Wednesday, 26 October 2016

No Man's Sky

No Man's Sky [NMS] is a computer game first appeared on consoles then ported to the PC platform.

NMS has had a troubled history, when first released it appeared to be a tenth of what had previously been advertised and the port to PC did not go well.

No Man's Sky, over the course of few months, have been under criticisms for a whole lot of reasons. From the game being a product of false advertisements down to the studio's recent investigation from ASA [Advertising Standards Authority], these have all been a nightmare for Murray and his team. And surprisingly, with all the on-going buzz about the title, the people behind the game didn't even bother to speak up or whatsoever. Their silence even started way back when people have started complaining about NMS.

The ASA has the power to have advertisements it believes are in breach of its code of conduct withdrawn, and prevent them from appearing again. If an advertiser refuses to comply with an ASA ruling, it can impose sanctions, such as asking internet search websites to remove a marketer's paid-for search ads.

Neither Sony nor Hello Games offered anything close to that level of candour about the game at all, much less addressing the dropped features or less than spectacular  launch of the PlayStation 4 and PC versions of the game.

The inability of either company to communicate anything about the game is destroying how players see it. A number of outlets ran stories about how the concurrent number of players for No Man’s Sky was dropping, and how terrible that was.

The latest ignominy for Hello Games is that their Head Office has been abandoned.

It does not bode well for the future.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Trump's first 100 days

In the same place where Abraham Lincoln delivered one of the most iconic speeches in American history, Donald Trump unveiled his 100-day action plan to Make America Great Again.

“We are a very divided nation,” he told the crowd of local Republicans, adding that “I am a politician and have never wanted to be a politician, but when I saw the trouble our country was in, I knew I could not stand by and watch any longer.”

Describing himself as an outsider who also understands the inner mechanics of our “very broken system,” Trump said that he is capable of delivering “the kind of change that only arrives once in a lifetime.”

Saturday’s speech was slated as an opportunity for the Republican presidential nominee to offer some specific details on how exactly he plans to enact such change. However, Trump spent the first 14 minutes or so railing against what he claims is a 'rigged system', warning against the widely debunked threat of voter fraud and accusing everyone from Democratic rival Hillary Clinton to the FBI, AT&T, Amazon and, above all, the media of corruption.

“They are trying desperately to suppress my vote,” he said. “They are trying to poison the mind of the American voter.”

Before outlining the list of actions he plans to take after his inauguration, Trump first announced what he intends to do immediately after the election: sue each of the women who’ve publicly accused him of sexual assault, unwanted groping, kissing and other inappropriate behaviour.

Trump also listed seven actions he’ll be talking to protect American workers on his first day in office, which include announcing his intention to totally renegotiate NAFTA, which he has announced in virtually every stump speech and debate throughout his campaign, as well as withdrawing the country from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the controversial trade deal that has not yet been ratified by the U.S.

On day one, Trump vowed also to begin deporting criminal illegal immigrants [drug dealers, gang heads, killers] and suspend immigration from terror-prone regions where vetting cannot safely occur, warning that radical Islamic terror is right around the corner.

Perhaps most notable is the End Illegal Immigration Act, which, he said, “fully funds the construction of a wall on our southern border“.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Is the next financial crisis going to be a surprise?

As central banks around the world pump billions of dollars into the global economy every month and policy makers pass regulations to safeguard against a relapse of the 2008 financial crisis, the market’s best and brightest say some warning signals are flashing at precisely the wrong time. Now, rules to shore up the money-market fund industry that kicked in Friday are stifling the predictive powers of yet another set of gauges. For investors, the big worry is they will end up being taken by surprise when the next crisis hits.

Libor, the rate banks charge each other for dollar loans ranging from one day to one year, has surged to levels not seen since the financial crisis, even as the Fed has left interest rates unchanged this year. Rather than signalling a credit stress event as it once might have, the spike is the result of structural changes.

The new money-market rules have driven about $1 trillion from funds that buy the short-term debt of banks and corporations into those that invest in safer securities such as U.S. Treasury bills. As a result, banks’ unsecured lending rates have soared. Three-month Libor reached 0.88% Wednesday after touching the highest since 2009 last week. The contortions are also seen in Libor’s spread with other rates. The difference between Libor and the overnight index swap rate, another measure of bank funding stress that isolates credit risk, is at the widest since 2012.

Just last month, analysts at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. reminded investors how the so-called TED spread [which tracks the difference between Libor and the yield on similar-maturity Treasury bills] has lost its ability to foreshadow funding stress. They removed it from the bank’s proprietary financial conditions index.

