The blind woman developing tech for the good of others

Entertainment, Facts, International Finance, international News, personality, Tech

Virginia Harrison BBC News, Singapore

Chieko Asakawa was awarded Japan's Medal of Honour for her contributions to accessibility research
Chieko Asakawa received Japan’s Medal of Honour for her contribution to accessibility research

An accident in a swimming pool left Chieko Asakawa blind at the age of 14. For the past three decades she’s worked to create technology – now with a big focus on artificial intelligence (AI) – to transform life for the visually impaired.

“When I started out there was no assistive technology,” Japanese-born Dr Asakawa says.

“I couldn’t read any information by myself. I couldn’t go anywhere by myself.”

Those “painful experiences” set her on a path of learning that began with a computer science course for blind people, and a job at IBM soon followed. She started her pioneering work on accessibility at the firm, while also earning her doctorate.

Dr Asakawa is behind early digital Braille innovations and created the world’s first practical web-to-speech browser. Those browsers are commonplace these days, but 20 years ago, she gave blind internet users in Japan access to more information than they’d ever had before.

Hands on a keyboard with a braille computer display
Braille and voice control are still key technologies for blind people

Now she and other technologists are looking to use AI to create tools for visually impaired people.

Micro mapping

For example, Dr Asakawa has developed NavCog, a voice-controlled smartphone app that helps blind people navigate complicated indoor locations.

Low-energy Bluetooth beacons are installed roughly every 10m (33ft) to create an indoor map. Sampling data is collected from those beacons to build “fingerprints” of a specific location.

“We detect user position by comparing the users’ current fingerprint to the server’s fingerprint model,” she says.

Close-up of blind person's can on road
Image captionCould navigation apps mean blind people have to rely on canes less?

Collecting large amounts of data creates a more detailed map than is available in an application like Google Maps, which doesn’t work for indoor locations and cannot provide the level of detail blind and visually impaired people need, she says.

“It can be very helpful, but it cannot navigate us exactly,” says Dr Asakawa, who’s now an IBM Fellow, a prestigious group that has produced five Nobel prize winners.

NavCog is currently in a pilot stage, available in several sites in the US and one in Tokyo, and IBM says it is close to making the app available to the public.

‘It gave me more control’

Pittsburgh residents Christine Hunsinger, 70, and her husband Douglas Hunsinger, 65, both blind, trialled NavCog at a hotel in their city during a conference for blind people.

“I felt more like I was in control of my own situation,” says Mrs Hunsinger, now retired after 40 years as a government bureaucrat.

She uses other apps to help her get around, and says while she needed to use her white cane alongside NavCog, it did give her more freedom to move around in unfamiliar areas.

Chieko Asakawa
Image captionDr Asakawa says memories of colour help with her work on object recognition and NavCog

Mr Hunsinger agrees, saying the app “took all the guesswork out” of finding places indoors.

“It was really liberating to travel independently on my own.”

A lightweight ‘suitcase robot’

Dr Asakawa’s next big challenge is the “AI suitcase” – a lightweight navigational robot.

It steers a blind person through the complex terrain of an airport, providing directions as well as useful information on flight delays and gate changes, for example.

The suitcase has a motor embedded so it can move autonomously, an image-recognition camera to detect surroundings, and Lidar – Light Detection And Ranging – for measuring distances to objects.

When stairs need to be climbed, the suitcase tells the user to pick it up.

“If we work together with the robot it could be lighter, smaller and lower cost,” Dr Asakawa says.

The current prototype is “pretty heavy”, she admits. IBM is pushing to make the next version lighter and hopes it will ultimately be able to contain at least a laptop computer. It aims to pilot the project in Tokyo in 2020.

“I want to really enjoy travelling alone. That’s why I want to focus on the AI suitcase even if it is going to take a long time.”

IBM showed me a video of the prototype, but as it’s not ready for release yet the firm was reluctant to release images at this stage.

AI for ‘social good’

Despite its ambitions, IBM lags behind Microsoft and Google in what it currently offers the visually impaired.

Microsoft has committed $115m (£90m) to its AI for Good programme and $25m to its AI for accessibility initiative. For example, Seeing AI – a talking camera app – is a central part of its accessibility work.

Microsoft's Saqib Shaikh demonstrates the firm's text-to-speech smartphone app
Image captionMicrosoft’s Saqib Shaikh demonstrates the firm’s text-to-speech smartphone app

And later this year Google reportedly plans to launch its Lookout app, initially for the Pixel, that will narrate and guide visually impaired people around specific objects.

“People with disabilities have been overlooked when it comes to technology development as a whole,” says Nick McQuire, head of enterprise and AI research at CCS Insight.

But he says that’s been changing in the past year, as big tech firms push hard to invest in AI applications that “improve social wellbeing”.

He expects more to come in this space, including from Amazon, which has sizeable investments in AI.

“But it’s really Microsoft and Google… in the last 12 months that have made the big focus in this area,” he says.

Mr McQuire says the focus on social good and disability is linked to “trying to showcase the benefits [of AI] in light of a lot of negative sentiment” around AI replacing human jobs and even taking over completely.

But AI in the disability space is far from perfect. A lot of the investment right now is about “proving the accuracy and speed of the applications” around vision, he says.

Dr Asakawa concludes simply: “I’ve been tackling the difficulties I found when I became blind. I hope these difficulties can be solved.”

Edited By Don Michael Adeniji 


Uber cedes control in Russian market with Yandex tie-up

Business, economy, International Finance, international News, Tech
Uber cedes control in Russian market with Yandex tie-up
This March 1, 2017 file photo shows the exterior of the headquarters of Uber in San Francisco. Uber is ceding control of its operations in Russia by agreeing to merge its ridesharing business in the country and five other ex-Soviet …more

Uber is ceding control of the Russian market by agreeing to merge its ride-hailing business in the country with Yandex, the Russian search-engine leader that also runs a popular taxi-booking app.

For Uber, the deal marks the exit from another big market after it sold its operations in China last year to local rival Didi Chuxing.

Yandex said in a statement on Thursday that Uber and Yandex Taxi would combine into a new company in Russia as well as in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Yandex will own 59 percent, Uber roughly 37 percent, and employees the rest. The CEO of Yandex Taxi, Tigran Khudaverdyan, will become the chief executive of the new combined company.

San Francisco-based Uber will invest $225 million in the new company and Yandex $100 million, putting its value at over $3.7 billion. The companies said that together they deliver over 35 million rides a month, with $130 million in gross bookings in June. Yandex is the bigger company, with roughly the twice the business Uber currently has in the region.

In both Russia and China, Uber was having trouble competing against larger ride services that have the advantages of being the hometown company and knowing cultural differences, said independent technology analyst Jan Dawson of Jackdaw Research in California. “It’s like competing with Google in the U.S.,” he said. “They just weren’t really making headway against the local competitors.”

At this stage of its development, the money-losing Uber is looking to move to profitability, reviewing regions to see if there are prospects for making money. If the prospects aren’t good, Uber is likely to get out, Dawon said.

In the Yandex case, Uber will exit “in a dignified way” with the 37 percent stake in the new company. Uber had invested $170 million in Russia and is adding $225 million to the new company. So for about $400 million, it’s getting a stake in Yandex that’s worth over $1 billion, Dawson said.

Shares in Yandex jumped 15 percent on the Moscow stock exchange on news of the deal. The company is one of Russia’s most successful Internet enterprises, accounting for some 65 percent of all searches and operating popular maps and public transit apps.

Once the deal is closed toward the end of this year, consumers will be able to use both Yandex and Uber apps to hail rides while for drivers, the apps will be integrated.

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Mark Zuckerbergs Net Worth: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Entertainment, International Finance, Uncategorized

Mark Zuckerberg Net Worth in 2018: $72.3 Bllion

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, is worth $72.3 billion, according to Forbes. He was the youngest self-made billionaire in history when Facebook went public when he was 23-years-old, and since then he’s ranked highly on many lists. He wasnumber 13 on Forbes 2018 Most Powerful People list, number five on the 2018 World’s Billionaires List, number four on the Forbes 400 in 2017, number three on the Forbes Richest In Tech list in 2017, and number one in 2016 on the America’s Richest Entrepreneurs Under Age 40, Global Game Changer, and the Richest Person In America’s 50 Largest Cities lists.

Zuckerberg’s career has not been without controversy. The 34-year-old first faced criticism for stealing the idea for Facebook from the Winklevoss twins, then for kicking out partner Eduardo Saverin. More recently, he’s drawn scrutiny for Facebook’s role in spreading fake news and influencing elections and events abroad.

Still, despite controversy, Facebook stock has soared over the years, and Zuckerberg has profited. He spends his money on a large real estate portfolio and expensive t-shirts, but has vowed along with wife Priscilla Chan to donate 99 percent of his wealth. His life has inspired thousands of articles, a few books, and even a movie: The Social Network.

Here’s what you need to know about Mark Zuckerberg’s net worth:

1. He Made His First Million by Age 22

Zuckerberg founded Facebook in his Harvard University dorm room, after tinkering with a few similar sites. He had been interested in computers from a young age, and created Zucknet, a messaging platform created with Atari BASIC, when he was 12-years-old. The chat service was mainly used by his father, who implemented it at his dental practice so receptionists could alert him when he had a new patient.


