Aging Chinese Face a Bleak Picture; High Rates of Poverty, Disability and Mental Illness Haunt Elderly, Pose Growing Economic Challenge

Updated May 30, 2013, 11:43 p.m. ET

Aging Chinese Face a Bleak Picture

High Rates of Poverty, Disability and Mental Illness Haunt Elderly, Pose Growing Economic Challenge



BEIJING—China’s elderly are poor, sick and depressed in alarming numbers, according to the first large-scale survey of those over 60, an immense challenge for Beijing and one of the greatest long-term vulnerabilities of the Chinese economy.

The survey of living conditions for China’s 185 million elderly paints a bleak picture that defies the efforts of the government to build what it calls a “harmonious society,” one dedicated to human welfare rather than simply economic growth. Of the generation that built China’s economic boom, 22.9%—or 42.4 million—live in poverty with consumption of less than 3,200 yuan a year ($522).

The fear of being old and poor, which prompts many Chinese to stash away their earnings, also cuts against another of Beijing’s priorities: to rebalance the economy toward stronger consumption. Read more of this post

Promising African Development Fund Collapses; A program financed by the Agency for International Development is dissolving because of mismanagement, insider dealings and a lack of federal oversight.

Promising African Development Fund Collapses


Published: May 30, 2013

The initiative began two decades ago, with the best of intentions, after apartheid fell and southern Africa’s future brightened.

Today that program, the Southern Africa Enterprise Development Fund, is in its death throes, apparently victimized by mismanagement, insider dealings and a lack of oversight by federal officials. Current and former fund officials are fighting over money, and the eventual cost to American taxpayers of the fund’s missteps could run into the tens of millions of dollars, public filings indicate.

On one level, the plight of this obscure fund is a common tale involving the hazards of foreign aid. But on another level, experts say, it points to wider problems bedeviling the federal agency that financed the fund, the United States Agency for International Development, orU.S.A.I.D. In fiscal 2013, the agency had a budget of $1.6 billion and helped administer more than $40 billion in foreign assistance. Read more of this post

Americans have rebuilt less than half of wealth lost to the recession, study says

Americans have rebuilt less than half of wealth lost to the recession, study says

By Ylan Q. Mui, Friday, May 31, 12:00 AM

American households have rebuilt less than half of the wealth lost during the recession, leaving them without the spending power to fuel a robust economic recovery, according to a new analysis from the Federal Reserve.

From the peak of the boom to the bottom of the bust, households watched a total of $16 trillion in wealth disappear amid sinking stock prices and the rubble of the real estate market. Since then, Americans have only been able to recapture 45 percent of that amount on average, after adjusting for inflation and population growth, according to the report from the St. Louis Fed released Thursday.

In addition, the report showed most of the improvement was due to gains in the stock market, which primarily benefit wealthy families. That means the recovery for other households has been even weaker. Read more of this post

Indian power shortage is Achilles heel of economy

May 30, 2013 11:07 am

Indian power shortage is Achilles heel of economy

By Victor Mallet in Noida, India

Electricity, 24 hours a day, is a service taken for granted in industrialised economies. But not in the industrial zone of Noida on the outskirts of New Delhi – and especially not in the baking heat of summer. “We hardly get 50 per cent of our requirement,” says S. Singhvi, finance director of Ginni Filaments, a textiles and clothing company with 5,000 employees across India. “Compared to last year, it’s getting worse.” With daytime temperatures reaching nearly 50C, and householders and farmers demanding ever more power for air conditioners and water pumps, he complains that Ginni’s Noida garment factory must deal with repeated power disruptions and run its own generators to produce electricity at five times the cost of the supply from the grid.

Read more of this post

“What do you know about making cars?” President Park Chung-hee asked Hyundai’s founder Chung Ju-yang at the opening ceremony. According to legend, Chung replied: “I can do it.”

May 30, 2013 6:46 pm

Hyundai: Changing the mould

By Simon Mundy

The carmaker focuses on forging a premium brand

Snaking over 266 miles from Seoul to the port city of Busan, the Gyeongbu Expressway was one of the proudest achievements of Hyundai Group founder Chung Ju-yung. But when it opened in 1970, some ridiculed South Korea’s decision to build an eight-lane motorway across two mountain ranges, because the poor country only had 60,000 cars.

