Ayman's blog

YEREVAN (Reuters) - Armenia`s parliament is set to elect Armen Sarkissian this week as national president to succeed Serzh Sarksyan, who opposition leaders say could become prime minister and continue to wield power.
GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales on Wednesday that Washington supports a U.N.-backed anti-graft body and its commissioner, who Morales has tried to oust after investigators targeted him.
WELLINGTON/SYDNEY (Reuters) - New Zealand`s intelligence agency on Thursday confirmed for the first time that a teenager tried to assassinate Queen Elizabeth II during a visit to the southern city of Dunedin in 1981, sparking a police inquiry into how the incident was handled.

Torben Straight Nissen

  • Rubius Therapeutics, a biotech developing red blood cell therapies, just raised 100 million.
  • This is the second time the startup has raised money in the past year. In June 2017, Rubius raised 120 million from investors including Flagship Pioneering.
  • The company is starting by developing enzyme replacement therapies for rare conditions in which the body doesn`t make a particular enzyme, as well as cancer therapies that aim to re-engineer the body`s immune system. 

Rubius Therapeutics, a startup building red blood cells that have been reprogrammed to treat conditions like cancer, just raised 100 million.  

It`s the second time the startup has raised money in the past year. In June 2017, Rubius raised 120 million from investors including Flagship Pioneering. Thursday`s crossover funding round included investments from mutual funds and institutional investors that weren`t immediately named. 

Red blood cell therapies can be thought of like pretty much any other medication, with one distinction: It`s made out of red blood cells, not chemicals or other biological materials

"They`re basically superblood," Rubius CEO Torben Straight Nissen said. The red blood cells, produced in tanks at Rubius`s labs, are "armed" with a therapeutic protein. That superblood is then infused into the body — an amount less than 1% of the total blood in your body — where it can get to work treating a particular condition.

To start, Rubius is developing enzyme replacement therapies for rare conditions in which the body doesn`t make a particular enzyme, as well as cancer therapies that aim to re-engineer the body`s immune system. 

This funding will ideally get Rubius into clinical trials for some of its programs, and possibly even into later-stage trials that the company could bring to the FDA.

The potential for cell-based therapies

In 2017, the Food and Drug Administration first approved two highly personalized cancer versions of cell therapy, known as CAR T-cell therapy (CAR is short for chimeric antigen receptor). These treatments — approved for certain forms of blood cancer — aren`t your run-of-the-mill pill that can be mass produced. Since the therapy is made from a person`s own immune system, the process can take about three weeks.

To start, a doctor removes some white blood cells, the part of our body`s immune system responsible for combatting infections and foreign substances, from a patient. In a healthy body, the immune system can recognize abnormal, cancerous cells, but for people with cancer, it doesn`t recognize that the cells are spreading.

Then the cells are taken to a manufacturing facility at which point the cells are reengineered to recognize cancer cells and wipe them out. Those reprogrammed cells are sent back and administered to the patient.

Rubius, using red blood cells, wants to make treatments that don`t have to be as personalized as these initial cell therapies

"We think this is a great next generation cell therapy platform that has a lot of benefits over the CAR-Ts," Nissen said.

And to affect more people, the cell therapies would need to go beyond blood cancers. Right now, that`s where most of the big successes have come from. But cell therapies could one day tackle solid tumors and maybe even the rare diseases Rubius is going after, along with autoimmune diseases like Type 1 diabetes.

SEE ALSO: A medical breakthrough that hacks genes to fight cancer just got approved, and it`s the beginning of `a big new field of medicine`

DON`T MISS: There`s a clear playbook for how Amazon could upend the healthcare business — along with an obvious victim

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: A Wharton professor predicts what city Amazon will choose for their new headquarters

SYDNEY (Reuters) - They met in passing while trying to lose weight but on Thursday Australian men Warren Orlandi and Pauly Phillips made history by becoming the first same sex couple to get married on top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge.
BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand`s tourism body has said in a statement that it "strongly opposes any form of sex tourism" as it hopes to welcome a record number of holiday-makers this year.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Wednesday passed a bill promoting closer U.S. ties with Taiwan, which China has warned could threaten stability in the Taiwan Strait, but drew praise from the self-ruled island which pledged to deepen cooperation.

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek worried sad

  • Spotify released its financial results Wednesday as part of the paperwork it filed to become a public company.
  • The results show just how difficult the streaming business is, even for the market leader.
  • Investors shouldn`t expect Spotify to ever become a big money maker.

If you hadn`t figured this out already, the streaming music business is a terrible one to be in.

That`s the chief takeaway from the financial paperwork Spotify filed Wednesday in advance of becoming a public company. Despite dominating the subscription music market, the company generates relatively little money per user, has to give away nearly all the money it generates to the big recording companies, and continues to rack up losses.

And, as the company warned potential investors, things may never get much better.

"There can be no guarantee as to when we will eventually reach profitability, if at all," the company said in it regulatory filings.

It`s been clear from the years and years worth of losses Pandora has posted that streaming music can be a tough business. But one would have hoped that Spotify would be in a much better position. After all, by some measures, the company has been wildly successful.

Spotify dominates the streaming music business

SpotifyNot too long ago, there were plenty of doubters around who wondered if consumers would ever give up buying songs and albums in favor of paying a monthly subscription. Now, subscriptions generate far more money for the music industry than paid downloads, thanks in no small part to Spotify.

The company has 159 million monthly active users from around the world, 71 million of which pay a monthly subscription fee to use its service. Despite facing off against some of the biggest and most powerful companies in the world, including Apple, Google, and Amazon, Spotify has more than held its own. Its number of paying subscribers is about double that of Apple Music, the no. 2 player in the streaming music market.

Even though it`s already huge, Spotify continues to grow rapidly. Its number of monthly active users jumped 29% last year. And as impressive as that growth is, Spotify is having even more success convincing users to pay for its service. Its number of premium subscribers grew 46% in 2017.

All that growth has helped lead to improving financial results. The company`s sales jumped 39%.

Thanks to contracts it renegotiated with the major record labels last year, Spotify now gets to keep more of the money it takes in from subscribers and advertisers, helping it improve its bottom line. While its operating loss increased last year, the company actually shrunk that loss significantly as a portion of its revenue. And Spotify has generated free cash flow — the amount of cash yielded by a company`s operations less expenditures on long-term goods and assets like property and equipment — for the last two years.

But it hands over nearly all its revenue to the record labels

It sounds like everything is moving in the right direction, right? So what`s not to like?

Well, as impressively as Spotify has performed and as big of an impact as it`s had on the music industry, its business is still nothing to get excited about. Even with the renegotiated contracts, Spotify still has to pay out huge royalty fees to the big record labels.

After paying out those fees and a few assorted other costs directly related to providing its streaming service, the company is left with only around 21 cents of every dollar it takes in. And that`s before it has to pay for advertising or research and development.