After working with David Newman, a computer tutor, Zuckerberg started attending graduate classes at Mercy College, and eventually at Phillips Exeter Academy. He next created something called Synapse, which was like an early version of Pandora. Though Microsoft and AOL both thought about buying the service, Zuckerberg didn’t sell.

At Harvard, he built CourseMatch, a program that helped students choose classes. Next he built Facemash, where students could vote on two different faces of people on campus and choose who was more attractive. It was soon banned by the university. Soon, he was known as a software whiz and Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss asked him to help build something called Harvard Connect, which would be a dating site. Zuckerberg agreed to help, but soon stopped working on Harvard Connect in favor of starting his own, similar site called The Facebook.

In 2004, Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard to focus on Facebook full-time. The move worked, and in 2005 Accel Partners invested $12.7 million into the company. Peter Thiel, founder of PayPal and other companies, also invested. By December of that year, Facebook had 5.5 million users.

Notably, Eduardo Saverin, Zuckerberg’s friend and co-founder, footed the bill for the inital Facebook servers. The pair faced tension as soon as Zuckerberg dropped out of school, according to this Business Insider narrative of the friendship, and it hit a breaking point when Facebook needed funding. Zuckerberg decided to cut Saverin out of the company by creating a new company to acquire the old company, then distributing shares to everyone in the new company except for Saverin.

“Is there a way to do this without making it painfully apparent to him that he’s being diluted to 10%?” Zuckerberg wrote in an email to his lawyer?

He went ahead with the plan in July 2004, and Saverin found out he’d been diluted in 2005. A legal battle ensued, as well as a personal one. Saverin set out for Zuckerberg’s reputation in a string of interviews, eventually catching the attention of Ben Mezrich, the author who wrote the book that was eventually made into The Social Network.

Despite all this, Facebook continued to grow, expanding away from colleges and to the public. Companies were eager to advertise on the social networking platform, but Zuckerberg declined potential advertisers like Yahoo! and MTV, preferring to keep the site ad-free. (The network did start accepting advertising in 2007).

In 2006, the Winklevoss twins said Zuckerberg stole their idea, and Zuckerberg ended up paying them $65 million in a settlement. Despite this, in 2007 Microsoft paid $240 million for a 1.6 percent stake in the company.

In 2010, Zuckerberg got another financial boost when Goldman Sachs and Digital Sky Technologies invested $500 million in Facebook. After these investments, the company was valued at $50 billion and people started to speculate that it would soon go public.

2. And by Age 28 He Was a Billionaire

Just after his 28th birthday in 2012, Zuckerberg took Facebook public. It wasn’t an immediate success. Because of technical issues, Facebook didn’t start trading until 11:30 a.m., and dropped to $38 per share from an initial $42.05. Investors were worried. Zuckerberg’s worth dropped from $19 billion to $17 billion in one day, and within the quarter it had fallen to $11.9 billion. Still, it was the biggest technology IPO in history, according to Fortune.


Since then, Facebook and Zuckerberg have more than recovered. Stocks are up 282 percent since the IPO and Facebook has 1.3 billion users–about 50 percent more than in 2012.

Also since then, Zuckerberg has started selling space to advertisers and user information to companies, helping the company stay profitable. It had a revenue of $28 billion and an income of $10 billion in 2017, as well as a market cap of $426.5 billion. Every year since Facebook has gone public, Zuckerberg has added an average of $9 billion to his net worth, according to Fortune.

3. He Has a Large Real Estate Portfolio and His T-Shirts Are More Expensive Than They Look

Zuckerberg’s famous casual look of grey t-shirts and hoodies is actually somewhat expensive. According to GQ, his “uniform” is made up of Brunello Cucinelli, Elder Statesman, and J Crew items, meaning his t-shirts could be around $900 and his hoodies around $2000.


On the other hand, his cars are less expensive than you would expect from a multi-billionaire. He’s been spotted driving in a Honda Fit, a Volkswagen hatchback, and an Acura TSX, all of which cost under $30,000.

Then there’s his real estate portfolio, which is vast. He owns a 5,000 square foot Palo Alto home that he bough in May 2011 for $7 million. It has a “custom-made artificially intelligent assistant,” according to SF Gate. In 2012, he began buying up properties around the initial home. He spent more than $30 million to purchase four of the surrounding homes, which he planned to rebuild. A year later, he bought a townhouse in the Mission District of San Francisco, and added a greenhouse and other renovations totaling more than $1 million.

In 2014, he and his wife bought two properties in Kauai, Hawaii for $100 million. They’re on a 357-acre former sugarcane plantation, which the couple said they purchased to help preserve its natural beauty.

When he travels, he travels with security, which Facebook pays for. The company spent $5 million on securityfor Zuckerberg in 2015, and it’s estimated the costs were higher in 2017 as he took a tour across the United States.

4. His Net Worth Took a Dip After Facebook’s Privacy Scandal , but It Was Only Temporary

In March 2018, Facebook shares hit an eight-month low after the New York Times reported that data firm Cambridge Analytica accessed tens of millions of Facebook users’ data–87 million were alerted by Facebook after the breach. Within two weeks, shares dropped more than 20 percent and lost $90 billion in market value.

Zuckerberg was questioned on Capital Hill (where news outlets pointed outthat he abandoned his grey t-shirt for once), and vowed to take greater responsibility for Facebook’s actions. Meanwhile, Cambridge Analytica declared bankruptcy. Moving forward, Facebook said it would no longer permit advertising based on third party data. It also allowed users to clear their histories.

Within a few weeks, stocks were back up, and according to Forbes by May they were trading just under an all-time high. They were up 23 percent since the March scandal, and Facebook brought in $12 billion in the first quarter of 2018–that’s 49 percent higher than the same quarter in 2017.

In March, Business Insider reported that Zuckerberg’s worth was down $5 billion. Since, it’s risen by $13 billion.

5. He and His Wife Have Pledge to Rid the World of “Every Disease” Through a Massive Donation to Science

Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan (who has been dating since they both attended Harvard University) founded the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a “philanthropic organization that brings together world-class engineering, grant-making, impact investing, policy, and advocacy work,” according to its website.

The initiative is funded through Facebook stock. Zuckerberg said he planned to sell 35 to 75 million shares starting in September 2017, which would mean $6 billion to $12 billion for the organization.

Chan and Zuckerberg previously donated $3 billion to their initiative to fund research focused on curing disease. The couple said they wanted to cure “every disease” in their children’s lifetimes, something they acknowledged was an ambitious goal.

“Our society spends fifty times more investing in treating people who are sick than in curing diseases so people don’t get sick,” Zuckerberg said.

To reach the goal, the initiative will build tools like AI and Machine Learning through a new $600 million BioHub in San Francisco.

Together, Chan and Zuckerberg have wowed to give away $45 billion of their wealth throughout their lifetime. They are also part of the Giving Pledge, a program started by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, where billionaires dedicate themselves to giving back the majority of their wealth.

US$2 billion light rail PPP in Toronto reaches commercial and financial close

International Finance, News

lightrail250.jpgInfrastructure Ontario and Metrolinx have announced that their preferred proponent for the Finch West Light Rail Transit (LRT) project, Mosaic Transit Group, has signed a contract valued atCAD2.5 billion (US$1.94 billion) for the design, construction, financing and maintenance of the 11km light rail line in Toronto.

Aecon, one of the leading members of Mosaic Transit Group, has confirmed that the project has also reached financial close. The other equity partners in the group are ACS Infrastructure Canada Inc. andCRH Canada Group Inc.

Aecon, ACS‘ subsidiary Dragados Canada Inc. and Dufferin Construction Company, a division of CRH Canada Group Inc., will construct LRT line that will run in a semi-exclusive lane along Finch Avenue in Toronto. It will have 16 surface stops and two underground terminuses – a below-grade terminal stop at Humber College and an underground interchange station at Keele Street that connects with the new Finch West Subway Station on the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension. The estimated cost of this construction is CAD1.2 billion (US$932.6 million).

The Finch West corridor is one of the busiest bus routes in the City of Toronto, linking the communities of Jamestown, Rexdale and Black Creek with downtown Toronto.

Construction is scheduled to begin in fall 2018. At the peak of construction, Mosaic estimates that approximately 600 workers will work on the project and that 85% of the labour will come from the Greater Toronto Area.

The project also includes the delivery of a maintenance and storage facility for the light rail vehicles and other required components, such as trackworks, signaling, communications and public realm infrastructure, as well as a 30-year maintenance agreement for the LRT.

Mosaic has not disclosed how it has achieved financial close. However, Moody’s Investors Serviceannounced last month that it assigned a first-time Baa2 rating to two amortizing senior secured bondstotaling approximately CAD183 million (US$142.2 million) to be issued by the group to partially finance the project.

As Moody’s expects that the project will be completed largely on time or with minimal delays and when completed, will operate with minimal deductions to its availability payments, the rating outlook is stable.

MegaProject 1254: Ghana and Burkina Faso seeking interest for cross-border railway PPP

International Finance, News


The governments of Ghana and Burkina Faso have issued a jointRequest for Expressions of Interest (RFEOI) for a cross-border railway public-private partnership (PPP) project. The governments are seeking technical and financial partners for the construction and operation of a railway line between the two countries.

