Monthly Archive: April 2019

Samsung Delays Launch of Folding Galaxy Smartphone

Samsung said Monday it was delaying the launch of its folding smartphone after trouble with handsets sent to reviewers.

Some reviewers who got their hands on the Galaxy Fold early reported problems with screens breaking.

Samsung said it decided to put off this week’s planned release of the Fold after some reviews “showed us how the device needs further improvements.”

The South Korean consumer electronics giant planned to announce a new release date for the Galaxy Fold in the coming weeks.

Initial analysis of reported problems with Galaxy Fold screens showed they could be “associated with impact on the top and bottom exposed areas of the hinge,” Samsung said.

There was also an instance where unspecified “substances” were found inside a Galaxy Fold smartphone with a troubled display, according to the company.

“We will take measures to strengthen the display protection,” Samsung said.

“We will also enhance the guidance on care and use of the display including the protective layer.”

A handful of U.S.-based reporters were given the flagship Galaxy Fold phones, priced at $1,980, ahead of the model’s official release, and they reported screen issues within days of using the devices.

Samsung spent nearly eight years developing the Galaxy Fold, which is part of the leading smartphone maker’s strategy to propel growth with groundbreaking gadgets.

The company essentially gave reviewers a “beta product” without enough information, such as not to peel off a protective coating meant to be permanent, according to independent technology analyst Rob Enderle.

“It was all avoidable for a company the size of Samsung,” Enderle said.

The failure of a “halo product” meant to showcase innovation and quality could tarnish the brand and send buyers to rivals.

“If a halo product fails, people don’t trust that you build quality stuff,” Enderle said.

“It can do incredible damage. And Huawei is moving up like a rocket, so this could be good for Huawei.”

Surviving life

Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi told AFP that a Galaxy Fold she reviewed worked fine, performing even in sometimes messy situations that arise in everyday life.

She wondered if some problems with smartphones reviewed were due to dust, moisture or other material getting into handsets through small openings at the tops and bottoms of hinges.

“If stuff gets in there, it can make its way under the screen,” Milanesi said.

“There seems to be a kind of real-life test that maybe didn’t occur.”

Testing folding phones in a lab is a much different scenario than challenging them “in the wild” where they need to endure pockets, handbags, greasy food, spilled coffee and more, the analyst noted.

Samsung may also need to do more to convey how folding screens warrant more careful handling than stiff displays that have been improved over generations of smartphones.

Milanesi did not expect a slight delay in the launch of the Galaxy Fold to be a major setback for Samsung, saying that the model was unlikely to be a big driver of sales given its price and that services or apps are still being adapted to the new type of smartphone.

Samsung smartphones tuned to work with super-speedy fifth-generation telecommunications networks are more important to the company’s bottom line on the near horizon, according to the analyst.

“It is still early days for 5G, but that is the product that is going to make a difference for Samsung this year,” Milanesi said.

Samsung is the world’s biggest smartphone maker, and earlier this month launched the 5G version of its top-end Galaxy S10 device.

Adding to Samsung woes

Despite the recent announcements about its new high-end devices, Samsung has warned of a more than 60 percent plunge in first-quarter operating profit in the face of weakening markets.

The firm is also no stranger to device issues.

Its reputation suffered a major blow after a damaging worldwide recall of its Galaxy Note 7 devices over exploding batteries in 2016, which cost the firm billions of dollars and shattered its global brand image.

Samsung originally planned to release the Galaxy Fold as scheduled on April 26.

While Samsung’s device was not the first folding handset, the smartphone giant was expected to help spark demand and potentially revive a sector that has been struggling for new innovations.

Other folding devices have been introduced by startup Royole and by Chinese-based Huawei.

Samsung Electronics is the flagship subsidiary of Samsung Group, by far the biggest of the family-controlled conglomerates that dominate business in the world’s 11th-largest economy, and it is crucial to South Korea’s economic health.

The company has enjoyed record profits in recent years despite a series of setbacks, including the jailing of its de facto chief.



Seeds of Discontent: Argentina’s Farmers Turn Cool on Their Man Macri

Argentine President Mauricio Macri rode to power in 2015 promising to bolster the farming sector and cut back taxes that had stymied exports. The country’s backbone industry welcomed him with open arms after years of export controls aimed at keeping domestic prices low.

The powerful sector is now cooling on the center-right president, frustrated by revived export tariffs and sky-high borrowing rates that have bruised smaller farmers, a concern for Macri ahead of national elections later in the year.

