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An Emerging-Market Evolution – Seeking Alpha

Posted: February 19, 2017 at 11:20 am

The way investors think about emerging markets has been evolving-along with the markets themselves. One thing we at Templeton Emerging Markets Group emphasize is that one can’t consider emerging markets as one asset class; the opportunities are very differentiated between regions, countries and markets, with different fundamentals shaping them. Here, I’ve invited Stephen Dover, managing director and chief investment officer of Templeton Emerging Markets Group and Franklin Local Asset Management, to share his view of how emerging markets have changed over time, how he thinks investors should think about them, and where he sees potential opportunities ahead.

By Stephen H. Dover, CFA, Managing Director

I think emerging markets are appropriately named-they are indeed emerging and have changed over time. With these changes, I believe the way people both think about and invest in the asset class also should evolve.

One example of the evolution we have seen is in regard to market capitalization (market cap). In 1988, when the MSCI Emerging Markets Index was first launched, just two of the 10 countries in the index-Malaysia and Brazil-represented more than half of the index’s market cap.1 At that time, the entire market cap of the index was about $35 billion (all values in USD unless otherwise noted), representing less than 1% of the world’s equity-market capitalization.2

If we fast-forward to 2016, there were 23 countries in the index, and the market cap had grown to $4 trillion, representing about 10% of world market capitalization.3 The mix of countries in the index has also evolved over time. In terms of country weights, today, India represents 8% of the MSCI Emerging Markets Index and China-which wasn’t represented at all in 1998-is nearly 27% of the index today. Meanwhile, Brazil’s representation is much less today, at only 8%.4

What constitutes an emerging market has also changed significantly over time, but the waters in emerging markets have not always been very clear.

South Korea has been the subject of some debate in this regard. MSCI includes South Korea in the emerging-markets category, while another index provider, the FTSE Russell, considers it a developed market. This issue is quite important, as which countries are in which category and at what percentage in the indexes help determine how many investors position their portfolios. We have seen countries shift in and out of emerging-market status over time. For example, in 2013, MSCI reclassified Greece from developed to emerging-market status, and in 2016, MSCI announced Pakistan will be reclassified this year as an emerging market from frontier status.5

It really boils down to how one defines “emerging market,” and there is some disagreement about exactly what the criteria should be. MSCI and FTSE have their own criteria for inclusion in a particular index, including explicit requirements for market size and liquidity, a country’s openness to foreign ownership, foreign exchange and other aspects.

If you were to follow the World Bank’s standards as to which countries are classified as “high-income” to determine developed-market status, you’d wind up with a very different set of constituents than the index providers-for example, Qatar’s per-capita income ranks above that of Australia, Denmark and the United States.6

That said, we at Templeton Emerging Markets Group are active managers and not confined to a particular benchmark classification or index weighting when we make our investment decisions. We employ a bottom-up approach and focus on the fundamentals we see in individual companies. We may even invest in a company that is located in a country considered to be developed-if the bulk of its profits come from emerging markets.

Emerging Markets-Taking a Bigger Piece of the World’s Pie

While emerging markets currently represent at least 10% of the world’s stock-market capitalization (based on MSCI indexes), in our various discussions with investors, we have found most have a smaller percentage of their portfolios invested in emerging markets. And worth noting, the 10% figure represents the traditional MSCI indexes-other measures of emerging-market capitalization show emerging markets more broadly represent an even higher percentage.

We also have found that even though the world has become much more globalized, many investors still exhibit a “home-country bias,” investing solely within their own borders even if markets elsewhere look more promising. We see room for growth in the emerging-markets realm-and a great potential opportunity for diversification that many investors aren’t even considering. We also see many potential opportunities within frontier-market countries, many of which aren’t even included in global indexes. These markets represent a smaller subset of emerging markets that are even less developed, and include most countries on the African continent.

Looking at other measures, we can see just how important emerging markets are to the global economy. Today, emerging markets represent nearly 50% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) measured in nominal terms (nearly 60% when using purchasing-power parity) and account for nearly 80% of global GDP growth.7

Changing Economies

Emerging markets have also undergone structural changes. Over the past three decades, emerging markets largely achieved their phenomenal growth through exports-and many people have associated these markets with commodities. While many emerging-market countries still rely on exports, these economies are radically changing. As recently as 2008, commodities and materials stocks constituted 50% of the components of the MSCI Emerging Markets Index. Today, that category represents about 15% of the stocks in the index. To us, what’s really exciting about this shift is that it opens up many more investment opportunities that are focused on consumption and services.

Many investors may not realize that some very sophisticated information technology companies are based in emerging markets. In 2008, information technology (IT) companies represented about 7% of the MSCI Emerging Markets Index, and today, the sector represents 24% of the index-in fact, the top four constituents by weight are IT companies. Consumer/consumption-oriented stocks represented 7% of the index in 2008; today their weighting is 17%. So it is really not accurate to say emerging markets are pure commodity plays anymore, even though many people still consider them to be driven by the whims of commodity prices.

The weakness we have seen in many emerging-market currencies is something we think also strengthens our investment case. The U.S. dollar is at a 15-year high and some predict it could strengthen even more as the Federal Reserve is expected to continue to raise interest rates as inflation picks up. In our view, emerging-market currencies have been quite weak-in some cases, unjustifiably so. We see this as supportive. Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Indonesia and Malaysia are all examples of countries with currencies trading at what could be considered distressed levels-priced as if those economies are in great crisis. The fundamentals tell a different story. We believe the fundamentals in these countries look much better than their currency prices are reflecting.

Additionally, we believe inflation appears poised to drop in many emerging-market countries, including Brazil, Russia, Colombia and Nigeria, and this allows their central banks to pursue more accommodative monetary policy, which could stimulate local equity markets.

More Reasons Why We’re Optimistic

Despite some uncertainties, we see opportunity in emerging markets in 2017 and are optimistic many investors will see value in making greater allocations to them. GDP growth is expected to outpace that of developed markets, with the International Monetary Fund projecting growth of 4.5% in emerging and developing economies versus 1.9% in developed markets this year.8 We see evidence that earnings growth in emerging markets could likely be higher than in developed markets, too. Emerging markets have been lagging in regard to earnings growth, but 2016 marked the first time in more than five years they outperformed developed markets. We think there’s still quite a bit of room for emerging markets to further catch-up.

