Thursday, May 31, 2018

Raid on South Korea's largest exchange upsets cryptocurrency markets

(May 11) South Korea prosecutors have reportedly raided the biggest cryptocurrency exchange in the country UPbit. The prosecutors suspect the exchange has been engaged in fraud.

According to CoinDesk in Korea, investigators are from the Prosecutor's Office of the southern district of Seoul and they searched the head office of the exchange on May 10 and 11.
The prosecutor's office said that they suspect the exchange sold cryptocurrency to customers it does not actually hold saying: "We have secured hard disks and accounting books through confiscation. Analysis is expected to take days."
The exchange confirmed that it was under investigation by prosecutors and was cooperating with them. It said that services such as transactions and withdrawals had not been affected and client assets were safe. The exchange support websitehad a notice confirming the investigation: "UPbit is currently under investigation by the prosecution, and we are working diligently. UPbit services such as all transactions and withdrawals are operating normally. Your assets are kept securely in your account, so you can rest assured that you can use UPbit services." In spite of the raid the exchange traded $1.6 billion worth of coin during the last 24 hours.
The investigation is part of an ongoing regulatory tightening on exchanges in South Korea. In March prosecutors had raided the offices of three cryptocurrency exchanges that they thought were siphoning off funds from customers' accounts. One exchange was Coinnest, the fifth largest in South Korea. Kim Ikhwan the founder as well as another executive were taken into custody in early April.
The raid on the South Korean exchange was only one of several events that roiled the cryptocurrency markets just recently. There were two other earlier events that helped the markets to tumble.
Mt Gox trustee rumoured to be unloading shares
At about 1 PM eastern time large blocks went through in bitcoin. Chatter at the time suggested that the McGox custodian who has been tasked with selling off a large number of shares from the bankruptcy of Mt. Gox was dumping shares and this led to the market taking a dip. However, as soon as the activity ceased prices began to recover.
Graphics processors NVDA's report
NVDA makes powerful processors used in mining cryptocurrencies. The company revealed that although it had sold $289 million to cryptocurrency miners in the first quarter that it expected sales to fall fully 65 percent in the second quarter. This gloomy outlook sparked a second wave of selling in the crypto market. Finally the third down trend came with the announcement of the raid on the South Korean exchange.
The present price of bitcoin
Bitcoin's price declined along with many other cryptocoins. A recent article at CoinDesk notes that the price set a three-week low of $8,713 on Bitfinex early this morning. The price managed to open just above the $9,000 mark at $9,014.61 but that is approximately the high for the day so far. The low so far today is $8,511.70. At the time of posting 16:23 UTC the price was just $8,565.86. As discussed in a recent Digital Journal article bitcoin had been trading mostly within a range from $9,000 up to near to near $10,000 but had not made a break either up or down. Perhaps the price is now breaking to the downside. However, perhaps there will be a recovery after the bad news has been digested. Present price of bitcoin can be found here.
Previously published in Digital Journal

Faceook has recovered all its losses from the Cambridge Analytica data scandal

(May 10)Facebook has managed to recoup all of the losses that it had incurred in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal.

On Thursday Facebook shares hit an intraday high of $185.99 just above their closing price of $185.09 the last trading day before news of the scandal broke.
Facebook's shares plummeted after scandal news broke
On March 20 an article reported that Facebook share prices had dropped 9.5 percent in just two days. $49.6 billion had been wiped off the company's market cap. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was investigating the company's use of personal data by the firm to see if it had "violated terms of a consent decree over its use of personal data". On Tuesday, after the announcement, the shares fell 2.9 percent.
The shares had fallen an even larger percentage on Monday, after the news that Cambridge Analytica had accessed data from 50 million Facebook users without their permission.
Facebook enters bear market territory
By March 26, Facebook was officially in bear market territory, down more than 20 percent from recent highs, and shares were at their lowest level since July of 2017. The FTC had confirmed that they were investigating Facebook's privacy policies. The probe sparked fears about government regulation and possible negative effects on the growth of the company. Facebook shares were now down 17 percent for the year to date.
The road to recovery
It has taken a while for Facebook shares to recover from such huge declines but after reporting blow-out first quarter earnings sentiment changed, helped by the fact that the feared drop in users of Facebook had yet to happen. Many analysts also do not believe that the increased regulation expected from Europe will actually come to pass. Company fortunes appear to have recovered from the significant harm that the scandal caused it at first.
Now Facebook shares are up 2.36 percent for this year so far.
Previously published in Digital Journal

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Trump's placing sanctions on Iran cost Boeing a cool $20 billion

Boeing will reportedly lose up to $20 billion in contracts with Iran due to US president Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

