iBamboo is an Electricity-Free iPhone Speaker Made from a Piece of Bamboo

iBamboo is an Electricity-Free iPhone Speaker Made from a Piece of Bamboo

by Mark Boyer, 04/20/12

iBamboo-speaker-lead-537x358ibamboo-urban-2-537x358

iPhone users aren’t exactly at a loss when looking for a place to dock their phones these days. But even in a market that’s flooded with a myriad docking and music amplification systems, theiBamboo Speaker by designer Anatoliy Omelchenko of Triangle Tree manages to separate itself from the pack. The simple-yet-chic design consists of a single piece of bamboo — one of the world’s greenest natural materials — with a slot cut into it where the iPhone is placed. The natural shape of the speaker amplifies the tunes, producing a pseudo-stereo effect that requires no electricity.

This isn’t the first electricity-free iPhone speaker we’ve encountered, but the iBamboo has some notable advantages over the competition. The one-foot-long bamboo tube is lightweight and durable, and because it’s made from natural material, no two speakers will be identical. Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants in the world, and it produces more oxygen than an equivalent mass of trees.

Earlier this year, Omelchenko told Gizmag that in response to requests for plastic versions of the iBamboo Speaker he was working on prototyping a new version of the speaker that’s made from recycled plastic. The iBamboo Urban design is shaped exactly like the natural bamboo version, and it’s reportedly even more durable. Unlike the original iBamboo speaker, which adds warmth to music and is good for listening to jazz and folk music, Omelchenko tells Gizmagthe that the Urban design has a crisper sound. According to the iBamboo website, the original iBamboo design is currently out of stock, and once it hits the market, the recycled plastic version will retail for $30.

Norway $713bn Sovereign Wealth Fund Flees Currencies Tainted by Stimulus Addiction; Adds Turkey, Taiwan

Norway Fund Flees Currencies Tainted by Stimulus Addiction

Norway’s $713 billion sovereign wealth fund is turning away from the world’s biggest currencies and their debt-laden governments as policy makers undermine their exchange rates through unprecedented stimulus measures.

The Government Pension Fund Global, the world’s largest wealth fund, cut its holdings in French and U.K. government bonds by almost half last year as it raised its share of government bonds in emerging-market currencies to 10 percent of its fixed-income holdings by adding investments in Turkey, Russia and Taiwan.

“It’s what we perceive as a risk-reducing investment strategy,” Yngve Slyngstad, chief executive officer of Norges Bank Investment Management, said in a March 8 interview in Oslo. Cutting dollar, yen, euro and pound investments is a “prudent” move, he said. “These four major currencies all have structural issues, with regards to government debt, to private sector debt, to unconventional monetary policy, and to growth and the demographic profile of the countries.”

At issue is how central bankers across the globe will eventually unwind the uncharted stimulus measures enacted to prop up global growth since the onset of the financial crisis in 2008. Debt levels have soared for governments across much of the developed world. In Europe, political leaders are trying to save the region from a fiscal crisis now in its fourth year. Read more of this post

Future of China Railways Ministry’s US$426bn debt unclear

Future of China Railways Ministry’s US$426bn debt unclear

Staff Reporter

2013-03-11

China’s plan to break up its Ministry of Railways has led to concerns about the ministry’s bulging debt, which it accumulated during the rapid expansion of the railway system in recent years, the Shanghai-based First Financial Daily reports.

The Chinese government announced a restructuring plan on Mar. 10, with one of the main proposed changes being splitting up the Ministry of Railways into a State Railway Administration under the Ministry of Transportation and a state-owned enterprise that will be called China Railway Corp.

The proposed railway administration will play a managerial role at the Railways Ministry, while the state-owned company will be tasked with running railway operations, according to the government announcement.

Since the Ministry of Railways had accrued a total debt of 2.66 trillion yuan (US$426 billion), compared with its total assets of 4.3 trillion yuan (US$689 billion) at the end of September, how this debt will be paid off had become a hot topic of discussion, the newspaper said.

“This is a very important issue. As the Ministry of Railways will cease to exist, the party liable to repay the debt will be different, giving creditors the right to seek immediate repayment or even bring up subsequent litigation,” said Mao Zhenghua, a co-director at the Institute of Economic Research at Renmin University of China. Read more of this post

The vacancy rate of China’s New South China Mall, also known as the world’s largest shopping mall, has reached 99% since its opening in 2005

World’s largest mall is ghostly quiet

Staff Reporter

2013-03-11

The vacancy rate of China’s New South China Mall, also known as the world’s largest shopping mall, has reached 99% since its opening in 2005, reports caijing.com, a Chinese-language website specializing in financial news.

