All posts on October, 2015

A cheaper bill for recapitalising Greek banks

WHEN the third Greek bail-out was outlined in principle on July 13th after an extraordinarily fraught summit of euro-zone leaders, between €10 billion ($11 billion) and €25 billion out of the total sum of up to €86 billion of help was set aside for bank recapitalisation. Greek banks had been undermined for over half a year as deposits drained out of them, on worries about a possible exit from the euro once Syriza, a radical left party, won the election held in January 2015, culminating in their closure for three weeks in late June and July. They had been further hurt by the harm done to the economy and thus to their loans arising from Syriza’s ill-judged attempt to outbluff its official creditors. Even so, the notion that they would need as much as €25 billion to offset the damage and put them on a sound footing appeared unduly pessimistic.

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Tech Buzz

Chrome OS Is Dead, Long Live Chrome OS?

Google reportedly is two years into a plan to consolidate the Chrome operating system and Android and plans to roll out a combined OS in 2017. Chromebooks running the Chrome OS have gained adoption as entry-level computers for students and as a low-cost option for a growing number of corporate customers. “Chrome OS isn’t being killed,” said a source familiar with the company’s strategy.

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BackBox Takes Its Security Tools Seriously

BackBox Linux 4.4 is a great Linux distro for IT and other techies who want to do their own penetration tests and security assessments. The latest version, released this month, is an Ubuntu 14.04.3-based distribution that’s speedy and simple to use. It’s a fully functional Linux distro that comes well stocked with standard software and runs a desktop environment based on the Xfce window manager.

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When Innovation Misfires

Innovation is not always good — it can backfire. Good innovation helps to grow a brand in the marketplace and results in more customer love. Bad innovation does the opposite. Companies would be better off doing nothing than innovating badly. Many public companies innovate on a regular basis because they think they have to. After all, they must keep their investors happy.

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Sony Talks VR and 2016 Games in Paris

While Microsoft has been driving home the potential hits it has for the holidays, Sony has sat silent. That changed this week at Paris Games Week, when Sony set the tone for the next year or so by touting 21 games poised to redefine the PlayStation 4 experience. It put on a console-selling show that evidenced the potential of the latest PlayStation and the upcoming PlayStation VR headset.

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ApprovedFINANCEFinance and economics

Winning converts

THERE is a proselytising feel to the credit-union movement. Believers talk of a “social mission”: to serve communities, not the false gods of the stockmarket. Today, this creed is winning more converts than ever before. Globally, the number of people in credit unions has doubled since 2000, from 108m to 217m. Savings are up by 130% in real terms (see chart).

Credit unions first appeared in 19th century Germany. Like banks, they took deposits and made loans. But, crucially, they were owned by their members, who shared a “common bond”, such as a profession or place of residence. Earnings were returned to members in the form of better interest rates.

In Europe, most of these early institutions evolved into co-operative networks, such as DZ Bank in Germany and Rabobank of the Netherlands, which are still owned by members but no longer serve a particular group. Elsewhere, the requirement for a common bond endures: Partners Federal Credit Union, for example, is open only to employees of Walt Disney and their families. Fully 39% of American adults belong to a credit union, up from 36% a decade ago—an increase of 14m. In…Continue reading

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The big-box game

SINCE the financial crisis, the tide of recovery has not lifted all boats equally. But in few industries is that more true than in shipping. Demand for oil tankers has boomed: a combination of weak spot prices and higher futures prices, driven by the assumption that supply and demand for crude will eventually rebalance, has encouraged traders to hire tankers to store oil at sea and cash in on the price gap. Meanwhile, bulk carriers, which carry such things as iron ore and coal, have been hit by massive overcapacity, as Chinese demand for such commodities has collapsed (see article).

Until the start of this year, the container-shipping business—which carries around 60% by value of all seaborne trade in goods—looked more like that for oil tankers. Rising global trade volumes, and firm steel prices that made it worthwhile for owners to scrap old ships, had kept capacity in check, and container-freight rates seemed to be steadying. As recently as August last year, demand for container shipping was so high that BIMCO, an industry…Continue reading

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A harder road ahead





FOR two decades China was a land of seemingly limitless opportunity for multinationals. Japan and South Korea had shut out foreign firms during the early phase of their economic development. By contrast, China’s leaders, after Deng Xiaoping’s reforms in the early 1990s, made them welcome. Provided firms brought world-class technologies, and agreed to joint ventures with locals in certain strategic industries, they were free to take a generous slice of China’s growing economic pie. But now a combination of factors is making life much more difficult for them.

Even foreign firms that looked like they might dominate the Chinese market are getting a rude awakening, as its economy slows and as competition from local rivals intensifies. Earlier this year Douglas McMillon, Walmart’s boss, declared that China was vital to the American retail giant’s future growth and vowed to add more than 100 new stores in the next two years to its current tally of 400-plus there. Walmart does not give much detail on how those outlets are performing. But a filing this month by its local…Continue reading

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Qualcomm Unveils Muscle Camera for Surveillance Systems

Qualcomm on Tuesday announced a muscle video camera for surveillance systems. Part of the company’s Snapdragon 618 IP camera platform, it combines a six-core, 64-bit processor; next-generation graphics crunching; and embedded digital signal processing. The unit can perform advanced video analytics, which can reduce cloud processing and storage costs provide more reliable analytics, Qualcomm said.

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Tech Law

CISA Passes Senate Despite Privacy Advocates’ Fear and Loathing

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday voted 74-21 to pass the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, or CISA, in the face of strong opposition from legal and cybersecurity experts, the high-tech industry, privacy and civil liberties organizations, and members of the public. The Act calls for several federal agencies to share cyberthreat indicators between the public and private sectors.

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Russian Sub Activity Near Internet Cables Worries US

Russian spy ships and subs reportedly are hovering close to the routes of undersea communications cables. Military and intelligence officials apparently have observed increased Russian sub activity near cables located from the North Sea to Northeast Asia, as well as in waters close to American shores. The movements suggest Russia might decide to attack those cables in times of tension or conflict.

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