M&S becomes first UK supermarket to adopt antibiotic transparency
Marks & Spencer has become the first UK supermarket to disclose information about antibiotic use in its supply chain. The company published the information, which relates to farmers supplying its dairy, eggs and meat, on its website on Wednesday. The use of antibiotics in livestock farming can result in the development of drug-resistant bacteria. The disclosure reveals that Marks & Spencer is outperforming industry targets, particularly in relation to chicken farms, where antibiotic use has been 90% below 2020 goals. Waitrose is expected to publish similar data next year.
2017-12-20 13:15:04.347000
Marks & Spencer has become the first supermarket chain in the UK to publish details of the use of antibiotics in its farm supply chain, in a step towards reducing the use of vital human medicines in livestock-rearing. On Wednesday, the company disclosed on its web site information on the quantities of antibiotics used on livestock by the farmers that supply its meat, eggs and dairy products. This will be updated regularly to show progress towards cutting the use of the drugs, which are also prescribed to treat human diseases. The data show that the supermarket chain is ahead of industry-wide targets, particularly on chicken farms, on which antibiotic use for the last year has been about 90% below the target for 2020 set by the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance. The move by M&S follows a report in the Guardian revealing that none of the UK’s main supermarket chains allowed the public access to information on the use of antibiotics in their supply chains. An investigation by the Guardian found that the superbug MRSA is now present in close to a tenth of pork products found on UK supermarket shelves. Antibiotic use in farming is of high concern, because it can lead to the development of bacteria that are resistant to vitally important medicines. This resistance can be passed to humans. Antibiotic resistance has been targeted by England’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, as a key threat to our future wellbeing, amid fears that even routine operations such as hip replacements may become dangerous as the medicines to combat possible infections become ineffective through over-use. M&S is the first supermarket to publish such data. On Wednesday, shortly after the announcement by M&S, Waitrose became the second large supermarket chain to publish data on antibiotic use among its suppliers. Across the world, the routine administration of antibiotics is used to promote the growth of livestock reared for meat. In Europe, such use is banned, but the regulations allow for the treatment of large herds or flocks at a time, which campaigners say is a cause for concern. More antibiotics are used in farming than for human health. The World Health Organisation has called for the use of the most powerful antibiotics to be banned in farm animals, in order to keep them safe for human use. However, this advice does not have legal force and countries, including the UK, are free to keep using them on animals. A ban would be unpopular among farmers as it could mean they have to cull their herds in cases of infection rather than treat them. Steve McLean, head of agriculture at M&S, told the Guardian: “Our farmers use antibiotics responsibly. They never use them routinely, never use antibiotics that are critical to human health, and are committed to reducing use every year. However, we do not envisage never using them. Animal welfare is at the heart of our business, and using them responsibly includes ensuring animals receive the appropriate treatment, under veterinary supervision, when they need it.” Coilin Nunan, scientific advisor to the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, said: “We very much welcome M&S’s decision to publish data on its suppliers’ antibiotic use. We want to see all supermarkets increase transparency for consumers by publishing similar data, but so far Waitrose is the only other supermarket that has agreed to do so.” He said the data published by M&S showed its suppliers were using far fewer antibiotics than most other producers, particularly in pig and chicken production. In these areas, M&S suppliers use less than a quarter of the industry average. Nunan also called for the supermarket chain to publish more detailed data, showing how free-range and organic farms fared against indoor farming and intensive rearing. Nunan said the Waitrose data included more details than that from M&S, including details on turkeys and farmed fish, and said both retailers were below the industry average in their antibiotic use. He added: “It would also be important to get data on antibiotic use in turkeys, because such use is often much higher than in chickens, but this tends to get overlooked.”
France to ban gas and oil extraction by 2040
France has enacted a law banning the production of oil and gas by 2040. The new law, which applies to mainland France and its overseas territories, is largely symbolic, as the country is now 99% dependent on hydrocarbon imports and extracts just 815,000 tonnes of oil each year. Existing licences will not be renewed after 2040, and no new permits will be granted. President Emmanuel Macron’s government has previously announced plans to stop the sale of diesel and petrol engine cars by the same date.
2017-12-20 12:50:14.110000
France’s parliament has passed into law a ban on producing oil and gas by 2040, a largely symbolic gesture as the country is 99% dependent on hydrocarbon imports. In Tuesday’s vote by show of hands, only the rightwing Republicans party opposed, while leftwing lawmakers abstained. No new permits will be granted to extract fossil fuels and no existing licences will be renewed beyond 2040, when all production in mainland France and its overseas territories will stop. Socialist lawmaker Delphine Batho said she hoped the ban would be “contagious”, inspiring bigger producers to follow suit. France extracts the equivalent of about 815,000 tonnes of oil per year – an amount produced in a few hours by Saudi Arabia. But centrist president Emmanuel Macron has said he wants France to take the lead as a major world economy switching away from fossil fuels – and the nuclear industry – into renewable sources. His government plans to stop the sale of diesel and petrol engine cars by 2040 as well. Above all the ban will affect companies prospecting for oil in the French territory of Guyana in South America, while also banning the extraction of shale gas by any means – its extraction by fracking was banned in 2011.
TalkTalk Anger as TeamViewer blocked a second time this year
Telecoms firm and ISP provider TalkTalk sparked complaints when it banned popular remote desktop software TeamViewer for the second time this year. The ISP said it was protecting customers by "filtering a small number of websites that are being used by scammers", but the move angered legitimate users. Customers will be able to change the default settings for the Scam Protect blocker, which is locking them out of the service, next year. Access can be resumed in the meantime via customer services. The ISP blocked TeamViewer for less than 24 hours in March but reinstated it following complaints.
2017-12-20 12:46:21.363000
TalkTalk customers who need to use a remote desktop tool are on the warpath after the UK ISP blocked TeamViewer for the second time this year, ostensibly in an attempt to protect users from potential scammers. A screenshot seen by The Register showed that teamviewer.com had been blocked as part of TalkTalk's Scam Protect blocker, saying the site was used by scammers. TeamViewer is sometimes used by ne'er-do-wells to gain remote access to a victim's computer, but it is also used by techies for legitimate purposes. Users who complained to TalkTalk on Twitter were told the ISP was "filtering a small number of websites that are being used by scammers". The responses also stated that users would have the ability to change the default settings for the protector in the new year, but for now could speak to their customer service team to manually enable access. On the other side of the scam blocker, TeamViewer has yet to respond publicly to any complaints on the matter directed at it by users. The last time TalkTalk blocked TeamViewer was in March of this year. The block lasted less than a day after customer complaints (and perhaps our own report) convinced TT to change its mind. TalkTalk is an ISP that is necessarily mindful of security issues. It suffered a large data breach in October 2015, which leaked 157,000 users' personal details, and its users were the target of an unrelated "Indian call centre" scam earlier this year. A search of Twitter reveals a series of complaints between March and December, concerning apparent scammers pretending to be TalkTalk representatives and trying to fool users into downloading TeamViewer. The Scam Protection page that pops up when a TalkTalk customer tries to visit teamviewer.com specifically states that TT never asks users to access the site, which one can deduce is a reaction to these reports. ® Updated on 20 December to add: A TalkTalk spokesperson told The Reg: “Protecting customers is our top priority. We are filtering a small number of sites that are being used by scammers to take control of customers’ computers and steal from them. "To minimize the impact on customers we know use these sites regularly, we have excluded them from the automatic filtering. It’s possible that some customers who want to access these sites legitimately for the first time will need to contact us."
Regus Limerick deal to boost Irish spaces to 150 amid tech demand
Flexible office space provider Regus has responded to high demand from tech and finance companies in Ireland to set up shop in central Limerick's Bedford Row building. The deal has made 60 office spaces available and another 90 will come online in January. Azon Recruitment Group is among the first tenants.
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Kenneth Dwyer, Area Manager, Regus and Ruth Lyndon, Azon Recruitment Group at Regus Bedford Row, Limerick Bedford Row in Limerick city welcomes the global workspace provider Regus as a new resident. The premises will open for business on the 22 December with 60 office spaces available straight away. Regus Ireland will house 150 workspaces in total by early 2018, consisting of office and event spaces to meeting rooms. Rental space here is the perfect destination in the central business district of Limerick. The premises is a striking one – a contemporary building takes up the front of the Methodist Church which was originally built in the 1800s. Demand for the new Regus workspace is high with companies in the tech and finance industries already attempting to avail of Regus’ services. The first tenant to the site will be Azon Recruitment Group in January 2018. Regus’ reputation of state-of-the-art facilities with national and international connections should prove popular among clients ranging from start-ups, remote workers and established businesses. Regus Country Manager Gearoid Collins said: “We’re delighted to see Regus expand its offering to Limerick city. Flexible working is becoming increasingly popular, and we’re thrilled to be able to offer such a wide variety of workspace options enabling our clients to work when, where and how it best suits them and their business.”
Samsung to release wearable that enables calls at touch of an ear
A wearable developed by Samsung spin-off Innomdle Lab that allows users to conduct phone conversations by touching their ear is set to go on sale this year. The Sgnl is a slim wristband with conductive sensors that transmit sound, including speech and music, through the flesh in a user's hand. Originally a concept dreamed up by Samsung's C-Lab, the first Sgnls will be sent to Kickstarter supporters in March, before going on general sale.
2017-12-20 11:33:56.357000
We've seen Innomdle Lab's Sgnl wearable at CES a few times before, but it's worth revisiting because a) it's an absolutely crazy idea that works; and b) it's very nearly ready for the masses. In case you missed it the first time around, the Sgnl is a sleek, understated wearable that lets you have full-blown private phone conversations by simply touching your finger to your ear. The wearable, which was originally developed as a concept for Samsung's delightfully nutty C-Lab, transmits sound through your hand as vibrations that eventually come out of your finger as sound. In theory, this seems like an absurd concept. In practice, though, it appears to work as advertised. Even though Innomdle Lab's body conduction technology isn't specifically meant for music playback, a demo track streamed from a tablet via Bluetooth was piped into my wrist, up through my hand and came out surprisingly audible on through my finger. Gallery: Hands-on with the SGNL | 7 Photos /7 Gallery: Hands-on with the SGNL | 7 Photos /7 There's no way you'd want to listen to an album this way even if it were possible, but the system is theoretically clear enough to keep conversations intelligible. We're told the Sgnl can store up to five contacts, which you can sift through using a set of slightly-too-gummy navigation buttons. The Sgnl also doubles as a fitness tracker because, well, why not? Good thing it's relatively comfortable to wear. The prototype units I've tried in the past were considerably more bulbous and hack-y, but the final product is actually remarkable restrained in its design. The actual body conduction bits are housed in a soft-touch plastic body, while a dark stainless steel strap runs around the rest of the wrist. My biggest concern so far, though, is how clumsy the clasp seems; you have to stick the tiny metal tab on one end into the slot on the other, and it can be difficult to do with just one hand. Even now, with Sgnl production in full swing, the wearable leaves some unanswered questions. Thankfully, we won't have to wait too long for clarification: The first units will be delivered to Kickstarter backers in March, with wider availability to follow soon after. Click here to catch up on the latest news from CES 2018.
Redrow York set to consider 970 new homes for city's outskirts
UK housebuilder Redrow has outlined a £100m ($134m) 970-homes plan for the outskirts of York. The development, which would take 10 years to complete, would also feature a school and public open spaces. It's proposed as part of the city's Local Plan, which aims to identify sites for future development in and around York. Redrow is set to submit a formal planning application to the City of York Council early in 2018, while York council aims to submit its Local Plan to government by May.
2017-12-20 11:19:31.373000
Developers have revealed plans to build 970 new houses and a primary school on the edge of York. National housebuilder Redrow has drawn up proposals for the north east of the city, near Huntington, on a site bounded by Monks Cross Link Road to the east and North Lane to the north. The development would cost £100 million to build and take ten years to complete, at a rate of around 100 homes a year. As well as the houses and school, there would be sports pitches, a play area and public open areas. ‘Vibrant village centre’ Redrow says the school and commercial, transport and sports facilities would be at the heart of the development, to form a vibrant village centre. The site is within the Outer Ring Road has been deemed suitable for housing in various draft versions of York’s proposed Local Plan, so will likely prove less controversial in principle than a separate, larger plan north of the bypass, reported earlier this month in the York Press. Redrow revealed its ideas for the site at two local consultation events earlier this month, and intends to submit a formal planning application to City of York Council early in the New Year. Redrow said it was keen to “create a community that is not just another new development”. They say they will include affordable housing. It says: The extended village will have new community facilities to meet the needs of the future and existing residents, including a small local shop, primary school and public open space and playing fields. It is expected that the primary school will be designed to a standard that facilitates wider public uses, to act as a community hub. ‘Respecting the landscape’ Elsewhere in the information they sent to YorkMix, Redrow says: “Monks Cross North will be a leading example of a high-quality sustainable community, through the creation of a place that is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. “The development will draw on the features of the site while respecting the landscape setting of the surrounding green belt.” Huntington and New Earswick councillor Keith Orrell said: “Local councillors know this has long been in the Local Plan. “When the Local Plan process finishes, we look forward to local people being consulted about the details.” City of York Council has struggled for many years to complete an acceptable Local Plan, a landmark document meant to help determine the future development of the city. The plan identifies which parts of the city are suitable for what sorts of development, and aims to project how many houses will be needed to accommodate the city’s growth. Disputes between parties have seen repeated disagreements and rewrites, but the current administration now hopes to submit a plan to the Government by May 2018.
Allianz X invests $96.6m in microinsurer BIMA
Microinsurance platform BIMA can now count Allianz as its largest strategic shareholder after the firm made a $96.6m investment via its Allianz X digital investment division. BIMA aims to provide low-income customers with insurance policies and is already operating in 14 emerging markets. The platform has 24 million users, but hopes to grow that number to one billion. BIMA is hoping to use the investment to further its mobile capabilities. The company uses its mobile platform to make policies available to customers who otherwise would have no other way of purchasing insurance.
2017-12-20 10:25:32.743000
Allianz’s digital investment unit Allianz X has invested $96.6m in digital microinsurer BIMA. BIMA will now look to hit its goal of obtaining 1 billion customers. The move sees Allianz become BIMA’s largest strategic shareholder, and only insurance shareholder, in the tech platform. “The strategic investment in BIMA contributes to the digital transformation of the Allianz Group and our commitment to emerging markets,” said Allianz X chief executive Nazim Cetin. “I am thrilled to work with colleagues who have such entrepreneurial spirit and look forward to our collaboration.” BIMA offers low-income families access to microinsurance products in 14 emerging markets. BIMA has 24 million registered customers to date. It will aim to use the raised funds for growth through continued mobile penetration. BIMA already has partnerships with mobile operators, as it uses mobile technology to make its products accessible to people who might not have another way of buying insurance. BIMA founder and chief executive Gustaf Agartson said, “We are very excited to have Allianz as a shareholder. Allianz is the perfect insurance partner and investor for BIMA because of their strong commitment to emerging markets and overlapping footprint. This investment will allow us to continue our journey to innovate, scale existing as well as new markets, and retain our place as the emerging market insurtech leader. Allianz’s significant expertise and knowledge in the insurance space will enable BIMA to further improve our product portfolio and provide valuable products to the emerging market consumers.”
Virgin Hyperloop One tube train breaks speed record in US tests
Virgin's Hyperloop One -- a magnetic levitation train that glides through airless tubes -- achieved a record-breaking speed of 240 mph during a test of its XP-1 model, according to reports. The landmark puts it ahead of rival Tesla, whose own "pod" hit 220 mph in August, while Germany’s WARR Hyperloop notched up 201 mph. Virgin's test also showed off the XP-1's airlock technology, a crucial component to the company's hyperloop. Richard Branson recently stepped in as chairman and secured a $50m investment for the beleaguered firm after co-founder Shervin Pishevar was ousted amid allegations of sexual assault.
2017-12-20 07:54:19.257000
For those of you holding out hope for one more high-speed test of the hyperloop before the end of the year, you’re in luck. On December 15th, Virgin Hyperloop One conducted the third demonstration of its not-to-scale system in the desert outside of Las Vegas, sending its magnetically levitating pod through a nearly airless tube at 240 mph (387 km/h). It was a significant increase over the team’s previous record of 192 mph, but far less than the hyperloop’s theoretical maximum speed of 700 mph. The company believes it would need an additional 2,000 meters (1.2 miles) of track to hit that velocity. As it stands, the XP-1 pod’s maximum achievable speed in the current 1,620-foot DevLoop test track is 250 mph. less than the theoretical maximum speed of 700 mph It was a bit of good news for the company, which has just experienced a major rebranding and leadership shake-up. Yesterday, it was reported that co-founder and chairman Shervin Pishevar is out, thanks to allegations of sexual assault and misconduct (which Pishevar denies), and Virgin Group co-founder Richard Branson is in. Branson also helped secure a new $50 million investment from two existing investors, which sources say will help the cash-strapped company help meet its payroll obligations. Perhaps more important than the speed of the XP-1 pod was the demonstration of the team’s new airlock technology. In order to obtain the high speeds first theorized in Elon Musk’s 2013 white paper, the hyperloop pod needs to travel through a near-vacuum state. This frictionless environment allows the magnetically levitating pod to travel at airliner-speeds through the length of the tube. The airlock will be a key factor in transferring pods with passengers or cargo between atmospheric states. According to Virgin Hyperloop One: All components of the system were successfully tested including the airlock, highly efficient electric motor, advanced controls and power electronics, custom magnetic levitation and guidance, pod suspension, and the vacuum. The tests were conducted in a tube depressurized down to the equivalent air pressure experienced at 200,000 feet above sea level. A Virgin Hyperloop One pod quickly lifts above the track using magnetic levitation and glides at airline speeds for long distances due to ultra-low aerodynamic drag. The ability to maintain a vacuum in the tube, especially one hundreds of miles long, is one of the steepest challenges facing the hyperloop. Every time a pod arrives at a station, it has to decelerate and stop. Then the airlock will have to close, pressurize, and open again. Then the pod has to clear the airlock before the next pod arrives. The speed in which this occurs will determine the distance between pods. one of the steepest challenges facing the hyperloop The longer the headway, the less capacity these pods will have, which may determine how useful a mass transit system the hyperloop can be. Operators can try to compensate by building larger pods, but then they’ll need stronger steel for their tubes to accommodate the added weight, and that spells higher costs. Virgin Hyperloop One’s speed record may not stand for long. It is only slightly more than the 220 mph notched by Musk’s own Tesla-branded pod back in August at the conclusion of the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition in Hawthorne, California. The student team from Germany’s WARR Hyperloop, took home the top prize in the competition for its pod which traveled 201 mph.
Volvo's Drive Me autonomous vehicle project reduces in scale
The swift evolution of sensor technology and the unforeseen challenges of electrical architecture are among the reasons car-maker Volvo has scaled back its Drive Me autonomous driving project. The initiative, launched in 2013, will now involve 100 people, rather than 100 vehicles as Volvo had previously stated, over the next four years. Families in China and London will be joining existing participants already road-testing the Level 2 technology in Sweden. Feedback will then be used to improve the manufacturer's Level 4 cars, set to launch in 2021.
2017-12-20 07:47:16.973000
GOTHENBURG, Sweden -- Volvo’s Drive Me autonomous driving project is taking some detours compared with promises the automaker made when it announced the program four years ago, but Volvo says the changes will make its first Level 4 vehicle even better when it arrives in 2021. In early announcements about Drive Me, Volvo promised to have 100 self-driving vehicles on the road but that has been downgraded. Volvo now says it will have 100 people involved in the Drive Me program within the next four years. Initially, the people taking part in Drive Me will test the cars with the same Level 2 semiautonomous assistance systems that are commercially available to anyone who purchases the vehicle in markets such as Europe and the U.S. Drive Me is a public autonomous driving experiment that now includes families in Sweden and will be extended to London and China later. The goal is to provide Volvo with customer feedback for its first model with Level 4 autonomy, which means the car can drive itself but still has a steering wheel and pedals so that the driver can take control when needed. “On the journey, some of the questions that we thought were really difficult to answer have been answered much faster than we expected. And in some areas, we are finding that there were more issues to dig into and solve than we expected,” Marcus Rothoff, Volvo’s autonomous driving program director, told Automotive News Europe. One of those issues is the automaker’s reluctance to pick a so-called “sensor set” too early. “The development in sensor performance and processor capabilities is going so much faster than we expected in 2013,” Rothoff said Monday. “Because advancements are being made at such a rapid pace, we want to make this decision as late as possible.” Volvo also wants to make sure its customers are completely confident with the new technology because if they don’t trust it they won’t use it. Failure here would result in the launch of “a high-cost product with limited customer value," Rothoff said. “It’s about keeping stable controls so the car behaves like it knows what it is doing,” he added. It’s also about finding a way to provide something that customers around the world will be willing to pay a premium to own. “The autonomous car must be the safest car on the road,” Rothoff said. “But you don’t just pay for it being the safest. You need to know it has a value. The research is helping us extract what this value is.” Volvo already has an idea what future customers will value most: time, especially during their daily drive to and from the office. “I think offering time during the commute will be one of those values that people will want for a premium car,” he said. His boss, Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson, has said equipping a car with Level 4 functionality could cost add "close to $10,000” to the price. There is another hurdle that Volvo has encountered that it didn’t foresee when the Drive Me project started in 2013. “The electrical architecture is a really huge challenge that has been more than we expected when we started the project,” Rothoff said.
Facebook faces litigation over ads excluding older workers
Dozens of leading US employers, including Amazon, Goldman Sachs, Target and Verizon, placed recruitment advertisements on Facebook that were restricted to specific age groups, according to an investigation by non-profit newsroom ProPublica and the New York Times. Facebook itself has also employed the practice, which some analysts argue might infringe the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. A class-action age discrimination complaint was filed in San Francisco on Wednesday on behalf of Facebook users aged 40 or older by the Communications Workers of America trade union.
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This story was co-published with The New York Times. A few weeks ago, Verizon placed an ad on Facebook to recruit applicants for a unit focused on financial planning and analysis. The ad showed a smiling, millennial-aged woman seated at a computer and promised that new hires could look forward to a rewarding career in which they would be “more than just a number.” Some relevant numbers were not immediately evident. The promotion was set to run on the Facebook feeds of users 25 to 36 years old who lived in the nation’s capital, or had recently visited there, and had demonstrated an interest in finance. For a vast majority of the hundreds of millions of people who check Facebook every day, the ad did not exist. Ad From Verizon This Verizon recruiting ad appeared on Facebook last month, seeking financial analysts aged 25 to 36. Verizon didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment about this ad. Verizon is among dozens of the nation's leading employers — including Amazon, Goldman Sachs, Target and Facebook itself — that placed recruitment ads limited to particular age groups, an investigation by ProPublica and The New York Times has found. Get Our Top Investigations Subscribe to the Big Story newsletter. The ability of advertisers to deliver their message to the precise audience most likely to respond is the cornerstone of Facebook’s business model. But using the system to expose job opportunities only to certain age groups has raised concerns about fairness to older workers. Several experts questioned whether the practice is in keeping with the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which prohibits bias against people 40 or older in hiring or employment. Many jurisdictions make it a crime to “aid” or “abet” age discrimination, a provision that could apply to companies like Facebook that distribute job ads. “It’s blatantly unlawful,” said Debra Katz, a Washington employment lawyer who represents victims of discrimination. Facebook defended the practice. “Used responsibly, age-based targeting for employment purposes is an accepted industry practice and for good reason: it helps employers recruit and people of all ages find work,” said Rob Goldman, a Facebook vice president. The revelations come at a time when the unregulated power of the tech companies is under increased scrutiny, and Congress is weighing whether to limit the immunity that it granted to tech companies in 1996 for third-party content on their platforms. Facebook has argued in court filings that the law, the Communications Decency Act, makes it immune from liability for discriminatory ads. Browse the Ads These Are the Job Ads You Can’t See on Facebook If You’re Older It is against the law to discriminate against workers older than 40 in hiring and recruitment. We found dozens of companies who bought Facebook ads aimed at recruiting workers within limited age ranges. Although Facebook is a relatively new entrant into the recruiting arena, it is rapidly gaining popularity with employers. Earlier this year, the social network launched a section of its site devoted to job ads. Facebook allows advertisers to select their audience, and then Facebook finds the chosen users with the extensive data it collects about its members. The use of age targets emerged in a review of data originally compiled by ProPublica readers for a project about political ad placement on Facebook. Many of the ads include a disclosure by Facebook about why the user is seeing the ad, which can be anything from their age to their affinity for folk music. The precision of Facebook’s ad delivery has helped it dominate an industry once in the hands of print and broadcast outlets. The system, called microtargeting, allows advertisers to reach essentially whomever they prefer, including the people their analysis suggests are the most plausible hires or consumers, lowering the costs and vastly increasing efficiency. Targeted Facebook ads were an important tool in Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election. The social media giant has acknowledged that 126 million people saw Russia-linked content, some of which was aimed at particular demographic groups and regions. Facebook has also come under criticism for the disclosure that it accepted ads aimed at “Jew-haters” as well as housing ads that discriminated by race, gender, disability and other factors. Other tech companies also offer employers opportunities to discriminate by age. ProPublica bought job ads on Google and LinkedIn that excluded audiences older than 40 — and the ads were instantly approved. Google said it does not prevent advertisers from displaying ads based on the user’s age. After being contacted by ProPublica, LinkedIn changed its system to prevent such targeting in employment ads. Help Us Investigate Help Us Monitor Political Ads Online ProPublica launches a “PAC” to scrutinize campaign ads on Facebook. The practice has begun to attract legal challenges. On Wednesday, a class-action complaint alleging age discrimination was filed in federal court in San Francisco on behalf of the Communications Workers of America and its members — as well as all Facebook users 40 or older who may have been denied the chance to learn about job openings. The plaintiffs’ lawyers said the complaint was based on ads for dozens of companies that they had discovered on Facebook. The database of Facebook ads collected by ProPublica shows how often and precisely employers recruit by age. In a search for “part-time package handlers,” United Parcel Service ran an ad aimed at people 18 to 24. State Farm pitched its hiring promotion to those 19 to 35. Some companies, including Target, State Farm and UPS, defended their targeting as a part of a broader recruitment strategy that reached candidates of all ages. The group of companies making this case included Facebook itself, which ran career ads on its own platform, many aimed at people 25 to 60. “We completely reject the allegation that these advertisements are discriminatory,” said Goldman of Facebook. After being contacted by ProPublica and the Times, other employers, including Amazon, Northwestern Mutual and the New York City Department of Education, said they had changed or were changing their recruiting strategies. Download the Extension You can download the Facebook Political Ad Collector from the Chrome Web Store or the Mozilla Add-ons Store. “We recently audited our recruiting ads on Facebook and discovered some had targeting that was inconsistent with our approach of searching for any candidate over the age of 18,” said Nina Lindsey, a spokeswoman for Amazon, which targeted some ads for workers at its distribution centers between the ages of 18 and 50. “We have corrected those ads.” Verizon did not respond to requests for comment. Several companies argued that targeted recruiting on Facebook was comparable to advertising opportunities in publications like the AARP magazine or Teen Vogue, which are aimed at particular age groups. But this obscures an important distinction. Anyone can buy Teen Vogue and see an ad. Online, however, people outside the targeted age groups can be excluded in ways they will never learn about. “What happens with Facebook is you don’t know what you don’t know,” said David Lopez, a former general counsel for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission who is one of the lawyers at the firm Outten & Golden bringing the age-discrimination case on behalf of the communication workers union. ‘They Know I’m Dead’ Age discrimination on digital platforms is something that many workers suspect is happening to them, but that is often difficult to prove. Mark Edelstein at his home in St. Louis, Missouri (Whitney Curtis for The New York Times) Mark Edelstein, a fitfully employed social-media marketing strategist who is 58 and legally blind, doesn’t pretend to know what he doesn’t know, but he has his suspicions. Edelstein, who lives in St. Louis, says he never had serious trouble finding a job until he turned 50. “Once you reach your 50s, you may as well be dead,” he said. “I’ve gone into interviews, with my head of gray hair and my receding hairline, and they know I’m dead.” Ad From HubSpot This HubSpot ad aimed at people aged 27 to 40 appeared on Facebook in November. The company said that this ad was a mistake and that the company would not use the age-targeting feature again. Edelstein spends most of his days scouring sites like LinkedIn and Indeed and pitching hiring managers with personalized appeals. When he scrolled through his Facebook ads on a Wednesday in December, he saw a variety of ads reflecting his interest in social media marketing: ads for the marketing software HubSpot (“15 free infographic templates!”) and TripIt, which he used to book a trip to visit his mother in Florida. What he didn’t see was a single ad for a job in his profession, including one identified by ProPublica that was being shown to younger users: a posting for a social media director job at HubSpot. The company asked that the ad be shown to people aged 27 to 40 who live or were recently living in the United States. “Hypothetically, had I seen a job for a social media director at HubSpot, even if it involved relocation, I ABSOLUTELY would have applied for it,” Edelstein said by email when told about the ad. A HubSpot spokeswoman, Ellie Botelho, said that the job was posted on many sites, including LinkedIn, The Ladders and Built in Boston, and was open to anyone meeting the qualifications regardless of age or any other demographic characteristic. She added that “the use of the targeted age-range selection on the Facebook ad was frankly a mistake on our part given our lack of experience using that platform for job postings and not a feature we will use again.” For his part, Edelstein says he understands why marketers wouldn’t want to target ads at him: “It doesn’t surprise me a bit. Why would they want a 58-year-old white guy who’s disabled?” Looking for ’Younger Blood’ Although LinkedIn is the leading online recruitment platform, according to an annual survey by SourceCon, an industry website. Facebook is rapidly increasing in popularity for employers. One reason is that Facebook’s sheer size — two billion monthly active users, versus LinkedIn’s 530 million total members — gives recruiters access to types of workers they can’t find elsewhere. Consider nurses, whom hospitals are desperate to hire. “They’re less likely to use LinkedIn,” said Josh Rock, a recruiter at a large hospital system in Minnesota who has expertise in digital media. “Nurses are predominantly female, there’s a larger volume of Facebook users. That’s what they use.” There are also millions of hourly workers who have never visited LinkedIn, and may not even have a résumé, but who check Facebook obsessively. Ad From Facebook This Facebook recruiting ad appeared on the social network in October, targeting people aged 25 to 60. The company defends its use of age-targeting as part of a broader recruitment strategy. Deb Andrychuk, chief executive of the Arland Group, which helps employers place recruitment ads, said clients sometimes asked her firm to target ads by age, saying they needed “to start bringing younger blood” into their organizations. “It’s not necessarily that we wouldn’t take someone older,” these clients say, according to Andrychuk, “but if you could bring in a younger set of applicants, it would definitely work out better.” Andrychuk said that “we coach clients to be open and not discriminate” and that after being contacted by The Times, her team updated all their ads to ensure they didn’t exclude any age groups. But some companies contend that there are permissible reasons to filter audiences by age, as with an ad for entry-level analyst positions at Goldman Sachs that was distributed to people 18 to 64. A Goldman Sachs spokesman, Andrew Williams, said showing it to people above that age range would have wasted money: roughly 25 percent of those who typically click on the firm’s untargeted ads are 65 or older, but people that age almost never apply for the analyst job. “We welcome and actively recruit applicants of all ages,” Williams said. “For some of our social-media ads, we look to get the content to the people most likely to be interested, but do not exclude anyone from our recruiting activity.” Pauline Kim, a professor of employment law at Washington University in St. Louis, said the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, unlike the federal anti-discrimination statute that covers race and gender, allows an employer to take into account “reasonable factors” that may be highly correlated with the protected characteristic, such as cost, as long as they don’t rely on the characteristic explicitly. The Question of Liability In various ways, Facebook and LinkedIn have acknowledged at least a modest obligation to police their ad platforms against abuse. Earlier this year, Facebook said it would require advertisers to “self-certify” that their housing, employment and credit ads were compliant with anti-discrimination laws, but that it would not block marketers from purchasing age-restricted ads. Still, Facebook didn’t promise to monitor those certifications for accuracy. And Facebook said the self-certification system, announced in February, was still being rolled out to all advertisers. Ad From Amazon This Amazon recruiting ad appeared on Facebook in November, aimed at people aged 18 to 50. The company said it has corrected the ads and is changing its recruiting strategy. LinkedIn, in response to inquiries by ProPublica, added a self-certification step that prevents employers from using age ranges when placing an employment ad, unless they affirm the ad is not discriminatory. With these efforts evolving, legal experts say it is unclear how much liability the tech platforms could have. Some civil rights laws, like the Fair Housing Act, explicitly require publishers to assume liability for discriminatory ads. But the Age Discrimination in Employment Act assigns liability only to employers or employment agencies, like recruiters and advertising firms. The lawsuit filed against Facebook on behalf of the communications workers argues that the company essentially plays the role of an employment agency — collecting and providing data that helps employers locate candidates, effectively coordinating with the employer to develop the advertising strategies, informing employers about the performance of the ads, and so forth. Regardless of whether courts accept that argument, the tech companies could also face liability under certain state or local anti-discrimination statutes. For example, California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act makes it unlawful to “aid, abet, incite, compel or coerce the doing” of discriminatory acts proscribed by the statute. “They may have an obligation there not to aid and abet an ad that enables discrimination,” said Cliff Palefsky, an employment lawyer based in San Francisco. The question may hinge on Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act, which protects internet companies from liability for third-party content. Tech companies have successfully invoked this law to avoid liability for offensive or criminal content — including sex trafficking, revenge porn and calls for violence against Jews. Facebook is currently arguing in federal court that Section 230 immunizes it against liability for ad placement that blocks members of certain racial and ethnic groups from seeing the ads. “Advertisers, not Facebook, are responsible for both the content of their ads and what targeting criteria to use, if any,” Facebook argued in its motion to dismiss allegations that its ads violated a host of civil rights laws. The case does not allege age discrimination. Share Your Story Got a Story About Age Discrimination in the Workplace? We Want to Hear From You. We know American employers don’t always treat older workers fairly. We need your help figuring out what that looks like. Eric Goldman, professor and co-director of the High Tech Law Institute at the Santa Clara University School of Law, who has written extensively about Section 230, says it is hard to predict how courts would treat Facebook’s age-targeting of employment ads. Goldman said the law covered the content of ads, and that courts have made clear that Facebook would not be liable for an advertisement in which an employer wrote, say, “no one over 55 need apply.” But it is not clear how the courts would treat Facebook’s offering of age-targeted customization. According to a federal appellate court decision in a fair-housing case, a platform can be considered to have helped “develop unlawful content” that users play a role in generating, which would negate the immunity. “Depending on how the targeting is happening, you can make potentially different sorts of arguments about whether or not Google or Facebook or LinkedIn is contributing to the development” of the ad, said Deirdre K. Mulligan, a faculty director of the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology.
