Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Why even Google can't connect Cuba (ComputerWorld)

google cuba
The most unique element of this photo is not fast Chromebooks in Cuba, but the Google logo. Marketing is illegal on the island, but Google has managed to pull it off.

Reports say Google intends to help wire Cuba and bring the island into the 21st century. But that's not going to happen.

When President Obama said in Havana last month that Google would be working to improve Internet access in Cuba, I wondered what Google might do in Cuba that other companies could not.

Today, Cuba is an Internet desert where only 5% of trusted elites are allowed to have (slow dial-up) Internet connections at home, and a paltry 400,000 people access the Internet through sidewalk Wi-Fi hotspots. These hotspots have existed for only a year or so. Also, some 2.5 million Cubans have government-created email accounts, but no Web access.

I spent a month in Cuba until last week, and I was there when the president spoke. I'm here to report that those government Wi-Fi hotspots are rare, slow and expensive. While in Cuba, my wife, son and I spent about $300 on Wi-Fi. In a country where the average wage ranges from $15 to $30 per month, connecting is a massive financial burden available only to a lucky minority with private businesses or generous relatives in Miami.

google thebar cuba

And this is why I think the possibilities of what Google might accomplish in Cuba are misunderstood.

It's not as if Cuba would have ubiquitous, affordable and fast Internet access if it just had the money or expertise to make it happen. The problem is that Cuba is a totalitarian Communist dictatorship.

The outrageous price charged for Wi-Fi in Cuba can't possibly reflect the cost of providing the service. The price is really a way to restrict greater freedom of information to those who benefit from the Cuban system.

The strange Wi-Fi card system is also a tool of political control. In order to buy a card, you have to show your ID, and your information is entered into the system. Everything done online using a specific Wi-Fi card is associated with a specific person.

The Cuban government allows people to run privately owned small hotels, called casas particulares, and small home restaurants, called paladares. The owners of these small businesses would love to provide their guests with Wi-Fi, but the Cuban government doesn't allow it. Nor does it allow state-owned restaurants, bars and cafes to provide Wi-Fi.

Google is connected to the global Internet through satellite networks. Cuba is connected to the Internet by an undersea fiber-optic cable that runs between the island and Venezuela. The cable was completed in 2011, and it existed as a "darknet" connection for two years before suddenly going online in 2013.

So here's the problem with Google as the solution: The Cuban government uses high prices and draconian laws to prevent the majority of Cubans from having any access to the Internet at all. The government actively prevents access as a matter of policy. It's not a technical problem. It's a political one.

In other words, Cuba doesn't need Google to provide hotspots. If the Cuban government allowed hotspots, Cubans would provide them.

Everyday Google tech is 'Art' in Cuba

While I was visiting Cuba, a permanent "exhibit" called Google+Kcho.MOR was on display at an art and cultural center in Havana that also promotes technology. Kcho (pronounced "KAW-cho") is the nickname of a brilliant, enterprising, prolific and self-promoting Cuban mixed-media artist named Alexis Leiva Machado. Kcho lives at the center, which he deliberately built in the traditionally poor Havana neighborhood of Romerillo, where he grew up. The M-O-R at the end of the exhibit's name are the initials of the walled, multibuilding compound: Museo Orgánico Romerillo.

I took a Cuban death-cab to the Museo Orgánico Romerillo. And, no, the cab wasn't one of those awesome American classico beauties from the 1950s that you see in all the pictures of Cuba. The vehicle was a tiny, charmless Eastern European clunker from the 1970s with a top speed of about 45 mph, stripped on the inside of all paneling and lining (presumably by a fire, because everything was black inside) and held together by wire, tape, glue and optimism -- and I swear the exhaust pipe was somewhere inside the car. (Oh, what this correspondent isn't willing to do for his cherished readers.)

The exhibit is an astonishing oddity to Cubans who have never traveled abroad, but it's packed with oldish, cheap, everyday Google gear: 20 Chromebooks, Google Cardboard goggles powered by Nexus phones -- and something that has never, ever existed anywhere in Cuba: free Wi-Fi.

Of course, there's no such thing as free Wi-Fi, especially in Cuba. Kcho reportedly pays the Cuban government some $900 per month for the access. The free Wi-Fi, which I saw scores of locals using with their phones, is really subsidized. The Cuban government still gets paid. (The password for the free Wi-Fi is abajoelbloqueo -- which translates, roughly, to "down with the embargo.")

The free Wi-Fi is the same slow, unreliable connection that a minority of Cubans elsewhere get to enjoy, minus the cost and the cards. The Chromebooks, on the other hand, offer a magic Google connection some 70 times faster than regular Cuban Wi-Fi. Only 20 people at a time can enjoy the fast-connection Chromebooks, and each for just one hour at a time. When I was there, every Chromebook was in use, and each user's focus on the screen was total, as you can imagine.

The "exhibit" also had Google Cardboard viewers. (I had read the center has 100 of them, but I saw only about a dozen.) To use them, you ask a guy working there, and he grabs a Nexus phone from a drawer and walks you through the process of launching the Cardboard app and starting it. Each Cardboard viewer has preloaded content -- in my case I enjoyed a Photosphere of Tokyo.

During the half hour I spent in the Google+Kcho.MOR space, nobody else tried Google Cardboard. And that makes sense. With no ability to create or explore Carboard content, it's just a parlor trick to be enjoyed for a minute or two. I got the feeling that all the people there had "been there, done that" with Cardboard and resumed their obsession with Internet connectivity.

