All posts by Amal Sayegh

Oil prices rise on lower U.S. crude inventories, looming Iran sanctions

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices rose on Wednesday following a report that crude inventories in the United States fell and as looming sanctions against Iran raised expectations of tightening supplies, with top producer Russia warning of a “fragile” global crude market.

FILE PHOTO: A pumpjack is seen at the Sinopec-operated Shengli oil field in Dongying, Shandong province, China January 12, 2017. Picture taken January 12, 2017. REUTERS/Chen Aizhu

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures CLc1 were at $69.81 per barrel at 0047 GMT, up 56 cents, or 0.8 percent, from their last settlement. WTI futures gained 2.5 percent in the previous session.

Brent crude futures LCOc1 climbed 24 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $79.30 a barrel. Brent has climbed for four straight days and gained 2.2 percent in the previous session.

“Oil prices jumped overnight as American Petroleum Institute inventory data showed a large drawdown in inventories,” said William O’Loughlin, investment analyst at Australia’s Rivkin Securities.

U.S. crude stocks fell by 8.6 million barrels in the week to Sept. 7 to 395.9 million barrels, the American Petroleum Institute (API), a private industry group, said on Tuesday.

Official weekly government data will be published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Wednesday.

Outside the United States, traders have been focusing on the impact of U.S. sanctions against Iran that will target oil exports from November.

Washington has put pressure on other governments to also cut imports, and many countries and companies are already falling in line and reducing purchases, triggering expectations of a tighter market.

“FRAGILE” MARKET

Russian energy minister Alexander Novak on Wednesday warned of the impact the U.S. sanctions against Iran.

“This is huge uncertainty on the market – how the countries, which buy almost 2 million barrels per day of Iranian oil will act. The situation should be closely watched, the right decisions should be taken,” he said.

Novak said global oil markets were “fragile” due to geopolitical risk and supply disruptions, but added his country could raise output if needed.

“It is related to the fact that not all the countries have managed to restore their market and production,” he said, referring to outages and falling production in Mexico and Venezuela.

Should markets overheat and prices spike, Novak said Russia could raise output.

“Russia has potential to raise production by 300,000 barrels (per day) mid-term, in addition to the level of October 2016,” he said.

That month Russia produced 11.247 million barrels per day, a post-Soviet Union record high.

Crude prices were also pushed up by Hurricane Florence offshore the United States amid surging demand for gasoline and diesel. The storm is expected to make landfall on the U.S. East Coast on Friday, and has caused fuel shortages as millions of households and businesses have evacuated.

Front month gasoline futures RBV8 rose 0.5 percent on Wednesday while heating oil futures HOV8 increased 0.4 percent.

Reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing by Joseph Radford and Christian Schmollinger

If You Don't Bother To Do This With Your New Hires, You're Throwing $10,000 Down The Drain.

You’re not Google. Neither are you Apple. A-players aren’t fighting tooth and nail for a chance to work on your company. So it’s up to you to attract them with a kickass job description and a great company culture.

But here’s the thing:

Hiring isn’t just about attracting rockstar candidates, and conducting interviews. There’s another piece of the puzzle that’s equally important: and that’s onboarding newer hires.

According to a survey by BambooHR, 91 percent of HR managers think their onboarding processes need to be improved. And guess what? 45 percent of these managers believe that their companies waste up to $10,000 per year on ineffective onboarding processes. I mean, $10,000 is a lot of money. And it could be put to better use elsewhere, such as your marketing campaigns. 

Want to work on your onboarding process, and make it more effective? Here are four tips that can help you do that.

1. Explain the big picture and set expectations.

Plenty of employees start off happy, and then get jaded six months in.

How do you prevent this from happening? Simple. Sit them down on Day One, and tell them how their work plays a role in the big picture. This way, they’ll feel like they’re contributing to the company, and that their work is meaningful.

On top of that, make sure you communicate your expectations to your new employee. What’s their scope of work? What’s their KPI? Do they have monthly targets to hit? Lay it all out.

2. Get them involved straightaway.

If you want your new employees to hit the ground running, don’t try to ease them in. Instead, get them to work with your team members on a project, right off the bat.

This does two things: first, it helps your new hire to establish a rapport with the team immediately. It also allows them to learn from your other employees’ guidance.

3. Provide them with all the information they need.

You don’t want your new hire to wander around the office like a lost sheep, so provide them with all the information they need to dive head-first into their job.

That said, don’t just dump a long, boring manual on them and be done with it. Personally, I like to use explainer videos to help new hires learn how to execute processes and get things done.

I also have an organizational chart in the office that lets everybody know who is responsible for what. If the new hire needs something, they can simply check the org chart and look for the relevant person.

4. Closely follow their progress and recognize their work.

Not many business owners realize this, but the first six months of hiring a new employee are pretty make-or-break.

Why do I say so? According to the Aberdeen Group, 86 percent of new hires make their decision to leave or stay within the first six months. And out of those who choose to leave, 79 percent do so because of a lack of appreciation from their manager.

Your job, as an entrepreneur and a leader, is to make sure your new employees aren’t struggling. Track their progress, help them if needed, and appreciate and recognize their work.

Look, onboarding isn’t rocket science, it’s just that entrepreneurs typically focus on their hiring processes, and overlook this other aspect of hiring. To keep your team happy and your retention rates high, make sure you improve upon your onboarding process. Here’s to building a team of rockstars!

Tesla: H1 2018 Update – Impact Of Model 3 On SG&A And Profitability

Two new quarters have gone by since my last analysis of Tesla’s (TSLA) Selling, General and Administrative (SG&A) expenses. The release of the Q2 numbers is now about a month past. In the meantime, not much has happened besides some lawsuits, pedophile accusations, negative reports, positive reports, 86% doubts about Model 3 quality, and the occasional floating and subsequent sinking of the idea to take Tesla private. So really no excuse for this delay, my apologies, I know you have all been awaiting eagerly for an update on the SG&A situation. The first four graphs will simply be updates of the ones I used in my previous analysis. After that I will show two scenarios varying the gross margin for Model 3.

My view was and is that SG&A is one the most important items determining Tesla’s success or failure, while at the same time being the most neglected. (UncleBrian Research is one of the few that did pay attention to it in a recent article.) Up to at least 2017 Q4, SG&A always went up nicely with revenue, thereby assuring no profit would ever be made by Tesla. That is, unless Tesla manages to break that trend and, on a per-car-basis, bring down those costs. Now that the Model 3 is being delivered in sufficient numbers to make an impact, let’s see how things are developing.

I start with my traditional first graph, an overview of SG&A per total revenue:

Nothing dramatic has happened, but there is some improvement on the overall SG&A front. Let’s see how this compares to overall gross margin:

We can see that after deducting SG&A/revenue from gross margin we still end up below zero. In other words, Tesla is still making a loss, even before deducting Research and Development (R&D) and interest expense. On the other hand, glass half full, while SG&A per revenue goes down, gross margin goes up, leading to a nice up-tick in Q2 for the difference between the two.

I continue with SG&A per delivered car. Here we can also see an improvement:

Note that the above three graphs were based on the company as a whole. Non-automotive revenue is about 16% of total revenue, so this may influence results, especially when extrapolating going forward into the future and beyond.

To estimate “automotive SG&A”, i.e., SG&A that has only to do with the automotive part, as opposed to, e.g., solar cells, I have (as before) used the following steps:

  1. Start with total SG&A.
  2. Subtract the SolarCity part. For 2016 Q4 and 2017 Q1, this was explicitly mentioned in the financial reports. For the rest of the 2017 and 2018 quarters, I have made estimates per quarter, using the revenue of SolarCity and assigning a similar percentage to SG&A as in Q1. Note that the further out from 2017 Q1, the more uncertain this becomes.
  3. For all other non-automobile revenue, I have assigned a percentage to SG&A and subtracted that from the total SG&A. I don’t know what the right percentage is, so I have used varying assumptions, ranging from 20% to 70% for SG&A per non-automotive revenue.

This has led to the following estimate for Tesla’s automotive SG&A per car, assuming non-automotive SG&A to be 20% (similar to overall SG&A vs. revenue) of non-automotive revenue:

The change is less pronounced than when looking at overall SG&A, but there is still an improvement, especially in Q2 of 2018.

Profitability based on 2018 Q2 SG&A numbers

I now do two profitability estimates using the range of 20% to 70% as per point 3 above. Now that delivering more cars has actually led to lower SG&A on a per car basis, I figure an extrapolation to a total of 350,000 cars annually based on regression makes sense, using the numbers from 2016 Q3 (first time over 20K cars) to 2018 Q2. The two estimates differ only in the assumed gross margin on the Model 3: 25% (as per Musk) vs. 15% (more conservative).

My assumptions are:

  • Model S and X: 100,000 delivered per year (capped by Musk at that level) at an average price of $100,000, with a gross margin of 25%. Result: 100,000 x $100,000 x 0.25 = gross profit of $2.5 billion per year.
  • R&D: In the first half of 2018, this was about $750 million, so for a full year that is $1.5 billion.
  • Interest: The net amount was about $160 million in 2018 Q2. Times 4, round it down: $600 million for a whole year.
  • Other income and restructuring expense will be ignored.
  • Other lines of business will be ignored.

Add this all up, we get $2.5 billion – ($1.5 billion + $600 million) = $400 million.

  • Model 3: I assume a production rate of 5,000 per week, totaling about 250,000 per year. I will vary the average selling price from $35,000 to $60,000. A gross margin of 25% gives a range of gross profit for the Model 3 of about $2.2 billion to $3.8 billion per year, whereas a gross margin of only 15% gives a range of gross profit for the Model 3 of about $1.7 billion to $2.7 billion per year.
  • SG&A: I use the range of 20% to 70% as per point 3 further above. Now that delivering more cars has actually led to lower SG&A on a per car basis, I figure an extrapolation to a total of 350,000 cars annually based on regression makes sense, using the numbers from 2016 Q3 (first time over 20K cars) to 2018 Q2. This gives a range of ca. $2.0 billion to $3.8 billion per year, where the lower number corresponds to assuming a higher (70% of revenue) SG&A for non-automotive segments, and the higher number corresponds to 20%. Note that range is for all models combined, e.g., S, X and 3 together.

Taken all together gives me a rough estimate of the profitability of Tesla’s automotive business in a year in which the above-mentioned assumptions would be reality.

Assuming a gross margin of 25% leads to:

We can see that if at some point Musk’s expectations regarding gross margins and number of delivered cars come true, and if Tesla manages to bring down SG&A costs as it has towards 2018 Q2, then there is a chance at a modest profit even at lower average selling prices. At the higher prices, profit is “secured”, but the question remains whether there is enough demand at such prices. Another question is whether the profits would be enough to justify the current stock price. The above analysis suggests they wouldn’t be.

Assuming a more conservative gross margin of 15% leads to:

We can see that under this assumption, it is very unlikely to see any profitability, because again, an ASP of $50,000 or more seems doubtful for the number of cars assumed to be sold.

Conclusion:

Tesla has managed to improve SG&A on a per car basis in the first half of 2018. Whether this is sufficient for profitability in the future depends on whether Tesla manages to achieve its aimed for gross margin on Model 3 of 25% and on the exact internal cost structure of Tesla’s SG&A. Even with profitability, the share price seems higher than warranted. Without a gross margin on the Model 3 of 25%, future profitability seems very difficult.

Disclosure: I am/we are short TSLA.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Additional disclosure: I am short TSLA via long-dated, out-of-the-money puts.

JD.com CEO was arrested on allegation of rape: police report

MINNEAPOLIS/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – The founder and chief executive of Chinese retailer JD.com Inc, Richard Liu, was arrested in Minneapolis last week following an allegation of rape, according to a public information report released by police on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Richard Liu, CEO and founder of China’s e-commerce company JD.com, attends a France-Chinese forum on the applications of artificial intelligence at SOHO 3Q in Beijing, China January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

Liu, identified in the report by his Chinese name Liu Qiangdong, was released from custody on Saturday without being charged, and he returned to China.

Earl Gray, a Minnesota-based lawyer for Liu, said on Monday that the Chinese businessman has denied any wrongdoing and that he did not expect his client to be charged.

On Tuesday, defense attorney Joseph Friedberg said, “They are not going to charge in this case. There’s no credible complaint.”

Minneapolis Police Department spokesman John Elder said on Tuesday that if there were any charges against Liu they would not be filed until completion of a criminal investigation that would not occur before Friday.

The police report shed a bit more light on the nature of the accusation, which authorities had previously left vague. It said the alleged offense was “criminal sexual contact – rape,” and said domestic violence was not involved.

It gave no further details, but Elder said the alleged attack reportedly occurred at 1 a.m. local time on Friday, and that Liu was taken into custody later that evening.

Elder declined to disclose whether any accuser was cooperating with police. “I wouldn’t address that. That goes to the investigation,” he said.

JD.com Inc’s stock fell as much as 7 percent on Tuesday, hitting an 18-month low, reflecting investor uncertainty. Shares in China’s second largest e-commerce company closed down 6 percent at $29.43 on Tuesday on the Nasdaq and were steady after hours.

JD.com’s rules require Liu, who holds nearly 80 percent of the company’s voting rights, to be present at board meetings for the board to make decisions, although it was not clear if he has to be physically present or could participate by teleconference.

The company counts Walmart Inc, Alphabet Inc’s Google and China’s Tencent Holdings as investors. It faces stiff competition from rival Alibaba Group Holding Ltd at home.

“If this spirals as a media focus, negative attention could offset some of the positives associated with endorsement by Walmart and Google,” analyst Rob Sanderson of MKM Partners said.

