quarta-feira, 26 de outubro de 2016

Thousands of cowboys ride into Brazil's capital in support of bullfighting

A group of cowboys and cowgirls meet at the Esplanade of the Ministries, which connects all of the government buildings in Brasilia, Brazil, on October 25, 2016, to protest a Supreme Court ruling banning traditional bullfighting festivals. EFE/CADU GOMES
About 3,000 cowboys and cowgirls on horseback rode Tuesday into Brasilia's Esplanade of the Ministries, which connects all of the government buildings in the Brazilian capital, to protest a Supreme Court ruling banning traditional bullfighting festivals.

The protest tied up traffic for an hour in downtown Brasilia, where demonstrators created a festive atmosphere and no incidents were reported.

Source: EFE

European Commission hopes for agreement from Wallonia on Canada trade deal

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, delivers his speech in the Key debate about the Conclusions of the European Council meeting of 20 and 21 October, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, 26 October 2016. EPA/PATRICK SEEGER
The European Commission president on Wednesday said he hoped to see an agreement with a region of Belgium that was blocking a large trade deal between the European Union and Canada.

Speaking at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, Jean-Claude Juncker said he hoped the Belgian government would reach an agreement with the Wallonia regional government by the end of the day.

Source: EFE

Astronomers detect enormous luminous halos around distant galaxies

A mosaic provided by the European Southern Observatory on Oct. 26, 2016 18 of the 19 quasars studied by the astronomy team. EFE/Borisova et al.
An international astronomy team discovered brilliant gas clouds around distant quasars, the European Southern Observatory said Wednesday.

Quasars, the most luminous and active objects in the universe, are active galaxies which contain supermassive black holes that consume stars, gas and other materials, causing huge amounts of radiation to be emitted.

Source: EFE

Brazil soccer legend Carlos Alberto dies

Image result for carlos alberto 1970
Carlos Alberto Torres, who captained the Brazil squad that won the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, died Tuesday of a heart attack, his family said. He was 72.

Regarded as one of the greatest defenders in the history of what Brazilians call the beautiful game, Carlos Alberto scored a goal in his team's 4-1 trouncing of Italy in the 1970 final.

Carlos Alberto, who covered the Brazilian first division for SporTV, died at home in the company of another veteran of the Cup-winning side, friend and broadcasting partner Ricardo Rocha, the family told the television network.

While the Rio de Janeiro native spent time with home town clubs Fluminense, Botafogo and Flamengo, he had his greatest success in the 1960s and '70s playing for Sao Paulo's Santos alongside the iconic Pele and other greats.

Santos won the Brazilian league twice during the tenure of Carlos Alberto, who scored 40 goals in 445 matches for the club.

Later, he joined Pele on the roster of the New York Cosmos, the flagship franchise of the North American Soccer League, where Carlos Alberto won three more titles before retiring as a player.

As a coach, he guided Flamengo to the Brazilian championship in 1983.

Source: EFE

Blast from the past: comet may have hit Earth 56 million years ago

A tiny sand-grain-size tektites, thought to be created when vaporized material from an impact solidified while flying through the air, is shown in this image released in New York, U.S., October 13, 2016.  Courtesy Megan Fung/Handout via REUTERS
Droplets of glass dug up in New Jersey and from the Atlantic seabed indicate a comet or some other extraterrestrial object may have smacked Earth 56 million years ago, roughly 10 million years after the asteroid impact that doomed the dinosaurs.

Scientists said on Thursday the collision may have triggered a particularly warm, ice-free period on Earth when important mammalian groups, including the primate lineage that led to humans, appeared for the first time.

The findings, published in the journal Science, marked the latest evidence of the profound influence that past impacts by celestial bodies have had on life on Earth.

The tiny spherical bits of dark glass, called microtektites, represent strong evidence of a collision with a comet or asteroid, the researchers said. They form when a space rock hits Earth's surface and vaporizes the spot where it lands, ejecting into the air bits of molten rock that solidify into glass.

The microtektites were excavated from a geological layer marking the start of the Eocene Epoch about 56 million years ago from three sites in southern New Jersey (Millville, Wilson Lake and Medford) and an underwater site east of Florida.

That coincided with the beginning of a warming event, called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, associated with an accumulation of atmospheric carbon dioxide. It lasted more than 100,000 years and drove up global temperatures about 9-14 degrees Fahrenheit (5-8 degrees Celsius).

The impact of an asteroid about six miles wide (10 km) off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula 10 million years earlier killed off many marine and terrestrial creatures including the dinosaurs and enabled mammals to gain supremacy.

No such mass extinction was associated with the event 56 million years ago, although many single-celled ocean-bottom creatures disappeared. During the warming period, primates and two mammal groups -- one that includes deer, antelope, sheep and goats and another that includes horses and rhinos -- first appear in the fossil record.

The researchers said they have not found the location of an impact crater linked to the collision. They said geological evidence suggested the object was a comet.

"We can't really say where it was, or how big, at this point," said geochemist Morgan Schaller of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, who led the study.

While the findings are not proof that the impact caused the warming period, they are "a rather dramatic finding in support of an impact trigger" for the climate changes, said planetary scientist Dennis Kent of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Rutgers University.

Source: Reuters

Spiders can 'tune' webs for good vibrations, researchers say

Spiders can control the tension and stiffness of their webs to optimize their sensory powers, helping them locate and identify prey as well as partners, according to researchers at Oxford University.

Much in same way that notes travel along a plucked guitar string, spider silk transmits vibrations in different frequencies, sending information back to the spider.

"Spiders use vibrations not only from prey which is caught in their web, where obviously it's important that they know ...where it is and what it might be," researcher Beth Mortimer told Reuters.

"But vibrations are also important in courtship ... A lot of males will actually generate a very specific kind of musical pattern which the females can use to determine not only that they're a male but they're the right species and whether she might want to mate with them as well."

Spiders can also use the information to assess their web's condition, she said.

As part of a study published last month in collaboration with the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, researchers in Oxford took a web from the garden cross spider - Araneus diadematus - and sent measured pulses into its silk strands.

They used a laser to measure vibrations propagating through the web, showing how the waiting spider altered wave amplitude by changing tension and silk stiffness.

"They're able to very closely change the tension of their webs... This means they have a mechanism for directly controlling both the tension and the stiffness of their silk fibers," Mortimer said.

"(These mechanisms) allow them effectively to tune their web's properties so that they can control how sensory information is getting to them in the middle of the web."

Mortimer plans to conduct similar tests with more exotic species, including golden orb-weaver spiders.

Source: Reuters

Clouds gather in rooftop solar's biggest U.S market

For years, the quiet, winding streets of the Scripps Ranch neighborhood have been pure gold for solar installers.

Thanks to its high power prices, hot summers and large homes to cool, a greater share of Scripps Ranch residents have embraced solar power than anywhere else in California, itself the nation's solar energy leader.

The rooftops of some 2,000 homes - 26 percent - are fitted with panels in Scripps Ranch, according to an analysis of state and utility solar installation numbers and U.S. Census Bureau housing data by the non-profit Center for Sustainable Energy and the environmental news web site EcoWatch.

The growth has been rapid. In July of 2014, San Diego installer Sullivan Solar put up its first solar system on Scripps Ranch’s Pinecastle Street, celebrating with a block party. The pizza and wine paid off: Sullivan installed systems on 11 of 48 homes on the street.

“If you can afford the upfront, it’s a no brainer,” said Caroline Coats, a nearby resident who hired Sullivan to install a solar system four years ago.

As much as Scripps Ranch symbolizes rooftop solar's success, it also illustrates the challenges facing the industry today. After rising 64 percent in the first half of the year in Scripps Ranch, installations tumbled 50 percent in July and August combined, according to utility data. Across California, growth also has slowed this year, and, in the third quarter, installations dropped year over year.

Industry watchers say many factors are at play, including shrinking incentives, wariness of future government actions and consumer fatigue with marketing tactics. Also, many of the most likely buyers - affluent, environmentally inclined homeowners in sunny places – already have rooftop systems, making winning new customers harder and costlier.


California for years has required utilities to purchase excess rooftop solar power, paying homeowners in credits that lower their utility bills. But this so-called “net-metering” mandate capped the number of people who qualified for the most attractive incentive. In June, the utility serving Scripps Ranch, Sempra Energy (SRE.N) unit San Diego Gas & Electric, was the first to reach its limit, and the state’s other large utilities are expected to reach theirs soon.

Scripps Ranch homeowners who put up panels now still will be able to sell power they don't use to the utility at the same retail rates as those who got in before the cap. But they will have to pay $100 to $200 more per year in fees and charges to SDG&E. They also eventually will be shifted to new, time-of-use power rates, which could result in lower credits.

Installers say such changes will be meager compared to the thousands of dollars in savings over the life of a system. But customers seem skeptical. At the peak, installers were putting up 55 systems a month, on average, in Scripps Ranch. In July and August - typically good months - installations dropped to 15 and 36, respectively.