It was, however, obvious that the two people helping us were used to minds being completely blown by the Google Cardboard and Chromebook experiences. I didn't have the heart to mention that I've owned several pairs of Cardboard for two years and Chromebooks for three years.

The Google+Kcho.MOR installation is called an "exhibit," but it's not. In reality, it's a co-marketing, co-branding effort.

fastestwifi cuba

For the Kcho "brand," it's a "gateway drug" to lure Cuba's youth to the museum and get them excited about art, culture and the world of Kcho. Along with a cheap snack bar, the free Wi-Fi and the hour a day on the fastest laptops in Cuba successfully bring hundreds of Cuban kids to the center each day, and the Google+Kcho.MOR is the main event.

For Google, it's a massive branding effort. (Google declined to comment for this story.)

Nobody was willing to talk about it, but it's clear that Google is spreading some cash around here. There's so much Google branding on everything in and on the Google+Kcho.MOR building, it looks like it could be at the Googleplex itself.

Even elsewhere in the compound, the Google logo is everywhere. It's in several outdoor spots where the free Wi-Fi is used, including all over the snack bar that serves coffee and soda.

If you're reading this, you probably live in a country awash in marketing, co-marketing and branding on every surface. But the ubiquity of Google branding at the entire Museo Orgánico Romerillo compound may be unique in Cuba. This is a country without a single Coca-Cola sign or billboard, zero ads anywhere for anything (other than political propaganda for the revolution and its leaders and ideals).

During the month I spent in in Cuba, I saw exactly six major public consumer branding units, and all of them were at the Museo Orgánico Romerillo, and all of them were about Google (and Kcho). That makes Google by far the most heavily branded and marketed company in Cuba -- in fact, the only one.

As far as I can tell, Google is getting away with it only because Kcho is massively favored by the Castro regime and the marketing is all presented as "art" or in the promotion of art.

What Google is really accomplishing in Cuba

Google appears to have begun its entry into Cuba in June 2014, when its executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, visited Cuba after slamming the U.S. embargo in a Google+ post. The visit was not reported in Cuba at the time.

Schmidt was accompanied on his trip by Brett Perlmutter, who was later appointed Cuba lead for Alphabet, Google's parent company, as part of the Jigsaw organization, a "think tank" that actually initiates programs for making the world a better place, and was formerly known as "Google Ideas."

In January 2015, Perlmutter, as well as Jigsaw's deputy director, Scott Carpenter, toured Cuba together.

One of their goals on that trip was to visit computer science students at the University of Information Science, as well as young Cuban Internet users. Another goal, it's easy to guess, was to meet with cultural figures like Kcho, and also key figures in the Cuban government.

Put another way, Google has been making friends and laying the groundwork for a future when the Cuban government allows greater and better Internet access.

elgan with google cardboard
The author discusses the popularity of Google Cardboard with Cubans at the Museo Orgánico Romerillo.

No, Google isn't laying fiber, launching balloons or installing equipment all over Cuba. It's not planning to sprinkle fast, free, magic Google Wi-Fi all over the island.

The best Google can do for now is make friends and influence people.

Cuba won't join the rest of the world in ubiquitous Internet access until the Cuban government either becomes less repressive, or falls out of power. When that happens, Google, as the dominant and best-connected tech brand, will be ready.

Until then, no amount of magic Google pixie dust can help the Cuban people.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Three Big Airlines Just Trashed Your Cheap Fares

American, United, and Delta single out multicity trips, leaving business travelers in the lurch.

Airline executives hate few things more than supercheap ticket prices, which they often dub “junk fares” and “trash fares.”
Yet the industry has been awash in these deals for more than a year, as Spirit Airlines Inc. and Frontier Airlines Inc. expanded aggressively, and Southwest Airlines Co. began flying nationwide from Dallas. Some examples: $41 from Dallas to New York City; $34 from Las Vegas to San Francisco; $40 from Nashville to Orlando.
The bargains aren’t pricing mistakes, nor have they been hard for consumers to find on off-peak travel days such as Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. The industry’s Big Three airlines, American Airlines Group Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc., and United Continental Holdings Inc., have matched such fares to varying degrees.
This spring, the Big Three decided cheap no longer paid. Instead, they began restricting the bargains: No longer are they allowing ticketing engines to piece together these nonrefundable fares—typically the least expensive—when a trip involves several cities. The multicity pricing tweaks have whacked mostly business travelers, who often hit several destinations on their work circuits. These types of trips, when bundled together, could cost hundreds of dollars more than they did before the airlines decided to drop the hammer.
Airlines “are trying to divide the world between business and nonbusiness flyers,” said George Ferguson, a Bloomberg Intelligence airline analyst. “The average Joe really won’t care if his firm loses an extra couple hundred bucks.”
Pay $800 more, please
For example, a May 9-13 trip priced Thursday on American from Los Angeles to San Francisco to Chicago and back to L.A. was $1,264.70, compared with $453 if all three flights were ticketed separately, according to, a Dallas-based fare tracking firm. Of course, the expensive downside of trying to save money with separate tickets comes if you need to change your plans, which many business travelers often do: The Big Three assess a $200 change fee for each ticket.