And finally, the United States is near full employment and President Donald Trump’s administration has proposed some policies that appear stimulative for economic growth, including potential tax cuts and fiscal spending. History has shown us that in general, a strong U.S. economy is positive for emerging markets. Even if we do see some reduction in trade on a marginal level, we think an expansion in the global economy is likely to help emerging markets. And, as noted, emerging markets that are more domestically driven should be more insulated against global shocks in other markets.

Emerging markets are in fact, emerging, and we see many opportunities ahead in 2017.

If you’d like to hear more of the misconceptions about emerging markets, and opportunities our team sees, I encourage you to check out our team’s new emerging-markets podcast.

CFA and Chartered Financial Analyst are trademarks owned by CFA Institute.

Stephen Dover’s and Mark Mobius’s comments, opinions and analyses are for informational purposes only and should not be considered individual investment advice or recommendations to invest in any security or to adopt any investment strategy. Because market and economic conditions are subject to rapid change, comments, opinions and analyses are rendered as of the date of the posting and may change without notice. The material is not intended as a complete analysis of every material fact regarding any country, region, market, industry, investment or strategy.

Important Legal Information

All investments involve risks, including the possible loss of principal. Investments in foreign securities involve special risks including currency fluctuations, economic instability and political developments. Investments in emerging markets, of which frontier markets are a subset, involve heightened risks related to the same factors, in addition to those associated with these markets’ smaller size, lesser liquidity and lack of established legal, political, business and social frameworks to support securities markets. Because these frameworks are typically even less developed in frontier markets, as well as various factors including the increased potential for extreme price volatility, illiquidity, trade barriers and exchange controls, the risks associated with emerging markets are magnified in frontier markets. Stock prices fluctuate, sometimes rapidly and dramatically, due to factors affecting individual companies, particular industries or sectors, or general market conditions.

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Hospitality Industry Welcomes Helpful Automation – VDARE.com

Posted: at 11:09 am

Hotel management has reacted positively toward the improved capabilities of robots suitable for their industry. A recent confab of the hospitality industry highlighted the new automation becoming available to perform more challenging tasks.

Robot bellhops are already in use in some Marriott hotels and elsewhere.

One of the machines in the pipeline is a robot maid, which would be very attractive technology for hotels because of their need for cleaning staff. A May 2015 Bureau of Labor Statistics report on Maids and Housekeeping Cleaners found 926,240 persons employed in that category, many in hotels.

The Maidbot looks like an industrial strength Roomba in the following video, but advances are sure to be developed. In the meantime, a human maid can clean the bathroom counter and collect the towels while the robot vacuum does the floors, thereby speeding up the process. So fewer human maids will be needed.

Sadly, the government seems oblivious to the approaching automation juggernaut and how it will decimate Americas employment universe in the not so distant future. The only bright light in Washington has been the Senate bill limiting total immigration from Senators Cotton and Purdue.

However, the senators RAISE Act would merely cut legal immigration in half, which is not nearly enough, given tech experts projections for a jobless future. Oxford researchers forecast in 2013 that nearly half of American jobs were vulnerable to machine or software replacement within 20 years. Rice University computer scientist Moshe Vardi warns of a dystopian future in 30 years when humans become largely obsolete and world joblessness stands at 50 percent. The Gartner tech advising company believes that one-third of jobs will be done by machines by 2025. Forrester Research Inc. has a more optimistic view, that there will be a net job loss of 7 percent by 2025 from automation but thats still a serious deficit when more jobs are needed as population increases.

Given a future of mass unemployment that would make the Great Depression look like a hiccup, immigration needs to be retired as an obsolete government policy, along with homesteading.

Robots the talk of tech innovations at hospitality summit , Travel Weekly, February 02, 2017

LOS ANGELES Hotel robots that perform tasks like delivering amenities to guests or cleaning rooms will be the norm within the next five years, panelists at the Americas Lodging Investment Summit (ALIS) held here last week predicted.

The anticipated growth in hotel robots was largely attributed to falling technology costs and guests becoming more accustomed to the concept.

Early hotel adopters say devices such as Saviokes Relay robot and Maidbot are gaining favor because they are efficient at both delivering items such as toiletries and bottled water to guests and cleaning rooms. They are also a novelty among family travelers.

Executives with both larger hotel owners like Host Hotels and smaller counterparts like Southern California-based Seaview Investors both expressed satisfaction on the ALIS panels with their early trials of the robots.

We feel that it pays for itself, more from a guest-satisfaction standpoint than from labor savings, said ALIS panelist moderator and Seaview Investors president Robert Alter. Seaview has used a Relay robot at his companys Residence Inn Los Angeles LAX for the past 18 months.

Host Hotels managing director Michael Lentz, said, Were testing Maidbots for cleaning rooms. You have to think in years ahead that there are opportunities to reduce our operating costs.

Front and center at the conference was Saviokes Relay robotic butler, which debuted as Botlr at select properties under then-Starwood Hotels Aloft brand in 2014.

Panelist and Savioke chief robot whisperer Tessa Lau said hotels typically lease a Relay for about $2,000 a month (the company does not sell the robots) and the device, on average, performs a front-desk-to-room delivery of smaller products like toothpaste or bottled water in less than four minutes. Lau, too, alluded to the novelty factor, noting that many families with kids take robot selfies.

Robotics was among the most topical subjects at the conference, where much of the on-stage discussions focused on technology and the concept of the hotel of the future. With amenities such as free WiFi having long been made essential and services such as keyless entry via mobile device expected to accelerate across the industry during the next few years, service robots, along with amenities like virtual reality tours of hotel properties, were discussed as the next wave of hospitality technology.

Meanwhile, Marriott International used the conference to illustrate how it has taken the torch from acknowledged technology innovator Starwood Hotels (which Marriott acquired last September) by building its Innovation Lab at the conference to show off the latest developments under its Aloft and Element select-service brands.

