Hit by Sanctions, Asia’s Iran Crude Oil Imports Drop to 3-Year Low in 2018

Iranian crude oil imports by Asia’s top four buyers dropped to the lowest volume in three years in 2018 amid U.S. sanctions on Tehran, but China and India stepped up imports in December after getting waivers from Washington.

Asia’s top four buyers of Iranian crude — China, India, Japan and South Korea — imported a total 1.31 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2018, down 21 percent from the previous year, data from the countries showed.

That was the lowest since about 1 million bpd in 2015, when a previous round of sanctions on Iran led to a sharp drop in Asian imports, Reuters data showed.

The United States reimposed sanctions on Iran’s oil exports last November as it wants to negotiate a new nuclear deal with the country. U.S. officials have said they intend to reduce the Islamic Republic’s oil exports to zero.

On a monthly basis, Asia’s imports from Iran rebounded to a three-month high of 761,593 bpd in December as China and India stepped up purchases after Washington granted eight countries waivers from the Iranian sanctions for 180 days from the start of November.

“We expect Iranian exports to Asia to remain stable at around 800,000 barrels per day until May, when the waivers expire,” said Energy Aspects analyst Riccardo Fabiani.

In December, China’s imports climbed above 500,000 bpd for the first time in three months, while India’s imports rose above 302,000 bpd.

Japan and South Korea did not import any Iranian crude that month because they were still sorting out payment and shipping issues, but the countries have resumed oil lifting from Iran this month.

During the 180-day period, China can import up to 360,000 bpd of Iranian oil, while India’s imports are restricted to 300,000 bpd. South Korea can import up to 200,000 bpd of Iranian condensate.

“After May, it will all depend on the U.S. administration’s decisions, which at the moment remain completely obscure. On balance, they are likely to extend the current waivers, although rumors are that there could be a significant cut in waivered volumes,” Fabiani said.

As a precaution, Indian Oil Corp, the country’s top refiner, is looking for an annual deal to buy U.S. crude as it seeks to broaden its oil purchasing options, its chairman said Wednesday.

Facebook Takes Down Vast Iran-Led Manipulation Campaign

Facebook said Thursday it took down hundreds of “inauthentic” accounts from Iran that were part of a vast manipulation campaign operating in more than 20 countries.

The world’s biggest social network said it removed 783 pages, groups and accounts “for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior tied to Iran.”

The pages were part of a campaign to promote Iranian interests in various countries by creating fake identities as residents of those nations, according to a statement by Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy at Facebook.

The announcement was the latest by Facebook as it seeks to stamp out efforts by state actors and others to manipulate the social network using fraudulent accounts.

“We are constantly working to detect and stop this type of activity because we don’t want our services to be used to manipulate people,” Gleicher said.

“We’re taking down these pages, groups and accounts based on their behavior, not the content they post. In this case, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action.”

The operators “typically represented themselves as locals, often using fake accounts, and posted news stories on current events,” including “commentary that repurposed Iranian state media’s reporting on topics like Israel-Palestine relations and the conflicts in Syria and Yemen,” Gleicher said.

“Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our manual review linked these accounts to Iran.”

The operation dating back to as early as 2010 had 262 pages, 356 accounts, and three groups on Facebook, as well as 162 accounts on Instagram and were followed by about two million users.

Facebook said the fake accounts were part of an influence campaign that operated in Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, U.S., and Yemen.

Facebook began looking into these kinds of activities after revelations of Russian influence campaigns during the 2016 U.S. election, aimed at sowing discord.

Ghirardelli, Russel Stover Fined over Chocolate Packaging

Ghirardelli and Russell Stover have agreed to pay $750,000 in fines after prosecutors in California said they offered a little chocolate in a lot of wrapping.

Prosecutors in Sacramento, San Joaquin, Shasta, Fresno, Santa Cruz and Yolo counties sued the candy makers, alleging they misled consumers by selling chocolate products in containers that were oversized or “predominantly empty.”

Prosecutors also alleged that Ghirardelli offered one chocolate product containing less cocoa than advertised.

The firms didn’t acknowledge any wrongdoing but agreed to change their packaging under a settlement approved earlier this month. Some packages will shrink or will have a transparent window so consumers can look inside.

San Francisco-based Ghirardelli and Kansas City-based Russell Stover are owned by a Swiss company, Lindt & Sprungli.

Apple Busts Facebook for Distributing Data-Sucking App

Apple says Facebook can no longer distribute an app that paid users, including teenagers, to extensively track their phone and web use.

In doing so, Apple closed off Facebook’s efforts to sidestep Apple’s app store and its tighter rules on privacy.

The tech blog TechCrunch reported late Tuesday that Facebook paid people about $20 a month to install and use the Facebook Research app. While Facebook says this was done with permission, the company has a history of defining “permission” loosely and obscuring what data it collects.

“I don’t think they make it very clear to users precisely what level of access they were granting when they gave permission,” mobile app security researcher Will Strafach said Wednesday. “There is simply no way the users understood this.”

He said Facebook’s claim that users understood the scope of data collection was “muddying the waters.”

Facebook says fewer than 5 percent of the app’s users were teens and they had parental permission. Nonetheless, the revelation is yet another blemish on Facebook’s track record on privacy and could invite further regulatory scrutiny.

And it comes less than a week after court documents revealed that Facebook allowed children to rack up huge bills on digital games and that it had rejected recommendations for addressing it for fear of hurting revenue growth.

For now, the app appears to be available for Android phones, though not through Google’s main app store. Google had no comment Wednesday.

Apple said Facebook was distributing Facebook Research through an internal-distribution mechanism meant for company employees, not outsiders. Apple has revoked that capability.

TechCrunch reported separately Wednesday that Google was using the same privileged access to Apple’s mobile operating system for a market-research app, Screenwise Meter. Asked about it by The Associated Press, Google said it had disabled the app on Apple devices and apologized for its “mistake.”

The company said Google had always been “upfront with users” about how it used data collected by the app, which offered users points that could be accrued for gift cards. In contrast to the Facebook Research app, Google said its Screenwise Meter app never asked users to let the company circumvent network encryption, meaning it is far less intrusive.

Facebook is still permitted to distribute apps through Apple’s app store, though such apps are reviewed by Apple ahead of time. And Apple’s move Wednesday restricts Facebook’s ability to test those apps — including core apps such as Facebook and Instagram — before they are released through the app store.

Facebook previously pulled an app called Onavo Protect from Apple’s app store because of its stricter requirements. But Strafach, who dismantled the Facebook Research app on TechCrunch’s behalf, told the AP that it was mostly Onavo repackaged and rebranded, as the two apps shared about 98 percent of their code.

As of Wednesday, a disclosure form on Betabound, one of the services that distributed Facebook Research, informed prospective users that by installing Facebook Research, they are letting Facebook collect a range of data. This includes information on apps users have installed, when they use them and what they do on them. Information is also collected on how other people interact with users and their content within those apps, according to the disclosure.

Betabound warned that Facebook may collect information even when an app or web browser uses encryption.

Strafach said emails, social media activities, private messages and just about anything else could be intercepted. He said the only data absolutely safe from snooping are from services, such as Signal and Apple’s iMessages, that fully encrypt messages prior to transmission, a method known as end-to-end encryption.

Strafach, who is CEO of Guardian Mobile Firewall, said he was aghast to discover Facebook caught red-handed violating Apple’s trust.

He said such traffic-capturing tools are only supposed to be for trusted partners to use internally. Instead, he said Facebook was scooping up all incoming and outgoing data traffic from unwitting members of the public — in an app geared toward teenagers.

“This is very flagrantly not allowed,” Strafach said. “It’s mind-blowing how defiant Facebook was acting.”


Trump Order Asks Federal Fund Recipients to Buy US Goods

President Donald Trump will sign an executive order Thursday pushing those who receive federal funds to “buy American.” The aim is to boost U.S. manufacturing.

Peter Navarro, director of the White House National Trade Council, told reporters during a telephone briefing the policies are helping workers who “are blue collar, Trump people.” Later he amended that, saying he “every American is a Trump person” because Trump’s economic policies affect everyone.


Navarro said the order would affect federal financial assistance, which includes everything from loans and grants to insurance and interest subsidies.


He says some 30 federal agencies award over $700 billion in such aid each year. Recipients working on projects like bridges and sewer systems will be encouraged to use American products.



Survey: 2018 ‘Worst Year Ever’ for Smartphone Market

Global smartphone sales saw their worst contraction ever in 2018, and the outlook for 2019 isn’t much better, new surveys show.