Targeting business travelers

These changes show the carriers’ effort to limit the reach of their lowest fares, which they’re using as a shield against further market-share losses to Spirit and Frontier. Spokesmen for American and United said travelers were assembling these bargain-basement fares for trips in ways the carriers had not intended. American spokesman Joshua Freed said the pricing changes affect only “a numerically small number of travelers” given that most itineraries are simple round trips or one-way flights. “This is not your sort of average mom-and-pop round trip from Chicago to Orlando and back,” he said.
Retreat, duck and weave
On Wednesday, United retreated somewhat and altered pricing rules to allow for more of its fare classes to be used on multicity trips. “We’ve heard from our customers,” United spokesman Jonathan Guerin said. “We’re definitely listening to them.”
Delta has declined to discuss the issue, including with a JPMorgan Chase & Co. analyst, Jamie Baker, who asked executives Thursday whether the changes might potentially boost passenger revenues. “High-quality industrial transports don’t duck and weave on this topic,” Baker said.

End of fare rules

Beyond the ability to squeeze more dollars from corporate road warriors, the airline pricing changes also speak to the broader demise of fare rules in recent years, as the low-cost entrants disrupted traditional shibboleths: No longer is a Saturday-night stay mandated, a round trip is frequently more expensive than purchasing two one-ways, and a fare to fly tomorrow can be just as cheap as one bought three weeks before the travel.

American the vocal

The math of low fares is perhaps best illustrated at American, the world’s largest airline and the one most vocal about defending its market share against the upstarts.
Spirit now serves 25 destinations from Dallas-Fort Worth International, American’s largest hub, and Frontier has expanded to overlap 11 percent of American’s domestic capacity, up from 1 percent before American merged with US Airways. American Airlines President Scott Kirby, for example, has said on several occasions that 87 percent of American’s customers have flown the airline only once in the past 12 months, a testament to travelers’ price sensitivity.

Bare bones option

Spirit and Frontier have also led the Big Three to create new bare-bones fares modeled on Delta’s Basic Economy, which are priced lower but don’t allow for advance seat assignments, upgrades, or changes. Delta said Thursday that these fares generated $20 million in revenue in the first quarter and that they would expand to further markets. American and United are expected to introduce their own similar fares later this year.While that seems to make sense, the Big Three’s decision on multicity fares has some scratching their heads.
“The airlines just really screwed this whole thing up,” said Brett Snyder, a former airline pricing analyst who first wrote about the multicity fare changes on March 31 on his blog. “They had a problem, and they just didn’t think it through on how to solve it.”

Monday, April 18, 2016

Inside the Nondescript Building Where Trillions Trade Each Day (BW)

Equinix's NY4 data center hosts 49 exchanges among the customers that have set up servers in the Secaucus, New Jersey, facility.