The shopping mall — which was built off of a total of 4.5 billion yuan (US$723.7 billion) in investments — is located in Dongguan of China’s southern Guangdong province. The 450,000 square meter mammoth can accommodate 2,350 stores and 8,000 parking lots. However, the near 99% vacancy rate has earned it the less fortunate name of “ghost mall” by the Chinese people. Read more of this post

China hoarding over half of global cotton reserves

China hoarding over half of global cotton reserves

Staff Reporter

2013-03-11

China’s cotton reserves reached 9.28 million tons in February, accounting for 52% of global reserves, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

As of Feb. 1, reserves stood at 6.15 million tons, accounting for 83% of the country’s cotton reserves expected in 2013, according to texnet.com.cn, a leading Chinese-language textile website. The record stockpiles will make it difficult for the country to control its reserves for the rest of the year.

The partial release of national reserves of cotton into the textile industry in February further lowered the market price, leading to a record low turnover rate. Read more of this post

Technology forecasting: A new “step and wait” model claims to outperform industry rules of thumb in predictive power; advances in performance are often followed by a waiting period before the next step forward

Predicting the Path of Technological Innovation: SAW Versus Moore, Bass, Gompertz, and Kryder

Ashish Sood, Gareth M. James, Gerard J. Tellis, and Ji Zhu*

Marketing Science

Abstract

Competition is intense among rival technologies and success depends on predicting their future trajectory of performance. To resolve this challenge, managers often follow popular heuristics, generalizations, or “laws” like the Moore’s Law. We propose a model, Step And Wait (SAW), for predicting the path of technological innovation and compare its performance against eight models for 25 technologies and 804 technologies-years across six markets. The estimates of the model provide four important results. First, Moore’s Law and Kryder’s law do not generalize across markets; none holds for all technologies even in a single market. Second, SAW produces superior predictions over traditional methods, such as the Bass model or Gompertz law, and can form predictions for a completely new technology, by incorporating information from other categories on time varying covariates. Third, analysis of the model parameters suggests that: i) recent technologies improve at a faster rate than old technologies; ii) as the number of competitors increases, performance improves in smaller steps and longer waits; iii) later entrants and technologies that have a number of prior steps tend to have smaller steps and shorter waits; but iv) technologies with long average wait time continue to have large steps. Fourth, technologies cluster in their performance by market.

The law and the profits

Technology forecasting: A new “step and wait” model claims to outperform industry rules of thumb in predictive power

Mar 9th 2013 |From the print edition

PREDICTING the course of technological progress can be a risky business. Scorn the latest advances and you risk being left behind, as when Sony kept investing in flat-screen versions of cathode-ray televisions in the 1990s while Samsung piled into liquid-crystal displays (LCDs), and eventually replaced Sony as market leader. Embrace new ideas too early, though, and you may be left with egg on your face, as when General Motors spent more than $1 billion developing hydrogen fuel cells a decade ago, only to see them overtaken by lithium-ion batteries as the preferred power source for electric and hybrid vehicles.

To determine when to proceed with a new technology many managers and engineers employ popular heuristics, some of which are seen as “laws”. The best known is Moore’s law, proposed in 1965 by Gordon Moore, a co-founder of Intel. At first it stated that as more transistors are crammed onto the surface of silicon chips, the devices double in performance every year. This law was later revised to two years, and chip performance is now usually reckoned to double every 18 months. Other laws use “S” curves and various other calculations to predict how technologies will evolve.

Many of these laws have become widely accepted and are now applied when drawing conclusions about a broad range of technologies. Some have become self-fulfilling. Chipmakers, for example, use Moore’s law to co-ordinate their research and development (R&D) activity and plan their capital investment. In reality, however, such laws are unreliable because progress is rarely smooth. So Ashish Sood of the Goizueta School of Business at Emory University, Atlanta, and his colleagues have come up with their own law, which is explicitly based on the tendency of technology to progress in stops and starts.

Their “step and wait” (SAW) model, recently published in Marketing Science, notes that advances in performance are often followed by a waiting period before the next step forward. The steps can be big or small, and the waiting periods long or short. The researchers also hypothesise that greater support for innovation means new technologies improve in larger and more frequent steps than old technologies did. This is the result of higher R&D spending, the existence of better tools and the fact that more countries are undertaking research. But as the number of competitors in a new field increases, both the size of the steps and the length of the wait for the next step can change. Read more of this post

A new invention lets pacemakers scavenge the energy to power their circuitry from the motion of the beating heart itself

Let’s have a heart-to-heart

Medical technology: A new invention lets pacemakers scavenge the energy to power their circuitry from the motion of the beating heart itself

Mar 9th 2013 |From the print edition

IN 1958 a priest named Gerardo Flórez, then 70 years old, was blessed with the world’s first artificial pacemaker. The device kept his heart ticking in good order for another 18 years. It connected to the heart externally, weighed 45kg (100lb) and was powered by a 12-volt battery that had to be lugged around on a cart and recharged every 72 hours.