Those costs are a big reason why Spotify doesn`t seem to have ever posted a full-year profit. Last year, for example, it lost about 1.5 billion on 5 billion in sales. Even if you back out a big one-time financing expense it recorded and some much smaller finance-related income, the company would still have lost 461 million on its operations alone.

If you exclude certain non-cash charges, as Wall Street analysts are fond of doing, Spotify`s operations actually generated money. Just not a whole lot. Last year, the company produced 133 million in free cash flow, up from 89 million the year before.

To put those numbers in perspective, Spotify generated about 84 cents of cash for every monthly active user it had last year, up from about 72 cents the year before. All those 10 a month subscriptions it sells and ads it posts on its free service? They added up to less than a 1 per user — for the whole year.

The company is hemmed in by user expectations and deep pocketed rivals

And you shouldn`t expect Spotify to ever generate lots of cash, even it it does eventually become profitable.

Here`s why.

The appeal to consumers of music streaming services like Spotify is that they offer access to practically all recorded music for a relatively affordable price.

Tim CookAs such, the services are completely dependent on the music labels to grant them access to their libraries — and they have to pay whatever the labels think is fair. Right now, that`s somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 cents of every dollar — but that price could up.

Spotify could try to pull a Netflix and publish more artists on its own, rather than having to license all the songs and albums from the big music labels. 

But the Netflix model won`t translate to Spotify. 

That`s because unlike Netflix, Spotify couldn`t get away with offering a more tailored selection of content. Consumers expect access to a universe of music when they subscribe to a streaming service. It`s different than TV, which is more hit-driven. 

If Spotify goes narrow, it becomes a nice-to-have service for consumers, instead of the must-have universal music service that consumers will gladly let Apple, Google or Amazon charge their credit cards for every month. 

And that points to the fundamental "catch-22" problem in the streaming music business.

You can`t go narrow. But if you go broad there`s little to differentiate the streaming services. They all basically offer the same proposition. Sure, the apps consumers use to access them are different, and some offer better features than others, but consumers basically get the same thing from each one for the same basic price. That close competition limits Spotify`s ability to raise prices or differentiate its service.

And while music is Spotify`s entire business, it`s a just side hustle for Spotify`s bigger rivals. Apple Music helps sell iPhones. For Amazon, music helps make its Prime subscription service more attractive. Those companies can afford to run their music businesses at breakeven or even at a loss, because they`re making their money elsewhere. Spotify doesn`t have that luxury — but its sales and costs will likely be influenced by such factors.

So don`t get too excited about Spotify`s impending debut on the public markets. Yes, it dominates streaming music. But that position isn`t worth a whole lot.

SEE ALSO: Spotify, the music streaming service that`s crushing Apple Music, just filed to go public in a very weird way

MORE BI PRIME: Here`s why Spotify is bypassing the normal IPO process — and why more companies don`t do it

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NOW WATCH: What it`s like to pretend to live on Mars for 8 months

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A 19-year-old man has been indicted for hate crimes connected to threats against Jewish community centers, as well as threatening the Israeli embassy and cyberstalking, the U.S. Justice Department said on Wednesday.
SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean President Moon Jae-in described Japan`s wartime use of "comfort women" as "crimes against humanity" on Thursday in some of his strongest comments yet, sparking an immediate protest from his key ally in containing North Korea.

Collective Health co-founders Ali Diab & Dr. Rajaie Batniji

  • Collective Health, a startup that works with self-insured employers, just raised 110 million.
  • The company helps employers build out health plans that fit their needs by adding technology with the hope of making things like submitting claims and reading bills easier.
  • Self-insured employer plans have recently come into the spotlight after JPMorgan, Amazon and Berkshire Hathaway said they`re forming a new independent nonprofit venture aimed at lowering healthcare costs for their employees.

A startup that could be a good model for the JPMorgan-Amazon-Berkshire Hathaway healthcare initiative just raised an additional 110 million. 

Collective Health helps employers build out health plans that fit their needs by adding technology with the hope of making things like submitting claims and reading bills easier.

In total, the company has now raised about 230 million from investors including Peter Thiel`s Founders Fund, NEA, and GV.

If you`re an employee with a self-insured employer, it means that when you`re going to a doctor`s appointment, your employer is ultimately footing the bill for the MRI you receive, rather than a health insurer. More than half of the non-elderly population is covered by an employer-sponsored plan, and almost 80% of large companies are self-insured.

The companies that you might be familiar with on a health insurance card are there in the middle to handle the logistics of getting the claim from one place to another, which means you might not realize your employer`s footing the entire bill on the other end. Employers pay insurance companies for their services on a per member, per month basis. 

What Collective Health is trying to do is make that experience better. The most recent funding round will be used to build out its technology platform and increase its operations. 

So far, Collective Health covers about 125,000 members, consisting of employees and their dependents from companies like Zendesk, Palantir, eBay, and Pinterest.

SEE ALSO: A hot startup could be the perfect model for the JPMorgan-Amazon-Berkshire Hathaway healthcare initiative

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Forget `Make America Great Again` — Wharton professor says Trump has been terrible for America`s brand

Mark Zuckerberg

  • The biggest fear facing mega-cap tech companies is the prospect of regulation.
  • Matt Moberg, who manages the 5 billion Franklin DynaTech Fund, is non-plussed by the prospect of increased regulatory oversight, arguing companies have survived such shake-ups in the past.

Around Silicon Valley, "regulation" is a dirty word, and one that strikes fear in the hearts of even the wealthiest and most successful executives.

Look no further than a recent panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff expressed worry. Meanwhile, Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat deflected questions on the prospect of more regulatory oversight, calling an inquiry about whether Google is too big an "unanswerable question."

Matt Moberg, a portfolio manager who oversees the 5 billion Franklin DynaTech Fund, shares no such worries or reservations.

As a long-term investor, he`s focused on the big picture. And he says even if mega-cap tech titans like Facebook and Alphabet are forced to — heaven forbid — break up, historical precedent suggests that things could end up OK in the end, if not better.

In an interview with Business Insider, Moberg elaborated on those thoughts and also discussed how his European history degree informs his investment decisions and outlined his unique approach to diversification. Read the full story here. Here`s what Moberg had to say (emphasis ours):

"Even big concerns like the regulations that could affect mega-cap tech companies, we’ve seen that play out before. So we have a playbook. And while it’s not the same, they’re great reference points.

Quite frankly, things rarely end that poorly. Even if these companies get broken up, their break-ups actually end up being great companies themselves. Doing this gives us some confidence over the long term."

