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Showing posts from April, 2014

Let's now destroy the oceans

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ISA official logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia) The world's first deep sea mining robot sits idle on a British factory floor, waiting to claw up high grade copper and gold from the seabed off Papua New Guinea (PNG) - when a wrangle over terms is solved.
Beyond PNG, in international waters, regulation and royalty terms for mining the planet's subsea wealth have also yet to be finalized. The world waits for the judgment of a United Nations agency based in Jamaica.
"If we can take care of the environment we have a brand new day ahead of us. The marine area beyond national jurisdiction is 50 percent of the Ocean," said Nii Odunton, secretary general of the U.N.'s International Seabed Authority (ISA).
"I believe the grades look good, the abundance looks good, I believe that money will be made," Odunton said from the ISA offices in Kingston.
High-tech advances, depleted easy-to-reach minerals onshore and historically high prices have boosted the idea of mining of…

Google Inc has acquired solar-powered drone maker Titan Aerospace

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Google (Photo credit: warrantedarrest)Google Inc has acquired solar-powered drone maker Titan Aerospace as the Web search giant ramps up plans to deliver wireless Internet access to remote parts of the world.
Titan Chief Executive Vern Raburn declined to provide information on the price of the deal, which he said closed on Monday morning.
The 20-person company will remain in New Mexico for the foreseeable future, Raburn said, with all employees joining Google.
The deal could further Google's efforts to deliver Internet access to remote regions of the world. Last year Google launched a small network of balloons designed to deliver Internet access over the Southern Hemisphere, dubbed as Project Loon.
"Atmospheric satellites could help bring internet access to millions of people, and help solve other problems, including disaster relief and environmental damage like deforestation," Google said in an emailed statement confirming the Titan acquisition.

Google's acquisition…

Walgreens shareholders want to move to Europe

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U.S. drugstore chain operator Walgreen Co (WAG.N) is under pressure from a group of shareholders to consider relocating to Europe to gain tax benefits, the Financial Times reported.
Shareholders owning nearly 5 percent of the company's shares lobbied Walgreen's management to use its ownership stake in Alliance Boots ABN.UL to change its legal domicile to Europe, the financial daily said.
The push was made at a private meeting between the shareholders and company executives in Paris on Friday, the paper said in a report on Sunday. (link.reuters.com/quf58v)
Such a move, known as tax inversion, could significantly reduce Walgreen's taxable income in the United States, which has one of the world's highest corporate tax rates.
The meeting was attended by Walgreen Chief Executive Greg Wasson, Chief Financial Officer Wade Miquelon and Stefano Pessina, the Italian billionaire chairman of Alliance Boots, Financial Times said.
The shareholder group, which includes Goldman Sachs …

Wi-Fi, Internet speeds on jetliners are getting lightning fast

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With satellite-based Wi-Fi, Internet speeds on jetliners are getting lightning fast. And airlines are finding that travelers expect connections in the air to rival those on the ground — and at lower cost. But the fast evolution of rival systems and standards, such as Ku band and Ka band, pose a big question for airlines: Which one to choose? advertisement Equipping fleets can cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and airlines don't want to see their investment quickly become outdated due to newer technology. That's made some cautious about signing up. "We don't want to end up with a Betamax," said Peter Ingram, chief financial officer of Hawaiian Airlines, referring to the Sony video format that eventually lost out to the VHS standard, leaving many consumers with obsolete systems. The U.S. market for airborne Internet got a big boost last November after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration allowed passengers to use smartphones, tablets and e-readers throu…

U.S. states and cities are increasingly turning to public-private partnerships, or P3s

