Issue XCVI

21 OCT 2016

Miscellaneous

06/26/2015

Google robo-car nearly CRASHES in machine gang road rage incident

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Turf dispute between auto autos spills over into metal-on-metal VIOLENCE

Before humanity's final battle against our erstwhile robotic minions, both man and tin can must stifle dissent from within. Man has been murdering itself since time inconceivable, but now two "uncrashable" self-driving cars have almost come to blows in California.

Reuters reported that two self-driving car prototypes – one belonging to Google, and the other representing Delphi Automotive – almost had a prang on a road in Silicon Valley earlier this week.

It is believed to be the first hint of gangland clash between chauffeurbots, though they have alreadyfaced hostility from the analogue world.

John Absmeier, director of Delphi's Silicon Valley lab, told his harrowing tale to Reuters of the events of Tuesday 23 June.

Being driven on San Atonio Road in Palo Alto, Absmeier, as a passenger in one the cars – and additionally a global business director for Delphi's automated driving programme – says his prototype was cut off by a Google vehicle.

Delphi's prototype was an Audi Q5 SUV reportedly equipped with lasers, radar, cameras and the special computer software which imbues the vehicle with enough life to drive itself, with a human at the wheel as mere back-up.

Reuters quotes Absmeier in noting that "as the Delphi vehicle prepared to change lanes, a Google self-driving prototype – a Lexus RX400h crossover fitted with similar hardware and software – cut off the Audi, forcing it to abort the lane change".

The Delphi car "took appropriate action", according to Absmeier, and no collision took place.

With the heavy support in the roadwar of the machines having already rolled out in Nevada, the fear that a more deadly incident will soon occur has been heightened.


No, 2 self-driving cars didn’t have a “close call” on Silicon Valley streets

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Delphi spokeswoman: "Our car did exactly what it was supposed to."

A pair of self-driving cars from rival companies had a close call in Silicon Valley earlier this week, Reuters reported Thursday evening.

According to John Absmeier, who is the head of Delphi’s local lab and was a passenger in his company’s prototype Audi Q5, a Google car suddenly cut off the Delphi car as it was about to change lanes on a San Antonio Road in Palo Alto. When that happened, the Audi Q5 took “appropriate action”—Absmeier did not elaborate to Reuters.

But that's not what Absmeier meant, according to Kristin Kinley, a Delphi spokeswoman.

"I was there for the discussion with Reuters about automated vehicles," she told Ars by e-mail. "The story was taken completely out of context when describing a type of complex driving scenario that can occur in the real world. Our expert provided an example of a lane change scenario that our car recently experienced which, coincidentally, was with one of the Google cars also on the road at that time. It wasn’t a 'near miss' as described in the Reuters story."

Instead, she explained how this was a normal scenario, and the Delphi car performed admirably.

"Our car did exactly what it was supposed to," she wrote. "Our car saw the Google car move into the same lane as our car was planning to move into, but upon detecting that the lane was no longer open it decided to terminate the move and wait until it was clear again."

Google did not respond to Ars’ request for comment late Thursday evening.

Earlier this month, Google reported that its fleet of robot cars had only been involved in 13 accidents since 2009. In none of those accidents was the self-driving car at fault.



06/01/2015

Justices reject bid to revive Arizona no-bail law

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WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court has rejected Maricopa County's appeal to reinstate a state law that denies bail to people in the country illegally who are charged with certain crimes.

The justices on Monday left in place a lower-court ruling that struck down the law that Arizona voters approved in 2006.

The law denied bail to immigrants who are in the country illegally and have been charged with a range of felonies that include shoplifting, aggravated identity theft, sexual assault and murder.

As a result, immigrants spent months in jail and often simply pleaded guilty and were turned over to federal immigration authorities for deportation.

Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas said they would have heard the case. It takes the votes of four justices to hear an appeal.


Arizona County Rejected by Top Court on Immigrant Bail Law

A divided U.S. Supreme Court refused to revive an Arizona law that denied bail to undocumented immigrants who were charged with any of hundreds of felony offenses.

