Monday, August 31, 2015

Apple Watch Is No Flop And FitBit Should Be Worried

Apple Watch Is No Flop And FitBit Should Be Worried - StrategyEye StrategyEye
The Apple Watch is having an eventful first year. Since it launched in April, Apple’s first foray into wearable tech continues to face intense media scrutiny. Initial sales and shipments data suggested it was set to become a rare financial upset for the Cupertino giant. Then surveys pointed towards massive user satisfaction. Then, when Apple bundled watch sales into its “other devices” category on quarterly sales reports, some observers suggested that it was covering up poor performance.
Now, new data from IDC suggests the optimists were right and that the Apple watch is a driving force in what is turning into a watershed year for wearable tech.
According to IDC’s Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker, Apple shipped 3.6m Apple Watches in Q2 2015, its first sales quarter, making up 20% of the total wearables market. By comparison, market incumbent in the fitness tracking segment Fitbit shipped 4.4m devices, just 0.8m ahead. Of course these are very different devices, but it does enable some sort of benchmarking. Apple’s watch sales were also higher than the figures for iPads and iPhones over the same period in their respective launch quarters, according to a release by the company. Of course, there’s limited value in comparing these as the Apple Watch is launching into a more mature consumer tech market than either of those devices.
The entire wearables market saw 18.1m units shipped in the period. This is an increase of 223.2% from the 5.6m units shipped in Q2 2014. The appetite for wearables is growing and despite apple’s murkier early sales figures, it stands to make huge gains if numbers continue to grow in this direction.
Cross-Industry Growth
The IDC study points to positive gains not just for Apple, but right across the wearables space. As mentioned, Fitbit maintained market pre-eminence, and saw 158% growth on figures from Q2 2014, although total market share dropped from 30% to 24% year on year. Chinese smartphone giant Xiaomi also posted considerable figures for its Mi Band, which debuted last year. It saw 3.1m shipments, but then Chinese firms, which benefit from low production costs and a protectionist business climate will always do well domestically even if they gain less traction outside the region. A large domestic market in China is large market by any standards, and the company has no immediate plans to break into Apple’s US market.
Garmin was the fourth highest-performer of the quarter. It shipped 700,000 units, posting 40% growth on 2014 figures. Garmin’s products are targeted specifically for amateur athletes, and the company is not planning on mass appeal, so in some ways its market corner is easier defend from the rise of Apple that others.
Rounding out the top five was Samsung, which shipped 600,000 units. The Korean electronics giant saw growth drop 25% from last year, a testament to the strength of competition from major rival Apple, and especially disappointing for the firm which was one of the earliest pioneers in the space. With the sleek, redesigned Gear S2 smartwatch coming soon though, it’s far from out of the running.
The Future For Apple
Apple’s apparent success is something of a double-edged sword for third parties. Whilst no-one relishes direct competition from one of the most powerful and most successful brands in the world, Apple’s involvement raises the profile of the wearables sector considerably – generally speaking, what’s good for Apple is good for the market, and good for developers working in that market.
“Any time Apple enters a new market, not only does it draw attention to itself, but to the market as a whole,” notes Ramon Llamas, Research Manager for IDC’s wearable tech team. “Its participation benefits multiple players and platforms within the wearables ecosystem, and ultimately drives total volumes higher. Apple also forces other vendors – especially those that have been part of this market for multiple quarters – to re-evaluate their products and experiences.”
As wearable tech become normalised and adoption climbs, hardware prices will come down, lowering barriers to entry for new competitors. The bigger question is whether fitness trackers will get canibalised by smart watches that can perform the sam tasks as well as many more. Fitbit leads the field for now, but it’s wearables offer only basic functionality, as opposed to the smart services offered by firms like Apple and Samsung.  

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Apple Inc (AAPL.O) has hired a senior engineer from electric car maker Tesla

Consumer electronics company Apple Inc (AAPL.O) has hired a senior engineer from electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA.O), according to a LinkedIn posting, as part of Apple's effort to build a team of experts in automated driving.
A LinkedIn profile for Jamie Carlson shows that he has left Tesla and moved to Apple. At least six others with experience developing self-driving technology and systems have joined Apple, according to their LinkedIn profiles.
Attempts to reach all seven people were unsuccessful and Apple declined to comment.
Sources have said that Apple is developing a car and studying self-driving technology, but it is unclear if the iPhone maker is designing a vehicle that could drive itself.
Since January, Apple has hired Megan McClain, a former Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) engineer with expertise in automated driving, and Vinay Palakkode, a graduate researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, a hub of automated driving research.
In August, Apple hired Xianqiao Tong, an engineer who developed computer vision software for driver assistance systems at microchip maker Nvidia Corp (NVDA.O).
The Wall Street Journal has reported that Apple hired Paul Furgale, former deputy director of the Autonomous Systems Lab at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, earlier this year.
So-called advanced driver assistance systems, or ADAS, handle tasks such as keeping a vehicle in a lane or driving by itself in stop-and-go traffic, and they are considered the building blocks for self-driving cars.
According to Carlson's LinkedIn profile, he joined Apple in August in an unnamed position in a special projects group.
Through July, Carlson was an engineer on Tesla's Autopilot self-driving car program, and before that he worked on automotive vision systems for Michigan-based supplier Gentex Corp.
Other Apple hires since September 2014 with similar experience have worked at automakers BMW AG (BMWG.DE), Volkswagen and Ford Motor Co (F.N), automotive suppliers Delphi Automotive (DLPH.N), Robert Bosch GmbH [ROBG.UL] and TRW, now a part of ZF Friedrichshafen AG [ZFF.UL], according to their LinkedIn profiles.