Statoil adds to Brazil oil assets with $2.9bn Petrobras deal
Statoil will buy a 25% stake in the Roncador oil field off Brazil from Petroleo Brasileiro (Petrobras) for as much as $2.9bn, tripling its presence in its biggest growth market outside Norway. The Campos Basin field still holds recoverable resources of more than 1 billion barrels of oil equivalent after producing since the 1990s, Statoil said. Statoil has taken advantage of lower asset prices during crude’s slump and a Petrobras divestment program to build its position in Brazil.
2017-12-19 18:20:07.963000
Statoil has bought a stake in one of Brazil's largest oilfields from national oil company Petrobras for up to $2.85 billion. This will nearly triple its production off the South American country, the Norwegian firm said today. Statoil bought a 25% stake in the Roncador oilfield, Petrobras' third-largest producing field, situated in the Campos basin offshore Brazil. The deal consists of an initial payment of $2.35 billion plus "additional contingent payments" of up to $550m, Statoil said. After the transaction, Statoil's output off Brazil will increase to 110,000 barrels of oil equivalent (boe) per day from around 40,000 boe per day, it said. Petrobras will continue to operate the field and will hold a 75% stake. Roncador holds expected remaining recoverable volumes of more than 1 billion barrels of oil equivalent, Statoil said. "The ambition is to increase the recovery factor by at least 5 percentage points, bringing the total remaining recoverable volumes to more than 1,500 million boe," it said. The transaction over Roncador will take effect from January 1. The deal is subject to approval from Brazilian authorities.
Fir Tree backs Icahn bid to end SandRidge deal
Fir Tree Partners said it’s joining Carl Icahn in opposing SandRidge Energy’s plan to issue shares to fund a $750m takeover of a rival oil explorer Bonanza Creek Energy. Fir Tree said that the stock issuance would be “extremely destructive” and dismissed the proposed purchase as "nonsensical empire-building." The New York-based hedge fund said it owns about 8.2% of SandRidge shares, while Icahn owns 13.5%. Holders of more than 25% of the company have come out against the deal.
2017-12-19 18:12:30.250000
NEW YORK, Dec. 18, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Fir Tree Partners ("Fir Tree"), manager of certain funds that together beneficially own, through common stock and warrants, approximately 8.2% of the common stock of SandRidge Energy, Inc. ("SandRidge"), today issued an open letter to the Board of Directors of SandRidge reiterating its strong opposition to SandRidge's proposed acquisition of Bonanza Creek Energy, Inc. ("Bonanza") and voicing its support for the position of Icahn Capital LP laid out in its Proxy Statement that the Company should NOT issue more shares of common stock in connection with such a transaction. The full text of the letter follows: Dear Members of the Board of Directors: As one of SandRidge's largest shareholders, we are writing to reiterate our strong disapproval over the decision of the Company's Board of Directors (the "Board") to acquire Bonanza Creek Energy, Inc. by issuing a considerable amount of undervalued Company common stock (the "Stock Issuance"). As you are no doubt aware, a fund managed by Icahn Capital LP ("Icahn Capital") has filed a preliminary proxy statement urging shareholders to vote "AGAINST" the Stock Issuance (the "Proxy"). Fir Tree has Independently Reached the Same Conclusion as Icahn Capital and Strongly Supports the Position Laid Out in Icahn Capital's Proxy: The Proposed Share Issuance to Finance the Bonanza Acquisition is Dilutive, Non-Strategic and Significantly Over-values Bonanza. As we have noted previously, the Bonanza acquisition represents a complete about face by management of its disciplined post bankruptcy strategy and would be extremely destructive to shareholder value: The acquisition's proposed purchase price implies an unjustified premium to SandRidge's current valuation; The acquisition presents no obvious synergies between SandRidge and Bonanza's assets; The proposed purchase price constitutes more than a 75% premium to the $421 million valuation established when Bonanza creditors invested new capital just six months ago; and valuation established when Bonanza creditors invested new capital just six months ago; and The acquisition represents nonsensical empire building that echoes back to SandRidge's descent into bankruptcy when this same management team acquired disparate assets and added leverage and costs with reckless abandon. Strategically, one of the Board's basic obligations to shareholders is to make decisions that optimize long-term shareholder value. With zero net debt and approximately 200,000 acres and decades of remaining inventory to exploit, we believe SandRidge would better position itself by returning capital to its shareholders and growing production in a disciplined manner, not through pursuing this reckless transaction. Fir Tree Intends to Vote AGAINST the Stock Issuance Accordingly, we intend to vote AGAINST the Stock Issuance in order to stop what we believe is a nonsensical and overpriced acquisition being pursued by a reckless, grossly over-compensated management team and what is unfortunately proving to be a rubber stamp Board. Sincerely, (sig) Evan Lederman & David Proman Fir Tree Partners About Fir Tree Partners Fir Tree Partners, founded in 1994 and located in New York City (HQ) and Miami, is a value-oriented investment manager that manages private investment funds for endowments, charitable and philanthropic foundations, pension funds and other institutional and private investors. For More Information Contact: Scott Tagliarino or Taylor Ingraham ASC Advisors LLC (203) 992-1230 SOURCE Fir Tree Partners
Are You Missing Opportunities to Improve Care for Older Adults?
Less than 10 percent of the total health requirements for older adults is being met in the United States, despite evidence-based models of care, such as PACE (Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly), ACE (Acute Care of the Elderly) units, and GRACE (Geriatric Resources for Assessment and Care of Elders) being available. The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) believes that better use should be made of the evidence and best practices that could be established for older adults’ care. Working alongside the John A. Hartford Foundation, the organization has invited health systems, researchers and physicians to create a model of care that can encompass all needs of older adults. Four key interventions have been determined as essential for older adult care: What Matters – each patient’s health goals and care preferences being taken into account; Medication – Optimized medication use; Mobility – maintaining function and movement and preventing mobility complications; and Mentation – managing depressions, delirium and dementia to reduce safety risks. The IHI has created a self-assessment tool for organizations to determine whether they are doing the maximum to meet these key interventions, and is working on the Creating Age-Friendly Health Systems (CAFHS) initiative prototype.
2017-12-19 17:48:12.613000
It should be great news. The US knows what kind of care to provide for older adults. We have PACE (Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) programs in hospitals and communities, ACE (Acute Care of the Elderly) units in hospitals, and GRACE (Geriatric Resources for Assessment and Care of Elders) in hospitals, for example. The problem is that even though we know what care to provide for older adults, we meet less than 10 percent of the total need in our country with the best evidence-based models of care available. This means that the majority of older adults in the US could be getting care that is unnecessary, ineffective, or harmful. And we know how to prevent this. But too often we don’t. At IHI we see this as a classic failure of implementation. We understand what it will take to improve the lives of 46 million adults over age 65 in the US today, but we don’t reliably use the best evidence and implement the best practices for every older adult, every time. Learn more about the Consequently, the John A. Hartford Foundation and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) invited leading researchers, physicians, and health systems to develop a model to reliably provide the best care possible for older adults every day and everywhere they encounter the health care system. We reviewed hundreds of articles and care models to find the most effective ways to create what we call an “age-friendly” health system — one that will measurably improve the quality of care for older adults and optimize value for health systems. We’ve determined that four key interventions are essential to create an age-friendly system of care. If care providers consistently do these four things for every older adult, every time, across care settings, we believe we will save lives and avoid harm. We call them the 4Ms:
These Annual Checkups Help Seniors Not Only Survive But Thrive
Wellness coaching can provide regular check-ins for senior citizens to ensure that they not only survive, but thrive in their daily lives. Offering one-on-one sessions for an hour, these sessions take place alongside physical check-ups with physicians and cover what patients care about the most, such as physical, intellectual, spiritual and social goals. These are then relayed to the medical teams taking care of these patients and incorporated into their care program, with three-month catch-up sessions to ensure progress is met. Rather than focusing on times of crisis, the teams establish healthier ways of living and achieving goals for senior citizens in an ongoing fashion. Wellness coaching program Vitalize 360 has seen fitness participation double from 30 percent to 77 percent since being initiated at the Orchard Cove retirement community, and has noted that depression has reduced when compared to a control group. The program is currently run in 35 communities across 12 states, caring for over 2,600 adults in assisted or independent living. Staff already present can be retrained as coaches, and the costs are low, requiring an annual training fee and data tracking software payment. Programs such as these are necessary as older adults are living lengthier lives and defying cognitive and functional decline predictions.
2017-12-19 17:47:23.313000
This story can be republished for free ( details ). This story also ran on The Boston Globe Bea Lipsky shuffled into her wellness coach’s office one morning this fall and parked her walker by the wall. Lipsky, 89, had had a trying year, enduring a hernia operation and two emergency room visits for heart problems. She’s losing her hearing, and recently gave up her dream of riding in a hot air balloon for her 90th birthday. That day, though, she was filled with pride: She told her coach she’d achieved her goals for the year, including attending her grandson’s wedding in China. Lipsky spent two months training, doing leg curls and riding a stationary bicycle, to build up the strength to make it through a 10-day trip to China, accompanied by an aide. “It was absolutely divine,” she told coach Susan Flashner-Fineman, who works at the Orchard Cove retirement community in Canton, Mass., where Lipsky has lived for the past four years. Lipsky’s check-ins with Flashner-Fineman are part of a well­ness coaching program, Vitalize 360, that Orchard Cove start­ed eight years ago in collaboration with the Kendal nonprofit senior living organization in Pennsylvania. When seniors arrive at Orchard Cove, a coach measures their health and wellness in an hourlong, one-on-one session, assessing common problems for seniors, like loneliness, pain and distress. The coach also asks about se­niors’ families, friendships, and spiritual life. Then the se­niors meet with their coach every year before their physical checkup with a doctor, to talk about what matters most to them. The coaches, who come from a variety of backgrounds, including fitness, social work and chaplaincy, help seniors set goals for the year — which could be physical, social, in­tellectual or spiritual. These goals become the focus for the senior’s medical team, and the seniors follow up with their coaches every three months to stay on track. Email Sign-Up Subscribe to KHN's free Morning Briefing. Your Email Address Sign Up Wellness coaching aims to rethink how we treat aging, said Aline Russotto, Orchard Cove’s executive director. “We used to be at our very best when somebody was in crisis,” she said. But Orchard Cove staff think they can help residents live healthier and happier lives by shifting the focus away from “fixing what’s broken,” said Russotto, to “living your best day every single day until the end.” Dr. Atul Gawande, author of “Being Mortal” and an expert on end-of-life care, calls the Vitalize 360 approach “transfor­mative.” It recognizes that “even as you may have health is­sues and frailty and the difficulties that can come with aging … people have lives worth living. And in fact have a lot more life worth living,” he said. When young people become dis­abled, others often help them find ways to contribute to the world, he noted, but that is much less true for older people. “I see it as the kind of thing that you’d like to see go population­wide,” Gawande said. “You’d like to make it routine.” Since the program started at Orchard Cove, fitness par­ticipation — the proportion of residents who exercise at least three times a week — has more than doubled, from 30 to 77 percent, and one study found participants felt significant­ly less depressed than a control group, with a notable jump in the number who said they felt “delighted with life.” The program itself has spread to 35 communities in 12 states, reaching more than 2,600 older adults in independent or as­sisted living. Since existing staff can be retrained to serve as coaches, the program isn’t costly, though there is an annual fee for training and data-tracking software. Flashner-Fineman, who spent a decade as Orchard Cove’s fitness director, trav­els to new sites several times a year to run a three-day train­ing to teach new coaches the skills they’ll need to work with patients and run standardized assessments. She and her col­leagues also train health professionals, leadership and other staff on how to orient their care around seniors’ goals. At Orchard Cove, where the average age is almost 90, Flashner-Fineman coaches a wide range of seniors, includ­ing younger, healthy residents, like 74-year-old Janet Don­noe, a retired consultant. In a recent visit, an energetic Don­noe announced “great progress” on her fitness goals. She now gets up at 5 a.m. on Tuesdays to drive off-campus for nearly two hours of aqua “boot camp” and weight training. Flash­ner-Fineman asked if Donnoe, who moved there recently, is making time to meet her neighbors, too. Programs like this have emerged because seniors are living longer and defying predictions of cognitive and functional decline, said John Morris, a researcher at the Institute for Ag­ing Research at Hebrew SeniorLife, which operates Orchard Cove. Morris designed the assessment tool that Vitalize 360 uses and is helping retirement communities track partici­pants’ wellness. Esther Adler, a 93-year-old poet, writer and former He­brew school teacher, moved to Orchard Cove in 2012, a few years after her husband died. She set a goal to “be a pro­ductive person” but didn’t know exactly how. After learn­ing about her background in an extensive intake interview, staff invited her to start teaching Hebrew to patients on the skilled nursing floor. Adler discovered their memories were too short for language lessons, and started teaching Bible les­sons and prayers instead — a practice she has continued for three years. Adler, who also finds purpose in writing poetry and help­ing neighbors through hospice, has proved resilient amid physical setbacks: She broke her pelvis last year when she tripped in the lobby of a hotel room in Poland, the night be­fore the premiere of a documentary about her life. “They thought I would never walk,” Adler said. “Here I am, I’m walking.” Lipsky, despite her successful trip to China, confessed she feels “hesitant” about the year ahead. “I’m not as active as I’d like to be,” she said. As she spoke, her right hand started shaking — a new symptom she hadn’t yet told her doctor about. But Lipsky lit up talking about achieving another goal, finding a new way to cope with loss. She sat with her granddaughter two weeks before and di­aled up a medium on Skype to try to communicate with her husband, Sidney, who died three years earlier. “She breathed in our en­ergy — on the computer!” Lipsky said. “It was eerie. We felt like he was there.” She said it helped the family grieve and brought her happiness. Since the experience, she said, “our lives haven’t been the same.” In the year ahead, she plans to attend another wedding, this time in Canada, and continue “finding unexpected things that bring me joy.” KFF Health News' coverage of these topics is supported by Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and The SCAN Foundation
Saudi Aramco considers stake in Indonesian toll road company
Saudi Aramco, Malaysia's Khazanah Nasional and Islamic Development Bank are among investors mulling taking a stake in a unit of Indonesian state-owned construction company Waskita Karya that builds and operates toll roads, said President Director Muhammad Choliq. Waskita Toll Road owns 18 toll roads, mostly in Java. “Aramco wants to diversify its business because of weak oil prices and they are keen to invest in Indonesia’s infrastructure projects", he said.
2017-12-19 17:01:47.797000
JAKARTA: PT Waskita Karya, an Indonesian state-owned construction company, is in talks with a group of investors including Islamic Development Bank and Saudi Arabian Oil Co. to sell a stake in a unit that builds and operates toll roads. The consortium also includes Malaysia’s Khazanah Nasional Bhd and Waskita is aiming to conclude a deal early next year, President Director Muhammad Choliq said. PT Waskita Toll Road owns 18 toll roads, mostly in Java, and counts state pension fund PT Taspen and financing company PT Sarana Multi Infrastruktur as shareholders, he said. Waskita is seeking to raise funds by selling toll roads to finance future projects as Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo pursues an aggressive infrastructure agenda to improve road, rail and port connectivity in the archipelago. The government will cease budgetary support to state companies from next year and is pushing them to fund infrastructure projects either through debt or equity. “We are still negotiating the price and hopefully we can reach an agreement early next year,” Choliq said in an interview on Thursday. “Aramco wants to diversify its business because of weak oil prices and they are keen to invest in Indonesia’s infrastructure projects.” Aramco didn’t respond to an email requesting comment, while Khazanah declined to comment. Nabil El Alami, head of marketing and communications for IDB’s Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector in Jeddah, didn’t respond to calls and an email requesting comment. Lack of toll-road bidders casts doubt on Widodo spending funds Indonesia won pledges of US$1bil in development finance from Saudi Arabia and signed agreements to cut trade barriers between the two countries during King Salman bin Abdulaziz’s visit earlier this year. That’s on top of a US$6bil oil refinery deal between Saudi Aramco and Indonesia’s PT Pertamina signed in December last year. Saudi Arabia is also planning an initial public offering for Aramco as it seeks to set up the world’s biggest sovereign wealth fund and reduce the economy’s reliance on hydrocarbons. The World Bank estimates Indonesia needs about US$500bil over the next five years to bridge its infrastructure gap. The government has identified 245 projects worth about US$325bil as a priority. Waskita is also talking to PT Astra Infra for selling a stake in the toll road projects, Choliq said. The company will pursue an initial public offering of shares in the second half of next year if it fails to find a strategic buyer by the end of the first quarter of 2018, he said. Waskita failed to get “acceptable offers” for 10 toll road projects it put up for auction in September. Waskita is targeting 60 trillion rupiah (US$4bil) of new contracts in 2018, the same as this year, and sees net income rising to 7 trillion rupiah if it completes divestment of the toll roads, Choliq said. Net income may be lower at 5 trillion rupiah without the divestment, which would still be up from 4 trillion rupiah seen this year, he said. Waskita shares rallied as much as 5.8% to 2,180 rupiah in Jakarta on Monday, paring losses to 15% this year, while the benchmark Jakarta Composite Index retreated 0.4% to trim gains to 15% this year. - Bloomberg
Internet to lose ‘basic utility’ classification after FCC vote
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US has voted to repeal net-neutrality protections, which classified internet access as a basic utility. The move will mean internet service providers (ISPs), particularly big telecoms firms, will be able to charge varied amounts for internet service levels and block websites. Advocates of the repeal suggest ISPs were hampered by the regulation, which was passed in 2015, and argued its repeal would boost innovation and broadband investment. Critics believe it will be a significant hit to consumers and small enterprises.
2017-12-19 16:54:05.967000
The FCC has repealed its own 2015 net-neutrality rules in a 3-2 vote. The repeal is likely to be met with lawsuits and a push to bring back the regulations through legislation in Congress. The FCC's meeting was interrupted by a security threat, forcing everyone to evacuate the room while police searched the area with sniffing dogs. Federal regulators voted Thursday to eliminate a two-year-old rule that classified internet access as a basic utility, a controversial move that will give broadband providers more leeway to sell different tiers of internet service but which critics say will leave consumers and web startups at the mercy of the big telecommunications companies. In a partisan vote repealing net-neutrality protections, the FCC has lifted restrictions that prevented internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking certain websites or from charging companies and customers more for internet "fast lanes." Those so-called fast lanes could mean the difference between a smooth, TV-like experience watching online videos or a frustrating frozen screen — a vital distinction as services like entertainment, news, and education shift to online platforms. As expected, the vote passed the commission in a 3-2 party-line vote, with Republicans voting for the repeal and Democrats voting against it. Now that the repeal is official, it’s likely headed to court. Several groups have already said they plan to file lawsuits against the decision on the grounds that the FCC didn’t seriously consider the millions of pro-net-neutrality comments submitted to the commission. There will also be a push to get Congress to bring back net-neutrality regulations through legislation. The 2015 net-neutrality rule, passed under the administration of President Obama, classified broadband internet service under Title II of the Communications Act, essentially defining it as a basic utility such as telephone service. A 'great day' on the 'wrong side of history' Critics of Thrusday's vote to repeal net neutrality say it will result in higher prices and fewer choices for consumers, and that it will be a boon to ISPs that will enter into a new environment where they'll be free to commoditize the internet and figure out new ways make money off their customers' internet access. The vote brought out passionate comments from Republicans and Democrats on the commission. Democratic commissioner Mignon Clyburn gave the most impassioned plea for protecting net neutrality. “I dissent from this fiercely spun, legally lightweight, consumer-harming, corporate-enabling Destroying Internet Freedom Order,” Clyburn said in her opening remarks. The Republican members of the commission brought back their previous arguments from when the first proposed net neutrality repeal. They said it would bring back the lighter regulations the internet flourished under for most of its existence and would allow ISPs to invest more in broadband technologies. The meeting was briefly interrupted in the middle of Chairman Ajit Pai’s remarks due to what the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Protective Service later said was a bomb threat. Guards and police dogs could be seen on The Washington Post’s live feed searching the room after it had been evacuated. Here are some notes we took during the discussion of the net-neutrality repeal:
Japan's iSpace raises $90m to advertise on the moon
Japanese company iSpace Technologies has raised $90m in a series A funding round led by Japan Airlines and Tokyo Broadcasting System Holdings. The start-up will use the cash to fund two missions, one in 2019 to put a craft in lunar orbit and a second in 2020 to land the same ship on the moon. iSpace is developing 3D printed robots which will collect samples from the satellite ahead of eventual human colonisation, and will also offer a "projection mapping service" enabling advertising on the lunar surface.
2017-12-19 16:50:25.430000
Dec 18, 2017 | By Tess Japanese space startup iSpace Technologies Inc. has successfully raised $90 million in investments through a Series A financing round. The company says the funding will enable it to launch a spacecraft into lunar orbit by 2019, and eventually to offer a “projection mapping service” to advertise on the moon’s surface. iSpace, founded in 2013 by Takeshi Hakamada, is an ambitious space exploration company that has its sights set on the resources available on the moon and in space. Specifically, the company is using 3D printing technologies to develop micro-robots capable of finding resources on the moon that could allow humans to stay and perhaps even settle on the moon. As the Tokyo-based company says, “Our main focus is to locate, extract, and deliver lunar ice to customers in cis-lunar space.” Cis-lunar space, for those unfamiliar, refers to the area between the moon and the earth. The recent investment round, which saw $90 million raised, was led by Japan Airlines Co. and Tokyo Broadcasting System Holdings Inc., and included the Development Bank of Japan, Konica Minolta, Shimizy, Real Tech Fund, KDDI, Suzuki Motor, SPARX, Dentsu, and Toppan Printing. As mentioned, the new funding will enable iSpace to launch two space missions. The first will be to send a spacecraft into lunar orbit by 2019, and the second will see that same ship land on the moon in 2020. The company’s investors will also provide support and technologies for the missions, including a projection mapping service, which will be a sort of billboard projection on the moon’s surface. Presently, iSpace is using a range of innovative processes, such as 3D printing, to create low-cost micro-robots designed to explore the moon’s surface, gather data on resources, and even extract resources, such as lunar ice. These small robots, prototyped using 3D printing and off-the-shelf components, have the potential to explore the moon faster and in a more cost-effective manner than large rovers. In iSpace’s “2040 Vision Movie,” the small moon rovers are deployed on the moon to find ice, which is then transported to processing machines which separate the hydrogen and oxygen in the water to create energy. This energy, in turn, could allow for a fuel station to be established in the moon which, down the line, would make it possible to have scheduled flights to the moon and, ultimately, moon settlers. Coming back to the present, however, iSpace is preparing for its first missions. “We wanted to make sure that our financing for the next two missions was in place,” said Takeshi Hakamada, iSpace founder. “Through these two missions, we’re going to validate our technology to land on the moon safely. After we validate the technology, we’re going to enter the lunar transportation business.” iSpace, as part of Team HAKUTO, is also a finalist in the $30 million Google Lunar XPrize competition, which is seeking to bolster privately-funded moon landing missions. The innovative company expects that by 2040, the moon could already have a population of about 1,000 as well as a significant tourism industry bringing in 10,000 visitors every year. Posted in 3D Printing Application Maybe you also like: Ignacio wrote at 12/22/2017 2:28:46 AM:Pretty sure that's illegal.frank lipsky wrote at 12/19/2017 5:49:24 AM:billboards on the moon? .Of what possible value can this be to a civilized society? The Japanese or any other nation that attempts this should be ashamed and re-evaluate their moral codesMike wrote at 12/19/2017 2:43:57 AM:No. No. No. No. And, no.4WheelDrifter wrote at 12/19/2017 2:33:40 AM:Marvelous. What, are we running out of room on the highways???
MetaProp to take proptech start-up promotion programme global
MetaProp founder Aaron Block has announced plans to expand across the globe in order to search out proptech start-ups. He claims that start-ups in the EMEA region "crave" guidance, programmes, networks and proven teams to assist with entry into markets. MetaProp has partnered with Columbia University to host a 20-week accelerator program aimed at start-ups wanting to enter international markets. The programme offers support and a potential investment of up to $250,000 by MetaProp. 
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MetaProp has been an excellent investor as they understood our vision and lent us a great deal of credibility, which helped accelerate our progress significantly. They have invested three times in back to back rounds in less than 15 months, and continue to be both supportive and active, and we are grateful to have them as an investor in the company. Alok Chanani CEO, BuildOps
Pentagon confirms the existence of UFO hunting department
The Pentagon has released data on its investigation of "anomalous aerial vehicles", or UFOs, following the departure of intelligence officer Luis Elizondo from the Defense Department. The data includes raw footage of fighter jets encountering hovering UFOs, and was released for public viewing following a request by Elizondo to publicly acknowledge the Defense Department's UFO analysis operation, the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program. The programme ran from 2007 and cost at least $22m and analysed "anomalous aerospace threats" from planes and drones to alien encounters.
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When military intelligence officer Luis Elizondo stepped down from his post heading the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program (AATIP)—the program created to investigate unidentified flying objects—in October, he cited lack of government support. “We tried to work within the system. We were trying to take the voodoo out of voodoo science,” Elizondo told Politico in a recent interview. Until his departure the program, though unclassified, had nevertheless been a Pentagon secret in that its existence had never been publicly acknowledged. That is, until Saturday (Dec. 16), when Politico and the New York Times published reports tracing AATIP’s history from 2007 to today. The Pentagon confirmed AATIP’s existence, though it’s yet to comment on whether the program is still running despite lacking government funding. Advertisement Former senate majority leader and retired Nevada lawmaker Harry Reid was AATIP’s catalyst, earmarking over $20 million of the defense department’s budget to fund it. Billionaire Robert Bigelow’s aerospace company secured many of the program’s early contracts. Bigelow, who now works at NASA, was the one who convinced Reid to move forward with establishing a UFO investigation program, according to the New York Times. He approached Reid earlier in 2007 about a Defense Intelligence Agency official’s interest in visiting his Skinwalker Ranch property in Utah—considered a point of interest for believers in paranormal and UFO activities. Shortly after his meeting with Bigelow, Reid met with officials, who were also interested in establishing a UFO investigation program. AATIP had funds earmarked until 2012, though sources told the New York Times it has continued to operate and investigate potential sightings. Pentagon spokesperson Thomas Crosson told the Times the reason AATIP’s funding ran out was because “there were other, higher priority issues that merited funding.” In an interview with the New York Times, Reid said he doesn’t regret a thing about helping to start AATIP. “I’m not embarrassed or ashamed or sorry I got this thing going. I think it’s one of the good things I did in my congressional service. I’ve done something that no one has done before,” Reid said. Elizondo was clearly a fan of AATIP too, and hasn’t given up on UFO research. Following his resignation, he joined the for-profit To The Stars Academy of Arts and Sciences. Created by Blink-182 guitarist and singer Tom DeLong, the company is dedicated to studying unexplained aerial phenomena. Elizondo has begun speaking publicly about its mission in a bid for funding.
GM rolls out first in-dash com platform in auto industry
General Motors (GM) and partner Xevo are launching Marketplace, a first-in-kind dashboard commerce platform that lets drivers find, order and pay for fuel, food, drinks and other products and services from their car. Personalised using machine learning techniques and user data from IBM Watson, the platform offers in-car data packages from GM and corporate partners include Starbucks, delivery.com, Exxon and Shell, which links to its Fuel Rewards programme. Marketplace will roll out immediately to around four million US drivers with 4G LTE-equipped 2017/2018 vehicles from GMC, Cadillac, Buick and Chevrolet, and plans to add more models and partners.
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GM wants to make life more efficient for its drivers and keep them on the road, so it's making sure you'll never have to leave the comfort of your car to order a coffee or pay for gas. The automaker is rolling out a new commerce platform for its dashboard infotainment consoles with parter Xevo Inc. The new feature, dubbed the GM Marketplace, will allow drivers to order food and drink, find gas stations and pay for fuel, make restaurant reservations, and more using a personalized smart system honed by IBM Watson's machine learning techniques and user data. GM says Marketplace will be the first in-dash commerce platform of its kind for the auto industry, but it's probably far from the last. The potential purchasing power of connected cars shouldn't be taken lightly, and capitalizing on the opportunity to make it easier to sell drivers even more stuff is a no-brainer. SEE ALSO: You can now ask Waze for directions using your voice Marketplace launches with a special GM section to allow drivers to purchase in-car data packages and parts, but the real centerpiece is the wide range of corporate partners. You can grab coffee and along your route at Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts, order meals from restaurants on delivery.com, Wingstop, Applebee's, or IHOP, or even reserve a table at TGI Fridays. ExxonMobil and Shell will also be included in the Marketplace, with Shell offering on-dashboard payments through its Fuel Rewards program. More partners are expected to join the ecosystem going forward. Marketplace will be included in eligible 2017 and 2018 model year vehicles from Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac that have 4G LTE-connections. GM says about four million US drivers will gain access to the in-car commerce options starting immediately, with more coming online over the next 12 to 18 months.
EC declares EU trademarks will cease in UK after Brexit
The European Commission has said that from the first day of Brexit, any registered and non-registered Community designs and European Union trademarks will no longer be in effect in the UK, as a "third state". They will remain in the other 27 member states.
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The European Commission has sent an announcement stating that the effective date for Brexit with regard to IP rights will be 30 March 2019. As of this date, the United Kingdom will become a “third state” and the registered and non-registered Community designs and EU trademarks will no longer be in effect in that country, but they will remain in effect of the other 27 Member States. The same will occur for pending applications. This will likewise affect relations between the United Kingdom and the EU, as it will enforce the same requirements as those of the remaining non-member States. See the announcement here.
NextView buys 20% of lithium producer Bacanora Minerals
Chinese fund manager NextView Capital has agreed to acquire a 19.89% stake in Bacanora Minerals, a lithium producer listed in London and Canada. Proceeds from the placement are expected to be around £31.2m ($41.8m) and will be used to develop the company’s Sonora lithium project in Mexico. Under the deal, Bacanora has agreed to supply NextView with 5,000 tons per annum of lithium carbonate produced at Sonora.
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Chinese institutional fund management group NextView Capital has reached an agreement to acquire a 19.89% equity interest in Bacanora Minerals, a lithium producer listed in London, UK, and Canada. Under the agreement, the acquisition of the interest will take place through the placement of 32,976,635 common shares in Bacanora. Proceeds from the placement are expected to be around £31.17m and will be used for the development of the company’s Sonora lithium project. The agreement also includes an offtake component wherein Bacanora is required to supply NextView with 5,000tpa of lithium carbonate produced at its Sonora project in Mexico from its Stage 1 of production. Bacanora Minerals CEO Peter Secker said: “NextView’s investment and offtake agreement underlines both the quality of our asset and the progress we have made to date. “Through this investment, NextView Capital intends to build a long-term strategic partnership with Bacanorato capitalise on the expanding lithium battery raw materials market.” “Together with highly favourable demand/supply dynamics for lithium carbonate driven by fast-growing end-markets such as electric vehicles and energy storage, the investment case for Bacanora is clear.” The development comes after the company recently completed a feasibility study, which determined that the Sonora project has pre-tax net present value (NPV) of $1.253bn, an internal rate of return (IRR) of 26.2%, and life of mine (LoM) operating costs of $3,910/t of lithium carbonate. NextView managing partner and president Yaping He said: “Through this investment, NextView Capital intends to build a long-term strategic partnership with Bacanorato capitalise on the expanding lithium battery raw materials market, which has significant potential given the electric vehicle industry in China, the largest new energy vehicles market in the world.” The offtake agreement also includes a commitment to supply 8,000tpa of lithium carbonate during Stage 2 of the project and potential supply of a further 7,000tpa. Bacanora expects to begin construction of mining and large-scale processing facilities at Sonora in the first half of next year.
Ponce loosens grip on SQM to assuage Chilean regulator
Julio Ponce has agreed that neither he nor any family member will hold a board or executive position in lithium miner SQM as he seeks to end a dispute with the Chilean government, forcing his brother Eugenio to step down as chairman. The holding companies through which Ponce controls SQM, Latin America's largest lithium and fertiliser producer, said they would adhere to the conditions imposed by government agency Corfo, allowing it to enter negotations over an extension of mining rights at one of the world’s richest sources of lithium.