Analysts are losing faith in the U.S. yield curve, a tool used to forecast the direction of the economy, as it signals a recession that many see as premature. The curve is created by tracing a line through yields on bonds of different maturities. Normally, longer-maturity debt has higher yields than short-dated securities. When that inverts, it is seen as a sign the economy is at risk of contracting. In fact, it has happened before each of the past seven recessions.

While the curve has yet to invert, it has flattened significantly. Strategists say the shift is the product of disentanglement between financial markets and macro-economics. The gap between yields on two- and 30-year Treasuries touched 1.4 percentage points on Aug. 30, the lowest since 2008.

In an even more esoteric corner of the market, a proxy for credit risk called the swap spread has been turned on its head not once but twice in recent months. The gap between the rate on interest-rate swaps and similar-maturity Treasury yields, another measure of bank credit quality, has been negative for most maturities for much of the past year as regulations made it cheaper and safer to use derivatives to hedge risk and more onerous and expensive for bond dealers to trade, hold and finance government debt on their balance sheets.

If that wasn’t enough, near-term swap spreads have swung back above zero this year -- not because conditions are normalizing, but rather due to money-market rule changes that are increasing banks’ borrowing costs in an already distorted market.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Syria today

This is to give a mention to one of the bravest women on the planet.

Asmaa is a 38 year old White Helmet volunteer living and working in Daraa, the city known for sparking the peaceful uprising in Syria in 2011. Punished for rising up, the city is often cut off from food, medicine and aid. Its residents do everything they can to save each other.

Before the revolution Asmaa worked as a physiotherapist in her own clinic. When the revolution began and protesters were shot by snipers, she started working as a paramedic, rushing to where the bullets were being fired. She was arrested several times by the regime for her humanitarian work. Every time, she went back to treating wounded protesters and those who needed her. Eventually, the regime destroyed her clinic.

Asmaa joined the White Helmets [Syria Civil Defence] in 2015. For her it was a big change: “Before when I worked alone I had only my legs to carry me to the scenes of attacks, or on a lucky day someone would offer a ride on their motorcycle or in their car. Now it’s easier to save people’s lives because there is an entire team of brave humanitarians and an equipped ambulance to get us to those who need us quickly. All that matters to me is that I can help the victims of bombs.”

The thing that keeps Asmaa going is knowing she has the support of her family and community. Asmaa’s father was suffering from a treatable heart condition, but living under siege he lacked the medicine he needed to stay alive. Before he died he would see the work she was doing and tell her “God bless you, God protect you”.

While we wait for politicians to grow a backbone and act to protect civilians, there are very real things we can do to support heroes like Asmaa. The White Helmets need more equipment to save lives, they need to know that if they are wounded they can get medical treatment, or if the worst happens their families will be looked after.

The White Helmets missed out on the Nobel Peace Prize this year, let us mot forget Asmaa and her team mates.

Monday, 17 October 2016

A bank's image

Britain's banks are not reporting the full extent of cyber attacks to regulators for fear of punishment or bad publicity, a recent story by Reuters has shown.

Reported attacks on financial institutions in Britain have risen from just 5 in 2014 to 75 so far this year, data from Britain's Financial Conduct Authority [FCA] show. However, bankers and experts in cyber-security say many more attacks are taking place. In fact, banks are under almost constant attack.

Banks are not obliged to reveal every such instance as cyber attacks fall under the FCA's provision for companies to report any event that could have a material impact, unlike in the U.S. where forced disclosure makes reporting more consistent.

Banks are not alone in their reluctance to disclose every cyber attack. Of the five million fraud and 2.5 million cyber-related crimes occurring annually in the UK, only 250,000 are being reported, government data show. A report published in May by Marsh and industry lobby group TheCityUK concluded that Britain’s financial sector should create a cyber forum comprising bank board members and risk officers to promote better information sharing.

Security experts said that while reporting all low level attacks such as email "phishing" attempts would overload authorities with unnecessary information, some banks are not sharing data on more harmful intrusions because of concerns about regulatory action or damage to their brand.

The most serious recent known attack was on the global SWIFT messaging network in February, but staff from five firms that provide cyber security products and advice to banks in Britain told Reuters they have seen first-hand examples of banks choosing not to report breaches, despite the FCA making public pleas for them to do so, the most recent in September.

The Bank of England has declined to comment and the FCA has also not responded to requests for comment from journalists.