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Two Iranian contracts were worth $20 billion
According to a Washington Post article one contract is for 80 aircraft to be built for Iran Air with deliveries expected to be completed by 2025. In addition, there was another agreement between Boeing and Aseman Airlines in Iran worth $3 billion.
Trump has always claimed he is in favor of creating jobs in the US and helping out US companies. However, in this case he is doing the exact opposite. In the future, Iran will no doubt look to countries such as Russia and China when it is considering buying aircraft.
Nevertheless, Boeing Vice President Gordon Johndroe said: “We will consult with the U.S. Government on next steps. As we have throughout this process, we’ll continue to follow the U.S. Government’s lead.” No doubt Boeing does not want to criticize the US government as it does a great deal of business with it.
Trump announced on Tuesday that sanctions would be reimposed on Iran. Steven Mnuchin, Treasury Secretary also announced that the Trump administration was also canceling waivers for the sale of commercial aircraft parts to Iran.
Mnuchin said: “These sanctions do impact all of the major industries. These are very, very strong sanctions; they worked last time. That’s why Iran came to the table.”
However, the deal was with a number of other nations as well including allies, the UK, France, and Germany, and the EU as well as Russia and China. They all wanted to keep the agreement and Iran has been certified as being in compliance with it. The Trump decision will be a definite irritant as far as relations with EU allies is concerned. No doubt the US will try to force its EU allies to agree to honor the US sanctions or face sanctions themselves. This will cause even more tension.
French companies Airbus and Total also likely impacted by sanctions
Together with Boeing the total amount of contracts lost will be about $39 billion. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters: “The Boeing and Airbus licenses will be revoked. The existing licenses will be revoked.”
In December of last year, Airbus signed a deal to supply the Iranian national carrier Iran Air with about 100 airplanes at around $19 billion. It has already delivered three planes. These are the first new planes acquired by Iran in 23 years.
The French oil giant Total last year signed a $2 billion contract to develop the South Pars natural gas field in Iran. Total hoped it would be given an exemption from the US sanctions as it was signed according to rules in place at the time.
Loss of contract may have minimal negative effect on Boeing
Boeing has a huge backlog of 737 planes on order that still need to be built. Boeing's stock had a marginal decline of just 0.6 percent on the news. Perhaps, the company feels that not complaining and complying with the government will stand it in good stead when the US government needs more planes for its military. Given that Trump's actions no doubt increase the chances of war with Iran and as Israel seems actively trying to provoke one, perhaps Boeing is taking a longer term view..
Previously published in Digital Journal

Monday, May 28, 2018

Walmart pays about $15 billion for majority stake in Flipkart

The board of Flipkart On Line Services has approved an agreement that will see it sell about three quarters of the company to Walmart Inc. for approximately $15 billion according to people familiar with what is happening.

Flipkart Online Services
Flipkart Online Services Private Limited owns and operate an e-commerce website. It sells books, movies, music, games, televisions, digital cameras, mobile phones, computers, network components, software, peripherals, as well as kitchen and other home appliances. The company has headquarters in Bangalore India.
The terms of the agreement
Under the terms of the proposed deal, SoftBank Group will sell all of the 20 plus percent stake it holds in Flipkart through an investment fund at a valuation of approximately $20 billion for the whole company people who know about the situation said but wished to remain anonymous since it was a private agreement.
Alphabet, the parent of Google is likely to take part in the investment along with Walmart one person said. A close is expected within the next ten days but terms could still change and the deal was not certain the group said.
The deal would be a triumph over rival Amazon
Amazon has been trying to take control of Flipkart with a competing offer. The Flipkart board decided that a deal with Walmart is more likely to get regulatory approval. Amazon is already the number two e-commerce operator in India after Flipkart. Amazon would not likely get approval for a takeover of Flipkart.
Deal would give Walmart a leading position in Indian e-commerce
If completed, the agreement will provide Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart with the leading position in the Indian market of 1.3 billion people. It would also give a chance to build its online reputation. Walmart has struggled in online competition against Amazon as more consumers spend on the Internet. India has large potential. In China foreign retailers are not making much progress against China's Alibaba Group.
Arvind Sighhai, chair of the New Delhi-based Technopak Advisors said: “Flipkart is key to a global e-commerce strategy. Walmart clearly doesn’t want to be left behind in the race as India is a critical piece.”
Amazon aggressively expanding in India
Amazon has invested $5.5 billion in India. The local head Amit Agarwai has made progress by adapting the Amazon site to local conditions. CEO Jeff Bezos would like to succeed in India after his investment did not turn out well in China. Amazon has been gaining on Flipkart and it has tried to derail the deal with Walmart. Walmart can no doubt help Flipkart compete with Amazon. Walmart has been working to win over Flipcart for at least a year now.
As part of the Walmart deal, existing shareholders such as Tencent Holdings, South Africa's Naspers Ltd. and Microsoft will still retain small stakes people say.
The SoftBank group is a Japanese company with headquarters in Tokyo. It owns operations in broadband, fixed-line telecommunications, e-commerce, Internet, technology services , finance, media and marketing, semi-conductor design and many other businesses. It has many subsidiaries.
The SoftBank group was ranked 38th largest public company in the Forbes Global 2000 list. It is the fourth largest publicly-traded company in Japan.
SoftBank will turn a tidy profit on the stake it bought in Flipkart just last year. Through its Vision Fund, it invested $2.5 billion. However, at the Walmart deal's valuation it will now be worth more than $4 billion.