Worldwide handset volumes declined 4.1 percent in 2018 to a total of 1.4 billion units shipped for the full year, according to research firm IDC, which sees a potential for further declines this year.

“Globally the smartphone market is a mess right now,” said IDC analyst Ryan Reith.

“Outside of a handful of high-growth markets like India, Indonesia, (South) Korea and Vietnam, we did not see a lot of positive activity in 2018.”

Reith said the market has been hit by consumers waiting longer to replace their phones, frustration around the high cost of premium devices, and political and economic uncertainty.

The Chinese market, which accounts for roughly 30 percent of smartphone sales, was especially hard hit with a 10 percent drop, according to IDC’s survey, which was released Wednesday.

IDC said the top five smartphone makers have become stronger and now account for 69 percent of worldwide sales, up from 63 percent a year ago.

Samsung remained the number one handset maker with a 20.8 percent share despite an eight percent sales slump for the year, IDC said.

Apple managed to recapture the number two position with a 14.9 percent market share, moving ahead of Huawei at 14.7 percent, the survey found.

IDC said fourth-quarter smartphone sales fell 4.9 percent – the fifth consecutive quarter of decline.

“The challenging holiday quarter closes out the worst year ever for smartphone shipments,” IDC said in its report.

A separate report by Counterpoint Research showed similar findings, estimating a seven percent drop in the fourth quarter and four percent drop for the full year.

“The collective smartphone shipment growth of emerging markets such as India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Russia and others was not enough to offset the decline in China,” said Counterpoint associate director Tarun Pathak.


Державна агенція із закупівлі ліків оголосила перші тендери – МОЗ

Державне підприємство «Медичні закупівлі», яке має перебрати на себе повноваження із закупівель ліків та медичних виробів у міжнародних організацій, оголосило перші тендери, повідомляє Міністерство охорони здоров’я на своєму сайті.

За цією інформацією, йдеться про закупівлі ліків від супутніх інфекцій при ВІЛ та побічних реакцій від терапії, а також медичних респіраторів у межах програм Глобального фонду.

«У цілому у 2019 році «Медичні закупівлі України» мають не лише провести десятки тендерів, а й застосувати нові інструменти закупівель. Наприклад, електронні каталоги (е-каталоги), що дозволять замовникам, в першу чергу – невеликим регіональним медичним закладам, – швидко і зручно замовляти типові препарати і вироби за принципом інтернет-магазину», – мовиться у повідомленні.

Міністерство охорони здоров’я України в 2015 році передало міжнародним організаціям ПРООН, ЮНІСЕФ та компанії Crown Agents право проводити державні закупівлі медичних препаратів. Це, насамперед, ліки з онкології, ВІЛ/СНІДу, туберкульозу, гепатиту, дитячої гемофілії і вакцинації.

Читайте також: Від міжнародних організацій – до нацагенції: як відбувається і як зміниться закупівля ліків в Україні

Потім цю функцію мала перебрати новостворена держагенція із 2019-го, але врешті було ухвалено рішення відтермінувати її офіційний запуск. МОЗ обіцяє запустити повноцінну роботу національної агенції із закупівель ліків із наступного року, а нинішній рік має стати перехідним.


Loss of US Newspapers Seen Contributing to Political Polarization

The steady loss of local newspapers and journalists across the country contributes to the nation’s political polarization, a new study has found. 


With fewer opportunities to find out about local politicians, citizens are more likely to turn to national sources like cable news and apply their feelings about national politics to people running for the town council or state legislature, according to research published in the Journal of Communication. 


The result is much less ticket splitting by voters. In 1992, 37 percent of states with Senate races elected a senator from a different party than the presidential candidate the state supported. In 2016, for the first time in a century, no state did that, the study found. 


“The voting behavior was more polarized, less likely to include split ticket voting, if a newspaper had died in the community,” said Johanna Dunaway, a communications professor at Texas A&M University, who conducted the research with colleagues from Colorado State and Louisiana State universities. 


Researchers reached that conclusion by comparing voting data from 66 communities where newspapers have closed in the past two decades to 77 areas where local newspapers continue to operate, she said. 


“We have this loss of engagement at the local level,” she said. 

Industry troubles


The struggling news industry has seen 1,800 newspapers shut down since 2004, the vast majority of them community weeklies, said Penelope Muse Abernathy, a University of North Carolina professor who studies the contraction. Many larger daily newspapers that have remained open have effectively become ghosts, with much smaller staffs that are unable to offer the breadth of coverage they once did. About 7,100 newspapers remain. 


Researchers are only beginning to measure the public impact of such losses. Among the other findings is less voter participation among news-deprived citizens in off-year elections where local offices are decided, Abernathy said. Another study suggested a link to increased government spending in communities where “watchdog” journalists have disappeared, she said. 


Dunaway said voters in communities without newspapers are more likely to be influenced by national labels — if they like Republicans like President Donald Trump, for example, that approval will probably extend to Republicans lower on the ballot. 


The diminished news sources also alter politicians’ strategies, Dunaway said. 


“They have to rely on party ‘brand names,’ ” she said, and are less focused on how they can do best for their districts. 

Key US Senator Says Tariffs on Steel, Aluminum Should Go 

Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley on Wednesday called on the Trump administration to lift tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and Mexico before Congress begins considering legislation to implement the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade deal. 

The three countries on Nov. 30 signed the pact replacing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which governs more than $1.2 trillion in trade. The agreement must be approved by the U.S. Congress and Canadian and Mexican legislators before becoming law. 

“Unfortunately, our producers are unlikely to realize the market access promises of USMCA while the Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and Mexico remain,” Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement. His committee is in charge of shepherding the pact to approval in the Senate. 

U.S. farmers — hardest hit by President Donald Trump’s trade wars with China, a key buyer of American agricultural products, as well as Mexico and Canada — have long complained that with tariffs remaining in place, they will not be able to benefit fully from the new trade deal. 

“Before Congress considers legislation to implement USMCA, the administration should lift tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from our top two trading partners and secure the elimination of retaliatory tariffs that stand to wipe out gains our farmers have made over the past 2½ decades,” Grassley said. 

Trump had vowed to revamp NAFTA during his 2016 presidential campaign. At times during the USMCA negotiations, he threatened to tear up NAFTA and withdraw the United States from the pact completely, which would have left trade among the three neighbors in disarray. 

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2017 said that exiting NAFTA without a new deal could devastate American agriculture, cost hundreds of thousands of jobs and “be an economic, political and national security disaster.” 

Grassley, a powerful senator from farming state of Iowa, said U.S. farmers, under pressure because of tariffs imposed by Mexico and Canada, as well as China, needed relief fast. 

“We’ll be working all hands on deck to get the job done. But we need the administration to help us pave the way,” he added. 

Zimbabwe Public Workers Divided Over Strike After Talks Fail

Zimbabwe’s public sector unions were divided on Wednesday over whether to launch a national strike after wage talks with the government failed, leaving the country on edge over the possibility of more unrest.

Zimbabwe was rocked by violent protests for three days in mid-January that led to a brutal security crackdown.

The security forces’ heavy-handed response raised fears that under President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the country was sliding back into the kind of authoritarianism seen during Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule.

Mnangagwa’s spokesman said troops would stay on the streets and the state would block the internet again if violence flared.

Teachers and other state workers are demanding wage rises and payments in dollars to help them stave off spiralling inflation and an economic crisis that has sapped supplies of cash, fuel and medicines in state hospitals.

Rights groups say at least 12 people were killed this month after a three-day stay-at-home strike over a fuel price hike led to street protests and a crackdown by security services. The government says three people died.

At a meeting with unions, the government proposed to give land to build houses and food hampers for employees, union officials said. Public sector unions had on Monday issued the government with a 48-hour ultimatum to make a new salary offer or face a strike.

The Apex Council, which represents 17 public sector unions, then failed to agree on whether to hold a strike during a short meeting that broke down as officials accused each other of either working for the opposition or the government.

“The Apex Council meeting ended prematurely and people walked out. There is no consensus. How do we go on strike when our fellow unions are coming and saying some unions were paid?” said Raymond Majongwe, secretary general of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe.

He said his union was among those accused by colleagues of being paid by the opposition and donors to go on strike and cause violence, charges he denied.

The biggest teachers union has called for a strike on Feb. 5.

‘Bread and butter’

Mnangagwa — who came to power in November 2017 after long-time ruler Mugabe was forced to resign in a coup — promised to revive the economy and break with Mugabe politics. But frustration over the economic crisis is building and analysts say the pace of economic and political reform is too slow for impatient citizens.

