Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Hesjedal heads up Garmin-Sharp team

Another supporter of questionable athletes!

Hesjedal heads up Garmin-Sharp team

New York's Times Square to celebrate New Year's Eve app

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase
Revelers who can't make it to New York's Times Square to celebrate New Year's Eve can download an app to make sure they see the ball drop.
More than a million people from around the world flock to the famous area in midtown Manhattan which hosts one of the world's largest New Year's Eve celebrations. Another billion across the globe tune in on their televisions.
"It's one moment where 100 million Americans are all doing the same thing at the same time. They're all counting down to the same time thing," said Jeff Straus, president of New York City-based Countdown Entertainment, which organizes the annual event.
With the Times Square Ball app for iPhone and Android, people not near a television can tune in to the festivities from their smartphones. The app features a live six-hour webcast that will be available on New Year's Eve, with behind-the-scenes interviews, musical performances, countdowns and the fall of the Times Square Ball.
"We created the app because there's a whole other audience that can't be near their televisions or are overseas, but still want to be part of it and count down those final seconds with us," said Straus.
The app will include tweets from the Times Square Ball, which will be tweeting news and photos of the event from its perch high above the crowds.
"The ball's history goes back to 1907 when we had the first ball drop. It was basically a 5-foot (1.5-meter) ball of iron and wood with 100 125-watt light bulbs in it, which was the latest in lighting technology," said Straus.
It has been re-designed seven times since then. Over the years, computer controls and other features like strobe lights have been added.
The ball, which has been dropped every year since 1907 except for 1942 and 1943, is now over 12 feet in diameter, weighs nearly 6 tons and is adorned with over 32,000 LED lights in varied colors, according to the Times Square Alliance, white works to improve and promote the area.

The free app also has a countdown that can be configured to different time zones and is available worldwide.
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Monday, December 30, 2013

Consumers don't like mobile sites

English: Nokia N8
English: Nokia N8 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Well, Nikki informs me, to my dismay, I’m in the minority. She gave me, and now you, an exclusive sneak peek at some new Retail Systems Research data yet to be published. The data in the “RSR Mobile Consumer 20 Research, October 2013” study is shocking. In an October study of 1,152 U.S. consumers who own smartphones and/or tablets, 55% bypass mobile commerce web sites in favor of full desktop sites when shopping on their mobile devices. That’s insane. Why on earth are all these people ignoring these beautiful sites designed to perfectly fit their mobile screens and opting for the horrible experience of using a big site on a small screen?
Before we get to possible answers to that question, let me parse the data just a bit. 59% of the 525 consumers who own both a smartphone and a tablet bypass mobile sites in favor of desktop sites. It’s possible a chunk of these consumers are on tablets and being served the m-commerce site for smartphones (some retailers do this) and choosing to go for the full site. That makes sense on a tablet. And perhaps some are being served tablet-optimized sites (rare compared to smartphone-optimized sites) and choosing the desktop site they are used to. Again, on a tablet, makes sense.
But a sizable chunk of that 59% are smartphone owners bypassing smartphone sites for desktop sites. What’s more, 49% of the 593 consumers who only own smartphones bypass smartphone sites for desktop sites, Nikki tells me. That just boggles my mind. So I asked Nikki: Why are smartphone owners spitting on beautiful mobile commerce sites and choosing the terrible experience of shopping a desktop site on a tiny smartphone screen? She has two hypotheses.
“One, retailers have gone too far in dumbing down their mobile sites and consumers don’t like them; or two, consumers know retailers’ main sites better, they’ve been trained on where on the screen to look for the buttons and all that kind of user interface stuff to the point where they just find it quicker to go to the main site,” Baird says.
There’s one fatal flaw to the second hypotheses, Baird says.
“I’ve used main sites on my mobile phone and hated the experience: radio buttons and selection boxes are way too small, text is impossible to read,” she says. “We ran into this all over the place when my colleagues and I rated digital gift card experiences. I don’t see the full site on a smartphone being preferable, but on the other hand, there were some retailers where we couldn’t accomplish an e-gift purchase on their mobile site: either it was broken or it dumped us onto a main site page by default.”
On another note, Baird says she still sees a lot of uncertainty in the market as to whether a mobile-optimized web site or a mobile app is best for engaging consumers on smartphones.
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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Google received 3,846 government requests to remove 24,737 piece

