Streaming service Netflix is famous for its unique culture. The most well-known example is the company’s no-vacation policy, which allows employees to take off as many days as they choose, whenever they choose. That policy is just a symbol of a broader attitude in the company, according to CEO Reed Hastings.
“There’s a whole lot of that freedom,” Hastings said on stage Saturday, at the TED conference in Vancouver. He purposely built Netflix to have a culture of open information sharing after his first company, Pure Software, struggled because it was too obsessed with creating processes to prevent mistakes from happening. “We were trying to dummy-proof the system, and eventually only dummies wanted to work there,” he said. Workers across the company are given updates on a wide range of Netflix’s projects, not just the ones their department is working on.
The Netflix culture of information sharing builds a sense of responsibility among employees, Hastings said. “We’re like the anti-Apple. They compartmentalize, we do the opposite. Everyone gets all the information.” He added: “I find out about big decisions made all the time that I had nothing to do with.”
That’s why Hastings promotes courage as a fundamental value at the company. “We want people to speak the truth, and we say, ‘To disagree silently is disloyal.’” He added, “It’s not ok to let a decision go through without saying your piece. We’re very focused on trying to get to good decisions with a good debate.”
Netflix, which recently turned 20, has had some time to foster this culture. In contrast, Facebook, where Hastings is a board director, is 14. When asked about Facebook’s recent privacy scandal and two years of negative headlines, Hastings noted that Facebook and other social media companies “are clearly trying to grow up quickly.”
He compared social media to television, which was viewed in the 1960s as “a vast wasteland” sure to rot the minds of humanity. “It turns out everybody was fine and there was some adjustment. I think of it as, all new technology has pros and cons and social media is figuring that out,” he said.
But has Facebook been completely unfairly criticized? “Oh, it’s not completely unfairly,” he said. He added, in a show of support for Facebook’s CEO, “Mark [Zuckerberg] is leading the charge on fixing Facebook and he’s very passionate about that.”
Hastings has not withheld criticism in his capacity as a board director in the past. He questioned fellow board director Peter Thiel’s support of Donald Trump and fitness to serve on the Facebook board, even offering to resign after the communications became public, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Hastings could leave Facebook’s board for another reason. As Facebook has moved deeper into original content, including acquiring rights to stream sporting events, speculation has swirled that Hastings could step down for competitive reasons. Indeed, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg resigned from Walt Disney Co.’s board in March, citing conflicts of interest. Last spring, Hastings said his board seat had not created a “big conflict, yet” because Facebook was acquiring different types of content than Netflix.
As seemingly every tech giant converges around original video content, Netflix, the “anti-Apple” company which started out mailing people DVDs, is finding itself up against all of Silicon Valley. Last year Apple announced it would spend $1 billion acquiring and developing original content for a forthcoming streaming service. Amazon spent $4.5 billion acquiring non-sports content in 2017 and Hulu spent $2.5 billion.
But Netflix is not shrinking from the competition. The company has plans to spend around $8 billion on content with the aim of making half of that original. Hastings doesn’t think the eye-popping spending is enough. “There are so many great shows on other networks, so we have a long way to go,” he said. Besides, he added, “that’s spread globally so it’s not as much as it sounds.” (The TED audience, which included numerous billionaires, politely chuckled.)
Hastings clearly enjoys of the spoils of fierce completion. “I love competing, I love going up against Disney and HBO, that’s what gets me going,” he said. He has already taken on Hollywood—the most powerful companies in Silicon Valley are next.
Twenty-seven years ago, a group of physicists made an accidental discovery that flipped mathematics on its head. The physicists were trying to work out the details of string theory when they observed a strange correspondence: Numbers emerging from one kind of geometric world matched exactly with very different kinds of numbers from a very different kind of geometric world.
Original story reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine, an editorially independent publication of the Simons Foundation whose mission is to enhance public understanding of science by covering research developments and trends in mathematics and the physical and life sciences.
To physicists, the correspondence was interesting. To mathematicians, it was preposterous. They’d been studying these two geometric settings in isolation from each other for decades. To claim that they were intimately related seemed as unlikely as asserting that at the moment an astronaut jumps on the moon, some hidden connection causes his sister to jump back on earth.
“It looked totally outrageous,” said David Morrison, a mathematician at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and one of the first mathematicians to investigate the matching numbers.
Nearly three decades later, incredulity has long since given way to revelation. The geometric relationship that the physicists first observed is the subject of one of the most flourishing fields in contemporary mathematics. The field is called mirror symmetry, in reference to the fact that these two seemingly distant mathematical universes appear somehow to reflect each other exactly. And since the observation of that first correspondence—a set of numbers on one side that matched a set of numbers on the other—mathematicians have found many more instances of an elaborate mirroring relationship: Not only do the astronaut and his sister jump together, they wave their hands and dream in unison, too.
Recently, the study of mirror symmetry has taken a new turn. After years of discovering more examples of the same underlying phenomenon, mathematicians are closing in on an explanation for why the phenomenon happens at all.
“We’re getting to the point where we’ve found the ground. There’s a landing in sight,” said Denis Auroux, a mathematician at the University of California, Berkeley.
The effort to come up with a fundamental explanation for mirror symmetry is being advanced by several groups of mathematicians. They are closing in on proofs of the central conjectures in the field. Their work is like uncovering a form of geometric DNA—a shared code that explains how two radically different geometric worlds could possibly hold traits in common.
Discovering the Mirror
What would eventually become the field of mirror symmetry began when physicists went looking for some extra dimensions. As far back as the late 1960s, physicists had tried to explain the existence of fundamental particles—electrons, photons, quarks—in terms of minuscule vibrating strings. By the 1980s, physicists understood that in order to make “string theory” work, the strings would have to exist in 10 dimensions—six more than the four-dimensional space-time we can observe. They proposed that what went on in those six unseen dimensions determined the observable properties of our physical world.
“You might have this small space that you can’t see or measure directly, but some aspects of the geometry of that space might influence real-world physics,” said Mark Gross, a mathematician at the University of Cambridge.
Eventually, they came up with potential descriptions of the six dimensions. Before getting to them, though, it’s worth thinking for a second about what it means for a space to have a geometry.