The use of such technology is considered more and more essential for effectively serving guests. This week, software giant Oracle will release a study undertaken by Phocuswright (a sister company to Travel Weekly) outlining how guests want hotel operators to deploy technology. Of the 2,700 U.S. and European travelers polled, almost half said hotels should use technology to perform services such as enabling guests to select a specific room location or providing in-destination activity choices. About a third said technology should be used to facilitate service requests for in-room items such as coffee, pillows or toiletries. Still, just where the line falls between effective and invasive or even creepy remains to be seen.

We feel like people are suffering from digital overload, said Niki Leondakis, CEO of hotels and resorts for Two Roads Hospitality, which oversees Destination Hotels and the Thompson Hotels and Joie de Vivre groups.

We want to get back to hospitality, back to the human touch.

We wouldnt necessarily see robots replacing team members, because were in the business of hospitality, added panelist and Hilton Worldwides chief marketing officer, Geraldine Calpin.

Still, while even a technology-oriented person such as Lau acknowledged that the cornerstone of hotel service will continue to be based on human interaction, she added that hotels risk obsolescence by ignoring advances in areas such as robotics, data tracking and communications.

I would love to talk to a person when it matters, Lau said. But a lot of the hospitality service parts are more amenable to automation.

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How the Equihash Algorithm Could Democratize Zcash Mining – Bitcoin Magazine

Posted: February 17, 2017 at 12:55 am

Mining centralization is probably one of the biggest challenges digital currencies face.

Many of Bitcoins properties, such as censorship resistance and double-spend protection, rely to a large extent on a decentralized mining landscape. But over the years, the Bitcoin mining system has increasingly centralized into fewer hands and fewer geographical regions. There are several explanations for this trend. But one of them is the emergence of specialized mining hardware: ASIC chips and miners.

In an attempt to solve this issue, scientists at the University of Luxembourgs Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust (SnT) have developed a mathematical algorithm called Equihash. Equihash is the brainchild of Prof. Alex Biryukov, head of SnT research group CryptoLUX focused on research and technology transfer in cryptology and CryptoLUX researcher Dr. Dmitry Khovratovich. The algorithm was first unveiled at the Network and Distributed System Security Symposium 2016 in San Diego.

Probably its most significant success to date, Zcash, the new decentralized and open-source digital currency that aims to set a new standard for privacy and anonymity through the use of groundbreaking cryptography, announced the integration of Equihash in April 2016. In a post titled Why Equihash?, Zcash founder Zooko Wilcox and engineer Jack Grigg noted that Equihash has very efficient verification which could enable light clients on constrained devices and Zcash clients inside Ethereum. But the main reason for the enthusiasm of the Zcash tech is, indeed, Equihashs resistance to ASIC mining.

Equihash is a memory-oriented Proof-of-Work, which means how much mining you can do is mostly determined by how much RAM you have, said Wilcox and Grigg. We think it is unlikely that anyone will be able to build cost-effective custom hardware (ASICs) for mining in the foreseeable future. Wilcox and Grigg added that it is unlikely that major optimizations of Equihash could give the miners who know the optimization an advantage.

Equihash is a memory-hard problem, more suited to general-purpose computers with lots of memory than to special hardware chips. If 10,000 miners with a single PC were active, in Zcash the investment to compete with them would be 10,000 times the price of a PC, while with Bitcoin, the investment would be significantly smaller, said Khovratovich. The strength of a cryptocurrency comes from the fact that the ledger is globally distributed. Our Equihash algorithm reverses the situation back to this more ideal world.

According to the CryptoLUX scientists, the algorithm permits avoiding centralization of the mining process in the hands of a few first-class miners with specialized mining hardware, thus contributing to the democratization of digital currencies based on Equihash.

Since Equihash is based on a fundamental computer science problem, advances in Equihash mining algorithms will benefit computer science in general, added Biryukov. Equihash is so far unique among all the mining algorithms: it is memory-hard on the one hand and very easy to verify on the other.

Speaking to Bitcoin Magazine, Equihash inventor Biryukov also emphasized that Equihash is a portable algorithm, not limited to specific digital currencies.

We don’t have any formal relation with the Zcash project, he said. Equihash is not limited to Zcash, it can be used in any cryptocurrency. That said, Biryukov did sound cautiously enthusiastic about Zcash. Compared to many other cryptocurrencies Zcash definitely brings in new features based on state-of-the-art academic crypto. Whether it will scale well or not the future will show.

Given the portability of Equihash, its interesting to speculate about its possible integration in Bitcoin itself. I am not aware of such attempts, but it would be technically easy to do, noted Biryukov.

For more details on Equihash, see the research paper Equihash: asymmetric proof-of-work based on the Generalized Birthday problem.

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Bitcoin Industry Colluded, Says Miner – CryptoCoinsNews

Posted: February 15, 2017 at 8:54 pm

After almost two years of debate and seemingly nothing left to be said on the topic of bitcoin scalability, miners continue to not make a concrete decision with transaction backlogs now becoming common.

BW.com, a mining pool with around 7% of the networks hashrate, signals for 8MB blocks, but has never mined with any client which increases maxblocksize. Bitmains co-founder, Micree Zhan, stated in a recent interview that he prefers Bitcoin Unlimited. Jihan Wu, the other co-founder of Bitmain, has vocally asked for a maxblocksize increase. Yet, despite the pool controlling around 18% of the networks hashrate, they do not mine with Bitcoin Unlimited and have never mined with any client which increases maxblocksize.

This behavior appears puzzling, but, there was collusion, CCN was told back in November by a miner who would rather not be named:

I saw industry colluding to push their agendas and I wanted no part in it.

He is one of many miners that have now entered the scene not primarily driven by profit seeking but to disrupt, or at least, irritate, the incumbents a little bit and free myself the burden of moral conflict.

No details were provided, nor any concrete evidence, but suspicions that there was collusion has continued to increase due to the maneuvers over the Hong Kong Agreement.

Just under exactly one year ago, almost all miners and many Bitcoin Core developers held a closed-door meeting where no journalists or independent observers were invited.