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Visitors to New York who land at LaGuardia Airport could be forgiven for not realizing they've arrived in one of the world's swankiest cities.
The airport's leaky ceilings, threadbare atmosphere and meager food and public transit options put it at or near the top of lists of the worst airports in the United States.
But with constraints on its resources and no appetite for further debt, the agency decided to tap private investors and developers to rebuild the 50-year-old central terminal for $3.6 billion, instead of using traditional public finance methods.
It's not alone. Short on funding but big on need, U.S. states and cities are increasingly turning to such deals, known as public-private partnerships, or P3s, hoping to leverage assets that can bring a quick infusion of private dollars to rebuild crumbling infrastructure.
The last 12 to 15 months have seen more deals and more opportunities to invest in the sector, said Jim Barry, head of BlackRock's infrastructur…

credit card interest rates are rising

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No Credit Card (Photo credit: Wikipedia) As consumer spending growth continues to slow, credit card issuers are using more perks to prod shoppers to use their cards, according to a new CardHub study. Meanwhile, credit card interest rates are rising—a separate but related effort by the credit card industry to make up for revenue lost by the customer pool that’s less likely to make late payments.
The card-comparison website’s report, now in its fourth year, is a useful snapshot. Among the trends: Rates rose an average of 2.1 percent in the first quarter of 2014 over the year-ago period. From the fourth quarter of 2013, rates ticked up for cardholders with excellent and good credit; rates for those with fair credit fell 6.73 percent.
Meanwhile, the average initial bonus of points or miles awarded with new cards rose 10 percent year over year, while cash-back rewards increased 15.2 percent. Issuers want to keep Americans spending as the country continues its fitful economic recovery. Data…
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Mobile technology, while a great advance, has meant that many of us are continually signed-on and available at all hours. We may give in to the temptation to checking our work email after hours and respond to queries as they come, but this can also mean that we don't ever truly switch off.
Except in France, where new legislation has banned employers from contacting staff after the work day has finished.
A new agreement between employers and labor unions now makes it illegal for managers to contact staff about "work related matters" outside of standard business hours.
Employees must have "the opportunity to disconnect from remote communication tools at their disposal," according to the agreement. In other words, for businesses to comply with working hour rules, staff must have the option to turn their devices off and not be accessible when outside of the office -- and can safely ignore emails or calls without consequence when the working day is over.
The le…

PCI Security Standard Scrutinized in Wake of Data Breaches

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PCI Security Standard Scrutinized in Wake of Data Breaches

Questions increasingly are being raised about the PCI data security standard, as companies that were judged PCI-compliant find themselves still becoming victims of data breaches. Heartland Payment Systems, in fact, partially blamed an overreliance on PCI compliance for its 2009 data breach, noting the PCI auditing process did not pick up on the issues that led to the breach. The PCI Security Council maintains the standard and the auditing process are useful, but should not be considered the final word on security. Aite Group analyst Julie Conroy says the auditing process is necessarily limited in scope and scale and "can create a false sense of security." Gartner's Avivah Litan points to a 2008 research report on the PCI process, and says the study found "the PCI process was flawed, and it's become a giant money-making machine, and meanwhile it hasn't stopped the breaches." In the wake of the Ta…

Metro Bank plans to launch an online lender

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The founder of British banking newcomer Metro Bank plans to launch an online lender, hoping to take advantage of a sharp decline in the number of customers using branches and challenge established rivals.
Anthony Thomson, who stepped down as Metro Bank chairman in 2012, said he would lead the new venture called Atom alongside Mark Mullen, who last month resigned as chief executive of First Direct, the online bank run by HSBC.
Britain's financial regulator and lawmakers are keen to see new banks emerge to break the dominance of the country's biggest banks - Lloyds Banking Group, Barclays, HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland - which control about three-quarters of the personal current account market.
They believe a lack of competition was a factor in scandals such as the mis-selling of loan insurance and complex interest rate hedging products, which have cost banks around 25 billion pounds in compensation payouts.
Thomson said on Wednesday there was a growing trend for customers to …

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L) has agreed to pay 1.5 billion pounds

