Friday, January 31, 2014

Americans who read e-books is growing

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...
Cover via Amazon
Overall, half of Americans now have a dedicated handheld device-–either a tablet or an e-reader such as a Kindle or Nook–-for reading e-content. While the proportion of Americans who read e-books is growing, few have completely replaced print books for electronic versions, according to a survey of 1,005 American adults conducted by the Pew Research Center. However, the January 2014 survey, conducted just after the 2013 holiday gift-giving season, produced evidence that e-book reading devices are spreading through the population. Some 42 percent of adults now own tablet computers, up from 34 percent in September. Meanwhile, the number of adults who own an e-book reading device such as a Kindle or Nook reader jumped from 24 percent in September to nearly one-third (32 percent) after the holidays.

Overall, half of Americans now have a dedicated handheld device–either a tablet computer such as an iPad, or an e-reader such as a Kindle or Nook–for reading e-content. That figure has grown from 43 percent of adults who had either of those devices in September. The percentage of adults who read an e-book in the past year has risen to 28 percent, up from 23 percent at the end of 2012. At the same time, about seven in 10 Americans reported reading a book in print, up four percentage points after a slight dip in 2012, and 14 percent of adults listened to an audiobook. Most people who read e-books also read print books, and just 4 percent of readers are "e-book only," the report found. Audiobook listeners have the most diverse reading habits overall, while fewer print readers consume books in other formats.

The survey also indicated e-book readers who own tablets or e-readers are very likely to read e-books on those devices—but those who own computers or cellphones sometimes turn to those platforms, too. Overall, just more than three-quarters (76 percent) of adults read a book in some format over the previous 12 months. The typical American adult read or listened to five books in the past year, and the average for all adults was 12 books. Neither the mean nor median number of books read has changed significantly over the past few years, the report noted.
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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Solar City plans to sell debt

SolarCity wants to give investors more exposure to the sun. In a unique move, the solar panel company revealed a plan Wednesday to sell debt investments directly to individual investors.

Previously, such bond-like products were only available to large institutional investors. Goldman Sachs (GS, Fortune 500) last year announced a deal to provide the firm with $500 million in financing for example.

"People want to support clean energy development," SolarCity (SCTY) CEO Lyndon Rive said in a statement. "Customers are seeing the benefits of getting solar for their homes but they would like to participate in other ways as well."
SolarCity will launch a new online investment platform for investors to buy and sell the debt.
The clean energy firm, which operates in 14 states, said the products will be backed by a pool of solar assets, namely the 20-year solar panel leases it signs with its customers.
"Those contracts produce a long-term, predictable source of cash flow," said Tim Newell, vice president of financial products for SolarCity in an interview with CNNMoney.
SolarCity offers solar-power systems for homes, businesses and other organizations, designing and installing custom-built arrangements. Customers can get solar panels installed with no upfront costs and then pay SolarCity each month for power.
Related: Solar jobs outnumber ranchers in Texas, actors in California
The investments will be similar to mortgage-backed securities in the sense that returns rely on payments from SolarCity's customers.
Newell said SolarCity is adopting to technological changes in the financial markets, such as the fact that some municipal bonds can be purchased online.
"You're seeing the growth of direct investment platforms throughout the investment industry," he said. "We're taking those changes and applying them to the solar industry."
Newell added that SolarCity plans to sell a range of debt products with different durations and yields and that the investment platform should go live sometime in the first half of this year.
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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

