Netflix sinking deeper into debt to fuel subscriber growth

first_imgSAN FRANCISCO – Netflix is sinking deeper into debt in its relentless pursuit of more viewers, leaving the company little margin for error as it tries to build the world’s biggest video subscription service.The big burden that Netflix is shouldering hasn’t been a major concern on Wall Street so far, as CEO Reed Hastings’ strategy has been paying off.The billions of dollars that Netflix has borrowed to pay for exclusive series such as “House of Cards,” ”Stranger Things,” and “The Crown” has helped its service more than triple its global audience during the past four years — leaving it with 109 million subscribers worldwide through September.That figure includes 5.3 million subscribers added during the July-September period, according to Netflix’s quarterly earnings report released Monday. The growth exceeded management forecasts and analyst projections. Netflix’s stock rose 1 per cent in extended trading, putting it on track to touch new highs Tuesday. The shares have increased by about five-fold during the past four years.If the subscribers keep coming at the current pace, Netflix may surpass its role model — HBO — within the next few years. HBO started this year with 134 million subscribers worldwide.“We are running around 100 miles an hour doing our thing around the world,” Hastings said during a review of the third-quarter results.But Netflix’s subscriber growth could slow if it can’t continue to win programming rights to hit TV series and movies, now that there are more competitors, including Apple , Amazon, Hulu and YouTube.If that happens, there will be more attention on Netflix’s huge programming bills, and “then we could see an investor backlash,” CFRA Research analyst Tuna Amobi says. “But Netflix has been delivering great subscriber growth so far.”Netflix’s long-term debt and other obligations totalled $21.9 billion as of Sept. 30, up from $16.8 billion at the same time last year. That includes $17 billion for video programming, up from $14.4 billion a year ago. Most of the programming payments are due within the next five years. Netflix expects to spend $7 billion to $8 billion on programming next year, up from $6 billion this year.The Los Gatos, California, company has to borrow to pay for most of its programming expenses because it doesn’t generate enough cash on its own. Netflix burned through another $465 million in the most recent quarter, which is known as “negative cash flow” in accounting parlance.For all of this year, Netflix has warned that its negative cash flow might be as high as $2.5 billion, a trend that management expects will continue for at least the next several years as it tries to diversify its video library to appeal to divergent tastes in about 190 countries.Nonetheless, Netflix has remained profitable, under U.S. accounting rules. The company earned $130 million on $3 billion in revenue in its latest quarter.And management appears to be trying to ease the financial drain with price increases of $1 and $2 a month for most of its 53 million subscribers in the U.S. before the end of the year. The higher prices are likely to increase Netflix’s revenue by about $650 million next year, RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Mahaney predicted.But the price increases could backfire if it provokes an unusually high number of subscribers to cancel, something Netflix faced when it raised rates in the past. Most analysts believe that’s unlikely to happen this time, and Netflix supported that thesis with its growth forecast. Management expects to add 6.3 million subscribers during the October-December period, slightly more than what analysts are anticipating, according to FactSet.Netflix has long argued its borrowing makes sense to gain a huge advantage over rivals as people increasingly watch programming on internet-connected devices. Plus, management points out that its total debt is small compared with its market value of nearly $90 billion.With such a valuable stock, Netflix theoretically could sell more shares to raise money — similar to how homeowners sometimes use the equity accrued in their houses to pay big bills.But that would be more difficult to do if Netflix’s stock price plummets amid concerns about its debt.Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter also questions the long-term value of Netflix’s programming line-up.“What is something like Season One of ‘House of Cards’ worth to you if you already have watched it? It’s probably only worth something to someone who hasn’t been subscribing to Netflix for the past five years,” Pachter says. “So that means Netflix has to keep reinventing itself virtually every year, and that costs money.”last_img read more

Trump right and wrong on French wine tariffs

first_imgPARIS — U.S. President Donald Trump is partly right but far from completely correct when he says that France’s “big tariffs” make it hard for American vintners to sell their wines here: Wrong because customs duties on imported wines are applied not by France but by the European Union. Right because American tariffs are “globally” less than what Europe charges, the French customs authority says.Prices aside, wine made in the U.S. is apparently appreciated in the European Union — the world’s premier importer — and in France, where the value of wine imported has risen 200 per cent between 2008 and 2017, according to the French Federation of Wines and Spirits Exporters.Trump went after France on several fronts in tweets on Tuesday, including blasting tariffs on its emblematic wine.The Associated Presslast_img read more

Dubai Breaks New Years Fireworks World Record

first_imgNew Jersey – Ringing in the New Year starts from one end of the world to the other. But, it was Dubai’s sensational six minute performance that trumped them all.Dubai broke the world record for the world’s largest pyrotechnic display on New Year’s Eve with more than half a million fireworks from the city’s top landmarks including Palm Jumeirah, World Islands, the Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab.The spectacle had more than 200 expert technicians logging in 5,000 hours with 100 computers to make sure the fireworks went off at exactly midnight to a musical soundtrack. “The scale of this record attempt is truly impressive and will ensure all eyes are on Dubai,” said Alistair Richards, Global President of Guinness World Records ahead of the event.Dubai shattered Kuwait’s record setting 2012 display marking their golden jubilee anniversary with 77,282 fireworks.© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributedlast_img read more

Miami SelfImposes Second Straight Postseason Ban

Miami University has self-imposed yet another postseason ban for the second straight season in the wake of an ongoing NCAA investigation into the school’s compliance practices.The inquiry began in 2011 after a former booster came forward with allegations that he provided multiple athletes and recruits with extra benefits such as cash and gifts.The Hurricanes are hopeful by implementing a postseason ban that the NCAA will lessen its punishment if it find that the university has committed any wrongdoing.The announcement came Monday morning from interim athletic director Blake James following the Hurricanes 40-9  victory over South Florida Saturday, which made them bowl eligible with an overall record of 6-5 and 4-3 in the ACC.University President Donna Shalala and the school’s legal counsel were also involved in the decision.The school issued the following statement:“Considerable deliberation and discussion based on the status of the NCAA inquiry went into the decision-making process and, while acknowledging the impact that the decision will have on current student-athletes, coaches, alumni and fans, a determination was made that voluntarily withholding the football team from a second postseason was not only a prudent step for the University to take but will also allow for the football program and University to move forward in the most expedited manner possible,” the statement read.It continued, “The University and President Shalala have been clear from the start of the inquiry that Miami will cooperate fully and will seek the truth, no matter where the path might lead and that the institution will be stronger because of it. The University has already taken proactive measures to ensure more strict compliance with NCAA rules and continues to evaluate further steps. “No other self-imposed penalties have been issued at this time and to continue to protect the integrity of the inquiry, the University will have no further comment.”Hurricanes coach Al Golden, was not apart of the decision-making process, but told reporters Sunday that he understood if a decision was reached to forego another postseason due to self-impose sanctions because the decision was out of his control.“It’s not really about what I feel,” Golden told reporters. “There’s not one coach sitting in this chair that wouldn’t want to continue to get the bowl practices and move the team forward and have a chance to win more games. But that’s just taking football into account.”Golden is on board with any decision that will expedite the process, allowing for the program to move forward.The Hurricanes have the opportunity to secure a share of the ACC Coastal Division title with a win over Duke in their regular season finale, but Georgia Tech (6-5, 5-3 ACC) will represent the Coastal Division in the ACC Championship Game. The Yellow Jackets will take on Florida State, the representative from the Atlantic Division on Dec. 1, in Charlotte, N.C.But Golden said that Saturday’s season finale is more important for the seniors of the program.“It’s critical,” Golden said. “It’s critical for our seniors, for them to have weathered what they will have weathered and be able to have an opportunity to go out like that.” read more

