Showing posts from May, 2013

B.C. rejects Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline proposal

Wal-Mart guilty of hazardous waste dumping

This is a selfmade image from the english wikipedia. The photographer has uploaded it as GFDL (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Wal-Mart Stores Inc on Tuesday said it would pay nearly $81.63 million to the federal government as it pleaded guilty to charges that it improperly discarded hazardous waste such as bleach and fertilizer years ago.
The U.S. Department of Justice said that in cases filed by federal prosecutors in California, Wal-Mart pleaded guilty to six counts of violating the Clean Water Act by illegally handling and disposing of hazardous materials at U.S. stores.
The world's largest retailer also pleaded guilty in Kansas City, Missouri to violating the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) by failing to properly handle pesticides that had been returned by customers, the Justice Department said in a statement.
Wal-Mart said its plea agreements with the U.S. Attorneys' Offices in the Northern and Central Districts of California, the U.S. Attorney's O…

Liberty Reserve money-transfer shut down

English: liberty reserve logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)U.S. law enforcement shut down online money-transfer service Liberty Reserve and arrested its two founders and three other employees on charges that they operated the service primarily to serve criminals' need to launder money, according to a statement issued May 28 by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.
The five defendants, arrested May 24, in Spain, Costa Rica and Brooklyn, N.Y., are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and one count of the operation of an unlicensed money-transmitting business, each which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Two remaining defendants are at large in Costa Rica, according to a statement issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York.
Liberty Reserve allegedly had at least 1 million customers worldwide and processed more than $6 billion in transfers. Approximately 55 million transactions wer…

German brewers warn about fracking

A Kranz (wreath) of Kölsch beer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) German brewers have warned Chancellor Angela Merkel's government that any law allowing the controversial drilling technique known as fracking could damage the country's cherished beer industry.
The Brauer-Bund beer association is worried that fracking for shale gas, which involves pumping water and chemicals at high pressure into the ground, could pollute water used for brewing and break a 500-year-old industry rule on water purity.
Germany, home to Munich's annual Oktoberfest - the world's biggest folk festival which attracts around 7 million visitors - has a proud tradition of brewing and beer drinking.
Under the "Reinheitsgebot", or German purity law, brewers have to produce beer using only malt, hops, yeast and water.
"The water has to be pure and more than half Germany's brewers have their own wells which are situated outside areas that could be protected under the government's curren…

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Tesla pays off loan

In 2012, it was called a “loser” company by Mitt Romney, but now electric carmaker Tesla has paid off its loan to the U.S. Department of Energy, nine years early.
On Wednesday, Tesla wired $451.8 million dollars to the government to completely pay off the loan with interest.
“When you’re talking about cutting-edge clean energy technologies, not every investment will succeed - but today’s repayment is the latest indication that the Energy Department’s portfolio of more than 30 loans is delivering big results for the American economy while costing far less than anticipated,” U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a statement.
Tesla received the loan in 2009 when the outlook for the automotive industry — let alone a startup less than a decade old — was bleak and finding financing for an auto company was a challenge. Tesla used the money to reopen a manufacturing plant in Fremont, California.
And the risk has paid off. The Tesla Model S was named Consumer Report’s top-scoring car and,…

Microsoft Xbox One

Image via CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBase Microsoft's follow-up to its successful Xbox 360 console is officially called Xbox One.
Xbox head Don Mattrick took to the stage on the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Wash., May 21 "to unveil the ultimate, all-in-one home entertainment system." On display was a black, sharp-edged console, revamped controller and an upgraded Kinect sensor that constitute the new Xbox One. Anchoring the Xbox experience is a new, personalized home screen that unifies gaming, TV, music and movies for users.
As expected, the included Kinect motion sensor will play an integral role in operating the Xbox One., Xbox Senior Vice President Yusuf Mehdi demonstrated how the new Xbox detects a user and delivers a personalized home screen based on the person's identity, games and favorites. He showed how voice commands and new hand gestures, all of which were detected by the Kinect, made switching between modes "as fast as switching channels on your TV rem…

Apple has avoided billions in taxes

Image via CrunchBase Even as Apple became the nation’s most profitable technology company, it avoided billions in taxes in the United States and around the world through a web of subsidiaries so complex it spanned continents and went beyond anything most experts had ever seen, Congressional investigators disclosed on Monday.      
Timothy D. Cook, Apple's chief executive, is expected to come under sharp questioning at a Congressional hearing on Tuesday.                            The investigation is expected to set up a potentially explosive confrontation between a bipartisan group of lawmakers and Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, at a public hearing on Tuesday.        Congressional investigators found that some of Apple’s subsidiaries had no employees and were largely run by top officials from the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. But by officially locating them in places like Ireland, Apple was able to, in effect, make them stateless — exempt from taxes, recor…

drink-driving laws destroy the restaurant industry?

