August 24, 2010

The Billionaire Brothers Waging A War Against Obama

A fascinating read about the Billionaire brothers behind the Tea Party movement... Some Highlights:


"With his brother Charles, who is seventy-four, David Koch owns virtually all of Koch Industries, a conglomerate, headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, whose annual revenues are estimated to be a hundred billion dollars. The company has grown spectacularly since their father, Fred, died, in 1967, and the brothers took charge. The Kochs operate oil refineries in Alaska, Texas, and Minnesota, and control some four thousand miles of pipeline. Koch Industries owns Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, Georgia-Pacific lumber, Stainmaster carpet, and Lycra, among other products. Forbes ranks it as the second-largest private company in the country, after Cargill, and its consistent profitability has made David and Charles Koch—who, years ago, bought out two other brothers—among the richest men in America. Their combined fortune of thirty-five billion dollars is exceeded only by those of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett."


"The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers’ corporate interests. In a study released this spring, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the United States. And Greenpeace issued a report identifying the company as a “kingpin of climate science denial.” The report showed that, from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups. Indeed, the brothers have funded opposition campaigns against so many Obama Administration policies—from health-care reform to the economic-stimulus program—that, in political circles, their ideological network is known as the Kochtopus"


"Oddly enough, the fiercely capitalist Koch family owes part of its fortune to Joseph Stalin. Fred Koch was the son of a Dutch printer who settled in Texas and ran a weekly newspaper. Fred attended M.I.T., where he earned a degree in chemical engineering. In 1927, he invented a more efficient process for converting oil into gasoline, but, according to family lore, America’s major oil companies regarded him as a threat and shut him out of the industry. Unable to succeed at home, Koch found work in the Soviet Union. In the nineteen-thirties, his company trained Bolshevik engineers and helped Stalin’s regime set up fifteen modern oil refineries. Over time, however, Stalin brutally purged several of Koch’s Soviet colleagues. Koch was deeply affected by the experience, and regretted his collaboration. He returned to the U.S. In the headquarters of his company, Rock Island Oil & Refining, in Wichita, he kept photographs aimed at proving that some of those Soviet refineries had been destroyed in the Second World War"


Read more here:

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August 22, 2010

The Economics of Hardware and Software

Very relevant piece from the Harvard Business Review.
About the Economics of Hardware and Software.

Some Highlights:

"the software industry is unlike any other, and represents a sharp break from anything that came before. Its combination of low barriers to entry and huge growth potential make it a unique segment of the economy."

"I've come to the conclusion that computer hardware, in addition to software, also displays some weird, wonderful, and unique economics. In particular, computers improve so quickly and consistently over time that they are fundamentally unlike anything else that companies spend money on."

December 29, 2009

Indian Central Bank Buys IMF Gold

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has increased the quantity of its gold holdings. With a recent purchase of 200 tonnes of gold from the International Monetary Fund, the Indian Central Bank is now the ninth or tenth largest holder of gold globally.

Executed as a part of its foreign exchange reserves management, the RBI recently purchased $6.7 billion USD worth of the IMF's gold, from Oct. 19 to Oct. 30th 2009. Although the RBI does not officially discuss its diversification strategy, speculation is rampant that the purchase may be part of India's push for greater influence within the IMF itself.

India, along with other emerging BRIC economies (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) is jockeying for greater bearing on the global economic stage, and this recent move may be a tactic of this strategy. The Indian economy has grown rapidly in recent years, and is now in aggregate, a $1.2 trillion USD economy.

According to the latest data, of India’s total foreign reserves of $285.5 billion on Oct. 23, 2009, slightly more than $10 billion worth was in gold. The recent purchase has increased India’s percentage of gold holdings in its portfolio, from approximately 4 percent to approximately 6 percent. The purchase was one of the largest single purchases of gold by a Central Bank, in memory.

Portfolio-wise, Indian gold holdings are on average much less than most Central Banks of the developed world, but interestingly, Indian gold holdings are approximately four times the size of China's share. With this recent move, perhaps New Delhi may be trying to assert its strength in world economic affairs, relative to the other BRIC nations.

For gold markets in general, the picture is less clear. What does the RBI’s decision signal for the global gold market? Does India’s recent move potentially signify the beginning of a new bull market for bullion? Only time will tell.