SEE ALSO: Meet the wildly successful portfolio manager whose history degree is his secret weapon for crushing Wall Street

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Why you should never pour grease down the drain

SYDNEY (Reuters) - They met in passing while trying to lose weight but on Thursday Australian men Warren Orlandi and Pauly Phillips made history by becoming the first same sex couple to get married on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Trump administration is considering sanctioning a Venezuelan military-run oil services company and restricting insurance coverage for Venezuelan oil shipments to ratchet up pressure on socialist President Nicolas Maduro, a U.S. official said on Wednesday.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Wednesday passed a bill criticized by China promoting closer U.S. ties with Taiwan, and the legislation only needs President Donald Trump`s signature to become law.
The use of such weapons would violate an international treaty and possibly American laws regarding recipients of American military aid.
Egypt’s prosecutor, blaming the “forces of evil” for negative coverage, warned of legal action against news outlets on Thursday.
SEOUL (Reuters) - Japan is in no position to declare the issue of wartime "comfort women" settled, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Thursday during a speech marking a national holiday commemorating Korean resistance to Japanese occupation.
MANILA (Reuters) - Any potential deals between Manila and Beijing on energy exploration in the South China Sea should be agreed with a company and not the Chinese government, the Philippines` presidential spokesman said on Thursday.

Daniel Ek Spotify

  • Spotify CEO Daniel Ek introduced himself to the world with a letter to potential investors.
  • At roughly 1,300 words, Ek`s letter touched upon the company`s business potential.
  • "We really do believe that we can improve the world, one song at a time," Ek wrote.

Spotify is ditching underwriters, roadshows and even predetermined price ranges in its unorthodox "Direct IPO." But there`s one tradition the music streaming company is sticking with: The founder`s letter.

The so-called founder`s letter has become a staple of tech IPOs, pioneered by the likes of Google, Facebook and Twitter.

And Daniel Ek, Spotify`s 35-year-old Swedish cofounder and CEO, did not disappoint. 

Ek`s letter to investors, titled "Our Path" and contained on page 92 of Spotify`s F-1 filing, weighed in at a hefty 1,259 words. That easily topped the 471 words written by Roku CEO Anthony Wood and the brief, perhaps symbolic, 138 words of Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey, yet was respectfully shy of the 2,189-word manifesto penned by Mark Zuckerberg in 2012.

In keeping with the genre, Ek used soaring language and details of his personal life to tout the values of the company, the benefits of the product and the limitless potential of the business.

"What started out as an application and grew into a platform must now become a global network," he declared.

But the letter also veered into uncharted territory as Ek let his vision run wild. Ek described a future Spotify that serves as a "cultural platform where professional creators can break free of their medium’s constraints" and "where everyone can enjoy an immersive artistic experience that enables us to empathize with each other and to feel part of a greater whole." 

The letter`s Burning Man-esque feel soon took on a political tone, as Ek preached a global worldview at odds with the isolationist climate sweeping across many countries today.

"This is the future we envision; where artists cross genres and cultural boundaries, creating ideas that propel society forward; where fans can discover something they never would have otherwise; where we’re all part of a global network, building new connections, sharing new ideas, across cultures," Ek wrote.

In what may become the letter`s most memorable line, Ek signed off on a hopeful note:  "We really do believe that we can improve the world, one song at a time."

Here is the full letter, which you can also read here:



Our Path—A Note from Daniel Ek, Co-Founder, Chief Executive Officer, and Chairman

From the age of four, my life was about music and technology—never one without the other. Over time, I realized that by combining my two passions, I could create a new paradigm, one that helped fans and the creative community—singers, songwriters, bands, everyone in the creative process—chart a new course for an entire industry.

Spotify is the manifestation of those dreams. Music was too important to me to let piracy take down the industry. There had to be a way to give people access to the music they loved while allowing creators to get paid for their work, and to expand their creativity.

So I built a company based on a core set of values: innovation, passion, collaboration, transparency, and fairness. These values drive how we work with the creative community and how we treat our users. They’re why we’re committed to a diverse workforce in an open, trusting company culture.

Today, Spotify is one of the largest drivers of global music revenue. We’ve helped restore a rapidly shrinking industry to growth, and connected over a million artists with hundreds of millions of fans.

People constantly tell me how music has helped them through life’s biggest moments—birth and death, euphoria and heartbreak. At Spotify, we want to enrich, strengthen, and extend those moments and connections. So while some companies rely entirely on data, we take a different approach. We start with human creativity, augment it with our expertise and understanding, and then leverage with the efficiency of algorithms.

Music has just been the beginning. We’re an audio first platform—as a top provider of podcasts, we’re also connecting audiences to the conversations that we think will shape the future.

And we have even bigger aspirations. We envision a cultural platform where professional creators can break free of their medium’s constraints and where everyone can enjoy an immersive artistic experience that enables us to empathize with each other and to feel part of a greater whole. But to realize this vision, professional creators must be able to earn a fair living doing what they love, where monetization is at the core of a creative proposition and not an afterthought. We care deeply about our creators and our users and we believe Spotify is a win-win for both.

That’s our mission—to unlock the potential of human creativity—by giving a million creative artists the opportunity to live off their art and billions of fans the opportunity to enjoy and be inspired by it.

Everyone who partners with us—employees, users, the creative community, brands, investors—should understand what our mission means to us, how we make decisions, and why.

We know that if we’re going to succeed as a company and as an industry, we have to think, build, plan, and imagine for the long-term.

To build a better world by unlocking human creativity, we are committed to creating a better experience for users—and to enabling more creators to live off their work. We firmly believe that in the long run, these priorities will provide greater returns to all of our stakeholders.

That’s because the future is markedly different from the past.

The old model favored certain gatekeepers. Artists had to be signed to a label. They needed access to a recording studio, and they had to be played on terrestrial radio to achieve success. Today, artists can produce and release their own music. Labels, studios, and radio still matter, but in a cluttered landscape, artists’ biggest challenge is navigating this complexity to get heard. We believe Spotify empowers them to break through.

With access to unprecedented amounts of data and insights, we’re building audiences for every kind of artist at every level of fame and exposing fans to a universe of songs. In this new world, music has no borders. Spotify enables someone in Miami to discover sounds from Madrid. It links immigrants in Boston to songs back home in Bangkok.

We’re working to democratize the industry and connect all of us, across the world, in a shared culture that expands our horizons.

With a catalog that grows by tens of thousands of new creative works every day, Spotify is like a flywheel. Creators and consumers engage and react to each other, building momentum. These reactions generate even more buzz, which we believe, in turn, fuels even more creativity. Now, we are going to take the lessons we’ve learned in music and apply them across culture. In the future, Spotify will strive to more meaningfully connect people to the cultural experiences they care about—or don’t yet know they care about—to fit the mood and moment they’re in.

Today’s creators can collaborate with audiences across time zones. They incorporate video and interactive technology to create new and inspiring art, and more. They release their own work and directly make and reach fans. As we evolve, Spotify will meet creators where they are and empower them with even more tools to do what they love in their own authentic way, and reach even more people. What started out as an application and grew into a platform must now become a global network—one that recognizes and nurtures the interdependent relationships between creators, producers, publishers, labels, fans, and everyone in between.

To get there, we need transparency. We need discovery. We need new tools of creativity.

Artists’ greatest barriers to success are achieving exposure and earning money. That’s why Spotify wants to create a fair and open market, where fans can support the artists they love and creators can understand how they’re paid and earn a living.