Could new drink-driving laws destroy the restaurant industry?
Under new proposals outlined by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, drivers returning from wining and dining could be pulled over. The board wants to impose harsher restrictions for anyone consuming alcohol and then driving, and so have suggested that blood alcohol content above 0.05 when driving becomes illegal.
Currently, the limit is 0.08. In drinking terms, this could mean that for some people, having a single glass of wine will set you over the limit — something that is beginning to panic restaurateurs.
Sarah Longwell, the managing director of the American Beverage Institute, said that the new legislation would have a “devastating impact” on the industry, and would take away “some of the magic, the ambiance of a night out.” Out of fear of being pulled over, it’s likely that social drinkers will forego the drink with dinner — not only impacting businesses and sales, but removing part of the fun of going out.

U.S. authorities to settle with tax evaders in Switzerland

Switzerland is on the brink of a deal to settle a long-running dispute with U.S. authorities over Swiss banks accused of helping wealthy Americans evade billions of dollars of tax, the finance minister said on Saturday.
"We hope that we will shortly be at the finishing line," Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf told Swiss radio in an interview. "The banks won't get it for nothing."
Widmer-Schlumpf declined to say how high fines might be, but added: "It is clear that it will not be a pleasant solution."
Bank secrecy, which has helped Switzerland become the world's largest offshore center with $2 trillion in assets, has come under fire since the financial crisis, as cash-strapped governments seek to clamp down on tax evasion.
The Swiss government has been in protracted talks to end U.S. investigations into Swiss banks, including Credit Suisse and Julius Baer, in return for expected heavy fines and a transfer of client names.
Bern said last month it was consideri…

European Commission raided the offices of Shell, BP

English: Platts logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)English: Platts logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Some of the world's biggest oil companies may have a new mess on their hands. The European Commission raided the offices of Shell, BP and Norway's Statoil this week as part of an investigation into suspected attempts to manipulate global oil prices spanning more than a decade.
None of the companies have been accused of wrongdoing, but the controversyhas brought back memories of theLibor rate-rigging scandal that rocked the financial world last year.
UBS (UBS), Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Barclays (BCS) have already reached settlements with regulators in the U.S. and U.K. over Libor-rigging, paying over $2.5 billion in fines after admitting to attempts to manipulate interest rates to appear more credit-worthy and to benefit trading positions. Roughly a dozen other global banks remain under scrutiny over rate-rigging, and three people have been arrested so far.
Reams of email and ins…

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billion dollar profits from student loans

Federal Reserve Bank of NY, 33 Liberty Street (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Obama administration is forecast to turn a record $51 billion profit this year from student loan borrowers, a sum greater than the earnings of the nation's most profitable companies and roughly equal to the combined net income of the four largest U.S. banks by assets.
Figures made public Tuesday by the Congressional Budget Office show that the nonpartisan agency increased its 2013 fiscal year profit forecast for the Department of Education by 43 percent to $50.6 billion from its February estimate of $35.5 billion.
Exxon Mobil Corp., the nation's most profitable company, reported $44.9 billion in net income last year. Apple Inc. recorded a $41.7 billion profit in its 2012 fiscal year, which ended in September, while Chevron Corp. reported $26.2 billion in earnings last year. JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo reported a combined $51.9 billion in profit last year.
The estimated in…

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Free WiFi for FIFA World Cup

FIFA World Cup 2014 logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) When Brazil was selected to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup, many Brazilians hoped the event would jump-start many needed infrastructure improvements - especially things like airport capacity and traffic congestion. While in most cases any upgrades in those areas have fallen short of expectations, the World Cup may still provide at least one tangible improvement to residents of São Paulo, the country’s biggest city.
With next year’s World Cup in mind, the city mayor’s office published a list this week of 120 public spaces, including parks, squares, and public transit stations, where it plans to install free WiFi access.
According to Prodam, the IT and telecoms company run by the city of São Paulo, the hotspots would cover 6.7 million square meters (more than 4,000 square miles) and would allow 24,200 simultaneous users. The WiFi will have to be available 24 hours a day, with a minimum speed of 512 kbps per user for downloads and uploads…

Gibraltar is inside the EU but outside the EU Customs Area

There has been much discussion on forums and social media about the possibilities of using Temporary Importation License as a tax efficient way of owning a vessel.