Consider a beehive and a skyscraper. Both are three-dimensional structures, but each has a very different geometry: Their layouts are different, the curvature of their exteriors is different, their interior angles are different. Similarly, string theorists came up with very different ways to imagine the missing six dimensions.
One method arose in the mathematical field of algebraic geometry. Here, mathematicians study polynomial equations—for example, x2 + y2 = 1—by graphing their solutions (a circle, in this case). More-complicated equations can form elaborate geometric spaces. Mathematicians explore the properties of those spaces in order to better understand the original equations. Because mathematicians often use complex numbers, these spaces are commonly referred to as “complex” manifolds (or shapes).
The other type of geometric space was first constructed by thinking about physical systems such as orbiting planets. The coordinate values of each point in this kind of geometric space might specify, for example, a planet’s location and momentum. If you take all possible positions of a planet together with all possible momenta, you get the “phase space” of the planet—a geometric space whose points provide a complete description of the planet’s motion. This space has a “symplectic” structure that encodes the physical laws governing the planet’s motion.
Symplectic and complex geometries are as different from one another as beeswax and steel. They make very different kinds of spaces. Complex shapes have a very rigid structure. Think again of the circle. If you wiggle it even a little, it’s no longer a circle. It’s an entirely distinct shape that can’t be described by a polynomial equation. Symplectic geometry is much floppier. There, a circle and a circle with a little wiggle in it are almost the same.
“Algebraic geometry is a more rigid world, whereas symplectic geometry is more flexible,” said Nick Sheridan, a research fellow at Cambridge. “That’s one reason they’re such different worlds, and it’s so surprising they end up being equivalent in a deep sense.”
In the late 1980s, string theorists came up with two ways to describe the missing six dimensions: one derived from symplectic geometry, the other from complex geometry. They demonstrated that either type of space was consistent with the four-dimensional world they were trying to explain. Such a pairing is called a duality: Either one works, and there’s no test you could use to distinguish between them.
Physicists then began to explore just how far the duality extended. As they did so, they uncovered connections between the two kinds of spaces that grabbed the attention of mathematicians.
In 1991, a team of four physicists—Philip Candelas, Xenia de la Ossa, Paul Green and Linda Parkes—performed a calculation on the complex side and generated numbers that they used to make predictions about corresponding numbers on the symplectic side. The prediction had to do with the number of different types of curves that could be drawn in the six-dimensional symplectic space. Mathematicians had long struggled to count these curves. They had never considered that these counts of curves had anything to do with the calculations on complex spaces that physicists were now using in order to make their predictions.
The result was so far-fetched that at first, mathematicians didn’t know what to make of it. But then, in the months following a hastily convened meeting of physicists and mathematicians in Berkeley, California, in May 1991, the connection became irrefutable. “Eventually mathematicians worked on verifying the physicists’ predictions and realized this correspondence between these two worlds was a real thing that had gone unnoticed by mathematicians who had been studying the two sides of this mirror for centuries,” said Sheridan.
The discovery of this mirror duality meant that in short order, mathematicians studying these two kinds of geometric spaces had twice the number of tools at their disposal: Now they could use techniques from algebraic geometry to answer questions in symplectic geometry, and vice versa. They threw themselves into the work of exploiting the connection.
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do
At the same time, mathematicians and physicists set out to identify a common cause, or underlying geometric explanation, for the mirroring phenomenon. In the same way that we can now explain similarities between very different organisms through elements of a shared genetic code, mathematicians attempted to explain mirror symmetry by breaking down symplectic and complex manifolds into a shared set of basic elements called “torus fibers.”
A torus is a shape with a hole in the middle. An ordinary circle is a one-dimensional torus, and the surface of a donut is a two-dimensional torus. A torus can be of any number of dimensions. Glue lots of lower dimensional tori together in just the right way, and you can build a higher dimensional shape out of them.
To take a simple example, picture the surface of the earth. It is a two-dimensional sphere. You could also think of it as being made from many one-dimensional circles (like many lines of latitude) glued together. All these circles stuck together are a “torus fibration” of the sphere—the individual fibers woven together into a greater whole.
Torus fibrations are useful in a few ways. One is that they give mathematicians a simpler way to think of complicated spaces. Just like you can construct a torus fibration of a two-dimensional sphere, you can construct a torus fibration of the six-dimensional symplectic and complex spaces that feature in mirror symmetry. Instead of circles, the fibers of those spaces are three-dimensional tori. And while a six-dimensional symplectic manifold is impossible to visualize, a three-dimensional torus is almost tangible. “That’s already a big help,” said Sheridan.
A torus fibration is useful in another way: It reduces one mirror space to a set of building blocks that you could use to build the other. In other words, you can’t necessarily understand a dog by looking at a duck, but if you break each animal into its raw genetic code, you can look for similarities that might make it seem less surprising that both organisms have eyes.
Here, in a simplified view, is how to convert a symplectic space into its complex mirror. First, perform a torus fibration on the symplectic space. You’ll get a lot of tori. Each torus has a radius (just like a circle—a one-dimensional torus—has a radius). Next, take the reciprocal of the radius of each torus. (So, a torus of radius 4 in your symplectic space becomes a torus of radius ¼ in the complex mirror.) Then use these new tori, with reciprocal radii, to build a new space.
In 1996, Andrew Strominger, Shing-Tung Yau and Eric Zaslow proposed this method as a general approach for converting any symplectic space into its complex mirror. The proposal that it’s always possible to use a torus fibration to move from one side of the mirror to the other is called the SYZ conjecture, after its originators. Proving it has become one of the foundational questions in mirror symmetry (along with the homological mirror symmetry conjecture, proposed by Maxim Kontsevich in 1994).
The SYZ conjecture is hard to prove because, in practice, this procedure of creating a torus fibration and then taking reciprocals of the radii is not easy to do. To see why, return to the example of the surface of the earth. At first it seems easy to stripe it with circles, but at the poles, your circles will have a radius of zero. And the reciprocal of zero is infinity. “If your radius equals zero, you’ve got a bit of a problem,” said Sheridan.
