Bad Data Costs the U.S. $3 Trillion Per Year

leak-pool

Consider this figure: $136 billion per year. That’s the research firm IDC’s estimate of the size of the big data market, worldwide, in 2016. This figure should surprise no one with an interest in big data.

But here’s another number: $3.1 trillion, IBM’s estimate of the yearly cost of poor quality data, in the US alone, in 2016. While most people who deal in data every day know that bad data is costly, this figure stuns.

While the numbers are not really comparable, and there is considerable variation around each, one can only conclude that right now, improving data quality represents the far larger data opportunity. Leaders are well-advised to develop a deeper appreciation for the opportunities improving data quality present and take fuller advantage than they do today.

Take a look at the figure below. Department B, in addition to doing its own work, must add steps to accommodate errors created by Department A. It corrects most errors, though some leak through to customers. Thus Department B must also deal with the consequences of those errors that leak through, which may include such issues as angry customers (and bosses!), packages sent to the wrong address, and requests for lower invoices.

hidden-data-factory-costs

Such hidden data factories are expensive. They form the basis for IBM’s $3.1 trillion per year figure. But quite naturally, managers should be more interested in the costs to their own organizations than to the economy as a whole. So consider:

There is no mystery in reducing the costs of bad data — you have to shine a harsh light on those hidden data factories and reduce them as much as possible. The aforementioned Friday Afternoon Measurement and the rule of ten help shine that harsh light. So too does the realization that hidden data factories represent non-value-added work.

Read the complete article on the Harvard Business Review site.

Former EU Official Among Politicians Named in New Leak of Offshore Files from The Bahamas

Image: Shutterstock

Nassau, Bahamas. Image: Shutterstock

A cache of leaked documents provides names of politicians and others linked to more than 175,000 Bahamian companies registered between 1990 and 2016, according to a recent article by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

For years, Neelie Kroes traveled Europe as one of the continent’s senior officials, warning big corporations that they couldn’t “run away” from the European Union’s rules. The Dutch politician sympathized with average citizens who worried they’d been left to pay the bills “as infringers cream off the extra profits.”

As the EU’s commissioner for competition policy from 2004 until 2010, she was Europe’s top corporate enforcer and made Forbes magazine’s annual list of the “World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” five times.

What Kroes never told audiences – and didn’t tell European Commission officials in mandatory disclosures – was that she had been listed as a director of an offshore company in the Bahamas, the Caribbean tax haven whose secrecy and tax structures have attracted multinational companies and criminals alike.

Kroes was listed as director of a Bahamian company from 2000 to 2009, according to documents reviewed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Kroes, through a lawyer, told ICIJ and media partners that she did not declare her directorship of the company because it was never operational. Kroes’ lawyer blamed her appearance on company records as “a clerical oversight which was not corrected until 2009.” Her lawyer said the company, set up through a Jordanian businessman and friend of Kroes, had been created to investigate the possibility of raising money to purchase assets – worth more than $6 billion – from Enron Corp., the American energy giant. The deal never came off, and Enron later collapsed amid a massive accounting scandal.

Emily O’Reilly, the European Ombudsman with powers to investigate alleged breaches of EU rules and procedures, did not comment on the Kroes’ case but said: “When the rules are breached, whether accidentally or otherwise, the negative impression it leaves with the public tends to resonate more strongly than any positive counter steps subsequently undertaken.”

Details of Kroes’ link to the offshore company are among the revelations found in a new leak of documents, received by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with ICIJ, that disclose details behind companies incorporated in the Bahamas. The cache of 1.3 million files from the island nation’s corporate registry provides names of directors and some owners of more than 175,000 Bahamian companies, trusts and foundations registered between 1990 and early 2016.

The data released today involve the basic building blocks of offshore companies: a company’s name, its date of creation, the physical and mailing address in the Bahamas and, in some cases, the company’s directors. At a basic level, this information is crucial to day-to-day commerce. In other cases, police, detectives and fraud investigators use registries as starting points on the trail of wrongdoing.

“Corporate registries are incredibly important,” said Debra LaPrevotte, a former U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent whose work included tracing billions of dollars in bribes and corruption proceeds hidden in tax havens for politicians from Ukraine, Nigeria and Bangladesh. “Offshore companies are often used as intermediaries to facilitate money laundering and, frequently, the companies are only used to open bank accounts, thus the corporate registry documents, which might identify the beneficial owners, are part of the evidence.”

Fresh insights

Unlike the Panama Papers, 11.5 million often-detailed emails, contracts, audio recordings and other documents from one law firm, the information listed in the new Bahamian documents is plainer — if still fundamental — in content. The new data does not make it clear, for example, whether directors named in connection with a Bahamian firm truly control the company or act as nominees, employees-for-hire who serve as the face of the company but have no involvement in its operations.