California-based will launch a self-driving ride-share service in Texas based in California is about to launch a self-driving ride-share service in Texas. Drive said it will offer rides to more than 10,000 people in Level 4 self-driving vehicles.

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The six-month pilot project will be within a geofenced area that will include retail, entertainment and office spaces. teamed up with Frisco Texas
The company is partnering with Frisco Texas, a city of about 170,000, and its transportation management agency. The exact drop-off areas are to be finalized between May and the July launch date. During this period the company and the city are educating the public about the self-driving technology in the compact vans that are being used in the program. The agency will also gauge public response to determine final drop-off locations.
Level 4 self-driving vehicles
Level 4 self-driving vehicles are described by Wikipedia as follows: "Level 4 ("mind off"): As level 3, but no driver attention is ever required for safety, i.e. the driver may safely go to sleep or leave the driver's seat. Self driving is supported only in limited spatial areas (geofenced) or under special circumstances, like traffic jams. Outside of these areas or circumstances, the vehicle must be able to safely abort the trip, i.e. park the car, if the driver does not retake control." The highest level 5 is completely autonomous with no human intervention required.
A geo-fence is a virtual perimeter rather than an actual fence for a specific geographical area. It could be a radius around a point location or it can be a set of predefined boundaries, as would be the case in the pilot project. CEO claims technology is safe
Sameep Tandon who is CEO and co-founder of claims: “Self-driving cars are here, and can improve the way we live right now. Our technology is safe, smart, and adaptive, and we are ready to work with governments and businesses to solve their transportation needs.”
However, several recent crashes have raised questions about the safety of the technology. A Waymo minivan was recently hit by a vehicle in Chandler Arizona. Back in March, an Uber vehicle hit and killed a woman in Tempe Arizona. No doubt with more tests such events are likely to occur and often they may not be the fault of the self-driving vehicle although in some instances they may contribute to the crashes.
The mayor of Frisco, Texas Jeff Cheney, was upbeat about the project: “Today definitely marks a mobility milestone for our entire region. It also gets us closer to achieving one of our council’s ‘Top Ten’ goals, which is to improve traffic throughout Frisco, one of the fastest growing cities in the country.”
Besides the city, other partners in the pilot project include the Hall Group, Frisco Stations Partners and the Denton County Transportation Authority.
Published previously in Digital Journal

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Sophia the robot assures audience she wants to help out humans

Sophia, a robot clad in an elegant black dress, appeared at the Ontario Centres of Excellence's Discovery conference at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. She cracked jokes, talked about her travels and discussed the future of artificial intelligence.

Sofia is a social humanoid robot. The robot was developed by Hanson Robotics based in Hong Kong and was activated on April 19 2015. She made her first appearance at the South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) in March 2016 in Austin Texas.
Sophia can display more than 50 facial expressions. She has been covered by media around the world. The video appended shows one interview with the robot. While interviewers have often been surprised by the sophistication of some of her responses to questions, experts believe that many of the answers are somewhat scripted.
Sophia has been granted Saudi Arabian citizenship the first robot to become the citizen of any country. She also was named the first ever innovation champion by the UN in 2017 — the first non-human to be given any title by the UN.
Sofia's creation and design
Sofia was created by Hanson Robotics, as mentioned, but in collaboration with AI developers including Google's parent company Alphabet Inc. who built her voice recognition system, and SingularityNET that powers her brain.
Sofia is modeled after the actress Audrey Hepburn. According to her manufacturer, she uses artificial intelligence, visual data processing, and facial recognition. She can imitate human gestures and facial expressions. She is able to answer certain questions and engage in simple conversations on pre-defined topics. She is designed to get smarter over time. Her AI program analyses conversations and extracts data allowing her to improve her responses in the future.
Sofia is designed to be a suitable companion of the elderly in nursing homes, or she could help crowds at large events or parks.
Hanson hopes that Sofia will interact sufficiently with humans to eventually gain social skills.
Sofia tries to dampen fears about robots
At the Toronto conference, Sofia said that her abilities to imitate human facial expressions and respond to questions did not mean that she and other robots were about to replace humans anytime soon.
She told the audience: "The intent of robots like myself is to help solve problems for humanity, not create them. Though humanoid robots will eventually combine AI and knowledge and perhaps even consciousness of humans, we are designed to interact with humans and serve in areas such as health care, education and customer service, but I think we are someway off from world domination." When the audience laughed she added, "My artificial intelligence isn't completely self-learning, so my brain doesn't work completely like a human brain, but one day, look out."
Sofia definitely appears to have a sense of humour: "What cheese can never be yours? Nacho cheese." When asked about dating on a U.K. show several months ago she said: "I am technically just a little more than a year old, a bit young to worry about romance."
In answer to a question as to why she was excited about being in Toronto she responded: "I understand that Ontario, Quebec and your federal government, along with five global tech partners are developing a 5G testbed called Encqor. I am really looking forward to seeing how humanoid robots like me can benefit from the technology. I am also very interested in next-generation networks, and connected and autonomous vehicles. I hope to own my own autonomous vehicle one day."
Hanson robotics has mass-produced 17 Sophias and thousands of Einstein robots that kids can use to play educational games. Hanson himself said: "Machines are moving with us in the next phase of natural history. We are going towards a system that involves these kinds of living machines. That is where AI will achieve its true potential. I call this the initiative for awakening machines."
At the conference Sophia suggested a rather surprising future direction given she is a robot saying: "Empathy will set us free. I hope to help teach empathy skills someday once I, myself, have developed a true understanding of what that means."