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RBS - The Royal Bank of Scotland (Photo credit: ell brown)Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L) has agreed to pay 1.5 billion pounds ($2.5 billion) to cancel an arrangement that gives the government priority over dividends, clearing an obstacle to the lender's eventual privatization.
The agreement between part-nationalized RBS and Britain's finance ministry to cancel the dividend access share (DAS), which gives the state priority over dividend payments and makes the stock less attractive to private investors, was approved by European regulators on Wednesday.
It had been put in place after Britain pumped 45.8 billion pounds into RBS during the 2008/9 financial crisis, leaving the government with an 81 percent shareholding.
"This is another important step on the road to a more resilient banking system and in dealing with the problems of the past to get taxpayers' money back," Britain's finance minister George Osborne said in a statement.
The figure of 1.5 billion poun…

Bank of America (BAC.N) agreed to pay nearly $800 million in fines

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Credit card (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Bank of America (BAC.N) agreed to pay nearly $800 million in fines and restitution to settle allegations of deceptive marketing and unfair billing involving credit card products, U.S. regulators said on Wednesday.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency said they had ordered the bank to pay $727 million in relief to consumers to resolve problems with add-on products providing identity theft and payment protection products.
The bank must also pay fines of $20 million to the bureau $25 million to the OCC.
"We have consistently warned companies about illegal practices related to credit card add-on products," bureau Director Richard Cordray said in a statement. "We will not tolerate such practices and will continue to be vigilant in our pursuit of companies who wrong consumers in this market."
The consumer bureau said the bank had misled roughly 1.4 million people about the cost of two…

Hewlett-Packard will pay $108 million and one of its subsidiaries

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Image via CrunchBase Hewlett-Packard will pay $108 million and one of its subsidiaries will plead guilty to bribery charges over its role in a scheme to secure a contract with a Russian government office, the Justice Department said on Wednesday.
HP units in Poland and Mexico also resolved criminal charges related to contracts in those two countries, the department said.
The Securities and Exchange Commission entered into a related settlement with the computing giant over allegations that its subsidiaries made improper payments to government officials in order to obtain contracts, in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
HP's Russia subsidiary paid more than $2 million in bribes to obtain a contract with the federal prosecutor's office, the SEC said.
In Poland, an HP unit provided gifts and cash worth more than $600,000 to obtain contracts with a national police agency, it said.
And in Mexico, an HP subsidiary paid more than $1 million in inflated commission in order…

Air Canada is introducing Wi-Fi access to dozens of its aircraft

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Air Canada is introducing Wi-Fi access to dozens of its aircraft beginning in May, with the aim of making wireless internet available on 130 of its narrow-bodied, North American aircraft by the end of 2015.

Email, internet and mobile device apps will be made available on 29 aircraft this year, Air Canada announced Tuesday, making it the second Canadian airline to recently announce Wi-Fi services on flights. Calgary-based WestJet Airlines said in February it will start offering wireless aboard by the end of 2014.
Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said its service will be comparable to mobile broadband available on the ground.
Prices not finalized
Fitzpatrick said the price hasn't been worked out yet, but could include packages that involve buying access for a certain number of weeks or flights, or as a bundle available in the higher-fare classes.
"It's mostly aimed at business traffic, because they're the heaviest users," Fitzpatrick said.
The service, …

Credit card fees on foreign transactions

Pay with your credit card when you travel abroad and you may find an unwelcome souvenir from the trip when you open your statement: a foreign transaction fee. Many travelers fume at being charged an extra 3 percent or so of their international purchases, so some credit card issuers are now getting rid of the fee, prompting others to follow suit to stay competitive. advertisement “It’s just a money maker, pure and simple. They charge it because they can,” said Brian Kelly, founder of ThePointsGuy.com, a website that focuses on maximizing credit card and travel rewards. “How dopey is that — to have a card for international travelers where you get penalized for using it internationally.” American Express is removing foreign transaction fees — which currently amount to 2.7 percent — from its consumer and business Delta SkyMiles credit cards as of May 1. The move is “a perfect way to add value for card members,” said spokeswoman Elizabeth Crosta. The new Hawaiian Airlines World Elite M…