This same difficulty crops up in a more pronounced way when you’re trying to create a torus fibration of a six-dimensional symplectic space. There, you might have infinitely many torus fibers where part of the fiber is pinched down to a point — points with a radius of zero. Mathematicians are still trying to figure out how to work with such fibers. “This torus fibration is really the great difficulty of mirror symmetry,” said Tony Pantev, a mathematician at the University of Pennsylvania.
Put another way: The SYZ conjecture says a torus fibration is the key link between symplectic and complex spaces, but in many cases, mathematicians don’t know how to perform the translation procedure that the conjecture prescribes.
Over the past 27 years, mathematicians have found hundreds of millions of examples of mirror pairs: This symplectic manifold is in a mirror relationship with that complex manifold. But when it comes to understanding why a phenomenon occurs, quantity doesn’t matter. You could assemble an ark’s worth of mammals without coming any closer to understanding where hair comes from.
“We have huge numbers of examples, like 400 million examples. It’s not that there’s a lack of examples, but nevertheless it’s still specific cases that don’t give much of a hint as to why the whole story works,” said Gross.
Mathematicians would like to find a general method of construction—a process by which you could hand them any symplectic manifold and they could hand you back its mirror. And now they believe that they’re getting close to having it. “We’re moving past the case-by-case understanding of the phenomenon,” said Auroux. “We’re trying to prove that it works in as much generality as we can.”
Mathematicians are progressing along several interrelated fronts. After decades building up the field of mirror symmetry, they’re close to understanding the main reasons the field works at all.
One active area of research creates an end run around the SYZ conjecture. It attempts to port geometric information from the symplectic side to the complex side without a complete torus fibration. In 2016, Gross and his longtime collaborator Bernd Siebert of the University of Hamburg posted a general-purpose method for doing so. They are now finishing a proof to establish that the method works for all mirror spaces. “The proof has now been completely written down, but it’s a mess,” said Gross, who said that he and Siebert hope to complete it by the end of the year.
Another major open line of research seeks to establish that, assuming you have a torus fibration, which gives you mirror spaces, then all the most important relationships of mirror symmetry fall out from there. The research program is called “family Floer theory” and is being developed by Mohammed Abouzaid, a mathematician at Columbia University. In March 2017 Abouzaid posted a paper that proved this chain of logic holds for certain types of mirror pairs, but not yet all of them.
And, finally, there is work that circles back to where the field began. A trio of mathematicians—Sheridan, Sheel Ganatra and Timothy Perutz—is building on seminal ideas introduced in 1990s by Kontsevich related to his homological mirror symmetry conjecture.
Cumulatively, these three initiatives would provide a potentially complete encapsulation of the mirror phenomenon. “I think we’re getting to the point where all the big ‘why’ questions are close to being understood,” said Auroux.
Original story reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine, an editorially independent publication of the Simons Foundation whose mission is to enhance public understanding of science by covering research developments and trends in mathematics and the physical and life sciences.
SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China’s Sina Weibo will remove gay and violent content, including pictures, cartoons and text posts, during a three-month clean-up campaign, the microblogging platform said.
FILE PHOTO – A man holds an iPhone as he visits Sina’s Weibo microblogging site in Shanghai May 29, 2012. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Friday’s announcement comes amid a clampdown targeting content across social media platforms as China’s leaders look to tighten their grip on a huge and diverse cultural scene popular with the young.
Weibo announced the move on its official administrator’s account, saying the action aimed to comply with China’s new cyber security law that calls for strict data surveillance.
The post drew more than 24,000 comments, was forwarded more than 110,000 times, and prompted users to protest against the decision, using the hashtag “I am gay”.
“I am gay and I’m proud, even if I get taken down there are tens of millions like me!,” said one poster, who used the handle “rou wan xiong xiong xiong xiong” and posted a photo of himself.
Some posts were quickly blocked by the platform, with the message displayed that they contained “illegal content”.
This week, news and online content portal Toutiao, which is luring investors, was forced to pull a joke sharing app after a watchdog denounced its “vulgar and improper content”.
Award-winning gay romance “Call Me By Your Name” was also dropped from a Chinese film festival last month. Homosexuality is not illegal in China, but activists say the conservative attitudes of some parts of society have prompted occasional government clampdowns.
Weibo has so far cleared 56,243 pieces of content, shut 108 user accounts and removed 62 topics considered to have violated its standards, it added.
Reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by Clarence Fernandez
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union privacy watchdogs will look deeper into the harvesting of personal data from social networks for economic or political purposes following the scandal engulfing Facebook Inc. after data from nearly 87 million users was improperly accessed.
FILE PHOTO: Men look at their mobile phones as they walk on the esplanade of La Defense in the financial and business district of La Defense, west of Paris, France March 26, 2018. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
“A multi-billion dollar social media platform saying it is sorry simply is not enough,” Andrea Jelinek, chair of the group of EU data protection authorities, said in a statement on Thursday.
The world’s largest social network has been rattled by the revelation that the personal data of tens of millions of Facebook users ended up in the hands of British political consultancy Cambridge Analytica – which has counted U.S. President Donald Trump’s election campaign among its clients.
“This is why we are creating a Social Media Working Group. What we are seeing today is most likely only one instance of the much wider spread practice of harvesting personal data from social media for economic or political reasons,” Jelinek said after a two-day meeting of the regulators.
The group must formulate a long-term strategy, the statement read, although it did not include any details on the kinds of steps it may take.
Britain’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is leading the European probe into the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
A landmark data privacy law will enter into force in the EU on May 25, giving Europeans the right to know what data is stored on them and the right to have it deleted.
Under the new law, companies will need the explicit consent of users before using their data and they will have to be more specific about how they use it. Companies who break the law could face fines of up to 4 percent of their annual global turnover.
Reporting by Julia Fioretti; editing by Robert-Jan Bartunek and Hugh Lawson
You see, NetMarketShare doesn’t simply count PCs, which connect to its network of over 40,000 websites using HitsLink Analytics and SharePost. Its methodology is to “collect data from the browsers of site visitors and it then weights the data by country. “We compare our traffic to the CIA Internet Traffic by Country table, and weight our data accordingly. For example, if our global data shows that Brazil represents 2% of our traffic, and the CIA table shows Brazil to represent 4% of global internet traffic, we will count each unique visitor from Brazil twice.”