NSA tactics

One such tactic is "method interdiction," or when the feds intercept packages when they are en route to the recipient for a few add-ons they didn't order. Malware or backdoor-enabling hardware is installed in workshops by agents and the item then continues on its way to the customer.
There are dozens of ANT programs, but here's a rundown of just a few.
This backdoor makes its home at work, hiding out in Proliant servers manufactured by Hewlett-Packard. Hardware is implanted by method interdiction. Even if the spyware is removed and a system wiped, IRONCHEF lives on.
Good fences might make good neighbors but if you have an ANGRYNEIGHBOR, watch out because they're inside your home. ANGRYNEIGHBOR can track objects in rooms, listen in, and check out what's displayed on computer monitors.
Being offline won't stop SURLYSPAWN from logging keystrokes. This tactic, which is part of ANGRYNEIGHBOR, does not require a software download; it uses radio frequency to communicate keystrokes from as far away as across the street.
Also part of ANGRYNEIGHBOR, TAWDRYYARD is described as a beacon that typically helps locate units deployed as part of RAGEMASTER, a $30 device that can intercept video between a computer video card's VGA output and a monitor.
The NSA doesn't have to go through phone carriers to track the location of phones. Candygram can mimic the GSM cell tower of a larger network to silently observe from afar - whether that's keeping track of an asset or identifying hostile surveillance.
Computers running Windows can be attacked from up to eight miles away via an 802.11 wireless exploit. Officials turn to this method when a wired access is not a possibility.
Using remote access or interdiction, IRATEMONK is implanted on target PCs, and can then drop payloads whenever a computer is powered on. According to NSA documentation, "this technique supports systems without RAID hardware that boot from a variety of Western Digital, Seagate, Maxtor, and Samsung hard drives.

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Online gambling gets off to shaky start

Cover of "Gambling on the Internet"
Cover of Gambling on the Internet
Six weeks into the era of legalized online gambling in New Jersey, the state has released the first data (PDF) about how much people are gambling on the Internet. Casinos brought in $8.4 million from Nov. 21, the day of online gaming’s soft launch, through the end of the year. This added $1.2 million the state’s coffers. But even with the addition of online gambling, the state’s casinos brought in less money in December than they did in December 2012.
New Jersey is one of three states to have legalized online gambling and it’s the biggest market for it in the U.S.. The launch got off to a shaky start, marred by some technical glitches and patchy marketing. Forecasts about the level of activity ranged widely; industry blog Online Poker Report estimated last week that the first six weeks would bring in $10.5 million. The consensus seems to be that the numbers were at least mildly disappointing.
The brick-and-mortar casinos hoping to shore up operations with online games continue to flounder, however. Excluding online gaming, Atlantic City, N.J., casinos brought in $2.9 billion in 2013, down from $3.1 billion the year before. It’s the seventh straight year the industry has made less money than the year before, and total revenue is down 45 percent since 2006, according to the Center for Gaming Research at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. If the business at the physical casinos shrinks at the same rate this year, the online business would have to approximately double in size to keep up.
That’s not a ridiculous thought. Tech products usually aren’t perfect at launch, and marketing deals such as those signed by the 76ers and New Jersey Devils will probably help. But it’s unclear how much online business will come from people who stay home from casinos, rather than those who weren’t gambling at all.
Mark Lipparelli, a former chairman of the Nevada State Gaming Control Board, says online gambling shouldn’t threaten physical casinos. “Their audiences are quite different,” he says—at least for now. Lipparelli says it’s hard to tell how tastes for gambling will evolve over decades, rather than months.
Still, online gambling is only the latest incarnation of a widespread trend that is undermining casinos. New forms of legal gambling are flooding the market. New Jersey’s casinos used to be able to reliably draw people across state lines. As more states have been seduced into liberalizing their own gambling rules by the promise of easy tax revenue, the industry has suffered. There ay be a limit on how much people want to gamble.
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Monday, January 27, 2014