Since the 1950s pacemakers, which use electrical impulses to regulate a beating heart, have shrunk substantially, as have their power packs. But scientists would dearly love to get rid of the batteries altogether. Even the best modern ones run out every 7-10 years and patients must undergo surgery to have replacements installed. The process can be painful, expensive and can lead to infection.

One approach, being pursued by some researchers, is to deliver the necessary energy wirelessly. Some designs beam energy to a receiving coil in an implanted device, and others use an external pacemaker that wirelessly stimulates an electrode implanted in the heart.

Another possibility is to scavenge energy from the natural processes occurring in the patient’s body. In 2011 a group of Swiss engineers installed a tiny turbine inside a simulated artery which was propelled by a bloodlike fluid flowing through it. And now Amin Karami and his colleagues at the University of Michigan have figured out a way to power a pacemaker by harvesting energy produced by the very heart it is nudging along.

This is not a new idea, and Dr Karami’s approach, like previous attempts, relies on so-called piezoelectric materials, which produce a current when subjected to mechanical stress—in this case the vibrations caused by a beating heart. Those earlier efforts stumbled, however, because the piezoelectric components were only able to harvest enough energy to power a pacemaker if the vibrations fell within a narrow frequency range. As a result, they worked for a limited range of heart rates, typically between 58 and 63 beats per minute. Any lower (as when sleeping) or higher (during physical exertion, say) and the piezoelectric elements did not produce enough oomph. Dr Karami’s “non-linear harvester”, by contrast, still works at heart rates of 20 to 600 beats per minute. Read more of this post

New tricks allow hearing aids to cope better with high frequencies, making speech and music more comprehensible

Music to the ear

Medical technology: New tricks allow hearing aids to cope better with high frequencies, making speech and music more comprehensible

Mar 9th 2013 |From the print edition

THE human voice, like any sound produced by thrumming a stretched string, has a fundamental frequency. For voice, the centre of that frequency lies mostly below 300Hz depending on the speaker’s sex and the sounds in question. Information is conveyed through simultaneous higher-frequency overtones and additional components that can stretch up to 20,000Hz (20kHz). Modern hearing aids are able to distinguish only a small part of that range, typically between 300Hz and 6kHz, reducing noise and amplifying those frequencies where the wearer’s hearing is weakest.

But differentiating elements of many common parts of speech occur in higher frequencies. This is the result both of harmonics that ripple out from the main tone, and from non-voiced elements used to utter consonants, which employ the tongue, teeth, cheeks and lips. Take the words “sailing” and “failing”. Cut off the higher frequencies and the two are indistinguishable. The problem is compounded on telephone calls, which do not transmit frequencies below 300Hz or above 3.3kHz, resulting in the need for cues like “S for Sierra, F for Foxtrot”.

People with hearing aids experience this problem constantly, says Brian Moore of the University of Cambridge. Typical hearing loss tends to be most acute at frequencies above 10kHz, which contain quieter sounds but where speech can still include important cues (as well as progressively less important ones extending up to 20kHz). Older hearing aids cut off at no higher than 6kHz, but much modern equipment stretches this range to 8-10kHz. However, a problem remains, Dr Moore says, because bespoke hearing-aid calibrations for individual users, called “fittings”, do not properly boost the gain of these higher frequencies. So Dr Moore and his colleagues have come up with a better method. Their approach can be applied to many existing devices, and is also being built into some newer ones.

A key step in any fitting involves testing an individual’s ability to hear sounds in different frequency bands. Each hearing loss is unique, and for most users a standard profile would be too loud in some ranges and too soft in others. But current tests pay scant attention to the higher frequencies that a device’s tiny speaker can produce, regardless of whether the user needs a boost. Dr Moore’s new test, known as CAM2, which is both a set of specifications and an implementation in software, extends and modifies fittings to include frequencies as high as 10kHz. When the results are used to calibrate a modern hearing aid, the result is greater intelligibility of speech compared with existing alternatives. CAM2 also improves the experience of listening to music, which makes greater use of higher frequencies than speech does. Read more of this post

Fugitive Fund Manager Stuffed Underwear With Cash, Fled; founder and former chief investment officer of Absolute Capital is accused of “cross trading” hundreds of millions of shares of penny stocks between the company’s funds to boost the value of the otherwise illiquid stocks

Fugitive Hedge Fund Manager Homm Arrested at Gallery

Florian Wilhelm Jurgen Homm, the German hedge-fund manager who has been a fugitive for more than five years, was arrested at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence on U.S. fraud charges.