Among those hired last fall were Sanjai Massey, an engineer with experience in developing connected and automated vehicles at Ford and several suppliers; Stefan Weber, a former Bosch engineer with experience in video-based driver assistance systems, and Lech Szumilas, a former Delphi research scientist with expertise in computer vision and object detection.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

China's economic slowdown and a sharp fall

China's economic slowdown and a sharp fall in its stock market herald not a crisis but a "necessary" adjustment for the world's second biggest economy, a senior International Monetary Fund official said on Saturday.
Fresh evidence of easing growth in China hammered global stock markets on Friday, driving Wall Street to its steepest one-day drop in nearly four years.
"Monetary policies have been very expansive in recent years and an adjustment is necessary," said Carlo Cottarelli, an IMF executive director representing countries such as Italy and Greece on its board.
"It's totally premature to speak of a crisis in China," he told a press conference.
He reiterated an IMF forecast for a 6.8 percent expansion in the Chinese economy this year, below the 7.4 percent growth achieved in 2014.
"China's real economy is slowing but it's perfectly natural that this should happen ... What happened in recent days is a shock on financial markets which is natural," he added.
China's stock markets have fallen more than 30 percent since mid-year. Following a slew of poor economic data, Beijing devalued the yuan in a surprise move last week.
Cottarelli said the IMF would discuss in coming months with Chinese authorities their decision to weaken the currency.
China is eager for the yuan to join the IMF's Special Drawing Rights basket of currencies. But the fund is considering extending the current SDR basket by nine months until September 30, 2016.
Turning to Greece, which is heading to an early election in September, Cottarelli said the IMF would decide in two or three months whether to join the latest international rescue efforts.
The IMF deems Greece's debt unsustainable and has called for debt relief as a condition to participate in a third bailout.
"The debt sustainability assessment will take place after the launch of the program (agreed with creditors) in two or three months. The IMF will then be able to evaluate whether to intervene," he said.

(Reporting by Paolo Bio

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Samsung unveils massive 16TB SSD

Samsung unveils massive 16TB SSD built with new 3D NAND

We’ve seen multiple companies jockey for the record of largest SSD over the years, but Samsung appears to have gotten tired of the hooplah and decided to own the category outright. The company announced a new 16TB SSD (formatted capacity, 15.36TB) at the 2015 Flash Memory Summit. The massive increase in density is thanks to the 48-layer 3D TLC NAND that Samsung announced earlier this week, and it’s one massive puppy. Based on the company’s own statistics, each of its new 3D NAND chips can hold up to 256Gb (32GB). That means 32 chips per terabyte, and 512 chips to provide 16TB of data. If Samsung over-provisioned the drives by 10%, there could be as many as 600 NAND chips inside the PM1633a.
Techfrag managed to snap a photo of the drive, and as you can see, it’s not what you’d call a standard form factor. If you’re hoping to see this kind of capacity come to consumer drives in the near future, well, don’t get your hopes up. While it’s true that SSD cost per GB and total number of GB per drive have been on the decrease and increase respectively, the fact that Samsung packed 500-600 NAND chips into this thing speaks to the limitations of consumer drive scaling.
Consumer drives will continue to improve, but at significantly slower rates. Given that Samsung’s current 48-layer 3D NAND can deliver 256Gb, it’s reasonable to assume we’ll see 96 layer chips roll out in the next few years, with a corresponding improvement to SSD density. How long that train can roll is a matter of some debate in technical circles. Samsung claims that it can stack up to 100 layers with current V-NAND technology, but as we’ve previously covered, it gets harder to stack the layers the more layers there are. Doubling up to 96 would give Samsung 512Gb chips, and doubling again would push that to a full 1024Tb per chip. At 128GB per IC, high-end multi-terabyte SSDs would drop from thousands of dollars into territory the average consumer can afford. Whether or not we manage to squeeze that much capacity out of NAND before another memory technology either becomes viable (ReRAM, PCM, Intel’s 3D XPoint) or simply can’t stack dies that high, well, that’s another area where there’s much debate.
Samsung hasn’t formally announced a price for the PM1633a, but it appears to be the kind of part where if you have to ask what it costs, you can’t afford it.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Ethereum Transforms Apps into Secure Cryptocurrency Revenue Generators

Ethereum Transforms Apps into Secure Cryptocurrency Revenue Generators

Ethereum is integrating the security of blockchain into an application development platform to create the foundation for next generation applications that bring a new revenue model to the world of applications.
Let’s face it, every interaction comes at a price. Whether that price is measured in electrons, actions or currency isn’t what really matters initially, what matters is that the cost and the validity of that interaction is accounted for.
Nowhere is this truer than in the world of electronic interactions, where transactions are the mechanism for data to change virtual hands, while audit trails are the key element for determining the provenance of that data.
The team behind Ethereum ( recognized the synergy of transactions, value and trust and have built Frontier, the first public release of the Ethereum project. Frontier is tailored specifically for developers and offers a command line based environment that supports Javascript. Developers can use Frontier to build, test and deploy applications on the Ethereum blockchain, which in turn allows those developers to leverage the ideology of decentralized applications.
While the term “decentralized application” is somewhat shrouded in mysticism, developers can take stock in an industry definition surmised by the acronym DApps (Decentralized Applications). DApps in essence are applications that run across a decentralized network using a blockchain, where data is not stored locally (it’s stored on the network) and the applications execute across the network by using the resources of those connected to the network.