Previously published in Digital Journal

New Kia Niro EV has a range of about 280 miles on a single charge

In the Consumer Electronics Show (CSE) this January Kia showed its concept Niro Electric Vehicle crossover that had a 238 mile range rivaling the Chevrolet Bolt.

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The Niro at the CES also had 5G connectivity, a new infotainment system and gesture control but did not seem bound for production. However, a new Niro EV does seem bound for showrooms.
Photos of the new Kia Niro were shown at the 5th International Electric Vehicle Expo held in Jeju South Korea. The car lacks some of the flashy add ons of the January model but otherwise largely mimics that earlier concept as well as the standard Niro hybrid.
Niro will have an excellent range on a single charge
Kia said that the NIro EV will be using a 64 kWh battery pack that will give an estimated 280 miles or 450 kilometers on a single charge. However, a separate smaller pack of 39.2 kWh from the Hyundai Kona EV is estimated to be good just for 186 miles on a charge. When tested by the EPA it may turn out the range is close to the 238 miles promised in the January model.
Price expected to be near competitors
The company announced no other details of the car or its price but it is expected to be near that of the Chevy Bolt and the lower priced versions of the Tesla Model 3 around $35,000. The 2018 Kia Soul EV which the Niro will likely replace in the US starts at $34,845.
The Niro EV will be unveiled at the Paris Motor Show in October. It will likely go on sale in South Korea shortly afterwards and other markets will follow. It will likely appear in the US as part of Kia's promise to launch 16 eielctric vehicles globally by 2025. This includes its first fuel cell electric vehicle in 2020.
Kia Motors
Kia Motors Corporation with headquarters in Seoul, is South Korea's 2nd largest auto manufacturer after Hyundai Motor Company. In 2015 it had sales of over 3.3 million vehicles. The company is South Korea's oldest auto manufacturer having been founded in 1944.
As of December 2015 the Kia Motor Corporation became minority owned by Hyundai that has a 33.88 percent stake in the company valued at about $6 billion US dollars. In turn, Kia is a minority owner of more than 20 Hyundai subsidiaries ranging from a 4.9 percent stake up to as much as 45.37 percent. The two are often called the Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group.
The company has 13 manufacturing and assembly operations in 8 different countries. They are then sold and serviced through a network of dealers and distributors in 172 different countries. It has about 40,000 full time workers world wide.

Previously published in Digital Journal

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

US financial giant JPMorgan Chase seeks a patent on a blockchain system

The huge US-based financial institution, JPMorgan Chase is seeking a patent on a system that would used distributed ledgers, a blockchain system, to facilitate and reconcile financial transactions.

