Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway aim to disrupt the healthcare industry

Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan hope to improve healthcare for all U.S. employees.

Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase have joined forces to disrupt the healthcare industry. Their goal is to slash healthcare costs for their 1.1 million employees.

The plan is to create an independent healthcare company for their employees. According to The New York Times, the three companies provided few details and the initiative is still in the early planning stages. While the exact details are still unclear, one thing is certain. They are some of the most ambitious and influential companies in the country. Amazon, the online retail giant; Berkshire Hathaway, the holding company led by the billionaire investor Warren Buffett; and JPMorgan Chase, the largest bank in the United States by assets.

In a statement issued by Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, the initiative would be “free from profit-making incentives and constraints.”

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and chief executive, said in a statement, “the healthcare system is complex, and we enter into this challenge open-eyed about the degree of difficulty,” “Hard as it might be, reducing health care’s burden on the economy while improving outcomes for employees and their families would be worth the effort.”

The announcement caused stocks of many established healthcare companies to plunge and speculation about whether the new company would make it easier for consumers to understand their healthcare costs and access to medical records, or tackle more ambitious projects, such as the wider use of telemedicine and virtual doctor visits. There is also speculation, that even though the partnership would focus on improving the healthcare of their employees, any solutions that develop could eventually spread throughout the industry. Thus, the benefit for consumers would be if a blueprint is developed to control surging healthcare and drug costs, without the deterioration of patient care. This is a scenario that the U.S. government and the healthcare industry have struggled to achieve for many years.

“The ballooning costs of health care act as a hungry tapeworm on the American economy,” Mr. Buffett said in a statement. “Our group does not come to this problem with answers. But we also do not accept it as inevitable.”

 

 

IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad passes away

Swedish entrepreneur and founder of IKEA, dies at 91.

IKEA founder, Ingvar Kamprad has passed away at the age of 91. According to Reuters, the Swedish billionaire’s legacy is turning a business he launched as a teenager into one of the world’s best known furniture brands in the world.

The company issued a statement about the founder’s passing. “One of the greatest entrepreneurs of the 20th century, Ingvar Kamprad, has peacefully passed away, at his home in Smaland, Sweden, on the 27th of January.”

Kamprad started the business in 1943, at the age of 17, but the big break came in 1956 when the company began to produce flat-pack furniture. By watching an employee take the legs off a table to fit into their car, he realized that there was a way that it could be developed to save money on transport, storage and space. The costs of assembly would also be eliminated by allowing consumers to build their own furniture. Research would later determine there was an “IKEA effect”, whereby customers derived more satisfaction and valued self-made products.

Kamprad was born on March 30, 1926, in southern Sweden. His foray into business began at the early age of five, when he started selling matches to neighbors and eventually diversified his inventory to include seeds, Christmas tree decorations and pens.

The company further stated that Kamprad did not have an operational role within IKEA, since 1988. However he continued to contribute to the business in the role of senior advisor and shared his knowledge and energy.

“We are deeply saddened by Ingvar’s passing. We will remember his dedication and commitment to always side with the many people. To never give up, always try to become better and lead by example”, said Torbjörn Lööf CEO and President of Inter IKEA Group.

Today, IKEA has about 400 stores and approximately 1 billion people visited them last year.

 

Social media’s black market

The lucrative business of fake social media accounts.

There  is a social media black market. A relatively obscure company has been accused of selling fake Twitter followers and bots and profiting heavily. The fake accounts automatically increase the following of anyone who wants to appear more popular online and is willing to pay. Devumi has sold millions of fake followers on social media platforms, but has done so at expense of real users and copying their personal information.

According to the New York Times, New York attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, has opened an investigation into Devumi, which has profited by stealing people’s identities.

“Impersonation and deception are illegal under New York law,” Mr. Schneiderman wrote on Twitter. “We’re opening an investigation into Devumi and its apparent sale of bots using stolen identities.”

While many social media platforms, like Twitter and Facebook, prohibit buying followers, Devumi and dozens of other sites openly sell them. A New York Times’ investigation confirmed that business and court records revealed Devumi has more than 200,000 customers, including reality television stars, professional athletes, comedians, TED speakers, pastors and models. The records show they purchased their own followers. However, in some instances, their other people, such as employees, agents or public relations companies, did the buying. For an affordable amount, Devumi offers Twitter followers, views on YouTube, plays on SoundCloud and endorsements on LinkedIn.

Devumi has an estimated stock of at least 3.5 million automated accounts, each being sold numerous times and the company has provided customers with more than 200 million Twitter followers. Even Devumi’s website promotes a fake home base of New York City, while it’s actually located in Florida.

However, Devumi’s founder, German Calas, denied that his company sold fake followers and said he knew nothing about social identities stolen from real users. “The allegations are false, and we do not have knowledge of any such activity,” said Mr. Calas.

Devumi isn’t the only company creating fake accounts, as there are dozens of others and this investigation is the latest in a series of federal and state inquiries into the commercial and political abuse of fake social media accounts.