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Esta jornada representantes de Pampa Calichera acudieron a la Corporación buscando nuevas posibilidades de acuerdo. Corfo ha exigido en varias ocasiones cambios relevantes en el gobierno corporativo de la minera, pidiendo la salida de Ponce como principal accionista, y ahora habría una nueva propuesta para ello. En un hecho esencial por separado, Calichera anunció que ponía fin al pacto de accionista con Kowa, acuerdo que le permitía a Ponce mantener control indirecto de SQM. El conflicto entre Corfo y SQM dio un giro importante esta jornada. Tras el fracaso de la conciliación entre ambas partes, Julio Ponce estaría disponible a perder el control de la minera, abriéndose a cumplir uno de los mayores requisitos de la estatal, la cual exigió un cambio definitivo en el gobierno corporativo de SQM. Este lunes el vicepresidente ejecutivo de CORFO, Eduardo Bitran, recibió en la Corporación -junto a otros directivos de la institución- a representantes de las sociedades SQM, Potash y Pampa Calichera, quienes solicitaron una audiencia por transparencia. En esta reunión, según comunicó la Corfo, los representantes de Pampa Calichera dieron a conocer a la estatal una propuesta de cambio en la estructura de gobierno corporativo de SQM, consistente con los objetivos buscados por la Corporación. Corfo, con tal de llegar a un acuerdo con la minera –a la cual acusa de incumplir una serie de cuestiones en los contratos de arriendo de pertenencias del Salar de Atacama- había exigido que la estructura de gobierno corporativo de SQM otorgue garantías permanentes de pleno cumplimiento de lo acordado y desarrollo de prácticas alineadas con los estándares de empresas globales y de la OCDE; que se aumente el nivel de rentas de arrendamiento para igualarlas con lo establecido en el contrato de Albemarle; establecer los derechos y protecciones de Corfo como propietario del Salar de Atacama; establecer el más alto estándar de vigilancia de cumplimiento de contratos y normas ambientales; aportar recursos a la Región de Antofagasta y a las comunidades locales; aportes significativos a investigación y desarrollo; opción de reserva de 25% de producción de litio para vender en Chile destinados a agregar valor al litio y mantención de contrato vigente hasta su fecha establecida, es decir, año 2030. El primero de estos puntos era el más difícil de cumplir por la minera, considerando que Bitrán dijo en reiteradas ocasiones que para ello Julio Ponce debería perder su condición de controlador de SQM. Tras ello, Corfo y SQM solicitaron esta jornada al árbitro Héctor Humes abrir un nuevo proceso de conciliación, dándose un plazo de 30 días (corridos) de suspensión del arbitraje. SQM expresó su disposición a considerar las condiciones propuestas por Corfo en el nuevo proceso de conciliación. “Si bien no es posible anticipar el resultado de este nuevo proceso de conciliación -que se realizará en el marco del arbitraje-, de ser exitoso, además de obtener las condiciones exigidas por CORFO, la ampliación futura de las cuotas de Litio, permitirá a Chile expandir significativamente la oferta de Litio, durante el periodo del contrato, facilitando el desarrollo mundial de la electromovilidad, con el consiguiente efecto positivo en la industria del cobre baja en emisiones de CO2. La Corporación reitera su compromiso con establecer las condiciones que cautelen el interés público, ayudando así a restablecer la confianza de la ciudadanía en las instituciones de la República”, dijo la Corfo. En un hecho esencial separado, Calichera anunció que ponía fin al pacto de accionista con Kowa, la japonesa que controla el 2% de SQM y que le permitía a Ponce mantener control indirecto de la minera no metálica. Las dos sociedades pondrán fin al pacto de acuerdo de actuación conjunta en un plazo de 30 días.
Hammond, Carney visit China in search of new trade deals
The chancellor, Philip Hammond, and the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, as well as senior executives from UK banks visited Beijing to discuss a reported £1.4bn ($1.9bn) of potential trade over the weekend 16-17 December. The trip is part of the ninth in a series of economic talks that began in 2008. However, this year's trip is more significant than previous visits because of the need for the UK to build up trading relationships outside the EU. An initiative allowing investors in each country to trade shares listed on the other's exchange was also announced.
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Around £1.4 billion worth of commercial deals, an agreement to accelerate the final preparations for the London-Shanghai Stock Connect initiative and new commitments to develop work on the Mutual Recognition of Funds and a bond connect, have been announced as part of the 9th UK-China Economic and Financial Dialogue ( EFD ) held in Beijing this weekend. And in a boost to UK businesses operating along the Belt and Road in Asia, up to £25 billion in financial support – such as loan guarantees – has also been announced. The wide-ranging dialogue further strengthened the Golden Era in UK-China relations, successfully boosting cooperation across the two countries’ strategic partnership. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond said: These successful talks are an example of Global Britain at its best, demonstrating that we can work with our friends and partners across the world to support jobs, businesses and prosperity. This is testament to our strong and dynamic economy, and the world class talent and expertise we have to offer. These talks show the UK is truly open for business and we look forward to continuing the Golden Era of UK-China relations. The Economic and Financial Dialogue involved a series of events over a two-day period, where agreements were reached on areas of trade and investment, deepening the financial services relationship, new partnerships on industrial strategy, and further ways in which the UK can partner on infrastructure initiatives. These included: Financial services Final preparations for the London-Shanghai Stock Connect initiative, which will mean investors in each country will be able to trade shares listed on the other’s stock exchange, are to be accelerated. Building on this, the first steps were also taken in establishing a bond connect, with a view to opening up the bond market to mutual trading. There was also an agreement to progress Mutual Recognition of Funds work with the launch of a feasibility study, opening up China to the UK’s unrivaled asset management sector. The UK and China also engaged in deeper regulatory cooperation, including on financial stability, through the first meeting of the PBOC-Bank of England Symposium. Belt and Road Initiative ( BRI ) The EFD set out further ways in which the UK, and specifically London as a global financial centre, can partner on the Belt and Road Initiative. To showcase the expertise the UK has to offer, Douglas Flint, former Chairman of HSBC Group, was announced as the Chancellor’s City Envoy to the BRI , and a City Expert Board will be established to bring together infrastructure financing, professional and emerging market expertise. Together these initiatives will facilitate further cooperation with China and create commercial opportunities for UK firms. In support of this Standard Chartered Bank also announced its support for the BRI by committing to facilitate financing to the value of at least $20 billion by 2020. UK Export Finance affirmed up to £25 billion capacity to support new business in BRI countries in Asia, in a boost to UK businesses selling their goods and services. The UK and China also agreed to identify specific BRI projects to act as pathfinders for UK and Chinese collaboration, and to conduct research on mechanisms to support private sector financing of infrastructure development across the BRI . China recognises the UK’s world leading reputation in this area and greater partnership will increase global investment in UK infrastructure firms and enable them to export this expertise globally. Trade and investment Showing that the UK is open for business, the EFD saw a range of commercial announcements, worth around £1.4 billion. These include an agreement between Smiths Interconnect and Huafeng to establish a new joint venture working on products for High Speed Rail and commercial aviation; the establishment of UK fintech firm World First’s office and wholly foreign owned enterprise in Shanghai; and a partnership agreement between Tsinghua X-lab and Future Planet Capital to invest in innovative companies. The EFD also made substantial progress on issues which could unlock billions of pounds worth of agreements in the future. And in order to boost trade and investment and lay the foundations for a deeper future trading relationship ahead of the UK leaving the EU, the inaugural meeting of the new UK-China Trade Working Group took place. Progress was also made on implementing a reduction in tariffs on a range of food, retail and pharmaceutical goods, and the talks also built on previous EFDs in taking steps towards China lifting its ban on UK beef exports, put in place following the BSE crisis of the 90s. Industrial Strategy The UK and China discussed opportunities to collaborate on the UK’s new Industrial Strategy and welcomed the launch of a new UK China Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy. The UK are world leaders in innovative technologies like electric vehicles, so to build on the next generation electric vehicle package set out by the Chancellor at Budget and ensure Britain remains at the front of the pack in this market, a new collaboration was launched on zero carbon transport and Ultra Low Emission Vehicles ( ULEVs ). This includes cooperation on the £400 million Charging Infrastructure Investment Fund announced at the recent Autumn Budget. Discussions were also held with China’s most influential electric vehicles think tank, EV100, about collaborating more closely with Chinese automotive leaders to make it easier for UK and Chinese businesses to work together, boosting investment and creating more jobs. Energy The accompanying Energy Dialogue with China’s National Energy Administration saw the signing of an Action Plan to further cooperation between the UK and China on clean energy. Agreements were made between UK and Chinese businesses and research organisations to further develop renewable energy cooperation. The UK’s offshore Renewable Catapult will be linking up with TusPark Newcastle and TusWind to further offshore wind technology development between the UK and China, and UK-based engineering consultancy Mott Macdonald and the China Energy Engineering Corporation to work together in third countries on renewable energy projects. The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, Andrew Jones said: Britain is an innovative hub, home to skills and services that are in high demand around the world. We are world leaders in electric vehicle technology and working with China will enable us to export this expertise globally. Deepening our trade and investment links will help create an UK economy fit for the future by generating new jobs and modern skills across the country. The Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Stephen Barclay said: The relationship between the UK and China has brought real benefits, not just for our financial districts in the City, the Bund and Financial Street, but for our businesses and people across both nations. I’m incredibly proud of what our two countries have achieved together so far, and I’m excited to build on our growing partnership to build economies of the future. Minister for Investment, Mark Garnier said:
Hammond, Carney visit China in search of new trade deals
The chancellor, Philip Hammond, and the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, as well as senior executives from UK banks visited Beijing to discuss a reported £1.4bn ($1.9bn) of potential trade over the weekend 16-17 December. The trip is part of the ninth in a series of economic talks that began in 2008. However, this year's trip is more significant than previous visits because of the need for the UK to build up trading relationships outside the EU. An initiative allowing investors in each country to trade shares listed on the other's exchange was also announced.
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Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, will be in the delegation visiting China. He is pictured last month leaving Downing Street on his way to deliver his budget statement to parliament. Photo: Reuters
Economist Films Youtube subscriber count rises 140%
The Economist's video production division, Economist Films, has substantially increased its viewing figures on YouTube, with the number of subscribers to its channel rising by nearly 140% to around 400,000. Despite the increase, the overwhelming majority of the publisher's video views come from Facebook, which accounted for 83% of the 20 million views it achieved in November. Economist Films was created in 2015, and now has over 20 staff producing long-form series and weekly editorial videos under five minutes in length.
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The Economist Films division gets most of its views on Facebook, but like other publishers, it’s turning its attention to YouTube, where audiences tend to be more loyal and engaged than on Facebook. The 20-plus person division began in mid-2015 with a focus on long-form series, like entrepreneur-focused “The Hub,” backed by Santander, and “The World in 2018,” supported by Thomson Reuters. This year, The Economist also started releasing three editorial videos a week, lasting under five minutes, like this on the gender pay gap or this on foreign aid distribution. Recently, the publisher hired two staffers to focus solely on driving more engagement on Facebook and YouTube. They’re adapting short videos to both platforms, with attention-grabbing questions on the opening scene, such as, “Is this the world’s most powerful man?” for this video about China president Xi Jinping. The Economist has also started using YouTube’s end cards, which link to an additional piece of Economist content at the end of the video. The effort is starting to pay off on YouTube. Since June, the subscriber count has grown nearly 140 percent, to about 400,000. In November, the average viewer watched 75 percent of each film posted, up 44 percent from June. Discovery has also grown: Since June, there’s been a 190 percent increase in views from YouTube’s homepage, according to the publisher. (It hasn’t supplied a total number of views.) Facebook accounted for 83 percent of The Economist’s 20 million video views in November, according to Tubular Labs, and while it’s useful in introducing new audiences to the publisher, Facebook has been under scrutiny for its measurement mishaps and seemingly short three-second views. As more advertisers demand to know the true value of a view, YouTube will be more of a focus in the new year. The publisher is also in conversation with platform distributors like Amazon, Facebook, Samsung and Netflix. “[YouTube] is where the engaged opportunity is,” said Jamie Credland, svp of strategy and marketing at The Economist Group. “We historically haven’t invested much on YouTube because the path to subscription isn’t as clear there as on other platforms. As the film ecosystem evolves, audiences on YouTube are really engaged.” Hugo Ward, executive producer at The Economist Films, said videos on YouTube also tend to get more valuable comments, as did this analysis on the Balfour Declaration, which got nearly 700 comments, and this one on the fall of Zimbabwe’s former Prime Minister Robert Mugabe, which got more than 1,000 comments. Since June, the number of comments across all The Economist’s YouTube videos has increased by 228 percent, according to the publisher, which didn’t give a total raw number. The past year has also been an evolution for The Economist Films’ business operation. It started as a separate division with its own commercial team, but in the past year it’s moved to the same floor as the rest of the company as part of the publisher’s office move, and become integrated into the rest of the company’s ad sales offerings. Now, advertisers have one point of contact for campaign reporting and ad operations, and The Economist Films has access to existing advertisers on The Economist’s roster, like Santander and Credit Suisse, enabling it to run longer and deeper partnerships with brands. The Economist Films ran five brand-sponsored series this year. Four are part of large, seven-figure campaigns across the group, which typically run between £300,000 ($400,000) and £500,000 ($670,000) for the work the films division creates. This year, luxury watchmaker Blancpain and EY renewed contracts with The Economist Films. The Economist guarantees 1 million views across platforms for each series paid for by a brand, a benchmark it has always delivered on, Credland said. Image via The Economist Films
Scientists in Pakistan overcome issues of walnut shell waste
Scientists at Pakistan's Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research have discovered that chemically treated and burned walnut shells can provide high-quality carbon for use in the anode of sodium-ion batteries. If the method can be scaled and commercialised, it could not only provide a source of carbon for Na-ion batteries, which are cheaper than their lithium-ion equivalents, but also provide an income for local farmers. Kashmir currently cultivates 63,000 hectares of walnuts, producing 15,000 tonnes of shell waste.
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A team of scientists from IISER processed walnut shells to obtain high-quality carbon that can be used in batteries. If you think that walnuts only help in improving brain functioning, think again! A team of scientists from the Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research (IISER) , led by Satishchandra Ogale, may soon have a solution for Kashmir’s greatest organic waste problem — the nutshells of walnuts. One of the researchers, Wahid Malik, came up with a unique idea of using walnut covering, during one of his visits to his hometown in Kashmir, about nine months ago. These researchers processed the nutshell, an abundantly grown dryfruit found in Kashmir, to obtain high-quality carbon, meant to be used in the anode part of the sodium-ion battery. These batteries are basically similar to the commonly used Li-ion batteries, but are expected to be much cheaper due to the few thousand-fold higher abundance of sodium over lithium in nature. Battery systems are central to all renewable energy resource management and usage, including grid-based set ups, electric vehicles, and biomedical or handheld devices. When asked about this novel idea, Malik stated, “It is one of the greatest issues for farmers back home, to deal with the hard and nutty shell of dry fruits, especially that of walnut. That is when, while thinking of his proposal for CSIR-800 mission as a doctoral student, it was ideated and worked upon.” According to the study team, 63,000 hectares of land is under cultivation of walnuts in Kashmir. Of the total 36,000 tonnes of organic waste generated from the farm produce, 15,000 tonnes is contributed by walnut shells alone. The crushed shells are first cleansed using acids and then subjected to pyrolysis process, where it is heated at temperatures as high as 1,000 degrees Celsius for about 4 to 5 hours. Later, the carbon chunks are extracted within the specially created inert atmosphere, before it is powered or converted into a paste form, the researchers explained. One of advantages of using this nutshell, according to Ogale, is its natural composition. He said, “The foliage of the shell perfectly suits the requirements once it is treated chemically, giving an edge over other natural resource substances.” Advertisement “These Na-ion batteries are expected to be at least five-times cheaper than the lithium batteries and can make the overall setups affordable,” Malik claimed. If this is technique becomes commercially viable, farmers in the valley can have an additional source of income, added Malik. Currently, the leftover organic waste is used in making packaging products. “But, that too is limited to just 5 – 10 per cent of the waste, while the rest lay unattended causing serious concerns to the cultivators, who otherwise burn it further resulting to air pollution,” he added. At the lab testing stage, the scientists were able to extract about 300 – 400 mg of battery grade carbon from one gram of power obtained from the shell.
UK study finds India, US more important than EU for tech labour 
The UK isn't as reliant on the European Union for skilled technology labour as the sector thinks it is, according to data from LinkedIn published by Tech City UK. Digitally focused workers from India and the US outweigh those from Spain, France, Italy, Ireland and Germany combined, it found.
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Flickr/Andrew Eland https://www.flickr.com/photos/andreweland/1393811350/in/photolist-38aDyb-38aD2Y-qxcwT-eeShQ1-eeLLD4-g4Wrwk-g4X6Gg-g4Wywm-g4WrEg-g4WzQ3-g4WEv5-eeLnLM-eeSv85-g4WuRs-g4XaAP-ea798n-g4WwMv-g4WwA9-eeSj8J-ea79Li-g4WB7o-ea79AK-eacNLf-g4X5KB-g4WBks-eeSoLU-g4Wwwv-g4WtZ6-g4WsDa-ea79FX-g4XcnV-g4WycJ-g4WAnY-g4WB4A-3863Be-eeLBJB-eeSnWJ-g4WBt5-g4WxMh-eeSst1-eeS9p9-bsDnNA-3oVL78-ea7996-ea792Z-eeSbFW-eeLkcX-g4X9C6-ea79LM-g4WA5S More skilled tech workers came to the UK from India, the USA, and Australia in 2016 than from the top five EU countries, according to LinkedIn data. The data — touted in a Tech City UK study on Friday — shows that India provided 12% of all the skilled tech workers migrating to the UK in 2016, while the US provided 10%. European neighbours Spain and France provided 6% each, while Italy provided 5%, Ireland 5%, and Germany 3%. Technology founders and investors in the UK have raised concerns that their businesses could suffer if Brexit makes it harder for them to hire engineers and software developers from across the EU. A report from policy group Coalition for a Digital Economy (Coadec) in February suggested Brexit will leave the UK short of 800,000 digital workers by 2020. But the LinkedIn data suggests that the UK technology sector may not be as reliant on skilled EU workers as it thinks it is. Tech City UK is a publicly-funded organisation responsible for growing the UK tech sector. Its leaders were in favour of remaining in the EU but now the UK has voted to leave, the organisation is trying to focus on the positives. Gerard Grech, Tech City UK CEO, said in a statement: "There is a skills crisis looming in the digital tech sector and competition for talent is fierce and global. By understanding exactly where skilled tech workers come from we can plan for the future and invest where it is necessary. The insights that LinkedIn have shared with us also allow us to build up a bigger picture than ever before of the skills each UK region has."
‘Digital skills gap’ emerging in UK SMEs in run up to Brexit: FSB
A "black hole" in technical skills is threatening the economy as the UK heads for Brexit, the chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has warned. Mike Cherry, FSB national chairman, was commenting on FSB research which claims more than one in four business owners in England are not confident in basic digital skills. The research also finds that over one in five small firms believes it is being held back online by staff with weak digital literacy.
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The Federation of Small Businesses has warned that UK productivity growth will continue to stall unless action is taken to tackle the digital skills deficit in small businesses. FSB research has found that over a quarter of business owners in England lack confidence in their basic digital skills and more than a fifth believe a lack of basic digital skills among their staff is holding them back from increasing their digital and online presence. The business group says small firms will be left behind unless the National Retraining Scheme, announced in the Budget to boost digital capability, is designed with them in mind. However, 25 per cent of small firms do not consider digital skills to be important to the growth of their business. The FSB says that demonstrating the benefits of digital to these firms will be critical. Mike Cherry, FSB national chairman, said: “Firms risk being left behind unless they have the skills to take advantage of technology to remain competitive and responsive to their customers. We need to highlight the benefits of going digital and then make sure that small businesses and their staff can access basic digital skills training that meet their needs. If we can harness the digital potential of small firms, we stand a real chance of creating more world-beating businesses and boosting growth.” The digital skills gap is part of a wider skills challenge hitting small firms. The research finds that 30% of small businesses in England have struggled to find workers to fill roles because of acute skills shortages in the past year. “Productivity is being hampered by nagging skills shortages which are making recruitment a nightmare for small firms,” said Mike Cherry. “As the UK moves towards Brexit, a technical skills black hole threatens the economy. Small firms tell us that technical skills are crucial to the future growth of their businesses. The clock is ticking to tackle the ever-widening skills gap.” The findings of the research also show that nearly half of all SMEs don’t have a formal training plan or budget. Small firms say the main barriers to training are the fact that their employees are too busy, training is too expensive or the type of training needed is not available locally. Cherry added: “Small firms clearly recognise the value of providing training for themselves and their staff, but it can be a struggle to find the time and money, and in some cases even to find the right training locally. All Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) should ensure that there is relevant, accessible training available to meet the needs of small businesses and the self-employed.”
Help for mortgage payers in financial difficulties to be reduced
Assistance to UK mortgage borrowers who encounter financial difficulties is being stripped back by the government, according to a report. Three academics who specialise in housing policy were commissioned to look at the issue by finance trade body UK Finance and found support has been reduced since the financial crash of 2008. They also highlighted how such reductions will continue, until by 2022 assistance will be limited to measures for people out of work, with those on low incomes having to rely on existing statutory safeguards imposed on their lenders.
2017-12-19 15:02:27.267000
Post navigation A new report has revealed the extent to which help for home owners facing financial difficulty has been scaled back over the past decade. Following the 2008 financial crisis the Government strengthened the safety net for mortgage borrowers, but most of this support has now been withdrawn. Key findings of the report, Challenges for our Home Ownership Safety Net, UK and International Perspectives, commissioned by trade body UK Finance, include: Support will be further reduced next April when the Government is due to stop paying Support for Mortgage Interest as a grant and replace it with a new and less generous form of support – Loans for Mortgage Interest. This will be repayable when the house is sold. By 2022 help for home owners in financial difficulty will be limited mainly to loans to those who do not work. For people with a job, even in part-time or low-paid employment, the system will rely largely on what individual home owners can do for themselves, supported by lenders operating within the legal and regulatory safeguards. The report is the work of three of the UK’s leading housing academics. Their analysis explores how the safety net for borrowers in financial difficulty has been eroded in the UK and compares it with other countries. It reveals that, while many nations do not provide support specifically for mortgage borrowers, in some cases this is because they already have more generous income support measures in place. In countries where mortgage markets have suffered badly because of the financial crisis and subsequent recession, governments have often responded with emergency policies to reduce evictions, modify mortgage terms, transfer homes into the rental sector and provide other support. There has also been regulation to reinforce economic stability and limit risks posed by financial institutions. Commenting on the research, UK Finance’s head of mortgage policy June Deasy said: “As this research highlights, there have been significant changes in the benefit system affecting home owners. “It is important that they are aware of these changes and how they may be affected.”
NCR, CoinHub to introduce bitcoin-enabled ATMs in UAE
US cash machine company NCR is partnering with cryptocurrency exchange CoinHub to allow customers in the UAE to make cash withdrawals from their bitcoin accounts. The technology was demonstrated by NCR last year to mark the 50th anniversary of the ATM, and the positive reaction persuaded them to introduce it commercially. Customers will make the transactions in the usual way, authenticating themselves either using their card or mobile device and opting to withdraw from their linked CoinHub cryptocurrency account.
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NCR has teamed up with UAE cryptocurrency exchange CoinHub to enable users to make cash withdrawals from their bitcoin accounts at the ATM. NCR says the execution of the cryptocurrency transaction is as simple as any other at the cashpoint - a withdrawal begins with authenticating the user either by scanning a standard ATM card or via cardless access with a mobile device. Similar to the selection of current or savings accounts, the user can opt to withdraw funds from their linked CoinHub cryptocurrency account. Panicos Demetriades, vice president, professional services, NCR Financial Services, says: “When we first showcased this solution to mark the 50th anniversary of the ATM last year, the positive feedback from our leading financial institution customers in the UAE helped guide our decision to bring this to market.”
Nuggets building ID verification blockchain in FCA sandbox
London-based firm Nuggets is developing a blockchain and biometric identity system within the Financial Conduct Authority's FCA Innovate sandbox. Nuggets co-founder Alastair Johnson said the decentralised system, which uses facial recognition technology and stores no personal data, would be available to banks and businesses via an API, while consumers would use an app. The planned launch is for Q1 2018. Nuggets was invited to participate in the sandbox by the regulator, which aims to encourage innovation in fintech.
2017-12-19 14:50:27.247000
Podcast Holy Trinity Baptist Church Federal Credit Union has about $24,000 in assets, making it one of the smallest credit unions in the U.S. But it has survived and thrived over the past 50-plus years with low overhead and a small but loyal membership.
Uber rival Ola acquires food delivery firm Foodpanda India
Indian ride-hailing firm Ola has made a second bid to enter the country's competitive food delivery space, with the all-stock acquisition of Foodpanda India from German parent firm Delivery Hero. Ola is set to invest $200m in the business, as it takes on rival company Uber and its subsidiary UberEATS India, as well as Swiggy and Zomato. The acquisition gives Ola access to menus from more than 15,000 restaurants across over 100 cities. In 2015, Ola launched Ola Cafe in Delhi, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Mumbai, but the initiative folded after a year.
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The country’s largest home-grown ride-hailing firm, Ola, has acquired food delivery company Foodpanda’s India business from its German parent, Delivery Hero. It announced the all-stock deal today (Dec. 19) in a press release, though it did not disclose the cost of the acquisition. Ola will invest $200 million (Rs1,282 crore) into Foodpanda India. Advertisement Saurabh Kochhar, the current CEO of Foodpanda India, has decided to move on, the release said. The company will now be headed by Ola’s founding partner Pranay Jivrajka, it added. “Foodpanda India will benefit from Ola’s scale and efficiencies as a platform, also having leveraged learnings from Delivery Hero’s global best practices,” a press release from Ola said. “Ola and Delivery Hero will continue to collaborate on building the online food delivery ecosystem in India.” This will be Ola’s second outing in the food delivery space. In 2015, the company entered the market organically with a service called Ola Cafe in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad. However, it discontinued the service after a year as it reportedly failed to meet targets. Meanwhile, rival Uber has been running its meal order and delivery platform UberEATS in India since May this year. The service is available in six cities, according to a company press release issued last week. Advertisement With this acquisition, Ola will now have access to Foodpanda’s delivery network across over 100 cities, which includes menus from over 15,000 restaurants. While Uber and Ola have established themselves as leaders in the online ride-hailing space in India, this will be a different game altogether. The food delivery segment in India is currently crowded with several strong players such as Swiggy and Zomato, who themselves have been struggling to make money.
Ordnance Survey explores roof detector software
The UK's publicly-owned mapping company Ordnance Survey is experimenting with machine learning (ML) software that can detect the type of roof on a building from satellite and aerial images. The classifications are used by insurance companies, amongst others, and have previously been completed manually by OS employees. Within a week of being introduced, the new software achieved an accuracy rate of 87%, and was able to process the data thousands of times faster than human analysts. The technology could have other applications, such as for detecting changes in farm hedgerows to work out entitlements for agricultural subsidies.
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Britain's map maker is demonstrating that machine learning isn't all hot air – but has discovered just how much donkey work is involved. The Ordnance Survey set up an ML experiment to identify roofs from its remote sensing data (satellite and aerial imagery), and found the trial reached 87 per cent accuracy within a week, from a standing start. That's still less accurate than humans (at 95 per cent), but that's not the point – it could process thousands in the time it takes a human to do one. "Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to classify this roof..." [Source: Ordnance Survey] "It does have the potential to revolutionise our operations," an OS spokesman enthused. The week-long prototype isn't ready for deployment because it isn't yet accurate enough, but it promises to accelerate visual data analysis. Roofs fall into three main categories – gabled, hipped, or flat – although there are some that are fantastically rare, such as the saddle roof. You may wonder why anyone would care. Insurance people do: they use OS data to determine insurance levels. The laborious process of labelling 20,000 roofs was crowdsourced to OS employees. In all, five separate data sources were used and thrown into the mix. The challenge was one of classification rather than identification, OS research scientist Charis Doidge told us. "We already have the polygons from our data," she said. That meant the model wasn't struggling to identify roofs all over the map. "Segmentation is an issue," Doidge agrees. One discovery she found was that removing the extraneous pixels around the polygon sharply improved recognition. It isn't the first time OS has used ML to augment its pattern recognition. The agency adopted a similar, practical approach when giving ML a spin before. Suck it and see One OS dataset is used by the Rural Payments Agency to determine subsidies. One particular subsidy rewards farmers for planting and maintaining hedgerows – and this data is mapped by the OS. Analysts look for changes in the hedgerows, as this can likely mean changes in payments. So automating and flagging up changes can be a boon. Potentially, at least. The OS and RPA ran three experiments with mixed results: some promising, some not. Source: Ordnance Survey "The results prove that automatically identifying changes to certain types of Land Parcel Boundaries – especially, drains/ditches/dykes, walls, or fences (which are smaller than the spatial resolution of the input imagery data) – is very difficult even using specialist edge detection tools such as those employed within this work," the RPA's postmortem concluded. "These types of features have the lowest change detection accuracy and have a detrimental impact on the overall change detection accuracy." The analysis found that a lot of pre-processing was required to make the data suitable for the ML algorithms. The algorithms were then confused by lighting (the angle of the Sun) and the time of year the source data was taken. But this illustrates a dilemma for anyone deploying state-of-the-art AI today, when the paint isn't dry on the art: you don't know whether it's going to work until you've tried it. To illustrate how early days it is, the "Father of Deep Learning", Geoffrey Hinton, recently revealed a radical approach to pattern recognition using neural networks. In the 1980s, Hinton had pioneered the theoretical application of backpropagation techniques to neural nets. This is an approach which, when allied to large data sets, has finally borne some practical fruit in recent years. Hinton declared that backpropagation was no longer sufficient to take AI forward, and revealed what he says is a superior technique – capsules. The approach has been welcomed as taking AI researchers "out of a rut". Hinton's new approach assumes the pattern being sought is already in the image, "[using] neural activities that vary as viewpoint varies rather than trying to eliminate viewpoint variation from activities". (Human-readable PDFs here and here.) Right now Hinton's focus is on 3D objects, so it isn't directly useful to the OS. It's early days in pattern recognition, and what's emerging is the need for cleanly labelled data. But for mappers, whose raw data is visual, the prospect of speeding up the work seems promising. ®
UK Land Registry may record sales made in bitcoin
The UK Land Registry has hinted that it will record payments made in bitcoin and other non-sterling transaction methods, though it made it clear that this was not an endorsement of cryptocurrencies. It clarified that payments made to the land registry for its services must still be made in pounds. Moreover, a spokesperson for the land registry merely records the transaction, ownership, interests and mortgages on the land, and if the price paid was made in an alternate currency then they may record it.
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Post navigation The Land Registry which lists homes sold and bought across England and Wales has said it “may” record payments for homes that are not made in the UK’s sterling currency. However, in a woolly statement, it says that this is ‘not a recognition’ of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin. EYE has asked for further clarification. The Land Registry last night said that its own payments, made to it by the likes of property owners and conveyancers registering title, must not be in currency such as bitcoin. However, it has not seemed to deny that it will register house sales in bitcoin. The ‘clarification’ came after EYE asked for further information on our story yesterday that a small property firm – whose activities include an estate agency as well as a new homes developer – claimed a first in selling a property whose price would be recorded by the Land Registry in bitcoins. After queries that this was ‘fake news’, EYE asked the Land Registry a straightforward question: does it record sales in bitcoin? Last night, in a statement the Land Registry told us: “In land and property transactions, we record when the price paid, or value, is declared. If the price paid is not in pounds sterling then we may record it. ‘This is not a recognition of the validity of the payment made but rather a record of the transaction. “Our registration fee is payable on the pound sterling equivalent of the value of the property and this is declared to us by the conveyancer. “We do not accept cryptocurrency for any forms of payment for our products or services. “We register the ownership, interests and mortgages against land and property in England and Wales, regardless of the method of payment.” Yesterday, the property firm involved in what it said were the first two homes to be sold in bitcoin, stuck firmly to its guns in saying that the Land Registry has agreed to record one of those sales in bitcoin. Estate agent Edward Casson, of Go Holdings, told us: “Essentially the Land Registry have said that whatever the contract completes on – xx bitcoin, that’s what they will record.” He said of the fake news claims: “You will always get doubters on areas like this because it is new and most can’t understand its concept … yet.” Last night, after the Land Registry issued its statement, Casson said: “Essentially they can record it in any format but our conveyancing contracts are in BTC (bitcoin) for these sales, and the legal teams will advise the Registry so. “Interestingly there have been lots of other buyers who have come forward today [yesterday] also wishing to purchase some of our property with BTC. Good to see so many potential buyers in a tough market.” EYE understands that the Government is considering the impact of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin across all its departments, and that news media – including The Times, Telegraph and EYE – may be seen to have ‘jumped the gun’.
Ad company Prism granted membership status by IAB
The IAB UK has added ad company Prism Platform to its members. Prism Platform, which launched from ad blocking software company Shine Technologies in 2015, uses first-party data to offer targeted solutions and behavioural insights to advertisers and publishers. The company uses data gathered through consumer opt-in facilities to create non-invasive ads that meet IAB standards. Ads are verified free of charge, with early warnings given to non-compliant ads before they are served.
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The IAB UK has granted membership status to Prism, the ad company that emerged from ad blocking software firm Shine Technologies. Launched in 2015 as a controversial network-level ad blocker, the company has since shed senior management, re-engineered its solution and rebranded to Prism Platform. The company was also briefly known as Rainbow while the new management workedd on repositioning the company. Prism makes use of first-party data gathered by consumer opt-in for targeting solutions and behavioural insights, and works with advertisers and publishers to ensure that served ads meet ad industry standards, including the IAB’s LEAN principles which were established to fight back against the rise of ad blocking by ensuring non-invasive, light-weight ads. Advertisers and publishers are able to get ads verified before they are served to the end consumer, a service the firm offers free of charge, and publishers are provided with an early warning system for non-compliants ads, enabling them to be replaced before they are served. “Relaunching the company as Prism Platform is a firm and final departure from the legacy of Shine, a company known for its negative and irresponsible rhetoric more than for its action,” said James Collier, chief revenue officer and co-founder of Prism. “Rainbow was an intermediate step for us on our journey to reposition the company. “We have now redeveloped the ad compliance technology into a trusted and brand-safe platform that is designed to work with all the key stakeholders of the digital content and advertising industry to provide targeting solutions for brands and publishers, open revenue streams for carriers, give insights into human behaviour and ensure a relevant, engaging ad experience for consumers.” Addressing Prism’s entry into the IAB, Tim Elkington, chief digital officer at the IAB UK said: “Prism has changed and because of that, we can accept them as members. Like any member, we hope they’ll take part in the Gold Standard (the IAB’s recently-unveiled pledge for higher ad quality) to help build a sustainable future for digital advertising.” “We are delighted to become members of the IAB UK, who are an important fixture in the fight for better brand and consumer ad experiences,” said Collier. “We fully support the IAB in their efforts to reverse and stop the continued growth of ad-blocking; as a technology company focused on keeping the internet free, we work to enable all stakeholders gain a better experience from digital advertising. “Our mission is to enhance the experience of every stakeholder involved in digital advertising, with consumers, brands, advertisings and publishers able to reach the best audiences in a transparent way, without supplementing the end consumer experience. Our membership with the IAB speaks to this – we have firmly placed increased trust and transparency at the centre of our activity, and hope to encourage all stakeholders to adhere to IAB guidelines and best practices.”