“What do you know about making cars?” President Park Chung-hee asked Chung at the opening ceremony. According to legend, Chung replied: “I can do it.”

In fact, he had already been assembling cars for two years but no one expected the scale of Hyundai’s transformation over the next four decades. Chung’s expressway is now thronged with millions of cars each year, most of them made by the automotive group he founded. Millions more Hyundai vehicles are now an increasing presence around the world, proof of the company’s evolution into the world’s fifth-biggest carmaker by unit sales. Read more of this post

China: a bubble in the tea market?

China: a bubble in the tea market?

May 30, 2013 11:05am by Julie Zhu

Commodity markets may have lost their lustre as many investors have gone elsewhere. But there’s often a chance of a profit for those who know where to look.

Pu’er, a strong, earthy tea produced in China’s Yunnan province has seen its price rise by as much as 80 per cent over the past six months – even as prices for other Chinese teas have remained stable. Pu’er traders have seen it before – in a speculative bubble that burst six years ago. This time the run-up in prices has been more modest – so far.

In Kunming, capital of Yunnan province, Old Banzhang, a type of the finest Pu’er, last year went for Rmb5,000 a kilo in the form of tea leaves pressed into cakes. Now it commands almost Rmb9,000 a kilo, according to China Securities Journal, citing a local tea shop manager.

Zhou Chonglin, a Kunming-based tea expert and co-author of “War of Tea”, believes the price surge of Pu’er could have been predicted. He told beyondbrics that Pu’er investors, who left the market in 2007, started to come back late last year, in response to the increasing demand from the public for the tea, which is widely believed to have medicinal value. Read more of this post

The political scandal and criminal investigation that has accompanied the shutdown of the Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange has created more drama than the exchange ever did trading gold and silver futures.

Updated May 30, 2013, 2:21 p.m. ET

Inquiry Into Bourse Widens

Sixth Person Arrested Amid Closure of the Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange


HONG KONG—The political scandal and criminal investigation that has accompanied the shutdown of the Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange has created more drama, including a sixth arrest on Thursday, than the small, struggling exchange ever did trading gold and silver futures.

The exchange’s closure after two years of trading was a blow to the ambitions of its backers, including a close ally to Hong Kong’s top official and Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, whose EN+ Group took a 10% stake in the exchange to help launch it in 2010. They had hoped the HKMEx would capitalize on China’s voracious appetite for commodities, but it failed to survive stiff competition from better-established players in Hong Kong and Shanghai, as well as in the West. Read more of this post

South Korea Can’t Just Order Up Creative Economy

South Korea Can’t Just Order Up Creative Economy

South Korea’s economy has yet to catch up to its people. They are the world’s most-wired citizenry and the most advanced at using smartphones. Korean stars are Asia’s most popular; Korean gadgets and fashions the coolest.

Yet at home, huge manufacturing conglomerates, or chaebol, such as Hyundai Motor Group (005380), Samsung Group (005930) and LG Group (066570) remain the mainstays of an export-focused system established after the Korean War by strongman Park Chung Hee. In fact, as the July edition of Bloomberg Markets magazine points out, the chaebols have become even more dominant. Sales of the top 30 conglomerates accounted for 82 percent of South Korea’s gross domestic product in 2012, compared with 53 percent in 2002.

As in other parts of Asia, in Korea a top-heavy system no longer delivers for ordinary citizens. Wage growth has slowed, while the costs of housing and education have jumped: According to the McKinsey Global Institute, most middle-income Korean households are now cash-flow constrained. The ranks of the middle class have shrunk from more than three-quarters of the population to about two-thirds. Read more of this post

Swoon in Bonds Puts Eye on Fed

May 30, 2013, 8:06 p.m. ET

Swoon in Bonds Puts Eye on Fed

Investors Debate: Bubble, Confusion or Sign of Health?



The bond market’s monthlong plunge has pushed long-term interest rates on mortgages and U.S. Treasurys to their highest levels in more than a year, sparking a debate: Is this a bursting bubble, the aftereffect of clumsy Federal Reserve communication or a welcome sign the U.S. economy is, at last, on the mend.