Mnangagwa on Wedneaday picked a 24-member advisory council to advise him on economic reforms, a government source said.

The 76-year-old leader has promised to investigate the crackdown on protesters and to bring in measures to tackle the economic crisis but the opposition does not trust him.

His spokesman said it would take time to rebuild an economy that had been suffering for decades.

“There are key bread and butter questions which government cannot dodge, things are tough,” George Charamba told a state-owned Harare radio station.

“But it would be a sad day to think that the only way that we can remedy such a problem is by causing further damage to that already damaged economy through mayhem, through looting, through chaos.”

Charamba said police and soldiers would stay on the streets and that government would shut the internet again if violence broke out. He previously said the crackdown was a foretaste of how the government would react to future protests.


Біржі США зросли після рішення ФРС не збільшувати облікову ставку

Американський фондовий ринок позитивно відреагував на рішення Федеральної резервної системи не підвищувати ключову ставку, яка є орієнтиром для кредитування в усій економіці США. Індекс S&P 500 додав близько 1,5%, індекс Dow Jones зріс у межах 2%.

«З огляду на глобальні економічні та фінансові події, а також на інфляційний тиск, комітет виявить терпіння, визначаючи в майбутньому коригування цільового діапазону ставки по федеральних фондах», – ідеться в комюніке, оприлюдненому за підсумками засідання 30 січня Федеральною резервною системою, яка в США виконує функції центробанку.

Нині облікова ставка у США становить від 2,25 до 2,5%.

A Virtual Human Teaches Negotiating Skills

Whether it’s haggling for a better price or negotiating for a higher salary, there is a skill to getting the most of what you want. Researchers at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies are conducting research on how a virtual negotiator may be able to teach you the art of making a good deal. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee has the details.

Brazil’s Vale Eyed Dam Design Changes in 2009

Brazilian miner Vale SA identified concerns around its tailings dams in 2009 and studied but did not implement several steps that could have prevented or lessened the damage from last week’s deadly disaster, according to a corporate presentation seen by Reuters.


A tailings dam, used to store the muddy detritus of the mining process, collapsed on Friday, killing at least 65 in one of Brazil’s largest industrial accidents on record.            


The Brumadinho disaster, coming just over three years after a similar incident at another mine partially controlled by Vale, has fueled calls for a management overhaul and erased more than 70 billion reais ($18.61 billion) in Vale’s market value.      

But a decade ago, the world’s largest iron ore miner was considering ways to use fewer tailings dams, including alternative uses for the waste rock, according to the 73-page presentation.

The presentation pointed to the rising volume of tailings produced at the company’s mines, with some locations producing hundreds of thousands of tons of tailings daily.


The report suggested Vale make building materials from tailings, including bricks, a step that would give the company another revenue source and lessen the volume needing to be stored using dams.


The 2009 Vale report had recommended the company undertake a project to be called “Zero Dams” that would have involved drying out tailings, among other steps. It was not known whether the report reached the top levels of Vale management nor why it was not implemented.


Vale declined to comment. The report’s author, Paulo Ricardo Behrens da Franca, left Vale a year after submitting it and now works as an industry consultant. Reached by Reuters, he did not comment.


‘Inherently Dangerous Structures’

Vale’s Brumadinho facility was built using the cheapest and least-stable type of tailings dam design, a commonly used structure in mining known as “upstream construction.”


Chile, Peru and other earthquake-prone countries ban the design, in which tailings are used to progressively construct dam walls the more a mine is excavated. Brazil is not as earthquake-prone as its western neighbors, but even small seismic activity has been shown to affect tailings dams.

Because these types of tailings dams are waterlogged, they are easily susceptible to cracks and other damage that can cause bursts like the one that occurred last week near Brumadinho.

“A tailings dam may look safe, but it’s still retaining a lot of moisture behind it,” said Dermot Ross-Brown, a mining industry engineer who teaches at the Colorado School of Mines. “They’re inherently dangerous structures.”


Tailings dams tend to be shorter in height than conventional water dams, but often are far wider in span.


The disaster’s cause remains unknown. Vale said the dam had not received tailings for about two and a half years and was in the process of decommissioning, a step that should have lessened risk, engineers said.


“It’s really puzzling to me this happened as the (dam) was closing,” said Cameron Scott of SRK Consulting, a mining engineering firm. “This disaster will make future mine permitting harder.”


The dam had passed a September 2018 inspection by the German firm TUEV SUED AG and Vale Chief Executive Fabio Schvartsman said equipment had shown the dam was stable on Jan.



On Tuesday, Brazilian state prosecutors arrested three Vale employees and two TUEV SUED employees.                



Brazil has nearly 4,000 dams that are classified as having “high damage potential” or being at high risk, with 205 of those dams containing mineral waste, the country’s Regional Development Minister Gustavo Canuto said.             

Analysts and engineers said that the Brumadinho disaster will hopefully push the industry to stop storing wet tailings and instead move toward the more-expensive-but-safer process of storing dry tailings.

That process requires drying the tailings and storing them on-site, abrogating the risk of a dam burst. The approach is becoming more popular in Canada and other countries with stricter mining regulations.    

“The industry doesn’t yet fully realize the risk its taking on with those type of wet tailings dams,” said Matt Fuller of Tierra Group International Ltd, a tailings engineering consulting firm.


Officials in Brazil’s Minas Gerais state, where the disaster occurred, say they are now going to push for legislation requiring dry mining and forcing miners to tear down tailings dams when they are located above communities.

A similar proposal failed last summer, with its defeat attributed by the bill’s sponsor to lobbying pressure from mining companies.


Brazil is still reeling from the 2015 collapse of a larger dam, owned by the Samarco Mineracao SA joint venture between Vale and BHP, that killed 19 people.


After Samarco, the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) issued updated guidelines for its members to try to safeguard tailings dams used to store waste left over from mining operations.


The ICCM said on Saturday that the mining industry still has “lessons to learn” from Samarco and similar events.            

Mining companies typically hire engineering firms that specialize in tailings dams to build the structures, not necessarily dam contractors themselves, a step that some industry observers hope changes soon.     

“The mining companies are not placing dam safety at the forefront of their preoccupations,” said Emmanuel Grenier, a spokesman for the International Coalition of Large Dams (ICOLD), a non-governmental organization focused on dam engineering.

The group “is recommending that dams, especially large dams, be built by dam professionals, but it is too rarely the case for tailing dams,” Grenier said.

($1 = 3.7614 reais)

Apple Opens New Chapter Amid Weakening iPhone Demand

Apple hoped to offset slowing demand for iPhones by raising the prices of its most important product, but that strategy seems to have backfired after sales sagged during the holiday shopping season.

Results released Tuesday revealed the magnitude of the iPhone slump – a 15 percent drop in revenue from the previous year. That decline in Apple’s most profitable product caused Apple’s total earnings for the October-December quarter to dip slightly to $20 billion.

Now, CEO Tim Cook is grappling with his toughest challenge since replacing co-founder Steve Jobs 7 years ago. Even as he tries to boost iPhone sales, Cook also must prove that Apple can still thrive even if demand doesn’t rebound. 

It figures to be an uphill battle, given Apple’s stock has lost one-third of its value in less than four months, erasing about $370 billion in shareholder wealth. 

Cook rattled Wall Street in early January by disclosing the company had missed its own revenue projections for the first time in 15 years. The last time that happened, the iPod was just beginning to transform Apple.

​”This is the defining moment for Cook,” said Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives. “He has lost some credibility on Wall Street, so now he will have to do some hand-holding as the company enters this next chapter.” 

The results for the October-December period were slightly above the expectations analysts lowered after Cook’s Jan. 2 warning. Besides the profit decline, Apple’s revenue fell 5 percent from the prior year to $84 billion.

It marked the first time in more than two years that Apple’s quarterly revenue has dropped from the past year. The erosion was caused by the decline of the iPhone, whose sales plunged to $52 billion, down by more than $9 billion from the previous year. 

The past quarter’s letdown intensified the focus on Apple’s forecast for the opening three months of the year as investors try to get a better grasp on iPhone sales until the next models are released in autumn.

Apple predicted its revenue for the January-March period will range from $55 billion to $59 billion. Analysts surveyed by FactSet had been anticipating revenue of about $59 billion.

Investors liked what they read and heard, helping Apple’s stock recoup some of their recent losses. The stock gained nearly 6 percent to $163.50 in extended trading after the report came out.