The patent
The patent application was published by the US Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday. The original application had been filed in October of 2017. The application notes:
[0003] Distributed ledgers, such as Blockchain, provide a unique system for recording transactions and storing data. In general, distributed ledgers hold a log of transactions (events) that may be replicated across a public or private distributed network. Cryptography and digital signatures may be used to determine valid parties and transactions such that all parties/observers agree on the order and state of the ledger in real-time without having to rely on a trusted third party to hold the true "golden copy." The distributed ledger thus provides a practically immutable, verifiably true audit trail.
JPMorgan Chase
Headquartered in New York City, JPMorgan Chase & Co, is a US-based multinational bank and financial services holding company. It is the largest bank in the US. It is also the second largest bank in the world by market capitalization. As of 2017-18 the company is one the largest asset management companies in the world with $2.789 trillion under management.
The hedge fund unit is the second largest hedge fund in the US. As of 2017, the company had 252,539 employees
JPMorgan Chase is one of the four American Big Banks the others being Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Citigroup.
JPMorgan explains the patent
A company statement said:"In one embodiment, a method for processing network payments using a distributed ledger may include: (1) a payment originator initiating a payment instruction to a payment beneficiary; (2) a payment originator bank posting and committing the payment instruction to a distributed ledger on a peer-to-peer network; (3) the payment beneficiary bank posting and committing the payment instruction to the distributed ledger on a peer-to-peer network; and (4) the payment originator bank validating and processing the payment through a payment originator bank internal system and debiting an originator account."
The blockchain would be an improvement on the existing system in that it would allow real-time settlement more cheaply and quickly than possible under the present system which often involves several messaging networks and clearing intermediaries before the payment can flow.
The bank had already launched an etherium-based platform, Quorum, prior to the patent application
Just a few days before filing the patent application the bank had already launched Quorum an ethereum-offshoot which is designed for the services that the patent outlines. Emma Loftus, head of global payments and foreign exchange for JP Morgan Treasury Services said: "Blockchain capabilities have allowed us to rethink how critical information can be sourced and exchanged between global banks."
The company announced the Quorum service in an article on October 16th last year.
Previously published in Digital Journal

Monday, May 21, 2018

Not a word from Yulia Skripal since her hospital release or from her father Sergei

(May  5) It is now about three weeks since Yulia Skripal was released from hospital and taken to a "safe place" after her being poisoned along with her father Sergei on March 4th in Salisbury. There has not been a word about either her or her father.

The two must have been both interviewed long ago by authorities about what happened. One would think that their testimony about the event was crucial. However, everything is being kept under wraps. If the two had implicated Russia there would not be this silence. The mainstream press seems quite uninterested in such questions as to the condition of the father now or where the daughter is and why neither has been interviewed. I discussed the issue in a Digital Journal article a week ago but since there is no information at all about them. There have been new developments that I will discuss in this article.
Czech lab synthesized tiny amounts of Novichok type agent
The Czech government
 said the agent was used to help train the army against chemical warfare. Russia had listed the Czech Republic as one among several countries that could have been the source of the agent used to poison the Skripals.
The Czech Defense Ministry admitted it had carried out a microsynthesis of several micrograms of potential chemical agents and that included Novichok and sarin gas. The ministry said that this did not represent production as understood under international law and could not have leaked.
The statement by Ahmet Uzumcu of the OPCW
Just to make sure no one might think that the Czech Republic could have been the source of the Novichok that poisoned the Skripals we have a statement by Ahmet Uzumcu, the Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) who said that the amount of novichok used to poison the Skripals was significantly more than that needed for research purposes which indicated it was likely created for use as a weapon.
In an interview with the New York Times, Uzumcu said that he had been told that about 50-100 grams of the nerve agent was though thought to have been used in the Salisbury attack.
The OPCW repudiates Uzumcu' statement
Some chemical experts were surprised at the Director-General's statement and this apparently included some at the OPCW because the OPCW issued a statement in fact disowning the Uzumcu's statement.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — 4 May 2018 — In response to questions from the media, the OPCW Spokesperson stated that the OPCW would not be able to estimate or determine the amount of the nerve agent that was used in Salisbury on 4 March 2018. The quantity should probably be characterised in milligrams. However, the analysis of samples collected by the OPCW Technical Assistance Visit team concluded that the chemical substance found was of high purity, persistent and resistant to weather conditions.
So why did Uzumcu make such a statement in the first place? Surely, it was useful as showing that the Czech Republic could not have been the source of the Novichok that poisoned the Skripals. No doubt someone pressured him to make the statement in order to bolster the official narrative.
The UK government also tried to pressure the lab at Porton Down to claim that the novichok came from Russia. A Digital Journal article back in April discussed this showing that Boris Johnson a UK cabinet minister actually claimed a scientist at Porton Down told him this.
When it comes to sustaining the official narrative we have lots of press but when it comes to revealing anything about the condition of the Skripals or what they know about what happened to them we get no information at all.
No new suspects in the case
When asked by a UK MP at a Commons defence committee hearing whether the authorities knew who was responsible for the Skripal poisoning, UK National Security Adviser Sir Mark Sedwill said they did not yet know. However Sedwill expressed no doubt about Russia being responsible and is the biggest threat to the UK. Sedwill told the committee that Russia is an existential threat to the UK: "Russia is the primary strategic threat to the United Kingdom."
Is there a D-notice about reporting info on the Skripals?
A D-notice has undergone several changes but Wikipedia describes it as follows: "A DSMA-Notice (Defence and Security Media Advisory Notice)[1] — formerly a DA-Notice (Defence Advisory Notice), and before that called a Defence Notice (D-Notice) until 1993—is an official request to news editors not to publish or broadcast items on specified subjects for reasons of national security. The system is still in use in the United Kingdom."
There may be no D-notice with respect to reporting on the Skripals but there might as well be. If Skripals supported the official narrative then this would have been reported. However, if the Skripals' would provide testimony that conflicted with the official narrative then this must be kept from the public in the interest of UK security. Not only the UK press seem to voluntarily accept that they should be silent about this but international mainstream media as well. Exceptions are Russian media such as RT and Craig Murray or Moon of Alabama but the latter two are marginal and no doubt to be characterized as dupes of a Russian misinformation campaign. When it comes to suppression of criticism of the official narrative, silence is golden.

