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Why hacks like Equifax will keep happening

If it feels like 2017 is a banner year for cyberattacks, that's because it is. And the hits will keep coming.

"We're living in the beginning of an era of mass targeted attacks," said Nate Fick, CEO of security firm Endgame. "Things are bad and they're going to get worse."

 

In just the last month, we've learned of a data breach from credit agency Equifax affecting 143 million people, an intrusion into the SEC, and a hack at major accounting firm Deloitte.

Almost 2 billion records were lost or stolen globally in the first half of 2017, according to security firm Gemalto, an increase of 164% over the previous six months.

The spike in global cyberattacks is the result of a perfect storm. Some tools used by government hackers have become public, such as when the NSA hacking tools leaked online. And it's easier than ever for hackers to make sophisticated tools to spread malware, ransomware, or steal data from companies. Firms also frequently fail to patch holes in their systems, at least in a timely manner.

"It's increasingly easy for essentially anybody to wield the kind of capability that used to be reserved for nation-states, or required nation-state level of expertise and investment," Fick said.

Attacks by nation-states are undertaken by hackers working for a government, rather than a criminal enterprise.

No one has attributed the Equifax (EFX) hack to anyone, yet. But law enforcement has blamed nation-states for other high-profile cyberattacks such as WannaCry. In that case earlier this year, intelligence agencies linked the massive ransomware attack to North Korea. It infected about 300,000 computers in 150 countries.

Related: Equifax's legal and government troubles keep piling up

According to Andrea Little Limbago, Chief Social Scientist at Endgame, cyberattacks will continue as geopolitical tensions escalate.

In the past, nation-state hacks didn't have widespread collateral damage. In 2010, the Stuxnet worm damaged Iran's nuclear program, but Limbago said it was mostly contained.

Fast forward to 2017: The sophisticated NotPetya cyberattack, which Ukraine blamed on Russia, targeted Ukrainian tax software in June, but infected companies around the globe. FedEx said the attack cost the company $300 million.

Sophisticated attacks are a threat, but the biggest hacks can be the result of known vulnerabilities that don't get fixed in time.

Hackers infiltrated Equifax through a flaw in a tool called Apache Struts, which is used to build web applications. The flaw was identified and disclosed in March, but Equifax's machines were not all updated and protected even months later, allowing the hackers entry.

According to Kelly Shortridge, product manager at Security Scorecard, many companies don't maintain basic security hygiene to prevent cyberattacks. That includes regularly updating and patching computers, implementing mandatory two-factor authentication, and training employees to recognize phishing attempts.

"Unfortunately you can't just put a security box on the network and everything will be solved," she said. "You have to be rigorous in monitoring, and rigorously prioritize how you protect your assets."

Keeping computers up-to-date costs time, money, and expertise -- sometimes patching a server means taking it offline, potentially affecting customers or business operations. Skipping a patch over financial concerns could lead to a more expensive data breach in the future.

Data breaches, digital extortion, and identity theft are lucrative. According to research from Symantec, the average ransomware attack -- where hackers take control of a victim's computer and then demand money to return it -- made $1,077 last year, a 266% increase from the year before. Hackers buy and sell hacking tools, malware, and stolen identities on the dark web.

Related: A smart fish tank left a casino vulnerable to hackers

Sometimes stolen data doesn't need to be hacked. As we've seen multiple times this year, databases that are insecure due to human error can leave private data exposed to anyone who searches for it.

The number of devices vulnerable to an attack is growing. As millions of devices like smart coffee makers and connected light bulbs come online, there will be more opportunities for hackers to infiltrate homes and businesses.

For example, hackers recently tried to steal data from a North American casino through a fish tank connected to the internet. They managed to compromise the tank and send data to a device in Finland. Insecure devices are like unlocked doors into networks; if a hacker accesses one, they could move around the rest of the system and potentially steal private information.

Gartner estimates over 20 billion "internet of things" devices will be in use by 2020, up from an estimated 8.4 billion this year. Experts say many IoT manufacturers are notorious for shortchanging security and putting users at risk.

Shortridge says the Equifax breach may be a wake up call for businesses who don't prioritize security. Government agencies and members of Congress are currently investigating Equifax.

However, Fick said there's a lack of accountability when data breaches happen. The CEO of Equifax "retired" this week, following the retirement of the company's chief information officer and chief security officer.

"If you're the CEO or you're a board member, whether or not a breach is your fault, it's unequivocally your responsibility," Fick said. "You should be fired if it's egregious enough. You shouldn't be allowed to retire."

Source:CNN

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03/Oct/2017

Ghana to generate US$10 billion from Non-Traditional Exports

Ghana is set to generate US$10 billion from Non-Traditional Exports (NTEs) in the next four years, Madam Gifty Klenam, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA), disclosed on Wednesday.

To achieve the target, she said, the Authority was developing and promoting exports vigorously, by identifying additional products with significant export potentials in the various districts in the country.

The Export and Import Act, 1995 (Act 503) defines Non-Traditional Exports (NTEs) to include all export products with the exception of cocoa beans, lumber and logs, unprocessed gold and other minerals, and electricity.

Madam Klenam said this in a speech read on her behalf, at a meeting on the implementation of the National Export Strategy, vis-à-vis the One - District-One-Exportable-Product in Sunyani.

It was organized by GEPA and attended by District Chief Executives, Coordinating Directors and other stakeholders in the export sector and aimed at identifying new export products in the various districts of the Brong-Ahafo Region.

The National Export Strategy was launched in 2013 for implementation after extensive consultation and its key tenets advocate the identification, development, and promotion of at least one exportable product per district.

Madam Klenam indicated that the nation had all it takes to be the export hub of the sub-region, and underlined the need for stakeholders in the sector to help tap export products to transform the fortunes of the country.

She said currently GEPA was undergoing certain structural and fundamental realignment to be able to handle new responsibilities adding that very soon regional offices would be established for the full implementation of the one-district-one-export-product.

“This programme would complement as well as feed the implementation of the government’s overarching policy initiative of the One-District-One-Factory industrialization concept”, she explained.

Madam Klenam observed that Brong-Ahafo was vast and endowed with immense potentials for agribusiness, services and related export value chains.

“The region has been touted as the food basket of the country and the onus lay on us to translate this positive accolade into meaningful exports”, she told the participants.

Source:CNN.com

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07/Sep/2017

It's not avocado toast: It's actually harder for Millennials to save money

Why does it seem harder to save money now in my 20s vs. my parents when they were in their 20s? - Daniel  

Many Millennials like Daniel are wondering why they're struggling to save money while their Baby Boomer parents managed to get ahead. Daniel's not wrong: Times have changed.

 

"Millennials are hit with a tough combination of obstacles their parents didn't face," says Daniel Mahoney, president of True Square Financial in Atlanta.

Rising cost of education is a big part of the challenge. Tuition has tripled over the past four decades, and Millennials are carrying more student debt than their parents. In 2016, seven out of 10 graduates had loans to pay and left college with an average $37,172 in debt.

Stagnant wages are also impacting Millennials. Hourly wages have grown only 9% over the past three decades.

At the same time, home prices are rising faster than wages. More Americans are renting homes than at any point over the last 50 years. Real estate was a key factor in previous generations' wealth and savings.

Many boomers also received pensions from their employers, securing their retirement. Today, just 14% of private sector workers receive pensions, compared to more than 30% three decades ago.

People younger than 35 are the only age group with a negative savings rate, which means they're spending more than they're saving.

But these challenges don't mean Millennials should feel hopeless. Despite playing with a hand tied behind their backs, young people can still get ahead financially.

Create a budget

Knowing how much is coming in and how much is going out is essential, experts say.

"It's the foundation for everything when it comes to managing your personal finances," says Boneparth.

Shashin Shah, financial planer at SFMG Wealth Advisors, advises clients to take account of all their spending and imagine they made 10% less -- then start working to save that 10%.

Related: A variety of tools can help you budget.

Analyzing your budget can help you cut back on extraneous expenses. Apps like Mint and Quicken help to analyze your budgeting and let you know if you're spending beyond your means. You can also test out Excel spreadsheets, which Boneparth recommends because they help keep you involved with your finances.

Find the best deal on your student loans

Make sure to keep up with your student loan payments so you don't get swamped with more debt. Consider enrolling in an income repayment plan that automatically deducts funds from your paycheck.

You can also try to lower your monthly loan payments by consolidating and scoring lower interest rates.

Several federal employers, states and non-profits offer grant options that will help forgive your debt if you work in a particular location, in public service or a high-demand field like engineering or health care.

Look for companies that will help pay off some of your loans. Only 4% of companies currently offer this benefit, according to a 2016 survey, but human resource professionals expect an increasing number of companies will offer this perk in the future as a way to recruit and retain Millennials.

Pay yourself first

When you get your paycheck each month, first set aside a portion of it to your savings account or a retirement fund.

It's a simple concept, but experts say it goes a long way for any type of savings burden.

"By paying yourself first, you're prioritizing savings and more importantly, building the right habits to build wealth in the long-term," says Roger Ma, a certified financial planner in New York.

Keeping an emergency savings fund is also a good way to build up your cash flow.

Start by building three months of your living expenses in cash, Mahoney recommends. That way you won't get yourself into trouble by turning to credit cards or high-interest loans if emergency strikes.

Money you put in a 401(k) grows tax-deferred when you contribute, so make sure to capture all of your employer match. It's "free money," Ma says, and will pay off in the long run.

A Roth IRA is also a good option for Millennials who are able to save, according to Mahoney. Although it doesn't provide a tax break today, the money you save and invest in a Roth can grow tax-free and you can take it out tax-free when you retire. Once your Roth IRA account has been open for five years, Mahoney explains, you can withdraw contributions without paying the penalty you would with a 401(k).

Millennials have advantages

There are some things that can actually make saving easier these days than it was in the past. Financial planners say technology can help Millennials in ways unimaginable to their parents.

And the shift away from pensions brings opportunity, Ma says. Millennials may not feel as tied down to their jobs as previous generations who had to stick around for years to be eligible for a pension.

"This allows Millennials to job hop more frequently and find a job they truly enjoy."

Source:CNN

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07/Sep/2017

Former ‘Shark Tank’ judge offers advice to Chicopee lottery winner

Before we knew that Mavis Wanczyk, the 53-year-old woman from right down the road in Chicopee, was the lucky winner of the $758.7 million Powerball jackpot, we spoke to Kevin Harrington, one of the original judges on the TV show “Shark Tank,” to see what he’d tell the instant millionaire.

An entrepreneur who created the “As Seen on TV” nameplate, Harrington is on the board of LottoGopher.com, a website where people can order custom lottery tickets instead of purchasing them from a store. Harrington (inset) thinks that qualifies him to mentor the Powerball winner.

Here’s his advice:

 

1. Keep a low profile

“Keep it private as much as you can,” Harrington said. “You don’t need to go out at the top of the mountain and yell all about it.” Lottery winners receive a lot of attention, but Harrington said it’s best to lay low and start crafting a plan for what to do with the money.

2. Gather a team of experts

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Powerball is a lot of money, and it’s important to be prepared for the big decisions that come with it. Harrington said it’s “vital” to work with lawyers, financial advisers, investors, consultant companies, and public relations experts who are used to working with individuals with high net worths to protect your interests: “[E]veryone from the people you went to school with . . . to all the relatives, some of which you don’t remember you had, will be contacting you for some of their needs.”

3. Take the lump sum

Harrington has one golden rule: You control the money. Lottery winners can choose between an immediate cash payout or an annuity over 29 years. Harrington says take the cash — it’s the best way to avoid the risk of mismanagement on others’ parts (or if the lottery becomes low on funds in the future) and gives you more opportunities for investment sooner.

4. Invest wisely

Safe, government-backed investments are a good way to go, Harrington said. Other high-growth stocks that are historically safe, like Apple and Amazon, could be worthwhile investments, too.

5. Spend a little

The worst thing a lottery winner can do is give in to people who are “sucking the money out of you,” Harrington says. It’s easy to spend, and to want to give to others, but it’s best for a winner to focus on their family’s livelihood, avoid rash decisions, and make informed investments with a group of experts.

“Historically, there have been issues with many winners being able to manage and control the long-term aspects of [the money] and some have made some poor decisions, so I believe that it’s important that the winner gets the right people to advise them,” Harrington said. “You don’t need to go out at the top of the mountain and yell all about it.” Lottery winners receive a lot of attention, but Harrington said it’s best to lay low and start crafting a plan for what to do with the money.

Source: Boston Globe News

 

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27/Aug/2017

Is Apple CEO Tim Cook running for president? He says 'no'

DES MOINES — After spending the morning in a perennial swing state and the afternoon in the first state to cast presidential ballots, questions immediately started to swirl about Apple's CEO Tim Cook possible political ambitions. 

The Internet was all aflutter, asking the question: Is Cook seriously thinking of running for president?

Cook spent Thursday morning on the factory floor of an Ohio Apple supplier, where he "thanked employees and hinted at a prosperous future," the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

Then, he toured the Des Moines metro area in the afternoon, holding a high-profile news conference, touring a high-tech suburban school and posing for selfies and shaking hands with customers and staff at the local Apple store. 

More: Apple to receive $213M in tax breaks for 50-job data center

Shortly after noon, Cook headlined a news conference with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican. Standing at the foot of the Iowa Capitol, the pair celebrated a $1.375 billion data center Apple plans to build in the Des Moines suburb of Waukee.

But any visit of high-profile political and business leaders can start the rumor mill in Iowa, home to the first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses.

A few hours later, the headline "Is Tim Cook running for president?" appeared on Need to Know Network, a news site that Politico reported was formed by Republican operatives. 

It's not the first time the chief executive of America's most profitable company has sparked speculation about a political run.

More: Apple to donate $2 million to anti-hate groups, Tim Cook tells staff

In June, Bryan Menegus wrote that Cook "absolutely wants to run for president" on Gizmodo, a design, tech and science website. He pointed to Cook's platform-like talking points covering wealth inequality, education, global trade.

"He has his platform ready," Menegus wrote, "peppered with just enough heartfelt anecdotes and the occasional wink of contrition for his industry’s undeniable role in deepening global wealth inequality."

But Cook swatted down the Internet speculation. 

"You've got to be kidding," Cook told The Des Moines Register on Thursday while visiting with employees and customers at an Apple store. "That must be a comedian or something."

He insisted he's not interested in a White House bid. 

"I've got a full-time job. And I love Apple deeply," he said. "So no, there's no connection there at all."

He's the second tech mogul to raise eyebrows from political observers while visiting Iowa this summer.

More: Apple reports solid quarter; consumers eye new iPhone

In June, Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg met with locals in rural Iowa and chatted up truck drivers at the Iowa 80 Truckstop. In January, the social media mogul said he was not seeking the White House.

Apple's Cook is no stranger to politics. 

President Trump criticized the tech company during his campaign for manufacturing the iPhone and other products overseas.

 

Yet when announcing a $1 billion U.S. manufacturing fund in May, Cook seemed open to working with Trump's administration.

"I think with each administration in every country in the world, there are things you disagree and things you agree, and you look to find common ground and try to influence the things you don't," he said. "If you don't show up, I think that's the worst scenario because then you're quiet and this doesn't do your cause any good or your point of view any good."

More: Mark Zuckerberg says he's not running for president

During a college commencement speech in June, Cook mocked Trump's propensity for dropping controversial Tweets in the early morning hours.

Earlier this month, Cook clashed with Trump's handling of the racial unrest in Charlottesville, Va. He specifically took issue with the president's language blaming "both sides" for violence at a white supremacy rally.

“I disagree with the president and others who believe that there is a moral equivalence between white supremacists and Nazis, and those who oppose them by standing up for human rights. Equating the two runs counter to our ideals as Americans,”

Source:USA Today

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27/Aug/2017

Investors pull billions from U.S. stocks in longest outflow streak since 2004

vestors are fleeing U.S. stocks in a way they haven't since 2004.

For 10 straight weeks a total of $30 billion has left U.S. stocks, marking the longest streak of outflows since 2004, Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a Thursday report, citing EPFR Global data.

Investors turned instead to emerging markets and European and Japanese stocks, which saw $36 billion in inflows over the last 10 weeks, the report said.

BofAML's breakdown of last week's fund flows pointed to more aversion to risk among investors, and could add to some analysts' worries about deteriorating market internals.

The 10-week outflow from U.S. stocks comes despite the S&P 500's nearly 1 percent gain this quarter and a record high on Aug. 8.

The report also pointed out the turn away from U.S. stocks coincided with the late June surge in the euro against the U.S. dollar to its strongest in nearly a year, after comments from European Central Bank President Mario Draghi suggested higher inflation and tighter monetary policy soon in the euro zone.

The euro subsequently climbed to its highest in more than two years in early August, and traded slightly below those levels near $1.186 Friday. Draghi is scheduled to speak later Friday afternoon at an annual meeting of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

In the week ended Wednesday, European stocks saw their first outflows in seven weeks, the BofAML report said, while Japanese stocks saw their largest inflow in five months at $3.1 billion.

Major contributors to U.S. stock market gains in the last several months saw significant outflows in the week ended Wednesday, the BofAML report said:

  • Technology — $600 million, largest in 49 weeks.
  • Financials — $35 million, second straight week.
  • Consumer — $1.5 billion, third largest ever
 

The defensive utilities sector was the only U.S. stock sector to see slight inflows in the last week.

By investing style, investors withdrew $1.6 billion from U.S. growth stock funds and $1.1 billion from U.S. value stock funds, the BofAML report said. Only U.S. small caps saw inflows, at $700 million.

Investors also piled into Treasury bonds, which saw their greatest inflows in 10 weeks at $900 billion. But riskier high-yield debt posted $2.2 billion in outflows, its eighth week out of 10 of withdrawals, the report said.

That said, analysts don't expect the defensive turn to result in a large market downturn.

"This is definitely weaker U.S. equity inflows but still net positive and my sense is that positioning is still long and the VIX back at 11 shows there is still complacency," Ilya Feygin, managing director and senior strategist at WallachBeth Capital, said Friday. He estimated U.S. stock exchange-traded funds, passive investment products which have risen in popularity over mutual funds, gained $6.1 billion in net inflows since June 30.

In addition, BofAML said its proprietary Bull & Bear indicator did not trigger a "sell" signal, meaning the market still remains in a rally mode.

And while overall the bank's wealthy private clients turned more defensive, their allocation to one traditional safe haven, precious metals ETFs, has fallen to record lows, BofAML said.

Source:CNN.com

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27/Aug/2017

How a hacker could take down the electric grid

n the world of cybersecurity, a hacker taking down a city's electrical grid is a classic nightmare scenario. Indeed, it's already happened in Ukraine.

But while the idea of a hacker blackout seems scary, experts say the chances of a disruptive electric-grid attack are low in the U.S.

 

"Should people be concerned and should governments be taking action? Yes," said Robert M. Lee, CEO and founder of cybersecurity firm Dragos. "Should we be building bunkers and freaking out? No."

Lee investigated the 2016 attack on Ukraine's power grid. Hackers created malware to attack an energy site, causing blackouts in Kiev for about an hour. The malware is called CrashOverride.

At the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas this week, Lee explained how CrashOverride could be used as a blueprint for cyberattacks on energy facilities around the world.

It might be concerning that this could be scaled to other facilities, but don't panic just yet.

How it works

Before electricity gets to your house, it goes through a couple steps first. It is generated -- from things like fossil fuels, nuclear power, or renewable sources -- and then goes through a transmission site before it is pushed out to your home.

CrashOverride targets the transmission site.

Related: How Trump can keep America's grid safe from hackers

Although CrashOverride could be used for attacking other transmission sites, it is not a likelihood it would be used in the U.S., said Lee, who previously worked in the intelligence community. It's not easy to get the malware on the transmission site in the first place.

"It's fairly easy to do if the adversary has the intention to do it, and can get into the environment," he said. "That 'get into the environment' gap depends on where in the world you are, and how you're relying on power. Here in the U.S., it's difficult."

U.S. energy networks are segmented. That means computers on the business side are not connected to the machines responsible for distributing power. So if someone launches an attack against business computers to try and steal credentials or places malware on a computer, it would not be able to jump to the machines controlling the grid.

A secure grid

Cyber intrusions at energy facilities are often means of gathering intelligence or data, and some types, like phishing attacks, aren't unusual. For instance, the government recently warned U.S. energy facilities of a targeted campaign trying to steal credentials, like usernames and passwords, from energy firms' corporate networks.

The Wolf Creek nuclear facility in Kansas was one of the victims of this recent attack. A spokeswoman for Wolf Creek told CNN Tech earlier this month that the attacks did not impact operations at all because the operation systems were separate from the networks that were targeted.

The electric grid is resilient. If the grid in your city was hit with a cyberattack, it would bounce back quickly, Lee said. The actual impact -- or time of electricity going out -- would be a few hours.

It's not the outage that would be the most damaging aspect to a destructive grid attack, however.

"The biggest impact to us would be psychological in nature," Lee said.

Source:CNN

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30/Jul/2017

Jeff Bezos briefly dethrones Bill Gates as world's richest person

Just over two decades ago, Jeff Bezos started selling books online from his garage. Today, the Amazon CEO surpassed Bill Gates as the richest person on Earth, for a few hours at least.

Bezos's net worth topped $90 billion on Thursday morning, allowing the Amazon founder and CEO to dethrone Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft (MSFT, Tech30), as the richest man in the world, according to Forbes and Bloomberg.

 

However, an afternoon dip in Amazon's stock price caused Bezos to slip back behind Gates, who has been No. 1 since 2013 on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Bezos finished the day worth $88.8 billion, just behind the $89.8 billion for Gates.

What's a billion dollars between the world's richest guys anyway?

Bezos has been hailed as the smartest guy in business for turning a bookselling platform into a disruptive force that has flipped traditional retail on its head.

His world's-richest-man milestone was made possible because of Amazon (AMZN, Tech30)'s surging stock price. The e-commerce juggernaut's market value surpassed $500 billion this week for the first time ever.

The vast majority of the Bezos fortune is tied up in Amazon stock, of which the CEO owns nearly 17%. That stake alone is worth $83 billion, meaning Bezos could just as quickly lose his new title as the world's richest man should Amazon's stock decline, or Microsoft's value rise.

In recent years, Bezos's fortune has whizzed past that of legendary investor Warren Buffett, Spanish retail magnate Amancio Ortega and Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim. Bezos added more than $24 billion in net worth since January 2017, according to Bloomberg.

Bezos founded Amazon in the mid-1990s from a garage, originally as an online bookseller. But over the years Bezos has deftly steered Amazon into hardware, cloud services, music and streaming shows. All along the way, Amazon used technology and sheer force to ruthlessly cut prices. Customers in turn have flocked to Amazon, which raked in a stunning $136 billion in sales last year alone.

The Amazon boss's bold vision was on full display again in June when he shocked Wall Street and the business world with a $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods (WFM). The surprise deal instantly made Amazon a major bricks-and-mortar player and sent a wave of fear through traditional grocery stores and food companies.

Bezos has used his fortune to purchase The Washington Post in 2013 and launch his own rocket company, Blue Origin.

Bezos is also thinking more about how to give back to society and even asked his Twitter followers last month for ideas.

"I'm thinking I want much of my philanthropic activity to be helping people in the here and now -- short term -- at the intersection of urgent need and lasting impact," Bezos wrote.

Source:CNN

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30/Jul/2017

The importance of bigger earnings for stock funds

NEW YORK — This earnings season is off to a good start, and the encouraging run is expected to keep going.

Instead of excitement, though, the reaction so far from Wall Street has been more like quiet relief, and funds that track the broad stock market have only edged higher since earnings reports began arriving in earnest last week. That's because the strong reports that are forecast would be more a justification for the big moves that stock prices have already made rather than reason for further gains.

Stock prices have risen more quickly than earnings in recent years, and the two tend to track with each other over the long term. Stocks even rose when profits were shrinking from mid-2015 into 2016, which has the market at more expensive levels relative to corporate profits.

Stock prices for companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 index are trading at close to 21 times their earnings per share over the last 12 months, for example. That's well above their average price-earnings ratio of 15.5 over the last 10 years, a period that includes both the Great Recession and the long run-up for stocks following it.

Of course, interest rates are still low, and investors are willing to pay a higher price for each dollar of earnings in stocks when bonds are offering small yields. But rates are expected to continue climbing modestly, as the Federal Reserve raises short-term interest rates and begins paring back its massive trove of bond investments.

So, depending on how high interest rates climb and other factors, corporate earnings may need to keep rising just to keep stock prices where they are today. This reporting season, analysts are expecting S&P 500 companies to report a roughly 6% rise in earnings per share from a year earlier. That would be less than half the growth rate of the first three months of the year, but the slowdown is understandable given that the first quarter's growth rate was the fastest since 2011.

Among the trends to watch for as companies report how they did from April through June:

 

Globalists glitter

Coming into this year, many expected President Donald Trump's "America First" policies to mean companies that do most of their business at home would be the biggest winners.

But the companies that get most of their sales from abroad may end up this earning season's stars, now that Europe and developing economies around the world are showing more life after years of disappointment.

Those economic upturns, coupled with a weakening dollar, spell stronger results for companies that sell a lot to customers in Asia, Europe and elsewhere. The euro has climbed about 10% against the dollar this year, for example, which means that each euro of sales at the Apple store in Amsterdam is worth more dollars than before.

Like Apple, the technology sector broadly gets most of its revenue from outside the United States, and analysts expect tech stocks to report the second-strongest earnings growth of the 11 sectors that make up the index, at nearly 11%, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Oil is a wild card

The strongest growth this reporting season is expected to come from the energy sector, where analysts say profits more than quadrupled from a year earlier.

Energy is the only area of the market that's more international than technology in terms of where it gets its revenue, but the biggest factor is the higher price of oil. After plunging below $30 per barrel early last year, crude has remained between $45 and $55 for much of this year.

It's easier to make outlandish percentage gains when coming off a small base, and energy companies' profits were decimated by oil's fall from more than $100 per barrel in 2014.

But crude's price still isn't stable. During June, it dropped as low as $42.05 on expectations that the world still has more oil than it needs. Analysts have already pulled down their earnings expectations as a result, but did they do so by enough? And if oil's price remains volatile, it could have a big impact on energy companies' earnings for the second half of the year.

Outlook is key

For stocks to rise any more from their already lofty levels, companies will need to keep pumping out further earnings gains, even after this reporting season closes.

For the most part, that's what analysts expect to happen. The U.S. economy continues to muddle along with modest growth, while other economies are accelerating.

Companies, meanwhile, have slashed their costs and are able to hold onto more of each dollar in revenue as profit.

Corporate CEOs will offer their own clues for where they see profits heading for the rest of the year when they release their second-quarter results. Many are forecasting further gains, though they have ratcheted back their expectations for how much of a boost they may get from a potential tax cut or other changes from Washington.

Source:USA Today

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25/Jul/2017

Your financial adviser will lose some of your money. Here's what to do.

Losing money when investing is as inevitable as death and taxes. Those who immediately fire their advisers for incurring such losses will never be satisfied.

I’m referring to short-term losses, over periods as long as a year, if not more. Even advisers with the very best long-term records regularly lose money in many calendar years along the way.

That sobering truth was confirmed by a recent Hulbert Financial Digest study of the more than 1,000 newsletter model portfolios whose performances it has audited over the last four decades. The study focused on just the small minority of these portfolios that beat the Standard & Poor's 500 index over any 20-year period since 1980. It found that, on average, these market beaters still lost money in 1 of every 4 years and lagged the S&P 500 in 1 of every 2 years.

And remember that these statistics apply to the very best advisers. Others did even worse.

You might object that losses aren’t inevitable for an adviser who always recommends money markets or short-term bond funds. But such an adviser will pay a high price for doing so, since he will lag the stock market in the majority of calendar years. None of the 1000-plus portfolios in the Hulbert Financial Digest database has come close to beating the stock market in every single year.

Another objection I often hear is that the investment newsletter industry is unrepresentative of Wall Street’s professional money managers, who presumably really know what they’re doing. But at least in regards to the frequency of short-term losses and market-lagging returns, those managers do no better.

 

Consider a study conducted several years ago by Brandes Investment Partners, a money management firm based in San Diego. The study analyzed actively-managed U.S. equity mutual funds in the Morningstar database that had beaten the S&P 500 over a 10-year period. It found that “all of them underperformed the Index substantially during shorter periods within the decade.”

 

Even Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and considered the most successful investor alive today, has suffered numerous bouts of short-term market-lagging returns. The book value of his firm has lagged the S&P 500 in nine of the last 20 calendar years, for example, a proportion that is virtually identical to what was found among the best investment newsletters.

Clearly, then, you shouldn’t use short-term losses or market-lagging returns as the basis for firing your investment adviser. Most investors who nevertheless do so compound their error by switching from the adviser at the bottom of the short-term performance scoreboards to the one at the top. The folly of that approach is illustrated by the awful performance of a strategy that, each year for the last four decades, invested in the top performing investment newsletter portfolio from the previous calendar year. This investor would have lost more than 90%, according to the Hulbert Financial Digest.

 

Clearly, we need to shift our focus away from the short-term winners and losers towards those who beat the market over the very long term. Though there is no magical minimum threshold for how many years this long term should encompass, I recommend to clients that it be at least 15 years.

Once you have chosen an adviser, be sure to stick with him even if he lags the market over a year or two, or even loses money. The rule of thumb I recommend: Fire your adviser only when you would no longer choose him if you were to freshly reapply the same criteria that led you to choose him in the first place. For example, if you chose an adviser because he beat the market over the trailing 15 years, then you’d fire him only if he no longer was ahead of the market over the trailing 15 years. That’s unlikely to be the case even after a couple years of disappointing performance.

That seems like a lot to ask, and it is. But the alternative is guaranteed to lead to long-term market-lagging returns, if not outright losses.

Source:USA Today

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25/Jul/2017

Trust, but verify: Keep an eye on your college kid’s spending

When you’re a parent shipping a kid off to college, it’s hard not to worry about every possible financial mishap, for example: is money that was meant for textbooks paying for a music festival ticket? But there are ways to ensure students are making the right financial decisions without hovering over them.

Joint bank account

Setting up a joint checking or savings account means parents and students have access to money in the account and can see all transactions.

In addition to tracking account activity online, parents can sign up for text or email alerts when their student’s balance falls below a specified amount, for example, or when large purchases are made.

A joint account offers a bonus, too: Transferring money from a parent’s separate bank account is easy, particularly if all accounts are at the same bank.

Be aware that parents who co-own accounts can be held responsible for overdrawn balances, regardless of who spent the money. Americans ages 18 to 25 incur overdrafts more than any other age group, according to a NerdWallet study, so parents have an incentive to make sure their kids don’t spend more than what’s in the account.

Joint credit card or authorized user

Getting a joint credit card or adding a student as an authorized user on a credit card is another way for parents to keep track of spending, says Winnie Sun, a financial adviser in Irvine, Calif.

Just as with joint bank accounts, having a joint credit card means a parent can check transactions. Most credit card companies, Sun says, also offer text or email alerts for out-of-the-ordinary activity like big purchases or when balances approach the card’s limit. Parents can ensure their student stays on top of payment due dates, which if missed can bring down the parent’s score.

New options

If these traditional methods of sharing funds don’t fit your needs, financial services companies offer alternatives.

Companies like Greenlight have released reloadable cards that can be used like debit cards — but only for stores preapproved by the card’s primary account holder. Parents can make sure the $500 earmarked for textbooks, for example, is spent only at the campus bookstore, says Greenlight CEO Tim Sheehan. Some companies allow account holders to block categories of purchases, such as alcohol, in addition to individual merchants.

 

Though it could be nerve-wracking watching your student stumble through adulthood for the first time, methods like these will show if he or she can be financially responsible. “At some point, you’re going to have to release the reins and let them go,” Sun says. “If you raised them properly, you’ve got to trust yourself, too.”

Source: USA TODAY

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17/Jul/2017

Report points to trouble for auto industry

DETROIT -- Automakers face a perilous road over the next 10 years as they place multibillion-dollar bets on the development of self-driving vehicles and other new technology, a new study finds.

 

A survey of 1,000 drivers in 10 key markets conducted by AlixPartners reveals consumers are not yet aware of the work that companies such as Ford and General Motors are doing to develop self-driving cars and might not trust them when they do launch new vehicles.

The auto industry must grapple with what form of driverless technology it is going to develop and how soon to deploy it.

What’s more, automakers are going up against technology companies that sometimes have more cash at their disposal to spend on product development. 

“There are more than 50 ... companies that are trying to develop an autonomous vehicle system ... and a lot of them are wasting money right now,” said Mark Wakefield, a partner with AlixPartners, a global consulting firm based in Southfield. “You really have to step back and recognize they are not all going to be successful.”

 

Consumers are more aware of self-driving car technology from Google and Tesla than any traditional automaker.

In the survey, when drivers were asked to name a company with self-driving car technology, 55% of respondents named Tesla and 20% named Google but only 12% could name a traditional automaker.

Equally troubling: Consumers trust Silicon Valley more on autonomous vehicle software than automakers. Among those surveyed, 41% said they would trust a Silicon Valley company the most for autonomous vehicle software while only 16% said they would trust a traditional Detroit manufacturer the most.

"That doesn’t mean you don’t participate" in the development of self-driving cars, Wakefield said. "You have to be humble in one sense about knowing what your capabilities are but also, at the same time, move fast."

Automakers and suppliers that move too slowly could be left out of one of the most fundamental changes in the auto industry in decades.

 

Wakefield said the smart automotive and technology companies will form partnerships to spread out both the costs and the risk of making the wrong choices. 

“Things are changing so quickly that it’s risky to commit billions to technologies that lock you in or partnerships that lock you in,” Wakefield said.

The smartest strategy for automakers is to develop partnerships with suppliers and technology companies to spread out the risk and development cost.

And that has been happening. Troy, Mich.-based Delphi has either acquired or invested in a number of companies over the past two years as it has expanded its autonomous vehicle technology.

Ford earlier this year acquired a majority interest in Argo AI, which is developing the software that will operate the Dearborn, Mich., automaker's self-driving car.

And GM spent $581 million last year to acquire Cruise Automation, a Silicon Valley start-up that is developing self-driving software for the Detroit automaker.

SOURCE:USA TODAY

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17/Jul/2017

Microsoft cuts thousands of jobs

Microsoft is undergoing a major reorganization.

The tech company is slashing thousands of jobs, mostly in sales positions, according to a source familiar with the matter.

 

Microsoft (MSFT, Tech30) confirmed the move in a statement sent to CNN Tech, noting it is "taking steps to notify some employees that their jobs are under consideration or that their positions will be eliminated."

"Like all companies, we evaluate our business on a regular basis," the spokesperson said. "This can result in increased investment in some places and, from time-to-time, re-deployment in others."

The job cuts impact employees primarily outside the U.S. Microsoft would not specify the exact number of layoffs.

The reorganization was announced internally on Monday.

Last week, reports surfaced that Microsoft planned a reorganization to focus more on cloud sales.

The news came as its cloud businesses continue to perform well. Revenue from Azure, its key cloud-computing platform, soared 93% in its most recent quarter.

Source:CNN

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10/Jul/2017

Amazon takes on Geek Squad with new service

Amazon really wants you to buy smart home products. In fact, it'll even come and set them up for you.

The tech giant is rolling out its own version of Best Buy's popular Geek Squad service, which offers in-home product installations and repairs on electronics and appliances.

 

The new "Amazon Smart Home Services Store" on its website allows users to book appointments for installations or free consultations. Company experts will answer questions and set up products like smart lights, thermostats and of course, Amazon's line of smart devices.

