Microsoft - search results
Facebook and Microsoft get government OK to make broader surveillance revelations post-Edward Snowden leaks
Microsoft received 75,378 government requests in 2012 to disclose user information, a report reveals. The company joins the likes of Google, which handed over troves of user data to governments last year, raising concerns over privacy violations.
The software giant claims the requests come from the FBI and as such the disclosure of the information can be justified.
Microsoft revealed in its transparency report it had disclosed data pertaining to 137,424 user accounts at the behest of world governments. Microsoft maintains that actual “customer content” was released in only 2.1 per cent of cases.
However, names, email addresses, user names and locations, which the company classifies as ‘non-content’, were released in 79.8 per cent of cases.
Most of the requests to reveal user information over the past year originated in the US, UK, Turkey, Germany and France.
“However, we only disclose data in 46 countries where we have the ability to validate the lawfulness of the request,” said a company spokesperson.
"In recent months, there has been broadening public interest in how often law enforcement agencies request customer data from technology companies and how our industry responds to these requests," Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith said.
Stressing the company’s commitment to transparency, he added that Microsoft was following suit with companies like Google and Twitter, which had “made important and helpful contributions to this discussion by publishing some of their data.”
Google was first off the mark and has published a transparency report three years running, detailing the quantity of information handed over to government agencies. It also claimed to have received request letters from the FBI as part of terrorism investigations.
Last week a judge in the US ruled that the use of such letters went against the American constitution because it bypasses the rights of the individual involved. However, the judge allowed the measures to remain in place pending appeal.
Microsoft has come in the firing line before for its surveillance practices regarding popular telephony tool Skype, which the company acquired in 2011. Earlier this year a group of 44 privacy and free expression groups wrote an open letter to Microsoft, urging them to publish a transparency report on how exactly the company uses private information in government surveillance.
“We believe that this data is vital to help us help Skype’s most vulnerable users, who rely on your software for the privacy of their communications and, in some cases, their lives,” read the letter.
Eva Galperin from the Electronic Frontier Foundation told Forbes she was “a little suspicious of the language” used in the transparency report regarding Skype and is concerned that Skype may have provided the government with a backdoor to eavesdrop on conversations without consulting Microsoft.
“This doesn’t exclude the possibility that Microsoft used cryptographic means to undermine a users’ security and allow law enforcement to perform their own wiretap,” Galperin told Forbes magazine.
Customers check the latest technology in an Apple retail store in central Sydney. (AFP Photo / Greg Wood)
Apple, Microsoft and Adobe have been summonsed to appear before the Australian parliament at a hearing into why the tech firms sell their goods to local consumers at higher prices than in the US.
The parliamentary committee for infrastructure and communications announced that a public hearing will be held on March 22nd in Canberra.
"The Committee is looking at the impacts of prices charged to Australian consumers for IT products – Australian consumers often pay much higher prices for hardware and software than people in other countries," the committee said. "The Committee has been examining claims made by organizations such as CHOICE, and the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network."
"In what's probably the first time anywhere in the world, these IT firms are now being summoned by the Australian parliament to explain why they price their products so much higher in Australia compared to the United States," said ruling Labor government MP Ed Husic, who helped set up the committee.
Australian “people’s watchdog”, CHOICE found that Australians pay on average 34% more for software, 52% more for iTunes music, 88% more for Wii games and 41% for computer hardware than US consumers, their official website states. The research indicated that the majority of these price discrepancies were likely due to price discrimination from large international firms.
And conveniently forgets to mention it's own privacy track record
RIA Novosti / Mikhail Fomichev
Russia’s Yandex search engine has pushed Microsoft’s Bing aside in global search statistics, climbing to fourth place after Google, Baidu and Yahoo!
The world-wide search statistics are compiled by comScore’s qsearch.
The trend started November, Yandex representative Tatyana Komarova told Vedomosti daily. Then Yandex processed 4.62 billion search requests compared to Microsoft’s 4.48 billion requests that meant each had roughly a 2.6 percent share. In December the trend continued, as Yandex handled 4.84 billion requests (2.8 percent share) and Microsoft 4.48 billion (2.5 percent share). In the number of unique searchers the companies change places – in December with Microsoft having 268.6 million, and Yandex just 74.4 million.
The growth in searches through Yandex happened because of increase of Russian internet use, according to Komarova. The Russian segment grew 17% in 2012 up to 42.2 million users.
Even through it improved its performance worldwide Moscow-based Yandex NV (YNDX) is a long way behind Google, which retains its position of the world’s search leader. Google handled 114.73 billion requests in December for a 65.2 percent market share. China’s Baidu came next with 14.5 billion (8.2 percent), followed by Yahoo with 8.63 billion (4.9 percent).
However, while Google dominates American and European markets – over 65 percent of American searches and over 90 percent of European searches are made with the Google; in Russia it gives ground to Yandex. In Russia, Yahoo accounts for twice as many searches as Google, having 60.5 percent of Russia’s web-search market compared to 26.4 percent for Google. Like Google Yandex’s core business is in search and also has innovative projects from data and mobile to mapping.
Yandex has become the first Russian company to get access to the vast database of the CERN nuclear research establishment in Switzerland. Last fall Yandex rolled out its own web browser and Android app store in Russia, hoping to expand them worldwide. Yandex also developed a voice-activated visual search engine for Facebook called Wonder, which lets people find local businesses friends had visited or taken photos at, what music they’d been listening to, and what news they had been reading. However, Facebook had to cut its data access (along with Twitter’s Vine app, among others) due to its data policy.
Taking advantage of Russia’s rapidly growing internet market, Yandex has opened up in Turkey. The company says it hopes to raise its market share to 35 percent in five years from 1.4 percent today. Google has 93.7 percent market share in Turkey according to ComScore. “The target looks ambitious,” Aleksandr Vengranovich, an analyst at Otkritie Capital in Moscow, told Bloomberg. He noted that it took Google about five years to reach 26 percent in Russia, with most of its gains coming from Yandex.
