SEC halts trading in two cryptocurrency products, citing market 'confusion'

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said on Sunday it was immediately suspending trading in two investment products that track cryptocurrencies, citing confusion in the markets over whether the products are exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

FILE PHOTO – High-end graphic cards are installed in a cryptocurrency mining computer at a computer mall in Hong Kong, China January 29, 2018. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo

The SEC said in a statement that trading in Bitcoin Tracker One CXBTF.PQ CXBTF.PK and Ether Tracker One CETHF.PQ CETHF.PK would be halted in the United States until at least Sept. 20.

The products promise to track the price of the cryptocurrencies, less fees. They are both listed on a Nasdaq Inc (NDAQ.O) exchange in Stockholm, but trade “over the counter” in transactions that occur off exchanges within the United States.

“It appears … that there is a lack of current, consistent and accurate information,” the SEC said in a notice posted on its website. “Application materials submitted to enable the offer and sale of these financial products in the United States, as well as certain trading websites, characterize them as ‘Exchange Traded Funds.’”

The issuer of Bitcoin Tracker One and Ether Tracker One, XBT Provider AB SE0010296574.ST and its parent company, did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment. Nasdaq declined to comment.

The SEC has taken a strict stance against letting ETFs tracking bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies come to market.

But investment firms have been pushing other types of investments that attempt to make it as easy to trade cryptocurrencies as a regular stock.

Those products are sometimes called ETFs, but that term generally refers to a different and often more stringently regulated product. Some industry experts, including the largest ETF provider BlackRock Inc (BLK.N), have called for regulators to standardize the terms used to describe ETFs and other kinds of investment products.

Virtual currency, including bitcoin and ether, can be used to move money around the world quickly and with relative anonymity, without the need for a central authority, such as a bank or government. A fund holding the currency could attract more investors and push its price higher.

Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Peter Cooney and Will Dunham

‘You Can See Almost Everything.’ Antarctica Just Became the Best-Mapped Continent on Earth

Antarctica might not be the hottest tourist destination, but for anyone who does visit, scientists now have an incredibly high-resolution map of the white tundra. According to the scientists at Ohio State University and the University of Minnesota who created the imagery, Antarctica is now the best-mapped continent on Earth.

The Reference Elevation Model of Antarctica (REMA) was constructed using hundreds of thousands of satellite images taken between 2009 and 2017, Earther reports. A supercomputer assembled the massive amounts of data, including the elevation of the land over time, and created REMA, an immensely detailed topographical map, with a file size over 150 terabytes.

The new map has a resolution of 2 to 8 meters, compared to the usual 1,000 meters, says an Ohio State press release. According to The New York Times, the detail of this new map is the equivalent of being able to see down to a car, or smaller, when before you could only see the whole of Central Park. Scientists now know the elevation of every point of Antarctica, with an error margin of just a few feet.

“Up until now, we’ve had a better map of Mars than we’ve had of Antarctica,” said Ohio State University glaciologist Ian Howat, head of the REMA project, in a press release. “At this resolution, you can see almost everything. We can actually see variations in the snow in some places. We will be able to measure changes in the surface of the continent over time.”

The map will be a vital instrument for research projects, providing data on snow cover, the motion of ice, thinning glaciers, and river and volcano activity. Scientists will better be able to monitor the effects of climate change, and it’ll be easier for researchers to plan field expeditions.

Trump tells Apple to make products in U.S. to avoid China tariffs

(Reuters) – U.S. President Trump tweeted on Saturday that Apple Inc (AAPL.O) should make products inside the United States if it wants to avoid tariffs on Chinese imports.

FILE PHOTO: An attendee uses a new iPhone X during a presentation for the media in Beijing, China October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo

The company told trade officials in a letter on Friday that the proposed tariffs would affect prices for a “wide range” of Apple products, including its Watch, but it did not mention the iPhone.

Trump, speaking on Friday aboard Air Force One, said the administration had tariffs planned for an additional $267 billion worth of Chinese goods.

Trump tweeted that “Apple prices may increase because of the massive Tariffs we may be imposing on China – but there is an easy solution where there would be ZERO tax, and indeed a tax incentive. Make your products in the United States instead of China. Start building new plants now.”

Apple declined to comment.

The technology sector is among the biggest potential losers as tariffs would make imported computer parts more expensive. Apple’s AirPods headphones, some of its Beats headphones and its new HomePod smart speaker would also face levies.

“The burden of the proposed tariffs will fall much more heavily on the United States than on China,” Apple said in its letter.