When customers buy a smart home device on Amazon, they have the option to set up an appointment.

ervice fees vary. For example, the price to set up and personalize an Amazon Fire TV is $10, while an ecobee3 Smart Thermostat installation is $99. Geek Squad prices vary, too: A TV installation is $150 and setting up home Wi-Fi starts at $100.

Amazon is offering a 20% discount for some services leading up to Prime Day, which runs for 30 hours starting Monday night. The discount will continue for the following week.

The company notes on the service page that its experts are employees -- not contractors.

"All experts have been background-checked and are licensed and certified where applicable," the site says.

Best Buy (BBY) employs 20,000 Geek Squad staffers and also hires contractors. Amazon has not responded to a request for comment on how many workers it will employ.

Best Buy shares dropped more than 7% late Monday morning following news of the service.

mazon's service is currently available in seven markets: Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange County, Calif. and San Jose.

Amazon (AMZN, Tech30) already connects customers with local handymen for services such as plumbing, wall hanging, painting and other odd jobs.

Source: CNN

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10/Jul/2017

True Religion seeks a revival with bankruptcy filing

Jeans designer and retailer True Religion is seeking a revival through Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, having fallen to its knees amid the retail sector's crisis and the rise of "athleisure wear."

The retailer and manufacturer filed for court protection from its creditors early Wednesday in a federal court in Delaware. True Religion plans to close at least 27 of its approximately 140 stores, according to a court filing and USA TODAY research.

Snagged by similar trends that ensnared teen retailers American Apparel, Aeropostale and Pacific Sunwear, True Religion said it had failed to adapt to the industrywide shift to online sales and the decline of trendy denim.

The company, which also sells and designs other apparel, said it had won support from a majority of its top-tier secured creditors for a debt-cutting plan and secured a bankruptcy loan that would need authorization from a federal bankruptcy judge.

“After a careful review, we are taking an important step to reduce our debt, reinvigorate True Religion’s iconic brand and position the company for future growth and success,” True Religion CEO John Ermatinger said in a statement.

Founded in 2002 by Jeff Lubell, Manhattan Beach, Calif.-based True Religion has more than 1,900 employees. It also sells its products in about 500 locations in North America and South America, including Nordstrom, Bloomingdales and Saks Fifth Avenue.

True Religion requested court permission to reject about 30 store leases, meaning those stores are likely set to close.

The company went private in 2013 in a deal arranged by investment firm TowerBrook Capital Partners, which owns the retailer.

True Religion said its business had been undermined by discounts at other retailers, online competition and the athleisure trend, in which yoga pants have become a substitute for jeans.

The company closed 20 stores in 2016, cut 25% of its corporate workforce and sought to bolster its digital operations, but those moves were insufficient.

Source:USA today

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06/Jul/2017

4 ways to tap your retirement funds earlier than normally allowed

Money you sock away for your retirement in qualified plans is generally tied up until you're age 59 1/2. Here are four approaches to get at that money sooner.

Qualified retirement accounts can offer great tax advantages for people saving for retirement. Those advantages work incredibly well if you use them to save for several decades and then retire at age 59 1/2 or later, but if you need to tap your money early, the benefits can evaporate. For instance, while qualifying Roth IRA withdrawals are completely tax-free, early withdrawals of earnings from a Roth IRA can result in both taxes and penalties on those withdrawals.

Still, there are strategies you can use to tap into your retirement money before age 59 1/2. These four techniques will let you tap your retirement money early, gaining access to your cash if you need it before that traditional age.

No. 1: Separate from your employer at age 55 or later

While the standard age to tap retirement accounts without penalty is age 59 1/2, there's an exception if you separate from service from your employer in the year you turn 55 or later. If you do, you can take withdrawals from your employer-sponsored retirement plan without facing the early withdrawal penalty. If you are able to take advantage of that rule, there are three key things to know.

First, the ability to tap that money early without penalty works only for employer-sponsored plans. If you roll the money into your IRA first, you lose that benefit. Second, if you've worked for more than one employer, it applies only to the specific plans of any employer you separated from in that year you reached age 55 or later. Third, the age 55 rule applies only to the early withdrawal penalty, not to any taxes you might otherwise face.

No. 2: Take substantially equal periodic payments

A pile of gold coins on one side of a level, a clock on the other. Imagary of "time is money"

 (Photo: Getty Images)

 

Another way to take money from your retirement accounts before age 59 1/2 is to set up a withdrawal plan from your retirement accounts known as a "Substantially Equal Periodic Payments" (SEPP) plan.  The primary advantage of these plans is that you can set them up well before a traditional retirement age to avoid the 10% penalty on early withdrawals. The key disadvantage is that once you start one, you must continue it for at least five years or until you turn 59 1/2, whichever is longer.

That combination of factors makes the SEPP program attractive for people with significant amounts of money in their traditional retirement accounts who want to retire really early. It does add risk to those who are just looking for a short-term infusion of cash to tide themselves over through a temporary period of unemployment. If you start a SEPP plan and then later get a job, you're still tied to the SEPP until the last of five years or age 59 1/2 comes around, even if you no longer need the money.

If you do set up a SEPP plan, you have three payment plans to choose from:

 

  • Required Minimum Distribution: Under this method, you start taking withdrawals as if you were subject to the required minimum distribution rules that generally start at age 70 1/2. Your withdrawals will change each year based on your advancing age and the balance in your account, and it generally results in the lowest annual distribution.
  • Fixed Amortization Method: Under this method, you calculate a fixed annual payment based on amortizing your account balance at the start of the plan, your or your beneficiaries' life expectancies, and prevailing interest rates.
  • Fixed Annuitization Method: Under this method, you calculate a fixed annual payment based on if you were annuitizing your retirement account balance, using your life expectancy and prevailing interest rates.

The second and third methods generally result in higher payments in the beginning of the SEPP, though the Required Minimum Distribution method can get higher if your account balance increases. If you choose the Fixed Amortization or Fixed Annuitization method and later decide that you're at risk of prematurely depleting your account, you're allowed to switch to the Required Minimum Distribution method.

No. 3: Tap your Roth IRA Contributions

The words "IRA", "Traditional", and "Roth" on a piece of paper. "Roth" is circled in red

 (Photo: Getty Images)

 

If you're able to plan ahead for an early retirement, your Roth IRA can be an incredibly flexible source of funding for you. Money you directly contribute to your Roth IRA can be withdrawn at any time for any reason, without tax or penalty. Money you get into your Roth IRA through a rollover or conversion from another retirement account can be tapped penalty-free after it's been in the plan for at least five years.  These rules only hold true for your contributions -- not any growth that money may see.

The flexibility comes from the fact that you can take any amount out of your Roth IRA up to the total you've contributed that qualifies for the penalty free withdrawal. So if you don't need the money, you can let it keep compounding for you, penalty and potentially tax free. The downside is that if you're going to rely on converted contributions for a long term early retirement, you'll need to start converting at least five years in advance to get at the money penalty free.

No. 4: Just accept the 10% penalty

If none of the other three methods appeal to you, you can always just take the money directly out of your retirement accounts early and pay the 10% federal penalty on top of any income taxes you owe. If the money you need to tap from your retirement accounts early is small enough -- such as to cover for short-term job loss instead of for early retirement -- it may be the lesser of evils to just pay the penalty.

While it's not ideal to pay Uncle Sam any more than you absolutely have to, it may ultimately be a lower-cost option when compared to a plan that may trap you into withdrawals over several years.

Plan ahead to rule your early retirement

Regardless of the method you choose, each and every one of these approaches requires you to have money in your retirement accounts in order to withdraw it. The more you plan ahead for your retirement, the more you'll likely have in those accounts, and the easier it will be to have enough in the plan to cover the costs of an early retirement. So get started now, and improve your chances of being able to start the retirement you're looking for earlier than you otherwise might have.

Source: USA Today

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02/Jul/2017

Steve Case: 'Third wave' of Internet will help Middle America business

AN FRANCISCO — Steve Case, who helped foment the Internet age as AOL's co-founder, has crisscrossed the country the last few years championing a new revolution: the third wave of the Internet.

Just as the technology boom lifted the economies of Silicon Valley, New York and other coastal cities, its latest iteration will benefit the Midwest and other pockets of the U.S. as health care, energy, agriculture, education and other industries become ripe for disruption.

Such is the thesis of his 3-year-old initiative, Rise of the Rest. In an interview with USA TODAY, Case discussed the rise of tech start-up ecosystems in America's heartland.

Q: What got you launched on this mission?

A: I was working more on the policy side. And then a little over three years ago, we decided to hit the road and do these Rise of the Rest bus tours. We have done five so far and we are planning our next one in October

I concluded that while advocating for policies that are pro-innovation, pro-entrepreneurship, pro-start-up, it's something I continue to do, but there also was a role to play I felt in terms of trying to be a catalyst within some of these cities and helping to build more of a network effect and network density in these cities and shine a spotlight on what's happening with entrepreneurs in these cities to attract more media and attract more investor attention.

Each city is different but there are dynamics kicking in across all of them that are encouraging and ultimately will result in more start-ups in more places and will ultimately level the playing field so everybody everywhere really does feel like they have a shot at the American dream and so we are creating economic growth and jobs everywhere not just in a few places.

Q: What is it about Midwest cities that makes them uniquely attractive to entrepreneurs and investors?

 

A: I'd say some general reasons. There are a lot of people who have a connection to these cities: they grew up there, went to school there, have some affinity and they'd rather live there and raise their families there. There are also some financial considerations. Money raised goes a lot further.

As for city specific reasons, each of these cities has an interesting history and some of that history and some of that perspective and some of that culture and some of that DNA is increasingly helpful as we shift to the third wave of the Internet, which is less about the software and the apps and more about integrating technology and the Internet in important aspects of our lives and disrupting big sectors of the economy. I think partnerships are going to become more important and being closer to some of the big companies, many of which are in the middle of the country, is important.

Source:USA Today

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02/Jul/2017

Start-up investor Dave McClure steps down after sexual harassment complaint

SAN FRANCISCO — Prominent technology investor Dave McClure has been demoted by the start-up incubator he co-founded for engaging in "inappropriate interactions with women in the tech community," 500 Startups said in a statement late Friday.

McClure stepped down as CEO and was replaced by Christine Tsai, who now directs the management team and runs day-to-day operations.

"I sincerely apologize for the choices he made and the pain and stress they’ve caused people. But apologies aren’t enough without meaningful actions and change. Because of this, we made the decision a few months ago to change the leadership structure at 500," Tsai said in a blog post.

McClure's role is now limited to "fulfilling his obligations to our investors as a general partner," Tsai said. "In addition, he’s been attending counseling to work on changing his perspectives and preventing his previous unacceptable behavior."

McClure declined to comment for this article. He retweeted the 500 Startups statement.

His demotion was spurred by a complaint in November 2016 by entrepreneur Sarah Kunst.

In 2014, when Kunst was discussing a possible job at 500 Startups, McClure sent her a Twitter message during a conference they were attending. The message sent at 4 am said in part: "I was getting confused figuring out whether to hire you or hit on you."

Kunst, 31, who now runs the fitness start-up Proday, said she rebuffed McClure, an alumnus of PayPal who has invested in hundreds of tech companies. In November 2016, she contacted a friend, one of McClure's colleagues, about the incident. 500 Startups then cut off communications with her, she said.

In an interview with USA TODAY, Kunst said the experience was "sadly all too common in the tech and investing community."

She confided in friends and wrestled with speaking publicly about it, ultimately deciding to speak with the New York Times so she could protect other women.

"I knew I had to tell them my experiences and hopefully spare them what happened to me," she said.

The venture capital world in Silicon Valley is facing heavy scrutiny after six women accused Binary Capital partner Justin Caldbeck of making unwanted sexual advances, with several saying the misconduct took place when they sought funding or guidance on their businesses. The explosive allegations have brought the venture capital firm Caldbeck co-founded to the brink of collapse.

Source USA Today

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02/Jul/2017

These big companies had a terrible 2016

 
 
 
U.S. economy gains 156,000 jobs in December

It's been a tumultuous year on many fronts.

In the business world, some big names have gone through particularly grueling times in 2016.

 

Here are the ones that we think had a year they'd rather forget:

Yahoo

Yahoo started the year by axing 15% of its workforce. The struggling tech firm then admitted it had previously suffered not one but two massive data breaches, affecting more than a billion users.

"Yahoo has now won the gold medal and the silver medal for the worst hacks in history," said online security consultant Hemu Nigam. The attacks have even cast doubt over Verizon's (VZ, Tech30) planned acquisition of Yahoo (YHOO, Tech30).

Stock hit: Shares are down 14% from the high they reached in September before the first hack was disclosed.

Samsung

The year blew up in spectacular fashion for the South Korean electronics giant. Its problems began when it had to recall millions of Galaxy Note 7 smartphones after the high-end devices started bursting into flames. It then screwed up the recall by offering replacement Note 7 phones it said were safe but actually turned out to be prone to catching fire as well.

Samsung eventually had to kill the phone off altogether, costing it billions in profits and compounding the damage to its reputation. It was also forced to recall almost 3 million washing machines because they could explode.

Stock hit: Samsung (SSNLF) shares took a hit from the Note 7 debacle but have since rallied to reach a record high, helped by the company's announcement that it will consider overhauling its complicated structure.

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo shocked Americans in September by firing 5,300 employees who had secretly created as many as 2 million unauthorized accounts. CEO John Stumpf was pilloried at congressional hearings and eventually had to step down.

The bank's reputation has been sullied as former employees have come forward with horror stories about a pressure-cooker work environment that they say rewarded unethical practices.

Stock hit: Wells Fargo (WFC) shares plunged more than 12% in the weeks after the phony accounts scandal erupted. But they've risen sharply following Donald Trump's victory in the U.S. presidential election.

Deutsche Bank

Hangovers from the financial crisis are still lingering for many big financial firms, and Deutsche Bank's has proved particularly painful this year. Already struggling with weak profits and demoralizing job cuts, Germany's biggest lender was hit in September by a U.S. demand for $14 billion to settle claims it packaged up toxic mortgages in the lead-up to the financial crisis.

deutsche bank clouds

 

That sparked concerns among investors that Deutsche Bank -- described as the single biggest source of risk in the global banking system -- didn't have the funds to pay such a hefty bill.

The worries have since eased somewhat and Deutsche Bank said last week it had reached a $7.2 billion deal with U.S. authorities over the toxic mortgage claims.

Stock hit: During the worst of the fears over Deutsche Bank's (DB) finances in September, the lender's shares hit their lowest level in more than 20 years. They've rebounded significantly since then but are still down more than 20% since the start of the year.

Theranos

This year witnessed the spectacular fall from grace of Theranos, one of Silicon Valley's most celebrated startups. Cracks started to appear in the biotech firm's credibility late last year when a Wall Street Journal investigation called into question the company's scientific claims and blood testing methods. CEO Elizabeth Holmes, who founded Theranos when she was just 19, angrily denied the report's allegations.

Theranos and Holmes have since suffered a series of humiliating setbacks, including investigations by multiple U.S. government agencies. Theranos was dumped by Walgreens after having to correct thousands of blood test results. And Holmes has been banned from owning or operating a laboratory for two years. In October, the company said it was cutting hundreds of jobs as it shuttered labs.

Stock hit: As an unlisted startup, Theranos doesn't have a public share price. But in one gauge of how much its valuation has suffered, Forbes slashed Holmes' net worth this year from $4.5 billion to "nothing."

Twitter

Twitter started 2016 with a plummeting stock price and the admission that it was losing users at the end of last year. Hopes that the company might find a way out of its predicament by being bought by a bigger player went up in smoke in October.

wounded twitter bird

 

Twitter responded by announcing it was cutting hundreds of jobs and killing its video app, Vine (which was later given a small reprieve). The fumbles continued into the final months of the year with the company briefly suspending co-founder Jack Dorsey's account and losing more top executives.

Stock hit: Twitter (TWTR, Tech30) shares have been on a roller-coaster ride this year on the speculation it could get bought, but they're now down 20% since the the year began.

Mylan

Mylan became embroiled in scandal this summer after it emerged that the maker of the EpiPen had hiked the price of the lifesaving allergy treatment a stunning 15 times since 2009. By jacking the price up by 400% in seven years, the drugmaker and its CEO, Heather Bresch, came to symbolize corporate greed.

Mylan blamed the U.S. health care system for the situation and introduced a voucher program to help cut costs.

epipen price history

 

But Bresch faced tough questions from lawmakers who accused her and other executives of getting "filthy rich" at the expense of people who needed the vital treatment.

In October, Mylan agreed to pay $465 million to the U.S. government to settle claims that it falsely classified the EpiPen in order to overcharge Medicaid for it.

Stock hit: Mylan (MYL) shares have sunk more than 30% since the start of the year.

Monte dei Paschi di Siena

In the 544 years it's been in business, Italy's Monte dei Paschi is unlikely to have had many quite as grim as 2016. Saddled with €28 billion ($29.3 billion) in bad debts, the world's oldest operating bank was judged in July to be the weakest major lender in Europe.

The bank tried desperately to solve its problems itself, but its attempt to raise €5 billion ($5.2 billion) from private investors failed. That forced it to turn to the Italian government last week for a bailout.

Stock hit: Monte dei Paschi (BMDPF) shares have nosedived 88% since the start of the year and have been suspended following the bailout announcement.

Source:Cnn.com

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07/Jan/2017

Black Friday Shopping: Tales From the Front Lines

The unofficial start of the holiday shopping season began on Thursday, when many national retailers opened their doors and offered major sales. It kicked into high gear on Friday, when many more stores entered the fray. We’re capturing the experience with reporters and photographers around the country, showing what it looks and feels like at American shopping malls, retailers and discount stores. You’ll also find:

■ Stories of shoppers and what brought them out to the stores.

■ Shopping deals from The Wirecutter, a product review and recommendation site owned by The New York Times Company.

■ Shopping by the numbers: history and facts about Black Friday, as the day after Thanksgiving is often called.

A Mix of Old and New

After working the overnight shift at Old Navy on 34th Street in Manhattan, Walter Reinoso hit the Foot Locker store at Union Square to get a pair of Air Jordan 3S True Blues he had been waiting for. His approach mixed the modern (ordering online) with the past (showing up in a store to get them).

“They originally came out in 1988 and are really hard to find. I had to reserve them on the app. I haven’t bought a pair of Jordans in a very long time. This silhouette is iconic,” Mr. Reinoso said while proudly holding up the size 9½ midtops. “I like that these are the original colors: white, red and blue. I got them for $249. They are usually much more.”

Describing himself as a shoe enthusiast rather than a guy with a shoe fetish, Mr. Reinoso, 19, of East New York, Brooklyn, along with his friend, Cindy Ortiz, 18, of Bushwick, Brooklyn, were heading to the store Dover Market to check out more footwear, preferably pairs of Vans and Converse. Mr. Reinoso had some more cash to spend — $300 in his pocket — but said he would rather not spend it all. “I don’t want to,” he said, “but may be tempted.”

— RUTH BASHINSKY

The process, and subsequent bonding experience, of getting a tattoo can create a lasting impression on customers.

“Black Friday, for us, is more than an exciting retail day, it’s more of a way of giving back to our clients,” Mr. Smith said. “The unique thing about getting a tattoo, when you share that with someone as an artist, is that they are with you forever.”

Mr. Smith’s first appointment of the day, Ryan Wills, has his Black Friday mapped out. After scouring electronics stores for audio car-system deals and crashing a few big-box stores for door buster sales, Mr. Wills plans to spend a few Black Friday hours in the black padded chair at Tatt Life to finish his extensive “Deadpool”-inspired canvas.

“I follow Tatt Life Studios on Facebook and couldn’t resist the chance to get my leg piece finished,” Mr. Wills, a 27-year-old mechanic, said. “I have several Marvel tattoos on my body including an Iron Man piece as well as a ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ collage, both done by Smitty.”

— KIMBERLEY MCGEE

Sierra Sproul, a 24-year-old kindergarten teacher in Austin, Tex., had a special incentive to take advantage of Black Friday discounts at her local boot retailer: her coming Western-themed wedding on April 8.

“I’m very excited,” she said, beaming as she and her mother wrapped up a purchase of brown floral Corral-brand boots (which came to $199 after a 20 percent discount).

In all, the pair spent more than $500 at Cavender’s Boot City in north Austin after adding a $180 hat and $159 boots for her fiancé, Shane McPherson, whom Ms. Sproul lovingly described as “very country.”

She and her mother said they had purposely waited for Black Friday to offset wedding costs with hefty discounts.

“If we can get boots for a percentage off, that’s good because they don’t go on sale very often,” Ms. Sproul said.

Many of the other customers in the store were looking at western items as likely Christmas gifts, according to Robert Garcia, the store’s manager.

Source:NY Times

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26/Nov/2016

China's stock market is on fire. That's not a typo

China's stock market is in the midst of a reverse Isaac Newton moment. What goes down, must come back up. Way up actually.

The Shanghai Composite has soared 12% so far in October after its dramatic 34% plunge between June and September.

 

China's turmoil was largely to blame for the global market sell-off this summer, when CNN's Fear and Greed index was flashing "extreme fear" for days.

So you could make the case that the rebound in China is what's helping lift investor sentiment around the world right now.

Japan's Nikkei has gained more than 4% in October. Germany's DAX is up 5%. The S&P 500 has surged nearly 6%.

Related: Jamie Dimon says China has 'huge issues' but investors shouldn't freak out

So is the worst really over in China? It's probably too soon to tell.

But here's a potentially good sign. The rally is being led by big Chinese blue chips, not speculative momentum stocks.

China's top stocks are surging

The U.S.-listed shares of Alibaba (BABA, Tech30) have soared 22%. It's an impressive rebound for Jack Ma's company.

Alibaba is even feeling confident enough to start shopping. The company announced last week it was planning to buy the remaining stake in Youku Tudou (YOKU) -- aka China's YouTube -- that it didn't already own.

Several other large cap Chinese Internet stocks have surged too, including gaming site NetEase (NTES), online travel agency Ctrip (CTRP) and cybersecurity firm Qihoo 360 (QIHU).

Related: CNNMoney's Fear & Greed Index back to 'Neutral' as China stabilizes

But it's not just Chinese tech companies that have rebounded. Energy giants Cnooc (CEO), PetroChina (PTR) and China Petroleum (SNP) are all up about 20% this month.

Financial firms Noah Holding (NOAH) and China Life Insurance (LFC) have rallied sharply. So have shares of Aluminum Corp. of China (ACH), hotel operator China Lodging (HTHT) and Yanzhou Coal Mining (YZC).

Related: China's growth slides to 6.9% ... but tops forecasts

Investment strategists like to see broad-based rallies. It's more troublesome when only a handful of companies in one or two groups is doing well. That's clearly not the case here.

So will the trend continue? It's worth noting that the Shanghai Composite barely budged after the release of China's most recent GDP numbers Monday.

China's economy is slowing ... but that may not be the end of the world

That's encouraging since the numbers were not fantastic. Growth slowed to 6.9% in the third quarter -- the slowest rate since the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

Still, GDP was a bit higher than what economists surveyed by CNNMoney were expecting. At the very least, it has reassured investors that the sky is not falling.

Related: China's slowdown is killing thousands of steel jobs

That may be enough to keep the rally going. China doesn't have to prove that it has a plan to accelerate growth again. That's unrealistic. It simply needs to stop the bleeding.

"The key question, of course, is when China will be able to say that it has 'stopped the rot' in terms of slowing economic momentum," wrote David Kelly, chief global strategist with JPMorgan Funds, in a report Monday.

One way to 'stop the rot' is to send signals that more stimulus is on the way.

It's widely expected that China's government and central bank will do more to keep the economy and stock market from slowing much further.

Another bad news is good news rally?

So the October rebound may be a case of bad news being interpreted as good news by investors. Economic weakness = more easy money policies.

This line of thinking appears to be fueling stocks in Europe too, where hopes are running high that the ECB may buy more bonds due to concerns about deflation.

And a weak jobs report in the U.S. earlier this month has some investors thinking that the Federal Reserve could now hold off on a rate hike until next spring.

But investors will eventually want to see more proof that China is stabilizing. Economists at Barclays are still worried about how China's economy will fare next year, calling it a "bumpy road in China's transition."

"We continue to see three major headwinds: excess capacity in many industries, oversupply in the housing market, and high debt burdens," the economists wrote in a report Monday.

Related: China has a bigger middle class than America

It's also not clear just how healthy the Chinese consumer is either.

Big casino companies like Wynn Resorts (WYNN), MGM Resorts (MGM) and Las Vegas Sands (LVS) are having a miserable time trying to make money in Macau.

Fast food giant Yum! Brands (YUM) is continuing to face problems with KFC and Pizza Hut in China. It's so bad that the company announced plans to spin off its China operations on Tuesday.

Luxury retailers Hugo Boss (BOSSY) and Burberry (BBRYF) both recently reported dismal results from China.

And the world's most valuable company, Apple (AAPL, Tech30), has lagged the broader market this month partly due to concerns about iPhone demand in China.

Source:CNN.com

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11/Nov/2016

Warren Buffett hasn't sold a single share of Wells Fargo following scandal

Warren Buffett broke his months-long silence on the Wells Fargo fake account scandal by saying the bank made a "terrible mistake" by keeping in place sales goals that "corrupted people."

"It was a dumb incentive system," Buffett told CNN's Poppy Harlow.

 

The legendary investor said "incentives have terrific power" and that Wells Fargo (WFC) created a system that "produced bad behavior."

However, Buffett said he has not sold a single share of the bank since Wells Fargo admitted in September to creating as many as 2 million fake accounts and firing 5,300 of its workers related to the scandal.

Berkshire Hathaway is Wells Fargo's biggest shareholder and Buffett personally owns 2 million shares.

Buffett said he continues to have faith in Wells Fargo as an "incredible institution." It was Buffett's first public comments on Wells Fargo since the fake account scandal rocked the bank.

In the weeks since the news first broke, Wells Fargo's name has been dragged through the mud. The bank's CEO was humiliated and taunted on the floor of both the House and Senate. Members of Congress called Wells Fargo a "criminal enterprise" and Senator Elizabeth Warren's epic takedown of the CEO went viral.

Within days, CEO John Stumpf resigned in disgrace. And the bank is being investigated by the Department of Justice and multiple federal, state and local agencies.

Wells Fargo has since abandoned the unrealistic sales goals that employees blame for the millions of fake accounts. The blind pursuit of these goals led to a "toxic" culture that employees said was rife with bullying, intimidation and even retaliation against whistleblowers

Asked why he's sticking with Wells Fargo despite the controversy swirling around the bank, Buffett said he's sure this is not the only company he's invested in that has problems.

"It's not my job to run those companies," he said.

One of the reasons why there's been so much speculation over whether Buffett would continue to hold on to his Wells Fargo stock was the famous comments Buffett made 25 years ago to Congress. At that time there was a scandal rocking Salomon Brothers, an investment bank Berkshire had invested in, and Buffett was on the board of directors at Salomon.

"Lose money for my firm and I will be understanding; lose a shred of reputation for the firm, and I will be ruthless," Buffett testified before Congress in 1991.

Buffett was already an investing legend by then, but comments like this sealed his own reputation as an investor with values and integrity.

This time, Buffett is sticking by Wells Fargo. That doesn't mean he's shied away from criticizing the response by Wells Fargo and its former CEO.

Buffett described Stumpf as a "very decent man" who "made a hell of a mistake." But Buffett learned of the scandal only after he read media reports.

After seeing Stumpf downplay the situation during a CNBC interview in September, Buffett called him. "I said, 'I don't think you've gotten the gravity of the situation.'"

Asked if he felt misled by Stumpf, Buffett said that he didn't.

"I feel he made a hell of a mistake...and he didn't correct it," Buffett said.

Buffett said he didn't want to draw too much of a parallel between Stumpf's inaction and that of John Gutfreund who was the CEO of Salomon during its scandal.

"John Gutfreund didn't commit the act of Solomon that caused the problem, He sucked his thumb...when he learned about it," Buffett said. "And then it mushroomed, as problems do, out of control. And then, being behind the curve, he didn't know what to do exactly."

Buffett said he did not tell Stumpf to step down. That's because he's not technically allowed to do so. Buffett had agreed to become a "passive" investor in Wells Fargo as part of an agreement with the Federal Reserve when Berkshire boosted its stake to 10%, or 490 million shares. Of course, Buffett did speak with Stumpf, who was chairman of the board at the time.

Buffett disagreed with critics who think Wells Fargo should have hired an outsider for the top job instead of Tim Sloan, a 29-year veteran of the bank, who replaced Stumpf.

"I think Tim Sloan's exactly right," Buffett said, adding that the two met in Omaha over lunch.

However, Buffett acknowledged Sloan has his job cut out for him.

"It takes time to restore trust," Buffett said.

Source:CNN.com

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11/Nov/2016

Good news, internet: The web is getting more secure

While reports of major hackings continue to make news, the sites you visit are safer than ever before.

In fact, the web is more secure than it was just a year ago.

 

That's because more websites are finally using encrypted connections, according to Google's transparency report. More than half of the pages loaded by Google's Chrome desktop browser on the web now use HTTPS -- and two-thirds of total time is spent on encrypted websites.

Sites that use HTTPS -- compared to HTTP -- let you securely pay for things online, check your bank account, and view and share sensitive data. To do so, it encrypts communications between the browser and web server, so information is protected against hackers or eavesdroppers.

You can tell when you're on a secure website by seeing "HTTPS" and a padlock in your browser's address bar.

"A web with ubiquitous HTTPS is not the distant future," Chrome security engineers wrote in a blog post on Thursday. "It's happening now, with secure browsing becoming standard for users of Chrome."

Google (GOOGL, Tech30) began collecting Chrome browsing data in April 2015 when it discovered less than half of pages people viewed were secure. Meanwhile, about 60% of web traffic using Chrome on a Mac currently accesses encrypted sites, compared to 51% on Windows and 43% on Android. Google didn't report iOS traffic.

But there's still a long way to go: Of the top 100 non-Google websites globally, just 34 have HTTPS by default.

Eventually Google hopes it will become standard. To achieve ubiquity, the company will start naming and shaming sites that don't use it.

Starting in January, Chrome will mark sites that use HTTP connections as "not secure." It will begin by looking at sites that collect passwords or credit cards, eventually calling out all insecure sites on the web.

As privacy concerns loom, experts advise to make sure a website uses HTTPS before you enter a password or personal information.

Source:CNN.com

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07/Nov/2016

$73 million Bombardier jet makes first flight

Bombardier completed the first test flight of its new Global 7000 business jet Friday, in a move aimed at breathing new life into sagging demand for private aircraft.

The plane and train maker said its prototype flew for 2 hours and 27 minutes from its factory near Toronto. The aircraft reached a speed of 240 knots or about 276 miles per hour and an altitude of 20,000 feet as pilots tested the jet's controls.

The Global 7000 boasts a 54-feet 7-inch long cabin, which is meant to appeal to private buyers seeking the most opulent flying experience. It is the largest and longest range business jet designed by the Canadian plane maker.
 

When it begins flying in the second half of 2018, it will cruise as high as 51,000 feet and dash at 92.5% of the speed of sound and seat up to 17. Each one costs $72.8 million.

bombardier global 7000 first flight

The Global 7000.

Bombardier says the jet will fly as far as 7,400 nautical miles at a slower speed in a single stretch with eight passengers and four crew aboard. That's enough to connect New York with Shanghai or London with Buenos Aires, and it's as far as a much-larger Boeing or Airbus airliner can fly with 300 passengers.

The current-generation of Global jets that Bombardier makes is the company's single biggest revenue generator for its aerospace division. However, production in its factories and at its rivals have been falling amid political and economic woes in Russia, China, the Middle East and South America.

Bombardier hopes the Global 7000 will stimulate demand and represent a cash-cow for the plane maker.

Bombardier, U.S. rival Gulfstream and France's Dassault are fighting for well-heeled buyers of the biggest business jets.

Dassault delivered its first Falcon 8X last month and Savannah, Georgia-based Gulfstream has been pumping out its G650 since 2012. That model and an extended range sibling can fly 7,500 nautical miles non-stop. Both compete with Bombardier's Global.

Source:CNN.com

 

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07/Nov/2016

Stocks jump after FBI clears Clinton again

 

The FBI is moving financial markets again.

The Mexican peso soared, U.S. stock futures climbed and markets across Asia rallied after FBI Director James Comey said Sunday that the agency is sticking to its view that Hillary Clinton should not face criminal charges over her personal email server.

 

The news comes just over a week after Comey sent stocks into the red with the shock announcement that the FBI was looking into new emails as part of its investigation into Clinton's personal server. That added to uncertainty about the outcome of Tuesday's presidential election, contributing to a nine-day losing streak for the S&P 500 -- its longest since 1980.

Investors have generally been worried about the prospect of a Donald Trump victory. They are concerned about his restrictive stance on trade policies and unpredictability. Clinton is seen as less of a risk.

Stocks, a risky asset, had suffered recently in favor of safer holdings as polls showed a tightening presidential race.

The mood changed after the new FBI announcement.

"Safe havens had attracted inflows for the bulk of last week, and today saw a quick reversal of those trends," Matt Simpson, a senior market analyst for ThinkMarkets, said Monday.

The Japanese yen, which is seen as a low risk investment in times of uncertainty, plunged more than 1% against the dollar Monday. Gold also dropped.

Related: Citigroup says a Trump win would cause immediate stock drop

Riskier assets surged. Japan's Nikkei rose 1.4% and Australian stocks added 1.1%. U.S. stock futures also showed healthy gains, with the S&P and Dow both up 1.2%.

Citigroup on Friday predicted that a victory for Trump could send the S&P 500 plunging 3% to 5%. A Clinton win wouldn't move stocks significantly, it said.

The Mexican peso, which acts as a key indicator of how markets think Trump is faring, leaped 1.7%. In recent weeks, the peso has been moving in the opposite direction to Trump's poll numbers.

Trump's proposals -- including a wall along the Mexican border and the renegotiation of NAFTA, a key regional trade deal -- have caused particular concerns for the Mexican economy.

Source:CNN.com

 

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07/Nov/2016

The MIT grad building Nigeria's first STEM campus

CNN)Most graduates of the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston have their choice of six-figure-salary jobs after graduation.

But for one graduate, a different calling has meant he's sacrificed a comfortable life and taken a big risk to follow his dream: to open Africa's first STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) campus in Nigeria.
Nigerian-American Obinna Ukwuani, who grew up in Washington D.C., went back to Nigeria for eighth and ninth grades as his family felt it was important for him to know his roots. He had a revelation when he returned during his freshman year at MIT.
"I met up with my peers, the friends and classmates I'd met during my time there and it was shocking to see how far behind me they were. It was a very real experience for me," says Ukwuani. The edge, he realized, was due to his schooling in the United States. The imbalance he recognized, he says, "was an injustice."
"In the U.S., if you work hard, you'll be fine in this life. So I had that moment where I knew I wanted to improve things in Nigeria."
Obinna Ukwuani is following his dream of opening a STEM school in Nigeria.
 

Robotics boot camp

Ukwuani's sudden realization eventually led to the launch of a robotics summer school in Lagos for high school students from 2012 to 2014. The Exposure Robotics Academy taught 113 boys and girls from 17 states around Nigeria how to code and build robots.
he five-week residential program hired MIT students to mentor Nigerian high school students in a program sponsored by Shell Oil.
Recently, a documentary based on the program, "Naija Beta", won "Best Documentary Film" at the Roxbury International Film Festival. He's hoping on repeating the experience with a new STEM school.