Walmart invests in online systems for drive-through service
Walmart is looking to challenge rival Amazon by using a drive-through style service for kerbside pickups, enabling customers to order products ahead of time for pickup outside the store. The service will reduce delivery costs delivery for retailers, while also providing convenience for customers. Walmart is rolling out the service across 1,000 shops next year.
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Missed the GamesBeat Summit excitement? Don't worry! Tune in now to catch all of the live and virtual sessions here. (Reuters) — As Amazon.com looks to upend the U.S. grocery market with home delivery, some veteran supermarket operators are betting on a different strategy: curbside pickup. Americans have long loved the convenience of drive-through service for burgers and coffee. Kroger Co and Walmart Inc are tweaking that formula for groceries. The companies have invested heavily in online systems that allow customers to order ahead from their neighborhood store. Workers pick and pack the products, then run them out to shoppers in the parking lot, the grocery version of carry out pizza. For the retailers, the service is cheaper than delivery, because customers do the driving. For shoppers, it means skipping crowds and queues at their local market, and no worries about missing packages or melted ice cream if they are not at home to meet the delivery guy. Tony Sacco, who lives in the Los Angeles beach community of Playa Del Rey, is a regular user of the service at a nearby Ralphs supermarket, owned by Cincinnati-based Kroger. Each pickup costs $6.95, but the time-crunched married father of three says it is worth it. “This is easy. Time is money,” said Sacco, 47, as a worker loaded bags into his SUV on a recent morning. Event Transform 2023 Join us in San Francisco on July 11-12, where top executives will share how they have integrated and optimized AI investments for success and avoided common pitfalls. Register Now Retaining customers like Sacco is critical for traditional grocery retailers as they battle an array of upstarts bent on turning groceries into the next home-delivery juggernaut. New entrants such as meal-kit company Blue Apron and organic food seller Thrive Market are peeling off coveted slices of their business. Amazon, the nation’s largest online retailer, has amassed an 18 percent share of the $12.6 billion U.S. online grocery market mainly through the sale of packaged goods such as pasta and diapers. It is the largest player in a sector that is expected to grow to $41.7 billion by 2022, according to market research firm Packaged Facts. But even mighty Amazon has struggled with the trickiest part of the trade: delivering fresh produce, meat, dairy and other perishables. Its AmazonFresh service started more than a decade ago, but has yet to make a major mark. Amazon is making another run at it with its $13.7 billion purchase of upscale grocery chain Whole Foods earlier this year. Amazon has said little about its plans. But analysts expect it will use Whole Foods’ 450 locations as distribution hubs for home delivery, opening a new front in its campaign to disrupt the $700-billion U.S. grocery industry. Old-line players are responding with some new moves of their own. Kroger and Walmart are experimenting with delivery. But they are wagering that pickup is the true sweet spot in the industry’s online evolution. Both are rolling out the service in thousands of their stores. “The way people are going to shop for groceries is going to be curbside, not delivery,” said Jason Goldberg, a senior vice president at digital marketing firm SapientRazorfish. Amazon, too, is eyeing that channel. AmazonFresh has already tested pickup in Seattle and analysts expect Whole Foods to do the same. Nevertheless, researcher Packaged Facts says traditional retailers can win with real estate: “Companies such as Walmart and Kroger have the advantage, because they already have stores all over the country in both urban and rural settings,” it said in a recent report. Click and Collect Kroger bought its way into pickup with its 2014 purchase of southeast grocer Harris Teeter, which had an established program. That same year, Kroger debuted its own offering, known as ClickList, adding features such as coupons and promotions based on detailed customer data. Pickup is now available at 1,000 of the chain’s 2,800 stores and the company is adding the service at 400 to 500 locations a year, according to Matt Thompson, the vice president of ClickList. He said curbside customers spend 40 percent to 60 percent more than traditional shoppers, because they tend to stock up on bulky items such as bottled water. Users pay $4.95 to $6.95 for each order depending on their location. Kroger would not disclose how many shoppers use ClickList. It promotes the service in stores and online, while customers spread the word through social media. Users log into ClickList online. They put items into digital carts, pay and reserve a pickup time at least four hours in advance. The order is sent to a terminal in a store’s dedicated ClickList room, where “pickers” are dispatched with handheld devices that tell them exactly where to find each item. These workers bag the products and put them into labeled bins; perishables are kept in a nearby freezer or fridge. When customers pull into designated pickup parking spaces, they are directed to call a number to alert a ClickList staffer, who wheels the bags to their cars. Kroger gave Reuters a tour of its ClickList operation at a Ralphs supermarket in Los Angeles’ Westchester neighborhood in late November. Miguel Lopez, who leads the ClickList team there, said it takes about 30 minutes to pick a $100 order; a $400 order takes an hour. The team tracks progress on a white board that showed weekly progress since the service debuted in January. The number of daily orders ranged from 13 to 36. Sales for the week Reuters visited, which included Thanksgiving Day, were on pace to hit a record of more than $12,000. Analysts say typical Kroger stores have annual sales of around $30 million, excluding gasoline. Deutsche Bank analyst Shane Higgins said pickup already accounts for over 5 percent of sales in some locations. Kroger declined to comment on the overall performance of ClickList but acknowledged costs are initially higher for pickup orders because of the additional labor involved. Company executives said increasing sales and efficiency can virtually eliminate that gap in as little as three years. Another challenge to profitability is that pickup customers are not tempted by in-store impulse items. But the biggest risk, analysts say, is to do nothing and let customers drift to competitors that offer the service. Shopper Kimberlee Isaacs says ClickList has kept her loyal to the Westchester Ralphs, where she drops $800 a month on groceries for her family of three. “We use it every single week. I don’t go into the store unless I forgot something,” Isaacs, 50, said. Coming on Strong Meanwhile, Walmart, the nation’s top grocery seller, aims to add free curbside pickup at 1,000 stores next year, bringing the total to 2,100 of its 4,700 U.S. locations. It declined to discuss profitability of the service. But spokeswoman Molly Blakeman said the company decided to expand it quickly based on encouraging results. Pickup is winning converts such as Hudson, Florida shopper Steve Mondock, who had previously shunned Walmart. “I hated the crowds, I hated the parking,” said Mondock, 55, who now buys most of his basics there. Virtually every food retailer is now testing or adding pickup, including Publix, HEB, Meijer and Safeway. Target Corp, which just bought delivery company Shipt, is testing drive up for non-perishable groceries and other items. “That’s why you want to be early so you can capture someone else’s customers,” said Loop Capital analyst Andrew Wolf.
Volkswagen to construct 2,800 EV charging points across US
German automaker Volkswagen has announced plans to install 2,800 electric vehicle charging points across the United States, in 17 of the country's largest cities. VW aims to complete the project by June 2019, with 75% of these charging points installed at workplaces. The remainder will be multifamily residential buildings. The plan is part of VW's $2bn nationwide agreement to enhance clean car infrastructure following revelations of its diesel emissions cheating.
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Volkswagen has committed to building an EV charging network in the US. By 2019, VW's Electrify America division plans to install 2,800 charging stations in 17 of the country's biggest cities, according to Reuters. It'll cost the automaker some $2 billion, with California getting almost half of the investment. That might sound like a lot of money, but for context, Volkswagen had paid out over $20 billion for its diesel emissions scandal as of this February. For comparison, in April Tesla said by year's end it would have 10,000 Supercharger stations in place by year's end. It took the company almost five years to install 5,400 of those. The company also promised to boost the number of normal-speed charging stations (Destination Charging) from 9,000 locations to 15,000 this year. Tesla's first Supercharger rest stops started going online in November. Tesla has its own woes as well: the company can't produce its $35,000 Model 3 sedans fast enough to keep up with pre-orders.
Global poultry market forecast to continue growing in 2018
Worldwide demand for poultry will continue to grow next year, with the price of chicken remaining strong. Analysts from the Dutch-based Rabobank predict the market will grow in North and South America, Europe and southeast Asia, with only China facing problems as its poultry industry struggles with oversupply. Despite the generally positive outlook, Rabobank warned that there are increasing uncertainties in the market, with the threat of avian influenza returning and currency fluctuations contributing to volatility in prices.
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Consumer demand for poultry will continue to grow in all regions except for China for the first six months of the year and possibly longer. The Rabobank Outlook report says global prices for chicken have remained strong, particularly for whole chicken and breast meat, but dark meat prices have declined. However, the report cautions against over-optimism, arguing that a disciplined supply growth strategy will be needed, particularly as uncertainties are rising, such as the possible return of avian influenza in the northern hemisphere this winter and the rising supply of competitive meat proteins, like pork and beef. Global poultry trade is likely once again to be hit by volatility, due not only to AI but also exchange rate fluctuations and changes in traders’ procurement strategies in response to earlier trade scandals. New suppliers will continue to enter the market so supply discipline will be important, the report adds. Global Highlights Nan-Dirk Mulder, Rabobank senior analyst animal protein, said the fastest growing global regions would be South East Asia and Eastern Europe. “South East Asia will remain very bullish in the next year, within ongoing growth of more than 5% in most countries like Indonesia, India, the Philippines and Thailand being driven by strong local demand and Thailand’s clear leadership when it comes to global trade. “However, recent expansion of the industry, at 7%, has probably occurred a bit too fast, when taking the current margin pressure into account.” Europe The EU poultry industry will continue to perform relatively well, based on a favourable supply/demand balance due to AI restricting production growth and animal welfare/environmental regulations preventing substantial expansion. Eastern Europe, particularly Poland, will keep growing fast and will become a major trade hub. US The US poultry industry is also likely to perform well, driven by ongoing local market conditions and improved exports, combined with a predicted record-high US corn and soybean harvest, which is set to push feed prices lower. South America The report says that the Brazilian industry is recovering from the “weak flesh” scandal, and exports have returned to 2016 levels after substantial drops in quarters two and three. However, the risk of Brazilian imports being substituted by new suppliers remains. Loser The report argues that the largest loser in the next few months will be China. Mr Mulder said: “China’s industry is struggling, with winter rapidly approaching and many wet markets yet to be closed. “This situation could negatively affect prices and global trade. The industry needs to further reduce supply in order to rebalance supply and demand.”
Self-healing polymer could end cracked screens
Purely by accident, a student at the University of Tokyo stumbled across a new type of glass that can 'heal' itself. Researchers say the technology could be easily replicated and mass produced for phone screens. The material is made from a polymer called 'polyether-thioureas' and can be "repaired by compression at fractured surfaces" without the need for high temperatures to reshape the material. Recent research shows that billions of dollars are wasted on phone repairs, and the technology could save consumers from having to pay for phone repairs in the future.
2017-12-19 14:30:02.477000
Japanese researchers say they have developed a new type of glass that can heal itself from cracks and breaks. Glass made from a low weight polymer called “polyether-thioureas” can heal breaks when pressed together by hand without the need for high heat to melt the material. The research, published in Science, by researchers led by Professor Takuzo Aida from the University of Tokyo, promises healable glass that could potentially be used in phone screens and other fragile devices, which they say are an important challenge for sustainable societies. While self-healing rubber and plastics have already been developed, the researchers said that the new material was the first hard substance of its kind that can be healed at room temperature. “High mechanical robustness and healing ability tend to be mutually exclusive,” wrote the researchers, saying that while some hard but healable materials have been developed, “in most cases, heating to high temperatures, on the order of 120°C or more, to reorganise their cross-linked networks, is necessary for the fractured portions to repair.” The new polymer glass is “highly robust mechanically yet can readily be repaired by compression at fractured surfaces”. The properties of the polyether-thioureas glass were discovered by accident by graduate school student Yu Yanagisawa, who was preparing the material as a glue. Yanagisawa found that when the surface of the polymer was cut the edges would adhere to each other, healing to form a strong sheet after being manually compressed for 30 seconds at 21°C. Further experimentation found that the healed material regained its original strength after a couple of hours. Yanagisawa told NHK that he didn’t believe the results at first and repeated his experiments multiple times to confirm the finding. He said: “I hope the repairable glass becomes a new environment-friendly material that avoids the need to be thrown away if broken.” This is not the first time a polymer has been suggested as a healable screen for devices such as smartphones. Researchers at the University of California proposed the use of polymer that could stretch to 50 times its original size and heal breaks within 24 hours. Smartphone manufacturers have already used self-healing materials in devices. LG’s G Flex 2 shipped in 2015 with a coating on its back that was capable of healing minor scratches over time, although failed to completely repair heavier damage. According to research commissioned by repair firm iMend in 2015, over 21% of UK smartphone users were living with a broken screen, with smashed displays being one of the biggest issues alongside poor battery life.
Dell spearheads NextWave coalition to tackle ocean-bound plastic
Dell is bringing together a group of major brands to tackle the problem of plastic polluting the marine environment. The program titled NextWave has been developed in partnership with incubator Lonely Whale and involves brands including General Motors and Herman Miller. NextWave seeks to develop a supply chain that reduces ocean-bound plastics at scale. It will also run an education programme. Dell estimates that there are 86 million tonnes of plastic in the ocean and the initiative hopes to prevent 3 million pounds of plastic from entering the ocean by 2023, the equivalent of 66 million plastic water bottles, but still a relative drop in the ocean. 
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Today, Dell announced that it will work with several of the world’s leading brands to develop what it describes as the world’s first commercial-scale, ocean-bound plastics supply chain. Companies like Adidas might quibble with that claim, but we see it as good news all around. Beyond simply collecting plastic, this program includes an education program that seeks to heighten awareness about the dangers plastic impose on oceans and marine life. In addition, each company participating in this initiative, named NextWave, has pledged to reduce its plastic footprint while reducing or eliminating consumption of single-use and non-recyclable plastics. Brands participating in NextWave include General Motors, Herman Miller, Interface and Trek Bikes. UN Environment and the NGO Lonely Whale are also participating in this initiative. For Dell, this program builds upon the several years of work it has invested in creating more sustainable and recyclable packaging, as well as striving to achieve a more closed-loop system within its supply chain. On its own web site, Dell has projected statistics that suggest over 86 million tons, or 5 trillion pieces of plastic, are currently in the world’s oceans. Estimates suggest about 8 million tons of plastic waste wash up in oceans – an amount that could increase to 150 million tons by 2025. By mid-century, there could be more plastics in the world’s oceans than fish. The organizations coalescing around the NextWave initiative suggest that if their plan succeeds, they could prevent 3 million pounds of plastics from entering the oceans by 2023 – the equivalent of eliminating 66 million water bottles from ending up at sea. That is a relatively small drop in the morass of ocean plastic that is ruining oceans, but if similar efforts can continue to launch worldwide, marine ecosystems may actually stand a chance in the long run. Dell says the origin of this program lies into the relationship it developed with Lonely Whale back in 2015. That partnership eventually led to an ocean plastics recycling program the company started in February. For that pilot project, salvaged ocean plastic has been blended with other recycled plastic resins to mold trays used for shipping. The company concluded that during 2017, this program will prevent 16,000 pounds of plastic from entering oceans. These programs are additional steps Dell says is it taking with a goal to only use 100 percent sustainable packaging by 2020. According to the company, Dell is the only computer hardware manufacturer to offer computers and monitors made out of both recycled e-waste plastics and carbon fiber. The organizations participating in NextWave insist their cooperation can help move industry closer to a circular economy. “I am so proud to see our partnership with Dell continue to grow and inspire companies across industries to use their capabilities to address ocean health,” said Adrian Grenier, founder of Lonely Whale. “This is no individual company’s problem; this impacts every human being and company, and it is incredible to see these industry leaders coming together.” Image credit: Dell/Flickr
US military to test 3D-printing drones in the field
The US military is experimenting with a system to allow troops in the field to create bespoke drones using 3D printers. The US Army and the Marine Corps are collaborating on the project, which would enable military units to choose from a catalogue of options for different unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). As well as the ability to customise the drone to the type of mission required, 3D printing would also reduce supply times from days or week to hours or minutes.
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US Military tests system for on-demand 3D-printed drones Pick out parts or a whole UAV customized for the mission from a tablet-based catalog. The US military has used drones in combat zones for over a decade to scout and support infantry. Now they're testing a way to give ground troops another edge: The capability to build UAVs themselves. What's more, the US Army is partnering with the Marine Corps on a test project that lets troops 3D-print particular drone parts from a tablet-based catalog, which could eventually lead to manufacturing UAVs customized to the mission. The concept is promising, and so is the flexibility: The software catalog setup lets military units print out an unmanned aircraft system for specific missions. The Army Research Laboratory expects the turnaround time to create UAV parts to be anywhere from minutes to hours, rather than days or weeks. This won't be the Marine Corps first experiment with 3D-printed drones. Last year, the Corps held an internal program called the Logistics Innovation Challenge that sought ideas from within its ranks. Among the winning submissions was a fixed-wing drone called the Scout, designed by a 26-year-old Corporal that costs $600 and fits in a standard Marine backpack.
BMW partners with Solid Power on solid-state batteries
BMW is partnering with US battery developer Solid Power to utilise its knowledge of solid-state cells as the German automaker develops its electric vehicles. Solid-state batteries offer greater energy density in comparison with lithium-ion batteries, meaning increased driving range, accelerated charging rates and increased safety.
2017-12-19 14:10:28.287000
BMW is jumping into the solid-state battery game and it's doing so by teaming up with battery-developer Solid Power. The company is a spin-out from the University of Colorado Boulder and has been developing solid-state rechargeable batteries since 2012. BMW is partnering with Solid Power to bring its battery technology to electric vehicles. "Since the company's inception, the Solid Power team has worked to develop and scale a competitive solid-state battery paying special attention to safety, performance and cost," Doug Campbell, founder and CEO of Solid Power, said in a statement. "Collaborating with BMW is further validation that solid-state battery innovations will continue to improve electric vehicles." Solid-state batteries offer a few advantages over the lithium-ion batteries largely in use today including greater energy density and, therefore, increased driving range when used in EVs, less chance of fire or explosion and rapid recharging. The benefits of solid-state batteries are why so many companies, including Fisker, Toyota and Google, are looking to develop the technology and ultimately incorporate them into their products. Batteries that limit EVs' driving ranges will certainly keep these types of vehicles from becoming mainstream. So technology that can stretch those driving distances and make EVs as convenient as traditional gas-powered cars will be a must when it comes to expanding their use and, therefore, the environmental benefits they afford.
Net neutrality shutdown may hit US universities
The ending of net neutrality in the US could disadvantage university students seeking to access study materials remotely, campaigners have warned. The Federal Communications Commission voted this month to repeal the Open Internet Order implemented by the Obama administration in 2015, which required internet service providers to provide the same level of service for all traffic. Allowing them to discriminate against certain types of content and prioritise others is a threat to free speech, according to a group of higher-education organisations who oppose the change.
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In an age of Donald Trump, research funding cuts and debates about free speech on campus, “net neutrality” has struggled to reach the top of the US higher education debate. However, universities have warned that the decision by the Federal Communications Commission to repeal the Open Internet Order – allowing private internet providers to control the speed of data delivery – will infringe on free speech and create barriers to higher education. The shift, proposed by FCC chairman Aji Pai last month, will roll back a 2015 decision by the Obama administration that classified internet services as a “Title II” public utility, similar to landline telephones and electricity. Under the proposal, which was passed in a vote by the commission on 14 December, an internet service provider will be allowed to prioritise content by controlling access speeds. Higher education stakeholders have criticised the policy, saying that it will result in an internet controlled by corporate interests and one that is no longer an open public space. “Net neutrality is critical to preserve an open internet and the modern form of the town square where everyone has an equal voice,” said Krista Cox, director of public policy initiatives at the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). A repeal gives ISPs the ability to discriminate against some content while favouring corporate affiliated content, she argues. “Those who can pay for prioritisation will be heightened and others diminished,” she said. The ARL is part of a group of higher education organisations including the American Council on Education (ACE) and the American Association of Universities (AAU) that have called on the FCC to ban blocking, degradation and paid prioritisation of internet content by service providers or broadband mobile providers. At risk is free speech, the group argued. “The current proposal would allow corporations to allow that there are types of content that are too controversial,” said Jon Fansmith, director of government relations at ACE. “There’s a very real possibility of suppression of free speech and limitations on what kind of speech is acceptable.” The private networks that universities use to access the internet will be unaffected by the decision, however, with just five companies serving 80 per cent of internet customers, many students may struggle to switch to an alternative service provider off-campus. Complicating the ability to access fast internet is the patchy broadband infrastructure in the US in general. According to the FCC’s 2016 broadband report, one in 10 Americans nationwide lacks access to acceptable internet speeds. It also found that more than 39 per cent of Americans living in rural areas lack access to advanced telecommunications capability, compared with 4 per cent of Americans living in urban areas. Any disruption to speeds could deeply affect the quality of education that students receive off campus, stakeholders argue. Megan Kocher, a science librarian at the University of Minnesota, said that the repeal “could be devastating” to the quality of distance-education that the institution’s rural-based students receive. “Waiting for pages to download isn’t a luxury that everyone has,” she said. “It’s discriminatory to accept that only people on campus will get it; it’s objectively a worse education for people in rural areas.” Other critics have said that the repeal threatens to disrupt online exams and creates barriers to students forming online communities. With the growing use of flipped classrooms, the day-to-day operations of higher education pedagogy will be also affected by the repeal, said Jessica Sebeok, associate vice-president and counsel for policy at the AAU. “The demographic of undergraduates has changed – 50 per cent of students are non-traditional and live off campus. Distance learning is a big part of their ability to obtain their goals,” she said. Community outreach, an important mission that universities use to engage with local and state-wide communities and disseminate their research, could also be at risk. Ms Kocher said that the University of Minnesota’s community extension programmes are vital to its land grant mission to “provide education throughout the state”. The initiatives connect Minnesotans to the institution’s research and experts in fields such as tourism, and health and wellness. “Especially in agriculture, we have to have a strong partnership to get research to farmers. It is important that people think of the University of Minnesota as a partner and as their resource,” she explained. “Without net neutrality, it puts us in danger of not being able to reach users across the state.” The biggest impact of the repeal, however, will be cost, and educators believe that the move will ultimately push up already soaring tuition fees. Chris Millet, director of learning design operations at Pennsylvania State University’s World Campus, said that the proposal creates a major barrier to students accessing videos that are central to online course material. The majority of the online school’s 16,000 students would be impacted if the university’s online content is defaulted to an internet slow lane, he said. “We want to offer educational opportunities to all students but the repeal would potentially introduce new costs [for] that model to contend with,” he said. In addition to using online services to facilitate classroom instruction or to provide distance learning, universities use cloud-based services such as Microsoft Office 365 and Google apps, explained Mr Fansmith at ACE. “We have massive research networks for collaborating and sharing information; we have libraries that store and share huge amounts of data off-site or on cloud-based servers,” he said. “If all of those services that we employ are required to shift their pricing model based on prioritisation, or throttling, those costs get transferred to us and we can’t simply swallow them. “When you do something that adds significant costs to institutions, you’re effectively pricing out low-income students.” Supporters of the repeal, however, argue that net neutrality is a form of government regulation that could signal the beginning of tighter internet restrictions overall. “You can’t believe what’s on the [net neutrality] tin,” said William Dutton, director of Michigan State University’s Quello Center, which researches communication technologies, industries and consumer choices. “This opens the internet up to the threat of greater policy constraint. "It invites additional content regulations and legitimises content regulation by the government, which could undermine an open internet." The best thing for the internet is to focus on competition and fostering more search and video platforms, he argued. The campaign to maintain the Open Internet Order won’t end with the 14 December vote. “Immediate litigation is expected to follow,” said Mr Fansmith. “I think there would be a variety of parties that would be pursuing that,” he said, but added that ACE would likely avoid the court process to focus its efforts on influencing potential congressional action. Similarly, Ms Cox of the ARL said that the organisation will continue to advocate for net neutrality. “As we have in the past, we will continue our advocacy through all channels, including through amicus briefs in the courts and in Congress, which may be searching for a legislative solution,” she said. sara.custer@timeshighereducation.com Local rules on the worldwide web Despite the intentions of the internet’s creators to provide an open platform to share and access information across geographical boundaries, global net neutrality principles do not exist. The European Union introduced strict net neutrality measures to its Telecoms Single Market regulations in 2016. India also recently introduced binding net neutrality rules. Meanwhile, Australia presents a potential model of where the US may be headed. It has no net neutrality regulations and any anticompetitive behaviour is addressed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Discussion of the topic of net neutrality is heating up, however, as the country tries to implement a national broadband network – an idea introduced by the government in 2009. Like the US, Australia faces significant challenges to provide high-speed broadband internet across large swathes of land. “The digital divide is a profound problem,” said Matthew Rimmer, professor of intellectual property and innovation law at Queensland University of Technology. “The difference is between the cities and regional and rural areas but also in terms of a question of wealth [and] in terms of who has access to what internet speeds.” One of the great hopes of the national broadband network is that it would enable distance education, Professor Rimmer explained. “It would be one of the ways to overcome the tyranny of distance,” he said. However, plans to roll out the broadband network have been delayed by shifting national political agendas. “In many ways, Australia is in a weaker position than the US,” said Professor Rimmer. “We don’t have network neutrality protections. We don’t necessarily have proper protection in relation to freedom of speech; we only have an implied freedom of political communication.”
Cyber attack shuts down industrial plant
Internet security consultants believe hackers shut down an industrial plant by mistake after targeting it with malware. Researchers at FireEye reported that the cyber attack used a virus called Triton, which is designed to affect industrial control systems.They believe it was an attempt to gather intelligence on how to cause physical damage to the plant, which accidentally shut down its operations. Neither the location of the plant nor the suspected perpetrators have been confirmed, but other industry figures believe it is likely to have been in Saudi Arabia, making Iranian state hackers the prime suspects.
2017-12-19 14:02:58.403000
Update: In a statement on the extent of the data breach disclosed last month, Western Digital said it has control of its digital certificate infrastructure and is "equipped to revoke certificates as ...
Over 60% of brands to bring media buying in-house by 2022: survey
Increasing numbers of brands in the UK and northern Europe are taking their media buying in-house, according to a survey by Adobe. An estimated 62% are to do so by 2022, while 78% of agency participants would move "some elements" in-house. In addition, the study marked 2018 as a standout year as marketers are set to increase their control of online media spend, with 86% of brands and 89% of agencies planning to spend more on programmatic, regarded by more than half of both groups as more important than TV. However, programmatic TV also emerged as a priority.
2017-12-19 14:00:40.527000
The majority (62%) of brands will bring their media buying in-house by 2022 according to an Adobe poll, which has also dubbed 2018 as a “watershed year” for automated media buying, as such technologies are increasingly used to advance TV advertising. More than half of brands believe that programmatic media buying is more important to their advertising strategy than broadcast Adobe published the findings today (December 19) stating that 86% of brands and 89% of agencies plan to spend more on programmatic ad-buying in 2018, with all marketers vowing to take greater control of their online media buying. In fact, of those marketers participating in the study, 62% said they would take all of their programmatic media buying in-house by 2022, while the remaining 38% said they will “take some” in-house within the next five years. Additionally, 78% of agency participants agreed that some elements of programmatic ad-buying will move in-house; the consensus among participants was that they need to collaborate more effectively to understand their roles in this new paradigm. The survey also identified programmatic TV as a clear priority among participants, with 38% of marketers and 56% of agency professionals citing it as a priority in 2018, with better cross-screen measurement of media performance also cited as a key priority. Additionally for brand respondents, 2018 will also see access to data for personalization becoming their focus (33%); whereas for agencies effective measurement will be their more pressing goal (33%). Meanwhile, 52% of brand respondents and 56% of agency respondents believe programmatic advertising will overtake TV as the most important part of their advertising strategy in three-to-five years. In fact, 14% of marketers participating in the study claimed that it already was, suggesting that online audiences are more important to such brands’ KPIs that broadcast media. Philip Duffield, managing director of Adobe Advertising Cloud, EMEA, said the findings demonstrate that one-size-fits-all advertising campaigns are becoming obsolete in the opinion of all tiers of the market. He added: “Customers are increasingly moving from platform to platform; channel-to-channel. This creates countless opportunities to interact with your brand. To maximize these opportunities however – whether you are a brand or an agency – automated optimization of campaign performance is vital. The findings are based on an Adobe poll of 60 brand and agency clients in the UK, France, Germany, Benelux and the Nordics conducted earlier in December 2017, with the findings closely echoing those expressed in a similar study from the US trade body for marketers published earlier this week. The findings from Association of National Advertisers (ANA) asserted that more than 35% of brands have expanded their in-house programmatic media buying capabilities as marketers demand greater transparency. Earlier this year Adobe unveiled its Experience Cloud a full-suite of marketing tools, including enhanced programmatic media buying capabilities enabled by its 2016 purchase of video specialist demand-side platform (DSP) TubeMogul.
Stake sale raises funds to expand Indian weather watcher Skymet
The German government’s InsuResilience Investment Fund has bought a 26.8% stake in Indian weather monitoring provider Skymet Weather Services. Skymet investors Omnivore Capital and DMGT sold partial stakes in the agri-risk solution provider for an undisclosed sum and will plough the proceeds back into the firm. The company manages one of India's biggest networks of automatic weather stations, presently numbering 6,000 AWS units, and can detect thunderstorm patterns in real time. Proceeds will be used to expand the network and to find new business in the climate analytics, weather data, crop measurement and disaster management sectors.
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The company, however, did not disclose the deal size. Ernst & Young LLP acted as the exclusive financial advisor to Skymet for this transaction. InsuResilience Investment Fund, formerly known as Climate Insurance Fund, is backed by KfW, a German government-owned development bank based in Frankfurt and is managed by Swiss-based impact investment manager BlueOrchard Finance. The transaction saw two of Skymet’s existing investors Omnivore Capital and UK-based DMGT group partially sell their stakes. Omnivore is an impact venture fund and invests in startups from India developing breakthrough technologies for food, agriculture and the rural economy. DMGT manages a multinational portfolio of companies, with total revenues of almost £1.5 billion and has invested close to Rs25 crore in Skymet in 2014. Omnivore Partners, which invested Rs4.5 crore in the Series A round of funding for a 33% stake in the company in August 2011, also participated in the funding round of 2014. Skymet has one of India’s largest network of automatic weather stations (currently 6,000 AWS units) and provides lightning detection network, which allows users to track thunderstorms in real time. The company said the latest round of funding will help it to expand its AWS network and secure new business in weather data, crop measurement, climate analytics and disaster management, thereby extending its outreach. Skymet is one of India’s largest weather monitoring and agri-risk solutions company, with expertise in measuring, predicting and limiting climate risk to agriculture. Skymet provides climate, weather and crop analytics to insurance companies, banks, agribusinesses and public sector institutions in India. Skymet was started by its founder and CEO Jatin Singh in 2003 as a weather data service provider to television news channels and newspapers, which remained the company’s only business till 2006. The company has since then forayed into providing data to power companies and crop insurance claim settlement service. Crop insurance data has grown to be one of the biggest revenue earners for the company that is used for both claim settlement and other services. In a 2015 interview to Mint, Jatin Singh had shared plans to raise at least $20 million (about Rs127 crore) to go global with the company’s operations.
Ireland to remove height curbs, parking rules for new city homes
The Irish government is to relax planning regulations to make it easier for developers to construct high-rise buildings. The changes to be unveiled by housing minister Eoghan Murphy will scrap limits that prevent the construction of buildings higher than six storeys in some parts of central Dublin. Other measures include raising the cap on the number of permitted units per floor from eight to 12 and removing the obligation for them to have windows on two different walls and provide a parking space for every flat.
2017-12-19 13:55:42.010000
Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy is to announce a number of changes to planning guidelines largely in relation to apartment buildings. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins Height restrictions on residential buildings are to be altered to allow for easier construction of high-rise developments in cities across the State. Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy is to announce a number of changes to planning guidelines largely in relation to apartment buildings including the removal of a requirement to have car-parking spaces. He also intends to increase the cap on the number of units that can be on a floor for every lift or staircase from eight to 12. The necessity for apartments to be dual-aspect, meaning they must have windows on two different walls, will also be changed. Mr Murphy said the measures would address a number of challenges including making it more cost-effective to build apartments. READ MORE The most significant change is the removal of the height restrictions. Currently residential developments in low-rise areas of inner-city Dublin can be only six storeys (about 24m high), with lower limits in the suburbs. The Minister intends to remove that cap and instead use the suitability of the site as a guiding principle. “It was clear to me upon taking office that we had a particular problem in this area. While there might be plenty of cranes across the skyline of Dublin for example, the vast majority are building offices, not homes. We need to turn this around,” he said. Parking spaces The restrictions have been widely criticised by business leaders and developers who believe they hindered apartment supply. The requirement to have a car-parking space per apartment was also widely condemned and it has been claimed by the Construction Industry Federation that this can add up to €100,000 to the cost of building a unit. Under the revised guidelines, developers would have to justify the need for car-parking in central city areas. The Department of Housing has insisted there will be no change to principal quality safeguards, including internal space standards for one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments; floor-to-ceiling heights; or the storage and amenity space requirements. The updated provisions will offer greater flexibility in relation to apartment type mix, to allow more studios and different types of one-bedroom accommodation. The shared accommodation initiative will see the construction of high-rise developments catering for hundreds of people, with shared services offered to tenants. In the individual apartments, residents would have their own bedroom and ensuite, but would have communal kitchen and livingroom facilities. "They'll allow for 'shared living' options which I believe will be very attractive to our multinational sector with its young and mobile workforce," Mr Murphy told The Irish Times. "We'll see the right types of homes being built, with more studios and one- and two-bed apartments."