DApps run autonomously and independent of any centralized server
In short, DApps run autonomously and independent of any centralized server resource, bringing resiliency and global scale to applications, which have no single point of failure. While it may take some deep thought to appreciate the advantages offered by DApps, there are additional elements that bring even more value to the DApps ideology.
That additional value comes in the form of the blockchain platform which DApps execute upon. The foundation of blockchains are built upon tokens and those tokens can function as a type of currency, which can be assigned value. In other words, transactions executing across a blockchain can have costs associated with them, which can be translated into a form of cryptocurrency.
In Ethereum’s case, that takes the form of units called ether, which the company refers to as a fuel for the platform. Programs running on Ethereum need to pay for the resources consumed on the platform, hence each and every transaction/application event has a cost associated with it.
That ideology transforms the way applications are developed, shared, maintained and accessed, allowing developers to employ teams of contributors to improve applications, paying those contributors in ether, while those consuming the capabilities offered by those applications can be charged ether, re-inventing the economy of application development and consumption.
What’s more, as that DApps run on a blockchain, they are fully secure and protected – simply because blockchains create a distributed digital ledger that is shared among multiple parties. Blockchains can only be updated by a consensus of a majority of the participants and contain a certain and verifiable record of every transaction ever made and can never be deleted. Simply put, it is effectively impossible to falsify any event recorded in a blockchain, bringing full accountability to what happens with the transactions run by DApps.
However there is much more to Ethereum, Ether and DApps than the concept of a secure cryptocurrency. The very underpinnings of the platform creates an opportunity to distribute applications globally and still keep data protected, while installing accounting for scale, demand and usage. By using Ether as a fuel for transactions, excessive (or nonsensical) use can be curbed, while those demanding more resources for legitimate reasons can simply put more Ether in the tank.
DApps can also be built that tokenize contracts, SLAs or other business agreements and processes and then be distributed to the parties involved in an agreement, while being maintaining in a completely secure, auditable environment.
While Frontier may be only the first step in bringing a decentralized application economy to the web, it is clear that the path is being paved for cryptocurrency, tokens and DApps to become disruptive across enterprises both large and small.
About Ethereum
Founded in 2013, Ethereum is an open source application leveraging a worldwide network of machines and not centralized servers.   In 2014, the group completed a pre-sale of Ether – a necessary element for running decentralized applications on the Ethereum network – totaling over $18 million.  The Ethereum Foundation (, a non-profit organization, was founded with the purpose of managing the funds that were raised from the Ether Sale in order to best serve the Ethereum and decentralized technology ecosystem.  Ethereum has active communities world-wide (
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Friday, August 21, 2015

Amazon reclaims e-commerce crown from Alibaba

Amazon reclaims e-commerce crown from Alibaba

A slowdown in the Chinese economy and surprising second quarter results from Amazon means that Alibaba is no longer the most valuable e-commerce market place.
Bloomberg reports that the American marketplace has overtaken the Chinese retailer, after quarterly reports revealed the values of both firms.
Now valued at $240bn, Amazon surprised a number of financial analysts in the second quarter, with a growth in sales put down to its cloud-computing business and solid investment strategy.
Alibaba on the other hand, has seen its shares slump significantly in recent weeks. After securing a record $25bn during its IPO last September, the e-commerce platform has seen its market capitalization share fall almost 30 per cent, with the value of the company now standing at $180bn.
With China’s economy being significantly weakened in recent weeks, coupled with the China International Payment System’s (CIPS) decision to scale back its international payment system, Alibaba has been affected significantly by this double blow.
‘‘You can’t overlook the China slowdown,’’ said RJ Hottovy, an analyst at Morningstar Inc. in Chicago. ‘‘Chinese consumer spending trends are in a slowdown.’’
Developments in China have forced a number of Alibaba’s investors to reduce their shares in the e-commerce firm. JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wellington Management Group and TIAA-CREF Investment Management have on average decreased their shares in Alibaba by 42 per cent.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The UN’s Unpaid Internships