The number of requests Google receives from governments around the world to remove content from its services continue rise at a rapid pace.
Google received 3,846 government requests to remove 24,737 pieces of content during the first half of 2013, a 68 percent increase over the 2,285 government removal requests the company received in the second half of 2012. Google released the updated numbers Thursday, which cover requests made from January to June 2013, as part of its Transparency Report.
Google spotlighted one trend in particular that it said has remained consistent since launching the report in 2010: government requests to remove political content. Google said it received 93 requests to take down government criticism during the reporting period and removed content in response to "less than one third of them." Google gave examples of these requests:
Judges have asked us to remove information that's critical of them, police departments want us to take down videos or blogs that shine a light on their conduct, and local institutions like town councils don't want people to be able to find information about their decision-making processes. These officials often cite defamation, privacy and even copyright laws in attempts to remove political speech from our services.
Two countries, Turkey and Russia, made significantly more requests for content to be removed during the first half of 2013, Google said. Turkish authorities made 1,673 removal requests, a nearly "tenfold increase over the second half of last year." Russia made 257 removal requests, more than double the number of requests it made throughout 2012, Google said.
Transparency reports have become a regular for tech companies, with annual or semiannual reports coming from Web giants like Google, AppleTwitterYahooFacebook, and Microsoft.
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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Waterloo producing lots of poker players

University of Waterloo math & comp sci building
University of Waterloo math & comp sci building (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Waterloo, Ont., is most famous as the birthplace and home of BlackBerry (BBRY), one of the biggest flameouts in tech history. These days, however, the sleepy Canadian town is getting new attention for turning out poker stars as well as unpopular smartphones.
“University of Waterloo has so much poker talent coming out of it, it’s absurd,” American player Amanda Musumeci declares in a video produced by the World Poker Tour. A recent CBC News roundup of poker talent with ties to the town includes former University of Waterloo students such as 23-year-old Mike McDonald ($5.5 million in live tournament winnings), Mike Watson ($6.8 million), and Steve Paul-Ambrose (more than $1.9 million). The World Poker Tour recently named another player linked to Waterloo, 28-year-old Xuan Liu, on its list of “Ones to Watch,” and he has already won $1.4 million in live tournaments and more than $300,000 online.
It’s not really surprising that Waterloo has become a hotbed for poker, considering the local university’s highly competitive math and engineering programs. Recognized internationally for churning out talent, the school has emerged as a feeder for U.S. companies like Facebook (FB) and Tesla (TSLA). “The University of Waterloo is among the top few universities Google recruits from around the world,” Steve Woods, Google’s (GOOG) director of engineering in Canada, told me earlier this year. “UW graduates do well.” Last year an estimated one-third of Waterloo’s graduating software engineers received job offers from U.S. companies, according to Pearl Sullivan, the school’s dean of engineering.
Waterloo’s growing poker scene is fueled by the success of local stars as well as the sheer numbers of young, mathematically oriented students. It also helps that online poker is legal in Canada—as opposed to most of the U.S.—and that allows professionals to more easily earn a steady income.
Waterloo’s long stretches of wintery weather may also be a factor. “It snows a lot,” Will Ma, a Waterloo math grad who teaches a for-credit poker class at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told CBC News. “I think the fact that you’re just inside a lot more is very relevant than, say, if we were in Los Angeles or something.”
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Friday, December 27, 2013