Social media companies, including Twitter and Facebook, have drawn strong criticism and scrutiny for not taking enough steps to combat the fake accounts.

“The internet should be one of the greatest tools for democracy — but it’s increasingly being turned into an opaque, pay-to-play playground,” said Mr. Schneiderman.

 

Fitness chain bans cable news networks

Is the ban a push for a healthy lifestyle or censorship?

National fitness chain Life Time, has made the decision to ban cable news from appearing on TVs at all of their 128 locations.

According to the Huffington post, the banned channels include CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and CNBC.

Life Time issued an official statement via Twitter, explaining the motive for their decision is actually based on customer feedback. “The decision to remove the national cable news stations resulted from significant member feedback received over time and our commitment to provide family oriented environments free of consistently negative or politically charged content.”

Life Time’s statement further explained that their change in programming “is consistent with the desires of overall membership as well as our healthy way of life philosophy.”

Members of the Minnesota-based fitness chain will have access to channels such as USA, A&E, Discovery, HGTV, ESPN and other local channels, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

However, there are plans to make the unhealthy news channels available only through personal TVs on the treadmills. This phase will be completed by the end of February.

Currently, the reactions have been mixed. Some people agree with Life Time’s decision, saying that negative news affected their workouts, while others believe this decision is censorship and corporate overreach. Some people also pointed out that while Life Time is trying to help with a healthy lifestyle, the available channels may not be airing appropriate shows.

 

Second red handfish population discovered off of Tasmanian coast

Researchers have discovered a second population of red handfish off of the Tasmanian coast.

Divers in Tasmania have discovered a new population of extremely rare red handfish, doubling the known amount in the wild and renewing hope for the species’ future.

Before the discovery, scientists believed the red handfish — Thymichthys politus — only lived along a single, 160 foot reef in Frederick Henry Bay in south-east Tasmania. A recent survey of the region uncovered eight fish in the area, which led scientists to estimate there were a mere 20 to 40 of the animals left in the wild.

However, the new site — which was found on a similarly-sized reef near Frederick Henry Bay — likely has the same number of fish as the first site. That changes the previous estimates and shows the populations could still be saved.

Scientists from the University of Tasmania uncovered the animals after locals reported spotting a red handfish in the area. The claim immediately garnered attention and prompted a group of divers to explore the region.

“We were diving for approximately three and a half hours and at about the two-hour mark we were all looking at each other thinking this is not looking promising,” said diver Antonia Cooper, according to The Guardian. “My dive partner went to tell the other divers that we were going to start heading in and I was half-heartedly flicking algae around when, lo and behold, I found a red handfish.”

While there is a chance there are other undiscovered populations, those groups believes those are likely genetically isolated because red handfish are not built for long swims. While the animals can move in short bursts, they typically dart away and then immediately settle. Most of the time they sit in place or slowly trudge along the bottom of the ocean.

There are three species of critically endangered handfish endemic to Tasmania: the red handfish, Ziebell’s handfish — which is thought to be extinct — and the spotted handfish.  The red handfish is the rarest of those still that can still be found in the wild.

“Finding this second population is a huge relief as it effectively doubles how many we think are left on the planet,” said Rick Stuart-Smith, a researcher at the University of Tasmania, according to ZME Science.

Now that a new population has been found, researchers are debating revisiting the idea of a captive breeding program for the species. Scientists have shied away from such ideas in the past because the small population could not afford the capture of a few breeding pairs. However, now that the numbers are bigger that should not be a concern.

Technology advancements may be the future of early cancer detection

Advancements in medical technology may lead to the early detection of cancer.

With the help of advancements in technology, early cancer detection may become a part of the future.

According to CNBC, Rajeev Suri, the CEO of Nokia, outlined his vision for the future of medical treatment and technology, which included remote surgeries, 5G ambulances and miniaturized wearable scanners.

During a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Suri stated “with these sort of products, you can start to prevent stuff before it occurs and we think through biomarkers you can even figure out Cancer several months before it occurs.” Suri further stressed why this kind of technology is needed. “Think about how important that is when every month and every day is important to a cancer patient.”

Nokia believes advances technology can shape the future of healthcare and has devoted a new research team specifically for this industry. There is a strong possibility that with the advent of 5G internet, remote surgery could become an option for patients. “Imagine a doctor in Chicago doing an operation for someone in Taiwan using robotic surgery. You want the doctor to feel immediate feedback to what the robot is experiencing,” Suri said.

Nokia’s push for advancements in medical treatment is underway. The company is currently developing a wearable sleeve with scannable chips, which can track specific health related information, levels of glucose, cholesterol and lactic acid. It would be more than than a fitness device, but rather a health tracker in between doctor appointments, thus allowing medical professionals access to important information about patients.

Nokia is also working with China Mobile Research Institute on a 5G ambulance that could save people in emergency situations.

Will the Bitcoin Bubble burst?