Homm, 53, allegedly caused at least $200 million in losses to investors in hedge funds operated by Absolute Capital Management Holdings Ltd., according to a statement by the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles. Homm was arrested yesterday by Italian authorities following a U.S. request, according to the statement.

Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles filed a criminal complaint March 6, charging Homm with conspiracy and fraud. The founder and former chief investment officer of Absolute Capital is accused of “cross trading” hundreds of millions of shares of penny stocks between the company’s funds to boost the value of the otherwise illiquid stocks.

The trades, through a Los Angeles-based broker-dealer that Homm co-owned, generated fees for Homm and Absolute Capital and also inflated the price of Absolute Capital on the London Stock Exchange, Alternative Investment Market, according to the statement. Homm “dumped” his shares and resigned from Absolute Capital on Sept. 18, 2007, “in the middle of the night,” according to the statement. Read more of this post

Getting the Journalism You Pay For; What happens to in-depth reporting in the age of the blog post? We need to find ways of paying for it.

March 10, 2013, 7:07 p.m. ET

Getting the Journalism You Pay For

What happens to in-depth reporting in the age of the blog post?

By L. GORDON CROVITZ

Journalists naturally worry about the future of journalism as technology upends traditional business models, resulting in huge job losses. A recent kerfuffle involving a veteran foreign correspondent turned freelance journalist illustrates why readers also should care how serious journalism will be funded.

An editor of The Atlantic magazine’s website last week asked Nate Thayer to rewrite a 4,000-word article he had published on another site (about 25 years of U.S.-North Korean diplomacy) into a 1,000-word version for The Atlantic. Mr. Thayer balked and instead posted the email exchange on his blog site under the headline, “A Day in the Life of a Freelance Journalist—2013.”

The Atlantic’s Web editor wrote: “We unfortunately can’t pay you for it, but we do reach 13 million readers a month.” Mr. Thayer responded: “I am a professional journalist who has made my living by writing for 25 years and am not in the habit of giving my services for free to for-profit media outlets so they can make money by using my work and efforts by removing my ability to pay my bills and feed my children.” Mr. Thayer suggested, “I am sure you can do what is the common practice these days and just have one of your interns rewrite the story as it was published elsewhere, but hopefully stating that is how the information was acquired.” Read more of this post

Sportswear brands in China feeling the heat; the days when Chinese sportswear brands could compete against international peers through price advantages have gone. Overseas sportswear brands like Nike drawing up ambitious plans to enter smaller markets

Sportswear brands in China feeling the heat

Overseas sportswear brands like Nike drawing up ambitious plans to enter smaller markets. -China Daily/ANN
Wang Zhuoqiong and Tang Zhihao

Sun, Mar 10, 2013
China Daily/Asia News Network

Nike’s advertisement is seen at a chain store in Yichang, Hubei province, Oct 27, 2012. The US sportswear maker plans to open 40 to 50 factory outlets to clear its high inventory in China.

BEIJING – US sportswear maker Nike Inc’s plans to open 40 to 50 factory outlets to clear its high inventory in China is a sign that the days when Chinese sportswear brands could compete against international peers through price advantages have gone.

At a Nike factory outlet store in downtown Beijing, a men’s sports sweater is selling for 199 yuan (S$40), down 300 yuan from its original price. A pair of sports shoes cost around 300 yuan, a price range found more often among domestic brands. Read more of this post

How Paypal co-founder and billionaire Elon Musk Hires: ‘It Matters Whether Someone Has A Good Heart’

How Elon Musk Hires: ‘It Matters Whether Someone Has A Good Heart’

Alyson Shontell | Mar. 9, 2013, 4:23 PM | 5,562 | 2

Technology entrepreneur and SpaceX founder Elon Musk told the audience at South by Southwest, a large conference in Austin, the biggest mistake he’s ever made.

It has to do with hiring the wrong people.

For a long time, Musk says he hired talented people over kind people, but he tries to balance that now.

“[My biggest mistake is probably] weighing too much on someone’s talent and not someone’s personality,” said Musk. “I think it matters whether someone has a good heart.” Read more of this post

Elron: The pioneer turns 50; Legendary founder Uzia Galil (“I’ve never sold a share”) and CEO Ari Bronshtein look back, but mainly forward

Elron: The pioneer turns 50

Legendary founder Uzia Galil (“I’ve never sold a share”) and CEO Ari Bronshtein look back, but mainly forward.

Elron past and present

Uzia Galil: What we did then is not the right thing to do now; CEO Ari Bronshtein: Elron is an incubator of new technologies.

