combined have raised only half as much as outsiders have dished out, and the total race spending exceeds $107 million.

Over $20 million of the outside money has been spent attacking Tillis – more than on opposing any other candidate nationally. Hagan has benefited from the Senate Majority PAC and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the two largest contributors. But much of the money spent against Hagan, who carries a slight lead, is not reported to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), and so it cannot be tracked precisely. However, there is somewhat of a paper trail for broadcast negative ads.

Not far behind the North Carolina face-off are close Senate contests in Iowa, where Republican Joni Ernst is polling just ahead of Bruce Braley for an open seat, and Colorado, where Democratic Sen. Mark Udall is fending off a challenge from Republican Rep. Cory Gardner. Outside spending makes up more than two-thirds of overall funds used to influence both outcomes.

Article continues:

http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/midterms/articles/2014/10/31/dark-money-4-billionelection.html

Jon Stewart realized that Koch Industries was running ads during his show. So he trolled them. – By Jaime Fuller October 30 at 9:12 AM


Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at Oct 31, 2014 3.14

Jon Stewart realized that Koch Industries (of David and Charles Koch fame/infamy) had been running ads during the Daily Show, and, unsurprisingly, decided to address it. The ad isn’t political,  it highlights the company’s work and the people working there. Many wondered if the ads were designed to counter negative reactions to the Kochs’ political activity when they debuted in June. An executive at Koch Industries denied that in a Washington Post story last month.

Holden disputed that notion, saying the ads are aimed at spotlighting jobs available because of Koch’s continued growth. “We have not been impacted by the political attacks in our recruiting, hiring or retention, nor have our businesses been impacted,” he said.

Where the toll has been felt, Holden said, is personally by the Kochs, who have faced harassment from opponents, including death threats.

The vitriol has affected Koch Industries employees as well, Cohlmia said.

“The collateral damage is something important that should be spoken about,” she said, adding: “We know the family. We know the businesses. And they are very good people. So the effect of that on us as employees, it’s very hard.”

Those buying ad time for the commercial likely saw the Daily Show’s young audience as a perfect one to reach out to. However, it was also inevitable that Stewart would address the ad at some point. He didn’t just point it out on Wednesday, though — he offered ideas on how he thought the ad could be improved.

The lesson: Make sure that the content surrounding your ad buy doesn’t disagree with you and have the ability to try and neutralize the effectiveness of your ad. Because they probably will.

Watch it above.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/10/30/jon-stewart-realized-that-koch-industries-was-running-ads-during-his-show-so-he-trolled-them/?hpid=z5

Why a GOP Senate could be short-lived – By BURGESS EVERETT | 10/31/14 5:06 AM EDT Updated: 10/31/14 5:53 AM EDT


From top left: Pat Toomey, Mark Kirk, Rob Portman, Kelly Ayotte, Marco Rubio and Ron Johnson are pictured. | AP Photos

The attention is about to shift in a major way to blue state Republicans. | AP Photos

Close

Senate Democrats have long awaited the 2010 tea party wave to splash back on Republicans during the 2016 election cycle.

That moment is almost here.

After two years of obsessive focus on the teetering reelection prospects of red-state Democrats, the attention is about to shift in a major way to blue-state Republicans. Six of them who rode anti-Obama sentiment to office in 2010 are up in two years, and they’ll face the dual challenge of a more diverse electorate and potentially Hillary Clinton atop the Democratic ticket.

The leftward-tilting map means a GOP-controlled Senate could be short-lived if the party prevails on Tuesday. Even in the best-case scenario for the party, a Republican majority is certain to be slim.

(POLITICO’s 2014 race ratings)

A half-dozen first-term Republicans are up for reelection in states President Barack Obama won in both 2008 and 2012: Mark Kirk of Illinois, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Rob Portman of Ohio, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Marco Rubio of Florida. Obama also twice carried Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Iowa, but the longtime incumbent would be much tougher to dislodge.

Add it all up and it’s basically the mirror image of 2014.

“We shift the ground from where it was this time — seven Democrats were running in states that Obama didn’t carry — to an environment where seven Republicans are running in states that Obama did carry,” said Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of GOP leadership up for reelection in 2016.

Republicans are trying to look at the bright side of the intimidating terrain. If the GOP proves itself a responsible steward of Congress over the next two years, Republicans believe voters will be less inclined to oust vulnerable GOP incumbents.

“If there’s an advantage to Republicans in the 2016 campaign … it’s the chance that you had to finally make the case,” said Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, the current National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman.

(Full 2014 election results)

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Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/10/2014-elections-republican-senate-112369.html#ixzz3HiRg0nS8