Microsoft had invested in Apple

Image representing Microsoft as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase
Whether you’re holding an old-school 4, a tooty-fruity 5c, a Shanghai-edition gold 5s, or a Calle Ocho-jailbreak especial, it’s easy to forget how many stars had to align for any iPhone to happen at all. The particular butterfly flappings that combined to create Steve Jobs’s extraordinary life and career are well-known and oft-recalled; less remembered is the $150 million lifeline Microsoft (MSFT) threw Apple (AAPL) in August 1997, when Apple was within weeks of bankruptcy.
That now-infamous investment gave Apple enough money and breathing room to consolidate control of its Mac business and parlay that momentum and cash flow into the iPod and iTunes. Then the iPhone and iPad that would go on to mortally wound the entire personal computer industry, effectively zero-sum annexing continents’ worth of market capitalization from Microsoft’s waning empire. Microsoft was worth $556 billion at its Y2K peak. It’s now worth $320 billion. Apple was worth less than $3 billion when it took Bill Gates’s money; today it commands a planet-leading $505 billion valuation.

The investment was announced as part of a “broad patent cross-licensing agreement” in which Microsoft, among other things, said it would “develop and ship future versions of its popular Microsoft Office productivity suite, Internet Explorer and other Microsoft tools for the Mac platform.”
Microsoft’s move looked smart at the time. As Barry Ritholtz told me: “The goal was not a return on invested capital, but rather, to keep Apple’s competitive operating system viable so the antitrust folks would have a harder time proving Microsoft’s monopoly.”
“By traditional metrics,” adds Ritholtz, the chief investment officer of Ritholtz Wealth Management (and a columnist for Bloomberg View), “it was a long-shot investment in a damaged competitor. From a proactive legal perspective, it was a temporary stroke of genius.”
The emphasis should be on “temporary.” Today, the deal—and not AOL (AOL)-Time Warner ($286 billion in combined market cap loss), Bank of America (BAC)-Countrywide (more than $40 billion in directly related penalties, settlements, and losses)—might qualify as the most costly investment in modern history.
“We have to let go of the notion that for Apple to win Microsoft has to lose,” a diminished Jobs said at the Orwellian-staged MacWorld trade show in Boston where he announced Microsoft’s stake to a chorus of boos. “The era of us thinking that we compete with Microsoft is over.’”
(Of course he believed that.)
At the time, Apple was hat-in-hand. It had sustained losses of more than $1.5 billion in the prior year-and-a-half. It especially needed a public guarantee from Microsoft that it would keep providing and supporting software for Macs; Apple’s share of the then-booming PC market had dwindled to about 5 percent from about 15 percent in 1992.
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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Michael Dell on being private

English: Michael Dell, founder & CEO, Dell Inc.
English: Michael Dell, founder & CEO, Dell Inc. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It was a confident, upbeat and energized Michael Dell moving about the Dell World 2013 show here this week. Addressing the thousands of customers, partners, analysts and journalists as the chairman and CEO of his newly private company, Michael Dell sounded like a man relieved to be rid of the pressures of Wall Street and shareholder scrutiny and eager to get going on building a Dell that will be a competitive enterprise IT solutions and services provider. Throughout the day Dec. 12, he spoke often about being able to "accelerate our strategy," "make bold moves" and "focus 100 percent on the customer." It wasn't easy getting to this point. Michael Dell announced in February that he and financial backer Silver Lake Partners wanted to take the almost $60 billion company private, but it took seven months of battling investors led by Carl Icahn for control of Dell—as well as bumping the price up to about $25 billion—before shareholders finally voted in favor of the deal. Now Michael Dell owns about three quarters of Dell, with Silver Lake owning the rest. With the sale behind them, the CEO and other company executives continue to transform Dell from a PC maker to an IT solutions provider. At the show, the vendor started to clarify its cloud strategy; unveiled new storage, networking and software offerings; and put more money toward investing in both in-house development and up-and-coming technology companies. During the show, Michael Dell sat down with eWEEK to talk about what going private will mean to his company and its customers, how he views Dell's role in the competitive cloud market and why PCs will remain an important part of the vendor's strategy. - See more at: http://www.eweek.com/pc-hardware/ceo-michael-dell-being-a-private-company-just-delightful.html#sthash.BTxVswS1.dpuf
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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Bitcoin