Six miles northwest of the New York Stock Exchange as the microwave flies, across the Hudson River and within earshot of Interstate 95, is a building with no name. Only three numbers mark its address, and, like much of its surroundings, it’s nondescript, encircled by windblown trash and lonely semitrailers waiting to be hauled away somewhere. It’s a part of New Jersey that’s, well, ugly.
It’s also a critical node in the U.S. financial system: The 49 different exchanges that lease space at this data center sent a record 9.6 million messages per second through its fiber-optic cables in February. Every day, electronic trades representing trillions of dollars’ worth of equities, derivatives, currencies, and fixed-income assets pass under this roof. This is NY4. This is where Wall Street actually transacts.
It’s just one of the crown jewels of Equinix, the $22.2 billion company that’s quietly grown into the world’s largest owner of interconnected data centers. To give you an idea of Equinix’s lead in the space, you would have to add up the market value of its five closest U.S. competitors to roughly equal its market cap, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The new trading floor seen from a cat walk shows some of the miles of fiber-optic cables that connect servers in cages below.
The new trading floor seen from a cat walk shows some of the miles of fiber-optic cables that connect servers in cages below.
Equinix pitches its centers as more than just storage space for servers. Its clients pay in part because of who else is there. That includes the Chicago Board Options Exchange, Bats, ICAP, Nasdaq, the NYSE, and Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News. IEX Group, the firm that starred in Michael Lewis’s 2014 book Flash Boys, stashes a key piece of its hardware in one of Equinix’s New Jersey data centers: a coil of fiber-optic cable that slows orders down by a fraction of a second. And those firms are just from the handful of financial industry customers Equinix discloses. It connects more than 6,300 businesses to their customers, and most of those firms don’t want it known that they lease one of NY4’s metal cages, which are identified only by numbers, not names.
Equinix’s nonfinancial clients, meanwhile, include some of the Internet’s biggest names:, AT&T, China Mobile, Comcast, Facebook, Hulu, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Netflix, Pandora, and Verizon. Much of the Internet is literally run through the nondescript buildings Equinix has scattered around the world. “They’re a crucial component of how the cloud works,” says Colby Synesael, an analyst at Cowen & Co. who covers Equinix. “It’s where the Internet lives.”
The security at NY4 bears this out. To get from the parking lot to a spot where you could touch one of the servers you’d have to go through five checkpoints. One of them is a so-called man trap with two automatic steel doors that never open at the same time. Your palm print is required twice in addition to your PIN code. A wall of video monitors captures every nook and cranny of the 338,000-square-foot building.
Once you’re in, the space is enveloped by a rush of white noise from the thousands of computer fans whirring away to keep the servers cool. To help maintain the temperature, the ceiling is 45 feet high, roughly four stories up. It’s barely visible—not just because of its height, but also thanks to all of the suspended trays of cables and cooling ducts running overhead. All this goes toward one statistic: Equinix says in its annual filing that it kept its facilities up and running 99.9999 percent of the time in 2015.
The 12 air-handling units in NY4 move cold air via overhead ducts.
The 12 air-handling units in NY4 move cold air via overhead duct
They’re big on backups. In case of a power failure, NY4’s uninterrupted power supply room has 5,600 batteries on standby to provide eight minutes of electricity while the generators rev to life. Should the air conditioning fail and risk the servers overheating, there are three 150,000-gallon tanks filled with water chilled to 45F. Running that cold water through pipes would give NY4 staff 20 minutes to get the AC fixed. Oh, and the generators: 18 of them, each the size of a locomotive engine and able to crank out 2.5 megawatts of power. Equinix keeps 180,000 gallons of diesel fuel on-site to run them. In terms of footprint, NY4 is roughly the same size as a Manhattan block. If you want to look out the window, too bad. There isn’t one
There’s a slick appearance to it all, from the red-lit foyer to the metal all around and the blue lights that shine from above. This last feature comes in handy at night for security purposes, but it’s also got an aesthetic touch to it. “When everything is dark and you only have these blue lights, it looks really cool,” says Michael Poleshuk, senior director of operations for Equinix in the northeast region, as he leads a tour.
Another reason the location is important to Wall Street is because NY4 is only one part of Equinix’s Secaucus, N.J., campus. The company has spent the last 20 years growing and consolidating the industry into its own spider web of interconnected data centers from Frankfurt to Tokyo to London to Rio de Janeiro to Sydney. This is the company that controls a significant part of modern finance: the sites where you plug in the actual computers that fuel today’s hyperfast and hyperconnected electronic trading.
“I call them the 800-pound gorilla of the data services market,” says Inder Singh, an analyst at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey. “I see these guys as a key bridge between customers and suppliers.”
The neutrality Equinix has established by not competing with its customers is also important, Singh says. “It is the Switzerland of data center players,” he says. That has a downside, though. “Equinix definitely leaves some money on the table. But they would probably be losing some of their coveted customers.”
Equinix provides only “dark fiber”; it doesn’t move data itself. That’s created opportunities for other companies. A startup called Lucera is one of them. The company operates something like a telecom within the data center by using software to interconnect the banks, exchanges, and investment firms that have servers at NY4.
“If Goldman Sachs wants to connect to 100 people, they just run one cable to us,” says Jacob Loveless, Lucera’s co-founder and chief executive officer. In turn, that one cable from a firm can then connect the client to any of the other 52 data centers around the world where Lucera operates.
Standby power comes from 18 generators that can crank out 2.5 megawatts each
Standby power comes from 18 generators that can crank out 2.5 megawatts each
The larger idea Loveless and his partner Peter Durkan hit on is moving Wall Street onto the cloud with shared infrastructure. After 10 years at Cantor Fitzgerald, where he was the firm’s head of high-frequency trading, Loveless realized there were too many trades out in the world that were great ideas but impractical: Implementing them would take six months and $500,000 because of the connections that needed to be made to another bank or investor or exchange that might be halfway around the world.
It would take a bank about three months to create a new connection to another bank if it did it on its own, Loveless says. Lucera’s fastest time to connect two of its users is eight seconds. That’s because the company is software-based and relies on hard-wired connections already created by Equinix. Lucera’s mean connection time is only two hours, Loveless says.
NY4 and other data centers like it make this a reality, but it wasn’t always this way. At the dawn of electronic trading in the 1980s, major banks such as Goldman Sachs or Bank of America had to lay wire and cable to create their own networks to connect to customers. If you laid one bank network atop the other, they would have all been basically the same, Loveless explains, which is another way of saying it was hugely inefficient. Then in 2000, a company called Radianz set out to create a global network that promised access to the major financial institutions through a single connection.
It worked. British Telecom bought Radianz in 2005 for about $130 million. Lucera, which got its start in 2013, is now a sort of second-generation Radianz as it offers to handle the complicated interconnections within a data center like NY4 for its clients.
“If I’m a customer and I want to connect to 270 companies, I can either run 540 connections out of my own cage or they can run a pair to us and we’ll run the rest,” says Michael Badrov, global head of operations for Lucera. As he spoke in the firm’s cage at NY4, three workers were busy doubling Lucera’s capacity to take on more customers.
On the roof of NY4 on a rainy February morning, the skyscrapers of Manhattan could just be seen to the east. To the west, planes lined up to land at Newark airport. Microwave antennas that look like satellite-TV receivers are pointed toward Chicago, Newark, and north of the city where the signal can get hooked into the fiber-optic cable that ends in London. That’s where Equinix’s LD4 center is located.
This global network of densely packed data centers is now the reason you can trade a stock on your smartphone in a way that was unimaginable 10 years ago. The six or seven intermediaries needed—AT&T, your brokerage, the NYSE, and so forth—are all housed under Equinix’s enormous roof.
John Knuff, Equinix’s general manager for financial services, looks at this dense cohabitation and sees the future. “I always say, keep your customers close,” he says. “But keep your vendors even closer.”

Monday, April 11, 2016

SpaceX Successfully Lands Rocket on Drone Ship (BW)

Elon Musk's SpaceX successfully launched a rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Friday at 4:43 p.m. EDT. The mission, officially known as CRS-8, is the company's eighth cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. The launch itself was largely routine for SpaceX: the real excitement began when the Falcon 9 completed its burn and landed upright on the drone ship for the first time.

This was the fifth attempt to recover the rocket's first stage on a drone ship—cheekily named Of Course I Still Love You—in the Atlantic Ocean. The company webcasts each of its launches, and young engineers provide running commentary. This time, however, the screams of joy in Hawthorne, California overrode the commentary. 