“We wouldn’t change our position with anyone’s,” Cook reassured analysts during a conference call reviewing the past quarter and the upcoming months.

The company didn’t forecast how many iPhones it will sell, something Apple has done since the product first hit the market in 2007 and transformed society, as well as technology.

Apple is no longer disclosing how many iPhones it shipped after the quarter is completed, a change that Cook announced in November. That unexpected move raised suspicions that Apple was trying to conceal a forthcoming slump in iPhone sales – fears that were realized during the holiday season.

Cook traces most of Apple’s iPhone problems to a weakening economy in China, the company’s second biggest market behind the U.S. The company is also facing tougher competition in China, where homegrown companies such as Huawei and Xiaomi have been winning over consumers in that country with smartphones that have many of the same features as iPhones at lower prices.

Although a trade war started by President Donald Trump last year has hurt China and potentially caused some consumers there to boycott U.S. products, many analysts believe the iPhone’s malaise stems from other issues too.

Among them are higher prices – Apple’s most expensive iPhone now costs $1,350 – for models that aren’t that much better than the previous generation, giving consumers little incentive to stop using the device they already own until it wears out. Apple also gave old iPhones new life last by offering to replace aging batteries for $29, a 70 percent discount.

​”The upgrade cycle has extended, there is no doubt about that,” Cook conceded.

Apple is banking that investors will realize the company can still reap huge profits by selling various services on the 1.4 billion devices running on its software.

That’s one reason why Cook has been touting the robust growth of Apple’s division that collects commissions from paid apps, processes payments, and sells hardware warranty plans and music streaming subscriptions. Apple Music now has more than 50 million subscribers, second to Spotify’s 87 million streaming subscribers through September.

Apple is also preparing to launch a video streaming service to compete against Netflix, though Cook said he wasn’t ready to provide details Tuesday.

The company’s services revenue in the past quarter climbed 19 percent from the prior year to $10.9 billion – more than any other category besides the iPhone.

Investors Call on McDonald’s, KFC to Step Up Climate Change Action

An investor group managing some $6.5 trillion on Tuesday called on six of the world’s largest fast food restaurants, including McDonald’s, KFC and Burger King, to reduce their planet-harming greenhouse gas emissions and water use.

Companies selling burgers, chicken and milk products are trailing behind other high-emitting industries, like carmakers, in setting targets to clean up their supply chains and help meet the Paris Agreement to limit global warming, campaigners say.

More than 80 investors – members of Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (FAIRR), a network educating investors – wrote to the fast food giants calling on them to publicly set and monitor targets on GHG emissions and freshwater impacts.

“Fast-food giants deliver speedy meals, but they have been super slow in responding to their out-sized environmental footprints,” said Mindy Lubber, head of Ceres, which lobbies for greener business practices and is backing the initiative.

McDonald’s told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that it set a target in 2018 to reduce emissions by 2030 that would be the “equivalent of taking 32 million passenger cars off the road for an entire year.”

Yum Brands – the owners of KFC – and Restaurant Brands International – the owners of Burger King – did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Investors are increasingly judging companies according to ethical, sustainable and governance criteria, which they say are important factors in company performance.

Livestock – largely cattle raised for beef and milk – are responsible for about 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says.

But two-thirds of the world’s largest, publicly listed meat and livestock companies do not have targets for reducing their emissions, says FAIRR, which includes Canada’s BMO Global Asset Management and Britain’s Aviva Investors.

“Investors who have signed on believe these risks threaten the long term viability of the quick service restaurant sector,” said Aarti Ramachandran, London-based FAIRR’s head of research.

“The fact that investors with $6.5 trillion signed on is an indicator of how important this issue is,” she said, adding that some of the investors have fast food companies – a sector worth $570 billion – in their portfolios.

НБУ посилив гривню ще на дві копійки щодо долара

Національний банк України за підсумками торгів на міжбанківському валютному ринку встановив на 30 січня курс на рівні 27 гривень 77 копійок за долар США. Це на дві копійки менше за курс, встановлений на 29 січня.

Раніше цього місяця голова Національного банку України Яків Смолій заявив, що обсяги міжнародних резервів України сягнули найвищого рівня за останні п’ять років завдяки зміцненню гривні.

За його даними, національна валюта протягом року зміцнилася на 1,4%, що дозволило Нацбанку купувати валюту на міжбанківському ринку.

Читайте також: НБУ повідомляє про зміцнення гривні​

«За рік сальдо наших валютних інтервенцій склало еквівалент 1,4 мільярда доларів США, які були спрямовані до наших резервів. Іншим джерелом стало зовнішнє фінансування: Україна отримала нову програму співпраці з МВФ, яка є фундаментом для подальшого зміцнення макрофінансової стабільності. Завдяки цьому до резервів від міжнародних партнерів – МВФ, Євросоюзу та Світового банку – надійшло 2,4 мільярда доларів США. У підсумку ми маємо найбільший обсяг міжнародних резервів за п’ять років. Це 20,8 мільярда доларів США. Востаннє такі цифри ми бачили восени 2013 року», – розповів Смолій.

Зміцненню гривні, пояснив він, сприяла жорстка монетарна політика, сприятливі ціни на український експорт і високий врожай.

Читайте також: Навіщо Україні гроші МВФ і скільки доведеться повернути​

За висновками голови НБУ, економіка України «показала максимальне зростання за останні сім років». Зокрема реальний валовий внутрішній продукт за підсумками трьох кварталів 2018 року зріс на 3,8%. Смолій очікує, що річний показник складе 3,4%, причому інфляція, додає він, вперше за п’ять років знизилася до 9,8%.

«Це перевищувало нашу інфляційну ціль, яка складала 6%, плюс-мінус 2%. За підсумками року споживча інфляція була вищою, проте в політиці інфляційного таргетування ключовим є не отримання потрібного рівня інфляції в певній точці часу, а забезпечення стійкого тренду цього показника відповідно до інфляційних цілей», – зазначив голова центрального банку.

Відносно стабільна гривня, на думку Смолія, є свідченням довіри українців до здатності НБУ згладжувати надмірні коливання курсу.

Читайте також: У НБУ очікують двох траншів від МВФ у 2019 році​

«Свідчення тому – відсутність значних панічних настроїв на валютному ринку навіть після подій біля Керченської протоки і запровадження воєнного стану. Ми активно висвітлювали ситуацію на валютному ринку і зберігали активну присутність на ньому і таким чином попередили паніку з боку учасників ринку і населення», – заявив він.

На початку 2019 року Світовий банк оприлюднив прогноз, в якому передбачив зростання економіки України на 2,9% протягом року.

У Huawei заперечують звинувачення США

Китайська компанія Huawei відреагувала на висунуті американською владою звинувачення у шахрайстві.

«Компанія заперечує, що вона або її дочірня структура, або афільована організація вчинили будь-які з інкримінованих їм порушень законодавства США, зазначених в кожному з пунктів звинувачення», – ідеться в заяві, оприлюдненій у Twitter Huawei.

У Huawei також підкреслили, що не знають, про будь-які злочинні дії фінансового директора компанії Менг Ванчжоу, та сподіваються, що американські суди дійдуть того ж висновку.

На початку року американська розвідка запідозрила компанії Huawei і ZTE в недобросовісних зв’язках із китайським урядом. У Вашингтоні вважають, що за допомогою обладнання компаній китайська влада може збирати дані, що становлять комерційний або військовий інтерес для Пекіна.

Huawei – це один із найбільших у світі виробників телекомунікаційного обладнання і мобільних телефонів. Раніше США внесли компанію в чорний список постачальників обладнання для державного використання. ФБР і ЦРУ також рекомендували американцям не купувати смартфони цих виробників. Від використання інфраструктури Huawei відмовилися в Австралії та Новій Зеландії. Рішення заборонити державні закупівлі обладнання компаній Huawei і ZTE ухвалила також влада Японії.

«Індекс сприйняття корупції 2018»: Україна піднялася на 10 позицій

29 січня організація Transparency International оприлюднила результати дослідження «Індекс сприйняття корупції 2018».

Порівняно з попереднім роком, Україна покращила свої результати – 32 бали та 120 місце серед 180 країн (2017 рік – 30 балів, 130 місце).

Втім, серед сусідів Україні вдалося обійти лише Росію, яка з 28 балами займає 138 місце. Решта мають вищі оцінки: Польща – 60, Словаччина – 50, Румунія – 47, Угорщина – 46, Білорусь – 44, Молдова – 33 балів.