Residential solar connections were down 25 percent in the third quarter compared to a year earlier in the utility's entire San Diego territory.

"The phones just aren't ringing as much," said Ian Lochore, director of residential sales at Baker Electric in nearby Escondido.

A less dramatic slowdown is playing out across California, which produces about 40 percent of the nation’s residential solar.

The sector saw slower growth in the first half of the year, and declines in the third quarter. Installations in Pacific Gas & Electric’s service territory in Northern and Central California fell 7 percent year-over-year, while in Southern California Edison’s territory they fell 4 percent.

National installers like SolarCity Corp (SCTY.O) and Sunrun Inc (RUN.O), whose investors had gotten used to sky-high growth rates, slashed forecasts this year, while their stocks have been pummeled. SolarCity has agreed to be bought by electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA.O), but investors have concerns about the wisdom of merging two companies that require substantial cash to fund growth.



    Now that many of the homeowners best-positioned to benefit from rooftop installations have them, today’s pool of potential customers has less incentive to go solar.

    “A lot of the early adopters have gone solar already, so the market is kind of shifting toward people who might need more information or explanation before they make the shift,” PG&E spokeswoman Ari Vanrenen said.

In Scripps Ranch, for instance, many homeowners without solar say their power bills are too low, or their rooftops too shady.

Ken Ingrao, a Scripps Ranch resident who said he did "tons of research" about solar, decided his $220-a-month power bill was too low to justify an investment of up to $28,000.

"It's a good option for people who are spending … $800 a month putting the air on 24-7," Ingrao said. "But we don't do that."

Working harder to win customers has raised costs. Both SolarCity and Sunrun reported large increases in sales and marketing costs in the first half of the year compared with 2015. Customer acquisition costs could rise further this year, GTM Research said.

More aggressive marketing carries risks, however.

Some solar vendors "come across as used car sales people," said Vikram Aggarwal, chief executive of EnergySage, an online comparison-shopping marketplace for solar.

"A lot of consumers tell us that their first interaction with solar was negative,” he said.

Nearly 300 people filed solar-related complaints with the state last year, an increase of 25 percent, according to the California Contractors State Licensing Board, which pledged to step up enforcement.


    The slowdown is having the greatest impact on the industry’s biggest installers.

A drop in installations in regions served by SCE and PG&E between the first and second quarters of this year mostly involved U.S. installer SolarCity, a GTM Research analysis of installation data showed. Sunrun installations were flat, while local and regional installers, on average, showed growth.

SolarCity spokesman Jonathan Bass blamed lackluster performance in the second quarter on the fact that it was leasing installations to customers rather than offering a loan to purchase. Demand for a loan option introduced in the second quarter has increased every month, Bass said, adding that California sales, which includes leased and purchased systems, rose in the third quarter compared with the second quarter.

Sunrun Chief Executive Lynn Jurich would not comment on her company's third quarter performance but said in an emailed statement that the industry “does face some headwinds from time to time that can include anything from seasonality to uncertainty created in consumers’ minds when we go through regulatory change.”

Sunrun believes there are five times as many “solar-ready homes” in California than have gone solar, Jurich added.

Both SolarCity and Sunrun have said new products, such as energy storage and the “solar roofs” SolarCity is expected to unveil later this week, will create new growth.

Source: Reuters

Pope Francis the manager - surprising, secretive, shrewd

Father Ernest Simoni, a 88-year-old Albanian, was watching Pope Francis on television this month when, to his astonishment, he heard the pontiff mention his name.

Francis announced that the simple, white-haired Roman Catholic priest, who had spent many years in jail during Albania's communist dictatorship, was to become a cardinal.

It was the first that Simoni, or any of the other 16 new cardinals named by Francis at the same time, had heard of their elevation to the prestigious rank.

"I did not believe either my ears or eyes," Simoni told Reuters in Albania. "The pope said it, but I could not believe it. 'Can he be talking about another Ernest?' I said to myself."

But more significantly, the pope had also kept nearly the entire Vatican hierarchy in the dark about his decision, which he announced on Oct. 9 to thousands of pilgrims.

The episode illustrates how Francis has used his own distinct management style to try to shake up the Church since his election in 2013. He is keeping his cards close to his chest as he tries to push through a progressive agenda to make the Church more welcoming in the face of conservative opposition.

Interviews with a dozen current and past Vatican officials and aides paint a portrait of Pope Francis, a Jesuit who turns 80 in December, as eschewing filters between him and the outside world. He carries his own black briefcase, keeps his own agenda, and makes many of his own calls.

In contrast, his two immediate predecessors, Benedict XVI and John Paul II, worked hand-in-hand with the Vatican bureaucracy, which is known as the curia.

Behind Francis's approach is a clear mandate, received from the worldwide cardinals who elected him in 2013, to overhaul the curia.

Over the decades the Vatican's administration has collected some of the Church's most orthodox officials, partly because of the lieutenants that Francis's two highly-conservative predecessors called to their entourages in Rome.

As a result, Francis believes that only by reducing the power of the curia – including surprising it on some decisions - can the 1.2 billion-member Church embrace those who have felt marginalized, such as gays and the divorced.

The approach has scored Francis some victories, such as bypassing conservative bishops to streamline the procedures by which Catholics can obtain marriage annulments.

There have also been setbacks, such as putting too much power in one cardinal's hands to resolve financial problems and later having to rein him in.

Some internal critics say he relies too much on snap judgments and others have urged greater transparency. They say his decisions to set up new structures, such as an economy ministry and an external advisory council of eight cardinals from around the world, were divisive and that he could have enacted change by putting new people at the top of existing departments.


One of the most striking differences between Francis and his two predecessors is that it is virtually impossible to determine who, if anyone, is really close to him.

The personal secretaries of Benedict and John Paul - respectively Georg Ganswein, now an archbishop, and Stanislaw Dziwisz, now a cardinal - were always at their side and became celebrities in their own right, the powerful gate-keepers to get to the pope.

By contrast, few people know the identities of Francis's two priest-secretaries - Father Fabian Pedacchio Leaniz from Argentina and Father Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, an Egyptian. Both have other part-time jobs in the Vatican and do not appear or travel with him.

"He does not want any filters," said a person who knows the pope well. "Sometimes he will tell one of his secretaries 'so-and-so is arriving in a few minutes' and that is the first they hear of it. Sometimes he tells one without telling the other."

This person, like most of the others interviewed for this article, has had direct dealings with Francis and all spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk to the media.

This year, an Argentine visitor told a guard at a Vatican gate that the pope was expecting him. Phone calls had to be made to determine he was not a prankster. The pope had not told anyone he had invited the visitor.

One person close to the pope said he likes to manage this way because it gives him freedom to bypass rigid channels of communication and makes it impossible for anyone to become indispensable, as top aides of previous popes did.


Francis likes to break rules and then change them once the shock has died down. Two weeks after his election, he included women in a liturgical service open only to men. Later, he ordered that the rules be formally changed worldwide.

Pope Benedict's sudden resignation in February 2013 brought to a climax one of the most turbulent periods in modern Vatican history, including the arrest of his butler for leaking documents that exposed corruption and cronyism.

Francis watched from afar as Benedict's papacy unraveled under the weight of successive scandals.

After he was elected, he appointed trusted people to lower or mid-level positions in Vatican departments, where they can be his eyes and ears. For example, Pedacchio, his Argentine secretary, also works in the department that decides who will become bishops.

Monsignor Battista Mario Salvatore Ricca, an Italian who runs the Vatican guest house where the pope lives, was given a position at the Vatican bank as the link man between a supervisory commission of cardinals and the board of directors.

"He is sometimes like the leader who says 'I don't care what the generals say, I will tell Lieutenant so-and-so to take that hill'," said a source, adding that the pope enjoyed rattling an inefficient bureaucracy with what the source described as "joyful destruction".


Several of those interviewed said Francis puts much stock in his immediate gut feelings about people. When he takes a liking to someone he can become blind to their faults and when he does not, it is hard to reverse that first impression, they said.

Francis was impressed by Cardinal George Pell of Sydney when he met the Australian in 2013. In meetings cardinals held among themselves before that year's conclave, the former Australian Rules football player stood out not only for his height and broad shoulders but also for his command of financial matters.

Months after his election, Francis, hoping to put an end to Vatican financial scandals, moved Pell to Rome to head a new ministry, the Secretariat for the Economy.

After initially giving him sweeping powers, the pope later significantly trimmed them back when other departments accused Pell of treating them in an overbearing way and of being condescending to the Italian-dominated curia.

Pell's position in the Vatican has also been weakened by allegations of sexual abuse when he was in Australia. Pell denies the allegations and the pope has said he will withhold judgment until an Australian investigation is over.

In another controversial appointment, Francis, acting on a recommendation, named Francesca Chaouqui, a 32-year-old Italian public relations expert, to a commission advising him on reform. On July 8, 2016, a Vatican court convicted her of helping to leak embarrassing internal documents to journalists.

Insiders say the Pell and Chaouqui cases are examples of Francis making decisions too quickly.