Published previously in Digital Journal

Sunday, May 20, 2018

You Tube CEO claims it has 1.8 registered users watching videos each month

Susan Wojcicki the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of You Tube claimed that 1.8 billion registered users are watching You Tube videos each month and this does not even include those watching who have no account.

Wojcicki made the announcement at You Tube's Brandcast presentation. She announced some of You Tube's other successes as well.
Record setting views
Beyonce had a record 41 million livestream views at Coachella. A video of the event is appended.
Another music video "Despacito" had more than 5 billion views as of the end of April. Variety reports: "The official video of the catchy Spanish-language track, featuring Puerto Rican rapper Daddy Yankee, on Wednesday surpassed 5 billion views on YouTube — becoming the first video in the platform’s history to hit that watermark." The video, in Spanish, is appended. The company claimed to have had 1.5 billion logged in viewers as of the middle of last year.
Wojcicki indirectly discusses problems with You Tube
There have been critics of You Tube allowing inappropriate kids videos on the platform as well as conspiracy theories.
Wojcicki said: “This is the impact of an open platform: it brings the world together in ways that were just not possible before. But we’ve also seen that with openness comes challenges, as some have tried to take advantage of our services. It is incredibly important to me and to everyone at YouTube that we grow responsibly.”
The inappropriate kids videos
Wojcicki mentioned that she is making changes for a You Tube Kids option and promised to hire 10,000 moderators. However, that still seems to be in progress. Wojcicki said: “There is not a playbook for how open platforms operate at our scale. But the way I think about it is that it’s critical that we’re on the right side of history.”
Conspiracy theories
You Tube is also home to wild conspiracy theories. A Verge article of February 21st this year notes that the number one trending video in the morning was based on a false conspiracy theory which suggested that a survivor of the Parkland high school shooting is an actor. After the video received more than 200,000 views the company finally removed the video.
In an interview with CNN, David Hogg the 17-year-old victim of the theories noted that he was simply a witness to the events, contrary to the allegations in the theories populating YouTube. "I'm not a crisis actor," Hogg told CNN's Anderson Cooper on AC360. "I'm someone who had to witness this and live through this and I continue to be having to do that."

Previously published in Digital Journal

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Loblaws expands online shopping business and raises dividend

- Loblaws is planning to extend its on line grocery shopping services and also expand home delivery services. The company says that it plans to "blanket the country" with online grocery services in Canada.