The bitcoin logo
The bitcoin logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
On a mission to convince the world that Bitcoin is enduring and serious, enthusiasts convened at a place that symbolizes the ephemeral and the glitzy: Las Vegas. At the Inside Bitcoins conference on Dec. 10 and 11—sponsored by BubbleCoin, BitDeliver, CoinComply, and other companies—the top issue for many attendees was how to persuade regulators that the digital money and payment system is a valuable financial market innovation, rather than the currency of choice for illicit gambling and drug purchases. Banks shun Bitcoin companies “because it’s scary,” says Jered Kenna, founder of Tradehill, a Bitcoin exchange that shut down this summer after its bank closed its account. “If the banks aren’t sure, they default to ‘no.’ ”
Introduced in 2008 by a person or group using the name Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin is the most prominent of a group of virtual currencies—money that exists mainly as computer code—that have no central issuing authority. Bitcoins are stored in electronic wallets, which are identified only by a string of letters and numbers, and can be traded on online exchanges and converted to cash. They are created by computers that solve difficult cryptographic problems. As more coins are created, the problems get tougher. The system is designed to produce no more than 21 million Bitcoins. About 12 million exist.
Today, despite its ambiguous status, Bitcoin can be used to pay for T-shirts, food, and electronics. A Manhattan psychiatrist has been accepting Bitcoin as payment since 2012. His website features a “Bitcoin accepted here” sticker. This year through Dec. 10, the currency, which can swing wildly, has gained more than 7,000 percent, to $990, according to the CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index, which monitors prices on major exchanges.
As its popularity grows, Bitcoin is attracting increasing scrutiny from regulators. Prices jumped in November after a U.S. Department of Justice official described the currency as “a legal means of exchange” at a Senate hearing. Still, another regulator at the same hearing warned that Bitcoin-related businesses would need to meet current money laundering standards before banks would agree to work with them. On Dec. 5, China’s central bank barred financial institutions from buying and selling the virtual currency and from pricing products in Bitcoin, sending prices tumbling more than 10 percent. After the bank’s announcement, Baidu (BIDU), China’s biggest search engine, stopped accepting Bitcoin.
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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Sweden's Investor AB has pulled the plug on its U.S. venture capital

Image representing Investor Growth Capital as ...
Image by None via CrunchBase
Sweden's Investor AB has pulled the plug on its U.S. venture capital and growth equity program, Fortune has learned.
The program in question is Investor Growth Capital, which has invested more than $3 billion into over 250 technology and healthcare companies since being founded in 1996. Most of that activity has been in the U.S., where its deals have include Jazz Pharmaceuticals (JAZZ), MedImmune, Guavus and Rocket Lawyer.
"Investor AB decided back in January that it no longer wanted to focus on VC deals in the U.S.," says a source familiar with the situation. "There was some talk of the team trying to raise a fund from third parties, but it didn't ultimately happen. Going forward, Investor AB wants its U.S. deals to look like most of the deals it does in Europe, which means control-focused private equity rather than minority investments in expansion-stage companies."
Investor AB's website currently lists 15 investment professionals in New York and Menlo Park, but only five of them will stay on board to manage out an active portfolio of around 45 companies. Among those leaving are managing directors Guarav Aggarwal, Philip Dur and Albert Kim.
The firm is expected to continue making pro rata investments in follow-on rounds, and seems to have little interest in selling any of its positions on the secondary market.
Investor AB has not responded to a request for comment.
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Monday, December 23, 2013

EU watch dog issues warning for Bitcoin

Bitcoin Magazine
Bitcoin Magazine (Photo credit: zcopley)

The top banking watchdog in Europe has issued a strong warning about the risks of Bitcoin and may consider regulating virtual currencies as their global popularity grows.

