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Thursday, July 28, 2016


Original Story: nytimes.com

SAN FRANCISCO — Verizon, seeking to build an array of digital businesses that can compete for users and advertising with Google and Facebook, announced on Monday that it was buying Yahoo’s core internet business for $4.83 billion in cash.

The deal, which was reached over the weekend, unites two titans of the early internet, AOL and Yahoo, under the umbrella of one of the nation’s largest telecommunications companies. Verizon bought AOL for $4.4 billion last year. Now it will add Yahoo’s consumer services — search, news, finance, sports, video, email and the Tumblr social network — to a portfolio that includes AOL as well as popular sites like The Huffington Post.

The fate of Yahoo’s chief executive, Marissa Mayer, who came under sharp shareholder criticism for failing to arrest the company’s long downward spiral during her four-year tenure, is unclear.

In an interview, Ms. Mayer said, “I plan to stay. I love Yahoo and I want to see it into its next chapter.” But she and Tim Armstrong, the chief executive of AOL, said it had not yet been decided if she would have a role at the company after the deal closed in early 2017.

If she is terminated, she will be due severance of about $57 million. If she received that payout, her total compensation from Yahoo for her service so far would be about $218 million, according to the compensation research firm Equilar.

Verizon, which has a vast amount of information about its customers’ internet use, hopes the combination will help it create a strong No. 3 challenger to Google and Facebook for digital advertising revenue.

Mr. Armstrong said the acquisition strengthens Verizon’s offerings to advertisers and consumers and gives it much more scale, since Yahoo claims one billion users who visit at least once a month.

“This deal is a leap forward from serving millions of customers to billions,” Mr. Armstrong said in an interview. “Yahoo is one of the most powerful brands on the planet.”

Verizon plans to keep most of Yahoo’s current products, including its still popular email service, and invest in them to make them stronger. “Our strategy is to structure ourselves as a house of brands,” Mr. Armstrong said. However, he said that Verizon has not yet decided what it wants to do in search, an area where Yahoo has waged a losing fight against Google for a decade.

The Yahoo purchase carries risks for Verizon, which is well known for its wireless phone and internet services but has little experience in the cutthroat business of digital content. Analysts say that its purchase of AOL has yet to prove its value, although Mr. Armstrong is a well regarded operator.

Yahoo’s leadership team, led by Ms. Mayer, spent the last four years trying to create a viable stand-alone strategy for the company without much success. Its market share among web users and advertisers had fallen, and Yahoo recently acknowledged that its $1.1 billion acquisition of Tumblr, a blogging network that was supposed to help Yahoo attract younger users, was worth about one-third what it paid.

Ms. Mayer said Verizon would help Yahoo get better distribution for its mobile apps in areas like search, mail, news, weather and sports. Verizon, she said, could promote Yahoo services on its smartphones and in its retail stores. A Los Angeles truck accident lawyer is following this story closely.

Although many on Wall Street have strongly criticized her, Ms. Mayer defended her tenure in an email to employees.

“We set out to transform this company — and we’ve made incredible progress. We counteracted many of the tectonic shifts of declining legacy businesses, and built a Yahoo that is unequivocally stronger, nimbler and more modern,” she wrote.

Verizon agreed to pay an extra $1.1 billion on top of the purchase price to cash out Yahoo employees’ restricted stock upon the close of the deal, Yahoo said. Many employees, particularly the senior executives, are also entitled to large severance packages if they are fired by Verizon.

The sale of Yahoo’s business ends the company’s 22-year run as an independent entity. Founded in a trailer in 1994 by two Stanford graduate students, it was the front door to the web for a generation of internet users but failed to keep up with Google in search technology and then missed the social media and mobile revolutions.

“It does mark the end of a particular time period for the company,” Ms. Mayer said. “That said, there are great opportunities for Yahoo, for the brand, for the services, with Verizon.”