Musicians, for example, compete against the entire history of music and a daily flood of new content. The central paradox for fans is that access gives you everything—but everything isn’t enough. Discovery is hard without a compass. Unprecedented choice at an affordable price must come with effective personalization to help audiences navigate a sea of content, and to help artists directly reach a sea of listeners. With the right mix of data insights contextualized by human experts, Spotify reunites fans with old favorites, and lets them discover new ones.

We intend to give the creative community the data, technology, and connections to not only make a living but also accelerate the exposure of their work. We believe that these tools we’re building will go far beyond music, building bonds between creators and consumers across every genre and form.

And when we get there, the possibilities for culture will completely change. Again.

Today, art has an even greater opportunity to be a transformative cultural force. And culture is the force that binds us all—no matter who we are or where we’re from—in a shared human experience. It’s what helps us understand one another across differences. It’s what breaks us out of isolation and brings people together. That’s why, everywhere I go around the world, I see artists finding inspiration across oceans, drawing on sounds born in one part of the world and making them their own—from punk music in Myanmar to rap in Mongolia.

This is the future we envision; where artists cross genres and cultural boundaries, creating ideas that propel society forward; where fans can discover something they never would have otherwise; where we’re all part of a global network, building new connections, sharing new ideas, across cultures.

We really do believe that we can improve the world, one song at a time.

SEE ALSO: Spotify, the music streaming service that`s crushing Apple Music, just filed to go public in a very weird way

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: How Silicon Valley`s sexist `bro culture` affects everyone — and how to fix it

Box CEO Aaron Levie

  • Shares for the enterprise file sharing platform Box were down more than 13% on Wednesday following the company`s fourth quarter 2018 earnings.
  • Box`s guidance for the current quarter, which ends April 30, came in below Wall Street expectations.
  • Earnings for the fourth quarter otherwise met analyst expectations, with 13.67 million in revenue, up 24% from the year before.

The cloud storage company Box saw its share slide down the proverbial cliff on Wednesday after reporting its latest quarterly earnings.

Shares traded around 20.84 per share after hours on Wednesday, down 13.36% from its price of 24.06 at the closing bell.

This drop follows the company`s revenue guidance for the current quarter, which fell well below Wall Street expectations. Box reported that it expects to see 139 million to 140 million in revenue for the quarter ending on April 30, while analysts expected the company to forecast 144.27 million. 

Box also told analysts that it expects to post a wider loss per share for the current quarter, too. The company said it expects adjusted losses between 0.08 and 0.09 per share, while analysts estimated losses of just 0.08. 

While the forecast was gloomier than expected, Box`s earnings report for the fourth quarter of 2018 was otherwise in line with Wall Street expectations. Box reported 136.7 million in quarterly revenue, up 24% from the year before. Analysts expected 136.71 million in revenue.

Box, which went public in 2015, is still not profitable. The company reported an operating loss of 32.5 million over the quarter on a GAAP basis, about 24% of its revenue. That`s a big uptick from the year before, when it saw an an operating loss of 32.5 million, or 33% of its total revenue. 

This in contrast to Dropbox, one of Box`s biggest competitors in the cloud storage space, which  filed its S-1 to go public late last week. Dropbox reported 300,000 paying teams on its platform, leading it to about 1.1 billion in annual revenues — though it`s not profitable, either.

SEE ALSO: Dropbox shows its freemium model works — 11 million users and 300,000 business teams are paying for its service

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Why Shaq turned down being on the cover of a Wheaties box twice

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - A diplomatic row has erupted between the Haitian government and the United Nations over comments made by a senior U.N. official cheering an investigation into the alleged misuse of Venezuela-sponsored Petrocaribe funds by previous administrations.
TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Police arrested the wife of former Honduran President Porfirio Lobo on Wednesday on corruption charges including siphoning funds from social works programs for the poor, officials said.
CAIRO – 1 March 2018: The Russian Center for the Syrian Reconciliation reported Wednesday that militants from illegal armed groups controlling the Eastern Ghouta fired 13 mortar rounds at residential areas of the Syrian capital over the past 24 hours, according to Sputnik News.

"Our regular monitoring of the ceasefire regime shows that armed groups continue hostilities in the provinces of Aleppo, Latakia and Daraa. We are particularly concerned over the tense situation in Eastern Ghouta," the center`s spokesman Major General Yury Yevtushenko said at a daily briefing.

The militants are blocking residents of Eastern Ghouta from leaving the danger zone, threatening to kill them for any attempt, Maj. Gen. Yuri Yevtushenko, the head of the Center for Syrian Reconciliation reported.

"According to those who applied to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent for help, militants are not letting them out from the danger zone, take personal vehicles, and prohibit the use of radio, television and cellular communications. For any attempts to get out of the East Ghouta, they threaten to kill," Yevtushenko said.

Militants from the Jaysh al-Islam group have shelled and dispersed more than 300 civilians trying to reach the humanitarian corridor.

"The shelling caused structural damage and injuries among civilians. Nine Damascus residents, including three children, were wounded," Yevtushenko added.

litecoin price today

Barring any last minute meltdowns, litecoin will be one of the few major cryptocurrencies to end February in the green.

The fifth-largest digital token by market cap is up more than 21% for the month, well outperforming bitcoin’s 4% drop.

Ethereum and Ripple`s XRP, the second- and third-largest coins, are down 20% and 22%, respectively. Meanwhile, the total market for cryptocurrencies is down 8%, at 449 billion Wednesday morning, according to CoinMarketCap

Litecoin got a boost in February after being added to the Bloomberg Terminal on February 8, allowing financial clients all over the world to track its price alongside bitcoin, XRP, and ethereum, as well as a myriad of other global securities.

To be sure, Litecoin is still well off its all-time high of 365, set in December when most coins saw peaks. Since then, 2018 has been a stark departure from the gains of 2017, with huge spikes in volatility and wild price swings.

SEE ALSO: Sign up to get the most important updates on all things crypto delivered straight to your inbox.

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NOW WATCH: What `Dilly Dilly` means — and how Bud Light came up with its viral campaign

common coliving san francisco 0662

More and more city dwellers are considering alternative housing options.

Co-living spaces like Common, which opened three new living facilities since the start of 2018, are providing a sleek reconfiguring of communal life.

In exchange for putting up with a group of strangers in your common space, you receive your own bedroom, a weekly cleaning service, and a regularly replenished stock of items like paper towels, toilet paper, and dish soap. 

As Common grows, it`s able to offer its rooms at increasingly competitive rates by buying furnishings, supplies, and linens in bulk.

Whatever your opinion on sharing a bathroom with nine other people might be, the demand for co-living spaces shows no sign of letting up: "Right now, we`re supply-constrained," said Hargreaves. "We get over 1000 applicants per week far more demand than we can currently provide for."

Take a look inside Common`s latest facility:

Common`s latest living space, called Common Racine, offers the company`s cheapest rooms to date in downtown Chicago: 10 rooms at 950 a piece, which includes utilities and a weekly cleaning service.