Виконавчий директор Трансперенсі Інтернешнл Україна Андрій Боровик вважає, що «такий результат не відповідає задекларованим нашою країною прагненням до швидкої євроінтеграції, реформ та очищення від корупції всіх сфер життя».

«Якщо ситуація з корупцією в Україні продовжить змінюватися такими темпами, то наздоганяти ту ж таки Польщу доведеться не одне десятиліття. Влада повинна, а громадянське суспільство давно готове подвоїти зусилля на цьому шляху», – вважає Боровик.

Зазначається, що показники України покращилися завдяки оцінці ситуації у сфері бізнесу.

«Позитивний вплив справило запровадження процедури автоматичного відшкодування податку на додану вартість, розширення сфер роботи систем ProZorro і ProZorro.Продажі та діяльність інституту бізнес-омбудсмена», – зазначили в організації.

В ТІ заявили, що українська влада проігнорувала більшість її рекомендацій.

«Українська держава не дослухалася до рекомендації підвищити роль громадськості у процесі перевірки кандидатів на посади суддів. Громадська рада доброчесності неодноразово опинялася в ситуації, коли Вища кваліфікаційна комісія суддів ігнорувала її висновки щодо претендентів. Не було посилено Національного антикорупційного бюро України», – заявили в організації.

В ТІ стверджують, що публічне протистояння між правоохоронними органами минулого року посилилося, а тиск на журналістів і активістів не припинився. Також, як вважають в організації, не було створено умов для перезапуску Національного агентства з питань запобігання корупції.

У ТІ вказали, що Національна поліція та Служба безпеки України досі не втратили функції боротьби з економічними злочинами, і тиск з боку силовиків на бізнес залишається вагомим. Служби ж, яка б займалася фінансовими розслідування, в Україні не створено.

Як вважають в організації, прогрес останніх років Київ забезпечив в основному реформами, які почали ще в 2014 році, а одним з «головних стримуючих факторів антикорупційного поступу досі залишається брак політичної волі».

У Transparency International наголошують, що більш важливим є бал, який отримала та чи інша країна, а не місце в рейтингу. Також рейтинг засвідчує не абсолютний рівень корупції, а лише рівень сприйняття корупції в державному секторі, як його оцінюють експерти і ділові кола, тому некоректно називати країни, кращі за цим рейтингом сприйняття корупції, «менш корумпованими», а гірші «більш корумпованими».

Brazil Eyes Management Overhaul for Vale After Dam Disaster

Brazil eyes management overhaul for Vale after dam disaster

Brazil’s government weighed pushing for a management overhaul at iron ore miner Vale SA on Monday as grief over the hundreds feared killed by a dam burst turned into anger, with prosecutors, politicians and victims’ families calling for punishment.

By Monday night, firefighters in the state of Minas Gerais had confirmed that 65 people were killed by Friday’s disaster, when a burst tailings dam sent a torrent of sludge into the miner’s offices and the town of Brumadinho.

There were still 279 people unaccounted for, and officials said it was unlikely that any would be found alive.

Brazil’s acting president, Hamilton Mourao, told reporters a government task force on the disaster response is looking at whether it could or should change Vale’s top management.

Public-sector pension funds hold several seats on the board of the mining company, and the government holds a “golden share” giving it power over strategic decisions.

“The question of Vale’s management is being studied by the crisis group,” said Mourao, who is serving as acting president for some 48 hours while President Jair Bolsonaro recovers from surgery. “I’m not sure if the group could make that recommendation.”

Shares of Vale, the world’s largest iron ore and nickel producer, plummeted 24.5 percent on Monday in Sao Paulo, erasing nearly $19 billion in market capitalization. A U.S. law firm filed a shareholder class action lawsuit against the company in New York, seeking to recover investment losses.

Igor Lima, a fund manager at Galt Capital in Rio, said the severe threats from the government and prosecutors drove the shares even lower than many analysts had estimated.

“This reaction has brought quite a lot of uncertainty about the size of the financial punishment Vale will have to handle,” he said.

Senator Renan Calheiros, who is in the thick of a Senate leadership race, on Twitter called for Vale’s top management to be removed urgently “out of respect for the victims … and to avoid any destruction of evidence.”

One of Vale’s lawyers, Sergio Bermudes, told newspaper Folha de S. Paulo that management should not leave the company and said that Calheiros was trying to profit politically from the tragedy.

Vale’s senior executives have apologized for the disaster but have not accepted responsibility, saying the installations met the highest industry standards.

Brazil’s top prosecutor, Raquel Dodge, said the company should be held strongly responsible and criminally prosecuted.

Executives could also be personally held responsible, she said.

Repeated Failures

The disaster at the Corrego do Feijao mine occurred less than four years after a dam collapsed at a nearby mine run by Samarco Mineracao SA, a joint venture by Vale and BHP Billiton, killing 19 and dumping toxic sludge in a major river.

While the 2015 Samarco disaster unleashed about five times more mining waste, Friday’s dam break was far deadlier as the wall of mud hit Vale’s local offices, including a crowded cafeteria, and tore through a populated area downhill.

“The cafeteria was in a risky area,” Renato Simao de Oliveiras, 32, said while searching for his twin brother, a Vale employee, at an emergency response station. “Just to save money, even if it meant losing the little guy. … These businessmen, they only think about themselves.”

As search efforts continued on Monday, firefighters laid down wood planks to cross a sea of sludge that is hundreds of meters wide in places, to reach a bus in search of bodies inside. Villagers discovered the bus as they tried to rescue a nearby cow stuck in the mud.

Longtime resident Ademir Rogerio cried as he surveyed the mud where Vale’s facilities once stood on the edge of town.

“The world is over for us,” he said. “Vale is the top mining company in the world. If this could happen here, imagine what would happen if it were a smaller miner.”

Nestor José de Mury said he lost his nephew and coworkers in the mud. “I’ve never seen anything like it, it killed everyone,” he said.

Vale Chief Financial Officer Luciano Siani told journalists on Monday evening that, despite interrupting operations in Brumadinho, the company would continue royalty payments to the municipality. He said Vale royalties made up about 60 percent of the town’s 140 million reais in revenue last year.

Siani said a donation of 100,000 reais will be made to each family that lost a relative in the disaster and said Vale would step up investments in dam safety.

Safety Debate

The board of Vale, which has raised its dividends over the last year, suspended all shareholder payouts and executive bonuses late on Sunday, as the disaster put its corporate strategy under scrutiny.

Since the disaster, courts have order a freeze on 11.8 billion reais of Vale’s assets to cover damages. State and federal authorities have slapped it with 349 million reais of administrative fines.

German insurer Allianz SE may have to cover some of the costs of the dam collapse, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

“I’m not a mining technician. I followed the technicians’ advice and you see what happened. It didn’t work,” Vale CEO Fabio Schvartsman said in a TV interview. “We are 100 percent within all the standards, and that didn’t do it.”

Many wondered if the state of Minas Gerais, named for the mining industry that has shaped its landscape for centuries, should have higher standards.

“There are safe ways of mining,” said Joao Vitor Xavier, head of the mining and energy commission in the state assembly. “It’s just that it diminishes profit margins, so they prefer to do things the cheaper way — and put lives at risk.”

Reaction to the disaster could threaten the plans of Brazil’s newly inaugurated president to relax restrictions on the mining industry, including proposals to open up indigenous reservations and large swaths of the Amazon jungle for mining.

Environment Minister Ricardo Salles said in a TV interview on Monday that Brazil should create new regulation for mining dams, replacing wet tailings dams with dry mining methods.

Mines and Energy Minister Bento Albuquerque proposed in a Sunday newspaper interview that the law be changed to assign responsibility in cases such as Brumadinho to the people responsible for certifying the safety of mining dams.

“Current law does not prevent disasters like the one we saw on Brumadinho,” he said. “The model for verifying the state of mining dams will have to be reconsidered. The model isn’t good.”

($1 = 3.7559 reais)

Report: ‘Food Shocks’ Increasing in Frequency Over Last Five Decades

Food shocks, or sudden losses of crops, livestock or fish, due to the combination extreme weather conditions and geopolitical events like war, increased from 1961 to 2013, said researchers at The University of Tasmania in a report released Monday.

Researchers saw a steady increase in shock frequency over each decade with no declines.

The report, published in Nature Sustainability, said that protective measures are needed to avoid future disasters.

The authors studied 226 shocks across 134 countries over the last 53 years and, unlike previous reports, examined the connection between shocks and land-based agriculture and sea-based aquaculture.