Yandex says it chose Turkey because of its population of 75 million, and an increasing online audience, Bloomberg reports. The country is now the No. 6 web search market. In November, Yandex became the default search on handsets running the Windows Phone operating system in Turkey, even though Microsoft’s Bing search engine is available. In Turkey, Yandex also developed technology for street-view maps that blurs the face of Kemal Ataturk statues and street portraits to comply with a ban on photographing images of the country’s founder.
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Google’s Rapidly Expanding Political Activity and Information Collection Systems Present Cause for Concern
- One count of "conspiring to commit computer fraud and abuse."
- Eight counts of "accessing (or attempting to access) a protected computer without authorization to obtain information for the purpose of commercial advantage and private financial gain."
- Fourteen counts of "transmitting a program, information, code, or command with the intent to cause damage to protected computers."
- Six counts of "aggravated identify theft."
- One count of "economic espionage."
- One count of "trade secret theft."
How would you feel if you went to the store to buy something, and someone rushed ahead of you and purchased it first and then sold it to you at a higher price? Well, in the financial world this happens millions upon millions of times. In fact, this practice has become so popular that it [...]
If you ever wonder what’s fueling America’s staggering inequality, ponder Facebook’s acquisition of the mobile messaging company WhatsApp .
According to news reports today, Facebook has agreed to buy WhatsApp for $19 billion.
That’s the highest price paid for a startup in history. It’s $3 billion more than Facebook raised when it was first listed, and more than twice what Microsoft paid for Skype.
(To be precise, $12 billion of the $19 billion will be in the form of shares in Facebook, $4 billion will be in cash, and $3 billion in restricted stock to WhatsApp staff, which will vest in four years.)
Given that gargantuan amount, you might think Whatsapp is a big company. You’d be wrong. It has 55 employees, including its two young founders, Jan Koum and Brian Acton.
Whatsapp’s value doesn’t come from making anything. It doesn’t need a large organization to distribute its services or implement its strategy.
It value comes instead from two other things that require only a handful of people. First is its technology — a simple but powerful app that allows users to send and receive text, image, audio and video messages through the Internet.
The second is its network effect: The more people use it, the more other people want and need to use it in order to be connected. To that extent, it’s like Facebook — driven by connectivity.
Whatsapp’s worldwide usage has more than doubled in the past nine months, to 450 million people — and it’s growing by around a million users every day. On December 31, 2013, it handled 54 billion messages (making its service more popular than Twitter, now valued at about $30 billion.)
How does it make money? The first year of usage is free. After that, customers pay a small fee. At the scale it’s already achieved, even a small fee generates big bucks. And if it gets into advertising it could reach more eyeballs than any other medium in history. It already has a database that could be mined in ways that reveal huge amounts of information about a significant percentage of the world’s population.
The winners here are truly big winners. WhatsApp’s fifty-five employees are now enormously rich. Its two founders are now billionaires. And the partners of the venture capital firm that financed it have also reaped a fortune.
And the rest of us? We’re winners in the sense that we have an even more efficient way to connect with each other.
But we’re not getting more jobs.
In the emerging economy, there’s no longer any correlation between the size of a customer base and the number of employees necessary to serve them. In fact, the combination of digital technologies with huge network effects is pushing the ratio of employees to customers to new lows (WhatsApp’s 55 employees are all its 450 million customers need).
Meanwhile, the ranks of postal workers, call-center operators, telephone installers, the people who lay and service miles of cable, and the millions of other communication workers, are dwindling — just as retail workers are succumbing to Amazon, office clerks and secretaries to Microsoft, and librarians and encyclopedia editors to Google.
Productivity keeps growing, as do corporate profits. But jobs and wages are not growing. Unless we figure out how to bring all of them back into line – or spread the gains more widely – our economy cannot generate enough demand to sustain itself, and our society cannot maintain enough cohesion to keep us together.
If you live in the United States, you live in a high tech surveillance grid that is becoming more oppressive with each passing day. In America today, the control freaks that run things are completely obsessed with watching, tracking, monitoring and recording virtually everything that we do. If we continue on the path that [...]
“Control oil and you control nations,” said US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the 1970s. “Control food and you control the people.”
Global food control has nearly been achieved, by reducing seed diversity with GMO (genetically modified) seeds that are distributed by only a few transnational corporations. But this agenda has been implemented at grave cost to our health; and if the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) passes, control over not just our food but our health, our environment and our financial system will be in the hands of transnational corporations.
Profits Before Populations
Genetic engineering has made proprietary control possible over the seeds on which the world’s food supply depends. “Terminator” genes enable the production of sterile seeds, using a synthetic chemical catalyst appropriately called “Traitor” to induce seed sterility. Farmers must therefore buy seeds from their patent owners year after year. To cover these costs, food prices are raised; but the harm is far greater than to our pocketbooks.
According to an Acres USA interview of plant pathologist Don Huber, Professor Emeritus at Purdue University, two modified traits account for practically all of the genetically modified crops grown in the world today. One involves insect resistance. The other, more disturbing modification involves insensitivity to glyphosate-based herbicides (plant-killing chemicals). Often known as Roundup after the best-selling Monsanto product of that name, glyphosate poisons everything in its path except plants genetically modified to resist it.
Glyphosate-based herbicides are now the most commonly used herbicides in the world. Glyphosate is an essential partner to the GMOs that are the principal business of the burgeoning biotech industry. Glyphosate is a “broad-spectrum” herbicide that destroys indiscriminately, not by killing unwanted plants directly but by tying up access to critical nutrients.