Even with the popularity of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, many in the financial sector are still skeptical.

In the past several months, Bitcoin has been all over the news and is popular with people who deem it valuable. However, many people in the financial sector are skeptical of cryptocurrency and are warning of the potential risks of investing.

According to The Guardian, UBS Chairman Axel Weber, stated that that bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies were speculative, risky and “not an investment we would advise.”

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who said he would never invest in cryptocurrency despite Bitcoin’s nearly 2,000% rise in 2017.

Ernst & Young, also warned against investing in initial coin offerings (ICOs), which offer cryptocurrency tokens to raise funds because they are at risk of cybercrime. The Guardian stated that of the 372 ICOs analyzed, raising a total of $3.7 billion, roughly $400 million had been stolen by hackers, who were taking up to $1.5million in ICO proceeds per month.

Chair of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Jay Clayton, also stated that the agency had seen “disturbing” evidence that investors in ICOs had been counselled that they did not need to comply with federal securities law.

“I have instructed the SEC staff to be on high alert for approaches to ICOs that may be contrary to the spirit of our securities laws and the professional obligations of the US securities bar,” stated Clayton.

Due to the vast price fluctuations of Bitcoin, many governments around the world have made statements that cryptocurrency regulations will be a part of the future.

However, the hype and popularity, has also caused concern, as many companies aimed to take advantage of investor excitement surrounding blockchain technology. According to The Guardian, this has led to the SEC to issue a statement that they would closely watch companies that capitalize on the popularity.

“The SEC is looking closely at the disclosures of public companies that shift their business models to capitalise on the perceived promise of distributed ledger technology and whether the disclosures comply with the securities laws, particularly in the case of an offering,” stated Clayton.

Chinese space station will plummet to Earth in March

Given that Earth is mostly covered in water, the odds are the space station will fall into an ocean.

China’s first space station, Tiangong-1, will fall to Earth sometime in mid-March — but nobody knows exactly where it will land or in how many pieces.

The China National Space Administration launched the nearly 19,000-pound (8,500-kilogram) Tiangong-1 in September, 2011, according to the Aerospace Corporation in California. After two manned missions, the Chinese government announced in March 2016 they could no longer communicate with the space station, adding it would eventually fall back to Earth as its orbit began to decay.

“The date, time and geographic footprint of the re-entry can only be predicted with large uncertainties,” said Holger Krag, head of the European Space Agency’s Space Debris Office, in November, as reported by CBC News. “Even shortly before re-entry, only a very large time and geographical window can be estimated.”

Given that Earth is mostly covered in water, the odds are the space station will fall into an ocean. Still, there is a chance that some debris will survive reentry and crash onto Earth’s surface.

“There is a chance that a small amount of Tiangong-1 debris may survive reentry and impact the ground,” wrote Aerospace Corp. “Should this happen, any surviving debris would fall within a region that is a few hundred kilometers in size and centered along a point on the Earth that the station passes over.”

Other objects more massive than Tiangong-1 have broken apart on reentry to Earth’s upper atmosphere.

In 1979, the 165,000-pound SkyLab — NASA’s first space station — fell to Earth in an uncontrolled orbit and crashed in rural Australia with no reported casualties. Then, in 2001, Russia’s 265,000-pound Mir space station plummeted safely into the Pacific Ocean during a planned reentry.

Trump decision strips protections for 250,000 El Salvadoran refugees

Advocacy groups condemned the administration’s decision, saying it is unnecessarily harsh and damaging to the U.S. and Salvadoran economies.

An estimated 262,000 El Salvadorans will lose their temporary protected immigration status, according to a Trump administration order announced Monday, and many could be deported to a now-strange country they have not lived in for decades.

Special protections for Salvadorans were extended in 2001 by the Bush administration for refugees escaping from the devastation caused by two severe earthquakes in the small Central American country, a report by the Los Angeles Times said.

Salvadorans covered by the temporary protected status program have 18 months to return to El Salvador or figure out another way to stay in the U.S. legally.

Officials justified removing the protections by saying conditions in El Salvador have improved.

“Schools and hospitals damaged by the earthquakes have been reconstructed and repaired, homes have been rebuilt, and money has been provided for watering sanitation and to repair earthquake-damaged roads and other infrastructures,” said Homeland Security officials, in a statement, as reported by the Times. “The substantial disruption of living conditions caused by the earthquake no longer exist.”

Advocacy groups condemned the administration’s decision, saying it is unnecessarily harsh and damaging to the U.S. and Salvadoran economies. Over the course of nearly 20 years, Salvadorans have established businesses and careers in the U.S. and the Salvadoran economy is bolstered by money sent back to families from the immigrants.

In addition, Salvadorans with temporary status are parents to some 200,000 children who are U.S. citizens.

“The United States has yet again turned its back on its promise to provide refuge for those who face violence and persecution in their home countries,” said Oscar Chacón, executive director of Alianza Americas, a coalition of immigrant rights groups, in the Times report.