Monday, October 5, 2015

Facebook plans satellite in 2016; VW and Glencore are not 'Lehman moments'; An app that lets people review you

1 Facebook plans satellite in 2016 (David Lee on BBC) Facebook is to launch a satellite that will provide internet access to remote parts of Africa, the social network's founder Mark Zuckerberg has announced. In partnership with French-based provider Eutelsat, Facebook hopes the first satellite will be launched in 2016.

"We're going to keep working to connect the entire world -- even if that means looking beyond our planet," Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post. The project is part of Facebook's project, which has come under fierce criticism in some countries. In some areas, particularly India, businesses reacted angrily to the plans saying it gave Facebook, and its partners, an unfair advantage in developing internet markets. is experimenting with different ways of providing internet to hard-to-reach places. Recently, the company told of how it was planning to use a custom-built drone to beam down connectivity.

Eutelsat said users on the ground would be able to use "off the shelf" products to access the service when it launches in the second half of 2016. Several companies already provide internet-by-satellite, but it is a costly option beyond the reach of most people in the developing world.

2 VW and Glencore are not ‘Lehman moments’ (Mark Gilbert in Sydney Morning Herald) Ever since the demise of Lehman Brothers in 2008, the failed bank's name is evoked whenever a company, industry or market gets into difficulties.

The very fact that we can discuss Volkswagen and Glencore as potential Lehman moments proves that they don't qualify. As well as killing its victim, the disaster has to be swift and unanticipated. Volkswagen has slowed production, but its 600,000 workers still have jobs; Glencore's travails were evident to anyone who bothered to look at a chart of commodity prices.

Those images of shell-shocked Lehman employees carting boxes of belongings out of the building won't be repeated.   It isn't a Lehman Moment unless somewhere in Germany there is a Landesbank up to its neck in trouble.

When Wall Street was peddling dodgy mortgage bonds, the Landesbanks were eager buyers – requiring a bailout that cost the German government 97 billion euros ($108 billion) in state aid and guarantees. So a true Lehman Moment must inflict pain on one of Germany's state-owned regional banks. On that score, you have to bet that Volkswagen is almost definitely eligible.

Lehman shares dropped by 46 per cent on September 11, 2008, slashing its market capitalisation to less than $3 billion; it had been worth more than $45 billion just 19 months earlier. Volkswagen moved swiftly to defenestrate its CEO, Martin Winkerkorn, once the world learned it had been cheating on emissions tests.

Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg has maintained his silence even though his personal net worth has dropped to about $1.9 billion, down from $7.3 billion in July 2014. The company is tapping shareholders for $2.5 billion, shelving dividends and planning asset sales as part of a plan to reduce its debt by $10 billion in an acknowledgment that shareholders weren't happy with its balance sheet.

It isn't a Lehman Moment if it doesn't contaminate an entire industry. Glencore's woes have yet to prove that vertically integrated commodity companies are untenable. And while Volkswagen's debacle may sound the death knell for the diesel car engine, the revolution coming to the auto industry (electric power, self-driving vehicles, hire-don't-own) was on track well before the German carmaker got caught cheating. So far, Lehman is still in a class of its own.

3 An app that lets people review you (Emily Price in San Francisco Chronicle) Before you head to a new restaurant, you probably check out some of its online reviews. Now one new app wants you to rate something entirely different: People. The app, called Peeple, is billing itself as a Yelp of sorts for humans. With it you’ll be able to rate everyone from your best friend to your ex, and just as if they were a business, they can’t stop you from posting whatever you want.

To ensure you actually know the person you’re reviewing, adding a person to Peeple requires you to have their mobile phone number. Beyond that, everyone is fair game. When someone adds a review of you, you’re sent a text message letting you know.

Reviews that are positive are automatically posted to your account, while negative reviews head to a personal inbox on the service where you have 48 hours to read them and dispute any inaccuracies. If you opt to not sign up for the service, then only positive reviews will be posted to your account.

Any topic is fair game when it comes to reviews, but a few things are off-limits, including using profanity, bringing up private health issues, and sexism. One of the founders of the company said it hopes to “spread love and positivity” with the app; however, it’s easy to see where something like a people-reviewing app might do the exact opposite. Peeple is expected to become available to the public in November.

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