U.S. business travel spending is expected to climb

Panoram Cristo Redentor, Bahia de Guanabara, P...
Panoram Cristo Redentor, Bahia de Guanabara, Pão de Açúcar e Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Optimistic the economy will continue to improve, U.S. business travel spending is expected to climb more than earlier forecasts, boosted by an increase in outbound international travel, mainly to Western Europe.
The new Global Business Travel Association quarterly report, released Wednesday, predicts travel spending will rise 6.6 percent to $289.8 billion in 2014, up from a 3.8 percent growth rate in 2013. Looking at just international travel spending, the increase is expected to hit 12.5 percent (to $36.7 billion), which followed a 1.8 percent growth rate in 2013 and a mere 0.8 percent rise in 2012.
Read more: As the mile gap widens, new flier loyalty tactics
"International outbound travel is the driver" of the increase, Mike McCormick, the executive director and chief operating officer of the association told CNBC in an interview Tuesday. And because an international traveler tends to spend more on airfare and hotels, on a per-person rate, overall spending goes up.
Overall, the number of business trips will increase, even domestically, but still with an eye on the cost. The uptick in spending doesn't so much mean a loosening in terms of travel policies, but a willingness to invest in putting more people on the road, McCormick said.
And although spending on business travel is starting to increase, it's far from a return to three martini lunches and a surf and turf with the clients. "We may not see that again in our lifetime," he said. "We may have to save that for the 'Mad Men.' "
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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Wall Street banks in physical commodities markets

English: Wall Street sign on Wall Street
English: Wall Street sign on Wall Street (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The U.S. Federal Reserve on Tuesday took a first formal step toward restricting the role of Wall Street banks in physical commodities markets, seeking feedback on ways to limit the "catastrophic" risks of dealing with oil tanks or power plants.
In a 6-0 vote, the Fed board agreed to publish a preliminary notice laying out its concerns and potential remedies, following months of growing public and political pressure to check banks' decade-long expansion into the raw materials supply chain.
Facing a clearly uneasy regulator, some banks such as JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) are already quitting the commodity trade, a once-lucrative business that has reaped billions of dollars of revenue for Wall Street over the years but is now facing diminished margins and stiffer capital rules.
In a 19-page document that included two dozen questions, the Fed offered a host of reasons for imposing new restrictions in the interests of limiting potential conflicts of interest and protecting the safety and soundness of the banking system, invoking incidents including BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster and last summer's oil-train tragedy in Quebec.
"The recent catastrophes accent that the costs of preventing accidents are high and the costs and liability related to physical commodity activities can be difficult to limit and higher than expected," the Fed said in the notice.
It is the Fed's first detailed public discussion since it shocked the banking industry last July by announcing a "review" of its 2003 authorization that first allowed commercial banks such as Citigroup (C.N) to handle physical commodities.

It comes just one day before a senior Fed director goes before a second Senate banking committee hearing on the matter.
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Saturday, January 25, 2014

IT leaders think demand from the business exceeds their capacity

CIOs are feeling swamped by the digital initiatives piling up on top of traditional IT duties and fear they lack the skills to cope with that dual burden.
Just over half of IT leaders think demand from the business exceeds their capacity to manage digital projects, with four in 10 saying they are not cut out to face this future, according to Gartner.
There's a cultural tension between IT's desire to do things clearly and in a predictable way and the way you need to operate with digital projects, Gartner Fellow and vice president Dave Aron said.
"Traditional IT people like certainly and clarity and there's not a lot of that in the digital world," he said.
"What's happening now is CIOs have to continue to provide that really professional, solid core infrastructure but they also have to deal with their company's need to succeed in an increasingly digital world."
Analyst firm Gartner's survey of business priorities and CIO strategies, which was conducted in the final quarter of 2013, included 2,339 CIOs controlling a total of more than $300bn in IT budgets in 77 countries.
According to Aron, digitalisation is about radically reinventing your business to generate significantly more value using a broad set of information and technologies.
"In the past year or two, this need to be more digital — and even exactly what digital and digitalisation mean — it's catching a lot of CIOs on the hop, partly because they don't know what it is and partly because they are just so busy doing everything else," he said.
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Friday, January 24, 2014

GoDaddy and Microsoft announced a long-term strategic partnership

The partnership gives businesses access to professional email connected to their domain names, cloud storage and a suite of productivity solutions.