Yields on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note now stand above 2.1%—still low by historic standards, but nearly half a percentage point higher than at the start of May.

Rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages rose a hair above 4% this week, according to HSH Associates. Six months ago, they were below 3.5%. Read more of this post

Bank of Korea Governor Fears Fed Tightening

May 30, 2013, 9:13 p.m. ET

Bank of Korea Governor Fears Fed Tightening


A move by the Federal Reserve to unwind its monetary easing in the near future is a major risk for emerging economies, the head of South Korea’s central bank said.

In an interview late Thursday in Shanghai, Bank of Korea Governor Kim Choong-soo warned that the withdrawal of Fed stimulus could shake global financial markets.

“That is one of the most important concerns for me,” he said. When the Fed begins to dial back its stimulus program, “volatility in the capital markets is likely to remain high for a relatively long period of time,” he said. Read more of this post

NYC Pension Chief Seeks $500,000 Managers Not Wall Street

NYC Pension Chief Seeks $500,000 Managers Not Wall Street

New York City’s $140 billion retirement system pays Wall Street money managers about $360 million a year, the only one of the 11 biggest U.S. public-worker pensions that refuses to manage any assets internally. Larry Schloss, the city’s chief investment officer, says the practice must end.

Schloss, 58, points to Ontario’s C$130 billion ($126 billion) teachers’ pension fund, which has returned an average 9.6 percent annually on its investments since 2003 — 1.6 percentage points better than New York’s funds. The Canadian system reaped those gains mostly without paying outside asset managers. Schloss says the same in-house approach could work in New York.

“I’m not looking for John Paulson,” said Schloss, who earns $224,000 a year, referring to the billionaire hedge-fund manager. “I’m just looking for a VP at MetLife (MET) who makes 500,000 bucks.” Read more of this post

Oil Fields Under Olive Groves Offer Italy Economic Boost

Oil Fields Under Olive Groves Offer Italy Economic Boost

Underneath the groves that make southern Italy the world’s second-largest olive oil producer, geologists have found a more lucrative liquid: Europe’s biggest onshore crude oil fields.

Basilicata, a mountainous, sparsely populated province that sits in the arch of Italy’s boot, holds more than 1 billion barrels, offering the country a weapon to fight a two-year recession. Rome-based Eni SpA (ENI) and France’s Total SA (FP) plan to double production raising Italy’s output to almost 200,000 barrels a day, making the country Europe’s third-largest oil producer behind the U.K. and Norway.

Since the field started production in the 1990s, its development has been held back by environmental campaigns and bureaucratic delays. Those impediments are falling away, analyst Carlo Stagnaro said, because the priority for Italy’s government is kickstarting an economy that’s shrunk for six straight quarters and where more than 35 percent of young people are unemployed. Read more of this post

Dividend stocks lose shine as U.S. bond yields rise

Analysis: Dividend stocks lose shine as U.S. bond yields rise

7:08pm EDT

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK (Reuters) – As the S&P 500 stormed to a gain of 16 percent for the first five months of the year, the run was fueled by investors searching for yield.

With central banks driving interest rates lower, slower-growth sectors with big dividends like utilities and telecom were attractive because they offered better returns over government debt along with the possibility of price appreciation.

Those sectors led stocks higher for several months – but that outperformance appears to have come to an end as U.S. Treasury bond yields climbed to 13-month highs this week. The economic outlook in the United States has improved, and rumblings of a pullback in the Federal Reserve’s massive bond-buying program have caused investors to pull away from the big dividend payers. Read more of this post

Running out of cash, Australian miners get creative to survive

Running out of cash, Australian miners get creative to survive

6:51pm EDT

By James Regan

SYDNEY (Reuters) – From pooling office space to paying bills with company stock, small and mid-sized Australian miners are finding new ways to stay afloat during one of the sector’s worst downturns. China’s slowdown has helped cool a decade-long commodities boom that pushed gold, copper, iron ore and coal prices to record highs, leaving Australian miners facing a painful transition to lower margins and weak investment interest. Only a year ago, with miners flush with cash and desperate to retain staff, six-figure salaries and executive-style perks for everyone from truck drivers to kitchen help were commonplace. Now, with traditional funding drying up, smaller miners are devising novel ways to keep from going broke. Unable to pay bills in cash, some are offering drill rig operators, caterers and even public relations firms company stock to keep them on the job – acts of desperation last seen at the height of the 2008-2009 financial crisis. Read more of this post