When paired with the Panama Papers, the Bahamas data provide fresh insights into the offshore dealings of politicians, criminals and executives as well as the bankers and lawyers who help move money.

The new leaked documents include the names of 539 registered agents— corporate middlemen who serve as intermediaries between Bahamian authorities and customers who wish to create an offshore company. Among them is Mossack Fonseca, the law firm whose leaked files formed the basis of the Panama Papers. The firm set up 15,915 entities in the Bahamas, making it Mossack Fonseca’s third busiest jurisdiction. At one point, Bahamian companies were among Mossack Fonseca’s best-sellers.

Read the complete article on the ICIJ web site here.

Find out who’s behind almost 500,000 offshore companies, foundations and trusts from the Panama Papers, the Offshore Leaks and the Bahamas Leaks investigations. Click on link below to access database.

Click to access the offshore leaks database.

Trump used funds from his charity to settle legal problems.

Donald Trump spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire’s for-profit businesses, according to interviews and a review of legal documents in a Washington Post article.

Those cases, which together used $258,000 from Trump’s charity, were among four newly documented expenditures in which Trump may have violated laws against “self-dealing” — which prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses.

In one case, from 2007, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club faced $120,000 in unpaid fines from the town of Palm Beach, Fla., resulting from a dispute over the height of a flagpole.

In a settlement, Palm Beach agreed to waive those fines — if Trump’s club made a $100,000 donation to a specific charity for veterans. Instead, Trump sent a check from the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a charity funded almost entirely by other people’s money, according to tax records.

In another case, court papers say one of Trump’s golf courses in New York agreed to settle a lawsuit by making a donation to the plaintiff’s chosen charity. A $158,000 donation was made by the Trump Foundation, according to tax records.

The other expenditures involved smaller amounts. In 2013, Trump used $5,000 from the foundation to buy advertisements touting his chain of hotels in programs for three events organized by a D.C. preservation group. And in 2014, Trump spent $10,000 of the foundation’s money for a portrait of himself bought at a charity fundraiser.

Or, rather, another portrait of himself.

Several years earlier, Trump had used $20,000 from the Trump Foundation to buy a different, six foot-tall portrait.

The Post sent the Trump campaign a detailed list of questions about the four cases but received no response.

The New York attorney general’s office declined to comment when asked whether its inquiry would cover these new cases­ of possible self-dealing.

Trump founded his charity in 1987 and for years was its only donor. But in 2006, Trump gave away almost all the money he had donated to the foundation, leaving it with just $4,238 at year’s end, according to tax records.

Then, he transformed the Trump Foundation into something rarely seen in the world of philanthropy: a name-branded foundation whose namesake provides none of its money. Trump gave relatively small donations in 2007 and 2008, and afterward: nothing. The foundation’s tax records show no donations from Trump since 2009.

Its money has come from other donors, most notably pro-wrestling executives Vince and Linda McMahon, who gave a total of $5 million from 2007 to 2009, tax records show. Trump remains the foundation’s president, and he told the IRS in his latest public filings that he works half an hour per week on the charity.

The Post has previously detailed other cases in which Trump used the charity’s money in a way that appeared to violate the law.

In 2013, for instance, the foundation gave $25,000 to a political group supporting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R). That gift was made about the same time that Bondi’s office was considering whether to investigate fraud allegations against Trump University. It didn’t.

Read the complete article on the Washington Post web site here.

Gun nation: a journey to the heart of America’s gun culture – video

Gun Nation is a revealing and unsettling video journey to the heart of America’s deadly love affair with the gun.

In the 18 years since Zed Nelson’s seminal photography book Gun Nation was published, 500,000 Americans have been killed by firearms in the US and many more injured. Nelson returns to the people he met, photographs them again, and asks why America is a nation still with an insatiable appetite for firearms.

Avoiding stereotypical images of gang members or extremists, Nelson focuses instead on another side of America’s gun culture: the mainly white middle classes who sell and purchase guns in vast numbers.

Nelson’s two-decade-long rapport with his photographic subjects gives unique and intimate access to the minds of gun owners. As they cling to the notion of a centuries-old ‘right to bear arms’, Nelson seeks to understand why – despite the enormous death toll – there is such fierce resistance to gun control laws, particularly the debate about ownership of assault weapons.

Gun Nation explores the paradox of why America’s most potent symbol of freedom is also one of its greatest killers.

Zed Nelson is an award-winning photographer and filmmaker. Gun Nation was awarded first prize in the World Press Photo Contest, the Alfred Eisenstaedt Award and the Visa d’or.