Gist Appointed To Kenai Superior Court

Gist Appointed To Kenai Superior Court

first_imgHe clerked for Alaska’s Chief Justice Alexander O. Bryner, worked in private practice, and has been an Assistant District Attorney for the State of Alaska since 2008. In Kenai, Jason Gist will join the Kenai Superior Court. Gist has practiced law in Alaska for more than 14 years, after graduating from the University of California – Berkeley School of Law in 2004. Facebook0TwitterEmailPrintFriendly分享Governor Bill Walker appointed four new judges in Alaska. They will join the Kenai, Juneau, and Bethel Superior Courts, as well as the Court of Appeals.center_img Governor Walker: “I am grateful to each of these four Alaskans for their service to our state. Their history with Alaska, their excellent records, and the personal conversations I had with each of them made me confident they will serve Alaska well in their new roles.”last_img read more

UPDATE RR Donnelley Bids to Acquire Quebecor World for 13 Billion

first_imgRELATED MEMO: R.R. Donnelley’s Letter R.R. Donnelley has approached fellow magazine printer Quebecor World—which expects to emerge from bankruptcy protection this summer—about acquiring the assets of the company for approximately $1.3 billion.“Quebecor and R.R. Donnelley have long represented a strong strategic fit with one another and, through this proposal, we have the opportunity to join them together in a way that greatly benefits stakeholders of both companies, including Quebecor World’s debtors and their creditors,” R.R. Donnelley president and CEO Thomas J. Quinlan III said in a statement.It was not immediately clear if a merger of this size would conflict with antitrust regulations. A Quebecor World spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment. UPDATE: Quebecor acknowledged receipt of the letter on Wednesday, and said its board of directors is in the process of reviewing the proposal with major stakeholders. According to the proposal, Chicago-based R.R. Donnelley has offered to purchase Quebecor’s assets in three parts: approximately $700 million cash to Quebecor’s debtors; $257 million in cash on Quebecor’s balance sheet; and $394.2 million in stock—representing approximately 15 percent of Donnelley’s outstanding shares. Donnelley said its proposal was based on Quebecor’s estimated value following its court-ordered reorganization.Last month, Quebecor World reached an agreement with its creditors that it said will allow the company to emerge from bankruptcy protection, possibly as early as mid-July. The agreement is based on the terms of a consolidated restructuring plan that is intended to recapitalize and “substantially deleverage” the company from its pre-filing levels.In connection with the restructuring, Quebecor said it anticipates having to arrange exit financing at levels below its current debtor-in-possession financing facility, the company said.Quebecor filed for bankruptcy protection in January 2008. In March, Quebecor reported a net loss from continuing operations of $943.9 million for 2008 compared to a net loss from continuing operations of $1.8 billion in 2007. The results included $165.9 million in taxes.last_img read more

Financial Title Goes OnlineOnly

first_imgSummit Business Media’s Wealth Manager is making the transition to online-only, the company said last week. The July/August issue will be its last. According to publisher Andrew Sonnenberg, the decision was made, in part, based on feedback from readers and “key business partners.” The magazine’s Web site,, will showcase new interactive community and editorial features, the company said.One layoff was associated with the transition, Summit vice president John Whelan told FOLIO:. Editorial director Jamie Green and editor-in-chief Kate McBride will remain with the online magazine.With a frequency of 11 times per year, the print edition of Wealth Manager carried a circulation of 40,000. Earlier this month, Summit folded monthly financial title Mortgage Originator Magazine. In January, citing a need to focus on its core brands, Summit suspended publication of Bank Advisor magazine.Summit continues to publish Investment Advisor, Research and Boomer Market Advisor magazines.last_img read more

Reed Exhibitions Changes BoothPricing Model

first_imgResults, Walsh told the 150 or so ECEF attendees, have been good. Re-signs are up, customer retention and yield have increased, and exhibitor satisfaction has also improved.ECEF, a one-day executive event run by industry consultant and veteran Sam Lippman, attracted a variety of top-level show executives from both the independent-organizer community as well as associations. Sessions included one on the value of face-to-face, and another on next-generation marketing techniques that featured Jenn Heinold, events vice president at Access Intelligence, parent company of FOLIO: and sister publication EXPO magazine publisher Red 7 Media, and CEA’s John T. Kelley.A session on what exhibitors expect, and how they perceive value in the shows they invest in, was especially lively. The panelists were Jeffrey A. Masters, senior manager of event marketing for Philips Healthcare, and Kathleen Gunderson, project manager at Wells Fargo.Perhaps most surprising, in an era where big corporations are organizing their own events, neither panelist said they have any interest in that. “Neither of us wants to be in the business of aggregating attendees,” said Masters. “I want to help you do that.”But in exchange for supporting an event, especially as an anchor exhibitor, Masters said, he expects—and won’t compromise—on certain things from the organizer:• The producer accepts the presence of my proprietary measurement and swipe-gathering systems, and partners to make those tools perform as designed.• The producer understands and accepts why it is critical to have on-demand authentication with attendees for basic registration data at time of swipe. • The producer must abandon use of poor-quality attendee swipe devices.• Producer and registration-management companies must provide the visual necessities on badges for the most up-too—date tools, such as iPads.• Producers need to understand that events that cannot be measured effectively will either be downsized or removed from the portfolio.Gunderson mentioned the varying costs of drayage from venue to venue, saying it makes it very hard to create budgets. She also said that online alternatives to events don’t have the same effect. “Fans, friends and followers are not like face-to-face,” she said. “Make sure when attendees come to a show, it’s compelling and innovative.” WASHINGTON—Reed Exhibitions, in a dramatic shift away from expo-industry booth-pricing norms, has moved away from selling booths based on square-footage and instead has implemented a new approach based on location, attributes and timing.“Nancy Walsh, Reed EVP and keynote at the Exhibition & Convention Executives Forum here Wednesday, described a pricing initiative that allows customers to select space based on what they most value. Some will want to be at the center of the hall. Some will want to be near the food-and-beverage stations. Some will want to book early and save, and some will want to go for a blowout position through sheer size. “It just makes sense,” Walsh said. “We are willing to pay more for things we truly value. The option to choose is a value.”Reed is the world’s largest event producer, with 500 events in 39 countries and 44 markets, so what it does carries a lot of weight in the industry.last_img read more

Fords EV Mustang crossover concept may debut this year report says

first_img 2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350: A friendlier track animal Enlarge ImageFord’s been holding an electric Mustang-inspired crossover over our heads for months now, but we could see it in concept form by the end of 2019. Ford Ford’s been teasing a Mustang-inspired electric crossover for quite a while now, first with the “Mach 1” teaser in Detroit in 2018 that caused people to take to the internet with pitchforks and torches. We’ve seen other teasers for the new model since that time, and now according to a report Tuesday by, we can expect to see a lot more than that before the end of the year. Autocar says Ford’s electric crossover will debut to the public in concept form sometime this year, with a production version expected to see the light sometime in 2020. Those are pretty bold statements, and it’s not entirely clear where Autocar is getting its information, but let’s take a look at what Ford has confirmed about this new EV. We know it’s not going to be called the Mach 1 and that Ford is targeting a 300 mile maximum range on the EPA cycle. That’s it. That’s all we know for sure, though it’s safe to guess that this new model would almost certainly have to be built on a new platform. It will also likely be marketed as a more performance-oriented competitor for Tesla’s Model Y and as perhaps a more affordable alternative to Jaguar’s I-Pace. When asked for confirmation on Autocar’s speculation, Emma Bergg, communications manager for Ford’s EV program, responded, “We do not comment on speculation related to our future products.” We’d be excited to see Ford get fully into the EV game and offer real (affordable) competition to brands like Tesla, Jaguar, Audi and Porsche and maybe spur folks at General Motors into making something a little more exciting than the Bolt. Electric Cars Concept Cars Future Cars Crossovers Comment Ford 2020 BMW M340i review: A dash of M makes everything better 2019 Ford F-150 review: Popular pickup keeps on truckin’ Originally published May 21, 12:30 p.m. PT.  Update, 2:28 p.m.: Adds comment from Ford. Update, 5:26 p.m.: Corrects EPA range estimate. Ford More From Roadshow 63 Photos 1 Tags Share your voice 2016 Ford Explorer review: Go road-tripping in Ford’s updated, EcoBoost-powered SUVlast_img read more