The UN's unpaid internship came under fire this week following reports that a 22-year-old intern from New Zealand was living in a tent in Geneva because he couldn't afford to pay rent in the Swiss city.
Critics say that by not paying interns, or at least reimbursing them, the UN is effectively limiting the program to the global elite, predominantly from developed countries, often in Europe. As news of intern David Hyde's plein air residence spread, UN officials were quick to repeat, as they have in the past, that it's up to the General Assembly to fix the program. After a flurry of media reports, Hyde resigned from his internship. He copped to lying on his application, which asked if he had the means to support a stay in Geneva.
VICE News first spoke to current and former interns about the lack of payment early last year. In more than a dozen interviews, the interns unanimously recognized a fundamental unfairness in the current setup. A three-month internship in New York or Geneva could easily cost more than $5,000 in expenses, a prohibitive total for the vast majority of young people in the world. Wealthy countries like Germany, which offers funding for potential interns, are already overrepresented in the UN's intern program.
Interns in Geneva have organized around the issue and held protests, including one on Friday. A similar intern-organized initiative, called the Quality and Fairly Remunerated Internships Initiative (QFRI), which describes itself as "concerned with the status quo and current organization of internships across the UN systems," has taken shape in New York. In a statement to VICE News, the group said "the current organization of internships at the UN is not in line with the values the UN stands for, including the UN Charter, the UN declaration of human rights, and Sustainable Development Goal 8 on decent work for all." Other interns in New York have floated the idea of a sit-in on Monday.
Related: More Than 450,000 Palestinian Refugees Are Set to Miss School Due to UN Funding Shortfall
Though a small number of specialized UN agencies, including the International Labor Organization (ILO), do offer small stipends to interns, the vast majority do not, Ian Richards, executive secretary of the UN Geneva Staff Council, told VICE News. Among those that do not reimburse or pay interns are larger agencies like the UN's children's fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as the UN Secretariat, which maintains offices in New York, Geneva, and elsewhere. Richards said covering the expenses of interns at the UN could cost as little as $4 or $5 million each year — a drop in the bucket for member states.
On Tuesday, spokeswoman Stephane Dujarric said the UN would like to pay its interns.
"It's too bad in a way, because I think it does limit the opportunity to those who are able to pay their own way and house themselves," Dujarric told reporters. "Unless the General Assembly changes those rules, there is no change in sight."
Officials have pointed to 1997 resolution on "gratis personnel," that states "the programme of work and mandates approved by member states must be financed in the manner determined by the General Assembly." But the resolution itself is mostly concerned with gratis personnel used at the time by the Department of Peacekeeping, and does not explicitly mention interns.
"Very few people have the institutional memory to remember when the General Assembly," discussed the topic," said Richards. "It's almost been an urban myth."
Whatever the reason, the bulk of the UN's agencies are apparently awaiting approval by the General Assembly.
"What that means is there are a lot of really good people from different parts of the world who can't come and don't apply because the requirement is to finance your entire stay," said Richards.
'There are a lot of really good people from different parts of the world who can't come and don't apply.'
Information provided by the World Health Organization to the Geneva Interns Association exemplified the trend. Of 247 interns based at its offices in the Swiss city since 2014, nationality was given for 196 of them. Of those who provide their nationality, 147 — 73 percent — were from developed countries. Only 53 were from developing or the least developed countries (LDCs) — precisely the places that WHO does much of its work. The disparity, said UN officials who talked to VICE News privately, speaks to a split in how the UN is viewed in different regions: It's a source of jobs for the highly educated and internationally-minded in the developed world, while most people in the developing world interact with the UN as a service provider.
Though current and former interns have advocated for reforms, the voices of young people in developing countries have been conspicuously absent from media coverage. If the UN is at times viewed cynically in wealthier countries like the US, the young people that spoke with VICE News in lower and middle income regions described it as a beacon in their lives — a fact that made denial of entry into the lowest rung of the UN's staffing system that much more bitter.
Related: Head of the UN's Central African Republic Mission Booted Amid Allegations of Child Rape

A view of the General Assembly Hall at United Nations headquarters in New York. (Photo by Justin Lane/EPA)
Alfonso Abularach, a 27-year-old from Cochabama, Boliva, told VICE News he first participated in a local model UN programs at age 12, and continued to do so until 2013.
Through his involvement in model UN, Abularach was able to travel to conferences in Malaysia, South Korea, and New York. But in nearly all the Model UN travel that VICE News reviewed, participants received assistance, either from the host city or from private donors who supported the program. Once Abularach reached his 20s — the point at which many Model UN participants see an internship as the logical next step in pursuing an interest in the official UN — he found that funding didn't exist.
"I've supported myself economically since I was very young," said Albaruch, who studied international law in both college and law school in Bolivia. "I was unable to do an internship under the conditions the UN gave me."
The minimum wage in Bolivia is $239 per month, and Albaruch said it could take years for some Bolivians to save enough for a plane ticket to New York or Europe.
"It was very difficult for me to see that this very big institution, one that I believe in and love very much, wasn't willing to pay people that believe in it. It was very disappointing," he said. "I don't think it was fair."
Other young people in the developing world shared similar stories.
Nasrha Nandha, 24, is the former Secretary General of Kenya's Model UN. Like Abularach, she was able to travel to conferences in several countries, generally with financial assistance that covered some or all of her expenses. Now a law student in Nairobi, Nandha told VICE News she also looked into parlaying her experience into an internship.
"The Model UN looks at international relations, it looks at international law, which is something I was really interested in," she said. "An internship was a good opportunity to transition from just being involved in a student run club or society and venture into an actual organization."
'The opportunity seems like it's there, but it really only exists on paper.'
But in a story that is all too familiar to Model UN participants in developing countries, Nandha ran into a wall. Not only did she face visa requirements that are higher for those in poor regions, she was also asked to come up with at least $8,000 to pay for a six-month internship.
"If you are lucky and well connected, then yes, maybe you can go," said Nandha. "The opportunity seems like it's there, but it really only exists on paper."
Adrian Martinez, 31, received his masters, specializing in climate change policy, at the United Nations University for Peace, a school founded by the UN in Costa Rica. Martinez told VICE News he was one of the few Costa Ricans that attended the school.
Martinez watched colleagues from places like Sweden and Canada leave for internships at UN agencies in Europe. "It's smart because when you apply for a job at the UN, the sense is they are reserved for the people with such experience," he said. "I compared with my colleague who went to a UN agency; she got far more experience in an international context."
Related: The United Nations Wants to Crush Extreme Poverty