The project will be developed on a Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis and fully funded through a PPP arrangement.

The proposed railway line will link Tema Port, in the south-east of Ghana, to Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. The railway will pass through Akosombo, Ho, Hohoe, Yendi, Tamale and Paga in Ghana, and Dakola and Po in Burkina Faso, running alongside national highway number 5.

Ghana and Burkina Faso share a 549km north-south border. The countries are historic trading partners, though cross-border trade is limited for land transport, facilitated only by two highways.

The objective of the project is to improve the transport and logistics chain within the proposed corridor, with the aim of accelerating economic growth and development of both countries.

The tender will be conducted and managed by the governments’ respective Ministries of Railways Development and Transport, Urban Mobility and Road Safety.

Expressions of Interest are invited from firms from all countries, though consortia must include a significant level of Ghanaian and Burkinabé participation. The submission deadline is 21 May 2018. For more information, see the Business Opportunity.

The project ties in with two PPP projects in Ghana currently in tender. The existing Eastern Railway Line, which links Accra to Kumasi and has a branch line to Tema Port, is to be modernised and brought into operation by a private partner. An RFEOI was issued in February. In January, Ghana’s Highway Authority published a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for the Accra-Tema Motorway PPP project, which will linkTema Port to the capital city via a 19km dual carriageway.

Thus, this project adds to the Ghanaian government’s efforts to improve access and connections to and from Tema Port. Users of the Eastern Railway Line and the Accra-Tema motorway will be able to travel on to Burkina Faso.

International Consortium Signs Interim Phase Agreement with Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) for Rail Concession

APC, Business, International Finance, News, Nigeria

Following its award of preferred bidder status by the Federal Government of Nigeria in May 2017, an International Consortium last Friday in Washington D.C, signed an agreement to proceed with the Interim Phase of the Nigerian narrow-gauge railway concession.

Nigeria Railway Corporation

Initiated by General Electric (, the world’s premier digital industrial company, the Consortium is comprised of SinoHydro, a leading infrastructure construction services corporation, Transnet, a leader in transportation and logistics infrastructure management and APM Terminals, a global port, terminal and intermodal inland services provider.

GE Transportation is a global technology leader and supplier of equipment, services and solutions to the rail, mining, marine, stationary power and drilling industries. It innovations help customers deliver goods and services with greater speed and savings using our advanced manufacturing techniques and connected machines.

In the interim phase of the rail concession, Remedial Works will be carried out on part of the narrow-gauge rail line system to make it technically and economically operable. Additionally, a joint operation will be established between the Consortium and the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) with an initial supply of 10 locomotives and 200 wagons to augment the existing rolling stock in Nigeria.

This program is expected to deliver an increase in the number of available locomotives, thus increasing the frequency of passenger and freight rail services. In addition, freight haulage capacity by the end of the first 12 months of the interim phase is expected to increase roughly ten-fold, from its current less than 50,000 metric tonnes per annum to about 500,000 metric tonnes per annum.

Speaking on the occasion, Lazarus Angbazo, CEO of GE Nigeria said “GE is committed to the sustainable development of Nigeria and as such we are delighted to have reached this crucial stage of the project to revamp and revitalize the country’s legacy rail infrastructure system. The Consortium looks forward to commencing execution of this Interim Phase with the continued support of the Federal Government and the Ministry of Transportation. As operations begin, our strong partners, such as Transnet and SinoHydro, will bring their strong operating and development skills to the forefront.”

Following the commencement of the Interim Phase, the Consortium will conclude negotiations with the Federal Government on the terms of the substantive phase of the concession agreement that will expand service to up to 200 locomotives and associated rolling stock.  This will see to the comprehensive rehabilitation of Nigeria’s narrow-gauge rail infrastructure and the return of rail transport as a key element in enabling the country’s socio-economic development.

Chief Executive of Transnet International Holdings Mr Petrus Fusi said, “We are pleased to be a partner in this ground-breaking concession and look forward to the successful execution of the Interim Phase with the government and the opportunity to add value.”

Similarly, SinoHydro Chairman, Mr. Ding Zhengguo mentioned, “This announcement is a step closer to the opportunity to transform rail infrastructure and transportation logistics in Nigeria; a country with huge potential.” He added “We are very excited to partner with this resourceful consortium to deliver value.”

APM Terminals has been actively investing and participating in Nigeria’s logistics infrastructure since 2006, and we are proud to be a part of this project to improve access for the Nigerian hinterland to the global logistics chain.” – David Skov, Head of Terminals IMEA added to the statements.

According to the Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, “This milestone project is an unprecedented commitment by the Federal Government of Nigeria, which, combined with the GE-led Consortium’s drive to modernizing Nigeria’s rail infrastructure, will add immense value to Nigeria’s long term economic growth and productivity.” “This will be an important catalyst for small and medium enterprises and a key provider of almost incalculable socio-economic benefits for the many Nigerian towns and villages through which the rail network passes. “he added.

Beginner’s Guide to Edge: Blockchain Wallet & Security Platform

International Finance, World Bank

Edge began as a bitcoin wallet and a business directory known as AirBitz. Edge now plans to expand into the world of security, offering the Edge Security platform to ease concerns about large-scale data breaches. Edge started as AirBitz in winter of 2014 with the business directory and wallet that the brand is currently known […]

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway bought 75M AAPL shares in Q1, stake now worth $42.5B

International Finance, News


Berkshire Hathaway, the conglomerate founded and run by Warren Buffett, bought an additional 75 million AAPL shares in the first quarter of the year.

The latest purchase takes Berkshire’s total stake in Apple to 240.3M shares, worth more than $42B …

Buffett disclosed the purchase to CNBC ahead of Berkshire’s annual general meeting, describing the company’s performance as ‘unbelievable.’

It is an unbelievable company. If you look at Apple, I think it earns almost twice as much as the second most profitable company in the United States.

Berkshire bought the shares ahead of Apple’s recent earnings report, at a time when there was uncertainty about iPhone X sales. Buffett dismissed those concerns – sinceshown to be groundless – as short-term irrelevances.

The idea that you’re going to spend loads of time trying to guess how many iPhone X … are going to be sold in a 3 month period totally misses the point. It’s like worrying about the number of BlackBerrys 10 years ago […]

Nobody buys a farm based on whether they think it’s going to rain next year. They buy it because they think it’s a good investment over 10 or 20 years.

It’s the second time this year Buffett has revealed a big AAPL purchase. Back in February, Buffett revealed that it had dumped over 90% of its IBM shares and substantially boosted its stake in the iPhone maker.

Buffett began as an Apple skeptic, saying in 2011 that the company’s long-term prospects were too difficult to predict. Berkshire subsequently bought a small number of Apple shares before a $1B purchase in 2016. He has explained the turnaround by saying that he now views Apple as a consumer brand rather than a tech company.

Photo: Norm Betts/Bloomberg News

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Ambode: Lagos can host FIFA Tournament — cheepowersblog

Entertainment, International Finance, News, Nigeria, sports

Governor Akinwunmi Ambode on Monday evening said that the State has the capacity to host international football

Governor Akinwunmi Ambode on Monday evening said that the State has the capacity to host international football tournaments and use sports as a tool to showcase its rich tourism, hospitality and entertainment culture. Governor Ambode, who spoke when he received the President of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), Gianni Infantino and his team on a courtesy visit to the Lagos House in Alausa, Ikeja, said the population, soccer enthusiasm and the tourism potentials that abound in the State are indicators to the fact that the State has the enabling environment to receive any FIFA projects in Nigeria. The Governor, while welcoming the choice of Lagos as the host city of the FIFA Executive Committee Summit, said it would present a great opportunity for the State to showcase its huge investment in football development especially for youths and women.
He also expressed confidence that the FIFA President and his team, after the visit, would consider Lagos favourably to host a FIFA competition, while also pledging support for events by the world’s football governing body. “I want to say that we are so excited that Lagos is playing host to the FIFA Executive Summit, we would be the second African city that would be hosting this kind of meeting and we are excited that you decided that Lagos would host it. “It is very important for us because soccer is big in Lagos and we are able to show you the kind of facilities and things that football can actually do to us as a nation.
I believe strongly that your hosting this meeting in Lagos portends greater potentials for us in Lagos; we are very strong on youth development and youth soccer development and also soccer development for women. “I believe as you decide tomorrow and then days after on where you intend to put your projects, Lagos stands to welcome all the projects of FIFA. We have the population, the enthusiasm and we also have the tourism potentials to actually receive any FIFA projects in Nigeria,” Governor Ambode said. Besides, Governor Ambode thanked Infantino for deeming it fit to select a retired Chief Judge of Lagos, Justice Ayotunde Philips as a member of the Ethics Committee of FIFA, saying that it was a testament to the State’s credibility.
“I want to personally thank you for selecting one of our retired Chief Judges, Justice Philips into the Ethics Committee of FIFA and that happens to be one of the most important committees in FIFA and I believe strongly that for us to have produced one of those members goes to show how credible that we can be in Lagos,” he said. Governor Ambode who also spoke at the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF/Aiteo) Awards held at Eko Hotels and Suites, Lagos, said that partnering with the NFF for the hosting of the award was also a privilege to showcase the Lagos as the emerging sports hub for Africa.
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via Ambode: Lagos can host FIFA Tournament — cheepowersblog

373 Proof of Crime Patrol true stories ::: How the filthy wealthy in India become rich – by defrauding banks —

International Finance, News


Syndicate Bank MD in Rs 600-crore loan case NEW DELHI, DHNS: A high-profile loan fraud case amounting to Rs 600 crore came to light on Thursday with the CBI booking Aircel promoter C Sivasankaran, his son S Saravanan, and two top public sector bank officials, including Syndicate Bank chief Melwyn Rego. The agency, which named […]

via 373 Proof of Crime Patrol true stories ::: How the filthy wealthy in India become rich – by defrauding banks —   

Syndicate Bank MD in
Rs 600-crore loan case

NEW DELHI, DHNS: A high-profile loan fraud case amounting to Rs 600 crore came to light on Thursday with the CBI booking Aircel promoter C Sivasankaran, his son S Saravanan, and two top public sector bank officials, including Syndicate Bank chief Melwyn Rego.