10 March 13 19:25, Shlomit Lan

Uzia Galil was pleasantly surprised. The man who laid one of the cornerstones of Israeli high tech, Elron Electronic Industries Ltd. (TASE: ELRN), from which Elscint, Elbit Systems Ltd. (Nasdaq: ESLT; TASE: ESLT), and many other companies were spun off, was skeptical as he arrived for the gala meeting with Elron CEO Ari Bronshtein, to mark the company’s 50th anniversary.

“I came here,” said Galil near the end of the interview with “Globes”, “with reservations; the only thing I thought I was about to hear from him (Bronshtein) was how to make money. It’s not that that isn’t important, but I thought to myself, for heaven’s sake, every signal the company sends isn’t of a company that wants to build, but a signal that there is someone who needs money which can be taken from it. Instead, I see that he believes in innovation and in investment in new things.”

From the perspective of his 88 years and his legendary track record, Galil can allow himself to speak with complete frankness, while citing examples of his mistakes rather than his successes. Bronshtein, who is half Galil’s age, is much more calculating in his remarks and gently tries to turn the conversation in the directions he wants, without forgetting to honor Galil and explain how much contemporary Elron retains the vision of its founder.

Elron is not the high-tech powerhouse that it once was, but a mid-sized investment company with a market cap of NIS 570 million, which has put up for sale its most important portfolio company, Given Imaging Ltd. (Nasdaq: GIVN; TASE: GIVN). A sale could greatly help Elron’s parent company, IDB Holding Corp. Ltd. (TASE:IDBH) get through its current crisis.

Galil is not only Elron’s founder, but also a shareholder. “I’ve never sold an Elron share,” he says. “There were times when the share was at $50, and you know where it is now (its current share price is NIS 19.86). These are called sentimental shares. Fortunately, I have another sentimental share, Elbit Systems.” (An Elron spin-off controlled by the Federmann family, and which is doing great business and has a market cap of NIS 6 billion).

Galil not only created a high-tech industry before the term was coined, but before Israel had a real knowledge-intensive industry at all. Elron began as a laboratory in 1957, and it was established as a company in 1962. Moshe Arens introduced Galil to Dan Tolkowsky, a former Air Force commander and subsequently a VP at Discount Investment Corporation (TASE: DISI) (he would go on to become its CEO), which was owned by the Recanati family at the time. Through Michael Doron, Israel’s economic attaché in New York, Galil approached Laurance and David Rockefeller. “Between the Recanatis and Rockefellers, I raised $160,000, which was a lot of money at the time,” he laughs. Read more of this post

Will We Ever See Another Four Great Inventions from China? Examining Chinese innovation from the consumers’ point-of-view

Will We Ever See Another Four Great Inventions from China?

Examining Chinese innovation from the consumers’ point-of-view.

By Brandon Berry Edwards 艾顿, Lilian Tse 谢丽欣, and Vivian Weng 翁维蔬

will-we-ever-see-2

China’s Four Great Inventions—papermaking, the compass, gunpowder, and printing—were innovations from bygone eras. When looking at China’s history over the past 50 years, it’s very difficult to find a single innovation that has made a significant impact on the world. Instead, the “Chinese version of something Western” phenomenon has characterized much of China’s recent product launches. For example, there is Taobao.com, which is essentially the Chinese version of eBay. Whether China can shed its copycat reputation and become a source of global innovation has become a constant source of debate. While the country’s economy has been growing at an astonishing rate, with an increasingly sophisticated domestic market, the country’s highly centralized government and weak intellectual property system have severely hampered China’s standing as a global innovator.

It may be too simplistic to assume that the notion of innovation is understood, standardized, and commonly defined across the world. China is considered the world’s largest developing market, displaying both characteristics of other emerging markets as well as its own wholly unique notions of success. The simple concept of innovation is very nuanced in China and is most deeply understood by listening to Chinese consumers directly and analyzing what has and hasn’t worked in the marketplace thus far.

Chinese consumers now set new standards

While the macro-economic view of China’s innovation is well covered, the point of view of the Chinese consumer is less known. Read more of this post

China’s coffee industry is in a key stage of development after trying to crack the global industry chain for the past two decades

Yunnan coffee industry in key stage of development

Staff Reporter

2013-03-11

China’s coffee industry is in a key stage of development after trying to crack the global industry chain for the past two decades, reports the Guangzhou-based 21st Century Business Herald. One of the landmark developments in China’s coffee industry took place in the southwestern province of Yunnan, which produces 98% of all coffee beans in the country, when coffee chain Starbucks opened its third international Farmer Support Center in the area, the magazine said. Starbucks has also set up a joint venture with a local company to establish bean processing facilities in Yunnan. However, local industry leader Dehong Hogood Coffee Co has been undergoing turmoil as a result of a dispute between the company’s founder and private equity investors. Though it was resolved at the end of 2012, the dispute caused serious damage to the company’s operations. Dehong Hogood’s rapid expansion by boosting the scale of the coffee farms it owns, and efforts to develop its own brand by building the country’s largest instant coffee production line, resulted in a tight funding situation that forced it to bring in outside investors.