Taking risks

It's early days but initial investment for the school, to be called Makers Academy, is happening, and Ukwuani's sleepless nights are starting to pay off.
"I really believe in what I'm doing," he says.
After writing a business plan, Ukwuani spent five months shopping it around before four investors came forward, each offering a $50,000 investment.
"It's a long-term model. It could be a decade before they get their money back," he says.

Makers Academy

Ukwuani believes Nigeria's biggest issue presently is that the country doesn't produce anything. "We import everything, and it comes back to education. We're not doing a good job," he says. He's hoping to change that. When the school opens in Abuja (he projects this will happen in 2018 or 2019), Ukwuani is aiming for 600 students living on the Makers Academy campus.
While there are other schools in Africa offering STEM education, the Academy would be the first innovation center where students have access to tools such as laser-cutters, 3D-printers, woodworking equipment and more, says Ukwuani.
Similar to himself, the students will possess a certain proficiency in mathematics and an aptitude for building things.
"I was taking things apart when I was 10 years old. If you had purchased a remote control car, I would rip it apart and put it back together," recalls Ukwuani.
The current economic situation in Nigeria could be a benefit, he says. The recession is forcing people to bring kids studying abroad back to Nigeria. "Now more than ever we need more options -- and we don't have them." Hopefully Makers Academy will be the first of many for Nigeria's youth.
Source:CNN.com
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29/Oct/2016

Time Warner shares soar on AT&T's interest

Shares of Time Warner soared more than 8% Friday after reports surfaced that it's in advanced talks to be acquired by telecom giant AT&T.

AT&T's interest in buying Time Warner, which owns HBO, Warner Bros., CNN and TNT, first surfaced Thursday in a Bloomberg report. But their talks have advanced and an agreement could come as early as this weekend, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

Time Warner couldn't be reached for comment Friday. AT&T, which owns DirecTV and provides wireless and Internet services, also couldn't be reached for comment.

Consumers are rapidly flocking to digital media and increasingly ditching their traditional cable and satellite TV offerings. In response, telecommunications service providers are eager to diversify their revenue sources beyond just providing their "pipes" for distributing media content.

In July, Verizon, which offers cable TV, wireless and Internet services, agreed to pay $4.8 billion to buy Yahoo's core businesses, including Yahoo Sports and Yahoo Finance. Last year, Verizon also paid $4.4 billion to buy AOL.

AT&T has been moving more slowly to broaden its media content portfolio. Last year, it paid about $49 billion to buy satellite TV service provider DirecTV, a deal that expanded its pay-TV market reach nationwide. With more customers subscribing to its Internet, wireless and TV offerings, AT&T now plans to focus on buying more media and entertainment companies, Bloomberg reported.

Time Warner's assets, particularly HBO, sports programming and Warner Bros., are highly prized by other media companies.  In July, 2014, 21st Century Fox, controlled by billionaire mogul Rupert Murdoch, offered to pay about $80 billion for Time Warner, or $84 a share in cash and stock. If completed, it would have been at the time the largest media merger since the disastrous AOL purchase of Time Warner for $162 billion in 2000.

A month later, Murdoch withdrew the offer after Time Warner Chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes said his company was worth more and rejected it.

Time Warner once operated a cable TV service unit, but spun it off in 2009 to focus on media content businesses. Time Warner Cable, the spun-off business, was acquired by Charter Communications last year for $56 billion.

Source:USA Today.com

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22/Oct/2016

Hackers Used New Weapons to Disrupt Major Websites Across U.S.

SAN FRANCISCO — Major websites were inaccessible to people across wide swaths of the United States on Friday after a company that manages crucial parts of the internet’s infrastructure said it was under attack.

Users reported sporadic problems reaching several websites, including Twitter, Netflix, Spotify, Airbnb, Reddit, Etsy, SoundCloud and The New York Times.

The company, Dyn, whose servers monitor and reroute internet traffic, said it began experiencing what security experts called a distributed denial-of-service attack just after 7 a.m. Reports that many sites were inaccessible started on the East Coast, but spread westward in three waves as the day wore on and into the evening.

And in a troubling development, the attack appears to have relied on hundreds of thousands of internet-connected devices like cameras, baby monitors and home routers that have been infected — without their owners’ knowledge — with software that allows hackers to command them to flood a target with overwhelming traffic.

A spokeswoman said the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security were looking into the incident and all potential causes, including criminal activity and a nation-state attack.

Kyle York, Dyn’s chief strategist, said his company and others that host the core parts of the internet’s infrastructure were targets for a growing number of more powerful attacks.

“The number and types of attacks, the duration of attacks and the complexity of these attacks are all on the rise,” Mr. York said.

Security researchers have long warned that the increasing number of devices being hooked up to the internet, the so-called Internet of Things, would present an enormous security issue. And the assault on Friday, security researchers say, is only a glimpse of how those devices can be used for online attacks.

Dyn, based in Manchester, N.H., said it had fended off the assault by 9:30 a.m. But by 11:52 a.m., Dyn said it was again under attack. After fending off the second wave of attacks, Dyn said at 5 p.m. that it was again facing a flood of traffic.

A distributed denial-of-service attack, or DDoS, occurs when hackers flood the servers that run a target’s site with internet traffic until it stumbles or collapses under the load. Such attacks are common, but there is evidence that they are becoming more powerful, more sophisticated and increasingly aimed at core internet infrastructure providers.

Going after companies like Dyn can cause far more damage than aiming at a single website.

Dyn is one of many outfits that host the Domain Name System, or DNS, which functions as a switchboard for the internet. The DNS translates user-friendly web addresses like fbi.gov into numerical addresses that allow computers to speak to one another. Without the DNS servers operated by internet service providers, the internet could not operate.

In this case, the attack was aimed at the Dyn infrastructure that supports internet connections. While the attack did not affect the websites themselves, it blocked or slowed users trying to gain access to those sites.

Later in the day, Dave Allen, the general counsel at Dyn, said tens of millions of internet addresses, or so-called I.P. addresses, were being used to send a fire hose of internet traffic at the company’s servers. He confirmed that a large portion of that traffic was coming from internet-connected devices that had been co-opted by type of malware, called Mirai.

Dale Drew, chief security officer at Level 3, an internet service provider, found evidence that roughly 10 percent of all devices co-opted by Mirai were being used to attack Dyn’s servers. Just one week ago, Level 3 found that 493,000 devices had been infected with Mirai malware, nearly double the number infected last month.

Mr. Allen added that Dyn was collaborating with law enforcement and other internet service providers to deal with the attacks.

In a recent report, Verisign, a registrar for many internet sites that has a unique perspective into this type of attack activity, reported a 75 percent increase in such attacks from April through June of this year, compared with the same period last year.

The attacks were not only more frequent, they were bigger and more sophisticated. The typical attack more than doubled in size. What is more, the attackers were simultaneously using different methods to attack the company’s servers, making them harder to stop.

The most frequent targets were businesses that provide internet infrastructure services like Dyn.

“DNS has often been neglected in terms of its security and availability,” Richard Meeus, vice president for technology at Nsfocus, a network security firm, wrote in an email. “It is treated as if it will always be there in the same way that water comes out of the tap.”

Last month, Bruce Schneier, a security expert and blogger, wrote on the Lawfare blog that someone had been probing the defenses of companies that run crucial pieces of the internet.

“These probes take the form of precisely calibrated attacks designed to determine exactly how well the companies can defend themselves, and what would be required to take them down,” Mr. Schneier wrote. “We don’t know who is doing this, but it feels like a large nation-state. China and Russia would be my first guesses.”

It is too early to determine who was behind Friday’s attacks, but it is this type of attack that has election officials concerned. They are worried that an attack could keep citizens from submitting votes.

Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia allow internet voting for overseas military and civilians. Alaska allows any Alaskan citizen to do so. Barbara Simons, the co-author of the book “Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count?” and a member of the board of advisers to the Election Assistance Commission, the federal body that oversees voting technology standards, said she had been losing sleep over just this prospect.

“A DDoS attack could certainly impact these votes and make a big difference in swing states,” Dr. Simons said on Friday. “This is a strong argument for why we should not allow voters to send their voted ballots over the internet.”

This month the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, and the Department of Homeland Security accused Russia of hacking the Democratic National Committee, apparently in an effort to affect the presidential election. There has been speculation about whether President Obama has ordered the National Security Agency to conduct a retaliatory attack and the potential backlash this might cause from Russia.

Gillian M. Christensen, deputy press secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, said the agency was investigating “all potential causes” of the attack.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said on the NBC News program “Meet the Press this month that the United States was prepared to respond to Russia’s election attacks in kind. “We’re sending a message,” Mr. Biden said. “We have the capacity to do it.”

But technology providers in the United States could suffer blowback. As Dyn fell under recurring attacks on Friday, Mr. York, the chief strategist, said such assaults were the reason so many companies are pushing at least parts of their infrastructure to cloud computing networks, to decentralize their systems and make them harder to attack.

“It’s a total wild, wild west out there,” Mr. York said

Source:NY Times

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22/Oct/2016

Mark Cuban explains why buying a 'brutally expensive' private plane was one of his smartest moves

Cuban became a billionaire in 1999 when he sold his second company, Broadcast.com, to Yahoo for $5.9 billion. Since then, the business magnate has made several pricey purchases, including buying the NBA franchise the Dallas Mavericks a year later.

However, in a new column for Men’s FitnessCuban said that the smartest thing he ever spent money on was a private plane.

“It’s obviously brutally expensive, but time is the one asset we simply don’t own,” he wrote. “It saves me hours and hours." 

Cuban purchased his first jet — a Gulfstream V— in 1999 for $40 million. Since then, he’s added two more to his fleet: a Boeing 767 that he rents out and a Boeing 757, which he uses for the Mavs. 

The "Shark Tank” star goes on to say that the most important things in life are family, time, being nice, and avoiding stress, while “trying to have more than the next guy” just isn’t worth it.

Though a private jet might seem like a demonstration of opulence, to Cuban it’s not about showing off his wealth — it’s about effectively using his time so he can attend to what matters. 

“It means I have more hours in my day to spend with friends and family,” he explained to the Wall Street Journal in 2010. “It means I can get more work done. It means I can travel comfortably with my family. It’s a life- and game-changer." 

Source:CNN.com

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06/Oct/2016

Amazon wants Prime members to read a book

Amazon (AMZN, Tech30) is bundling another benefit into its Prime program -- books.

Starting Wednesday, Prime members can pick from more than 1,000 digital books, magazines, short works and comic books at no extra cost through Prime Reading.

Subscribers can access reads from any Kindle or Fire tablet or on the Kindle apps for iOS and Android. The rotating selection includes "The Hobbit," "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," "The Man In the High Castle" and magazines like Sports Illustrated, People and National Geographic Traveler.

Prime membership costs $99 per year and includes unlimited free two-day shipping on many products. Prime also gives users access to Amazon's library of movies, TV episodes, music and audio books, along with unlimited photo storage.

Shares of the company hit an all-time high this week, and its market value is approaching $400 billion. That puts Amazon ahead of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA) as the fourth most valuable company in the United States after Apple (AAPL, Tech30), Google's parent Alphabet (AB100MOM) and Microsoft (MSFT, Tech30).

Source:CNN.com

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06/Oct/2016

The 81-year-old woman pimping BMW's rides

(CNN)

There aren't many people like Esther Mahlangu.
Collaborating with BMW would be a dream for any designer, but for the 81 year old South African Ndebele artist it's all in a days work.
Twenty five years ago, Mahlangu created an iconic BMW Art car, and now she's teamed up with the German car giants again for a new project.
The BMW Individual 7 Series decorated with Mahlangu's work will be unveiled at this year's Frieze Fair in London with the car going up for auction at the same event.
Mahlangu's unique artwork is rooted in Ndebele tradition, where women in the Ndebele tribe decorate the walls of houses in vibrant patterns and colors. These striking designs symbolize significant events and serve as a means of communication within the community.
Of her second collaboration with BMW, Mahlangu said in a statement: "The patterns I have used on the BMW parts marry tradition and to the essence of BMW. When BMW sent me the panels to paint I could see the design in my head and I just wanted to get started ... My heart was full of joy when BMW asked me to paint for them again."
BMW isn't the only prestigious brand to have featured Mahlangu's striking artwork.
Last month she unveiled a partnership with Belvedere, teaming up with the beverage company for their RED campaign, in the fight against AIDS. She teamed up with Swedish sneaker brand Eytys to create a special pair of sneakers embroidered with her art work. Her paint work has even been featured on the tails of British Airways planes.
Despite her iconic status in South Africa and her popularity across the globe Mahlangu maintains she's still the same person.
" ... My art has taken me all over the world and I have seen many places," she said in a statement. "I have painted many walls and objects and my work is in many museums but I am still Esther Mahlangu from Mpumalanga in South Africa..."
Source:CNN.com
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06/Oct/2016

Kmart's sales have fallen off a gigantic cliff

The magnitude of Kmart's downfall is stunning.

Once one of America's leading discount retailers, Kmart raked in $37 billion in sales in its 2000 fiscal year. Last year Kmart registered only $12.1 billion in sales.

That's a dramatic 67% sales plunge in a little more than a decade. Americans have likely noticed the decline in their towns. Kmart had 2,165 stores in 2000. Now it has only 979.

Compare that with Target (TGT), one of the biggest beneficiaries of Kmart's crumble. During the same period, Target's sales nearly doubled to $72.6 billion. Even Kmart's sister brand Sears looks slightly better, with its revenue falling "only" 54% to $17 billion last fiscal year.

So what went so wrong at Kmart?

Kmart sales

Some analysts point the finger at Eddie Lampert, the investor who bought Kmart when it was in bankruptcy in 2003 and quickly married it with Sears to form Sears Holdings (SHLD). Today Lampert is the combined company's chairman, CEO and leading shareholder.

"What he's done brilliantly is manage these brands into oblivion while squeezing billions of dollars of cash into his elusive businesses," said Robin Lewis, CEO of The Robin Report, a retail strategy newsletter.

Management missteps: Lampert was a hedge fund whiz kid, but Lewis argues that he had little knowledge of how to operate retail brands. He said Lampert showed no intention of ever truly trying to turn either Kmart or Sears around.

"It's my opinion that he planned this from the very beginning," he said.

Mark Cohen, a former Sears senior executive, echoed that sentiment.

"Lampert has demonstrated exactly no capacity to manage either business effectively," said Cohen, the former CEO of Sears Canada. (Cohen said he was forced out in 2004 after refusing to resign amid a disagreement with former Sears CEO Alan Lacy.)

"He's run it into the ground," Cohen said.

Trying to avoid another bankruptcy: Of course, Kmart was in trouble before Lampert bought it. Kmart filed for bankruptcy in 2002 in the midst America's economic recession and slumping sales.

Sears spokesman Howard Riefs disputed the notion that Lampert is to blame.

"Eddie is a long-term owner-investor who has invested significant equity capital demonstrating commitment in the company," he told CNNMoney.

Neil Saunders, an analyst at Conlumino, a retail research agency, said that Lampert has done a decent job of managing the financial side of the business to keep the company afloat. Late last fall, investors cheered after Sears announced plans to raise $2.5 billion by selling off hundreds of prized stores to a newly formed real estate investment trust, or REIT.

Related: Best Buy surges. It should thank Apple

'Asset strip'? Yet observers have taken issue with these complex financial maneuvers and have suggested Lampert is simply trying to squeeze further value out of the company to enrich himself.

Sears raised eyebrows last fall when it announced an unusual deal to borrow $400 million from Lampert himself. Some analysts questioned the transaction as an obvious conflict of interest.

"He's now extracting the last vestiges of value by monetizing what's left. This is an asset strip," said Cohen.

Sears (SHLD) stock has been a weak performer over the past five years -- down more than 50% -- although it has rallied this year.

Related: McDonald's has supersized problems

Target should say thanks: Management missteps have been magnified by the turbulent nature of the retail industry.

"Without leadership, businesses decline, especially volatile businesses like retailers which don't hold patents and don't have proprietary products," said Cohen, who is now director of retail studies at Columbia Business School.

The implosion of Kmart has been very helpful to rivals like Wal-Mart (WMT) and, especially, Target. Other winners include Macy's (M) and Kohl's (KSS).

Related: Have you ever worked in retail? CNNMoney wants to hear your story

More work to do: Sears told CNNMoney that the company remains focused on returning Kmart to "profitability and relevancy" by clarifying its brand, enhancing customer relationships and improving operational effectiveness.

He pointed to substantial improvements in Sears' profitability over the past three quarters.

"That said, we still have much work to do," Riefs said.

Saunders said that in some ways it seems like Sears has "given up on Kmart." In the future, Kmart could be relegated to the status of a niche retailer focused solely on urban areas.

"There is a possibility Kmart could disappear," he said.

Source:CNN.com

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24/Sep/2016

Twitter skyrockets on more takeover rumors

Are Twitter's days as an independent company numbered? Twitter stock soared 20% Friday after CNBC reported that the company is moving closer to selling itself.

Twitter (TWTR, Tech30) has been viewed as a takeover target for some time now. The Financial Times also reported Friday that Twitter has hired Goldman Sachs to advise it on a sale. If true, it makes sense: Twitter CFO Anthony Noto used to work for Goldman Sachs.

 

Google parent Alphabet (GOOGL, Tech30) has been mentioned often as a logical suitor. Twitter chairman Omid Kordestani used to be an executive for Google. Buying Twitter could help Google compete more effectively with Facebook (FB, Tech30) in the social media realm.

CNBC reiterated on Friday that Google was interested in Twitter. But CNBC also said that business software company Salesforce.com might also be looking to buy Twitter. It's not immediately clear what benefits Twitter would bring to Salesforce.

Related: Twitter's Thursday Night Football livestream is a touchdown

For what it's worth, Salesforce (CRM, Tech30) CEO Marc Benioff is an active tweeter with nearly 275,000 followers. Salesforce rival Microsoft (MSFT, Tech30) is making a big bet on social media as well with its plan to purchase LinkedIn (LNKD, Tech30).

And Salesforce chief digital evangelist (yes, that's a thing in 2016) Vala Afshar curiously chose on Friday morning to tweet (naturally) his 4 reasons why people should use Twitter.

Salesforce would not comment for this story. But Afshar clarified his comments about Twitter -- on Twitter, of course -- later Friday. He said his thoughts about Twitter were his personal views, not Salesforce's.

Representatives from Twitter and Google were not immediately available for comment.

There was also a rumor going around Friday that Verizon (VZ, Tech30) might be bidding for Twitter as well. Verizon already owns AOL and is in the process of buying Yahoo's core business -- a deal that could be impacted by Yahoo's huge cybersecurity breach.

But Verizon quickly shot down the speculation. Verizon spokesman Bob Varettoni told CNNMoney that even though it usually chooses to not comment on market rumors, the talk of a Verizon purchase of Twitter "is entirely false."

Still, many on Wall Street and Silicon Valley feel that Twitter would be better off as part of a larger company than remaining independent.

Twitter is livestreaming the presidential debates this year. And despite recent success with other livestreaming events -- most notably Thursday night NFL games -- user growth has slowed at Twitter over the past few years.

There is a perception that the company is more of a niche social media site that will never attract as big of an audience as Facebook and its Instagram subsidiary. Privately-held Snapchat has emerged as a top rival now as well.

Related: Can Twitter be the next ESPN?

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey also runs the payments startup Square (SQ). And some investors have wondered if it really makes sense for Dorsey to stay in control of both. Selling Twitter could allow Dorsey to focus more on Square.

Twitter's board met earlier this month. And the topic of whether or not the company should sell was expected to be one of the key things discussed.

Media companies News Corp (NWSA). and 21st Century Fox (FOXA) -- both controlled by Rupert Murdoch -- have been cited as possible Twitter acquirers too. So has NBC parent company Comcast (CMCSA).

There has also been chatter that Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer -- who are two of Twitter's largest shareholders -- could team up to take the company private.

And earlier this year, there were rumors that influential Silicon Valley investors Marc Andreessen and Silver Lake Partners could team up to make a bid.

It's also worth noting that Twitter co-founder and board member Evan Williams, who now runs the hot blogging platform Medium, told Bloomberg last month that Twitter would "have to consider the right options" if a takeover offer was made.

The writing seems to be on the wall for Twitter. Wall Street wants the company to sell itself. I actually tweeted those two sentences earlier Friday morning. And I had 46 characters to spare!

Source:CNN.com

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24/Sep/2016

Yahoo facing lawsuits in the wake of massive data breach

Yahoo is facing lawsuits from people who fear their accounts have been hacked and claim the company was "grossly negligent," putting their financial and personal data at risk.

Two lawsuits, both filed in California, also allege that Yahoo (YAHOF) did not adequately disclose the breach that exposed private information of at least 500 million users.

A lawsuit filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court in San Diego alleges the hack leaked personal information and caused an "intrusion into personal financial matters." A similar complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in San Jose on Friday says Yahoo was "grossly negligent" in dealing with and reporting the security breach.

Both plaintiffs are bringing the class-action complaints on behalf of all users affected by the breach. The news was first reported by the Mercury News.

The hack, announced on Thursday, took place in late 2014. Security experts say the security breach -- which included personal information like email addresses, dates of birth, and security questions -- may be the biggest ever.

Related: Did Yahoo do enough to prevent the massive hack?

David Casey, who is representing plaintiffs Jennifer Myers and Paul Dugas in the San Diego class-action case, said a handful of people had contacted his firm before Yahoo admitted accounts were compromised, claiming their personal information was somehow compromised.

"We have had a number of people approach us who had things accessed such as their tax accounts or credit cards, and they couldn't figure out how people were getting into those," Casey told CNNMoney. "When this was disclosed, they went 'Whoa, there's an explanation.'"

The complaint alleges Yahoo took an "unusually long period of time" uncovering the breach, and in the two years since it was hacked and disclosed, people were at risk of identity theft.

Plaintiff Ronald Schwartz, a New Yorker filing his claim in San Jose, claims the breaches put him and others at risk of identity theft. "Yahoo was so grossly negligent in securing its users' personal information that it says that it did not even discover the incident until the summer of 2016," the complaint states.

Casey said he anticipates hundreds of similar cases will be filed across the country. Eventually the federal court system will likely combine them all into one class-action case.

Suzanne Philion, a spokesperson for Yahoo, said the company does not comment on ongoing litigation. Verizon agreed to buy the Yahoo's core properties for $4.83 billion in July, and it's unclear how the security breach will impact the sale.

Source:CNN.com

 

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24/Sep/2016

iROKO: Why Netflix may have to chill Africa ambitions

(CNN) When Netflix announced its launch in Africa earlier this year, many assumed the $30 billion streaming juggernaut would steamroller local competitors on its path to global domination.

To the doomsayers, prospects appeared particularly bleak for the "Netflix of Africa" -- iROKO, the Nigerian streaming platform which is currently the largest on the continent.
"Netflix is here to eat the food from the bowls of my children," lamented iROKO founder Jason Njoku, 35 in a blogpost shortly after the announcement.
But his sentiment was firmly tongue-in-cheek. The company was about to make its own ambitious statement.
On January 25, iROKO announced $19 million of new funding from heavyweight international investors, including French TV network Canal+, to "scale its operations and expand aggressively across the continent."

Home advantage

Njoku was born and educated in the UK, but his understanding of Nigerian conditions and culture has been key to building one of the nation's most successful start-ups.
The entrepreneur recognized that despite the enormous popularity of Nigeria's "Nollywood" film industry -- the world's second largest by volume -- no major distribution network existed.

iROKO: Why Netflix may have to chill Africa ambitions

To the doomsayers, prospects appeared particularly bleak for the "Netflix of Africa" -- iROKO, the Nigerian streaming platform which is currently the largest on the continent.
"Netflix is here to eat the food from the bowls of my children," lamented iROKO founder Jason Njoku in a blogpost shortly after the announcement.
But his sentiment was firmly tongue-in-cheek. The company was about to make its own ambitious statement.
On January 25, iROKO announced $19 million of new funding from heavyweight international investors, including French TV network Canal+, to "scale its operations and expand aggressively across the continent."

Home advantage

Njoku was born and educated in the UK, but his understanding of Nigerian conditions and culture has been key to building one of the nation's most successful start-ups.
The entrepreneur recognized that despite the enormous popularity of Nigeria's "Nollywood" film industry -- the world's second largest by volume -- no major distribution network existed.
 
From 2010, Njoku began pursuing small-time producers across the country, securing the rights to thousands of titles. He cataloged them first on YouTube channels, and then iROKO platforms.
The entrepreneur recalls facing constant crises; from battles with pirates, to angry producers, to having his Google services suspended.
But the audience has grown rapidly -- iRoko racked up over 300 million video views in 2015. The company has also expanded, employing over 100 staff between offices in Lagos, London and New York.
Njoku believes in constant renewal, and the latest funding round will support tailoring the service to local needs.
"We have effectively discontinued desktop streaming," says the 35-year-old. "Holding a 3G signal for long periods in Sub-Saharan Africa is almost impossible."
Instead, the company will focus on the fast-growing mobile market -- Nigeria has the highest proportion of mobile Internet users in the world -- with packages to suit user budgets.
"The connected devices are overwhelmingly Android," says Njoku. "People typically use less than 500 megabytes a month, so we have to build a product that makes sense in that world."
Njoku is confident Netflix will be unable to match his company's subscription rates of $1.50 a month, and that the challenger will struggle to deliver quality streams with Nigerian connection speeds.

Patriotic pride

Beyond prices and devices, Njoku feels his greatest advantage is the exclusive library of "Nollywood" content, which has a fiercely loyal following.
"If you look at Nigerian TV there is Hollywood stuff available but people prefer Nollywood," he says. "It's similar to India where Bollywood is the over-index. Nigeria has Nollywood. Africa has Nollywood. That's the content of preference and I don't see that changing anytime soon."
The entrepreneur intends to maintain this edge by scaling up production of original content, with a target of 300 hours in 2016, including the glossy series "Husbands of Lagos."
Content will also be localized through the introduction of a translation feature for dubbing shows into new languages such as Swahili, Zulu and French -- all of which are spoken by huge populations on the continent.
Such advances have impressed international media giants, leading to new opportunities.
"Integrating popular content production and mobile SVOD (subscription video on demand) perfectly matches our group's entertainment vision in French-speaking Africa," said Jacques du Puy, president of Canal Plus Overseas, in announcing a partnership deal with iROKO.

Stream becomes flood

The arrival of Netflix is unlikely to harm iROKO, according to Sarah Lacy, technology journalist and editor of Pando.com, who has reported on the company since its early days.
"In general it's always better for the big global companies -- see Facebook vs. a million local social networks," says Lacy. "But new companies that are extremely differentiated will always do well. I'd put iROKO in this camp because they have a unique body of content."
Lacy suggests iROKO may also benefit from Netflix's arrival, as it could lead to improved digital infrastructure and faster connection speeds.
Such development could encourage an even more crowded marketplace. Streaming services such as Kenya's BuniTV and South Africa's Showmax are already planning to expand their reach.
As smartphone penetration continues to soar in the region, there will be growth opportunities for entertainment providers. But new arrivals will have to earn their share.
 
Source:CNN.com
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16/Sep/2016

San Francisco will have one of the largest U.S. bikeshare programs -- thanks to Ford

Taking a Ford to work is about to mean something totally different in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The car manufacturer announced on Friday it will be sponsoring the Bay Area Bike Share program's expansion, which will bring a total up 7,000 bikes -- up from 700 -- to the region.

While the new bikes will start hitting the pavement in spring 2017, the San Francisco area will boast the second largest bikeshare network (behind New York) in the U.S. by the end of 2018, thanks to the Ford partnership.

The name of the system -- which is run by bikeshare network startup Motivate -- will change to Ford GoBike. Access to the bikeshare network, such as renting a bike for the day, will be accessible via a Ford app.

"It's going to have a profound impact on how people move around the Bay Area," said Motivate spokeswoman Dani Simons. "This will reach every few blocks in San Francisco, from the bay to the beach."

Simons said it will work closely with Ford on research and development for the bikeshare program, and use the car company's technology to improve the overall experience.

Unlimited rides will be offered for $14.95 a month, while a discounted rate of $5 a month will be offered to low-income residents.

Ford (F) also announced this week it is acquiring Chariot, a shuttle service based in San Francisco. The move is a reminder of Ford's interest in defining itself not as a car company but as a mobility company.

In addition, Ford is investing in multi-modal transportation and autonomous vehicles, as tech and transportation experts forecast huge changes in how we get around cities.

Source:CNN.com

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12/Sep/2016

Wells Fargo customers livid over phantom accounts

Brian Kennedy was surprised when he logged onto the Wells Fargo website to pay his mortgage and discovered he had a checking account he never asked for.

And it had a negative balance of $60 for two months of fees and penalties.

Kennedy went to his local Wells Fargo branch to complain, and the account was promptly closed. But the bank charged him a $1 fee for the privilege. He reached into his pocket and handed the bank officer a dollar bill to close the account he never wanted.

"It really pissed me off," said Kennedy, a retiree in Westminster, Maryland. "They expect people to not be paying attention and hope you don't notice. I've got a high credit score and I want to keep it that way. As soon as rates drop enough I'm going to refinance out of their mortgage."

Wells Fargo (WFC) has agreed to pay $185 million in fines, and it fired 5,300 employees after admitting they had secretly set up more than 2 million unauthorized accounts to meet sales targets.

The $60 that Brian Kennedy was hit with was part of an estimated $2 million in improper fees cited by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Jeanne Young of South Amboy, New Jersey was also really angry at Wells Fargo. She was signed up for a credit card she never asked for. In response, she closed her Wells Fargo checking account and refinanced her mortgage away from the bank. Her fiance moved his IRA out of the bank.

"I was livid about the whole thing. I don't trust them. There's no doubt in my mind it was deliberate," said Young, who works for an insurance agent. She said she's concerned that having a credit card account opened and closed has dinged her credit score.

Janice Redding, a retiree from Greenville, South Carolina, said she assumed that the bank employee at her local branch had mistakenly hit the wrong button when a line of credit was opened in her name. She had asked about her credit card account just before she got a notice in the mail about the line of credit.

"I didn't think too much more about it," she said. "I called the 800-number, and I let the person there know I didn't appreciate it being done. He apologized to me."

Redding said she was concerned that someone might run up a large balance on the line of credit. "I don't have any money to start with," she said.

But unlike Kennedy and Young, she said she's not ready to leave Wells Fargo, even after her experience.

"I've been with them since 1990. I hate to say anything negative about them. They're my bank," she said.

Source:CNN.com

 

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12/Sep/2016

Sony launching $399 PS4 Pro in November

Sony announced Wednesday it will launch a Pro version of its PlayStation 4 video game console capable of running 4K and HDR content in November.

The PS4 Pro will be available for $399 on Nov. 10, just in time for the all-important holiday shopping season. It will feature a 1 terabyte hard drive and will continue to run standard console games. Andrew House, the president and global CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, encouraged developers to create games that could leverage 4K resolutions.

"We're introducing choice in the marketplace, enabling gamers to choose the PS4 model that meets their needs," said House in a statement Wednesday.

Several video games have been confirmed to support the higher resolutions of the PS4 Pro, including Activision blockbuster Call of Duty and the upcoming science fiction title Mass Effect: Andromeda from publisher Electronic Arts.

Meanwhile, Sony will also introduce a slimmer model of the PS4 next month at $299. It will replace the standard model available now to consumers. A future software update will add support for HDR content later this year.

The new consoles arrive as PlayStation continues to maintain its sales momentum. The device has topped 40 million in sales since launching in 2013, House said. In October, Sony makes the leap into virtual reality with its PlayStation VR platform.

However, Microsoft and its rival Xbox One video game console are ramping up efforts to close the gap with Sony. Earlier this year, Microsoft introduced the Xbox One S, a slimmer, lighter model that can run 4K and HDR content.

The company is also working on its own high-end Xbox, code-named Project Scorpio, which will allow the console to run virtual-reality devices.

Piers Harding-Rolls, head of games research at IHS, says Sony needs to remain competitive in an increasingly challenging gaming market. "More connected devices are becoming capable games machines — not only smart devices but Android consoles and streaming set-top boxes," he says. "Consoles need to keep pushing the technology envelope to stay ahead of this competition."

Source:USA Today.com

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08/Sep/2016

Apple cuts prices, boost storage on iPads

It's not just the iPhone that will shed its insufficient 16GB model.

Apple made changes to its iPad lineup, lowering the price on some models and moving to a minimum storage option of 32GB across the board, according to new details in the Apple Store.

The 16GB models of the iPad Air 2, iPad Mini 4 and iPad Mini 2 have all been replaced by 32GB versions, yet retain the same pricing. Meanwhile, the iPad Air 2 adds a 128GB model, while that same storage option for the Mini 4 gets bumped down in price by $100.

Select models of the iPad Pro will also see a price drop. The 128GB versions of both the 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro will see a price cut of $50, while the 256GB models shave $100 off the original price. The 32GB models will stay at $799.

During the third quarter, sales of the iPad were down compared to the same time period last year. One potential reason for the decline is more consumers are holding onto their tablets longer, compared to the two-year cycle often associated with smartphone upgrades.

On Wednesday, Apple introduce its next iPhone -- the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. Pre-orders for the smartphones arrive on September 9, and will reach stores on September 16.

Source:USA Today.com

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08/Sep/2016

Samsung to Recall 2.5 Million Galaxy Note 7s Over Battery Fires

HONG KONG — A ubiquitous source of power in most modern technology, lithium-ion batteries keep cellphones, laptops, electric cars and airplanes running. They are also the source of many problems, with some overheating, catching fire and even exploding.

In a potentially damaging episode, Samsung, the world’s biggest maker of smartphones, announced on Friday that it would recall its Galaxy Note 7 model after discovering a flaw in the battery cell that could result in fires. The company will replace 2.5 million phones sent to stores and consumers, in one of the industry’s largest recalls.

The recall puts Samsung, which has been trying to match the success of the Apple iPhone, in a precarious position.

The smartphone industry is grappling with slowing demand and intense competition. Samsung was regaining swagger with its high-end phone models, like the Note 7, in which the screens appear to spill off the side.

But the battery fires threaten to undermine Samsung’s efforts, giving an edge to Apple. The recall comes just days before Apple is expected to unveil the latest version of its iPhone.

The ultimate scale of the damage to Samsung’s reputation and finances will depend on how quickly the company deals with the issues and how costly they turn out to be. Along with the expense of fixing the phones, Samsung could face lost sales if consumers grow wary of its products.

Samsung said it expected that manufacturing replacement phones would take two weeks. Consumers who have already bought the phones will receive replacements before new phones go on sale, the company said. Samsung did not indicate the cost of the recall.

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“If you look at previous instances in tech history where there have been recalls, as long as it doesn’t drag on to the point that the company becomes the butt of a joke, then it should be minor,” said Bryan Ma, an analyst at IDC, a technology research firm.

“If it becomes like a Pinto, where you don’t want to buy it because it explodes, that would be a bad situation,” he said, referring to the 1971 Ford car that became famous for erupting in flames after rear-end collisions. “But I think they’ll get past it.”

Samsung said that, so far, 35 battery episodes involving the Note 7 had been registered. Reports of the problem first started to emerge online, as consumers posted photographs and videos of the charred remains of phones they said had burst into flames, usually while being recharged.

In one video, a customer shows a half-melted phone, and explains: “Came home after work, put it to charge for a little bit before I had class, went to put it on my waist, and it caught fire. Yep, brand new phone, not even two weeks old.”