Little, if anything, is known about what exactly happened during those 17 hours, except for a published signed agreement which binds miners to only run Bitcoin Core compatible clients for the foreseeable future.

Indications that this was more than just a paper promise came within hours of the agreements publication due to a spat between miners and Adam Back, Blockstreams President. The English version showed him as signing under his individual capacity, but the Chinese version showed him signing as Blockstreams President. This discrepancy led to miners publicly asking him to changes the English version to Blockstream President, which he did.

Suspicions that this wasnt just a mere paper agreement grew further when Bitcoin Core pull requested an unfinished segwit to argue that, technically, they had kept the agreement. Luke-Jr further claimed he technically delivered on the maxblocksize increase promise by suggesting a decrease of the blocksize to 300KB, followed by a 17% yearly increase, delivering 2MB in around two decades.

The nature of these arguments, which are based on legalese technicalities, indicates the agreement was contractual and binding, but there has been no concrete evidence except for the miners statement that he saw industry collusion.

Bitcoin Core developers and miners have kept blaming each other for breaching the agreement, but all miners who signed it continue to mine with the Bitcoin Core client.

There are two proposals on the table to increase transaction capacity, Segregated Witnesses a proposal by Bitcoin Core and Bitcoin Unlimited a new grassroots client. They both currently stand at around 20-25%. Bitmain, F2Pool, BW.com and HaoBTC, all signers of the agreement, are not choosing either, maintaining capacity at a very limited 1MB.

It is not clear why they are making no decision. Suggestions have included that they are waiting for the right time, that they are waiting for Bitcoin Core to make a new, more acceptable, proposal, that they may be enjoying the high fees, that they find any move to be highly risky and that perhaps they are bound to run only Bitcoin Core compatible clients.

Segwit and Bitcoin Unlimited Current Hashrate Share image from nodecounter

Since the agreement was signed, mining has become more decentralized. In February 2016, F2Pool and Bitmain had, in combination, just above 50% of the network hash-share with Bitfury, BTCC and BW.com accounting for almost all of the rest. Now, new pools have entered the scene with ViaBTC and BTC.TOP being the most prominent. They have not signed the agreement and are both vocally in favor of Bitcoin Unlimited, mining with the new grassroots client.

However, without a decision by F2Pool or Bitmain, both signatory to the agreement, it is unlikely the situation will change anytime soon. Wang Chun, co-founder of F2Pool, told CCN earlier this month that they have no plan to upgrade to segwit or to mine with Bitcoin Unlimited. Jihan Wu, co-founder of Bitmain, told CCN on the 5th of February 2017 that:

The protocol debate is not my priority. I need to focus on BITMAINs own business these days.

Bitcoins Current Hashrate Distribution

If there was indeed collusion, then Bitcoin is facing its ultimate test. Mining is an open and permissionless zero-sum game as any gain in hashrate is at the expense of other miners. As such, concentration of hashrate, in theory, is not a great problem because any abuse would likely lead to miners being replaced with newer honest miners who wish to protect their investment.

Whether that theory translates into practice remains to be seen, but what appears clear, for now, is that any solution is unlikely for 2017, with transaction backlogs probably continuing as bitcoin begins to transform into a slow, unpredictable and expensive payment network.

Image from Shutterstock.

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Bran: Bahamas ‘Eye Opener’ From Cruise Line’S Cuba Switch – Bahamas Tribune

Posted: at 12:33 am

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

The DNAs leader yesterday urged the Bahamas to up its tourism game as a result of Norwegian Cruise Lines decision to divert 25 sailings to Cuba, warning: If thats not an eye opener, I dont know what is.

Branville McCartney told Tribune Business that the Bahamas was already out of time to prepare for Cubas opening to mass market US tourism, with the cruise lines move another warning sign to this nation.

Arguing that this nation should have been ready yesterday, Mr McCartney said the Bahamas had failed to address weaknesses he had identified almost a decade ago while minister of state for tourism in the former Ingraham administration.

Apart from crime, high costs, cleanliness and service, the DNA leader added that the Bahamas also need to improve on the product itself, suggesting it had failed to incorporate its own culture into tourisms offerings and give it a distinctly Bahamian flavour.

Mr McCartney said there were enough tourists to go around to blunt the impact of Cubas potential US opening up, but this depended on the Bahamas getting it right.

Responding to Norwegians decision to switch 25 four-day cruises to an overnight stop in Havana, eliminating calls on Nassau and Freeport during the 2017 second half, the DNA leader told Tribune Business: If thats not an eye opener for us as a country, I dont see anything else being so. But the Minister of Tourism almost brushed it off.

The bottom line is that we have to recognise that Cuba is in the tourist market. They are getting more tourists than us now, and the fact they are now more open will cause more tourists to go there to experience Cuba. We have to up our game in the Bahamas.

Tribune Business revealed Norwegians decision to switch the 25 cruises from Nassau and Freeport, to Havana, last week, in a bid to both alert Bahamians to the increasing competitive threat posed by Cuba and the potential for other cruise lines to follow its lead.

Mr McCartney said the challenge presented by Cuba had been exacerbated because the Bahamas had failed to address weaknesses he had identified in his last speech as minister of state for tourism.

I said we will continue to lose our place in the tourist market if we dont clean up crime; reduce our rates, as its too expensive to come here; if we dont ensure we have a clean environment, the DNA leader told Tribune Business.

Look at how dirty we are. Every time you drive to the airport you see the KFC boxes dumped by the sides of the road.

We must also improve our service. We must realise that we are not doing the tourists a favour by serving them. They are doing is a favour by coming here and spending money in our economy. Our service has to improve.

Agreeing that other cruise lines may now follow Norwegians trail to Cuba, Mr McCartney emphasised: We must get our act together. We must also improve on the product itself.

What do we have to offer? We have sun, sand and sea. So does Cuba. Weve had the same tourism product since the 1960s and not enhanced it.

Norwegian Cruise Lines talked up Cuba, and Havanas, cultural, historic and other attractions in the statement announcing its 25 cruise-switch. With Cuba having been closed for more than 50 years, many Americans are likely to be attracted to the prospect of exploring a new destination.