Because of the insidious way in which it works, it has been sold as a relatively benign replacement for the devastating earlier dioxin-based herbicides. But a barrage of experimental data has now shown glyphosate and the GMO foods incorporating it to pose serious dangers to health. Compounding the risk is the toxicity of “inert” ingredients used to make glyphosate more potent. Researchers have found, for example, that the surfactant POEA can kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells. But these risks have been conveniently ignored.
The widespread use of GMO foods and glyphosate herbicides helps explain the anomaly that the US spends over twice as much per capita on healthcare as the average developed country, yet it is rated far down the scale of the world’s healthiest populations. The World Health Organization has ranked the US LAST out of 17 developed nations for overall health.
Sixty to seventy percent of the foods in US supermarkets are now genetically modified. By contrast, in at least 26 other countries—including Switzerland, Australia, Austria, China, India, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Greece, Bulgaria, Poland, Italy, Mexico and Russia—GMOs are totally or partially banned; and significant restrictions on GMOs exist in about sixty other countries.
A ban on GMO and glyphosate use might go far toward improving the health of Americans. But the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a global trade agreement for which the Obama Administration has sought Fast Track status, would block that sort of cause-focused approach to the healthcare crisis.
Roundup’s Insidious Effects
Roundup-resistant crops escape being killed by glyphosate, but they do not avoid absorbing it into their tissues. Herbicide-tolerant crops have substantially higher levels of herbicide residues than other crops. In fact, many countries have had to increase their legally allowable levels—by up to 50 times—in order to accommodate the introduction of GM crops. In the European Union, residues in food are set to rise 100-150 times if a new proposal by Monsanto is approved. Meanwhile, herbicide-tolerant “super-weeds” have adapted to the chemical, requiring even more toxic doses and new toxic chemicals to kill the plant.
Human enzymes are affected by glyphosate just as plant enzymes are: the chemical blocks the uptake of manganese and other essential minerals. Without those minerals, we cannot properly metabolize our food. That helps explain the rampant epidemic of obesity in the United States. People eat and eat in an attempt to acquire the nutrients that are simply not available in their food.
Glyphosate’s inhibition of cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes is an overlooked component of its toxicity to mammals. CYP enzymes play crucial roles in biology . . . . Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body. Consequences are most of the diseases and conditions associated with a Western diet, which include gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
More than 40 diseases have been linked to glyphosate use, and more keep appearing. In September 2013, the National University of Rio Cuarto, Argentina, published research finding that glyphosate enhances the growth of fungi that produce aflatoxin B1, one of the most carcinogenic of substances. A doctor from Chaco, Argentina, told Associated Press, “We’ve gone from a pretty healthy population to one with a high rate of cancer, birth defects and illnesses seldom seen before.” Fungi growths have increased significantly in US corn crops.
Glyphosate has also done serious damage to the environment. According to an October 2012 report by the Institute of Science in Society:
Agribusiness claims that glyphosate and glyphosate-tolerant crops will improve crop yields, increase farmers’ profits and benefit the environment by reducing pesticide use. Exactly the opposite is the case. . . . [T]he evidence indicates that glyphosate herbicides and glyphosate-tolerant crops have had wide-ranging detrimental effects, including glyphosate resistant super weeds, virulent plant (and new livestock) pathogens, reduced crop health and yield, harm to off-target species from insects to amphibians and livestock, as well as reduced soil fertility.
Politics Trumps Science
In light of these adverse findings, why have Washington and the European Commission continued to endorse glyphosate as safe? Critics point to lax regulations, heavy influence from corporate lobbyists, and a political agenda that has more to do with power and control than protecting the health of the people.
In the ground-breaking 2007 book Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation, William Engdahl states that global food control and depopulation became US strategic policy under Rockefeller protégé Henry Kissinger. Along with oil geopolitics, they were to be the new “solution” to the threats to US global power and continued US access to cheap raw materials from the developing world. In line with that agenda, the government has shown extreme partisanship in favor of the biotech agribusiness industry, opting for a system in which the industry “voluntarily” polices itself. Bio-engineered foods are treated as “natural food additives,” not needing any special testing.
Jeffrey M. Smith, Executive Director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, confirms that US Food and Drug Administration policy allows biotech companies to determine if their own foods are safe. Submission of data is completely voluntary. He concludes:
In the critical arena of food safety research, the biotech industry is without accountability, standards, or peer-review. They’ve got bad science down to a science.
Whether or not depopulation is an intentional part of the agenda, widespread use of GMO and glyphosate is having that result. The endocrine-disrupting properties of glyphosate have been linked to infertility, miscarriage, birth defects and arrested sexual development. In Russian experiments, animals fed GM soy were sterile by the third generation. Vast amounts of farmland soil are also being systematically ruined by the killing of beneficial microorganisms that allow plant roots to uptake soil nutrients.
In Gary Null’s eye-opening documentary Seeds of Death: Unveiling the Lies of GMOs, Dr. Bruce Lipton warns, “We are leading the world into the sixth mass extinction of life on this planet. . . . Human behavior is undermining the web of life.”
The TPP and International Corporate Control
As the devastating conclusions of these and other researchers awaken people globally to the dangers of Roundup and GMO foods, transnational corporations are working feverishly with the Obama administration to fast-track the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement that would strip governments of the power to regulate transnational corporate activities. Negotiations have been kept secret from Congress but not from corporate advisors, 600 of whom have been consulted and know the details. According to Barbara Chicherio in Nation of Change:
The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) has the potential to become the biggest regional Free Trade Agreement in history. . . .
The chief agricultural negotiator for the US is the former Monsanto lobbyist, Islam Siddique. If ratified the TPP would impose punishing regulations that give multinational corporations unprecedented right to demand taxpayer compensation for policies that corporations deem a barrier to their profits.
. . . They are carefully crafting the TPP to insure that citizens of the involved countries have no control over food safety, what they will be eating, where it is grown, the conditions under which food is grown and the use of herbicides and pesticides.