Samsung said it thought the problem came from a “minute flaw” in the production of the batteries. Samsung would not name the supplier involved.

The recall covers 10 countries where the phones have been sold. Samsung said the recall would not affect China, since the models sold there used a battery from a different supplier.

“We acknowledge the inconvenience this may cause in the market, but this is to ensure that Samsung continues to deliver the highest-quality products to our customers,” the company said in a statement. “We are working closely with our partners to ensure the replacement experience is as convenient and efficient as possible.”

The recall is a major blow to Samsung, which had just started to regain its competitive footing. The company faces pressures across its product line, with Apple on the high end and new Chinese brands on the lower end.

Samsung was gaining traction with the latest Galaxy phones. The phones’ smooth, tapered edges, which make them more comfortable to hold, have been a hit with consumers.

In the second quarter, Samsung’s global smartphone sales rose 5.5 percent from a year earlier while Apple’s fell 15 percent, giving Samsung 22.4 percent of the market compared to Apple’s 11.8 percent, according to IDC. While some of that growth came from Samsung’s lower-end phones, IDC said that a significant part had also come from new demand for its higher-end phones, which contributed a disproportionate amount of profit.

In a year that Samsung originally warned could be tough, the company has performed surprisingly well. In the most recent second quarter, the company said its operating profit rose 15 percent from a year earlier, to about $7 billion.

Samsung had high expectations for the latest Galaxy phone, which was released last month, to help continue the momentum.

The Note 7 is 5.7 inches from corner to corner, making it a large phone sometimes referred to as a phablet — a combination of phone and tablet. It sells in the United States for about $900 to $1,000 without subsidies from a wireless carrier.

The phones were released just ahead of Apple’s traditional release time in autumn, before the important holiday shopping season. Apple is set to show off its latest iPhone on Sept. 7. With the new iPhone, Apple is expected to make major upgrades to both the hardware and software, as it generally does every two years.

“You have to applaud Samsung for moving quickly,” said Ben Wood, mobile analyst at CCS Insight in Berlin. “But they can’t afford to miss the run up to the holiday season, so they have to fix this problem fast.”

Lightweight and powerful, lithium-ion batteries are the go-to for technology, since they don’t take up much room and can quickly recharge repeatedly without wearing out. But they are also far from perfect.

The batteries, which include volatile and flammable chemical compounds, can become unstable if overheated or punctured. If that happens, the battery can burst into flames or explode.

Dell in 2006 recalled more than four million batteries for its notebook computers. American aviation authorities in 2013 reviewed the design of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner after a number of incidents involving lithium-ion batteries and the plane’s electrical system. Tesla in 2014 had to reinforce the area protecting the batteries in its Model S after it became apparent that road debris striking the bottom of the car could cause a fire.

More recently, battery problems have cropped up with increasing frequency among lower-end devices. In America, airline companies began banning hoverboards from flights after it became apparent that some of the products would occasionally burst into flames. There have also been increased reports of e-cigarette batteries spontaneously detonating.

Analysts, in part, attribute the issues to the low standards and few regulations in the global electronics supply chain that sprawls across China. As smaller Chinese companies have jumped at opportunities to make their own devices, some have cut corners, leading to a number of problems, including the occasionally combusting battery.

For Samsung, the recall strikes at the heart of what has long been considered its greatest strength: its management of the supply chain.

Samsung owns the facilities that produce many of the components in its smartphones — including screens, chips and batteries. The system allows it to keep closer tabs on production.

Yet much like Apple, Samsung also manages a large network of suppliers.

That means it must coordinate the production of a high number of parts that come from factories in disparate places run on tight margins. It must also double-check the quality of each product, which can be exceptionally challenging given that production processes are complex and factories are sometimes known to sacrifice quality for profit.

“What’s surprising is this comes from Samsung, who have such prowess and competence in manufacturing and supply chain,” Mr. Ma of IDC said. “You would think this wouldn’t happen to a company like that, but somehow it slipped through.”

Source:NY Times.com

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04/Sep/2016

How Spy Tech Firms Let Governments See Everything on a Smartphone

SAN FRANCISCO — Want to invisibly spy on 10 iPhone owners without their knowledge? Gather their every keystroke, sound, message and location? That will cost you $650,000, plus a $500,000 setup fee with an Israeli outfit called the NSO Group. You can spy on more people if you would like — just check out the company’s price list.

The NSO Group is one of a number of companies that sell surveillance tools that can capture all the activity on a smartphone, like a user’s location and personal contacts. These tools can even turn the phone into a secret recording device.

Since its founding six years ago, the NSO Group has kept a low profile. But last month, security researchers caught its spyware trying to gain access to the iPhone of a human rights activist in the United Arab Emirates. They also discovered a second target, a Mexican journalist who wrote about corruption in the Mexican government.

Now, internal NSO Group emails, contracts and commercial proposals obtained by The New York Times offer insight into how companies in this secretive digital surveillance industry operate. The emails and documents were provided by two people who have had dealings with the NSO Group but would not be named for fear of reprisals.

The company is one of dozens of digital spying outfits that track everything a target does on a smartphone. They aggressively market their services to governments and law enforcement agencies around the world. The industry argues that this spying is necessary to track terrorists, kidnappers and drug lords. The NSO Group’s corporate mission statement is “Make the world a safe place.”

Ten people familiar with the company’s sales, who refused to be identified, said that the NSO Group has a strict internal vetting process to determine who it will sell to. An ethics committee made up of employees and external counsel vets potential customers based on human rights rankings set by the World Bank and other global bodies. And to date, these people all said, NSO has yet to be denied an export license.

But critics note that the company’s spyware has also been used to track journalists and human rights activists.

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“There’s no check on this,” said Bill Marczak, a senior fellow at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs. “Once NSO’s systems are sold, governments can essentially use them however they want. NSO can say they’re trying to make the world a safer place, but they are also making the world a more surveilled place.”

The NSO Group’s capabilities are in higher demand now that companies like Apple, Facebook and Google are using stronger encryption to protect data in their systems, in the process making it harder for government agencies to track suspects.

The NSO Group’s spyware finds ways around encryption by baiting targets to click unwittingly on texts containing malicious links or by exploiting previously undiscovered software flaws. It was taking advantage of three such flaws in Apple software — since fixed — when it was discovered by researchers last month.

The cyberarms industry typified by the NSO Group operates in a legal gray area, and it is often left to the companies to decide how far they are willing to dig into a target’s personal life and what governments they will do business with. Israel has strict export controls for digital weaponry, but the country has never barred the sale of NSO Group technology.

Photo

 

The founders of NSO Group, Omri Lavie, left, and Shalev Hulio. Credit NSO Group

Since it is privately held, not much is known about the NSO Group’s finances, but its business is clearly growing. Two years ago, the NSO Group sold a controlling stake in its business to Francisco Partners, a private equity firm based in San Francisco, for $120 million. Nearly a year later, Francisco Partners was exploring a sale of the company for 10 times that amount, according to two people approached by the firm but forbidden to speak about the discussions.

The company’s internal documents detail pitches to countries throughout Europe and multimillion-dollar contracts with Mexico, which paid the NSO Group more than $15 million for three projects over three years, according to internal NSO Group emails dated in 2013.

“Our intelligence systems are subject to Mexico’s relevant legislation and have legal authorization,” Ricardo Alday, a spokesman for the Mexican embassy in Washington, said in an emailed statement. “They are not used against journalists or activists. All contracts with the federal government are done in accordance with the law.”

Zamir Dahbash, an NSO Group spokesman, said that the sale of its spyware was restricted to authorized governments and that it was used solely for criminal and terrorist investigations. He declined to comment on whether the company would cease selling to the U.A.E. and Mexico after last week’s disclosures.

For the last six years, the NSO Group’s main product, a tracking system called Pegasus, has been used by a growing number of government agencies to target a range of smartphones — including iPhones, Androids, and BlackBerry and Symbian systems — without leaving a trace.

Among the Pegasus system’s capabilities, NSO Group contracts assert, are the abilities to extract text messages, contact lists, calendar records, emails, instant messages and GPS locations. One capability that the NSO Group calls “room tap” can gather sounds in and around the room, using the phone’s own microphone.

Pegasus can use the camera to take snapshots or screen grabs. It can deny the phone access to certain websites and applications, and it can grab search histories or anything viewed with the phone’s web browser. And all of the data can be sent back to the agency’s server in real time.

In its commercial proposals, the NSO Group asserts that its tracking software and hardware can install itself in any number of ways, including “over the air stealth installation,” tailored text messages and emails, through public Wi-Fi hot spots rigged to secretly install NSO Group software, or the old-fashioned way, by spies in person.

Much like a traditional software company, the NSO Group prices its surveillance tools by the number of targets, starting with a flat $500,000 installation fee. To spy on 10 iPhone users, NSO charges government agencies $650,000; $650,000 for 10 Android users; $500,000 for five BlackBerry users; or $300,000 for five Symbian users — on top of the setup fee, according to one commercial proposal.

You can pay for more targets. One hundred additional targets will cost $800,000, 50 extra targets cost $500,000, 20 extra will cost $250,000 and 10 extra costs $150,000, according to an NSO Group commercial proposal. There is an annual system maintenance fee of 17 percent of the total price every year thereafter.

What that gets you, NSO Group documents say, is “unlimited access to a target’s mobile devices.” In short, the company says: You can “remotely and covertly collect information about your target’s relationships, location, phone calls, plans and activities — whenever and wherever they are.”

And, its proposal adds, “It leaves no traces whatsoever.”

Source:NY times.com

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04/Sep/2016

iPhone 6 ‘touch disease’ a boon to fixit shops

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — There's a design glitch in some iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models that leaves a flashing gray bar at the top of the screen. It won't go away and it disables the touchscreen function of the phone.

It's a flaw that's annoying hundreds of iPhone users.

Jessa Jones, who owns iPad Rehab in Honeoye Falls, is among scores of independent gadget repair shops across the country receiving an increase in orders to fix the gray bar issue.

She calls the glitch the "Touch IC Disease."

Jones explained to ifixit.org, a gadget repair news blog, that the glitch is likely because the integrated circuit chip that controls the touchscreen function in an iPhone 6 and 6 Plus isn't always connected to the phone's main motherboard. The chips are supposed to lay on a group of solder balls and the solder balls are also connected to the phone's motherboard.

In previous versions of the iPhone, the motherboard-solder balls-circuit chip sandwich is held together by a strong, thin layer of metal so nothing will bend out of place. In the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, the metal layer is replaced by a black sticker.

Jones said she believes iPhone users sometimes bend their phone — for example when they have it in their back pocket — separating the chip from the solder balls and the sticker doesn't provide enough resistance against the bend.

Jones said the glitch isn't present in older versions of the iPhone. Overall, the issue is affecting 20% of iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models, Jones said

Still, the glitch has created an uptick for Jones.

Jones' business started in 2013 when she began repairing devices in her dining room. The company moved into a dedicated facility in December and the operation is now staffed with a business manager, a shipping manager and two other repair specialists. Jones also has a one-person shop in Jacksonville, Fla.

Since April, Jones said her company has received eight to 10 iPhones with the flashing gray bar issue every day. Before April, her company would get perhaps two per week.

"We're on a treadmill with this stuff," she said, adding that she's not sure if the uptick will mean growing her operation even more.

The phones come from all over the world, Jones said. Most of the phones come from people whose Apple warranty on their phone has expired.

Jones said she repairs the issue, for $200, by replacing the integrated circuit chip, soldering on a metal layer to cover the chip, then mailing it back to the customer.

"That really seems to help with the long-term robustness of the repair," she told the news blog.

Jones said she tries to share her repair tips on the Apple Support Community forums, but officials with the company delete her posts.

Attempts to contact Apple by phone for comment on Thursday were unsuccessful.

Source:USA Today.com

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26/Aug/2016

Uber bleeds more than $1 billion in six months

Uber may be the most valuable privately held company in the world, but that doesn't mean it's making money.

The company lost at least $1.27 billion in the first half of this year, according to Bloomberg News. Uber declined to comment on the report, but Bloomberg reported that Uber's head of finance Gautam Gupta shared the losses during a call with shareholders on Friday.

Uber is said to have lost $520 million in the first quarter, and $750 million in the second quarter of 2016.

The vast majority of its second quarter losses were a result of subsidies in China, according to a source familiar with the matter. But those won't continue to show up on Uber's income statement.'

Earlier this month, Uber sold its China operations to rival Didi Chuxing. Uber got nearly an 18% stake in Didi as a result of the deal, becoming its largest shareholder.

Uber launched in China in 2013 and expanded its operations to roughly 60 cities. But while the market was a top priority, it was also an incredibly costly one. In February, CEO Travis Kalanick said that Uber was losing $1 billion a year in China.

"Uber and Didi Chuxing are investing billions of dollars in China and both companies have yet to turn a profit there," Kalanick wrote in an announcement about the Didi deal.

While Uber said it was profitable in the U.S. during the first quarter of this year, Bloomberg reported that it lost roughly $100 million in the U.S. during the second quarter.

That comes as Uber battles its biggest U.S. competitor, Lyft, for market share, each using compelling promotions and deals to persuade customers to ride with them.

Source:CNN.com

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26/Aug/2016

Kobe Bryant reveals his $100 million venture capital fund

Kobe Bryant has revealed that while he was dominating play on the basketball court, he was also quietly building a $100 million venture capital firm.

Bryant's Wall Street secret went public Monday when the former Los Angeles Laker rang the New York Stock Exchange bell and told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" about his three-year-old venture.

 

Bryant, who retired from the NBA this year, said that investing is one of his passions. "This is where it's at for me," he said.

The $100 million venture-capital fund was co-founded in 2013 by Jeff Stibel, a serial entrepreneur, scientist and author. Stibel currently serves as the vice chairman of Dun & Bradstreet, and was previously the president and CEO of Web.com, Inc.

The lag time allowed the fund to stand on its own merit, rather than on the celebrity of its founders. "We wanted our body of work, and the entrepreneurs and companies, to stand for themselves," Stibel told CNNMoney. "We wanted to prove that this was something that had substance and depth."

Bryant Stibel has already invested in 15 companies and been involved in 50 transactions. The group's current portfolio includes Derek Jeter's media company The Player's Tribune, home juicing firm Juicero, and the Chinese online retailer Alibaba.

Bryant and Stibel are listed as general partners, and Stibel says they are mostly responsible for that $100 million fund. Bryant Stibel's core team, made up of a small group of individual investors Stibel has worked with previously, contributed the rest.

Bryant's role in the fund was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

The future Hall of Famer's interest in business has been well documented. Speaking on an episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast that was published in April, "Shark Tank" star and venture capitalist Chris Sacca discussed Bryant's entrepreneurial ambitions.

Sacca said that Bryant reached out to him a few years ago to learn more about the industry. Sacca recommended Bryant learn about investing through Ted Talks, other videos and articles -- and was surprised when he did. "He was bringing the same obsessive work ethic to learning about startups that he does to training... This is a very unique personality type that I only kind of see in some of our very best entrepreneurs," Sacca said.

On "Squawk on the Street," Bryant said he hopes his legacy will be for investing, rather than basketball.

"Playing basketball, the focus is always on winning -- winning championships, winning championships, winning championships," Bryant said. "Now, championships come and go... But if you really want to create something that lasts generations, you have to help inspire the next generation... That's when you create something forever. And that's what's most beautiful."

Of Bryant, Stibel told CNNMoney, "We are very much equal partners." He specified, however, that their roles differ. "Kobe focuses on leadership, inspiration, storytelling," while Stibel primarily handles "operations, strategic directions for companies," and growth.

According to its website, Bryant Stibel aims to invest in technology, media and data companies with a focus on those in the sports and wellness fields.

Source:CNN.com

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23/Aug/2016

Bill Gates is now worth $90 billion

Next stop $100 billion?

Bill Gates' net worth has crossed the $90 billion threshold, according to a real-time rankings from Bloomberg's Billionaire Index.

 

Gates' net worth climbed not because of any stock rise at Microsoft (MSFT, Tech30), but because of jumps in the shares of Canadian National Railway (CNI) Company and Ecolab (ECL), two smaller companies in which he has holdings.

He's well ahead of Amancio Ortega, the Spanish retailer who is the world's second richest man. Ortega's fortune is $76 billion.

Forbes, which also tracks billionaires' wealth, estimates Gates' net worth at a more modest $78.7 billion. Forbes also says that Gates' net worth briefly topped $100 billion back in 1999, back before the federal antitrust case decision against Microsoft that year and the bursting of the tech bubble in early 2000.

According to Bloomberg, Gates' net worth is up $6.2 billion so far this year, but that's only the fourth biggest gain among billionaires on the index.

Related: Jeff Bezo passes Warren Buffett to become third richest person

Facebook (FB, Tech30) founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has enjoyed an $8.9 billion jump in his net worth, while Harold Hamm, CEO of shale oil producer Continental Resources (CLR), has seen his net worth more than double. Hamm's fortune gained $7 billion, lifting his net worth to $13 billion.

Amazon (AMZN, Tech30) CEO Jeff Bezos' net worth rose $6.5 billion this year. He is now virtually tied with Warren Buffett for third place on the ranking of world's richest men.

Source: CNN.com

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23/Aug/2016

Wells Fargo to pay $4 million for illegal student loan fees

Wells Fargo will pay $4 million after the government found it charged some of its student loan borrowers illegal late fees.

The bank agreed to pay a penalty of $3.6 million to the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, according to the settlement agreement.

 

It also must set aside $410,000 to refund customers who were hit with illegal fees, which occurred between 2010 and 2013.

Wells Fargo (WFC) is one of the biggest private student loan lenders in the country and currently has about 1.3 million student loan customers.

Families typically turn to private lenders after a student has maxed out on federal government loans and still needs help footing the college bill. Federal loans typically carry lower interest rates than private loans, offer more consumer protections, and are available to all students regardless of their family's financial situation.

he bank charged illegal late fees to certain customers who made payments on the last day of their grace period, the CFPB said. Borrowers typically get a six-month grace period after leaving school before they have to start repaying their loans.

The agency also found that for some borrowers with multiple loans, Wells Fargo processed payments in a way that maximized late fees.

Illegally charged fees, the agency said, were sometimes never refunded and the incorrect information sent to credit reporting agencies was never updated.

Wells Fargo said it has already stopped those practices. And some fees were charged due to a "system coding error" that has been corrected, it told the agency.

"Today's consent order with the CFPB resolves three areas of concern cited by the Bureau (CFPB) related to legacy payment procedures that were retired or improved many years ago, and addresses the impact to a small number of customers," the company said.

Wells Fargo isn't the first student loan lender to be slapped with a penalty by the CFPB. A year ago, Discover had to pay a $2.5 million penalty and refund $16 million to customers for illegal student loan practices.

Source:CNN.com

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23/Aug/2016

The solar-powered cart that can charge 80 cell phones at once

(CNN)

It has received numerous energy innovation awards and grants from the likes of Microsoft.
Solar kiosk franchisee, Jeanne Marie Uhiriwe, on the streets of Kigali, Rwanda
 
"My vision is to create at least 50,000 to 100,000 micro businesses across Africa," Nyakarundi told CNN.
"It's doable. You're looking at a population that's going to double in the next 25 to 30 years."

The idea

Returning to Rwanda or Burundi for holidays, Nyakarundi noticed that while many people had cell phones they often struggled to charge them.
In Rwanda, industry analysis estimates that roughly 70% of the population have a cell phone, yet only 18% have access to electricity, according to the World Bank.
Sketching the first design on a piece of paper, the entrepreneur devised a solar-powered kiosk that can be towed by bicycle and provides simultaneous charging for up to 80 phones.

Business in a box

His company, African Renewable Energy Distributor (ARED), operates under a micro-franchising system that leases the kiosks to agents.
Micro franchisees earn money from mobile charging and selling add-ons such as mobile credit, government certificates and prepaid electricity.

Women and those with disabilities are the most vulnerable group in Africa, especially in business.

"It's a business in a box," said Nyakarundi, who moved back to Rwanda in 2012 once his prototype was ready. "I was looking to do something that would not only solve a problem but also had a social impact by creating micro businesses for people."
There are currently 25 kiosks operating in Rwanda, many in rural areas where the population is dependent on cell phones to communicate and send money.
But after four years of carefully testing his business model, Nyakarundi said he is now ready to seriously scale up. He plans to have between 600 and 800 kiosks in place by the next two years.

Free opportunity

To run them, Nyakarundi says he looks for people who desperately lack employment opportunities.
The agents make just a $100 down payment followed by $200 in installments to lease their kiosk from ARED. From that, the company says existing vendors are making between 30,000 to 85,000 Rwandan francs ($38-$107) a month -- enough to pay rent and feed a family.
But strikingly, for micro franchisees who are women or have disabilities, the opportunity is absolutely free.
Sembemba Jean Pierre
 
"They are the most vulnerable group in Africa, especially in business," said Nyakarundi. "Women don't have access to funding the way men do, and people with disabilities have even less opportunity."
Sembemba Jean Pierre suffers from a disability. He had to remove his child from school because he wasn't earning enough as a watch repairman. Thanks to the kiosk, his son is back in education and Pierre dreams of owning a house.
"I could go a whole day without getting someone to repair the watch for," Pierre told CNN by email through a translator. "Now I am at least assured of daily income -- my family don't sleep hungry anymore."
Prospective agents must be at least 25 years of age and have two letters of recommendation from leaders in their community -- paperwork that is enough to deter "the bad apples", according to Nyakarundi.

Henri Nyakarundi never wanted a job.

Born to refugee parents from Rwanda, he grew up in Burundi until civil war again forced the family to move on. Relocating to the US, Nyakarundi studied computer science at Georgia State University and by 19 had founded his first start up.
"I was not a job type of guy," laughed the entrepreneur. "I think it's my personality, I've always liked to make my own decisions."
Yet his product -- a solar-powered mobile kiosk that charges cell phones and connects communities -- aims to create thousands of jobs across Africa.

Crucial role

This system means that choosing the right micro franchisees is vital, because they are the gateway to the company's revenue.
"When we offer a free opportunity, it becomes very important to have strong monitoring and evaluation. If they make money, we make money. So we want to make sure that people are not performing get replaced immediately."
A for-profit business, ARED makes a small amount of commission (roughly 1%) from the micro franchisee's sales while the bulk of its revenue comes from advertising on the side of the kiosks.
But a new prototype set to roll out this autumn will create even more revenue opportunities. ARED has developed a "smart kiosk" that will offer wifi, local intranet and data collection from its users.

Smart kiosk

"We're moving from a basic sort of kiosk to more of a technology company," said Nyakarundi.
"A lot of people don't utilize their smart phone because they can't afford internet. Why not build our own intranet -- our own network of content on the kiosk to serve our community?"
Customers will be able to access the intranet for free, while advertisers will pay to submit surveys or collect data. Wifi will be available at a small charge.
"We can monetize this in so many ways now that we have a digital platform," said Nyakarundi. "The goal was to maximize revenue without having to collect it from the micro franchisee. It can be a win-win situation for all of us."
Source:CNN.com
 
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14/Aug/2016

You won a gold medal. Now here's your tax bill

Michael Phelps may be untouchable in the water, but even he can't out-swim the Tax Man.

America's Olympic medalists must pay state and federal taxes on the prize money they get for winning. The U.S. Olympic Committee awards $25,000 for gold medals, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze.

 

That's not all. Olympians also have to pay tax on the value of the medals themselves.

Gold and silver medals are made mostly of silver, while bronze medals are composed of mostly copper. Rio's medals are among the largest and heaviest ever and contain about 500 grams of either silver or copper.

The value of a gold medal is about $564; silver is worth about $305. Bronze is worth a negligible amount so it's not taxed.

Related: How Michael Phelps changed the business of swimming

Taxes are yet another burden for Olympians -- the majority of whom are already struggling to get by.

The U.S. is one of the only countries that doesn't provide government funding to its Olympians.

A handful of lucky athletes land lucrative endorsement deals. But most of them rely on small stipends from the USOC, support from local businesses or supplemental income from a day job.

lympic medal winners may catch a break though.

Proposed federal legislation would make "the value of any medal or prize money" awarded during the Olympics or Paralympics exempt from income taxes.

The bill was passed by the Senate last month and is being considered by the House. It would apply to earnings from January 1, 2016 to January 1, 2021.

California is reviewing a similar proposal.

Dr. Steven Gill, a tax professor at San Diego State University, isn't convinced an exception for Olympians and Paralympians would change anything.

For one thing, the USOC might be tempted to reduce Olympians' prize money, Gill said.

He added that even tax free, American athletes get a fraction of the financial support that athletes in other countries get.

"When I think about why these prizes exist, it's to compete with state-supported athletes from other countries," he said. "Cutting taxes isn't going to fix the fact that these athletes don't get paid enough -- it's a short-term fix."

Gill also noted that other individuals who win prestigious awards are taxed on their winnings. Such is the case with Nobel prize winners although they receive more prize money -- around $1 million.

Source:Cnn.com

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13/Aug/2016

Nigeria clamps down on money transfers to the country

(CNN)The Central Bank of Nigeria has suddenly changed its policy toward money transfer operators, effectively blocking many services used by Nigerians to send money to and from the country.

The decision to revoke the licenses of all but three money transfer companies was backed by a warning, issued on Tuesday, that advises Nigerians at home and abroad to "beware of the unwholesome activities of some unlicensed International Money Transfer Operators."
Citing "the greater economic good of Nigeria," the Central Bank stated that it will "not condone any attempt aimed at undermining the country's foreign exchange regime."

'Draconian' rules

The sudden move has created immediate backlash because it affects a large volume of money. Remittances to Nigeria totaled about $20.8 billion in 2015, according to data from Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development.
WorldRemit is an online money transfer service that launched in Nigeria 2011 and one of the companies affected by the edict. It released a statement calling the new rules "draconian" and noted that the new policy would leave only three companies able to function: Western Union, MoneyGram and Ria. Those companies have physical operations on the ground in Nigeria.
"This move is arbitrary, inexplicable and hugely detrimental to the Nigerian diaspora, who rely on hundreds of money transfer companies and banks, providing them with choice, convenience and competitive pricing," said WorldRemit founder and CEO Ismail Ahmed.

No explanation

Ahmed said while Western Union used to control 78% of the transfers to Nigeria, now it controls less than 20%.
Ahmed, whose company says it sends 40,000 money transfers to Nigeria each month, also laments the lack of clarity surrounding the change.
"This is the first time in my 20 years of experience that a regulator is saying if you want to send money to Nigeria, you have to physically come to Nigeria and set up a company," Ahmed said. "On Monday evening, Nigeria simply shut down transfers. The banks told us they couldn't process our transfers. The country was one of the most competitive markets until Monday."
He added, "This is extreme. It's going to be quite explosive among the Nigerian diaspora."
CNN has contacted the Central Bank but has not received a reply.
Source:CNN.com
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09/Aug/2016

Millennials: Avoid these 5 financial mistakes

I'm in my early 20s and want to get a head start on financial success, but I don't want to make mistakes that could prevent me from achieving my goal. What do you suggest? --K.T., North Carolina

My first suggestion is to lighten up a little. It's smart to want to get off on the right foot in your financial life. But your 20s is also a time to have some fun, explore different paths and leave yourself open to serendipity. If you get too hung up about making a wrong move, you could miss out on satisfying and rewarding experiences. Besides, making and then rebounding from mistakes is an important way to learn and grow.

 

That said, it's also true that some mistakes can inflict far deeper and longer-lasting financial damage than others, even if they don't seem so dangerous at first glance.

Below are five financial faux pas with the capacity to seriously undermine your economic prospects. Avoid these major missteps, and you'll dramatically increase your chances of achieving financial success.

Mistake #1: Getting A Late Start On Saving.

More than any other single error, I'd say this is the one that prevents people from attaining at least a measure of financial security. For example, in a recent survey of retirees by Pentegra Retirement Services 39% of those polled said they regretted not having started saving sooner, and 63% said the most important advice they could offer to people starting out would be to get an early start on saving.

The oldsters know what they're talking about. A 25-year-old earning $30,000 who saves 10% of salary a year would have a nest egg of just over $620,000 at 65, assuming 2% annual raises and a 6% annual return on investments. If that person holds off just five years, the size of the nest egg falls by almost $140,000. Waiting 10 years shrinks it by more than $250,000.

To see for yourself how putting off saving for even a few years (as well as not saving enough) can stunt your financial prospects, check out this Will You Have Enough To Retire? calculator.

Fortunately, this error can be easily sidestepped. If you have a 401(k) where you work, sign up for it and contribute at least enough to take full advantage of any company matching funds.

Related: Are you behind on retirement saving?

If you don't have access to a 401(k), open a Roth IRA or Traditional IRA account at a mutual fund company and fund via automatic monthly transfers from your checking account.

While you're at it, accumulate an emergency fund of at least three months' worth of living expenses in a savings account so you'll have a cushion to fall back on in the event of a job layoff or unexpected expenses.

The main point, though, is to get into the habit of saving regularly and maintain that regimen throughout your working life.

Mistake #2: Taking on unnecessary debt.

Sometimes it makes sense to borrow -- say, to buy a house, purchase a car or finance an education that can increase your earning power. But it's the debt we take on to maintain a lifestyle that exceeds our earning power that gets us in trouble.

And make no mistake, paying down debt can strain your budget. According to NerdWallet's latest annual survey on consumer debt, the average household is shelling out more than $6,650 in interest payments alone per year.

Related: When will I be debt-free?

Before you borrow, ask yourself: Is this something you truly must have? And if the answer is yes, then ask: Could you get by with a less expensive version of it? And finally, consider whether the monthly principal and interest payments you'll make for years might be put to better use going into savings and investment accounts that can grow in value and provide a cushion against economic setbacks.

Mistake #3: Buying into Wall Street's 'investing is complicated' mantra.

The message investors get from many Wall Street firms boils down to this: You need to watch the financial markets constantly, spread your money among all sorts of arcane and complex investments and be ready at a moment's notice to dump what you own for new investments. And, of course, to pull off all this successfully, you need their help, for which you must pay a handsome price.

Nonsense. No one, not even market pros, can consistently outguess the financial markets. And research by University of California at Berkeley finance professor Terrance Odean shows that trying to do so by frequent trading is more likely to hurt than enhance your returns.

You're much better off with a less-is-more approach: build a basic portfolio of broadly diversified stock and bond funds that matches the level of risk you're willing to take -- and then, aside from occasional rebalancing, stick with that portfolio regardless of what the market is doing. This risk tolerance-asset allocation questionnaire can help you arrive at a blend of stocks and bonds that makes sense for you.

Mistake #4: Overpaying for financial help.

Whether it's the annual expenses you pay to a mutual fund manager or the fees you shell out to an adviser to help you choose the right funds and provide other financial advice, the fact is that paying more than you have to drags down the returns you earn and makes it harder for your savings to grow. Which is why it makes sense to hold the line on such costs as much as possible.

When it comes to investments, the easiest way to rein in expenses is to stick as much as possible to low-cost index funds and ETFs. Doing so can easily save you upwards of 1% a year compared with the typical stock mutual fund.

Related: How much are 401(k) fees costing me?

If you feel you need to work with a financial adviser, make sure you know in advance exactly what you'll pay, what specific services you'll get for your dough -- and comparison shop to make sure the fees the adviser you're considering are competitive.

Other options are hiring an adviser on an hourly basis instead of paying a percentage of assets or signing up with a "robo-adviser," an online service that uses algorithms to provide inexpensive investing advice.

Mistake #5: Failing to monitor your progress.

You don't have to (and shouldn't) constantly obsess about money matters. But neither can you just set a course and then assume all will be fine going forward. You need to periodically review your finances -- say, once a year or so -- to ensure you're making headway.

The most comprehensive gauge of whether you're making progress is to track your net worth -- that is, the difference between the value of your assets and liabilities, or what you own vs. what you owe.

Powered by SmartAsset.com

Net worth: How do I stack up?

If you're saving regularly and investing sensibly, over time your net worth should grow. If it's stagnating, it may be a sign that you're not saving enough, not investing your savings sensibly or taking on too much debt.

You can estimate your net worth using this simple net worth calculator. By doing this calculation every year and comparing the results to those of previous years, you can easily see whether your net worth is growing.

To assess other aspects of your finances -- such as whether your current saving and investing regimen has you on a path to a secure retirement -- check out these five online tools, all of which are free.

Clearly, there are also many positive steps you can take to enhance your prospects, one of the biggest being to nurture your career so that you can earn (and save) more during your working years. But good defense still counts for a lot. And if you avoid making the five mistakes above, you will dramatically improve your odds of achieving the financial success you seek.

Source:CNN.com

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09/Aug/2016

GE Appliances wants to turn your design ideas into new products

In Louisville, Kentucky, just about anyone can walk into GE Appliances' new innovation hub and pitch an idea for what could become the company's next big product.

GE Appliances, once a unit of General Electric (GE) before it was sold to Haier in January, has a 35,000-sq.-ft. microfactory called FirstBuild that serves as a public space where product ideas are crowdsourced. The best suggestions are ultimately developed by its engineers and sold.

 

Wayne Davis, the commercial leader at FirstBuild who leads its marketing and sales efforts, told CNNMoney the concept was born to kickstart innovation quickly, cheaply and efficiently in the home appliance category.

"The ideas can come from anywhere, the local community, independent inventors, home enthusiasts, students, our own FirstBuild team of employees, even other GE Appliances employees," said Davis.

And if you don't live anywhere near the facility, it's possible to become a free FirstBuild member and submit an idea online.

All ideas are ultimately funneled through the site and voted on by its members. Those that bubble to the top are then built, manufactured (first in small quantities) and sold online.

There's a nice monetary incentive thrown in for inventors, too: You earn between $500 and $2,500 for a winning concept, in addition to a royalty of up to 0.5% of sales. If a product takes off with consumers, it could potentially get added to GE Appliances' larger product portfolio.

Since the initiative launched in July 2014, FirstBuild has grown to 9,700 registered users and has had over 1,000 ideas submitted online. The microfactory itself has seen 20,000 visits by 6,000 - 8,000 people so far.

FirstBuild is similar in some ways to Quirky, a community-led invention platform that crowdsourced ideas for smart home products.

GE Appliances' former parent GE partnered with Quirky in 2013 and opened up its vault of thousands of patents to the Quirky community to help generate new consumer product ideas.

However, the startup eventually went bankrupt in 2015.

When asked about Quirky, Davis responded: "The only similarity we see between the two is the community aspect of the platforms and the voting process to determine which ideas to pursue."

Unlike Quirky, FirstBuild is a subsidiary of GE Appliances. "We fully own it," he added.

In addition, FirstBuild is focused only on innovative home appliances, while Quirky's submissions spanned many product categories.

Firstbuild manufacturing

Anyone can use FirstBuild's microfactory to design and develop an idea.

 

FirstBuild's 22 employees -- most of whom are engineers -- work on building out the ideas that come through the platform.

But it's doing so on a much smaller scale compared to the other five factories run by GE Appliances, which largely develops refrigerators, air conditioners, dishwashers, cooking products and water heaters. While GE Appliances' employs 12,000 workers worldwide and its average factory is about 800,000-sq-ft in size, FirstBuild's operation is pretty lean in comparison.

To start, manufacturing is nimble. "We can make small batches of a product in a fraction of the time and cost," Davis said.

"Mass manufacturing is about making millions of something," he added. "But on the flip side, how do you make just one to 1,000 units of a breakthrough product without significant investment?"

Related: These high schoolers are manufacturing airplane parts

The microfactory has launched more than 16 products in two years, and five have been permanently added to GE Appliances' portfolio.