Sallie Mae Shocks Bondholders in Asset Strip

Sallie Mae Shocks Bondholders in Asset Strip: Corporate Finance

SLM Corp. (SLM) dealt bondholders a blow as the student loan company prepares to move cash-generating assets out of their reach and rely more heavily on secured funding as it seeks to split into two separate entities.

Fitch Ratings cut the company known as Sallie Mae to speculative grade yesterday, citing the new structure’s weaker credit profile while Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investors Service said they may reduce the credit as well. Newark, Delaware-based SLM’s bonds lost more than $200 million in value after the disclosure, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Sallie Mae is separating its education loan business from its consumer lending operation, following legislation in 2010 that cut companies out of the government-guaranteed student loan market. The lender’s $17.9 billion of unsecured bonds will be serviced by the company housing Sallie Mae’s $118 billion portfolio of U.S.-backed loans that it’s winding down, while the earnings, cash flow and equity of the newly formed SLM Bank will be moved out of bondholders’ reach, according to Moody’s.

“Anytime you split a company up like this and some portion of the cashflows that could have been available to support debt payments is no longer available, it is incrementally negative for bondholders,” Sameer Gokhale, an analyst at Janney Montgomery Scott LLC, said in a telephone interview. “The question is: how negative?” Read more of this post

The Incredible Story Of This Woman’s Meteoric Rise From Receptionist To CEO

The Incredible Story Of This Woman’s Meteoric Rise From Receptionist To CEO

Laura Stampler | May 29, 2013, 7:00 PM | 15,299 | 23

screen shot 2013-05-24 at 4.59.20 pmscreen shot 2013-05-24 at 5.03.52 pm

Karen Kaplan (right) on the reception desk in photo on the left. Karen Kaplan now in photo on the right.

When Karen Kaplan, 53, first walked through the doors of Hill Holliday in 1982, she had no advertising experience, or even the shorthand skills to work as a secretary. The 22-year-old was placed at the front desk of the Interpublic-owned shop as a receptionist — the bottom of the agency ladder.

Her first week on the job, two mean girls who worked hidden behind the closed doors of the switchboard room wanted to make sure Kaplan knew just how low she was.

“They come on my second day, and they stand in front of my desk,” Kaplan recalled. “They’re looming over me with hands on their hips with their little headbands, and I remember they were like, ‘Just so you know, just because you’re out here and everyone can see you, you are still on the bottom of the totem pole. You are below us, you are below the guy in the mail room, you’re below the guy who delivers the packages.’” Read more of this post

Trend Towards In-House Investing Is Growing

Trend Towards In-House Investing Is Growing

29 MAY 2013 – ASHBY MONK

My morning ritual of drinking an unseemly amount of coffee and then scouring the interwebs for any and all Giant-related news unearthed something rather interesting: Four separate stories about large institutional investors shifting assets away from external managers and giving them to internal teams of direct investment professionals. Read more of this post

The European Corporate Governance Framework: Issues and Perspectives

The European Corporate Governance Framework: Issues and Perspectives

Massimo Belcredi Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore di Milano

Guido A. Ferrarini University of Genoa – Law School; European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

May 2013
ECGI – Law Working Paper No. 214/2013

This is the first chapter in a volume on “Boards and Shareholders in European Listed Companies: Facts, Context and Post-Crisis Reforms” (M. Belcredi and G. Ferrarini eds., Cambridge University Press forthcoming 2013). We offer an overview of the volume, placing the same in the context of recent EU reforms and of corporate governance theory, and summarizing the main outcomes of the various chapters. In addition, we offer some policy perspectives based on the theoretical and empirical outcomes of the research project of which this volume is the product. We analyse four main topics in the corporate governance of European listed firms: board structure/composition and its interaction with ownership structure, board remuneration, shareholder activism and corporate governance disclosure based on the “comply-or-explain” approach. For each of them, this volume provides new evidence and derives specific implications, relevant for the policy debate. Basically, proposals aimed at increasing disclosure and accountability at the European level look generally well-grounded: this is true, in particular, for disclosure about managerial compensation and compliance with national governance codes based on the “comply-or-explain” principle. On the opposite, we suggest caution when evaluating proposals targeting specific governance arrangements, which may actually lead to unintended consequences. Even though the Commission has – so far – refrained from adopting an excessively intrusive stance, further analysis may be needed before intervening in the fields of board composition and shareholder activism.