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November 21, 2009

US and Asian GDP Return to Growth


American GDP is growing again.

After four consecutive quarters of GDP decline, the US Economy grew in the third quarter by 3.5%.  This ends the longest contraction in the US economy since the Great Depression. The 3.5 per cent growth figures were stronger than expected by some analysts, including Goldman Sachs, who had forecast only 2.7 per cent growth. 

Simultaneously, the IMF has doubled its forecast for Asian economic growth in 2010. 

The region’s prospects have improved dramatically over the past 6 months due to the concerted efforts of Asian Governments to nurse their economies back to health. China, South Korea, India, and Japan have taken the lead in this regard. The International Monetary Fund has forecast GDP growth of 2.8 per cent for 2009, and 5.8 per cent in 2010 for the region. 

The “Great Recession”, as it has come to be known, may be technically over according to the Economists, but it's been replaced by fears that this may only be a statistical recovery. The manifest growth in the US is literally underwritten by billions of dollars in US Federal government spending. Some economists posit that all of the government money in the US system will lead to an artificial and jobless recovery in America. Last month's US jobless rate was 9.8 per cent, its highest rate in 26 years. 

Nonetheless, third quarter figures indicate that 2010 will be a year of growth in the American economy, which is certainly reassuring news for the Global economy, as the US Economy is currently underperforming globally.

Posted via web from Global Business News

October 12, 2009

Taiwan lab develops panda robot

The world's first panda robot is taking shape at a cutting-edge lab in Taiwan where an ambitious group of scientists hope to add new dimensions to the island's reputation as a high-tech power. The Centre for Intelligent Robots Research aims to develop pandas that are friendlier and more artistically endowed than their endangered real-life counterparts.

"The panda robot will be very cute and more attracted to humans. Maybe the panda robot can be made to sing a panda song," said Jerry Lin, the centre's 52-year-old director. Day by day, the panda evolves on the centre's computer screens and, if funding permits, the robot will take its first steps by the end of the year.

"It's the first time we try to construct a quadrupedal robot. We need to consider the balance problem," said 28-year-old Jo Po-chia, a doctoral student who is in charge of the robot's design. The robo-panda is just one of many projects on the drawing board at the centre, which is attached to the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, the island's version of Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Taipei-based centre also aims to build robots that look like popular singers, so exact replicas of world stars can perform in the comfort of their fans' homes. "It could be a Madonna robot. It will be a completely different experience from just listening to audio," said Lin.

Commercial value is what counts for Lin, who hopes to contribute to the Taiwan economy at a time when it has matured and no longer exhibits the stellar growth of the earlier take-off phase. "If I write 25 academic papers, I won't contribute anything. But if I create something people need, I will contribute to the Taiwan economy," he said. Lin and his team are also working on educational robots that can act as private tutors for children, teaching them vocabulary or telling them stories in foreign languages.

There is an obvious target market: China, with its tens of millions of middle-class parents doting on the one child they are allowed under strict population policies. "Asian parents are prepared to spend a lot of money to teach their children languages," said Lin.

Robots running amok are a fixture of popular literature but parents do not have to worry about leaving their children home alone with their artificial teachers, he said. "A robot may hit you like a car or a motorbike might hit you. But it won't suddenly lose control and get violent. Humans lose control, not robots. It's not like that."

Lin's long-term dream is to create a fully-functioning Robot Theatre of Taiwan, with an ensemble of life-like robots able to sing, dance and entertain. Two robotic pioneers, Thomas and Janet, appeared before an audience in Taiwan in December, performing scenes from the Phantom of the Opera, but that was just the beginning, Lin said.

"You can imagine a robot shooting down balloons, like in the wild west, using two revolvers, or three, but much faster than a person. Some things robots can do better than humans with the aid of technologies," Lin said.

His vision is to turn the show into an otherworldly experience where robots and humans mix seamlessly on stage, leaving the audience in doubt which is which. But the bottomline is the bottomline. Lin wants commercial viability, in the interest of his home island.

"I want to be able to go to an amusement park in the US and see a building where on top it says, 'Robot Theatre from Taiwan'. That's my lifetime goal," he said.

Related Articles:



China, Taipei, Robot panda, Robot Theatre of Taiwan, National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, Global IT News, The Centre for Intelligent Robots Research,

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