“Negative publicity could also compromise JD.com’s ability to attract international brands to its marketplace, which has been a top focus of the CEO over the past two years or so,” Sanderson said.

Liu lost a court battle in Australia in July to keep his name out of a sexual assault trial. Liu was not accused of any wrongdoing in that case, according to a court document.

The case involved a person who had been a guest at a party hosted by Liu at his home in Sydney 2015 who accused another guest of sexually assaulting her at a hotel. The defendant was found guilty of seven offenses.

Reporting by Adam Jourdan and Todd Melby; Additional reporting by Arjun Panchadar; Writing by Frank McGurty; Editing by Toni Reinhold and Edwina Gibbs

Here Are the Tech Stocks That Thrived (and Dived) This Summer

Apple became the first U.S. stock to be worth a trillion dollars. Amazon wasn’t far behind. And Tesla hit the mother of all speed bumps thanks to its CEO’s erratic behavior.

Summer is, by conventional wisdom, a traditionally sleepy time for the stock market. Investors schedule their vacations during the warm months, and volume declines enough that companies hold off until the fall on releasing big announcements. Like, say, a new version of the iPhone, which is coming in September.

Perhaps its a reflection of the work-hard ethic at Silicon Valley companies, but tech stocks didn’t seem to take the summer off. Many tech shares remained volatile, driven by second-quarter earnings or other news. Here is a recap of who won and who lost between Memorial Day and Labor Day 2018.

Apple Is Worth $1 Trillion

Apple made history in the U.S. stock market by becoming the first American-based company to ever earn a market cap of $1 trillion. Apple reached that milestone on Aug. 2.

The first company to ever be worth $1 trillion was Petrochina, which reached the valuation briefly on its first day of trading in 2008, before losing about 80% of its peak value during the following decade.

Unlike Petrochina, Apple has continued to rise after it hit the $1 trillion target. Under Tim Cook’s management, Apple’s shares have since risen another 10% since breaching the $1 trillion watermark, closing Friday with a $1.099 trillion market value. Rumors concerning Apple’s annual September product event, at once among the best- and worst-kept secrets in tech, suggest that the company will unveil new iPhones on Sept. 12.

Apple’s stock rose 22% between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend. The S&P 500 Index, by comparison, rose 7%.

… And Amazon Is Not Far Behind

Amazon broke above the $2,000 per share barrier for the first time ever this week and finished the week at $2,012.71, its highest ever close. More important to those who follow stock-market milestones, Amazon is now worth $982 billion, just $18 billion shy of that fabled $1 trillion market cap.

Amazon, of course, had a strong second quarter, with overall revenue rising 39%, with more Amazon Prime members than ever, and with segments like cloud computing and online advertising rising 49% and 132%, respectively. If the company founded by Jeff Bezos maintains that growth in the current quarter, it could easily join the 13-digit valuation club.

Amazon’s stock rose 24% during the summer session.

Tesla Was as Volatile as Ever

Thanks to the compulsive tweeting by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, shares of Tesla were as volatile as they’ve ever been. Tesla’s bullish supporters and its bearish skeptics have been waging a war over the direction of the company’s stock price. But this summer, Musk gave his critics more than enough ammunition against him.

Overall, Tesla shares rose 6% during the summer, a period when Tesla needed to prove its ability to deliver on its audacious production goals for making its lower-cost Model 3 cars. While Tesla’s internal metrics seemed to show that production of Model 3s are meeting goals, Musk distracted from that goal by berating analysts in an earnings call and infamously calling a diver who rescued a Thai soccer team a “pedo.”

Perhaps most controversially, Musk tweeted that he had secured financing to take Tesla private. Whatever financing he was thinking of didn’t pan out. Musk this week abandoned his plans to take Tesla private, causing the stock to slump at summer’s end.

Facebook’s Stock Is Having a Bad Summer

Shares of Facebook have fallen more than 8% between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The biggest drag on its share price was the company’s second-quarter earnings, in which the company suffered a slowdown in the growth of active users on its core site and warned that the trend may continue into the future.

Those disappointing metrics followed months of questions and often reluctant disclosures about massive information leaks and about how it handles false information on its site. Facebook keeps saying it’s doing its best to counter the kinds of missteps that placed Mark Zuckerberg in the middle of a Congressional inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

California lawmakers send strict 'net neutrality' laws to governor

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – California lawmakers sent to the governor’s desk for final approval strict “net neutrality” laws on internet providers that would defy sweeping Federal Communications Commission rules seen as a boon for the companies.

FILE PHOTO: California Governor Jerry Brown delivers his final state of the state address in Sacramento, California, U.S., January 25, 2018. REUTERS/Fred Greaves/File Photo

The Democrat-controlled California Senate voted 27-12 to pass the bill, known as SB 822, with just hours left in the legislative session. The measure was approved by their colleagues in the state Assembly one day earlier.

Governor Jerry Brown, also a Democrat, has not yet said if he would sign the bill into law. He has 30 days to act but does not typically signal his intentions before legislation lands on his desk.

Members of the California Assembly voted 58-17 to send the bill to their colleagues in the state Senate, who have until midnight to pass so-called SB 822 on the final day of the legislative session or wait until next year.

If the measure passes both chambers of the Democrat-controlled state legislature it would still require approval from Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, who has not said if he would sign it into law.

FILE PHOTO – Supporters of Net Neutrality protest the FCC’s recent decision to repeal the program in Los Angeles, California, November 28, 2017. REUTERS/ Kyle Grillot

“We did it, we passed the strongest net neutrality standards in the nation,” Democrat Scott Wiener, the bill’s author, said in a written statement issued after the vote. “The internet is at the heart of 21st century life – our economy, our public safety and health systems, and our democracy.”

Supporters of California’s proposed regulations contend that net neutrality rules would bar major internet providers from blocking, slowing down or giving preferential access to online content.

Critics say the restrictions limit internet providers’ ability to recoup the costs of network improvements and lead them to curb investment.

In June, the FCC under President Donald Trump repealed rules adopted during the Obama administration that barred internet service providers from blocking content or charging more for access, a move intended to establish a more level playing field or “net neutrality.”

State attorneys general and the District of Columbia asked a federal appeals court earlier this month to reinstate the Obama regulations.

They were joined in that action a week later by a coalition of trade groups representing companies including Alphabet Inc, Facebook Inc and Amazon.com Inc.

The U.S. Senate voted in May to keep the Obama-era internet rules but the measure is unlikely to be approved by the House of Representatives or the White House.

Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Kim Coghill

BlackRock voted to replace Tesla's Musk with independent chairman

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Funds run by BlackRock Inc voted in favor of a recent shareholder proposal that would have required Tesla Inc to replace Elon Musk with an independent chairman.

FILE PHOTO: Tesla Motors Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk pauses during a news conference in Tokyo September 8, 2014. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo

BlackRock-managed funds voted for a measure requiring the chairman be an independent director, according to BlackRock’s filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday. The proposal, which was defeated, would not have affected Musk’s standing as Tesla’s chief executive officer.

More than 86 million shares voted against the proposal at a shareholder meeting in June, while fewer than 17 million voted in favor, Tesla said.

Some corporate governance activists call for the chairman and CEO roles to be split between two people to improve oversight, and the new filing revealed at least one major investor backed such changes at Tesla. BlackRock’s role in backing the proposal was not previously reported.

Musk has been under pressure over the company’s spending and after tweeting on Aug. 7 that he planned to take the company private, only to abandon the idea by Aug. 24.

Tesla’s board had said that the company’s success “would not have been possible” without Musk’s “day-to-day exposure to the company’s business.”

FILE PHOTO: A sign for BlackRock Inc hangs above their building in New York U.S., July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

Yet top proxy adviser Institutional Shareholder Services Inc supported the proposal, citing concerns about Musk’s pay and board independence.

“BlackRock’s approach to investment stewardship is driven by our fiduciary duties to our clients, the asset owners,” a BlackRock spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. “Our approach to engaging with companies and proxy voting activities is consistent with our commitment to drive long term shareholder value for our clients.”

BlackRock funds are a top-10 Tesla stockholder, controlling nearly 6.5 million of Tesla’s 170 million shares, according to Thomson Reuters data based on public filings.

Vanguard Group Inc-run funds voted against the independent-chair proposal, a recent filing showed. Funds run by Fidelity Investments sided with Tesla on director votes and other controversial items this spring, its filings showed.

BlackRock’s report also showed it voted this year in favor of shareholder proposals at Facebook Inc and Google parent Alphabet Inc to give each shareholder an equal vote on governance matters.

Some companies are structured in a way that gives some shareholders more power than others, regardless of how many shares they hold.

BlackRock withheld votes or voted against nearly all management recommendations at Netflix Inc, including an advisory vote on executive pay.

Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Additional reporting by Ross Kerber; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Muralikumar Anantharaman

Tesla Staying Public Is Big Trouble

It didn’t even last three weeks. Earlier this month, Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk tweeted that he was planning on taking the company private at $420 per share and funding was secured. Whether this was a distraction to hide poor results, an effort to burn short sellers, or something else entirely, it clearly did not work out. On Friday night, the plan was abandoned, putting Tesla in a precarious situation that likely will not end well, even with shares falling considerably already.

(Source: Yahoo! Finance)

Tesla issued this blog post to inform investors it would remain public. The post contained some questionable statements, like the fact that Elon Musk spent considerable time talking to investors about this transaction. How could he do that in just a couple of weeks, especially when he’s recently talked about working 120 hour weeks and being at the factory so much? Also, why didn’t he spend considerable time listening to investors two years ago when so many opposed the SolarCity deal? He also said that his belief that there was more than enough funding to take Tesla private suggests he didn’t have funding lined up originally.

Statements from the blog post are likely to be a key part of lawsuits from investors who bought shares thinking they were going to $420, only to see them drop since. Tesla’s board may also be in a little trouble, given they continue to give Elon Musk plenty of support despite all the issues he is dealing with. It’s really funny how the board agreed that the better path was to stay public, indicating that they didn’t agree with the go-private decision, yet they fully support Elon Musk as CEO:

The Board and the entire company remain focused on ensuring Tesla’s operational success, and we fully support Elon as he continues to lead the company moving forward.

Of course, Tesla issued the blog post after 11PM Eastern on Friday night. It was the latest example of the company dropping bad news over a weekend when investors are unable to trade. The blog post even said that a final decision was made on Thursday to remain a public entity, so why didn’t the company issue this news earlier? Unfortunately, unlike many of the bad delivery/production announcements that were dropped over weekends (sometimes even holiday weekends), this news will be front and center on the financial news outlets Monday morning. The attention here will shift to the SEC which will need to do something in order to protect investors from a similar situation happening again, and not just in regards to Tesla.

It’s amazing how Elon Musk could just tweet his plan out during the day, with the stock not being halted for quite some time, but after deciding to not go private anymore, it took more than 24 hours for a statement to be released. Tesla management and its board continues to show time and time again that it cannot be trusted, something I believe is critical when deciding whether or not to own shares. Tesla closed Friday down $65 from the August 7th high after the go private tweet, and the 2025 bonds were approaching new lows even before this decision was scrapped. How much will they fall on Monday, absent some other push to prop up the stock like opening up Model Y deposits or something else designed to distract.

I had previously mentioned that I expected this go private plan to consume most of the Tesla news cycle for the next couple of months. However, now that it isn’t happening, investors will surely focus on Q3 results. Management needs to prove that it can be GAAP profitable and free cash flow positive, and that it can sustain these items to pay off the billions in debt coming due soon, along with billions more needed for new factories. July estimates showed the quarter off to a slow start for the S/X as seen below, down about 700 units from July 2017, even without China tariff troubles, and we’re only a week or so away from getting a swarm of August numbers.

(Source: teslastats.no, TMC Europe tracker, InsideEVs monthly scorecard.)

Tesla has said going back to the Q1 investor letter in May that it was evening out its delivery process as to not have such a large final month of the quarter, but so far that hasn’t seemed to be the case. Will Tesla need a huge September sales push to hit delivery and financial targets for the quarter? Recently, a few hundred inventory vehicles were posted to the EV site, containing their usual big discounts for vehicles with some mileage on them, adding to a previous statement of mine that Tesla is trying to dump as much inventory as possible to improve the balance sheet. Those efforts might come back to really hurt margins however.

In the end, Elon Musk’s quick decision to scrap his go private plan is only going to lead to more trouble for Tesla. Now, the company will be reliant on quarter to quarter results, with even more scrutiny of every single number. There already have been a number of lawsuits filed from investors that have lost money, and even more are bound to crop up. Again, management credibility is a key issue, with a late Friday night bad news drop. Tesla’s board is also in a tricky situation. The board is very highly compensated as seen below, and really needs to find a new leader, as they don’t agree with his decisions yet they full support him. That shows that there is a major corporate governance problem. In the end, we got more fluff from Elon Musk, with him not delivering as usual, and that is likely to mean big trouble for shareholders.

(Source: Bloomberg article, seen here)

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Additional disclosure: Investors are always reminded that before making any investment, you should do your own proper due diligence on any name directly or indirectly mentioned in this article. Investors should also consider seeking advice from a broker or financial adviser before making any investment decisions. Any material in this article should be considered general information, and not relied on as a formal investment recommendation.

Mayo Florida Temporarily Changes Name to Miracle Whip, Supposedly Fooling 1,232 Residents

The Northern Florida town of Mayo in is temporarily changing its name to Miracle Whip. As you might guess, this is part of a marketing campaign by Miracle Whip maker Kaft Heinz, which is reportedly paying the town somewhere between $15,000 and $25,000 for the name change.