Racine is the 19th home Common has opened since its launch in 2015.

Common`s founder Brad Hargreaves says he attributes the company`s expansion to rising rents and an increase of young renters looking for homes in urban areas.

"Our goal at Common is to keep the good parts of living with roommates," Hargreaves told Business Insider. "The affordability, the social environments — we`re trying to get rid of as many of the annoyances of communal living as we can possibly control."


Every Common bedroom comes fully furnished, which means you won`t have to lug furniture from Ikea if you move to a new city.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

HyperloopTT_station 1

  • In a Twitter thread on Tuesday, Elon Musk pointed out how difficult it can be to make improvements to existing infrastructure due to incentives that increase their cost and difficulty.
  • The thread addressed points made by critics that Hyperloop, a high-speed transit system proposed by Musk, is impractical.
  • Musk`s Hyperloop concept and Boring Company both have their fair share of critics who think it`s a fantasy, but Musk`s tweets pointed out how traditional infrastructure improvements can be expensive and difficult as well.

Elon Musk`s ideas for future transportation systems might sound a little crazy at first. 

The Hyperloop, a high-speed transit system, first proposed by Elon Musk in 2013, would send pods full of passengers through tubes at over 500 mph and require tunnel networks to be built from scratch. 

His Boring Company, which is working to build a tunneling system, could be used to build those networks,  but doing so requires approval from the governments of cities the tunnels would pass through. On top of that, the basic Hyperloop system is still in the early stages of development, so it`s unclear if the underlying technology would allow for safe and reliable inter-city transport.

But the vast amount of work that would be needed to get a Hyperloop system running might not be as impractical as it seems. In a Twitter thread on Tuesday, Musk pointed out how difficult it can be to make improvements to existing infrastructure due to incentives that increase their cost and difficulty.

elon musk infrastructure twitter

Musk started the thread by comparing a Chinese train station that was built in just nine hours to overworked and out-of-date transit systems in San Francisco and New York CityHe then described some of the reasons why American cities have trouble keep their infrastructure in good shape.

"True root cause imo is an exponential growth in bureaucracy & a self-serving private sector consultant industry earning a % on project cost, incenting them to maximize cost," he wrote.

elon musk twitter infrastructure

Musk`s Hyperloop concept and Boring Company both have their fair share of critics who think it`s a fantasy, but Musk`s tweets pointed out how traditional infrastructure improvements can be expensive and difficult as well.

New York City`s subway system, for example, is in horrible shape after years of inadequate maintenance, and the influence of unions and private contractors makes construction projects far more expensive than in comparable cities. It doesn`t help that the system`s combination of state and city funding means that no one group can be held fully accountable for its problems. 

So if Hyperloop seems like a pipe dream, so do timely and reasonably-priced public infrastructure projects.

SEE ALSO: Bill Gates says he`s not sure Elon Musk`s Hyperloop concept makes sense — but he`s bullish on electric cars

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NOW WATCH: Here`s why the recent stock market sell-off could save us from a repeat of "Black Monday"

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers unveiled plans on Wednesday to use a decades-old law to force a Senate vote on whether to pull the country out of a foreign conflict, in this case the civil war in Yemen.
CAIRO – 1 March 2018: President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi is set to inaugurate a new city in North Sinai within the coming few hours, a governmental source announced on Wednesday.

The source, cited by Al Dostor Newspaper, added that the establishment of the new city comes within the government’s ambitious vision to develop a terrorism-ridden Northern Sinai and it will expectedly include the world’s largest industrial city and Africa’s largest Sea Water Desalination Plant.

He also added that the Armed Forces’ Engineering Authority is authorized to complete the construction works of residential complexes, while the Ministry of Housing builds other urban communities.

The city is designed to include international hotels, a fashion city, universities, tourist resorts and housing, green areas and an open beach, a Disney Land-styled amusement park and recreation areas, Marina yacht state, an international hospital, Formula 1 circuit races, golf courses, and an Olympic village.

Earlier on Wednesday, the members of the Parliament agreed that the 2018 military comprehensive operations to uproot terrorism from Sinai will pave the way for the large-scale development in the Sinai Peninsula, attracting many investments and advancing Sinai’s demographic characteristics.

President Sisi affirmed during his visit to the Unified Command of East of the Canal to Combat Terrorism on February 25 that the comprehensive development of Sinai started in 2014 and will last until 2022, with a cost estimated at LE 275 billion (15.5 billion), calling on Egyptian businessmen to invest in Sinai as the area is Egypt’s primary security issue.

Spotify founders Daniel Ek, Martin Lorentzon

  • Spotify is preparing to become a public company.
  • An IPO will be very good for a number of Spotify executives and investors who own a lot of shares.
  • Here`s a list of the biggest shareholders in Spotify who stand to get rich (or get richer) if the IPO goes well.

Global music streaming service Spotify just filed the paperwork for its IPO in which it hopes to raise at least 1 billion for the company.

The company won`t be the only beneficiary. Should its stock fare well, Spotify`s founders, executives and major investors will also fare well.

We don`t know yet how much money Spotify hopes its shares to sell at, so we don`t know how many millions Spotify will bring each of these people or investment firms. Spotify will price its shares closer to its first day of trading. 

But we do know who owns a lot of shares and who stands to get a windfall, thanks to its IPO documents filed with the SEC.

Here are the biggest potential winners from the Spotify IPO:

Daniel Ek, 35, is the company`s co-founder CEO and the face of Spotify. He currently owns 25% of the company and nearly 47 million shares. Those shares will be worth more than 1 billion if Spotify trades at 22 per share or more.

Daniel Ek Spotify CEO LeWebWealth is nothing new to Ek. He`s been a self-made millionaire for over a decade now after selling his first company, ad tech startup Advertigo, at age 23 for 1.25 million.

After that sale, he bought fancy cars, wooed women and wound up feeling empty and depressed he later admitted.

That`s when he started thinking about doing something next with his life, had long talks with Swedish businessman Martin Lorentzon where they envisioned creating a way to allow people to have better access to all of the world`s music. And here we are at Spotify`s IPO.

Martin Lorentzon, 48, co-founder and director and former chairman, is the next biggest shareholder. He owns 13% of the company, just under 24 million shares.

Lorentzon`s first partnership with Ek was when the ad network company he founded, Tradedoubler acquired Ek`s company Advertigo in 2006 and made the young Ek a millionaire.

Investor Sony Music Entertainment International owns over 10 million shares. Its investment deal, and the royalties it made from sharing its huge catalog of music with Spotify, was the source of some dispute. 19 artists including Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood sued Sony over it, alleging they weren`t getting their fair share of money Spotify was paying Sony. As Spotify prepped for its IPO, Sony settled that suit in January. 

Investor Technology Crossover Management (TCV) owns 9.5 million shares, overseen by TCV partner and Spotify board member Christopher "Woody" Marshall. Marshall has a huge roster of successful investments under his belt, including Netflix, Airbnb, Twilio, Dollar Shave Club, others.

martin lorentzon

Investor Tiger Global owns 12.2 million shares. Tiger is one of the world`s largest hedge funds, founded by Chase Coleman, an early investor in Facebook and a power player in tech and finance.