BNP starts selling nomination papers

BNP starts selling nomination papers

first_imgBNP senior leader Nazrul Islam Khan on behalf of chairperson Khaleda Zia collects nomination form to contest in Bagura-6 constituency in Naya Paltan central office on 12 November. Photo: Dipu MalakarBNP formally started selling its nomination papers on Monday to those who want to contest the next general election with the party’s election symbol ‘Sheaf of Paddy’, reports UNB.The sale nomination paper began at 10:45am with the purchase of two nomination papers for its chairperson Khaleda Zia.BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir purchased a nomination form for Khaleda to contest the polls from Feni-1 while BNP standing committee member Nazrul Islam Khan collected another form for her for Bogura-6 constituency.BNP leader Mirza Abbas will buy another form for Khaleda Zia to contest the polls from Bogura-6 constituency.Besides, Mirza Fakhrul bought another nomination paper for himself for contesting the election from Tangail-1.The aspirants can collect the party nomination paper from 10 to 4pm on Monday and Tuesday at Tk 5,000 each.Each nomination hopeful can submit the nomination paper either on Wednesday 10:00am to 4:00pm or the same time on Thursday with Tk25,000 as non-refundable deposit.Earlier in the day, BNP’s two alliances –Jatiya Oikya Front and 20-Praty– announced to participate in the upcoming 11th parliamentary elections as part of their movement to restore democracy, and demanded the election be deferred by one month.Huge party leaders and activists started gathering in front of BNP office soon after the announcement of its joining the polls.On Thursday evening, chief election commissioner (CEC) KM Nurul Huda in a televised address to the nation announced the schedule for the next general election.As per the schedule, the 11th parliamentary elections will be held on 23 December (Sunday) while the last date for submitting nomination papers is 19 November, the date for scrutinising nomination papers is 22 November and the last date for the withdrawal of nomination papers is 29 November.last_img read more

Hong Kong convicts Umbrella Movement leaders

Hong Kong convicts Umbrella Movement leaders
first_img(L-R) Occupy Central pro-democracy movement founders Chan Kin-man, Benny Tai and Chu Yiu-ming chant slogans after found guilty over the Occupy Central protests, also known as `Umbrella Movement`, in Hong Kong, China on 9 April 2019. Photo: ReutersA group of Hong Kong activists face jail after being convicted Tuesday on colonial-era “public nuisance” charges for their role in organising mass pro-democracy protests that paralysed the city for months and infuriated Beijing.The convictions followed a trial that has renewed alarm over shrinking freedoms under an assertive China which has rejected demands by Hong Kongers asking for a greater say in how the financial hub is run.Nine activists were all convicted on Tuesday of at least one charge in a prosecution that deployed rarely-used colonial-era public nuisance laws over their participation in the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests, which called for free elections for the city’s leader.It is the latest blow to strike the beleaguered pro-democracy camp which has seen key figures jailed or banned from standing as legislators since their civil disobedience movement convulsed the city but failed to win any concessions.Among the most prominent members of the group on trial were sociology professor Chan Kin-man, 60, law professor Benny Tai, 54, and Baptist minister Chu Yiu-ming, 75.The trio founded the pro-democracy “Occupy Central” movement in 2013, which joined the student-led Umbrella Movement a year later that brought parts of the city to a standstill for months.All three were found guilty of conspiracy to commit public nuisance. Tai and Chan were also convicted of incitement to commit public nuisance although all three were acquitted of incitement to incite public nuisance.Of the remaining six defendants — a group of younger protest leaders, including two sitting lawmakers — all were convicted of at least one public nuisance charge.’Can’t stop the dawn’In an unusual move prosecutors tried the group under Hong Kong’s common law system, which carries a much steeper sentence than statutory public nuisance laws.Each protest leader could now face up to seven years in jail, rather than three months had the charges been brought under statutory law.Judge Johnny Chan ruled that the 2014 protests, which took over key intersections for many weeks, were not protected by Hong Kong’s free speech laws because the demonstrations impinged on the rights of others.”The unreasonableness of the obstruction was such that the significant and protected right to demonstrate should be displaced,” he said. “The act was one not warranted by law.”The defendants remain on bail with the court expected to continue hearing mitigation arguments in the coming days before handing down sentences.There were emotional scenes on Tuesday afternoon as the oldest defendant, Reverend Chu, delivered a statement in which he described the dock as “the most honourable pulpit of my ministerial career”.Former student leader Joshua Wong and activist Agnes Chow arrive at the court to support leaders of Occupy Central activists, in Hong Kong, China on 9 April 2019. Photo: ReutersHe warned Hong Kong’s leadership against ignoring youth-led calls for greater democratic freedoms.”The bell tolls. It gives out a warning sound, that something bad and disastrous is happening,” he said.In a submission sent to journalists fellow defendant Shiu Ka-chun added: “I want to warn the authoritarian government, even if you kill all the roosters, you cannot stop the dawn’s arrival.”‘Appallingly divisive’Human rights groups and critics hit out at the convictions, saying the use of the vaguely worded public nuisance laws — and wielding the steeper common law punishment — would have a chilling effect on free speech in Hong Kong.”Hong Kong courts, by labelling peaceful protests in pursuit of rights as public nuisance, are sending a terrible message that will likely embolden the government to prosecute more peaceful activists,” said Maya Wang, a senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch.Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, said it was “appallingly divisive to use anachronistic common law charges in a vengeful pursuit of political events which took place in 2014.”Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang fired back at those criticisms, saying other countries would also have brought such a prosecution to “maintain order”.”The central government resolutely supports (Hong Kong) in punishing the main organisations and planners of the illegal Occupy Central movement in accordance with the law,” he told reporters.Hong Kong enjoys rights unseen on the Chinese mainland, which are protected by the 50-year handover agreement between Britain and China, but fears are growing that those liberties are being eroded as Beijing flexes its muscles.At the trial, prosecutors argued that the mass protests had caused a “common injury done to the public”, who had been affected by the blockage of major roads, and that the leaders of the movement deserved to be punished.In his verdict Judge Chan denied his ruling would impact the ability of Hong Kongers to protest.The Occupy movement highlighted widespread frustration, especially among the young, over Hong Kong’s direction but failed to win any reforms from Beijing.last_img

Low Turnout In Runoffs Nonetheless Yields Notable Results

Low Turnout In Runoffs Nonetheless Yields Notable Results

first_img Share Photo illustration by Emily Albracht, Shelby KnowlesA lack of a compelling statewide race at the top of either ticket kept participation in Tuesday’s party primary runoff elections squarely at the lackluster level.The Republican race for a spot on the Railroad Commission drew the most participation with a bit more than 377,000 votes cast. Compare that to the U.S. Senate runoff election from four years ago where more than 1.1 million Republican voters showed up on the last day of July to lift Ted Cruz to victory over David Dewhurst.Wayne Christian was winning the Railroad Commission contest over Gary Gates but by less than 2 percentage points as of 1 a.m. Christian will face off in the fall against Democrat Grady Yarbrough who won his runoff contest last night.The Tribune’s Johnathan Silver and Jim Malewitz noted, “In bright-red Texas, Christian is clearly favored to win the general election. More than two decades have passed since a Democrat sat on the commission.”The contest, though, that drew the most attention heading into Election Day was a State Board of Education contest. That was because the candidate who won in the first round of the primary elections, Mary Lou Bruner, became notorious for her posts to Facebook, the most infamous of which related her belief that President Obama had worked as a gay prostitute as a young adult to fund a drug habit.But as the Tribune’s Kiah Collier reported, Bruner lost last night to Lufkin school board president Keven Ellis.Collier wrote that the “East Texas Tea Party activist and former schoolteacher had been favored to succeed in the race after nearly winning the March 1 primary outright and accumulating heavy support from influential conservative groups that typically hold big sway in low-turnout runoff elections.“But Ellis, a Lufkin chiropractor who presides over the local school board, maintained a double-digit lead over Bruner throughout Tuesday night, and that lead widened as vote returns rolled in. He ended the night about 18 points ahead of Bruner.”In another notable development, two House GOP incumbents — Doug Miller of New Braunfels and Wayne Smith of Baytown — were headed for defeat.Smith lost by just 23 votes to challenger Briscoe Cain, so it is possible that a recount could happen in that contest. Miller, though, was handily defeated by Kyle Biedermann in a race that the Tribune’s Matthew Watkins wrote was “heated throughout.”Watkins added, “The two victories (by the challengers) likely won’t affect House Speaker Joe Straus‘ hold on the 150-member, GOP-dominated chamber. Enough Straus supporters won their primaries in March that it’s unlikely that a serious challenge to his leadership will emerge.“But the defeats of Miller and Smith serve as energizing wins for anti-establishment conservatives, who have said that Straus is too moderate and needs to be unseated.”And in a couple of GOP runoff elections for open Texas Senate races, Mineola state Rep. Bryan Hughes defeated his House colleague, David Simpson, in one race while Austin ophthalmologist Dawn Buckingham defeated Abilene state Rep. Susan King in the other contest.This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune. See full article here: last_img read more