Food safety is only one of many rights and protections liable to fall to this super-weapon of international corporate control. In an April 2013 interview on The Real News Network, Kevin Zeese called the TPP “NAFTA on steroids” and “a global corporate coup.” He warned:
No matter what issue you care about—whether its wages, jobs, protecting the environment . . . this issue is going to adversely affect it . . . .
If a country takes a step to try to regulate the financial industry or set up a public bank to represent the public interest, it can be sued . . . .
Return to Nature: Not Too Late
There is a safer, saner, more earth-friendly way to feed nations. While Monsanto and US regulators are forcing GM crops on American families, Russian families are showing what can be done with permaculture methods on simple garden plots. In 2011, 40% of Russia’s food was grown on dachas (cottage gardens or allotments). Dacha gardens produced over 80% of the country’s fruit and berries, over 66% of the vegetables, almost 80% of the potatoes and nearly 50% of the nation’s milk, much of it consumed raw. According to Vladimir Megre, author of the best-selling Ringing Cedars Series:
Essentially, what Russian gardeners do is demonstrate that gardeners can feed the world – and you do not need any GMOs, industrial farms, or any other technological gimmicks to guarantee everybody’s got enough food to eat. Bear in mind that Russia only has 110 days of growing season per year – so in the US, for example, gardeners’ output could be substantially greater. Today, however, the area taken up by lawns in the US is two times greater than that of Russia’s gardens – and it produces nothing but a multi-billion-dollar lawn care industry.
In the US, only about 0.6 percent of the total agricultural area is devoted to organic farming. This area needs to be vastly expanded if we are to avoid “the sixth mass extinction.” But first, we need to urge our representatives to stop Fast Track, vote no on the TPP, and pursue a global phase-out of glyphosate-based herbicides and GMO foods. Our health, our finances and our environment are at stake.
Ellen Brown is an attorney, president of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books, including the best-selling Web of Debt. In The Public Bank Solution, her latest book, she explores successful public banking models historically and globally. Her blog articles are at EllenBrown.com.
Filed under: Ellen Brown Articles/Commentary
- "Collect(ing, including through clandestine means), process, analyze, produce, and disseminate signals intelligence information and data for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes to support national and departmental missions;
- Acting(ing) as the National Manager for National Security Systems as established in law and policy, and in this capacity be responsible to the Secretary of Defense and to the Director, National Intelligence; (and)
- Prescrib(ing) security regulations covering operating practices, including the transmission, handling, and distribution of signals intelligence and communications security material within and among the elements under control of the Director of the National Security Agency, and exercise the necessary supervisory control to ensure compliance with the regulations."
- "Align (it) with the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004;
- Implement additional recommendations of the 9/11 and WMD Commissions; (and)
- Further integrate the Intelligence Community and clarify and strengthen the role of DNI as the head of the Community; Maintain or strengthen privacy and civil liberties protections."
- the Signals Intelligence Directorate (SID). It relates to foreign intelligence gathering, and
- the Information Assurance Directorate (IAD). It protects US information systems.
- Republican Civil War Erupts: Business Groups v. Tea Party (BBG)
- Budget fight leaves Boehner 'damaged' but still standing (Reuters)
- Madoff Was Like a God, Wizard of Oz, Lawyers Tell Jury (BBG) - just like Bernanke
- Republicans press U.S. officials over Obamacare snags (Reuters)
- Brilliant: Fed Unlikely to Trim Bond Buying in October (Hilsenrath)
- More brilliant: Fed could taper as early as December (FT)
- Russia Roofing Billionaires Seen Among Country’s Youngest (BBG)
- Ford's Mulally won't dismiss Boeing, Microsoft speculation (Reuters)
- China reverses first-half slowdown (FT)
- NY Fed’s Fired Goldman Examiner Makes Weird Case (BBG)
- Italian protests against Letta government disrupt transport (Reuters)
- Transit workers strike again, will hamper Bay Area commute (Reuters)
Overnight Media Digest
* SAC Capital and federal prosecutors have agreed in principle on a penalty exceeding $1 billion in a potential criminal settlement that would be the largest ever for an insider-trading case.
* Insurers say the federal healthcare marketplace is generating flawed data that is straining their ability to handle even the trickle of enrollees who have gotten through so far.
* Chinese PC maker Lenovo is actively considering a bid for all of BlackBerry and has signed a non-disclosure agreement with the smartphone maker. ()
* A late surge of cases against low-level offenders will push the SEC's case total close to last year's levels, masking a steep drop in enforcement actions related to the financial crisis. While the total hasn't been announced, it likely will be down at least 5 percent from a near-record high of 734 enforcement cases in fiscal 2012.
* Google posted a 12 percent increase in third-quarter revenue, as it tries to keep pace with its users' shift to mobile devices.
* Video-streaming service Hulu on Thursday named Mike Hopkins as its new chief executive, effective immediately. Hopkins has been president of Fox Networks Group, a division of 21st Century Fox Inc, since 2008 and a member of Hulu's board since 2011.
* A U.S. district judge ordered subprime lender Household International Inc - now part of HSBC Holdings PLC - to pay investors $2.46 billion in a class-action lawsuit, a move that comes several years after a jury found the company liable for securities fraud.
* IBM is shaking up leadership of its growth-markets unit, following disappointing third-quarter results that prompted a critical internal email from CEO Virginia Rometty. She wrote that IBM's strategy is correct, but criticized the company for failing to execute in sales of computer hardware as well as in the growth markets unit, whose sales territory includes markets in Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Latin America.
Paul Tucker, the Bank of England's outgoing deputy governor, said regulators need to keep a stronger eye on hedge funds and shadow banks and added it would be disastrous if the economic fragility of banks was recreated outside the mainstream banking sector.