The agency, which named 38 people including 15 bank officials who worked at senior levels at IDBI Bank during 2010-14, conducted searches at 50 locations across 10 cities, including in Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai, Faridabad, Gandhinagar, Chennai, Belagavi, Hyderabad, Jaipur and Pune, including Rego’s residence.

The case was registered against British Virgin Islands-based Axcel Sunshine Ltd and others on the allegations of perpetrating fraud through the loan accounts of Win Wind Oy, Finland and Axcel Sunshine Ltd after receiving the money from IDBI.

Besides Sivasankaran and Rego, who was deputy managing director in IDBI Bank when the loan was sanctioned, others named in the FIR include managing director and CEO of Indian Bank Kishor Kharat (who was managing director and CEO of IDBI Bank) and then chairman-cum-managing director of IDBI Bank M S Raghavan.

“It is a case of alleged fraud on the bank by then executives of the bank, then promoters of the group and the companies. It was alleged that the Finland-based company was sanctioned loan by IDBI in October 2010 to the extent of Euro 52 million (Rs 322.40 crore). The performance of the said company showed stress and it was eventually granted voluntary bankruptcy by a Court in Finland in October 2013,” a CBI spokesperson said.

Another loan of $83 million (Rs 523 crore) was sanctioned by IDBI to the British Virgin Island-based company in February-March 2014. This was used for repaying loans of other companies belonging to Sivasankaran in “flagrant violation of the guidelines of RBI on foreign investments”.

The loans were granted to these companies by IDBI Bank at its highest decision making level comprising the senior-most management and even independent directors, “disregarding the existing guidelines, instructions and procedures”. Subsequently, various conditions were relaxed or all together ignored leading to a loss of around Rs 600 crore to the bank.

Deputy managing director IDBI G M Yadwadkar, former independent directors of IDBI P S Shenoy, S Ravi, Ninad Karpe, executive director Subroto Gupta, former executive directors Viney Kumar and B Ravindra Nath, general managers K Biju George, Venkata Krishnan, G Suneel Babu and then regional manager Manoj Alex were also booked.

Man hangs self,
relative alleges police harassment

Bengaluru: A 21-year-old man reportedly committed suicide by hanging himself at his house in Bagalgunte on Wednesday.

The police suspect that the victim, Ramachandra, a Tempo Traveller driver attached to a private travel agency, may have taken the extreme step due to depression.

According to the police, Ramachandra and his mother, Jayamma, were living in Bagalgunte near the Maramma temple. He was not going to work for the past 15 days for reasons unknown, the police said.

On Wednesday, around lunch time, he asked his mother to buy curd. Even as she left for the shop, he hanged himself from a ceiling hook. When Jayamma returned, the door was locked and she peeped through the window and found Ramachandra hanging. She informed the neighbours, who alerted the police. They rushed him to hospital, but the doctors declared him brought dead, the police said. However, one of the victim’s relatives claimed that Ramachandra killed himself due to harassment by the police.

‘Victim was threatened’

He said another relative of Ramachandra, who resides in Rajagopalanagar and was accused in a case, had gone absconding. The police, in spite of tracing him, picked up Ramachandra and asked him to give his whereabouts, and said they would file false cases against him if he didn’t oblige.

However, the relative has not lodged any complaint with the police.

The Bagalgunte police have registered a case of unnatural death based on Ramachandra mother’s complaint and are investigating further.

Woman dies at hospital

In a separate incident, a 36-year-old woman died at a hospital, where she had been admitted five days ago after she hanged herself at her house at Defence Colony in Bagalgunte.

The victim, Latha, a homemaker, was the wife of Thamme Gowda, a supervisor at a garments factory.

According to the police, she hanged herself at her
house from a ceiling fan on April 20. But she was rescued and was
admitted to the Sapthagiri Hospital, where she was
undergoing treatment, the added.

On Wednesday, she stopped responding to the treatment and died, the police said.

They are yet to ascertain the reason behind her taking the extreme step, but suspect that she was depressed and so decided to end her life.

The Bagalgunte police have registered a case of unnatural death and are investigating further.

Man convicted of sexually assaulting minor girl

Bengaluru: The 55th City Civil Court on Thursday convicted a 32-year-old man under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) and sentenced him to 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment and slapped a fine of Rs 6,500.

The suspect, Parthiban, was arrested by the Srirampura police in May 2017 for sexually assaulting a minor girl at his house.

According to the police, Parthiban, owner of a scrap shop, was living-in with the victim’s mother. The victim and her younger sister moved into Parthiban house after the death of their father. While the victim’s mother would work in the scrap shop, Parthiban would drop and pick up the children from school.

Soon, Parthiban began to sexually assault the victim and warned her not reveal it to anyone. Unable to bear the torture, the victim informed her mother, who filed a complaint with the Srirampura police.

Based on her complaint, the police arrested Parthiban.

Kannada serial director
cheated of Rs 33 lakh by media employee

Bengaluru, DHNS: A Kannada serial director has been cheated of Rs 33 lakh by a senior
employee of a television channel, situated on Rhenius Street in Richmond Town.

The JP Nagar police have taken up a cheating case and identified the suspect as Chandan Yadav (45), the marketing head of the channel, who according to the police remains elusive.

The victim, Naveen Roy, had approached several big names in the television industry to get a prime-time slot for his comedy serial ‘Athe Hange, Sose Hinge’.

When Naveen approached Udaya TV office in Chennai for the same in August 2016, it gave a contact of Yadav, who worked for a renowned television news channel in Bengaluru.

Naveen later got in touch with Yadav for his inquiries on the slot.

Yadav claiming to be an influential person in the media industry, promised Naveen the prime-time slots on the channel.

Yadav then started collecting lakhs of rupees from Naveen and asked him to start shooting for his serial.

Naveen began producing and directing the serial and roped in several artists.

As the serial was ready for the telecast, Naveen contacted Yadav, who asked him to be patient and wait. By the time, Yadav had already made Naveen cough up around Rs 32 lakh and an iPhone.

When Naveen could not get the slot, he demanded his money back to which Yadav gave lame excuses and sometimes did not even respond to his calls.

On April 21, Naveen approached the police and registered a case.
Further investigations are underway.

12 in dock over jobs for preachers in army

NEW DELHI: Recruiting religious teaches in the army had turned into a way for some army officials to mint money, but they have landed in trouble after an inquiry was conducted into anonymous complaints about the issue.

However, it was an easy task for the internal investigators in the army to pinpoint the suspects as most of the monetary transactions involved took place through bank accounts.

A bribe of at least Rs 15.55 lakh was paid by nine people who managed to get the job in 2013.

A CBI investigation is on after the agency registered a case on the basis of a complaint from General Office Commanding (Hyderabad) N Srinivas Rao.

12 armyment, including nine who were recruited as religious teachers, as well as five private persons are in the dock.

Religious teachers are inducted into the army for spiritual activities in the unit and to deliver spiritual motivation to the troops.

The CBI said that the army approached them with a complaint only last Thursday “due to conduct of in-house inquiry which involved summoning civilian witnesses and getting details of bank accounts of all the accused from various parts of the country”.

Recruitment trouble

The recruitment process was dogged with trouble from the beginning, after Subedar M N Tripathi, a religious teacher in the army, was removed from the interview panel after his name cropped up in an input on him indulging in “unfair practices by approaching candidates”.

In his place, another religious teacher, Satya Prakash, was appointed. However, the complaint, which makes part of the FIR said Tripathi did not let the opportunity go and managed to rope in Prakash and another religious teacher, M K Pandey, to influence the process.

Tripathi is said to have given Prakash a list of 20 candidates to be favoured during the recruitment process “by asking simple questions and giving maximum marks”.

Bribe collection

According to the CBI, Tripathi used the bank accounts of his five neighbours in Uttar Pradesh’s Gorakhpur to collect bribe amount.

Pandey used Tripathi’s help to reach out to prospective candidates while the internal army inquiry is said to have found that Prakash collected Rs 14 lakh in his bank account.

FD worth Rs 143 cr of Kanishk Gold attached

CHENNAI, DHNS: Continuing with its action, the ED on Thursday attached fixed deposits worth Rs 143 crore of Kanishk Gold, which is accused of defrauding several banks to the tune of Rs 824 crores.