Leaked documents reveal secretive influence of corporate cash on politics

Ted Summerfield WordPress blog image

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker holds up a dollar bill while speaking at the American Legislative Exchange Council in 2015. Photograph: Denis Poroy/AP

Sealed Wisconsin court documents from Scott Walker investigation expose extent of corporate influence on democratic process rarely seen by the public.

The pervasive influence of corporate cash in the democratic process, and the extraordinary lengths to which politicians, lobbyists and even judges go to solicit money, are laid bare in sealed court documents leaked to the Guardian.

The John Doe files amount to 1,500 pages of largely unseen material gathered in evidence by prosecutors investigating alleged irregularities in political fundraising. Last year the Wisconsin supreme court ordered that all the documents should be destroyed, though a set survived that has now been obtained by the news organisation.

The files open a window on a world that is very rarely glimpsed by the public, in which millions of dollars are secretly donated by major corporations and super-wealthy individuals to third-party groups in an attempt to sway elections. They speak to a visceral theme of the 2016 presidential cycle: the distortion of American democracy by big business that has been slammed by both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

Among the documents are several court filings from the case, as well as hundreds of pages of email exchanges obtained by the prosecutors under subpoena. The emails involve conversations concerning Walker, his top aides, conservative lobbyists, and leading Republican figures such as Karl Rove and the chair of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus.

Trump also appears in the files, making a donation of $15,000 following a personal visit from Walker to the Republican nominee’s Fifth Avenue headquarters.

In addition to Trump, many of the most powerful and wealthy rightwing figures in the nation crop up in the files: from Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone, hedge-fund manager Paul Singer and Las Vegas casino giant Sheldon Adelson, to magnate Carl Icahn. “I got $1m from John Menard today,” Walker says in one email, referring to the billionaire owner of the home improvement chain Menards.

Among the new material contained in the documents are donations amounting to $750,000 to a third-party group closely aligned to Walker from the owner of NL Industries, a company that historically produced lead paint. Within the same timeframe as the donations, the Republican-controlled legislature passed new laws making it much more difficult for victims of lead paint poisoning to sue NL Industries and other former lead paint manufacturers (the laws were later overturned in the federal courts).

Read the complete article on The Guardian web site here.

My Scribd sales take a jump

I don’t know why my Scribd sales through Smashwords jumped up during August and up-to-now. I’ve done no advertising or promotion of my ebooks, haven’t published a new ebook lately, and most of my ebooks are priced at 99 cents which is the dead zone on Amazon and I would have though the slow zone on a subscription site like Scribd.

I’m not complaining. I like to see reports showing people are reading my ebooks, as I price my ebooks not to make a lot of money but to make them affordable to many readers. I suggest other Smashwords authors check their Scribd sales and see if there has been a spike in their sales the last 6 or 8 weeks.

Distant languages have similar sounds for common words

economistcommonwordscityimage

IN ENGLISH, the object on your face that smells things is called a “nose”, and, if you are generously endowed, you might describe it as “big”. The prevailing belief among linguists had been that the sounds used to form those words were arbitrary. But new work by a team led by Damian Blasi, a language scientist at the University of Zurich, and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that may not be true—and that the same sounds may be used in words for the same concepts across many different languages.

Dr Blasi was struck by the fact that, although the idea that sounds were arbitrary was firmly entrenched, there was strikingly little evidence for it. So along with his team, which combined skills in anthropology, linguistics, cognitive science, history and statistics, he decided to examine as many languages as possible to see if it was true. They analysed word lists derived from 4,298 of the world’s 6,000-odd languages, which accounted for about 85% of its historical linguistic diversity.

The words for “nose”, for instance, often involve either an “n” sound or an “oo” sound, no matter the language in question. The concept of “round” was noticeably likely to be conveyed using a word containing the “r” sound. Employing an “s” sound in the word for “sand” is similarly common. In fact, the researchers found that almost a third of their 100 concepts had more similarities in the sounds used by languages to express them than expected. That suggests there must be some deeper reason for the commonalities.

There are several theories. One is that some objects have names whose sounds bring them to mind, a sort of “sound symbolism”. Employing a nasal “n” sound to name a nose would be one example. Another is that sensory associations play a role. Studies have found that people routinely associate darker colours with lower sounds and lighter colours with higher ones, for instance. Such shared synaesthesia might account for some of the similarities. Or the commonalities might be leftovers from some ancient, now-forgotten proto-language.

“Huh” is a word that has been found to be remarkably similar across languages. “It’s cheap, short and understandable,” says Dr Blasi—convenient for something you might say hundreds of times a day. Ditto for a pronoun like “I”. Perhaps parsimony is what ultimately unites the world.

Read the complete article on The Economist here.