As far as that goes, this is not an unusual story. IHOP, the International House of Pancakes, temporarily became IHOB, the International House of Burgers, to mixed reviews. Hot Springs, New Mexico changed its name to Truth or Consequences in order to bring the then-popular game show to town. Topeka, Kansas tried the same approach, temporarily changing its name to Google, in the hopes that the search giant would bring high-speed internet, but it didn’t. North Tarrytown, New York even changed its name to Sleepy Hollow, just to make sure people knew it was the setting for Washington Irving’s headless horseman story.

But there’s one big difference. None of these other towns claimed to be trying to play a trick on 1,232 unsuspecting residents. Mayo–or, rather, Miracle Whip–town officials seem to think they can fool everybody who lives in their community into thinking the name change is permanent. 

The idea of the prank is for videographers from Miracle Whip to record townspeople’s reactions when they discover that their street signs and water tower are being changed to the new name. They also want to record what happens when people in town are asked to give up any mayonnaise they may have in their homes, presumably to be replaced with Miracle Whip.

How exactly did town officials expect to fool 1,232 people? For starters, they held a closed-to-the-public meeting with Kraft Heinz where they worked out the details of the surprise. Ann Murphy, the mayor, gamely tried to stick with the illusion that the name change was permanent, telling the Associated Press, “We’re not going to be boring old Mayo anymore. We are going to be Miracle Whip! I definitely think this will put us on the map.” (In case you’re wondering, the town got its original name from Confederate Colonel James Mayo.)

Unfortunately for the town’s wannabe prankster leadership, Linda Cone, town clerk, was more forthcoming, admitting to reporters that, yup, the name change is temporary and that town officials were trying to fool residents, at least for a few days,  by pretending it was permanent. But in a town of just over 1,200 people, she added, everyone knows everyone and it’s not easy to keep a secret. “It’s been kind of difficult to keep everything under wraps.”

Nothing is under wraps anymore. Any residents who might have been fooled probably are in on the joke now since the story’s gone out over the Associated Press and has appeared in the Tampa Bay Times and on a local TV station’s website.

So that would appear to be that, except for one thing. That closed meeting town officials held with Kraft Heinz to plan their prank? It may have been illegal under Florida’s Sunshine Law, which guarantees open access to most government meetings.

“If this is all supposed to be a big joke perpetuated on residents, I expect they probably violated the law to pull it off,” Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation located in Tallahassee told the Associated Press. “I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but seriously, I don’t think they thought this through.” 

Facebook and Twitter Eye Iran in Latest Fake Account Crackdown

Following more than a year of unrelenting focus on Russian cyber attacks on Silicon Valley giants, Facebook and Twitter announced Tuesday night that they’ve now also thwarted a network of suspicious accounts that appear to originate in Iran.

First, Facebook announced it had taken down 652 pages, groups, and accounts for “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” Less than an hour after Facebook went public with the news, Twitter announced in a brief series of tweets that, working with “industry partners,” it had shut down 284 accounts, many of which it said were from Iran.

The news is a reminder of the broad scope of potential adversaries targeting American tech companies. But it simultaneously signals a strengthening alliance between those companies, which have begun proactively sharing the details of their investigations with other tech giants.

On a call with reporters Tuesday night, Facebook executives including CEO Mark Zuckerberg described a multi-pronged investigation that unearthed several networks of bad actors. Some were associated with Russia, but others were affiliated with Iranian state media. “These were networks of accounts that were misleading people about who they were and what they were doing,” Zuckerberg explained. “People need to be able to trust the connections they make on Facebook.”

The company credits the cybersecurity firm FireEye with detecting one group called Liberty Front Press, which was connected with several accounts and pages. They often posed as news organizations and civil society groups, but using publicly available website registration information and IP addresses, Facebook researchers found that the group was actually affiliated with Iranian state media. All in, more than 200,000 users followed at least one of these accounts or pages across Facebook and Instagram. Facebook didn’t respond to WIRED’s request for comment about whether any of these users had been notified.

In its own blog post Tuesday, FireEye cautioned that identifying the origins of these groups can be difficult, due to the nature of their activities, but said they had “moderate confidence” in their assessment about Iranian involvement. The post included a labyrinthine illustration that maps out the web of different pages and their web of promotion. According to FireEye, the network promoted issues that aligned with Iranian interests. Among the striking details they discovered were “inauthentic social media personas, masquerading as American liberals supportive of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, heavily promoting Quds Day, a holiday established by Iran in 1979 to express support for Palestinians and opposition to Israel.”

In addition to the Liberty Front Press network, Facebook found another set of accounts and pages posing as news organizations that the company says had “links” to the Liberty Front Press group. But this network launched more traditional attacks, attempting to hack into other Facebook users’ accounts and spread malware. Facebook says it’s working with law enforcement on further investigating its findings.

The cyberthreat posed by Iran has been the subject of concern in intelligence circles for years. But when the US reached a deal with the country in 2015, which lifted key sanctions, Iran’s cyber attacks seemed to have subsided. Meanwhile, the threat Russia posed only grew in the public consciousness after the 2016 election, when Russian actors hacked into the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair’s emails, while also carrying out an influence campaign across nearly every social media platform. And yet, lawmakers have recently cautioned against taking an overly myopic view of the scope of cyber threats facing the tech sector.

During a hearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, just hours before Facebook’s announcement, Democratic senator Richard Blumenthal warned, forebodingly, “Until there’s real action, Vladimir Putin will operate with impunity, and he will continue to use a playbook which becomes the same playbook used by other countries, notably Iran. I believe there will be news about Iranian aggression in the cyber domain.”

Following Facebook’s disclosure, Democratic senator Mark Warner said in a statement, “I’ve been saying for months that there’s no way the problem of social media manipulation is limited to a single troll farm in St. Petersburg, and that fact is now beyond a doubt.”

Facebook’s discovery underscores the level of vigilance required to detect threats from multiple state actors at once, even as the company tries to find and memorize the fingerprints others have left behind. In addition to the two networks associated with Liberty Front Press, the company also detected a suspicious network that shared content about Middle East politics in Arabic and Farsi, and also shared content about the United States and United Kingdom in English. These 168 pages and 140 accounts racked up 823,000 followers across Facebook and Instagram. This group also ran $6,000 worth of ads, the oldest of which ran in 2012. Despite signals indicating these accounts and pages were connected, they “were not presenting a coordinated front in how they identified themselves,” Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, said on the press call.

Facebook noted that it also shut down additional accounts and pages associated with Russian military intelligence, but the company was light on details about what this group shared or how many Facebook users followed them. The company was also reluctant to blame Russia for another suspicious network it shut down at the end of July, saying that all of these investigations are still ongoing.

In his remarks to reporters, Zuckerberg continually stressed the need for tech companies and government agencies to work together to investigate and prevent these threats. His sentiment echoed Microsoft CEO Brad Smith, who earlier Tuesday also called on the government to act when he announced that Microsoft had thwarted a series of Russian cyber attacks on political groups in the United States.

“No one company can win this fight on its own,” Zuckerberg said.


More Great WIRED Stories

U.S. tariffs cast a cloud over Huawei's solar electronics launch

(Reuters) – Huawei Technology Co’s coming U.S. launch of a solar-panel control device is expected to collide with new Trump administration tariffs on Chinese electronics, undermining a product that analysts had seen as challenging rivals on pricing.

FILE PHOTO: People walk past a Huawei sign at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) Asia 2018 in Shanghai, China June 14, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

The Chinese company, best known for its smart phones and telecommunications equipment, has developed a new generation of low-cost solar inverters, which convert, manage and monitor energy produced by solar panels for home use.

Huawei has said it was aiming to roll out the product, called FusionHome, in the United States before the end of the summer, a year after its original target. Analysts and distributors had expected it to knock $100-$200 off current market prices of similar devices costing between $1,000 and $1,500 per household.

But a coming 25 percent tariff on Chinese electronics that would overturn much of Huawei’s expected price advantage may have stalled talks with U.S. installers and distributors, said analysts and research firms.

Huawei will either have to reduce its margins or raise prices, they said, potentially benefiting rival producers including SolarEdge and Enphase Energy, which are ramping up manufacturing outside China.

Huawei declined to comment on tariffs and did not respond to detailed questions from Reuters on the current status of FusionHome.

Company spokesman Joe Kelly said in July that the company was planning to introduce the new product to its partners in the United States this summer and that the timing of the roll-out would depend on those distributors.

The 25 percent tariff, if implemented, will take effect Aug. 23, and analysts covering the sector say it will affect the new Huawei product.

“It certainly would eat into profits and is just a question on how aggressive Huawei wants to be,” said Cowen & Co analyst Jeffrey Osborne.

Huawei’s foray into the high-margin residential market comes after panel installations fell in 2017 for the first time in seven years. GTM Research recently cut its forecast for 2018 residential solar market installations by 8 percent to 2.2 gigawatts.

Of four major solar panel makers Reuters talked to, only Utah-based Vivint Solar confirmed it was considering adding Huawei’s inverter to its lineup.

SunPower Corp and Tesla’s SolarCity did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment. A SunRun spokeswoman said the company welcomed new innovations that made solar energy cheaper and more accessible.

“A 25 percent tariff could eat up the margins of cost-competitive Chinese manufacturers and potentially change the player landscape of the U.S. solar inverter market,” said another analyst, Iben Frimann-Dahl from Rystad Energy.

Reporting by John Benny in Bengaluru; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

Want to Live Longer? Scientists Say They've Made 'Exciting' Progress in the Quest to 'Reverse Aging'

A team of scientists at a British university say their latest experiments have revealed “exciting” progress on the road to literally “reverse aging.”

I don’t want to oversell this. The scientists concede that a real life “anti-aging pill” is still far in the future. But, they say they’ve made noteworthy progress, by developing the ability to “revers[e] the aging of human cells,” which in turn, “could provide the basis for future anti-degeneration drugs.”

This kind of research is exactly what Silicon Valley billionaires, including Peter Thiel, Larry Ellison, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, have been chasing with dollars–racing to stop the clock, and live longer, before they themselves grow too old to benefit. But now these British researchers might have beaten everyone else to the punch.

Here’s the science, the experiment, and the suddenly relevant questions about what life on earth would look like if at least some of us could live much longer–maybe even indefinitely.

Turning genes on and off

First, the experiment, and what it means. One theory about how aging works is that over time, we develop a growing number cells that don’t function as they are supposed to, and that also inhibit the correction functioning of other cells around them.

Harries and Whiteman suggest that the reason we generate these “senescent cells” is because our bodies lose the “ability to turn genes on and off at the right time and in the right place,” which thus create cells with incorrect characteristics.

That’s a very esoteric description, so Harries and Whiteman include a really basic analogy: a recipe for chocolate cake. 

Imagine you’re baking a cake, and that your decision whether to include chocolate is the equivalent of “turning on” a gene during cell creation. Add the chocolate, and you wind up with chocolate cake; if you don’t add it, you wind up with some other flavor.

And if you somehow were to lose the ability to decide whether to include chocolate or not, you’d wind up with some random flavored cakes. 

The key: hydrogen sulphide

Okay, so why would our bodies lose the ability to turn genes on and off? Harries and Whiteman suggest that it’s a matter of your body no longer being able to create a series of about 300 proteins called “splicing factors,” which impact that “on/off” decision. 

So, the theory goes, if you could restore the ability to create splicing factors, you could potentially correct the “on/off” gene decisions, which would then reduce the number of senescent cells, and thus counteract the aging process.

That’s exactly what Harries and Whiteman say their experiment did–by “treating old cells with a chemical that releases small amounts of hydrogen sulphide.”

Lo and behold, it worked: “We were able to increase levels of some splicing factors, and to rejuvenate old human cells.”

Granted, this is very tricky and in the early stages. Hydrogen sulphide is a naturally occurring substance in the body, but large amounts can be toxic. So the researchers focused on ways to deliver it in very small doses directly where they think it would do the most good.

“We are hopeful that in using molecular tools such as this,” they write, “we will be able to eventually remove senescent cells in living people, which may allow us to target multiple age-related diseases at once. This is some way in the future yet, but it’s an exciting start.”

But will Sergey Brin live forever?

Again, this all amounts to “exciting” progress, but it’s really Step One. There’s a real question whether any of this science, with experiment building upon experiment, will achieve results in time for anyone currently reading this article to benefit from it.

At Google, the head of the company’s anti-aging research writes that he thinks we “probably won’t solve death in time to make Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin immortal.”

But if we could ever pull this off, can you imagine the way it would change our society? I’m reminded of two quotes:

  • “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.” –Steve Jobs
  • “Millions long for immortality who don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.”–Susan Ertz​

And that goes to why the people pushing for answers here hardest are individual, highly successful entrepreneurs with money to burn and a fear of death. Perhaps that’s the story for all of us, billionaires and mere mortals alike. We’re quite possibly the last generations to live, who believe it’s inevitable that we will one day die.

How to Master the Art of Giving a Great Virtual Presentation

For online presentations, the first step is to get everyone on video (sometimes you have to insist). No more audio-only calls where all your audience members are just secretly multi-tasking. You can’t make an engaging presentation with slides and their disembodied voice. Get your face on video so people can see you and ideally you can see your audience too. This allows you to really connect with your audience, and see how they are reacting to you.