Local growers shifting from tea to coffee after the Pu-erh tea price bubble burst in 2008, had also expanded the scale of coffee farms from around 64,000 acres to 165,000 acres, the magazine said. The expansion dragged down local coffee prices last year, which more than halved from peak prices. According to the magazine, because of the focus on instant coffee products, Yunnan has not grown high-quality coffee varieties on a large scale, even though the plateau environment in the subtropical region is ideal for such planting. In addition, tea is still the dominant drink in China, despite the country’s growing consumption of coffee, which has resulted in a large number of local coffee outlets being sold mainly to overseas buyers. Read more of this post

Relive the Financial Crisis Four Years Later through Collapse! — The Commemorative Game of the Financial Crisis

Relive the Financial Crisis Four Years Later

SUNDAY, MARCH 10, 2013 AT 01:15PM

The bull market turned four this weekend, and in honor of the anniversary what better way is there to relive the events of the Financial Crisis than by having a little fun.  One way is through Collapse! — The Commemorative Game of the Financial Crisis.

collapse-1

Collapse! is the commemorative game that takes a lighthearted approach to the very serious events of the financial crisis.  The game uses a Jenga like format and allows players to relive the tension, anxiety, and second-guessing characterized by this crazy period in history.  While global markets currently find themselves in a frenzy over the debt crisis in Europe, Collapse! allows investors to relive and reminisce about our own “bad old days.” Read more of this post

Pacific Asset Management MD Shawn Mesaros: Why stimulus won’t make gardeners work faster

Why stimulus won’t make gardeners work faster

Created: 2013-3-11 0:45:08

Author:Shawn Mesaros, managing director, Pacific Asset Management.

WE would like to consider what US$6 trillion in stimulus has gotten the USA over the past five years.

Same static joblessness of around 14 percent unemployment and a higher stock market despite a record (48 million) Americans on food stamps.

How can this be?

Service sector economies simply do not respond well to stimulus.

Consider the wisdom of lending money to a runner, expecting him to run faster as a result of being more in debt?

Consider the wisdom of lending money to a shoe shine boy expecting him to personally shine more pairs of shoes?

Consider the wisdom of lending money to a group of gardeners expecting them to clip rose bushes faster as a result of their being further indebted?

Rubbish? Absolutely rubbish.  Read more of this post

Preparing for Day When Rates Rise; “We don’t subscribe to the view that once the fire starts, we’ll be able to outrun everybody through the door,”

March 10, 2013, 5:25 p.m. ET

Preparing for Day When Rates Rise

By MATT WIRZ

“Don’t fight the Fed” has been a market mantra for the past four years. But some bond investors are starting to lace on their gloves.

Figuring that the Federal Reserve won’t be able to keep a lid on interest rates forever, large money managers such as BlackRock Inc., BLK -0.08% TCW Group Inc. and Pacific Investment Management Co. are getting ready for the day when rates take their first turn higher.

It isn’t coming anytime soon, these investors say. But when it does, they worry, the ascent will be swift and steep.

Rather than trying to guess exactly when that moment will happen, they are pre-emptively making investments that will pay off when it does. The moves include buying debt with floating interest rates that rise as overall rates climb, as well as interest-rate swaps and inflation-protected bonds that will also increase in value.

Other investors are hedging against potential bond losses by making bearish bets on U.S. Treasury bonds through derivatives that gain when rates rise. As rates rise, prices of bonds fall. Because rates are so low now, many investors are worried that even a small rise could be particularly painful for anyone holding Treasurys.

“We don’t subscribe to the view that once the fire starts, we’ll be able to outrun everybody through the door,” said Stephen Kane, managing director for U.S. fixed income at TCW in Los Angeles. “Rates could be up 50 basis points before your traders can get all the sell orders through.” Read more of this post

Jay Bowen’s stock picking has made the Tampa Firefighters and Police Officers Pension Fund one of the best-performing public pensions in the U.S

March 10, 2013, 6:20 p.m. ET

Oracle of Tampa Is a Rare Breed

By MICHAEL CORKERY

Jay Bowen’s stock picking has made the Tampa Firefighters and Police Officers Pension Fund one of the best-performing public pensions in the U.S. Some retired cops and firefighters attend pension board meetings to catch a glimpse of the money manager they consider their own Warren Buffett.

But in the hypercompetitive industry of pension fund investing, Mr. Bowen is an anomaly. The 51-year-old is the fund’s lone money manager, an unusual arrangement for a retirement system with $1.6 billion in assets.

