Showing posts from December, 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 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 Sq…

Consumers don't like mobile sites

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 commerceweb 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 (som…

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 b…

Waterloo producing lots of poker players

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 …

Microsoft had invested in Apple

Image via CrunchBase Whether you’re holding an old-school 4, a tooty-fruity 5c, a Shanghai-edition gold 5s, or a Calle Ocho-jailbreakespecial, 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 …

Michael Dell on being private

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 bump…


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. Bitcoi…

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

Image by None via CrunchBaseSweden'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 profes…

EU watch dog issues warning for Bitcoin

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

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 Zuckerber…

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 wri…

Bookmakers are preparing for a tax avoidance crackdown

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…

RBS attacked by hackers

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 sys…

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, LinkedI…

Banks ready for Volcker Rule

English: Paul Volcker, former head of the Federal Reserve Board . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Wall Streetbanks 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 ChairmanPaul 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 act…

American Airlines stock returned to Wall Street

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.

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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…

Accounting firms buying to consulting firms

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 f…

a third of bank teller receive assistance

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…