The justices left intact a federal appeals court decision that said the law, approved by Arizona’s voters in 2006, was so sweeping that it violated the Constitution.

The appeals court faulted the measure because it applied to offenses as minor as altering a lottery ticket and didn’t give inmates a chance to show they weren’t a flight risk.

Three justices -- Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito -- voted to hear the case, falling one vote short of the required number.

“The court’s refusal to hear the case shows insufficient respect to the state of Arizona, its voters and its constitution,” Thomas wrote for himself and Scalia. “And it suggests to the lower courts that they have free rein to strike down state laws on the basis of dubious constitutional analysis.”

The law was being defended by Maricopa County and its sheriff, Joseph Arpaio, whose aggressive approach toward illegal immigration has made him a flashpoint for the debate.

The county’s appeal pointed to a 1987 Supreme Court decision upholding a federal law that allows the pretrial detention of people charged with serious felonies.

The case is County of Maricopa v. Lopez-Valenzuela, 14-825.



04/14/2015

Intel earnings match estimates, shares rise after hours

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Intel just reported its first quarter earnings, and it matched analyst estimates across the board.

Intel reported $12.8 billion in revenue and $0.41 earnings per share, both matching expectations.

Intel shares are up over 3% in after hours.

Although Intel matched analyst forecasts, it's worth noting that these are reduced expectations after Intel cut its revenue forecastsby nearly $1 billion last month. It cited weak demand for PC chips and a "challenging" business environment, largely due to a stronger US dollar, for the adjustment.

Intel's Client Computing Group saw the biggest hit with revenue of $7.4 billion, down 8% from a year ago. This is a new unit created this quarter, after the company combined its PC and mobile units. Mobile was the worst performing business last year, with a staggering $4.2 billion in operating loss. By combining it with its PC group, which had $14.6 billion in operating profit last year, Intel will no longer have to break out its mobile numbers anymore.

But Intel's data center business, its second largest group, saw encouraging signs of growth, with $3.7 billion in revenue, up 19% from a year earlier. The Internet of Things group, another unit Intel has been focused on lately, reported $533 million in sales, an 11% increase year-over-year.

"Year-over-year revenues were flat, with double-digit revenue growth in the data center, IoT and memory businesses offsetting lower than expected demand for business desktop PCs," Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said in a statement. “These results reinforce the importance of continuing to execute our growth strategy.”


Intel's first quarter report doesn't live up to Wall Street expectations

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Intel kicked off the latest tech earnings season with first quarter financial results published after the bell on Tuesday.

More Tech Earnings

Target Q4 boosted by online, digital channels; data breach tallied to $162 million
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HP posts mixed Q1 results as revenue slips with weak Q2 outlook
HTC Q4 2014: Targeted portfolio leads to third consecutive quarter of profitability
Salesforce meets Q4 targets, raises revenue guidance

The processor maker reported a net income of approximately $2 billion, or 42 cents per share (statement).

Non-GAAP earnings were 41 cents per share on a revenue of $12.8 billion, flat year-over-year.

Wall Street was looking for earnings of 41 cents per share with revenue of at least $12.9 billion.

Headlining the Q1 report, Intel attributed the results to the slowdown of the PC business, which was fortunately offset by "growth in data center, Internet of Things (IoT) and non-volatile memory businesses."

Intel CFO Stacy Smith stressed these results were actually in line with the updated estimates Intel provided in March, but he admitted they are below the projections originally offered last quarter.

Intel is only one of many publicly-traded companies shifting (and often lowering) outlooks throughout the quarter in reflection of dramatic currency fluctuations, notably a stronger U.S. Dollar.

Still, Intel shares performed better in after-hours trading, inching upward by three percent initially after the report hit the wires.

Just last week, Intel announced it would be altering its reporting structure, merging the PC Client group with results for the Mobile and Communications unit to create the overall Client Computing Group.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-headquartered corporation said this was done "to address all aspects of the client computing market segment and utilize Intel's intellectual property to offer compelling customer solutions."