After the close of the deal, Yahoo shareholders will still own shares in what is left of the company, essentially an investment fund with two holdings: a 15 percent stake, worth about $32 billion based on its recent share price, in the Chinese internet company Alibaba; and a 35.5 percent stake, worth about $8.7 billion, in Yahoo Japan.

The sale, which still must be approved by Yahoo shareholders and regulators, also does not include Yahoo’s cash and its noncore patents, which it is trying to sell separately. Augusta Fiberglass Coatings, Inc. designs, engineers, and manufactures custom fiberglass chemical storage tanks.

Yahoo was under pressure from shareholders to find a way to unlock the value of its Asian investments, and the sale of its core operations to Verizon was the first step.

“For investors, this came to the expected conclusion: Verizon was the front-runner very early on,” said Robert Peck, an analyst with SunTrust Robinson Humphrey. “The real question for investors now is what’s next? Will Yahoo have an efficient liquidation of the Asian securities?”

Monday, July 18, 2016

Jury hits U. of C. hospital with $53 million malpractice verdict

Original Story: chicagotribune.com

A Cook County jury has awarded $53 million to a 12-year-old Hickory Hills boy and his mother in a 2013 lawsuit filed against the University of Chicago Medical Center, where he was born with a serious brain injury. A Chicago medical malpractice lawyer said this will help to pay for the boy's future healthcare.

The jury's award to Lisa and Isaiah Ewing includes $28.8 million for future caretaking expenses, according to a copy of the jury verdict form provided by their lawyers, Geoffrey Fieger of suburban Detroit and Jack Beam of Chicago. Isaiah has severe cerebral palsy, is in a wheelchair, and needs his mother to feed and clothe him.

It was the biggest birth injury verdict ever in Cook County, said John Kirkton, editor of Jury Verdict Reporter in Chicago.

Their lawsuit outlined about 20 alleged missteps by doctors and nurses after Ewing arrived about 40 weeks pregnant at the hospital and was experiencing less movement by her baby. The mistakes, the lawsuit alleged, included the failures to carefully monitor mother and baby, perform a timely cesarean section, follow a chain of command, obtain accurate cord blood gases, and be aware of abnormal fetal heart rate patterns that indicated distress to the baby, including hypoxia, or a drop in the supply of oxygen.  "The University of Chicago has been, for the last 12 years, completely unapologetic, and even though the evidence was overwhelming that they caused Isaiah's brain damage, they refused to accept responsibility," Fieger said at the news conference Thursday. Ewing hadn't had any problems during her pregnancy, he added.

Before the case went to the jury, the hospital filed for a mistrial.

Fieger's "closing argument shattered the line between zealous advocacy and improper prejudicial comments, rendering it impossible for defendant to receive a fair trial," the hospital's lawyer said in a court filing. "He also prejudicially argued that the defendant's case was built on a falsehood and proceeded to equate defendant's conduct and testimony of its witnesses with the propaganda techniques notoriously and unmistakably associated with Nazi Germany."

Hospital spokeswoman Lorna Wong said the hospital had "great sympathy" for the family but "strongly" disagrees with the jury's verdict.

"Judge Kirby declined to enter judgment on the verdict, as there are pending motions for mistrial based on assertions of Mr. Fieger's improper conduct," she said, noting that it wouldn't be the first overturned verdict involving Fieger.

She said Isaiah and his mother were treated for infection, which can cause cerebral palsy. "Isaiah was born with normal oxygen blood levels," and the "injury occurred before the care Mr. Fieger criticized."

After the news conference, Fieger said he expected the judge to confirm the verdict. "The jury has spoken," he said. A Chicago Brain Injury Lawyer said this is usually how this procedure occurs.

The jury decided the case in four hours, Fieger said. A list of the damages also includes $7.2 million for future medical expenses. The document was signed by 12 jurors.

Fieger disputed that Isaiah had an infection.