The ED action came two days after it froze land, buildings, along with a plant, and machinery worth Rs 48 crore in Kancheepuram district. The ED office here issued a provisional order for attachment of the FDs under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

The agency said it found that an amount of Rs 300 crore was sent by the firm to a jewellers account and there was allegedly “no evidence” of receipt of gold sale in lieu of the said payment.


Wembley deal ‘could take eight to 12 weeks’, says Fulham owner Khan

International Finance, sports

Wembley deal ‘could take eight to 12 weeks’, says Fulham owner Khan

Shahid Khan bought NFL franchise Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011

Fulham owner Shahid Khan says he hopes a deal to buy Wembley Stadium from the Football Association will be completed in eight to 12 weeks.

Khan, who also owns NFL side Jacksonville Jaguars, has made an offerthought to be worth £900m.

It is understood he would pay £600m for the stadium and the FA will continue to run the £300m-valued Club Wembley hospitality business.

“This offer makes a lot of sense for us,” he told BBC Sport.

“When I say us, I’m talking about the Jaguars, NFL, Wembley, and I think it also makes a lot of sense for the FA and the English football team.

“I’m pretty confident – that’s why we’re putting our name, our reputation on the line to get it done.”

Khan said England games would remain at Wembley and he would retain the stadium’s name.

BBC Sport understands selling Wembley would allow the FA to make a major investment into football at grassroots level.

Pakistan-born Khan has a current net worth of $7.2bn (£5.2bn) and is the 217th richest person in the world, according to the 2018 Forbes rich list.

He said he understands fans’ concerns over his offer for the 90,000-seat stadium, which is the largest in the United Kingdom.

“I think they have to understand the value and the attraction for myself,” Khan added.

“We’ll leave the tradition and the stadium itself. Even though this is a new stadium, it does need upgrades.

“Under this arrangement the FA retains the right, the revenue, and that is really the most positive part of Wembley for the FA. So they will be retaining it and obviously we want it to be there.”

The 67-year-old added that the deal would make lead to “more meaningful discussions” over a permanent NFL franchise in London.

“NFL has been playing in London since 2007,” he said. “Until now, NFL doesn’t have a stadium solution or have a home. And it can’t work with a Premier League club, because of the schedule. It does work very well with Wembley, so I think it makes it closer.”

According to the FA’s latest financial results, it still owes £113m to public bodies such as Sport England, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, plus the London Development Agency, which helped pay to build the stadium, which cost £757m and opened in 2007.

In January, the FA said it would finish paying for the ground by the end of 2024.

In a statement, Sport England said it had invested £120m of National Lottery money into the development of Wembley and it looked forward to “hearing more detail about how such a deal would work and whether it would benefit grassroots sport”.

‘It could be a positive move’ – reaction to Khan offer

Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman: “This process is at an early stage and it’s ultimately a decision for the FA. But Wembley is the historic home of English football and holds a very special place in the hearts of fans up and down the country and I’m sure the FA will want to strongly consider the views of these supporters before deciding what to do next.”

Labour Shadow Sports Minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan: “The FA should not rush into any deal to sell and any deal must guarantee that England continue to play at Wembley as well as around the country; that major tournaments, cup finals and play-offs for multiple sports are still held at Wembley; and that ticket prices for England games are frozen for 10 years. The FA needs to guarantee that profits of the sale will be put into grassroots football to ensure that future generations will benefit.”

Hodgson would be ‘disappointed’ if England stopped playing at Wembley

Crystal Palace boss and former England manager and Roy Hodgson:“I am a massive supporter of Wembley as the national stadium and England playing there but I also have great faith in the FA that they won’t be making decisions lightly. If they think that is a good deal, a deal that will bring in money that they can spend in a better way, then I would be behind that.”

Former England captain and BBC Sport presenter Gary Lineker on Twitter: “If the money goes towards grassroots football, most importantly on pitches, artificial and otherwise, for youngsters to play then it could be a positive move.”

Swansea manager Carlos Carvalhal, who guided Sheffield Wednesday to the 2016 Championship play-off final:“I think they are monuments and we can’t sell them in my opinion. If you sell Wembley you can sell Big Ben and Buckingham Palace? We can’t sell monuments, it is culture, and you can’t sell culture.”

Chairman of Matchroom Sports and former Leyton Orient owner Barry Hearn: “Unless there’s a very good reason why it shouldn’t be sold, frankly the laws of commerce take over. It’s he who has most will win. I would be saddened but I would be realistic enough to say it’s life in the current system.”

Soccer News

via BBC Sport – Football

April 26, 2018 at 12:15PM

EU tells tech giants to tackle fake news by end-year — creation of a network of “independent fact-checkers” and a code of conduct — Peace and Freedom

International Finance, News, Tech

The EU warned US tech giants Thursday to crack down on the spread of “fake news” by the end of the year or face regulation in the wake of a scandal involving the illegal harvesting of Facebook users’ data. © AFP | Protestors demonstrated outside Portcullis house in London where Facebook’s Chief Technology Officer Mike […]

via EU tells tech giants to tackle fake news by end-year — creation of a network of “independent fact-checkers” and a code of conduct — Peace and Freedom

Brussels called for the creation of a network of “independent fact-checkers” and a code of conduct amid growing concerns over election meddling involving the use of the internet and personal data.

“We are giving social networks and online platforms a chance to resolve the problem once and for all,” EU digital commissioner Mariya Gabriel told a news conference.

As a first step, the Bulgarian commissioner called on tech firms to draw up a code of conduct by July, and proposed the creation of a secure online platform to tackle “disinformation”.

“We will closely monitor the progress made and may propose further actions by December, including measures of regulatory nature, should the results prove unsatisfactory,” she warned.

A European Commission statement explicitly referenced the scandal over the massive leak of Facebook user data to British consultancy Cambridge Analytica for use in the election campaign of US President Donald Trump.

“The recent Facebook/Cambridge Analytica revelations demonstrated exactly how personal data can be exploited in electoral contexts, and are a timely reminder that more is needed to secure resilient democratic processes,” the statement said.

Brussels has repeatedly raised concerns over meddling in elections including alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential ballot and the Brexit vote in Britain the same year.

French President Emmanuel Macron said in an address to the US Congress on Wednesday that “to protect our democracies, we have to fight against the ever-growing virus of fake news”.

The EU plans come after a group of 40 media experts including AFP produced a report on the issue earlier this year.

Brussels meanwhile also pressed Silicon Valley firms like Google to be more transparent about how their search results work amid concerns that they are squeezing out small businesses.

“We must make sure they are not abusing their power,” Gabriel said.

Google was hit last June with a 2.4-billion-euro (more than $2.7 billion) EU fine for illegally favouring its shopping service in search results, after which it proposed fixes including running the shopping arm as a standalone business.

The EU has taken an increasingly tough stance on US tech firms, with plans announced in March for a digital tax on Silicon Valley giants riling Washington.

World Cup claimed to boost Russia’s economy by nearly $31bn

International Finance, sports

MOSCOW — Organizers of this summer’s World Cup predict the total impact on the Russian economy could hit nearly $31 billion.

A new report on the economic impact of the tournament says the boost for the country’s GDP could amount to between 1.62 trillion rubles ($26 billion) and 1.92 trillion rubles ($30.8 billion) over the 10 years from 2013 through to 2023.

That’s attributed to growing tourism plus large-scale spending on construction.

The report says the total spend on the tournament will be 683 billion rubles ($11 billion), though that doesn’t include some costly new infrastructure and stadiums which organizers say would have been built regardless. Around 220,000 jobs have been created, the report says.

Economic impact figures for earlier tournaments have been hotly disputed, given the difficulty of separating the World Cup from other economic factors.

Oil dips as U.S. drilling tempers otherwise bullish sentiment

International Finance, international News, News, Oil, Petroleum Products
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Illustration photo of crude oil being dispensed into a bottle© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Illustration photo of crude oil being dispensed into a bottle

By Henning Gloystein

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices dipped on Monday as a rising U.S. rig count implied further increases in output, marking one of the few factors tamping back crude in an otherwise bullish environment.

Brent crude futures were at $73.91 per barrel at 0630 GMT, down 15 cents, or 0.2 percent from their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 18 cents, or 0.3 percent, at $68.22 a barrel.

“We expect for oil prices to recede slightly today as market anticipates on the prospect of rising production in the U.S.,” Singapore-based Phillip Futures said on Monday.

U.S. drillers added five rigs drilling for new production in the week ended April 20, bringing the total to 820, the highest since March 2015, according Baker Hughes energy services firm.

The rising rig numbers point to further increases in U.S. crude production, which is already up by a quarter since mid-2016 to a record 10.54 million barrels per day (bpd).

Only Russia produces more, at almost 11 million bpd.

Despite slipping on Monday, overall the oil market remains well supported, especially by strong demand in Asia.

Brent is up by 20 percent from its 2018 low in February.

Prices are also being supported by supply cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) that were introduced in 2017 to prop up the market.

“Added price pressure comes from U.S. sanctions against the key oil exporting nations of Venezuela, Russia and Iran,” said J.P. Morgan Asset Management Global Market Strategist Kerry Craig. He was referring to action the U.S. government has taken on Russian companies and individuals, as well as on potential new measures against struggling Venezuela and especially OPEC-member Iran.

“Stay long oil,” J.P. Morgan said in a separate note.