The United Nations building in Geneva, Switzerland. (Photo by Henry Mühlpfordt/Wikimedia Commons)
Martinez had taken a loan out to pay for school, and couldn't afford to stop earning money while also supporting himself in some of the world's most expensive cities.
"I guess what's disheartening is it's so disconnected from the economic reality of your country, especially my country where young professionals are really underpaid," he said. "To ask such a thing is kind of unreal. They [The UN] aren't talking the same language."
Some at the UN have privately expressed concern that paying interns would reduce the number of internships available, meaning there would be even fewer opportunities for people in the developing world.
"Were there a cost implication, there would have to quotas/limitations on the quantity available," one UN staffer wrote in an email to VICE News. "The UN is a political animal, and like it or not, our hiring process is influenced by political affiliations.
"Countries go to great efforts to ensure their nationals are placed in UN agencies, because that is one way of exerting influence on the issues presiding over the UN," the staffer added. "Contrary to popular belief, paid UN internships would not be more accessible to everyone, but instead limited only to a privileged few, mainly members of countries' political elite."
For Albaruch, the UN has to do something, otherwise it risks alienating the very young people it claims to want to get involved.
"Maybe it's already too late for us, but there's a new generation that could have a chance to work at the UN," he said. "Youth from the developing world will help change andmodel a better UN, but they have to be able to support themselves in New York, Paris or Switzerland. The UN has to open its eyes and see that youth are their best asset."
Follow Samuel Oakford on Twitter: @samueloakford
Watch Sam Oakford Discuss International Crises and UN Diplomacy:

Monday, August 17, 2015

BitPay enters into partnerships

Bitcoin company BitPay enters into partnerships on three continents
The bitcoin payment processor BitPay has signed deals with payment companies such as Payfirma, Sonic Payments, BillPro, Kadu and OpenPay, which in total serve over 100 countries over three continents.
In recent times BitPay has been actively seeking to secure partnerships with payment companies in order to make the cryptocurrency an easily accepted payment method for thousands of companies.
The partner companies implement a bitcoin payment method directly through their PSP, without needing a separate solution.
During the last two quarters, the company says it has seen interest in bitcoin increase exponentially from traditional payment companies.
“We believe in bitcoin’s potential to be an integral part of the future of money, and we’re excited to add it to our growing list of ways to pay,”said Chris Cashwell, Founder and CEO of Sonic Payments.
“We believe bitcoin will enhance our cross-border transactions greatly by lowering chargebacks while reducing fraud for our merchants,” Daria Rippingale, CEO of BillPro.
Sonny Singh, Chief Commercial Officer of BitPay attributes the growth to a global interest in bitcoin.
“We have seen dramatic growth in the bitcoin ecosystem over the past year. The US is no longer the only country where adoption is happening. Latin America and Asia have shown significant growth over the past six quarters, and we anticipate that there is considerably more potential for expansion in these regions. Payment service providers play a key part in the bitcoin ecosystem.”

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Apple Pay added to AmEx US corporate cards

Apple Pay added to AmEx US corporate cards

AmEx’s Global Corporate payments division has activated Apple Pay for its customers.The mobile payment option became available yesterday for eligible US Corporate Cards.
Through its Global Corporate Payments division, American Express offers a suite of B2B and T&E payment solutions that deal with organizations’ streamline processes and focus on savings and efficiency.
“Businesses today are going digital,” said  Greg Keeley, Executive Vice President, Global Corporate Payments, American Express. “We continue to invest and expand digital offerings for our corporate customers in ways that maximize security and enhance the user experience.” 
Apple Pay allows American Express Card Members to add their eligible Corporate Card and pay with their mobile devices at contactless merchants in stores, or within participating apps that accept American Express.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Three Million Gallons of Toxic Wastewater

The gush of toxic wastewater that spilled out from a defunct Colorado gold mine last week and turned the Animas River a bright orange-yellow is now estimated to be at least three times larger than initially reported.
The spill occurred on Friday, when workers from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) accidentally breached a mine wall that held back the wastewater, unleashing the flood of toxic sludge. The mine, called Gold King, is located in San Juan County, near the town of Silverton. While the spill was initially estimated to be one million gallons, the agency revised that on Sunday to three million gallons.
Laced with poisonous minerals like arsenic and lead, the wastewater rushed through Cement Creek and into the Animas River, prompting nearby towns, including Silverton and Durango, to switch off their freshwater intake from the river. The EPA, however, said that there is no immediate concern for humans or wildlife due to the spill.
Environmentalists voiced alarm that the agency allowed such a huge reservoirof toxic wastewater to sit in the decommissioned mine for decades.
Jeanne Bassett, a senior associate with activist group Environment Colorado, told VICE News that the accident underscores the threats presented by abandoned mines to wildlife and water supplies.
"This particular mine was last used 92 years ago," she said. "And if you see the picture of the actual mine, it is not obvious that it would hold thousands of gallons of water…. There is a problem when you have created toxic waste and you are not responsible for cleaning it up."
According to Bassett, there are 22,000 abandoned mines in Colorado alone.