Live Stream:
SpaceX made history in December by successfully landing the first stage on land but had yet to complete the same goal on a ship bobbing in the ocean. Reusable rockets that land themselves—unlike the traditional model in which the rocket is left to burn up on reentry—are a critical aspect of reducing the cost to reach orbit. Musk has said that a fully and rapidly reusable rocket is the only way to enable humans to travel to and from Mars.SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo capsule will carry 7,000 pounds of supplies, science experiments, and technology demonstrations to the orbiting lab, according to NASA. The launch marks SpaceX's first mission to the ISS since last June, when Falcon 9 blew apart 139 seconds after launch. An initial investigation into that mishap pointed to a two-foot-long, inch-thick strut in a liquid oxygen tank that snapped. 
SpaceX has said it expects to complete 18 launches in 2016, an ambitious target for a company that flew just six times last year.  

Friday, April 8, 2016

Tesla Says It Received More Than 325,000 Model 3 Reservations

  • Response for the $1,000 reservations tops its expectations
  • Company intends to boost production plans because of demand

Tesla Motors Inc. said it has received more than 325,000 reservations for the Model 3, far exceeding its expectations as customers line up to pre-order the $35,000 electric car more than a year ahead of when the more-affordable model is slated to hit the streets.

The pre-orders represent “about $14 billion in implied future sales, making this the single biggest one-week launch of any product ever,” the company said in a blog post Thursday. After Tesla got more than a quarter-million orders in the first three days, Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk had said even that number was at least twice what he had expected.

Musk revealed the Model 3 on March 31 at an event at Tesla’s design studio in Hawthorne, California. The rush of $1,000 reservations has buoyed Tesla shares while raising questions about how the company, which delivered just 50,658 vehicles in 2015, can crank up manufacturing at its Fremont, California, factory to produce cars in much higher volumes. The company has said it’s increasing production plans for the Model 3, without giving details.

“Tesla has always talked about making half a million cars by 2020,” said Alan Baum, an auto analyst at Baum & Associates in West Bloomfield, Michigan. “They can do this? Yes. Can they do this today? Probably not. Is it going to be more difficult because expectations are running so high? Yes. But they understand that, and they’ve learned from significant missteps with the launch of the Model X.”

Tesla fell 2 percent to $260.02 at 11:55 a.m. in New York, as the broader markets also declined. The shares had gained 16 percent from March 31 through Tuesday.

The crush of orders means Tesla has now taken in more cash from the Model 3 than its June 2010 IPO, which raised $226.1 million. The number of orders doesn’t equate to number of customers, because some people reserved more than one Model 3, and Tesla and SpaceX employees also got priority. Musk said on Twitter over the weekend that the average sale price, with options, probably will be closer to $42,000.

Customer deposits are fully refundable up to when the vehicle is put into production. The cash lets the Palo Alto, California-based automaker fund research and development projects, construction of its Nevada battery factory and an expansion of retail stores, service centers and the Supercharger network. Tesla held $283.4 million in customer deposits at the end of 2015, according to its recent annual report.

Accounting Treatment

“Model 3 reservations are treated the same way as Model S and Model X reservations were previously treated,” Tesla said in a statement. “They are accounted for on our balance sheet and can clearly be seen in our financial filings. They do not qualify as revenue.”

The Model 3 has a base price of $35,000 before a federal tax credit or state incentives. The $7,500 federal credit begins to phase out for a manufacturer’s vehicles when at least 200,000 are sold in the U.S. Tesla has said that when production begins, Model 3 deliveries will begin on the West Coast and move East before starting in markets outside the U.S.

“It is not possible to ship to all regions simultaneously because regulators in each part of the world have slightly different production requirements,” Tesla said in a March 21 blog post. “Staggering deliveries in this way also allows us to provide the best possible customer experience.”

Tesla said Monday that it delivered 14,820 Model S cars and Model X sport utility vehicles in the first quarter. The company reaffirmed plans to deliver 80,000 to 90,000 vehicles this year.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Who's in charge during a cyberattack? Pentagon doesn't know

A new government report criticizes the Defense Dept. for not clearly defining lead roles in the event of a cyberattack on the US.

A federal oversight agency has criticized the Defense Dept. for not spelling out exactly who takes charge in the event of a cyberattack against the US.

The report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published earlier this week said that the Pentagon does "not clearly define its roles and responsibilities for cyber incidents."

In a situation where the US is attacked, the Defense Dept. would support Homeland Security, which would be the civilian agency leading the effort -- that much is clear.

But officials found that from there, it gets murky.

The problem stems from two sets of conflicting rules set out by two military divisions, and how they assist civil efforts to recover from a cyberattack. The US Northern Command says it would be the support civil command during an attack, whereas the US Central Command says it would be responsible.

"This absence has caused uncertainty about who in DOD would respond to support civil authorities in a cyber incident and how they would coordinate and conduct such a response," said the report.

According to the report, much of the confusion stems from the dual-status commander, who will be the ranking officer with authority over federal military and National Guard forces.

Case in point: a recent exercise "highlighted uncertainty" as to the responsibilities of the dual-status commander overseeing the response effort to a cyberattack. Officials at the US Northern Command told GAO officials that the commander didn't even have tactical control of cyber units that reported to US Cyber Command.

Because of that, the cyber units weren't even able to "log onto the network of the private entity that was used in the exercise."

The lack of clarity has the GAO concerned.

"The gap, and the uncertainty that results, could hinder the timeliness or effectiveness of critical Defense Dept. support to civil authorities during cyber-related emergencies," said the report's conclusion.

The report said that the Defense Dept. "cannot reasonably ensure" that it'll be able to effectively support civil agencies during a cyberattack, simply because of the bureaucracy involved.