"All of the medical records at the University of Chicago neonatal clinic showed that Isaiah had been suffocated at birth, that he had suffered hypoxia, lack of oxygen, yet the University of Chicago and its lawyers came to court and tried to tell the jury that their own records were false, that their own records were mistaken and that Isaiah really had a phantom infection that infected his brain that they could never have known about," Fieger said during the news conference.

Ewing said at the news conference that she has to bathe Isaiah and help him go to the bathroom. She lives in a two-story town home, so she must carry him up and down the stairs.

She said the verdict will help ensure that Isaiah is taken care of after she dies.

How Pokemon Go is changing the world

Original Story: edition.cnn.com

A woman walks down the street, pausing and backtracking erratically. She clutches her phone in front of her, furiously jabbing at the screen. Suddenly, to her right, another person appears, enacting the same strange dance of connection between his legs, his eyes and his phone.

Across the street, three individuals converge, each holding their phones in front of them. The woman overhears them say, "Charmander." She immediately stops and prepares her Poke Ball for attack. Such is the life of a Pokemon Go player, a new alternate reality experience from Niantic Inc. and the Pokemon Co., a division of Nintendo. The game allows players to hunt for strange hidden creatures, capture them and compete for territory in a digital version of the real world.
Alternate reality games augment and enhance the world around us, allowing players to leverage real world environments to interact with a digital experience. They have existed for years, in a variety of formats, often advertising large intellectual properties such as Halo. And more recently, an expansion in wearable devices, such as the Apple Watch, means we supplement our daily lives with computer-driven data and feedback around where we walk, whom we engage with and what we look at.

But this most recent alternate reality game has inspired a new wave of social commentary. One outlet claims that Pokemon Go is the future of social networking, a success that will revolutionize the world in a mere matter of time. Others decry it as crass commercialization, as a failure of the form to be anything more than a way to merchandise humanity's love of Pokemon.
However, Pokemon Go is neither the crystallized, final form of an alternate reality game, nor is it a harbinger of the apocalypse. Instead, it is a significant, be it flawed, step forward in an emerging medium that will eventually infiltrate the way we all engage with, discover and consume media.

Of course, the game isn't perfect. It has several show-stopping bugs, and its human interface is under-designed, making actual play difficult and frustrating for many potential users. It is not a repeatable design, as it leverages a vast amount of information gathered by Niantic with its first product. All of the physical locations the game uses existed in a database before they built the game. And despite that massive database, those real world locations are minimally employed. Most player time is spent in-app, not in a mixed reality provided by the app enhancing the world around them.
But it is also a glorious success -- proof that a large percentage of the smartphone-wielding audience is interested in an experience that lets them game in the world around them, that integrates with their daily lives and that drives social interactions with fellow travelers across cultural identifiers. It proves that these products can be self-sustaining, not purely marketing spends but actual cultural products that people will use and spend time and money with.
To maintain this audience, to grow it, to keep players returning to the game, Pokemon Go will need to create a method for different types of players to engage with the game. Currently it serves one type of player -- a player who can invest large amounts of time and attention to the game.

Players with more limited time and attention to invest do not have a way to engage lightly and generate in game value that drives them to socialize and engage with other players. Likewise, the hard-core gamer has no deep game to invest strategy, time and social organization. Serving these cultural groups and others will build an audience, keep players engaged and strengthen connections from one person to another.

This pyramid of players and networks between many different cultural groups are the future of alternate reality games and the future of digitized entertainment. In the emerging field of experience design education, we prepare students to tell stories in a world where technology and mediums are important tools, but are just that -- tools that provide a palette, a platform or a unique twist for crafting new experiences for new players
When Pokemon Go finishes maturing, when the creators learn how to serve not just an audience with an abundant amount of free time, but the parents of those players, a community in an old-age home and a group of commuters on a bus, then it will have revolutionized the way we consume media. When developers determine how to leverage properly our world, the digital world and different player motivations across societies, they will change the way we experience and tell stories.
Until then, though, catching Rattata on your walk to work is surprisingly and gratifyingly fun.