Starbucks toilet coffee prompts anger in Hong Kong; It has been using the water from a tap in a toilet to make beverages since its opening in October 2011

Starbucks toilet coffee prompts anger in Hong Kong

It has been using the water from a tap in a toilet to make beverages since its opening in October 2011. -AFP
Thu, May 30, 2013

HONG KONG – A Starbucks cafe in Hong Kong’s posh financial district which used water from a tap near a urinal to brew coffee prompted a torrent of angry reactions from customers Thursday. The coffee shop, in the famous Bank of China Tower, has been using the water from a tap in a toilet to make beverages since its opening in October 2011. Images from local newspaper Apple Daily showed the tap with a sign that said “Starbucks only” a few feet away from a urinal in the dingy washroom, which the paper said was in the building’s carpark. “Totally disappointed! The initial decision by Starbucks to use water from toilet is a clear sign of your company’s vision and the level of (dis)respect your company has for the health and mind of your customers.” Kevin L wrote on the Starbucks Hong Kong Facebook wall. Read more of this post

“China Dream” rhetoric by President Xi: “There are some people in this country who become others’ punchbags and their biggest Chinese dream is simply to live with a bit more dignity”

China Officials Probed for ‘Parading’ Arrested Girl: Media

By Agence France-Presse on 2:37 pm May 29, 2013.
Beijing. Two Chinese officials allegedly paraded a 13-year-old girl through the streets in handcuffs for splashing a government vehicle, state media reported on Wednesday after images of the incident provoked outrage online. A party secretary in Kele, in the southern province of Guizhou, and a policeman were being investigated over the matter, the Global Times said. The girl was accused of deliberately splashing “dirty water” on a government car, drenching another local official, after a row about her family’s street stall, the Sichuan Daily reported. Party secretary Yuan Zehong ordered the girl arrested and told more than 30 policemen to “beat up” her aunt after she protested at the handcuffing, claimed a post on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social messaging service. It included photos of the incident and alleged that the girl had been made to walk for 20 minutes in public while wearing the handcuffs. Read more of this post

Fundamentals of Web for Non-Developer

While the link between profits and stock returns should be clear, historically investors have not fully appreciated the long-term persistence of profits.

Profitability Matters

While the link between profits and stock returns should be clear, historically investors have not fully appreciated the long-term persistence of profits.

By Alex Bryan | 05-29-13 | 06:00 AM | Email Article

It’s surprising that value stocks have done as well as they have. Value stocks tend to be less profitable than their growth counterparts, and yet they have historically traded at steep enough discounts to outperform growth stocks in nearly every market studied over long horizons. But price is only one aspect of value. Controlling for risk, a company’s future profitability drives its intrinsic value. While companies that consistently generate high profits command higher valuations than traditional value stocks, the market has also historically undervalued these companies. This anomaly is consistent with Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger’s philosophy that it is better to buy a great company at a fair price than a fair company at a great price.

Profitability measures how productively a company uses its investors’ capital and assets. Simply comparing net income or earnings per share across companies does not adequately capture this idea. It is often possible for a company to boost its net income by acquiring more assets, but that does not necessary improve its productivity–just the opposite. The marginal returns to capital tend to diminish with size. In other words, investors often get less “bang for the buck” for each additional dollar invested in the business. In order to control for differences in invested capital and assets, researchers define profitability using metrics, such as return on invested capital, gross profits/assets, and adjusted operating income/book value of equity. Read more of this post

‘Smart beta’, a new weapon in your armoury

May 24, 2013 5:55 pm

‘Smart beta’, a new weapon in your armoury

By David Stevenson

No longer a straight choice between active and passive investing, says David Stevenson

The term “smart beta” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Nor is it likely to become a catchphrase, as in: “I’ve made an absolute killing on my smart beta funds.” But smart beta is something investors could be hearing a lot more about in the years ahead.