Pentagon chiefs acknowledged the report but did not outline when it would fix the problems. As of January, the department didn't have an estimate to GAO officials for when the guidance will be finalized.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Panama Papers: a massive document leak reveals a global web of corruption and tax avoidance

Mossack Fonseca is not a household name, but the Panamanian law firm has long been well-known to the global financial and political elite, and thanks to a massive 2.6-terabyte leak of its confidential papers to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists it's about to become much better known. A huge team of hundreds of journalists is poring over the documents they are calling the Panama Papers.
The firm's operations are diverse and international in scope, but they originate in a single specialty — helping foreigners set up Panamanian shell companies to hold financial assets while obscuring the identities of their real owners. Since its founding in 1977, it's expanded its interests outside of Panama to include more than 40 offices worldwide, helping a global client base work with shell companies not just in Panama but also the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, and other notorious tax havens around the world.
The documents provide details on some shocking acts of corruption in Russia, hint at scandalous goings-on in a range of developing nations, and may prompt a political crisis in Iceland.
But they also offer the most granular look ever at a banal reality that's long been hiding in plain sight. Even as the world's wealthiest and most powerful nations have engaged in increasingly complex and intensive efforts at international cooperation to smooth the wheels of global commerce, they have willfully chosen to allow the wealthiest members of Western society to shield their financial assets from taxation (and in many cases divorce or bankruptcy settlement) by taking advantage of shell companies and tax havens.
If Panama or the Cayman Islands were acting to undermine the integrity of the global pharmaceutical patent system, the United States would stop them. But the political elite of powerful Western nations have not acted to stop relatively puny Caribbean nations from undermining the integrity of the global tax system — largely because Western economic elites don't want them to.
What's a shell company? Why would someone want one?
Sometimes a person or a well-known company or institution wants to buy things or own assets in a way that obscures who the real buyer is.
The typical reason for this is a kind of routine corporate secrecy. Apple, for example, appears to have created a shell company called SixtyEight Research that journalists believe to be a front for its interest in building a car. Since Apple happens to be the most covered company on the planet, this hasn't been incredible effective — and when SixtyEight Research staff showed up at an auto industry conference, everybody noticed.
But in general, companies don't like to tip their hand to what they are doing, and the use of shell companies to undertake not-ready-for-public-announcement projects can be a useful tool.
Shell companies are often used for simple privacy reasons. Real estate transactions, for example, are generally a matter of public record. So an athlete, actor, or other celebrity who wants to buy a house without his name and address ending up in the papers might want to pay a lawyer to set up a shell company to do the purchasing.
Okay, but how about the shady stuff?
As is generally the case in life, secrecy can have illegitimate purposes as well. This is particularly true for shell companies set up in international centers of banking secrecy that offer a level of anonymity and obscurity that goes beyond simply making it hard to look up the real owner's name online.
Your soon-to-be-ex-wife cannot seize half of the money in an account that she and her lawyers don't know exists and can't prove that you own, for example. Nor can your creditors seize such an account in a bankruptcy proceeding. Nor can the government levy estate taxes on it when you die and pass it on to your kids. In all those circumstances, a Panamanian company that you secretly control and that holds stocks, bonds, and other financial assets on your behalf could be the ideal vehicle.
By the same token, if you have made a bunch of money illegally (taking bribes, trafficking drugs, etc.) you need to do something with the money that won't attract the attention of the authorities or the media. A secret offshore shell company is perfect. Not only does it help you avoid scrutiny in real time, but if you are found out its assets can't be taken from you if you have to flee the jurisdiction or even serve jail time.
But even though various criminal money-laundering schemes are the sexiest possible use of shell companies, the day-to-day tax dodging is what really pays the bills. As a manager of offshore bank accounts told me years ago, "People think of banking secrecy as all about terrorists and drug smugglers, but the truth is there are a lot of rich people who don't want to pay taxes." And the system persists because there are a lot of politicians in the West who don't particularly want to make them.
What do the Panama Papers show?
As you would imagine, there is quite a lot in the 2.6 terabytes. Here are a few of the highlights the team found, with links to the full stories where you can read the details:
Vladimir Putin's inner circle appears to control about $2 billion worth of offshore assets.
The prime minister of Iceland secretly owned the debt of failed Icelandic banks while he was involved in political negotiations over their fate.
The family of Pakistan's prime minister owns millions of dollars' worth of real estate via offshore accounts.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko pledged to sell his Ukrainian business interests during his campaign, but appears instead to have transferred them to an offshore company he controls.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has a full profile of political figures and their relatives named in the Panama Papers for your reading pleasure.
But though political corruption is fun and newsy, the document dump also features a leaked memorandum from a Mossack Fonseca partner revealing the more boring truth that "[n]inety-five per cent of our work coincidentally consists in selling vehicles to avoid taxes."
How much money is there in offshore tax havens?
A big part of the idea, of course, is to make it hard for anyone to know for sure.
But Gabriel Zucman, an economics professor at UC Berkley, has made the most detailed study of the question for his book The Hidden Wealth of Nations, and estimates that it totals at least $7.6 trillion. That's upward of 8 percent of all the world's financial wealth, and it's growing fast. Zucman estimates that offshore wealth has surged about 25 percent over the past five years.
Much of that reflects "new money" from China and other developing nations whose citizens to an extent have legitimate fears about political stability and the rule of law.
But some of it is simple avarice. The name of Ian Cameron, the late father of British Prime Minister David Cameron, shows up in the Panama Papers, for example. Mossack Fonseca helped him set up his investment company Blairmore Holdings (named after his family's ancestral country estate) in the British Virgin Islands, where, marketing material assured investors, the company "will not be subject to United Kingdom corporation tax or income tax on its profits."
This particular kind of move is perfectly legal and doesn't even involve any secrecy. It is entirely typical for investment companies whose employees all work or reside in New York, London, or Connecticut to be domiciled for tax purposes in someplace like the Cayman Islands. Since these companies don't own much in the way of physical assets, they can be officially located anywhere in the world and naturally choose to locate in jurisdictions where they won't need to pay taxes.
Why doesn't anyone do anything about this?
To an extent, things have been done.
First the war on drugs and then, more recently, the war on terror led to meaningful political pressure on countries around the world to alter their banking practices so as to reduce global money laundering. More recently, the European Union has successfully pressured Switzerland to change its laws to make it easier for the EU to catch people engaged in criminal tax evasion.
But there's a big difference between tax evasion — illegally refusing to pay taxes you owe, and then taking advantage of secret accounts to try to hide the money and get away with it — and tax avoidance, which is hiring clever people to help you find and exploit legal loopholes to minimize your tax bill.
Incorporating your hedge fund in a country with no corporate income tax even though all your fund's employees and investors live in the United States is perfectly legal. So is, in most cases, setting up a Panamanian shell company to own and manage most of your family's fortune.
Tax avoidance is an inevitable feature of any tax system, but the reason this particular form of avoidance grows and grows without bounds is that powerful politicians in powerful countries have chosen to let it happen. As the global economy has become more and more deeply integrated, powerful countries have created economic "rules of the road" that foreign countries and multinational corporations must follow in order to gain lucrative market access.
Establishing some kind of minimum global standard of taxation of corporate and investment income hasn't been done, because it hasn't been a political priority. In the United States, in particular, the Republican Party fights quite hard for the view that high levels of taxation on rich people and investment income are economically ruinous, so there isn't the kind of institutional mobilization that exists around drug trafficking or possible terrorism financing.
The leak of the Panama Papers is significant in part because of the specific information the documents contain, but more broadly because they draw attention to what "everyone knows" and may put public pressure on the powers that be to do something about it.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

