SAP to Become European Corporation to Speed Up Decisions; SAP will ask shareholders to approve a change of its legal status from an Aktiengesellschaft (AG) to a Societas Europaea, or SE

SAP to Become European Corporation to Speed Up Decisions

By Cornelius Rahn  Mar 22, 2013

SAP AG (SAP), the German business- management software maker, plans to turn itself into a European corporation to enable faster decision-making as it focuses on grabbing database customers from Oracle Corp. (ORCL)

SAP will ask shareholders to approve a change of its legal status from an Aktiengesellschaft to a Societas Europaea, or SE, at next year’s annual meeting, it said yesterday. One aim is to speed up decisions on the supervisory board, said a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private.

The SE structure, already adopted by companies including BASF SE (BAS)Allianz SE (ALV) and Puma SE (PUM), was created by the European Commission to simplify regulatory and legal requirements for companies with subsidiaries in more than one European country. Previously, multinationals had to follow each of the EU members’ own legal system where they had a subsidiary. Read more of this post

AustralianSuper begins testing its new internal investment-management systems this month to manage its first money in house from zero to $40 billion in 4 years

Inhouse target: zero to $40 billion in 4 years

Posted By SIMON HOYLE On 22/03/2013 @ 3:16 pm In INVESTOR PROFILE

If everything continues on schedule, the $60-billion AustralianSuper will begin testing its new internal investment-management systems this month, with a view to managing its first money in house in the third quarter of 2013.

Within four years the fund expects to manage as much as $40 billion in house, funded primarily from cash flow, and to have built an investment management capability the equal of any in the world. Read more of this post

Cherry trees reach full bloom in Tokyo; The spectacle marks the second earliest blossoming in the capital on record; Japanese culture prizes the perfect but delicate blossom, whose transience – they only last a week – is a reminder of the fragility of life.

Cherry trees reach full bloom in Tokyo

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The spectacle marks the second earliest blossoming in the capital on record. -AFP 

Fri, Mar 22, 2013
AFP

TOKYO – Tokyo’s cherry trees were in stunning full bloom on Friday, Japan’s weather agency said, marking the second earliest blossoming in the capital on record. Read more of this post

How Franklin Roosevelt Secretly Ended the Gold Standard

How Franklin Roosevelt Secretly Ended the Gold Standard

On March 4, 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt became president for the first time, promising an “adequate but sound” currency. The next day, a Sunday, he closed the nation’s banks. “We are now off the gold standard,” he privately declared to a group of advisers. Goldbugs in the president’s circle immediately began prophesying doom. One of his aides, Lewis Douglas, proclaimed “the end of Western civilization.”

How Roosevelt took this fateful step has been the subject of debate among historians, many of whom believe that the president flailed his way through his first weeks in office, and only gradually came to the decision to take the country off gold that April. But the evidence suggests that Roosevelt intended to do so from Day One for very specific reasons, although he delayed letting the rest of the country in on his plans.

Minutes after FDR had made his unsettling private disclosure, a secretary told him that reporters were clamoring to know if the U.S. had left the gold standard. “Tell them to ask a banker,” Roosevelt said. He clearly did not yet wish to say the truth publicly. First, he needed depositors to return the gold they had withdrawn in panic in the weeks preceding his inauguration. Read more of this post

China’s Poison Air Is Becoming Its Leading Export

China’s Poison Air Is Becoming Its Leading Export

Sitting on a Tokyo runway last week, the captain announced that our flight would be delayed for reasons few of us could believe: sandstorms.

Chuckles filled the aircraft. The woman next to me quipped: “What, are we in Egypt?” As we all craned our necks to look out the windows, it really did feel as if we were taxiing in Cairo or Marrakesh, not the capital of a Group of Seven nation.