Workers from the US Environmental Protection Agency accidentally breached a wall at the Gold King mine, which resulted in at least 3 million gallons of contaminated water spilling into the Animas River in Colorado. (Image via US Environmental Protection Agency)
While the yellow sludge made its way downstream, Colorado and New Mexico, as well as the Navajo Nation, declared states of emergency in response to the spill.
Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said he intended to take legal action against the EPA for triggering the spill.
"The EPA was right in the middle of the disaster and we intend to make sure the Navajo Nation recovers every dollar it spends cleaning up this mess and every dollar it loses as a result of injuries to our precious Navajo natural resources," Begaye said in a statement.
Mark Williams, a professor of geography at the University of Colorado said that wastewater drainage from the mines has been a longstanding issue in the region, especially near a silver mine called American Tunnel. About a decade back, the company owning the mine, Sunnyside Gold Corp, plugged American Tunnel using concrete bulkheads.
However, over the past few years, the groundwater level near the mine started rising, causing the water to back up and drain from nearby mines, including Red and Bonita mine and Gold King, through interconnected groundwater channels. The EPA team was working to contain the seepage between the mines when the accident occurred.
Williams said the Gold King spill was unlike anything he had witnessed.
"The color is so intense and so consistent, and it has moved so far downstream. I have not seen this before," Williams told VICE News. "Whether it will have any health impact on humans, depends on the water quality, and so far I have not seen any good information yet on the water quality."
>3 million gallons of wastewater spills into Colorado
— National Wildlife (@NWF) August 11, 2015
By Sunday afternoon, the plume of toxic wastewater, distinctly visible due to its spectacular color, had nearly reached Nenahnezad, New Mexico, which is more than one hundred miles from the mine, according to the EPA.
While the EPA has released some data about heavy metals in the water and acidity levels, sufficient analysis has yet to be done, experts said.
Meanwhile, the water near the mine in Cement Creek and the Animas river in Silverton — a small town in southwest Colorado — is clearing, even though the mine is still discharging the sludge at about 550 gallons per minute.
The EPA is now diverting the mine water into a series of settling ponds, where it is being treated before it enters Cement Creek. The treatment appeared to be effective, the EPA said in a statement.
The EPA is working with state and local officials to monitor contamination levels. In the meantime, it is providing drinking water to residents adjacent to the river.
Legal action is a near certainty, said Thaddeaus Lightfoot, an environmental law expert with law firm Dorsey & Whitney.
"The EPA frequently hires emergency contractors to address the release of hazardous substances at mining and other industrial and commercial facilities," Lightfood said. "Where EPA contractors have made such mistakes in the past, courts have held them liable for any additional remediation … despite statutory immunity provisions."

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Buffett pays high price for Precision Castparts

Buffett pays high price for Precision Castparts

Warren Buffett is paying a hefty price for the biggest acquisition of his career, now that his Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N) has agreed to buy Precision Castparts Corp (PCP.N) in a merger valuing the maker of aerospace and other parts at $32.3 billion.
The purchase extends Berkshire's transformation from a company largely dependent on insurance businesses into one resembling the broader U.S. economy, including a railroad, several industrial companies, utilities, a car dealership and consumer goods businesses.
It also joins several recent Buffett forays into unglamorous sectors, including a big stake in what is now Kraft Heinz Co (KHC.O) and the pending takeover of the Duracell battery business from Procter & Gamble Co (PG.N).
"I'm not crazy about paying $30 billion for a $1.5 billion earnings stream of a cyclical company supplying airplane makers," said Jeff Matthews, a principal at hedge fund Ram Partners and author of a book about Buffett. "I'd keep the $30 billion and wait for the next crisis."
Buffett, known for buying undervalued and often unloved companies, acknowledged the high price.
"In terms of price-earnings multiple going in, this is right there at the top," he told CNBC television.
Berkshire is paying $235 per share for Precision Castparts, which represents a 21.2 percent premium over Friday's closing price, and 18 times projected profit over a 12-month period.
The purchase eclipses Berkshire's $26.5 billion takeover in 2010 of the 77.4 percent of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad that it did not already own. Including assumed debt, Precision Castparts is valued at $37.2 billion.
In morning trading, Precision Castparts shares rose $36.96, or 19.1 percent, to $230.84. Berkshire's Class A shares fell $2,562.76, or 1.2 percent, to $212,900.
The purchase shows how hard it is to move the needle at Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire, whose own stock has lagged the Standard & Poor's 500 in the last five years and which on Friday posted quarterly operating profit well below analyst forecasts.
Adding Precision Castparts would boost Berkshire's overall profit by only about 8 percent.
It would also give Berkshire ownership of 10 companies that standing alone would be big enough to join the Fortune 500, plus 26.9 percent of Kraft Heinz Co.
Berkshire previously owned a 3-percent stake in Precision Castparts, which one of Buffett's investment managers, Todd Combs, began amassing in 2012.
"You've got to give credit to Todd Combs for this deal," said Buffett, who turns 85 on August 30. He has run Berkshire since 1965.
Precision Castparts generates 70 percent of sales by making nuts, bolts and other fittings for the aerospace industry, where booming commercial aircraft demand has led Airbus Group SE (AIR.PA) and Boeing Co (BA.N) to boost production.
But the company also makes parts for the energy industry, which has struggled as oil prices LCOc1 CLc1 have fallen by more than half over the last year.
Prior to Monday, Precision Castparts' shares had fallen 20 percent in 2015, and the purchase price is below the shares' 52-week high of $249.05 set last September.
"Although the takeout price looks a little low to us, we doubt if PCP's shareholders will say no to Warren Buffett," RBC Capital Markets analyst Robert Stallard wrote.
Precision Castparts would become a unit of Berkshire, keeping its name and management as well as its headquarters in Portland, Oregon.
"We see a unique alignment between Warren's management and investment philosophy and how we manage PCC for the long term," Chief Executive Mark Donegan said in a statement.
Buffett said Berkshire would use about $23 billion of its own cash to finance the purchase, and borrow the rest.
While that would leave Berkshire with more than $40 billion of cash, twice the cushion Buffett wants, Buffett said it would be at least a year before Berkshire could pursue another "elephant" size transaction.
Kraft Heinz has proven among his most successful so far, as Buffett transformed a $9.5 billion investment in the former H.J. Heinz Co into a Kraft Heinz stake worth roughly $25.5 billion.
Precision Castparts would join several industrial companies that Buffett has bought in the last decade, including toolmaker Iscar, parts maker Marmon, and chemicals company Lubrizol.
The merger is expected to close in the first quarter of 2016. Credit Suisse and the law firms Cravath, Swaine & Moore and Stoel Rives advised Precision Castparts. The law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson advised Berkshire.
(Additional reporting by Jennifer AblanGreg Roumeliotis and Mike Stone in New York; Editing by Ted Kerr and Nick Zieminski)