One recent addition is the Prisma Cold Brew coffeemaker, which cuts coffee's cold brewing time to just 10 minutes from 12 to 24 hours. The product will hit the market in 2017.

firstbuild prisma cold brew

FirstBuild platform developed the Prisma Cold Brew cofee machine.

Another is the Opal Nugget Ice Machine. Nugget ice is the small, pellet-shaped and crunchy ice commonly used by fast food chains like Sonic.

"Nugget ice is very popular in the south," said Davis. "We researched and learned that consumers really wanted a counter-top machine in their homes that could easily make it."

Consumers can buy the product next month on FirstBuild's website.

firstbuild opal nugget

The Opal Nugget ice machine

The FirstBuild community also created an indoor pizza oven called GE Monogram Pizza Oven, which will arrive in stores this fall.

While these products may not be household names yet, FirstBuild is empowering people to speak up about products they want to see developed and ultimately buy.

"FirstBuild is already taking on disruptive ideas for home appliances and matching them to a need in the marketplace," said Davis.

Source:CNN.com

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09/Aug/2016

Walmart buying Jet.com for $3.3 billion to take on Amazon

Watch out, Amazon.

Walmart (WMT) announced Monday that it has agreed to buy Jet.com, a much-hyped e-commerce site trying to take on Amazon (AMZN, Tech30) directly, for $3 billion in cash, with another $300 million in stock kicked in for good measure.

 

The deal may help Walmart reinvigorate growth in its online shopping business, which has slowed in recent quarters. Meanwhile, Amazon's overall sales have rocketed above $100 billion annually.

"Walmart.com will grow faster, the seamless shopping experience we're pursuing will happen quicker, and we'll enable the Jet brand to be even more successful in a shorter period of time," Doug McMillon, president and CEO of Walmart, said in a statement.

Jet.com launched in July 2015 and worked to differentiate itself through bulk buying. Customers are encouraged to add various tagged items to their shopping carts, which can be shipped more cheaply in the same box from a nearby vendor. Those savings are then passed on to the customer.

The startup's CEO, Marc Lore, isn't new to building businesses that get snapped up by bigger rivals: he sold Diapers.com to Amazon in 2010 for more than $500 million.

Walmart intends to maintain the Jet brand to target younger shoppers, while making use of its proprietary technology to help bundle together shopping items bring down logistics costs.

Related: 15 Questions with Marc Lore

Lore raised hundreds of millions in venture funding in a bold push to take on Amazon directly through aggressive marketing and steep discounts.

Lore's bet was that online shopping will be such a large market that even coming in second place to Amazon would prove to be an incredible business opportunity.

He also worked to differentiate Jet from Amazon in a more subtle way: by creating a happier workplace culture where all employees received equity in the company.

Jet says it has "set out to make shopping more transparent, more efficient, and at the same time, a little more fun," according to its website.

It only serves customers in the United States.

"We want to be laser-focused," Lore told CNNMoney in 2015.

The move is the latest bit of deal-making from Walmart.

In June, the retailer said it would buy about 5% of leading Chinese e-commerce company JD.com, an investment worth about $1.5 billion. As part of the deal, Walmart is selling its own Chinese e-commerce site, Yihaodian, to JD.

Walmart's CEO telegraphed the need for a change in its ecommerce strategy after the company reported its first quarter earnings, which revealed online sales grew just 7% year-over-year.

"Growth here is too slow," CEO Doug McMillon said at the time.

Source:CNN.com

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09/Aug/2016

Earnings Growth You Can Depend On

When so much seems so wrong to so many, why would any right-thinking soul own stocks? Everyone “knows” they’re too pricey. What would pull them up? A tractor!

Out back on my firm’s Washington State campus they were weed-whacking and uncovered a 1926 Farmall, an International Harvester model that revolutionized row-crop farming. Thanks to tiny, sharp-turning front wheels that meandered through rows nimbly, the Farmall turned a simple idea into big productivity gains, one of many that funneled us from half our labor in agriculture when my grandpa was young to under 1.5% now–while output grew vastly. While 1926 feels primitive, it’s just 24 years pre-my-time. Pretty new!

Technology deployers keep boosting productivity via clever ideas. Moore’s Law, Kryder’s Law, the Shannon-Hartley Theorem, Koomey’s Law and DNA technology all whiz along. Dreamers will fashion Farmall-like twists to spur upward-driving earnings growth. I’ve no clue who develops what or when long term. But it will happen. Bank on it.

If we buy out a good firm at 14 times stable earnings we get 7.1% forever (1/14)–reinvestable into growth at deferrable cap gains rates. Or we can lend lousy firms long-term cash at 5.9% pre-income-tax. What’s better? The buyout, of course. Compounding that spread becomes immense. Buying the global market captures that spread plus all future growth that Farmall-like gains assure.

 

This is the basic, valid logic for owning stocks long term. Nothing liquid beats it. Better stocks are better still. And you’re obviously better off short-to-intermediate term in an ongoing bull market. Here are five growing stocks I like now for this bull.

Recall January’s fears of China breaking. Yet the country grows, albeit at steadily slower rates, and its enormous size means GDP 5% real growth is about $1 trillion–huge. And that means more Baidu BIDU +3.05%, China’s Google equivalent. Its stock has stunk for 18 months. It stinks about every two years–then shines and should now. I keep saying big tech runs in spurts late in long bull markets. Why now? At 12 times my 2017 earnings estimate it’s been underloved too long and should respond to Chinese acceleration. It’s a great growth firm valued like a slow-growth one.

Source: Forbes.com

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07/Aug/2016

How The Best Paid CEOs Turn Corporations Into ATM Machines

What does pay have to do with CEO performance? Very little.

Best paid CEOs don’t perform as well as the worst paid CEOs, according to a recently published MSCI MSCI +% study.

What determines CEO performance, then?

Good luck, according to a study by Texas A&M Professor Markus Fitza. Most of CEO performance has a great deal to do with chance—to factors beyond the control of the CEO–and very little to do with CEO ability.

Published in the Strategic Management Journal, Fitza’s study uses performance data from the 1,500 largest U.S. firms from 1993 to 2012 to estimate the portion of firm performance that can be attributed to CEOs.

“Differences in the performance of a firm during the tenures of different CEOs can be caused by at least two things,” explains Fitza. “There are differences in CEO abilities as well as events that are outside of the CEO’s control – chance events.”

Fitza decided to look deeper into this chance factor. “I wanted to know how big the effect of chance on CEO performance might be.” Chance can have negative or positive effects on a firm’s performance, he notes. “For example, a scandal at a major competitor can help a firm, while an accident at an important supplier can have negative consequences. Over a long enough time period such effects tend to cancel out (a phenomenon called ‘regression to the mean’), thus it is unlikely that a firm is consistently high performing just because of chance events.”

The problem is that in nowadays most CEOs stay in office for about four years—not long enough for good and bad luck to even out. This means that good and bad luck—rather than ability–may have a big impact on CEO performance.

How big? Over 70%, according to Fitza’s findings!

This means that CEOs may take credit for success, which has to do more with good luck and less with ability, and go on to collect a generous compensation, turning corporations into ATM machines.

The trouble is that, unless fed by new revenues, ATM machines are running out of cash. That’s how “best CEO”s end up running broken companies, and shareholder end up holding the bag.

Source: Forbes.com

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07/Aug/2016

Navigating Volatile Markets: What Investors Need To Know In 2016

Markets become volatile when investors harbor deep concerns about near-term trends and asset valuations. So far in 2016, concerns abound, including:

  • China’s slowdown and its implication on global growth
  • The depth and pace of the oil collapse
  • U.S. domestic concerns driven by the Fed, a slowdown in manufacturing and apprehension that the recovery cycle is nearing its end
  • Widespread geopolitical unrest, particularly in Europe
  • Hyper-connectivity across markets, amplifying the potential for swings

All of this is posing as a challenge for many investors, leading to uncertainty on how to best proceed and resulting in feelings of apprehension.

CBOEVolatilityIndex_final-updatedCautious Optimism

Despite the uncertainty, investors are cautiously optimistic, with the majority planning on staying the course. In fact 82 percent of global investors surveyed in CBRE’s Global Investors Intentions Survey said they were going to invest the same or more globally in 2016 compared to 2015. Additionally, the report found that more than $1.1 trillion of global capital will target real estate investments in 2016, which represents a significant increase over 2015 investments at $876 billion. Chris Brett, CBRE’s Head of International Investment in the UK, notes, “Despite investor concerns about the global economy, we see increasing amounts of capital moving globally in 2016 and beyond into commercial real estate.” Yet, the trepidation is causing investors to protect themselves, looking towards safe havens such as the U.S. According to research, 65 percent of investors are expecting to buy more assets in the Americas than they bought last year.

Keep Calm, Check Your Assumptions, And Carry On

Regardless of swings in global markets, those willing to maintain a thoughtful, long-term approach coupled with superior execution will be positioned for success. Peter Senst, President of CBRE Capital Markets in Canada affirms this reality, “Protect yourself from volatility. Embrace quality assets with quality rent rolls in quality locations. This is the time to make sure your balance sheet is fortified.”

Forbes.com

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07/Aug/2016

New security flaw in credit card chip system revealed

Computer researchers claim to have found yet another flaw in the upgrade to the chip-based credit cards in the United States.

The chip on these credit cards have been praised for making them nearly impossible to counterfeit. While the cards also contain a magnetic strip, that strip is supposed to tell the payment machine to use the chip.

 

But there's a relatively easy way to knock down that safeguard.

Computer security researchers at the payment technology company NCR demonstrated how credit card thieves can rewrite the magnetic stripe code to make it appear like a chipless card again. This allows them to keep counterfeiting -- just like they did before the nationwide switch to chip cards.

They presented their findings at the Black Hat computer security conference on Wednesday.

This claim of a glaring hole in EMV, the chip-based system, is possible because of the way many retailers are upgrading their payment machines: They're not encrypting the transaction.

"There's a common misperception EMV solves everything. It doesn't," Patrick Watson, one of the researchers, told CNNMoney.

On Thursday, a banking and retail industry group that monitors the EMV system cast doubt on the theory.

"If the data on the magnetic stripe is altered it might fool the terminal," said U.S. Payments Forum director Randy Vanderhoof. But on the back end, the system would "reject the transaction."

But the discovery of this possible flaw bolsters the retail industry's complaints against the upgrade, which was forced upon shops by banks.

The National Retail Federation has long complained about the upgrade, which is estimated to cost American retailers $25 billion.

This latest research shows that retailers could spend millions of dollars upgrading to EMV and still not protect their customers from a massive credit card theft like the Target and Home Depot hacks two years ago.

Adding to the problem, payment terminal makers keep producing machines that don't have the encryption by default.

And vendors who sell and install these machines at shops don't simply flip the switch and turn on encryption. Retailers have to pay extra for basic security.

The major machine makers, Verifone and Ingenico, both asserted they offer point-to-point encryption on retailer's machines -- but it's up to retailers and their partners to turn it on.

Currently, retailers focus on protecting the computer network that support their payment system. But that leaves the actual conversation between your credit card and the machine in plain text, readable to any hacker who breaks into the system.

It's a mistake, said Mike Weber, vice president at the IT auditing firm Coalfire.

"They're assuming the environment is okay," he said. It's not.

During their presentation, the NCR researchers advised shops to "encrypt everything" in a transaction. They also said consumers should pay with special apps on their phones and watches whenever the high tech option is available.

Source:CNN.com

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05/Aug/2016

Uber sells its China business to big local rival

Uber has a new strategy in China: If you can't beat them, join them.

Uber is selling its China operations to rival Didi Chuxing, a landmark deal that ends the ride-hailing company's quest to dominate one of the world's largest markets.

 

"Didi has been a fierce competitor," Uber CEO Travis Kalanick wrote in a Facebook (FB, Tech30) post. "Sustainably serving China's cities, and the riders and drivers who live in them, is only possible with profitability."

In exchange for its China business, Uber will receive a stake of almost 18% in Didi and become its largest shareholder. Didi will have a minority stake in Uber.

Cheng Wei, the founder of Didi Chuxing, will join the board of Uber. Kalanick, meanwhile, will join Didi's board. News reports put the value of the combined Chinese firm at $35 billion.

The new relationship is potentially complicated by an existing partnership between Didi and Lyft -- Uber's biggest U.S competitor.

In September 2015, Lyft struck up a strategic partnership with Didi, making it easier for foreign users to hail rides. U.S. customers visiting China can use the Lyft app and pay in U.S. dollars. Chinese travelers can do the same in the U.S. using Didi's app. In December 2015, the partnership was expanded to include GrabTaxi in Southeast Asia, and Ola in India, an effort to combine forces to compete against Uber. As part of the deal, Didi invested $100 million into Lyft.

It's unclear whether the acquisition of Uber's China operations will impact Didi's partnership with Lyft.

Lyft sent a statement to CNNMoney on Monday that suggests it could.

"We always believed Didi had a big advantage in China because of the regulatory environment," reads the statement. "The recent policy changes are exactly why we did not invest in the region. Over the next few weeks, we will evaluate our partnership with Didi."

Didi and Uber did not immediately respond to request for comment on this matter.

Uber launched in China in 2013, and its operations have since expanded to roughly 60 cities. The market was a top priority for Kalanick, who made frequent visits to China and poured billions of dollars into the country.

Related: 530,000 steel and coal workers are now driving for Didi Chuxing

But China was a tough market to crack -- especially in the face of stiff opposition from Didi. In February, Kalanick said that Uber was losing $1 billion a year in China.

Both companies burned through investment funds by subsidizing drivers and prices in an effort to capture more of the market. But new regulations announced last week essentially banned the use of subsidies, adding new pressure on the business model.

Didi Chuxing is the product of a merger between two homegrown ride-hailing companies: Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache, which joined forces in 2015 in a move to counter Uber.

The combined firm, which has been renamed Didi Chuxing, raised $7 billion in its most recent fundraising round, including $1 billion from Apple. (AAPL, Tech30) It also has the backing of Chinese tech giants like Alibaba (BABA, Tech30) and Tencent (TCEHY).

Related: Meet the people behind Didi Chuxing

This is the latest in a string of moves by foreign companies to separate their China business units. Yum! Brands, (YUM) which operates popular fast food chains KFC and Pizza Hut, plans to spin off its China unit as a separate, publicly traded company later this year.

McDonald's (MCD) is also reportedly looking to sell its Chinese operations.

Source:CNN.com

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02/Aug/2016

CVS stock up on increased earnings outlook

Drug-store giant CVS Health's second-quarter profit declined, largely due to paying down debt, but Wall Street welcomed the company's increased adjusted earnings forecast.

The company posted net income of $0.9 billion, down 27.3% compared to a year earlier. Profit would have increased without a $542 million payment to extinguish debt.

CVS posted earnings-per-share of 86 cents, below S&P Global Market Intelligence analyst estimates of $1.18, which had not taken into account the effect of the debt payments.

More importantly, the company raised its full-year adjusted earnings-per-share estimate from a previous range of $5.73 to $5.89 to a new range of $5.81 to $5.89.

CVS stock jumped 0.6% to $94.02 in pre-market trading.

"I'm very pleased with our solid second quarter results across the enterprise," CVS CEO Larry Merlo said in a statement.

The nation's largest drug store chain recorded a 17.6% increase in net revenue for the quarter, compared to the same period a year earlier, to $43.7 billion. Pharmacy network claims jumped 22.6%, fueling most of the revenue uptick.

The revenue performance fell short of S&P estimates of $44.3 billion.

CVS opened 20 new drug stores, closed 10 and relocated nine during the quarter. It had 9,652 locations, including pharmacies inside Target stores, as of June 30.

Source:USA Today.com

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02/Aug/2016

The Government Refi Program Banks In Texas Don't Want You To Know About

HARP Gives Homeowners a Once In A Lifetime Mortgage Bailout

A forgotten mortgage stimulus program that was passed by Obama to help the middle class has been uncovered. The program is called HARP, which stands for the Home Affordable Refinance Program. The program itself is totally free, and gives homeowners a once in a lifetime mortgage bailout. Like most government benefits this program will expire, but there is still time left for up to 700,000 qualified homeowners to take advantage. It's important that homeowners
don't wait though as the program will expire this year.
Calculate your new house payment and see if you qualify from our lenders »

HARP eliminates mortgage payments, reduces what homeowners owe, lowers interest rates
HARP is a program with no downside. HARP doesn't add any cost to your refi because it's a totally free government program, and it helps qualified homeowners get better, more affordable mortgages. Homeowners have used HARP to eliminate up to 15 years of mortgage payments, cut their interest rates in half, or even to just simply lower their monthly payments and save up to $3,000 a year.
How To Get A HARP Loan

To help homeowners find banks that offer HARP refinances, services such as LowerMyBills are available. LowerMyBills is a completely free service that many homeowners love because it helps them easily compare multiple lenders at once. It only takes about three minutes to use their easy online form, and their network of lenders can help you calculate your new house payment and see if you qualify for HARP

Why isn't everyone using this refi plan? Here's why...

Banks don't want homeowners to know about it because they hate what this program could do to them. HARP helps homeowners refinance at today's historically low rates and switch to 15 year fixed rate mortgages. That helps homeowners save up to $190,000, which means homeowners who use HARP could take as much as $190,000 out of banks pockets and put it back into theirs.

Source:Lowerbills.com

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02/Aug/2016

Aetna rethinks Obamacare participation

Aetna is reconsidering its participation in Obamacare, making it the latest large insurer to cast doubts on the future of the individual exchanges.

Aetna (AET) said Tuesday it is canceling plans to expand into more states next year and will reassess its involvement in the 15 states where it currently offers coverage on the individual exchanges. It expects to lose $300 million (pre-tax) on its Obamacare business this year.

 

"...in light of updated 2016 projections for our individual products and the significant structural challenges facing the public exchanges, we intend to withdraw all of our 2017 public exchange expansion plans, and are undertaking a complete evaluation of future participation in our current 15-state footprint," said CEO Mark Bertolini in a second-quarter earnings statement.

he performance of Aetna's Obamacare business is deteriorating as policyholders seek more care than expected, the company said. Pharmacy costs are a particular problem.

Aetna had 838,000 exchange customers at the end of June.

The announcement comes two weeks after the Department of Justice blocked Aetna's merger plans with Humana (HUM), as well as Anthem's purchase of Cigna (CI). Anthem (ANTX) last week linked its merger with its Obamacare participation.

"Our acquisition of Cigna will help stabilize pricing in this volatile market, enabling Anthem to continue its commitment to the public exchanges, and provide the opportunity to expand our participation to nine additional states, where neither Anthem nor Cigna currently participate," said Anthem CEO Joseph Swedish in an earnings call.

UnitedHealthcare (UNH), the nation's largest insurer, said in April it plans to exit most Obamacare exchanges in 2017.

Source:CNN.com

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02/Aug/2016

Exxon, Chevron earnings sink as oil tumbles

ExxonMobil and Chevron posted disappointing second-quarter earnings Friday as the American energy sector reels with oil prices mired in a prolonged downturn.

Chevron posted a loss of $1.47 billion for the quarter after turning a $571 million profit in the same period a year earlier, while Exxon's profit declined 59% to $1.7 billion.

Disappointed investors drove shares of Exxon down 1.4% to close at $88.95 Friday. Chevron shares edged 0.7% higher to $102.48.

It's a sharp reversal in fortunes for a sector that practically printed money in oil's heyday just a few years ago. Exxon's revenue plunged 22.2% to $57.7 billion, missing S&P Global Market Intelligence analyst estimates of $64 billion. Chevron revenue fell 24.4% to $27.8 billion, missing estimates of $29.6 billion.

The crushing slide in revenues for Exxon and Chevron illustrates the significance of oil's slide, despite second-quarter gains that snuffed out fears of prices below $30 per barrel that reigned in the first quarter.

“While our financial results reflect a volatile industry environment, ExxonMobil remains focused on business fundamentals, cost discipline and advancing selective new investments across the value chain to extend our competitive advantage,” Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson said in an email.

Similarly, Exxon's earnings-per-share of 41 cents missed S&P Global Market Intelligence estimates of 64 cents. Exxon cut spending on capital investment and energy exploration by 38% for the quarter to $5.2 billion. The company lost its AAA credit rating in the second quarter, illustrating the severity of oil's slide.

Chevron lost 78 cents per share, compared with earnings of 30 cents per share in the same quarter of 2015. The company said it had recorded one-time impairment costs, primarily in its upstream oil business, and other non-cash charges of $2.8 billion.

“The second-quarter results reflected lower oil prices and our ongoing adjustment to a lower oil price world,” Chevron CEO John Watson said in a statement.

Taken together, the underwhelming figures point to further trouble as oil prices have charted a downward path following the United Kingdom's vote to exit the European Union.

Oil prices fell six consecutive days heading into Friday. West Texas Intermediate oil, the U.S. benchmark, traded in the $41 range Friday, just a few weeks after topping $50 per barrel in what looked like a steady recovery.

Investors are reacting to three key factors:

 

  • Rising production in the U.S., where many exploration-and-production companies had cut output amid falling prices earlier this year. U.S. oil inventories rose by 1.7 million barrels in the week ended July 22, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration's Wednesday report.
  • Signs of an uptick in Libya and Nigeria, where geopolitical disruptions have throttled production.
  • Increased production in Canada following the devastating fire that slashed oil-sands output earlier this year.

"The trend in oil prices so far this year has closely resembled their pattern last year, with prices rising in the first half of the year before retreating in the summer," Capital Economics commodities economist Thomas Pugh said Friday in a research note.

Source:USA Today.com

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30/Jul/2016

Yahoo-Verizon deal said to be near

Yahoo's days as an independent company may be nearing an end.

Verizon has agreed to pay about $4.8 billion for Yahoo (YHOO, Tech30), according to multiple published reports. Two people familiar with the matter confirmed to CNNMoney on Sunday that a deal had been struck.

 

The news is expected to be announced on Monday. It would end a sale process that dragged on for months and drew interest from parties as diverse as Warren Buffett and The Daily Mail.

Verizon (VZ, Tech30) has long been viewed as the frontrunner. Reports by Bloomberg, CNBC and Recode said Verizon had emerged as the top bidder. On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal said the deal had been completed at $4.8 billion.

The sale is said to include Yahoo's Internet properties and real estate holdings.

Yahoo declined to comment on the sale; Verizon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Verizon, AT&T (T, Tech30), and an investing group backed by Buffett and Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert were all said to be serious bidders.

A sale would put an end to Yahoo's 21-year history as an independent company. It would also potentially end the tenure of CEO Marissa Mayer after four years of trying and failing to stage a turnaround.

Related: Is it a mistake for Verizon to buy Yahoo?

Tim Armstrong, the CEO of Verizon-owned AOL, is widely expected to take over Yahoo if it becomes part of Verizon.

Mayer, like Armstrong, previously worked at Google (GOOG) before taking over the top spot at Yahoo in 2012. She invested heavily in improving Yahoo's mobile products, expanding its audience through the acquisition of Tumblr and doubling down on premium media content. But Mayer struggled to slow Yahoo's overall ad sales decline.

On a conference call with shareholders last week after reporting earnings, Mayer made what may have been her final case to investors and the public that she worked to "create a better Yahoo."

"We set forth a plan to return this iconic company to growth over multiple years, one that would create long-term sustainable growth for Yahoo and deliver value to our users, advertisers, employees and shareholders," Mayer said. "As we work to conclude the strategic alternatives process, this groundwork will serve as a solid foundation for Yahoo!'s next chapter."

For Verizon, the deal is about more than just nostalgia. The telecom company has invested in digital content and advertising in recent years, buying AOL and The Huffington Post.

Yahoo, synonymous with the Internet itself in the late '90s, remains a popular destination that attracts more than one billion monthly active users on desktop and mobile.

Soon Yahoo and AOL may be owned by the same company, proving that the dream of the '90s Internet is alive in Verizon.

Source: Cnn.com

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25/Jul/2016

The Home Refinance Plan Banks Don't Want You Knowing

When homeowners visit The Easy Loan Site1 official website, they may be surprised to find out they qualify for a plan that offers them shockingly low interest rates.

Still unknown to many, this brilliant government program called the Home Affordable Refinance Plan (HARP)2 could benefit millions of Americans and reduce their monthly payments by as much as $3,500 each year.3

Homeowners have even used HARP to eliminate up to 15 years of mortgage! You could bet the banks aren’t too thrilled about losing all that profit and might secretly hope homeowners don’t find out before time runs out.

So while the banks happily wait for this program to end, the government is making a final push and urging homeowners to take advantage. The program is set to expire in 2016, but the good news though is that once you’re in, you’re in. if lowering your payments, paying off your mortgage faster, and having an extra $200 each month from the HARP savings would help you, it’s vital you act now.

URGENT: Close to a million homeowners could still benefit today, but sadly, many perceive HARP to be too good to be true. Remember, HARP is a free government program and there’s absolutely NO COST to see if you qualify at The Easy Loan Site. See If You Qualify >>

Putting Money Back Into The Middle Class

Did you know if your mortgage is less than $625,000, your chances of qualifying for HARP could be high. The Government wants the banks to cut your rates, which puts more money in your pocket, ultimately boosting the economy.

But the banks are not happy about this. Here’s why:

  1. The program makes it easier to qualify for lower mortgage rates
  2. You have the option to shop lenders other than your current mortgage holder

You think banks like the above? Rest assured, they do not. They'd rather make more money by keeping you at the higher rate you financed at years ago. The middle class seems to miss out on everything, and jumping on this benefit is a no-brainer.

  • The average monthly savings is $250. Could you use an extra $250/month?4
  • On top of the savings, many homeowners could pay off their mortgage faster.
  • Homeowners can even use the savings for home improvements, pay off debt, or pay for their children's education.

Where Do I Start?

With hundreds of mortgage lenders and brokers available, it can take consumers hours to simply contact each one separately and request a quote. The good news is that there are services that could help you save time and money by comparing multiple lenders at once. One such service is The Easy Loan Site,1 which has one of the biggest lender networks in the nation and what’s better is that they work with HARP lenders to provide consumers with a comprehensive set of mortgage options.

There’s no obligation to homeowners, and The Easy Loan Site1 offers easy and fast comparisons. It takes about five minutes, and the service is 100% free.5 You have nothing to lose, except for your money problems!

Source:One Smart Penny. com

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23/Jul/2016

This 14-year-old turned down a $30M buyout offer

Taylor Rosenthal is ready for the big leagues. The 14-year-old is exhibiting his startup idea -- a vending machine that dispenses first aid products -- at TechCrunch Disrupt this week in Brooklyn.

The first-time entrepreneur doesn't sound nervous. He's actually looking forward to the trip from his hometown of Opelika, Alabama.

 

Still, it's a big deal.

"They told me that I was the youngest person to ever get accepted to the event," said Rosenthal. "It felt awesome."

Rosenthal's startup RecMed, which he launched in 2015, has already been generating buzz. He's raised $100,000 in angel investments and has already rejected a $30 million offer to buy his idea.

Related: This plastic toilet could save lives

RecMed started as an eighth-grade project when Rosenthal was one of 19 students in a Young Entrepreneurs Academy class.

"We had to come up with a business idea," he said. The straight-A student, who's a first baseman and pitcher for his high school baseball team, had one immediately.

"Every time I'd travel for a baseball tournament in Alabama, I'd notice that kids would get hurt and parents couldn't find a band-aid," he said. "I wanted to solve that."

is initial thought was to set up a pop-up shop at the tournaments to sell first-aid kits. He tried it and quickly realized it wasn't the best model.

"We noticed that it would cost too much to pay people minimum wage to sit at tournaments for six hours," he said. Then the vending machine idea struck.

Rosenthal sketched a design and consulted with his parents, both of whom work in the medical industry.

By December, he had a working prototype and had acquired a patent.

taylor rosenthal recmed still

First-aid products stocked in RecMed vendign machines.

Rosenthal incorporated black, red and white -- his high school colors -- into his design.

Users pick from two options: prepackaged first-aid kits for dealing with issues like sun burns, cuts, blisters and bee stings (they run from $5.99 to $15.95). You can also buy individual supplies like band-aids, rubber gloves, hydrocortisone wipes and gauze pads, which cost $6 to $20.

Rosenthal hopes to start deploying the machines this fall. He said they make sense at "high-traffic areas for kids" like amusement parks, beaches and stadiums.

He already has an order from Six Flags for 100 machines.

RecMed will make money by selling the machines, which cost $5,500 apiece, and through restocking fees for the supplies. Rosenthal said he's also open to putting advertising on the machines.

larinda Jones was Rosenthal's teacher in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy class. She's proud of his entrepreneurial chops.

"It has been amazing watching Taylor grow over the past year into this confident and amazing business man," she said. "Even with all of his success, he remains humble and ready to help others. He's just 14. Bill Gates should be worried."

taylor rosenthal clarinda

Taylor with his teacher Clarinda Jones.

Kyle Sandler, founder of Round House, a startup incubator in Opelika, agreed.

Rosenthal is the youngest CEO at Round House, where he has an office and access to mentors in exchange for a 20% stake and a $50,000 investment.

"Taylor spends every minute outside of school working on RecMed," said Sandler. "Last Christmas we had to kick him out on Christmas Eve. It's how focused he is."

Rosenthal said he wants to pursue a future in business, and college will help him.

"I'd like to go to Notre Dame because they have a great business school -- and I'm a fan of their football," he said

Source:CNN.com

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23/Jul/2016

The clean energy megaprojects powering Africa

(CNN)From an Africa-shaped mega solar plant powering Kigali, Rwanda, to a massive geothermal plant harvesting the power of Kenya's hot springs, renewable energy plants are popping up around the continent.

Sub-Saharan Africa is desperately short of power and roughly 620 million Africans live without a reliable source of electricity.
Africa's population is expected to double by 2050 and the demand for clean energy has never been greater, says Caroline Kende-Robb, executive director, Africa Progress Panel.
She believes the continent could soon become a renewables superpower, and that it can leapfrog carbon-centered energy systems and go straight to renewables.
"Because what we see is that Africa has got the advantage of coming in now without the heavy old systems that a lot of other countries and regions have," says Kende-Robb.
"It can proceed with speed and it can use the newest types of technology."

Energy expertise

And soon, other parts of the world will look to Africa for expertise when it comes to renewables and energy, adds Kende-Robb.
"It's just mind blowing," she says. "So many innovations happening all over the place. It's a completely new way of designing cities."
It is also a question of public health. Many Africans rely on cooking with wood and charcoal, making indoor pollution a big issue -- 600,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa die every year from indoor pollution.
Most investment goes to large-scale plants, and to hydropower in particular, but small solar power initiatives are also gaining ground -- an estimated 5 per cent of households in sub-Saharan Africa now use some form of solar lighting, compared with 1 per cent in 2009.

Huge demand for affordable energy

Renewables could help supply cheaper energy to regions where people have to set aside a large chunk of their income to pay for power.
"The demand is there, people will find the money and they will pay for it," says Kende-Robb.
The poorest people who live off grid are already paying much higher prices for their power than the world's rich -- with some paying 60-80 times more per energy unit than people in London or New York.
While innovation in renewables is being seen in other developing countries too -- India being one example -- recent investment in renewables in Africa is extraordinary, Kende-Robb explains. "What is amazing about Africa is that they have these incredible case examples, some of the biggest in the world."
In the gallery above, we take a look at some of the super plants already powering millions of households and businesses across the continent with renewable energy.
Source:CNN.com
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21/Jul/2016

Halliburton signals U.S. oil drilling revival

The long-awaited rebound in U.S. drilling may be near.

At least that's what a key bellwether of the oil industry thinks. Halliburton (HAL) CEO Dave Lesar declared on Wednesday he believes the North American market "has turned" and his oil services giant is preparing for the "upcycle."

 

Halliburton thinks the 78% plunge in oil rigs from late 2014 levels finally "reached a landing point" in the second quarter. Recently, the closely-watched Baker Hughes rig count has crept higher, rising six of the past seven weeks. Halliburton expects that trend to continue, forecasting a "modest uptick" during the second half of the year.

Why the shift? Lesar points to the return to $50 oil, which he called an "emotional milestone" for oil executives.

"You can't underestimate the positive change in attitude that we are seeing in our North American customers," the Halliburton CEO said during a conference call with analysts.

That psychological shift is encouraging for companies like Halliburton that make money by providing the tools and knowhow required to extract oil from the ground. The oil services industry, dominated by Halliburton, Baker Hughes (BHI)and Schlumberger (SLB), has been rocked by the crash in oil prices that sent drilling activity to 70-year lows.

At Halliburton alone, the oil downturn has wiped out 32,000 jobs since 2014. Halliburton told CNNMoney it cut roughly 5,000 jobs during the second quarter, on top of the 5,000 layoffs the company announced in February.

Halliburton described a "challenging quarter" and "continued pricing pressure around the globe." The company's sales slid by 9% during the second quarter, hurt by trouble around the world. Halliburton said its Latin America revenue dipped by 4% due to 20-year lows in rig activity in Brazil and Mexico as well as "significant political and economic turmoil" in Venezuela.

Halliburton suffered a second-quarter loss of $3.2 billion, but the red ink wasn't triggered by the oil downturn. The company paid out a massive $3.5 billion termination fee as a result of its failed effort to acquire Baker Hughes. That big merger was killed by an antitrust lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Still, Halliburton claims it is "best-positioned" to capitalize on the anticipated recovery. The company pointed to its growth in market share during the downturn.

Halliburton isn't the only one predicting a rebound for the U.S. oil boom. Goldman Sachs recently forecasted U.S. output will continue declining this year (it's down seven straight months), but then resume growing in 2017 and beyond.

"Reacceleration of U.S. oil production may be gradual initially, but the world will still need U.S. shale longer-term," Goldman analysts wrote in a report.

Source:CNN.com

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21/Jul/2016

WhatsApp blocked -- and unblocked -- in Brazil, again

WhatsApp has been blocked -- and quickly unblocked -- in Brazil by a judge for the third time in less than a year.

A court ordered mobile carriers in the country to block the Facebook-owned messaging app, which is used by 100 million people in Brazil -- and perhaps many more as the Olympics kick off in Rio next month.

 

The ban was suspended hours later by Brazil's Supreme Court, which called to "immediately restore" service.

The legal back and forth is just the latest in a heated standoff between WhatsApp and local authorities who believe it should provide user data to help criminal investigations. WhatsApp has previously said it can't provide the data that courts wants because user messages are encrypted.

Jan Koum, the CEO and cofounder of WhatsApp, called the latest court order "shocking."

"We're working to get WhatsApp back online in Brazil," Koum wrote in a post on his Facebook page. "It's shocking that less than two months after Brazilian people and lawmakers loudly rejected blocks of services like WhatsApp, history is repeating itself."

Related: Facebook and WhatsApp might be the next Apple in encryption fight

In May, a judge ordered a 72-hour ban on the service for failing to hand over data in a police investigation and arrested a Facebook VP. The ban was overturned by a judge less than a day later and the executive was released.

WhatsApp was also banned for 48 hours in December.

The court dispute highlights the growing tension between tech companies and local governments over data and encryption -- with no end in sight. Both WhatsApp and Facebook (FB, Tech30) have doubled down on providing end-to-end encryption for messaging.

As news of the ban spread on Tuesday, many WhatsApp users took to Twitter to complain about losing access to the app they rely on to communicate with friends and family.

"You have to be kidding me that WhatsApp is blocked again," one tweeted, according to a translation.

