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Showing posts from January, 2013

114 billion leaves banks

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More than $114 billion exited the biggest U.S. banks this month, and nobody’s quite sure why.
The Federal Reserve releases data on the assets and liabilities of commercial banks every Friday. The most current figures, covering the first full week of 2013, show the largest one-week withdrawals since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Even when seasonally adjusted, the level drops to $52.8 billion—still the third-highest amount on record, and one for which bank experts and analysts were reluctant to give a definitive explanation.
The most obvious culprit is the expiration of the Transaction Account Guarantee program, the extraordinary federal effort to shore up the country’s non-gigantic banks during the 2008 financial crisis. Big banks were considered “too big to fail,” while smaller ones were vulnerable to runs. The TAG program backstopped their deposit bases by temporarily offering unlimited insurance on money kept in non-interest-bearing accounts. That guarantee ended on Dec. 31, so a dec…

Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena in scandal

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Monte dei Paschi bank in Siena, Italy (Photo credit: Rome Cabs)Monte dei Paschi bank in Siena, Italy (Photo credit: Rome Cabs) Founded in 1472 and headquartered in an ornate Tuscan palazzo,Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena is the world’s oldest lender. Now, though, it’s been entangled in scandal by a quintessentially 21st-century practice: derivative trading.
Bloomberg News reported on Jan. 17 that Monte dei Paschi used a secret derivative contract with Deutsche Bank (DB) in 2008 to conceal a €367 million ($488 million) loss on prior swaps with the German bank. The transaction, which was not disclosed to the government or to the bank’s shareholders, took place shortly before the bank started requesting billions in taxpayer bailouts.
Monte dei Paschi has acknowledged doing similar swaps with Nomura Holdings in 2009 and with an unidentified third bank. In each case, the bank appears to have replaced loss-making derivative contracts with even riskier ones, leading to still more losses and u…

Cisco acquires Intucell

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Image via CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBase Networking giant Cisco announced it has acquired Israeli self-optimizing network (SON) software developer Intucell for $475 million in an effort to broaden its mobile network intelligence capabilities. The acquisition is expected to close in the third quarter of Cisco'sfiscal year 2013, subject to customary closing conditions.

The software is designed to enable mobile carriers to plan, configure, manage, optimize and heal cellular networks automatically according to real-time changing network demands, and adds a network intelligence layer to manage and optimize spectrum, coverage and capacity of Cisco’s offerings.

Under the terms of the agreement, Cisco will pay approximately $475 million in cash and retention-based incentives to acquire the entire business and operations of Intucell. Upon the close of the acquisition, Intucell employees will be integrated into Cisco's Service Provider Mobility Group, reporting to Shailesh Shukla, vice …

Moody's downgrades 6 Canadian banks

Intel is ramping down its desktop motherboard business after 20 years

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Image via CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBase Intel is ramping down its desktop motherboard business after 20 years, at a time when demand for computing is moving away from desktops and toward such systems as notebooks and tablets, and the quality of motherboards from manufacturers in Asia continues to improve.

Intel officials announced to the media that the giant chip maker will offer its own branded motherboards with the upcoming launch of its fourth generation Core “Haswell” processors, but that they will disband its desktop motherboard business over the next three years.

The company will continue to build x86-based motherboards for its chips for workstations, servers, Ultrabooks and all-in-one PCs, according to officials. Intel also will develop motherboards for its Next Unit of Computing (NUC) program, a small, self-contained PC.

For desktop systems, Intel will work with the growing number of third-party manufacturers that are building motherboards, including Asus, Gigabyte, MSI and A…

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Russian authorities to protect state computers from hacking attack

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English: ST ANDREW HALL IN THE GRAND KREMLIN PALACE, MOSCOW. The inauguration of President Vladimir Putin. Mr Putin takes the oath to the people of Russia. Русский: МОСКВА, БОЛЬШОЙ КРЕМЛЕВСКИЙ ДВОРЕЦ, АНДРЕЕВСКИЙ ЗАЛ. Торжественная церемония вступления Владимира Путина в должность Президента России. Присяга народу России. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
President Vladimir Putin has ordered Russian authorities to protect state computers from hacking attacks, the Kremlin said on Monday, after an Internet security firm said a spy network had infiltrated government and embassy computers across the former Soviet bloc.
Dubbed Red October, the network used phishing attacks - or unsolicited emails to intended targets - to infect the computers of embassies and other state institutions with a program designed to harvest intelligence and send it back to a server.
Putin signed a decree on January 15 empowering the Federal Security Service (FSB) to "create a state system for the detection, prevention …