The sand is compliments of China’s boom. Thanks to deforestation and overgrazing, more and more of the Gobi Desert’s grit, along with industrial pollution, is being carried by prevailing winds to Japan. In recent weeks, people in Japan have been Googling “PM2.5,” or fine airborne particulates that cause disease and premature death in high concentrations. They also are loading up on air purifiers as China’s environmental crisis becomes Japan’s.

The geopolitics of pollution has the potential to turn toxic. If you thought Asia’s territorial disputes were a barrier to peace and cooperation, just wait until blackened skies dominate summit meetings. And they will, as nationalists in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan use pollution as a rallying point to gin up anti-China sentiment; business leaders in Hong Kong express anger about having trouble recruiting foreign talent; China lashes out at independent reports on health risks; and the world points fingers at the Communist Party as climate change accelerates. Read more of this post

IBM Works for Free to Build Relationships With African Cities; “We’re not just walking in and saying, ‘Throw us our money’”

IBM Works for Free to Build Relationships With African Cities

International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), which makes most of its money from high-end technology contracts, is betting that some of its growth will come from customers who don’t pay anything — yet.

The company has developed an application to track the water system in Tshwane, South Africa, where more than half the population lives in slums that often aren’t connected to plumbing. IBM is letting the community use the app for free, after it sent a team of executives to evaluate the system as part of a corporate service project in October.

The benefit to IBM is it can use the city as a testing ground for the application, while gaining favor with the local government. It also may catch the attention of other cities with similar problems. Relationships are key to building the company’s business in Africa, where it now has offices in more than 20 countries, compared with just four in 2006.

“We’re not just walking in and saying, ‘Throw us our money,’” said Perry Hartswick, an architect of IBM’s Smarter Planet program, which tries to fix civic problems with tracking technology. “We’re walking in to say we’re here to be a part of Africa. That’s a very important part of the way we approach any new geography.” Read more of this post

Russian Gynecologist Becomes Billionaire in Cyprus Entity

Russian Gynecologist Becomes Billionaire in Cyprus Entity

Mark Kurtser, a 59-year-old Russian gynecologist, has become a billionaire after shares of his MD Medical Group Investment Plc, Russia’s largest private provider of women’s and children’s health care, surged 42 percent in five months.

Kurtser, MD Medical’s chairman, controls 68 percent of the operation through Cyprus-based investment entity MD Medical Holding. The company sold shares in a London initial public offering in October, raising $154 million for expansion. The billionaire collected another $135 million from the IPO.

“I did not imagine it when I was starting this business,” Kurtser, who is worth $1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, said in a telephone interview. “I am a doctor first.”

Kurtser founded the company as a private Moscow hospital in 2006. Today, MD Medical runs 13 medical centers in Russia and Ukraine, offering childbirth, gynecological and in vitro fertilization services. It generated 3.5 billion rubles ($117 million) in revenue in the 12 months ended June 30, 2012, up 48.6 percent in a year. The company’s net income doubled to 1.2 billion rubles in three years. Read more of this post

The Effect of CEO and CFO Resignations on Going Concern Opinions

The Effect of CEO and CFO Resignations on Going Concern Opinions

Joseph Beams University of New Orleans

Yun-Chia Yan University of New Orleans – Department of Accounting

February 5, 2013

Abstract: 
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the resignation of a top executive increases a firm’s likelihood of failure. When auditors perceive an increased likelihood of failure, a going concern modified audit opinion is issued. This study tests the relationship between top management resignations and the issuance of going concern audit opinions. Firms in which a CEO or CFO resigned were more likely to receive a going concern audit opinion than firms in which the CEO or CFO did not resign. The study uses financially distressed firms from 2008-2010 and a logistic regression model to test the relationship. The findings show a positive relationship between CFO resignations and firms receiving a going concern audit opinion. However, no significant relationship is found between CEO resignations and receiving a going concern audit opinion. Firm size, cash flow from operations, stock return, and investments also had a significant relationship with going concern opinions.