UK’s modern slavery strategy a failure: National Audit Office
The UK’s modern slavery strategy, launched three years ago, has been labelled a failure by a report from the country’s National Audit Office (NAO). The study found that the Home Office had an “incomplete picture” of how the crime operated and warned that progress was unlikely “until the government is able to establish effective oversight of the modern slavery system as a whole”. In 2016, there were just 80 prosecutions for 155 offences under the 2015 Modern Slavery Act. There are estimated to be as many as 13,000 potential victims of slavery in the UK.
2017-12-19 13:40:41.763000
MPs and rights groups have criticised Theresa May’s flagship strategy to tackle modern slavery, after a damning report by the public spending watchdog found it had failed victims. A National Audit Office report said the Home Office had limited means of tracking the strategy’s progress, an “incomplete picture” of the crime, victims and perpetrators, and that prosecution rates last year remained “very low”. The report warned: “Until the government is able to establish effective oversight of the modern slavery system as a whole, it will not be able to significantly reduce the prevalence of modern slavery or show that it is achieving value for money”. Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said that while the strategy had helped to establish the scale and international nature of the issue, a stronger grasp of the problem was required. “To combat modern slavery successfully,” said Morse, “government will need to build much stronger information and understanding of perpetrators and victims than it has now.” In 2016, there were 80 prosecutions under the Modern Slavery Act for 155 offences, the report found. The government announced the modern slavery strategy three years ago, and the prime minister introduced the Modern Slavery Act in 2015 to combat slavery, servitude, forced labour and human trafficking, and to protect victims. There are an estimated 10-13,000 potential victims in the UK, most frequently subjected to labour or sexual exploitation, or domestic servitude. Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, described the Home Office as dysfunctional and said the NAO report painted a damning picture of the government’s strategy to end modern slavery. She said: “It is clear that the government doesn’t have a true picture of the scale of the problem, or the perpetrators or the victims. “The NAO also takes the Home Office to task for failing to get a grip on the effectiveness of its spending, or even how much money is spent overall. Overstretched police forces also have highly uneven responses to cases of modern slavery. “Theresa May’s warm words about modern slavery are not enough. The government needs to take strong, coordinated action based on firm evidence.” The NAO report said the Home Office does not know how much money is being spent, or whether services meet care quality standards. It called into question measures taken to support victims. Safe houses for potential victims are not subject to care quality inspections or standards, and there remains “much more to do” to ensure they are protected, said the authors. Rights groups said the government’s lack of coherence meant victims were too afraid to come forward, as they could not be guaranteed support. Kate Roberts, of the Human Trafficking Foundation, said: “It’s frustrating that the higher-level rhetoric is not filtering down to an adequate service that victims can trust. If you are trying to gain the confidence of a victim you need to tell them what they can expect from the system, not that they might get support and might not. It’s very difficult for advocates to get the victims’ trust.” The NAO report highlighted shortcomings in the national referral mechanism (NRM), the framework for identifying victims of human trafficking or modern slavery and facilitating appropriate support. The authors found that delays in determining individual cases caused “distress and anxiety” to vulnerable people. Professor Kevin Bales of the University of Nottingham, co-founder of Free the Slaves, said: “I don’t see this as a failing report card, I see it as a check-up.” “Compared to virtually everyone else, the UK is ahead of the game. The difficulty for the government is not estimating the numbers but determining how you measure progress. It need a joined-up methodology, with built in evaluation and monitoring.” In a separate development on Monday, MPs called on the government “to be brave enough” to stand up for modern slavery victims. A report by the work and pensions committee found “inexcusable failures” by the UK left victims destitute while their abusers go free. Commenting on the government’s response to the report, Frank Field, the committee’s chairman, said it failed to measure up to the prime minister’s leadership on the issue. “The government should be brave enough to stand up for the victims of modern slavery, people made so vulnerable by such evil behaviour,” he said. The independent anti-slavery commissioner, Kevin Hyland, welcomed the report. He said significant progress had established the UK as a “world leader” in the fight against modern slavery, but that more needed to be done. “The Home Office has begun to address a number of the issues raised, including plans to significantly improve support for victims by reforming the NRM,” said Hyland. “I look forward to the government intensifying action following the findings and recommendations of this report.” Additional reporting by Rod Austin
UK’s modern slavery strategy a failure: National Audit Office
The UK’s modern slavery strategy, launched three years ago, has been labelled a failure by a report from the country’s National Audit Office (NAO). The study found that the Home Office had an “incomplete picture” of how the crime operated and warned that progress was unlikely “until the government is able to establish effective oversight of the modern slavery system as a whole”. In 2016, there were just 80 prosecutions for 155 offences under the 2015 Modern Slavery Act. There are estimated to be as many as 13,000 potential victims of slavery in the UK.
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Until the government is able to establish effective oversight of the modern slavery system as a whole, it will not be able to significantly reduce the prevalence of modern slavery or show that it is achieving value for money. Until the government is able to establish effective oversight of the modern slavery system as a whole, it will not be able to significantly reduce the prevalence of modern slavery or show that it is achieving value for money, according to today’s report from the National Audit Office. The Home Office has an incomplete picture of the crime, the victims and the perpetrators. Accountability within the modern slavery strategy is unclear, oversight of victim support is inadequate and few cases have led to prosecution. The NAO also finds that the Home Office has limited means of tracking its progress and there remains much more to do to ensure victims of modern slavery are identified, protected and supported effectively. The Modern Slavery Strategy was introduced by the Home Office in 2014 and aimed to significantly reduce the prevalence of modern slavery. The 2015 Modern Slavery Act made provisions for slavery, servitude, forced labour and for human trafficking, including for the protection of victims and for an Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner. The Home Office has laid some important foundations for achieving its goal to significantly reduce modern slavery. Annual adult referrals of potential victims to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) have increased substantially between 2014, when the Modern Slavery Strategy was introduced, and 2016, showing that more potential victims are being identified. It has introduced new legislation requiring businesses to report what they are doing to prevent human trafficking in their supply chains and published a typology of modern slavery offences and offenders in the UK in October 2017. The Strategy does not include measures of success for its objectives nor a definition of what success looks like and accountability for delivering the modern slavery strategy is unclear. There are a wide variety of public sector organisations delivering the modern slavery strategy, alongside NGOs, and a number of governance boards with different oversight responsibilities. The Home Office does not know how much is spent on tackling modern slavery across government, or how effectively this money is spent. The Home Office is not able to instruct how other departments use their resources but has a role in helping them prioritise. The Home Office found in its 2014 review that the NRM support system needed to be redesigned, but it has not yet made any changes. However, it did set up pilots of changes to the NRM in August 2015 and published its evaluation and announced reforms in October 2017.The NAO analysis of NRM data revealed multiple errors, making it difficult to use it to understand modern slavery crime. The Home Office is aware of these problems and is currently digitising the system in order to improve accuracy. It is taking the National Crime Agency and Home Office longer than they expect to decide whether people referred to the NRM are victims of modern slavery, causing further distress and anxiety to vulnerable people. The Home Office has not put in place a robust, independent inspection regime to check the quality of care and support provided in safe houses to potential victims and has no way of evaluating the quality of care provided. There are currently no minimum care standards for safe houses that support potential victims. Police forces’ approach to tackling modern slavery and the number of NRM referrals made varies significantly by region. There has been increasing use of the Modern Slavery Act to prosecute defendants, but there have been few prosecutions and convictions for modern slavery offences. However, as modern slavery cases take a long time to build and it is likely to be at least one year until the increased focus of law enforcement organisations is reflected in a higher number of prosecutions. “The campaign to drive out modern slavery is in the early stages. So far it is helping to establish the scale and international nature of this issue. To combat modern slavery successfully, however, government will need to build much stronger information and understanding of perpetrators and victims than it has now.” Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office Downloads Publication details ISBN: 9781786041654 [Buy a hard copy of this report] HC: 630, 2017-19 Press release View press release (15 Dec 2017)
Ad spend on programmatic in the UK jumped 23.5% during 2017
UK advertisers will have spent an estimated £3.39bn ($4.53bn) on programmatic ads by the end of the year, with 78% of it going on mobile ads, according to forecasts from eMarketer. It revealed 79% of all UK digital ad spend is on programmatic, a 23.5% rise on 2016, and the figure is predicted to rise to 84% by 2019, thanks to "better practices, better behaviour and better transparency", said eMarketer analyst Bill Fisher. A recent survey by QueryClick found 70% of UK brands would match or increase their programmatic ad spend during 2018, despite 41% having reservations about fraud.
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Colm is the editor of MarketingTech, with a mission to bring the most important developments in technology to both businesses and consumers. According to the latest forecast by eMarketer, spending on programmatic ads have showed strong growth in the UK, despite a stream of negative press. According to the date, by the end of the year advertisers will have spent an estimated £3.39 billion on programmatic trading. This is a 23.5% rise from the year before. Programmatic spend now equates to 79% of all UK digital ad spend. eMarketer predicts that this proportion will continue rising to 84% by 2019. Mobile is still the main force driving the growth of programmatic in the UK, currently making up 78% of the total 2017 programmatic display ad spending. This growth, however, is balanced by the continuing decline for desktop. 22% of programmatic spend went to desktop in 2017 (around £743 million), with a predicted fall to 13.5%, or £609 million, in 2019. “The programmatic ecosystem is growing because it’s maturing,” eMarketer senior analyst Bill Fisher said. “This maturation is leading to better practices, better behaviour and better transparency. Making everybody in the chain accountable is the next step in cleaning up programmatic’s image further. For example, the recent Ads.txt initiative from IAB Tech Lab is one such step. This tool essentially allows publishers to publicly declare the companies they authorize to sell their digital inventory.” Trust issues The continued growth in programmatic spend comes amidst a range of issues surrounding trust and the potential for fraud. Marketers have to balance these risks against the siginifcant benefits that the medium can bring them, namely more targeted and effective ads that seek out the right audience, at the right time, right across the web. QueryClick interviewed 150 heads of marketing at major UK brands and found that 70% were planning to match or increase their programmatic spend over the next year. This was despite the fact that 41% said that they had lost trust in the format due to the risk of becoming victims of advertising fraud. “Recent studies have put the cost of digital advertising fraud as high as $31 billion in the US alone. That makes digital ad fraud not just more costly than any form of cybercrime, but more costly than offline crimes such as counterfeit goods and payment card fraud,” QueryClick managing director, Chris Liversidge, said. “Technology may also be a driver of fraud. The large agencies that buy up the digital ad space also own most of the ad buying platforms (DSPs) whose weaknesses and lack of transparency enable fraud to continue. Many in fact offer minimal to no reporting on individual ad buys, only offering rolled-up reporting which obscures where any particular ad was shown. It would seem advertisers are waking up to this however. Nine out of ten brands to us that they believe the lack of transparency in their programmatic ad campaigns is because the ad buying platform is owned by their advertising agency.” Other figures that emerged from the QueryClick survey show that 40% of the major advertisers reported being confident that more than half of their online ads were being seen by people. However, only 7% thought that the proportion viewed by humans rather than bots was 80% or more. “Many brands operate in sectors where they are under pressure to perform in volatile market conditions and competition is rife such as eCommerce, travel and finance,” continued Liversidge. “If they can solve their programmatic problems, there is an opportunity for these brands to out-compete much larger incumbent brands with lower marketing spends. “They can also take steps to protect themselves. First, where possible, they should separate their programmatic campaigns so they are given the consideration – and performance measures – their growing size warrants. Secondly, they should unbundle their agency relationship from the programmatic platform, to enable them to seek out independent providers that offer true transparency and protection from the risks of current programmatic campaigns.” 85% of respondents thought that that trade bodies such as the IAB should have greater powers to monitor and penalize those that knowingly commit ad fraud. “There will be more initiatives to come, and as they come online, greater levels of trust will be placed in trading digital display inventory via programmatic pipes,” said Fisher.
World's first fully solar-powered train unveiled in Australia
Australia's Byron Bay Railroad Company has retrofitted a disused passenger train with solar panels that are capable of powering the vehicle over its 1.9-mile route. The train is fitted with an electric motor and a 77 KWH battery to assist the vehicle on cloudy days. 
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A World's First On December 16, a fully solar-powered train took a short but groundbreaking journey in New South Wales, Australia. The company behind the train, the Byron Bay Railroad Company, brought the vintage passenger vehicle back to life to prove that solar power can actually work for transportation. The train runs solely on clean energy — solar panels on its roof and at pit stops provide all of the power needed for its 3 kilometer (1.9 miles) route. The train originally had two diesel engines, of which one has been replaced by batteries and an electric motor. The other will serve as a backup in case of emergency, although the train will keep going under a cloudy sky, too, thanks to a 77kWh battery. The fully solar-powered train holds 100 seated passengers, with room for others to stand, and completes one round-trip journey every hour. Short Distance, Big Implications Powering cars with solar energy is a challenge that engineers have yet to nail. Cars require a lot of energy, zig-zag between sunlight and shadow, and start and stop all the time. Small vehicles are heavy, and the surface suitable for installing solar panels is too small to produce sufficient power. Trains, on the other hand, travel on a fixed route and can be quickly recharged at each stop using electricity generated by static solar panels. For that reason, they have been the target of several renewable energy projects. Since January 2017, a fleet of wind turbines have provided all the electricity needed to power the Dutch national railway. In July, Indian Railways debuted trains with solar panels on their roofs to power on-board services such as lights and fans. The United Kingdom is also looking into using solar to power its rail transport. A report by Imperial College London and 10:10 Climate Action estimates that solar energy could power 10 percent of the country's routes currently running on direct current. The Byron Bay train's short route makes it more of a proof of concept than a fully realized transportation revolution, but on a local level, it can deliver real benefits by decreasing traffic and getting the public interested in clean energy. One small step for this humble new train means a big step forward for the sector by proving that transport systems can be fully powered by the Sun.
Gene editing brings GMO crops to shops
Minneapolis-based start-up Calyxt is set to make history by selling oil made from soybeans that were genetically edited using its proprietary TALEN system. The company has already received confirmation from the US Food and Drug Administration that six of the 19 plants it has engineered will not be classed as genetically modified organisms, and therefore not subject to regulation. While some farmers are ready to embrace foods offering improved yield and profit margins, critics have warned that not enough has been done to study the effects of gene-edited crops on the wider environment.
2017-12-19 12:52:22.840000
The 4,000 bushels McHenry and I were sitting in, however, represent a new type of plant that’s been modified using gene editing. A startup had employed the technology to introduce changes in two genes involved in fatty-acid synthesis, so that oil pressed from the beans is more like olive oil than typical soy oil. McHenry first heard the pitch for the beans last December, at a hotel near the cooperative of South Dakota soybean processors. “We have something new and exciting,” a salesman told the farmers. “You’ve heard about the ban on trans fats?” Soybean oil has been losing market share since the U.S. government banned unhealthy fats created when soy oil is partially hydrogenated and turns to a solid (think Crisco). Those fats have been killing people. They’re bad food. Oil from the gene-edited beans could solve that problem, because it doesn’t need to be processed in the same way. Any farmer who agreed to plant the beans, McHenry heard, would be part of the wave of innovation filling store shelves with Greek yogurts, green packaging, and healthy ingredients. What’s more, it would mean a few quarters more per bushel. “You make a little more money, you have a great experience, and you are part of a revolution,” said the pitchman, Thomas Stoddard, a lanky biologist turned seed seller who visited McHenry’s farm with me. To McHenry, a farmer just starting out with his own acres, his own debts, and his own decisions, the pitch made sense. The Roundup-resisting beans his father still plants are expensive. What’s more, the tumbleweeds have evolved to survive spraying and grow as high as your waist. “Looking at the market as a whole, Europe and China are questioning GMOs,” McHenry says. “You have to keep your finger on what the consumer wants, and as a farmer, you have to differentiate yourself. If you are looking at a market that could be gone, you have to think about alternatives.” Jason McHenry on the South Dakota land where he grows soybeans created with gene editing. The new beans are the creation of a startup called Calyxt, located 300 miles away, near Minneapolis, where Stoddard works, and nearly a straight shot east on Highway 90 from McHenry’s farm. At the company’s greenhouses, thousands of plants are being altered with gene editing every week. The virtue of the technology is that it lets scientists create designer plants that don’t have foreign DNA in them. The technique, which adds or deletes snippets of genetic information, is similar to what could be achieved through conventional breeding, only much faster. In essence, if there’s some quality about a soybean that you like, and if you know the genetic instructions responsible, gene editing can move them to another bean in a single molecular step. To many scientists, the potential of gene editing seems nearly limitless, offering a new way to rapidly create plants that are drought-resistant, immune to disease, or improved in flavor. A supermarket tomato that tastes good? That could happen if scientists restore the flavor-making genes that make heirloom varieties delicious. What about a corn plant with twice as many kernels? If nature allows it, scientists believe, gene editing could let them build it. Until now, every successful GMO on the market has had as its objective increasing the yield from each acre of farmland. Marketing “healthier” food made from GMOs has been a taller order. But if gene-edited plants can avoid the stigma of GMOs, that could change. There is another reason gene editing is causing excitement in industry. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has concluded that the new plants are not “regulated articles.” The reason is a legal loophole: its regulations apply only to GMOs constructed using plant pathogens like bacteria, or their DNA. That means Calyxt can commercialize its beans without going through the process of permits, inspections, and safety tests required for other genetically modified crops. It’s counting on that to cut at least half the 13 years and $130 million that companies have, on average, invested in order to create a new GMO and get it into farmers’ hands. To GMO opponents, the new, unregulated plants are a source of alarm. For years, they have argued that GMOs should be opposed because they might be unsafe. What if they cause allergies or poison butterflies? Now the battle lines are shifting because companies like Calyxt can create plants without DNA from a different species in them. They can argue that gene editing is merely “accelerated breeding technology.”
Bloomberg launches ad-supported news network TicToc on Twitter
Bloomberg has launched Tic Toc, the first 24-hour video news network on Twitter. The ad-supported site will cover breaking news and global updates, while ads will include branded native segments. Bloomberg editor-in-chief John Micklethwait said the channel was in its "early days". Tic Toc is currently updated between 6.00 am and 10.00 am Eastern Standard Time, but will expand to be 24/7 in 2018.
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by Sara Guaglione , December 18, 2017 Bloomberg Media has launched what it is calling the first 24/7 news network built for a social-media platform. Called TicToc, the network lives exclusively on Twitter and targets “on-the-go, mobile-first news consumers” with global, general-interest news. The network is ad-supported, with a focus on branded native segments and other video ad formats. TicToc currently has seven founding sponsors, including AT&T Business, CA Technologies, CME Group, Goldman Sachs, INFINITI, SAS and TD Ameritrade. The social-video network aims to combine the reporting of Bloomberg’s 2,700 journalists and analysts around the world with the digital reach and speed of Twitter. Other publishers trying to reach a younger audience have launched daily shows on Snapchat, but this appears to be the first round-the-clock online video network on Twitter. advertisement advertisement “The news experience is designed to be interactive, rich with Twitter content and consumable on any device,” according to a statement from Bloomberg Media Group. TicToc features two types of content: breaking news and global news updates. Breaking news is curated and verified by Bloomberg editors in real-time conversations on Twitter and covers major events happening worldwide. The global news updates are hourly, short-form clips. Longer clips will also be posted to give context and deeper analysis to top news stories. Currently, updates occur from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. EST. In early 2018, they will expand to 24/7. Bloomberg is building a dedicated team of editors, producers, social-media analysts, product developers, engineers, designers and marketers to support TicToc. “We're seeing a shift in the media landscape today. More content companies are partnering with platforms to create hybrid businesses that better serve consumers and society,” stated Bloomberg Media CEO Justin B. Smith. Bloomberg editor-in-chief John Micklethwait added this iteration of TicToc is still in its “early days." It seems to be a rolling feed of different video programs on a variety of breaking news topics, as well as segments from reporters on the ground. Bloomberg live streams three of its daily Bloomberg TV programs on Twitter. TicToc was first teased by Bloomberg in May, at its Digital Content NewFronts.
Flurosat raises seed funds for drone, satellite crop surveillance
New South Wales start-up FluroSat aims to help cotton and grain farmers spot plant stress and signs of disease up to a week before the human eye can detect them using hyperspectral imagery. The company, which recently raised AUD1m ($770,000) from backers including Main Sequence Ventures, uses satellites and drones to take images of crops. The firm's FluroViewer platform also enables farmers to monitor and use fertilisers more efficiently, potentially reducing their use by 30%. FluroSat aims to expand its domestic customer base and its presence in the US following a successful trial in California.
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FluroSat, an Australian crop health software startup, has raised an A$1 million ($770k) seed round for its decision support platform for cotton and grain growers. FluroSat uses various remote sensing methods, including satellites, drones, and some aerial imagery, to capture and analyze hyperspectral images of cotton and grain fields to predict disease and help growers make decisions related to crop health. Investors in the round include Main Sequence Ventures, manager of the Australian government’s $100 million CSIRO Innovation Fund, Airtree Ventures and Australia’s Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC). Multispectral cameras can measure generic characteristics such as if a plant is healthy or not, but hyperspectral images can go one step further, and diagnose the exact reason for that state, according to FluroSat. That’s because the extra bands of light they can detect can be associated with specific physiological traits within the plant. Constant imaging available from a variety of platforms allows FluroSat clients to track the health of their fields over time. “You can pick any point on the paddock and the analytics will show you the trend so you can find which areas of the farm are underperforming and make financial decisions,” said founder and CEO Anastasia Volkova. FluroSat customers pay a fee per hectare, which includes drone and satellite imagery. If aerial imagery is necessary, there may be an additional charge. Growers using the platform, called FluroViewer, can also become more efficient in their fertilizer applications, reducing fertilizer use by 30%. The platform shows nitrogen maps and suggests exact locations for agronomists to take tissue samples. They then enter the results into the platform to further calibrate fertilizer recommendations. The fertilizer prescription maps that result can be integrated with other farm management software platforms in order to incorporate historical data. Volkova told AgFunderNews her platform can also predict disease five to seven days before the human eye can see it. “We really want to be tapping into the cutting edge of remote sensing and hyperspectral sensing and looking into the signatures that can hint where the early stress is happening. That’s the key,” said Volkova. “Ultimately, FluroViewer will be the only tool of its kind to proactively suggest management strategies and allow the users to evaluate the effect and the return of the on-farm experiments at a sub-paddock level.” In its first year, FluroSat has generated A$200k ($153k) in revenue monitoring 80 farms. Clients include Landmark, an Australian ag retailer owned by Canada-based major ag retailer Agrium. FluroSat will use the new funds to expand its customer base on in Australia and expand commercial operations to the US. After one successful trial in California this year, more trials will begin with US cotton growers in May. Also using hyperspectral images from multiple remote sensing sources is Switzerland’s Gamaya, which focuses on corn, soybean, and sugarcane.
UK public register lists fat cat-pay companies
The world’s first public register of companies that have ignored shareholder objections in relation to executive pay was published by the UK's Investment Association on 19 December. Of the firms listed on the country’s FTSE All-Share Index, 22% feature on the register, which was launched by the prime minister, Theresa May, in August. The register lists all firms on the Index that saw a minimum 20% shareholder rebellion against resolutions including those relating to remuneration packages and the re-election of directors. Companies named include the AA, BT, Burberry, Foxtons, HSBC, Morrisons, Mothercare, Sky, Sports Direct and WPP.
2017-12-19 12:39:14.640000
Several of Britain’s best-known companies, including Burberry, Sky and Sports Direct, are included on a list ordered by the prime minister of firms rewarding bosses with “fat cat pay” and representing the “unacceptable face of capitalism”. More than a fifth of Britain’s FTSE listed-firms are included on the “name and shame” register of companies that Theresa May said risk damaging “the social fabric of our country” by paying bosses too much money. May ordered the creation of the world’s first public register of companies that ignored shareholder concerns and awarded “pay rises to bosses that far outstrip the company’s performance” in August. She said calling out the firms would help tackle the “abuses and excess in the boardroom” and restore public confidence in big business. The public register was published on Tuesday by the Investment Association, a trade body of investment firms that manage the pensions of million of Britons. The register lists every company in the FTSE All-Share Index which has suffered at least a 20% shareholder rebellion against proposals for executives pay, re-election of directors or other resolution at their shareholder meetings. Companies on the register include fashion label Burberry, broadcaster Sky, retailer Sports Direct and Sir Martin Sorrell’s advertising company WPP. Others on the list include banking giant HSBC, supermarket Morrisons, BT, estate agent Foxtons, the AA and Mothercare. Chris Cummings, chief executive of the Investment Association, said the register “reveals the true scale of investor concern” and shows how many shareholders are “flexing their muscles by exercising their votes”. Cummings said the fact that 22% of companies in the FTSE All-Share are included on the list shows that “a significant number of companies need to seriously start listening to shareholders views and acting on them”. Greg Clark, the business secretary, said he hoped the public register would increase pressure on the “minority of firms that threaten the world-leading reputation of our business community”. “It is right that we review and refresh our standards to ensure we continue to have the highest reputation,” he said. “This world-first public register, does exactly that, shining a spotlight on how companies respond to shareholders’ concerns over important decisions, including executive pay packages. “This will help to strengthen transparency and corporate accountability and build on our reputation as a world-leading business environment – a key foundation of our industrial strategy.” The public register, which will be continuously updated, also includes companies that withdrew or amended pay packages in the wake of shareholder discontent in the run up to votes. It also includes companies’ statements on how they intend to address investors concerns. When she announced plans for the register, May said: “Too often in recent years, we have also seen another, unacceptable, face of capitalism. A minority of firms are falling short of the high standards we expect of them. Some have deliberately broken rules that are designed to protect their workers. “Others have ignored the concerns of their shareholders by awarding pay rises to bosses that far outstrip the company’s performance. “When big businesses are brought into disrepute, public trust in an open, free-enterprise economy is weakened. It is bad for individual workers and companies, but also damages the social fabric of our country. It emboldens those on the far left who hate to see business succeed.” May originally raised the prospect of a crackdown on executive pay in her Conservative party leadership bid in July 2016 in a speech that included proposals to allow employee and consumer representatives to sit on company boards, and make shareholder votes on executive pay legally binding. However, when a green paper was published in November last year the prime minister faced criticism from unions for backtracking on installing workers’ representatives on boards, while opposition MPs questioned whether enough safeguards were being put in place to avoid a rerun of the debacle at the collapsed department store chain BHS. Companies on the register include: Morrisons A 48% vote against plans – rising to 51% with abstentions – to increase the maximum long-term bonus for chief executive, David Potts, from 240% of his basic salary of £850,000 to up to 300%. Burberry A 32% vote against payouts to Christopher Bailey, who was giving up his role as chief executive to focus on creative work, over a rise in pay from £1.9m to £3.5m and receipt of £10.5m shares. Julie Brown, new chief operating offer, tried to head off a row by handing back £800,000 of shares and a further £1.6m of additional share awards. WPP A 21% vote against £48m for chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell even though the total package was more than 30% lower than the £70.4m he received in 2015. Sports Direct More than 70% of independent shareholders voted against a proposed £11m payout to founder Mike Ashley’s brother, John. The payment was blocked and the company said it now “considers all these matters to be closed”. Sky A 29% vote against £16m pay deal for chief executive Jeremy Darroch, largely because of a payout of nearly £12m under a long-term incentive plan. Only 51.6% of shareholders backed James Murdoch as chairman.
Self-driving cars to be tested on public roads in China
Transport authorities in China are to allow the testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads, it has been announced. The Beijing Municipal Transport Commission will license companies based in China to conduct tests of self-driving cars on some roads under certain conditions, set out in new regulations. These include a requirement for traffic accident insurance and for a human back-up driver to be behind the wheel to take over if necessary.
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China will allow self-driving car tests on public roads Companies can apply to test their technology on an approved set of roads. China is opening up its roads to self-driving cars. The Beijing Municipal Transport Commission released a statement today saying that on certain roads and under certain conditions, companies registered in China will be able to test their autonomous vehicles. Last year, Chinese authorities banned self-driving vehicles from the country's highways until new regulations could be created and approved. But those have been slow to arrive, which is why Chinese company Baidu and its CEO Robin Li came under fire this summer for conducting an apparently illegal demonstration of its driverless technology. The new regulations will allow companies to apply for temporary permission to test their autonomous vehicles on a yet-to-be-determined group of approved roads. The cars will have to have traffic accident liability insurance and a human behind the wheel to take over if anything goes wrong. With this development, China now joins a number of other countries allowing self-driving technology developers to test their products in real-life scenarios.
Comedy video network Laugh Out Loud aims for paid subscriptions
US entertainment company Lionsgate is aiming to increase the number of paid subscribers to its comedy video network, Laugh Out Loud. The service was launched with the backing of comedian Kevin Hart in August, and its app was downloaded 500,000 times within its first 30 days, according to its marketing vice-president Thai Randolph. It currently produces short social videos for platforms such as Facebook, as well as long-form programming for external partners. The $2.99-per-month subscription service offers members an ad-free version, and the company aims to offer further premium services in future.
2017-12-19 12:12:58.580000
Laugh Out Loud, a comedy video network from comedian Kevin Hart and Lionsgate, plans to make paid subscriptions a key part of its business in 2018. The comedy video network offers original web series, short-form social videos, TV shows, movies and stand-up comedy specials on its platform and social distribution partners such as YouTube and Facebook. It’s been building out a $2.99-a-month ad-free subscription offering since it launched in August. Since the company was primarily focused on building awareness as a new network, it didn’t heavily market subscriptions, said Thai Randolph, svp of marketing and monetization for Laugh Out Loud Network. “At launch, we deliberately tried to foster a community focused on great content and creators,” Randolph said. “That said, we want to make sure that we can provide a premium experience for those who want to opt in further.” While Randolph wouldn’t say how many subscribers are already paying for the ad-free version of LOL, the company said its app was downloaded 500,000 times within the first 30 days of its August launch. Randolph said since then, additional LOL downloads have been in the “six figures.” The next move for LOL is to give users a reason to pay, which will likely include a variety of exclusive programming as well as early access to other shows, movies and stand-up specials on LOL. The company’s membership model will also include live events and other experiential events products, which other streaming services such as Crunchyroll, DramaFever and Rooster Teeth have used to build subscriber bases. While it’s primarily a comedy video network, LOL is also building up a studio business within the company that can make and sell TV shows and stand-up specials to digital and linear TV distributors, as well as create daily social videos and original digital series for both on- and off-network distribution. LOL’s content takes the form of daily, short social videos for Facebook and other platforms; mid-form video series (with episodes in what Randolph calls the eight- to 10-minute “sweet spot”) for LOL’s site and apps; and TV-sized shows for external distribution partners. Randolph said LOL is setting up a digital content studio operation to boost the amount of content it produces. This includes creating roughly one to two digital mid-form series per month and four to six bigger projects for external partners. So far, LOL has released eight original digital series, including sketch show “Mo Funny Mo Laughs,” college comedy “Campus Law” and the branded series “Kevin Hart: Lyft Legend.” LOL has also sold “What the Fit?” an unscripted TV show starring Kevin Hart, to YouTube, which will premiere it as an ad-supported original TV show in early 2018. In addition to revenue from brand and product integrations, LOL owns the rights to these programs, which means it can find additional revenue streams in other markets or in later viewing windows on other platforms. Beyond video, LOL is working with Sirius XM to launch a new comedy radio channel next year, which will include original shows — including a weekly interview series hosted by Hart — as well as syndicated programming such as stand-up specials that LOL already has in its library. “We’re trying to remain open and fluid [to new business models] because we know the ecosystem can change,” Randolph said. “As long as we have a relevant brand and interesting stable of creators, there are a lot of ways that we can provide value to members and ultimately monetize our audience and IP.” LOL sits within Lionsgate’s digital ventures group, which is focused on investments in over-the-top and streaming video businesses. That said, Hart, the face of the company, is also involved in the company, meeting with department heads on programming, discussing the subscription strategy and choosing talent, Randolph said. “He’s not just asking for an update,” Randolph said. “He’s involved in the vision for the platform, not just from a comedy perspective, but also a business perspective.”
Half the world's EVs will be in China by 2020
Half the world's electric vehicles will be in China by 2020, according to a study by American consulting company AlixPartners. The research forecast that China will account for 60% of lithium-ion battery production by 2021. The report also predicted consolidation among China's hybrid and electric vehicle manufacturers, which currently number about 50.
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The future of electric cars depends on China, and the situation will be impressive before the end of this decade - half of the world's electric vehicles are expected to move on the China road network by 2020. This is the result of a study conducted by the American consulting company AlixPartners, quoted by Automedia.bg. It is also expected, around 2020, that almost half of the plug-in hybrids planned for production will be produced by Chinese companies. There is some conditionality here as it is about companies that are already producing hybrids or at least have a meaningful business plan or have secured investments. In particular, 49 out of 103 verified hybrid manufacturers are or will be Chinese companies. And third, China will dominate the production of lithium-ion batteries by 2021, accounting for two-thirds of this production, which is extremely important for the development of electric vehicles. At present, 96% of plug-in hybrids that are sold in China are produced there, which is no surprise given that foreign environmental vehicles simply do not receive state subsidies and discounts. According to the results of the AlixPartners study, it is to be expected that in 2025 on the world market there will be parity between electric cars and those with internal combustion engines. Serious consolidation of Chinese hybrid and electric vehicle manufacturers is also expected, as it is hard to expect that over 50 such companies will survive in a single market. And the state power in China has already begun to suggest that just consolidating the market will be the next step, but before that certain quota of electric vehicles and hybrids to be present on the local market must be achieved.