Internet domain registrar and Web hosting company GoDaddy and software giant Microsoft announced a long-term strategic partnership to offer Office 365 as GoDaddy's exclusive core business-class email and productivity service to its small-business customers.

As part of the agreement, Microsoft created a unique offering of domain-based email and storage especially built with GoDaddy's very small businesses in mind.

The strategic agreement between the two companies provides small to medium-size businesses (SMBs) with access to professional email connected to their domain names, cloud storage and a full suite of Microsoft productivity solutions.

The platform offers business-class email, shared calendars, instant messaging, online conferencing and access to the most up-to-date documents. These capabilities are delivered as a cloud service available to users wherever they are, online or offline, and across a variety of devices, offering access to the most up-to-date versions of their files and tools.

The SMB of the Future: Start Fast, Then Accelerate
"Combining our small-business expertise together with Microsoft's productivity offerings opens new doors for small businesses to easily get the tools they need to get more done in their day," Steven Aldrich, senior vice president of business applications at GoDaddy, said in a statement. "We've created a simple way to attach Office 365 to a domain name, helping small-business owners look professional and work anywhere, making the business of running their business easier."

The platform includes built-in security features that help deflect malware, spam, phishing attacks and other threats. Office 365 from GoDaddy is currently available in the United States and Canada and will expand globally within the next three months. - See more at:
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Thursday, January 23, 2014

U.S. appeals court has struck down the government's latest effort

Logo of the United States Federal Communicatio...
Logo of the United States Federal Communications Commission, used on their website and some publications since the early 2000s. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A U.S. appeals court has struck down the government's latest effort to require internet providers to treat all web traffic equally, meaning mobile carriers and other broadband providers may reach agreements for faster access to specific content crossing their networks.
The Federal Communications Commission's open Internet rules, passed in late 2010, require internet providers to treat all Web traffic equally and give consumers equal access to all lawful content, a principle known as net neutrality.
But the FCC lacked legal authority to enact the regulations, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled on Tuesday, siding with Verizon Communications Inc that challenged the rules.
Verizon has argued the rules violated the company's right to free speech and stripped control of what its networks transmit and how.
"Even though the commission has general authority to regulate in this arena, it may not impose requirements that contravene express statutory mandates," Judge David Tatel said.
The FCC has classified broadband providers as information service providers as opposed to telecommunications service providers and that distinction created a legal hurdle for the FCC to impose the net neutrality rules.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler on Tuesday said the agency was considering "all available options, including those for appeal, to ensure that these networks on which the Internet depends continue to provide a free and open platform for innovation and expression, and operate in the interest of all Americans."
The FCC could appeal the ruling to the full appeals court or to the U.S. Supreme Court. Or it could attempt to rewrite the regulations to clear up its authority over broadband providers - a move urged by consumer advocacy groups.
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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Open Source Storage

Open Source Storage, which 13 years ago pioneered the idea of networked storage that uses free and open source software to manage it, will announce three news items Jan. 14: that it has reformed and relaunched itself; that it has sold more than 50 million securities to private investors; and that it has refreshed its storage middleware operating system. San Jose, Calif.-based Open Source Storage, founded in 2001, first made traction in its business by signing then-unknown Facebook to handle its storage in 2004. It also counts companies and organizations such as Friendster, Shutterfly, NASA, KPMG, the U.S. Army, and Lockheed Martin among its former and current customers. CEO and founder Eren Niazi told eWEEK that the company reached a point in which it had to re-evaluate its entire business after a major investor pulled out in 2007 when the economy shifted. "We were doing about $26 million in business per year -- we were one of the first companies to commercialize open source," Niazi said. "We did all the architectural design, software design and scalability for Facebook and other companies. We were doing great business, but I lost the company in 2007; now we're back, and we relaunched the company 19 days ago (in December 2013)." - See more at:
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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Paypal is redesigning its online checkout system

Image representing PayPal as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase
Paying for stuff with PayPal can sometimes be a pain. When users click to buy an item on third-party Web sites, they are usually redirected to PayPal's site, have to sign in there and then carry out the process. This is something the online payments company is now changing.
Paypal announced on Monday that it is redesigning its online checkout system so that those annoying redirects are no longer part of the payment process. Now, customers should be able to do the whole checkout within a merchant's Web site and in fewer steps.