Perhaps the most unbiased numbers are from the federal government’s Digital Analytics Program (DAP). DAP’s numbers come from the billion visits over the past 90 days to over 400 US executive branch government domains. That’s about 5,000 total websites. These visitors appear to be largely US citizens. You can see this from the most popular websites: The US Postal Service, the IRS, and Medline Plus.
Still, while desktop Linux is a minority desktop operating system, it still has millions of users, and that’s a lot more than a mere fraction of 1 percent.
And, when it comes to overall end-user operating system, Linux-based Android has 70.96 percent of the mobile market by NetMarketShare’s count. By DAP’s reckoning, Android has 19.9 percent of all end-user systems, while StatCounter shows Android as even more popular than Windows by 39.49 percent to 36.62 percent.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Facebook Inc Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg will hold meetings with some U.S. lawmakers on Monday, a day before he is due to appear at Congressional hearings over a political consultancy’s use of customer data, two congressional aides said on Sunday.
FILE PHOTO – Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks on stage during the annual Facebook F8 developers conference in San Jose, California, U.S., April 18, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
The planned meetings at Capitol Hill are expected to continue through Monday afternoon and include some lawmakers from committees before whom Zuckerberg is due to testify, said the aides, who asked not to be identified because the meetings have not been made public.
Facebook declined to comment.
Zuckerberg is scheduled to appear before a joint hearing of the U.S. Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees on Tuesday and the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday.
Facebook has come under fire in recent weeks after it said that the personal information of up to 87 million users, mostly in the United States, may have been improperly shared with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.
A Facebook spokesman said on Sunday that the company plans to begin telling affected users on Monday.
London-based Cambridge Analytica, which has counted U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign among its clients, has disputed Facebook’s estimate of the number of affected users.
Zuckerberg is expected in his testimony to recognize a need to take responsibility and acknowledge an initial failure to understand how many people were affected, a person briefed on the matter, who asked for anonymity, said on Sunday.
Zuckerberg said in a conference call with reporters last week that he accepted blame for the data leak, which has angered users, advertisers and lawmakers, while also saying he was still the right person to head the company he founded.
On Friday, Facebook backed proposed legislation requiring social media sites to disclose the identities of buyers of online political campaign ads and introduced a new verification process for people buying “issue” ads.
The steps are designed to deter the kind of election meddling and online information warfare that U.S. authorities have accused Russia of pursuing, Zuckerberg said on Friday. Moscow has denied the allegations.
In February, U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged 13 Russians and three Russian companies with interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election by sowing discord on social media.
Zuckerberg, on the call with reporters, said Facebook should have done more to audit and oversee third-party app developers like the one hired by Cambridge Analytica in 2014.
Reporting by David Shepardson, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien
On April 4th, Bloomberg reported that HSBC (HSBC) is considering an exit or sale from smaller consumer operations such as Bermuda, Malta, and Uruguay. In addition, the bank plans to expand its asset management division and is currently looking at a potential merger with a rival.
In our view, the news confirms that the group’s management will remain committed to transforming HSBC into a more focused and more efficient banking institution. More importantly, even though HSBC’s operations in Bermuda, Malta, and Uruguay are small compared to the group’s total assets, we believe a potential sale of these units would have a positive impact on the bank’s capital position, supporting stock buybacks and special dividends.
The recent rise in LIBOR should support HSBC’s NIM
LIBOR has grown by more than 130bps since the beginning of the year. Such a notable increase is currently among the most widely discussed topics. Several analysts suggest that this is an early indicator of a bear market or even a severe financial crisis. In our view, the increase has been driven by idiosyncratic reasons, in particular, higher supply of short-term Treasuries and lower demand from corporates due to the US tax reform.
With that being said, despite the reasons of the rise in LIBOR, HSBC should benefit from higher short-term rates. As shown below, the bank discloses its NII (net interest income) sensitivity to a shift in yield curves. However, this analysis is based on a parallel shift, while yield curves in most global economies continue to flatten.
Source: Company data
What is important here is that HSBC has a variable-rate loan book. More importantly, a significant part of its credit portfolio is priced off short-term rates. This suggests to us that the rise in LIBOR should be a positive for the bank’s asset yields and its NIM.
Source: Company data
One may argue that higher short-term rates will also affect HSBC’s funding costs, especially given that wholesale sources and corporate deposits are generally tied to the short-end of the yield curve. The caveat here is that HSBC has a unique funding position. As shown below, the bank has one of the lowest LtD (loans-to-deposits) ratios among European banks. In other words, HSBC does not need expensive deposits in order to fund its loan growth. HSBC had been struggling from abundant liquidity for many years as a low interest rate environment has virtually crippled its NIM. Given that rates have started rising, the bank’s excessive liquidity is gradually turning into a positive that will protect HSBC’s NIM in a rising interest rate environment.
European banks: Loans-to-deposits ratio
Source: Bloomberg, Renaissance Research
Saudi Aramco’s IPO
Saudi Aramco (Private:ARMCO) has appointed HSBC as an adviser on its much-awaited IPO. JPMorgan (JPM) and Morgan Stanley (MS) will also act as consultants. As such, HSBC is the only non-US bank that will have a crucial role in Aramco’s IPO.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that while many US and UK investors are skeptical on Saudi Aramco’s IPO, as state-owned oil companies have been underperforming their private peers for quite a while now, Chinese investors would be interested in Aramco’s shares. Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (OTCPK:HKXCF) (OTCPK:HKXCY) plans to introduce the so-called Primary Connect program, which would allow mainland Chinese investors to participate in initial public offerings on the HKEX.
We believe Aramco’s IPO would strengthen HSBC’s position in the region. In our view, it would also underpin the fact that HSBC is a global banking group with unique access to Chinese investors.
Buybacks and dividends
HSBC pays a $0.51 dividend per ordinary share or $2.55 per ADR. That corresponds to a 5.4% dividend yield, based on the current ADR price. We believe that a 5.4% dividend from a global blue-chip bank with a strong presence on Asian markets looks very attractive.