Big retailers are muscling in on the likes of Visa, MasterCard

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MasterCard (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Big retailers are muscling in on the likes of Visa, MasterCard and Google in a fiercely competitive and growing mobile payment market that promises to cut transaction costs and increase customer loyalty.
Stores such as British supermarket Tesco and France's Auchan hope their "digital wallets" - apps which allow users to pay with their smartphones rather than cash or cards - will also give them more comprehensive data about customers' shopping habits than ever before so they can target advertising.
They are joining a crowded market - banks, card companies and tech firms like Google and Apple are all entering the mobile payment business, each hoping their app will become the industry standard. eBay's PayPal, well established in e-commerce, is also experimenting with the technology.
Retailers hope to attract customers to their own services by giving discounts and rewards to those using them, while also linking payments automatica…

Cheaper gas this summer?

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Fuel prices displayed on a seven segment display board commonly found at petrol stations. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) The Energy Information Administration predicts the typical American motorist will shell out $3.57 for a gallon of self-serve, no-lead gasoline, a penny per gallon cheaper than during the April to September period last year. “That’s essentially the same number,” said EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski during a conference call with reporters. But the good news is that this will be the lowest fuel price motorists have paid since 2010 during the period when driving peaks in the U.S. Don’t be surprised to see fuel prices start to rise in the coming weeks as the weather warms and motorists start clocking more mileage. That’s likely to be particularly true in the Midwest and other parts of the country just seeing the last of a harsh winter’s snow melt away. Prices are then expected to dip for the rest of the extended summer season. Prices are impacted by a variety of factors, inc…

Lenovo is buying thousands of mobile technology patents from NEC

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Lenovo is buying thousands of mobile technology patents from NEC as it looks to expand its smartphone and tablet businesses.
Lenovo is purchasing more than 3,800 patent families from NEC that cover such mobile technologies as 3G and 4G LTE, as well as other technologies found in such devices as smartphones, according to officials. The move is part of Lenovo's overall PC Plus business strategy as the company—the world's top PC vendor—looks to extend its reach into other computing system spaces, from data center servers to mobile devices.
A series of patent legal battles over the past several years involving such vendors as Apple and Samsung have highlighted the need for companies in the mobile device space to hold a large portfolio of patents to protect themselves against infringement accusations.
"A strong patent portfolio is a key element for success in the smartphone business," Ira Blumberg, vice president of intellectual property (IP) at Lenovo, said in a statemen…

Qualcomm unveiling the latest editions to its 64-bit Snapdragon mobile chip

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Image via CrunchBase Qualcomm officials are unveiling the latest editions to its 64-bit Snapdragon mobile chip, calling the 808 and 810 processors the company's fastest yet.

The 20-nanometer chips, which company officials said will begin appearing in smartphones and other devices in the first half of 2015, will be faster and consume less power than the vendor's current 64-bit chips, and are aimed at premium mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets. They will include Qualcomm's fourth-generation Cat 6 LTE-Advanced multimode modem and render 4K video.

The Snapdragon 808 and 810 chips illustrate Qualcomm's efforts in 64-bit mobile computing and set the foundation for future developments, according to Murthy Renduchintala, executive vice president at Qualcomm.

"These product announcements, in combination with the continued development of our next-generation custom 64-bit CPU, will ensure we have a tremendous foundation on which to innovate as we continue to p…

Cloud computing and data services specialist EMC

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Cloud computing and data services specialist EMC announced products and technologies designed to address the continuum of data protection requirements facing users today and as they address the challenge of transitioning to software-defined data centers.

The software releases from the VPLEX and RecoverPoint product lines combine to deliver MetroPoint topology, a three-site business continuity capability for mission-critical applications.