Also for online presentations, consider your environment. Spotty wifi with an unprofessional background and a poorly-lit face kills your presentation. I literally interviewed a candidate who had pile of dirty laundry behind him – not the best first impression. Zoom works great on wifi right down to 3G, but if you’re giving a big presentation, your best bet is hardwiring in. Then, make sure you are in a quiet space with no distractions. Clean up your background – just use a plain wall, or a nice plant – or try Zoom’s virtual backgrounds (sorry, shameless plug). Consider your lighting. Get there a couple minutes early to make sure it’s not too much or too little lighting. And check that you are lit from the front, not from behind you (i.e. don’t sit with your back to a window). It is distracting when cameras are too high or low or are angled so we’re only seeing part of someone’s face. Check that you are looking straight at the camera and your video feed is framing the upper part of your torso and your head – you want it to look as if you were sitting across the table from your audience.

And for both online and in-person presentations, you have to engage your audience. Don’t droning on for a long time, doing too many text-rich slides, and not matching your abstract to your presentation (this is actually a big one – people want to know what they’re getting in to). Instead, stop regularly to tell a (quick!) story, ask a question, take a straw poll, tell a joke, give your audience a small task, and so forth. Just keep them awake and interested! Also, you need adjust your presentation to your audience’s response. I have multiple large screens in my office so I can see all the participants in my meeting or presentation all at once and read their body language and facial expressions. If I see attention waning or some disagreement, I will switch things up.

Finally, a quick technical recommendation for online presentations. If you’re using Zoom, when setting up your meeting, select the “Mute upon entry” option. This makes sure that your participants join with their sound off, so you don’t get background noise that can disrupt the flow of your presentation.

This question originally appeared on Quora – the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions:

Ford Motor Is A Single-Digit Stock: What Should Investors Do Now?

Ford Motor‘s (F) have fallen below the $10 price level this week on fears over an escalating trade war between the United States and China and higher expected commodity costs. Though Ford Motor faces some headwinds over the short haul in terms of costs, investors have turned too bearish on U.S. auto companies, in my opinion. Ford Motor makes a promising value proposition below $10 as shares are dirt-cheap and ripe for a rebound. While waiting for the storm to pass, investors get to collect a healthy 6.3 percent dividend.

Disappointing Performance And New 52-Week Low

Ford Motor hasn’t exactly been a winning investment in 2018. Year-to-date, the auto company’s share price slumped 23.4 percent. This week’s sell-off also caused Ford’s share price to fall to a new 52-week low @$9.42.

[Note that according to the Relative Strength Index, Ford Motor is now widely oversold again.]

Source: StockCharts

Why Are Investors Spooked?

One word: Tariffs.

The tariff tit-for-tat between the United States and China already drags on for months but went into another round earlier in August when both countries imposed new tariffs on each other yet again. First, the United States slapped an additional 25 percent tariff on $16 billion worth of Chinese imports. China then immediately reacted, imposing a 25 percent tariff on $16 billion of U.S. goods including fuel, steel products, automobiles and medical equipment.

The big fear here is that both countries will continue to escalate the tariff stand-off. Put simply: Investors are currently pricing in a worst-case trade scenario that will lead to billions of dollars in trade lost over protectionist political stances. Auto companies, including General Motors (GM) and Ford Motor have already warned about rising commodity and steel costs, which is expected to negatively affect profitability over the short haul.

That being said, though, I expect the U.S. and China to ultimately resolve their trade dispute at the negotiating table as both countries benefit from increased trade and collaboration over the long haul.

Reduced Adj. EPS-Guidance Weighing On Investor Sentiment In The Short Run

Ford Motor, for instance, adjusted its earnings guidance for 2018, partly due to rising commodity costs. Ford Motor now expects to pull in $1.30-$1.50/share in adjusted earnings per share in 2018, which compares against a previous earnings guidance of $1.45-$1.70/share. The guidance midpoint now sits at $1.40, which is ~11 percent lower than the previous midpoint ($1.58/share).

Source: Ford Motor Investor Presentation

Ford Motor isn’t the only auto company that has reduced its profit outlook, though. General Motors cut its earnings forecast, too, and so did Fiat Chrysler (NYSE:FCAU).

Ford Motor Is In The Bargain Bin

Ford Motor’s shares are dirt-cheap, and sell for less than seven times next year’s estimated profits. I think investors have turned too bearish on Ford Motor too fast, which in turn opens up a buying window for income investors with a contrarian bent.

Chart

F data by YCharts

Still An Attractive Yield Play

Ford Motor is, first and foremost, a dividend play, which is worth reminding investors of once in a while. Shares throw off a $0.15/share quarterly dividend, and Ford Motor has paid special dividends in the past as well. An investment in F at today’s price point yields 6.3 percent.

Chart

F Dividend data by YCharts

Your Takeaway

Though Ford Motor’s share price could certainly drop further over the short haul, shares are already widely oversold, and ripe for a rebound. Hence, I see the drop below $10 as a buying opportunity, but only for those investors that have a higher-than-average risk tolerance and an investment horizon of more than one year. Though the tariff standoff between the U.S. and China makes for some interesting news, the conflict will ultimately be resolved at the negotiating table. For now, investors may want to ignore the noise. Speculative Buy for income and capital appreciation.

If you like to read more of my articles, and like to be kept up to date with the companies I cover, I kindly ask you that you scroll to the top of this page and click ‘follow‘. I am largely investing in dividend paying stocks, but also venture out occasionally and cover special situations that offer appealing reward-to-risk ratios and have potential for significant capital appreciation. Above all, my immediate investment goal is to achieve financial independence.

Disclosure: I am/we are long F, GM.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Tesla forms three-member panel to decide on any Musk deal

(Reuters) – Tesla Inc’s board (TSLA.O) named a special committee of three directors on Tuesday to negotiate with Elon Musk on taking the electric carmaker private, although it said it was yet to see a firm offer from the company’s chief executive.

Musk said on Monday he had held talks with a Saudi sovereign fund on a buyout that would take Tesla off the Nasdaq exchange – an extraordinary move for what is now the United States’ most valuable automaker, worth more than $60 billion.

The committee, made up of Tesla independent directors Brad Buss, Robyn Denholm and Linda Johnson Rice, will wade into a deal that has puzzled Wall Street since a surprise announcement

by Musk on Twitter last week.

Musk then proposed taking the company private at $420 a share – versus the current $354 – and said funding had been “secured”.

He has given more details – including saying he is working with Goldman Sachs and buyout firm Silver Lake – but is yet to convince Wall Street analysts and investors that he can find the billions needed to complete the deal.

Corporate governance and shareholder voting advisor Institutional Shareholder Services has said it does not consider Buss to be an independent director, running counter to Tesla’s view, due to his connections to a solar panel business the company bought two years ago.

Buss was chief financial officer of solar panel installer SolarCity for two years before retiring when Tesla paid $2.6 billion for the sales and installation firm in 2016.

The purchase was Tesla’s last big deal and was criticized by some on Wall Street because the company, founded by two of Musk’s cousins, had seen its business shrink before the takeover.

FILE PHOTO: A Tesla sales and service center is shown in Costa Mesa, California, U.S., June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

Denholm, the first woman to join Tesla’s board, is chief operations officer of telecom firm Telstra and the ex-CFO of network gear maker Juniper Networks (JNPR.N). Rice, the first African-American and second woman to join the company’s board, is the chairman of Johnson Publishing Co, home to Ebony and Jet magazines.

Tesla’s other board members include Musk, his brother Kimbal Musk, Twenty-First Century Fox’s CEO James Murdoch, Antonio Gracias, founder of Valor Equity Partners and Ira Ehrenpreis, founder of venture capital firm DBL Partners.

One more director, Steve Jurvetson, is currently on leave of absence following allegations of sexual harassment.

Tesla’s board disclosed on Aug. 8 that Musk had held talks with the directors in the previous week on taking the company private.

The company said in the statement that the special committee has the authority to take any action on behalf of the board to evaluate and negotiate a potential transaction and alternatives to any transaction proposed by Musk.

Latham and Watkins LLP has been retained by the committee as its legal counsel. Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati will be legal counsel for Tesla itself.

Shares in Tesla inched down 0.2 percent in early trading and have now fallen more than 8 percent from highs hit following Musk’s tweet last week.

Writing by Patrick Graham, editing by Bernard Orr

A look at Tesla's nine-member board

(Reuters) – Tesla Inc’s (TSLA.O) board has named a special committee of three directors to negotiate with Chief Executive Elon Musk on taking the electric car maker private, although it said it was yet to see a firm offer from him.

The committee, made up of Tesla directors Brad Buss, Robyn Denholm and Linda Johnson Rice, will wade into a deal that has puzzled Wall Street since a surprise announcement by Musk on Twitter last week.

The following is a snapshot of the nine members on Tesla’s board.

Member Background

Member since

Elon Musk 2004 Tesla’s Chief Executive Officer and

co-founder. Owns a roughly 20 percent

stake in Tesla. Also serves as CEO of

SpaceX.

Brad Buss 2009 Served as chief financial officer of

solar panel installer SolarCity for

two years before retiring in 2016.

Tesla bought SolarCity that year. Buss

was also CFO of Cypress Semiconductor.

Ira 2007 Founder and managing partner of

Ehrenpreis venture capital firm DBL Partners,

which is an investor in Tesla,

according to its website. Ehrenpreis

bagged the first Model 3 car, having

been the first to put down a deposit,

but later gifted it to Musk.

Antonio 2007 Lead independent director at Tesla

Gracias since 2010. Founder and chief

executive officer of Valor Equity

Partners. In May this year,

influential proxy adviser ISS

recommended that investors vote

against his election to the board and

called him a non-independent director.

Robyn 2014 The first woman to join Tesla’s board,

Denholm Denholm is chief operations officer of

telecom firm Telstra and the ex-CFO of

network gear maker Juniper Networks

(JNPR.N).

James 2017 The CEO of Twenty-First Century Fox

Murdoch (FOXA.O) and chairman of Sky Plc

(SKYB.L). ISS in May recommended that

investors vote against his election to

the board as he is “overboarded” –

serving on several other boards. ISS

also called him a non-independent

director, despite Tesla considering

him an independent member.

Steve 2009 Co-founder of Silicon Valley venture

Jurvetson capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson.

He resigned from DFJ in November 2017,

following allegations of sexual

harassment against him. He is on a

leave of absence from Tesla’s board

since then.

Kimbal 2004 Elon Musk’s brother and co-founder of

Musk restaurant chain The Kitchen. Kimbal,

according to media reports, has been

criticized for his lack of experience

in the auto industry, as well as his

role as an independent director at

burrito chain Chipotle (CMG.N), which

has faced major health and food safety

issues.

Linda Rice 2017 First African-American and second

woman to join Tesla’s board. Current

chairman of Johnson Publishing Co,

home to Ebony and Jet magazines.

Reporting by Vibhuti Sharma and Arjun Panchadar in Bengaluru; Editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar

A Tweet About Hacking During Defcon Gets a Google Engineer in Trouble

Matt Linton, a senior software engineer at Google, says he was asked to leave Caesars Palace hotel in Las Vegas Thursday night after a tweet about hacking was reported to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. The police have confirmed that Linton is not considered a threat, but until Friday afternoon the engineer said he was not let back into Caesars, which is hosting Defcon, the annual conference that attracts thousands of security researchers, academics, lawyers, and hackers.1 The incident highlights the high level of security precautions being taken in the city less than a year after a mass shooting at the nearby Mandalay Bay Hotel, when a gunman killed 58 people and injured hundreds of others.

Linton sent the tweet on Wednesday night in response to another user’s thread about the Defcon Wi-Fi network, which is notorious for being insecure due to the number of hackers who attend the conference. The original tweet argued that the network might be more secure than people think, since so many users are on it simultaneously. In other words, there are so many possible victims that it’s easy to hide in a crowd. Linton responded that it might be more fruitful, theoretically, to “attack” the wealthy attendees of BlackHat, a more commercial cybersecurity conference that takes place right before Defcon. Linton was a speaker at BlackHat this year.

The short conversation was about the many ways a person’s device might be compromised during the biggest week of the year for hackers. But at the time, Linton was replying to a protected account, meaning people could not view the original tweet if they didn’t already follow that user on Twitter. (The user made their tweets public on Friday.) For most people, Linton’s tweet—which began “If I had the time, budget, and motive to launch really good attacks in Vegas, I would…”—would appear without any other context.

“We saw the comment on social media, it was brought to our attention by the private sector. We have a lot of concerns when someone uses the word attack,” says Jim Seebock, a captain at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

Linton says the police got his contact information from Caesars, and then reached him on his cellphone.

“LVPD interviewed me and I believe I had cleared it up with them satisfactorily when they liked and retweeted my second clarification tweet about how ‘attack’ means ‘hack a cell phone’ when you’re at Defcon,” Linton said in a Twitter direct message. (As of Friday afternoon, the police department’s official twitter account did not appear to have liked or retweeted Linton’s messages.)

Seebock confirmed that Linton has since been cleared as a threat, and the engineer is facing no charges. But when Linton returned to his hotel room around midnight Thursday, he discovered that he could not use his keycard to access it. He says he was then asked to leave the hotel, and that he was still charged half the price he paid for his room Thursday night. Caesars did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I’m not upset that people were threat-modeling after Mandalay and obviously I realize I chose the wrong verbs in my tweet and that’s on me,” Linton says. “I’m just sad and disappointed that the wind-up machine, which gets set in motion when a ‘threat’ is detected, has no mechanism for unwinding it with new information and clarification being available to show that there was no threat intended at all.”

Several other Defcon attendees publicly asked Caesars to allow Linton to return to the conference. Linton confirmed in a Twitter direct message that Caesars let him back into the building at around 3:30 PM local time. The engineer, who says he has been a volunteer EMT for decades, worries that the incident might impact his record with law enforcement in a way he might not be able to track or understand.