Source:CNN.com

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21/Jul/2016

Netflix lands global 'Star Trek' TV rights before earnings

In advance of announcing its second-quarter financial performance, Netflix has landed a huge TV property to help propel its global enterprise: Star Trek.

The Net video service on Monday announced an international streaming deal with CBS to run the new Star Trek series, expected to launch in January 2017, and the entire Star Trek TV catalog including the classic 1966-1969 series in 188 countries, excluding the U.S. and Canada.

In the U.S., CBS will debut the first episode in the new Star Trek series with all subsequent episodes playing on CBS All Access, the network's own subscription streaming service ($5.99). In Canada, the first episode will premiere CTV with the remaining episodes on Bell Media’s cable networks, Space (in English) and Z (in French), and then later exclusively on CraveTV, Bell Media’s streaming video-on-demand service.

By the end of 2016, Netflix will make available globally the complete catalog of the original Star Trek series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise.

News of the deal comes as Netflix is set to report second quarter earnings after Monday's market closes. As usual, Wall Street is laser-focused on how many new subscribers the Net TV company has added in the U.S. and globally during the April-June period and its forecast for the current quarter.

Back in April, Netflix shares dropped 10% in aftermarket trading following the company's issuance of a lower-than expected subscriber forecast for the second quarter.

Since then, Netflix (NFLX) shares -- up 1.3% to $99.67 midday Monday -- have risen nearly 6%. However, shares are down 13% for the year.

Here's what to watch for in Netflix's earnings report:

EARNINGS FORECAST: Netflix had forecast earnings of 2 cents, compared to 6 cents the same period a year ago, with net income of $9 million, compared to $26 million in the same period a year ago. That is in line with expectations from analysts polled by S&P Global Market Intelligence, which also expect 2 cents on earnings of $9.7 million -- a bit higher than Netflix’s forecast of $9 million.

REVENUE FORECAST: Analysts expect Netflix total revenue of $2.2 billion, a 31% increase over the same period a year ago. The company’s total streaming revenue forecast targets a 33% increase to $1.96 billion.

SUBSCRIBER GROWTH: Netflix has tempered expectations with its lowest growth forecast in a year of 2.5 million new subscribers expected in the second quarter. That breaks down to 500,000 U.S. and 2 million new international subscribers. Wall Street analysts have differing opinions with many expecting higher numbers of U.S. subscribers than the company forecasted.

Guggenheim Securities Equity Research analyst Michael Morris thinks that Netflix offers domestic and international upsides. Here in the U.S., Netflix will continue to capture viewership from traditional broadcast and cable networks, he says, in part because the streaming service is a better value.

Netflix's global launch, Morris says, is coinciding with slowing economic growth internationally. "My hope is the company has set some reasonable expectations for the near-term trajectory," he said, "but over time they are going to be able to make very good decision in each of those countries and be a compelling proposition globally."

Source:USA Today

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19/Jul/2016

This job pays $263,500 for a few days' work

If you get an invitation to join a corporate board, you'd better accept it. The pay already was good and keeps getting better.

The median total direct compensation for outside directors hit $263,500 last year, an increase of 3% from the prior year, according to an analysis of pay packages from the 500 largest companies by revenue released Tuesday by Willis Towers Watson, a global professional services firm.

Not bad for a job that only requires an average of about eight meetings a year.

Much of that pay comes from stock awards, a median of $150,000 to be exact. But in a new development, directors scored a median of $108,000 last year just in total cash payments. That's the first time the cash payment to directors has exceeded $100,000, and this piece of pay alone was up 6%. That $108,000 cash payment includes a median of $100,000 for a retainer, $2,000 for board meeting fees and other cash for being part of various committees. A fifth of companies increased their annual cash retainers last year.

The increases in pay could be the result of more companies looking to get away from paying per-meeting fees to directors and paying "more for value of contributions," says Robert Mustich, Willis Towers Watson's managing director of executive compensation for the East Coast.

Many companies are making changes to their boards to boost retention of stock and to encourage directors to own stock. More than 90% of the companies studied require board members to own or retain company shares. To control "excessive" director compensation, more companies are putting annual limits on awards. Willis Towers Watson didn't release pay statistics on individual companies.

But investors don't have to look far to find some cases where board members were paid well above the median of large companies. All nine directors at Salesforce.com (CRM), a company that provides technology to companies, were paid a total of $580,000 or more in fiscal 2016. Sanford Robertson, founder of technology investment bank Robertson, Stephens, has been a Salesforce board member since October. 2003. Last year, he was paid a total of $634,493 for his role on the company's board.

Despite the large pay packages, companies are still having trouble finding candidates, Mustich says. "Given the growing demands and pressures being placed on directors, attracting and retaining qualified candidates to serve remains a challenge for many companies," he says.

Source:USA TODAY

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19/Jul/2016

How one 26-year-old turned $500 into $2 million online

CNN)What started with a compliment turned one young woman's idea into a million dollar business.

When Kelechi Anyadiegwu started her online African clothing store Zuvaa with $500 two years ago, her idea was to share African-inspired designs with consumers around the world. Zuvaa is estimated to make $2 million in sales in 2016.
After receiving a compliment on her outfit, the tech savvy 24-year-old bought a domain name and started social media accounts.
"I didn't really know what I was getting into, I just had a vision and I was excited about where that would take me," New York-based Anyadiegwu told CNN in an interview.
"As a women of Nigerian descent, I grew up with African prints and fabrics. I loved wearing African inspired designs, and whenever I did wear these pieces, people wanted to know how they could also shop African inspired prints."
Instead of just referring these curious customers on to the designers she knew, Anyadiegwu saw a business opportunity.
"I decided to use my skills in social media marketing and online community building, to create a platform that would provide more exposure for the talented African-inspired fashion designers I knew existed around the world," she said.
Her success has already landed her on the Forbes 30 under 30 list.

Passion x expertise = a winning formula

While the path of a tech entrepreneur is not an easy one, Anyadiegwu's education set her up for success.
After studying User Experience Design in the U.S., she combined her passion for representing Africa on the world stage, her keen eye for design and tech expertise.
"I've always been a techie. I'm very interested in how technology and design could be used to change lives.
"Zuvaa brought together everything I was ever interested in. My love for Africa, my interest in fashion and my skills in technology."
 

The life of a young entrepreneur

Anyadiegwu has been very vocal about the fact that she did not want a traditional 9 to 5 job.
And she's not alone, according to research by Bentley University, 77% of millennials say flexible work hours make them more productive.
"My days are a lot longer than 9-5!" says Anyadiegwu. "From when I wake up to when I go to sleep, I'm working on Zuvaa. If I'm not directly working on Zuvaa, I'm definitely thinking about it."
Anyadiegwu predicts Zuvaa is on track to make $2 million in gross sales this year, she said having a clear vision is key.
"My biggest piece of advice is to trust your vision. Your vision for your life and company are really going to be what makes you stand out.
"No one is going to be able to see this vision, that's what makes it so special, that what will set you apart from others, that's what will make get every morning exciting to work and build your company."
he name 'Zuvaa' comes from 'Zuva' which means sun or sunshine in the language of the Shona people from Zimbabwe. Anyadiegwu's vision for the company is clear;
"We are building a movement of artisans, consumers and people around the world who want to know the stories behind their garments. Where they come from and who made them."
"People are excited that their traditional prints are going global and it's driven by people from their communities. Many are fascinated with the market that exists outside of Africa and how the global interest is trickling down to their local communities," added the young entrepreneur.
CNN.com
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11/Jul/2016

14 Most Dangerous Cities in the World

here is an innate sense of adventure within all of us and it is that instinct that sends us to the internet in order to find a cheap flight somewhere beautiful, far away from home. We live for our vacations and special hotel reservations and we typically can’t wait to see the world. The majority of the planet is beautiful and there is nothing quite as magical as experiencing a foreign culture that appeals to you in an emotional and physical way. However, not all places should be visited by tourists for a variety of different reasons. As it turns out, there are many places in the world that appeal to tourists who don’t realize just how dangerous they are to visit. We decided to pick 14 different cities that should be known for how dangerous they are. Listed below are the 12 most dangerous cities to travel to in the world.

Barquisimeto – Venezuela

We are in South America now to look at the city of Barquisimeto which is located in Venezeulas. As far as cities to travel to in South America you might want to skip the cheap ticket and hotel reservation when it comes to this destination. Barquisimeto was founded in 1552 and for a long time the city grew in such a way that tourism was actually increasing. With over one million citizens and tons of architecture it makes sense for this to become a hot spot for visitors. As the fourth largest city in Venezuela, in terms of population, we were surprised to see that it actually has been in a tail spin in regards to the tourism industry. Daily murders and a high rate of other violent crimes have dimmed what could have been an inspiring tourist destination.

Rio de Janeiro – Brazil

Rio de Janeiro is a thriving city located in Brazil and the city was recently put on full display for the Olympic Games and the World Cup. Still, this is not a city you want to make a point of visiting — not unless you like living life with the threat of danger surrounding you. Rio de Janeiro struggles mightily with crime of all kinds with most of the focus being on drug related activities. The threat of being mugged, attacked, and murdered has actually been escalating since the big media events have taken place. Right now estimates are at 35 murders per 100,000 people which is a number high enough that you would never feel at ease while taking a trip here. Make a hard pass on this destination and opt for somewhere safer, and cleaner.

Sana’a – Yemen

Yemen is located in Western Asia and is located on the the south end of the Arabian Peninsula. Bordered by Saudi Arabia and Oman out to the East, the country has been struggling with political instability for far back as history will take you. The fact that Yemen is considered a developing country isn’t lost on us as the violence located in many of the biggest cities has been off the charts in recent years. Sana’a is a beautiful, old city that is filled with gorgeous architecture and vibrant culture. However there is an inherent danger in visiting the city, especially for tourists. If you do make it to Sana’a then you owe it to yourself to go to the Old City portion of the town to see the beautiful architecture.

Ciudad Juarez – Mexico

Known by locals as Juaritos, Ciudad Jaurez is one of the most violent and corrupt cities in all of Mexico. Located south of El Paso, Texas and right off of the Rio Grande the city of Juaritos houses over 1.3 million people within its borders. Established in the 1650s by Spanish explorers, Ciudad Juarez has grown into one of the largest cities in Mexico. Due to intense drug trafficking and a corrupt government there has been no clear way for Mexico to reclaim one of their largest cities. Ciudad Juarez has, at several points in time, been ranked among the top two or three most violent cities on the planet.

St. Louis – United States

We have to make mention of one of the most divisive cities in the United States of America so we decided to list St. Louis. St. Louis and its surrounding areas were heavily in the news for the Ferguson riots but even before that the city had been heavily suffering from violence and disparate poverty. Despite successful sports franchises and a nice midwestern seat, St. Louis is an easy enough destination to avoid traveling to.

Guatemala City – Guatemala

The nation of Guatemala may have plenty of tourist friendly destinations but Guatemala City is definitely not one of those places. This Central American city is plagued by murder and various drug related crimes. Car jackings, bus jackings, and street robberies are considered the norm here and tourists would be better served opting to go visit a different place in the region.

Acapulco – Mexico

If your first inclination to reading Acapulco on this list was a hearty ‘huh’ then you probably aren’t the only one. Acapulco used to be a trendy tourist spot for those seeking to steal some time in the sun and on the beautiful beaches. The deep blue water, tasty margaritas, and affordable food would be enough to bring anyone in for a weekend getaway. However, Acapulco has been getting more and more dangerous by the year with the violence peaking in requiring the Mexican military to show up and handle things. Tourism is on the downslide here.

Nairobi – Kenya

Much like many of the South American countries on this list, Africa also suffers from violent cities beset in a beautiful location. Nairobi makes our list as a sprawling city that has suffered almost permanently from war and violence. Al Shabaab has left their mark on the city and these violent militants make this an unattractive destination for just about anyone to come visit. Locals are told not to go out after dark and tourists should listen to that suggestion doubly so.

Maceio – Brazil

For such a beautiful continent, South America is really racking up a ton of space on this list. Maceio, located in Brazil, is the next city that all tourists should consider avoiding. Maceio averages 135 murders per 100,000 residents and you’re going to need more than a gorgeous ocean view to make me consider taking a trip there. Maceio is competitive with Rio de Janeiro for the most violent city in the country.

San Salvador – El Salvador

If visiting Honduras isn’t scary enough then you can consider taking a trip to the tiny country of El Salvador. San Salvador isn’t known for much beyond their production of one of the most fierce gangs on Earth: MS 13. MS 13, along with the drug trade and explosive poverty, have led to San Salvador completely going off of the rails. There are safe places to visit in El Salvador, but this definitely isn’t one of them. Avoid the allure of the beautiful climate and opt for somewhere else.

Cape Town – South Africa

While South African can be a beautiful place due to the diverse eco system, wonderful surfing, and brilliant beach towns there is more than enough trouble there than it is worth. Cape Town is one of the more popular tourist destinations in all of South Africa but recent violent numbers show that this might not stay that way. People blame the South African government for not doing anything to stop the burgeoning gang problems and questions of corrupt city officials have only exacerbated these claims. If you are going to South Africa and want to make your way to Cape Town then you should stick to the tourist areas.

San Pedro Sula – Honduras

Honduras is located in the a beautiful spit of land in Central America and it is bordered by Guatemala and Nicaragua while cushioned in by the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Honduras is a beautiful coastal country that is covered in a dense and vibrant array of natural formations, replete with diverse ecosystems. Yet, despite all of this beauty there is an innate sense of danger within the developing urban areas. San Pedro Sula in particular should be avoided by travelers at all cost. With a population of just over 1 million people, San Pedro Sula ranks in as one of the most dangerous cities on Earth. In fact it has been called the ‘Murder Capital of the World’ at many points in time. The reason for all of the violence can be laid at the feet of the various street gangs and drug traffickers that are fighting for turf control. In fact, things are so bad here that the city has been cited as one of the major reasons for Alien Minors trying to sneak into the United States.

Medellin – Colombia

Medellin used to be the most violent city on the face of the planet thanks in large part to the illicit work of Pablo Escobar — the former leader of the Medellin Cartel. Since the death of Escobar crime has been gradually falling though it is still not a city that tourists or visitors should take lightly. Right now the murder per capita rate is sitting at 20 deaths per 100,000 people and this is the lowest the rate has been in decades. Though the city is trending in the right direction there is still a ton of work to do.

Durban – South Africa

Though you probably have never heard of it, Durban is the largest city in all of KwaZulu-Natul and the second largest city in all of South Africa, behind only Johannesburg. With such a large population and violence encircling the city it only seemed to be inevitable that the city would come under fire as well. Right now the primary cause of crime in the city is the drug trade which flows through Sub-Saharan Africa and the trade has been growing dramatically over the past two decades. The murder rate in 2015 was sitting at 35 murders per 100,000 people.

Source: CNN

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11/Jul/2016

Now hiring: Women with these degrees

icture a software engineer or video game developer. What do you see?

Chances are it's not a woman.

 

One reason is that women are still very much in the minority in computer sciences and engineering.

Even though there are many efforts underway to encourage girls from a young age to pursue STEM fields, the pipeline of women coming out of college with degrees in engineering and computer science is still very small relative to men.

That's also why talented women entering the workforce with degrees in those fields are not likely to have much trouble finding a job.

For many, "It's 'Which job will I take?'" said Karen Panetta, a tenured professor of engineering and associate dean of graduate education at Tufts University.

For starters, anyone with a computer science degree is in high demand, regardless of gender. And not just at high-tech firms either, but in many sectors that realize their future is in digital technology and computing, said Jeannette Wing, vice president of Microsoft Research who previously ran Carnegie Mellon's computer science department.

Companies are also clamoring for engineers. A firm called Shift, an online site that buys and sells used cars, will pay a $20,000 referral fee to anyone who recommends a good engineer who ends up being hired, said cofounder and COO Minnie Ingersoll.

The business case for hiring women

On top of the high demand, there is a pressure on employers to increase gender diversity in their workforce.

"All the top companies are absolutely committed to increasing diversity and inclusion. But we have a ways to go," Wing said.

Some, of course, may just be spurred by optics. "Companies know they need women because [otherwise] they will be shamed by the press and outspoken advocates," said Ingersoll, who previously led efforts to create Google Fiber.

The smart ones, however, also realize it can be a huge asset to their bottom line.

Take gaming. Women make up only 22% of game developers yet represent 50% of people who play video games, said Elizabeth Brown, the chief people officer of Unity Technologies, which provides products and services for game developers.

So it makes good business sense to want to hire more women developers because the people who create the games should represent an industry's customer base, Brown said.

Brown advises recruiters for Unity to provide hiring managers with an equal number of qualified male and female applicants. From there, the managers then must hire based on someone's skills, experience and cultural fit, since the goal is always to hire the best talent.

Beware the culture and pay gaps

Once hired, female engineering and computer science grads are likely to find themselves very much in the minority.

Hope Bovenzi, a system applications engineer at Texas Instruments, says she's the only female on her team of 20.

To be heard in that environment, Bovenzi said, she has to be more vocal -- and at times more "pushy" as she put it -- than she is by nature.

A long-term engineering career can be very lucrative, but a predominantly male culture has meant that companies have had a hard time retaining women long-term, said Panetta, who also works with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

It can be particularly problematic when they're working for male managers from other countries, where women are not seen as equals, she added.

"Some corporations now realize they can hire mountains of women fresh out of college but lose them three to five years out because of work culture," Panetta said.

And there's still a pay gap problem.

Panetta noted that some female engineering grads find out that a company may have offered them $5,000 to $7,000 less in starting salary than their fellow male students. But she advises them to go back and ask for more.

Or in cases where a company lowballs them relative to competitors' offers, women engineering grads who ask for more are likely to get it.

"Companies are ready to negotiate," Panetta said.

But women have to ask for what they want and know what their skills are worth.

"Be bold," Bovenzi advised.

Source: CNN.com

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11/Jul/2016

Retirement Planning

Will You Have Enough Savings at Retirement?

Retirement is probably the most expensive thing you’ll ever pay for. Because of that, it may be difficult to put the amount you may need to save into perspective.

How Much Would You Be Able to Withdraw Each Year?

For simplicity, let’s assume:

  • You’re ready to retire today and plan to have your retirement savings last 25 years.
  • You’ve moved your savings into more conservative investments that you believe are appropriate for retirement. The investments will provide a constant 6% annual return.
  • You’ll withdraw the same amount at the end of each year.

    If you saved this amount… …here’s how much you could withdraw annually for 25 years
    $100,000 $7,823
    $200,000 $14,645
    $300,000 $23,468
    $400,000 $31,291
    $500,000 $39,113
    $600,000 $46,936
    $700,000 $54,759
    $800,000 $62,581
    $900,000 $70,404
    $1,000,000 $78,227

    These hypothetical examples are for illustrative purposes only and do not portray actual investment results.

Keep in mind that these examples don’t include factors such as inflation and volatility that can have a big impact on your purchasing power and account value. For example, if inflation were 4% a year, a withdrawal of $31,291 25 years from now would only be worth $11,738 in today’s dollars. Investment losses would decrease your account’s growth potential in subsequent years. To account for these factors, you might need to save even more.

Many experts estimate that you’ll need 80% or more of your final annual salary each year in retirement. Social Security may only provide around 40% of what you need. And don’t forget that retirees typically have different types of expenses compared to people still in the workforce, such as increased health care and travel costs. Use our retirement planning calculator to estimate how much you’ll need.

Source:CNN.com

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06/Jul/2016

This Silicon Valley bigshot investor has a shocking idea for startups: profits matter

In the most recent tech boom, the conventional Silicon Valley wisdom has been to ignore profits when starting a venture-backed company.

All that matters is growth — if you have product-market fit, you'll get users. Initially, investors are looking for a usage curve that goes steeply up and to the right. Eventually, you'll figure out how to earn revenue from those users, either by charging them or through a third-party who wants access to those users (like an advertiser or another company who will pay referral), so the revenue curve will follow the user curve.

And at some point after that, you'll reach a magic point where your costs are spread across enough users that you'll start to turn a profit.

This has led to all kinds of weird accounting. Privately held startups almost never talk about real, GAAP profitability. They talk about positive unit economics. (That's nice — they're not losing money on each sale!) They talk about being cash-flow positive. (That's better — they're taking in more money from operations than they're spending!) They talk about being profitable if you ignore that pesky stock-based compensation. (Which means they really might be on to something!)

This is how companies like Twitter, Box, and Square are able to go public at valuations worth billions without ever having turned an annual profit in their history. All of those companies are over five years old. Twitter is ten years old.

But one Silicon Valley VC, Chamath Palihapitiya, thinks this conventional wisdom is all wrong. 

Palihapitiya was an early Facebook executive, and he saw how that company was able to become profitable in "six years," and was able to go public a couple years later.

As he told Business Insider's Biz Carson in an interview:

"I feel like a lot of entrepreneurs hear all this talk about profitability and realize they need to lower their burn. So, they just start chopping off perks and people. If you’re trying to get to profitability by lowering costs as a startup then you are in a very precarious and difficult position.

"You need to grow through profitability. Startups should be, if you graph their financial performance, it should be what’s called a J curve. You start out at zero, you’re not making any money, you’re not losing any money.

"As you start the company, you start spending spending spending ahead of revenue. But then you come out of it and very quickly you should become a company that spends less than it makes. And what I mean by very quickly, is that window of time should be in that 6 to 8 year time frame, 5 to 8 years. And the reason is because if you build your business model correctly it’s almost unavoidable."

To get there, startups should dispense with the other momentum metrics and report profitability:

"Why should I not report on GAAP? Like the young entrepreneur right now that is starting a company, she should be telling herself “alright you know what f--- all the nonsense, I’m reporting GAAP from day one.” Immediately clarifying. You can’t hide the cheese. And then you have to set a goal, I’m going to spend less than I make.

"I swear to God if you say that people will scratch their heads. Now, you don’t have to do that day one, but you have to have a goal of getting there, right?"

Source:CNN.com

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06/Jul/2016

This hoodie is so insanely popular you have to wait months to get it

The insane popularity of a single sweatshirt has forced its maker to expand into four new factories within the last year just to meet the soaring demand.

The zip-up hoodie, made by San Francisco startup American Giant, costs $89. It had been on the market for 10 months when a December 2012 Slate article declared it "the greatest hoodie ever made" and suddenly sales exploded.

The pace of growth was so rapid that back-order waits grew to as long as four months. But people continued placing orders regardless of the wait. 

At the time, American Giant had only one factory in Brisbane, California. The company has since expanded into a factory in Los Angeles and three more in rural North Carolina, just outside Raleigh. 

"We've been chasing demand the entire year," American Giant CEO Bayard Winthrop said in an interview with Business Insider. "In September, we were finally back in stock — and then the rate of buying went up by four times."

With its expansion into new factories, the company has begun selling T-shirts, sweatpants, and a women's line. In the meantime, demand for the sweatshirts hasn't slowed. The hoodie is currently sold out of most sizes and colors.

“We are absolutely throttled down on manufacturing,” Winthrop said. “We are maxing out all of our capacity at all of our factories. As much as they can give us, we are taking.”

So what's so great about this hoodie, anyway?

For starters, it appears to weigh more than two pounds. The fabric, which is 100% cotton, feels about three times thicker than most sweatshirts. And ribbed paneling along the shoulders and sides help create a tailored look, eliminating the boxy silhouette of most hoodies. Bayard said he spent about eight months designing it with the help of former Apple engineer Philipe Manoux and world-renowned pattern designer Steve Mootoo.

Customers appear to love the quality and fit, calling it “shockingly well made” and “absolutely fantastic” in dozens of reviews on American Giant’s website.

“This sweatshirt is seriously worth the wait, and awesome for the price, too. I'm considering ordering more to stock up for the rest of my life, but I'm not sure this one is ever going to wear out,” one reviewer wrote.

Another said: “The hype around this hoodie seems absurd. But once you try it on, the quality really does take you by surprise. It's unlike any hoodie — or any other piece of clothing — I've ever owned. A must-have.”

An equal — if not even bigger — draw to American Giant’s apparel over the fit and quality is that it’s all made in the US.

The company advertises that it’s “bringing back American manufacturing” and pledges to never outsource jobs overseas. It can afford the higher labor costs in the US because it is a direct-to-consumer business and therefore avoids expensive overhead associated with brick-and-mortar stores.

To keep costs down, Winthrop said he doesn’t plan to open any pop-up shops, like many e-retailers have done. He also hasn’t made any investments in major marketing campaigns. He said the sweatshirts have all been selling by word-of-mouth. The company offers $15 for referrals to help that process.

“One of the great unspoken, dirty secrets about the apparel industry is that brands for the last 40 years have been investing a tiny amount in the product to sustain huge marketing and huge distribution costs,” Winthrop said. “In American Giant’s case, we do almost the exact opposite of that.”

Looking ahead, Winthrop said he plans on sticking to the basics: T-shirts, jackets, hoodies, and sweatpants.

“When we think about next year, just being in stock — not expanding the product mix — but just being in stock will be a huge lever up for us,” he said.

Source:CNN.com

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06/Jul/2016

Google's search for non-white male employees shows few results

Google has mapped the world, indexed millions of books and launched giant balloons that beam Internet to remote regions.

But hiring more employees who aren't white men? Apparently that's tough.

 

Google acknowledged on Thursday that it failed to make any progress increasing the percentage of black, Hispanic and multiracial employees in its workplace in 2015 despite a very public commitment and millions of dollars in resources to improve its diversity.

Just 2% of Google's overall workforce was black and 3% was Hispanic as of the end of 2015, unchanged from the year before when Google first released its internal numbers. The vast majority of Google employees (59%) are white, down a slim 1% from 2014. Another 32% of employees are classified as Asian.

The only silver lining in the report: the percentage of women in leadership roles at Google hit 24% in 2015, up from 22% a year earlier.

"We saw encouraging signs of progress in 2015, but we're still far from where we need to be," said Nancy Lee, VP of people operations at Google.

Apple (AAPL, Tech30), Facebook (FB, Tech30), Microsoft (MSFT, Tech30) and many other technology companies have committed to releasing annual transparency reports amid criticisms that the workforces of these increasingly influential businesses remain dominated by white men. Like Google, however, these companies have made limited progress.

Last year, Google (GOOGL, Tech30) pledged to spend $150 million on diversity programs internally and for the tech industry more broadly. The company offers unconscious bias training workshops, reviews its promotion processes and recruiting from historically black colleges and universities.

This week, Google launched a space in its New York office for Black Girls Code, a non-profit organization, and appointed its first black board member in a nod to improving diversity.

Part of the problem is simply Google's sprawling size. The company has more than 60,000 employees worldwide, according to its most recent earnings report. It would take hundreds of new diverse hires just to make a dent.

In an article this week about decades of failed corporate diversity programs, Harvard Business Review framed Google's efforts as a grand experiment.

"Leading companies like Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Facebook, and Google have placed big bets on accountability in the past couple of years," the publication wrote. "They're now posting complete diversity numbers for all to see. We should know in a few years if that moves the needle for them."

Source: CNN

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02/Jul/2016

Jay Z: From drug dealer to wheeler dealer

The world changed for Jay Z on June 25, 1996.

That's the day his debut album "Reasonable Doubt" was released, dropping the needle on the start of what has been one of the most epic careers in the music industry.

But he didn't stop there.

In the past 20 years the man who was born Shawn Corey Carter and who grew up in Brooklyn's Marcy Projects at a time when they were plagued by crime and drugs has gone from slinging drugs to taking over corporations. In May, Forbes estimated his net worth at $610 million, placing him at number three behind Sean"Diddy" Combs ($750 million) and Andre "Dr. Dre" Young ($710 million) on the list of Hip Hop's Wealthiest Artists 2016. And now there are reports that Apple is in talks to buy his streaming service Tidal.

He's a hustler, baby, we just want you to know.

Here are just some of the many hats the man who once famously rapped "I'm not a businessman, I'm a business... man" has worn, all the while building on what he learned in the hood.

Drug dealer

The Jigga man has been very open about his past as an illegal pharmaceutical entrepreneur, both rapping about it and discussing it in interviews.

"I know about budgets. I was a drug dealer," he told Vanity Fair in 2013. "To be in a drug deal, you need to know what you can spend, what you need to re-up. Or if you want to start some sort of barbershop or car wash—those were the businesses back then. Things you can get in easily to get out of [that] life."

It helped prepare him for the cutthroat music industry, he has said. Though if you think it's tough out here on the charts, it's nothing compared to what Jay saw on the streets.

"At some point, you have to have an exit strategy, because your window is very small," he said about drug dealing. "You're going to get locked up or you're going to die."

Rapper

Start a debate about the best rap artists in history and three names will always appear on the list: Tupac Shakur, the Notorious B.I.G. and Jay Z. (Sorry, Nas.)

Jay has sold millions upon millions of records and was one of the pioneers who helped to define urban music in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

He's won multiple awards including 21 Grammys and a Sports Emmy for outstanding music composition/direction/lyrics in recognition of his Super Bowl XLIV opener of his song "Run This Town" featuring singer Rihanna.

In 2013 he broke a Spotify record whern his "Magna Carta Holy Grail" album was streamed 14 million times.

This from a man who once famously "retired" from rap.

Music executive

Every successful dealer knows the key is controlling your product.

In 1996 Jay Z formed Roc-A-Fella Records with friends Damon "Dame" Dash and Kareem "Biggs" Burke specifically to market the rapper's music.

Over the years their artist roster grew to include such names as Kanye West, Memphis Bleek and Beanie Sigel.

Jay Z and his partners sold Roc-A-Fella to Island Def Jam and he was appointed to a new role as president and CEO of Def Jam Recordings in 2004.

In 2008 the rapper founded an entertainment company, Roc Nation, which includes a record label that is home to artists like Drake, and Rihanna.

A strong crew is everything in the game.

Partner

Before there was ever any talk of a potential deal between Apple and Tidal, Jay was all about streaming music.

In 2013 he strategically partnered with Samsung to make his "Magna Carta Holy Grail" album available first via download on specific Samsung phones over the July 4th weekend.

It was consistent with other high profile partnerships he's made throughout his career: His Roc Nation label came about in part thanks to a $150 million profit sharing deal with entertainment giant Live Nation.

In 2015 Roc Nation announced it would be teaming with Philymack, the management firm that oversees pop stars Nick Jonas and Demi Lovato.

"We sat down and dreamt about what the future could hold if we partnered," the rapper said at the time. "Our views aligned on nurturing, growth and allowing creatives to stay true to their voice. That dream we are living today and it's been amazing for all parties. We look forward to what tomorrow brings."

Investor

Who could ever forget that the rapper once owned a small part of the New Jersey Nets, and helped make them the Brooklyn Nets?

He is credited with -- or blamed for -- the creation of last year's "Jay Z rule" which said teams can only have 25 or fewer individual owners with each owning at least a one percent stake. According to Grantland, Jay Z only owned 0.15 percent of the team before he sold his stake to Jason Kidd and an unidentified investor in 2013.

That same year Jay Z formed Roc Nation Sports, which manages professional athletes.

He's also been savvy enough to get pieces of various businesses over the years including the 40/40 Club sports-bar chain. And he's an investor in several other restaurants, starting with New York hotspot The Spotted Pig.

Trendsetter

"I made the Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can" he rapped in his 2009 hit "Empire State of Mind" -- and he's not wrong.

His early understanding that the street style of hip hop was one fans wanted to emulate led him and Dash to establish the urban apparel line Rocawear early on. He cashed in on it when he reportedly sold the rights to Iconix Brand Group in 2007 for $204 million.

Author

What is success if you don't have anyone to share it with?

Jay Z blessed us all with his lessons learned and reflections in his 2010 memoir "Decoded."

Of course, since it's Jay, the biography debuted in the top five of the New York Times bestseller list.

Source:CNN

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02/Jul/2016

The Secret to Resolving Credit Card Debt

he Secret

Here’s what credit card companies don’t want you to know. Through programs offered by companies like Freedom Debt Relief1, consumers who owe more than $10,000 in debt and are experiencing a financial hardship could resolve their debts in as little as 24-48 months* while also reducing the debt they owe.

The Debt Trap

We all know just how easy it is to accumulate credit card debt. Life circumstances intervene, often leaving people no option but credit card debt to stay solvent. Unfortunately, the easy availability of this debt also has a cost. Interest rates of as much as 30%, coupled with economic and life hardships, make it difficult for consumers to pay off their credit cards.

Credit card debt is causing suffering among thousands of ordinary Americans. As of September 2014, the average U.S. indebted household owes $15,191 in credit card debt.2

The Solution

Companies such as Freedom Debt Relief offer a way out. Freedom Debt Relief helps customers reduce the total debt they owe. To date, Freedom Debt Relief has resolved over $3 billion dollars in consumer debt and helped thousands of ordinary Americans regain control of their debt. To find out if you qualify, you simply have to answer a few questions about your debt and financial circumstances.

Get Help Today

Don’t wait to end your struggles with debt. Every minute you spend in credit card debt costs you more money.

Source: CNN.com

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22/Jun/2016

Shark Tank Star Urges Homeowners: "Take Advantage of the Cheap Money!"

Star of the hit TV show Shark Tank, real estate expert Barbara Corcoran shares 3 crucial rules on how homeowners could save thousands of dollars and pay off their mortgage faster -- just by taking advantage of today’s “ridiculously low interest rate.”1

1. "Not shopping the market...is like giving money away"

Did you know 70% of homeowners get all their mortgage information from their current lender? Big mistake. If you don’t shop around, you won’t know if you’re getting the best rate — and you won’t know if you qualify for a brilliant government program called the Home Affordable Refinance Plan (HARP).2

Even though 3.38 million mortgages have been refinanced through HARP, hundreds of thousands of homeowners are still eligible for this free government program, which could help you save as much as $3,500 in the first year alone.3

URGENT: HARP is set to expire this year, and sadly, many still perceive this program to be too good to be true. Remember, there is NO cost to see if you qualify for this amazing government program.
See if you qualify >>

 

2. “If you don’t take advantage of the market now, when will you?”

Even though The Fed raised rates in late 2015, rates are just as low if not lower than they were one year ago.4 What does this mean for people like you? According to Corcoran, it means that now is the time for homeowners to “take advantage of today's cheap money.”

3. “The sooner is always the better”

These rates are still at near historic lows for now, but no one knows when the rates will rise - or by how much. So while it’s estimated that millions of homeowners can still save by refinancing, they should act fast. HARP is due to expire this year, so you can’t afford to wait. If you want to get the “ridiculous low interest rate” that Corcoran talks about, you have to act now.

How to Get Started

To cut through the clutter, Barbara Corcoran suggests that a great place to start is online, at The Easy Loan Site.5

Its network of lenders is one of the largest in the nation, and includes many HARP lenders. Plus, it enables you to save time and money by letting you compare multiple lenders at once. It’s a risk-free way to find out how much you could save, and the service is 100% free.*

Source: CNN.com

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22/Jun/2016

Lifestyle: 5 things every woman should absolutely deny a man

There are things that no woman should do to please a man. These are the things that compromise her character and kill her personality. If a man asks you to do any of these five things, avoid him at all costs – whether he’s an acquaintance, friend or even a stranger.

Accept everything he says

He has the right to his opinion and you have the right to yours. You don’t have to accept everything someone else says in order to be a friend. In fact, a man and woman connect the most when they share their different ideas and beliefs. If he doesn’t care about what you have to say, he doesn’t care about you. And if he argues with all of your opinions, he is a control freak. You should be equal partners. You both have a place in the relationship, and that space must be respected. Obviously in a good relationship you both make sacrifices, but this doesn’t mean he has the right to control you.