Reporting by Christopher Bing; Editing by Richard Chang

The simple fix so your cloud costs don’t spin out of control

Gartner predicts that by 2020 organizations that lack cloud cost management processes will on average overspend by 40 percent on the public cloud. It’s like letting your home utility costs get way out of control because there is no monitoring of usage nor efforts to conserve: You’ve kept your AC at 65 degrees during the summer and at 75 degrees during the winter. Eventually the bills come due—and they are big ones.

Most people in IT consider cloud computing services to be almost free, so they do very little to deal with ongoing cloud cost management or usage monitoring. That is, until they get that $300,000 bill.

What’s changed since those first cloud deployments is that enterprises have gone from 5 percent of the workloads and databases running in the public cloud to about 30 percent by 2019. With the increased load on the public clouds comes increased usage billing, so it’s not unusual that enterprises get bills that are 30 to 40 percent higher than they expected or budgeted for.

There is an easy fix, and it’s called cloud cost management or cloud usage management. It comprises the processes, approaches, and tools that let you keep cost in check—and, most important, keep those costs predictable.

These are cloud cost governance tools to monitor usage and the associated costs. They do so by workload, by user, by department, or byany other way you want to slice it. These tools not only let you see who’s using what and when, and how much it costs, but do chargebacks and showbacks to make sure that the right budgets are funding the cloud usage.

Perhaps the most important aspect of this technology is that you can set predetermined limits. This includes setting usage parameters such as not provisioning the most expensive instances of storage all the time and making sure that budget restrictions are adhered to.

Ironically, even enterprises that are the most controlling when it comes to costs tend to think of cloud costs as something that’s unknown and so just accept whatever rolls in. No one knows what the bill will be, nor expects to.

Those days are over, and if you’re not engaged in cloud cost governance now, you need to be. Those big cloud bills won’t pay themselves.

Reports that Musk security clearance under review are inaccurate: U.S. Air Force

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Media reports that the U.S. Air Force is reviewing the security clearance of Elon Musk, the chief executive of automaker Tesla Inc are inaccurate, U.S. Air Force spokesperson Captain Hope Cronin said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Elon Musk, founder, CEO and lead designer at SpaceX and co-founder of Tesla, arrives at the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition II in Hawthorne, California, U.S., August 27, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

Musk has security clearance because another of his companies, SpaceX, provides satellite launch services to the U.S. government.

Earlier on Friday, Fox Business Network and CNBC reported that the Air Force was looking into Musk’s marijuana smoking and his security clearance after Musk was filmed smoking pot, drinking whiskey and wielding a sword on a live web show with comedian Joe Rogan.

Hours later the automaker said its accounting chief would leave after a one-month stint, the latest in a string of unusual behavior and executive departures that have stunned investors.

Shares of the electric carmaker closed trading at $263.24, down 6.3 percent for the day, with investors on edge after a tumultuous August during which Musk proposed and then abruptly pulled the plug on a go-private deal.

Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

British Airways website suffers data breach; 380,000 payments affected

(Reuters) – Financial data has been stolen from potentially hundreds of thousands of British Airways customers who made online bookings in recent weeks, extending a run of embarrassing technological mishaps suffered by the UK flag carrier.

British Airways aircraft are seen at Heathrow Airport in west London, Britain, February 23, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File Photo

The thefts occurred during a data breach that affected bookings made on the airline’s website between Aug. 21 and Sept. 5, parent International Airlines Group (ICAG.L) said on Thursday.

Around 380,000 card payments were “compromised”, it said.

In May 2017, the carrier suffered a massive computer system failure caused by a power supply issue near London’s Heathrow, which stranded 75,000 customers at Europe’s busiest airport over a holiday weekend.

Its chief executive said at the time it would take steps to ensure such an incident never happened again, but in July it was forced to cancel and delay flights out of the same airport due to problems with a supplier’s IT systems.

IAG said the data breach had been resolved and the website was working normally, and that no travel or passport details were stolen.

It was communicating with affected customers but advised any others who believed they might have been affected to contact their banks or credit card providers.

The airline had launched an investigation and notified police and other relevant authorities.

Reporting by Sangameswaran S and Rama Venkat Raman in Bengaluru; Editing by John Stonestreet

Broadcom quarterly profit beats on data center demand

(Reuters) – Broadcom Inc (AVGO.O) reported third-quarter profit above analysts’ estimates and the chipmaker forecast current-quarter revenue largely above expectations, driven by strong performance of its enterprise storage business.

A sign to the campus offices of chip maker Broadcom Ltd is shown in Irvine, California, U.S., November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

Shares of the company rose 3.7 percent to $224.05 in extended trading.

Revenue from the unit rose 70 percent to $1.25 billion in the quarter ended Aug. 5.