My colleague Merryn Somerset Webb outlined the structural limitations of the fund management industry last week.

Basically, most managers are doomed to hug the benchmark because the industry is focused on gathering assets. Better to fail conventionally than to succeed unconventionally, as Keynes said. Passive investing might reduce the costs, but invariably commits you to a momentum investing strategy because most indices are weighted by market capitalisation. The bigger a company gets, the more you have invested in it. Over time, the noise of the market will even out the rises and falls of individual shares and you’ll get the underlying market return, also known as the beta of the index. Read more of this post

If investing is poker, fund managers are a busted flush; The structure of the industry condemns many of them to underperform

May 17, 2013 3:36 pm

If investing is poker, fund managers are a busted flush

By Merryn Somerset Webb

The structure of the industry condemns many of them to underperform

Imeet a lot of fund managers. I tend to like them. Fund managers are mostly charming company. They are, on the whole, clever, interesting and full of sensible sounding ideas. And if you see them at a conference they often have something nice you can take home for your kids.

I’ve written here before about how all these nice men purport to be into value investing (buying cheap stuff) or at least quality value investing (buying good stuff at fair prices) at the moment. They tend to tell me they are running their fund just as Warren Buffett used to run his before it got way too big. They have strict valuation criteria they aren’t going to deviate from. They defy consensus, shut their ears to short-term noise and focus on the long term. Read more of this post

Courage under fire: Learning from a real Thai hero

Courage under fire: Learning from a real thai hero

Published: 30 May 2013 at 00.00


Many stories have been told of heroism during World War II. The bold and courageous action of Oskar Schindler, who saved 1,200 lives, was the basis of a novel and blockbuster movie, Schindler’s List, which won seven Oscars including Best Picture in 1994. Irena Sendler, a Polish nurse, is also praised as a heroine who smuggled 2,500 children to save them from the Holocaust.

In Thailand, there is a local hero who dared to risk his life and his family fortune to save the lives of numbers of Allied prisoners of war. It is estimated that at least 12,000 Allied PoWs died during almost three years, from late 1942 to August 1945, building the infamous Death Railway for the occupying Japanese. But many more would have perished had Boonpong Sirivejjabhandu not risen to the occasion.

Crises make heroes: Boonpong Sirivejjabhandu was a businessman who owned a Thai traditional medicine business and a general store in Kanchanaburi province, which had been passed to him by his father Mor Khein, a Thai traditional doctor. He was also a mayor of Kanchanaburi from 1942-45 during World War II. His public responsibilities brought him into contact with the Japanese troops, who were determined to build a bridge across the River Kwai to improve the logistics capability of the Japanese army. Read more of this post

C.E.O.’s Don’t Need to Earn Less. They Need to Sweat More.

May 29, 2013

C.E.O.’s Don’t Need to Earn Less. They Need to Sweat More.



One recent Thursday, G. Steven Farris, the chairman and C.E.O. of the poorly performing oil-and-gas company Apache, stood before a few hundred shareholders who were about to vote on his salary. Farris, who was hoping to earn well over $10 million for this year, listed a number of his accomplishments. “We’re the No. 1 driller in the Permian Basin,” he said, referring to the oil reserves in West Texas and New Mexico. But some shareholders, most likely mindful of the company’s falling stock price, noted that the proposed pay package seemed out of whack. Still, the tally was a nail-biter: 49.8 percent of the votes favored giving Farris the bump.