Investor Tencent, owns about 13.4 million shares. Tencent is the Chinese internet giant, run by its billionaire, engineer founder CEO Pony Ma. He is one of China`s wealthiest people.

CFO Barry McCarthy owns 142,680 shares, and has upcoming options to purchase about another 1.5 million shares. McCarthy is the former CFO of Netflix.

Shishir Mehrotra, 38, owns 99,560 shares. Mehrotra is a board member and former YouTube executive. In April he was granted 2.6 million worth of shares for his time as an employee at Spotify, too.

There are a number of other well-known people who will also benefit with Spotify`s IPO because they are serving on Spotify`s board. This includes Padmasree Warrior, former star engineer at Cisco and current CEO of NIO US (a Chinese electric car company); Nike exec Heidi O’Neill and Netflix exec Ted Sarandos.

SEE ALSO: Spotify, the music streaming service that`s crushing Apple Music, just filed to go public in a very weird way

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  • The music streaming service Spotify has operated at a loss since its inception in 2006.
  • The company, which filed to go public on Wednesday, said that its losses come from royalties and licensing fees for musical artists. 
  • In 2017, Spotify generated 4.99 billion in revenue but posted 1.5 billion in losses. 

Licensed content and music royalties are keeping the music streaming company Spotify in the red.

The Swedish company has lost a cumulative 2.4 billion — or 2.9 billion — since its inception in 2006, according to the paperwork Spotify filed on Wednesday for a public offering. 

"We have incurred significant costs to license content and continue to pay royalties to music labels, publishers, and other copyright owners for such content," Spotify wrote in its filing. " If we cannot successfully earn revenue at a rate that exceeds the operational costs, including royalty expenses, associated with our service, we will not be able to achieve or sustain profitability or generate positive cash flow on a sustained basis."

It turns out these music royalties aren`t cheap. Spotify spent more than €8 billion — or 9.76 billion — in royalties to artists, labels and publishers since 2006. In 2017, the company`s expenses related to music rights grew by 27% from the year before. 

Licensing fees area a necessary part of Spotify`s business, and the company knows that its relationships with music labels could make or break it as a company, according to the F-1.

While the hefty music fees are a necessary cost of doing business, Spotify can recoup those costs by reeling in more paying subscribers and advertisers. 

So far, Spotify has struggled to do that: In 2017, Spotify grew its revenue 38% year-over-year, bringing in €4.09 billion. But its losses more than doubled during the same period, expanding from €539 million to €1.235 billion.

Spotify said in its filing that it intends to introduce new services and features that could help boost its subscribers and outpace its music competitors at Apple, Amazon and Google.

And, of course, it`s having a splashy IPO — a great way to advertise its music service to new potential subscribers. 

SEE ALSO: Spotify, the music streaming service that`s crushing Apple Music, just filed to go public in a very weird way

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CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan presidential candidate Henri Falcon said on Wednesday he would like a Wall Street economist, who sees dollarization as the solution for hyper-inflation in Venezuela, to play a big role on his team if he wins the upcoming election.

netflix ceo

  • Netflix will have roughly 700 new and original TV shows in 2018, the company`s chief financial officer announced at a conference. 
  • It is expected to spend some 8 billion this year, mainly on original content.
  • Netflix is one of the best performing stocks this year.

Netflix is set to add roughly 700 new original television shows in 2018, Variety`s Todd Spangler reports, citing an announcement by CFO David Wells at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference on Monday. 

The streaming service is expected to spend roughly 8 billion this year, and a large chunk of that cash will go towards growing its inventory of original content. That became evident when earlier in Febraury Netflix signed  "Glee" and "American Horror Story" producer Ryan Murphy to a five-year, 300 million deal

"The increase in original content, including those 700 shows, is part of the company`s ongoing effort to create and improve its content base for current and future subscribes," Piper Jaffray analyst Michael Olson told Business Insider.

Olson, who is one of the most bullish Netflix analysts on Wall Street and has a 319 price target for the stock, said that by making a larger portion of its content original, Netflix is giving itself a competitive advantage because it`s selling "unique content that they can control" and tailor to its subscriber base.

BTIG Research`s Rich Greenfield told Business Insider that "it appears that the investment in programming is driving not only more subscribers, but the ability to raise prices." Netflix`s subscriber growth has impressed of late, hitting a record 8.3 million in the fourth-quarter of 2017. Aditionally, the company raised the price of its standard plan in October by 1 to 10.99 a month, and could raise it again later this year. 

However, some on Wall Street remain skeptical of the company`s heavy spending. Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter, who is one of the longest running Netflix bears, told Business Insider the company is "not investing prudently," and even if Murphy has a 50% success rate, it is "still going to lose money."

Netflix is up 46% this year, and is the top performing FAANG stock by a wide margin.

Screen Shot 2018 02 28 at 1.57.45 PM

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Jay Clayton S.E.C. Chairman

  • The Securities and Exchange Commission is going after the red-hot market for initial coin offerings, according to the Wall Street Journal. 
  •  The financial regulator issued a wave of subpoenas, according to the Journal. 

The Securities and Exchange Commission is going after the red-hot market for initial coin offerings, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal

The Journal reported Wednesday that the SEC issued "scores of subpoenas and information requests" to folks associated with initial coin offering projects. The Journal cited unidentified people familiar with the matter. The SEC declined to comment to the WSJ. 

SEC head Jay Clayton has not been shy about the agency`s intention to sniff out fraud and non-compliant activity in the booming market for ICOs. During an address to the US Senate, Clayton said that the majority of ICOs have been securities. 

"There should be no misunderstanding about the law," Clayton said in prepared remarks. "When investors are offered and sold securities - which to date ICOs have largely been - they are entitled to the benefits of state and federal securities laws and sellers and other market participants must follow these laws."

Initial coin offerings - a sort of crypto-twist on the initial public offering process - allow companies to raise money by issuing their own token. They`ve allowed companies spanning financial services to gaming to solicit millions of dollars from investors. Telegram, a messaging app operator, for instance is trying to raise more than 2 billion from a token sale.

Companies raised 1.5 billion from ICOs in January 2018, according to data from fintech analytics provider Autonomous NEXT. More than 5 billion was raised in 2017.

Read the full story over at The Wall Street Journal.

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NOW WATCH: Goldman Sachs investment chief: Bitcoin is definitely a bubble, Ethereum even more so

microsoft corporate vp peter lee

  • A year ago, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella mandated the formation of Microsoft Healthcare NExT — a division within Microsoft to improve healthcare. 
  • Now, that group is bearing its first fruit: Microsoft Genomics, a gene-sequencing service developed with St. Jude Children`s Research Hospital.
  • Microsoft Healthcare NExT head Dr. Peter Lee says the challenges are hard, but there are lots of benefits, tangible and otherwise, to this healthcare push.