US Begins Regulating BitCoin, Will Apply “Money Laundering” Rules To Virtual Transactions

US Begins Regulating BitCoin, Will Apply “Money Laundering” Rules To Virtual Transactions

Tyler Durden on 03/21/2013 21:22 -0400

Last November, in an act of sheer monetary desperation, the ECB issued an exhaustive, and quite ridiculous, pamphlet titled “Virtual Currency Schemes” in which it mocked and warned about the “ponziness” of such electronic currencies as BitCoin. Why a central bank would stoop so “low” to even acknowledge what no “self-respecting” (sic) PhD-clad economist would even discuss, drunk and slurring, at cocktail parties, remains a mystery to this day. However, that it did so over fears the official artificial currency of the insolvent continent, the EUR, may be becoming even more “ponzi” than the BitCoins the ECB was warning about, was clear to everyone involved who saw right through the cheap propaganda attempt. Feel free to ask any Cypriot if they would now rather have their money in locked up Euros, or in “ponzi” yet freely transferable, unregulated BitCoins.

For the answer, we present the chart showing the price of BitCoin in EUR terms since the issuance of the ECB’s paper:

BitCoin Nov Now_0 Read more of this post

Price wars and the destruction of China’s e-consumer confidence

Price wars and the destruction of China’s e-consumer confidence

Staff Reporter 2013-03-22

The constant price-cutting competition between China’s online shopping sites has been the source behind a growing number of consumer complaints, the Chinese-language Economic Information Daily reports.

Some 93,600 complaints regarding online commerce were filed in 2012, with most of them being made against leading shopping sites Taobao, TMall and Dangdang. The number of complaints had not gone down significantly from 2011, according to a report recently published by the China e-Business Research Center. Major players making the list of 10 most complained-about sites in 2012 also include Amazon China, Gome, Tencent’s QQ online shopping service and Jingdong 360Buy, according to other consumer data. Over half of these complaints — 55.40% — involved online shopping, while 21.3% concerned transactions made with group-buying sites, which offer daily deals with heavy discounts. The center noted in its report that at least 10 large-scale price wars occurred in 2012 and the number of complaints often peaked during the half-month period following these cutthroat sales.

Such price wars were blindly aimed at grabbing market share, experts said, often leading to customer disputes when websites fail to stock sufficient merchandise and cancel orders placed by shoppers. The websites can cancel orders under their terms of use, which often stipulate that a contract is not established prior to confirmation of the sale transaction. Read more of this post

Migrants living in containers in Shanghai urged to leave; landlord charges a rent of 500 yuan ($80) per month for each container

Migrants living in containers in Shanghai urged to leave

2013-03-22 00:02:41 GMT2013-03-22 08:02:41(Beijing Time)  SINA.com

U47P5029T2D574094F32DT20130322080241U47P5029T2D574094F36DT20130322080241 Read more of this post

Australia is expensive even for a billionaire. Michael Hintze says coming home from London is not as cheap as it used to be.

Even billionaires get the currency blues

PUBLISHED: 20 HOURS 21 MINUTES AGO | UPDATE: 6 HOURS 56 MINUTES AGO

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“The days when there was an arbitrage in saying, ‘Don’t worry I’ll buy you a meal when I come to Australia and you buy me one when you come to London.’ It’s gone the other way around,” says billionaire Michael Hintze.  Photo: Angus Mordant

JONATHAN SHAPIRO, PETER WELLS AND PHILIP BAKER

Australia is expensive even for a billionaire. Michael Hintze, Australia’s wealthiest and most successful financial markets export with an estimated personal fortune of $US1.6 billion, says coming home from his hedge fund’s London base is not as cheap as it used to be.

“The days when there was an arbitrage in saying, ‘Don’t worry I’ll buy you a meal when I come to Australia and you buy me one when you come to London.’ It’s gone the other way around,” says Hintze, the founder of the $US11.5 billion hedge fund CQS and a well known donor to the UK’s Conservative Party.