The United States has until May 12 to decide whether it will leave the Iran nuclear deal and instead impose new sanctions against Tehran, including potentially on its oil exports, which would further tighten global supplies.

The U.S. trade action against Russia and, potentially, against Iran has resulted in a slump in Russia’s ruble and Iran’s rial.

This means costs for any imported goods become more expensive for its citizens or companies, but it has also pushed up the value of Russia’s and Iran’s oil sales as all of their production costs are in the local currencies, while foreign sales are largely made in the U.S. dollar.

The generally elevated oil prices have also sparked a spat between U.S. President Donald Trump and producer cartel OPEC.

Trump on Friday accused OPEC of “artificially” boosting oil prices, threatening on Twitter that this “will not be accepted”, drawing rebukes from several of the world’s top oil exporters within OPEC.


EIB and African Development Bank to support private sector investment in Nigeria with Development Bank of Nigeria backing

Africa, International Finance, international News, News, World Bank

EIB and African Development Bank to support private sector investment in Nigeria with Development Bank of Nigeria backing

The European Investment Bank and the African Development Bank have agreed to support the creation of the new Development Bank of Nigeria to strengthen lending for business and agriculture investment in the country. The European Investment Bank has finalized a US $20-million equity stake in the new financing institution, alongside US $50-million equity participation from the African Development Bank.

The Development Bank of Nigeria has been created by the Federal Government of Nigeria to address financing challenges hindering private sector investment in the country. The Bank is called to play an important and catalytic role in providing funding and risk sharing facilities to micro, small and medium enterprises as well as small corporates.

“The Development Bank of Nigeria will overcome the funding gap in the micro-, small- and medium-scale enterprises space and help businesses unlock opportunities across Nigeria. DBN’s ambition is strengthened by the financial and technical support of international partners, including the European Investment Bank and African Development Bank. The new institution builds on international experience and uses a business model that has demonstrated proven success to enhance private-sector investment across Africa and around the world where other financing options are inadequate or absent,” said Tony Okpanachi, Managing Director of the Development Bank of Nigeria.

“Private sector businesses are critical to the development of the Nigerian economy as they possess huge potential for employment generation and output diversification. Nevertheless, there has been under-performance of these businesses and this has undermined their contribution to economic growth. Among the issues affecting their performance, the shortage of finance, particularly investment finance, occupies a very central position. The Development Bank of Nigeria is expected to contribute to mobilizing significant long-term financing to an important yet underserved sector with high development potential,” said Stefan Nalletamby, Director of the Financial Sector Development Department at the African Development Bank.

“New private sector investment is crucial to create jobs and enable businesses to expand and limited access to long-term financing holds back economic growth. The European Investment Bank is pleased to support the new Development Bank of Nigeria to strengthen private-sector investment in Africa’s largest economy. We look forward to continued close cooperation with Nigerian and international partners to ensure that once fully operational the new Development Bank of Nigeria can help harness the country’s economic potential,” said Ambroise Fayolle, Vice-President of the European Investment Bank (EIB).

Addressing the investment gap holding back private-sector investment

At present, new investment essential for companies to expand and create jobs is hindered by limited access to commercial banks. It is estimated by the Development Bank of Nigeria that only 5% of the 37 million entrepreneurs and small businesses in Nigeria that contribute to 50% of GDP can access credit in the financial system.

Building on broad international support

Other international financial institutions including the World Bank, Germany’s KfW and the French Agence française de développement (AFD) will also support the new bank alongside backing from the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Original source: AfDB
Published on 19 April 2018

PlayStation 5 could arrive in 2020! — Straylite Media

International Finance, international News

HomeGamePlayStation 5 could arrive in 2020! PlayStation 5 could arrive in 2020! Although the success of PlayStation 4 is in full swing, Sony already wants to bring another console. PS5 Console Archives In these moments, is going through a great boom in the market; In fact, the console is positioned as one of the main in the […]

via PlayStation 5 could arrive in 2020! — Straylite Media

Bed Bath & Beyond is in serious trouble —

International Finance, international News

The struggling retailer issued a lousy outlook last week, sending the stock to a nearly 10-year low. Credit ratings agency Standard & Poor’s cut its rating on Bed Bath & Beyond late Tuesday to a BBB- level, the lowest that S&P still considers investment grade. S&P warned that it could soon downgrade Bed Bath & Beyond’s bonds…

via Bed Bath & Beyond is in serious trouble —

VW promises cars with autonomous parking tech in 2020 — Self-driving cars

Business, International Finance Share Facebook Tweet Pinterest Email Volkswagen wants to take the hassle out of finding parking spots and has begun testing autonomous parking technology at the airport in Hamburg, Germany, using VW, Porsche and Audi vehicles. And this system does not rely on hardware integrated into the pavement or the parking structure; […]

via VW promises cars with autonomous parking tech in 2020 — Self-driving cars

Just in Time for Tax Day: IRS Payment Site Crashes for 8,000 Years (Really) — TIME

International Finance, international News

Just in time for tax day: The IRS website to make payments is down. But you still have to pay your taxes. The IRS did not have an immediate explanation for the failure. It appears, based on a message on the site, that the online payment system became unavailable at 2:50 A.M. ET on Tuesday.…

via Just in Time for Tax Day: IRS Payment Site Crashes for 8,000 Years (Really) — TIME

Ex-CEO of Cambridge Analytica Refused to Testify in UK

Business, International Finance, international News, Politics
The Facebook logo is seen on the screen of an iPhone in front of a computer screen showing a Cambrige Analytica logo
The Facebook logo is seen on the screen of an iPhone in front of a computer screen showing a Cambrige Analytica logo
Chesnot—Getty Images

(LONDON) — The chair of the British Parliament’s media committee says that Cambridge Analytica’s former CEO, Alexander Nix, says he will no longer testify at un upcoming session on fake news, citing an ongoing investigation by the information commissioner’s office.

Nix had been recalled by the committee to testify Wednesday following testimony by whistleblower Christopher Wylie on the use of data by some 87 million Facebook users in the campaign for Donald Trump’s presidential election.

Committee chair Damian Collins rejected Nix’s reason for not appearing, as he has not “not been charged with any criminal offence and there is no active legal proceedings.”

Collins says Tuesday that the committee “is minded to issue a formal summons for him to appear on a named day in the very near future.”

HSBC sets out new structure for private bank in Europe

International Finance, international News
hsbc.pngLONDON (Reuters) – HSBC (HSBA.L) said on Monday it would create a single regional structure for its private bank in Europe which includes its businesses in the UK, Channel Islands, France, Germany, Switzerland and Luxembourg.

FILE PHOTO: HSBC headquarters is seen at the financial Central district in Hong Kong, China September 6, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo

The new structure, which will be called HSBC Global Private Banking, EMEA, will be led by Chris Allen, who has been appointed regional head of global private banking.

“This will create a regional private banking business that is more integrated, strategically aligned and well positioned to deliver continued growth for HSBC Private Banking,” the bank said in a statement.

The move comes ahead of HSBC’s annual shareholder meeting on Friday – the first under new Chairman Mark Tucker, who joined last October, and Chief Executive John Flint, who joined in February.

Tucker, who has already spearheaded an initiative to streamline the bank’s board, and Flint gave their first hints of what strategy they would pursue at an analyst presentation earlier this month, outlining a plan to cut internal bureaucracy and expand investment in China.

Allen’s current role as CEO of HSBC’s private bank in the UK will be taken by Charles Boulton, who has held a number of senior roles in the bank, HSBC said.

Meanwhile, Franco Morra, CEO of HSBC’s private bank in Switzerland, will leave the bank with a permanent replacement to be decided in the coming months. Christophe Guillemot, CFO of global private banking, will take up the position on an interim basis.

HSBC’s global private banking business accounted for just over 3 percent of the bank’s adjusted global revenues in 2017, according to HSBC’s annual report for that year.

Reporting by Emma Rumney. Editing by Jane Merriman

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Group donates $40 million medical supplies to Nigeria – Official

Africa, International Finance, international News, local news

Group donates $40 million medical supplies to Nigeria – Official

X-ray machine [Photo Credit: Wikipedia]

Vice-President, International Development of MedShare, Nell Diallo, disclosed this at the Nigeria Day at Atlanta to celebrate MedShare 20 years of strengthening healthcare in Nigeria.

Ms Diallo said: “MedShare has supported over 150 hospitals in Nigeria and improved maternal and child health, primary care and infectious disease control and prevention in Nigeria’s healthcare facilities.

“MedShare has donated more than $40 million in medical supplies and biomedical equipment to strengthen Nigeria’s health systems.

“Our Biomedical Equipment Training and Repair Service has donated more than 4,500 pieces of state-of-the-art biomedical equipment and more than 1,050 electric hospital beds.”

According to her, MedShare focuses on the 19 Northern states because there are more cases of inadequate medical access and healthcare facilities in those states.

All the 19 Northern state governments and the Federal Capital Territory have benefitted from the charity organisation while southern states beneficiaries include Abia, Anambra, Bayelsa, Delta, Osun, Oyo, Lagos, Enugu and Abia states.

The beneficiary hospitals are the Ahmadu Bello University, Enugu State University, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomosho, Lagos State University, and Jos University Teaching Hospitals as well as the Nigerian Navy Reference Hospitals.