A year ago, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella tasked Microsoft Research NExT — the company`s A-team of troubleshooting scientists — with a new mission: Take the company`s most cutting-edge tech and apply it to improving healthcare.

Microsoft Healthcare NExT head and corporate VP Dr. Peter Lee tells Business Insider that this new mandate was so broad, it was a little bit like being dropped in the middle of the ocean and told to find dry land.

"There`s no sign of which way is the right way, and you could swim really far in any one direction before realizing you were going astray." And, of course, he says, healthcare is a field that many tech companies have tried to tackle, and failed. You might think you`re making progress, but "then you look down and see the people drowning."

"There was a time where we were just floundering," Lee says.

Now, though, Lee feels like Microsoft`s efforts have finally begun to bear fruit, in the form of real, actual products that are making a difference to healthcare organizations, hospitals — and patients` lives. 

For instance, on Wednesday, Microsoft is expected to announce the general availability of Microsoft Genomics, a gene-sequencing service available to doctors and researchers via the Microsoft Azure cloud platform. That platform was born directly out of joint research between Microsoft and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. 

microsoft genomics

"We already got one product out of this push," says Lee. 

Similarly, Microsoft is announcing the availability and expansion of other partnership-driven services. Microsoft and India`s Apollo Hospitals teamed up for a new artificially-intelligent system for detecting tell-tale signs of heart disease in patient data, for instance; it also partnered up with UPMC for Project Empower MD, a note-taking tool for doctors. 

Lee says it`s been extremely rewarding: The biggest motivator for his team is getting to make a difference in people`s lives. Plus, Healthcare NExT gets to work with cutting-edge technology, like Microsoft`s partnership with Seattle-based Adaptive Biotechnologies, which is attempting to use AI to detect cancers and other serious maladies with a simple blood test. 

"It`s just cool beyond belief," says Lee of Adaptive. 

Lee says there are more material rewards, too, as these products open new markets for Microsoft — important, as some analysts estimate that healthcare cloud computing could be a 35 billion market by 2020.

Doctors, surgeons, and researchers have long needed these kinds of tools, says Lee, and Microsoft is happy to deliver. He says healthcare is becoming a "very large business" for Microsoft. 

"We don`t talk publicly about the dollars, but it`s large," says Lee. 

Not drowning yet

The key that helped Microsoft Healthcare NExT find its way was to take a bigger-picture approach, says Lee. The starting point was to look at the so-called "hyperscale" clouds from Microsoft, Amazon, and Google, and try to picture what the world would be like without them. 

With that in mind, Lee says, Microsoft started making bets. The Microsoft NExT "standard playbook" revolves around forming individual, internal "startups" with their own funding and purpose-driven mandates, so the engineers and scientists on the team got organized and got moving. 

Some of those self-styled "startups" started using the Microsoft Azure cloud to provide gene-sequencing supercomputing power, resulting in the service now known as Microsoft Genomics. Others focused on neonatal care, or better software for doctors, or improved ways to take patient measurements. 

St. Jude Microsoft Genomics

In all cases, Lee says, the key was for Microsoft to work closely with patients — as they did with St. Jude for Microsoft Genomics. 

"We appreciate that Microsoft is investing in genomic research and that they took the time to understand and appreciate our unique mission at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital: finding cures and saving children," St. Jude CIO Keith Perry told Business Insider via e-mail. 

And for his part, Lee says the team has found a lot of "inspiration" in working directly with healthcare providers, and the patients they service. In working on Microsoft Genomics, he says, he and his team have made several pediatric cancer patients — renewing their drive to do better, faster. He says it`s "incredibly motivating." 

Which is good, because he says Microsoft has "found its way forward." There`s no more floundering, he says, just promising movement in the right direction. For instance, Lee`s group is now working on an intelligent chatbot for pharmacies that can help patients reorder prescriptions and answer questions about their medications.

As for himself, Lee describes himself as a "second-year grad student" — he`s accumulated enough knowledge in the healthcare space to understand what the experts on his team are talking about and make decisions, but not enough to weigh in and participate in the research himself.

Still, he says, he`s learning fast. And if he hasn`t quite found dry land, he says he`s beyond just treading water.

"I haven`t drowned yet," says Lee.

SEE ALSO: This Facebook recruiting initiative turned a psychology major into a sought-after product manager

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NOW WATCH: We asked Jamie Dimon why JPMorgan is forming a new healthcare company with Amazon and Berkshire Hathaway — here`s what he said


  • Spotify filed to go public Wednesday in a "Direct IPO."
  • In its SEC paperwork, Spotify used the example of Lorde to show how it could launch a music artist`s career.
  • Spotify says Sean Parker helped catapult Lorde to stardom by putting her on his playlist, "Hipster International."

Spotify filed to go public on Wednesday (in a weird way), and the music-streaming giant used the opportunity to take credit for launching pop star Lorde`s career.

In its SEC paperwork, Spotify emphasized that it could help both emerging and established artists by allowing their music to be discovered. 

"One prominent example of how Spotify enabled an aspiring artist to reach a global audience is international pop star Lorde," Spotify wrote.

Here`s how Spotify describes Lorde`s rise to stardom:

"Lorde started out as a singer-songwriter from New Zealand looking to break out with her new single, `Royals,` when Sean Parker added her single to his popular playlist Hipster International. After approximately one month, Lorde had jumped past prominent artists such as Katy Perry, Drake, and Lady Gaga to land at the top of Spotify’s Viral Chart, and after eight months, she had reached over 100 million streams on Spotify and was #1 on the Billboard Hot 100."

According to Spotify, we need to add another accolade to tech disrupter Sean Parker`s already long resume. After founding Napster when he was a teen, Parker went on to become the president of Facebook (before stepping down), and an early investor and board member at Spotify. Then in 2013, using his ironically named Spotify playlist, "Hipster International" (which currently has 748,778 followers), he shot Lorde to the heights of Katy Perry, Drake, and Lady Gaga.

"I feel like in many ways she`s the antidote to disposable pop music," Parker told Forbes at the time. "I feel like it was accessible to the same people who listen to Katy Perry, for instance, but there`s obviously something more authentic and personal to Lorde`s music. I got the sense she represents the return to a singer-songwriter approach to songwriting, and yet she has a knack for writing incredibly infectious melodies."

While the extent to which Spotify`s existence allowed Lorde to become a star can be debated, it is clear that a placement on Spotify`s prominent playlists (like RapCaviar) can help boost an artist`s profile.

It is also evident that Spotify wants to position itself to investors as a service that is good for artists, and can help jumpstart their careers.

SEE ALSO: Spotify, the music streaming service that`s crushing Apple Music, just filed to go public in a very weird way

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CAIRO – 1 March 2018: First Deputy Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLO) Ahmed Bahr discussed Wednesday in a meeting with an Egyptian security delegation efforts to end the Palestinian division, which causes a great suffering to the Gaza Strip’s residents.