Friday, August 07, 2015

Google Maps Goes Coastal with Unmanned Boat

Google Maps Goes Coastal with Unmanned Boat
You will think you are seeing things when this unmanned inflatable passes you. Wonder how it will deal with jet skis?
Google Maps Goes Coastal with Unmanned Boat
A new high-tech unmanned vessel, launched with the help of Google, will use innovative technologies from the boatbuilding and mapping fields to map shorelines and raise awareness of the impacts of global sea level rise.
Originally designed to be worn by backpackers, Google’s proprietary Street View Trekker camera system was provided on loan to the San Francisco Baykeeper organization, allowing them to create bay-level maps. It plans to use the imagery collected—nearly 500 miles of coastline ranging from San Jose to Antioch, California—on its website and for educational purposes. It will also help illustrate the threats posed by global sea level change to critical wetlands.
Electric motor developer Torqeedo said it was chosen to power the craft as clean, powerful and efficient propulsion was a high priority.
“It’s a Google Boat,” said staff scientist for the San Francisco Baykeeper organization, Ian Wren. The small, remote-controlled catamaran, a Wave Adapted Modular Vehicle (WAM-V) designed by Marine Advanced Research, features a modified hull design that flexes to adjust to the water’s surface and provides ultimate stability. Baykeeper’s WAM-V sports twin Torqeedo Cruise 4kW electric outboard motors rigged with Power 26-104 lithium batteries. The boat is able to run for hours with a nearly zero environmental footprint, thanks to onboard traditional and solar charging capabilities.
“A lot of people know about sea level rise,” said Sejal Choksi, an environmental lawyer and Baykeeper’s interim director. “We are hoping these images will really bring the reality home to the public, that they will look at pictures of places they know and say, ‘Oh my gosh, this is going to be underwater.'”
The Google Trekker, WAM-V and Torqeedo technology has also recently completed a mapping project of American Samoa.
• Google • Ian Wren • Sejal Choksi

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Eating spicy food frequently is linked to a lower risk of death

Eating spicy food frequently is linked to a lower risk of death in a Chinese study, adding heat to the debate on whether people should eat chilies for health benefits.
The study involved 487,375 people aged 30 to 79 across China. Half were followed for 7.2 years. Over the study period, there were 20,224 deaths.
Those who said they ate spicy food once or twice a week showed a 10 per cent reduced overall risk of dying, compared with people who ate spicy foods less often.
"Compared with those who ate spicy foods less than once a week, those who consumed spicy foods six or seven days a week showed a 14 per cent relative risk reduction in total mortality," concluded Lu Qi, an associate professor at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and his co-authors in Tuesday's online issue of The BMJ, formerly the British Medical Journal.
Fresh and dried chilies were the most commonly used of spices in the study.
It's impossible to draw a cause-and-effect inference between eating spicy food and deaths from cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease, the study's authors noted in calling for more studies on other populations around the world to test if the findings apply elsewhere.
Eating fresh chili peppers in Chinese cuisine may be correlated with other dietary habits and lifestyles, such as cooking with oil or eating more carbohydrate-rich foods like rice to relieve burning sensations, the researchers said.

'You are what you eat'

Prof. David Hoskin of the faculty of medicine at Dalhousie University in Halifax is a research scientist with an interest in the use of natural products to prevent and treat cancer.
"My advice would be that you definitely are what you eat," Hoskin said.
"If you like spices, definitely, add spices into the mix, with the proviso if you're eating a lot of spicy food, washing it down with a six-pack of beer is probably not a good idea."
In the study, the association was stronger among people who didn't drink alcohol. 
Chili peppers are collected near the Mekong River in Cambodia. More research is needed on the subject, but a Chinese study linked frequent eating of spicy food with reduced mortality. (Heng Sinith/Associated Press)
It's possible consumption of spicy food was a marker for other unmeasured factors in the diet, such as drinking more green tea, which is also known to have health benefits.
One molecule in chili, called capsaicin, has been shown in lab studies on cell lines and animal models of cancer to reduce inflammation, Hoskin said. Reduced inflammation could prevent processes that lead to the development of some diseases.
Since spices, fruits and vegetables contain a variety of other phytochemicals, Hoskin suggested that what is most important is to enjoy a diet rich in many of them. For example, Chinese cuisine typically also includes a lot of ginger.
The only way to know for sure if spices like chili improve mortality risk would be to conduct a large randomized trial to modify diets, which is expensive to administer, Hoskin said.