Asked how much time the Bahamas has left to prepare for Cubas growing threat, Mr McCartney added: The time has gone already. We are always reactionary as a people, and probably more so as a government.

The time was yesterday when we needed to start working on this thing. Were out of time. We needed to start yesterday.

Still, the DNA leader acknowledged that where Cuba was concerned, all was not lost for the Bahamas yet.

If we get it right, theres enough tourists to go around, Mr McCartney added. But we need to get it right. The Bahamas is unique in itself, and if we get it right we will cause people to come here.

We have our culture, which no one else has, and we ought to enhance it through tourism.

Mr McCartney added that the Bahamas also needed to target niches such as sports, medical and religious tourism, strategies that have been adopted by successive PLP and FNM administrations in the past.

We need to get on it, and get on it quickly, he reiterated of the Bahamas weaknesses. Getting here should not be so expensive. The cost of living is a turn-off for people.

Its less expensive to go to Miami from Nassau than it is to go from here to the Family Islands. Keeping our country clean and the service. These things must be acted upon.

Mr McCartney added that crime is already killing our tourism product, with cruise lines warning passengers about the dangers of Nassau and to avoid certain areas, and the US Embassy issuing numerous warnings.

Obie Wilchcombe, minister of tourism, lambasted Tribune Businesss revelation about Norwegian Cruise Lines switch to Cuba, saying it did a disservice to all the work the Bahamas was doing to enhance its cruise tourism product.

Mr Wilchcombe referred, in particular, to the investment by Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) at Ocean Cay, and Carnivals upcoming cruise port in east Grand Bahama, as evidence of the Bahamas bolstering its competitive position.

Both these facilities, though, are own ports/private islands located well away from large population centres. While they provide some employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for Bahamians, the majority of the benefits from private ports go to the cruise lines, who often control the mark-ups and margins charged to passengers by providers.

Mr McCartney agreed, saying: The benefits go to the cruise lines, and the funding goes out the country. Theres hardly any benefit to the Bahamas.

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The Bannon-Trump Arc of History – American Spectator

Posted: February 13, 2017 at 9:43 am

How does Donald Trump view history and Americas role in shaping it? No one, including Mr. Trump himself, seems able to answer that. To find a grand vision guiding this administration, one must look to Steve Bannon, Trumps chief strategist and the architect of his campaigns final months before his victory via the Electoral College.

On its cover,Time magazine labeled Bannon The Great Manipulator, and in an accompanying article, the magazine asked if he is the second most powerful man in the world, leading the reader to believe indeed he is. Yet at first blush, Bannon does not fit the stereotype of a Washington, D.C., powerbroker. His hair is disheveled, he frequently ditches a tie, and his face is typically full of scruff, giving him the vibe of an absent-minded professor.

The look is intended to reflect Bannons anti-establishment worldview but it conceals his more elitist roots. After seven years in the Navy and a degree from Harvard Business School, Bannon worked as a Goldman Sachs financier and then as an investment banker on his own. He transitioned to producing films, especially conservative documentaries, and then, in 2012, took over Breitbart News, one of the leading voices of fringe and grassroots conservatism. Trump was a frequent guest on his Breitbart radio talk show, and in August 2016, Bannon was appointed Chief Executive of Donald Trumps presidential campaign.

Donald Trumps populist approach to policy seems to blow in the changing winds of public opinion and outrage without much long-term strategic direction. The real guiding anchor for Trumpism comes from Bannon, the man with Trumps ear. Steve Bannon, and therefore Donald Trump, view history as a repeated cycle of civilizations rising and falling. They believe Americas current cycle is in crisis, threatening Western culture itself, and it is their job to rescue it from global elites intent on liberal, secular exploitation of America and its values.

Bannon dubbed these establishment elites the Party of Davos after the Swiss resort where the World Economic Forum meets. In Trumps inaugural address, which Bannon helped write, he said the wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world. Speaking to the Liberty Restoration Foundation in 2011, Bannon complained about the elites socialism for the very wealthy and socialism for the poor at the expense of common sense, practical, middle-class people. For both Trump and Bannon, capitalism is in crisis mode, and it is a consistent theme in their speeches and interviews.

Part of this economic crisis came about through dependence on government programs redistributing wealth, but in their view, global elites also encourage government-dependent immigrants to flock to the U.S. and other Western countries as a source of cheap labor. The Party of Davos can benefit from immigration and leave working class Americans with the responsibility of integrating them into society and dealing with the alleged crime and corruption that comes with it.

Thus, Bannon and Trump believe the Party of Davos created not only an economic crisis but also a cultural one. Bannons documentaries like the 2010 film Generation Zero frequently focus on American values, which, to him, means capitalism built around Judeo-Christian values and a strong sense of nationalism. At a 2016 South Carolina Tea Party convention, Bannon complained the swells, the investment bankers, the guys from the EU are the same guys who have allowed the complete collapse of the Judeo-Christian West in Europe.

Trump and Bannon do not believe in religious tests nor do they believe that everyone must be Christian. In fact, the two rarely attend religious services themselves and seem to care little for theological matters. Instead, their Judeo-Christian values refer more generally to a moral compass opposed to pluralism and relativism. It especially means opposition to immigrants from different cultural and religious backgrounds.

These economic and cultural crises follow an ancient pattern, they believe, and we are due for a monumental battle to resolve it. The Bannon-Trump worldview has deep roots in the classics, and Bannon delights in drawing from it. Ancient statesmen, philosophers, and historians from Lycurgus, to Heraclitus, to Herodotus, and to Plato all believed that history was cyclical. Repeatedly, over and over again, civilizations rise and fall by losing touch with their hard-working, humble traditions.

According to this theme, war is waged by poor and nomadic people, an able leader unites them into a confederation, and they begin to take on richer neighbors. The united front fights and conquers and then begins to take on the rich, soft, effeminate characteristics of luxury. Having abandoned masculine military virtues and the religious values that once united them and helped them succeed, they begin to look down on those who still hold on to traditional values. The conquerors then become the conquered, and the cycle repeats. Each empire and civilization, in turn, gets overrun by its poorer, but more aggressive and fertile, neighbors. The end is always the same: a fallen civilization that lost touch with its noble values.