Party Politics National Edition Ep 47 Texan Brad Parscale Will Be Trumps

Party Politics National Edition Ep 47 Texan Brad Parscale Will Be Trumps

first_imgOn Party Politics this week, co-hosts Jay Aiyer and Brandon Rottinghaus are going to catch you up on the week’s political news:Brad Parscale is tapped to run President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaignJared Kushner’s security status is downgradedU.S. appeals court believes Title VII covers discrimination around sexual orientation  HUD Secretary Ben Carson spends $31,000 on office furnitureAnd finally, Brandon and Jay walk us through the changing stances on guns. Don’t forget to subscribe to our weekly Texas-centered episode too, you can subscribe to it on Apple Podcasts. Tweet us using #PartyPoliticsPod or email Party Politics is produced by Edel Howlin and our audio engineer is Todd Hulslander. This article is part of the Party Politics podcast Share To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code: 00:00 /17:26 Listen X AFP / Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty ImagesBrad Parscale, whose San Antonio web design firm played a leading role in Trump’s digital efforts in the 2016 race, will be campaign manager for 2020.last_img read more

Dog genetic studies reveal why SharPeis are wrinkled

Dog genetic studies reveal why SharPeis are wrinkled

first_imgShar Pei puppies. Image: Natascha Seitler von Lucky Explore further © 2009 More information: Tracking footprints of artificial selection in the dog genome, PNAS, DOI:10.1073/pnas.0909918107 Citation: Dog genetic studies reveal why Shar-Peis are wrinkled (2010, January 13) retrieved 18 August 2019 from ( — There are over 400 genetically different dog breeds, with massive variations in size, colors, fur type, temperament, and so on, and scientists have wondered exactly what changes in the genes have been brought about by centuries of selective breeding to explain the huge differences. Now a new study has shed some light on the puzzle. Researcher to Study Dog Genome for Clues to Lymphoma in Humans This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. The research, by Joshua Akey and colleagues from the University of Washington in Seattle in the US, sequenced large portions of the genes of 300 dogs of 10 pedigree breeds, including the Shar-Pei, Standard Poodle and Jack Russell. Their aim was to determine which areas were likely to have been involved in selective breeding and to identify the genes corresponding to selected physical features. Unlike previous research, which began with the traits and looked for corresponding genes, Akey and his colleagues started with the genes and looked for regions that were different in the various breeds, and then looked for physical attributes that might be related to the changes. They located 155 distinct genetic regions that appeared to have been tampered with through breeding, including five genes that have been linked previously to differences between breeds.The researchers found many genes that could have an influence on the size of the dog or the color of the coat, and they also identified specific differences in a gene that results in the wrinkled skin of the Shar-Pei. They made this identification by comparing the genes in 32 Shar-Peis with highly wrinkled skin to those of 18 Shar-Peis with smoother skin. Akey said he had decided to study the Shar-Pei particularly because there are rare mutations in humans that also produce severe wrinkling. The affected gene, HAS2 makes an enzyme (hyaluronic acid synthase 2) that is important in the production of skin tissue. Akey speculated that a mutation occurred and a breeder liked the look of the wrinkled puppy and selectively bred for the trait.Dogs have been domesticated for at least 10,000 years, but most of the breeds we know today have appeared only in the last few centuries. While in the early years no one knew about genetics, selective breeding has always involved selecting genes and influencing their expression.The huge variations in dog breeds makes it easier to identify which genes produce particular phenotypes (physical traits), than it would be in a study of humans. Studying the changes in genes in dogs that result in the different body shapes, sizes and temperaments might also reveal genetic changes that could have produced breed-specific diseases and different behaviors.Finding out what the genes in the dog do and how they have been changed by artificial selection for desired traits could also help scientists understand more about our own genes and their evolution by natural selection. Akey said this was the real reason people were interested in studying the genetics of dogs, although he said dogs were also fun to study. The findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on January 11.last_img read more

Check This Out Edible Sensors Tell You When Your Food Has Gone

first_img What’s worse than when you pour a bowl-full of milk onto your morning cereal and take a nice big spoonful only to discover that the milk has gone sour? OK, there are other worse things, but it’s still really gross.Hu “Tiger” Tao, a post-doctoral student at Tufts University in Massachusetts, is working on a chewable sensor that may provide a solution to the problem of spoiled food, Fast Company reported. The new technology uses a surprisingly old substance: silk.Silk has been used for millennia in cloth, and more recent applications have included all sorts of medical, scientific and electronic uses. Tao’s design uses tiny gold antennae embedded in a purified silk substrate that can be dunked into liquids like milk or pasted onto eggs or bananas or other foods using the silk’s own sticky, glue-like properties. The sensors monitor food quality, alerting you when your fruit is ripe or your milk starts to go bad.The technology is similar to the sort used in RFID chips that keep track of pets or livestock, in electronic toll collection and all sorts of other devices. Using what’s called dielectric properties — chemical changes that occur as a fruit ripens or rots, for example — the sensors emit an electromagnetic signal that can be monitored by a reader.An app on your smartphone could presumably pick up those signals and be programmed to let you know when that avocado sitting on your counter is perfectly ready to become guacamole.The crazy thing about the sensors Tao and his collaborators created is that they are completely edible. The gold is as thin as the gold leaf used in fancy desserts, and the pure protein of the silk substrate is easily digestible. The whole thing is flexible, and since the silk itself is what holds it on the object to be monitored, there’s no need for any additional glue.There are countless other applications for this amazing technology. “Electronic skin,” for example, could use flexible electronics to wirelessly track health statistics, monitoring blood pressure and other vital signs. Since the sensors are completely edible and biodegradable, the potential relevance for healthcare and food and consumer markets is huge.Imagine waving your phone over a table full of melons and picking out the one that’s perfectly ripe, every time. Friends, this is progress.What crazy apps and gadgets have you come across lately? Let us know by emailing us at or by telling us in the comments below. 3 min read Free Webinar | Sept 5: Tips and Tools for Making Progress Toward Important Goals Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. October 31, 2013 Attend this free webinar and learn how you can maximize efficiency while getting the most critical things done right. Register Now »last_img read more