Banks misleading on mutual funds

global jobless queue will stretch to more than 200 million

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Flag of the International Labour Organization. Based on an image at Flags of the World. Français : Drapeau du Organisation internationale du travail Italiano: Bandiera dell'Organizzazione Internazionale del Lavoro (Photo credit: Wikipedia) The global jobless queue will stretch to more than 200 million people this year, the International Labour Organization said in its annual report on Tuesday, repeating a warning it has made at the start of each of the last six years.
The U.N. jobs watchdog estimates unemployment will rise by 5.1 million this year to more than 202 million, and by another 3 million in 2014, following a rise of 4.2 million in 2012.
If those predictions are right, global unemployment will hit a record. But the ILO has revised its jobless figures down each year as the number of those giving up the job hunt altogether swells, meaning they are no longer classed as unemployed. A Reuters analysis of previous ILO reports shows that estimates of unemployment made in each of…

Wall Street waiting for Apple's earnings

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Image via CrunchBase
Want to know how Apple did last quarter? Your guess is as good as Wall Street's.                         The iPhone and iPad maker is slated to report its fiscal-first quarter earnings on January 23 and estimates are all over the board.                                         
                        The consensus view is for a 3% year-over-year decline. But the so-called consensus is hardly that. It's merely the average of all the estimates.                                         
                        And those estimates run the gamut from a nearly 14% decline in earnings to a 12% increase, according to Thomson Reuters.                                         
                        Other professional investors are a bit more bullish than Wall Street analysts. According to crowdsourcing site Estimize, which publishes forecasts from hedge fund managers and other so-called buy side analysts, Apple's earnings should rise by nearly 4%.���������������…

HSBC settles foreclosure with 249 million

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English: Foreclosure signs, Mortgage crisis, (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The agreement follows similar settlements announced this month with a dozen other banks over foreclosure issues. In total, nearly 4.2 million borrowers will split $3.6 billion in cash compensation, with payments ranging from a few hundred dollars to potentially as much as $125,000 in a small percentage of cases.                                         
                        Roughly $5.7 billion has been earmarked for non-cash forms of relief.                                         
                        HSBC's settlement covers roughly 112,000 borrowers whose homes were in foreclosure in 2009 and 2010 and whose loans were serviced by the bank or its subsidiaries.                                         
                        In April of 2011, regulators hit HSBC and 13 other banks with an enforcement action after finding evidence that, among other things, the firms had in some cases charged excessive fee…

Windows 8 price hike is approaching

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Image via CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBase A Windows 8 price hike is approaching and users have only until the end of the month to take advantage of low-cost Windows 8 upgrades.

In a bid to spur demand and build excitement for its new tablet-ready, touch-enabled operating system, Microsoft announced last summer that for a limited time, Windows 8 upgrades would cost $39.99 for Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7 users. The deal even undercut the Windows 7 Home Premium launch promotion of $49 upgrades.

Now, time is running out and hopes are dimming that Microsoft would follow Apple's long-established policy favoring inexpensive operating system upgrades.

Microsoft spokesman Brandon LeBlanc announced the new Windows 8 upgrade prices that take effect next month. Come February 1st, PC users are facing some steep, although not unprecedented, price increases.
"The Windows 8 Pro upgrade edition will be available online and at retail for $199.99 MSRP (U.S.). The Windows 8 upgrade edition wil…

B.C. Transit Police forgot explosive on Air Canada plane

gigabit-speed broadband community in all 50 states by 2015

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Logo of the United States Federal Communications Commission, used on their website and some publications since the early 2000s. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Federal Communications Commission (FCC)ChairmanJulius Genachowski called for at least one gigabit-speed broadband community in all 50 states by 2015 during remarks at the U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting on Jan. 18.

Genachowski said that establishing gigabit communities nationwide would accelerate the creation of a critical mass of markets and innovation hubs with ultra-fast Internet speeds and challenged broadband providers and state and municipal community leaders to come together to meet what the FCC is calling the “Gigabit City Challenge".
Speeds of one gigabit per second are approximately 100 times faster than the average fixed high-speed Internet connection. At gigabit speeds, connections can handle multiple streams of large-format, high-definition content like online video calls, movies, and immersive educational e…

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google docs support for older Microsoft office formats ends Jan 31

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Image via CrunchBase Google Docs users have known since last fall that they'd soon no longer be able to export files to older Microsoft Office formats. Now the drop-dead deadline of Jan. 31 is fast approaching, and Google Docs wants to remind users of the coming changes.

The changes were announced Sept. 25, 2012, with an original planned transition date of Oct. 1, 2012, but users protested to Google that a week's notice wouldn't give them enough time to make the needed changes. The company was ultimately forced to push the transition to Jan. 31 to give Docs users more time to get ready.

As of the end of this month, the transition will now be made, according to a Jan. 17 post on the Google Apps blog.