PayPal's vice president of retail services Don Kingsborough said in a statement that the company's overarching goal is to "deliver shopping experiences that are more convenient, more personal, and more fun for consumers, and more profitable for merchants by making it easier to shop and pay from anywhere and at any time."

The redesign is rolling out to a few PayPal partners first and then will become available to larger merchants within the next few months. The company said that mid-size and smaller merchants will also be able to get the new checkout system "very soon." Additionally, merchants can choose to put the simplified process on their mobile apps.
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Check processing

Apply for Check 21 processing today!

Process your customer's checks on a virtual terminal right over the internet, even by phone or Gateway.
Works just like credit card processing. Here are some of the businesses and others too worldwide.
Lower chargebacks and fees than credit card processing; boost your sales today!
Some acceptable business types:
Generics, Tobacco, ewallets, Auctions, Credit Repair Services - Domestic Only, Electronic Cigarette (e-Cig)
Extended Warranty/Protection, Infomercials, Internet Art Sales, Internet Collector Coins/Stamps, Internet Electronics
Internet Jewelry Sales, Loan Modification - Domestic Only, Multi-level Marketing (MLM) - Domestic Only, Nutraceuticals
Online Exercise Equipment, Online Herbal/Vitamin, Online Legal Forms, Online School/Education, PC/Tech Support & Software
Pharmaceuticals, Travel - Domestic Only.

eComTechnology check and credit card processing solutions.

Fully supported installation!
For more info apply at eComTechnology or email

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Accenture has been chosen to replace CGI Federal

Image representing CGI Group as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase
Accenture has been chosen to replace CGI Federal as the lead contractor for the Obamacare enrollment website, which failed to work when it launched in October for millions of Americans shopping for health insurance, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said on Saturday.
CGI Federal, a subsidiary of CGI Group, built the website,, which was plagued by error messages and slow speeds for weeks after the launch. The glitches created a political crisis for President Barack Obama, threatening the roll-out of his signature healthcare law and emboldening Republican foes to call for its repeal.
"As CMS moves forward in our efforts to help consumers access quality, affordable health coverage, we have selected Accenture to become the lead contractor for the portal and to prepare for next year's open enrollment period," the agency said in a statement.
CGI Federal said on Friday that its contract, which was originally awarded in 2011 and is scheduled to end February 28, would not be renewed.
Accenture said the contract was worth $45 million for the initial phase of the project, and the Washington Post reported that the final value of the one-year contract would be about $90 million.
"Accenture will bring deep healthcare industry insight as well as proven experience building large-scale, public-facing websites to continue improving," David Moskovitz, chief executive of Accenture Federal Services, said in a statement.
Obama has said the fiasco with the website has made him want to overhaul the way the federal government buys technology services. Critics say the system favors large, established contractors such as CGI.

Although the site is vastly improved, technical glitches continue to bedevil enrollment. The improvements allowed more than 1.1 million people to shop for and enroll in insurance on by the end of 2013, far short of original hopes.
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Sunday, January 19, 2014