Thus, with $7.4 billion in revenue during the first quarter, the Client Computing department started off with revenue slipping by 16 percent sequentially and eight percent annually.

Data centers did better on an annual basis, producing $3.7 billion in revenue, up 19 percent year-over-year. The Internet of Things department also grew revenue by 11 percent year-over-year to $533 million in Q1.

"These results reinforce the importance of continuing to execute our growth strategy," said Intel CEO Brian...



03/30/2015

Economists Upbeat About 2015-2016 Economic Boost

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According to recent forecasts by business economists, the winter economic slowdown won’t influence the positive trend of the US economy, which is in for another good year. A total of 50 professional forecasters were interviewed by the National Association for Business Economics and it seems that the GDP (gross domestic product) is estimated at a 3.1% advance.

According to information released by the Commerce Department last week, the gross domestic product (which represents our economy’s broadest measure of goods and services) experienced a significant expansion of a seasonally adjusted yearly rate of 2.2 percent during the fourth quarter. And while this pace was significantly slower than the previous quarter’s 5.0 percent pace, the sharp slowdown shouldn’t represent any reason for concern, economists explain.

Wells Fargo chief economist, John Silvia, explains that this significant acceleration in overall economic activity is influenced by several factors including increased consumer spending, investments in real-estate as well as government spending. All of these factors are strong economic drivers and business economists are particularly confident.

And this is good news for the job market as well, since economists believe that it will continue to expand by approximately 250,000 new positions monthly in 2015 and 216,000 in 2016. According to these forecasts, the US jobless rate should drop to approximately 5 percent at the end of 2016 and while wage growth still remains stagnant, a joblessness decrease is still reason enough to rejoice.

The US dollar is still soaring high and oil prices continue to drop, yet economists believe that prices should begin to increase in 2016. Oil prices are expected to reach $61 per barrel at the end of 2015 and this should be enough to ensure that inflation not exceed 1.2%. The consensus is that in 2016, oil prices will rebound while the dollar’s appreciation will also die down.

The NABE’s survey was conducted between February 25th and March 12th.

2014 represented a particularly good year for the US economy as an average of 260,000 jobs were added monthly, bringing the unemployment rate to a whopping 5.6% in December. And although mid-2014 oil prices were close to $99, they plummeted to $45 this month.

Yet despite all this good news, the Fed’s possible increase of interest rates is something that has been on economists’ minds for some time.


Major Economists Forecast Slowdown in 2016

The National Association for Business Economics (NABE) forecasts an improvement in the U.S. economy this year, and most of the causes and benefits that go with that. Unfortunately, the group expects another economic slowing next year.

For 2015 the NABE March forecast showed those members polled had a median forecast of 3.1% gross domestic product (GDP) improvement this year, falling to 2.9% next year. A typical recovery pattern would move the GDP increase to close to 4% or better.

Any acceleration of GDP marries a better job market and action from the Federal Reserve. The NABE forecast follows the pattern:

The panelists’ median forecast is for net new job creation to average approximately 250,000 per month in 2015 and 216,000 per month next year. The unemployment rate is expected to continue its downward trend over the next several quarters, reaching 5% by the second half of 2016.

Also:

“Against this backdrop, 88% of panelists believe the Federal Reserve will commence tightening of monetary policy in the second or third quarter of 2015,” adds Silvia. “Fifty-five percent expect a third quarter ‘liftoff’ — up from the 46% who held this view in the December Outlook survey. The federal funds rate is forecasted to reach 0.75% by the end of the year — identical to expectations in December — and 2% by the end of 2016. Forecasts for both years are similar to the median assessment of members of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) communicated in March.”

The acceleration will come with no inflation. The group’s median forecast for Consumer Price Index (CPI) this year is less than 1%.

There has been a nagging issue for many experts on the economy. Job growth has moved faster that the economic recovery as a whole. Often a 5% unemployment rate marries with rapid increases in GDP and inflation. The current recovery does not have those earmarks. To make matters more complicated, the growth of corporate earnings, at least among the S&P 500, have cratered.

Something is wrong with the economy, and the NABE report has missed it



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