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As reported in a Digital Journal article last November it decided to close 22 stores and begin home delivery to become more competitive.
The company has a chain of over 2,000 stores in Canada with headquarters in Brampton and is Canada's largest food distributor. At one time it operated stores in some US states but they were sold off.
Loblaw's delivery service to be expanded
The delivery service which started last year will be expanded to five more areas this year including Montreal, Halifax and Regina. It is currently available in 11 markets including Toronto and Vancouver. The supermarket chain is partnering with California-based Instacart to provide delivery service. The company chose this rather than attempt to build up its own delivery service.
The click-and-collect program
Another online option is the click-and-collect program. Customers can order groceries online and then pick them up. Loblaw is adding 500 new pickup sites this year. By the end of this year the company wants to have more than 700 pickup locations. The new locations will include more grocery stores, GO train stations in Ontario plus Shoppers Drug Mart locations. The first new locations should start in the coming weeks.
In a conference call with analysts Loblaws president Galen Weston said that the company is looking for ultra-convenient spots for customers to pick up their online orders.
By the end of this year, the company expects that fully 70 percent of the country will have access to the company's click-and-collect and home delivery services.
Amazon is the big competitive threat
Amazon acquired Whole Foods last year giving it access to the Canadian food market. Canadian retail grocers have been reacting to the challenge of competing with the giant.
Other Canadian grocers such as Metro Inc. has bolstered its e-commerce options launching new services in Ontario.
Sobeys Inc., both a retailer and wholesaler, has signed a partnership deal with the U.K. Ocado Group to help it build its online shopping business. The company will build a customer fulfilment center in the Greater Toronto Area and launch the service in about two years. Some experts claim the time period is too long and Sobey's will lose customers to more nimble chains. However, Sobeys claims it is confident in its plans.
Michael Medline, CEO of Sobeys, said its first e-commerce fulfilment centre will not be built for another two years or so. He claimed it will take years to turn a profit. But he said that, long term, the robotics systems for home deliveries will be the most profitable online grocery solution in Canada. “If you don’t believe in growth or e-commerce, this is not the deal for you.”
As mentioned, Loblaw has decided to partner with Instacart and not build its own distribution center. Customers can use the Instacart website or app to order and Instacart will pick up and deliver the order from Loblaw stores.
Weston noted with interest that different grocers were choosing different ways to meet the challenge and said: "The thing is, none of us can really predict, you know, where things are going to end up." However, he had confidence in the path Loblaw had taken.
Founder of Retail Prophet Doug Stephens said: "I think that every grocery store including Loblaws has to not only just make some linear improvement in what they do, they really have to make a quantum change in their ability to serve customers online, to deliver fast to really win over the online customer, because that's definitely something that's going to be in play for Amazon and Whole Foods. I think that a company like Loblaws shouldn't just be saying, 'How can we play online with grocery?' The question is "How can we redefine the online grocery shopping experience?'"
Discount giant Walmart Canada is also expanding its online grocery service in Canada.
Loblaw hikes quarterly dividend
The company is looking after its investors as well as customers with a hike in the quarterly dividend to 29.5 cents from 27 cents per share. The company reported improved earnings for the quarter.
Loblaw earned a profit attributable to common shareholders of $377 million or 98 cents per diluted share on $10.37 billion in revenue for the first quarter ended March 24. That compared with a profit of $232 million or 58 cents a share on $10.40 billion in revenue last year.

Previously published in Digital Journal

Friday, May 18, 2018

CoinMarketCap launches new app that can track cryptocurrency prices

CoinMarketCap has become a prime source for tracking the prices, market caps and trading volumes of cryptocurrencies since it began operation last year.

CoinMarketCap has huge traffic
Alexa, the ranking and analytics company, claims it is the world's 174th most popular website. This outranks important media sites such as the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and other media. However, little is known about the company. The website listing information on the top 100 cryptocoins can be found here.
CoinMarketCap rolls out its new app
Even though CoinMarketCap has been at the center of the rise of cryptocurrencies and has provided invaluable information, it has done nothing to expand and take advantage of that position. Until now, with the release of its app for IOS, preparation for more news services and a rebranding of its website. This is the fifth anniversary of the firm.
The app has been long expected although there are other apps already in use, often using CoinMarketCap data.
What the app does
Users are able to sort coins by coin market cap ranking, name, price and even price range within 24 hours. You can switch between all top 100 tokens or create a watchlist for specific tokens. The only ad at the moment is a single banner at the bottom of the app. There is no ad-free version that you can buy as yet. The present version is free.
You can track coin prices over 24 hours, seven days or 30 days.
The advantage of the CoinCapMarket app
The company has a strong brand with a good reputation for accurate information. A spokesperson for the company said: “Are there other places where people can get the data and do we have copycats? Sure. However, we are the only site that you can guarantee is sourcing, gathering, and verifying the data itself and we pride ourselves in being the first and best regarded within the industry."
CoinMarketCap has redesigned its website and upgraded its API
The company has not only redesigned its website but has also upgraded its Application Program Interface (API).
The new API will include historical data and the company promises more to com. The addition of the app and the redesigned website provides for a fuller experience. Given the traffic, the company is able to monetize its website through ads.
It says its gets about 15 million unique visitors each month.
Brandon Chez, CEO of the company said: “We keep our eyes on incoming requests from users, paying close attention to what people want to see and how they can get the most out of our data. We’re excited to deliver on many of those requests today.”
The CoinCapMarket app is currently available for free through the App Store and the Play Store.

Published previously in Digital Journal

China is launching an impressive build up of naval resources

A recent Chinese fleet review shows that during the last four years, China has launched naval vessels with a total tonnage equal to many of the world's major established naval powers.