With the British pound at a 28-year low against the Australian dollar, British tourists and returning hedge fund titans are clearly feeling the pinch. “The Australian dollar certainly feels fully valued,” says Hintze, who owns farmland in Australia. “I wish the dollar were lower as it would be easier in farming.” Read more of this post

World With More Phones Than Toilets Shows Water Challenge

World With More Phones Than Toilets Shows Water Challenge

There are more mobile phones on Earth than clean toilets, one of the most vexing challenges facing governments on the 20th anniversary of the United Nations’ World Water Day.

Solving that developmental dilemma has so far confounded leaders, some of whom will meet today in The Hague to discuss water cooperation. There are 6 billion mobile phones, according to the International Telecommunication Union, while 1.2 billion of the planet’s 7 billion people lack clean drinking water and 2.4 billion aren’t connected to wastewater systems. Read more of this post

Hong Kong Homes Face 20% Price Drop as Banks Raise Rates; Midland, the city’s biggest publicly traded realtor, predicted as many as a third of real estate agent branches in Hong Kong will close. Cheung Kong Says Hong Kong Property to Slow on Mortgage Costs

Hong Kong Homes Face 20% Price Drop as Banks Raise Rates

By Stephanie Tong and Kelvin Wong  Mar 22, 2013

Hong Kong officials, who have struggled in vain for three years to slow the growth in home prices, are about to get their wish as the city’s biggest banks raise mortgage rates.

Prices could fall as much as 20 percent over the next two years, according to Deutsche Bank AG, after lenders including HSBC Holdings Plc, Hong Kong’s biggest by assets, and Standard Chartered Plc raise their home loan rates by 25 basis points in response to tighter risk rules.

Hong Kong dollar’s peg to the U.S. currency has kept interest rates in the city at near record lows, underpinning a more than 110 percent gain in home prices since the beginning of 2009 to the most expensive among major global cities. Low mortgage costs, coupled with a property buying spree driven by Chinese from the mainland, have seen home prices shrug off repeated attempts by the government since 2010 to stymie escalating housing values amid an outcry over affordability.

“You have this pile of measures plus higher interest rates; this will be a big challenge for the market,” said Buggle Lau, chief analyst at Midland Holdings Ltd. (1200), the city’s biggest publicly traded realtor, which predicted as many as a third of real estate agent branches in Hong Kong will close. Read more of this post

Exorbitant property prices reported in Beijing university district at a record 100,000 yuan (US$16,000) per square metre; neighbourhood labeled as “the centre of the universe”.

Exorbitant property prices reported in Beijing university district

Thursday, 21 March, 2013, 5:24pm

Ernest Kao ernest.kao@scmp.com

Property prices in Beijing’s secondary market have come under scrutiny once again after a tiny apartment in a university district recently listed a sell price of 3.5 million yuan (HK$4.4 million) – close to the very high levels in Hong Kong.

The price of the 37-square-metre (400 sq ft), one-bedroom flat located in the city’s northwest Wudaokou neighbourhood, hit a record 100,000 yuan per square metre, Xinhua reported [1] on Wednesday. Read more of this post

First Financial News looks at the the “empty city” that is Tianjin’s Xiang Luo Wan Central Business District in Binhai New Area 房企主动停工?天津响螺湾暂成“空城”

房企主动停工?天津响螺湾暂成“空城”

作者 蔡胤

来源 第一财经日报

时间 : 2013-03-22 01:39

9600259cfbe22a8938a303ddb12d23bfimages (2)

这一区域长期来看还是能发展起来的,只是浦东当时的发展用了多久,这里也需要多久,关键看当地政府的决心。 Read more of this post

Hebei “trash mountain” that threatens part of Beijing’s water supply 河北兴隆20年堆出2.3万米平垃圾山 威胁北京水源

河北兴隆20年堆出2.3万米平垃圾山 威胁北京水源(图)

2013年03月22日 02:29
来源:新京报

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2月21日,河北兴隆县青松岭上的垃圾山,虽然被黄土掩埋,仍可见大片生活垃圾。新京报记者尹亚飞摄 Read more of this post

L’Oreal Eats Into P&G’s China Lead With Mushroom Lotions

L’Oreal Eats Into P&G’s China Lead With Mushroom Lotions

At L’Oreal SA (OR) (OR)’s Shanghai research center, more than 260 scientists working with skin cells and test tubes tailor products from lipsticks to shampoos for Chinese shoppers.