The Surprisingly Simple Strategy This Founder Uses to Stay in Control of

first_img Listen Now 10 min read Editor’s Note: Entrepreneur’s “20 Questions” series features both established and up-and-coming entrepreneurs and asks them a number of questions about what makes them tick, their everyday success strategies and advice for aspiring founders.If there is a meme that is suddenly everywhere, it very likely got its start on Imgur, the online image sharing community. Case in point: 2015’s black/blue versus white/gold dress.In 2009, Alan Schaaf started  Imgur for just $7 (the cost of a domain name) from his dorm room at Ohio University. The business started as a tool to make it simpler to upload and host any kind of images on the web — not just photos, but photoshopped images, screenshots and GIFs as well.Since it’s dorm room launch and unveiling on Reddit, Imgur has grown to become one of the most trafficked sites on the internet. The company now has 150 million active users and more than 5 billion pageviews each month.Schaaf believes that the community has grown the way it has because while many social platforms are utilized to further a personal brand, “Imgur offers a rare place for people to express themselves in a real way without the fear of social judgment,” adding, “Everyone has an equal chance of sharing their story to millions of people, because it’s not about who you are, but about the quality of your content.”The company has had some major milestones over the last few years. In 2014, Imgur received it’s first and so far only investment: $40 million from Andreessen Horowitz and Reddit. And in 2015 it hit 150 million monthly active users and won the Webby Awards for Best Social Media and Best Community Website.We caught up with Schaaf for our 20 Questions series to find out what motivates him and makes him tick.Interview was edited for length and clarity.Related: Take Back Your Mornings (Infographic)1. How do you start your day?When I come into the office the first thing I do is I plan out what I want to accomplish that day. I write it down in my notebook and make sure I accomplish it before I leave that day.2. How do you end your day?I go through that notebook and review any notes that I took, and I check off everything on the list. I also walk the floor and chat with people and see what they are working on and how their day has gone.3. What’s a book that changed your mind?I don’t have much time to read. I’m more of a problem solver. I’ll have an idea or a problem and I’ll learn what’s necessary in order to do the idea or solve the problem. If I need to read a book then I will, but it usually comes down to researching on the internet and reading blog posts.4. What’s a book you always recommend?One of my favorite sci-fi books is Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. I would recommend it to anyone who loves sci-fi. It’s a perfect intro to sci-fi.5. What’s a strategy to keep focused?My routine of writing down what I want to accomplish every day is something I developed pretty early on working on Imgur.I bootstrapped the business for five years.It was really just me the first two years. That meant I wore every hat that exists, and I figured out the only way I can accomplish things is to map them out, make sure I don’t get distracted and accomplish what I set out to do at the beginning of the day.6. When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?I wanted to be the guy that rode on the back of the garbage truck and threw garbage in the back. When you’re 4 years old and you see guys hanging off the back of a big truck that’s driving down the street, it’s pretty exciting! Related: Inspire Loyalty With Your Leadership: Here’s How7. What did you learn from the worst boss you ever had?I’ve never had a boss. What I have learned about management is that everyone is different — there is no one perfect strategy. Different people respond to different things in different ways. To be a good manager, you have to figure out what motivates that particular person.8. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?My parents. Ever since I can remember, my mom has been self-employed. She used that term, but she was actually an entrepreneur. She wanted to do it herself, she didn’t want to hire employees, wanted to support herself and her family by what she loved doing. That was inspiring.And another quality she has is if there is work to be done, she does it. She’ll just figure out a way to do it and do it. I learned a ton from that: to be scrappy. You don’t need to hire professionals, there is always a way to get it done. Nothing ever blocks you except for yourself.My dad used to be a lawyer and then stopped and moved to Thailand to teach English 10 years ago. I see how his life is exactly how he wants it to be.One time he was sailing and found a patch of land. He docked his boat, traveled around the town, tracked down the guy who owned the land and bought it. He built his own house on the land exactly how he wants. That’s super motivating: You have the ability to drop everything and do what you want to do how you want to do.9. What’s a trip that changed you?The first trip to visit my dad in Thailand. That trip was the first time I was really out of the country and experienced a completely different part of the world. It was beautiful, and everything was completely different than it is in the U.S. It made me want to see more of the world, and since then, I’ve traveled to 20 other countries and plan to see as much of the world as possible.10. What inspires you?The goal that JFK set for the U.S. to accomplish: put a man on the moon before the decade was out. He inspired an entire nation to reach for the stars. He didn’t know how we were going to do it, but he knew we must try.And in 1969, we did it. I think about that goal and mission, and because of it, set ambitious goals for myself and for my company. Even if I don’t know exactly how we’re going to accomplish them at the time, I know that doing so is necessary for us to have a big and meaningful impact on the world.Related: Buzz Aldrin Wants You to Know — the Sky Is Not the Limit11. What was your first business idea and what did you do with it?My first business idea was a company called Soft Administrative and Networking Solutions. I was 15 and I knew a lot about computers, so I traveled around to different people in Granville, Ohio and fixed their computers. Technically, my mom drove me around. When I went to college I transitioned the business over to a friend, and he took over my clients.12. What was an early job that taught you something important or useful that you still use today?In college I started working at a technology call center. It taught me how to work with people, and it taught me a lot of patience. We would help people with anything — some programs we had never heard of before. We would just Google it and then walk the person through on the line.13. What’s the best advice you ever took?As you go throughout your day, write down thing that energize you. It could be anything — talking to someone, eating lunch.You also need to write down the things that drain you. It could be different types of meetings or projects. You do this for some time and after awhile you find common themes.Use this to try to neutralize your energy at the end of the day. Take control of your schedule, so you don’t burn out.14. What’s the worst piece of advice you ever got?I don’t remember the worst advice. It was probably so bad that I wrote it off.Related: You Must Stop Doing These 5 Things to Be Productive15. What’s a productivity tip you swear by?Coming in at the start of the day and writing down what I want to accomplish.16. Is there an app or tool you use to get things done or stay on track?Google Keep, a note-taking app by Google. I walk around with my notebook all day. If I don’t have my notebook, I use that, and it syncs to all my device.17. What does work-life balance mean to you?Work-life balance doesn’t mean a lot to me. I have work time and decompress time, but work doesn’t only have to be related to Imgur. I always have a part of my life where I’m building or working towards something new.  18. How do you prevent burnout?I have to take what I call decompress time. I have to stop working towards something and just entertain myself. I love playing video games. It’s mindful to me that I enjoy something that doesn’t line up to building something. It’s just pure enjoyment. I turn off my brain, so I can then set out to do something meaningful at a later time.19. When you’re faced with a creativity block, what’s your strategy to get innovating?You have to go someplace different. Get out of your environment. We have break out spaces in the office. One is called the Cave, It’s a nice quiet space with no windows that I like using. I learned in college that I could not study in my apartment. So, I found a bunch of nooks and crannies in the library, and as soon as I would enter those spaces, all the creativity would come back.20. What are you learning now?I’m a programmer at heart. Now I’m learning as much as I can about JavaScript and Node, React and Redux and all the different tools that come with that. Problem Solvers with Jason Feifercenter_img Hear from business owners and CEOs who went through a crippling business problem and came out the other side bigger and stronger. February 9, 2017last_img read more

April 24 2009 Today we report on the concrete

first_imgApril 24, 2009 Today, we report on the concrete pour of a staircase for Arcosanti’s new Visitor’s pathway. In this photo, you see the process of mixing concrete. Buckets are filled with sand, gravel and cement, and the final ingredient, water, is sprayed directly in the concrete mixer. [Photo: Alison Gross & text: dkt] Afterwards, the concrete is transported with wheel-barrows to the formwork (see report from April 22. 2009). Shovels are used for spreading the thick mixture. [Photo: Alison Gross & text: dkt] These photos show some of the finishing details for this pour. In the upper images, Construction crew-member, Andrew Woodard, is showing a workshop-participant how to vibrate the concrete for pushing the air-bubbles out, and how to use a trowel for smoothing out the surface. The bottom left picture shows screeding and leveling the slab of the staircase. In the last photo, you see the staircase connecting to the existing pathway. [Photo: Alison Gross, dkt, and sa & text: dkt]last_img read more