Additionally, it is also worth noting that the bank has temporarily suspended its buyback program due to technical reasons related to the issuance of additional Tier 1 capital. We expect HSBC to announce a new buyback in the second half of 2018.
The shares have fallen by almost 15% since January, and we believe this sell-off represents a great opportunity to buy a global bank with an attractive dividend yield. HSBC has excess capital, thanks to its US unit, and, as a result, we expect the bank to announce a new buyback program in the second half of the year.
If you would like to receive our articles as soon as they are published, consider following us by clicking the “Follow” button beside our name at the top of the page. Thank you for reading.
Disclosure:I am/we are long HSBC, JPM.
I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.
Federal and state authorities Friday seized Backpage.com, an online classifieds site frequently accused of facilitating sex trafficking, and reportedly indicted seven people. A notice on Backpage’s website said the site had been seized by the FBI and other agencies.
Nicole Navas Oxman, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice, said Friday afternoon that the agency would issue a press release after charges are unsealed, but things did not go as expected. “The Court has ruled that the case remains sealed and we have nothing to report today,” she wrote in an email Friday evening.
The banner states that the enforcement action was a collaborative effort between the FBI, US Postal Inspection Service, the criminal division of the IRS, the Department of Justice’s child exploitation and obscenity division, as well as attorneys general from Arizona, California, and Texas.
CBS News reported that an indictment had been unsealed against seven people allegedly involved in running Backpage, containing 93 criminal counts including money laundering and running a website to facilitate prostitution. The indictment, which was filed in Arizona where Backpage is maintained, names 17 victims, both adults and children, who were allegedly trafficked, according to CBS News.
On Friday morning, the FBI raided the home of Backpage cofounder Michael Lacey, and there was some activity at the home of cofounder Jim Larkin as well, according to the The Republic, a newspaper in Arizona. A year ago, the paper reported that a federal grand jury had been convened in Arizona to hear evidence against Backpage.
The move against Backpage came just days before President Trump is expected to sign a new anti-sex-trafficking bill that passed both houses of Congress with overwhelming support. The bill initially was controversial because it alters a key internet law that protects tech companies from liability for user-generated content on their platforms.
Previous criminal and civil charges against Backpage had mostly been derailed by that law, the Communications Decency Act. The bill Trump is expected to sign creates an exception for sites that “knowingly” facilitate or support online sex trafficking and explicitly grants states and victims the right to bring criminal and civil action against websites like Backpage. The bill faced opposition from tech companies, free speech advocates, and sex workers, and has already prompted online forums like Craigslist’s personal section and Reddit sections like Escorts and Sugar Daddies to shut down, rather than risk liability. Advocates for sex workers say the closures will endanger those workers, who relied on the sites to share bad date lists and verify clients.
It’s unclear why the federal agencies acted now. The Communications Decency Act did not apply to federal law enforcement agencies, said Eric Goldman, a law professor at Santa Clara University who testified against the recently passed bill. “The question is why today and why not two weeks ago before the Senate voted?” Goldman said. “The DOJ can’t turn on or off a federal prosecution on a dime, so that seems unlikely, but still the timing is so perplexing.” On Twitter, Goldman said, “It’s almost as if the government is trying to prove that all the anti-Backpage rhetoric fueling #SESTA & #FOSTA was just political theater.” (SESTA and FOSTA are acronyms for versions of the anti-sex-trafficking bill.)
Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who cosponsored the bill, called the DOJ’s action to shut down Backpage “long overdue.”
A January 2017 Senate report accused Backpage of facilitating online sex trafficking by stripping words like “lolita,” “little girl,” and “amber alert” from ads in order to hide illegal activity before publishing the ad, as well as coaching customers on how to post “clean” ads for illegal transactions. Judges in California and Massachusetts previously cited Section 230 in dismissing cases against Backpage.
Still, some sex workers said the seizure could endanger them. “If the people who run Backpage have knowingly harmed people, they deserve to be held accountable, but the most immediate impact of the seizure of an entire website will be felt by independent consensual sex workers,” Liara Roux, a sex worker, political organizer, and adult-media producer and director, wrote to WIRED. “Without safe online advertising, which studies seem to show reduced female homicide rates nationally by 17 percent, sex workers are unable to screen clients based on emails and decide who is safe to see.”
Backpage was invoked frequently in the debate around SESTA and FOSTA. Members of the Senate were particularly moved by testimony from Yvonne Ambrose, whose 16-year-old daughter, Desiree Robinson, was killed after she was repeatedly advertised for sex on Backpage. Last year, Ambrose sued Backpage for facilitating child sex trafficking. The documentary “I Am Jane Doe,” followed families in their quest to hold Backpage accountable.
Berin Szóka, president of TechFreedom, a nonprofit that has received funding from Google, says, the timing of the enforcement shows that the vetting process for the bill was rushed. “The argument for SESTA was a sham all along.”
Free Speech or Human Trafficking?
Within days of the bill’s passage, Craigslist, Reddit, and others shut personals forums, as sex workers had feared.
The bill could have encourage tech companies to either stop moderating or censor content, opening the door to further attacks on Section 230.
SEOUL (Reuters) – Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS) tipped a surprise record first-quarter profit on Friday as analysts said strong chip margins and the early launch of its flagship Galaxy S9 smartphone likely masked broader weakness in the mobile market.
The logo of Samsung Electronics is seen at its office building in Seoul, South Korea, March 23, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
The global semiconductor leader and Apple Inc (AAPL.O) smartphone rival forecast its January-March profit to leap 57.6 percent from a year earlier to 15.6 trillion won ($14.7 billion), beating an average forecast of 14.5 trillion won from a Thomson Reuters survey of 21 analysts.
Revenue for the quarter was tipped to rise 18.7 percent to 60 trillion won, Samsung said in a regulatory filing.
The South Korean company did not elaborate on its performance and will disclose detailed earnings in late April.
“Even if profits start falling in the second half, Samsung will have a strong balance sheet this year,” said Song Myung-sup, analyst at HI Investment & Securities.
Analysts expected the chip division to continue to drive profits, after contributing an estimated 10.7 trillion won to first-quarter earnings.