This year’s offerings: a cosmetic balm for Chinese men looking to mask face blemishes, and skin serums made from white fungus, ginseng, and cordyceps — a type of parasitic mushroom widely used as a herbal remedy.

The world’s largest cosmetics maker is launching the new products to whittle away at Procter & Gamble Co (PG).’s lead in China’s market for beauty and personal care products, estimated to reach $34 billion this year by Euromonitor. To gain an edge over its Cincinatti competitor, L’Oreal is counting on lotions using traditional medical ingredients and offerings targeted at Chinese men, among the fastest growing sections of the market.

The strategy will help the Paris-based firm boost China sales more than 10 percent in 2013 from 12.05 billion yuan ($1.9 billion) last year, China Chief Executive Officer Alexis Perakis-Valat, predicted in an interview. The new products will be unveiled later this year.

“L’Oreal has become a formidable competitor for Procter & Gamble (PG) in skin care,” Oru Mohiuddin, a senior analyst in London at researcher Euromonitor International, said in an e-mail. “Not just has L’Oreal approached China from various angles, including pricing and retail coverage, it also strived to make the brands more customized and effective.” Read more of this post

What You Need To Learn From Groupon’s Unprofitable Business Model

What You Need To Learn From Groupon’s Unprofitable Business Model

George RobertsOpenView Venture Partners | Mar. 21, 2013, 5:36 PM | 1,587 | 4

A little more than two years ago, Groupon was the apple of the startup community’s eye. It had turned down a $6 billion acquisition offer from Google and was headed for a remarkable IPO. Today, no one really knows what Groupon’s future holds. But it doesn’t look good.

Since its IPO in November of 2011 (the largest by a U.S. Internet company since Google raised $1.7 billion in 2004), the company’s stock has plummeted. After debuting at $20, Groupon’s stock can now be had for less than $6 a share. Adding insult to injury, Groupon’s market cap is now almost $2.5 billion less than Google’s original offer.

Now, to be fair, Groupon’s current stock price of around $5.38 is more than double what it was in November when it hit rock bottom. But I’m guessing that nice gain doesn’t quite make up for the billions that investors have watched fly out the window in the last year.

Where Did Groupon Go So Wrong?

When it comes to entrepreneur leadership lessons (which is the theme of this series of posts), the company’s management team — including its much-maligned former CEO, Andrew Mason — forgot that building a sustainable business is a marathon, not a sprint.

Ultimately, that led to a series of bad decisions, many of which Fast Company’s Noah Fleming does a great job of highlighting in a post from last October. But the business’s most damning mistake was its disproportionate focus on new customer acquisition, often at the expense of customer retention.

Groupon was obsessed with growing as fast and as big as it possibly could, which resulted in high churn and, as Slate’s Farhad Manjoo points out, a business model that is just about anything but profitable. Read more of this post

AD OF THE DAY: What If Men Had Women’s Hair?

AD OF THE DAY: What If Men Had Women’s Hair?

Dominic Green | Mar. 21, 2013, 8:51 PM | 3,495 | 4

A new Dove commercial from Brazil investigates the question of what it would be like if men had hair like that seen in commercials for shampoo. It spends a lot of time waving seductively in the breeze, it turns out, even if you’re just sitting in the office. Upon realizing his hair has become long, shiny, and altogether too beautiful, the male protagonist sprints home to fix the problem with Dove Men + Care.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Chinese Statistics; Who’s cooking Beijing’s books? Ingrained belief that boosting morale through exaggerated claims was more important than reporting reality

Lies, Damned Lies, and Chinese Statistics

Who’s cooking Beijing’s books?