In a report out Friday the European Banking Authority warned consumers that any investment in Bitcoin could become worthless, cautioning that digital currencies are completely unregulated, leaving people unprotected if they trade on platforms that crash or go out of business.
It comes as heavyweight investors, tech gurus and everyday consumers clamor to boost their bitcoin holdings on the hope it will one day become a legitimate global currency.
The crypto-currency has soared in value this year -- from roughly $13 in January to peak above $1,200 -- and traded at $921 on the Mt.Gox exchange on Friday. The currency is prone to severe price volatility.
Related: What is Bitcoin
Bitcoin gained another high-profile backer this week in prominent Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. The company is investing roughly $20 million into Coinbase, which provides "wallets" for the digital currency, allowing users to buy, sell and use bitcoins.
But the EBA report warned that these kinds of "digital wallets" are at risk of being hacked, leaving investors with nothing.
Related: JPMorgan patents Bitcoin-like payment system
The program behind Bitcoin was created anonymously in 2009. Unlike traditional money, bitcoins are not managed by a central authority.
Last week China's central bank issued new rules prohibiting financial institutions from dealing in bitcoins.
But Bitcoin has received a measure of support from officials at the Federal Reserve, including chairman Ben Bernanke, who said the currency "may hold long-term promise" as part of the international payment system. To top of page
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Sunday, December 22, 2013

billionaires sponsoring Breakthrough Prizes

You may have heard that billionaires Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, Yuri Milner, and Jack Ma have sponsored something called the Breakthrough Prizes. These are $3 million awards handed out each year to people—generally world-class scientists—doing pioneering work in such fields as the life sciences, physics, and mathematics. The big money total is sort of a jab at the paltry $1 million Nobels, and the prizes themselves are meant to celebrate the sciences and drum up interest in solving the hardest problems. If you haven’t heard about the awards, that’s OK. You’re in the majority.
The big-name backers of these prizes tried on Thursday night to bring some added attention to their largesse. They held a star-studded awards ceremony event at the NASA facility in Mountain View, Calif. It was in many ways an odd choice, since the place suffers from drastic budget cuts and has had to fight, fight, and then fight some more to pursue its cutting-edge science. Nonetheless, folks such as Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey showed up in their tuxedos, as did Rupert Murdoch, Conan O’Brien, and the evening’s host, Kevin Spacey. Brin kept it real by sporting a sweatshirt and a backpack.
The celebrities and business moguls gathered inside Hangar One. It’s one of the few landmarks in Silicon Valley—a massive structure that used to house dirigibles. Recently, Hangar One had its chemical-laced outer shell removed, so it’s now just a giant metal skeleton. This forced the producers of the awards ceremony to build a makeshift, plastic awards hall inside the Hangar. It ended up looking as if a tiny greenhouse full of penguins had been injected into the building. A guy who produces the Oscars dreamed this up, and French Laundry catered the event, so it had to be good, right?
Related articles

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Wall Street gets over Volcker Rule real quick

U.S. banks will no longer be able to make big trading bets with their own money after regulators on Tuesday finalized the Volcker rule and shut down what was a hugely profitable business for Wall Street before the credit crisis.
After struggling for more than two years to craft the complex rule, five regulatory agencies signed off on the nearly 900-page reform that included new tough sections narrowing carve-outs for legitimate trades.
The rule is expected to eat into revenues at large investment banks such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, even if many have already wound down some of their trading desks in anticipation of the rule's release, and may spark legal challenges.
Reform advocates cheered the changes in a sign they were tougher than the original proposal in November 2011, but much of the impact will be down to how regulators police banks to make sure they do not try to pass off speculative bets as permissible trades.
"At some point someone is going to have to write up a manual for examiners on what to look for and ... how to enforce that stuff. That's going to be a really important document," said Bradley Sabel, a lawyer at Shearman and Sterling in New York.