If there is a recurring theme that political philosophers throughout history keep telling themselves, this is it, and it is one that Bannon and Trump buy into wholeheartedly. The historian Livy, who experienced the Roman Empire at its height, said that Rome was struggling with its own greatness. A century later, the poet Juvenal said, [W]e are now suffering the calamities of a long peace. Luxury, more deadly than any foe, has laid her hand upon us, and avenges a conquered world. Juvenal fretted that success in life used to depend on military excellence but eventually led, instead, through the loins of a rich woman.

Although this mythology draws from the ancient classics, it keeps modern political scientists busy with their own twists to the theme. As the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union disintegrated, President George H.W. Bush triumphantly declared it was the beginning of a new world order. Political scientist Francis Fukuyama viewed the occasion in even grander terms and tried to break free of the traditional cyclical theme, famously proclaiming in 1989 that the end of the Cold War marked the end of history. In Fukuyamas view, World War II represented a massive struggle between three distinct ideologies: liberal democracy, fascism, and communism. The war destroyed fascism, and 50 years later, Soviet communism failed. For him and many political scientists, history was over. Liberal democracy won and was here to stay. Fukuyama admitted that democracy may suffer temporary setbacks but argued, in the long run, it would become more and more prevalent.

Fukuyamas grand theory envisioned that liberal democracys permanence would also bring globalization and a strong middle class. Since democracies engage in less warfare, war itself would even disappear. The new utopia might be a bit boring, but that is a small price to pay for peace and prosperity.

In 1993, just four years after Fukuyamas End of History proclamation, political scientist Samuel Huntington sought a return to the traditional theme with The Clash of Civilizations. Huntington argued that Fukuyama was wrong and that identity, not ideology, shapes the world. These identities are shaped by history, language, culture, tradition, and, most important, religion. These different civilizations are marked by different views on the relations between God and man, the individual and the group, the citizen and the state, parents and children, husband and wife, as well as differing views of the relative importance of rights and responsibilities, liberty and authority, equality and hierarchy. Huntington concluded, These differences are the product of centuries. They will not soon disappear.

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 seemed to bolster Huntingtons thesis, but the American administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama explicitly rejected it, stressing that the United States was fighting violent extremists, not Arabic civilizations or Islam as a religion. However, in Bannon and Trump, we now have an administration, not only believing in that kind of clash of civilizations, but even welcoming it as a way to save the West from an economic and cultural crisis.

For Bannon and Trump, the most powerful theory based on this cycle mythology is one put forward by Neil Howe and William Strauss in their 1997 book The Fourth Turning. Strauss and Howe have a generational theory of American history that predicts repeated cycles lasting about 80 years. Each 80-year cycle has four turnings that are defined by four moods: high, awakening, unraveling, and, finally, crisis.

Following World War II, America experienced a high. The 1960s brought about a tremendous awakening, and then we experienced several decades of unraveling. Now, of course, we must confront the crisis. In Bannons view, this is the fourth time we have confronted the crisis phase, and each time, the stakes and resulting war get more severe. The Strauss-Howe generational theory is featured heavily in Bannons documentaries, and it comes up frequently in his speeches. In a presentation before the Liberty Restoration Foundation, Bannon says, This is the fourth great crisis in American history. We had the revolution, we had the Civil War, we had the Great Depression and World War II. This is the great Fourth Turning in American history.

Subscribing to the latest trendy twist on an old political theory of cycles is not particularly earth-shattering. However, Bannons solution to the supposed crisis has started to gain understandable attention. David Kaiser, the historian interviewed in Generation Zero, told Time magazine, A second, more alarming interaction didnt show up in the film. Bannon had clearly thought a long time both about the domestic potential and the foreign policy implications of Strauss and Howe. More than once during our interview, he pointed out that each of the three preceding crises had involved a great war, and those conflicts had increased in scope from the American Revolution through the Civil War to the Second World War. He expected a new and even bigger war as part of the current crisis, and he did not seem at all fazed by the prospect.

Although Bannon and Trump blame the Party of Davos for causing much of the crisis, the war they envision will not be waged against elites. Instead, the target is radical Islam. In a 2014 Vatican lecture, Bannon said, I think we are in a crisis of the underpinnings of capitalism, and on top of that were now, I believe, at the beginning stages of a global war against Islamic fascism. This may be a little more militant than others. I believe you should take a very, very, very aggressive stance against radical Islam. See whats happening, and you will see were in a war of immense proportions.

Perhaps a global existential war against Islam can be averted, but in Bannon and Trumps view, that will only happen if Americans embrace traditional American values and block those who may not from ever entering the country.

Viewing history through this lens, all of the administrations early goals and executive orders make sense. Ban immigrants from Islamic countries, or at least those most likely to cause trouble. Build a wall along Mexico to stop immigrants and end trade agreements, each viewed as assisting global elites at the expense of the middle class. Bolster the military in preparation for war. In other words, America first.

The Bannon-Trump view of history also accounts for Trumps unusual embrace of Vladimir Putin. Despite Putins many failings, Trump views him as an ally in the war against Islamic extremism. To Trump and Bannon, the European Union seems unaware or uncommitted to addressing the perceived crisis. If they wont stand up for Western civilization, why not enlist Putins help? In his inaugural speech, Trump vowed to unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate from the face of the Earth.

Americans of all political stripes now seem to agree we face a crisis of some sort. Trump and Bannon blame the Party of Davos and radical Islam, while their detractors see a different type of crisis spurred by Trump and Bannon themselves. As David Brooks wrote recently, We are in the midst of a great war of national identity.

Martin Luther King, paraphrasing the 19th-century abolitionist Theodore Parker, famously said, The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. Unfortunately, the arc of history seems to be bending toward something other than justice.

Whether you support or oppose Trump and Bannons efforts, the history they seek to bend is fluid. Those who act as if justice or progress is inevitable will be sorely disappointed.

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The Bannon-Trump Arc of History – American Spectator

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Wells Fargo Pushes Into Artificial Intelligence – Fortune

Posted: at 9:19 am

John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

Wells Fargo has created a team to develop artificial intelligence-based technology and appointed a lead for its newly combined payments businesses, as part of an ongoing push to strengthen its digital offerings.