“There is really nothing like this arrangement in the country,” says Mr. Bowen of the Tampa, Fla., fund, which is by far his largest client.

At a time when pensions are piling into riskier investments such as private equity and hedge funds that tend to carry high management fees, Mr. Bowen and his staff of four senior investment professionals at Bowen Hanes & Co. are a throwback to a bygone era. The firm invests almost entirely in stocks and bonds and doesn’t short stocks or use options or futures. Read more of this post

How Big Data Is Changing the Whole Equation for Business; Big Data, Big Blunders

Updated March 8, 2013, 4:22 p.m. ET

How Big Data Is Changing the Whole Equation for Business

By STEVEN ROSENBUSH AND MICHAEL TOTTY

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There’s a ton of information out there. And businesses are figuring out how to put it to work.

The experts call this state of affairs big data. The definition is squishy, but it usually boils down to this: Companies have access to vastly more information than they used to, it comes from many more different sources than before, and they can get it almost as soon as it’s generated.

Big data often gets linked to companies that already deal in information, like GoogleGOOG -0.13% Facebook FB -2.16%and Amazon. But businesses in a slew of industries are putting it front and center in more and more parts of their operations. They’re gathering huge amounts of information, often meshing traditional measures like sales with things like comments on social-media sites and location information from mobile devices. And they’re scrutinizing it to figure out how to improve their products, cut costs and keep customers coming back.

Shippers are using sensors on trucks to find ways to speed up deliveries. Manufacturers can trawl through thousands of forum posts to figure out if customers will like a new feature on their product. Hiring managers study how candidates answer questions to see if they’d be a good match.

Lots of obstacles remain. Some are technical, but business as usual also can stand in the way. In most companies, decisions are still based on HIPPO—the highest paid person’s opinion—and persuading an executive that data trumps intuition can be a hard sell. Read more of this post

Bamboo Helps Bali Village Stay in Step With Nature; “Bamboo shoots are flexible and strong, and great for low-income housing in earthquake-prone areas,”

Bamboo Helps Bali Village Stay in Step With Nature
Anita Surewicz | March 09, 2013

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\’Bamboo shoots are flexible and strong, and great for low-income housing in earthquake-prone areas,\’ says Green Village creative director Elora Hardy. (Photo courtesy of Green Village)

Those looking for a luxury abode that couples cutting-edge style and environmental sensibility should look no further than the Green Village, located 25 minutes outside the arts community of Ubud. Set on two hectares of land along the Agung river, the striking bamboo villas, each one unique, are designed to blend into the flow of the surrounding landscape. While some of the homes have been constructed specifically for families who have children at the nearby eco-friendly Green School, other residents are attracted to Green Village and see it as a one-of-a-kind community that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. “We started construction of the first house in May 2010 and have since built seven houses, with the eight being constructed across the river,” says Elora Hardy, creative director at Ibuku, the team behind the Green Village and Green School. “All are privately owned, either as residences or holiday homes, and some are available for rent.” The houses are certainly striking: the majority of them have multiple, open-plan living areas, and air-conditioned rooms with woven walls.

Yet their most characteristic feature is that they are made from more than 90 percent bamboo.

“We try to use bamboo as much as possible, for both construction and interior decoration because it is strong, flexible and beautiful,” says the Bali-raised Hardy, who traveled back to the island from New York to work on the project.

With its three-year growth cycle and carbon sequestration capacity, bamboo might just be the most environmentally friendly building material currently available.

“Bamboo grows plentifully in clumps, which grow new shoots each year. If not harvested, the bamboo will eventually disintegrate, making room for a new generation,” Hardy says, adding that the bamboo used for the construction of the Green Village comes from individual farmers in Bali and Java.

Hardy is committed to opening people’s minds to the viability of bamboo as a construction material, and in particular its application possibilities in a tropical climate.

“Bamboo shoots are flexible and strong, and great for low-income housing in earthquake-prone areas,” she says.  Read more of this post

When your company’s incentive system backfires; Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital is able to produce world-class outcomes at a fraction of the cost of other hospitals. There are no incentives based on volume or revenue for its surgeons and other employees. Purpose is the driver while profits are the enabler

When your company’s incentive system backfires

How many times have you seen an incentive system produce the exact opposite of the desired behaviour? Why does this happen? And why can’t organisations see, let alone fix, these problems?

BY VIJAY GOVINDARAJAN –

4 HOURS 44 MIN AGO

How many times have you seen an incentive system produce the exact opposite of the desired behaviour? Why does this happen? And why can’t organisations see, let alone fix, these problems?