Interviewed by Louis James Editor International

first_img(Interviewed by Louis James, Editor, International Speculator)Doug: Lobo, you were in Africa – the Congo – last time we talked. How did that go?L: I saw a lot of changes from my previous visit to the DRC in 2006. That brings up an interesting question, as we do invest in companies working in several African countries, and you’ve described the continent as “a perpetual basket case.” What’s your take on Africa today? Is it doomed to remain the heart of darkness, or could things be looking up at a last?[Ed. Note: The reference here is to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), not the Republic of the Congo (ROC).]Doug: I think it’s very much an open question at this point, as to whether Africa has a dim or bright future. It’s all about management, not resources. Africa has always had plenty of resources, but the worst management possible. Resources are actually a liability for most places. The classic examples of places not needing natural resources for success are Japan and Hong Kong. They have essentially zero natural resources, but became immensely prosperous because they had good property rights and predictable laws. On the other hand, you’ve got countries like Venezuela and Nigeria that have been blessed – or cursed, as the case may be – with great mineral wealth, but are absolute basket cases. And they’ll stay that way until the governing philosophy changes.Success of a society is totally a “people” thing – management. Without social systems that encourage prosperity – which is to say, encourage personal freedom – natural resources are counterproductive. They just become something for the strongest thugs to steal. Since the mineral rights in Africa all belong to the state, the best way to steal the diamonds, gold, oil, or whatever, is to get control of the government. Governments are obstacles to prosperity almost everywhere, but in Africa they are totally counterproductive. They’re exclusively vehicles for theft and repression.All across the continent, every regime – and I can’t think of a single exception – became a hellhole after the colonial powers left. They exported nothing but minerals – the farms and plantations all went back to the bush – and imported nothing but crazy ideas and luxury goods for the rulers, mostly from Europe. Then, to compensate, Western governments have shoveled a trillion dollars of “aid” into the continent over the last 50 years. That was all money stolen from poor people in rich countries that ended up lining the pockets of rich people in poor countries. It cemented the poor Africans to the bottom of the barrel. Crucifixion is too good for people who promote foreign aid.I attribute almost all of Africa’s disastrous problems to colonialism. If Europeans came there as traders, it would have been beneficial to everyone. But they came as conquerors, destroyed the existing native cultures, engaged in horrendous wholesale slaughters – the Congo being perhaps the worst example – and imposed alien religions and political systems on the natives. My friend George Ayittey details this in his books.L: My 11-year-old daughter is somehow aware of this – when I came back this time, she told me she was deeply offended by the rulers and other rich thieves in African countries who redirect foreign aid to their bank accounts in Switzerland, while the people it’s intended to help starve. But it occurs to me that what you said about the mineral rights is true of Latin America and other places as well; if you want to mine, you don’t go to the people living on the land, you go to the government to buy or rent the right to do so.Doug: Yes. The only exception I know of is the US, where if you own the surface rights to a piece of land, you own the subsurface rights as well, including mineral rights. It’s only if someone wants to mine on government land that they need to file claims and deal with the government. This is one reason why the US was the world’s most prosperous and least corrupt country in the past. Private property rights like this served as one limit to the size and importance of the state.L: Right. And as a “people system,” the ability of individuals to own mineral rights had a lot to do with America’s westward migration in the 19th century – the great gold rushes and such. Mining was also one of the main things that paid for that expansion. But we’re straying from the subject. It’s new to hear you say Africa’s fate hangs in the balance; I’m used to hearing you say the place is hopeless. What would be a possible pathway to improvement?Doug: Well, unbeknownst to most people, it seems that GDPs on the continent have been expanding very rapidly over the last decade. Now, of course those figures – issued by inept, despotic, and kleptocratic governments – are highly questionable, but most of the countries in Africa are actually starting to turn around, and strongly. Part of it is because they’re starting from such a low base. But most of it is because things have improved so much from the way things were in the ’60s and ’70s. In those days most of Africa was run like Haiti was under Papa Doc – or worse.L: That may be so, but a major source of that growth is the Chinese money pouring into the continent to lock up natural resources – and escape the dollar trap, to boot. Is that really a reason for optimism, or does it just mean the new thieves in presidential ribbons will continue gorging at the trough, with no lasting benefit to the people?Doug: I remember when I first went to Zambia, in 1985. I don’t believe there was a bookstore in Lusaka – although they sold a few dog-eared Marxist tracts at what laughably passed for the best office supply store. The same thing in Tanzania, where I stayed in the best hotel, but had one light bulb to move between my bedroom and bathroom. That kind of thing was typical. Now the whole continent is changing. Everybody has a cell phone – except me, I hate the damn things – and access to the Internet. People are moving into the cities and joining the middle class.Africans aren’t stupid; they’ve just been sold on every stupid collectivist idea that’s come down the pike from Europe. A bloated state controlled by a kleptocracy has been the pattern so far, but there’s change in the air. The disastrous colonial period and the catastrophic post-colonial period are receding into history. As I recall, the first African country to free itself from its colonial overlord was Ghana in 1957, followed by a whole spate of independence movements in the 1960s. Ghana was a nightmare under Nkrumah, but by the time I went there in 1994, it was to play polo with our excellent partner at Casey Research, David Galland – talk about a small world! – and the place was already on its way up.L: That would be true for sub-Saharan Africa. I think the very first was Libya.Doug: That’s right; Libya in 1951, and then Egypt in 1952. At any rate, I suspect they had to go through a stage during which the people thought that independence alone would make their countries as rich as those of their former colonial masters. That was the stage where an African thought he was successful if he could wear a tie, have a pocketful of pens, and carry a clipboard, even if he didn’t know how to write. When the Congo went independent, there were only something like a couple dozen natives who even had a high-school education. They were ripe prey for Uhuru jumpers and neo-colonialists from the IMF and World Bank. That’s changed. Those worthless institutions are now on the ragged edge of bankruptcy, and Africans have become much more sophisticated. There’s an understanding that it’s not a matter of race; your enemy – or friend – can be white or black. And soon a lot of them are going to be yellow.L: You really believe that?Doug: I didn’t say they’ve all become free-marketeers. But I do think they are starting to realize it doesn’t matter if the thief is a white guy on a throne in Europe or a fellow black who’s made himself president for life. People don’t have to be deep political thinkers to simply want governments that work – meaning, they allow prosperity to flourish. Of course, no government produces any prosperity. But even kleptocrats are starting to realize it’s much better to steal 10% of a huge pie than to try to steal 90% of a tiny pie.L: Okay…Doug: On the other hand, there’s a huge problem in Africa, stemming from the fact that none of these countries truly represent the historic homelands of a specific people. The lines on the maps were all pretty much drawn up in boardrooms in Europe during the 19th century without regard for tribal homelands, differences in language, or even to geographical barriers, in some cases. With the possible exception of Egypt – and to a much lesser extent Ethiopia – each of these countries is an agglomeration of different tribes, ethnic groups, and religions that don’t mix well together.The result of this has been that the governments of these countries have become prizes sought after by each group, to be used for profit and to reward buddies by stealing from everyone else.L: Could the countries be reorganized along tribal lines to result in something more peaceful and durable?Doug: That would be a step in the right direction. But they’d just find other differences upon which to base plundering a new group of victims for the benefit of a new group of fat cats. The best hope would be the complete breakdown of the nation-state as a way to organize society, and for the various groups to self-organize into voluntary social systems, along the lines of the phyles we’ve discussed in the past. Id say the same thing for Europe, Asia, and the Americas as well, where different sorts of tribalism are alive and well. The nation-state is definitely on its way out; it was a really suboptimal – I’m being kind – way for people to organize.L: Perhaps so, but wouldn’t you still have a threat of war between Hutus and Tutsis and other such feuding tribes?Doug: Maybe. Maybe not, if they weren’t forced to mix. South Africa has avoided a civil war in spite of having a dozen or more major black tribes, as well as two white ones.L: That could be just around the corner there…Doug: Yes, they’ve been very fortunate and dodged the bullet so far. We’ll see. In Nigeria, where there were an estimated 300 different tribes at the time of gaining independence in 1960, they had a civil war that was knee-deep in gore during the late ’60s in Biafra. Now there’s tension between the Muslims in the north and Christians in the south; Nigeria, like all these countries, is an artificial construct that should be disassembled. Sudan just broke in two for similar reasons, and the new trouble in northern Mali has similar roots. If these very different peoples weren’t forced to live under the same political system, they wouldn’t feel the need to fight for control of it. It’s best to let others go to hell in their own way.L: Okay, I can see that.Doug: I think this is a global trend, by the way – as we discussed in our recent conversation on Europe. What about you – did you see much evidence of tribal conflict in the Congo?L: I asked people about that, actually. I asked them if a country as big as the DRC – second-largest in Africa, and eleventh-largest in the world – could stay together with all its different tribes. I was reminded that the most recent war only ended in 2003, with residual problems lasting into 2004 – they were still quite visible when I was there in 2006. It was all very fresh then, and the country still had the appearance of an armed camp, with many of the survivors dressed in rags…the ghosts of hundreds of thousands of dead still in their eyes.This time, I saw signs of new prosperity – many of the family farms I flew over had new tin roofs on a building or two, and cheap Chinese motor-scooters swarmed the jungle pathways like insects. There’s a highly visible UN military presence along the border between the DRC and Rwanda, but still, Sunday afternoon brought out a lot of smiling people in new, brightly colored clothes. It’s just a beginning, but these people are busy rebuilding. The ones I spoke with think most Congolese don’t want to hear about tribal divides and the like; they just want to get back to earning a living.Doug: That makes sense. With hundreds of different ethnic groups and local languages, there’s no reason for the place to pretend it’s one country. I was a big fan of Katanga trying to secede back in the ’60s. At least they share a common language in the DRC – French. The tribes all have their own languages, but decades of Belgian