The hotel bar

Cover of "The Essential Cocktail: The Art...
Cover via Amazon
The hotel bar isn't what it used to be. Well, it's not what it used to be maybe a decade ago, but it is more likely to be what it was nearly a century ago.
"Bars were previously a holding space," said Emily Wines, the master sommelier and senior director of beverage programs at Kimpton Hotels. "We've had a shift in how we look at our bars."
Boutique hotels and even many of the big chains have invested in their bars as a way to stand out and bring in more travelers as well as locals.
"Now that the economy is coming around, people are spending more on drinking as opposed to just drinking free wine at wine hour. They're coming and drinking, they're entertaining, they're coming in with a group," Wines said. "I would say it started to pick up about two years ago and within the last year we're seeing more momentum, spending more across the board at our hotels, restaurants, weddings."
While the trend has been slowly building, hotel operators are very optimistic this will be a very good year for their bars.
December report by the consulting firm Technomic showed hotel operators forecast 4.4 percent growth in their food and beverage sales in 2014. "Of the segments we track, hotel operators are among the most optimistic," said Donna Hood Crecca, the senior director for the adult beverage resource group at Technomic.
Kimpton is among the hotel chains that have invested in training for their bartenders so they are now likely to squeeze fresh juices at the bar, use dense Kold-Draft ice cubes that melt more slowly and offer drinks uniquely popular in their city.
"We now have bars that really drive business. Mixology has really shifted the way we offer our various craft cocktails," Wines said.
In some ways, the new is merely a return to the past, said Dale DeGroff, a mixologist, author of "The Essential Cocktail" and founder of the Museum of the American Cocktail.
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Saturday, January 18, 2014

U.S. Supreme Court denies Newegg and Soverain

The U.S. Supreme Court said on Monday it would not take on an Internet technology patent case that pitted a company accused of aggressively enforcing weak patents against another with an equally tough reputation for fighting patent infringement claims.
The closely watched case involved the online shopping site Newegg Inc, which specializes in computer products, and software company Soverain Software LLC, which had accused Newegg of infringing three patents known as the "shopping cart patents," which describe a way to buy products online and pay for them.
Chicago-based Soverain had filed similar lawsuits against a long list of companies, including J. Crew Group, Macy's Inc and Williams-Sonoma.
Against Newegg, Soverain won in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas but lost at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which ruled that the three online shopping patents were invalid because they were obvious.
In its filing to the Supreme Court, Newegg argued that the Federal Circuit decision should be upheld. "Petitioner's notorious 'shopping cart' patent merely applies the common sense concept of a shopping cart to the Internet," Newegg said.
Newegg's chief legal officer, Lee Cheng, applauded the decision.
"The witch is dead, hurray," he said. "We are very, very pleased that the Supreme Court has recognized ... these patents should never have been granted in the first place. What we have showed in the Soverain case is the fighting back works."
Soverain President Katharine Wolanyk said, "We're obviously disappointed that the court denied our petition," said Wolanyk. "It's a really tough time to be a patent owner."

There are a variety of bills before Congress aimed at reining in what many tech companies complain is frivolous patent litigation.
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Friday, January 17, 2014

Neiman Marcus confirmed hacked

Neiman Marcus
Neiman Marcus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
U.S. retailer Target wasn't the only target of credit card thieves this past holiday season. Upscale retailer Neiman Marcus confirmed on Jan. 10 that it too was the victim of a data breach that saw customer credit card information stolen.

Neiman Marcus has not disclosed how many customer credit cards were stolen or how the breach occurred.

"The security of our customers' information is always a priority, and we sincerely regret any inconvenience," the official Neiman Marcus Twitter account stated on Jan. 11.

The retailer added in a follow-up tweet that it is taking steps to notify its customers whose credit cards were known be to be used fraudulently after purchasing goods at Neiman Marcus stores.

In a statement sent to media outlets, including blogger Brian Krebs, who broke the story, Neiman Marcus gives some guidance as to when the breach occurred.

"On January 1st, the forensics firm discovered evidence that the company was the victim of a criminal cyber-security intrusion and that some customers' cards were possibly compromised as a result," Neiman Marcus stated. "We have begun to contain the intrusion and have taken significant steps to further enhance information security."

Daniel Ingevaldson, chief technology officer of payment fraud detection vendor Easy Solutions, blogged that his company saw 2 million high-value credit cards being dumped on the black market on Jan. 4.

"While we can't definitively say what the source of the breach was, the percentage of extremely high value cards is significantly higher than we see on average," Ingevaldson said. "While it is hard to determine from a single black market, this would indicate these could come from a high end source, such as Neiman Marcus."