The U.S. Federal Reserve could begin reducing its asset purchases as early as December after the government shutdown sabotaged a crucial month of data and dealt a blow to the world's largest economy.
The next U.S. monthly employment report became a casualty of the U.S. government shutdown with the Department of Labor saying the data would be released after a delay of more than two weeks on Tuesday.
Scottish National Party leader and Scotland's first minister, Alex Salmond was involved in the talks between the management and workers Grangemouth refinery and petrochemicals complex. The management has closed off the refinery demanding that workers accept changes to pay, pensions and union representation in what has turned out to be Scotland's biggest industrial dispute in years.
Google shares rose 8 percent to a record high after the company managed a smooth transition of its advertising business to smartphones and tablets from PCs.
Goldman Sachs managed to protect its profits by slashing the amount of money set aside for year-end bonuses after its fixed-income trading was worse than any other large Wall Street bank's.
Barclays has approached the Court of Appeal to overturn an earlier ruling that allowed Guardian Care Homes, which is suing Barclays over interest-rate swaps, to amend its claim to include Libor-related allegations.
UK Ministers will look at the green measures that have contributed to rising fuel bills after British Gas became the second energy company to increase energy prices.
* Britain said on Thursday that it would allow Chinese firms to buy stakes in British nuclear power plants and eventually acquire majority holdings. The agreement, which comes with caveats, opens the way for China's fast-growing nuclear industry to play a significant role in Britain's plans to proceed with construction of its first new reactor in nearly two decades.
* The hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors is moving closer to a plea deal with prosecutors that would force it to wind down its business of managing money for outside investors, punctuating its decline from the envy of Wall Street to a firm caught in the government's cross hairs. An agreement to stop operating as an investment adviser is one feature of a larger agreement SAC is negotiating as it seeks to resolve insider trading charges, according to people briefed on the case.
* On Thursday Goldman Sachs Group Inc announced that revenue in its fixed-income, currency and commodities division, a powerful unit inside the bank that in better years has produced more than 35 percent of its entire revenue, dropped 44 percent from year-ago levels. The weakness renewed worries about the headwinds that Goldman and other banks are facing in big money-producing areas like fixed-income trading.
* Google Inc impressed investors, but people's changing behavior on mobile phones and even on desktops threatens the company's main business. The results revealed the company's deep challenges: as its desktop search and advertising businesses mature, along with overall business in the United States, its growth rate is slowing and the amount of money it makes from each ad it sells is falling.
* The United States government sputtered back to life Thursday after President Obama and Congress ended a 16-day shutdown, reopening tourist spots and clearing the way for federal agencies to deliver services and welcome back hundreds of thousands of furloughed workers.
* There is a confusion over the text of the deal that Congress just approved and President Obama signed, but it does not kill the debt ceiling. At first glance, the "default prevention" section of the bill seemed to imply that the president would have the authority in the future to increase the country's debt unilaterally, and that Congress could stop him only by passing a bill forbidding it.
* Roughly 1,500 fires burn above western North Dakota because of the deliberate burning of natural gas by companies rushing to drill for oil without having sufficient pipelines to transport their production. With cheap gas bubbling to the top with expensive oil, the companies do not have an economic incentive to build the necessary gas pipelines, so they flare the excess gas instead.
* As European interest in American craft beers begins to mirror the mania for them stateside, the Duvel Moortgat Brewery of Belgium on Thursday announced a deal to buy the Boulevard Brewing Co, a craft brewery in Kansas City, Missouri.
THE GLOBE AND MAIL
* Canadian provinces have approved the free-trade agreement with the European Union, but key players Ontario and Quebec are insisting the federal government open its wallet to mitigate some of the impact, notably by compensating dairy producers. Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrived in Brussels on Thursday night and plans to meet with Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, on Friday afternoon to sign the agreement.
* The shortage of skilled employees in Canada is deepening, and government policies that tightened the rules governing foreign workers have made the situation worse. That is the message of a new study from global recruiting firm Hays Plc, which surveyed the skills gap in 30 developed countries around the world.
Reports in the business section:
* Lenovo Group Ltd is joining the list of suitors considering a bid for BlackBerry Ltd , raising concerns that the Canadian company's ultra-secure communications network for the global elite might end up owned by a firm based in China.
* Imperial Oil Ltd is looking at a major revamp of its Mackenzie gas project that would see the stalled northern venture reborn as part of an expansive liquefied natural gas development, the company's chief executive says. A shift to LNG is under "serious" consideration as the Mackenzie pipeline's economics remain weak due to the flood of cheap shale gas across the continent, CEO Rich Kruger said in an interview at the company's Calgary headquarters.
* The Quebec government has announced that it will contest the latest nomination to the Supreme Court of Canada, adding a new layer of controversy to the process. The provincial government says it is weighing different options to block the Harper government's appointment of Marc Nadon, which is already under attack.
* Canada's campaign to win approval in the United States for the Keystone XL pipeline may seem pricey, aggressive, and perhaps out of character - but it is a drop in the bucket compared with the resources and tactics of those rallying against it.
* Air Canada's chief executive, Calin Rovinescu, says he is pleased investors are starting to get on board with the dramatic transformation underway at his airline, including the near-elimination of its multi-billion-dollar pension funding deficit that has twice threatened to upend the company in recent years. But he said there are still plenty of challenges ahead for the country's largest carrier.
CHINA SECURITIES JOURNAL
- The China Securities Regulatory Commission approved China Everbright Bank Co Ltd's request to list H shares on Wednesday, according to sources. The bank plans to list in Hong Kong as early as November, but listing is subject to Hong Kong Stock Exchange approval.
- China has started laying the foundations for its fifth-generation mobile telephony network, said Dai Xiaohui, the deputy director of the Ministry of Science and Technology on Thursday at a communications forum.