Online retail leasing platforms gain traction in Australia
Australian retailers looking for spaces to hire are getting a helping hand from online start-ups storematch.com and Lease Me. Both companies connect commercial property landlords with businesses in need of bricks and mortar. Storematch claims to have made 12,000 such matches via its platform in the past year, while Lease Me focuses on helping fashion brands, and numbers Westfield and GPT Group among its landlords.
2017-12-19 11:34:57.663000
Digital disruption is gaining traction in retail leasing with two online marketplaces aiming to connect retailers with vacant space in malls and shopping strips. The new start-ups – storematch.com.au and Lease Me – have already signed up large retail landlords including ISPT, AMP Capital, Scentre Group and GPT and their services could prove increasingly popular in years to come as Amazon and food delivery businesses like Uber Eats reduce retail foot traffic. Storematch was co-founded by four Melburnians including former Stockland leasing general manager Vaughn​ McGuinness and Jon Sully, co-owner of the Michel's Patisserie franchise before it was sold to the Retail Food Group. The pair are also directors at retail leasing consultants BDC. Justin Levy founded Lease Me to help fashion brands find retail space. Marketing itself as the "Tinder of retail leasing", Storematch claims to have matched 12,000 bricks and mortar retailers with "dream retail space" in less than a year. Landlords pay to list their vacant spaces on Storematch. Retailers confidentially enter their shop requirements – location, size of store and usage – while landlords enter their vacant sites. If there's a match the two parties are put into contact to negotiate a deal.
Rigetti uses quantum computing to improve AI
Californian start-up Rigetti is attempting to prove quantum computers can be used to improve machine learning and artificial intelligence, after successfully using one of its prototype quantum chips to run a clustering algorithm. However, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said Rigetti's algorithm "wasn’t of any practical use, and wasn't entirely clear how useful it would be to perform clustering tasks on a quantum machine". Rigetti, currently in early-stage funding, has also used its cloud computing platform Forest to develop a 19-qubit quantum computer.
2017-12-19 11:32:18.697000
A California-based startup, Rigetti, is trying to take quantum computing to the next level. The company wants to quantum computers can be game changer and be used to perform a common form of machine learning and artificial intelligence. Rigetti Computing is a full-stack quantum computing company. The company builds hardware and software with fundamentally new integrated circuits that store and process quantum information. The company has successfully used one of its prototype quantum chips—a superconducting device housed within an elaborate super-chilled setup—to run what’s known as a clustering algorithm. Clustering is a machine-learning technique used to organize data into similar groups. Rigetti is also making the new quantum computer—which can handle 19 quantum bits, or qubits—available through its cloud computing platform, called Forest, today. According to MIT, “the demonstration does not, however, mean quantum computers are poised to revolutionize AI. Quantum computers are so exotic that no one quite knows what the killer apps might be. Rigetti’s algorithm, for instance, isn’t of any practical use, and it isn’t entirely clear how useful it would be to perform clustering tasks on a quantum machine.” A lot of people may not be familiar with the concept of quantum computing. There is a popular saying that, if it doesn’t break, then don’t fix it. So, if the classic silicon-based computer has served us so well, then why do we need why do we need quantum computers? The answer may surprise you. The problem is, as powerful as conventional computers get, they can’t solve all the problems we need to solve. This may not be as apparent to you and me. Today researchers face problem with a growing complexity of calculations that their computers can’t keep up with. In order to make conventional silicon-based computers more powerful, there must be a constant increase in their memory to store more information and of the number of transistors to boost their processing power. The current miniaturization road is about to reach its limit and cannot continue forever. Otherwise, we may not be to achieve the Moore’s Law. This is the problem quantum computing is trying to solve. In today’s computers, all the information that your computer processes is coded in a binary system made up of 0s and 1s, or what we call bits. They work like a Turing machine, work by manipulating bits that exist in one of two states: a 0 or a 1. Even this webpage you are reading now is stored in bits converted by your computer’s processor into text and images. Quantum computers aren’t limited to two states; they encode information as quantum bits, or qubits, which can exist in superposition. Qubits represent atoms, ions, photons or electrons and their respective control devices that are working together to act as computer memory and a processor. Because a quantum computer can contain these multiple states simultaneously, it has the potential to be millions of times more powerful than today’s most powerful supercomputers. Rigetti was founded in 2013 by Chad Rigetti. The startup is currently in early stage funding. Besides hardware, the company also develops new algorithms for quantum computing, with a focus on near-term applications in computational chemistry and machine learning. Their product, Forest, is the world’s first full-stack programming and execution environment for quantum/classical computing. The company has offices in Berkeley, California. and Fremont, California.
Financial advisers open to performance-based fee structures
A significant percentage of US financial advisers would consider placing their clients in actively managed funds, adjusting their fee structure depending on how they perform, according to a survey conducted by AllianceBernstein. The survey found that 77% of advisers would consider such a fee structure. Additionally, 80% of advisers believe a market correction is on the horizon, with almost two-thirds of respondents believing passive fund products will be outperformed by their active counterparts in such an environment.
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Despite the increasing popularity of passive funds, 77 percent of advisors say they would be open to putting their clients in an actively managed mutual fund that charges passive-like fees, with higher fees when the fund outperforms its benchmark index, according to a new survey by AllianceBernstein. Nearly 80 percent of advisors believe the market is headed for a correction, and 62 percent expect passive strategies to underperform active counterparts in a down market. AB surveyed about 210 advisors at Schwab’s IMPACT Conference in November. Wealth Managers Have Nothing to Fear from AI There’s been plenty of hand-wringing about artificial intelligence and the future of wealth management, but the head of research at Clearview Financial Media finds those fears overblown. In a recent report, the firm finds wealth managers fearing artificial intelligence as a potential threat to their jobs, perhaps exacerbated by the fact that most of their firms have taken an interest in the technology. But at the end of the day, the researchers say artificial intelligence will be great at gathering and regurgitating data, but never in replacing the element of trust that comes with financial relationships. “The old adage that ‘people buy from people’ seems to remain true, and not just due to trust issues. Rather, it is that the human element of wealth management is where much of its value resides,” the report finds. Bloomberg Adds Cryptos to the Terminal Come one, come all -- @TheTerminal has officially added ether, litecoin and ripple pricing pic.twitter.com/RDGchH5QEP — Lily Katz (@LilyKatz) December 14, 2017 Bloomberg has added more digital currency prices to its terminal service. In addition to bitcoin, the firm has added the prices for Ripple, Ethereum and Litecoin, serving as a validation of sorts for digital currencies, according to Fortune. These “alt-currencies” have been gaining popularity with the price jump in bitcoin. Ethereum saw its price soar from under $10 to $200 in a few months, and is now trading near $700. Litecoin and Ripple have also experienced recent price surges. The prices for the cryptocurrencies on the terminal are drawn from Bitstamp, a Luxemboug-based digital currency exchange.
Beijing begins opening up roads for autonomous vehicles
Manufacturers of self-driving cars will be able to test their vehicles on Beijing's streets following an announcement by the city's Municipal Commission of Transport. It said China-registered companies that had already tested their vehicles could apply for permission to take them out on Beijing's roads. The regulator stipulated a human driver must be in the vehicle at all times. Every car requires insurance, and a committee of experts will oversee the testing. Baidu CEO Robin Li recently said mass-production of autonomous cars using its Apollo platform will begin next year.
2017-12-19 11:26:25.057000
Drivers in Beijing, beware: soon, you’ll be driving alongside autonomous vehicles. On Monday, Beijing’s Municipal Commission of Transport announced (Chinese) provisional regulations for testing self-driving cars on city roads. Companies that are registered in China and have tested self-driving cars in enclosed spaces can now apply for permission to test their vehicles on Beijing’s bustling roads. It certainly won't be the first city in Asia—or the rest of the world—to embrace autonomous vehicles: self-driving startup nuTonomy already operates in Singapore, and several U.S. cities are home to the cars of Uber, Waymo, and others. But the news is the latest sign of China’s commitment to making autonomous vehicles a reality, in hopes of alleviating congestion on city streets and becoming a leading technology power. In addition to purchasing insurance for every vehicle, the regulation requires that firms place a human safety driver behind the wheel who can take control in unexpected situations. A committee made up of experts in transportation, telecommunications, automobiles, computer science, and law will evaluate the road-testing work. China’s tech companies and carmakers have been waiting for this to happen. During an annual conference held by Baidu in November, the company’s CEO Robin Li said mass production of autonomous vehicles built using its Apollo platform will begin in 2018 (see "The Self-Driving Project That Could Help China Leapfrog the West.") Now it can test them where it matters.
UK house swappers seen as possible future of property deals 
Two UK families have swapped houses in what estate agent HouseSimple has suggested could be "the future of home-buying". John Davie saw David and Margaret West's home in Kinross, Scotland, on HouseSimple's website, and during a viewing, discovered the Wests were looking to downsize. The couple arranged to visit Davie's home, before agreeing to the unique swap. HouseSimple co-founder Sophie Gosling said the deal made UK property history.
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PA The West's and the Davies swapped homes in what is believed a UK property first David West and his wife Margaret, who were thinking of downsizing, ended up switching homes with a couple looking for a bigger house. Now it is claimed the “swap principle” could become increasingly popular as owners advertise for another home – and possibly save a small fortune on legal fees. Mr West, a duty manager at a student residence, listed his three-bedroom, detached family home in Kinross, near Perth in Scotland, on estate agents HouseSimple’s website in May. It was spotted by John Davie who immediately put in a request to visit the property. PA David and Margaret West wanted to downsize, but swapped instead The house swap made perfect sense as both our properties had what the other wanted John Davie He was looking for a larger house for his wife Kelly and their two-year-old daughter Lucy. Mr Davie went to see the Wests for a viewing. While he was looking round the house, Mr West mentioned he and his wife were thinking of downsizing because his two grown up daughters were “leaving the nest”. When data analyst Mr Davie then mentioned he had a two-bedroomed, semi-detached house he had yet to put on the market, Mr West suggested the idea of a home swap. He and his wife then viewed Mr Davie’s house – also in Kinross – and each couple put in offers on each other’s properties. PA John Davie Spotted the West's home up for sale and immediately requested to visit SUBSCRIBE Invalid email We use your sign-up to provide content in ways you've consented to and to improve our understanding of you. This may include adverts from us and 3rd parties based on our understanding. You can unsubscribe at any time. More info The move is said to be a British property first. Mr Davie said: “The house swap made perfect sense as both our properties had what the other wanted. “The process of finding David’s house online made it really convenient to find the property we wanted.” Mr West added: “The house swap allowed us flexibility on the move date. PA The West's new home, formerly owned by the Davies
Ikea ventures into VR to create games for new store openings
Furniture retailer Ikea has partnered with software firm Wavemaker to develop a virtual reality game allowing shoppers to learn more about the store's products, as well as sustainability and design. The system, which uses a HTC Vive headset, allows customers to play a pillow toss game or spend time with a panda. Although neither firm released details of how much the VR game cost, Noah Mallin, Wavemaker’s head of experience, content and sponsorship said the technology could enable the creation of personalised catalogues or include product placement.
2017-12-19 11:23:16.573000
Having already entered augmented reality, Ikea is now exploring a way for shoppers to learn more about its products in virtual reality. Working with the recently merged MEC-Maxus agency Wavemaker, Ikea worked with incorporated a virtual reality experience for one of its store openings in a Dallas suburb, immersing visitors in an Ikea world where they could play a “pillow toss” game with a coffee table or hang out with a panda inside a bamboo lamp. Nearly 300 people tried out the popular Swedish brand’s VR for the first time, spending between three and five minutes playing games, examining furniture or learning about sustainability and design. The marketing play is Ikea’s latest move into the world of digitally showcasing products as it seeks to help shoppers learn more about its furniture in a more experiential way.
GoCompare acquires MyVoucherCodes in £36.5m deal
Insurance comparison website GoCompare has acquired voucher code website MyVoucherCode in a deal worth £36.5m ($48.8m). The firm said the acquisition is part of a strategy of appealing to consumers looking to save on a variety of products. MyVoucherCode has 45 million visitors to its website each year. MyVoucherCode's existing management is understood to be remaining in place.
2017-12-19 11:20:24.640000
Price comparison website group GoCompare.com is buying the parent company of discount site MyVoucherCodes in a £36.5million deal. GoCompare said that the tie-up with The Global Voucher Group would boost its mission to 'help people everywhere save time and money', while upping its cross-selling opportunities. MyVoucherCodes is one of the country's biggest online voucher code websites with eight million email subscribers and around 45 million visits a year. Deal: Price comparison website group GoCompare.com is buying the parent company of discount site MyVoucherCodes GoCompare, which has seen its share price rise over 5 per cent to 104.63p this morning, will also acquire the company's subsidiaries, which include food discovery app Happiour and email marketing firm Revivve. Matthew Crummack, chief executive of GoCompare, said: 'We are making strong progress towards our ambition to become the 'go-to' place for savvy savers to find great deals, and for service providers to reach and acquire customers.' Existing management at MyVoucherCodes are set to remain in their posts after the acquisition. The deal is expected to boost GoCompare's 2018 earnings. Last month, Newport-based GoCompare, which is well known for its advertisements, fought off a takeover move from ZPG, which is the company behind uSwitch and Zoopla. Rejecting an offer of 110p per share, GoCompare said ZPG had undervalued its business. In November, ZPG confirmed it was thwarting its attempt to buy CoCompare for good. GoCompare, which was spun out from esure and listed on the London Stock Exchange in November last year, said today's acquisition will allow it to offer deals and incentives to people who use both comparison and voucher websites. In a trading update alongside the deal announcement, GoCompare said it expects its underlying earnings for this year to be above expectations, with revenues around 5 per cent higher near the £149million mark. For this year, MyVoucherCodes is expected to generate a pre-tax profit of £4million, with revenues of around £11.8million. The majority of its revenues are derived from the UK, but it also operates in Australia, Ireland, Germany and France. In its final report following an investigation into price comparison websites, the UK's competition watchdog said all such sites need to make it clearer how they make their money and to take steps to protect people's personal data. As part of a further investigation, the Competition and Markets Authority said it is 'opening a competition law investigation into how one site has set up its contracts with insurers, because it suspects this may result in higher home insurance prices.' The site in question has not been named.
WhatsApp ordered to cease data sharing with Facebook in France
France has become the latest country to demand WhatsApp stops sharing user data with Facebook, according to a notice posted on the CNIL website. The French regulator deemed WhatsApp's collection of business intelligence a violation of "the fundamental freedoms of users", as they couldn't opt out without uninstalling the app. In 2016, Germany and the UK made the same request. WhatsApp parent company Facebook was fined $122m earlier this year by the European Union over "misleading information" regarding the social media giant's acquisition of WhatsApp.
2017-12-19 11:19:31.747000
France’s ultra-strict privacy watchdog CNIL has ordered WhatsApp to stop sharing user data with parent company Facebook. The app has a month to comply with the order, according to a public notice posted to the French website. The query began after WhatsApp added to its terms of service last year that it shares data with Facebook to develop targeted advertising, security measures, and to gather business intelligence. Upon investigating these claims, the CNIL ruled that while WhatsApp’s intention of improving security measures was valid, the app’s business intelligence reason wasn’t as acceptable. After all, WhatsApp never told its users it was collecting data for business intelligence and there’s no way to opt out without uninstalling the app. That violates “the fundamental freedoms of users,” said the CNIL. European regulators have attempted to police Facebook in the past, especially when it comes to data-sharing. Germany ordered Facebook to stop collecting data from WhatsApp users in September of last year, and in the UK, Facebook agreed to stop collecting WhatsApp user data in November of last year.
Insurtech InsurePal launches ICO alongside product plans
UK-based insurtech InsurePal is seeking to raise £15m ($18m) via an initial coin offering. The fundraising comes ahead of the company's planned launch of a motor insurance offering in 2018. InsurePal will reportedly make use of the ethereum blockchain platform, allowing customers to establish "social proof" of their character via testimonies from friends and family, and receive premium discounts for doing so. The firm will only take on risk which has been "endorsed" by a third-party testimony. Endorsers are rewarded by being given tokens, which can be used towards their own discounts, traded or invested.
2017-12-19 10:25:22.420000
Peer-to-peer insurer aims to raise £15m in funding through an Initial Coin Offering. Start-up InsurePal has launched an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) with the aim of raising $18m (£15m) to fund its UK motor launch in 2018. The peer-to-peer insurer, which uses the Ethereum blockchain platform as a technology base for transactions, stated that it will offer lower premiums for those able to gain ‘social proof’ guarantees from friends and family. Key advisers to the company include former Direct Line chief operating officer Damian Arnold and Lloyds of London veteran Tom Manson. An
TalkTalk A+E Networks UK and TalkTalk renew deal for pay channel brands
TalkTalk has renewed a deal with A+E Networks for continued distribution of pay channels such as History and Crime + Investigation on its TV platform. A+E brands including H2 and Lifetime will continue to be part of TalkTalk's Entertainment Boost package, thanks to the long-term carriage deal. Will Ennett, acting managing director at TalkTalk TV, said the partnership meant customers would have access to more content.
2017-12-19 10:23:21.743000
A+E Networks® UK and TalkTalk have renewed their partnership in a long-term carriage deal, securing the continued distribution of A+E's UK pay channel brands on TalkTalk's TV platform. As part of the deal, HISTORY® and Crime + Investigation® are available in the Entertainment Boost, alongside H2 ® and Lifetime®. TalkTalk TV subscribers can choose from a wide range of UK premieres of quality factual and scripted entertainment across A+E's brands this winter. Highlights on HISTORY include: brand new episodes of critically-acclaimed drama Vikings; the return of global hit reality quest Curse of Oak Island; and a new series of Hunting Hitler, in which a team of experts attempts to solve the greatest cold case in history. On Crime + Investigation, a one-off special documentary Britain's Forgotten Serial Killer: Trevor Hardy, looks at the case of the 'Beast of Manchester', who committed three horrific murders in the 1970s. The RTS award-winning Robbie Coltrane's Critical Evidence also returns for a second series. Dean Possenniskie, Managing Director, EMEA, A+E Networks, said: 'We're very pleased to build on our relationship with TalkTalk, with our key channel brands moving into new, higher profile packages. TalkTalk's UK subscribers can continue to enjoy A+E's fascinating and entertaining line up of quality content across our pay channel brands.' Will Ennett, Acting Managing Director, TalkTalk TV, said: 'We're delighted to have extended our relationship with A+E Networks UK. With access to more even more great content, the new agreement is another step in our firm ambition to grow our TV offering. We're committed to making TalkTalk TV better than ever with a new suite of improvements that will continue to deliver what really matters to our customers - affordable entertainment the way they want it.' TalkTalk recently announced plans to transform its TV platform and revolutionise its multi-screen TV offering. Launching in early 2018, the new update to TalkTalkTV will see the integration of set top box viewing, the TalkTalk TV Store and TalkTalk TV's suite of mobile apps into a new unified platform - TalkTalk TV. The improvements to the TalkTalk TV viewing experience will make it even easier for customers to watch the entertainment they love whether at home or on the go. HISTORY is available on TalkTalk 327; Crime + Investigation on TalkTalk 328; Lifetime on TalkTalk 329; and H2 on TalkTalk 491. ENDS For further information: Maxine Sackey Consumer PR Manager Maxine.sackey@talktalkplc.com Tel: 02038029081
Redrow Approval granted for 99-home Formby development
UK housebuilder Redrow has been granted conditional planning permission to build 99 homes and construct an access road at the Andrews Lane site in Formby, Merseyside. The decision by Sefton Council has proven unpopular with local residents, who had lobbied for changes to the original plans, and called into question the standards of access to the development site.
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Controversial amended plans to build nearly 100 homes in Formby has now been approved with conditions. Sefton Council decided on the proposal on 5th December - which will see 99 homes built on the land to the rear of Andrews Lane. Approval has been granted for the development, which is the size of eight football pitches, providing it is carried out in accordance with the application and plans submitted. The approval is subject to the conditions. Construction of 99 dwellings comprising a mix of houses and apartments together with the construction of access road and the laying out of open space (to include the installation of an attenuation pond). During the site preparation and construction activities there shall be no machinery, plant or power tools used outside of the hours of 08:00 to 18:00 Monday to Friday, 08:00 to 13:00 on Saturdays and there shall be no construction activities to be carried out on Sundays or Bank Holidays. Formby Parish Council criticised the decision in August saying that from Formby residents point of view, it is an unpopular and controversial decision. Following submissions made by the residents’ action group and Formby Parish Council, a number of concessions were made. Residents in their submissions demonstrated that the standards of access to the development site fell well below Sefton Council's own guidance for adoptable highway standards and defied safety standards set out in the Department for Transport Manual for Streets, even though the new access point is on a busy school bus, walking and cycling route. It also contradicted supplementary planning guidance on residential amenity. You can view the conditions HERE Original story: An original application for 95 homes was rejected in December 2016 for reasons including inappropriate use of green land, concerns over flooding and the detrimental impact on the existing properties. Redrow, the company behind the proposal, has appealed that ruling as well as submitting the new plans, which originally involved 97 homes but has since been revised to 99. The development will feature a block of 12 apartments and a mixture of terraced, semi-detached and detached houses featuring either two, three or four bedrooms each. Thirty-one of the properties would be classed as affordable housing, despite the use of green land being given as a reason for refusal, the site has since been allocated for development in Sefton’s Local Plan, which outlines where 11,000 homes will be built in the borough. Two petitions had been given to the council against the proposal, but the plans were set to be given the go ahead anyway. Redrow states that it has factored the reasons for the refusal into the new proposal and this has been backed up in the planning officer’s report. The report states: “The principle of development is now established given that the site has been allocated for housing in the recently adopted Local Plan. The proposal will provide 99 homes in Formby, where there is a shortfall of development and include 31 affordable homes. “This in turn will assist in reducing the deficit in the Council’s housing land supply." “The other reasons for refusal of the outline application in December 2016 have been addressed. The access is considered to be acceptable and the off-site highways works will ensure that the proposal is also acceptable in highways terms. The introduction of an acoustic barrier for existing and proposed residents, along with the Construction Management Plan and working hours’ restrictions will provide some protection in relation to the living conditions of neighbours.” Residents, for whom there has been no public consultation , were left speechless at the Sefton Borough Planning meeting as the committee conditionally approved the go ahead for the development of the estate of 99 houses by Redrow. Despite standards of access to the development site falling well below Sefton Council's own guidance for adoptable highway standards and defying safety standards set out in the Department for Transport Manual for Streets, and even though the new access point is on a busy school bus, walking and cycling routes residents representations appeared to be ignored. Access is on a busy junction used by children from Range High School and St Luke's, St Jerome's and Woodlands Primary Schools to cycle and walk to school. In a 6 month period from Sefton's own figures the access foot/cycle path was used by circa 28,000 cyclists alone - yet Sefton did not classify this as being high usage! Sefton also ignored the fact that the proposals contradicted supplementary planning guidance on residential amenity. Sefton Highways attended the site to measure the width of the access path just 3 hours before the planning meeting started! The residents commissioned a drainage report. This area has a very high water table and regularly floods yet there were no proper plans concerning drainage and sewerage submitted. The residents cannot see how Sefton are acting to safeguard them. To quote one resident " We are just going to end up wading in foul sewage constantly - this already happens and it will be worse. It will happen on the Range estate now too as they plan to put more sewage into the pipe coming from there to the sewage works - but not pump it so it will just back up" Residents also queried why Redrow were measuring Andrews Lane with a GPS theodolite BEFORE the application was passed - with a view to doing work specified in the Officer's Report that had not yet been passed by Councillors. A local resident was told aggressively that they "did not like " the contractors because they "worked for Redrow" Sefton Planning Department ignored Local Plan Policy IN2 and dropped requirements for Redrow to conduct an expensive and comprehensive Transport Assessment on Hoggs Hill Lane Level Crossing. Residents are amazed that Sefton can agree a local plan and ignore it When Redrow suddenly put up to £500,000 on the table hours before the meeting there were cries of "bribe" and "bung" - another resident stated that the system lacked transparency and appeared to be biased towards the developer. The fact that many of the planning committee appeared not to have read the documents and not a single one of them addressed a question to Redrow left residents with no faith whatsoever in Sefton Council. The money promised by the developer is to contribute to installing a light controlled crossing at Hoggs Hill, residents had pointed out that the Network Rail Risk Assessment on which these plans for safety rely on come from out of date figures from a census taken in January 2015 - on a dark unlit path, before the Bellway estate was built and use of the path was significantly less. The residents also pointed out to Sefton that Network Rail actually recommend a footbridge!! Another resident, who did not wish to be named stated "Sefton are only interested in money from council tax - they do not care about the safety of our children, this will be another Fisherman's Path" Cllr Maria Bennett from Ravenmeols Ward said: "The ink is barely dry on Sefton’s local plan and Officer’s and Planning Committee Members are already ignoring its content. Residents made excellent submissions and worked hard to develop a solid planning case against this development. Their arguments were not based on sentiment but solid safety reasons why this development should not go ahead. The proposed junction at Andrews Lane contravenes the Council’s own guidelines, is well below recommended adoptable standards and relies completely on cars sticking to 20mph! Sefton Council has failed to enforce its own policy of making developers provide a transport assessment for a level crossing if a development is likely to have a significant effect on upon it." "The proposed mitigation for Hoggs Hill Lane level crossing is the absolute bare minimum according the Network Rail’s Safety body the Office for Rail and Road (ORR) who say “a simple renewal and retention of existing crossings should be seen as a last resort”. This itself was based on a report from Network Rail which drew upon outdated information, and then extrapolated upon it to provide a new risk assessment for the crossing. This is just the kind of practice that has been called into question since the tragic events at Grenfell Tower earlier this month." "What is the point of having a local plan, with polices that have been agreed by an inspector via a 6 week public inquiry to then ignore them, this could possible give rise to a high court hearing or judicial review of this decision which, in my opinion, is flawed. We should be making safety our number one priority and ensure that all developers carry out the relevant risk assessments needed in order for their development to get passed. We have already had several tragedies at Fishermans Path Crossing are we now going to wait until there is an incident at Hoggs Hill before anyone will accept responsibility for what they are doing. This should not be about money it should be about doing the right thing and the safety of our residents, especially children who use this crossing." Cllr Bennett went on to say: "It is no wonder residents have no faith in the Planning System, when the Council don’t follow their own rules, and the people who are meant to hold them to account do nothing! This is why, more than ever, ordinary members of the public should consider standing at local council elections. This is the only affordable way to challenge the decisions of planning section." The site has also got flooding issues as part of the site is in Flood Zone 3 having a 1 in 100 or greater annual probability of river flooding, however as we have seen, after the winter floods of 2015 it was widely acknowledged the concepts of probability of annual flood will have to be revisited. Redrow have, according to their planning application, added an attenuation pond to the area just outside the housing area. An attenuation pond is a pond which is designed to slow the passage of water from surface run-off to the ground/drainage system e.g. stormwater sewers. It does this by storing the run-off during times of peak flow i.e. heavy rainfall, and slowly releasing it at a controlled rate after the peak flow has passed. Although, according to Fragoff, the proposed attenuation pond is unlikely to provide sufficient storage to cope with additional runoff as it is situated in an area of the site that is saturated with high ground water levels throughout the winter. There is also issues regarding the traffic congestion towards the level crossing. Traffic at the railway crossing is already really bad, especially during peak times so the addition of a further 99 homes will undoubtedly add to this congestion considerably. We spoke to @FrapFormby and they gave us this statement: "Amidst the numerous smaller issues involved in this new application, there are three major concerns - 1) Drainage and Sewage: houses on Andrews Close only have soak-away drains. The new houses are raised to ensure that water run-off adds to the flooding risk for these and other local properties. Sewage already backs up in heavy weather raising manhole covers and making toilets unusable. Does anyone really believe that adding a culvert and pond to the plan will solve these problems? 2) Residents cannot afford to employ London firms to tell planners that it's OK to build a nice expensive estate on what is officially Green Belt land. This application started as 87 houses: the new application mentions 'up to 90' and 'up to 100' new houses, impacting on the environment, wildlife and quality of life for everyone. 3) The transport section of the application emphasises traffic on Elson Road and by the railway crossing. It ignores the creation of a blind junction on the corner of Barton Heys Road and Andrews Lane used by hundreds of children and their parents every weekday. This constitutes a genuine risk to children's' safety for all those who cycle to and from Range High School and those using the very popular cycle track. How long will it be before we are calling ambulances to this new junction?
Luna DNA looks to monetise genomic data through blockchain
San Diego blockchain start-up Luna DNA has raised $2m in seed funding from backers including Bob Kain, the former chief engineering officer of Illumina and the current Luna DNA CEO. The company aims to encourage people to share their genomic information on its open-source blockchain database for use in scientific research by offering tokens called luna coins, which have a real-world value.
2017-12-19 09:42:38.853000
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Luna DNA looks to monetise genomic data through blockchain
San Diego blockchain start-up Luna DNA has raised $2m in seed funding from backers including Bob Kain, the former chief engineering officer of Illumina and the current Luna DNA CEO. The company aims to encourage people to share their genomic information on its open-source blockchain database for use in scientific research by offering tokens called luna coins, which have a real-world value.
2017-12-19 09:42:38.853000
Strands of human DNA. Image via Wikimedia Commons Veterans of San Diego-based Illumina are backing an open-source genomics database that uses the same technology employed by Bitcoin. Luna DNA, a genomics and medical research database using blockchain technology, announced receiving $2 million in seed funding Monday from individual investors and former Illumina executives. The San Diego-based startup is a public benefit corporation empowering people to own and share their genomic information for medical research. Individuals will be given “Luna Coins” for contributing data. The coins are part of a blockchain and will have real monetary value while preserving privacy. “While personal DNA testing continues to rise in popularity, currently these data are siloed, hindering genomic discovery,” said Dr. David Barker, former chief scientific officer at Illumina and an advisor to the new company. “What makes Luna DNA unique is its consumer empowerment through offering reward and ownership for providing genomic data, which will be used to back scientific research.” The Illumina veterans involved also include Bob Kain, former chief engineering officer, and Scott Kahn, former chief information officer. Kain serves as CEO of the new company. A blockchain is a continuously increasing list of data records, called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography to ensure accuracy. Bitcoin uses blockchain technology to record transactions.
B3i blockchain initiative said to improve insurer efficiency 12%
Blockchain initiative B3i is expected to improve efficiency for insurers and reinsurers using the platform by an estimated average of 12%, according to analysis commissioned by the consortium. The survey, carried out in November, revealed estimated administration cost savings of $210m, while more than three-quarters of insurers and brokers, and 91% of reinsurers said the Blockchain Insurance Industry Initiative, set to launch next year, was relevant to their business. B3i, which is developing its blockchain prototype into a market-ready product, currently has 38 insurer, reinsurer and broker members, drawn from around the world.
2017-12-19 09:39:23.737000
As B3i, the Blockchain Insurance Industry Initiative, prepares to launch as a legal entity in early 2018, independent research shows a strong business model with adoption potential for re/insurers across all lines of business with an estimated average 12% efficiency improvement of cost in scope across the value chain. Market analysis commissioned by B3i and conducted by Stern Stewart & Co throughout November 2017 with 15 B3i members and 23 Market Testers estimate a $210 million p.a. administrative cost savings from efficiency improvements. 78% of insurers & brokers and 91% of reinsurers surveyed rated the platform as having a specific relevance to being highly relevant to their business. Based on stated volumes and market size, premiums that will be ceded to the B3i platform are estimated to be in the range of $80 billion – $140 billion. B3i is following a two-fold strategy of developing the first blockchain prototype into a market-ready product while building on the current membership size to fully penetrate the market. The report said that the consortium’s fund and activity within the insurance market will likely accelerate as prototypes mature into more compelling minimum viable products and as platforms continue to develop. With a current membership of 38 insurers, brokers and reinsurers, B3i forms the largest unaffiliated insurance market consortium so far in terms of global market share – measured by gross written premiums. 23 new entrants joined B3is Market Testing program,following the launch of a working market testing prototype at the meeting of the reinsurance industry in Monte-Carlo. The testing phase began in October, 2017, and included the creation and management of property catastrophe insurance and reinsurance contracts in order to assess post-placement processes. The consortium’s latest members include: AIA, AIG, Aon, Chubb, Covéa, Everest Re, Gen Re, Guy Carpenter & Marsh, JLT Re, Leadway Assurance, LocalTapiola, Mapfre Re, Navigators, PartnerRe, QBE Re, SAHAM Assurance, Sava Re, Takaful Emarat, TigerRisk, Trust Re, UnipolSai and Willis Re. IBM’s Insurance Industry Global Managing Director, Sandip Patel, previously told reinsurance news that the InsurTech wave will take off very quickly as “blockchain is going to do for transactions what the internet did for information and I do believe that in the insurance and reinsurance industry.”
AIA pushes for establishment of US regulatory sandbox
The American Insurance Association (AIA) has called for the creation of a US regulatory sandbox, where insurers can test digital innovation. Michael O'Malley, SVP for public policy at the AIA, said many companies are coming up with innovative ideas on approaching insurance, but can be hindered by the regulatory system. The AIA has put forward a legislative proposal to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners that would allow for the creation of an effective sandbox for insurers to test concepts in a supervised environment and without the risk of flouting regulations.