Argentina’s farming sector, which brings in more than half of the export dollars in South America’s second-biggest economy, is a key barometer for Macri, who has sold himself as a champion of business and industry, none more so than the country’s huge soy, wheat and corn farms.

“We publicly supported the administration in the last elections [mid-terms in 2017] as we believed they were managing the policies farmers needed,” said Carlos Iannizzotto, president of the Confederación Intercooperativa Agropecuaria, one of the country’s four major farming bodies. “Today we cannot do the same.”

Reuters spoke to the leaders at all four associations, who collectively make up the influential “Mesa de Enlace” or liaison committee. They cited Macri’s backtracking on cutting taxes on exports and the high cost of credit with interest rates above 60 percent.

The farm lobbies do not directly sway the votes of a huge proportion of voters, analysts and pollsters cautioned, but said that their weakening support was a sharp warning sign for Macri ahead of the October election, which is expected to be closely fought.

Dardo Chiesa, president of a second lobby, the Confederaciones Rurales Argentinas, said farmers had become “disappointed” with Macri’s performance on the economy, with a tumbling peso and inflation running at over 50 percent.

“The first issue in terms of voting this year is the economy, and the reality is that the government’s economic management has not satisfied the sector,” he told Reuters.

‘I wanted change’

Everything had started so well. 

After Macri’s election in 2015 he eliminated export taxes on corn and wheat and lowered those for soy; he also got rid of limits on corn and wheat exports — gaining cheers from farmers.

However, an acute financial crisis last year forced Macri to take a $56.3 billion lifeline from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in return pledging to balance the country’s deficit — including restarting taxes on exports.

In addition, to deal with inflation and protect the peso currency, the government has hiked interest rates to almost 70 percent, choking off the ability of farmers and other small businesses to obtain funds to expand and buy equipment.

Sales of combine harvesters, tractors and seeding machines plummeted last year, government data showed.

“I voted for Macri because I wanted a change, but Macri has really let us down,” Carlos Boffini, who runs a 400-hectare farm in Colón, in the province of Buenos Aires, told Reuters.

“[Macri] spoke about how the export taxes were unfair. Yet here they are again. He was going to get rid of a lot of things and he did not get rid of anything.”

To be sure, not all farmers are turning away from Macri, who is still viewed by many as the most business-friendly candidate.

Daniel Pelegrina, head of Sociedad Rural Argentina, which generally represents larger farming groups, stopped short of giving his direct support for the president but said the government’s policies were roughly in the right direction.

“Argentina needs to be reintegrated and active globally, it needs to have an export-oriented economy,” he said, adding that there is, however, a need to review the high taxes.

If not Macri, then who?

Macri is facing a split field in the elections that start in October before a potential run-off if there is no clear winner.

Likely rivals include ex-President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, whose populist and interventionist policies made her deeply unpopular with farmers. More moderate members of the Peronist opposition include former economy minister Roberto Lavagna and former congressman Sergio Massa.

Carlos Achetone, president of the Federación Agraria Argentina (FAA), the last of the four main agricultural bodies, said many farmers were looking beyond Macri if there was a “third alternative with substance.”

Analysts and farmers, however, said if the election ended up being between Macri and Fernandez — as many polls expect if she runs — then farmers would have little choice about how to vote.

“There is a consensus of not returning to populism. Argentina cannot return to populism,” said Chiesa, referring to Fernandez’s administration which had introduced export quotas on grains and meat to keep domestic prices low for consumers.

Farmer Boffini agreed, adding the sector’s general dislike of the former leader could well be Macri’s saving grace.

“Do you know what Macri’s advantage is? It’s that we don’t like Cristina and so if Cristina shows up and there are no other options, we will simply vote for Macri so that Cristina does not get in,” he said.



Amazon Curtailing Business Operations in China

Amazon says it is curtailing business operations in China, the world’s biggest retail market, after struggling against better entrenched local players for more than a decade.

The company announced recently that as of July 18, it will no longer provide services through its Chinese website, Amazon.cn. The decision means Amazon will stop selling goods from China-based vendors to domestic consumers on the portal. Although it is moving out of the e-retail business in China, Amazon will continue with its cross-border business, bringing foreign brands and goods to China, the company said.

“Their demand for high-quality, authentic goods from around the world continues to grow rapidly, and given our global presence, Amazon is well-positioned to serve them,” the company said.

The announcement has raised questions about the extremely thin presence of foreign companies in internet-related businesses in China, while Chinese companies like Alibaba create market space for themselves across the world.