Send compromising photos

“Nude” seems to be normal in relationships nowadays. Many girls send compromising photos for men they don’t know and have never seen in person, and there is also a high risk that someone unwanted will see them as well. Respect yourself and your privacy; never send these types of photos! In the future, you’ll regret it.

Change your appearance It’s natural to want to feel beautiful and desired. You can accentuate your natural beauty with make-up and look extra stunning by dressing up and doing your hair, but it’s a problem when a woman’s confidence only comes from pleasing her man. If he is more focused on how you curl your hair, how many calories you eat, how you do your makeup or the clothes you wear, don’t waste your time with him. He only likes you for how you look. Find someone who appreciates you for who you are.

Give up your dreams

Every woman has hopes and dreams for the future. Don’t give up or forget your dreams just because you met someone and started a relationship. Your relationship and dreams can come together. You can achieve anything you want – even in a relationship.

Avoid family and friends

Your family and friends are part of your life and any man in your life needs to know this. If a man forces you to push your family and friends aside, he doesn’t respect you. If he really liked you, he would never cause you the pain of choosing between him and others. If he likes you, he will try to be nice to those you love the most.

Source: GhanaWeb.com

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04/Jun/2016

Cocoa purchases to increase by 50,000 metric tonnes this year

Accra, June 02, GNA- Cocoa purchases by the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) for the 2016/2017 crop season is to increase by 50,000 metric tonnes over the 850,000 metric tonnes purchased last year.

This increase, which brings the expected total purchases for this year to 900,000 metric tonnes, would be made possible with the approval by Parliament, on Wednesday, of a GHC2 billion loan facility to be sourced from a consortium of financial institutions.

The institutions include Deutsche Bank, Natixis of France, Nedbank Limited of South Africa, Standard Chartered Bank, Societe General, The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishe UFJ Limited, with the DZ Bank AG of Germany as Co-Arranger.

The facility would also enable COCOBOD to make payments to some stakeholders.

COCOBOD is expecting to purchase the cocoa beans at an average price of 3,100 dollars per metric tonne. The loan would be used to collateralise about 645,162 metric tonnes of cocoa.

It is also expecting an estimated revenue of 2.79billion dollars, out of which about 72% represents the two billion-dollar facility.

Part of the funding would be invested to boost cocoa roads that lead to cocoa-growing areas and to shore up other activities relating to the transportation of the raw material from the farms to various destinations.

A Deputy Finance Minister, Mr Cassiel Ato Forson, in a debate in the House, approved the facility, commended cocoa farmers in Ghana for adopting better agricultural practices that had led to increased cocoa yields, which would enable the COCOBOD to purchase more beans this season.

He expressed confidence that the COCOBOD had the capacity to repay the loans owing to the availability of the beans during the season.

He explained that Agency was confident in achieving its target in the 216/2017 crop season.

The COCOBOD last year borrowed USD1.8 billion for the 2015/2016 crop season to purchase an estimated 850,000 metric tonnes of cocoa.

Source: GhanaWeb.com

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04/Jun/2016

Ghana Alternative Market to benefit SMEs

Accra, June 2, GNA – The Ghana Alternative Market (GAX) would provide credible and efficient market for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and a parallel market that offer opportunities to investors for investment.

Ms Magdalene Apenteng, Director of the Public Investment Division of the Ministry of Finance said listing an SME on the GAX increases visibility, provides liquidity for shareholders, facilitates innovation and growth and also comes with tax benefits.

The GAX is the alternative stock market administered by the Ghana Stock Exchange (GSE) targeting small businesses “with potential for growth”.

She said in complementing government’s efforts, the Ministry of Finance is playing its traditional coordination role to support the GSE and to ensure that more SMEs get listed on the GAX, which serves as the alternative avenue for SMEs to raise the much needed long term capital for expansion.

Mrs Apenteng made the remarks at the launch of the Capital SME, an initiative by the British High Commission aimed at growing SMEs and boosting capital market activity in Ghana.

The primary objective of the project is to encourage more SMEs to list on the GAX.

Further stages of the project include increased engagement with government ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs) and financial institutions to support capital market development; and hosting informative conferences and related networking events.

Capital SME’s current target is to support a minimum of five SMEs in listing on the GAX within one year of implementation.

Mrs Apenteng noted that SMEs would continue to remain the backbone of the economy due to the important role of stimulating domestic demand through job creation, innovation and competition.

“There is no doubt that SMEs have the potential to mobilise domestic resources and boost international trade and demand,” she said.

“Prioritising SME development is therefore critical for promoting inclusive economic growth globally,” she added.

Mrs Apenteng said it is unfortunate that SME’s are still vastly challenged by numerous factors and so they are not able to play the desired role with a lot of untapped potentials.

“The main challenge of lack of access to sustainable finance remains a key constraint that has to be addressed to enable the SMEs deal head-on with issues of financing innovative business projects that are to enhance job creation and help expand the economy’s output,” she stated.

“For these reasons, we welcome Capital SME to partner the many initiatives currently being implemented in providing SMEs with access to critical business infrastructure,” she added.

Mrs Apenteng said some of the important market deficiencies and imperfections that Capital SME seeks to address are to provide a platform for information sharing, creating a networking avenue to take advantage of business opportunities, bringing more clarity to the operations of GAX and sharing experiences of other listed SMEs on the GAX.

She affirmed government’s commitment in supporting the rapid growth of the SMEs sector to position it to play the desired role in Ghana’s pursuit for efficient, vibrant and liquid capital market.

Mr Jon Benjamin, the British High Commissioner, said an economic growth that brings job creation is the best way of helping developing countries to eradicate poverty.

He said what Ghana and other developing countries need is to create jobs.

He said due to population growth, creating jobs for today and tomorrow’s youth is extremely important.

Dr Adu Anane Antwi, the Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission said the 2013 Banking Survey Report estimated that about 90 per cent of companies registered in Ghana were SMEs and that the sector contributed about 49 per cent of Ghana’s gross domestic product in 2012.

Source: Ghana Web news.com

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04/Jun/2016

African leaders urged to fight for economic independence

Accra, May 29, GNA - Nii Okwei Kinka Dowuona VI, the Paramount Chief of Osu Traditional Area, has called on African leaders to come together and ignite a passion for economic independence of the continent.

He said to be able to achieve this, there was the need to bring on board the traditional leaders, politicians and the clergy to fashion out policies that would be in the ultimate interest of the people.
Nii Kinka Dowuona, also the President of the Osu Traditional Council, made the call in an interview with the Ghana News Agency as part of the Council’s activities to round-off the African Union (AU) Day celebrations.
He said the eagerness with which the forefathers of Africa fought for independence should be reflected in the way “our current leaders are fighting for economic emancipation of the continent”.
He said during the fight for independence the leaders spoke with one voice and worked tirelessly for its achievement which also culminated in the creation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1963 now AU born in 2002.
“Both organisations have the same objectives which include harmonization of the political, diplomatic, economic, educational, cultural, health, and the welfare of   members to achieve a better life for the people,” he said.
“What do we see today, everybody has become individualistic which is crippling our economies and I wonder how the continent would look like in the next 10 years,” Nii Kinka Dowuona said.
He said African leaders had enacted policies that were in favour of foreign countries turning the continent into a dumping ground for European and Asian goods to the detriment of African products.
“We have lost touch of everything and we are following the wind. We cannot even produce or appreciate our own needs,” he said.
Using Ghana as the stand-point, he said the first president, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, visualised that by gaining independence “we will be bosses and managers of our resources.
“The first president built industries and made Ghanaians proud of producing locally manufactured goods, but now almost all the factories have collapsed because of our displaced priorities,” the Osu Mantse said.
He said the country had all the natural resources at its disposal yet the citizenry fought over finished products from outside which put monies into the coffers of  foreign nations.
Nii Kinka Dowuona said it was time the fire that burnt during the fight for  independence was re-ignited for the economic independence of Africa.

Source: Ghana News .com

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04/Jun/2016

Peter Thiel, Tech Billionaire, Reveals Secret War With Gawker

A billionaire Silicon Valley entrepreneur was outed as being gay by a media organization. His friends suffered at the hands of the same gossip site. Nearly a decade later, the entrepreneur secretly financed a lawsuit to try to put the media company out of business.

That is the back story to a legal case that had already grabbed headlines: The wrestler Hulk Hogan sued Gawker Media for invasion of privacy after it published a sex tape, and a Florida jury recently awarded the wrestler, whose real name is Terry Gene Bollea, $140 million.

What the jury — and the public — did not know was that Mr. Bollea had a secret benefactor paying about $10 million for the lawsuit: Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and one of the earliest investors in Facebook.

A 2007 article published by Gawker’s Valleywag blog was headlined, “Peter Thiel is totally gay, people.” That and a series of articles about his friends and others that he said “ruined people’s lives for no reason” drove Mr. Thiel to mount a clandestine war against Gawker. He funded a team of lawyers to find and help “victims” of the company’s coverage mount cases against Gawker.

“It’s less about revenge and more about specific deterrence,” he said on Wednesday in his first interview since his identity was revealed. “I saw Gawker pioneer a unique and incredibly damaging way of getting attention by bullying people even when there was no connection with the public interest.”

Mr. Thiel said that Gawker published articles that were “very painful and paralyzing for people who were targeted.” He said, “I thought it was worth fighting back.”

Mr. Thiel added: “I can defend myself. Most of the people they attack are not people in my category. They usually attack less prominent, far less wealthy people that simply can’t defend themselves.” He said that “even someone like Terry Bollea who is a millionaire and famous and a successful person didn’t quite have the resources to do this alone.”

Mr. Thiel said that he had decided several years ago to set his plan in motion. “I didn’t really want to do anything,” he said. “I thought it would do more harm to me than good. One of my friends convinced me that if I didn’t do something, nobody would.”

Mr. Thiel has donated money to the Committee to Protect Journalists and has often talked about protecting freedom of speech. He said he did not believe his actions were contradictory. “I refuse to believe that journalism means massive privacy violations,” he said. “I think much more highly of journalists than that. It’s precisely because I respect journalists that I do not believe they are endangered by fighting back against Gawker.”

He continued, “It’s not like it is some sort of speaking truth to power or something going on here. The way I’ve thought about this is that Gawker has been a singularly terrible bully. In a way, if I didn’t think Gawker was unique, I wouldn’t have done any of this. If the entire media was more or less like this, this would be like trying to boil the ocean.” Mr. Thiel said he had not targeted any other media companies.

But the revelation this week that Mr. Thiel was covertly backing Mr. Bollea’s case as well as others has raised a series of new questions about the First Amendment as well as about the role of big money in the court system — specifically the emerging field of litigation finance, in which third parties like hedge funds and investment firms pay for other people’s lawsuits.

Roy D. Simon, a professor emeritus of legal ethics at Hofstra University School of Law, suggested that the practice has helped “level the playing field” by providing resources for people to mount cases against big institutions that would be impossible otherwise.

But he said there was a risk when a lawsuit was funded by a single person with a potential agenda. “I am troubled by Thiel,” Professor Simon said. “I guess that one guy is much more likely to have an agenda driven by revenge or personal dislike or wanting to prove a point.”

But other legal experts said that the mere fact of Mr. Thiel’s involvement did not change the case. And while there is no legal requirement that underwriters like Mr. Thiel reveal their involvement to the opposing side or the jury, it is considered fair game for lawyers to ask questions about financial backing — something that Gawker Media did on Wednesday in court as part of its efforts to overturn the Hogan judgment.

“If you really do have concerns about the merits of this case, finding out who bankrolled it doesn’t really help you at all,” said Mary Anne Franks, a professor at the University of Miami School of Law. Absent any indication that there is something unlawful about how the funding took place, she said, “you would still need to show that there’s something substantively wrong with the ruling.”

In a statement, Nick Denton, the founder of Gawker Media, who was also personally named in the Hogan suit, said: “Just because Peter Thiel is a Silicon Valley billionaire, his opinion does not trump our millions of readers who know us for routinely driving big news stories including Hillary Clinton’s secret email account, Bill Cosby’s history with women, the mayor of Toronto as a crack smoker, Tom Cruise’s role within Scientology, the N.F.L. cover-up of domestic abuse by players and just this month the hidden power of Facebook to determine the news you see.”

Mr. Thiel is known as a brilliant entrepreneur. Born in West Germany and raised in California, he became a chess prodigy, an academic star and a promising lawyer before settling down in the Bay Area to found companies.

He achieved demigod status among Silicon Valley business leaders, thanks largely to his role at PayPal, where he became the de facto don of the early employee group known as the PayPal mafia. That group went on to become power players at such Silicon Valley institutions as Tesla, YouTube, LinkedIn and Yelp.

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Recent Comments

Wilson C

34 minutes ago

It's fascinating to read so many comments from people who judge Thiel's actions negatively because he supports Trump. It ought to go without...

Shel

34 minutes ago

Shed not one tear for Peter Theil.He is an aggressive libertarian, and yet another Silicon Valley charlatan who conveniently ignore that...

tomp

34 minutes ago

There seems to be a lot of mis-understanding of that "Libertarians" don't believe in rule of law. QUITE the contrary. Libertarians believe...

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Mr. Thiel is also known for his lucrative investment in Facebook, where he is a board member, and his three venture firms, Founders Fund, Mithril and Valar. (His defunct hedge fund, Clarium Capital, has been long forgotten.) He also co-founded the secretive data-crunching start-up Palantir and bankrolled Breakout Labs, which only funds what Mr. Thiel calls “hard tech” start-ups that tackle things like new energy, transportation and biotech companies. “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters,” is the Founders Fund tag line.

But unlike most Silicon Valley billionaires, Mr. Thiel openly supports a wide array of eccentric philanthropic and social efforts aimed at radically altering life as we know it. His Thiel fellowship gives high school and college-age students money to drop out of school and start companies. He has donated to organizations that seek to extend the human life span, such as the Methuselah Foundation. And he co-founded the Seasteading Institute, which aims to create cities that float at sea, beyond the reach of governments and their laws.

A libertarian, Mr. Thiel is a pledged delegate for Donald J. Trump for the 2016 Republican National Convention.

He said that he hired a legal team several years ago to look for cases that he could help financially support. “Without going into all the details, we would get in touch with the plaintiffs who otherwise would have accepted a pittance for a settlement, and they were obviously quite happy to have this sort of support,” he said. “In a way very similar to how a plaintiff’s lawyer on contingency would do it.” Mr. Thiel declined to disclose what other cases he had supported but there are at least two current cases against Gawker.

Without revealing an exact figure, he said that estimates of $10 million in expenses so far were “roughly in the ballpark.” He added: “I would underscore that I don’t expect to make any money from this. This is not a business venture.”

He would not say whether he had compensated any of the people, including Mr. Bollea, which could raise questions in an appeal. He insisted “there was no gray area” in what he had done.

Mr. Thiel was not the only boldface name in Silicon Valley who was outed as gay by Gawker Media — Timothy D. Cook, the chief executive of Apple, is another example.

Owen Thomas, the former editor of Valleywag who wrote the article about Mr. Thiel, offered his side of the story in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “As I’ve said before, I did not ‘out’ Peter Thiel,” said Mr. Thomas, now business editor at The San Francisco Chronicle. “I did discuss his sexuality, but it was known to a wide circle who felt that it was not fit for discussion beyond that circle. I thought that attitude was retrograde and homophobic, and that informed my reporting. I believe that he was out and not in the closet.”

Mr. Thiel said he considered his financial backing of the cases against Gawker to be “one of my greater philanthropic things that I’ve done. I think of it in those terms.”

He refused to divulge exactly what other cases he has funded but said, “It’s safe to say this is not the only one.”

Speculation that a secret benefactor was backing Mr. Bollea’s case was whispered during the trial but largely dismissed as a conspiracy theory. It gained currency in large part as a result of an unusual decision Mr. Bollea’s legal team made: It purposely excluded a claim that would have allowed Gawker’s insurance company to help pay for its defense as well as damages. The move struck observers as odd because most plaintiffs seeking damages usually hope to settle the case by leveraging the deep pockets of an insurer.

Mr. Thiel said, “I figured it would eventually come out,” adding that he was happy his role might spur a conversation about it being “extremely hard for the most common victims to get justice.”

He added: “It’s not for me to decide what happens to Gawker. If America rallies around Gawker and decides we want more people to be outed and more sex tapes to be posted without consent, then they will find a way to save Gawker, and I can’t stop it.”

Source: NY Times

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26/May/2016

Swiss Open Criminal Proceedings Against BSI Over Malaysia Fund Allegations

GENEVA — The authorities in Switzerland said on Tuesday that they had begun criminal proceedings against one of the country’s oldest banks, BSI, after allegations that it had laundered huge sums for “politically exposed” individuals linked to a scandal-plagued Malaysian state investment fund.

The Swiss attorney general’s office said in a statement that it suspected “deficiencies in the internal organization of the BSI S.A. bank” and believed “that due to these deficiencies, the bank was unable to prevent the commission of offenses currently under investigation in the criminal proceedings relating to” the investment fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

The prosecution arose from an investigation that Switzerland started last year into suspected misappropriation of billions of dollars from the Malaysian fund, also known as 1MDB, and that it has pursued in cooperation with the authorities in Luxembourg, Singapore and the United States.

The investigation has strained relations with Malaysia and embarrassed its prime minister, Najib Razak, who is fighting a scandal that has roiled Malaysian politics involving allegations that $681 million was paid into his bank accounts.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore announced separately on Tuesday that it was withdrawing the license of BSI’s Singapore branch “for serious breaches of anti-money laundering requirements, poor management oversight of the bank’s operations, and gross misconduct by some of the bank’s staff.”

The authority said it had considerable evidence of “gross dereliction” of duty by BSI management and had sent prosecutors the names of six senior managers to investigate whether they had committed criminal offenses.

The Swiss attorney general’s office said that it had started proceedings against BSI, the oldest bank in the Swiss canton of Ticino, as a result of its own investigations into transactions linked to 1MDB and on the basis of an investigation by the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority.

In a separate statement on Tuesday, the financial market authority said that “through business relationships and transactions linked to the corruption scandals surrounding the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB,” BSI had “committed serious breaches of money laundering regulations.”

The authority said that it had ordered BSI to hand over to the Swiss government profits amounting to 95 million Swiss francs, or about $96 million, and had started legal proceedings against two of the bank’s former top managers.

On Tuesday, it also approved the takeover of BSI by a Zurich-based private bank, EFG International, under an agreement reached in February between EFG and BSI’s Brazilian owner, BTG Pactual. The authority said it had approved the deal on the conditions that BSI be completely integrated into EFG and dissolved within 12 months and that none of BSI’s top management associated with its misconduct take leadership positions in EFG.

EFG said in a statement that it believed Tuesday’s developments would “draw a line” ending regulatory uncertainty in Switzerland and Singapore for clients, employees, investors and other stakeholders.

The financial market authority said it had investigated 20 other Swiss banks and had started legal proceedings against six of them over transactions linked to either 1MDB or the Brazilian state oil company Petrobras, which has also been a subject of investigation by the Swiss authorities. BSI’s misconduct in its dealings with 1MDB “was particularly serious,” it said.

The Swiss attorney general’s office said in January that it suspected $4 billion earmarked for development projects in Malaysia had been misappropriated from 1MDB, citing cases involving companies in Malaysia and Saudi Arabia, and a United Arab Emirates sovereign wealth fund, “each involving a systematic course of action carried out by means of complex financial structures.”

In its business with 1MDB, the Swiss financial market authority said, BSI handled transactions for several foreign sovereign wealth funds amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars without adequately clarifying the money’s origins and helped to set up intermediate structures for handling the funds intended to increase the confidentiality of the transactions.

The sovereign wealth funds had constituted BSI’s most profitable group of clients, the financial market authority said, and generated fees that were above market rates. BSI’s senior management “did not question why the sovereign wealth funds should use a private bank to provide institutional services and pay excessive out-of-market fees for doing so,” the authority said.

It said the Swiss bank had also failed to apply adequate risk management procedures to business relationships “with politically exposed persons, the origin of whose assets was not sufficiently clarified and whose dubious transactions involving hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars were not satisfactorily scrutinized.”

BSI had “happily accepted” the explanation that one deposit of $20 million was a “gift,” the market authority said, and in another instance it allowed $98 million to be paid into an account with no attempt to identify the commercial basis for the transaction.

“In many cases, there were clear indications of pass-through transactions,” the authority said, citing a case in which a payment of $20 million was shifted through several accounts on the same day before being transferred to another bank. Such transactions were often a clear indication of money laundering, but the bank failed to carry out any checks, the authority said.

The authority’s statement added that, despite its warnings to BSI about the risks in its dealings with clients linked to 1MDB, the bank’s board of directors and executive board had determined to continue these client relationships.

Source: NY Times

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26/May/2016

Salesforce to Use Amazon’s Cloud to Expand in Canada and Australia

Amazon Web Services, the biggest of the cloud-computing providers, has a new line of work: Taking other cloud-computing giants into other countries.

On Wednesday, Salesforce.com announced it would use A.W.S. to expand in Canada and Australia, in a deal valued at about $400 million. If successful, the value of the transaction will most likely get much bigger.

“For sure, we’re talking of billions of dollars in services over the next several years,” said Marc Benioff, the co-founder and chief executive of Salesforce.

Salesforce already uses A.W.S. for some of its businesses, but this is the first time its key applications will be on someone else’s computers.

Mr. Benioff said Salesforce had evaluated similar deals with Microsoft and Google, the other two giants in selling cloud-computing to corporations. So far, A.W.S. is still ahead on its range of offerings and low prices, he said. Salesforce will review the contract in one year, he added.

Cloud computing uses a massive density of computer servers and sophisticated software to rent data storage, computing and applications to companies. Besides those capabilities, the deal with A.W.S. enables Salesforce to get into new markets faster, since Salesforce doesn’t have to find facilities and recruit talent.

Amazon has also established itself in countries like China that have strict requirements about what data can be sent offshore. Meeting those regulations is difficult and time-consuming, and companies like Salesforce put a premium on getting into markets quickly.

While the deal could be a sign of larger trends in corporate computing, as businesses evaluate whether to keep their own computers or work with the big public clouds, for now it also has limits.

That spending will probably be limited to new countries where Salesforce expands, Mr. Benioff said. That may change, he added, as the three giants bring down prices and increase the services they offer.

“We have our own infrastructure in the U.S., Japan, the U.K., France and Germany,” Mr. Benioff said. “If you have critical mass, your own infrastructure is still cheaper.”

Mr. Benioff said that, down the line, A.W.S. may also become competitive purely on price, as their scale and engineering enables them to run big computing systems at a lower cost. “If Amazon, Microsoft and Google are smart, the price difference will change,” he said.

Adam Selipsky, vice president of marketing and sales for A.W.S., said the company was intent on getting its prices down enough to replace existing servers in established markets.

“Our prices relative to what they can build themselves – we’re already at a stage where it’s competitive,” he said. “We’re just at the starting point of enterprise adoption.”

Source: NY Times

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26/May/2016

Volkswagen Challenges U.S. Jurisdiction in Emissions Scandal

Volkswagen is challenging allegations made by the Justice Department over its diesel emissions scandal, questioning the American authorities’ jurisdiction and contending that the accusations against it do not justify penalties.

The Justice Department sued Volkswagen in January, saying that the company had installed illegal devices in nearly 600,000 vehicles sold in the United States that impaired emissions controls, increasing harmful air pollution. Volkswagen admitted in September that it had installed software to cheat on emissions tests in 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide.

But in a response to the Justice Department, filed Tuesday in San Francisco, the German automaker appeared to back away from its mea culpa, saying that the facts of the case remained unclear and that it was still conducting an internal investigation.

It also challenged the court’s jurisdiction over Volkswagen, and over its subsidiary Audi, saying that cars in the United States were sold through local businesses and not the parent companies. It said that the statute of limitations voided any conduct at Volkswagen before 2010.

Over all, the Justice Department “fails to allege facts sufficient” for any penalties, Volkswagen lawyers said. But the carmaker described the filing as part of the legal process, and said it “has no bearing on Volkswagen’s commitment to resolving the U.S. government’s claims.”

The German automaker’s stance contrasts with that taken by General Motors over its failure to disclose a deadly ignition-switch defect. The Justice Department levied a smaller-than-expected $900 million penalty a year and a half after the defect was revealed, citing the automaker’s cooperation, and held off from bringing criminal charges.

Prosecutors have also stopped short of criminal charges against Volkswagen, though the Justice Department has said that the civil suit did not preclude future action, including against specific executives. Prosecutors have said Volkswagen “impeded and obstructed” regulators’ inquiries and provided “misleading information.”

Justice Department officials declined to immediately comment on Volkswagen’s response.

On Tuesday, the federal district judge overseeing the case, Charles Breyer, said that the automaker had made “substantial progress” toward reaching a settlement next month with car owners and the government.

Judge Breyer also repeated that the settlement would include substantial compensation for owners of Volkswagen and Audi cars in the United States. Volkswagen has said it has set aside 7 billion euros, or about $8 billion, for legal costs worldwide, even though they could be higher.

Source: NY Times

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26/May/2016

Staples, Office Depot stocks plummet after $6.3B merger's demise

Shares of Staples and Office Depot nosedived Wednesday after their $6.3 billion merger deal collapsed.

Investors flocked away from both retailers after the office supply giants scrapped their deal in the wake of a federal judge's decision to issue a temporary injunction blocking the accord. The judge ruled on objections raised by the Federal Trade Commission.

Office Depot shares (ODP) plummeted 38.18% to $3.77 in afternoon trading, while Staples shares (SPLS) fell 16.55% to $8.65.

The merger deal's demise casts a cloud of uncertainty over the next steps for each retailer. The Obama administration had challenged the deal on anti-competitive grounds.

It was the second time in 19 years that the companies called off a merger after federal regulators raised antitrust concerns.

Debbie Feinstein, director of the FTC's competition bureau, characterized the ruling as "great news for business customers in the office supply market."

"This deal would eliminate head-to-head competition between Staples and Office Depot and likely lead to higher prices and lower quality service for large businesses that buy office supplies," said Feinstein.

In a statement, Office Depot CEO Roland Smith expressed dismay and said the merger deal would formally end May 16.

“While we are respectful of the Court’s decision to grant the FTC’s request for a preliminary injunction to prevent our merger with Staples, we are disappointed by this outcome and strongly believe that a merger would have benefited all of our customers in the long term," said Smith. "We do not intend to appeal the Court’s decision and the two companies plan to terminate the merger agreement."

Staples CEO Ronald Sargent said the judge approved the FTC's request "despite the fact that it failed to define the relevant market correctly, and fell woefully short of proving its case.”

Staples said under the terms of the merger agreement, it will pay a $250 million break-up fee to Office Depot. Staples also says it no longer will sell more than $550 million in its large corporate contract business to another office products company, Essendant, as part of the Office Depot merger agreement.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan's ruling said the FTC "met their burden of showing that there is a reasonable probability that the proposed merger will substantially impair competition in the sale and distribution of consumable office supplies to large Business-to-Business customers."

The FTC also provided sufficient evidence to show a preliminary injunction halting the ruling was "in the public interest."

Emmet's ruling said he plans to give give attorneys for the companies a sealed memorandum on Wednesday that details the legal rationale underlying his decision. The judge wrote he would seal the document initially because it contains "competitively sensitive information."

Emmet instructed attorneys for the companies to meet and propose redactions to the legal memorandum by Monday. The judge wrote that he plans to consider the proposed deletions, and then issue a public version of the memorandum

Source: USA Today

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11/May/2016

Credit checker Experian's full-year profit flat

LONDON (Reuters) - Experian Plc , the world's biggest credit data company, reported an unchanged full-year pretax profit against a backdrop of adverse foreign exchange movements.

The FTSE-100 company, which is best known for running consumer credit checks for banks, landlords and retailers, said profit before tax was $1 billion for the year-ended 2015, the same as a year earlier.

The company said in January that if current rates prevail, it expects a hit on earnings before interest and tax from exchange rate movements of about 11 percent for the year ending March 31, and a further hit of about 3 percent next year.

Source: Yahoo.com

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11/May/2016

EMV Technology may not be able to completely protect against credit card fraud

A new technology with the name EMV is said make it tougher for thieves to steal data. The EMV chip will be embedded in credit cards. It is said that with the adoption of the EMV technology, a decline will come in credit card fraud rates. But as per a new study by NerdWallet, there are more chances of opposite to take place as criminals will look out for other ways to commit card fraud.

EMV (Europay, MasterCard, and Visa) chip is the small silver or gold chip set in front of the card. There is a difference between EMV chip card and a standard card. In the magnetic stripe cards, static payment data can be transferred from one card to another. But such is not the case with the EMV chip card.

“EMV chips creates a unique payment code with every use, so if a fraudster was able to steal those payment credentials, they’d be worthless for any other purchase”, said Sean McQuay, NerdWallet’s credit card expert.

But as per the research, EMV would not solve the entire problem. From October, the onus of credit card fraud will switch from issuers to the party, which can be issuer or merchant, who do not use EMV technology, and the change is known as liability shift.

McQuay said that EMV technology is powerful, but only when both consumers and merchant adopt it. If just one of the parties has upgraded for EMV then upgrade is nothing but a waste. Also, the technology is restricted for in-person transactions.

There are chances that fraud may take place to transactions where the physical card is not needed like purchases through phones or online. But there are ways by which you can protect yourself from fraud like use card’s chip to keep data safe and try purchasing only from brick-and-mortar merchants that have EMV technology. To avoid fraud online, avoid shopping on unfamiliar or unsecure websites.

Source: NY News.com

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08/May/2016

Creator of online money Liberty Reserve gets 20 years in prison

Before the virtual currency Bitcoin there was Liberty Reserve -- and its founder just got sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Arthur Budovsky, 42, ran an online digital money business out of Costa Rica called Liberty Reserve. The U.S. government contended that the whole thing was just a massive, $6 billion money laundering operation.

 

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Denise L. Cote sentenced him to two decades in federal prison. She said Budovsky did not show "genuine remorse," according to the Department of Justice.

For seven years starting in 2006, anyone could use Liberty Reserve's website to transfer money with little oversight. All the site required was someone's name, e-mail address, and birthday. Normally, banks have stricter standards to avoid funneling criminal funds.

But that's exactly what Liberty Reserve turned into, according to federal agents. It became a favorite for stashing cash by credit card traffickers and identity thieves.

At its height, according to a federal indictment, Liberty Reserve had more than 1 million customers worldwide, including 200,000 in the United States. It handled 12 million financial transactions a year.

Liberty Reserve fell into the U.S. government's sights, because it ran such a huge operation without oversight. In the post-9/11 world, law enforcement was keen to keep track of every dollar to avoid it ending up funding terrorists.

That's why the U.S. government used the Patriot Act to go after this payment processor. The U.S. Treasury Department labeled it a money laundering organization, and cut it off from the American financial system.

In 2013, American investigators took over the website and shut it down. In 2014, Budovsky and several coworkers were arrested in Spain. Then Budovsky was extradited to the United States to face trial for money laundering and operating an unlicensed money transmitting business.

In January, Budovsky pleaded guilty to money laundering and admitted to secretly moving at least $122 million.

In a prepared statement, Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell said: "The significant sentence handed down today shows that money laundering through the use of virtual currencies is still money laundering, and that online crime is still crime."

Budovsky's attorney did not immediately respond to CNNMoney's request for comment.

Budovsky and an associate, Vladimir Kats of Brooklyn, had previously been arrested for a similar digital currency exchange called GoldAge. After their arrests, they both moved to Costa Rica to avoid American law enforcement, according to the U.S. government. Budovsky even renounced his citizenship.

"Despite all his efforts to evade prosecution, including taking his operations offshore and renouncing his citizenship, Budovsky has now been held to account for his brazen violations of U.S. criminal laws," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.

Source: CNN.com

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07/May/2016

Apple stock slumps to near 2-year low

Things keep getting worse for America's favorite stock.

Apple (AAPL, Tech30) stock on Friday slipped below $92, the level it briefly crashed to when financial markets went haywire last August.

 

But in August, investors were freaking out about all stocks. These days, it's Apple they're freaking out over. The stock is down 12% this year and closed out the week at its lowest level since June 2014.

It's the latest blow to Apple, which is easily the most popular stock held by individual investors.

Apple's problems really gathered steam last week after the iconic company revealed its first sales decline since 2003. Apple's rare sales shrinkage was fueled by a drop in iPhone sales, a reflection of how the iPhone 6S has failed to generate the kind of enthusiasm previous versions of the phone have.

Apple stock 2 year low

 

Related: Why I'm not selling my Apple stock

Just days later Carl Icahn, arguably Apple's biggest cheerleader in recent years, told the world he had dumped his entire stake in Apple. The billionaire investor pointed to the risks involved with Apple's efforts to navigate the treacherous Chinese market, the company's second-biggest source of sales behind the U.S.

Even though Icahn insists Apple is still a "great company," he told CNBC he's worried how the Chinese government can "make it very difficult for Apple to sell there."

That risk was on full display last month when Apple's iBooks and iTunes Movies services went dark in China, reportedly at the order of a Chinese censorship regulator.

Against that backdrop, Apple CEO Tim Cook plans to visit Beijing later this month to meet high-level government officials, Reuters reported. It wouldn't be the first time Cook has visited China.

China concerns have helped make Apple the second-worst Dow stock this year behind only Intel (INTC, Tech30). But while Icahn and others are down on Apple, many Main Street investors remain undeterred. Most retail investors CNNMoney recently surveyed informally say they have not sold any Apple shares in the past year, nor do they plan to.

Apple fans -- on and off Wall Street -- point to the fact that the stock is pretty cheap, especially compared with lofty valuations in the rest of the market. Apple shares are currently trading at just 11 times projected 2016 earnings. By comparison, the S&P 500 is trading at more than 17 times this year's estimated profits.

Apple is also sitting on a ton of cash -- just over $230 billion. Some investors hope it will deploy those resources on a major acquisition and continue to return lots of it to shareholders through dividends and buybacks.

But the real key to restoring Apple's growth trajectory is likely in its ability to come up with a game-changing new product, or at least a new iPhone that excites consumers and investors alike.

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07/May/2016

Why Transferring Credit Card Balances Is Brilliant

Credit card issuers are in such fierce competition these days to attract new customers that most have started offering sweetheart deals to win you over, like ultra-long 0% introductory APR interest periods. By transferring your balance onto one of these cards, you immediately stop all interest charges during the introductory period.

For example, the Chase Slate offers 15 months at 0% APR, so during that entire 15 month intro period, you pay nothing in interest on any balance transfered. That could literally result in thousands of dollars in savings, and is simply a no brainer. With these offers out there, it just makes absolutely no sense to continue to pay credit card interest on your current balances.

Well, without further ado, here are the cards offering great balance transfer specials...

The No Transfer-Fee Card

Chase Slate®

15 Months of 0% Intro APR. No balance transfer fee. No annual fee.

The Chase Slate® is tied as our highest-rated balance transfer card, and for good reason. It charges no fee for transferring your balance to it in the first two months, no annual fee, and no interest on balances transferred for a full 15-month 0% intro APR period. This makes it a phenomenal tool to gain control of your credit card debt, as you can make a costless balance transfer, then use the 15-month interest grace period to pay down your balance.

The Verdict: If you don't need the entire 18 months offered by the BankAmericard, this can be efficient since it doesn't have a balance transfer fee. No transfer fee and no annual fee, combined with the 0% intro APR means that this is really free money for the 15 month term, no catches.

Most Appropriate For: Those who want a no-fee way to stop paying interest, and possibly pay off the cards during that breather. Those with good rather than excellent credit.