BY TOM ORLIK | MARCH 20, 2013

On Wednesday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew met with China’s Premier Li Keqiang, a crucial first meeting between new representatives of the world’s two biggest economic powers. Lew’s interlocutor sits at the top of the world’s second-largest economy — a country whose GDP reachedapproximately $8.3 trillion in 2012. But how accurate are the statistics that illuminate China’s growth? Even Li himself has said (as quoted in a U.S. State Department cable published by WikiLeaks) that China’s GDP figures are “man-made” and therefore unreliable. In this excerpt from his book, Understanding China’s Economic IndicatorsWall Street Journal China reporter Tom Orlik explains how to get to grips with China’s data. Read more of this post

What Should China Do with 18 Mln Pigs Carcasses Every Year?

03.21.2013 19:40

Closer Look: What Should China Do with 18 Mln Pigs Carcasses Every Year?

The appearance of thousands of carcasses in a Shanghai river shows how much work the government has to do on a major public health issue

By staff reporter Gong Jing

More than 10,000 dead pigs have been pulled out of a Shanghai river that provides drinking water to 23 million people over two weeks, raising health concerns. Even worse, there have been reports that many dead pigs were processed and sent to people’s dining tables.

Behind all of this is the issue of disposing of pigs that dies from disease, an area that regulators have long neglected.

Yu Kangzhen, an expert from the Ministry of Agriculture, said that an investigation has not found an epidemic at farms in Jiaxing, a city in Zhejiang Province believed to be the source of the animals found in Shanghai’s Huangpu River.

Information from other sources backs Yu. There has been no significant rise in pig deaths in Jiaxing this year. As a major pig farming city, Jiaxing raised about 4 million of the animals every year. If a normal death rate from disease is used, about 3 percent, this means the city has to handle about 120,000 dead pigs per year.

China raises more pigs than any other country in the world. Rough statistics show that it had nearly 700 million pigs in 2012. That means, about 18 million pigs died of disease every year.

How does China handle such a large number? The ministry says pigs that die from disease are usually buried or burned. But in reality, many farmers illegally sell them or simply dump the carcasses. Read more of this post

As Pollution Worsens in China, Solutions Succumb to Infighting

March 21, 2013

As Pollution Worsens in China, Solutions Succumb to Infighting

By EDWARD WONG

Pollution-articleLarge

Smog veiled the China Central Television Building in Beijing last week. Air pollution hit record levels in north China last month.

BEIJING — China’s state leadership transition took place this month against an ominous backdrop. More than 13,000 dead pigs were found floating in a river that provides drinking water to Shanghai. A haze akin to volcanic fumes cloaked the capital, causing convulsive coughing and obscuring the portrait ofMao Zedong on the gate to the Forbidden City.

So severe are China’s environmental woes, especially the noxious air, that top government officials have been forced to openly acknowledge them. Fu Ying, the spokeswoman for the National People’s Congress, said she checked for smog every morning after opening her curtains and kept at home face masks for her daughter and herself. Li Keqiang, the new prime minister, said the air pollution had made him “quite upset” and vowed to “show even greater resolve and make more vigorous efforts” to clean it up.

What the leaders neglect to say is that infighting within the government bureaucracy is one of the biggest obstacles to enacting stronger environmental policies. Even as some officials push for tighter restrictions on pollutants, state-owned enterprises — especially China’s oil and power companies — have been putting profits ahead of health in working to outflank new rules, according to government data and interviews with people involved in policy negotiations. Read more of this post

LME copper inventories at 10-year high; Level is the highest since China’s industrialisation was in its infancy

March 21, 2013 8:02 pm

LME copper inventories at 10-year high

By Jack Farchy in London

Copper inventories on the London Metal Exchange have risen to their highest level since 2003, in the latest sign of the copper market’s shift into oversupply.