Amazon’s market share in China has fallen from about 15 percent a decade ago to about 6 percent. Alibaba and another local company, jd.com, account for nearly 75 percent of the Chinese market. Online shopping site eBay earlier moved out of China as it could not make a profit.

China is considered by many as a difficult market for foreign players even without taking into account hindrances caused by government policy. In the case of Amazon, however, analysts said the reasons for its poor performance lie in its not being able to localize to meet the requirements of the market.

Shaun Rein, managing director of Shanghai-based China Market Research Group (CMR), said Amazon’s Chinese platform could not survive because it did not have a strong and stable management team. He does not think Amazon was hampered by government policy.

“I don’t think it is a problem of government protectionism,” he said, adding, “They (Amazon executives) didn’t have the necessary relationship in China and were unable to build the right ecosystem for people to sell on Amazon.”

Getting a large number of local sellers is crucial for an e-commerce platform to provide goods at competitive prices and in sufficient variety to customers.

Jacob Cooke, chief executive officer of consulting firm Web Presence in China, explained that Amazon could not compete with a gigantic local player like Alibaba.

“Alibaba has in-country experience, low costs that are passed on to consumers and unique knowledge of counterfeits / fake items. Additionally, they have market data in China that is superior to Amazon’s,” he said.

Cross-border

Analysts said Amazon has been concentrating on cross-border commerce since realizing that it cannot effectively compete in the “local to local” business of selling Chinese goods to Chinese customers, which accounts for the bulk of e-commerce activity.

“Our belief is that the cross-border business suits Amazon much better, as the “local to local” model is filled by large companies who operate on very low (virtually non-existent) margins,” said Cooke. “We feel that cross-border is exactly where Amazon should focus their efforts in China, based on their strengths.”

Fallout

Foreign internet-based businesses have very little presence in China, which has the biggest number of web users in the world. This is partly because a large number of U.S.-based sites including Google, YouTube and Twitter are banned, while e-commerce companies have walked away. Amazon’s departure will likely only make it harder for other foreign retail companies to succeed there.

“I think it would be very hard for large e-commerce players from foreign countries to build in China. It is still possible for niche players like there are opportunities in luxury space and cross-border trade,” Rein said.

American and European brands will have to depend heavily on local e-commerce companies like Alibaba and jd.com to see their products, analysts said. Although Amazon will continue to sell foreign-made goods, its reach is limited in China because local companies dominate the cross-border trade as well.

“Unfortunately, Alibaba is almost a monopoly in some ways and they have way too much power because they control the eyeballs,” said Rein, adding, “They (Alibaba executives) control traffic so they are able to force Western brands to discount even if Western brands do not want to,”Rein said. “Alibaba controls the relationship with the customer rather than the brand controlling the relationship with the customer.”



Vietnam to Encourage Environmentally Friendly Building Design

Consider that buildings can be designed, in relation to the sun, depending on whether occupants want to maximize the amount of natural light their windows let in, or to minimize the heat absorbed by the building.

Or that they can be built with sensors to detect water leaks, thus reducing the chances that water will be wasted from the start.

More and more architecture students across Vietnam are learning these and other concepts as the country rolls out curriculum on environmentally friendly design. The Southeast Asian nation is still an emerging market, so it has time to build the economy on green standards and to avoid some of the inefficient construction mistakes of older industrialized nations. And as construction is also a major source of greenhouse gas emissions around the world, Vietnam has the chance to adopt a sustainable approach to the industry that could decrease its exposure to the threats of climate change, which is a key concern for the tropical country.

Emphasis on Green education

“Although there have been several seminars and workshops, there are no well-rounded courses on green building for students in Vietnam,” said Nguyen Cong Thinh, who is the vice director of the science, technology, and environment department at the Vietnamese Ministry of Construction. 

But in February his office started working with the Swiss government and the World Bank’s lending agency the International Finance Corporation, bringing exactly these kinds of courses to college campuses. They began with what they call a “training of the trainers,” who learn resource efficiency principles that they can then go on to teach the next generation of builders in Vietnam.

“We are delighted to introduce this course to future architects and engineers in an internationally recognized format that offers a global perspective and a local context,” Thinh said.

For example the participants study ways that structures can be planned to save electricity and water, as well as to be “bioclimatic,” which means that they adapt to the surrounding environment. In the northern capital of Hanoi, it is more useful to firm up insulation and conserve heat to keep people warm in the winter. But in contrast in the southern metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City there are just two seasons — rainy and dry — and not much need to heat buildings. Instead designers can consider how to position southern buildings to take advantage of wind tunnels, which bring natural ventilation in the humid climate, or to soak up sun rays to generate the most solar power possible.