¿Qué sabemos de la Moral y la Ética? (Maestro Edwin Conrado Rivera, MPH )

Mestrio Plutarco fue un historiador, biógrafo y ensayista griego.

Más moralista que filósofo e historiador,  fue uno de los últimos grandes representantes del helenismo, cuando ya tocaba a su fin, y uno de los grandes de la literatura helénica de todos los tiempos.

Los restos supervivientes de su trabajo se recopilan bajo el título de Moralia  (traducidos como Obras morales y de costumbres). El título no se lo dio el propio Plutarco, sino el monje bizantino Máximo Planudes, que recogió en el siglo XIII diversos trabajos dispersos del autor. Es ésta una colección diversa de setenta y ocho capítulos sobre ética.

Moral y ética

Varios autores consideran como sinónimos a estos términos debido a que sus orígenes etimológicos son similares, aunque otros no consideran a la moral y la ética como lo mismo, como es el caso del filósofo español Gustavo Bueno.
Algunas posturas conciben la ética como el conjunto de normas sugeridas por un filósofo o proveniente de una religión. En tanto que a la «moral» se le designa el grado de aceptación que los individuos le otorgan a las normas existentes en el grupo social.  
No todos acuerdan con dicha distinción, y por eso es que en un sentido práctico, ambos términos se usan indistintamente, y a menudo no se distingue entre los dos conceptos, haciéndolos equivalentes.
En este escrito nos vamos a concentrar en los diferentes significados de la ética y como aplica a nuestros tiempos.

Ramas de la ética

Meta ética - La meta ética es una rama de la ética cuyo centro de interés es el análisis del lenguaje moral.

Ética normativa - Las teorías de la filosofía ética o moral se pueden distinguir de acuerdo a los criterios de sus bases para la determinación del bien moral. El bien moral puede ser determinado por:
  •      Las consecuencias (ética teleológica) consecuencialismo;
  •     Disposiciones de comportamiento, rasgos de carácter y virtudes   (ética de la    virtud);
  • ·     La intención del actor (ética disposición);
  • ·     Objetivos hacia hechos morales, como objetivo de las evaluaciones morales           sobre la propiedad o la acción (ética deontológica);
  • ·    Optimización de los intereses o de las partes interesadas (de preferencia),   la  ética utilitarista, de la felicidad (eudaimonía), o del bienestar.

Consecuencialismo - El consecuencialismo sostiene que la moralidad de una acción depende sólo de sus consecuencias (el fin justifica los medios). El consecuencialismo no se aplica sólo a las acciones, pero éstas son el ejemplo más prominente. Creer que la moralidad se trata sólo de generar la mayor cantidad de felicidad posible, o de aumentar la libertad  lo más posible, o de promover la supervivencia de nuestra especie.                      
Una manera de clasificar a los distintos tipos de consecuencialismos es a partir de las situaciones que se deben tener en cuenta cuando se consideran las consecuencias de las acciones.
Esto da lugar a tres tipos de consecuencialismo:
  • ·       Egoísmo moral: una acción es moralmente correcta si produce consecuencias        positivas para las personas.
  • ·       Altruismo moral: una buena acción es aquella que produce el bien de los demás,    sin considerar a la persona.
  • ·    Utilitarismo: una acción es moralmente correcta si predominan los resultados      favorables sobre los indeseables para todos. Por tanto, la mejor acción posible es  aquella que produce el mayor  bien para el mayor número de personas.