Gibraltar is inside the EU but outside the EU Customs Area
Temporary Admission (or Temporary Importation) is a mechanism that enables non European Union (EU) resident yacht owners to bring their vessels into European waters for a limited time and under certain conditions without having to pay VAT on their yachts.
The mechanism has been designed to allow visiting vessels to cruise in EU waters unmolested for an extended period without becoming obliged to be VAT-paid under EU regulations.
However, an EU national can establish residence outside the EU VAT Zone (e.g. Gibraltar) and therefore avail themselves of the Temporary Importation laws.
Anecdoctal evidence and contributors to forums such as cruisingworld would suggest that a short trip across the water to Morocco for a night could be sufficient evidence of exiting the VAT …

Small Business Optimism

A gauge of confidence for small businesses rose in April to its highest in six months, a sign of resilience in an economy beset by Washington'sausterity drive.
The National Federation of Independent Business said on Tuesday its Small Business Optimism Index rose 2.6 points to 92.1, the highest reading since October.
About half the gain was because businesses expect better business conditions over the next six months. Firms also were more optimistic about creating jobs and about sales.
Economic growth is being crimped this year by tax hikes enacted in January and federal budget cuts that started in March. Congress and President Barack Obama agreed to the measures in a bid to tame the federal budget deficit.

Offsetting some of austerity's bite, the U.S. Federal Reserve has kept interest rates exceptionally low, while falling gasoline prices have recently helped household finances.

Asia continues to outpace the rest of the world

English: Fraz Wahlah receiving the International Asia Pacific Information & Communications Technology Award (APICTA), known as technology Oscar, in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Fraz Wahlah won the technology Oscar for the first time for Pakistan in the eHealth Category. Each year World's leading economies contest for APICTA including Australia, Malaysia, China, Korea, Thailand, Pakistan, Brunei , Taiwan, Singapore, etc. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Asia continues to outpace the rest of the world in growth of healthcare spending.  With growing incomes, populations, and average age, the region's demand for healthcare services is huge, and so is the opportunity for medical suppliers and providers.  India has made expansion of primary care a policy priority and its spending is expected to rise by an average of 16.1% a year in US-dollar terms over the forecast period. China aims to create a system that provides "safe, effective, convenient and affordable" healthcare to rural an…

Dell buys Enstratius Software

Dell is building on its cloud computing strategy and larger enterprise IT solutions portfolio with the acquisition of Enstratius, whose software enables businesses to manage applications across a variety of private, public and hybrid clouds.
The Enstratius deal, announced May 6, complements a number of other acquisitions Dell has made over the past couple of years—including Gale Technologies and Quest Software—to build up its software and cloud computing capabilities. With Enstratius, Dell gains the ability to offer customers tools that will enable them to choose from a wide field of public and cloud providers, including Dell and competitors.
No financial details about the deal were announced. Dell officials said they intended to keep the employees from Enstratius, which was founded in 2008 and is headquartered in Minneapolis. They also said Dell would invest in additional engineering and sales help to keep the business growing. A year ago, Enstratius changed its name from enStratus.

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Hotmail moves

Image via CrunchBase Last summer, Microsoft signaled that Hotmail's days were numbered when it previewed

On July 31, 2012, the software maker unveiled a webmail service that adhered to the streamlined look and feel that has come to define the company's software and cloud-based services suite, including Windows 8 and Office 365. Sporting an uncluttered interface and social media integration, was positioned as an upgraded, next-generation version of Hotmail.

The transition is complete, according to Microsoft. Group Program Manager Dick Craddock announced the milestone in a May 2 company blog post.

"Today, we're excited to announce that we've completed upgrading all Hotmail customers to," Craddock wrote.

Folding Hotmail into swelled the newer service's user base, Craddock said. "Coupled with the growing organic excitement for, this has pushed us to over 400 million active Outlook.c…

Tesla a success?

English: Tesla Model S Prototype at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show (Photo credit: Wikipedia) There can be no doubt that, at this point, Tesla is a success.  However, it still represents a failure for the federal government’s “green energy” loan program.  Simply put, the purpose of the DOE loans was to save the earth, and Tesla used them to produce toys to amuse the rich.
Now, there is nothing wrong with producing toys for the rich.  In fact, all technologically advanced consumer products started out as toys for the rich.  This was true for TVs, microwaves, personal computers and cell phones, and it was also true for the automobile itself.
The first modern automobile, Karl Benz’s “Motorwagen”, went on sale in 1886.  From then until the introduction of the Ford Model T in 1908, cars were just toys for the rich.
As it happens, the Tesla Model S is a fantastic toy for the rich, and the rich seem to love it.
In the first quarter of 2013, the $100,000 Tesla sold more units (4,750) than the $…