- China has investigated 129 officials at prefectural level or higher for suspected corruption and bribery from January through August this year, the Supreme People's Procuratorate said on Thursday.
- Chinese officials should not blindly follow customary practices if such practices lead to waste or are not legal, said a commentary in the paper that acts as the government's mouthpiece. The article highlighted extravagance during opening and closing ceremonies as an example of a traditional practice best curbed.
- Beijing will take half the cars off the city's roads and suspend school classes when there are three straight days of heavy pollution, an official said on Thursday. The plan includes measures to increase buses and extend subway operating hours.
Fly On The Wall 7:00 AM Market Snapshot
AMAG Pharmaceuticals (AMAG) upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at RW Baird
Align Technology (ALGN) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Cantor
Amazon.com (AMZN) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at UBS
CBOE Holdings (CBOE) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at UBS
Essex Property Trust (ESS) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at UBS
Intuit (INTU) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at BofA/Merrill
Peabody Energy (BTU) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at BMO Capital
Union Pacific (UNP) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Goldman
VMware (VMW) upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at JPMorgan
Verizon (VZ) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Deutsche Bank
AMD (AMD) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at BofA/Merrill
Alpha Natural (ANR) downgraded to Underperform from Market Perform at BMO Capital
Amarin (AMRN) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup
Aspen Technology (AZPN) downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at JPMorgan
Baxter (BAX) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Raymond James
Fairchild Semiconductor (FCS) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Canaccord
Home Bancshares (HOMB) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Raymond James
International Rectifier (IRF) downgraded to Market Perform at Wells Fargo
LG Display (LPL) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at Credit Suisse
Monolithic Power (MPWR) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Wells Fargo
Navistar (NAV) downgraded to Underweight from Equal Weight at Barclays
Qualys (QLYS) downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at JPMorgan
SL Green Realty (SLG) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Cantor
Total (TOT) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at UBS
Ultratech (UTEK) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Canaccord
UnitedHealth (UNH) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Cantor
Clean Harbors (CLH) initiated with an In-Line at Imperial Capital
Covanta (CVA) initiated with a Hold at Stifel
Fidelity National (FNF) initiated with a Neutral at Janney Capital
Finish Line (FINL) initiated with a Neutral at UBS
First American (FAF) initiated with a Buy at Janney Capital
Gaming & Leisure (GLPIV) initiated with an In-Line at Imperial Capital
Masonite International (DOOR) initiated with an Outperform at RBC Capital
New Residential (NRZ) initiated with a Buy at Sterne Agee
Spectrum Brands (SPB) initiated with an Outperform at BMO Capital
Stewart (STC) initiated with a Neutral at Janney Capital
U.S. Cellular (USM) initiated with an Underperform at FBR Capital
Google CEO said 40% of YouTube traffic comes from mobile
Schlumberger (SLB) said global economic outlook remains unchanged
Fitch cut Darden (DRI) IDR to 'BBB-' from 'BBB', outlook stable
LabCorp (LH) board authorized additional $1B share repurchase program
AMD (AMD) sees PC shipments down 10% in 2013 and 2014
Waste Management (WM) to build renewable natural gas facility
Companies that beat consensus earnings expectations last night and today include:
Sensient (SXT), F.N.B. Corp. (FNB), AMD (AMD), Las Vegas Sands (LVS), Capital One (COF), Covenant Transportation (CVTI), WD-40 (WDFC), Google (GOOG), Align Technology (ALGN)
Companies that missed consensus earnings expectations include:
Valmont (VMI), Kaiser Aluminum (KALU), B&G Foods (BGS), athenahealth (ATHN), Greenhill & Co. (GHL), Acacia Research (ACTG), Stryker (SYK), Chipotle (CMG)
Companies that matched consensus earnings expectations include:
OceanFirst Financial (OCFC), Western Alliance (WAL), Werner (WERN)
- The long-running drama about when the Fed will start scaling back its $85B a-month bond-buying program might now last longer. It isn't clear when the first move will occur. The Fed is unlikely to start curtailing its bond buying at its next policy meeting Oct. 29-30, the Wall Street Journal reports
- Bank of America (BAC) is considering a checking account that wouldn't permit customers to overdraw their balances at an ATM or when making an automatic bill payment, sources say, the Wall Street Journal reports
- Ford (F) CEO Alan Mulally would not confirm or deny media reports that he is being sought to join Boeing (BA) and Microsoft (MSFT), Reuters reports
- Air France -KLM (AFLYY) is open to giving Alitalia its rightful role in a merged entity but only if certain conditions are met, CEO Alexandre de Juniac told French television. He said Alitalia needs deeper restructuring if Air France is to eventually hike its 25% stake and take control, Reuters reports
- DBS Group (DBSDY) is among banks that have advanced in bidding for Societe Generale’s (SCGLY) SA’s private banking assets in Asia, sources say. The division oversees about $13B, Bloomberg reports
- JPMorgan Chase (JPM) agreed to sell 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza to Fosun International, the investment arm of China’s biggest closely held industrial group, for $725M, Bloomberg reports
Cinedigm Digital (CIDM) files to sell 7.91M shares of Class A common stock
Crestwood Midstream (CMLP) files to sell 14M common units for limited partners
EV Energy (EVEP) files to sell 5M common units for limited partners
Evercore Partners (EVR) files to sell 3M shares of common stock
Stemline (STML) files to sell $90M of common stock
Voxeljet (VJET) 6.5M share IPO priced at $13.00
Your rating: None
By Mathieu Bessé
18 October 2013
BlackBerry, the manufacturer of BlackBerry smartphones, is slashing a further 4,500 jobs—40 percent of its now much-diminished worldwide workforce—and actively seeking a buyer.
The company, which was previously known as Research in Motion or RIM, has already announced the closure of a customer service office in Bedford, Nova Scotia that employs 350 people and the elimination of 300 jobs in Waterloo, Ontario, where the company is headquartered.