“The flags that you see here, these are the countries we ship to. The country that has received the largest number and percentage of container is this one – Nigeria – and we ship to 100 countries.

“We receive our kinds of equipment and supplies; we do not accept any materials that cannot be used in the U.S. and we use the World Health Organisation’s standard for accepting donations to go to underserved countries.

“If you look at our warehouse here, it’s 40,000 square feet. We have another warehouse that’s 55,000 (square feet) in San Francisco and a 10,000 square feet warehouse in New Jersey.

“And at any given time, we have roughly $25 million worth of materials that’s ready to be shipped and we load containers every week.”

Charles Redding, President and Chief Executive Officer of MedShare, said he was very pleased that Nigeria was one of its long-standing partners that it looked to strengthen healthcare system around the world.

Mr Redding said: “And I say that with the recognition that Nigeria is a very large country thus the need is very large.

“So if we look at collectively, the impact we’ve had around the world with our shipment of medical supplies and equipment, Nigeria has received the most of those shipments.

“We can certainly estimate that we’ve touched the lives of over two million Nigerians over the last 20 years.

“So we are very proud of the partnership, the openness and the community to want to work with us and to support our ongoing efforts to improve healthcare facilities around the world.”

MedShare is a Medical Surplus Recovery Organisation that collects and distributes surplus medical products to qualified healthcare facilities in medically-underserved communities around the world on an on-going basis.

The Atlanta-based organisation, was named a ‘Four Star Charity’ for the 13th consecutive year by Charity Navigator.

This designation recognises the top one per cent of U.S. charities based on the criteria of transparency, organisational accountability, and measurable impact.

Mr Redding said MedShare, currently in its 20th year of operations, has collected over 207 million dollars worth of lifesaving medical supplies and equipment that has helped over 19 million patients in over 100 countries and territories.

The module for receiving $350,000 worth of medical supplies and equipment involves the sponsorship of $25,000 for shipping logistics.

Redding advised Nigerian state governors and other well-meaning individuals to take advantage of the opportunity to offset their health budgets and facilitate the equipping of Nigerian hospitals through MedShare.

The event was attended by Nigeria’s Consul-General in Atlanta, Kayode Laro; his wife, Innocent Iwejuo; Consul, Information and Economics, representatives of Nigerian community organisations in the U.S. and members of the Nigerian diaspora. (NAN)

In defense of the HomePod – TechCrunch

International Finance, Power

In defense of the HomePod – TechCrunch

Comments Offon In defense of the HomePod – TechCrunch

pod3My HomePod, Google Home and Amazon Echo all live within about 15 feet of each other in my apartment.This is as much a testament to my obsession with smart home crap as it is to my inability to buy into a single tech giant’s hardware ecosystem. I’ve gone all-in with each assistant at various times but now my entire connected life is run through a series of commands that are held together by specific intonations, exact phrasing and speaking volumes of which I alone fully grasp. I solely hold the recipes to my MacGyvered connected life. (This has made life difficult for my roommate who sometimes has to ask me to turn the lights on, but truthfully he should have known what annoying techiness laid ahead when he saw me unpacking my VR rig as we moved in.)

This amalgam of chatty smart assistants has made me pretty in tune with each of these product’s faults, but it’s also helped me gain a deep appreciation for the individual strengths of the platforms themselves.

This week, Bloomberg reported that times are tough for the HomePod . Apple is cutting production, some of its retail stores aren’t breaking double digit sales of the device on a daily basis and it only has a small sliver of the smart speaker market. This report brought a lot of critics out of the woodwork who heralded the ignorance of Apple’s product strategy and harped on the smart speaker’s general dumbness and lackluster feature set.

Now, I’m not in the habit of defending near-trillion dollar companies, but I think much of this criticism is misplaced. The HomePod is probably the best-functioning smart speaker of the bunch, and I’d also contend that the company’s overall strategy is far from being “years behind” its competitors. Apple’s AI strategy needs some TLC to strengthen Siri, but with the AirPods and HomePod, Apple is building a unified front on audio hardware that will weather the gimmicks of a market that seems artificially mature to begin with.

A misunderstood market

First off, I’ve always found the “smart speaker market” to be a pie that’s sliced in a bizarre way. For as intimately tied to smartphones as voice assistants are, saying that Amazon remains the clear winner in a category that excludes the billions of mobile devices with deep voice assistant capabilities seems accurate but deeply wrong at the same time.

It’s also why I don’t think Apple needs to be as worried about getting a $50 product like the Home Mini or Echo Dot out there, because while Amazon desperately needs a low-friction connection to consumers, Apple doesn’t gain as much by putting a tinny speaker into a can that will do even less than what “Hey Siri” on your iPhone could do.

$349 is pretty far (too far) in the other direction, but the high-end hardware is the sell for Apple and the concept that consumers are going to default to another smart assistant than what their phone uses is only a problem that will exist in the early days of Siri and Google Assistant. Amazon’s technologies can get better and better but if Google Assistant is the only one with intimate knowledge of your Google Account activities and Siri is the only one that you can send iMessages with, there’s not much of a conversation to have.


Listen up

The dumbest answer from a smart speaker is always the one you’re waiting on that never comes. Just as the Airpods have succeeded in their approach thanks to the less sexy connectivity advances, the HomePod wins on the intelligence of its listening capabilities via a microphone array that can hear me at a whisper’s volume even while loud music is playing. It’s an overlooked feature in hardware comparisons, and it’s honestly one of the most important in practice.

I’ve yelled so many “Hey Google’s” while the TV is playing that never registered. Meanwhile, I’ve learned that I don’t really have to raise my voice to talk with the HomePod. That, along with its much blogged-about location-aware features of the HomePod, make it a device that feels like more of an ethereal presence in my apartment and less tied down to a physical location where I point my head and yell. While Amazon’s tech here has long been impressive as well, I’ve found the HomePod to be a bit more effective when tunes are blaring while pretty much laying waste to Google’s smart speakers (including the Max) which have always seemed to be hard of hearing in noisy environments from my experience.

Unskilled intelligence

Now, Siri is absolutely less good than Google Assistant when it comes to being a phone assistant, but a lot of these shortcomings don’t translate as jarringly to the HomePod. Apple has made the wrong calls with third party integrations for Siri on iOS but the current state of Alexa Skills and Google Assistant Actions suggests that Apple isn’t missing a ton on the smart speaker third-party platform front yet.

Something like ordering a pizza with Domino’s on an Echo or Google Home requires a bizarre amount of effort that is only easy if you do most of the work on your phone ahead of time. I wouldn’t say that Apple missing this feature has torn a hole in its core intelligence, likewise most of these “skills” generally don’t give me the context I need to make a decision.

I don’t get why there’s so much love thrown at these smart speaker development platforms. The fact is, they’re largely outlets for brand marketing budget dollars, rather than bastions of consumer utility. Sure, some of these apps are fun and may ultimately make the Echo a more family-friendly device than the HomePod, but the bloatware eventually becomes an afterthought as the gimmick wears off. Amazon needs this right now, not consumers.


Making calls, distinguishing between multiple users and accessing calendars are all pretty baseline features that one hopes that the HomePod receives updates for soon. Nevertheless, the HomePod is not an unfinished product as some have said, and is certainly not “years behind” its competitors. It certainly feels more finished than some of the hardware products in Amazon’s divergent smart speaker cornucopia.

They’ve made some annoying decisions regarding music streaming support; Apple Music is an absolute necessity to enjoy this product. I’ve been a Spotify listener in the past, but I’ve never been a power user of playlists which left me pretty vulnerable to switching if it made life easier with the HomePod and my AirPods, which it did.

Apple Music is just one more exclusive element of the ecosystem, and by extension, Siri. Despite Spotify’s sky-high market cap, I don’t really see a good reason not to be bullish on Apple Music. The service is rapidly growing and — if trends hold — will overtake Spotify in paid subscriber count sometime this summer. It seems unrealistic that Apple will bring Apple Music support to the Echo or Google Home, but it’d be nice if some skeleton support came to Spotify on HomePod in the meantime, though I kind of doubt this as well.


It’s all about the ecosystem; the “smart speaker market” doesn’t matter and never will as we define it now. What Google gains with a cheap entry point of a Google Home Mini is a way to drive people to features they didn’t know their phones had. Apple is using the HomePod to set a baseline while they look to build up these features that Siri doesn’t have yet. Amazon’s Alexa may have a chance in the context of the connected home, but it’s hard to imagine a world where you don’t want your mobile device and home assistant hub being intimately tied at an OS level.

The AirPods and HomePod are very good examples of OS-integrated hardware, and while Siri needs a facelift and perhaps some brain surgery, Apple’s thinking with the HomePod is about where it needs to be. It’s a platform that should really be a bit experimental for the time-being. These things were pushed into people’s homes so quickly by an Amazonian quest for market domination, but so much of the utility of smart speakers is still tied up in their frustrations.

Like the AirPods, the HomePod has isolated the right challenges to tackle first. “Winning the smart speaker market” isn’t going to happen for this product, but I get a sense that Apple’s thinking with the HomePod is tied up in a healthy self-awareness that its competitors lack.

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Can Africa be the big Brexit winner?

Africa, Business, economy, International Finance, Politics
Starting at next week’s Commonwealth summit, smart moves from both sides could benefit the UK and Africa.