 Environmentally vulnerable

Vietnam counts itself among the top five countries in the world that would be devastated if global warming gets even more severe, especially with its 3,000 kilometers of coast along the South China Sea. As it works to implement an action plan under the Paris Climate Change Accord, the country is looking for ways to mitigate the environmental toll of the fast-growing construction industry, which consumes a lot of sand for cement, electricity, and other building supplies. The construction and industrial sectors expanded 8.8 percent in 2018 versus the year earlier, higher than the overall economy’s expansion of 7 percent, according to data from the property developer Jones Lang Lasalle Vietnam.

Other methods that students are learning to increase design efficiency include use of modeling software, so they can experiment with different eco-friendly technologies before any physical construction begins. They are also studying building codes and standards, as well as the types of construction materials that do the least harm to the environment. 

“In recent times, we have integrated green building into the curriculum of nearly all faculties. However, this course will further help students to become familiar with green building modeling software and present ideas clearly and quantitatively to future clients,” said Dr. Le Van Thuong, who is the rector of the University of Architecture in Ho Chi Minh City.

There are other ideas to improve efficiency whether at the office, the factory, or the home. Increasingly people are installing dual flush toilets, which allow users to choose how much water is dispensed at a time, and shower systems that warm up water before it is released, so they don’t have to let water go to waste as it heats up. And you don’t have to be an architect to add these technologies to a building. 



Постраждалого через обстріл активіста з Кам’янського доправили в обласну лікарню, стан тяжкий

Стан пораненого активіста 33-річного Євгена Найди з Кам’янського важкий, але стабільний. Про це в понеділок Радіо Свобода повідомив головний лікар лікарні швидкої допомоги Кам’янського Ростислав Винар.

За його даними, у понеділок постраждалого перевели з Кам’янського, де його прооперували, до обласної клінічної лікарні імені Мечникова в Дніпрі.

«Можу сказати, що поранення важке, вогнепальне. Поранення кінцівок», – зазначив  Винар.

20 квітня у центрі Кам’янського сталась стрілянина, внаслідок якої постраждало троє людей, серед яких, за даними джерел Радіо Свобода, був 33-річний активіст Євген Найда. У понеділок поліція повідомила, що нападників уже затримали й тримають під вартою. Їм інкримінують статтю 15 та статтю 115 Кримінального кодексу – замах на вбивство.

За даними поліції, нападники цілили в 33-річного чоловіка. Постраждали також двоє випадкових перехожих – чоловік і жінка.

Євген Найда відомий як громадський активіст. У 2015 році балотувався на посаду мера Кам’янського від партії «УКРОП».



5 Algerian Billionaires Arrested in Anti-Graft Investigation

Five Algerian billionaires, some of them close to former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika who quit over mass protests, have been arrested as part of an anti-graft investigation, state TV said on Monday.

They were later brought to court to face charges from the general prosecutor’s office, private Ennahar TV channel said, a legal requirement after an arrest. Further details were not immediately available.

The five are Issad Rebrab, considered the richest businessman in the energy-rich north African nation who is especially active in the food and sugar refining business, and four brothers from the Kouninef family, it said.

Rebrab is chairman of the family-owned Cevital company, which imports raw sugar from Brazil and exports white sugar to Tunisia, Libya and other destinations in the Middle East.

The Kouninef family is close to Bouteflika, who ruled Algeria for 20 years. Bouteflika stepped down three weeks ago, bowing to pressure from the army and weeks of demonstrations by mainly younger Algerians seeking change.

There was no immediate statement from those arrested.

The move came after Algeria’s army chief, Lieutenant General Gaid Salah, said last week he expected members of the ruling elite in the country to be prosecuted for corruption.

An Algerian court has already summoned former prime minister Ahmed Ouyahia and current Finance Minister Mohamed Loukal, two close associates of Bouteflika, in an investigation into suspected misuse of public money, state TV said on Saturday.

Mass protests, which began on Feb. 22 and have been largely peaceful, have continued after Bouteflika’s resignation as many want the removal of the entire elite that has governed Algeria since independence from France in 1962. They also want the prosecution of people they see as corrupt.

Bouteflika has been replaced by Abdelkader Bensalah, head of the upper house of parliament, as interim president for 90 days until a presidential election is held on July 4.