Even though his health is good, they say he feels he has little time left and many things still to do; that perhaps explains the hastiness of some of his decisions.

Francis appears to enjoy sending signals that he alone is calling the shots.

When his predecessors spoke to the media on papal flights they were always flanked by the secretary of state or the deputy secretary of state. The stage management suggested that behind the man in white, there stood a centuries-old bureaucracy.

Under Francis, those prelates now stay out of sight in the front section of the plane.

Source: Reuters

Brazil president's plan to restore finances takes step forward

Image result for temer
Brazil President Michel Temer won another victory on Tuesday in his effort to restore fiscal discipline when the lower house of Congress approved a constitutional amendment to cap spending for 20 years.

Heavy public spending, a recession and a massive corruption scandal rocking Brazil's political establishment undermined confidence in South America's biggest economy last year and stripped the country of its investment-grade rating with creditors.

The constitutional amendment would limit the growth of public spending to the rate of inflation of the previous 12 months for up to 20 years. It passed by 359-116 votes, receiving seven votes less than it did in a first-round vote. The house has yet to vote on six suggested changes to the text before it can send the amendment to the Senate for approval.

While the government easily won the vote - it needed 308 votes to pass - the smaller margin pointed to the challenge Temer faces in enacting an unpopular belt-tightening agenda.

The spending ceiling, which can be revised after 10 years, is a drastic measure to plug a budget deficit that ballooned to more than 10 percent of gross domestic product last year.

Temer, who replaced leftist Dilma Rousseff in August after her impeachment trial for breaking budget laws, vowed to restore credibility to Brazil's finances and pull out of its worst recession since the 1930s Great Depression.

The new president and many economists argue that limiting government spending is crucial for Brazil to curb a growing debt burden that could top 73 percent of GDP this year.

Opponents of the cap, led by the Workers Party, sought to block approval, saying it would reduce education and health services for those who most need them and cut spending needed to revive a moribund economy and fight double-digit unemployment. Demonstrators protesting against the measure were removed from the gallery.

To reduce opposition to the spending ceiling in Congress, the government agreed to postpone any spending cap on health and education until 2018.

Confidence that Temer can put the books in order and turn the economy around has placed Brazilian assets among the best performing investments in the world this year. The real currency has strengthened 26.7 percent this year and closed on Tuesday at 3.10 to the dollar, its highest in 15 months.

Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles said the government is confident the Senate would pass the spending cap by mid-November without changes, which would send the proposal back to the lower house for approval again.

Meirelles said the proposed cap has already helped boost the Brazilian economy and urged lawmakers in a video statement not to reduce the 20-year duration of the measure because it will take years to bring the public debt under control.

"Approval of the amendment as it stands will be an important signal to economic agents, consumers, investors and businessmen that Brazil is serious about the fiscal problem and committed to undertaking reforms needed to restore growth," he said in the statement released before the vote.

Meirelles said Brazilian and foreign companies are already dusting off plans to invest in the country again.

Source: Reuters

segunda-feira, 24 de outubro de 2016

Evacuation of Calais refugee camp begins

Migrants wait in line in the short term welcome center in the makeshift camp 'the Jungle' during its evacuation and dismantlement begins in Calais, France, Oct. 24, 2016. EPA/ETIENNE LAURENT
The evacuation of the Calais refugee camp, the largest in France, began Monday morning.

Several immigrants, mostly Afghans, Eritreans and Sudanese, with bags of possessions in their hands, began to gather at the centers, to be transferred to one of the 450 accommodation centers opened by the French government.

Calais, the closest point to the United Kingdom from France, has provided temporary shelter to many refugees dreaming of making it across the English Channel.

The French authorities expect 60 buses with 50 immigrants each, to leave from the camp Monday, and another 45 buses on Tuesday, and 40 more on Wednesday.

A total of between 6,000 and 8,000 refugees are currently living in what is known as the "Jungle Camp" at Calais, and the authorities expect the shutdown operation to last a week.

Source: EFE

Venezuelan opposition to "restore democracy," Chavistas enter legislature

The president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Henry Ramos Allup (c), watches while the legislative session on Oct. 23, 2016, is interrupted by demonstrators who entered the chamber. EFE
The Venezuelan opposition, which holds a parliamentary majority, will push for proceedings against President Nicolas Maduro to determine responsibility for what it considers to be a "rupture" of the constitutional order, the head of the group, Julio Borges, announced Sunday.

Borges said that the National Assembly was assuming its responsibility to "restore democracy," which the Venezuelan opposition says was violated by Maduro with a "coup d'etat" by suspending the procedure to implement a referendum - preparations for which have been under way for months - to recall him.

"All this is being done in the name of the people who elected us, in the name of 14 million people who gave us their votes," said the opposition lawmaker.

On Sunday in an extraordinary session, the Venezuelan legislature approved an agreement declaring the president, along with the judicial and electoral authorities, to have broken the legal constitutional order.

Among the measures under consideration and to be discussed at the extension of the session on Tuesday, the chamber agreed to launch a process to determine Maduro's constitutional status.

Opposition lawmakers claim that Maduro may hold "double nationality" and that "well-founded reasons" exist to look into the president's abdication of his responsibilities.

Meanwhile, dozens of supporters of Maduro's Chavista government burst into the National Assembly on Sunday while legislators were discussing how to potentially bring about Maduro's ouster.

While the first vice president of the congress, opposition lawmaker Enrique Marquez, was speaking, a number of men and women, some of them wearing the Chavista color red, began filing into the chamber carrying photographs of Venezuelan liberator Simon Bolivar and the Venezuelan flag.

Shouting "The united people will never be defeated," the protesters managed to get by the four checkpoints, two of them manned by the military, that block entry into the chamber.

Once inside the chamber, a shoving match broke out between on-site security personnel and the Chavistas.

The head of the government lawmakers, Hector Rodriguez, tried to keep the Chavistas under control, although they gradually withdrew from the chamber.

During the brouhaha, the president of the Assembly, opposition lawmaker Henry Ramos Allup, suspended debate for half an hour, but then resumed it after ordering the expulsion of all people except legislators, journalists and ordinary members of the public.

At least two people were injured during the melee.

Source: EFE

Spain's Socialist Party votes, enables the conservatives to form a government

The media gathers outside Spain's Socialist party headquarters in Madrid on Oct. 23, 2016.
EFE/Víctor Lerena
Spain's Socialist Party agreed by a majority vote to enable the incumbent conservative Popular Party to form a new government in Spain.

The party voted to abstain during the investiture of acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, thus allowing him to become head of government, a step that ends 10 months of stalemate in Spanish politics.

"Nobody can deny that it was not an easy decision," a party statement said after the votes were counted and the decision made public.

The Socialist's federal committee cast 139 votes in favor of abstaining and 96 against.

Of the 237 accredited members of the committee, just two did not vote.

The committee thus cleared the way for a total or partial abstention, both decisions that would allow Spain to have a new government next week.

It is the first time since the country regained its democratic system in 1977 that the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) has made it possible for a conservative government to be formed with its help.

The debate at the Socialists' headquarters caused a deep split in the party.

There were two main factions, those in favor of an abstention and those who were willing to maintain a "no" at all costs to the formation of a conservative Popular Party government under acting Prime Minister Rajoy.

Among the latter were supporters of former Secretary General Pedro Sanchez, who was forced to resign on Oct. 1 precisely to allow him to defend that position.

Since then, the PSOE has been in the hands of a management committee that will lead it to an extraordinary congress to elect its next executive committee.

Sanchez did not attended Sunday's federal committee meeting.

The committee must now decide whether it enables Rajoy's government through a block abstention, or limit its abstention to 11 lawmakers, a margin that would just allow a new Cabinet to be formed.

Spain had two inconclusive elections since December in which the PP gained most votes each time but failed to obtain a majority in the Lower Chamber.

The country has been run by a caretaker government with Rajoy as acting prime minister since the Dec. general elections.

Source: EFE

JNintendo triples net profit after sale of Seattle Mariners stake

(FILE) Customers ride escalators past an advertisement for Nintendo Co. at an electronics store in Tokyo, Japan, 27 July 2016. Between April and September, Japanese video game company Nintendo earned a net profit that is almost triple of what it earned in 2015, owing to the multimillion-dollar sale of its stake in the United States baseball club Seattle Mariners, reported economic daily Nikkei newspaper 24 October 2016. Nintendo is expected to announce its results for the first half of the Japanese fiscal year Wednesday, which will include a net profit of approximately $288 million, reported Nikkei. EPA/KIYOSHI OTA
Between April and September, Japanese video game company Nintendo earned a net profit that is almost triple of what it earned in 2015, owing to the multimillion-dollar sale of its stake in the United States baseball club Seattle Mariners, reported economic daily Nikkei newspaper Monday.

Nintendo is expected to announce its results for the first half of the Japanese fiscal year Wednesday, which will include a net profit of approximately $288 million, reported Nikkei.