Least Appropriate For: Those who pay off their balances every month would be better served getting a card paying high rewards.

Recommended credit:  Just Good. The Chase card has the most lenient credit requirements of our top balance transfer cards.

More Details >


The No Interest Until 2017 Balance-Transfer Card

The BankAmericard® Credit Card is tied as our highest rated balance transfer card, featuring an unbelievable 18 billing cycles (months) 0% APR intro period. This means that if you were to roll your balance over onto the card today, you wouldn't have to pay interest until well into 2018. The card does charge a 3% balance transfer fee*, but if you’re looking to avoid paying any interest on your credit card balances for as long as possible, the BankAmericard could be your card.

The Verdict: Getting a loan this cheaply for this long is pretty amazing. If you're carrying a balance, and realistically you know you will have to carry that balance for a while, this card becomes a no-brainer. As an example, assume you have a $10,000 balance on your current cards at a 18% rate. Over the 18 billing cycle (month) term, you would have paid $3,098 in interest.* Switching to this card would cost $300 in fees, but then nothing the rest of the way, for a net savings of $2,798. Not bad, you could do a lot with that extra cash.

Most Appropriate For: Those who have large balances and want as much interest-free time as possible to pay the principle down.

Least Appropriate For: Those who pay off their balances every month or every few months.

Credit Required: Good to Excellent

More Details >


The Cards Which Not Only Don't Charge, But Actually PAY you.

Pros: Chase's new Freedom Unlimited card is essentially an improved version of the old Freedom. They bumped the base cash back rate all the way up to an industry leading 1.5%, and pay that full 1.5% on all spend, with no limit or spend category restrictions. Unlike most other high paying cash back cards, you don't have to worry about categories or have to activate anything. You'll receive the full 1.5% back as you make your spend, on all spend, automatically. In addition, Chase  is temporarily offering a cash bonus to new card-members. If you charge $500 on it in the first 3 months, you'll earn a $150 cash bonus. Finally, Chase is also offering new card-members 15 months of 0% interest for the first 15 months of using the card to make new purchases. So during that period, you can use the card without paying any interest on balances you tally, while still earning cash back. The card requires good, not excellent credit, making it easier to get in.

Cons: Charges a 5% balance transfer fee. This is on the high side, so we recommend looking at the Slate or BankAmericard if your goal is to transfer a balance. The Freedom Unlimited should be viewed as a cash back card.

The Verdict: One of the strongest cards available to those with good (but not perfect) credit. The card combines industry leading cash back rates (1.5% on everything) with a strong 15 months of 0% interest on new purchases combined with a $150 cash bonus when you use the card to make $500 in spend in the first 3 months.

Most Appropriate For: Those with good credit seeking a daily-use card offering great cash back rewards and 0% intro APR. Best for new charges.

Least Appropriate For: Balance transfers, as it charges the 5% fee while offering no more free term than the Slate (which has no transfer fee).

Credit Required: Good to Excellent

More Details >

Pros: Capital One's Quicksilver card makes things simple: you earn 1.5% cash back on all your purchases, with no limit and no category restrictions or games. We included the card in our balance transfer list because it offers 0% intro APRuntil February 2017 on all balances transferred.

Cons: Does charge a 3% balance transfer fee. Requires good credit to get in.

The Verdict: If you're looking to transfer a balance and make some purchases, you can use this card to avoid paying interest during the intro period AND earn cash rewards.

Most Appropriate For: Anyone who might make some large purchases in the near future, or regularly charges a lot on their cards. Making the charges on the Quicksilver  would earn cash back but not require any interest during the intro period.

Credit Required: Good to Excellent

Source: CNN.com

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07/May/2016

Fiat Chrysler to recall 1.1m vehicles worldwide

Fiat Chrysler is to recall 1.1 million vehicles worldwide over fears they may roll away after drivers get out.

There have been as many as 41 injuries because drivers mistakenly believed they had put the automatic cars in "park".

The recall covers cars and SUVs whose gearshifts could be confusing to drivers.

More than 850,000 vehicles in North America are affected, along with just over 250,000 elsewhere.

The affected models include 2012 to 2014 Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 sedans and 2014/15 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs.

Fiat Chrysler said it would update the vehicles to automatically prevent them from moving, even if the driver fails to put the vehicle in park. The company did not say when the fix would become available to owners.

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in February it had reports of 314 complaints, including 121 crashes after vehicles rolled away. Some hit buildings, drivers or other cars and many incidents occurred soon after the vehicles were bought.

Chrysler 300

The Chrysler 300

Injury reports included three complaints of a fractured pelvis, and four others requiring some form of hospitalisation.

An NHTSA spokesman said the agency would monitor the recall to ensure it took place as quickly as possible.

Fiat Chrysler said it began equipping the Charger and 300 with a new gearshift design for the 2015 model, while the Grand Cherokee was updated for the following year.

Source :BBC

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22/Apr/2016

Donald Trump Assails ‘Rigged’ Delegate System, Saying He Chooses Not to Exploit It

Insisting that the delegate selection process is “corrupt and crooked,” Donald J. Trump offered a vivid example on Sunday to prove his point.

Imagine being wooed by Mr. Trump.

“Look, nobody has better toys than I do,” he told reporters at a hotel on Staten Island, where he pressed his case that the system was rigged against him. “I can put them in the best planes and bring them to the best resorts anywhere in the world.”

But Mr. Trump said that was unseemly.

“You’re basically buying these people,” he added. “You’re basically saying, ‘Delegate, listen, we’re going to send you to Mar-a-Lago on a Boeing 757, you’re going to use the spa, you’re going to this, you’re going to that, we want your vote.’ That’s a corrupt system.”

Mr. Trump’s comments were the latest salvo in an escalating war against the Republican National Committee over how delegates were being selected in the presidential race.

Two days before New York’s primaries, Mr. Trump was the only Republican presidential candidate to campaign in the state, where polls showed him with a wide lead.

During his visit to Staten Island, a stronghold of his support, he accepted an award from the New York Veteran Police Association and spoke at a party brunch. At a rally later in Poughkeepsie, he berated party officials once again.

Still, speaking to reporters on Staten Island, Mr. Trump said he hoped that the July convention “doesn’t involve violence.”

“And I don’t think it will,” he said. “But I will say this: It’s a rigged system. It’s a crooked system. It’s 100 percent crooked.”

Photo

 

Supporters awaited Senator Bernie Sanders in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, on Sunday, two days before the New York primaries. His campaign said the rally drew 28,000 people, the largest crowd of his presidential bid. Credit Damon Winter/The New York Times

On the Democratic side, where the primary is expected to be closer, Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders spent the day rallying supporters.

Polls have shown Mrs. Clinton with an edge over Mr. Sanders, but Mr. Sanders is hoping for an unexpectedly strong performance that would embarrass Mrs. Clinton on her adopted turf.

Both candidates were knocked off balance on Sunday when questioned about an issue with particular relevance in New York: a bill that would allow foreign governments to be held responsible in American courts for having a role in terrorist attacks, such as the Sept. 11 attacks.

The New York Times reported on Friday that Saudi Arabia had told the Obama administration and members of Congress that it would sell off hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of American assets held by the kingdom if Congress passed the bill. The Obama administration has lobbied Congress to block the bill’s passage, The Times reported.

In television interviews, Mr. Sanders and Mrs. Clinton said they needed more information before they could say where they stood on the bill.

But after Mrs. Clinton’s TV appearance, her campaign quickly released a statement breaking with the Obama administration over the issue. The statement said Mrs. Clinton supported efforts “to secure the ability of 9/11 families and other victims of terrorist acts to hold accountable those responsible.”

Later in the day, Mr. Sanders’s campaign also issued a statement in support of the legislation.

In Mount Vernon on Sunday, Mrs. Clinton spoke at a Baptist church, saying she was the candidate most willing to take stands in favor of gun control. In Upper Manhattan, she danced at a block party in Washington Heights.

At a block party in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, Mayor Bill de Blasio urged New Yorkers to help turn out votes for her. Mrs. Clinton greeted him with a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

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“Anybody see the debate?” she asked, addressing the crowd from the bed of a Ford pickup truck and referring to the Democratic debate in Brooklyn on Thursday. “We talked about the greed and recklessness of Wall Street. I take a back seat to no one in taking them on.”

After hosting packed rallies around New York State, Mr. Sanders turned his attention to courting black voters in New York City on Sunday, visiting a predominantly black church in Harlem and a Brownsville housing project.

Mr. Sanders also had a rally in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, which his campaign said drew 28,000 people, the largest crowd of his presidential bid.

In Brownsville, Mr. Sanders took a tour of the Howard Houses along with some local elected officials, and his campaign released a plan for affordable housing.

“This is the wealthiest country in the history of the world,” Mr. Sanders said. “People should not be forced to live in dilapidated housing.”

As Mr. Sanders walked across the complex, several residents happily shouted at him. But others pointedly criticized him for using the apartments for what they viewed as a photo opportunity.

Anthony Portis, a 34-year-old construction worker, called the senator’s visit “a political stunt to gain all the black votes in the neighborhood.”

“This area always feels like we are left out,” he said.

Mr. Sanders said that he understood that some would be apprehensive about his visit but that he wanted to call attention to the issues faced by people in housing projects.

“Believe me, I can understand the cynicism,” he said. “But my understanding is that not too many presidential candidates have come to Brownsville housing projects.”

Source: New York Times

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18/Apr/2016

17% of startups are gunning for an IPO

Founders are wearing rose-colored glasses and eying Wall Street.

17% of entrepreneurs said their long-term goal is to IPO, according to Silicon Valley Bank's Startup Outlook report released Thursday.

The report surveyed more than 900 tech and life science startup execs. It's the first time that Silicon Valley Bank has asked about plans to go public in its annual report.

The majority of the startups surveyed (56%) said they expected to be acquired; 19% said "stay private," and 8% said they didn't know.

"If [more had] said their goal was to IPO, I would say they are even more blindly optimistic than I thought," said Greg Becker, Silicon Valley Bank's CEO and president.

It's important to note that the survey was conducted in December 2015.

January saw complete silence on the IPO front, a first since September 2011.

"They say timing is everything, and in the past several weeks it has become apparent that entrepreneurs' perceptions at the end of 2015 had already shifted by mid-January," Becker wrote in a letter announcing the results.

He added that many are predicting "doom and gloom," including the death of some unicorns -- the term for private companies worth $1 billion or more. But he's more optimistic, noting that a "healthy recalibration" would be a good for the ecosystem.

"[Entrepreneurs] are anticipating a more balanced funding environment," he wrote in the letter. "They are considering M&A an even more viable exit strategy."

We're witnessing a slow motion tech wreck

2015 was the biggest year on record for technology mergers and acquisitions, according to Dealogic. Many of those surveyed said they expect the acquisition market to be even greater in 2016. Tech IPOs in the U.S., on the other hand, were at the lowest level since 2009.

Analysts and investors say the IPO question is a tricky one. Entrepreneurs don't want to appear to lack ambition about how far they can take their company. An IPO can signal that they're dreaming big because the public market is the only means of outsized rewards.

Anand Sanwal, cofounder and CEO of CB Insights, said "entrepreneurs are inherently optimistic," adding that most companies don't "choose" their exit. A very small minority -- likely less than 1% -- will go public.

"You're building the company to be standalone," Maha Ibrahim, general partner at Canaan Partners, told CNNMoney, adding that she tries to discuss exit possibilities with founders early. "The hope is that you're bought, not sold."

The silence in the IPO market is deafening

Becker says many startups have started decreasing their burn rates and focusing more on profitability, "which extends their decision making for going public or being sold."

Sanwal predicts that the last two quarters of this year will be telling. By that time, many unicorn companies will need to have raised capital before their current supply of funding runs out. If they're able to raise -- and at what valuation -- will be telling.

Of those surveyed, 42% plan to rely on venture capital money as their next source of funding.

But they know that money could be hard to come by: 82% said the fundraising environment is challenging.

And funding isn't the only thing that's scarce these days. 95% of those surveyed said finding the right talent -- specifically engineers -- is difficult. That's up 8% since 2013.

The execs said it's the biggest issue facing startups, ahead of cybersecurity and healthcare costs.

Source: CNN

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18/Apr/2016

Africa's top 4 economies are in trouble

Growth in Africa has outpaced most emerging markets in recent years, but that's changing fast as a slew of problems beset its leading economies.

Cheap oil, political uncertainty and weak banks are all to blame.

Here's what you need to know about sub-Saharan Africa's big four:

South Africa

The prospects for Africa's most advanced economy are not looking good. The country is set to grow by just 0.6% this year, according to the International Monetary Fund. It's one of the slowest growing countries in one of the world's fastest growing territories.

The rand plummeted 30% last year, and not just because of an emerging market sell-off. Political turmoil has also had a big impact.

Just this month, South African President Jacob Zuma survived impeachment despite the highest court in the land finding him guilty of breaching the constitution over how public money was spent renovating his home. Well known figures from the anti-apartheid struggle are now calling for Zuma to step down.

Chaos in government isn't helping either. Zuma stunned investors by replacing Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene with a little known politician. The president then backtracked and asked Nene's predecessor Pravin Gordhan to take the position in order to stop the rand's freefall.

The rand has steadied this year, rallying by about 7%. It's been helped by a broader rally in markets driven by rising commodity prices. As a platinum, gold and coal producer, South Africa is sensitive to shifts in the commodity cycle.

But the country is not out of the woods yet. It's on the brink of a ratings downgrade that would plunge its sovereign debt into junk status.

Still, investors are showing some renewed confidence, buying up $1.86 billion worth of bonds so far in 2016 -- the best start to a year since 2010.

Nigeria

Africa's largest economy is buckling under the low oil price.

Nigeria relies on oil for 70% of government revenue and accounts for 90% of export revenue. That leaves very little room to adjust the country's budget. For an emerging market that can only mean one thing -- slower growth.

The West African nation is expected to clock in growth of 2.3%, the lowest rate in 15 years, according to the IMF. Its facing a shortfall of $11 billion in its 2016 budget.

Discussions between Nigeria and the World Bank are continuing on a possible loan or credit facility that would be tied to policy reforms.

It has drawn down its currency reserves and implemented capital controls, making access to dollars very difficult. In an economy that relies on imports, the controls have made life difficult for companies and two South African businesses have already pulled out.

Index compiler MSCI is considering removing Nigeria from its frontier market index because the restrictions have made it harder for investors to repatriate money.

To make matters worse, the country is facing a fuel crisis. Despite being Africa's largest oil producer, it has never had enough refining capacity, and the scarcity of dollars is making it harder for importers to bring gas into the country.

The war against Al-Qaeda linked terror group Boko Haram, which the government has vowed to eradicate, is placing further strain on the country's finances.

Angola

What was once one of Africa's fastest growing economies is now on its knees and asking for help from the IMF. Angola is Africa's second largest oil producer and relies on oil for 95% of government revenue.

After debuting on the international debt market last year, the country appears unable to meet its budget and debt obligations. It has requested assistance from the IMF in the form of monetary support.

Angola is also bound to money-for-oil deals with China. It has used oil as collateral for loans from China, and that is further squeezing state finances.

The country is set to grow by 3.5% this year, down from 6.8% in 2013, according to the IMF.

Kenya

Kenya's economy is more resilient and diversified but there's trouble brewing in its banking sector.

Three banks are being wound down by the central bank. Two of the banks failed last year, and a third was forced into the arms of the lender of last resort this month. A fourth bank is being investigated, and analysts believe consolidation in the industry is inevitable.

The East African nation has 43 banks, most of which have overstated profits and are buckling under the weight of non-performing loans and a big fall in deposits. A dozen banks may end up under central bank control as it tries to clean up the sector.

All this is weighing on Kenya's growth prospects: The IMF has just cut its forecast to 6% for 2016, down from 6.8% previously.

Source: FOX NEWS

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18/Apr/2016

Goodyear is working on spherical tires

Goodyear thinks that if we're going to reinvent the car, we might as well reinvent the tires too.

The tire maker has revealed a new concept: spherical rubber tires that can move in any direction. For a self-driving car without a steering wheel, why not try something radically different?

Goodyear (GT) says its Eagle-360 tires would allow self-driving cars to navigate tight spaces, such as parking spots or busy city roads. Instead of axles, they'll connect to the car using magnetic levitation -- potholes would no longer ruin your suspension, since your car would essentially float above its tires. Goodyear said magnetic levitation would deliver a remarkably smooth and quiet ride for passengers.

The spherical tires also have the advantage of having way more surface area than cylindrical tires, so your treads won't wear out quite as quickly. And the tires could intelligently rotate themselves to provide even greater tread life.

Goodyear also envisions some new tricks embedded within the tires. For example, sensors inside the Eagle-360 tires could communicate weather conditions to the car's traction control systems. And the tires themselves could stiffen in dry conditions and soften like a sponge in wet weather, adding traction on slippery roads.

"By steadily reducing the driver interaction and intervention in self-driving vehicles, tires will play an even more important role as the primary link to the road," said Joseph Zekoski, Goodyear's chief technical officer, in a statement.

Goodyear acknowledged that the Eagle-360 tires are a far-off-in-the-future concept.

But self-driving cars are already being tested, and industry experts forecast that fully autonomous cars will go on sale by the end of the decade. Today's cars have intelligence built in, communicating with other cars to sense accidents before they happen.

That's why Goodyear has developed a near-term tire concept that it believes could become a fixture of cars in the next few years.

Like the Eagle-360, IntelliGrip tires would have some smarts built in. For example, they would be able to sense the weather and tread-wear and communicate that back to the car and other cars around it. But the IntelliGrip tires would look more like traditional tires, complete with axles, spokes and rims (and no magnets).

Goodyear presented its concept tires at last week's Geneva International Motor Show.

Source: CNN

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18/Apr/2016

Use your tax refund to buy tax prep stocks?

Procrastinators rejoice! The deadline to file your taxes is Monday April 18 -- three days later than usual.

But is there still time to wait for the last minute types of investors to buy leading tax preparation stocks like H&R Block, Intuit and Liberty Tax? Perhaps.

H&R Block (HRB)and Liberty Tax (TAX)(which, despite having Liberty in its name, is not one of the gazillion tracking stocks set up by media mogul John Malone) have been the investing equivalent of a tax audit -- something you really don't want.

Shares of both are down about 25% this year. I hope H&R Block doesn't pay its bow tie wearing pitchman in stock! Ditto for new spokesman Anthony Davis of the NBA's New Orleans Pelicans -- although he's not exactly hard up for cash.

Intuit (INTU), on the other hand, is thriving. The owner of TurboTax is up 7% so far this year.

You don't have to love number crunching as much as an accountant or actuary to figure out why.

Intuit's earnings are expected to increase by nearly 35% this fiscal year and another 25% next year. That's much faster than the growth rate for H&R Block and Liberty Tax.

Related: Answers to tax questions you're too embarrassed to ask

As you might expect though, Intuit is a much pricier stock than its rivals.

It trades at about 24 times earnings forecasts for its next fiscal year -- more than twice the valuations for both H&R Block and Liberty Tax.

But Intuit may be worth the premium as more and more Americans look to do their own taxes instead of shelling out money to get someone to do it for them.

Gil Luria, an analyst with Wedbush Securities, said that Intuit started promoting its services (including free tax filings) more heavily earlier on this year -- and that hurt H&R Block.

Luria conceded that bargain hunters might find H&R Block more attractive than Intuit. It pays a dividend that yields more than 3.3% too, compared to Intuit's yield of just 1.2%.

But Intuit has all the momentum right now. So anybody looking to use their tax refund to buy stocks might be better off investing in Intuit over H&R Block and Liberty.

Source: CNN

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18/Apr/2016

How to read your ridiculously confusing financial aid letter

Congrats on getting into college! Now, how much is it going to cost?

It can be maddeningly difficult to figure out, especially for high school seniors who have just a few weeks left to compare offers and decide where to enroll.

Instead of a straightforward bill, colleges send out what's known as financial aid award letters. The format varies by school, but the actual amount you have to pay often gets lost in the details about the various fees, scholarships and loans.

One of the most common trip-ups is not realizing a loan (money you have to borrow and pay back, with interest) is factored into your estimated cost. It's easy to be fooled. Award letters don't often make a distinction between loans and scholarships (money you don't have to pay back).

A college-bound senior recently received the letter below. It lumps together loans with a grant to get a "Total Estimated Financial Aid" figure, without pointing out that you'd have to pay back a majority of that aid (we did that for you).

Here's a quick guide.

1. Tuition and fees + room and board = ?

Hopefully it will be easy to find the part of the letter that explains how much the total cost is -- before taking any discounts like scholarships into consideration. Make sure it lists ALL costs including, tuition, room and board, any fees, and a meal plan. If it's unclear, call the financial aid office to ask.

2. Look for the words "scholarship" and "grant."

Your financial aid letter may be the first indication that you've been awarded a scholarship or grant from the college. These could be based on your financial need or merit-based, and determined by things like your high school GPA, SAT and ACT scores, or interest in a particular subject. You may also receive a Pell Grant from the federal government, which is based on your family's income.

3. Do you need to borrow money?

Maybe you've won additional scholarships that aren't listed on the financial aid letter. Subtract those from the amount you calculated in Step 2. If there's a remaining cost, this is what you or your parents may have to chip in -- or you might have to take out a loan.

Related: How would you do on the new SAT?

The amount your family can pay is actually calculated by the college, based on information like their income which you submitted on the FAFSA form. This might be noted on your financial aid letter and called something like your "Estimated Financial Contribution" and is used to help determine how much need-based financial aid you received. But it's not exactly what your family must pay.

4. What's the difference between subsidized, unsubsidized and Parent PLUS loans?

You could take out loans to cover the remaining cost. The amount you can borrow from the federal government, which usually comes with a lower interest rate than private loans, should be stated in your letter. There are three different types of federal loans you could qualify for:

A subsidized loan does not accrue interest while you're still in school, but an unsubsidized loan does. Parent PLUS loans are also from the federal government, but they carry a higher interest rate and it's your parent who's ultimately responsible for paying it back. Interest starts accruing right away, like an unsubsidized loan.

Related: Colleges with the best bang for your buck

But you don't actually have to borrow the full amount allocated in your financial aid package. The amount listed for each loan is a maximum set by the government.

Remember, in any case you'll still end up owing more than the loan amount you see listed after you graduate because of the interest.

5. Multiply by 4.

Keep in mind that this is just an estimate for one year of college and you'll likely be going for four years. Looking at the bigger, four-year cost may help you decide whether it's worth enrolling at a more expensive college.

And be sure to see if there's a note about whether your scholarships and grants are guaranteed for all four years -- or just call up the college's financial aid office and ask.

Source:CNN

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18/Apr/2016

Apple, IBM, Amazon rallies buck earnings trend

Technology investors have been buying shares of Apple and IBM with both fists during the last three months.

The stocks are up 13% and 14% during that time, almost double the gain of the Nasdaq Composite Index, as U.S. stock markets have come roaring back from steep losses earlier this year.

Yet the Apple (AAPL) and IBM (IBM) bulls have been stampeding right into the face of bearish earnings trends for both tech giants.

For the quarter ended in March, the Wall Street analysts who cover Apple stock expect the company to report earnings of $2 a share, according to Thomson Financial.

That's down significantly from $2.27 a share just 90 days ago, before the company released its last financial report.

The same trend holds for IBM, which reports results April 18. It's seen reporting $2.09 in per-share earnings for the first quarter, a huge drop from expectations of $2.90 three months ago.

Among the 30 most valuable tech firms, the only other company to see such a steep drop in profit estimates is Amazon (AMZN).

Analysts expect it to report earnings of 58 cents a share for the just-ended quarter, down from 88 cents in mid-January.

Unlike IBM and Apple, though, Amazon shares have trailed the broader market for tech stocks and are up 5% from 90 days ago.

Still, the disconnect between falling profit expectations and rising stock prices for all three firms is notable.

BIG APPETITE FOR BIG TECH

It suggests investors have been diving into the big-cap tech names with little discrimination since market sentiment turned in mid-February.

As reported before in this column, earnings-estimate revisions can be a more-timely indicator of Wall Street sentiment on a company than changes in the standard stock ratings of buy, sell and hold.

That's because analysts are slow to change their ratings even in the face of deteriorating fundamentals.

Even while they've been quietly cutting their estimates, no Apple or IBM analysts, and just one Amazon analyst, have cut their recommendation on the companies' shares since their last earnings reports.

That's telling given that all three companies have also seen their full-year profit estimates cut, though not as significantly as expectations for the first quarter.

It's true the shares of all three companies have features apart from near-term profitability that attract investors.

SALES PRESSURE

IBM and Apple, for example, pay a dividend that appeals to income investors, while Amazon's year-over-year top-line growth above 20% is among the highest in the tech sector.

Apple, which reports April 25, also consistently beats earnings expectations.

Yet it also faces tougher year-over-year comparisons this year, with revenue seen falling 10% for the first quarter and 3% for the fiscal year ending in September.

Likewise for IBM, with sales seen dropping almost 7% in the first quarter and 4.6% for all of 2016.

Given their falling estimates, those weaker sales are expected to hurt their bottom lines more than Wall Street expected back in January.

So investors buying Apple, IBM and Amazon as part of the current bull run in tech stocks should do so knowing that their recent share-price gains are not supported by the trajectory of earnings expectations.

Source: USA TODAY

 

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16/Apr/2016

Stocks droop, but post a winning week

Stocks dropped slightly Friday after a three-day rally.

It was a quiet end to a winning week as Wall Street digested quarterly data that show China's economy grew at its slowest pace since 2009.

After a three-day rally that saw the Dow Jones industrial average jump nearly 350 points, or 2%, the blue chip stock gauge ended down 0.2%. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 stock index slipped 0.1% and the technology-dominated Nasdaq composite finished down 0.2%.

Overnight, Beijing reported that first-quarter growth came in at 6.7%, which was inline with expectations but marked the world's second-largest economy's slowest pace of growth in seven years. Still, stocks in mainland China's Shanghai composite shrugged off the weaker growth, with shares falling just 0.13%. The major reason for the ho-hum response to more signs of softness in China is the fact that the numbers came in line with investor expectations and still fell between China's full-year estimate range of 6.5% to 7%.

The Dow is coming off a three-day winning streak, fueled in large part by major bank earnings that have come in less bad than expected. Up today is the first-quarter earnings report of Citigroup (C).

An old milestone is back in sight for the Dow, as it closed Thursday just 76 points shy of the 18,000 mark. The Dow last closed above 18,000 back in July.

Source: USA Today

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16/Apr/2016

Oil price recovery will be short-lived, says IEA

A recent rise in oil prices is a "false dawn" and the oversupply of crude is set to worsen, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The IEA expects oil stocks to grow by two million barrels a day in the first quarter and 1.5 million barrels a day in the following three months.

In January, Brent crude hit a 13-year low of $27.67. It recovered a bit, but on Tuesday was down 7.2% at $30.50.

But that is still a long way from the $112 level reached in June 2014.

The IEA forecast that stock building could continue in the second half of 2016 at a rate of 300 million barrels a day. It said: "If these numbers prove to be accurate, and with the market already awash in oil, it is very hard to see how oil prices can rise significantly in the short term."

Meanwhile demand for oil is expected to weaken. The IEA forecasts that demand growth will fall to 1.2 million barrels a day this year, from the 1.6 million barrels a day seen in 2015, the IEA said.

The think tank also questioned whether the recent rise in prices was a "false dawn" and concluded that a number of conditions increased the risk of weak oil prices.

These included doubts that Opec, the oil cartel, was in talks with other oil producing nations to reduce supply.

It also quashed speculation that Opec nations would cut output this year, stating that output from Iraq reached a new record in January. Iran has increased production ahead of sanctions being removed and preliminary data suggested that Saudi Arabia's shipments had increased.

Source: bbc.com

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09/Feb/2016

China's currency reserves plunged in January

China's foreign currency reserves plunged by $99.5bn in January, the People's Bank of China reported.

China has been running down its vast foreign currency reserves in an attempt to boost the value of its own currency and stem a flow of funds overseas.

At $3.23 trillion, China still has the world's biggest reserve of foreign currency holdings.

But that has declined by $420bn over six months and stands at the lowest level since May 2012.

"While the remaining reserves still represent a substantial war chest, the mathematics around this rapid pace of depletion in recent months is simply unsustainable for any length of time," said Rajiv Biswas, Asia Pacific Chief Economist, IHS Global Insight.

Investor fear

The Chinese authorities fear a rapid devaluation of their currency, as it could destabilise the economy.

Many Chinese businesses hold debt in dollars and managing those debts with a severely weakened yuan could cause problems and some companies to fail.

So China has been trying to engineer an ordered devaluation of the yuan, but that is proving hard to deliver.

Investors have been trying to pull funds out of investments priced in yuan and speculators have been betting on further falls in the currency.

To stabilise the situation China has been selling dollars and buying yuan.

And it has been using other tactics, including curbing currency speculation and ordering offshore banks to retain their reserves of yuan.

Commenting on the decline, veteran economist, George Magnus noted that there is "confusion" over China's foreign currency policy.

"Clearly this can't go on for long," he tweeted, referring to the fall in currency reserves.

Source: bbc.com

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07/Feb/2016

HSBC pays $470m for mortgage misconduct

HSBC has reached a $470m (£325m) settlement with the US government and states related to dubious mortgage lending and foreclosure practices that contributed to the financial crisis.

The agreement includes a $100m fine and $370m in consumer relief to borrowers.

Investigations began in 2010 after HSBC was found to be signing off foreclosure documents without proper review.

In a statement, the bank's chief executive Kathy Madison called the agreement a "positive result."

The consumer relief will require the bank to cut the loan amount on mortgages for homeowners close to default. HBSC will also be required to change internal practices like foreclosing on homeowners who are being considered for a loan modification.

"The agreement is part of our ongoing effort to address root causes of the financial crisis," said the head of the Justice Department's Civil Division Benjamin Mizer.

The deal settles claims with 49 states, the District of Columbia and the federal government.

HSBC's agreement is similar to deals that were given to US banks including JP Morgan and Bank of America in 2012.

Source: bbc.com

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05/Feb/2016

Aids in Zimbabwe: Making decent burials affordable

The atmosphere in John Mutau's coffin-making workshop feels sombre.

Coffins ready for the market are lined up across the room, leaving little space for his workbench.

But even in this environment, the young coffin-maker still affords an infectious smile.

Based in the city of Mutare, in eastern Zimbabwe, he is quick to say that coffin-makers are not as heartless as many people in the country think they are.

Instead, he says, with an air of importance in his voice: "We actually want to make decent burials affordable."

The 28-year-old is one of a number of young Zimbabwean entrepreneurs who in recent years have gone into coffin-making, after recognising that it remains a lucrative industry because of Zimbabwe's continuing high rate of Aids-related deaths.

While this may seem exploitative to some people, the new entrants say they are simply helping to meet a need, especially - they add - because their coffin prices are usually much cheaper than the country's established big funeral parlours.

Discarded wood

Despite Aids-related deaths having fallen by more than two thirds in Zimbabwe since 2001, as a result of education campaigns and the increased availability of free antiretroviral drugs, more than 60,000 people a year still die because of the virus, according to the country's National Aids Council.

Meanwhile, the United Nations says that Zimbabwe has the fifth highest prevalence of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, with an infection rate of 15%. This equates to 1.4 million people, and 15% of adults.

Currently only 618,000 of these infected Zimbabweans - less than one third - have access to the antiretroviral treatments.

To keep his costs down, Mr Mutau makes his coffins predominantly from wood discarded by local timber companies.

This means that his coffins can cost as little as $40, compared with between $200 and $2,000 at the large, decades-old funeral director businesses.

Still, Mr Mutau admits that he, and the other new entrants, have their critics.

Many people think we celebrate death but we don't," he says.

"We are here to provide cheap coffins to the bereaved families."

Mr Mutau ventured into coffin making in 2005, but he admits that it was his business of last resort.

"I never dreamed of becoming a coffin-maker, but I need to feed my family," he says.

"There are no jobs out there. I get up to $500 per month selling coffins."

While Mr Mutau mostly works alone, if business is busy he brings in extra workers.

Another coffin-maker plying his trade in Mutare is 30-year-old Gift Olesi.

He went into the industry back in 2005 after he lost his job at a local timber company that was scaling down its operations due to falling sales.

Despite complaints from some people that he charges too much, Mr Olesi says he made a conscious decision to target the middle class, and so only makes coffins for more than $250.

"I get at least $900 a month, and I am able to feed my family," he says.

'Good nutrition'

While the new breed of coffin-makers is assisting the bereaved families of people who have died from Aids, other businesses are trying to help people with HIV or early stage Aids while they are still alive.

Green World Zimbabwe, a Harare-based company that manufactures herbal medicines and nutrition supplements, helps people with HIV start their own businesses selling its products.

It also markets its supplements to people with HIV.

Osmond Tafadzwa Chakauya, the company's senior consultant, says: "Yes some people living with HIV are getting antiretroviral drugs, but for the drugs to work they need good nutrition. Hence we provide such supplements."

So far the business has helped train up to 3,000 independent sales people, of which 1,000 have HIV.

Yet Phyllis Muloyi, who has been living with HIV for 18 years thanks to her antiretroviral drugs, cautions that such business support schemes mean little if people with HIV cannot get funding from a bank, something she says can be very difficult indeed.

Jephias Mundondo, an independent HIV/Aids campaigner, says that due to the increased availability of the drugs, banks should only be looking at the likely strength of someone's business, and his or her ability to run and grow it, not the fact that they have the virus.

Source: bbc.com

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04/Feb/2016

Yahoo to cut its workforce by 15%

Yahoo is cutting 15% of its workforce as the company pursues an "aggressive strategic plan" to return to profitability.

The job cuts will reduce the number of its employees to about 9,000 by the end of 2016.

The announcement came as Yahoo reported a $4.3bn (£3bn) loss for the year.

In a statement, chief executive Marissa Mayer said: "This is a strong plan calling for bold shifts in products and in resources."

She added that it would "dramatically brighten our future and improve our competitiveness, and attractiveness to users, advertisers, and partners."

The head-count reduction is the latest part of Ms Mayer's attempt to turn around the troubled internet company, which is struggling to compete against the likes of Facebook and Google.

Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer has been chief executive at Yahoo since 2012

Cost-cutting

In December, the company announced it was reversing a plan to sell its stake in the Chinese e-commerce site Alibaba, and would instead look to spin off its core internet business.

Ms Mayer was forced to change course on the Alibaba sale following pressure from several activist investors.

The focus on cutting costs and raising profits is being seen as the latest sign that the company is becoming more serious about selling its core internet business.

But some analysts are sceptical.

"They can slim down to improve profitability, but they are in an industry that is growing and they're not," said Martin Pyykkonen, managing director at Rosenblatt Securities.

"If the core business was really a valuable asset someone would have come and tried to buy it already," he added.

Under pressure

As well as shedding much of its workforce, Yahoo plans to sell of some of its product lines - such as Yahoo TV and Yahoo Games - so that it can focus on its search business, email and Tumblr blogging site.

It is also closing offices in Dubai, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Madrid, and Milan.

That should lead to "modest and accelerating growth in 2017 and 2018," the company said.

Yahoo has estimated the cutting back of its product line alone could generate $1bn.

Ms Mayer has been under pressure from investors to step down as chief executive.

"We would like to see a higher stock price, and we think Marissa and her current management team have become a hindrance to that," said Eric Jackson, managing director of SpringOwl.

Yahoo's shares fell 1.4% in after hours trading.

Source: bbc.com

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02/Feb/2016