Better Markets, a pressure group critical of large banks, reacted positively to the final rule, calling it a "major defeat for Wall Street."
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Friday, December 20, 2013

Bookmakers are preparing for a tax avoidance crackdown

Bookmakers at the dog races in Reading, UK
Bookmakers at the dog races in Reading, UK (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Bookmakers are preparing for a tax avoidance crackdown on online gambling in Britain that will cost the industry 300 million pounds ($490 million) a year, putting a brake on the fastest growing part of their businesses.
Many bookmakers have set up internet operations in territories such as Gibraltar, allowing them to sign up British gamblers while benefiting from benign local tax regimes.
Britain's government, however, is taking a tough line on tax avoidance as it seeks to swell the Treasury's coffers, planning a 15 percent duty on bookmakers' online winnings from British-based customers from next December.
That would bring the tax regime into line with the duties bookmakers pay on takings in betting shops and provide a rare example of taxation policy catching up with the internet age.
With Britain's online market estimated at more than 2 billion pounds ($3.2 billion) a year, companies such as William Hill, Ladbrokes and Ireland's Paddy Power will pay an extra 300 million pounds to the taxman.
In preparation, they are stepping up already aggressive advertising campaigns to chase market share while also looking to cut costs and expand in other countries.
Some analysts have argued for a lower tax rate to avoid boosting the black market. They say that firms beyond the reach of the authorities could offer better odds, tempting gamblers to hand over credit card details to unlicensed operators.

Regulated companies, meanwhile, could ultimately be forced to cut back on some of the free bets and other expensive promotional ploys they use to attract new customers.
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Thursday, December 19, 2013

RBS attacked by hackers

Royal Bank of Scotland
Royal Bank of Scotland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Royal Bank of Scotland said its banking platform was briefly attacked by hackers on Friday, causing problems for some customers trying to access online accounts, just days after a more serious technology crash.
RBS said a surge in internet traffic directed at its NatWest website at about 1130 GMT was a deliberate attempt to disrupt its service. The method is known as a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, and is a frequent occurrence at many banks.
Banks typically do not comment on such events, but RBS released a statement to customers after a system crash on Monday left more than 1 million customers unable to withdraw cash or pay for goods.
"Due to a surge in internet traffic directed at the NatWest website, customers experienced difficulties accessing some of our sites today ... at no time was there any risk to customers," RBS said.
The incident caused problems for some customers for about an hour, and RBS said its systems were now operating normally.
DDoS attacks bombard websites with huge volumes of traffic from multiple systems so they overload a server.
It can be hard to track the root of the attack and it is often not clear why the attacks take place - they may have no motive or could be a show of dissent by disgruntled customers or anti-capitalist protesters.

RBS is 82 percent owned by the UK government, and after Monday's problems its new boss Ross McEwan said the bank had neglected its technology for decades, raising concerns about the resilience of its technology.
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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Web companies ask governments for more control of web data

Eight major U.S. web companies, including Apple, Google and Facebook, made a joint call on Monday for tighter controls on how governments collect personal data, intensifying the furor over online surveillance.
In an open letter to U.S. President Barack Obama and Congress, the companies said recent revelations showed the balance had tipped too far in favor of the state in many countries and away from the individual.
In June, former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden exposed top secret government surveillance programs that tap into communications on cables linking technology companies' various data centers overseas.
After Snowden's disclosure, many of the big Internet companies warned that American businesses may lose revenue abroad as distrustful customers switched to local alternatives.
"We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens," said the letter from the eight firms which also included Microsoft Corp, Twitter, LinkedIn Corp, Yahoo Inc and AOL Inc.
"But this summer's revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide.
"The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual - rights that are enshrined in our Constitution. This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It's time for a change."

Several of the eight companies, which have a combined market capitalization of nearly $1.4 trillion, have responded by publicizing their decision to boost encryption and security on their sites.
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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Banks ready for Volcker Rule