Other Defcon goers are reporting increased security measures at the conference this year. Kim Zetter, a freelance cybersecurity journalist who previously worked for WIRED, tweeted that her hotel room was searched by security guards after she declined maid service.

This also isn’t the first time that Defcon attendees have had run-ins with law enforcement. Last year, authorities arrested Marcus Hutchins, a hacker credited with stopping the notorious WannaCry ransomware attack, as he tried to board a flight home to the United Kingdom. The Department of Justice subsequently unsealed an indictment against Hutchins, alleging he created banking malware. The hacker, who is still in the US, is now trying to have those charges, as well as additional ones piled on, dropped by a US federal district court in Wisconsin.

Unlike Hutchins, Linton has not been charged with any crime. The incident this week appears instead to illustrate how hacker lingo can be easily misinterpreted, especially if you’re trying to protect a city in the wake of a tragedy.

1 Updated 8/10/18, 7:44 PM EDT: Shortly after this article was published, Linton was allowed back into Caesars. We have updated the story accordingly.


More Great WIRED Stories

At DefCon, the Biggest Election Threat Is Lack of Funding

Now in its second year, the Voting Machine Hacking Village at the DefCon security conference in Las Vegas features a new set of voting machines—all of which will actually be used in the 2018 midterm elections—for attendees to analyze and attack. But as eager attendees get to work familiarizing themselves with the devices and revealing their weaknesses, another call has emerged from the Village as well: Finding bugs is great. But you also need the money to fix them.

Election officials can’t act on findings about voting machine and voting infrastructure vulnerabilities, DefCon speakers noted on Friday, if they don’t have the money to replace obsolete equipment, invest in network improvements, launch post-election audit programs, and hire cybersecurity staff. Some progress has come, but not enough, and too slowly.

“While I thank the United States Congress for appropriating $340 million last month, let me be abundantly clear, we need more resources,” said Alex Padilla, the secretary of state of California and the state’s top election official. “All the things that we know we have to do, all the things that I’m going to learn and observe when I go down to the Village after this panel, to implement and act on all of these findings, recommendations, and discoveries we need official resources.”

After all, it took nearly two decades for Congress to appropriate that recent election security windfall; it came from the 2002 Help America Vote Act. “That’s butterfly ballot hanging chad money, not cyberthreats 2016, 2018, 2020 money,” Padilla says. In recent months, Congress has failed to pass various bills that would fund election security and infrastructure improvements ahead of the midterms. And though the bipartisan Secure Elections Act has been steadily gaining momentum in the Senate—and was introduced through a companion bill in the House on Friday—it is likely still months away from potentially becoming law.

After months of silence on the topic, the Trump Administration said at the end of July that it would “continue to provide the support necessary to the owners of elections systems—state and local governments—to secure their elections.” Department of Homeland Security top cybersecurity official Jeanette Manfra echoed that sentiment at DefCon on Friday, noting that election officials “do a lot with not a lot of resources, and now they’re on the front lines trying to deal with a lot of these issues. They can’t do it alone.”

Jake Braun, a co-organizer of the Voting Village and a former White House and public liaison for DHS, pointed out on Friday that even a project like the DefCon research workshop is costly and would be out of reach for many organizations. “This is a volunteer operation,” he said. “None of us make a dime off of this; we actually lose money.”

The findings that come out of the Voting Village this weekend, and those from researchers more broadly, continue to provide crucial information, as security advocates work to raise the bar of voting machine defense around the US and shape guidelines for vendors. But knowledge can only go so far without the resources required to act on it.

“Most election officials have one or two people in their office,” says Noah Praetz, the director of elections for Cook County, Illinois, who also attended the Voting Village last year. “They outsource most of the work they do, and it’s really difficult” to keep up with the constant stream of election system-related vulnerability advisories.

Voting infrastructure desperately needs vetting from hackers. But now that that idea has more widespread support, the next item on the punch list is funding.


More Great WIRED Stories

Microsoft Demands Violent Threats Be Removed from Gab.ai. Neo-Nazi Complies

Microsoft took one of its few actions to restrict unsafe speech by demanding the microblogging service Gab.ai removed two posts by a neo-Nazi that threatened violence. Gab is known for an expansive, some say extreme attitude towards permitting all forms of speech without moderation.

Gab relies on Microsoft Azure, a popular cloud service offering, to provide the servers and networking behind the service. Microsoft told Gab that it received complaints about “malicious activity” related to two messages posted by Patrick Little, an avowed neo-Nazi, that advocated directly for violence against Jews. Microsoft gave the company two days to remove them or risk suspension.

Little removed the posts himself, noting that it was “a violation of our rights as Americans,” and concluding, “we will have no rights until the jews [sic] are expelled.”

A Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement elaborating on its move, “Microsoft received a complaint about specific posts on Gab.ai that advocate ‘ritual death by torture’ and the ‘complete eradication’ of all Jews. After an initial review, we have concluded that this content incites violence, is not protected by the First Amendment, and violates Microsoft Azure’s acceptable use policy.”

Microsoft said it would extend the two-day period if Gab chose to migrate elsewhere. That appears to be alleviated with the removal of the posts, and the company didn’t elaborate on what might occur if a similar violation occurred in the future. Facebook has an explicit three strikes within 90 days policy for hosted videos, while Twitter can opt to freeze an account until tweets are removed. But Azure isn’t a social network.

In the past, Gab has set some bright lines, banning Andrew Auernheimer, known as “weev,” notorious as both an ostensible troll and griefer, allegedly harassing people online for the joy of it, and in recent years as an apparently non-ironic adopter of neo-Nazi sensibilities. Gab suspended Auernheimer for threats and terrorism.

On the other hand, Andrew Anglin, the operator of Daily Stormer,an online publication aimed at neo-Nazis, maintains his account at Gab. His pinned tweet at the top of his account profile reads, “When you’re ready to start shoving Jews onto a train, remember that name!”

Were Gab suspended from Azure, it might have trouble finding a new home: Google had already blocked the service’s app from its Play store, and its one-time domain registrar booted it last September. (The company sue Google, alleged it blocked the app for antitrust reasons, but withdrew the suit shortly afterwards. It said it found a new registrar.)

In the wake of Alex Jones and his InfoWars conspiracy-based empire being banned and restricted by Apple, Facebook, MailChimp, Pinterest, Spotify, and YouTube, it’s unclear whether a service with a history of controversy could find a new cloud host.

Gab does, however, rely on Cloudflare, which provides a front-end resistance against distributed denial of service (DDoS) and other attacks that can disable a site or access to it. Cloudflare doesn’t technically host content, but acts as a firebreak in relaying content from a site to web browsers.

Google Leak Exposes Massive, Expensive Pixel 3

Much like Samsung leaking the Galaxy Note 9, Google has done a similarly impressive job ‘accidentally’ revealing its Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL details on multiple occasions. Those leaks primarily delivered good news, until now… 

Picked up both on Reddit and by the consistently reliable WinFuture, GeekBench scores have been uncovered for the Pixel 3XL (codename ‘Crosshatch’). The breakdown reveals predictable aspects such as the phone running Android P and using a Qualcomm 845 chipset at its heart. But it also shows Google is going to deliver the new Pixel range with just 4GB of RAM, and this problematic for several reasons.

Pixel 3 XL ConceptConcept Creator

The obvious point to make is rivals have moved on. OnePlus leads the way with the excellent (midrange-priced) OnePlus 6 coming in 6GB and 8GB variants, while even 4GB-holdout Samsung moved up to 6GB back in 2017 with the Galaxy Note 8. For Google’s flagship device, this simply isn’t at the races from a specifications perspective – especially at the high asking price,

But more importantly, 4GB of RAM also isn’t at the races from a real-world performance perspective, as it coincides with multiple reports of Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL performance problems as they age.

Triggered by a series of tweets from Android Police founder Artem Russakovskii, and expanded upon by popular YouTuber MKBHD (video below), the issues are very real and I’ve seen it on both my Pixel 2 running Android O and my Pixel 2 XL running Android P beta. Memory management has begun to struggle – particularly on devices 8-10 months old – and this hasn’t happened to similarly aged rivals like the OnePlus 5T carrying more RAM.

As such 4GB makes the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL a tough sell in late 2018. Especially when we already know both phones won’t have dual cameras which, while arguably unnecessary, are a major selling point with consumers.

The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL represent Google’s third generation of premium smartphones and it was the third generation for Apple (iPhone 3GS) and Samsung (Galaxy S3) which saw their ranges take-off. Consequently, as brilliant as Google’s Pixel software optimisation might be, from a hardware perspective the company risks blowing it just as iPhones become cheaper and Samsung gets its groove back

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Windows 10 Leak Exposes Microsoft's New Monthly Charge

Ever since its creation, Microsoft has described Windows 10 “as a service”. The fear has always been that this meant Microsoft would start charging users a monthly fee to maintain the operating system, and now a new leak has confirmed this is exactly what will happen… 

In a new report, CNet’s well connected Microsoft specialist Mary Jo Foley reports the company will soon launch ‘Microsoft Managed Desktop’ which will charge a monthly fee to configure computers running Windows 10 and keep them running smoothly as new updates are released.

Windows 10 might not be free forever…Microsoft

Foley also notes “Microsoft already has a number of the pieces in place to make this happen” such as a Windows Autopilot automatic device provisioning service, device financing programs like Surface Plus and a ‘Surface as a Service’ leasing program. Microsoft also has a subscription bundle including Windows 10 and Office 365 called Microsoft 365 and Windows 10 Enterprise subscription plans.  

Furthermore, Foley states “One of my contacts said that Bill Karagounis – former Director of the Windows Insider Program & OS Fundamentals team, who last year joined the Enterprise Mobility and Management part of Windows and Devices – is in charge of the coming Microsoft Managed Desktop.”

With Microsoft also publicly hiring for this new division, managed subscriptions for Windows 10 appear to have the green light.

Windows 7 and Windows 8 who did not upgrade are likely to feel vindicatedGordon Kelly

So what’s the good news? At this time, Foley believes Microsoft Managed Desktop will be targeted at businesses. But the obvious question, given the clear direction Microsoft is moving becomes: for how long?

Foley did ask Microsoft to go on the record about Microsoft Managed Desktop, but the company declined to comment.

All of which means those users who chose to stay on Windows 7 and Windows 8 are probably feeling pretty smug right now. As for everyone who upgraded for ‘free’ to Windows 10, the nagging question must be: will it prove too good to be true?

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More On Forbes

Microsoft ‘Ends’ Windows 7 And Windows 8

Three Reasons Microsoft Stopped Free Windows 10 Upgrades

Microsoft Warns Windows 7 Has A Serious Problem

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Nuclear Operators Scramble To Make Reactors Flexible Enough For New Energy Economy

Could the nation’s largest nuclear power plant be repurposed as the nation’s first nuclear desalination plant?  (Photo by Jeff Topping/Getty Images)

Arizona Public Service is studying the possibility of using excess energy from its Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant, when solar energy is flooding the grid, to desalinate brackish water.

In Illinois, Exelon is looking at repurposing a reactor to produce hydrogen when there’s plenty of wind energy on the grid, then using the hydrogen for steelmaking, ammonia production or fuel-cell vehicles.

Across the country, nuclear operators are trying to figure out whether they can ramp down their reactors, which are optimized to run at maximum capacity, during those hours or seasons when renewable energy is abundant.

“What I want you to walk away with today is that nuclear power plants are flexible, and they are able to integrate with the grid to support some of the increasing grid variability,” said Sherry Bernhoft of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

“Flexible operations are being implemented right now at some plants and there are impacts, but they are being safely managed.”

The Arizona and Illinois examples are case studies undertaken by the utilities, EPRI, and the Department of Energy to repurpose nuclear energy when it’s not needed for electricity production.

Reactors could provide electricity or heat for industry, for hydrogen production or water production or for chemical processes, said Shannon Bragg-Sitton of Idaho National Laboratory.

“We are looking at other ways in which we can generate energy system flexibility such that our nuclear plants can continue to provide the reliable baseload services that they do right now to the grid and maintain really strong economic performance by providing electricity and or heat to other applications,” Bragg-Sitton said.

German officials recently boasted of achieving 100 percent renewables penetration on their grid, saying flexibility made it possible. Germany contends that flexibility renders obsolete the concepts of baseload and peak, and it has decided to close all its nuclear plants by 2022.

But the United States continues to seek ways to keep alive its aging fleet of reactors. Bernhoft and Bragg-Sitton revealed some of those ways during a webinar last month hosted by the Clean Energy Solutions Center. It included a economic analysis and an update from Canada, which is focused on coupling small modular reactors with hydrogen production. Watch the full webinar here:

New Lawsuit Could Solve America's Green Card Shortage

Immigrants wave American flags at a naturalization ceremony on July 25, 2018, in Los Angeles. A new lawsuit could make it easier for legal immigrants by not counting their spouses and children toward the “EB-5” (and possibly other) annual immigration limits. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

It can take forever to get a green card. The National Foundation for American Policy estimates wait times for permanent residence in some family and employment categories can range from decades to beyond the lifetime of a normal human being. What if a new lawsuit changed that?

On July 25, 2018, the firm of Kurzban Kurzban Weinger Tetzeli and Pratt P.A. filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Feng Wang, et al. v. Michael R. Pompeo) that challenges the way the federal government counts spouses and children when calculating the annual limit for the EB-5 (employment-based fifth preference) immigration category. David Bier at the Cato Institute, who I’ve worked with on several numerical analyses, estimates if the lawsuit is successful it would significantly reduce wait times for many immigrants.