2017-12-19 09:33:58.307000
In December, the American Insurance Association presented a model law to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners that would allow for the creation of a regulatory “sandbox” in which insurers could test digital innovations without fear of running afoul of regulations. Michael O’Malley, SVP for public policy at the AIA, discussed why both insurers and policyholders would benefit from such a law in a Digital Insurance Q&A: Digital Insurance: What were you hearing from the industry that led you to develop this model law? Michael O’Malley: There’s a lot of interaction between innovation and regulation. Folks are coming up with innovative ways to approach insurance, but they’re coming up against a rules-based regulatory system. New solutions may meet consumer demands in some ways, but it’s a gray area against some of those rules. The NAIC seeks uniformity throughout the country, and its innovation and technology task force had on its list of ideas to review the regulatory sandbox concept. DI: How does the sandbox work? O’Malley: We presented a legislative proposal that would create authority that would needed for an effective sandbox, which has been used in Europe. It would allow an insurance commissioner to receive an application from an insurer or other licensee that says, ‘We can meet the consumer protection need of that law in another way,’ but still in a supervised environment. DI: What are some of the ideas that don’t fit nicely into existing regulations? O’Malley: Take an example of on-demand insurance. Say you have an expensive camera that you want to only insure when you go on an adventure. You have, on your smartphone, an app from an insurance company and you want to buy insurance for a few days. But there’s a lot of laws in the US that anticipate that a policy is a 12 month policy, and if you’re going to stop the coverage for something, you need to give 60 days’ notice. How does that work when the insured is stopping and starting coverage? You have consumers who are willing to insure things that way. So here you can test it and find a way to make it so that consumers are protected. DI: What’s the timeline for something like this going live? Do you think regulators are more receptive now? O’Malley: We’re engaging in conversations with various regulators now to insure them to have more urgency, otherwise they’re going to fall behind other countries that are encouraging innovation. It doesn’t move fast, but I am encouraged that it has moved with tech in the past. Uber’s a great example of a technology that moved very fast. It left their drivers with a gap under the assumption that a personal auto policy would apply, and it took a model law to fix it. Uber worked hard with the industry to figure that out. But think about how much more effective that would’ve been if you were able to first pilot test when Uber was coming out. Wouldn’t it have been better if you had a product before that first accident? That’s what we’re trying to say.
UK applications for Irish passports rise 75% since Brexit
Ireland has experienced a 75% increase in demand for passports from UK citizens since it was announced that the UK would hold a referendum on EU membership. In total 162,251 individuals from Britain and Northern Ireland have applied, compared with the 91,924 applications made in 2014. A Freedom of Information request revealed that €10,945 ($12,937) had been spent transporting postal applications from the London Embassy to Dublin between January and August 2017, leading to a review of internal processes to reduce cost.
2017-12-19 08:17:04.557000
Overall 752,296 new Irish passports have been issued up to December this year. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien / The Irish Times Nearly twice as many people in the United Kingdom are applying for Irish passports this year, than before the British voted to leave the European Union. To date this year 81,287 passport applications have been made from Britain, and another 80,964 from Northern Ireland alone. In total 162,251 individuals have applied for Irish passports from the UK, nearly double the 91,924 applications made in 2014. Overall 752,296 new Irish passports have been issued up to the start of December this year, more than the 733,060 issued in 2016, and the 672,760 in 2015. Another 29,600 passports are currently being processed by the Department of Foreign Affairs. In June 2016 the UK voted to leave the European Union, and since then the number of passport applications from people in Britain and Northern Ireland has dramatically increased. Following the triggering of “Article 50” this March, the UK is set to officially leave the EU by March 2019. READ MORE In Northern Ireland, 53,715 people applied for Irish passports the year prior to the Brexit vote, increasing to 67,582 in 2016, and 80,964 so far this year. In 2013 the department received 42,441 applications for Irish passports from Britain, which increased to 81,287 this year. The data on passport applications was obtained following a parliamentary question from Fianna Fáil TD Darragh O'Brien. Diplomatic Costs The department has spent €10,945 transporting postal passport applications from the London embassy to Dublin between January and August this year. In April alone the department spent €1,872 sending passport applications from London to Dublin via diplomatic courier. The cost of transporting passport applications to Dublin was released under the Freedom of Information Act. A spokeswoman for the department said the London embassy and the Passport Service are currently reviewing internal procedures to try and reduce the costs of transferring passport applications to Dublin, in light of the increase in applications following the Brexit vote. Any person born in Northern Ireland can apply for an Irish passport, and anyone born in England, Scotland or Wales who has an Irish parent can also apply for citizenship and a passport. The Irish passport will give someone living in Britain free movement between Europe after Britain leaves the EU. An online passport application service was launched in March this year, cutting down on processing times. The department spokeswoman said 11,000 online applications have been made from Britain between March and the end of August this year. The department’s current estimated processing time for normal first time passport applicants from Britain is a minimum of seven weeks.
Austria swears in far-right Freedom Party in coalition government
Austria has sworn in a new coalition government that includes the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) for the first time in over a decade. Sebastian Kurz, 31 and now Europe's youngest leader, was sworn in as chancellor after his centre-right People's Party won October's snap election. His party formed a coalition with the FPÖ, whose leader Heinz-Christian Strache became vice chancellor. Swearing in the new government, Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen took the unusual steps of making the leaders acknowledge the country's commitment to the European Union and reminding them they represent everyone.
2017-12-18 22:08:10.737000
BERLIN — A new coalition government was sworn in on Monday in Austria, and for the first time in more than 10 years it includes the far-right Freedom Party, a watershed for the populist movements that unsettled European politics this year. The return to power of the Freedom Party, which was founded by neo-Nazis after World War II, was concerning enough that Austria’s president, Alexander Van der Bellen, took the exceptional step of eliciting several promises from the new government before he would administer the oath of office. Those included acknowledging Austria’s commitment to European Union and its responsibility to a Nazi past that tore apart the Continent last century. Mr. Van de Bellen also reminded the new government leaders that they represent everyone in Austria, a rejoinder to a campaign characterized in large part by an antipathy toward immigrants.
UK will treat trade in goods and services as inseparable: Davis
UK Brexit Secretary David Davis will warn the EU that it cannot cherrypick a trade deal. Speaking after EU figures outlined their stance for post-Brexit trade talks, a top Whitehall official said the UK plans to treat goods and services as inseparable. The official also dismissed the idea that Britain will have to pick between a simple trade agreement, focused on goods, or a more extensive agreement within the single market and customs union. Instead, many foreign governments want a "fully functioning" economic relationship with Britain, beyond the more rigid suggestions put forward by the European Commission, the official added.
2017-12-18 22:03:59.940000
Brexit secretary David Davis will warn the European commission that it cannot “cherrypick some sectors” when negotiating a trade deal, according to a senior government official, who said the UK planned to treat goods and services as inseparable. Responding to EU figures setting out their stall, the Whitehall source insisted that while trade talks would be complex, “they either want to have a broad economic relationship with the UK, or they don’t”. The source dismissed the idea that Britain would have to choose between a simple free trade agreement, which would focus largely on goods but not on the services that make up almost 80% of the UK economy, or a more comprehensive arrangement inside the single market and customs union. They also suggested that ministers across government had held meetings with a “full sweep of EU member states” and were confident some would be pressing internally for the commission to secure a bespoke and strong deal with the UK. “We are regularly approached by foreign governments and businesses who tell us that they want a fully functioning economic relationship with Britain which goes beyond the more rigid and unambitious suggestions from the commission,” they said. Ministers including Davis are thought to believe that countries such as Belgium, Ireland and the Netherlands see trade with the UK as particularly important to their economies. As such, they would be nervous of any moves that resulted in Britain crashing out of the EU on to World Trade Organisation rules. The suggestion comes after Theresa May chaired a critical discussion of her “Brexit inner cabinet”, in which she and nine leading ministers discussed – for the first time – what “end state” Britain should be pushing for in the negotiations. The prime minister told colleagues that the government must aim high in the next phase of EU negotiations. But she is likely to face some division within her top team, which includes former remainers such as Philip Hammond and Amber Rudd and the key Brexiters, Michael Gove and Boris Johnson. Although the cabinet is united in swinging behind Davis’s suggestion that the UK will seek a “Canada plus plus plus” deal – adding services to the free trade agreement that exists – there are disagreements on how achievable that is. Sources said Hammond and Rudd argued for close alignment with European-style regulation at the meeting, with Rudd, the home secretary, suggesting that jobs in Britain could be better protected by a close economic relationship with the EU. However, Gove and Johnson were backed by the international trade secretary, Liam Fox, and the defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, over their desire to ensure the UK can diverge in the future. May’s position is less well known, although she told the group – in a boost for the Brexiters – that the UK ought to be thinking less about conforming to European standards and more about conforming to international ones. A key sticking point is likely to be whether the EU will allow Britain to have a deal unlike any other, which would include services to a high degree outside of the single market. Senior British negotiators are likely to draw on statistics that highlight countries that trade services with the UK in order to press their case. Internal government figures show that 10% of Polish exports in the professional and business services sector went to the UK in 2015, while in Italy, bilateral trade with Britain accounts for 15% of total trade in the accountancy and audit services sector. Meanwhile, 18% of Germany’s telecommunications exports were to the UK. The challenge for the prime minister is the pressure she is facing from MPs across parliament with differing views on what Britain’s future relationship should look like. During a Commons statement on the latest Brexit negotiations, May faced a string of interventions from Brexiters on her own backbenches who warned her against any move that could delay the date of Britain’s EU departure. Jacob Rees-Mogg hit out at the EU, claiming its negotiating guidelines undermined the “principle of nothing being agreed until everything is agreed” and would leave Britain as a “no more than a vassal state, a colony, a serf of the European Union” during transition. “I urge [the prime minister] to model herself on her predecessor, the late noble Baroness Thatcher, and show real mettle and steel in rejecting these hostile negotiating terms from the European Union,” he said. Others asked about plans to maintain the status quo during an implementation period, leading May to confirm that she would back a position taken by Gove to leave the common fisheries policy and common agricultural policy in March 2019. However, it is unclear how the UK would then honour its promise to abide by EU laws and regulations during transition. On the other side, May was hit by question after question from Labour MPs who fear that the Conservatives will row back on workers’ rights after Brexit – in particular in relation to the working time directive. The prime minister said rights would be protected, but would not make a specific promise on that regulation in the future. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn hit back, saying: “These rights help prevent workers from being used and abused by their bosses. The Tories cannot be trusted to keep them. As we leave the EU, only Labour will protect jobs and our economy.” May also responded to the EU warnings by saying that a member of EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier’s team – Stefaan De Rynk – had said the UK’s deal would be a “bespoke agreement in terms of trade”. The key commission adviser told an event in London that every trade deal was bespoke, but also made clear that the advantages of the single market could only be secured by accepting the obligations. De Rynk argued that the UK would have to accept the rules during transition, while losing a place at the table, and claimed that Brexit could not be a success because it was a “mutual weakening” in economic terms. An academic, Dr Peter Holmes of the UK Trade Policy Observatory at Sussex University, said that ultimately the UK would have to accept what the EU offered, but added that Canada was not the only template. “EU-Korea looks a bit more attractive than EU-Canada. It includes some services provisions and mutual recognition but offers less good market access than the European Economic Area,” he said. “But none of these models would allow an open Irish border as most people seem to understand last week’s agreement to require.”
Iraq to rely on drones to defend oil pipelines from sabotage
Iraqi oil minister Jabar al-Luaibi has requested that his department find companies able to supply the country with drones to monitor and protect the country's pipelines from early next year, according to spokesman Asim Jihad. He said: "We will use drones and advanced surveillance systems to protect oil pipelines from any attacks or deliberate sabotage acts." Iraq recently revealed plans to construct a network of oil pipelines across the country, having already lost networks leading to Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia as a result of wars and conflicts. About 95% of Iraqi government income derives from oil.
2017-12-18 16:38:32.317000
Iraq plans to use drones to monitor and protect its oil export and production pipelines from the first quarter of 2018, an oil ministry spokesman said on Dec. 18. Oil Minister Jabar al-Luaibi has asked the ministry to seek out professional security companies that can supply Iraq with drones and sophisticated camera systems to protect its pipelines, spokesman Asim Jihad said. Luaibi last week announced plans to build a network of pipelines which will carry crude oil and refined products across all its territory, as an alternative to expensive and hazardous transport by tanker trucks. The use of drones to monitor pipelines is common in advanced energy producing countries but a new step for Iraq which has seen attacks from insurgents on pipelines since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion which toppled Saddam Hussein. "We will use drones and advanced surveillance systems to protect oil pipelines from any attacks or deliberate sabotage acts. The minister ordered the use of the drone system as of the first quarter of the coming year," Jihad told reporters. The only international crude pipeline now in operation in Iraq links the northern, semi-autonomous Kurdish region to Turkey's Mediterranean coast. The country had more pipelines in the past—to Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia—but they were shut down or destroyed as a result of wars and conflicts. OPEC's second-largest oil producer, after Saudi Arabia, Iraq depends on oil sales for about 95 percent of its government income. The country exported about 3.5 million barrels per day on average in November. Luaibi will be visiting Algeria in mid-January and meeting with his counterpart and state-run Algerian energy company Sonatrach, which has expressed interest in investing in Iraq, Jihad also said.
US stores adopt Alipay, WePay apps to attract Chinese tourists
US retailers are cashing in on the opportunity to offer Chinese tourists the ability to pay using Alipay and WeChat Pay apps, which were rolled out across North America earlier this year. Stores such as New York's VR World and food outlet Mr Bing have reported an increase in footfall since adopting the Chinese payment apps, which control more than 92% of their domestic market. 
2017-12-18 16:27:51.377000
NEW YORK -- In China, Zhang Youtian does not carry cash or credit cards. Instead, he pays for everything using the Alipay and WeChat Pay apps on his smartphone. When he heard that merchants in New York, where he has lived for seven years, were adopting those forms of payment, the recent college graduate was excited. "If I saw that they had it in a store, I'd definitely try it," Zhang said. "It's convenient. You don't have to sign. Just scan and finish the transaction."
Thales Alenia to share expertise with Boeing for NASA programme
Thales Alenia Space has added Boeing to the companies it is working with as NASA partners on the space agency's Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) 2 effort. Thales is providing expertise in areas such as environmental controls, thermal controls and structures for Boeing, as well as Lockheed Martin and Orbital ATK. Its contribution is limited to research and currently does not include hardware. The three companies are among six that received NextSTEP-2 awards from NASA last year, most of which are working on concepts for habitation modules for missions beyond Earth orbit. 
2017-12-18 16:16:59.233000
WASHINGTON — Thales Alenia Space is partnering with three U.S. companies that are working on NASA studies of concepts for the proposed Deep Space Gateway, leveraging its expertise in space station and cargo module development. Thales announced Dec. 14 that Boeing was the latest company it was working with as part of NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) 2 effort. Thales has previously also been working with Lockheed Martin and Orbital ATK. Thales did not disclose the value of the individual contracts with the three companies. For all three companies, Thales is providing expertise in areas such as structures, environmental controls and thermal controls, said Walter Cugno, vice president of Thales Alenia Space’s exploration and sciences domain, in a call with reporters. The company’s contributions are currently limited to studies, he said, and does not include hardware at this time. Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Orbital ATK are three of the six companies that received NextSTEP-2 awards from NASA in 2016. The other awardees are Bigelow Aerospace, NanoRacks and Sierra Nevada Corporation. The awards are structured as public private partnerships, with companies contributing their own funds in addition to NASA funding, which has a combined value of $65 million. Most of the companies with NextSTEP-2 awards are working on concepts for habitation modules that could be used on missions beyond Earth orbit, such as the agency’s proposed Deep Space Gateway in cislunar space. The awards cover technology development as well as construction of groundbased prototypes. The NanoRacks award, part of a consortium that includes Space Systems Loral and United Launch Alliance, was focused on a short-term study examining the feasibility of converting an Atlas 5 upper stage into a habitation module that could be attached to the International Space Station or commercial station. The company said that study, recently completed, confirmed that approach was viable. Thales Alenia Space is taking different approaches with the three NextSTEP-2 companies it is working with. The work with Orbital ATK, Cugno said, is focused on adapting the Cygnus spacecraft for deep space applications. Thales Alenia provides the pressurized cargo module for Cygnus cargo missions to the space station. The work with Boeing and Lockheed Martin, he said, is based on those companies’ own, separate concepts for habitation modules. “We use our knowledge on thermal, mechanical and environmental designs and system architecture, but implementing that in slightly different applications,” he said. That work, he added, is informed by the experience Thales has from developing modules for the ISS. “We try to fit that into a very different environment,” he said. The work is expected to take place through 2018 and into 2019.
Ariane Group plans to launch 3D-printed rockets for ESA by 2030
Ariane Group is to work with the European Space Agency (ESA) on a partly 3D-printed rocket. The low-cost Prometheus engine will run on liquid oxygen and methane, and is intended for launches from 2030. It is predicted to cost about €1m ($1.2m), a tenth of the cost of vehicles such as the Vulcain 2. While Ariane has not disclosed its full range of design and production methods, it will 3D-print some components, including the gas generator.
2017-12-18 16:16:59.233000
The Ariane Group has signed a new contract with the European Space Agency for a next generation rocket engine. The contract, signed on December 14th, will see the development of the Prometheus engine, described as “a very low cost engine” and intended for launches from 2030. The economics of space are changing with enterprises such as Rocket Labs, Space X and Aerojet Rocketdyne aiming to produce launch vehicles that lower the cost of missions. Other companies such as Relativity Space are also using additive manufacturing as part of a vision of “scaling and sustaining an interplanetary society”. The Prometheus engine will run on liquid oxygen and methane, and is expected to cost approximately 1 million euros. This is 10 times less than current rocket engines such as the Vulcain®2. To achieve such a cost-saving Ariane Group will use, “an entirely new approach [including] the use of innovative design and production methods and tools.” Specific details of the production techniques are still under wraps, however the company has confirmed that 3D printing will be used – with the gas generator named as one of the 3D printed components. Testing scheduled for 2020 at DLR The contract was signed by Daniel Neuenschwander, Director of Space Transportation at the European Space Agency (ESA), and Alain Charmeau, CEO of ArianeGroup. It covers the design, manufacturing and testing of the first two examples of the Prometheus demonstrator. Once construction is complete the Prometheus is scheduled for testing in 2020, using the P5 test bed of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Lampoldshausen, Germany. The Prometheus engine marks a switch from previous propellants used by Ariane. The current liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen combination will be replaced by a mix of liquid oxygen and methane. Other changes will include the “digitalization of engine control and diagnostics, and manufacturing using 3D printing in a connected factory environment.” Nominate the best additive innovations in the the second annual 3D Printing Industry Awards now. To be the first with all the latest 3D printer releases, subscribe to the free 3D Printing Industry newsletter, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.
National Australia Bank ceases lending to new coal projects
National Australia Bank has announced plans to end all lending to new thermal coal mining projects. In a statement, the bank said that a transition to a low-carbon Australia was required for the good of the economy. The bank is the first in Australia to begin phasing out funding for thermal coal mining, though it will continue to find existing projects.
2017-12-18 14:35:20.583000
National Australia Bank says it will halt all lending for new thermal coal mining projects, becoming the first major Australian bank to phase out support of thermal coal mining. While the bank will continue providing finance for coal projects already on its books, NAB said an orderly transition to a low-carbon Australia was critical for the economy and for continued access to secure and affordable energy. “While we will continue to support our existing customers across the mining and energy sectors, including those with existing coal assets, NAB will no longer finance new thermal coal mining projects,” the bank said in a statement on Thursday. The news was welcomed by environmental groups. “This is a market-leading position for an Australian bank and is even stronger than the position taken by Commonwealth Bank last month because it is formal policy,” Greenpeace campaigner Jonathan Moylan said. The Commonwealth Bank indicated to shareholders in November that it would not fund new, large coal projects, saying its support for coal would continue to decline as it helps finance the transition to a low-carbon economy. ING has promised to phase out coal within a decade and has committed to stop funding any utility company which relies on coal for more than 5% of its energy. ANZ and Westpac both have policies that limit lending to new coal projects under certain conditions. “NAB has lifted the bar above its competitors by becoming the first major bank to end lending to all new thermal coal mining,” said Julien Vincent, executive director of environmental finance advocates Market Forces. “This policy means NAB joins the ranks of dozens of banks and insurance companies globally that are withdrawing from this most climate-polluting of industries.” The World Bank has also announced it will “no longer finance upstream oil and gas, after 2019” in an effort to be consistent with the Paris Agreement goal of limiting warming to 1.5C. “It’s time for ANZ and Westpac to do the same and rule out investing in new coal projects,” Moylan said. Last month, Australia’s financial regulator warned banks, lenders and insurers that they had to do more to reduce risk relating to climate change, and flagged the possibility of “regulatory action” if they didn’t act.
UK companies, fearing ransomware attacks, hoard bitcoin
UK firms are opening bitcoin wallets and purchasing bitcoin in the expectation of a ransomware attack. The currency would be used to pay off the hackers, who usually demand bitcoin as a means of payment. According to Paul Taylor, former Ministry of Defence cyber chief, the trend is a response to the expense and difficulty of reporting attacks to the authorities, combined with the global rise in cyber attacks and the inflating value of bitcoin. The annual cost of cybersecurity is expected to reach $6tn globally by 2021.
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Dive Brief: Cybercrime is expected to incur annual global costs above $6 trillion by 2021, rising in conjunction with cybersecurity costs, according to a Cybersecurity Ventures report. Cumulative cybersecurity spending is expected to top $1 trillion over the next five years. By next year, spending is expected to rise from 2017's $86.4 billion to $93 billion. Cybercrimes are the fastest-growing crime as size, sophistication and cost rise, reports CNBC. Data breaches increased in size 1.8% in 2017, which amounts to an average of more than 24,000 records per breach. As ransomware attacks are expected to hit an organization every 14 seconds by 2019, a severe shortage in cybersecurity labor — expected to reach 3.5 million unfilled positions by 2021, compared to 2014's $1 million — may be the greatest threat to cybersecurity, according to Cybersecurity Ventures. But 2018 may be the "Year of Security Awareness Training" as cybersecurity programs for employees rises to $10 billion over the next decade. Dive Insight: Between learning just how bad years-old data breaches were and combing through endless reports on new ones, 2017 was not the most optimistic year for cybersecurity. And reports like this paint a bleak picture of the future. Millennials and women, two underrepresented groups in the cybersecurity workforce, will be key in combating the shortage of security professionals. But adequate, let alone great, cybersecurity requires equal measures of quantity and quality. Human error, from an overlooked patch to clicking on a seemingly innocuous email, can cause devastating effects for a company, economy and nation. Improving baseline cybersecurity practices through routine employee training and retraining is critical for companies moving forward. Costs in the trillions of dollars and record losses in the tens of thousands are hard foes to stand up against alone. CIOs, CSOs and other decision makers should also focus on a comprehensive protocol and a comprehensive plan of action to assess the situation, fortify exploited weaknesses and disclose to the appropriate authorities. After all, a botched handling of a breach can hit the recovery and company reputation just as hard.
Indonesia seeking to capitalise on Chinese tourism surge
Indonesia is looking to capitalise on a surge in Chinese overseas tourism with plans to tailor new packages for its biggest travel market. Tourism minister Arief Yahya said he expected five million Chinese visitors by 2019 from an estimated two million this year. The minister also said he hoped to attract Chinese travellers to more locations within the archipelago.
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Source: Xinhua| 2017-12-16 00:17:50|Editor: Mu Xuequan Video Player Close JAKARTA, Dec. 15 (Xinhua) -- As influx of Chinese tourists to Indonesia continued to grow in recent years, Indonesia is keen to expand cooperation in tourism with China to facilitate Chinese tourists and create attractive tour packages for them, an Indonesia minister said on Friday. Tourism Minister Arief Yahya told Xinhua in an exclusive interview that Indonesia had received 1.8 million Chinese tourists as of October and the figure was expected to reach more than 2 million ones in 2017. "The growth was 45 percent, compared to their arrival figure in the corresponding period last year," the minister said, citing the influx of Chinese tourists to Indonesia during the period. He added that Chinese tourists contributed the most to Indonesia's foreign tourist figure at present, surpassing Singapore, Malaysia and Australia which used to dominate the figure previously. He added that his ministry has set target to receive 5 million Chinese tourists, or 25 percent from the 20 million foreign tourists target by 2019. Indonesia expects to receive 3.5 million Chinese tourists from 17 million foreign tourists targeted for next year, he said. Conveying Indonesia's efforts to attract more tourists from China, the minister said that his ministry has been actively made promotions to attract more Chinese to spend the Spring Festival holiday in Indonesia. "We did the promotion related to Chinese's Spring Festival since November," he said. To achieve the tourism targets and provide more accommodation for Chinese tourists, the minister said Indonesia would provide more Mandarin-speaking guides, to support more direct flights from China to more of Indonesian cities. "We already asked for assistance from Chinese consulate general office in Denpasar to teach Mandarin language to our guides and sent students to China to learn the language and how to serve Chinese tourists," he added. The minister also expected Chinese investors to take part in Indonesia's plan to develop more destinations, called 10 New Bali, and integrated sea transportation system which he believed will integrate with China's Belt and Road Initiative. The initiative "fits with our development of marine tourism. As we are in this field, we give full support for the initiative," the minister said. The minister planned to build a tour package in observing China's ancient navy commander Zheng He and his voyage throughout Indonesia centuries ago. "Zheng He is also very famous in Indonesia. We can start by developing tourism package of Zheng He," he said. According to the minister, Zheng visited 10 cities in Indonesia that spanned from Batam to Bali. Conveying his plan, the tour packages can be accommodated through flights as well as cruise ships that starts from Batam and ends in Bali.
German carmakers targeting Chinese luxury market
German carmakers are targeting the growing luxury car market in China, with BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz experiencing significant growth. BMW sales rose 12% to 55,293 cars, making it the top-selling luxury brand this year. Audi saw 6.5% percent growth to 56,208 cars and Mercedes-Benz posted a 22% surge to 50,813 sales.
2017-12-18 14:17:06.727000
BMW's sales in China rose 12 percent in November to 55,293 vehicles -- a result that positions the automaker to be China's top-selling luxury brand this year. In the same period, Audi sales rose 6.5 percent to 56,208 units while Mercedes-Benz's brand registrations increased 22 percent to 50,813. Although Audi outsold its rivals in November, it is still trying to recoup the sales it lost earlier this year when dealers were boycotting the brand. Audi planned to launch a second distribution channel in China, angering some dealers, who dropped a boycott in May after Audi canceled the controversial plan. Audi sales have been rising since then, but it has yet to catch up to BMW or Mercedes for the year to date. For the first 11 months, BMW sales are up 15 percent to 542,362 units, while Audi volume is down 2.1 percent to 528,706. Mercedes, formerly China's No. 3 luxury brand, increased its sales 27 percent to 539,728 units. BMW is taking a number of steps to boost sales. The company is holding talks with Great Wall Motor to form a joint venture to produce cars in China for the Mini brand. This month, BMW also is launching a car-sharing program that employs a small fleet of electric i3 models in Chengdu. If successful, BMW could expand its car-sharing program to help meet China's tough EV mandates in 2019.
AI startup achieves 95% accuracy when spotting asphyxia in babies
Nigerian start-up Ubenwa claims to detect child birth asphyxia with 95% accuracy. Birth asphyxia is behind nearly a million neonatal deaths each year, according to the World Health Organisation. But detecting the condition is a challenge in parts of Africa, where the focus usually shifts to cultural or religious rites after the birth of a child. Ubenwa's Android app uses machine learning and techniques developed for speech recognition to analyse the sound of an infant's cry and provides instant diagnosis. It is currently undergoing clinical validation tests in Nigeria and Canada.
2017-12-18 13:51:03.207000
A Nigerian startup has developed a machine learning system to detect child birth asphyxia earlier and hopes to save thousands of babies’ lives every year when its technology is deployed. The founders say the AI solution has achieved over 95% prediction accuracy in trials with nearly 1,400 pre-recorded baby cries. The startup is now raising funds to acquire more data to improve accuracy and obtain clinical approval from health institutions. Advertisement The young startup is already garnering international attention and is in the second round for the global IBM Watson AI XPRIZE competition, which has a $5 million prize. Birth asphyxia is the third highest cause of under-five child deaths and is responsible for almost one million neonatal deaths annually, according to WHO. It has also been linked to 1.1 million intrapartum stillbirths, long-term neurological disability and impairment. Dr. Victoria Feyikemi a physician at Babcock University Teaching Hospital in Ogun state, southwest Nigeria said the condition could be a manifestation of the immaturity of a baby’s respiratory system. “They often present with slow irregular respiration, reduced activity and reduced heart rate,” she said. Detecting the condition is a challenge in Nigeria and other parts of Africa where the focus usually shifts to preparation for religious and cultural rites right after a child is born. Feyikemi said medical expertise is needed to positively establish diagnosis using blood gas analysis, administer oxygen support and to treat the underlying cause. Advertisement Currently deployed as an embedded model on an Android app, Ubenwa, which means baby’s cry, helps parents and caregivers detect asphyxia earlier, without having to wait on doctors. Charles Onu, Ubenwa’s founder and principal innovator, explained that the startup’s machine learning system takes an infant’s cry as input, analyses the amplitude and frequency patterns of the cry and provides instant diagnosis of birth asphyxia. Although the condition is detectable, Onu said few public hospital in the country had the equipment due to its high cost, poor electricity service and an unrealistic routine application for every child. Ubenwa’s co-founder and engineering lead, Udeogu Innocent, said after being able to achieve a level of success with the model, the startup then deployed its technology to a mobile app for easier mobile diagnosis of birth asphyxia. It builds on techniques that have been developed for speech recognition. Advertisement The Ubenwa team is conducting clinical validation exercises in Nigeria at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital and in Canada at the McGill University Health Centre. “We want to do the tests in the hospital, interact directly with the babies, and compare how Ubenwa performs given all the new environmental challenges that would come up. The reason we are able to pursue this real-time validation in the clinical setting is as a result of the success of our earlier work,” Onu said. The company is yet to figure out a definitive monetization business strategy. “We are still finalizing a hybrid model. But in the meantime, we are planning to make it free for individuals and paid for organizations such as hospitals, clinics, governments, and others),” Onu said. Advertisement *Correction: A previous version of this story said Ubenwa is in the final round of the XPRIZE competition. It has been corrected to show it is in the second round.
The Telegraph aims for 10 million registered users
UK newspaper The Telegraph is emulating the New York Times and The Guardian by focusing on driving registered users, setting a target of 10 million, according to a letter from CEO Nick Hugh. He said the paper would hire 39 more editorial staff and focus on six key content areas, including sport, culture and politics. The paper, which switched to a hybrid model for its website in 2016, said registered user numbers grew 300% in the four months after the pivot away from a full paywall, while comscore said The Telegraph drew 23 million monthly visitors in October.
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The Telegraph wants to grow its registered readers to 10 million. The goal is to shift away from valuing mass-reach audience numbers in favor of building a more loyal readership of logged-in users. The benefits of doing so are clear. Advertisers will always want more detailed first-party audience data to improve campaign targeting, and registered users tend to be more ripe for converting into paying subscribers than flyby readers. That’s why there has been a flurry of registered-user drives at publishers such as The Times of London over the last year. To get itself to 10 million, the publisher will invest in its newsroom, hiring 39 additional editorial staff. The publisher has identified six areas that it believes will help cultivate registrations and in which it wants to thrive: politics, sports, luxury and lifestyle, business of technology, money and travel. “A registered reader — as opposed to an anonymous one — is far more valuable to the business than the vast majority of our audience as it stands now,” wrote The Telegraph’s CEO, Nick Hugh, in a letter to staff. The publisher will also restructure teams internally to place its journalists closer to developers, data scientists, analysts and engineers in the office, though it’s not ready to give specific details. New editorial products like newsletters, events and messaging products will follow next year, though details are scant. The changes described in Hugh’s message to staff are The Telegraph’s biggest since it dropped its metered paywall model in 2016 in favor of a hybrid model, in which 20 percent of content is behind a paywall and the rest is open-access. The Telegraph wouldn’t confirm latest subscriber or registered-user numbers, saying only that they’d grown by some 300 percent four months after dropping the metered paywall. Naturally, both will be much lower than the bulk of its audience that consumes content for free, which was 23 million monthly visitors in October, according to comScore. Monetizing digital ads is tough, particularly display, which Google and Facebook heavily dominate. That continued pressure on publishers’ digital ad revenues is causing many to embrace more reader-revenue models. The New York Times has undergone a total pivot to reader revenue, and the Guardian also generates more money from its paying members and donors than it does from advertising. Now, The Telegraph wants a piece of the action. “The Telegraph has clearly looked at the success of The Washington Post and New York Times and is trying to follow their example: invest in journalism to attract paying members,” said Joe Evans, media analyst at Enders Analysis. “The [six] verticals they’re concentrating on will form the core proposition to get subscribers through the door; then, they can cross-subsidize by serving those readers profitable sponsored content or affiliate links in the high-value categories the editor name-checks: luxury and lifestyle, technology, money and travel.” The shift to a product-first quality consumer proposition that motivates logins seems sensible on paper. To entice people to register, and potentially ultimately subscribe, the newspaper will need to do more than ever to stand out against local competitors with equally ambitious propositions. “The question is whether the paper can really commit to the strategy. Is 39 new editorial roles much compared to the rounds of layoffs the business has undertaken when it was in cost-minimization mode?” said Evans. “Will they be able to stop worrying about day-to-day traffic numbers? The concern for traffic has led many news outlets to concentrate on entertainment, celebrity and overblown opinion pieces, things which get readers onto the site but don’t convert them to loyal, registered or paying readers, and it will remain very tempting to chase those numbers on a piece-by-piece basis.” There has never been more pressure for publishers to prove their own audience data is unique. Likewise, it’s just as competitive for publishers pitching branded content briefs. Therefore, any major difference in approach to areas like platform partnerships and new device innovation attract agency attention. “The Telegraph has taken a very different road to the likes of the Guardian, for instance, on its relationship with platforms, and in particular, Apple News, and that helps it stand out,” said Julian Purnell, partnerships and emerging media director at digital media agency Essence. “The fact it’s now gone in early to experiment with the Amazon Echo show is interesting because brands are still unsure of how to tap the smart-speaker space and how to monetize or capture an audience there. The Telegraph could have first-mover advantage there.”