Following the 2016 Brexit referendum, Britain needs to forge new and strong strategic alliances and trade relationships. Where and how does Africa feature in this equation?

Despite significant challenges, both Britain and Africa could emerge as winners from a rapidly shifting and uncertain global landscape. Smart policies and diplomacy could allow Britain to capitalise on the indifferent economic attitude the rest of the Western world has towards Africa. And African countries with strategic clout and collective bargaining acumen could broker favourable trade and investment deals rather than have terms dictated to them, as has been in the past.

First, to offset the detrimental effect of a split from Europe, Britain needs to look to alternative trading partners to catalyse its economy. Using foreign policy as an economic stimulus is vital in achieving this, and Africa is appealing in this regard. For British businesses, Africa’s high growth rates, urbanising population and growing consumer market provide a marketplace for British goods and services.

For Africa, the nature and scale of its development challenges, combined with its commodity export dependence, means that improved partnerships and increased demand for goods and services are welcome. Through trade, investment and donor support, there is huge scope for UK Inc to grow a more prosperous Africa while boosting its own economy.

Second, the ‘pivot to Commonwealth’ is a strategy that has long been flaunted as a positive spin-off from Brexit. Indeed, many advocates of Brexit had argued that once the UK was freed from the chains of the European Union (EU), it could pursue a buccaneering future as ‘Global Britain’.

Given the cultural affinity with its former colonies, the linguistic, legal and educational symmetry, and sizeable diaspora in the UK, Britain has an advantage over other countries regarding Africa. Its deep historical (albeit controversial) relationships with regional powerhouses like South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria could help secure trade and investment deals.

This year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London from 16-20 April is a clear attempt to both solidify and expand the UK’s network of influence with historical allies in a post-Brexit world.

Third, British rapprochement with Africa is likely to be well received in terms of trade policy. Africa’s relationship with the EU has often been tense, largely on account of the protectionist and distortionary polices Europe employs in the agricultural sector through the Common Agricultural Policy.

The UK has long been a proponent of freer and more equitable trade and would probably generate better opportunities for African markets to export their produce. This could be positive news for countries like Ghana (cocoa), Kenya (flowers and tea) and Ethiopia (coffee) in particular, who will benefit from fairer deals and better market access.

Thus disaffected countries may now see scope for more beneficial bilateral deals with the UK. Sensing this opportunity, Tanzania in 2016 refused to ratify the Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU, holding out for a more favourable deal with the UK. This could well be a sign of positive things to come – for both the UK and Africa.

But there are challenges.

Given the tight timelines for renegotiating trade deals with the World Trade Organisation, African countries’ placing on the list of priorities is unclear. African countries will likely fall behind larger trading partners like China, India and Brazil in the pecking order of who would offer more immediate and scalable benefits. Europe alone – with at least 759 treaties to be renegotiated – will probably receive most of the time and attention of British policymakers.

There is thus a risk that Africa’s status will be relegated to a ‘nice-to-have’ rather than a ‘must-have’ – especially given its low levels of integration into the global economy in terms of global trade (2% according to the World Economic Forum).

Success will also depend on the institutional bandwidth of the British government to execute ambitious plans. The country’s bureaucracy is already stretched and suffers from a lack of co-ordination, according to Nick Oliver, an infrastructure financier with NMS International Group.

If a new relationship with Africa is going to thrive, it also needs to be ‘business unusual’ for the UK. Given the country’s colonial past, any new relationship must be a strategic partnership of equals. Any attempt to re-engineer ‘Empire 2.0’ will fail.

Further, the UK will be negotiating from a position of weakness rather than strength. Europe remains Africa’s largest trading bloc and the multiple market access offered is still attractive to African countries. Britain will need to offer a compelling value proposition to counter the surety and scale that the EU offers.

Success in Africa for the UK will require not only cultural sensitivity, but also an appreciation of what African states actually want from a trade and investment perspective. This is an unenviable task on a continent with 54 vastly different counties, each with different priorities and preferences.

Symbolically, too, Britain needs to show Africa that it matters. The last UK head of state to visit Africa was Tony Blair in 2007. Emmanuel Macron’s first overseas trip, just a week after his inauguration as French president, was to Mali in 2017, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Africa in 2016. Both leaders knew that these visits were important in shaping their strategic interest amid changing geo-political and economic influences in Africa. Britain is at a disadvantage here and needs build trust among African policymakers.

But African leaders must also play their part in getting this arrangement to work effectively. African states must use their negotiating power to their advantage. With other global powers jockeying for influence in Africa, both commercially and otherwise, competition is intense. But a strong and engaged Western partner to the continent is currently lacking, and this is where Britain could act as a counterweight to China’s muscular approach and increased interest from India and Japan.

To take advantage says Rohitesh Dhawan, director of strategy at Eurasia, African countries must be aware of the negotiating tactics used by countries such as Australia, New Zealand and India who have built fertile ground for detailed trade talks. ‘Keeping abreast of the acts of other countries can also help African nations know which issues the UK is more able to make concessions over (and is less hamstrung for negotiating space) than others, and where they should place their bets.’

Tactics, pragmatism and scalability are key – especially in light of the muscle that Africa could wield through the newContinental Free Trade Area agreement. By using its collective power, and prioritising agriculture, the continent’s leadership could broker a potentially game-changing deal that could reshape the nature of UK-Africa relations.

With Brexit negotiations at a critical juncture, it is still unclear whether the UK will emerge as ‘Great Britain’ or ‘Little England’. But the deadline is fast approaching and Britain would do well not to ignore Africa as it charts forward. With some out-of-the-box thinking, there are compelling reasons why the continent may yet emerge as a huge ally to the UK.

Ronak Gopaldas, ISS Consultant and Director at Signal Ris

Britain Aims to Close Gender Pay Gap With Transparency and Shame

economy, Facts, International Finance


EasyJet headquarters at London Luton Airport. Men outearn women by around 52 percent at easyJet, which has pledged to hire more female pilots. Credit Andrew Testa for The New York Times

The gender pay gaps detailed by British companies in recent months surprised almost no one — men are paid more than women, often by a wide margin, at the vast majority of businesses.

But by making companies publicly air their salary information, Britain intends to force a reckoning. Officials in London hope the embarrassing revelations in the reports, which had to be submitted by Wednesday, will shame companies into doing more to close the divide.

The push is one of a growing number of efforts among countries to promote the principle of equal pay. Australia recently mandated gender pay gap reporting for most companies. In Germany, a new law will require businesses with more than 500 employees to reveal their pay gaps. Nordic countries like Iceland have been even more aggressive, by making companies prove they are paying male and female staff equally.

Proponents of the British effort argue that the increased transparency will lead to smaller gaps. Research by the accounting firm PwC predicts that if nothing is done, it could take nearly a century for the divide to close entirely across the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group of rich countries that includes Britain.

“This is a game-changer,” said Andrew Bazeley, a policy manager at the Fawcett Society, a British organization that campaigns for women’s rights and equality. “It will force businesses to think about the gender pay gap in ways they might not have before.”

Under the new reporting requirements, companies with 250 or more employees must publish salary differences between men and women every year. They are also required to provide details on gaps in average bonuses paid, and the proportion of men and women who received those bonuses.

The submissions have made for uncomfortable reading for company executives. At Goldman Sachs’s sprawling moneymaking machine in Britain, women are paid an average of 56 percent less than men. Men outearn women by around 52 percent at easyJet, the country’s busiest discount airline. And at WPP, the British advertising giant, women take home, on average, around one-quarter less than their male counterparts.


Johan Lundgren, easyJet’s chief executive, is taking a 4.6 percent pay cut to match the salary of his female predecessor.CreditGeorges Gobet/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Still, at least in some cases, the requirement to publish the data has made an impact as big companies have scrambled to counter the fallout from embarrassing reports. EasyJet has said its male chief executive would take a 4.6 percent pay cut to match the salary of his female predecessor, and pledged to more than triple the proportion of its female pilots.

In other cases, a change in the pay culture has been pushed from the outside. At Mills & Reeve, a British law firm whose audit determined it was paying women an average of 32 percent less than men, a major impetus has come from big clients that have started to request more female representation among the firm’s attorneys.

“It’s increasingly something we’re asked for as part of tenders and pitches, to give details of our diversity,” said Claire Clarke, a managing partner.

Some efforts predate the new rules, but have come into focus because of the requirements. The British bank Barclays, for example, has sought to hire, and retain, more senior female executives by offering a new 12-week “internship” targeted at experienced women who are coming off a career break and introducing greater flexibility in existing jobs.

Supporters of the British regulations acknowledge that transparency alone won’t solve the problem. But without it, companies and regulators in countries seeking to enforce equal pay laws would have scant evidence that a gap existed — and face less pressure to address it. Jake Rosenfeld and Patrick Denice, sociologists at Washington University, found in a study that salary transparency raised wages, in part because “even being cognizant of gender pay disparity” helped change norms.

Such is the case in Iceland. The country has gone further than any other, becoming the first to require employers to submit to external audits to prove they are paying women on a par with men. The thinking was that unless equal pay laws were applied more forcefully, the imbalance might never close.

Iceland’s government has vowed to completely close the nation’s gender pay gap by 2022, after women walked out of their jobs en masse in protest on a chilly afternoon in October 2016.