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April 1st, 2014 · No Comments

Remarkable indeed!

Spark Capital invested in Oculus VR Inc. in June after the firm’s partners bought the company’s virtual-reality goggles online. The bet ended in a 20-fold gain following Facebook Inc.’s agreement yesterday to buy Oculus for as much as $2.3 billion, said people with knowledge of the deal.

Oculus Deal Said to Deliver 20-Fold Return to Spark and Matrix – Bloomberg

The economic impact of annexing Crimea from Ukraine could drive Russia into a sharp recession this year even if the West stops short of trade sanctions, the World Bank warned on Wednesday.

The Economic Costs Of Annexing Crimea Are Mounting For Russia – Business Insider

China has lost a dispute at the World Trade Organization over restrictions on its exports of rare earth metals, tungsten and molybdenum, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office said on Wednesday.

China’s Dominance Of Rare Earth Metals Just Took A Hit – Business Insider

After the Cold War ended in the early 1990s, Viennese banks pushed aggressively into the newly open markets of Eastern Europe, as if rebuilding the old Hapsburg Empire one A.T.M. at a time. The banks of Vienna were not the only Western lenders seeking to stake out the former Soviet bloc, of course. But the Austrians, for reasons of geography and history, bet big on Eastern Europe and Russia. Now, as regional tensions with Russia rise, Austrian banks risk being caught in the financial and geopolitical crossfire.

European banks feel effects of Crimea crisis, with Austria bearing brunt

Russia’s Vladimir Putin has committed a grave strategic blunder by tearing up the international rule book without a green light from China. Any hope of recruiting Beijing as an ally to blunt Western sanctions looks doomed, and with it the Kremlin’s chances of a painless victory, or any worthwhile victory at all.

Lack Of Chinese Support For Crimea Is A Big Problem For Putin – Business Insider

Even the family cat had refused to enter the kitchen while the giant rat was in residence, father Erik Korsas told BBC News.

BBC News – Giant rat: Swedes agog at ‘Ratzilla’ in Stockholm

There are nascent signs that the European Central Bank (ECB) may be considering buying bonds and other assets in an effort to stump up the euro zone’s economy, in what would be something of a drastic change in policy.

ECB to get drastic? QE could be on the table

Assuming we’re going to accept terms like “sphere of influence,” what would be the advantage to America of expanding ours into Ukraine? A Ukrainian manpower contribution to NATO? The economic benefits of greater trade with Ukraine? Diplomatic support for American initiatives? None of these is obviously of substantial benefit. Meanwhile, we (or, more correctly, the European Union) would take on the burden of Ukraine’s substantial political and economic deficits.

How Does US Respond To Russia In Crimea? – Business Insider

Once this year’s harsh weather has faded, the U.S. economy could be poised for a breakout year — its strongest annual growth in nearly a decade.

Why economists say 2014 could prove breakout year – Yahoo Finance

Earth-bound challenges will determine the success of Facebook and Google’s plans to use balloons, drones and satellites to spread Internet access.

Facebook’s Drones Will Battle Google’s Balloons to Spread Internet Access | MIT Technology Review

On Wednesday, I noted that the recent decline in the so-called “momentum” stocks–particularly in the S&P 500 Biotechnology, Internet Retailing, and Internet Software & Services industries–has raised fears that this might signal a market top. I noted that the S&P 500 remains near record territory despite the weakness in these stocks and that investors may simply be rotating into stocks with lower valuation multiples.

Rotating Into Systems Software – Business Insider

This chart tells a remarkable story. Just two years ago, Greece was on the ropes. The yield on the Greek government’s 10-year debt hit a punishing and unsustainable 30 percent. Today the yield is less than 7 percent—a sign that investors are increasingly confident of the nation’s ability to pay its debts. Rarely has a country repaired its image with creditors so quickly.

Yasou: Greece Is Pulling Off an Amazing Recovery – Businessweek

A teen’s science fair project could save the US government $136 million each year. Oh, and it could save you a few bucks, too. Suvir Mirchandani, 14, wanted to find a way to make his many school handouts more sustainable. It all boiled down to a single liquid: After all, “ink is two times more expensive than French perfume by volume,” he tells CNN.

Teen Discovers Font Change Could Save Feds $136M – Suvir Mirchandani finds Garamond is the way to go

Smartphone users are frustrated and deprived by bad service, including slow application load times and frequent service crashes. Looking at it another way, we are like petulant children, whining about the insufficient miracle of technology while we pace in front of a microwave for our frozen burritos to cook.

Smartphones, the Disappointing Miracle –

The online insurance marketplace in Oregon is such a technological mess that residents have been signing up for health coverage by hand. In Texas, political opposition to President Obama’s health law is so strong that some residents believe, erroneously, that the program is banned in their state.

But in Connecticut, a smoothly functioning website, run by competent managers, has successfully enrolled so many patients that officials are offering to sell their expertise to states like Maryland, which is struggling to sign people up for coverage.

Deadline Near, Health Signups Show Disparity –

The latest trend among collectors “is for consumable wine,” said Jamie Ritchie, Sotheby’s head of fine wines for the Americas and Asia, adding that people want to drink good wine without waiting. In other words, popularity is growing for bottles that do not need to age much further, rather than those that must sit around for an additional 15 years.

BBC – Capital – Drink it or save it? The wine collector’s dilemma

The dichotomy between ‘deficit countries’ and ‘surplus countries’ has been replaced by one between ‘net debtors’ and ‘net creditors’

Delivering the Eurozone ‘Consistent Trinity’ | vox

“The president of WellPoint, which is one of the big national insurance companies, said a couple of weeks ago that the sign-ups are getting younger by the day,” Senator Angus King, a Maine independent, said “In other words, younger people, not surprisingly, are the last people to sign up.

Obamacare Enrollment Heading to 7 Million at Deadline – Bloomberg

Three of the world’s largest banks have warned that the flood of “hot money” into China is at risk of sudden reversal as the yuan weakens and the US Federal Reserve brings forward plans to raise interest rates, with major implications for global finance.

A new report by Citigroup told clients to brace for a second phase of the “taper tantrum” that rocked emerging markets last year, but this time with China at the eye of the storm.

Global banks issue alerts on China carry trade as Fed tightens, yuan falls – Telegraph

Automation is nothing new, but what is new is the intrusion of technology into sectors that have long been dependent on a human touch—or thought to be, anyway. Restaurants are beginning to take orders through smartphone apps or electronic tabletop menus, reducing the need for waiters. Online banking, via smartphone or PC, has cut down sharply on consumer visits to banks and the need for tellers. Utility companies are replacing meter readers with gizmos that automatically report usage. Digital technology, in other words, may be transforming the workplace—including lower-skilled and menial jobs–in ways that are only beginning.

How iPads and smartphones are killing jobs | The Exchange – Yahoo Finance

The Wu-Tang Clan are releasing just one copy of their latest “secret” album in the hope of sparking a shift in the way music is funded and distributed.

A dangerous or ingenious musical precedent? | FT Alphaville

Eating seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day is healthier than the minimum five currently recommended and would prolong lives, experts say.

BBC News – Seven-a-day fruit and veg ‘saves lives’

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