"In September, we added the ability to export Google documents to the newer Microsoft Office formats that rely on open standards (.docx, .xlsx, .pptx)," the post reported. "To continue adding new features and innovations to Google Drive and Docs, we'll be foc…

consequences of climate change are now hitting the United States

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The consequences of climate change are now hitting the United States on several fronts, including health, infrastructure, water supply, agriculture and especially more frequent severe weather, a congressionally mandated study has concluded.
A draft of the U.S. National Climate Assessment, released on Friday, said observable change to the climate in the past half-century "is due primarily to human activities, predominantly the burning of fossil fuel," and that no areas of the United States were immune to change.
"Corn producers in Iowa, oyster growers in Washington State, and maple syrup producers in Vermont have observed changes in their local climate that are outside of their experience," the report said.
Months after Superstorm Sandy hurtled into the U.S. East Coast, causing billions of dollars in damage, the report concluded that severe weather was the new normal.
"Certain types of weather events have become more frequent and/or intense, including heat waves, …

Edmonton, Ontario zoos top worst list

FCC to increase WiFi networks

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Español: Logo WiFi Vectorizado (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Español: Logo WiFi Vectorizado (Photo credit: Wikipedia) The idea of a faster, higher-capacity WiFi sounds great, doesn’t it? But right now the best you can do realistically in public places is to access 802.11n WiFi and hope for the best. Unfortunately, in busy sites such as airports, trade shows or even in offices with a lot of wireless traffic, that may not be good enough to provide reliable wireless connections.

Fortunately, that may change. Federal Communications Chairman Chairman Julius Genachowski says that he wants to give more spectrum to WiFi to enable broader availability of “Gigabit WiFi.” The idea would be to either reassign portions of the 5 GHz band or share it with other users to enable a larger number of WiFi channels and thus provide more bandwidth.

“We all know the frustration of WiFi congestion at conferences and airports,” Genachowski said during an interview with Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Elect…

Niklas Zennstrom, co-founder of internet phone service Skype

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Image via CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBase Niklas Zennstrom, co-founder of internet phone service Skype, believes the next hot tech business will just as likely spring from Istanbul or Sao Paolo as from Silicon Valley or the coolest districts of London.
And he is prepared to fly around the world to find it.
 "Talent can pop up anywhere in the world, it's not just one city block," the Swedish entrepreneur and venture capitalist said at the headquarters of his Atomico fund, based on upmarket New Bond Street in central London. Zennstrom, who retains faint traces of a Swedish accent despite his years of globetrotting, is looking for start-ups ready to shift up a gear into new markets and has the experience, gained from growing Skype into a service used by millions around the world, to help them.
Skype was sold to eBay Inc in 2005 for roughly $3 billion, before being bought back by a consortium including Zennstrom in 2009 and then two years later sold on to Microsoft Corp for $8…

A Somali pirate kingpin nicknamed "Big Mouth" has renounced a life of hijacking ships

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A Somali pirate kingpin nicknamed "Big Mouth" has renounced a life of hijacking ships that earned him fame and fortune before an international naval crackdown that has curbed attacks on maritime commercial and pleasure craft.
A U.N. Monitoring Group report on Somalia in 2010 said that Mohamed Abdi Hassan "Afweyne" commanded bandits in the Arabian Sea and off the Indian Ocean coast of East Africa for almost a decade, raking in millions of dollars in ransom payments.
"I have given up piracy and succeeded in encouraging more youth to give up piracy," Afweyne told Reuters on Friday.
"This came as a result of my efforts for a long period. The boys also took the decision like me. It was not due to fear from warships, it was just a decision," he said by mobile phone from his base in Adado in central Somalia.
Security analysts saw Afweyne's gesture as symbolic, saying he had already grown rich off the proceeds of piracy and seemed to have decided it wa…

Brazil's mostly "green" energy landscape

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English: Official photo of President Rousseff, taken by official photographer, at Alvorada Palace on January 9th, 2011. Français : Photo de Dilma Rousseff, prise par un photographe officiel, dans le Palácio da Alvorada le 9 janvier, 2011. Português: Foto oficial da presidente Dilma Rousseff feita no Palácio do Alvorada no dia 9 de janeiro de 2011 pelo fotografo oficial. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Just five years ago, Brazil's mostly "green" energy landscape was the envy of nations dependent on dirtier sources of power and the pride of a government that believed it was leading the country to economic superpower status.
Three-quarters of electricity came from renewable hydro power and the main automobile fuel was home-grown sugarcane ethanol. Plus, Brazil had just found massive oil fields off its coast, putting it on a path to become the world's No. 3 oil producer after Russia and Saudi Arabia by 2020.
Today, the outlook is much darker. Oil output is falling, ethanol pr…