 Las éticas teleológicas es un grupo de teorías éticas que emana deberes u obligaciones morales que buscan lograr un fin último, que presume bueno o deseable.                           También, se le conoce como ética consecutiva, ya que se basa el juicio de los actos y sus consecuencias, y se opone a las éticas deontológicas, que sostienen que la moralidad de una acción es independiente del bien o mal generado a partir de ella.
La deontología es la teoría normativa según la cual existen ciertas acciones que deben ser realizadas, y otras que no deben ser realizadas, más allá de las consecuencias positivas o negativas que puedan traer. Es decir, hay ciertos deberes, u obligaciones, que deben ser cumplidos más allá de sus consecuencias.
Ética de la virtud- La ética de la virtud es una teoría de Platón y, de modo más articulado, a Aristóteles, según la cual una acción es éticamente correcta.
Por ejemplo, para el utilitarismo hay que ayudar a los necesitados porque eso aumenta el bienestar general, para la deontología hay que hacerlo porque es nuestro deber, para la ética de virtudes, hay que ayudar a los necesitados porque hacerlo sería caritativo y benevolente.

Ética aplicada - La ética aplicada es la parte de la ética que se ocupa de estudiar cuestiones morales concretas y controversiales. Por ejemplo, algunos objetos de estudio de la ética aplicada son el aborto inducido, la eutanasia y los derechos de los animales.    

Algunas de estas cuestiones se agrupan por similitudes y son estudiadas por sub-disciplinas:
  • ·         La bioética estudia las controversias morales que son producto de los avances     en la biología y la medicina.
  • ·         La deontología profesional se ocupa tanto de buscar justificación para valores        morales que deberían guiar a los profesionales, como de estudiar los valores          que de hecho guían a los profesionales.
En el primer sentido la deontología profesional es una disciplina normativa y filosófica. En el segundo sentido, se trata más bien de una disciplina descriptiva y por lo tanto científica. La deontología profesional también cuenta con sub-disciplinas como la ética médica, la ética de negocios y la ética de la ingeniería.
 La ética ambiental se ocupa de la relación ética entre los seres humanos y                el medio ambiente.
Quizás las dos preguntas fundamentales de esta disciplina sean: ¿Qué deberes tienen los seres humanos hacia el medio ambiente, y por qué? En general, la respuesta a la primera pregunta es una consecuencia de la respuesta a la segunda.  Distintas respuestas o aproximaciones a respuestas han dado lugar a distintas   éticas ambientales.
·         La ética militar es un conjunto de prácticas y discursos que sirven para orientar a las fuerzas armadas y a sus integrantes para que actúen conforme a unos valores y unas normas determinadas, y para mostrar  al conjunto de la ciudadanía esos valores de referencia.

·     La ética económica se ocupa de las relaciones éticas que deberían guiar las relaciones económicas entre los seres humanos y el efecto que tales normas tendrían sobre la economía de nuestras sociedades. De hecho, gran parte de los economistas que desarrollaron la teoría moderna de la economía partieron de bases éticas.                    
El ejemplo más cercano es el utilitarismo desarrollado primero como doctrina moral y luego usado para la teoría del valor neoclásica.

La Ética de los Negocios - La ética de los negocios (a veces denominada ética corporativa o ética empresarial ) es un tipo de ética aplicada o ética profesional   o de los negocios. Comprende todos los aspectos de la conducta de los negocios y es relevante en cuanto a las conductas individuales de las personas como la de las organizaciones en su conjunto.

La ética en los negocios es una rama de la filosofía que estudia lo que es moralmente correcto o incorrecto, y de cómo se aplican estos estándares en las instituciones, las organizaciones y el comportamiento en los negocios.
Pasos para tomar una decisión ética

1.                  Describa la situación sobre la decisión a tomar
·         ¿Sería esta decisión o situación dañina hacia una persona o grupo de personas?
·         ¿Esta decisión involucra una elección entre una buena y una mala opción, o quizás entre dos “buenas” o dos “malas”?
·         ¿Éste problema es ilegal o ineficiente, y en qué forma?

2.                  Obtenga los hechos: Obtenga la evidencia correcta y real

·¿Cuáles son los hechos relevantes del caso?   ¿Cuáles hechos no se conocen

¿Puedo aprender más de la situación?  ¿Conozco lo suficiente para tomar una decisión?

· ¿Cuáles individuos y grupos han contribuido en el resultado? ¿Existen otras consideraciones?                                                                                  

¿Por qué?

·¿Cuáles son las opciones para actuar?                                                                                    

¿Se ha consultado con todas las personas o grupos relevantes? ¿He identificado opciones creativas?

3.                  Evalué las diferentes acciones y sus alternativas:

·     ¿Cuál opción producirá más bien y menos daño?

·    ¿Cuál de las opciones respeta mejor los derechos de todos los involucrados?

·     ¿Cuál de las opciones trata a las personas con igualdad y oportunidad?

·     ¿Cuál de las opciones ayuda mejor a la comunidad como una unidad,     y no solo a algunos miembros?

·    ¿Cuál de las opciones me permite actuar como la persona que deseo          y quiero ser?

4.                  Tome la decisión

·   Basado en la mejor alternativa, haga un plan de acción para poner en función su decisión.

  5.                  Reflexione sobre los resultados

·    Una vez implementado el plan de acción, lleve un registro de los resultados para luego poder evaluarlos sistemáticamente.

El Maestro Edwin Conrado Rivera, MPH – “Tu Amigo del Conocimiento” es Adiestrador Internacional, Coach y Autor del libro:  La Diabetes: El Árbol de las Enfermedades”.   Comuníquese con él en:

 Marzo 31, 2016