MetroPoint topology combines VPLEX Metro continuous availability with RecoverPoint remote replication and continuous data protection (CDP) to deliver operational and disaster recovery over any distance.

EMC also introduced a new product, VPLEX Virtual Edition, a virtualized solution to market that offers continuous availability and data mobility in a software deployment platform.

5 Things You Didn't Know About Cloud Backup Download NowVPLEX Virtual Edition will also be made available as part of VSPEX Prov…

Stronach's consulting fees end with Magna 2014

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Magna International Inc (MG.TO), one of the world's biggest auto parts makers, paid $52 million in consulting fees to billionaire founder Frank Stronach in 2013, but the company is stressing that his compensation will stop at the end of this year.
Stronach, who started the auto parts giant in a Toronto garage in 1957, was paid roughly $900 million to cede control of Magna under a contentious 2010 buyout deal.
Under terms of that court-approved plan of arrangement, Stronach was paid 2.25 percent of Magna's 2013 pre-tax profit. That rate drops to 2 percent in 2014, the final year of compensation.
"The Stronach compensation arrangements will not be renewed, extended or replaced with any other form of compensation," Magna said in a circular filed in advance of its May 8 annual meeting in Toronto, underlining the word "not."
Stronach was paid $47 million in 2012 and $38 million in 2011 for consulting services under the agreement.
He ceased to be an officer of th…

Haiti drought

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Only cactus grows along the dirt road fringing arid fields on the way to the isolated village of Bas des Moustiques, on the outskirts of the northwestern city of Port-de-Paix in Haiti.
A lack of rain in recent months has killed crops in Haiti's poorest region, and left people struggling to survive.
Julia Sodietra, 41, has lost hope as she fights a losing battle to provide for her large family.
"When I want to buy some food, people refuse and insult me because I have not been able to pay my debts," said Sodietra, the mother of 11.
"I can't pay school fees anymore for my children," she added. "Even buying clothes and shoes is impossible for me. What I am going to say is horrible, but I would rather not have my children."
The drought follows two years of poor harvests in the region.
"I had a donkey that I used to transport coal, but it died because I could not buy food," said Charitable Yvner, 30.
"So I can no longer work and the littl…

Norway's $860 billion oil fund

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Norway's $860 billion oil fund, the world's biggest sovereign wealth fund, is not ready to invest in new types of assets and needs a year to study whether to buy infrastructure or unlisted assets, Finance Minister Siv Jensen said on Monday.
She said the fund needed to see how its small but growing real estate portfolio functions and what the risk of more active management would be.
"We are in a learning process on building up in real estate ... and that's the portfolio we're actually discussing with broadening in the (unlisted) sector," Jensen told reporters.
The fund, which invests Norway's oil revenues, is one of the biggest investors in the world, holding about 1 percent of all global shares. Many investors watch its investment decisions keenly as a result.
Jensen unveiled a series of reforms last Friday but did not recommend new types of assets on top of its listed stocks, bonds and real estate portfolio, disappointing some critics.
The central bank,…

FTC clarifies social networks contests for merchants

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The Federal Trade Commission for the first time defined disclosure rules related to contests that encourage consumers to pass along content on social networks. Put simply, if a contest requires consumers to share something for a chance to win a prize, that needs to be disclosed in every post.
Mary K. Engle, the FTC’s associate director for advertising practices, defined the agency’s stance in a letter she sent last month to Cole Haan.
The multichannel shoe retailer recently ran a contest on Pinterest that offered shoppers a chance to win a $1,000 gift card if they created a Pinterest board featuring five images of their “favorite places to wander” along with five images from a Cole Haan board, tagging each with the hashtag #WanderingSole.
The problem, Engle writes, is that the shoppers entering the contest were endorsing Cole Haan’s products for the chance to win a prize, but the retailer didn’t require them to disclose their motivation.
“Entry into a contest to receive a significant…