Lower costs and strong demand for DRAM chips used in servers have fattened the division’s margins, putting Samsung on track for record annual earnings amid expectations of tight supply for the remainder of the year.
The mobile business also appeared to have made a surprisingly solid contribution to first-quarter earnings, analysts said, despite a broader slowdown in global smartphone sales.
They put this down to Samsung’s early launch of its premium Galaxy S9 device as well as healthy sales of older models as consumers balk at the high price-tags on the latest premium models.
“DRAM prices were good, so the chips division could have earned more than the market expected. But there was probably some upside in the mobile business,” said Greg Roh, analyst at HMC Investment & Securities.
The S9, which began selling in most markets in mid-March, launched a full five weeks before its predecessor S8 in 2017.
Worldwide smartphone shipment volumes shrank for the first time in 2017, according to data from industry tracker IDC, as steep prices for high-end models and slowing innovation prompted consumers to delay purchasing upgrades.
Concerns about the smartphone market and a subsequent fall in demand for components like OLED screens – used in Apple’s iPhone X – are behind a roughly 4.4 percent fall in Samsung Electronics’ share price so far this year, from a record high in November.
Samsung shares fell 2.3 percent on Friday after the earnings guidance, compared to a 0.7 percent drop in the wider market. .KS11
DRAM prices and the performance of the flagship Galaxy S9 smartphone launched in March will be other key variables for Samsung going forward.
“The Galaxy S9 series will face headwinds that are affecting all premium smartphone makers,” research firm Strategy Analytics told Reuters last week.
($1 = 1,061.5100 won)
Reporting by Joyce Lee; Additional reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Stephen Coates
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted to making a “huge mistake” by failing to sufficiently consider how bad actors could abuse the social networking service, but he said that he has no plans to step down.
Zuckerberg said during a press briefing on Wednesday that he takes responsibility for a series of crises plaguing his service over the past year. These include the spread of fake news by Russian trolls and the alleged exploitation of Facebook user data by political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
“I think life is about learning from the mistakes and figuring out what you need to do to move forward,” Zuckerberg said. “The reality of a lot of this is, when you’re building something like Facebook that is unprecedented in the world, there are going to be things that you mess up.”
Despite the high-profile stumbles, Zuckerberg says he remains the best person to lead Facebook. When asked whether Facebook’s board has discussed whether he should step down, Zuckerberg said, “Not that I’m aware of.” He added that no Facebook employee has been fired in light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which the company said could impact up to 87 million Facebook users—an increase from earlier reports of 50 million.
“I started this place, I run it, I am responsible for what happens here,” Zuckerberg said. “I’m not looking to throw anyone under the bus for mistakes that we made here.”
But the fact that the question about his tenure even came up shows how embattled the one-time Silicon Valley darling is. For example, angry users are campaigning to get others to delete their Facebook accounts, which Zuckerberg said on Wednesday has had little impact.
“But look, it’s not good,” he conceded. “We don’t want anyone to be unhappy with our services.”
Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission has started investigating Facebook’s data handling policies while some lawmakers are calling for tougher privacy laws. Next week, Zuckerberg is scheduled to appear at a likely testy Congressional hearing that will cover Facebook’s privacy problems.
On Wednesday, Facebook added fuel to the fire by disclosing that “malicious actors” had abused a feature to likely scrape the public profile information of the company’s two billion users. Facebook said it has now disabled that feature.
For the past year, Zuckerberg said that Facebook has been undergoing an internal reckoning over its growing influence on world affairs. While the company has long focused on the benefits of its social network like connecting family members and helping small businesses grow, Facebook executives mistakenly overlooked its platform’s negative effects, he said.
“It’s clear now we didn’t focus enough on abuse,” Zuckerberg said. “We didn’t take a broad enough view in what our responsibility is.”
He added, “That was a huge mistake, that was my mistake.”
Zuckerberg reiterated a series of changes Facebook has made to deal with a number of its current controversies. They include partnering with news organizations to fact-check news articles before major elections and further limiting the amount of data third-party developers can obtain by building apps on Facebook.
He also said that Facebook plans to increase the number of staff working on security issues to 20,000 people by the end of the year, to do things like ferret out fake accounts created by Russian trolls. However, Zuckerberg conceded that addressing Facebook’s many problems won’t be a quick fix, and that Facebook is “probably a year into a massive three-year push” to implement changes.
“I wish that I could snap my fingers and in three months or six months have solved all of these issues,” Zuckerberg said. “But, I just think the reality is given how complex Facebook is and how many systems there are, and how we need to rethink our relationship with people about our responsibility there across every single part of what we do, I do think this is a multi-year effort.”
He described it as a “big shift” for Facebook to take “more responsibility” for how bad actors use its service. “My hope is by the end of this year, we’ll have turned a corner on a lot of these issues and people see things are getting a lot better,” he said.
When Apple announced a shift from IBM and Motorola’s PowerPC chips in 2005, competitors using Intel’s chips in their computers had a big edge in performance. Today, some of Apple laptops that are built with Intel chips are getting trounced.
And it’s Apple’s own mobile chips inside iPhones and iPads that are doing the trouncing. That’s why it makes sense for Apple shift again, away from Intel to chips of its own design.
On Monday, Bloomberg reported that Apple had decided to use its own chips in its computers starting as soon as 2020. The effort, code named Kalamata, is still in an early developmental stage, Bloomberg reported, but it has spooked Intel’s investors. Fortune reached out to Apple for comment and will update this story if a response is received. Intel declined to comment.
Shares of Intel plunged 6% to close at $48.92 on Monday. But even with the sharp drop, the stock’s price remains higher than it was just six weeks ago.
The would-be rationale for Apple’s new chip strategy is to allow its mobile products and computers to work together more seamlessly. But there’s also the increasingly embarrassing performance issue. Last year’s iPad Pro models using Apple’s homemade A10X processor (which is based on designs from ARM Holding) outperformed the company’s 13″ MacBook Pro laptops, which had Intel i7 chips, on some benchmark tests. Apple’s more recent A11 Bionic chip used in the iPhone X and iPhone 8 had even higher benchmark scores.