Source: EFE

The European Space Agency has confirmed that the Schiaparelli module crashed

A photograph of an artist's impression of the Mars lander Schiaparelli supplied by the European Space Agency on Oct. 20, 2016.
EFE/Esa Atg-Medialab M.Thiebaut
The European Space Agency acknowledged in a statement on Friday that the lander Schiaparelli has crashed into Mars as it approached the red planet's surface at a much faster rate than expected.

The ESA said that it estimated Schiaparelli fell from a height of two to four kilometers and struck Mars at considerable speed, over 300 kilometers per hour (186 mph), the agency said.

"It is also possible that the lander exploded on impact, as its thruster propellant tanks were likely still full," the ESA said in a statement.

According to the statement, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has identified new markings on Mars' surface that are believed to coincide with the spot where Schiaparelli crash-landed onto the surface.

The agency said that contact with the lander was lost shortly before its expected touchdown.

Data recorded by the lander's mothership, the Trace Gas Orbiter, was being studied to gain an understanding of what happened during the descent sequence.

The image released Friday has a resolution of six meters per pixel and shows two new features on the surface of Mars compared to an image of the same spot taken by the same camera in May, the statement said.

Source: EFE

Brazil plans to waive visas for visitors from U.S., Japan

Tourists walk down from the top of Roraima Mount, near Venezuela's border with Brazil January 18, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Brazil's government is considering waiving visas for visitors from the United States, Japan, Canada and Australia to boost tourism, and could eventually extend the plan to include China, a tourism ministry spokesman said on Monday.

The proposal by new Tourism Minister Marx Beltrão would extend for a 12-month trial period a visa-waiver program adopted for visitors from the four countries during the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro this year.

Brazil's President Michel Temer is keen to draw more foreign investment and visitors to Brazil to help pull Latin America's largest nation from its worst recession since the 1930s Great Depression.

In 2015, 575.800 U.S. citizens visited Brazil, less than 10 percent of the total number of visitors to the South American nation. Meanwhile, the number of Brazilians visiting the United States soared in recent years to 2.6 million visitors in 2014.

The visa exemptions would become permanent if the number of tourists rises significantly and the governments of the four countries reciprocate by removing visa requirements for Brazilians visitors, the spokesman said.

The minister's proposal still needs approval by other departments of the Brazilian government, particularly the foreign ministry which issues the visas and has demanded reciprocity to exempt U.S. citizens from needing visas.

Visitors from most Latin American and European Union nations, and Russia, do not need visas to travel to Brazil, but U.S. travelers have to cough up $160 for a visa to visit Brazil, an identical fee charged to Brazilians for visas to visit the United States.

The Brazilian fee was levied in retaliation for exclusion of Brazil from the U.S. visa waiver program.

The tourism ministry is studying the inclusion of several other countries in its visa waiver plan, mainly China to try to attract some of the 100 million Chinese tourists that travel abroad each year, the spokesman said.

Only 55,000 Chinese citizens visited Brazil last year.

Source: Reuters

U.S. diplomat says Philippines an ally, but drug killings a concern

The most senior U.S. diplomat for Asia assured the Philippines on Monday that Washington remained its "trusted" ally and that it supported Manila's blossoming ties with China.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel however warned that growing concern about drug-related killings in the Southeast Asian country was "bad for business".

Russel was the first high-level visitor from Washington after President Rodrigo Duterte provoked alarm last week by announcing his country's "separation" from the United States and realignment with China while on a visit to Beijing.

Explaining Duterte's "Goodbye America" remarks, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay said on Saturday the United States remained the "closest friend" of the Philippines, but Manila wanted to break away from a "mindset of dependency and subservience" and forge closer ties with other nations.

Russel, speaking to reporters after meeting Yasay, said Duterte "has already walked back".

He said Washington supported direct dialogue and negotiations between the Philippines and China. "So, it's a mistake to think that improved relations between Manila and Beijing somehow come at the expense of the U.S.," he said.

"We don’t want countries to have to choose between the U.S. and China."

During his meeting with the Philippine foreign minister, Russel however said he expressed his concern the "succession of controversial statements, comments and a real climate of uncertainty about the Philippines’ intentions has created consternation in a number of countries".

He added, "This is not a positive trend."

Duterte has been scathing about U.S. criticism of his anti-drugs campaign in which about 2,300 people have been killed since he took office on June 30.

Russel said the United States supported Manila's anti-narcotics campaign, but due process and human rights should not be disregarded.

"The growing uncertainty about this and other issues is bad for business," he said. "This is a very competitive region."

Russel's trip to Manila is part of a three-nation swing through Southeast Asia that also includes Thailand and Cambodia, the U.S. State Department announced on its website.

Source: Reuters

Oil prices under pressure as Iraq resists joining output cut

Oil prices came under pressure on Monday as Iraq said it wanted to be exempt from an OPEC deal to cut production, though losses were capped by Iran saying it would encourage other members to join an output freeze.

Brent crude futures LCOc1 were up 6 cents at $51.84 a barrel by 0413 EDT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 was down 5 cents at $50.80.

Iraqi oil minister Jabar Ali al-Luaibi said Baghdad wants to be exempt from any production cut the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is aiming to achieve.

Falah al-Amiri, head of Iraq state oil marketer SOMO, added that Iraq's market share had been compromised by the wars it has fought since the 1980s.

"We should be producing 9 million (barrels per day) if it wasn't for the wars," he said.

OPEC announced plans last month to reduce its output to between 32.5 million barrels per day (bpd) and 33 million bpd, from September's 33.39 million bpd. The group will iron out the details of how it will hit the target at its next meeting in Vienna on Nov. 30.

"A decision to cut to 33 million bpd should keep the crude price basis Brent in the $50-$60 band, not least because it shows that Saudi policy has changed, that OPEC is serious and can rise above political disagreements," David Hufton, of consultancy PVM, said in a note.

Iraq said it could raise output slightly this month from September's 4.774 million bpd.

Comments from Iran's deputy oil minister Amir Hossein Zamaninia, however, helped to push prices higher earlier in the session. He said Tehran would encourage other OPEC members to join an output freeze, adding that $55-$60 a barrel is a fair price to bring stability to the market.

Also pressuring the market was last week U.S. oil rig count, up by 11 for its first double-digit increase since August.

"We should see rig counts continue to increase in the wake of the recent price rally," Morgan Stanley said.

Analysts said that oil markets, which have been dogged by two years of oversupply, might be rebalancing in terms of production and consumption.

"The market moved into a small deficit in Q3, will remain so in Q4 and then the deficit will expand significantly in 2017," Barclays bank said in a note to clients on Sunday.

Source: Reuters

When does hacking become Russian disinformation?

During the Cold War, the Soviet KGB coined the term “desinformatsiya,” or disinformation, which the CIA defined as "false, incomplete or misleading information" fed to various targets. Both the Soviet Union and the United States engaged in the same game, though the Russians played it far more vigorously.

In the digital age, the players might not have to go to the trouble of altering information, or mixing true information with false. Simply hacking into sensitive emails or other data, even when the information is true, can have the same impact as disinformation.

Witness WikiLeaks’ release of a steady flow of emails the group asserts are from John Podesta, chairman of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and former counselor to President Barack Obama. Though the Clinton campaign has not verified that the hacked material is authentic, much of it rings true as inside baseball, the kind of back and forth that political campaign staffers engage in as they plan strategy.    

So far at least, none of the Podesta leaks have produced a smoking gun or looks to have had much impact on the campaign. None of it would be too exciting in a normal presidential election cycle.

But White House officials say the leaks have come from Russia, which makes it serious business. If true, at a minimum it means that Moscow may be trying to undermine the integrity of the U.S. electoral process by creating controversy and confusion. More sinister, the Russians may be attempting to embarrass Clinton or help her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.  

Among the latest WikiLeaks dump is a list of almost 40 elected officials, corporate and military leaders, whom Clinton supposedly considered as a possible vice-presidential running mate, among them Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple, Labor Secretary Tom Perez and both Bill and Melinda Gates. A Clinton campaign spokesman would not comment directly on the content of the leaked emails, but said they were an attempt by Russia "to steal private campaign documents in order to influence an election."  

The KGB has a long history of what it called "active measures" designed to rattle the West -- and the United States in particular. Disinformation was one of those weapons. Apparently, the KGB's successor spy agencies could still be in the same business.

In years past, Soviet disinformation campaigns often planted false articles in target countries, or leaked bogus information to friendly reporters or columnists in various countries, in the hope that what they wrote would be picked up by mainstream publications unaware that Moscow was the source.

At the height of the Cold War, a clandestine tunnel in Berlin led to a classic case of Soviet disinformation. The CIA and the British had dug a secret tunnel from West Berlin to East Berlin in 1955. Code-named Operation Gold, they planned to use it to wiretap all Soviet and East German communications. After the British traitor George Blake betrayed the scheme, however, the Russians decided to let it go on for a year as a source of disinformation. Dozens of CIA translators were kept busy in Washington sifting through the intercepts, some of which were misleading and others real.