Here’s one example of how incentive systems can backfire. Srikanth went to visit a client in an Asian city. The client suggested that Srikanth catch a bus to his factory. He went to the bus stop and waited. Several buses whizzed by without stopping, even though they all had plenty of empty seats. After half a dozen buses failed to stop. Srikanth finally caught a cab.

Upon arriving late at the factory, he apologised to the client and told him the cause for his delay. The client laughed and said, “The driver’s bonus depends on whether or not he reaches his destination on time. So when drivers find themselves running behind schedule during peak hours, they do not bother picking up passengers.”

This was the height of insanity — an incentive system that succeeded only in defeating its purpose.

During rush hour, the exact time when more passengers needed to be picked up, it was better for the driver to leave them on the curb. Frustrated citizens, lost revenue and increased costs, all thanks to a misaligned incentive system. Furthermore, everyone seemed to be aware of the problem except the organisation that ran the buses. Or, equally baffling, the company knew about the issue but chose to ignore it. Read more of this post

15 Year Old Kid Develops Foolproof Test for Pancreatic, Ovarian and Lung Cancer; Test Costs 3 Cents, Takes 5 Minutes

Saturday, March 09, 2013 11:14 AM

15 Year Old Kid Develops Foolproof Test for Pancreatic, Ovarian and Lung Cancer; Test Costs 3 Cents, Takes 5 Minutes

Here’s an inspiring story for the weekend. Jack Andraka, a fifteen year old freshman in high school, developed a paper sensor that could detect pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancer in five minutes for as little as 3 cents. He conducted his research at John Hopkins University.
Jack got the idea after a friend died of pancreatic cancer. His initial research started on Wikepedia, then after he had an idea, Jack approached 200 research labs. 199 labs turned him down. The 200th said “maybe”.

China: Beyond The Miracle

China: Beyond The Miracle

03/10/2013 20:04 -0400

by Larry Kantor, Head of Research, Barclays,

China has become a key locomotive for global growth, in many ways taking over the role traditionally played by the United States in business cycles. It is now the world’s second largest economy, and has grown much faster than any other major economy over the past couple of decades.China’s role as a key driver of global growth brings with it increased scrutiny by investors and economists: a significant slowdown in China – never mind a collapse – would have significant implications for economies and financial markets around the world. This was most recently seen in 2012, when slower economic growth – fostered in large part by policy tightening to alleviate inflation pressures and structural imbalances – generated fears of a “hard landing” that served as a headwind to financial market performance for much of last year.

The extremely rapid growth in China – as welcome as it has been during an otherwise disappointing recovery from the Great Recession – represents the first stage of development in the evolution of the economy from closed to open, from fully controlled to market, and from agrarian to industrial. This initial stage is already giving way to a new phase of slower, more sustainable growth, with different drivers. It is critical for the global economy and financial markets that China’s transition is managed in a way that allows the necessary adjustments to happen gradually and without de-stabilizing effects.

The Beyond the Miracle series – written by Barclays Yiping Huang, Jian Chang and Steven Lingxiu Yang and launched in September 2011 – carefully analyzes the transition that China is undergoing from various perspectives, and also discusses the economic and financial market implications. It argues that China will successfully make the transition from ‘economic miracle’ to normal development in the next decade (Chapter 1). But there is an important caveat: China must embark on a multi-pronged set of reforms if the country is to move to a slower, more sustainable growth rate that deemphasizes trade, construction and investment and instead places a greater weight on consumer spending as a source of growth.

Each chapter provides an in-depth analysis of the task at hand – from financial reform (Chapter 2), to housing reform (Chapter 3), to the pivotal role of consumption in rebalancing China’s economy (Chapter 4). For China to avoid becoming a source of inflation in the future, its monetary policy-making, too, will need to be reformed (Chapter 5). China’s ageing population will also mean an end to its surplus of cheap labor, heralding a new era of rapidly rising wages (Chapter 6). In turn, this could put additional pressure on the country’s fiscal outlook, as it seeks to meet growing pension liabilities (Chapter 8).

These challenges notwithstanding, the Beyond the Miracle series is optimistic on the outlook for China. It argues that the Chinese economy is in the middle of a major and broad-based structural transformation that will lead the country to a more sustainable growth potential of 6-8%, from a double-digit pace previously. As China continues to grow and upgrade, its outward direct investment should rise quickly (Chapter 7). And by narrowing the technological gap with the advanced economies, China should be able to avoid the “middle income trap” and graduate to the global high-income group within the next decade (Chapter 9).

China’s Beyond the Miracle series is ambitious, both in scope and depth. Given the critical role now played by China in the world economy and financial markets, I highly recommend it as essential reading for investors, as well as anyone interested in current and future economic and market trends. Everything you wanted (and need) to know about China but were afraid to ask…

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