I interviewed Ira Kurzban, a well-respected immigration lawyer and author of Kurzban’s Immigration Law Sourcebook, to learn more about the lawsuit and its potential impact on the lives of many people.

Stuart Anderson: Why did you file the lawsuit?

Ira Kurzban: The purpose of the lawsuit is to challenge the method by which the Department of State allocates visas under the EB-5 program. At present, the Department of State counts an investor and each family member (spouse and children) when issuing visas. This means that for a family of four each time an investor is granted a visa each family member is also allocated a visa, thus reducing the 10,000 quota by four instead of one.

As a result of this policy, backlogs have been created that have resulted in the separation of families because children of investors have to wait years to receive visas and become ineligible when they reach 21 and age-out of the process. In addition, the waiting time for someone from China, who invests $1 million or $500,000 in the U.S. and creates 10 jobs for U.S. workers, is now 10 to 15 years before he or she can obtain a visa. Under these circumstances, the entire EB-5 program is jeopardized. After all, who would invest those amounts of money to wait 10 or 15 years before they can enter the U.S. and with the certainty that their children will turn 21 and lose the right to immigrate with them?

Anderson: Based on a reading of your motion for preliminary injunction, is it fair to say the primary target of the lawsuit is the State Department’s “counting policy”?

Kurzban: Yes. We believe the policy is contrary to the EB-5 statute, which authorizes 10,000 visas to create 100,000 jobs for U.S. workers. Under the current counting policy less than 3,500 visas are actually allocated to investors.

Anderson: What in the legislative history gives you hope the lawsuit will prevail?

Kurzban: The legislative history is quite clear that in 1990 Congress passed the immigrant investor statute to secure 10,000 visas for foreign investors who would create 100,000 jobs. Statements in both the House and the Senate reflect this view.

Anderson: What other legal arguments are you making?

Kurzban: We believe the counting policy was contrary to the statute (“ultra vires”), violated the notice and comment provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act because they did not publish this policy and give the public an opportunity to comment on it, and is arbitrary and capricious because it undermines the very purpose of the statute, which is to bring a substantial amount of money into the U.S. and create jobs for U.S. workers. By reducing the actual number of investors and creating backlogs that go on for years, the Department of State’s counting policy undermines the very purpose of EB-5.

Anderson: Do you you think the case and arguments you are making in the case about not counting spouses and children would apply to the other categories within the employment-based preferences (EB-1, EB-2, EB-3)?

Kurzban: Our case focuses solely on EB-5 because we believe the statute and legislative history clearly demonstrate the Department’s policy is in error. However, if we are successful it would be a powerful precedent to challenge the counting policy in the other employment-based categories, including EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3.

Anderson: What about the family preferences?

Kurzban: The situation is the same for family preferences. The current method of counting spouses and children of primary applicants and applying their applications to the overall worldwide quota means that fewer families are able to immigrate to the U.S. It undermines the basic principles of family reunification at the heart of the Immigration and Nationality Act. If a challenge was successful, it would also be a solution to the current refusal of the Republican majority to allocate more visas in the employment and family-based categories. If visas were counted as intended and family members were not counted in the worldwide quota many more visas would be available without creating additional visas.

Anderson: Given that the Immigration Act of 1990 was written almost 30 years ago, why do you think this is the right time to challenge the executive branch’s interpretation of the law?

Kurzban: For 30 years there has never been a legal basis to the Department of State’s counting policy. In fact, the policy itself is not enshrined in law but is simply a notation in the Foreign Affairs Manual. It has never had the force of law. In addition, the negative consequences of this policy only recently became known when the Chinese investors were hit by the backlog in May 2015.

Anderson: If your lawsuit is successful, how do you think it would affect the lives of families waiting to receive permanent residence and become immigrants to America?

Kurzban: If we win the lawsuit, children will be able to live in America with their parents. It will revive the EB-5 industry that due to the backlog is facing financial collapse and it may require the Department of State to reevaluate its counting policy across all business and family visas. It will change the lives of tens of thousands of families now and in the future.

The Sharing Economy Spells Doom – Or Boom – For The Senior Housing Industry

Will aging-by-app in today’s on-demand economy be an opportunity or disruption to the senior housing industry?Shutterstock

Demography is destiny. Or at least that is the investment thesis for the senior housing industry. The fast expansion of the assisted living sector, in particular, is based on the overwhelming reality that for the next several decades the number of older adults will see explosive growth across the United States. The graying of today’s Silent Generation (those born from the mid-1920s to 1940s) and the coming wave of aging Baby Boomers make for some very promising spreadsheets and graphs.

While I am a fellow believer that demography is destiny, context also matters. As I argue in my book, The Longevity Economy, the context of aging tomorrow will be far different from when the concept of assisted living and senior housing generally was originally developed. The evolution of today’s and tomorrow’s innovative technologies and services are set to profoundly change the context of aging, our expectations for life in our advanced years and where we choose to age.

Survey data reported by AARP suggests that nearly 90% of older adults want to age-in-place or, put simply, stay in their own home through retirement. That desire may be more feasible than ever with new technologies combined with rapidly evolving and innovative services in the home.

Smart devices falling under the label of the Internet of Things are enabling remote health and safety monitoring at home. From everyday kitchen appliances such as the smart refrigerator to the increasingly ubiquitous presence of smart speakers (did you hear your name, Alexa?) to even smart toilets, these new technologies not only support older adults living in their own homes, they provide a degree of reassurance to worried and often guilt-ridden adult children providing care at a distance.

Technology is also enabling entirely new services and lifestyles to support older adults living at home and often alone – lifestyles typically enjoyed by far younger generations. You know them. The Millennials. Everything has to be convenient. They don’t own, they rent. They don’t drive, they ride share. Their laundry is picked up and delivered. They don’t even do their own errands or fix things around the home – they have an app that calls Alfreds, Rabbits and other people to do all of that. Heck, they don’t even go to the grocery store – they have their food prepared in a kit, delivered and ready to eat. An entire assisted life at the tap of a finger. But these younger and middle-aged adults are not just convenience-crazed consumers living by app. They are also tomorrow’s caregivers and key influencers of aging parents.

The combination of the desire of older consumers to stay home and new technologies and services that help make that possible should give the investment community and senior housing industry pause about the power of demographics alone to drive senior housing growth.

The sharing economy might provide a cost-effective virtual assisted living supporting both older adults and families.Shutterstock

Consider a study conducted by my colleagues at the MIT AgeLab. The team explored the possible costs of aging at home with the support of the sharing economy. Although the exploratory study was limited to the Boston area, the results are eye-opening.

Generally speaking, utilizing services (household errands, homecare, transportation, meal preparation, etc.) to stay in one’s own home via the sharing economy cost less than the average monthly cost of assisted living – even as the need for services increases with diminishing physical capability.

Does the emergence of new technology and home services on-demand spell doom for assisted living? One scenario might suggest yes.

If older people are able to stay in their homes longer, even for a few months, the demographic projections driving assisted living inventories (and future revenues) might turn out to be overly optimistic. What’s more, home technologies and services may move the average age of entry into senior living from today’s early 80s well into the mid-80s and beyond, when adults are more likely to be frail and require more complex and costly care not currently integrated (or priced) into most assisted living centers.

But wait – there is another scenario. Could these new technologies and services be the foundations of a new senior housing boom?

For all the promise of home technologies and the sharing economy to provide support to older adults aging-in-place at home, there is still a great deal of coordination required. The older adult or adult child (typically the oldest adult daughter) has to be an informed and smart buyer. Which technology do I buy? How to introduce it into the home? Who maintains it? Who do I call when there is a glitch?

Choosing between a wide range of home technologies & sharing economy services will require a new industry of advice & integration to support older adults and family caregivers.Shutterstock

Likewise, the sharing economy may be as easy as a click on the smartphone, but complex considerations remain. Which service do you choose? Who do you trust to go into your elderly mother’s home when she is there alone? How do you coordinate a multitude of services?

There is clearly a role for a systems integrator of trusted technologies and services to serve both the older adult and the adult child. Senior housing today is primarily a real estate investment paired with highly skilled operators and caregivers providing care. What if the senior housing industry became a trusted provider of services not wedded to any one place, facility or parcel of land?

Rather than waiting to be needed or discovered, senior housing properties could become centers of services enabling aging in place in the home, forming a virtual pipeline to senior housing residences from assisted living to skilled nursing.

Such a model goes well beyond the offerings of many of today’s homecare providers. New investment will be required to develop new processes, logistics, service models, rebranding, customer awareness campaigns, and beyond. Moreover, the skills necessary will require a new generation of senior service workers. New skills and training in technology integration, evaluation, and coordination of multiple third party partner providers will be required. In addition to the new training will be the development of a technical team that are not professional caregivers, but like nurses, social workers, etc., are able to confidently cross the threshold of the home and garner trust from both an older adult and her adult children.

The future may already be here; it’s just not widely distributed yet. Brookdale Senior Living recently rolled out a front desk concierge service that coordinates Uber and Lyft rides for its assisted living residents. Going further, the development of more advanced services that can be brought into clients’ homes is “very important” to Brookdale’s business, according to Director of Strategy and Innovation Andrew Smith. “We want our residents in independent living to stay there as long as they want. We don’t want to force them into assisted living. That’s their home.”

While using new technology and evolving sharing economy services to augment today’s senior living residences is a start, the real opportunity is to transform the senior housing industry into a continuum of care services that begins in the homes that older adults live in today. Perhaps the greatest challenge will be convincing those in the investment community and some in the senior housing industry that there is a need for a change. While demography is destiny, the exact trajectory of the future is not always so easy to predict. Players in the longevity economy can’t only rely on the sheer numbers and buying power of the coming wave of older adults; they must be willing to create new businesses and transform existing industries for a new, savvier and demanding generation of older adults and family caregivers.

Why Companies Are Turning To Chief Data Officers To Generate More Value Out Of Data

Shutterstock

In a conversation with MicroStrategy CMO Mark Gambill, he described the rise of a new type of role—the Chief Data Officer (click here for article). As part of that conversation, he suggested I talk with Matthew Thomas, CDO, Pandera Systems, a leader in helping firms deliver analytics and automated decision capabilities, to better understand why financial institutions in particular need the CDO role (in addition to the CMO and CIO roles). Below are insights from Thomas regarding the CDO role—and how it adds value above and beyond the CMO and CIO roles.

WhitlerCan you describe the CDO role?

Thomas: To truly appreciate the increasing need for the CDO’s role, one must first understand that 90 percent of the world’s data was created in the past two years alone. That’s a lot of information for a company to suddenly organize, secure and make sense of, let alone make strategic decision on. The CDO emerged as organizations realized the need for someone to lead the management of all of this data as well as guide the organization in technology adoption and training necessary to storing and distributing it all.

Modern CDOs have a hybrid role: first control and secure data, second, maximize data’s value with accessibility throughout an organization while continuing to maintain this controlled state

Whitler: Is this a common role in the financial services industry?

Thomas: With the volume and velocity of data continuing to grow the challenge of reporting that data in a timely and trustworthy medium is a constant challenge. Regulatory reporting and legislative deadlines can cause more than migraines. Consider this: the average company loses up to twelve percent of its annual revenue due to bad data. If there are any non-compliance fines or other consequences on top of that, an organization can be crippled. This is especially important in financial services where those regulatory requirements are more stringent.

I’ll also add that in the age of millennials, there is no longer a single team of IT folks building reports. At companies across the globe, the masses have data access and want more from it. The need for self-service is very real, but behind that, the importance of governing data to avoid incorrect reporting becomes an even larger need.

Whitler: What are the consequences of having a CDO role? Or, what is the incremental value above and beyond other C-suite positions?

Thomas: The CDO is charged with providing decision-ready data to other executives to improve cycle times and cost on capital project considerations. For example, I was recently tasked with a plan to extract data from the Oracle E-Business System and input the information into MicroStrategy, our Business Intelligence solution. During the transfer my team came across a range of inconsistencies, such as departments using conflicting facts to report on given subjects. It’s my job to figure out whose data is correct, how long teams have been working with inconsistent data and what the potential domino effects of this inaccurate reporting were.

CDOs remove ambiguity around what data to use and how it should influence decision-making. Going back to my point on a data governance framework, it’s essential that CDOs implement systems that protect data and provide users with a seamless operating language across all elements of corporate data.

Whitler: Who does the CDO report to? And how are they different than a CIO?

Thomas: It’s ideal that a CDO report directly to the CEO, because it’s the CEO’s overall business strategy that’s defining a CDO’s day-to-day work.

There are important distinctions between what a CDO and a CIO do. The CDO’s role is to manage the information necessary to run the business, while the CIO manages the systems that run the business. In the modern economy, a CDO needs to provide standardized, quality controlled data that people can access to make informed decision that align to the overarching goals of the company.

Whitler: What experiences can help prepare somebody for a CDO role?

Thomas: The most important thing that someone can do to prepare for a CDO role is understand how significant data is in making informed business decisions at every level. A CDO must understand how information disseminates throughout an entire organization to support corporate strategy.

 Join the Discussion: @KimWhitler

Google's Grand Plan To Make AI Accessible To Developers And Businesses

Artificial intelligence took center stage at Google’s annual user conference, Cloud Next 2018. The company made several announcements that make machine learning and artificial intelligence accessible to both developers and businesses.