Wells Fargo’s AI team will work on creating technology that can help the bank provide more personalized customer service through its bankers and online, the bank said on Friday. It will be led by Steve Ellis, head of Wells Fargo’s innovation group.

Well Fargo’s AI focus comes as banks and other large financial institutions increase their investment in the emerging technology which seeks to train computers to perform tasks that would normally require human intelligence.

Projects range from systems that can spot payments fraud or misconduct by employees, to technology that can make more personal recommendations on financial products to clients.

The bank also announced that it had appointed Danny Peltz, head of treasury, merchant and payment solutions, to head business development and strategy for its combined payments businesses.

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Pelz’s group, which comprises of the bank’s consumer, small business, commercial and corporate banking payments businesses, will also be tasked with establishing relationship with other companies in the payments landscape. It will also be in charge of the bank’s new API (application program interface) services, or technology that allows customers to integrate Wells Fargo products and services into their own applications.

Both teams will report into Avid Modjtabai, head of payments, virtual solutions and innovation. Modjtabai’s division was set up in October as part of efforts to enhance the bank’s digital products and services by combining its innovation teams with some of the businesses most affected by changes in technology such as payments.

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Automation can revitalize the US workforce – Fox News

Posted: February 12, 2017 at 7:11 am

In the face of growing workplace automation, a number of commentators have painted a grim future for American workers. But most human capital leaders see a much brighter future one where automation helps revitalize U.S. manufacturing and increases the demand for skilled workers.

According to global talent management firm Randstad Sourcerights survey of over 400 corporate HR leaders, automation and robotics are likely to have a positive impact on U.S. business growth in 2017, and will be one of the driving forces behind new hiring trends over the next several years.

Regardless of how you feel about robots, the move toward automation and artificial intelligence cannot be stopped. About 15 percent of global HR leaders say that robotics completely transformed their businesses in 2016, and more than double (31%) expect automation to have an even greater influence in 2017.

Rather than feeling threatened by this new technology, nearly two-thirds (65%) of the HR leaders we spoke with said they see artificial intelligence and robotics having a positive impact on their businesses over the next three to five years. Across all the major industry sectors surveyed, respondents were optimistic about technologys ability to reduce costs, improve quality and increase output.

It is easy to assume that these productivity gains are made at the expense of workers. In reality, this technology actually has increased demand for flexible, mobile workers with skills and agility that machines are not even close to matching. While 26 percent of those surveyed said their businesses increased the use of automation and robotics in 2016, over 34 percent said they hired extensively over the same period just to keep up with company growth.

In fact, the HR leaders we surveyed indicated that a scarcity of skilled workers was driving employment demands in certain areaslike marketing, sales and IT/technicalwhere robotics will likely never displace the advantage of human intelligence. Indeed, well over one-third of respondents anticipate hiring more workers in these areas over the next year.

But workers with the right combination of skills and experience are hard to come by. Many workers are structuring their work hours in ways that allow them to work many different jobs, across several geographical locations. As a result, more companies are rethinking their talent management to account for more short-term, offsite workers. Of the HR leaders we surveyed, more than two-thirds (66%) said they are considering moving toward a talent management model that would more easily integrate contingent workers. They see the shift toward flexible talent as a sound strategy that can help companies access a larger pool of talent, such as parents with young children and retirees who may not want a traditional 9-to-5 job.

For some commentators, the investment in automation and contingent employees signals an upheaval in the economy that will not benefit American workers. But that perspective may be short-sited. In fact, automation and robotics can make U.S. manufacturing more cost-competitive, while increasing the number of high-paying, skilled jobs available for humans. Instead of 50 foreign workers being paid rock bottom wages to complete a job by hand, the same job will be accomplished by one skilled U.S. worker running a robot and earning a middle-class salary. This combination of increased automation and a more mobile, contingent workforce can reduce manufacturing costs and make it easier for companies to build their factories in the U.S. The end result is a better educated, higher paid American workforce.

Change can be difficult. We are witnessing a major shift in the way business does business. But most HR leaders see technology as providing workers with new opportunities (and also with new priorities). These recent changes in workforce management need not be seen as the catastrophe some suggest. If Randstad Sourcerights 2017 Talent Trends Report is any indication, robots are far more likely to benefit American workers than replace them.

Rebecca Henderson is the CEO of Randstad Sourceright, one of the worlds leading human resources providers.

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Coalition urged to charge 10% royalty on offshore oil and gas projects – The Guardian

Posted: February 10, 2017 at 3:39 am

The north-west shelf project in Western Australia which the Tax Justice Network says pays high royalties. Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

The Turnbull government must introduce a 10% royalty on all offshore oil and gas projects in Australia to ensure taxpayers start getting a fair return on their natural resources, the Tax Justice Network says.

The group has called for the petroleum resource rent tax (PRRT) to be overhauled, saying there were too many opportunities under its regime for offshore oil and gas companies to exploit transfer pricing, with direct impacts on PRRT credits and profits.

In a submission to the PRRT review, the Tax Justice Network said a 10% royalty ought to be applied to offshore oil and gas projects in commonwealth waters that were only subject to the PRRT.

It said a 10% royalty needed to be charged because the PRRT which was designed in the 1980s for crude oil projects, but which had failed to keep up with developments in the industry was failing to collect adequate revenue.

The treasurer, Scott Morrison, admitted last year that revenues from the PRRT had halved since 2012-13, and crude oil excise collections had fallen by more than half.

He announced a formal review of the PRRT regime in November after a rapid decline in revenues from the tax.

Jason Ward, from the network, said a 10% royalty would raise between $4bn and $6bn over the next four years.

He said the royalty system should be similar to existing state and Commonwealth royalties that already apply to all other oil and gas projects in Australia.

It should be deductible from PRRT, and the PRRT should remain as a backstop to collect additional revenue if and when prices increased substantially and when existing PRRT credits were exhausted.

With Australia poised to be the worlds largest exporter of LNG but projected to generate little direct government revenue for decades, there is a major problem that needs to be addressed, he said.