colonial occupation at least left behind a lingua franca that helps them all to communicate. It was the first African country I took a real interest in. I still recommend a really good movie, Dark of the Sun, about the mercenaries in Kasai province in the ’60s. I passed through M’Buji-Mayi when I was there. One thing I remember clearly was an old 707, acting like a tramp steamer of the air. The plane was totally without ID, painted in primer. I walked up to the pilot, who was a really good-looking Belgian girl in her 30s. One thing I asked her was how she navigated. She said, “I’m the queen of the GPS,” and showed me her handheld device. I last saw that plane when I looked up as I was sitting in a café in Uganda several days later. It made me feel like that guy who saw the girl in the T-bird at the end of American Graffiti…. Anyway, I love weird places, and Africa is still full of them.L: I’m sorry to say that the people I met were more mundane. But again, the answer to the question is not that the people feel all united into one nation as a result of their history, but rather that no one had time for nonsense. The people are tired of fighting. Sort of like Colombia, at the end of the violencia.That’s very different from the answer I got in Ghana, where the largest tribal group – by a large majority – is the Ashanti, who are seen as warlike. Since they are fierce and a majority, none of the other tribes are willing to take them on, and there is a sort of pax Ashanti.Doug: Which is different again from Zimbabwe, where the contest was largely between two tribes, one represented by Mugabe – who is a Shona – and the Ndebele tribe, led by Nkomo. The Shona won. Maybe that will mean the crates of Shona stone sculptures I bought there a few years ago will have political as well as artistic value someday. But back to the DRC – where did you go, just Kivu province?L: Last time I flew into Lubumbashi in southern DRC, and this time I flew into Bukavu, on the southern shore of Lake Kivu, which straddles the border between the DRC and Rwanda. This is all to the west of Lake Victoria, in an area that’s sort of Africa’s equivalent of the Great Lakes. It’s remote, mountainous, and covered with jungle known to harbor both guerillas and gorillas. Both seem to be dying out – unfortunately in the case of the latter. I saw no sign of either, but I heard of a guerilla attack on a town near one place my chopper set down one day, six months prior.Doug: I visited the same place in 1998, after the preceding war, the one that overthrew the dictator Mobutu, who was a US stooge who looted the country for many years. That was just before the war you’re talking about, in which Rwanda, Uganda, and several other countries got involved; something like four million people died. Nobody knows exactly how many. But I visited the city of Goma, on the north end of Lake Kivu. I stayed at a friend’s house on the lake, and we’d go swimming in the lake each morning. The first morning, as we looked across the water at the Rwanda border, only a few hundred yards away, I asked my friend if he was able to take his daily swim during the big troubles in Rwanda – back in 1994 when they killed about a half a million people in 100 days. He said no, because there were bodies floating everywhere in the lake.L: That’s a big lake – it takes three hours to reach Goma from Bukavu by speedboat.Doug: They say almost a million people died in that particularly nasty episode.L: You’d never know it to look at the place today. There are colorful villages on the shores of the lake, bright tropical flowers in abundance, fishing boats on the water. Some very nice hotels and villas – I heard there are waterfront homes selling for a million dollars in Bukavu. The water was so clear, you could see the bottom of the lake in places, before the wash from the chopper ruffled the surface. I looked and didn’t see any bones.Doug: Maybe they’re covered with sediment now… something for future archeologists to unearth and puzzle over the machete marks on the bones. A million bucks for a house? I’ll wait until I can get something like that castle in Rhodesia on the Mozambique border I should have bought during the war there. That was a 100-bagger, as it turned out. Oh well, my whole life would have been totally different – an alternate reality.L: So, again, why is it that you’re more positive on Africa’s prospects now than in the past?Doug: Well, there are two ways you can look at the future of Africa. One is that when they have these wars that last decades, it changes the local culture and engrains bad habits in the people that can take a long time to get rid of. The other view is as you said: after a certain amount of such stupidity, people get tired of it and start acting more intelligently.L: Is there a historical example of a country “cursed” with great mineral wealth and actually benefiting from it – in the sense of the whole society achieving a higher standard of living, rather than just the thieves in control of the government?Doug: The only ones – and this may sound biased, but it’s just a historical fact that people would do well to think about – are societies that were offshoots of Anglo-Saxon culture. The America that was (before they turned it into the United States), Canada, New Zealand, Australia.L: Why would that be? The Protestant work ethic?Doug: That’s part of it. I think the ideas of the Enlightenment era – specifically the classical liberal ideas that so influenced the likes of Jefferson and Franklin – combined with the “rugged individualism” imposed by frontier life had a lot to do with it. The concept of English common law was a big factor. Ideas matter. Actions flow from ideas.Of course, Argentina didn’t have the English tradition, but nonetheless was once dominated by ideas that enabled wealth creation, and it became one of the wealthiest countries on earth – though most of the silver that gives the place its name was actually in Peru and Bolivia. But that was over a hundred years ago, and the steady replacement of liberal ideas with socialist ones has been accompanied by a matching fall in prosperity, in spite of great natural resources. It’s no longer a place to start a business, but it’s a spectacular place to live… unlike Africa, which I view as a great place for merchant-adventurer type business, but not so great as a place to live.L: Well, Africa is no bastion of free-market thinking – this analysis doesn’t seem very hopeful.Doug: Perhaps not now, but when people are tired of old ways that not only don’t work and periodically lead to genocide, they may open up to new ideas. Many good people there – like my friend Leon Louw, who runs the Free Market Foundation – are looking for what works, and the continent has improved immensely. Markets work. And there certainly are abundant opportunities for entrepreneurs there.L: It is indeed a very good sign that such organizations are cropping up all over Africa. Thompson Ayodele has done a very good job with his Initiative for Public Policy Analysis in Nigeria, as has James Shikwati with the Inter Region Economic Network in Kenya, and my friend Kofi Akosah with his Africa Youth Peace Call in Ghana. But would you really encourage Westerners to try their luck in Africa?Doug: As we discussed in our conversation on starting out or starting over, if I were a young adventurer, I’d go to Africa, even more so than to Latin America or the Orient. The skills and experiences and connections you have – ordinary and offering no particular advantage in the US – would be extraordinary and of great advantage there. And the more obscure the country, the better: I wouldn’t go to South Africa or Kenya, which are relatively developed. There are fortunes to be made in really backward and troubled places. Maybe Sao Tome, or Guinea Bissau, or Guinea Conakry. Maybe Cameroon, or Gambia, or Benin.L: Maybe Burundi? I stopped there on my way to the DRC this time – I confess I’d never even heard of it before.Doug: I first heard of it because I collected stamps when I was a kid. But yes, that’s the sort of place I mean.L: By the way, on my previous trip to Africa, I stopped in Togo, which you’d asked me to drop in on…Doug: Really? How was it?L: It was much nicer-looking than I expected, for a place so far off the beaten track that almost no one even knows it exists. But maybe I should have known that was a positive sign; if it was in the news, that would almost certainly mean there were bad things going on. Slowly winning the struggle for prosperity is not newsy. When I got there, I saw a typical West African country, but with a lot of visible wealth in the form of nice real estate around the capital city.I also stopped in Rwanda on this last trip, and it too looked cleaner and more well-maintained than I expected. I found that very hopeful – a sign of a focus on economic progress, rather than picking fights with neighboring countries.Doug: I’d like to go to Togo some day, it being one of the relatively few countries I haven’t been to. I just want to check it out and see what makes the place tick… I remember its postage stamps too.But, we should also mention that North Africa is something of a region apart, with its own political dynamics. It also has mineral wealth, particularly in hydrocarbons. Perhaps we should remind our readers of our conversation on the Arab Spring, which is the main trend to be watching in the area.L: Sure. We should also say something about South Africa, which is still one of the wealthiest countries in Africa, and a destination for many investors’ dollars, especially in the natural-resource sector that we focus on.Doug: Yes. In spite of that wealth, both in terms of one of the single richest natural resource endowments in the world, and one of the highest per capita GDPs in Africa, I have to say I don’t think the place is safe for investors – and it’s getting worse by the day. We do not invest in any South Africa plays – not for ideological reasons, like those who opposed apartheid – but because of the country risk. The people running the show are not just thieves; they are so hostile to enterprise, they’ve taken the place from producing over 60% of the world’s supply of gold a couple decades ago to less than 12% of world gold production today. There’s a high risk of nationalization in the country, if not force majeure in the form of violent chaos. South Africa is a powder keg with a lit fuse of unknown length – but it’s lit. I have lots of friends and relatives there and things seem mellow at the moment, especially in Capetown, which is one of the prettiest places on the planet. Then again, the whole world is at the edge of a financial precipice at the moment.L: Okay, so if South Africa is on its way down, is there a place in Africa on its way up that you’d invest in?Doug: Maybe Zimbabwe – I might have to go back there. Perhaps I could be persuaded that it has bottomed. It might have, now that it allows people to use whatever currency they want. Mugabe is on his way out, although African dictators seem to have preternaturally long lifespans. This could be the time to get in cheap – especially if I was interested in living there… which I’m not. The problem is keeping physical control of your property. It’d be highly speculative, but cheap is the key. I’ll buy anything if it’s cheap enough. At a low-enough price, the downside becomes negligible – the potential reward becomes vastly greater than the apparent risk.L: “Cheap enough” trumps even country risk. That applies to some of our investments in Africa plays; they are discounted for being there, which creates acceptable risk/reward ratios.Doug: Yes. You can lose everything, investing in Africa – but then, increasingly, you can lose everything investing in the US… say, if someone finds a piece of wetlands on your farm or whatever nonsense they come up with next.L: Okay, so for investors, the bottom line is that there are opportunities, but serious due diligence is required – preferably via boots on the ground – and by waiting for the perfect pitch in terms of a price low enough that the probability of a loss pales in comparison to the possibility of a win.Doug: Exactly. And if you’re of a certain age or mental inclination, then Africa is the closest thing to a wild frontier left on the planet, a place to go and seek your fortune. But enter at your own risk.L: Very well, then. Thanks for your insights.Doug: I just don’t want to hear from anyone’s lawyer if they wander into a war zone and don’t resurface for a decade…. Talk to you next week.L: Until then, take care.last_img read more