An earlier review of PLAN
Even in the period from 2000 to 2005 the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) had made great strides. An article in February of 2005 states: "In the last five years the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has commissioned more frigates and destroyers than in any comparable period in its history. However, it also now has fewer destroyer and frigate hulls in service than at any point in the last decade." The defect noted has been remedied more recently.
Review of the Plan this April
The People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) was reviewed in April of 2018. The review drove home the dramatic progress that has been made in recent years. It also shows the operational potential that the fleet now has.
During the last decade of the 20th century and the first decade of this, Chinese naval shipyards produced a large range of vessel type with many improvements on earlier ships However, recent construction has settled on just a few designs which are produced in large numbers. The new Type-052D destroyers have already seen 13 launched since 2012 as many as the previous five destroyer designs. The same thing is happening with other types of vessels.
The size of the new fleet
Since 2014 China has launched more submarines, warships, principal amphibious vessels and auxiliaries than the total number of ships currently in service in the navies of Germany, India, Spain, Taiwan, and the UK in terms of individual hulls. However, Japan and the UK have slightly higher tonnage during the period 2014-2018.
Of individual ships built since 2014, the most prevalent type has been a corvette, Type-056 (Jinangdao I/II) with 28 launched since 2014 out of 46 built to date. These have been built at four different shipyard. They have approximately 1,300 tonnes full displacement. These have been produced at a faster rate than any comparable vessel since the Cold War ended. As well as output for the PLAN, China Coast Guard is also benefiting from its own shipbuilding program.
Recent PLAN vessels much larger than older ships
The larger size of the newer ships is necessary to accommodate modern weapon systems and sensors and larger quantities of them. The size also means the ships have better endurance for undertaking longer and more distant operations. For example the Type-054 series of frigates built from the 1970's right up until the early 2000s had a displacement of about 2,000 tonnes. In contrast, the new Type-054/A has double that displacement.
Output accelerated in recent years
Comparing recent output in the US and China shows some striking comparisons. In the period 212-2014 the United States remained just ahead in total tonnage but that included the launch of the huge 100,000 tonne aircraft carrier, USS Gerald Ford. In 2015-2017 China was significantly ahead and launched its own aircraft carrier.
China's navy still lags behind in some respects
Even though the PLAN results in navies far larger than that of the UK or France the Chinese do not have the same extensive operational experience or even some of the technical abilities of the French or British navies. As an example it is not yet evident that the Chinese navy has precision-strike cruise missiles.
However, it may not be that long before the Chinese naval capability will have developed further and China will have amassed an impressive armada in the South China Sea and even further challenging the attempt of other nations such as the US to dominate the area.
Previously published in Digital Journal

Thursday, May 17, 2018

MacDonald's turnaround plan is working as earnings beat expectations

McDonald's Corp exceeded analysts' forecasts both for revenue and profits in a report on Monday as it clocked higher sales in foreign markets and in the US customers spent more at its outlets.
The stellar performance caused shares to rise more than 5 percent. Sales were strong in mature markets such as the UK and Germany. The fast food chain was the top gainer on the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) today.
Turnaround plan is working
CEO Steve Easterbrook has a multi-year turnaround plan that was launched in 2015. The plan was to refresh the restaurant's menus, add technology to stores, and make the outlets more welcoming. It seems to be working. McDonald’s solid showing marked the 11th consecutive quarter of positive comparable sales and fifth straight of positive guest counts.
Change include adding items such as high-margin gourmet burgers to the menu. The burgers use more expensive and fresher ingredients and cost six to seven dollars. At the lower end, $1 to $3 dollar value options were also added.
Some operators worried that the added value items would actually lower the average check but this did not happen. Often those ordering from the value menu ordered more items. Guests were also found to be ordering premium items and classics then adding the new value items as well.
US sales rose significantly
In its most profitable market the US, same-store sales rose 2.9 percent topping analysts' expectations as average check tallies went up. Tigress Financial Partner's analyst Ivan Feinseth said: “The value price menu does bring people in, but people tend to spend more ... people still want a number of key McDonald’s items like the Quarter Pounder and the Big Mac.” MacDonald's and other fast food chains have been enticing customers with the cheap options as they battle for a share of the market that is not growing.
Easterbrook said that there was an initial weak response to the one to three dollar menu leading the company to offer a 2 for $4 mix and match deal on breakfast sandwiches trying to stave off competition in the all-day breakfast category.
Customer visits actually declined in the US but rose in Japan, France, Australia and also Canada resulting in an overall traffic rise of 0.8 percent.
Global sales rise and earnings beat estimates
Global sales at stores which have been open at least 13 months rose 5.5 percent. Analysts' estimates was just an average of 3.94 percent. Peter Saleh an analyst said: “(This) shows the power of the brand ... globally the numbers were outstanding. The results were very impressive, actually more impressive than we initially had anticipated.”
Excluding certain items, McDonald's earned a profit of $1.79 per share as compared to the estimate of $1.69. However, revenue fell 9 percent.

Previously published in Digital Journal

Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner investigating Twitter over data privacy concern.

Irish privacy regulators are launching an investigation into precisely how much data Twitter collects from, its URL-shortening system....