KGB's Service A was devoted full time to cooking up misinformation often mixed in with the truth. A favorite KGB technique was using forged documents to spread confusion and political trouble in the West. The Kremlin's forgers were said to have the real letterhead stationery of many U.S. and European officials and agencies.

One example of Moscow's handiwork came in 1976, when the KGB pretended to celebrate America's bicentennial by publishing a slick booklet titled America's 200 Years. The booklet was designed,  British intelligence expert Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky, former KGB London chief, wrote in their book Instructions From the Centre, "using broadly based factual material" to emphasize America's "acute social problems," including its treatment of minorities. It was supposedly printed and distributed by something called the European Bicentennial Committee, which had been invented by the KGB's First Chief Directorate, its foreign intelligence arm.

By 1983, the KGB was focused on sabotaging President Ronald Reagan's re-election chances. They sought to block the fierce anticommunist through a series of forgeries.  

Another objective was to stir up trouble for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. One scheme, according to Andrew and Gordievsky, involved a fabricated letter from Reagan to the king of Spain, intended to increase opposition within that nation against joining NATO. The KGB plot was exposed and failed.

Three years later, the KGB sent out a forged letter from an official in the United States Information Agency to Senator David Durenberger, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. In the letter, the official described a plan to take advantage of the recent Chernobyl nuclear power-plant disaster to embarrass the Soviet Union.

In the 2016 presidential contest, there may be more crosscurrents at work than just Moscow's desire to muddle the U.S. election in support of Trump.

Julian Assange, the head of WikiLeaks, has made it clear that he intensely dislikes Clinton. He has declared that she would likely "push the United States into endless, stupid wars ... she certainly should not become president of the United States."

It also is clear that Assange believes a President Clinton would pressure the British to extradite him to the United States to face espionage charges for revealing U.S. secrets. Assange is already in a precarious position because he is holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London. He took refuge there in 2012, rather than face questioning about allegations of sexual molestation and rape in Sweden.        

Before the Democratic convention, WikiLeaks released documents and emails from the Democratic National Committee that discussed ways to undermine Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Clinton’s opponent in the Democratic primaries. That led to the resignation of DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schulz just as the Democratic convention was starting.  

Early in October, Assange promised more information about Clinton, which he called an "October surprise" that would destroy her candidacy. But, so far at least, the Podesta emails have certainly not done that. Nor have the WikiLeaks transcripts of excerpts of Clinton’s speeches to Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street investment bank.

On October 18, Ecuador announced it cut off Assange's Internet access. The Latin American nation made clear it acted to avoid entanglement in the U.S. election. Ecuador said it "does not interfere in the electoral processes in support of any candidate in particular."

During the second debate, on October 9, Clinton charged that Russian hackers were trying to influence the election through WikiLeaks. “Our intelligence community just came out and said in the last few days that the Kremlin, meaning [President Vladimir] Putin and the Russian government, are directing the attacks,” she said.  “… And WikiLeaks is part of that ... we don't even know if it's accurate information, and then they put it out.”

Clinton continued: "We have never in the history of our country been in a situation where an adversary, a foreign power, is working so hard to influence the outcome of the election. And believe me, they're not doing it to get me elected. They're doing it to try to influence the election for Donald Trump."

In the final presidential debate, Clinton argued that Trump, if elected, would be a "puppet" of Putin. It appeared to rattle the Republican nominee. "No puppet," Trump insisted. "No puppet. You're the puppet." He declined to criticize Putin, who he said had "no respect" for Clinton.    

Given the history of Russian disinformation campaigns, and its hacking in the digital age, it would appear that Moscow is an equal-opportunity meddler in the U.S. election process. It did its best to undermine Reagan, a Republican icon, by painting him as a war-monger. Now, with an assist from WikiLeaks, it is trying to embarrass Clinton, the Democratic nominee who is ahead in many polls.

Small wonder that weary voters from both major parties appear to agree on one thing: A universal relief that the bizarre 2016 election — with the obscene language on a leaked Trump tape, women coming forward to accuse Trump of groping them, the FBI’s investigation into Clinton's email server and so much more — is almost over.

Source: David Wise

sexta-feira, 21 de outubro de 2016

Brazil cuts rates for first time in four years to bolster recovery

A view of Brazil's Central Bank in Brasilia, Brazil, September 15, 2016. Picture taken September 15, 2016. REUTERS/Adriano Machado
Brazil cut interest rates for the first time in four years on Wednesday, opting for a modest 25 basis-point reduction to launch an easing cycle aimed at pulling Latin America's biggest economy out of its worst recession in over a century.

The central bank's nine-member monetary policy committee, known as Copom, voted unanimously to cut its benchmark Selic rate to 14 percent, signaling it will proceed with a "moderate and gradual" easing cycle.

However, the bank said in its post-decision statement that it could opt for steeper cuts in the future if the pace of disinflation accelerates and Congress presses ahead with the approval of austerity measures.

"The magnitude of monetary easing and a possible speeding up of its pace will depend on a favorable evolution of factors that allow greater confidence on meeting the inflation targets at the relevant horizon for the conduct of monetary policy," the bank said.

Lower rates will help President Michel Temer in his effort to strengthen a recovery that remains elusive with high unemployment as well as dwindling industrial and service activity frustrating hopes of a rebound later this year.

For some analysts, the central bank is signaling a longer and more aggressive rate-cutting cycle is on the horizon.

"We believe the central bank will have enough elements to step up the pace of easing to 50 basis points at its next meeting despite the caution expressed today," economists with Sao Paulo-based Haitong said in a research note.

An overwhelming majority of analysts expected a rate cut, with many of them betting on a more aggressive 50-basis-point move.

In its statement, the bank said it forecast inflation at 4.3 percent in 2017 and 3.9 percent in 2018, but acknowledged private estimates remain above the 4.5 percent center of the official target for both years. Annual inflation currently stands at 8.48 percent.

Stubbornly high inflation forced the central bank to hold the Selic steady for the past year at one of the highest rates among the group of G20 industrialized economies.

However, a recent slowdown in inflation and the initial approval of a key austerity proposal in Congress gave the central bank's new governor Ilan Goldfajn enough arguments to cut borrowing costs.

The easing cycle could take the Selic below 10 percent by as early as late 2017, some analysts said. The last time Brazil had a single-digit benchmark rate was in 2013.


That prospect could lift the spirits of investors in an economy battered by months of political upheaval that led to the ouster of Temer's leftist predecessor Dilma Rousseff earlier this year.

For over a year businesses and politicians have demanded a rate cut to avoid stifling recovery during a second year of recession.

Lower borrowing costs could further lift confidence that has climbed steadily since Temer took office in May with a pro-business agenda.

The recovery, however, remains tentative with high unemployment and falling activity.

Service activity dropped by 3.9 percent in August from the same month last year, official data showed on Wednesday, a sharper fall than expected in the latest sign the recovery could be slow.

Economists in a global Reuters poll on Tuesday projected Brazil's economy would only resume growth on a year-on-year basis in the first quarter of 2017.

Although the Selic is the financial sector benchmark rate, Brazil's new administration is calling on private banks to reduce the rate differential that they charge their clients. Some banks demand rates of up to 40 percent more than the Selic.

Source: Reuters

Ex-leader of Brazil's lower house arrested on graft charges

Eduardo Cunha, the former head of Brazil's lower house of Congress who led the impeachment drive against former President Dilma Rousseff, was arrested on Wednesday on corruption charges.

Cunha, a one-time leader of the Evangelical Christian caucus in the House of Deputies, was arrested on charges he received millions in bribes from a purchase of an oil field in Benin by state-run oil company Petrobras.

Cunha's detention is the latest high-profile action in the sprawling investigation into a massive graft scheme at Petrobras. Prosecutors say Brazil's biggest construction and engineering firms paid billions in bribes to executives at the oil firm and politicians in return for bloated contracts.

In a separate case before a federal court in Rio de Janeiro, Cunha is also charged with taking $5 million in bribes in relation to contracts for two drillships for Petrobras, which is known formally as Petroleo Brasileiro SA.

Leonardo Cavalcanti, a spokesman for the federal police, said Cunha was arrested in the capital Brasilia. He was flown Wednesday afternoon to the southern city of Curitiba, where he will stand trial before anti-corruption Judge Sergio Moro.

Cunha has said he is innocent. In comments released by his lawyers and published on the G1 website of the Globo TV network, he called his arrest as "an absurd decision, without motive," and vowed he would fight to be freed soon.

Cunha was expelled from the lower house last month in an overwhelming vote by his peers in the chamber. That stripped him of legal protections that effectively give politicians immunity from all courts except the severely backlogged Supreme Court. Judge Moro, by contrast, is known for acting with speed and Cunha's case could be ruled upon before the end of the year.

Brazil's federal prosecutors said in an emailed statement that Moro accepted their request that Cunha be subject to "preventative" arrest. They said there was a risk of Cunha obstructing the investigation and raised "the concrete possibility" he would flee Brazil because of "hidden funds abroad and his dual nationality."

That means that the former congressman, who also holds Italian citizenship, can be held for an indefinite period.