Apple has been growing its chip design capability since the Steve Jobs-era, when the company bought PA Semi for $278 million in 2008. Since then, Apple has built an all-star team of chip designers, currently led by Johny Srouji.
The homegrown chips allowed Apple to replace Qualcomm processor chips from iPhones years ago and more recently replace graphics processing chips in the devices from Imagination Technologies Group. Apple doesn’t appear to own the patents to make its own mobile modem chips, an area in which it has increasingly been shifting from Qualcomm (qcom) to chips made by Intel in an effort to cut costs.
But despite all of Apple’s chip switching, a complete transition from Intel would take time. In 2005, Apple’s biggest challenge in swapping chip designs was rewriting all of its software to operate better with Intel’s chips. This time around, in addition to having to tweak its software, Apple would also have to develop a line of chips for desktop and laptop computers. Its homegrown mobile chips are the equal of chips used in its slowest laptops, but the company has never publicly shown that any of its chips could run its most cutting edge laptops, let alone the 18-core Xeon Intel behemoth at the core of its iMac Pro.
Rumors of Apple dumping Intel have surfaced periodically, not coincidentally around times when the two companies negotiated new deals, industry analyst Patrick Moorhead, president of Moor Insights, noted on Twitter. “Doesn’t mean untrue but usually means it’s negotiation time,” he wrote.” I could imagine a few amped up iOS-based MacBooks, but not a wholesale 2020 change to all Macs.”
The loss of Apple’s (aapl) business alone should be manageable for Intel (intc). Macs accounted for less than $4 billion of Intel’s annual revenue, or less than 6% of the company’s $65 billion of expected sales this year, analyst Michael McConnell at Keybanc pointed out in a report on Monday.
For a mere $25, you can take a weapon and break as many things as you want. Participants can choose bats, golf clubs, and pipes to destroy dishes, lamps, printers, plates, and other items. Plus, it only usually takes a few minutes.
The business started out as five-minute sessions for $5 in her garage. The room’s popularity grew thanks to word-of-mouth, and Alexander kept relocating to larger spaces. It’s become a big hit in Dallas, Texas with people who need to vent their frustrations.
Most people have a lot of bottled up stress in their daily lives – terrible bosses, long commutes, faulty technology, student loans, marital problems – the list goes on. Alexander said the service was especially popular during holidays and elections. She made sure to stock the much-requested Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton mannequins (come on, that’s pretty funny…)
However, any civilized adult can’t just throw a temper tantrum in public lest you want to be remembered like Bob Knight. Someone might slam their fist on the desk or hit a wall, but these small acts hardly feel satisfying. Letting loose your inner rage can make a significant difference.
Science Support it, Too
It might seem unhealthy at first, but so is bottling up anger. One meta-analysis of 22 studies and over 6,000 subjects found that repressing emotions led to greater stress and anxiety. Patients who bottled their feelings saw increases in heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol.
Some psychologists worry that an anger room might reinforce bad habits and that people should seek healthier alternatives such as meditation or exercise. It’s true that smashing objects isn’t as healthy as going for a run, but one can’t deny how useful it is to blow off steam. Just make sure that breaking things isn’t your go-to option every time you feel frustrated.
Pent-up rage isn’t something that can always be resolved rationally. Sometimes you need to let it all out.
Alexander says she never sees people leave angrier than they came. She says that sometimes people need a safe space to release their emotions without fear of being judged.
So, get out there and go break something. Your brain will thank you for it.
President Donald Trump this weekend renewed his long-running attacks on Amazon and its owner, Jeff Bezos. Trump’s criticisms are wide-ranging, and at least some of them seem deeply flawed. So what’s really driving the President’s hostility towards the e-commerce giant?
Most fundamentally, Trump’s attacks on Amazon are in line with his populist politics. In a Thursday tweet, Trump said Amazon was “putting many thousands of retailers out of business!”
There’s plenty of evidence for this view, as retailers nationwide close stores and declare bankruptcy in droves. Retail jobs have declined in rural areas, where Trump’s support is strongest. But there has been some pushback against the idea that retail as a whole is in trouble, or that Amazon can be blamed — the stores that are closing or shrinking often have unrelated problems.
And even if Amazon is putting more pressure on brick-and-mortar stores, it’s not at all clear that this is the disaster Trump frames it as. A generation ago, competition from Walmart was decimating smaller retailers and retail jobs — but also lowering prices with its focus on efficiency. Amazon, by the same token, beats traditional retailers by making the process of shopping more efficient. That the President would object to this seems to reflect a view of capitalism as a zero-sum game, rather than one in which efficiency and innovation ultimately benefit everyone. It’s the same worldview that has led him to push for more restrictive international trade rules, and to defend inefficient, outdated coal-derived energy.
As part of his multi-pronged attack, Trump has also repeatedly claimed that Amazon is gaming the system by getting preferential rates from the U.S. Postal Service. That criticism appears to be based on a 2017 Citigroup analysis, but that finding applied to all packages, not just Amazon’s. Even then, the claim relies on some selective interpretations of USPS’s cost structure. Trump’s claim that Amazon pays “little or no taxes to state & local governments” is even less rooted in reality — Amazon collects sales tax in 45 states.
So there’s room for debate over some of Trump’s criticisms of Amazon. But Trump’s last big critique is more fundamentally worrying. On Saturday, the President reiterated claims that the Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, is “used as a ‘lobbyist’” that pushes Amazon’s agenda. In fact, the Post has published significant negative coverage of Amazon, and there’s no evidence that Bezos interferes with the newspaper’s coverage.
That suggests Trump’s attack on the Post could be read as a more sophisticated repetition of his blunt attempts to discredit critical reporting as “fake news.” And in fact, Trump’s latest round of anti-Amazon venting came immediately after a Post report detailing multiple investigations into the Trump Organization’s finances.
There is one other possible motivation for Trump’s long-running hatred of Amazon — personal resentment of Jeff Bezos. Trump has consistently shown a deep attraction to straightforward signals of power and success. As a developer, it was famously reflected in his love of gaudy décor. As President, it has been reflected in his tall, super-wealthy, and militarized cabinet picks. For a man who sees the world in such simplified terms, it must be deeply galling to face an opponent who is as much as 40 times richer. It’s hard to imagine Trump doesn’t take some pleasure in watching that gap close every time he lambasts Bezos’s company.