LME copper stocks have risen 165 per cent since October, amid an increase global mine production and slower purchases from China, which has seen a rapid build-up of copper stocks in recent years.

On Thursday stocks on the LME rose 6,625 tonnes to 557,450 – the highest since October 2003, when the commodities supercycle driven by China’s industrialisation was still in its infancy.

Although LME stocks only represent one chunk of global inventories, they are closely watched by traders and analysts as an indication of the amount of surplus metal that is readily available to deliver into the market. Read more of this post

Offshore Marine Boom? Oil rig engineering specialist Lamprell posts $110m loss on cost overruns

March 21, 2013 4:31 pm

Lamprell posts $110m loss on cost overruns

By Michael Kavanagh

Picture2Picture1

Lamprell, the specialist engineering group, set out plans for a return to break-even on trading this year after delivering a $110m loss prompted by cost overruns and penalties on key projects.

The Dubai-based contractor, which specialises in oil and gas rig construction and repair and the building of vessels used to install wind turbines, was on Monday fined £2.4m by the Financial Services Authority for failing to update the market properly on its worsening financial position in early 2012. Read more of this post

A Strange Computer Promises Great Speed

March 21, 2013

A Strange Computer Promises Great Speed

By QUENTIN HARDY

QUANTUM-articleLarge-v2

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Our digital age is all about bits, those precise ones and zeros that are the stuff of modern computer code.

But a powerful new type of computer that is about to be commercially deployed by a major American military contractor is taking computing into the strange, subatomic realm of quantum mechanics. In that infinitesimal neighborhood, common sense logic no longer seems to apply. A one can be a one, or it can be a one and a zero and everything in between — all at the same time.

It sounds preposterous, particularly to those familiar with the yes/no world of conventional computing. But academic researchers and scientists at companies like Microsoft, I.B.M. and Hewlett-Packard have been working to develop quantum computers.

Now, Lockheed Martin — which bought an early version of such a computer from the Canadian company D-Wave Systems two years ago — is confident enough in the technology to upgrade it to commercial scale, becoming the first company to use quantum computing as part of its business. Read more of this post

China’s rail reform skirts big question: Who pays? China’s massive high-speed rail expansion is likely to cost over $100 billion a year. The funding for it has been pure folly.

China’s rail reform skirts big question: Who pays?

March 21, 2013: 12:36 PM ET

China’s massive high-speed rail expansion is likely to cost over $100 billion a year. The funding for it has been pure folly.

By John Foley, Reuters Breakingviews

FORTUNE — China’s massive rail expansion is good for the economy. Burying it under $420 billion of debt isn’t. The long awaited dismantling of China’s sprawling Ministry of Railways and creation of a new rail company, announced on March 10, is a good moment to change track.

A grand plan to double track length to 120,000 kilometres between 2010 and 2015 is likely to cost over $100 billion a year. It’s worth it. As well as comfort, prestige and low emissions, rail is the ticket to better urbanization. A recent World Bank report calculated that the benefits to a city of better connectivity from high-speed rail could be almost as large as those from saving passengers time and operating costs.

The funding, though, has been pure folly. Projects depend on borrowing from Chinese state banks and issuing bonds — which in turn are mostly bought by the banks. The resulting debt, on a notional 6% interest rate, would require $25 billion a year of interest payments. Passengers aren’t rich enough to cover that cost. Read more of this post

Formula 1 racing driver Jenson Button has urged young people to study science, technology, engineering and maths in school, arguing that the drama and glamour of racing wouldn’t exist without the world’s cleverest scientists and engineers.