To date, nearly 200 executives and former politicians - including popular former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva - have been charged in the Petrobras probe and 83 have been found guilty. Prosecutors are seeking 38 billion reais ($12 billion) in damages from companies and individuals involved.

Cunha is a longtime member of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) of current President Michel Temer, who served as Rousseff's vice president and took over in May during the impeachment process against her. Cunha in August became the first sitting politician to be charged in the case.

Two sources close to Temer told Reuters that the order at the presidential palace is to remain silent on Cunha's arrest, mainly because of concerns that he may turn state's witness and implicate fellow PMDB politicians, whom Cunha lashed out against for not defending him against the recent criminal charges.

Cunha is a lightning rod of ire for those who opposed Rousseff's impeachment, carried out on the grounds that she broke budgetary rules.

Rousseff and her supporters say she was the victim of a "coup" carried out as an attempt to halt the Petrobras probe - and they pointed to Cunha as the crudest example of that effort.

Federal prosecutors in Curitiba, who have led the Petrobras investigation, have said they will not allow any politician to halt their work - and fought back vocally against scattered attempts by lawmakers to impede their efforts.

Source: Reuters

Tesla says it will roll out Uber-style ride services program

A Tesla logo hangs on a building outside of a Tesla dealership in New York, U.S., April 29, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo
Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA.O) is planning to roll out a ride services program and will announce details next year, the luxury electric vehicle maker said on its website, a service first outlined by Chief Executive Elon Musk in his master plan in July.

News of the Tesla Network was in a disclaimer about the self-driving functionality on new Model S vehicles. Musk said on Wednesday Tesla is building new vehicles with the necessary hardware to eventually enable full autonomy, although the software is not yet ready.

"Please note that using a self-driving Tesla for car sharing and ride hailing for friends and family is fine, but doing so for revenue purposes will only be permissible on the Tesla Network, details of which will be released next year," read the disclaimer.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for more detail.

Car makers have rushed to invest in so-called mobility services, hoping to capture the potential trillions of dollars in revenue from selling both vehicles and such on-demand services, while carving out a stake in the industry dominated by Uber UBER.UL.

Barclays analyst Brian Johnson wrote in a note to investors on Thursday that although a Tesla Network could "excite the market" over its potential earnings stream, it was a costly proposition.

"While we think ride-sharing/hailing is the future of mass-market mobility, we have some financial concerns with the idea of an OEM-owned fleet," Johnson wrote.

Venture capitalists and corporate investors had poured nearly $28 billion into the ride services sector in the past decade as of June, according to a Reuters analysis.

General Motors has made the biggest bet, investing $500 million in Lyft in January. GM's upcoming electric Chevrolet Bolt was designed expressly with car sharing in mind, executives have told Reuters.

Money-losing Tesla lacks the deep pockets of GM, and ride services companies like Uber and Lyft burn billions of dollars in price wars to secure regional dominance, as occurred with Uber in China before it ceded to local rival Didi Chuxing.

In his "Master Plan, Part Deux" in July, Musk outlined a system in which a Tesla owner could add a car to a shared Tesla fleet using a phone app, allowing it to "generate income for you" and lower the cost of ownership.

Musk said that in cities where car ownership is lower, Tesla would operate its own fleet.

Source: Reuters

Microsoft shares hit high as cloud business flies above estimates

The logo of Microsoft is pictured in Issy-les-Moulineaux, France, August 8, 2016. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen/File Photo
Microsoft Corp said sales of its flagship cloud product doubled in its first quarter, propelling earnings above analysts' estimates and sending its shares to an all-time high, breaking past a level hit in 1999 at the peak of the tech stock bubble.

The company's shares have doubled since August 2013 with Chief Executive Satya Nadella restoring investor confidence by focusing on mobile and cloud computing rather than PCs.

Long known for its Windows software, Microsoft has shifted focus to the cloud where it is dueling with larger rival Amazon.com Inc to control the still fledgling market. Its jump in revenue underscores how businesses around the world are turning to new applications in the cloud and leaving once critical software programs and other hardware in the dust.

Shares of Microsoft rose as much as 6.2 percent to $60.79 in after-hours trading. They later pared gains to $60.43, still adding nearly $25 billion to its market value.

The Redmond, Washington-based company said sales from its flagship cloud product Azure, which businesses can use to host their websites, apps or data, rose 116 percent. Revenue for its broader "Intelligent Cloud" business rose 8.3 percent to $6.38 billion, beating analysts' average estimate of $6.27 billion, according to research firm FactSet StreetAccount.

"We are not just building or moving (clients') IT," Nadella said on an analyst call. Customers "are building new digital services for hyper scale. And that's what is probably unique in terms of what has changed year over year for us.

"It's not just the Silicon Valley startups anymore; it is the core enterprise that is also becoming a digital company. And we are well-positioned to serve them," he said.

The company forecast that sales for its Intelligent Cloud business will be between $6.55 billion and $6.75 billion in the current quarter, compared with $6.34 billion in the same period a year earlier.

"There’s a huge runway for them to show growth," said Trip Chowdhry, managing director of Global Equities Research.


Early investment in the cloud, coupled with machine learning and applications that can scale at different levels, have set Microsoft and Amazon Web Services apart from smaller rivals - and precipitated the decline of older software companies, Chowdhry said.

Microsoft had an effective monopoly on computing software in the 1990s and was for some time the world’s most valuable publicly traded company.

But its power waned in the 2000s after a bruising battle with the U.S. Department of Justice over how it used its monopoly power to squeeze competitors.

Co-founder Bill Gates stepped down as CEO early in 2000 and Microsoft spent the next decade and a half in a strategic dilemma as it clung to its PC-centric view of the computing world while it was outflanked by Google in the internet and Apple Inc in smartphones.

Earlier this year, Nadella made headlines when he orchestrated Microsoft's biggest-ever deal, agreeing in June to buy the social network for professionals LinkedIn Corp for $26.2 billion.

But the focus on mobile applications and the cloud's blockbuster growth masked dips in sales for other units of the company in the quarter.

Worldwide PC shipments fell 3.9 percent in the quarter ended Sept. 30, according to research firm IDC, although that was much less than the 7.1 percent it had previously estimated.

Revenue in the unit that includes Windows software and the company's struggling mobile business fell 1.8 percent to $9.29 billion. Microsoft forecast the division will have sales of up to $11.6 billion in the current quarter - well below the $12.7 billion it posted for the unit a year earlier.

The decline in Lumia smartphone sales was a "blemish," said Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy, albeit an expected one.

"At some point that Windows number needs to start to rise, but given market declines, it’s hard to expect that," he said.

Including deferred revenue from Windows 10, Microsoft earned 76 cents per share in the just-ended first fiscal quarter of 2017, beating analysts' average estimate of 68 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

On an adjusted basis, Microsoft reported revenue of $22.33 billion, above the average estimate of $21.71 billion.

Source: Reuters

No partner in sight, Twitter faces tough solo choices

The apparent lack of interest in Twitter Inc by potential suitors may force the social media company to consider a route anathema to aspiring tech startups: a major restructuring and cutting some its nearly 4,000 employees.

The popular but money-losing micro-blogging service spent aggressively on product development and marketing in recent years, betting that it could afford to post losses as long as it attracted new users.

But that growth stalled this year after it exceeded 300 million active monthly users, less than a fifth of Facebook Inc's users and below Facebook's Instagram.

Earlier this month, Twitter hired bankers to explore selling itself. Technology and media companies including Salesforce.com Inc, Walt Disney Co and Alphabet Inc's Google looked at the company but ultimately passed on buying it.

The aborted sales process - and the company's strategy as an independent company - will be back in the spotlight when Twitter reports earnings on Oct. 27. The company declined to comment.

"It’s going to take some bold moves here," said David Hsu, a management professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, suggesting job cuts may be an option. "It takes a very lean staff to maintain the core Twitter as an advertising and messaging platform," Hsu said.

According to SunTrust analyst Robert Peck, Twitter could cut 10 percent of its workforce and save about $100 million a year.

Major layoffs, though, could hurt the company's image in San Francisco, where the competition for engineering talent is fierce.


The company may look first at cutting sales and marketing, an area in which it is spends more than twice as much as its rivals to earn each dollar of revenue.

"Twitter's cost structure was originally built to grow into a much larger user base," said Peck. "But with user growth stagnating, the company likely needs to reduce excess costs."

In the first six months of this year, Twitter's sales and marketing spending totaled $473 million, or about 40 percent of its revenue. By comparison, spending in that area accounted for 19 percent of revenue at Yahoo, 15 percent at Facebook, and 12 percent at Google-parent Alphabet, according to a Reuters analysis of quarterly financial reports.

Twitter also spends more, proportionately, than its peers on research and development. First-half spending on R&D accounted for $334 million, or 28 percent of revenue, compared to 24 percent at Facebook, 23 percent at Yahoo and 16 percent at Alphabet, according to a Reuters analysis.