“There seems to be this increasing trend in volatility,” said lead author Richard Cottrell, a PhD candidate in quantitative marine science at the University of Tasmania in Australia. “We do need to stop and think about this.”

Extreme weather events are expected to worsen over time because of climate change, the report said, and when countries already struggling to feed their populations experience conflict, the risk of mass-hunger increases.

The researchers found that about one quarter of food resources are accessed through trade, and many countries could not feed their populations without imports, making them particularly vulnerable to food shocks of trading partners.

As the frequency of shocks continues to increase, it leaves what Cottrell called “narrowing windows” between shocks, making it nearly impossible to recover and prepare for the next one.

The report said trade-dependent countries must find ways to store food in preparation for inevitable shocks elsewhere.

Countries must invest in “climate-smart” practices like diversifying plant and animal breeds and varieties and enhance soil quality to speed recovery following floods and droughts, the report said.

“We need to start changing the way we produce food for resiliency,” Cottrell said, adding that he had yet to see much action being taken by wealthy food-producing countries. “Because we are going to see a problem.”

The report was released the same day the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reported findings on conflict and hunger.

That report stated that around 56 million people across eight conflict zones are in need of immediate food and livelihood assistance.

Hacks and Facts: 10 Things to Know About Data Privacy

From hackers exposing private information online to the handling of users’ data by internet giants, online privacy has become a matter of growing concern for countries, companies and people alike.

On Monday, countries around the world marked Data Privacy Day, also known as Data Protection Day — an initiative to raise awareness of internet safety issues.

Here are 10 facts about online privacy:

  • Less than 60 percent of countries have laws to secure the protection of data and privacy.

  • Europe’s data protection regulators have received more than 95,000 complaints about possible data breaches since the adoption of a landmark EU privacy law in May.

  • More than one in two respondents to a 2018 global survey by pollster CIGI-Ipsos said they had grown more concerned about their online privacy compared to the previous year.

  • Almost 40 percent of respondents to another survey by cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab said they did not know how to protect themselves from cybercrime.

  • A survey of tech professionals by security key maker Yubico suggested experts might not live up to safety standards. It found almost 70 percent of respondents shared passwords with colleagues.

  • More than half reused an average of five passwords across their work and personal accounts.

  • About 4 percent of people targeted by an email phishing campaign would click on it.

  • In 2017, almost 17 million U.S. consumers experienced identity fraud — the unauthorized use of personal information, such as credit card data, for financial gain.

  • Data breaches carried out by hackers are expected to go up 22 percent annually, exposing some 146 billion records, including personal information such as name, address and credit card numbers by 2023.

  • Data breaches cost companies worldwide almost $4 million on average for every incident.

Internet Addiction Spawns US Treatment Programs

When Danny Reagan was 13, he began exhibiting signs of what doctors usually associate with drug addiction. He became agitated, secretive and withdrew from friends. He had quit baseball and Boy Scouts, and he stopped doing homework and showering.

But he was not using drugs. He was hooked on YouTube and video games, to the point where he could do nothing else. As doctors would confirm, he was addicted to his electronics.

“After I got my console, I kind of fell in love with it,” Danny, now 16 and a junior in a Cincinnati high school, said. “I liked being able to kind of shut everything out and just relax.”

Danny was different from typical plugged-in American teenagers. Psychiatrists say internet addiction, characterized by a loss of control over internet use and disregard for the consequences of it, affects up to 8 percent of Americans and is becoming more common around the world.

“We’re all mildly addicted. I think that’s obvious to see in our behavior,” said psychiatrist Kimberly Young, who has led the field of research since founding the Center for Internet Addiction in 1995. “It becomes a public health concern obviously as health is influenced by the behavior.”

Psychiatrists such as Young who have studied compulsive internet behavior for decades are now seeing more cases, prompting a wave of new treatment programs to open across the United States. Mental health centers in Florida, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and other states are adding inpatient internet addiction treatment to their line of services.

Some skeptics view internet addiction as a false condition, contrived by teenagers who refuse to put away their smartphones, and the Reagans say they have had trouble explaining it to extended family.

Anthony Bean, a psychologist and author of a clinician’s guide to video game therapy, said that excessive gaming and internet use might indicate other mental illnesses but should not be labeled independent disorders.

“It’s kind of like pathologizing a behavior without actually understanding what’s going on,” he said.


At first, Danny’s parents took him to doctors and made him sign contracts pledging to limit his internet use. Nothing worked, until they discovered a pioneering residential therapy center in Mason, Ohio, about 22 miles (35 km) north of Cincinnati.

The “Reboot” program at the Lindner Center for Hope offers inpatient treatment for 11 to 17-year-olds who, like Danny, have addictions including online gaming, gambling, social media, pornography and sexting, often to escape from symptoms of mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.

Danny was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder at age 5 and Anxiety Disorder at 6, and doctors said he developed an internet addiction to cope with those disorders.

“Reboot” patients spend 28 days at a suburban facility equipped with 16 bedrooms, classrooms, a gym and a dining hall.

They undergo diagnostic tests, psychotherapy, and learn to moderate their internet use.

Chris Tuell, clinical director of addiction services, started the program in December after seeing several cases, including Danny’s, where young people were using the internet to “self-medicate” instead of drugs and alcohol.

The internet, while not officially recognized as an addictive substance, similarly hijacks the brain’s reward system by triggering the release of pleasure-inducing chemicals and is accessible from an early age, Tuell said.

“The brain really doesn’t care what it is, whether I pour it down my throat or put it in my nose or see it with my eyes or do it with my hands,” Tuell said. “A lot of the same neurochemicals in the brain are occurring.”

Even so, recovering from internet addiction is different from other addictions because it is not about “getting sober,” Tuell said. The internet has become inevitable and essential in schools, at home and in the workplace.

“It’s always there,” Danny said, pulling out his smartphone.

“I feel it in my pocket. But I’m better at ignoring it.”

Is it a real disorder?

Medical experts have begun taking internet addiction more seriously.

Neither the World Health Organization (WHO) nor the American Psychiatric Association recognize internet addiction as a disorder. Last year, however, the WHO recognized the more specific Gaming Disorder following years of research in China, South Korea and Taiwan, where doctors have called it a public health crisis.

Some online games and console manufacturers have advised gamers against playing to excess. YouTube has created a time monitoring tool to nudge viewers to take breaks from their screens as part of its parent company Google’s “digital wellbeing” initiative.

WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said internet addiction is the subject of “intensive research” and consideration for future classification. The American Psychiatric Association has labeled gaming disorder a “condition for further study.”

“Whether it’s classified or not, people are presenting with these problems,” Tuell said.

Tuell recalled one person whose addiction was so severe that the patient would defecate on himself rather than leave his electronics to use the bathroom.

Research on internet addiction may soon produce empirical results to meet medical classification standards, Tuell said, as psychologists have found evidence of a brain adaptation in teens who compulsively play games and use the internet.

“It’s not a choice, it’s an actual disorder and a disease,” said Danny. “People who joke about it not being serious enough to be super official, it hurts me personally.”



НБУ незначно посилив гривню щодо долара

Національний банк України за підсумками торгів на міжбанківському валютному ринку встановив на 29 січня курс на рівні 27 гривень 79 копійок за долар США. Це на дві копійки менше за курс, встановлений на 28 січня.

Раніше цього місяця голова Національного банку України Яків Смолій заявив, що обсяги міжнародних резервів України сягнули найвищого рівня за останні п’ять років завдяки зміцненню гривні.

За його даними, національна валюта протягом року зміцнилася на 1,4%, що дозволило Нацбанку купувати валюту на міжбанківському ринку.

Читайте також: НБУ повідомляє про зміцнення гривні​

«За рік сальдо наших валютних інтервенцій склало еквівалент 1,4 мільярда доларів США, які були спрямовані до наших резервів. Іншим джерелом стало зовнішнє фінансування: Україна отримала нову програму співпраці з МВФ, яка є фундаментом для подальшого зміцнення макрофінансової стабільності. Завдяки цьому до резервів від міжнародних партнерів – МВФ, Євросоюзу та Світового банку – надійшло 2,4 мільярда доларів США. У підсумку ми маємо найбільший обсяг міжнародних резервів за п’ять років. Це 20,8 мільярда доларів США. Востаннє такі цифри ми бачили восени 2013 року», – розповів Смолій.

Зміцненню гривні, пояснив він, сприяла жорстка монетарна політика, сприятливі ціни на український експорт і високий врожай.