“Datacenter demand is driving strong growth in more than 50 percent of our consolidated revenue,” Chief Executive Officer Hock Tan said in a statement.

Tan, who has transformed Broadcom into a $100 billion behemoth through a series of acquisitions, surprised Wall Street in July with his move to acquire software maker CA Technologies for $19 billion.

The CA deal comes after U.S. President Donald Trump blocked Broadcom’s $117 billion offer to buy Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O), in what would have been the biggest ever technology deal, on national security grounds.

The San Jose, California-based company forecast current-quarter revenue of about $5.40 billion, plus or minus $75 million. Analysts on average were expecting revenue of $5.35 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Net income attributable to common stock rose to $1.2 billion, or $2.71 per share, in the reported quarter from $481 million, or $1.14 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, the company earned $4.98 per share.

Net revenue rose to $5.06 billion from $4.46 billion.

Analysts on average were expecting earnings of $4.83 per share on revenue of $5.07 billion.

Reporting by Sonam Rai and Sayanti Chakraborty in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva

If Traditional Venture Capital is Broken, Could Blockchain be the Solution?

One answer is that the number of funds for venture capitalists to choose from has skyrocketed. Barriers to entry have come way down, thanks to better and cheaper technologies, as well as innovation within the VC industry including the popularity of accelerators like Y Combinator and the many available crowd-funding platforms, like Kickstarter and Indiegogo crowd-funding platform. Legislation has also played a part, as has the decade of fallout from the 2008 global financial crisis. 

But what is the actual problem? Why do we refer to venture capital as a ‘broken’ system?

It’s a good question. After all, venture capitalists are making money and the startup industry is booming. But that’s exactly it – with so many startups out there, why aren’t we seeing more innovation and disruption? Given that the technology is certainly available, why doesn’t the entire globe have access to clean, fresh water, for example?

It seems like investors are simply focusing on the wrong ideas, betting solely on big returns (that part, at least, is unsurprising). Meanwhile, potential solutions to problems that are both immediate and global are going completely under-funded. 

Both of these observations are evidenced by the fact that less than 10% of unicorn companies worldwide (privately held firms valued at $1 billion or more) are in energy, agriculture, and health — industries that account for the lion’s share of global spending. 

Can blockchain crack the case? 

Blockchain technology is changing the way we do all kinds of business. Why can’t it change the way we invest, too? CityBlock Capital is one company hoping it will. 

CityBlock is providing a new option for retail investors in the form of freely tradeable, digital shares with low investment minimums, run by Managing Partners Jon Avidor and Rob Nance. Avidor weighed in on the positive implications that blockchain can bring for anyone seeking funding,

“Blockchain has created a fluidity of capital at the retail level which only previously existed at the highest rungs of international finance. The decentralization of transaction validation has led to the creation of a new digital asset class which utilizes smart contracts to eliminate the need for central intermediaries and record-keepers. The result is greater liquidity and access.”

Without a doubt, it remains to be seen what effect blockchain will have on venture capitalism. What we do know is that, when it comes to the blockchain, no one is in charge, because everyone is in charge, and in an investment sphere that seems to be suffocating for lack of innovation, that might not be a bad thing. 

There are big problems to be solved — and many of them are being solved — but fundamental issues with our approach to finance and investment are getting in the way of the solutions being implemented.  

Why Colin Kaepernick's Nike Ad Sets the New Bar for Leaders

If you haven’t been on Twitter in, oh, about ninety seconds, you might have missed the furor over quarterback Colin Kaepernick‘s starring role in a new Nike ad. In case you did, it’s simple: a full-frame black-and-white photo of Kaepernick’s eyes with the caption, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

Kaepernick’s role as the instigator of NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem as a protest against police brutality has already sparked angry talk of boycotts, throwing away Nike shoes and the like. But I’m going to steer clear of the controversy and the politics, because I’m more interested in Kaepernick’s example for leaders.

“Wait a second,” you might be saying, “are you telling me I should be inciting rage against my company?” Not on purpose.

Public anger is one outcome of Kaepernick’s stance, but that’s not why he knelt. If he was doing this just to make people mad, it would be nothing but an empty PR stunt. He would deserve the criticism. No, what makes Kaepernick a powerful role model is that he’s risked his career to speak up about what he feels is right.

When we think of great leaders, we typically bring up mental images of inspiring speakers, brilliant motivators and daring innovators. Truly great leaders are often those things, but they’re also more. Speaking, motivating–those are things they do, but it’s who they are that inspires their people to walk through fire and sets their competition back on its heels.