Twitter could also reduce expenses by cutting products and moving some engineering positions to lower-cost overseas locations, analysts said.

It may also need to reform its stock-based compensation plans when it hires new employees. Twitter doled out $682 million in stock-based compensation last year, a large portion of its roughly $2 billion in annual revenue, which weighs on its profitability.

Private equity firms that examined a buyout of Twitter last year were turned off by the amount of equity-based compensation that would have to be paid out to employees in a deal, according to sources at the time.


If Twitter does not slash its costs, activist investors - who have aggressively pushed U.S. companies in recent years for better cash management, leadership changes and new strategies - may see Twitter as an appealing target.

"Carl Icahn - Twitter needs you," Bronte Capital's John Hempton, an investor known for short-selling, or betting against stocks, wrote in a blog post earlier this month, referring to the well-known activist investor. Twitter "should be fixed with extreme prejudice by a disinterested outsider before it is sold again to a strategic buyer," he added.

Companies often resist activist campaigns, and sometimes a proxy fight takes place, where the investor tries to replace board members with its own nominees.

On rare occasions, companies invite friendly activists to get involved before they become hostile. Last month, hard-drive maker Seagate Technology Plc invited ValueAct Capital in as an investor, selling a roughly 4 percent stake to the activist hedge fund. ValueAct received an observer board seat as part of the deal, but no voting power.

Twitter could also explore ways to bring in an outside strategic investor to assist in a turnaround. But finding the right company to invest in Twitter without it looking like a desperate move could be tricky, private equity executives said.

Whatever Twitter does, it needs to act fast. Former high-fliers Zynga Inc and Groupon Inc, which now trade at a fraction of their initial public offering prices, stand as startling evidence of how quickly an internet star can fade.

Source: Reuters

Duterte didn't really mean 'separation' from U.S., Philippine officials say

Philippine officials sought on Friday to play down comments by President Rodrigo Duterte who announced his "separation" from the United States a day earlier, saying their country will maintain U.S. trade and economic ties.

Duterte made his comments in Beijing, where he was paving the way for what he calls a new commercial alliance as relations with long-time ally Washington deteriorate.

He told Chinese and Philippine business people at a forum in the Great Hall of the People that America had "lost now".

"I've realigned myself in your ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world - China, Philippines and Russia. It's the only way.

"With that, in this venue, your honors, in this venue, I announce my separation from the United States. Both in military, not maybe social, but economics also."

Duterte's efforts to engage China, months after a tribunal in the Hague ruled that Beijing did not have historic rights to the South China Sea in a case brought by the previous administration in Manila, marks a reversal in foreign policy since the 71-year-old former mayor took office on June 30.

Trade Minister Ramon Lopez sought to explain Duterte's comments.

"Let me clarify. The president did not talk about separation," Lopez told CNN Philippines in Beijing.

"In terms of economic (ties), we are not stopping trade, investment with America. The president specifically mentioned his desire to strengthen further the ties with China and the ASEAN region which we have been trading with for centuries," he said, referring to the Association of South East Asian Nations.

He said the Philippines was "breaking being too much dependent on one side".

"But we definitely won't stop the trade and investment activities with the West, specifically the U.S."

Duterte's spokesman, Ernesto Abella, said the president's announcement was a "restatement" on his bid to chart an independent foreign policy.

Duterte wanted to "separate the nation from dependence on the U.S. and the West and rebalance economic and military relations with Asian neighbors" like China, Japan and South Korea, Abella said in statement.

Underscoring that, the Chinese and Philippines defense ministers meet in Beijing on the sidelines of Duterte's visit, and pledged to restore security ties, China's Defence Ministry said.


Duterte's tone toward China is in stark contrast to the language he has used against the United States, after being infuriated by U.S. criticism of his bloody war on drugs.

He has called U.S. President Barack Obama a "son of a bitch" and told him to "go to hell". On Wednesday, about 1,000 anti-U.S. protesters gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Manila calling for the removal of U.S. troops from a southern island.

Hundreds of left-wing demonstrators burned a replica of the U.S. flag at a rally in Manila on Friday as they called for an end to U.S. military agreements.

The United States, a former colonial power, has seen Manila as an important ally in its "rebalance" to Asia in the face of a rising China. The U.S. Embassy press attache in Manila, Molly Koscina, said Duterte's statements were creating uncertainty.

"We've seen a lot of this sort of troubling rhetoric recently," she told Reuters in an email.

"We have yet to hear from the Philippine government what Duterte's remarks on 'separation' might mean, but it is creating unnecessary uncertainty."

She also said the United States would honor alliance commitments and treaty obligations with the Philippines.

"And, of course, we expect the Philippines to do the same."

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Washington intended to keep to its alliance commitments to the Philippines.

"Obviously any relationship is one of mutuality and we will continue to discuss that with our Philippine counterparts," he told reporters on a flight to Turkey.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, asked in Beijing about Duterte's comments, said countries should not resort to win-lose mentalities.

"We should not have Cold War thinking, it's either you or me, you win I lose, that kind of zero-sum game," she told a regular press briefing.

"We have always developed relations with other countries in the spirit of openness, inclusiveness, mutually win-win, not aimed at, not excluding and not affecting other countries developing normal relations with each other."

Wrangling over territory in the South China Sea, where Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims, has consumed China-Philippines relations in recent years.

China claims most of the waters through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year, and in 2012 it seized the disputed Scarborough Shoal and denied Philippine fishermen access to its fishing grounds.

In a statement issued by China's Xinhua news agency, China and the Philippines said it was important to address differences in the South China Sea "without resorting to the threat or use of force".

Source: Reuters

Trump, Clinton tension seeps into jokes at annual charity dinner

U.S. presidential campaign tensions seeped into a high-profile charity dinner on Thursday as Donald Trump joked about sending Hillary Clinton to prison and she alluded to Trump’s statements about women by estimating how he might rate the Statue of Liberty's attractiveness a four, maybe a five.

The candidates shared the stage at a formal dinner in New York City named for the state's former governor, Alfred E. Smith, less than 24 hours after finishing their third and final presidential debate in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

The annual event, which raises money for needy children, typically offers presidential hopefuls a respite from the tension of the campaign trail. But Trump and Clinton opted to instead trade sharpened barbs that reflected the acrimony of the 2016 White House campaign.

Trump spoke first and set the room on edge with bitter jabs at his rival, with his label of Clinton as “corrupt” drawing boos.

"With all of the heated back and forth between my opponent and me at the debate last night, we have proven that we can actually be civil to each other," Trump said. "In fact just before taking the dais, Hillary accidentally bumped into me and she very civilly said, 'Pardon me.'"

"And I very politely replied, 'Let me talk to you about that after I get into office,'" said Trump, a Republican whose supporters chant "lock her up" at rallies.

Clinton, whose remarks elicited both polite applause and derision, riffed off Trump's derogatory remarks about women's appearances, such as joking in a 2002 radio interview that they become less attractive after age 35.

"Donald looks at the Statue of Liberty and sees a four, maybe a five if she loses the torch and tablet and changes her hair," Clinton said of the New York City landmark.

"Come to think of it, you know what would be a good number for a woman? 45," Clinton said. The president elected on Nov. 8 will be the 45th in U.S. history.

Trump and Clinton sat just a seat apart on the dais, separated by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York. At the event’s conclusion, they shook hands – a gesture they avoided at Wednesday’s debate.

But the tone of both candidates’ remarks was a departure from the past, when political figures and presidential candidates have stuck to a largely self-deprecating and good-natured brand of humor.

At one point at the event, which raised $6 million for Catholic charities supporting children, Trump said Clinton was “pretending not to hate Catholics.”

Trump was referring to the apparently hacked personal emails of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, published by Wikileaks, which show Clinton staffers criticizing high-profile figures for embracing Catholicism as the most “politically acceptable” of socially conservative religions.

Alfred Smith IV, the evening's host, perhaps best reflected the tension in the room, and the campaign, in his introductory remarks: "This has been a campaign for the history books," he said. "It has also been a campaign for the psychiatry books."

Source: Reuters

quarta-feira, 19 de outubro de 2016

Chinese economy grew 6.7 percent in third quarter

A Chinese migrant worker uses his mobile phone to take a photo of a poster placed outside of a construction site showing the design of future high-raise buildings and skyscrapers in Beijing, China, 19 October 2016. China's economy grew 6.7 percent in the third quarter of 2016, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). EPA/WU HONG
The Chinese economy grew 6.7 percent in the third quarter of the year, compared with the same period last year, unchanged from the first two quarters, the National Statistics Office reported Wednesday.

The Asian giant and the world's second largest economy expanded by 6.7 percent from January to September, and only in the third quarter grew 1.8 percent from the second, the same figure recorded for the period of April to June.

Source: EFE

Ecuador says it blocked Assange's Internet link

This file photo shows a banner portraying WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, outside Ecuador's embassy in London, UK last August 16, 2016. EFE/File
The Ecuadorian government confirmed on Tuesday that it cut the Internet connection of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is holed up at the Andean nation's embassy in Britain.