English: Paul Volcker, former head of the Fede...
English: Paul Volcker, former head of the Federal Reserve Board . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Wall Street banks will need to prove to regulators that certain trades are done on behalf of clients and are not veiled speculative bets as part of the final Volcker rule that U.S. officials plan to adopt on Tuesday, a senior regulator said.
Banks must show that risk hedging "activity demonstrably reduces or otherwise significantly mitigates the specific, identifiable risk(s) being hedged," said Bart Chilton, a member of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
The Volcker rule, named after former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker - who championed the reform - prohibits banks from betting on financial markets with their own money, a practice known as proprietary trading.
The measure is seen as a crucial part of the effort to reform Wall Street and prevent another costly taxpayer bailout.
But regulators have struggled for years to agree on a rule that, while prohibiting such risky activity, would still allow banks to take on risk on behalf of clients as market-makers, to hedge risk, or when underwriting securities.
Large investment banks have such sprawling legal structures engaging in different financial activities that the rule needs to be adopted by a patchwork of U.S. agencies: three bank watchdogs and two market regulators.
The five regulatory agencies that need to adopt the rule are expecting to largely proceed as planned on Tuesday despite the threat of snowstorms on the U.S. East Coast, which caused federal government offices to shut down.
The CFTC canceled a public vote on the rule, but said it would adopt it behind closed doors.
In an emailed statement, Chilton also said the Volcker rule would be delayed by a year until July 2015, a widely expected move after regulators repeatedly missed deadlines for the rule, which has now mushroomed into almost 900 pages.
Risk hedges would also need to be recalibrated continuously, Chilton said, a provision designed to prevent a repeat of such trading debacles as JPMorgan's $6 billion trading loss in 2012, dubbed the "London Whale" because of the huge positions the bank took in credit markets.
Chilton also said that market-making - or facilitating client trades - would still be allowed, but only for the banks' customers and not for any speculative reason.
He also said that the rule would clamp down on big bonuses paid to traders for taking undue risk. The rule would say that payouts should not be designed to reward prohibited trading, and that regulators would test this in practice.

Further, the rule will bar banks from owning more than 3 percent of hedge funds or private equity funds.
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Monday, December 16, 2013

American Airlines stock returned to Wall Street

departing LAX
departing LAX (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

American Airlines stock returned to Wall Street on Monday, emerging from bankruptcy after completing the merger with US Airways to form the world's largest airline company.

The merger of American Airlines and US Airways forms a company with more passengers than previous industry leader, United Continental Holdings (UAL, Fortune 500), which itself was formed with a merger.
The deal cleared a series of legal hurdles, including an antitrust lawsuit this fall from the Justice Department and a last-minute challenge from a consumer group. It also had to win the approval of the bankruptcy judge overseeing the reorganization of AMR Corp, American's former parent company, which filed for bankruptcy in November 2011.
The airlines and Justice Department settled the antitrust suit last month, and the Supreme Court declined late Saturday to take up the challenge that the merger will lead to higher airfares and fewer choices for passengers.
Related: American, US Air cleared to land merger
The new American Airlines trades on the Nasdaq under the symbol AAL (AAL). Most of the shares were distributed to AMR's former creditors and US Airways shareholders. But in an unusual step for a company emerging from bankruptcy, American's former shareholders got 0.0665 share of AAL stock for each of their former shares of AMR, giving them just over 3% of the company.
The new shares rose more than 7% over Friday's close for US Air's shares. US Air's former shareholders received one share in the new company for each of their previous US Air shares.
Passengers likely will not see effects of the merger immediately. They will continue to book flights under the American Airlines and US Airways brands. Ticketing and frequent flier programs are expected to be combined -- at the earliest -- in 2014.
The first change that will be apparent to consumers will be a combination of the frequent flier programs at some point early in the year.
Doug Parker, the former US Air CEO who now heads the new company, told CNN on Monday that the deal will not cause a rise in fares, since only a fraction of the routes of the two carriers overlap.
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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Tesla storage unit