Chef's explanation

Nita Forouhi from the University of Cambridge wrote a journal editorial titled "Consumption of hot spicy foods and mortality — is chili good for your health?" which accompanies the study.
"Should we encourage people to eat more chili?" Forouhi asked.
The "findings should be considered hypothesis generating, not definitive, and will undoubtedly encourage further work."
Nuit Regular is a chef at a Thai restaurant in Toronto. She wasn't surprised by the findings and thinks she knows what is behind them. 
"When you eat spicy, it just [raises] your heart rate," Regular said. "The more you have it, it's just pumping out very good blood flow to all of your body."
The study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China and National Key and Kadoorie Charitable Foundation in Hong Kong. 

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

West Coast has a vast bloom of toxic algae

A vast bloom of toxic algae off the West Coast is denser, more widespread and deeper than scientists feared even weeks ago, according to surveyors aboard a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research vessel.
This coastal ribbon of microscopic algae, up to 64 kilometres wide and 198 metres deep in places, is flourishing amid unusually warm Pacific Ocean temperatures. It now stretches from at least California to Alaska and has shut down lucrative fisheries.
Shellfish managers on Tuesday doubled the area off Washington's coast that is closed to Dungeness crab fishing, after finding elevated levels of marine toxins in tested crab meat.
So-called "red tides" are cyclical and have happened many times before, but ocean researchers say this one is much larger and persisting much longer, with higher levels of neurotoxins bringing severe consequences for the Pacific seafood industry, coastal tourism and marine ecosystems.
Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the area now closed to crab fishing includes more than half the state's 253-kilometre-long coast, and likely will bring a premature end to this year's crab season.
"We think it's just sitting and lingering out there," said Anthony Odell, a University of Washington research analyst who is part of the U.S.'s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association-led team surveying the harmful algae bloom, which was first detected in May. "It's farther offshore, but it's still there."

Could 'the blob' be the culprit?

The survey data should provide a clearer picture of what is causing the bloom which is brownish in colour, unlike the blue and green algae found in polluted freshwater lakes. Marine detectives already have a suspect: a large patch of water running as much as 3 C warmer than normal in the northeast Pacific Ocean, nicknamed "the blob."
"The question on everyone's mind is whether this is related to global climate change. The simple answer is that it could be, but at this point it's hard to separate the variations in these cycles," said Donald Boesch, professor of marine science at the University of Maryland who is not involved in the survey. "Maybe the cycles are more extreme in the changing climate."
The Blob
A toxic algae bloom in the Pacific Ocean stretching from California north to B.C. might be the largest ever detected off the West Coast, according to scientists in California. (NOAA)
"There's no question that we're seeing more algal blooms more often, in more places, when they do occur, they're lasting longer and often over greater geographical areas. We're seeing more events than documented decades ago," said Pat Glibert, professor at Horn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

Researchers headed to B.C.

Odell recently completed the first leg of the survey, mostly in California waters. On Wednesday, researchers plan to continue monitoring the sea between Newport, Oregon, and Seattle. The vessel will then go to Vancouver Island, wrapping up in early September.
Another research ship is taking samples off Alaska.
The brownish bloom was particularly thick off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, and Odell said it was unusually dominated by one type of algae called Pseudo-nitzschia, which can produce the neurotoxin domoic acid.
"It's an indication of an imbalance," said Vera Trainer, a research oceanographer with the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. "Too much of any one thing is not healthy for anybody to eat."
Trainer said this bloom is the worst she's seen in 20 years of studying them. Harmful algal blooms have usually been limited to one area of the ocean or another, and have disappeared after a few weeks. This one has grown for months, waxing and waning but never going away.
Algae bloom
A previous toxic algae bloom is shown in this image from the Washington State Department of Ecology Marine Monitoring Unit. (Washington State Department of Ecology Marine Monitoring Unit)
"It's been incredibly thick, almost all the same organism. Looks like a layer of hay," said Raphael Kudela, a professor of ocean sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
The current bloom also involves some of the highest concentrations of domoic acid yet observed in Monterey Bay and other areas of the West Coast.
"It's really working its way into the food web and we're definitely seeing the impacts of that," Kudela said, noting that sea lions are getting sick and pelicans are being exposed. And now that the Pacific is experiencing its periodic ocean warming known as El Nino, it may come back even stronger next year, he said.

No reports of related human illnesses

Domoic acid is harmful to people, fish and marine life. It accumulates in anchovies, sardines and other small fish as well as shellfish that eat the algae. Marine mammals and fish-eating birds in turn can get sick from eating the contaminated fish. In people, it can trigger amnesic shellfish poisoning, which can cause permanent loss of short-term memory in severe cases.
State health officials stress that seafood bought in stores is still safe to eat because it is regularly tested. While there have been no reports of human illnesses linked to this year's bloom, authorities aren't taking chances in fisheries with dangerous toxin levels.
California public health officials have warned against eating recreationally harvested mussels and claims, or any anchovy, sardines or crabs caught in waters off Monterey, Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara counties. Other shellfish harvests are shut down along Oregon's coast.
The most recent samples showed the highest-ever recorded concentrations of domoic acid in the internal organs of Dungeness crab, Ayres said.
"This is really unprecedented territory for us," said Ayres.

Phoenix Brochure by R.G.Richardson – Books on Google Play

Phoenix Brochure by R.G.Richardson – Books on Google Play