Last week President Obama signed an ethics bill b

first_imgLast week, President Obama signed an ethics bill banning members of Congress from trading stocks and other securities on the basis of confidential information they receive as lawmakers. After signing the Stock Act, Obama added, “if members of Congress use nonpublic information to gain an unfair advantage in the market, they are breaking the law.”But what about former members of Congress? Should they also be barred from trading on information they may have learned while in office? Or should political insiders, like former lobbyists and heads of government agencies, be able to sell information gained through their contacts who are still in office?An earlier version of the bill, which was passed by the Senate last week with a 96-3 vote, would have addressed this issue. Specifically, it would have required political intelligence firms – companies that sell politically sensitive material to hedge funds, private-equity firms, and other high-rolling investors – to register with the federal government and disclose their clients, similar to the system used for lobbyists.When asked about the removal of the political intelligence provision, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) who sponsored the bill, was not pleased, to say the least:“It’s astonishing and extremely disappointing that the House would fulfill Wall Street’s wishes by killing this provision. The Senate clearly voted to try and shed light on an industry that’s behind the scenes,” said Sen. Greeley.Although operating behind the scenes, the tentacles of the political intelligence industry stretch all over Washington D.C. The industry employs roughly 2,000 people and generates about $400 million in annual revenue, according to Integrity Research Associates LLC. Firms like Gerson Lehrman Group, Coleman Research Group, and Public Insight LP supply hedge funds and other institutional investors with inside information related to government actions in an effort to gain an advantage in the market.It’s not just no-name lobbyists getting in on that booming industry: former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan works as an advisor to Paulson & Co., while former Treasury Secretary John Snow works for Cerberus Capital Management, just to name two.Generally, securities laws prohibit trading on the basis of nonpublic information about public companies if the person with access to the information has a duty to keep it secret. However, securities laws don’t prevent political insiders from sharing nonpublic information about government affairs, since it is part of lawmakers’ work to discuss policy options with interested parties, like lobbyists and former politicians.Take, for example, former Energy Department official Paul Equale of the firm Gerson Lehrman Group. A recent exposé in the Wall Street Journal highlighted a meeting between Mr. Equale and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) in which Sen. Durbin mentioned a development in his efforts to push through a cap on debit-card fees which, at the time, was a provision in the Dodd-Frank financial-reform law.During their short meeting at a $1,000-plate breakfast fundraiser for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Durbin divulged that he had managed to win support for his provision from Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), who at the time was the chair of the financial services committee. Rep. Frank had previously opposed the provision, fearing that it may hurt small banks. Additionally, analysts had been warning that a cap on debit-card fees had the potential to cost credit-card companies billions in debit-transaction revenue.Soon after their meeting, Mr. Equale shared his findings with Perry Capital and Jana Partners, two large US hedge funds. According to regulatory filings, Perry bought up 400,000 shares of Visa (NYSE:V) and 90,000 shares of Mastercard (NYSE:MA) in the fourth quarter, after the Fed proposed a tougher-than-expected debit-card fee cap. Jana, not wanting to be left out, purchased 1.6 million shares of Visa during this period.Depending on when the shares were purchased, this could have been a clumsy move on their parts, since both Visa and Mastercard’s share prices dropped over 10% in mid-December.(Click on image to enlarge)When lawmakers softened the proposal in the first quarter of 2011, credit-card companies started to rally. Again though, it’s difficult to tell if this worked out in Perry and Jana’s favor, since regulatory filings show the firms sold their respective positions in the first quarter of 2011. Win or lose, Mr. Equale gets paid at a rate of $600 per hour.In another instance, during the final hours of deliberation over the new healthcare law on December 8, 2009, New-York-based political intelligence firm JNK Securities arranged a meeting between hedge-fund managers from Viking Global Investors and Karsch Capital Management and senators whose support was crucial to the bill’s passage. In a nondescript basement on Capitol Hill, these senators said that they would soon reach a deal that eliminated a proposed government-run insurance plan.Once the funds learned this, they made bullish bets on health-insurance stocks like Aetna (NYSE.AET) and Cigna Corp. (NYSE.CI) during the fourth quarter of 2009, which they sold in the first quarter of 2010 according to regulatory filings. Shares of Aetna rose 6% within days of the announcement, while Cigna rose nearly 10%.This type of shenanigans, whereby Wall Street uses the power of government to its advantage, is nothing new. Back in the 1980s, stock trader Ivan Boesky, who made his millions speculating on corporate takeovers, hired lobbyists to gather intelligence on whether Congress planned to block a proposed takeover of Gulf Corp. by Standard Oil. Once Boesky heard the merger would go through, he made a handsome profit. Boesky was eventually barred from the securities industry after serving prison time for insider trading; however, the information he attained from Washington was not included in the case.The real question is whether or not political intelligence firms and similar expert networks give institutional investors a significant advantage over retail investors. I would say the answer is an unquestionable “yes” in light of the actions taken by Perry Capital and Jana Fund soon after they received inside information from Mr. Equale.Then why did the authors of the most recent ethics bill remove the political intelligence provision, even after it had strong bipartisan support in the Senate?Perhaps someone with close ties to the executive branch wanted to keep the money flowing and to let the revolving door between government and financial services spin uninterrupted.last_img read more