Hundreds of thousands protested on Friday to demand the resignation of Bensalah and other top officials.

Bensalah invited civil society and political parties on Monday to discuss the transition to elections but several parties and activists said they would not participate.

The army has so far patiently monitored the mostly peaceful protests that at times have swelled to hundreds of thousands of people. It remains the most powerful institution in Algeria, having swayed politics from the shadows for decades.

Salah said on April 16 that the military was considering all options to resolve the political crisis and warned that “time is running out.”

It was a hint that the military was losing patience with the popular upheaval shaking Algeria, a major oil and natural-gas exporter and an important security partner for the West against Islamist militants in north and west Africa.



З початку доби загинув один український військовий, ще одного поранено – штаб

З початку поточної доби, 22 квітня, бойовики на Донбасі 11 разів обстріляли позиції СЗУ, двічі застосувавши заборонене Мінськими домовленостями озброєння. Про це повідомили у штабі операції Об’єднаних сил.

Внаслідок обстрілів один український військовослужбовець загинув та ще один отримав поранення.

«На ворожі провокації підрозділи Об’єднаних сил дали адекватну відповідь. Втрати противника уточнюються», – мовиться у повідомленні.

У збройному угрупованні «ДНР» стверджують, що в селищі Олександрівка на заході Донецька внаслідок обстрілу ЗСУ було пошкоджено будинок.

Збройний конфлікт на Донбасі триває від 2014 року після російської окупації Криму. Україна і Захід звинувачують Росію у збройній підтримці бойовиків. Кремль відкидає ці звинувачення і заявляє, що на Донбасі можуть перебувати хіба що російські «добровольці».

За даними ООН, станом на кінець грудня 2018 року, за час конфлікту загинули близько 13 тисяч людей, майже 30 тисяч – поранені.



Підозрюваних у замаху на вбивство активіста в Кам’янському арештували

Поліція затримала двох підозрюваних у стрілянині в центрі Кам’янського, внаслідок якої постраждало троє людей, повідомили Радіо Свобода 22 квітня в прес-службі Кам’янського відділу поліції.

За даними поліції, двоє підозрюваних на авто були затримані в Дніпрі. Ними виявились жителі Дніпропетровської та Харківської областей. Їм вже обрали запобіжний захід – тримання під вартою.

За даними поліції, кримінальне провадження відкрите частиною 2 статті 15 та частиною 2 статті 155 Кримінального кодексу України – замах на вбивство. У поліції вважають, що замах на вбивство був скоєний щодо 33-річного жителя Кам’янського. Ще двоє людей постраждали випадково.

«Мотиви будуть встановлені під час проведення досудового розслідування», – сказали в поліції.

Правоохоронці даних про особу постраждалого 33-річного жителя не дають. За даними джерел Радіо Свобода, це – громадський активіст Євген Найда, який на виборах 2015 року балотувався мери від партії «УКРОП».

Загалом, як уточнили в поліції, нападники здійснили чотири постріли.

За даними поліції, усі троє постраждалих ще перебувають у лікарні, але їхній стан стабільний.



Один український військовий поранений внаслідок обстрілу на Донбасі – штаб ООС

Один український військовий поранений 21 квітня внаслідок обстрілу з боку підтримуваних Росією бойовиків на Донбасі, повідомляє прес-центр штабу операції Об’єднаних сил.

За повідомленням, від початку доби підтримувані Росією бойовики один раз порушили режим тиші й обстріляли позиції українських військових з автоматичних станкових гранатометів, автоматичної стрілецької та снайперської зброї біля Катеринівки.

Підтримуване Росією угруповання «ДНР» звинуватило Збройні сили України в обстрілах, про поранених не повідомляють. В угрупованні «ЛНР» про обстріли 21 квітня не повідомляють.

На Донбасі від 8 березня діє новий режим тиші, про який домовилися на засіданні Тристоронньої контактної групи в Мінську. Цього разу, як і раніше, перемир’я не дотримується і порушувалося відразу в перші години після проголошення.

Збройний конфлікт на Донбасі триває від 2014 року після російської окупації Криму. Україна і Захід звинувачують Росію у збройній підтримці бойовиків. Кремль відкидає ці звинувачення і заявляє, що на Донбасі можуть перебувати хіба що російські «добровольці».

За даними ООН, станом на кінець грудня 2018 року, за час конфлікту загинули близько 13 тисяч людей, майже 30 тисяч – поранені.




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