During the meeting, Bahr briefed the Egyptian delegation on recent measures taken by Hamas to support Cairo’s good offices for achieving reconciliation among Palestinian factions.

The PLO is willing to exert more efforts and remove any obstacle to the mission of the Egyptian delegation, calling on the Palestinian authority to make concessions for the sake of reconciliation, Bahr said in a statement carried by the council’s media office.

For its part, the security delegation said Cairo pays great attention to the Palestinian cause, asserting that Palestine’s national security is part and parcel of Egypt’s national security.

Egypt is determined to overcome all hurdles and challenges to bring about the Palestinian reconciliation, the delegation added.
CAIRO- 28 February 2018: President Abdel Fattah El Sisi on Wednesday telephoned Cyril Ramaphosa to congratulate him on becoming South Africa’s new president.

During the phone conversation, president Sisi said Egypt is proud of its close relations with South Africa, asserting that Cairo looks forward to boosting cooperation with Pretoria, presidential spokesman Bassam Radi said in a statement.

Egypt is keen to enhance bilateral coordination with South Africa on various African issues of common concern, Sisi told Ramaphosa, the statement noted.

For his part, Ramaphosa thanked Sisi for his phone call, expressing his country’s willingness to cement distinguished ties with Egypt, as well as strengthening bilateral coordination and consultation on different regional issues, the statement added.

Also, the two leaders tackled a number of topics related to bilateral relations and the latest developments in some African states, the statement read.

At the end of the call, they extended invitations to exchange visits, the statement read.
RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is expected to travel to the United States for a visit from March 19 to the first week of April, a Saudi official said on Wednesday.
CARACAS (Reuters) - Presidential election candidate Henri Falcon said on Wednesday he would like a Wall Street economist, who promotes dollarization to end hyper-inflation in Venezuela, to play a major role in his team if victorious.

Bethesda Maryland

  • A new report suggests the economic impact of Amazon`s HQ2 could be larger than anyone previously thought.
  • The report was compiled by Sage Policy Group and commissioned by Montgomery County and the Maryland Department of Commerce.
  • Maryland`s Montgomery County was named to Amazon`s short list of HQ2 contenders and is seen as something of a frontrunner in part because of its proximity to Washington, DC.
  • The report bodes well for localities looking to up the ante in the fight for HQ2.

Amazon`s second headquarters could bring big benefits to its chosen location.

A new study by the Baltimore-based Sage Policy Group predicts that the total impact of Amazon coming to town would be 17 billion in economic benefit per year for the state of Maryland, if it were to be chosen for HQ2. 

That includes 7.7 billion in new wages for the state to add to its tax roll, plus 101,000 new jobs. All of these potential benefits would be ongoing once the company`s new headquarters is fully established, according to the study.

It was commissioned by Montgomery County and the Maryland Department of Commerce and is based on projections for when the new headquarters is fully operational.

"Amazon`s HQ2 is the greatest economic development opportunity in a generation, and this study confirms just how transformative this project could be for Maryland," Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said in a statement.

He added: "From the construction phase, to when the headquarters is fully operational, Maryland would reap unprecedented benefits. We are fully committed to bringing this project home, and we look forward to continuing to work closely with Montgomery County to show Amazon that Maryland is truly Open for Business."

According to projections in the Sage Policy Group study, the new jobs would add 280 million in additional county tax revenue every year for Montgomery County, while the state would receive 483 million in new tax revenue.

Amazon said in its call for proposals that the HQ2 project would be a 5 billion investment over 10 years and offer 50,000 new jobs to the local economy.

The 101,000 new-jobs figure from Sage`s study assumes that the headquarters would provide secondary benefits not included in Amazon`s initial hiring plan. The study used a model that accounts for these indirect impacts, which could include Amazon employees spending their money at local businesses.

The report also measures the impact of the headquarters` construction, which could bring 50,000 jobs and 3 billion in wages on its own. Additionally, it would mean 7.4 billion in other business-related sales in the state. Taken on its own, this phase of HQ2 would add a one-time tax revenue bonus of 110 million for the county, and almost 190 million for the state.

A release by the state notes the study says the project will have "spin-off benefits" for Maryland, including an increase in entrepreneurship in the state, more trade activity in the port of Baltimore, and more international travel through BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport.

Montgomery County is one of three Washington, DC-area locales being considered for Amazon`s HQ2. The other two are Northern Virginia and DC itself.

There have been more than a few hints that Amazon — which last month released a short list of 20 cities it`s considering for HQ2 — is leaning toward putting its second headquarters somewhere in the DC metro area.

Amazon has recently ramped up its lobbying efforts in DC, and its CEO, Jeff Bezos, already has an enormous house there, fit for holding parties and receptions of all kinds. Bezos splits his time between Amazon and The Washington Post, The New York Times reported in a recent profile.

Amazon has said it plans to bring 50,000 jobs to the city it chooses for HQ2 and a total of 5 billion in investments in the local economy over a decade.

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Daniel Ek Spotify

  • Spotify said in its IPO filing that it has 71 million paying subscribers, which it believes is double the number of Apple Music subscribers.
  • Both services cost 9.99/month.
  • The percentage of paying Spotify customers cancelling their subscriptions has decreased since 2015, indicating that they`re not jumping ship for Apple Music or other competitors.

Spotify filed to go public on Wednesday, and it`s putting its rival streaming service Apple Music on notice.

Not only does Spotify appear to have more than twice as many paying users than Apple Music, but fewer Spotify users are jumping ship every year. 

According to its F-1 filing, Spotify says that it was had 159 monthly users and 71 million premium subscribers as of December 31, 2017. That`s almost double the subscribers of Apple Music, its largest competitor, which has 36 million subscribers globally, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month.

"With a presence in 61 countries and territories and growing, our platform includes 159 million MAUs and 71 million Premium Subscribers as of December 31, 2017, which we believe is nearly double the scale of our closest competitor, Apple Music," writes Spotify in the filing. Both services cost a base rate of 9.99 a month.

The filing also points out "premium churn" — the rate at which premium subscribers cancel their Spotify subscriptions — is decreasing every year, indicating that Spotify hasn`t been losing users to Apple Music or any other competitor. In the fourth quarter of 2015, the year Apple Music launched, Spotify saw premium churn of 7.5%. By 2017, that was down to 5.1% over the same period.

Spotify also says that it believes its Family Plan and Student Plan initiatives, which offer monthly subscriptions for families and students at a reduced price, will cause the number of cancellations to trend downwards over time.

While Apple may be lagging behind Spotify overall, it`s still gaining ground fast. According to The Journal, Apple Music is expected to surpass Spotify in the U.S. this summer. And Apple Music is available in 114 countries, while Spotify is only available in 61.

But in its bid to go public, Spotify is letting would-be investors know that the rise of Apple hasn`t stopped it from topping the streaming music business. And it`s showing no signs of slowing down.

SEE ALSO: Spotify, the music streaming service that`s crushing Apple Music, just filed to go public in a very weird way

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