Fei-Fei Li, Chief Scientist, Google AISource: Google

One of the first announcements came in the form of Cloud AutoML, a managed service that lets developers build machine learning models without requiring any specialized knowledge in machine learning or coding. AutoML Vision, along with other automated ML services became publicly available. According to Google, it is a suite of machine learning products that enables developers with limited machine learning expertise to train high-quality models specific to their business needs, by leveraging Google’s state-of-the-art transfer learning, and Neural Architecture Search technology.

With AutoML, developers use a simple graphical user interface (GUI) to train, evaluate, improve, and deploy models based on their own data. Apart from computer vision, AutoML also offers translation and natural language models. AutoML Natural Language helps customers to predict custom text categories specific to domains automatically. With AutoML Translation, they can upload translated language pairs to train custom translation models.

Google has also enhanced its cognitive computing APIs. Cloud Vision API now recognizes handwriting, supports additional file types (PDF and TIFF) and product search, and can identify where an object is located within an image. The improvements to Cloud Text-to-Speech include multilingual access to voices generated by DeepMind WaveNet technology and the ability to optimize for the type of speaker from which the speech is intended to play. Cloud Speech-to-Text added the ability to identify what language is spoken as well as different speakers in a conversation, word-level confidence scores, and multi-channel recognition. With this enhancement, customers can record each participant separately in multi-participant recordings.

Dialogflow, the platform to build bots, can now be used to build AI-powered virtual agents for the contact center, including phone-based conversational agents known as interactive voice response (IVR). Google Cloud Contact Center, an AI solution based on Dialogflow, includes new features alongside other tools to assist live agents and to perform analytics.

With Dialogflow Phone Gateway, customers can assign a working phone number to the virtual agent and begin taking calls. The dynamic platform can scale based on the utilization patterns. Behind the scenes, all of the telephony infrastructure, speech recognition, speech synthesis, natural language understanding and orchestration are managed automatically.

Another component of Dialogflow Enterprise, the Dialogflow Knowledge Connector understands unstructured documents like FAQs or knowledge base articles to automatically build intents with automated responses sourced from internal document collections, enriching the conversational experience with little extra effort. The added information extracted from the knowledge base is integrated with the Dialogflow agent to deliver conversational user experience.

Apart from the above enhancements, Dialogflow now includes automatic spelling correction, sentiment analysis and text-to-speech capabilities.

Google is integrating its cloud-based machine learning assets with Dialogflow to build an intelligent contact center. The platform includes an agent assist system to provide the call center agents with relevant information through suggested articles and shortcuts for fulfilling relevant tasks in real time. Another feature called the Conversational Topic Modeler uses Google AI to analyze historical audio and chat logs to uncover insights about topics and trends in customer interactions.

Google is working with several industry players to integrate Cloud Contact Center AI with mainstream contact center platforms.

From automated ML to AI-based contact center, Google wants AI to become accessible to both developers and enterprises.

Beware Of Crypto Risks – 10 Risks To Watch

HONG KONG, HONG KONG – JUNE 15: As a visual representation of the digital Cryptocurrency, Litecoin (LTC), Monero (XMR), Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Ripple (XRP) and Dash on June 15, 2018 in Hong Kong, Hong Kong. (Photo by S3studio/Getty Images)

You know we are at the top of the hype cycle on blockchain and cryptocurrencies when examples of peak crypto include glistening fleets of Lamborghinis as a reflection of price spikes and talk of crypto-utopia with no central governments. Nonetheless, there are a number of key risks that plague this asset class and stand in the way of broader market adoption and stability. While there is no doubt cryptocurrencies, digital tokens and blockchain-based business models are here to stay, understanding how risk interplays with this emerging market and their underlying technologies will not only help protect investors, it will also give regulators a steady hand and, hopefully, guide how entrepreneurs are approaching risk management in their projects, which is not easily done after the fact. One unique facet that blockchain-based projects bring to the market is that unlike the analog economy, which hopes to code good conduct in people who have the care, custody and control of our savings and assets, is that “good conduct” can be coded at the technology layer and in an unalterable and transparent manner. In short, a machine is not naturally greedy or prone to moral hazard (risk taking without bearing the consequences).

What follows are 10 examples of key risks that imperil cryptocurrencies and stand in the way of market progress.

Wide Entrance, Narrow Exit – It is true that the advent of bitcoin and its ilk of cryptocurrencies, of which there are more than 1,600 and counting that have been digitally minted, has democratized many aspects of finance. This lowered barrier to entry creates a wide entrance and a very narrow exit, which as is prone to happen in the real world during Black Friday shopping frenzies for example, can lead to collateral damage as people rush to get out. The exit can be barred due to technological constraints, currency inconvertibility and few counterparties with whom to trade. While the asset class is generally uncorrelated to the traditional economy, it is all correlated to itself, which can create market panics and runs.

Intangible, Illiquid, Uninsured – The true miracle of blockchain-based cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, is that the issue of double counting is resolved without any intermediary, such as a bank or banker. This feature captured by the notion of digital singularity, where there can only be one instance of an asset is powerful and one of the primary reasons this asset class has blossomed. However, the intangible and illiquid nature of cryptocurrencies (combined with the point above about narrow exits) hampers their convertibility and insurability. Indeed, despite reports of growing insurer interest in the segment, the majority of crypto-assets and crypto companies are either under-insured or uninsurable by today’s standards. There is no deposit insurance “floor” for this asset class, which can help broaden appeal and investor security.

Mark To Market – As crypto holders seek to exit the intangible asset class returning to fiat currencies or other assets, which are often loathed by many crypto purists, their flight to safety or liquidity most often takes them to the greenback or U.S. While the price pegs work well on the way in to cryptocurrencies as investors informed by their “animal spirits” who want in on a speculative wave have a willingness to pay at a stated value or peg. On the way out, however, this mark to market feature sees many investors subjected to downward price pressure, which highlights the adverse effects of illiquidity, narrow exits and narrow participation in the asset class. These types of issues are being remedied as more institutional investors enter the space and more markets and trading platforms open. In the meantime, market participants would be wise in minding currency inconvertibility and the implied volatility of cryptocurrencies, which would make high-frequency traders flinch. To truly understanding blockchain’s potential requires the suspension of disbelief. To truly capture the investment thesis of cryptocurrencies requires the suspension of the traditional economy yardstick.

From Extortion To Manipulation – While no investor should part ways with money they are not prepared to lose, no matter how nominal the amount, cryptocurrencies are particularly prone to social engineering and misinformation risks. The naïve, as with the analog economy, can become easy prey to cyber extortion, market manipulation, fraud and other investor risks. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, has gone as far as creating a fake initial coin offering (ICO) website as a way of alerting would-be crypto investors to “shinny object” threats. Indeed, emerging regulatory clarity on what constitutes a truly decentralized asset, such as bitcoin or ethereum, which is beyond the control of any one party, versus company-issued cryptocurrencies or tokens is a growing area of securities attention.

Care, Custody And Control – Despite the intangible and unseen nature of cryptocurrencies and digital assets more generally, one of the single biggest issues plaguing the market is care, custody and control. Not unlike the perennial challenges of cyber and physical security of the traditional banking sector, there is a veritable standards war taking place among crypto custodians on who is providing the highest standards of investor protection and asset security. The number of high profile and high value crypto heists suggests that this playbook of best security practices is still being written. The wealthiest crypto investors are going to great lengths to protect their intangible hoard by using cold storage devices placed in physical (offline / airtight) vaults and bunkers. Not every crypto investor can afford this level of security no more than every crypto investor is a target, but all are subject to the emerging nature of care, custody and control standards. Here too, the absence of a basic “floor” in terms of security and capital guarantees, like a cyber Federal Deposit Insurance Corporate, FDIC, means that investors are exposed on a first-loss basis.

Cyber Risks On All Sides – As is true with cyber threats, which evolve according to Moore’s law, the space between the keyboard and the chair (or the smart phone and the digital wallet) is as important as the cyber hygiene and defenses of the crypto custodian. While in principle the bitcoin blockchain has proven to be among the most cyber resilient innovations thus far, the firms that plug into it, like other cryptocurrencies, are often new entrants with lax cybersecurity standards and wherewithal. By this measure, not all cryptocurrencies are created equal in term of their traceability, transaction ledgering and levels of trust or fiduciary responsibility. For this, risks as simple as “mysterious disappearance” and as complex as ransomware attacks and AI-powered bots scouring the Internet for weak links and easy prey are complex and fast-moving perils.

Human Error (And Forgetfulness) – Given the intangible nature of the asset class, human error and something as confounding as password amnesia can spell total loss of a crypto fortune. Not everyone is as lucky as 50 Cent, who forgot he accepted bitcoin for an album release and discovered an $8 million bitcoin bounty. The prospect of being locked out, losing hardware or facing “geophysical risks,” such as spilled coffee is often enough to create losses – not to mention the ever present risk of buyer’s remorse given cryptocurrency price volatility. At the crypto whale end of the market, the high-profile nature and public quality of large asset holders may expose people to direct physical security threats, such as kidnaping, ransom and extortion. A fleet of lambos will not add to the needed discretion of not becoming a potential target.

(Un)Safe Havens – Another key risk with cryptocurrencies and this asset class more generally is the lack of coordination and clarity on regulatory, financial, tax and legal treatment. This is unsurprising given the relatively new nature of this market and the often slow moving and lagging quality of “regulatory catch up.” Indeed, most regulators around the world did not begin to form an opinion about cryptocurrencies until their rise to prominence with bitcoin’s meteoric appreciation in 2017. Suddenly, countries and jurisdictions around the world have entered a crypto land grab by seeking to become destinations of choice for prospective investors and projects. Like the global financial system, coordination and coherence can go a long way in eschewing risks of the systemic and mundane variety while improving overall market stability.

Technological Risks – There have been many reports about the computational complexity and energy consumption of bitcoin mining, as one example of some of the technological limitations of cryptocurrencies. This computational complexity may also work in the inverse and pose potential risks to the asset class under the premise that complex systems fail in complex ways. It is true that the decentralized feature of true blockchain structures gives then an inherent disaster and risk-proofing that is not enjoyed by centralized databases (which are veritable honey pots as evidenced by Equifax’s massive breach). Yet not all cryptocurrencies or tokens are riding on similar rails. For this, investors should beware of the technological risks and false promises of decentralization that are being made in many projects, for not all blockchains are created equal.

Civil Wars With Forks – Last, but certainly not least, while much crypto wealth is concentrated in the hands of people who are thinking long term about the positive change this asset class can have on the world, there is nevertheless the constant specter of civil wars and forks, which can bifurcate the consensus on cryptocurrencies, thus eroding market share, valuation and adoption. This standards war continues to flare up, including most recently with the advent of Bitcoin Cash. It is also notable that despite the talk amongst crypto-utopians of a world ruled by blind scalable trust and no centralized authorities, that councils of large crypto holders, much like a papal conclave or the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), can set a course on the market influencing outcomes and price fluctuations. As with the real movement of whales, smaller fry can either get gobbled up or caught in the wake.

Precisely because there are risks in the cryptocurrency market there are rewards. Countless new entrants, from large traditional enterprises who have awoken to blockchain’s promise, or startup teams bent on creating a new democratized future challenging status quo, all realize that a new technology driven wave of value creation is upon us.  Understanding the potential perils of diving into this wave can help improve the long-term prospects of cryptocurrencies and broaden their adoption beyond risk-seeking first movers.

Amazon Video Announces New TV Shows And Movies For August (2018)

While Amazon’s list of new movies and TV shows for August isn’t as long as usual, there are definitely some big hitters on there.

Starting with Amazon’s home-grown Original content, Amazon Prime subscribers can expect four new TV shows and one movie.

The film is Gringo. This stars Charlize Theron, David Oyelowo and Joel Edgerton in a dark comedy/action film about a businessman who crosses the line from law-abiding citizen to wanted criminal. Available on August 17, Gringo will be available in both HDR and 4K.

Deadpool 2 is arriving on Amazon Video in August 2018.Photo: Deadpool 2, 20th Century Fox

The highlight of the new Amazon Original TV shows is Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan. This marks the first time Ryan has appeared in a TV series format, so hopefully actor John Krasinski can do Clancy’s beloved CIA Analyst character proud. This show will be available from August 31 in HDR, 4K and, in a first for Amazon, Dolby Atmos sound. You can find more details on the arrival of Dolby Atmos on Amazon Prime Video in this separate story.

Another promising Amazon Original arriving this month is Agatha Christie. This three-part series is based on the novel of the same name, and tells the story of a family trying to figure out which one of them is a murderer. This show will appear in 4K and HDR for subscribers with suitably capable TVs.

Football (as in, Soccer!) fans, meanwhile, can get a behind the scenes look at the UK’s Premier League courtesy of All Or Nothing: Manchester City. Again available in high dynamic range and 4K, this series promises to chronicle everything from the team’s training facilities to executive meetings and interviews with manager Pep Guardiola. Hopefully it turns out to be less cliched in its approach than the ‘All Or Nothing’ bit of its title.

The last of Amazon’s new Originals for August is season two of The Stinky And Dirty Show – an animated children’s series based on the books by Jim and Kate McMullan.

See Gary Oldman in Oscar-winning form from August 18 on the HBO Amazon Channel.Photo: Darkest Hour, Universal Pictures

Leading the way when it comes to movies and TV shows not made by Amazon is Marvel/Fox mega-hit Deadpool 2, which mostly picks up where the hilarious first movie left off – except for not feeling quite as fresh this time round. This is available to buy from August 7th, or rent from August 21st.

Get Shorty (from August 1) is also worth a look thanks to its sharp combination of Barry Sonnenfeld behind the camera, and Gene Hackman, Rene Russo, Danny DeVito and John Travolta in front of it.

Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker is worth a tense couple of hours of your time, even if it runs out of ideas before the end, while Amazon follows up its July delivery of David Lynch classic Mulholland Drive with the director’s unbearably good The Elephant Man. The Hurt Locker and The Elephant Man are both available from August 1.

The Usual Suspects (arriving August 1) is as brilliant now as it ever was, even if you’ve seen it before and know how the story plays out.

Excellent if slightly theatrical Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri shifts berths from Amazon Video to the HBO Amazon Channel, which also delivers Gary Oldman’s amazing turn as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour from August 18.

David Lynch’s The Elephant Man is almost unbearably good. See for yourself on Amazon Prime Video from August 1.Photo: The Elephant Man, Paramount

Finally I can’t resist recommending one of my biggest guilty pleasures: Kingpin. Bill Murray’s bowling strike celebrations are enough in themselves to make this unmissable, but there’s plenty of puerile hilarity in between, too.

Here’s the full list of what Amazon Prime Video (US) is sending our way for August 2018.

Available for Streaming on Prime Video

August TBD

*All or Nothing: Manchester City, Season 1 (Prime Original series)

August 1

TV Series

#MeToo: Now What?, Season 1

Movies

A Cinderella Story (2004)

American Gigolo (1980)

American Ninja (1985)

American Ninja III: Blood Hunt (1989)

Be Cool (2005)

Black Mask (1996)

Black Rain (1989)

Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000)

Boomerang (1992)

Cold War (2012)

CSNY/Déjà Vu (2008)

Curse of the Starving Class (1994)

Double Whammy (2002)

Fat Man and Little Boy (1989)

Fled (1996)

Flight of the Intruder (1991)

Freedom Writers (2007)

Frequency (2000)

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)

Get Shorty delivers a pleasingly sharp adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s beloved novel.Photo: Get Shorty, MGM

Get Shorty (1995)

Heartbreakers (2001)

High Noon (1952)

Hoosiers (1986)

Hurt Locker (2008)

I Went Down (1997)

In & Out (1997)

Jacob’s Ladder (1990)

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001)

Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child (2010)

Joe (2014)

John Grisham’s The Rainmaker (1997)

King Corn (2016)

Kingpin (1996)

Nick of Time (1995)

No Way Out (1987)

Original Sin (2001)

Out of Time (2003)

Private Parts (1997)

Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer (2013)

Species (1995)

Species II (1998)

Species III (2004)

Stir of Echoes (1999)

Stir of Echoes 2: The Homecoming (2007)

Teen Wolf (1985)

Teen Wolf Too (1987)

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

The Elephant Man (1980)

The Ninth Gate (2000)

The Prince and Me (2004)

The Soloist (2009)

The Time Machine (2002)

The Usual Suspects (1995)

True Colors (1991)

Tunnel Rats (1968)

Vegas Vacation (1997)

Watchmen (2009)

Sorry not sorry.Photo: Kingpin, MGM/UA

August 2

Movies

America Divided: 201 (2018)

August 6

Movies

Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams (2002)

August 7

Movies

Having Our Baby (2017)

It Takes Guts (2016)

August 8

Movies

All I See Is You (2016)

Blood Ties (2014)

August 9

Movies

America Divided: 202 (2018)

August 10

Series

*Agatha Christie, Season 1 (Prime Original series)

Movies

Bleed for This (2016)

August 14

Series

Avoiding Apocalypse, Season 1

*The Stinky & Dirty Show, Season 2B (Prime Original series)

Movies

I Am Not Lorena (2014)

August 16

Movies

America Divided: 203 (2018)

August 17

Movies

*Gringo (2018) (Prime Original movie)

August 21

Movies

Ambassadors of the Sky (2016)

Two of a Kind (2014)

August 23

Movies

America Divided: 204 (2018)

August 25

Movies

Disobedience (2017)

The Escape of Prisoner 614 (2018)

Woman Walk Ahead (2017)

August 26

Movies

Mother! (2017)

August 31

Series

Billy the Exterminator, Season 1

Hangar 1: The UFO Files, Season 1

*Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, Season 1 (Prime Original series)

True Tori, Seasons 1-2

Available to Rent or Purchase on Prime Video

August 7 (Purchase) August 21 (Rent)

Deadpool 2

Available for Streaming on Prime Video Channels

August 4

Movies

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, HBO

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri moves to the Amazon HBO channel for August.Photo: Three Billboards Outside Of Ebbing, Missouri, 20th Century Fox

Live Sports

*UFC 227 (PPV) – Dillashaw vs. Garbrandt 2, UFC

August 11

Movies

Murder on the Orient Express, HBO

August 12

Series

Ballers, HBO, Season 4

Insecure, HBO, Season 3

August 17

Live Sports

AVP Gold Series – Manhattan, Prime Video (8/17-19)

August 18

Movies

Darkest Hour, HBO

August 20

Series

Frankie Drake Mysteries, PBS Masterpiece, Season 1

August 25

Movies

Father Figures, HBO

August 31

Live Sports

AVP Gold Series – Chicago, Prime Video (8/31-9/2)

*UFC 227 is under the Prime Video | Pay-Per-View

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Amazon Video Announces New Movies And TV Shows For July (2018)

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How Circles.Life Created The Netflix Of Telco In Singapore

The Circles.Life foundersCircles.Life

Since its launch in May 2016, the Singapore-based mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), Circles.Life has been a determined upstart committed to shaking things up in Singapore’s telecoms industry. For a long time, there were only three operators in the island state — Singtel, Starhub and M1.

Now with Circle.Life’s relatively successful 2 year presence, it seems that consumers are opting to leave the old guards of telecomms services and hop on board the young, bold provider. Declining to give exact numbers, Rameez Ansar, co-founder of Circles.Life, shared they are now reaching 3-5% of market share and claim that 24% of Singaporeans are looking to switch to their services. In fact, 43% of their subscribers also come from referrals.

Rameez Ansar, co-founder of Circles.LifeCircles.Life

It wasn’t easy getting to this position though. Consumers doubted that digital telcos are the future or how the company could provide such incredible, low-cost data packages. Incumbents were typically offering 3-4GB data plans at much higher costs. For instance, with Circles.Life, you can receive 20GB monthly mobile data for approximately $15 with no additional hidden costs. This seemed too good to be true until consumers had a chance to try it for themselves. As Ansar puts it, “we disrupted the industry through technology to give power back to the customers.”

Targeting consumers who rely on internet-connected devices, are data savvy and use data as their main currency, the team went forth to “tap into this market segment and offer what they need the most, unlimited data.” This way consumers never have to worry about exorbitant costs when they exceed limits. Besides providing unlimited data, the young upstart prides itself for being fully digital and giving customers flexibility and control over managing their telco needs through an easy-to-use app.

Cost savings also seem to be one of the perks for going digital, with Circles.Life claiming to have saved 95% of operational costs with this model. In fact, the startup partners with one of 3 incumbent operators, M1, and leases their existing network infrastructure thus negating the need to build from scratch.

Analyst, Sachin Mittal noted in a DBS Equity Research report that with Circles.Life, M1 is seeing a growth in revenue. “We think revenue share from Circles.Life could be a big factor here. Fixed revenues rose to approx. $26.3 million (+33% YoY) due to higher fibre customer base and contributions from corporate segment projects and comprised 17% of the total service revenue,” reported Mittal. 

Local influencers, Michelle Lee and Charlotte Tan with their masterpiece for Circles.LifeCircles.Life

However, while their attractive packages and over-the-top advertising campaigns attracted hordes of attention — one publicity stunt included ‘vandalizing’ subway walls, an act that’s technically illegal in Singapore — the team are finding it a challenge to stay relevant in this growing market. The need to be agile and constantly evolving is a strong one as they’re always on their toes to “identify rapid growth opportunities across the telco portfolio, including 5G, IoT, and cross-vertical partnerships, such as mPayments,” explained Ansar.

One such growth opportunity the team has identified is an expansion of their services to Indonesia. Considering the sheer penetration of mobile devices (expected to reach 47.6% in 2019) and how it’s the most popular device used to access the Internet there, this expansion made simple business sense for the Circles.Life team. Besides this expansion, Ansar shares that they’re working on opening an R&D center in Bangalore, bringing them closer to becoming a digital lifestyle platform.

Circles.Life teamCircles.Life

Circles.Life has set a standard for innovation and bold moves, heating up the telco industry in Singapore. Now a newcomer, TPG, plans to enter the market end of 2018 and shake things up further. Circles.Life remains undeterred though. Noting that customers are more value sensitive than price sensitive, Ansar assures they “will continue to over deliver through innovation and customer first features, while remaining competitive on price.”

All of which they believe is possible because of Circles-X, a cloud system they created 5 years ago that aligns all the key systems in a nimble manner — network operations, customer service, logistics and delivery, to the consumer facing digital experience. With this system, they are also able to react quickly to customers’ behaviours and launch or change products within weeks — effectively catering to their needs swiftly.

So now by slowing chipping away at the market share in Singapore and offering data-hungry mobile users bigger, bolder plans they can customize at the click of a button, Circles.Life is ultimately doing what Netflix is doing for content-hungry users.

Losing Streak Emerges As NYC, Hired Guns Lose Climate Change Case Against Big Oil

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s climate change lawsuit is, so far, unsuccessful, as a federal judge has thrown it out of court. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Federal judges continue to reject the efforts of private lawyers who hold a financial stake in lawsuits brought by government officials against the oil industry over the alleged effects of climate change.

On Thursday, a New York federal judge dismissed the lawsuit brought by New York City and attorneys at Hagens Berman working on a contingency fee against five of the biggest oil companies in the world, finding that the issue has already been decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

It’s not the job of the judiciary to regulate greenhouse gases, Judge John Keenan wrote. That task rests with the federal government, says Keenan’s opinion, endorsing the thoughts of the California federal judge who tossed lawsuits from San Francisco and Oakland in June.

It’s another blow to the group of plaintiffs that has climate change cases in federal court.

“Although the City agrees that ‘federal common law has long applied to’ suits against ‘direct emitters of interstate pollution,’ it contends that its claims are not governed by federal common law because ‘the City bases liability on defendants’ production and sale of fossil fuels – not direct emissions of [greenhouse gases],” Keenan wrote.

“However, regardless of the manner in which the City frames its claims in its opposition brief, the amended complaint makes clear that the City is seeking damages for global warming-related injuries resulting from greenhouse gas emissions, and not only the production of Defendants’ fossil fuels.”

Currently, all but one in the recent string of climate change lawsuits are in federal court. Several counties and cities in California kicked things off last year, and a federal judge has remanded their cases to state court to deal with state law issues.

But defendants – Chevron, BP, Exxon, Royal Dutch Shell and ConocoPhillips – have appealed those rulings to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

However, Judge William Alsup drew the cases of San Francisco and Oakland and asserted federal jurisdiction over them, then threw them out of court.

King County, Wash., is using the same private lawyers, working on a contingency fee, as many of the plaintiffs. Its case is also in federal court.

Boulder, Colo., looked like it was going to be free to litigate its case in state court but recently decided to amend the lawsuit to include a claim for civil conspiracy. Filing an amended complaint allowed defendants Exxon and Suncor to remove the case to Colorado federal court, where it will be heard by a judge appointed by President George W. Bush.

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin’s lawsuit is the only case in state court, though the time period for the many defendants to remove it to federal court has not expired.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio used the law firm Hagens Berman for his case, as have many of the other plaintiffs, to push a theory of “public nuisance” on the oil industry.

Unfortunately for the plaintiffs, there exists U.S. Supreme Court precedent that says it is the job of the Environmental Protection Agency to administer the Clean Air Act and regulate greenhouse gases.

“As an initial matter, it is not clear that Defendants’ fossil fuel production and the emissions created therefrom have been an ‘unlawful invasion’ in New York City, as the City benefits from and participates in the use of fossil fuels as a source of power, and has done so for many decades,” Keenan wrote.

“More importantly, Congress has expressly delegated to the EPA the determination as to what constitutes a reasonable amount of greenhouse gas emission under the Clean Air Act.”

Resisting these lawsuits have been several Republican state attorneys general and the Trump administration. Opposition to the cases argues that is the job of the legislative and executive branches to regulate greenhouse gases.

Where these cases have been filed has not been surprising. In Rhode Island, the state previously attempted a similar “public nuisance” theory on the former makers of lead paint. Boulder has a history of addressing climate change, and Washington’s King County is home to Hagens Berman’s headquarters.

And California and New York have reputations as two of the country’s most favorable jurisdictions for plaintiffs lawyers.

“We’re thrilled with Judge Keenan’s decision today to dismiss the City’s baseless climate change lawsuit. New York is already a haven for excessive litigation and this kind of lawsuit only adds to the problem,” said Tom Stebbins, executive director of the New York Lawsuit Reform Alliance.

“Trial lawyers are attempting to politicize the legal system and stretch tort law far beyond its purposes in search of the next litigation jackpot.

“Unelected, profit-seeking trial lawyers should not be pushing public policy through the courts. That is not the role of the civil justice system; it is the domain of Congress and state legislatures – elected officials accountable to the people.”

A final note: Exxon’s defense includes an attack on statements made by the California cities and counties when they presented bond offerings. A Texas judge has found that those municipalities told contradictory stories – alleging near certain, climate change-caused doom in their lawsuits while neglecting to inform potential investors in bonds of those dangers.

The California plaintiffs have appealed that ruling, which could pave the way for depositions of and a lawsuit against government officials and Hagens Berman attorney Matt Pawa.

From Legal Newsline: Reach editor John O’Brien at [email protected]