Coming weeks will see the announcement of further job cuts, since BlackBerry management vowed last month, on announcing a US $965 million loss for the second quarter of its financial year, that it will eliminate 4,500 positions by the end of 2013.
These job cuts are on top of the 5,000 layoffs that RIM announced in 2012, with the stated aim of saving $1 billion per year. From a worldwide workforce of 19,000 at the beginning of 2011, BlackBerry will be reduced to about 7,000 employees when the latest restructuring is completed.
Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited, a Toronto-based financial holding company, has made a US $4.7 billion cash offer to purchase BlackBerry and under a tentative-sale agreement has been granted access to the company’s books.
However, many industry observers doubt the purchase will be completed or, even if it does go through, that BlackBerry will long survive as a distinct entity.
Fairfax, which claims to be working in conjunction with an unnamed—and as of yet uncommitted—consortium, has not explained where it will find the money to pay for the purchase.
BlackBerry, for its part, is actively searching for alternate buyers. Mike Lazaridis (a former RIM co-CEO), Google, Cisco Systems, and Microsoft are all rumored to have expressed interest in buying the company.
In 2009 Fortune magazine, pointing to RIM/BlackBerry’s average annual sales growth of 77 percent over the previous three years, named the company the “fastest growing” in the world. And as recently as the beginning of 2010, it still had a 40 percent share of the US smartphone market.
But in the face of competition from Apple, Samsung and other smartphone makers, its North American market share has collapsed, including in the business and government sector, which was the original source of its dominance.
Earlier this week, BlackBerry published full-page or otherwise prominent advertisements in 30 daily newspapers in nine different countries so as to proclaim that customers can “continue to count on BlackBerry”—in other words, with a view to countering mounting fears that the company will soon disappear.
In June 2008, that is some three months before the Wall Street financial crisis, BlackBerry had a stock market capitalization of $83 billion, making it among Canada’s most valuable companies.
Now some analysts argue that BlackBerry’s most valuable asset are its patents and it is widely predicted that BlackBerry’s ultimate fate will be to be sold off piecemeal by speculators in the same way carrion is pecked apart by vultures.
The Fairfax takeover deal calls for BlackBerry to be taken private. In explaining his company’s bid, Prem Watsa, the CEO of Fairfax, claimed it “opens an exciting new private chapter for BlackBerry, its customers, carriers and employees.” Watsa then went on to spell out who would be the principal beneficiaries of a Fairfax takeover, declaring that his company is confident it will make money on the deal and “deliver immediate value to the shareholders.”
While the local newspaper, the Kitchener-Waterloo Record, has tried to downplay the significance of the impending job cuts, there is little doubt they will have a major impact on the Waterloo Region, which is Canada’s tenth largest metropolitan area. Approximately a thousand workers previously employed at BlackBerry and related firms have been able to find employment in the Waterloo Region for lower wages through Communitech, a firm that helps with start-ups and networking for tech companies.
Manufacturing companies, traditionally major employers in this part of southwestern Ontario, have also been decimated, cutting thousands of jobs since the middle of the last decade, and especially since 2008. Major layoffs and closures include the shuttering of the Schneider’s meat packing plant, which eliminated 1,400 jobs, the closure of an A.O. Smith water-heater plant in Fergus that employed 300, and the layoff of 230 workers at Knape & Vogt (formerly Waterloo Furniture).
BlackBerry was until recently the great success of Canada’s high-tech sector. It helped pioneer smartphones and was unique among telecommunications companies in providing secure, encrypted messaging systems.
BlackBerry’s rise served as a counterpoint to the demise of Nortel (formerly Northern Telcom), which unraveled in the years following the collapse of the DotCom boom. Nortel, which once employed more than 90,000 workers worldwide, filed for bankruptcy in 2009, leaving plant closures, mass layoffs and gutted pensions in its wake.
BlackBerry’s sudden reversal of fortune has caused considerable angst in Canadian business and political circles. But the fate of the workers and the Waterloo region hardly matter in all this. The loss of shareholder value and of a strategic position in a key industry are what trouble Canada’s elite.
“As a Canadian, I would like to see a solution that gives me profitability and a viable company,” said Leo de Bever, the CEO of Alberta Investment Management Corporation. “But so far that hasn’t been happening.”
The Conservative government has rejected calls for it to provide direct assistance to BlackBerry, but has said any purchase by a foreign-based transnational would be subject to review on “national security” grounds.
On the pages of Canada’s corporate-owned dailies, various capitalist ideologues have dismissed the impact of BlackBerry’s fall as the inevitable product of “creative destruction.” They celebrate a socially destructive process whereby a tiny elite enriches itself at the expense of workers in Canada and all over the world—at the expense of the BlackBerry programmers, support staff and other workers who are now being thrown onto the street; and at the expense of the workers who make rival smartphones in the factories of Foxconn, where working conditions are so terrible that the company has had to install safety nets so as to prevent suicides.
Meanwhile, Fairfax Financial Holdings, which, as the holder of $18.5 billion in credit default swaps in the US sub-prime market in 2008, benefited directly from the bailout of the financial aristocracy by the US and Canadian governments, stands to reap handsome profits from organizing a further downsizing and more likely the outright asset-stripping of BlackBerry.
As fighting continues to rage across Syria, Doctors Without Borders (DWB) is now calling for “greater access for humanitarian aid to Syrians suffering in their country’s civil war” and urging the international community to show as much urgency in regard to humanitarian aid as it did to the Syrian government’s chemical weapons.
Of course, it should be noted immediately that the conflict in Syria is not so much a civil war but an invasion of foreign forces put together from all over the world and funded by the Anglo-American powers. Moreover, it should also be pointed out that, during the international hysteria over Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, there has never been even one shred of evidence suggesting that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against civilians or even against the deaths squads running rampant and inflicting terror upon the Syrian people.