At the moment projects in commonwealth waters are getting millions of tonnes of LNG effectively for free.

No other industry, including coal, iron ore and onshore gas, get given the total cost of their investment (plus uplift) in free resources before they begin paying for that resource.

This policy will level the playing field across the oil and gas industry. At the moment projects in commonwealth waters are getting a competitive advantage over onshore projects and the north-west shelf who pay much higher royalties.

All of the major companies, Shell, Chevron, BHP, Woodside and BP, already pay under our proposed model through their ownership of the north-west shelf project. They have been happy to pay under this model for years without complaint. The north-west shelf shows they still make huge profits under this type of royalty regime.

Ward said mature oil projects, such as BHP in the Bass Strait who already pay PRRT, would not be affected given the royalty would be fully deductible from the PRRT.

This proposal we believe ensures a fair return to the Australian people while still encouraging investment by maintaining our royalty regime as one of the most generous in the world, he said.

We call on the industry to support this proposal to the commonwealth government.

The problems raised by the Tax Justice Network are similar to those raised by tax expert Dr Diane Kraal, from Monash University.

Her submission warned flaws in the PRRT regime meant Chevrons giant Gorgon gas project off WA would not pay the tax until at least 2030, despite decades of operation.

Kraal said her modelling showed $5bn in revenue would be raised from Gorgon alone by 2030 if royalties were reintroduced.

She said her research indicated other natural gas projects in commonwealth waters should also be subject to commonwealth royalties, including Chevrons Wheatstone, Woodsides Pluto LNG project, and Inpexs Ichthys project.

Woodside Petroleum used its submission to argue against any changes to the PRRT.

It said the PRRT had been operating as intended, despite declining revenues from the tax recently.

It said the regime had delivered $200bn worth of projects over the past decade, and Woodside had paid $2bn in PRRT since 2001.

As a profits-based tax, it is not unusual to have declining PRRT at a time of declining oil and gas prices and prior to these projects recouping their costs, its submission said.

Woodside pays billions of dollars of taxes in Australia. The PRRT is just one part of our tax contribution but increasing it could put other tax revenues at risk by making future projects unviable.

Woodside has an ownership stake in three of Australias major undeveloped gas resources. As the leading Australian gas producer, we want to develop these resources and deliver significant benefits to the Australian people.

We urge the PRRT review team to consider carefully the substantial impact of any changes to the current fiscal settings that could jeopardise existing and future investments.

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Coalition urged to charge 10% royalty on offshore oil and gas projects – The Guardian

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WE Are Women’s Philanthropy – Jewish Exponent

Posted: February 9, 2017 at 6:06 am

Last years Womens Philanthropy Pomegranate event. Photo via Flickr @jewishphilly

The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphias Womens Philanthropy group is an inclusive community of passionate, caring women of all ages, incomes and lifestyles. We share a commitment to support the Jewish community locally, in Israel and around the world. We lead and convene, educate and advocate, travel and fundraise in support of the Jewish Federations mission. We do all this by focusing on Giving, Inclusion and Tradition.

Women have contributed more than $29 million to our Jewish Federation over the past five years.

Womens Philanthropy raises money to help vulnerable Jewish populations, and to feed, clothe and shelter Jews. We are their safety net.

Together, we care for older adults and make sure they can get to doctors appointments, have socialization opportunities and receive assistance with taking care of their homes so they can continue to live with dignity in their own homes for as long as possible.

We make sure that Holocaust survivors are living out their lives in dignity.

We feed Jews who are food-insecure through a variety of programs. Regardless of whether they need a little extra help every month or three hot meals a day, whether they are an individual or a large family, we are here for them.

We help those in times of crisis no matter the situation. If theyve lost a job, are in a dangerous situation or are dealing with any other pressing matter, we fund programs that will see them through the tough times and get them back on their feet.

Womens Philanthropy also ensures our community members have access to a vibrant Jewish life. We make sure families can access Jewish education, Jewish camping, Hillel on campus and family programs like jkidphilly and Interfaith Family.

We also work hard to send people of all ages to Israel to see, touch and feel the magic of the Jewish homeland.

We are inclusive. We want all of our community members to have a seat at the table for open dialogue to form a strong and vibrant network that enables us to ensure the safety of Jews everywhere.

We are a group of women who are proud of the work we accomplish each and every year. We know that our investment of time, talent and treasure will address our critical priorities and make sure that we Carry the Light for all of us, our families and generations to come.

Join us this spring at one of our upcoming events to get a taste of all that is Womens Philanthropy.

Pomegranate Event: An Evening of Happiness with Keynote Speaker Carin Rockind on Wed., March 1 at 6:30 p.m. at the home of Elyse Berger in Penn Valley, Pa.

Carin is a leading happiness and life-purpose expert, a media personality and the creator of PurposeGirl, a movement to empower purpose-driven living. All women who make a minimum gift of $1,000 are invited to this event.

International Womens Day Speaker Series on Wed., March 8 at Southern Cross Kitchen in Conshohocken from 7 to 9 p.m.

Join us for an evening of empowerment and self-defense featuring speaker Yudit Sidikman, the co- founder and CEO of El Halev, a women-run NPO working to end violence by providing personal safety and empowerment programs for women, children, seniors and people with special needs. She is a renowned motivational speaker who has taught thousands how to find their inner strength and is committed to promoting self-worth and self-esteem among women, children, the elderly and those with special needs through violence prevention. The cost to attend is $36; no donation is required.

WE (Womens Event): Tues., April 4, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the Hilton Philadelphia City Avenue.

Join us for our largest event of the year to celebrate community and tzedakah at our Womens Event (WE). Keynote Speaker Archie Gotesman, co-founder of JewBelong, is on a crusade to help Jews embrace the joy, warmth and meaning in our rituals and traditions. Once youve heard Archies take on Jewbarrassment, your holiday gatherings will never be the same. All women who make a minimum donation of $180 to our Jewish Federation are welcome.

For additional information on Womens Philanthropy, email womensphilanthropy@jewishphilly.org or visit jewishphilly.org/womensphilanthropy.

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