Jenson Button: Young people should stick with science and maths

Formula 1 racing driver Jenson Button has urged young people to study science, technology, engineering and maths in school, arguing that the drama and glamour of racing wouldn’t exist without the world’s cleverest scientists and engineers.

jenson-button_2514713b

By Louisa Peacock

1:37PM GMT 21 Mar 2013

The McLaren driver is backing a campaign, run by Britain’s biggest pharmaceuticals company GlaxoSmithKline in partnership with McLaren, to inspire young people to stick with STEM subjects in school.

As part of the campaign, budding scientists are being challenged to devise a test which could be used to improve a Formula 1 driver’s reactions.

Winning schools will be given an opportunity to visit the McLaren Technology Centre and put their test into action with one of the team.

Mr Button said: “The speed, drama, noise and glamour of Formula 1 may seem very different from a school science lesson, but our sport wouldn’t exist without the tireless work and dedication of some of the world’s cleverest scientists, engineers and mathematicians.

“That’s why I think it’s so important for young people to stick with maths and science at school. In the future they might just find themselves designing a new grand prix car, or working in the pits analysing telemetry data. And, while not everyone can be a racing driver or work in Formula 1, maths and science can open up some amazing opportunities.” Read more of this post

Volio Aims for Videos That Simulate Conversation

Volio Aims for Videos That Simulate Conversation

By Brad Stone on March 21, 2013

tech_volio13__01__630x420

Rodney Cutler, hairstylist and grooming columnist for Esquire magazine, is giving styling advice via iPad. “I’ll be honest, curly long hair is tricky,” he says in his Australian brogue. “But we can make it work so you don’t look like a throwback from the ’80s. We’ve got to make sure you are using the right product. What are you using in your hair at the moment?”

“Head & Shoulders,” says the iPad user.

“You know, that’s why I’m here,” he grimaces. “For me, that’s not the best product for the look you are trying to achieve.” He recommends a leave-in conditioner. Except “he” isn’t Cutler at all, but a series of videos designed to simulate a conversation with him.

For years the technology world has promised the ability to speak with computers. Services like Siri and Google (GOOG)Voice Search allow people to convey specific commands and receive answers. Volio, a San Francisco startup that produced Cutler’s conversational grooming video for the new Talk to Esquire iPad app, has a more ambitious goal: creating an entirely new media format it calls participatory video. Companies will be able to use Volio’s tools to set up conversational videos of people that users can interact with, learn from, and, if they’re mischievous, try to stump. “We’re not trying to fool anybody,” says Ronald Croen, Volio’s founder and chief executive officer. “But if this is done well, we’ll create the experience of talking to a real human being.” Read more of this post

Fab.com: Winning in E-Commerce With Whimsy

Fab.com: Winning in E-Commerce With Whimsy

By Brad Stone on March 21, 2013

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Photograph by Jeremy Liebman for Bloomberg BusinessweekBradford Shellhammer (left) and Jason Goldberg

Products on shopping site Fab.com are often so campy and overstylized that words fail to describe them: They are … fabsurd? Colorfully described in daily e-mails to Fab’s 12 million registered customers are items such as “In the Seam Animal Pals” (pillows molded into shapes of pets) and the “Awmoo Red” (a spherical bong fashioned by designers “after years of hiding their unsightly water pipes”). In mid-March, the site’s supply of dangling, sterling silver earrings in the shape of attacking sharks, priced at $58, sold out in an hour.

While it’s tempting to dismiss such items as hipster indulgences, Fab.com is as close as it gets to a hot new e-commerce property. The store “for everyday design” is packed with kitsch in kitchenware, furniture, fashion, and electronics. It tripled its customer base last year and now gets close to 3 million visitors a month, according to ComScore (SCOR). The 600-employee company has amassed $150 million in venture capital to build warehouses, improve shipping time, expand into Europe, and team up with manufacturers. This spring it will depart the ranks of aggregated retail and unveil lines of private-label goods, including luggage, linens, and jewelry, branded with its name and sensibility—edgy, amusing, and typically over the top. Read more of this post

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