In terms of marketing, being overwhelmed by the amount of content online can become as common as driving past a McDonald’s. The sheer volume of online courses, e-books, YouTube tutorials and more can cause one to nearly go numb trying to keep up and retain all of the information.
Yet, many people forget there are some principles of marketing that almost certainly won’t change in our lifetimes or in the centuries ahead. Why? Well, because marketing is driven by psychology, and the human brain doesn’t evolve overnight.
Here are four timeless books that changed my life, business and marketing for the better, and, if read and absorbed, can do the same for you.
The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout
When talking about having a long-lasting impact with your marketing, it’s only right we kick off this list with The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing. The amount of simple yet brilliant principles Ries and Trout lay out in this book are game-changing and have stood the test of time.
When it comes to marketing, this book started it all for me. I was working as an intern at a startup and aimlessly trying to decide on my career path. I tried project management, computer science, sales and more, but none felt like the right fit.
I had always been a storyteller, and after reading this book, it hit me that all of marketing can be boiled down to stories and principles of human behavior. That began my love affair with the industry, and we’ve been going strong ever since.
Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk
Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook should be required reading for any and all marketing professionals. The main reason being that many people approach online interactions and in-person interactions differently when they should be treated exactly the same way.
You wouldn’t ask a potential girlfriend or boyfriend to go on vacation with you after the first date (at least, I hope not). Yet, for whatever reason, across social media and beyond we see people asking for a prospect’s time or money without giving an adequate amount of value to earn those things.
This was the book that led to me writing my first viral, breakthrough article, which then led to me launching my business, landing my Inc.com column, securing speaking gigs and more. The epiphany I had was simple: play the “long game” by adding value to my readers, month after month, year after year. Only after I build that trust up should I ask them for anything in exchange.
Hooked by Nir Eyal
Hooked by Nir Eyal is another book overflowing with priceless information on consumer psychology. Eyal takes an approach focused on modern-day companies like Twitter and Instagram. If you’re interested in learning how tech giants reel in and retain their users using psychology, Nir’s bestseller will be a book for you.
Most of the examples Eyal uses in Hooked are based on products, not outgoing marketing materials. I began to recognize that marketing was a facet of every piece of the business from the product to the elevator pitch, so I could add value to all parts of my client’s businesses.
Influence by Robert Cialdini
Robert Cialdini’s book has remained a favorite amongst entrepreneurs, sales and marketing professionals and more since it was published in 1984. After reading just a few pages, you’ll realize why. The enduring principles Cialdini delivers in Influence are aspects of the human psyche that are hard-wired into us, and aren’t going away any time soon.
This book was gifted to me by a former manager who I consider the closest thing to a mentor I’ve ever had, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. I was working a fast-growing startup in San Francisco while building my startup, Arctiphi, on the side. I wanted things to move faster so I could go full-time into my business, but sales was never my forte. I lacked the confidence, the body language, damn near everything I thought made a great salesperson great.
After reading the book, I realized the way I was thinking of sales was all wrong. The packaging didn’t matter nearly as much as the product. Marketing and sales were brother and sister, not distant cousins, and the same tactics I was using in my copywriting could be applied to in-person sales, public speaking and more.
It worked. Within a few months of reading Influence, monthly revenue increased sixfold and I was able to go full-time into Arctiphi.
There are many marketing principles that’ll remain true for centuries to come. By equipping yourself with these timeless principles instead of “keeping up with the marketing Joneses” daily, you’ll position your brand to stay relevant no matter what the world throws at it.
Every action you perform on Facebook—and its sister services like Instagram and WhatsApp—surrenders data to the business’ well-oiled surveillance machinery. Maintaining a presence on the social network means granting the company the right to steward—and sell—your personal information to advertisers. It’s been said a zillion times, but it bears reiterating: If you’re not paying, you’re the product.
Why should Facebook rake in tens of billions of dollars a year on the backs of its 2 billion-plus user base? It’s the people’s data, after all. Shouldn’t they—I mean, we—benefit from it?
In the inaugural episode of Balancing The Ledger, Fortune’s new show covering all things fintech-, crypto-, and blockchain-related, Fortune digital editor Andrew Nusca discusses the potential for distributed, blockchain-based social networks to displace Facebook, alongside senior writers Robert Hackett and Jen Wieczner. After the recent Cambridge Analytica controversy, which involved a political consultancy misappropriating and misusing people’s data in an attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election, Facebook has come under intense fire. A fomenting #deletefacebook campaign has attracted the likes of billionaire Elon Musk and, poignantly, Brian Acton, an entrepreneur who made billions on his sale of WhatsApp to Facebook in 2014, among others.
“Right now there’s a groundswell of people who want something else,” Nusca said.
“If you could only keep control of your data with blockchain technology, then this is a way so you wouldn’t have to give it over to companies like Facebook,” said Wieczner, noting that centralized entities are exactly what blockchains were invented to get around. Using such tools might mean people would “not have to entrust [data] to these companies who have proven time and time again that they cannot be trusted with your data.”
To be sure, blockchain-based alternatives are a ways away from toppling Facebook, one of the world’s most valuable corporations. Some of the most popular distributed ledger platforms, like Bitcoin and Ethereum, still have numerous issues to figure out—not least among them how to scale. But these technologies are under active development, and could, perhaps, become standard in time to come.
For now, if you delete or deactivate Facebook, you’ll likely have to deal with being a little out of the loop among friends and family. “It’s kind of a difficult thing here to get a bunch of users on board with a new technology,” as Hackett noted. But if blockchain-based projects can latch onto network effects, similar to the ones that turbo-boosted Facebook’s growth, without coming apart at the seams, then they just might provide the basis for the next paradigm in social networking.
For more on the latest finance and tech news—plus interviews with special guests and industry experts—tune into ‘Balancing The Ledger’ every Friday at 11 a.m. ET. You can also follow The Ledger on Twitter and sign up for our upcoming newsletter here.