Regardless, the General Director for Doctors Without Borders Christopher Stokes, stated to AP that “You have an industrial-scale war, but you have a very kind of small-scale humanitarian response. There is a recognition that greater humanitarian access is needed for life-saving assistance, but at the same time we don’t see the mobilization.”
Although the United Nations council issued a call for immediate access to all areas inside Syria, including in conflict areas and across battle lines, there still exists a number of obstacles to actually getting that aid to the people who may need it.
The AP report continued by stating,
Stokes said the aid community has long been told that it’s impossible to grant full access to all regions affected by the fighting, and that “one side is always blaming the other” for the impasse.
But the recent agreement to grant international inspectors unfettered access to every site linked to Syria’s chemical weapons program “has shown is that it is possible, if the international political willingness is there, to grant access and free movement to aid agencies to go into these enclaves,” Stokes said.
“Cease-fires could be organized as was done to allow chemical weapons inspectors in, they could be organized to allow in medical convoys,” he said.
Yet, while Stokes claims that part of the difficulty in providing aid to suffering Syrians is because “one side is always blaming the other” and therefore hindering the delivery, it should be noted that not only does the responsibility for the entire conflict rest on the shoulders of the death squads, but that it is not the Assad government who has captured and kidnapped aid workers – it is only the death squads who have been guilty of this crime. Thu, the responsibility regarding the hindrance of aid deliverability should fall on the shoulders of the death squads as well.
It is true, however, that the Syrian government has not granted DWB permission to operate inside Syria at this time. However, there may be a more justifiable reason for Assad’s refusal to allow the organization to set up camp in Syria than first meets the eye.
This is because Doctors Without Borders, along with several other internationally recognized and renowned human rights and medical charity organizations, have been clearly implicated in their cooperation with Anglo-American interests in the ginning up of a case for Western military action against Syria by misreporting and even outright lying in regards to massacres having taken place inside the country.
Indeed, DWB is maintaining a highly questionable operation in Syria – with aid distribution almost exclusively established within “rebel controlled” areas, thus allowing the death squads to soak up much of the humanitarian supply line.
Even in the AP report, DWB admits that it is currently operating six “field hospitals” in “rebel-controlled” areas and is supporting medical facilities in both areas that are controlled by the death squads and the government. Still, both the AP report and DWB imply that the Assad government is to blame by suggesting that it is stalling further aid to the Syrian people – despite recent events which prove quite the opposite.
It is important to point out, as Tony Cartalucci has done in his excellent article “’Doctors’ Behind Syrian Chemical Weapons Claims are Aiding Terrorists,” that, despite media claims that DWB is “independent,” the fact is that the organization itself is being bankrolled by many of the financier interests that clearly support Western military action against Syria.
As Cartalucci writes,
To begin with, Doctors Without Borders is fully funded by the very same corporate financier interests behind Wall Street and London’s collective foreign policy, including regime change in Syria and neighboring Iran. Doctors Without Borders’own annual report (2010 report can be accessed here), includes as financial donors, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Google, Microsoft, Bloomberg, Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital, and a myriad of other corporate-financier interests. Doctors Without Borders also features bankers upon its Board of Advisers including Elizabeth Beshel Robinson of Goldman Sachs.
In a telling interview with NPR, which Cartalucci partially quotes in his own article, the Executive Director of DWB, Stephen Cornish, admitted the fact that the organization largely has provided medical aid to the death squads not just as a matter of unbiased Hippocratic Oath-based treatment, but what appears to be a “rebel”-based program.
As Cornish revealed,
Over the past months, we’ve had a surgery that was opened inside a cave. We’ve had another that was opened in a chicken farm, a third one in a house. And these structures, we’ve tried to outfit them as best as we can with enough modern technology and with full medical teams. They originally were dealing mainly with combatant injuries and people who were – civilians who were directly affected by the conflict. [emphasis added]
Even assuming that the “civilians” Cornish mentions are truly civilians, Cornish’s team has also been focused largely on “combatant injuries” which is an interesting focus considering that the teams are mainly located within death squad controlled territory.
Indeed, Cornish removes all doubt about whether or not the death squads are receiving priority care as the interview continues. Cornish states,
So it is very difficult for civilians to find care. And one of the difficulties also is that a number of smaller surgeries that have been set up are either overwhelmed with combatants or primarily taking care of combatants. And what we would certainly urge is that all surgeries and all health posts also are accommodating the civilian population.
BLOCK: You mean, in other words, that the fighters are getting priority for medical care and the civilians are suffering for that.
CORNISH: Unfortunately, that is sometimes the reality on the ground. Some of the surgeries we visited, you could tell that because not only there were no civilians on the wards, but there were also no beds or toilet facilities for women. So it’s kind of a dead giveaway. [emphasis added]
Tony Cartalucci expertly responds to the alleged “charity” provided by DWB when he writes,
In other words, the Wall Street-funded organization is providing support for militants armed and funded by the West and its regional allies, most of whom are revealed to be foreign fighters, affiliated with or directly belonging to Al Qaeda and its defacto political wing, the Muslim Brotherhood. This so-called “international aid” organization is in actuality yet another cog in the covert military machine being turned against Syria and serves the role as a medical battalion.
Indeed, following in the footsteps of corrupted and compromised “human rights” and “charity” organizations like Human Rights Watch (see here and here) and Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders is sacrificing whatever legitimacy and trustworthiness it ever had for the benefit of wealthy donors and their Anglo-American imperialist desires.
In polite society, it is incredibly difficult to criticize an organization that uses charity, real or imagined, as a cover for more nefarious means. Although Doctors Without Borders may have done legitimate work in the past, its current position as the medical wing of the Syrian destabilization will forever mar the organization, and it should therefore be discredited as a source of information from this point forward.