Neiman Marcus is the second major U.S. retailer to disclose a security incident during the 2013 holiday season. On Dec. 19, Target disclosed that it had been the victim of a credit card data breach. Initially, Target estimated that 40 million customers were impacted by the breach, but it increased the number to 70 million on Jan. 10. - See more at:
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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Suntory Holdings Ltd to buy Beam Inc for $13.6 billion?

Jim Beam
Jim Beam (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Suntory Holdings Ltd on Monday said it would buy Beam Inc for $13.6 billion in cash in a deal that would make the Japanese company the world's third-largest spirits maker.
Including the assumption of Beam's net debt, the deal is valued at $16 billion. It brings together Beam's Jim Beam and Maker's Mark bourbons, Courvoisier cognac and Sauza tequila with Suntory's Yamazaki, Hakushu, Hibiki and Kakubin Japanese whiskies, Bowmore Scotch whisky and Midori liqueur.
The deal is the latest example of how Japanese beverage companies are seeking to quench their thirst for overseas growth as the population in their home market shrinks.
"All Japanese beverage companies have been focused on getting growth outside Japan," said Bernstein Research analyst Trevor Stirling.
The proposed acquisition is also Japan's third-largest announced outbound deal of all time, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Last year, privately held Suntory floated its food and non-alcoholic drinks company, Suntory Beverage & Food, to raise money for overseas acquisitions. Kirin Holdings Co bought control of Brazil's Schincariol for $2.6 billion in 2011, and Asahi Group Holdings took a stake in Chinese brewery Tsingtao in 2009.
Suntory said on Monday that it would pay $83.50 per share in cash, a 25 percent premium to Beam's closing stock price of $66.97 on Friday. Beam shares jumped 24 percent to $83.07 on Monday.
The purchase price is more than 20 times Beam's earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization, a multiple that comes close to the record 20.8 times EBITDA that Pernod Ricard paid in 2008 for the maker of Absolut vodka.

But unlike the Absolut acquisition, there are few cost-saving opportunities in Monday's deal, Stirling said, since more than 90 percent of Suntory's business is in Japan, and the Beam business will continue to operate in the United States.
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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

European Commission are mulling over changes to 2030 energy targets

Representatives of the European Commission are mulling over changes to 2030 energy targets.
Due to be officially proposed later this month, the E.U.'s 2030 energy and climate targets aim to boost the use of renewable energy sources and lessen our reliance on traditional fossil fuels. However, the amount of energy utility firms should gather from renewable sources -- as it is a fledgling industry -- remains heavily disputed, and any rulings made by the European Commission will be binding on firms operating within the E.U.
Some countries, including the U.K., are increasing their use of nuclear power and fracking -- enticing local councils which allow the invasive mining of shale gas, touted to be environmentally damaging and potentially a risk to water sources, with financial incentives -- and so oppose binding terms. Others, such as Germany, are supporters of the 2030 proposal, thanks to increased use of renewables.
The current, binding proposal requires countries within the E.U. to gain 30 percent of their energy needs through renewables. In light of lobbying and criticism, a compromise of a non-binding target less than 30 percent has also been suggested. However, this comes with its own problems -- as a non-binding ruling would potentially prove the catalyst for tougher energy efficiency rules.
If the compromise is accepted, this may also drive up costs in the E.U. for energy, as subsidies supporting renewable energy drives have undermined competition, resulting in the average consumer paying more.
Some utilities, such as Vestas, support binding targets, due to their focus on the construction of renewables infrastructure, whereas traditional energy firms including Eon has campaigned against the changes.
While previous 2020 goals were flawed, environmentalists say that without compulsory, binding rulings, advances in renewable energy would not have been made -- so making 2030 targets non-binding will drive the industry down.
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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Currency Traders