Scientists create floating solar rig to turn water into energy
US researchers have developed a "solar rig" - a sea-borne platform that uses sunlight to convert water into hydrogen energy. Experiments at Columbia Engineering achieved the "first demonstration of a practical, membraneless floating photovoltaic-electrolyser system", according to an article in the International Journal of Hydrogen Energy. The system uses technology that slashes the cost of the process and reduces the amount of CO2 waste. The team believes its system brings the possibility of scalable seawater electrolysis a step closer.
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Two mesh electrodes are held at a narrow separation distance (L), and generate H2 and O2 gases concurrently. The key innovation is the asymmetric placement of the catalyst on the outward facing surfaces of the mesh, such that the generation of bubbles is constrained to this region. When the gas bubbles detach, their buoyancy causes them to float upward into separate collection chambers.Image credit: Credit: Daniel Esposito/Columbia Engineering In a single hour, more energy from the sun hits the Earth than all the energy used by humankind in an entire year. Imagine if the sun's energy could be harnessed to power energy needs on Earth, and done in a way that is economical, scalable, and environmentally responsible. Researchers have long seen this as one of the grand challenges of the 21st century. Daniel Esposito, assistant professor of chemical engineering at Columbia Engineering, has been studying water electrolysis?the splitting of water into oxygen (O2) and hydrogen (H2) fuel?as a way to convert electricity from solar photovoltaics (PVs) into storable hydrogen fuel. Hydrogen is a clean fuel that is currently used to propel rockets in NASA's space program and is widely expected to play an important role in a sustainable energy future. The vast majority of today's hydrogen is produced from natural gas through a process called steam methane reforming that simultaneously releases CO2, but water electrolysis using electricity from solar PV offers a promising route to produce H2 without any associated CO2 emissions. Esposito's team has now developed a novel photovoltaic-powered electrolysis device that can operate as a stand-alone platform that floats on open water. His floating PV-electrolyzer can be thought of as a "solar fuels rig" that bears some resemblance to deep-sea oil rigs, except that it would produce hydrogen fuel from sunlight and water instead of extracting petroleum from beneath the sea floor. The study, "Floating Membraneless PV-Electrolyzer Based on Buoyancy-Driven Product Separation," was published today by International Journal of Hydrogen Energy. The researchers' key innovation is the method by which they separate the H2 and O2 gasses produced by water electrolysis. State-of-the-art electrolyzers use expensive membranes to maintain separation of these two gases. The Columbia Engineering device relies instead on a novel electrode configuration that allows the gases to be separated and collected using the buoyancy of bubbles in water. The design enables efficient operation with high product purity and without actively pumping the electrolyte. Based on the concept of buoyancy-induced separation, the simple electrolyzer architecture produces H2 with purity as high as 99 percent. "The simplicity of our PV-electrolyzer architecture?without a membrane or pumps?makes our design particularly attractive for its application to seawater electrolysis, thanks to its potential for low cost and higher durability compared to current devices that contain membranes," says Esposito, whose Solar Fuels Engineering Laboratory develops solar and electrochemical technologies that convert renewable and abundant solar energy into storable chemical fuels. "We believe that our prototype is the first demonstration of a practical membraneless floating PV-electrolyzer system, and could inspire large-scale 'solar fuels rigs' that could generate large quantities of H2 fuel from abundant sunlight and seawater without taking up any space on land or competing with fresh water for agricultural uses." Commercial electrolyzer devices rely on a membrane, or divider, to separate the electrodes within the device from which H2 and O2 gas are produced. Most of the research for electrolysis devices has been focused on devices that incorporate a membrane. These membranes and dividers are prone to degradation and failure and require a high purity water source. Seawater contains impurities and microorganisms that can easily destroy these membranes. "Being able to safely demonstrate a device that can perform electrolysis without a membrane brings us another step closer to making seawater electrolysis possible," says Jack Davis, the paper's first author and a PhD student working with Esposito. "These solar fuels generators are essentially artificial photosynthesis systems, doing the same thing that plants do with photosynthesis, so our device may open up all kinds of opportunities to generate clean, renewable energy." Crucial to the operation of Esposito's PV-electrolyzer is a novel electrode configuration comprising mesh flow-through electrodes that are coated with a catalyst only on one side. These asymmetric electrodes promote the evolution of gaseous H2 and O2 products on only the outer surfaces of the electrodes where the catalysts have been deposited. When the growing H2 and O2 bubbles become large enough, their buoyancy causes them to detach from the electrode surfaces and float upwards into separate overhead collection chambers. The team used the Columbia Clean Room to deposit platinum electrocatalyst onto the mesh electrodes and the 3D-printers in the Columbia Makerspace to make many of the reactor components. They also used a high-speed video camera to monitor transport of H2 and O2 bubbles between electrodes, a process known as "crossover." Crossover between electrodes is undesirable because it decreases product purity, leading to safety concerns and the need for downstream separation units that make the process more expensive. In order to monitor H2 and O2 crossover events, the researchers incorporated windows in all of their electrolysis devices so that they could take high-speed videos of gas bubble evolution from the electrodes while the device was operating. These videos were typically taken at a rate of 500 frames per second (a typical iPhone captures video at a rate of 30 frames per second). The team is refining their design for more efficient operation in real seawater, which poses additional challenges compared to the more ideal aqueous electrolytes used in their laboratory studies. They also plan to develop modular designs that they can use to build larger, scaled-up systems. Esposito adds: "There are many possible technological solutions to achieve a sustainable energy future, but nobody knows exactly what specific technology or combination of technologies will be the best to pursue. We are especially excited about the potential of solar fuels technologies because of the tremendous amount of solar energy that is available. Our challenge is to find scalable and economical technologies that convert sunlight into a useful form of energy that can also be stored for times when the sun is not shining." The study is titled "Floating Membraneless PV-Electrolyzer Based on Buoyancy-Driven Product Separation."
Google aims to mute autoplay videos in new version of Chrome
Google has added the ability to automatically mute autoplay videos to its Chrome 64 beta, set to hit consumer browsers next month. The tool, however, has to be activated for every website visited by a user. The mute feature is one of a suite of extras added to the updated operating system, including a better pop-up blocker and a measure to prevent malicious auto-redirects, while Chrome OS users can also access a split-screen option.
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Back in September, Google said Chrome 64 would address several user concerns around content that autoplays, most notably, the ability to have autoplay videos go silent by default. Now, if you’re really keen on testing it out, you do so today by downloading the Chrome 64 beta, as spotted by Engadget. The company said the full autoplay video blocking feature, which is part of a broader ad blocking effort in Chrome that’s been in the works for quite some time, would arrive in the consumer version of the browser come January. The setting to have autoplay content automatically muted is in Chrome 64’s permissions bar. Unfortunately, this isn’t a one-and-done setting — it has to be done for every website you want it applied to — but it will mute sound for any content that is navigated to under the parent domain.
CRISPR Therapeutics to launch first gene-editing clinical trial
Swiss genetic engineering firm CRISPR Therapeutics has sought permission from European regulators to begin its first-ever clinical trials early next year on CTX001, a gene therapy treatment for beta thalassemia. The company is also set to apply to the US Food and Drug Administration for approval to use it against sickle cell disease. CTX001 stimulates production of foetal haemoglobin, which the body usually cuts off at the age of around six months, and has resulted in an editing efficiency of 80%, with no reported off-target effects.
2017-12-18 12:50:04.577000
ISTOCK, BUBAONELast Thursday (December 7), CRISPR Therapeutics submitted an application to European regulatory authorities seeking permission to begin clinical trials for CTX001, an investigational CRISPR treatment for patients with sickle cell disease and β thalassemia. CRISPR Therapeutics, the company cofounded by Emmanuel Charpentier—one of the developers of CRISPR gene editing technology—plans to start a Europe-based Phase 1/2 trial for patients with β thalassemia in 2018. “I think it’s a momentous occasion for us, but also for the field in general,” Samarth Kulkarni, CEO of the company, tells Wired. “Just three years ago we were talking about CRISPR-based treatments as sci-fi fantasy, but here we are.” The firm also plans to apply for US Food and Drug Administration approval to use the treatment for sickle cell disease early next year. Patients with sickle cell disease and β thalassemia possess mutations in a gene that produces a subunit of hemoglobin,...
CRISPR Therapeutics to launch first gene-editing clinical trial
Swiss genetic engineering firm CRISPR Therapeutics has sought permission from European regulators to begin its first-ever clinical trials early next year on CTX001, a gene therapy treatment for beta thalassemia. The company is also set to apply to the US Food and Drug Administration for approval to use it against sickle cell disease. CTX001 stimulates production of foetal haemoglobin, which the body usually cuts off at the age of around six months, and has resulted in an editing efficiency of 80%, with no reported off-target effects.
2017-12-18 12:50:04.577000
In late 2012, French microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier approached a handful of American scientists about starting a company, a Crispr company. They included UC Berkeley’s Jennifer Doudna, George Church at Harvard University, and his former postdoc Feng Zhang of the Broad Institute—the brightest stars in the then-tiny field of Crispr research. Back then barely 100 papers had been published on the little-known guided DNA-cutting system. It certainly hadn’t attracted any money. But Charpentier thought that was about to change, and to simplify the process of intellectual property, she suggested the scientists team up. It was a noble idea. But it wasn’t to be. Over the next year, as the science got stronger and VCs came sniffing, any hope of unity withered up and washed away, carried on a billion-dollar tide of investment. In the end, Crispr’s leading luminaries formed three companies—Caribou Biosciences, Editas Medicine, and Crispr Therapeutics—to take what they had done in their labs and use it to cure human disease. For nearly five years the “big three’ Crispr biotechs have been promising precise gene therapy solutions to inherited genetic conditions. And now, one of them says it’s ready to test the idea on people. Last week, Charpentier’s company, Crispr Therapeutics, announced it has asked regulators in Europe for permission to trial a cure for the disease beta thalassemia. The study, testing a genetic tweak to the stem cells that make red blood cells, could begin as soon as next year. The company also plans to file an investigational new drug application with the Food and Drug Administration to treat sickle cell disease in the US within the first few months of 2018. The company, which is co-located in Zug, Switzerland and Cambridge, Massachusetts, said the timing is just a matter of bandwidth, as they file the same data with regulators on two different continents. Both diseases stem from mutations in a single gene (HBB) that provides instructions for making a protein called beta-globin, a subunit of hemoglobin that binds oxygen and delivers it to tissues throughout the body via red blood cells. One kind of mutation leads to poor production of hemoglobin; another creates abnormal beta-globin structures, causing red blood cells to distort into a crescent or “sickle” shape. Both can cause anemia, repeated infections, and waves of pain. Crispr Therapeutics has developed a way to hit them both with a single treatment. It works not by targeting HBB, but by boosting expression of a different gene—one that makes fetal hemoglobin. Everyone is born with fetal hemoglobin; it’s how cells transport oxygen between mother and child in the womb. But by six months your body puts the brakes on making fetal hemoglobin and switches over to the adult form. All Crispr Therapeutics’ treatment does is take the brakes off. From a blood draw, scientists separate out a patient’s hematopoietic stem cells—the ones that make red blood cells. Then, in a petri dish, they zap ‘em with a bit of electricity, allowing the Crispr components to go into the cells and turn on the fetal hemoglobin gene. To make room for the new, edited stem cells, doctors destroy the patient's existing bone marrow cells with radiation or high doses of chemo drugs. Within a week after infusion, the new cells find their way to their home in the bone marrow and start making red blood cells carrying fetal hemoglobin.
Rule change will ease fossil fuel divestment by UK pension funds
UK workplace pension schemes worth £2tn ($2.7tn) will be able to divest from coal, oil and gas more easily under new government investment regulations. At present, “fiduciary duties” that require schemes to aim for the best returns have led pension funds to reject calls for climate change to be prioritised in investment decisions. The new regulations, expected to come into force in 2018, will permit funds to “mirror members’ ethical concerns” and “address environmental problems”. Of the £87bn a year that enters the UK’s pension funds, a significant proportion is invested in fossil fuel companies.
2017-12-18 12:46:00.323000
The government is to allow Britain’s £2tn workplace pension schemes to dump their shares in oil, gas and coal companies more easily, empowering them to take investment decisions to fight climate change. Until now, pension schemes have been hamstrung by “fiduciary duties” that effectively require schemes to seek the best returns irrespective of the threat of climate change. Many have rebuffed calls by members for fossil fuel divestment, citing legal obligations. But in what has been hailed as a major victory for campaigners against fossil fuels, the government is to introduce new investment regulations that will allow pension schemes to “mirror members’ ethical concerns” and “address environmental problems”. The rules are expected to come into force next year after a consultation period and will bring into effect recommendations made in 2014 and earlier this year by the Law Commission. Guy Opperman, the minister for pensions and financial inclusion, said: “Putting social value at the heart of our pensions system is something that is deeply important to Theresa May’s government. Thanks to these new regulations, savers will finally have the clear opportunity to have their say on where their money is invested and can reflect what is personally important to them, whilst delivering mutual benefits.” About £87bn a year pours into Britain’s pension schemes, with a significant proportion of it automatically invested into gas and oil companies such as BP and Shell. But a growing body of academic and investment research suggests that reserves of fossil fuels could become “stranded assets” and virtually worthless as countries battle climate change. “We are committed to making it easier for people to invest in ways that reflect their values and have a positive impact on the issues they care about,” said Tracey Crouch, the minister for sport and civil society. Once mocked by the conventional asset management industry, divestment from fossil fuels has moved beyond charity and religious groups into the investment mainstream. In November, the managers of the world’s biggest wealth fund, Norway’s sovereign $1tn fund, recommended divesting from existing oil and gas shares – it holds $5.4bn of Shell shares and $3bn in Exxon – as well as ruling out future investments. Meanwhile, at last week’s One Planet Summit in Paris, the French financial giant Axa said it would speed up its withdrawal from coal businesses and end insurance for controversial US oil pipelines. ShareAction, which campaigns for responsible investment, said the new UK rules would empower pension savers to use their investments to fight climate change. Pipes stored for use in the Keystone XL oil pipeline planned for North Dakota. Axa says it will no longer insure controversial US pipelines. Photograph: Terray Sylvester/Reuters The charity’s chief executive, Catherine Howarth, said: “ShareAction has been campaigning for change in this area for years. The [Department for Work and Pensions’] decision to propose these reforms is a welcome breakthrough. “We urge pension savers in the UK who care about how their money is invested to let the DWP know they fully support this much-needed change in the law. As powerful investors, it is essential our pension funds focus on long-term risks and opportunities such as those connected with climate change and social inequality.” But Howarth called on the Financial Conduct Authority to speed up its response to the Law Commission’s proposals, claiming the city regulator “is still sitting on its hands”. Across the world more than 800 institutions, with total investments valued at $6tn, have committed to divest from fossil fuels. Local authority pension schemes, which hold £16bn worth of oil and gas company shares in their investment portfolios on behalf of 5.3 million workers in England and Wales, are likely to be the earliest to implement the rules in the UK. The Environment Agency and Southwark council in London have been among the first major schemes to divest, and as once independently run council schemes begin a pooling process, divestment is likely to spread to more authorities. Aon, one of the biggest advisers to pension schemes around the world, said the divestment campaign was “real and much higher up the agenda” but said many schemes would want to engage with energy companies to encourage renewable alternatives rather than selling their holdings. John Belgrove, a senior partner at Aon, said: “In the past, aspects around fiduciary duty and best returns have got in the way of pension trustees [wanting to divest] ... and the subject has been easily kicked into the long grass. These new regulations from the DWP are another step in a series of steps we have seen in this area. But exclusion is still pretty rare. If one looks at the big picture on fossil fuels, the biggest renewable energy developments are coming from the very same firms that extract fossil fuels.”
Blockchain brought to Chinese food chain by US giants
US grocery chain Walmart has joined forces with IBM and JD.com and Tsinghua University to create the Blockchain Food Safety Alliance, a consortium using blockchain technology to improve the Chinese food chain. The collaboration aims to collect information about the origin, authenticity and safety of Chinese products to increase standardisation and transparency, and help open up new partnerships. In a recent test in the US, it took Walmart two seconds to trace the journey from farm to shop of a packet of mangoes.
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Walmart, JD.com, IBM and Tsinghua Univ. to apply technology for food traceability. BEIJING – Walmart is among four companies collaborating on a standards-based method of collecting data about the origin, authenticity and safety of food in China. The retailer, along with IBM, JD.com and Tsinghua Univ. National Engineering Laboratory for E-Commerce Technology recently formed the Blockchain Food Safety Alliance. The companies say they will work with food supply chain providers and regulators to develop standards and partnerships necessary to enable a “…broad-based food safety ecosystem.” Frank Yiannas, vice president, food safety and health, Walmart “As a global advocate for enhanced food safety, Walmart looks forward to deepening our work with IBM, Tsinghua University, JD and others throughout the food supply chain,” Frank Yiannas, vice president, food safety and health at Walmart, said in a statement. “Through collaboration, standardization, and adoption of new and innovative technologies, we can effectively improve traceability and transparency and help ensure the global food system remains safe for all.” Walmart implemented two blockchain projects — one in China to track pork, and another in the United States to track mangoes. Recent testing by Walmart showed that blockchain technology reduced the time it took to trace a package of mangoes from the farm to the store from days or weeks to two seconds. Blockchain technology successfully traced food products from suppliers to retail and ultimately to consumers. Farm origination details, batch numbers, factory and processing data, expiration dates and shipping details were digitally connected to food items and entered in the blockchain network at each step of the farm-to-fork process. Computers in the blockchain, called nodes, contain a copy of a ledger of transactions. At least two nodes must approve a transaction before it is added to the ledger. Blockchain provides users a secure database that is auditable and immutable — transactions can’t be altered. The initiative will ensure brand owners’ data privacy while helping them integrate online and offline traceability channels for food safety and quality management. Companies that join the alliance will be able to share information using blockchain technology, and plans include them being able to choose the standards-based traceability solution that best suits their needs and legacy systems. The Blockchain Food Safety Alliance plans to use insights from the collaboration to shed light on how blockchain technology can help improve recalls, verifications and other processes while enhancing consumer confidence in China and around the world. “Blockchain holds incredible promise in delivering the transparency that is needed to help promote food safety across the whole supply chain. This is a fundamental reason why IBM believes so strongly in the impact this technology will have on business models,” Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president, IBM Industry Platforms, said in a statement. “By expanding our food safety work with Walmart and Tsinghua Univ. in China and adding new collaborators like JD.com, the technology brings traceability and transparency to a broader network of food supply chain participants.”
Workforce shortages to hike salaries for cybersecurity talent
Research has shown 81% of UK specialist IT recruitment agencies believe there will be a significant increase in demand for skilled cybersecurity personnel – but the same percentage said demand would outstrip supply. The results were part of a survey by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), which also found 94% of respondents expect cybersecurity wages to skyrocket. Kevin Green, the CEO of REC, urged companies not to make unreasonable demands when seeking qualified staff and to consider people with transferable skills as well. He also called for better careers guidance in schools.
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Cyber security wages are set to soar amid a skills shortage Demand for cyber security roles is set to boom over the next year following several high-profile cyber attacks, prompting a rise in wages, new research from the recruitment sector’s trade body suggests. Every specialist IT recruitment agency surveyed by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) said they thought demand for cyber security staff would rise over the next year, with 81 per cent predicting a “significant” increase. However, Kevin Green, the chief executive of the REC, said there are very few people with the skills needed, meaning employers will be competing with each other for the limited talent. For eight of the past nine months, cyber security roles were reported as hard to fill due to candidate shortages, according to the REC's monthly report. A whopping 81 per cent said the UK workforce was unlikely to meet demand in cyber security over the next 12 months. This is set to fuel a rise in wages for cyber security staff – 94 per cent of recruiters surveyed predicted rocketing wages over the next year. Just six per cent thought wages would stay the same. Green said: ​“Recruiters tell us that employers are making life more difficult for themselves by creating job roles demanding unreasonable amounts of experience, qualifications and skills – so they’re looking for someone that doesn’t even exist. "Instead, they should think about how to make the most of transferrable skills and create training opportunities which would benefit employees and new applicants." Green also called on the government to ensure businesses can still access the people they need after Brexit. "Long term, we need to see better careers guidance in schools about cyber security roles so that we can build a skilled workforce for the future. And right now, we need to maintain access to the best people from around the world to create a secure environment where British businesses can flourish.” Several high-profile cyber attacks occurred this year, including at Uber, Equifax, the NHS and Westminster.
US to omit climate change from new National Security Strategy
Climate change is to be removed from the list of potential global threats by Donald Trump when he discloses the new US National Security Strategy (NSS) on Monday. The revised strategy will stress the importance of the US regaining global economic competitiveness, marking a departure from the Obama administration’s emphasis on international efforts to combat global warming as a security priority. The new NSS is the result of 11 months of collaborative work between the economic, foreign policy and security government agencies, according to White House officials.
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The Trump administration has dropped climate change from a list of global threats in a new national security strategy the president unveiled on Monday. Instead, Trump’s NSS paper emphasised the need for the US to regain its economic competitiveness in the world. That stance represents a sharp change from the Obama administration’s NSS, which placed climate change as one of the main dangers facing the nation and made building international consensus on containing global warming a national security priority. White House officials said on Sunday that the Trump NSS was the culmination of 11 months of collaboration between all the leading security, foreign policy and economic agencies of government. The exclusion of climate change as a national security threat appears, however, to conflict with views previously expressed by the defense secretary, James Mattis. “Climate change is not identified as a national security threat but climate and the importance of the environment and environmental stewardship are discussed,” a senior administration official said. Another official said Trump’s remarks when he announced he was taking the US out of the Paris climate accord “would be the guidepost for the language in the NSS on climate”. In that speech in June, Trump declared “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris” and alleged the agreement “hamstrings the United States while empowering some of the world’s top polluting countries”. The Federalist website, which first reported that Trump would drop climate change from the NSS, quoted the draft document as suggesting the Trump administration would actively oppose efforts to reduce the burning of oil, gas and coal for energy. “US leadership is indispensable to countering an anti-growth energy agenda that is detrimental to US economic and energy security interests,” the website quoted the document as saying. “Given future global energy demand, much of the developing world will require fossil fuels, as well as other forms of energy, to power their economies and lift their people out of poverty.” A senior official said on Sunday the main difference between the Trump NSS and its predecessors was a new emphasis on border security and economic issues. “The economic piece … gets much more attention,” the official said. “The insistence that economic security is national security.” In unpublished testimony provided to Congress after his confirmation hearings in January, Mattis said the US military had to consider how the thawing Arctic and drought in global flashpoints would pose present and future challenges. “Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today,” Mattis said in written answers to questions posed after the public hearing by Democratic members of the committee. Mattis and the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, are reported to have argued against leaving the Paris climate agreement. Officials said the new NSS was based on Trump’s previous speeches on national security and foreign policy. The president was said to have decided to break with normal practice and launch it with a speech. “As far as we have been able to determine, no president has ever rolled this out with a speech before,” a senior administration official said. “The president was briefed on the document all the way along but when it was near completion and when it was shown to him what it looked like, he was very excited and he personally said he wanted to introduce it to the American people and to the world.”
Conveyancing Association calls for estate agents to be licensed
UK trade body the Conveyancing Association (CA) has called for estate agents to be licensed. It made the proposal in response to the government's call for evidence on improving the process of buying and selling houses, saying agents should have to pass a fit-and-proper test before they can trade. CA also called for greater digitisation and for search data to be made available online. But it rejected the idea of banning referral fees, saying the payments often led to greater transparency and enhanced levels of service. 
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Post navigation Conveyancers are calling for the licensing of estate agents, together with a requirement to pass a fit and proper test before they can trade. However, the housing lawyers have rejected any ban on referral fees. They are also asking for offers to be made legally binding, with financial penalties should either side withdraw from the transaction. Trade body the Conveyancing Association has made the proposals in its response to the Government’s ‘call for evidence’ to improve the house buying and selling process. It is also calling for greater digitalisation, including electronic signatures recognised by the Land Registry. Additionally, it wants to see search data made available online. Other suggestions include the establishment of a property log for each individual property in the UK; purchasers to have mortgages approved in principle before they can make an offer; and for sellers to provide much more information up-front. The CA does not want to see referral fees banned, saying “they often provide transparency and deliver enhanced service levels due to the agreements in place”. The call for evidence was due to close yesterday.
First cases of homes bought with bitcoin seen in the UK
The estate agent arm of UK property services company Go Holdings has sold two houses to buyers paying in bitcoin. A £350,000 ($468,000), four-bed property in Colchester and a four-bed townhouse in Hertfordshire worth £595,000 became the first homes to be sold using the digital currency, according to Go Homes. Director Ed Casson said next year the company would launch a cryptocurrency service in its agency due to rising demand and would also be investing in smart contracts on blockchain technology.
2017-12-18 12:02:51.837000
Post navigation Two homes have been sold using bitcoin currency by a small property firm. Go Holdings includes an estate agency, Go Move, covering Hertfordshire and a new homes development company, Go Homes. Director and estate agent Ed Casson believes he is the first in the world to actually sell a home through bitcoin, although some landlords are accepting rent in the currency. The first bitcoin home to have sold is a four-bed detached home developed by Go Homes in Colchester worth £350,000. The buyer is an investor who made early profits on the cryptocurrency and is now converting the funds into property. He plans to let out the house to tenants who will pay in bitcoin. The other property to have sold is also new, a £595,000 four-bed townhouse in Hertfordshire. Casson said the buyer made profits by bitcoin mining and trading in online games. He said: “This rewrites the rule book and shows there is another way to sell property. Selling homes for bitcoin will become common in the next five years.” He said that the Land Registry has, for the first time, agreed to let the buyer have the sale price recorded in bitcoin. He told EYE: “We have had lots of buyers in bitcoin approach us to spend their ‘currency’ as they still see property as the ultimate investment.” Casson said that the success of Go Homes in selling bitcoin property will be copied by the estate agency business shortly. He said: “We are due to roll out a cryptocurrency service in the agency next year as the demand to buy in and sell in bitcoin/ether etc has been so high. “We trialled this on our own homes that we are currently building which made sense, to get it right. We are investing money next year into smart contracts on blockchain technology to speed the home buying and selling process up. Watch this space.” Meanwhile, yesterday on Twitter Andrew Montlake of mortgage broker Coreco tweeted: “Just had our first bitcoin enquiry!”
US researchers develop technique for carbon capture
Researchers at the US Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory have developed a process that could significantly improve the efficiency of carbon capture techniques. The scientists' new method converts the CO2 into syngas, a combination of H2 and CO that can be used in the manufacture of fuels and chemicals. 
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The electrolysis setup that could allow efficient production of syngas from captured carbon. Credit: Idaho National Laboratory Carbon capture could help the nation's coal plants reduce greenhouse gas emissions, yet economic challenges are part of the reason the technology isn't widely used today. That could change if power plants could turn captured carbon into a useable product. Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory have developed an efficient process for turning captured carbon dioxide into syngas, a mixture of H2 and CO that can be used to make fuels and chemicals. The team has published its results in Green Chemistry, a publication of the Royal Society of Chemistry . Traditional approaches for reusing the carbon from CO2 involve a reduction step that requires high temperatures and pressures. At lower temperatures, the CO2 doesn't stay dissolved in water long enough to be useful. The process developed at INL addresses this challenge by using specialized liquid materials that make the CO2 more soluble and allow the carbon capture medium to be directly introduced into a cell for electrochemical conversion to syngas. "For the first time it was demonstrated that syngas can be directly produced from captured CO2 - eliminating the requirement of downstream separations," the researchers wrote in the Green Chemistry paper. The newly described process uses switchable polarity solvents (SPS), liquid materials that can shift polarity upon being exposed to a chemical agent. This property makes it possible to control what molecules will dissolve in the solvent. In an electrochemical cell, water oxidation occurs on the anode side, releasing O2 gas and hydrogen ions that then migrate through a membrane to the cathode side. There, the hydrogen ions react with bicarbonate (HCO3-, the form in which CO2 is captured in the SPS), allowing the release of CO2 for electrochemical reduction and formation of syngas. Upon the release of CO2, the SPS switches polarity back to a water-insoluble form, allowing for the recovery and reutilization of the carbon capture media. Luis Diaz Aldana, principal investigator on the experiment, and Tedd Lister, one of the researchers, conduct electrochemical research at INL. In 2015, while having lunch with colleagues Eric Dufek and Aaron Wilson, they hit on the idea of using switchable polarity solvents to turn CO2 into syngas. The team received Laboratory Directed Research and Development funds in 2017. As promising as the idea was, in the first experiments, too much hydrogen and not enough syngas was being produced. The results improved when the team introduced a supporting electrolyte to increase the ionic conductivity. Adding potassium sulfate increased electrolyte conductivity by 47 percent, which allowed the efficient production of syngas. When syngas can be produced from captured CO2 at significant current densities, it boosts the process chances for industrial application. Unlike other processes that require high temperatures and high pressures, the SPS-based process showed best results at 25 degrees C and 40 psi. INL's team has filed a provisional patent and is discussing the approach with a Boston area company involved in electrochemical technology research and development, Lister said. "It integrates two areas that have been on parallel tracks: carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) and CO2 utilization," said Diaz Aldana. "The problem with CCS has been its economic feasibility. If you can get some extra value out of the CO2 you are capturing, it's a different story." More information: Luis A. Diaz et al, Electrochemical production of syngas from CO2 captured in switchable polarity solvents, Green Chemistry (2017). DOI: 10.1039/C7GC03069J Journal information: Green Chemistry
China sets out AI vision in three-year plan
China has outlined its three-year plan to foster the development of artificial intelligence (AI) in a bid to build a new economy. The ministry of industry and information technology last week published a document outlining its technological goals up to 2020. In this, China's leadership outlines its hopes for a new AI-driven economy that will be able to boost the energy efficiency of its manufacturing sector by 10%. It also details aims for the future such as mass production of neural-network processing chips and robot support for the disabled.
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The national artificial-intelligence ambitions of China have just evolved into a detailed three-year action plan, building on a sweeping scheme announced in July. On Thursday, the country’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology published a document on how to foster the development of artificial intelligence from 2018 to 2020. But it’s far from simply a summary of technological goals: it’s essentially the top leadership’s vision for a new Chinese economy in the age of AI. In this new economy, China will be able to mass-produce neural-network processing chips, robots will make accomplishing daily tasks easier for disabled people, and machine learning will help radiologists read x-ray scans. In addition, China hopes AI will make manufacturing more eco-friendly: the goal laid out in the document is to increase the energy efficiency of the manufacturing sector 10 percent by 2020. To find out more about the nation’s huge machine-learning ambitions, read our recent feature, “China’s AI Awakening.”
Koran app aims to reduce Islamophobia with crypto reward scheme
"Living Koran" app Ananas is seeking to combat terrorism and reduce Islamophobia through its cryptocurrency-enabled rewards platform. Ananas provides readers with additional information on each verse of the Islamic holy book, allowing them to see what different denominations believe. It will also make the religious text searchable by theme or word, and highlight relevant research. Users can also sponsor, moderate or add information to earn anacoins, which can then be traded. CEO Zeena Qureshi said her aim was to provide "context to subjective information", allowing users to explore text with as much depth as they want. 
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Imagine an digital platform that could end terrorism. That’s what 26-year-old Londoner Zeena Qureshi hopes to do with Ananas, a new platform which helps users navigate belief systems using a “living Koran”. Koran apps with different translations is not a new idea, but Ms Qureshi’s upcoming platform provides additional information on each verse. Users will be able to read what different denominations believe, what research on the text is available and the religious text will be searchable by theme or word. “It will expand and collapse — you’ll be able to dive in with as much depth as you want and see it from different schools of thought and in different translations,” explains Ananas’s chief executive and co-founder Ms Qureshi, in an interview with the London Evening Standard. “You can even see it from a Sufi or non-Muslim perspective. We’re trying to build a platform that provides context to subjective information.” Ananas, which is also a charitable foundation, hopes the project will work to reduce Islamophobia and to tackle terrorism in the hopes that the living Koran will reflect the true nature of Islam by providing context. “Information without context isn’t knowledge,” says Ms Qureshi. “Extremists have so many people marketing for them online. They target vulnerable, isolated individuals. If these people are looking for answers, they need to come to a place where this information is outlined. Things like Charlottesville are happening because people don’t have the information or understanding. Information feeds empathy”, she added. The website explains: “Our Living Quran project allows people to dig into the core text of Islam. With the help from knowledgeable individuals, religious communities are empowered to reclaim ownership of their holy text, and society is liberated from a dependence on biased sources and emotional volatility. “We believe this will lead people to make better informed decisions about their own beliefs, by providing contextualized and authoritative information, that prevents distortion and exploitation of ignorance.” Ananas uses artificial intelligence (AI) to organise the user data and graphs to explore the relationships between different groups’ beliefs. Users are also able to collect the “Anacoin”, a cryptocurrency that works as a reward when users sponsor a verse, moderate or add information. The Anacoin can be traded and if the value of the currency has increased then half the proceeds go to the charity and half to the user. “People should be rewarded for the good things they do,” believes Ms Qureshi. The partially Google-funded platform was the idea of Emad Mostaque, co-chief investment officer at a hedge fund and Ms Qureshi’s brother-in-law. The ambitious project has three full-time staff and a number of advisers and volunteers, all of whom come from diverse religious, cultural and professional backgrounds The Ananas project is looking to expand to include more belief systems, including political ideologies, in the future.