Most C.E.O.’s used to be able to handle their pay negotiations in private, but the Dodd-Frank reforms, which were passed in 2010, now give shareholders the right to vote on executive compensation. This has helped usher in a so-called “say on pay” revolution, which tries to stop executives from making more money when their companies don’t do that well. In Switzerland, a recent nationwide referendum, passed 2 to 1, gave shareholders the right to restrict the pay for the heads of Swiss companies. The European Union is likely to vote on a similar measure by the end of the year. Read more of this post

Sales straight from ‘the farm gate’; Some creative industry entrepreneurs are using direct-to-consumer business models

May 29, 2013 3:42 pm

Sales straight from ‘the farm gate’

By Ian Sanders

In a hot and sweaty basement in Brighton, on the English south coast, visitors to The Great Escape music festival are attending a keynote address about how to “do it yourself” in the music industry. “You’ve got to think like a small business because that’s what you are,” singer-songwriter Billy Bragg tells his audience. Mr Bragg, also famous for his political activism and his support for striking coalminers in the 1980s, might seem an unlikely entrepreneurial role model, but he recently started cutting out intermediaries in order to sell his music direct to the consumer. Now in his fourth decade touring and selling records, he has had to reinvent his business model to survive.

Content-creators, from musicians to authors, have the opportunity to sell their work themselves, with fast and effective digital tools for everything from ecommerce to promotion. Mr Bragg’s latest album Tooth&Nail , released in March, was launched in record stores and via Amazon, but he also encouraged fans to buy direct from his website by including a signed print of the album artwork. Read more of this post

Coursera partners with 10 new US universities not just for online courses, but to add MOOC to their classes too

Coursera partners with 10 new US universities not just for online courses, but to add MOOC to their classes too

Emil Protalinski 30 May 2013

Coursera today announced it has partnered with 10 US state university systems and public university flagships to bring their faculty and course content online, plus a little more. The massive open online course (MOOC) provider regularly expands the list of its schools, but this time, it’s a two-way street: the schools are going to be adding MOOC to their own courses, too, collaborating on existing content.

The startup says the goal with this latest round is to “explore the possibilities” of using MOOC technology and content to “improve completion, quality, and access to higher education,” both across the combined audiences of these schools (approximately 1.25 million enrolled students) as well as among Coursera’s global classroom of learners (over 3.6 million as of May 2013). The schools are already pushing pilot programs, which will be evaluated based on their effectiveness in enhancing student success. Read more of this post

The More You Think About Money, The Less People Like You

The More You Think About Money, The Less People Like You

Denise ChowLiveScience | May 29, 2013, 9:51 PM | 1,425 | 3

WASHINGTON — Subtle reminders of money can affect the way people behave in social settings, causing them to be less engaged with others, suggests new research.

A group of researchers discussed results from ongoing investigations into how money impacts social relationships here at the 25th annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science (APS) on Sunday (May 26).

“Money holds lots of different associations for different people,” said Kathleen Vohs, an associate professor of marketing in the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, who moderated an APS panel on the topic. “There can be social benefits and social costs to reminders of money.” Read more of this post

As Glaciers Melt, Alpine Mountains Lose Their Glue, Threatening Swiss Village

May 29, 2013

As Glaciers Melt, Alpine Mountains Lose Their Glue, Threatening Swiss Village



Tourists walking along a stream originating from the Lower Grindelwald Glacier in Switzerland. The glacier once extended  through the gorge.

GRINDELWALD, Switzerland — Marco Bomio recalls that bright Sunday morning in June 2006 as if it were yesterday. Mr. Bomio, 59, a school principal and mountain guide, attended a religious service on a high mountain meadow to mark the founding of a local guide group.

“Suddenly we saw this immense cloud,” he said over coffee in a wood chalet typical of this Alpine village. “Normally, it might have been snow. But in June?”

“Then we saw that it wasn’t snow,” he went on. “It was rock dust: part of the mountain had come down.”

Grindelwald, population 3,800, lies in the foothills of a wall of Alpine peaks, rising to more than 13,000 feet. It is also home to two of Switzerland’s largest glaciers, the Upper and Lower Grindelwald Glaciers, which for millenniums have snaked their way through Alpine gorges toward the town.

With global warming, the glaciers are melting. Once stretching to the edge of town, they now end high in the mountains. Moreover, their greenish glacial water is forming lakes. In summer, when the melting accelerates, floodwaters threaten the area. But the avalanche witnessed by Mr. Bomio shows that the shrinking of the glaciers removes a kind of buttress supporting parts of the mountains, menacing the region with rock slides. Read more of this post

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