It’s 3:40 in the afternoon in London, and computers blink red and green as traders buy and sell billions of dollars of currency. The pace picks up with the approach of the “fix”—the one-minute period beginning 30 seconds before 4 p.m. Trades made during the fix help determine the WM/Reuters currency exchange rates used as benchmarks by multinational corporations, money managers, and investors around the world to value contracts and assets.
As they check prices and complete deals, some traders participate in as many as 50 online chat rooms. Messages from salespeople and clients appear on their monitors, get pushed up by new ones, and vanish from view. Now regulators from Bern, Switzerland, to Washington are examining evidence that a small group of senior traders at big banks had something else on their screens: details of each other’s client orders. Sharing that information may have helped dealers at JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Citigroup (C), UBS (UBS), Barclays (BCS), and others manipulate prices to maximize their profits, say five people with knowledge of the probes who asked not to be identified because the matter is pending.
At the center of the inquiries are instant-message groups with names such as The Cartel; The Bandits’ Club; One Team, One Dream; and The Mafia, in which dealers exchanged information on client orders and agreed how to trade at the fix, according to the people familiar with the investigations.
Unlike sales of stocks and bonds, which are regulated by government agencies, spot foreign exchange trades—buying and selling for immediate delivery, not a future date—aren’t considered investment products and aren’t subject to specific rules. Traders are bound only by market abuse laws prohibiting trading on inside information and sharing confidential data about client orders with third parties. “This is a market where there is no law, and people have turned a blind eye,” says Ted Kaufman, a former Democratic senator from Delaware, who sponsored legislation in 2010 to shrink the largest U.S. banks.
A lack of regulation has left the foreign exchange market vulnerable to abuse, according to Rosa Abrantes-Metz, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business. “Since the gains from moving the benchmark are possibly very large, it is very tempting to engage in such a behavior,” says Abrantes-Metz, whose 2008 paper Libor Manipulation about the London interbank offered rate helped spark a global probe of how that benchmark is set. “Even a little bit of difference in price can add up to big profits.”
London is the world’s biggest hub for currency trading, accounting for about 41 percent of all transactions, compared with 19 percent for New York and 6 percent for Singapore, according to a Bank for International Settlements survey. About $5.3 trillion changes hands globally every day, BIS data show, as companies convert revenue into dollars, euros, or yen, and managers overseeing pensions and savings buy and sell stock around the world.
Spot currency trading is conducted in a small and close-knit community. Many of the more than a dozen traders and brokers interviewed for this story live near each other in villages dotting the Essex countryside, a short train ride from London’s financial district. They stay in touch over dinner, on weekend excursions, or during rounds of golf. “This is a market that is far more amenable to collusive practices than it is to competitive practices,” says Andre Spicer, a professor at the Cass Business School in London.
The data used to determine WM/Reuters rates for 160 currencies is collected and distributed by World Markets, a unit of State Street (STT), and Thomson Reuters (TRI). Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg Businessweek, competes with Thomson Reuters in providing news and information, as well as currency trading systems and pricing data. Bloomberg LP also distributes the WM/Reuters rates on Bloomberg terminals.
A story about possible exchange rate manipulation by Bloomberg News in June triggered internal probes as banks began reviewing millions of instant messages, e-mails, and transcripts of phone calls. The U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the European Union, the Swiss Competition Commission, and the U.S. Department of Justice are investigating currency trading.
At least 12 foreign exchange traders have been suspended or put on leave by banks as a result of internal probes, and 11 firms have said they were contacted by authorities. Government-controlled Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) turned over transcripts of instant messages. Deutsche Bank (DB) says it’s cooperating with regulators, and UBS says it’s taking unspecified disciplinary measures against employees. UBS, RBS, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs (GS), and Lloyds Banking Group (LYG) are banning traders from participating in chat rooms with employees of other banks, say people at the banks. None of the traders or their employers have been accused of wrongdoing.
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Best Cuba City Guide – Interactive City Guide

Best Cuba City Guide – Interactive City Guide