It’s weird to see the big, red Tesla Motors “T” logo hanging from the side of a house or a building. But it’s the real deal. The company’s march from the automobile to the home, office, and factory has begun.
Courtesy SolarCityThis week, SolarCity, which sells and installs solar panels for residential and commercial customers, began offering an industrial-grade power storage unit produced by Tesla (TSLA). The system mounts on a wall and looks something like a white mini-fridge with Tesla’s distinctive logo in the upper left corner. It contains hundreds of the same lithium-ion batteries that Tesla’s Model S sedan needs to run and, in fact, has about one-eighth of the juice found in Tesla’s top-of-the-line battery pack. “If you go to the end of the manufacturing line at the Tesla factory where they put the battery pack on, you will see these storage systems being assembled,” says Pete Rive, the co-founder and chief technology officer at Tesla.
The purpose of the storage system is twofold. It lets solar customers shift off the grid during times when energy companies charge their highest rates, and it provides a backup system during power outages. SolarCity has been offering these systems to consumers on a limited basis—a few hundred customers so far—and, as of this week, began selling it to commercial customers as well. Customers do not have to pay upfront for the hardware but will need, instead, to commit to a 10-year service agreement with monthly payments.
The battery pack would cost about $15,000 without financing. “Our long run goal is to include a storage system with every solar system we sell,” says Rive.
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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Accounting firms buying to consulting firms

The logo of KPMG.
The logo of KPMG. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The logo of KPMG. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Securities and Exchange Commission's top accountant on Monday urged accounting firms to think carefully before acquiring non-audit related consulting businesses, warning such moves could damage their independence and credibility.
"I continue to observe the accounting firms are actively growing their consultancy practices," said SEC Chief Accountant Paul Beswick, at an AICPA conference in Washington, D.C.
"Such expansion runs the risk of damaging the accountant's reputation," he said.
Lured by consulting' s growth and with audit revenues flat in the developed world, major accounting groups have been moving back into consulting, reversing the previous trend.
The SEC has raised concerns about its potential for compromising audit firms' independence. Beswick's comments come nearly two months after PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the world's Big Four audit firms, said it would buy consultancy Booz & Co.
Deloitte, another Big Four firm, has bought a slew of consulting firms, including energy consultants Altos Management Partners and AJM Petroleum Consultants. Rounding out the Big Four, KPMG and Ernst & Young have also made several consulting acquisitions in recent years.
The shopping spree marks a shift from past practice. The 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley law - approved in the wake of accounting scandals at companies such as Enron Corp - prompted most big audit firms to back away from consulting.
Aiming to reduce potential conflicts of interest and bolster auditor independence, one part of that law prohibited accounting firms from doing consulting work for audit clients. The law left the door open for firms to continue providing tax services to audit clients and to offer consulting for non-audit clients.
Beswick said he was not trying to single out any one firm.
He noted he had reviewed press releases announcing large non-audit acquisitions by accounting firms over the past year, and compared those statements to announcements made a decade ago when firms sold off similar types of businesses.
"The public considers audit firms to be gatekeepers, not consultants," he said. "You earn the public's trust by improving audit quality ... I'm hopeful that my comments today will encourage reflection when firms are faced with decisions about growth."
The issue is expected to face further scrutiny by regulators in the coming year.
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Friday, December 13, 2013

a third of bank teller receive assistance

Nice ATM
Nice ATM (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Washington (D.C.) city council voted to raise the minimum wage to $11.50. Workers at Wal-Mart Stores (WMT)protested on Black Friday. And President Obama is talking about about wage stagnation and income inequality in a speech today. Now there’s new focus on an unexpected corner of low-wage earners: bank tellers.
Researchers from the University of California at Berkeley calculate that almost a third of all bank tellers receive some form of government assistance, according to the Washington Post. That includes $534 million for health insurance through Medicaid and coverage for low-income children, $250 million in tax credits for low and moderate earners, and more than $100 million in food stamps. They qualify for government aid because, on average, the country’s half a million tellers earn about $25,790 a year, or $12.40 an hour (if they work a 40-hour work week), according to the most recent government data. That’s less than similar administrative jobs, and tellers are also more likely to be part-time employees.
The Post says the researchers calculated the cost to taxpayers for the Committee for Better Banks, a campaign by four New York-based groups that advocate on behalf of labor and low-wage earners. The group recently protested against Bank of America’s new ATMs that connect customers to tellers via video chat. The group says the ATMs may presage layoffs for tellers not in call centers, which Bank of America (BAC)says is not the case.
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