Читайте також: Навіщо Україні гроші МВФ і скільки доведеться повернути​

За висновками голови НБУ, економіка України «показала максимальне зростання за останні сім років». Зокрема реальний валовий внутрішній продукт за підсумками трьох кварталів 2018 року зріс на 3,8%. Смолій очікує, що річний показник складе 3,4%, причому інфляція, додає він, вперше за п’ять років знизилася до 9,8%.

«Це перевищувало нашу інфляційну ціль, яка складала 6%, плюс-мінус 2%. За підсумками року споживча інфляція була вищою, проте в політиці інфляційного таргетування ключовим є не отримання потрібного рівня інфляції в певній точці часу, а забезпечення стійкого тренду цього показника відповідно до інфляційних цілей», – зазначив голова центрального банку.

Відносно стабільна гривня, на думку Смолія, є свідченням довіри українців до здатності НБУ згладжувати надмірні коливання курсу.

Читайте також: У НБУ очікують двох траншів від МВФ у 2019 році​

«Свідчення тому – відсутність значних панічних настроїв на валютному ринку навіть після подій біля Керченської протоки і запровадження воєнного стану. Ми активно висвітлювали ситуацію на валютному ринку і зберігали активну присутність на ньому і таким чином попередили паніку з боку учасників ринку і населення», – заявив він.

На початку 2019 року Світовий банк оприлюднив прогноз, в якому передбачив зростання економіки України на 2,9% протягом року.

EU Agency Says Iran Likely to Step Up Cyberespionage

Iran is likely to expand its cyberespionage activities as its relations with Western powers worsen, the European Union digital security agency said Monday.

Iranian hackers are behind several cyberattacks and online disinformation campaigns in recent years as the country tries to strengthen its clout in the Middle East and beyond, a Reuters Special Report published in November found.

This month the European Union imposed its first sanctions on Iran since world powers agreed to a 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran, in a reaction to Iran’s ballistic missile tests and assassination plots on European soil.

“Newly imposed sanctions on Iran are likely to push the country to intensify state-sponsored cyber threat activities in pursuit of its geopolitical and strategic objectives at a regional level,” the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) said in a report.

A senior Iranian official rejected the report, saying “these are all part of a psychological war launched by the United States and its allies against Iran.”

ENISA lists state-sponsored hackers as among the highest threats to the bloc’s digital security.

It said that China, Russia and Iran are “the three most capable and active cyber actors tied to economic espionage.” Iran, Russia and China have repeatedly denied U.S. allegations that their governments conduct cyberattacks.

A malicious computer worm known as Stuxnet that was used to attack a uranium enrichment facility at Iran’s Natanz underground nuclear site a decade ago is widely believed to have been developed by the United States and Israel.

When Washington imposed sanctions on several Iranians in March 2018 for hacking on behalf of the Iranian government, Iran’s foreign ministry denounced the move as “provocative, illegitimate, and without any justifiable reason.”

In November, the United States indicted two Iranians for launching a major cyberattack using ransomware known as SamSam and sanctioned two others for helping exchange the ransom payments from Bitcoin digital currency into rials.

Cyber activities are expected to increase in coming months, particularly if Iran fails to keep the EU committed to a 2015 landmark nuclear deal, ENISA said.

Wargaming for Brexit as May’s Government Faces More Setbacks

British officials are war-gaming various strategies for coping with the disruption of Britain leaving the European Union without an exit deal, including declaring a state of emergency and martial law to avert disorder provoked by possible food shortages and energy outages.

Details emerged of Operation Yellow Hammer, the contingency planning underway for a so-called no-deal Brexit, ahead of important parliamentary votes this week that could result in Britain postponing its departure by nine months or even more.

Operation Yellow Hammer has provoked the wrath of hardline Brexiters, who say the war-gaming is excessive and the leaking of what the government is considering is just designed to scare rebel lawmakers into accepting the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement the House of Commons rejected earlier this month.

As the exit day of March 29 looms, the government and businesses are scrambling to prepare for possible chaos wrought by a no-deal exit, which some fear could severely disrupt supply chains, energy networks and basic cross-border services, from banking to travel. Downing Street admits a no-deal exit would bring disruption “but as a responsible government we are taking the appropriate steps to minimize this disruption and ensure the country is prepared.”

Some civil servants have compared the likely disruption to the impact of a war. Defense officials told Sky News Sunday the army is stockpiling food, fuel, spare parts and ammunition in readiness. “An army marches on its stomach. If supply lines break down, they struggle,” an official said.

Earlier this month, nearly 100 trucks took part in a drill to test Britain’s contingency plans for coping with likely customs and security delays in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The port of Dover normally sees 10,000 trucks pass through every day, bringing vital supplies from the continent and sending Britain’s exports to the European Union and beyond. The fear is a large part of southeast England could see unmanageable traffic lines.


Hardline Brexiters, like former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, have dismissed the no-deal Brexit warnings as hysteria. “These doom-laden predictions are so hyperbolical as to suffer from the law of diminishing returns. Brexiteers have, for months, been arguing that a no-deal exit is manageable and government warnings are overblown,” Johnson said recently.

The House of Commons is set to vote Tuesday on whether Britain should delay the March 29 exit if a withdrawal deal that will garner sufficient support from lawmakers cannot be reached with Brussels.

More than a dozen ministers are warning they’ll resign if May fails to commit to avoiding a no-deal Brexit, although they’re prepared to give her two weeks to try to conclude a new withdrawal deal first.

In the event she can’t, parliament would have to pass new legislation to delay an exit. But delaying Britain’s departure would also require unanimous agreement from the 27 other EU member states, and Brussels has warned the exit could only be postponed for a handful of months.

Ironically, rebellious hardline Euro-skeptics in May’s ruling Conservative party, who were key in the heavy defeat of May’s Brexit Withdrawal Agreement earlier this month, appear to be softening their opposition to her deal; while pro-EU Conservative rebels and middle-of the-roaders appear to be moving closer together in an alliance determined now to bury it for good.

May’s proposed deal would see Britain locked in a customs union with the European Union for several years while it negotiates a vaguely defined free trade settlement.

In the temporary customs union, Britain would be unable to influence EU laws, regulations and product standards it would have to observe. The transition was reached to avoid customs checks on the border separating Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, but British lawmakers fear Britain could be trapped indefinitely in the transition.

Leading Brexiters say if May can get a sunset clause written into the agreement to allow Britain to escape the transition agreement later on, if it wished, or if the transition was time-limited, they might reverse their opposition and back the deal.

The possible change of heart is being determined by their fear that pro-EU lawmakers are gaining in parliamentary strength. But it isn’t clear Brussels or the other 27 member states will agree such a clause, they insist there can’t be substantial changes to the deal they agreed on after two years of haggling.

Pro-EU lawmakers across all parties appear emboldened and determined to negotiate a much softer agreement that would see Britain stay in a customs union with the bloc permanently.


US Action on Russian Tycoon Showed Sanctions’ Power, Limits

The U.S. Treasury has lifted sanctions on three Russian companies connected to Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, reversing a move which wreaked havoc on global aluminum markets last year.

To the Treasury and supporters of the move, it was an example of sanctions working as they should by changing a target’s behavior in nine months under suffocating restrictions on trade. Due to the sanctions, Deripaska, a tycoon who has been close to the Kremlin, agreed to reduce his shareholdings to below 50 percent.

Congressional Democrats and some Republicans, however, worry that Deripaska could retain significant influence, even as he himself stays under sanctions.

Here is a look at Deripaska, his companies, and possible consequences of the Treasury ruling.

Putin ally

With his cropped hair and scruffy beard, Deripaska was a familiar face to Russians long before he was dragged into in the U.S. furor over the 2016 election.

Amid the economic chaos that followed the Soviet Union’s collapse, the trained physicist became a major player on the Russian metals market even before his 30th birthday. Even among Russian billionaire businessman, Deripaska’s also notable for his closeness to Russian President Vladimir Putin. A leaked U.S. diplomatic cable from 2006 described him as “among the 2-3 oligarchs Putin turns to on a regular basis.”

As special counsel Robert Mueller investigates alleged collusion between President Donald Trump’s 2016 electoral campaign and Russian interests, Deripaska’s links to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort have come under scrutiny. Manafort, who was convicted last year in the United States of tax and bank fraud, was a former business partner of Deripaska.

The Belarusian model and self-described sex coach Anastasia Vashukevich — known by her pseudonym Nastya Rybka — said last year that she had obtained details of Deripaska’s alleged role in U.S. election meddling while spending time on his yacht. Vashukevich was arrested in Thailand last February and deported this month. She is now in Russia.