"The government of Ecuador respects the principle of non-intervention in the affairs of other countries, of not intervening in ongoing electoral processes or supporting a particular candidate," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

WikiLeaks has been disseminating the contents of hacked e-mails from John Podesta, campaign chairman for U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Democrats and the administration of President Barack Obama accuse WikiLeaks of being part of an alleged Russian effort to influence the election in favor of Republican Donald Trump.

After disclosing that Assange's Internet connection had been cut, WikiLeaks said Tuesday that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry asked Ecuador to stop Assange from publishing classified Clinton documents related to peace talks between the Colombian government and FARC rebels.

"Multiple U.S. sources tell us John Kerry asked Ecuador to stop Assange from publishing Clinton docs during FARC peace negotiations," WikiLeaks said on Twitter, eliciting an immediate denial from the U.S. State Department.

Assange has been stuck at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since the summer of 2012, as the British government refuses to allow him safe passage to the airport to board a plane for Ecuador, where he has been granted political asylum.

The Australian citizen sought refuge at the Ecuadorian mission in June 2012 after losing a long battle in the British courts to avoid extradition to Sweden, where prosecutors want to question him about sexual misconduct allegations dating back to 2010.

Assange, who denies the accusations, has said that once he is in Swedish custody, U.S. prosecutors will indict him for espionage and Washington will pressure Stockholm into handing him over.

The Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that Assange was given asylum in 2012 "based on his legitimate fears of political persecution due to his journalistic activities as editor of WikiLeaks."

"During recent weeks, WikiLeaks has published a great quantity of documents that have an impact on the electoral campaign in the United States," the ministry said.

"In exercise of its sovereign rights, (Ecuador) has temporarily restricted access to the communications system in its embassy in the United Kingdom," the statement said, adding that the restriction is not preventing WikiLeaks from conducting journalistic activities.

"Ecuador, consistent with its tradition of defense of human rights, especially with victims of political persecution, reaffirms the asylum conceded to Julian Assange and reiterates its intention to safeguard his life and physical integrity until he can relocate to a safe place," the foreign ministry said.

Ecuadorian foreign policy "responds exclusively to sovereign decisions and does not cede to pressure from other countries," the ministry said.

Source: EFE

Obama confident Islamic State will be driven from Mosul

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (L) participate in a joint press conference in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington DC, USA, 18 October 2016.EFE/SHAWN THEW
U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday expressed confidence that Iraqi forces and their allies will force Islamic State to abandon Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city.

He acknowledged, however, that the campaign to retake Mosul will be a "difficult fight."

"The start of Iraqi operations to liberate Mosul is another major step forward," Obama told reporters during a joint appearance at the White House with visiting Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

Monday saw the start of an offensive by Iraqi and Kurdish fighters aimed at liberating Mosul from IS, who have occupied the northern city since June 2014.

"There will be advances and there will be setbacks," Obama said of the military campaign, though adding that "ISIL (Islamic State) will be defeated in Mosul."

"In addition to rooting out ISIL, our focus jointly is on the safety and humanitarian aid for civilians who are escaping the fight," the president said.

The U.S. and other Western nations, including Italy, are providing support to the Iraqi push to reclaim the city.

Obama pointed out that among foreign countries, Italy is second only to the U.S. in the number of military personnel in Iraq, where the Italians have assumed responsibility for training Iraqi police.

Source: EFE

In his basement, son designs prosthetic arm for father in Belarus

Sergei Galtsev, a Soviet army captain at the time, lost his right arm in an explosion on a military firing range when his son, Oleg, was four years old.

Almost three decades later the 53-year-old Belarussian became the first tester of a prosthetic arm designed and made by his own son in the basement of his apartment building.

"We wanted to create a simple and affordable prosthesis," said Oleg, a 32-year-old software engineer.

Two years ago he teamed up with engineer Sergei Arefyev to develop an artificial arm. The video of its final tests hit almost a million views on YouTube, with the partners making all the designs and software available on the internet for free.

"We did not patent it as it made more sense to spend money on development," Oleg said.

"It's like Lego, designed for people who are not at ease with electronics: just put the parts together. If I managed it, then others can do it, too."

In a country better known for its Soviet-era collectivized farming and run by President Alexander Lukashenko since 1994, the software industry is thriving. Belarus's 54 universities turn out 4,000 software engineers every year.

The prosthetic arm was created in a small workshop in the basement of a residential building in Minsk. Some parts were created using a 3D-printer, some were bought on the internet.

Galtsev and Arefyev say their design is 10 times cheaper than $15,000 mechanical prostheses from big manufacturers, although it lacks sensor controls.

Sergei Galtsev says his world was turned upside down by the accident which befell him when he was 26. It ended his military career and he took his wife and two children back to the home town of Chechersk in what is now Belarus.

His new arm has brought new possibilities within reach.

"It is a very good thing, and it can help so many people," he said after testing the device at his house in the country.

"I sawed wood, mowed the lawn, did some other work around house".

Source: Reuters

U.S.-Russian crew blasts off for space station

A U.S. astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts blasted off from Kazakhstan on Wednesday for a two-day journey to the International Space Station.

The Soyuz space ship carrying NASA's Shane Kimbrough and Russians Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 14:05 local time (0805 GMT) and reached orbit about eight minutes later.

It will travel in space for two days before docking at the station, which orbits about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.

The trio will replace three ISS crew members - Kate Rubins of NASA, Anatoly Ivanishin of Roscosmos and Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency - who are due to return to Earth on Oct.29.

Wednesday's launch was originally scheduled for Sept.23, but was postponed because of technical problems with the Soyuz that have since been fixed.

Source: Reuters

Yahoo profit beats Wall St., some analysts worry over effect of hack

Yahoo Inc reported better-than-expected quarterly adjusted profit on Tuesday, a boost for the beleaguered company whose deal to sell its core business to Verizon Communications Inc has been shaken by a massive data breach.

Verizon's general counsel said last week that the hack, which affected at least 500 million email accounts in 2014, could have a material impact, possibly allowing Verizon to withdraw from the $4.83 billion deal.

Tuesday's results provided at least an initial indication that the data breach has not led to a quick exodus of Yahoo customers, as some had feared. Customer trends showed growth in pageviews and email usage, Yahoo said.

Still, analysts were split on whether the results dispelled doubts about the deal going through. Yahoo said in a filing with securities regulators shortly before the breach was disclosed that it knew of no cyber risks, raising questions about whether Verizon was informed of the breach in a timely fashion.

JMP Securities analyst Ronald Josey said it was too early to tell if the breach would cause lasting damage, and called customer trends "encouraging."

"The message here is email and messaging is a very sticky product and people want to get to their messages," said Josey.

But Fatemeh Khatibloo, a security analyst with Forrester Research, said the uptick in pageviews and email usage could be the result of "500 million people trying to figure out if they're exposed."

Any loss of users in the future, lawsuits related to the breach and a pending Federal Communications Commission vote that could limit how telecommunications companies can use customer data may encourage Verizon to try and back out of the deal, said Khatibloo.

However, Scott Kessler, an analyst with CFRA Research, said the fact that Yahoo did not see an immediate decline in users was a sign the breach may not be a material adverse change that would affect the Verizon deal.

"The bottom line here is from a fundamental operational and financial perspective, it doesn't seem like much has changed at the company over the last quarter," he said.

Legal experts have said Verizon would have to clear a high hurdle to prove that the breach amounted to a material adverse change that would allow it to pull out of the deal.


Another positive sign for Yahoo was that revenue from Mavens - the mobile, video, native and social advertising units that Chief Executive Marissa Mayer touts as its emerging businesses - rose 24.2 percent to $524 million.

Still, the business showed continuing declines in major revenue categories. Gross search revenue fell 14.1 percent to $752.5 million.

Total revenue rose 6.5 percent to $1.31 billion, just beating the average analyst estimate of $1.30 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. But after deducting fees paid to partner websites, revenue fell to $857.7 million from $1 billion.

Yahoo said on Friday it would not hold a call or webcast after the release of the results, citing the Verizon deal.

Analysts at Needham & Co said in a note on Tuesday that decision troubled them, given doubts cast over the Verizon deal by the data hack, and they cut their rating on Yahoo to 'hold' from 'buy'.

Yahoo's shares were up about 1.3 percent in extended trading after the close on Tuesday.

For the third quarter ended Sept. 30, net income attributable to Yahoo rose to $162.8 million, or 17 cents per share, from $76.3 million, or 8 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding some items, the company earned 20 cents per share, beating analysts' average estimate of 14 cents.

Verizon plans to combine Yahoo's search, email and messenger assets as well as advertising technology tools with its AOL unit, which it bought last year for $4.4 billion.

The deal would transform Yahoo into a holding company, with a 15 percent stake in Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and a 35.5 percent interest in Yahoo Japan Corp as well as Yahoo's convertible notes, certain minority investments and its non-core patents.

The deal is expected to close in early 2017, after which Yahoo plans to change its name and become a publicly traded investment company.

Source: Reuters