Great leaders stick their necks out. They take a stand. They lead with character and values. They fight for unpopular causes because they’re right. They know that nobody was ever inspired by a focus group or tracking poll, but by someone with a great deal to lose who is willing to lay their reputation on the line for what they believe in. They know they’ll be opposed; in fact, they count on it. Opposition, resentment, fear–those are indicators that they’re doing something right.

You don’t need to spark a social movement like Kaepernick has done. That’s probably not where your passions lie. But what about about attacking gender inequality in your field? What about taking on a giant competitor that’s ripping off its customers? What about inventing a technology or a brand that challenges a stereotype, or being the one to call out the naked emperor, like the finance nerds in The Big Short? Those are acts of rebellion and dissent, and dissent moves the world forward. Not always easily, not always quietly, but necessarily.

When your Colin Kaepernick moment as a leader comes up, what will you do? Here are some important things to remember:

Lean into it quickly.

Be the first person to stand up and speak out. If you’re not, someone else might beat you to the punch, and then you’ll look like a coattail rider, not a leader.

Make your message calm and rational.

Nobody wants to be shouted at, so let the people who disagree with you do all the shouting. Be icy cool and let your position do the shouting for you.

Make your position, and the reason for it, clear.

The reason kneeling during the anthem has won Kaepernick as many supporters as detractors is that he did it for a specific reason: to protest police violence against black people. Don’t leave any ambiguity about why you’re speaking out.

Have a specific goal.

Do you want to change a law? Grab market share? Win a legal concession from a rival? Know what you want and make sure everyone else knows it.

Don’t back down.

You will get pushback. Plan on it. Kaepernick’s suing the NFL because he can’t get a job, but he hasn’t backed down. Stand strong and you’ll earn respect.

Facebook, Twitter face U.S. Congress over politics and the internet

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Top Twitter Inc and Facebook Inc executives will defend their companies before U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday, with Facebook insisting it takes election interference seriously and Twitter denying its operations are influenced by politics.

Facebook and Twitter logos are seen on a shop window in Malaga, Spain, June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Jon Nazca/File Photo

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg will acknowledge to the Senate Intelligence Committee that the company was too slow to spot Russian efforts to manipulate social media to influence the 2016 U.S. election and vow to improve.

“The actions we’ve taken in response … show our determination to do everything we can to stop this kind of interference from happening,” according to written testimony from Sandberg made public on Tuesday.

She said the company was getting better at finding and removing “inauthentic” content, “from financially motivated troll farms to sophisticated military intelligence operations,” and now has more than 20,000 people working on safety and security.

Technology executives have traveled to Washington several times to testify in Congress over the past year.

FILE PHOTO: Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer and Member of the Board, attends the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, January 18, 2017. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich/File Photo

The Senate Intelligence Committee has been looking into widely reported Russian efforts to influence U.S. public opinion for more than a year, after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that entities backed by the Kremlin had sought to boost Republican Donald Trump’s chances of winning the White House in 2016.

Moscow denies involvement.

Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey will appear with Sandberg at the Senate hearing, but no executive from Alphabet Inc’s Google is scheduled to appear, despite the intelligence committee having requested one.

Google offered to send its chief legal officer, Kent Walker, as a witness, but he was rejected by the committee, which said it wanted to hear from corporate decision-makers.

Twitter’s Dorsey will also testify at a separate House of Representatives hearing on Wednesday, saying the company “does not use political ideology to make any decisions,” according to written testimony also made public on Tuesday.

Dorsey will appear before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, addressing Republican concerns about how the social media platform polices content.

FILE PHOTO: Jack Dorsey, CEO and co-founder of Twitter and founder and CEO of Square, speaks at the Consensus 2018 blockchain technology conference in New York City, New York, U.S., May 16, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

“From a simple business perspective and to serve the public conversation, Twitter is incentivized to keep all voices on the platform,” Dorsey said.

He added that a recent company review showed “no statistically significant difference” between how often tweets by Republican and Democratic members of Congress are viewed by Twitter users.

Conservative Republicans in Congress have criticized social media companies for what they say are politically motivated practices in removing some content, a charge the companies have repeatedly rejected.

President Donald Trump faulted Twitter on July 26, without citing any evidence, for limiting the visibility of prominent Republican through a practice known as shadow banning.

Representative David Cicilline, a Democrat, blasted Wednesday’s hearing and his Republican colleagues on Tuesday, calling recent claims of political bias baseless.

“There is no evidence that the algorithms of social networks or search results are biased against conservatives. It is a made-up narrative pushed by the conservative propaganda machine to convince voters of a conspiracy that does not exist,” Cicilline said.

Reporting by David Shepardson and Patricia Zengerle; editing by Steve Orlofsky and Tom Brown