Vashukevich earlier indicated she would turn over the recordings she claimed to have if the U.S. could help secure her release, but she later withdrew the offer, suggesting that she and Deripaska had reached an agreement. Deripaska won a Russian defamation suit against Vashukevich and another man last year.

Sanctions collateral damage

The U.S. decision in April 2018 to sanction Rusal — the massive aluminum producer then controlled by Deripaska — had a big impact. Shares in the company plunged over 50 percent, and supply chains around the world were disrupted.

That exposed both the power and the limits of U.S. policy toward Russia, says Tom Adshead of Moscow-based consultancy Macro-Advisory.

Previous sanctions had been written to minimize damage to other sectors of the economy, and in particular Western businesses buying Russian commodities. That changed with Deripaska.

By barring almost any commercial relationship with one of the world’s largest producers of a metal key to international supply chains, U.S. policymakers ensured this time the economic pain would be felt not only in Russia.

“There was collateral damage that wasn’t desirable,” Adshead said. Besides an immediate jump in aluminum prices, that included economic uncertainty for Rusal’s employees outside Russia in countries like Sweden and Ireland.

The Rusal experience could mean the U.S. is more cautious about sanctioning major market players in future, Adshead predicted.

After the sanctions were removed from Rusal on Monday, shares in the company rose to their highest since April, though they remained at only around two-thirds of their value prior to the sanctions.

The price of aluminum largely held steady as other companies have stepped into the void left by Rusal and increased supply, analysts say.

The main winners have been state-owned metal producers in China — just the ones the Trump administration has sought to stymie by imposing tariffs on Chinese aluminum.

Enforcing conditions

The key condition of lifting sanctions on Rusal and Deripaska’s other companies is that the companies “reduced Oleg Deripaska’s direct and indirect shareholding stake in these companies and severed his control,” the Treasury said.

Whether that will actually prove to be the case was a key bone of contention in Congress, which voted this month to try to block the administration’s efforts to remove the sanctions. In the House, 136 Republicans joined Democrats to disapprove the deal while in the Senate 11 Republicans supported the move but fell short of the 60 votes needed.

Deripaska remains a significant minority shareholder — his En+ group says he holds “no more than 44.95 percent” — and other shares are held by smaller shareholders and independent trustees under an agreement with the Treasury.

There’s no other shareholder of the same size and a number of the other shareholders would probably agree with him on many strategic issues,” Adshead said. “Therefore it will almost certainly be run in the way he wants it to be run, but the point is that he no longer has as much freedom or control as he wanted.”


Report: Government Shutdown Cost US Economy $3 Billion

The longest-ever partial U.S. government shutdown cost the country’s economy $3 billion in lost economic activity that won’t be recovered, the Congressional Budget Office concluded Monday.

The CBO said its assessment of the effects of the 35-day shutdown on the U.S. economy, the world’s largest, showed that $3 billion in economic activity was lost in the waning days of 2018 after the government closures took effect December 22, and another $8 billion in January, extending to last Friday when the shutdown was ended.

However, the CBO said with 800,000 federal workers who were furloughed or forced to work without pay being paid back wages in the coming days and government operations resuming, all but $3 billion in economic activity “will eventually be recovered” in the coming weeks.

CBO estimated that about $18 billion in federal discretionary spending was delayed during the shutdown, although most of that is likely to resume again — unless there is another shutdown in less than three weeks.

President Donald Trump and Democratic and Republican congressional leaders agreed to end the shutdown and created a bipartisan panel to negotiate security provisions along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The shutdown was spawned over Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion for a border wall to thwart illegal immigration, perhaps his most prominent 2016 campaign pledge during his successful run for the presidency. Opposition Democrats, however,have refused his demand for border wall money while saying they are willing to offer more funding for other security measures, including tightened controls at ports of entry, more border agents and increased use of technology to monitor illegal border crossings.

Trump said Sunday he thinks there is less than a 50 percent chance the congressional border security negotiators will be able to reach an agreement he would accept by their self-imposed Februay 15 deadline.

He said another government shutdown is “certainly an option” if there is no agreement or he could declare a national emergency and attempt to build the wall without congressional approval by tapping unspent government funds.

However, several prominent Republican lawmakers have urged Trump to not declare a national emergency, an action that would draw quick Democratic lawsuits in opposition.

Smaller GDP

The CBO said the $3 billion permanently lost to the U.S. economy means the projected 2019 gross domestic product of more than $19 trillion will be .02 percent smaller than it otherwise would have been.

But its report said “underlying those effects on the overall economy are much more significant effects on individual businesses and workers.

Among those who experienced the largest and most direct negative effects are federal workers who faced delayed compensation and private-sector entities that lost business. Some of those private-sector entities will never recoup that lost income.”

Still, the CBO said that “all of the estimated effects and their timing are subject to considerable uncertainty. In particular, CBO is uncertain about how much discretionary spending was affected by the partial shutdown, how affected federal employees and contractors adjusted their spending in response to delayed compensation, and how agencies will adjust their spending on goods and services now that funding has resumed.”

Facebook Tightens Paid Ads Rules Ahead of EU Elections

Facebook said on Monday it will beef up its rules and safeguards around political ads to prevent foreign interference in elections, including those in Europe this year.

The world’s largest social network has faced pressure from regulators and the public after last year’s revelation that British consultancy Cambridge Analytica had improperly acquired data on millions of U.S. users to target election advertising.

“We will require those wanting to run political and issue ads to be authorized, and we will display a ‘paid for by’ disclaimer on those ads,” Facebook’s recently-appointed head of global affairs Nick Clegg told a news conference.

Clegg, a former British deputy prime minister hired by Facebook in October last year, said the new tools to be launched in late March aim to help protect the integrity of European Union elections due to be held this spring.

Facebook said that the transparency tools for electoral ads would be expanded globally before the end of June, while the tools would be in launched in India in February before its elections and in Ukraine and Israel before polls in both.

The tools are similar to those adopted for the U.S. mid-term elections, Clegg said, adding that all political ads will be stored in a publicly searchable library for up to seven years.

This will contain information such as the amount of money spent and the number of impressions displayed, who paid for them and the demographics of those who saw them, including age, gender and location.

The new tools, which will be launched in March, will also cover ‘issue ads’ which do not explicitly back one candidate or political party but which focus on highly politicized topics like immigration.

Facebook said it will also set up two new regional operations centers focused on monitoring election-related content in its Dublin and Singapore offices.

Clegg denied that Facebook sells users’ data.

“Selling people’s information to advertisers would not only be the wrong thing to do, it would undermine the way we do business, because it would reduce the unique value of our service to advertisers,” he said.



У конкурсі до Антикорупційного суду залишився 71 кандидат – активісти

Громадська рада міжнародних експертів спільно з Вищою кваліфікаційною комісією суддів завершили етап ветування «сумнівних» кандитатів до Антикорупційного суду, залишивши у конкурсі 71 кандидата, повідомляють громадські організації.

Таким чином, як зазначає українське представництво Transparency international, на засіданні 28 січня конкурс покинули суддя В’ячеслав Піковський та науковець Ірина Смазнова.

Всього, за даними Центру протидії корупції, експерти відсіяли 42 кандидата – 40% зі 113, які перед цим успішно склали тестування.

Серед претендентів на посади антикорупційних суддів, яким спочатку висловили сумнів, тільки семеро продовжили змагання.

«Президент має призначити суддів не пізніше 30 днів з дня отримання подання Вища рада правосуддя (ВРП) та не має права відмовити у призначенні будь-кого із кандидатів. Очікується, що Петро Порошенко призначить суддів до першого туру президентських виборів — до 31 березня 2019», – зазначають у активісти.

Однак до цього, як пояснюють у ЦПК, Вища кваліфікаційна комісія суддів та Вища рада правосуддя можуть виключити кандидатів із сумнівних політичними зв’язками, через те, що їхнє призначенняможе негативно вплинути на довіру до судової влади.

Верховна Рада України ухвалила в цілому закон про Вищий антикорупційний суд 7 червня 2018 року.

21 червня Верховна Рада схвалила президентський законопроект про запуск Вищого антикорупційного суду.

Ухвалення закону про антикорупційний суд домагалися від України її західні партнери, воно було однією з умов продовження співпраці Києва з Міжнародним валютним фондом.

Створення спеціалізованого антикорупційного суду передбачив закон про судоустрій і статус суддів, ухвалений 2016 року.


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