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As new fiscal years are starting, Sony has recently released the assessment of the previous fiscal year when it reportedly lost 1.06 billion dollars, translated in a net loss of 126 billion yen until March 2015. The trend is downward from a loss of 128.4 billion yen just one year ago.

The fiscal year that started with April 1, 2015 promises to hold increased success for the company, Sony expecting a net profit of 140 billion yen and an operating profit of 320 billion yen. The sales are estimated at a 7.9 trillion yen for this fiscal year.

Hideki Yasuda, Ace Research Institute Analyst, commented that:

“The target of operating profit is conservative. Investors expected too much so Sony is trying to lower their expectations.”

Kazuo Hirai, the Chief Executive Officer of Sony explained that this year the company will be focusing on cutting costs and further advancing in those businesses where Sony already has a clear head start, in a bid to regain shareholder confidence.

That is good news as the share stock has reached its highest point since 2008 this month, with the shares’ value increasing more than 30 percent.

Referring to the businesses where Sony displays a clear advantage, the gaming industry and the electronic devices hold a clear high place. Sony PlayStation4 game console reportedly sold twice as many units as Microsoft’s XboxOne, making the last generation console the undisputable leader in the market.

To take full advantage of the spoils offered by the console, Sony introduced it to China, the world’s biggest gaming market, thus surging the revenues. At the same time, Sony plans to strengthen its game streaming service. North America can enjoy PlayStationNow due to the purchase of patents of OnLive.

The electronic devices business is a game changer for Sony as well, the emphasis falling on image sensors. The picture division now boasts the upcoming release of the latest Bond movie – Spectre.

In total, a 17 percent increase in sales has been reported, and due to Mr. Hirai’s call to sell Sony’s PC business, halt smartphone development in China and putting the Xperia line on hold, as well as separating the TV manufacturing business.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Hirai summed up the philosophy of Sony:

„I think that whether we are talking about the Japanese market or markets overseas, whether it’s Sony or any other company, whether they are Japanese or not, so long as they are bringing out products that are innovative, that are differentiated, that stand above the competition in this world of commoditized products—if we are able to have products that tick all those boxes, then certainly, including Sony, we should definitely be in the consumer product space, and we should be able to do it in a very profitable manner”.

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Dick Costolo, the chief executive officer of Twitter Inc. is under fire for the leaked first financial quarter earnings statement which shows bleak results for the company. The previous time when the spotlight was on Twitter Inc. a management overhaul, the introduction of new services and features and a newly gained investor confidence pulled Twitter out of the murk.

And all these changes promised to move things forward. However, the leaked statement showed that Mr. Costolo failed to foresee a slowdown that caused the company to cut its 2015 sales, miss analysts’ Q1 revenue estimates and drop the stock by 18 percent.

The prestigious analysts in case are now raising questions as to whether the social media company is able to attract more users and advertisers, as well as to grasp its potential market.

The number of monthly active members decreased significantly as compared to the previous financial quarter (18 percent to 20 percent), albeit the introduction of new features and products. The stock too fell significantly, in New York and Frankfurt.

Amidst this realization, Dick Costolo responded that the number of active users falling is an overstatement as the 500 million people visiting Twitter each month without logging in should also be taken into account.

After dismissing the problems Twitter Inc. is facing, Mr. Costolo launched into a discussion on the commerce strategy of the company designed to monetize the service. The in-tweet purchase option signaled by the “BUY NOW” button on Twitter webpage is part of this strategy. It started with buying tickets to sport events, concerts or movies and it is sporting popularity. Yet it remains unclear if it will further develop to larger buys after small commerce.

However, Mr. Costolo pointed out that Twitter Inc. still has an ace up its sleeve as the acquisition of TellApart, a marketing technology company, will certainly prove an asset to Twitter.

“Consumers now move fluidly between apps, devices and platforms, and performance advertisers are in need of more effective targeting and measurement tools that work seamlessly if, say, someone browses for products on a mobile device but ultimately makes a purchase on a desktop device,” Kevin Weil, Senior Vice President of Product at Twitter, said in a company release. “By bringing Twitter and TellApart together, we’ll be able to help performance advertisers reach users wherever they are, whether on desktop or mobile.”

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Two populations of the humpback whale would still have the endangered species status, but most humpback whales may no longer be endangered.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Monday proposed the removal from the endangered species list of more than two-thirds of the Earth’s humpback whales population.

Humpback whales were first considered as in need of protection from hunting under the Endangered Species Act back in 1970. The NOAA’s project would take out 10 of the 14 recognized whale populations away from the endangered species list, while two species would be still listed as endangered, while the remaining two would be labeled as threatened.

“The return of the iconic humpback whale is an ESA success story. As we learn more about the species—and realize the populations are largely independent of each other—managing them separately allows us to focus protection on the animals that need it the most,” Eileen Sobeck, assistant administrator for fisheries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said in the NOAA statement.

The last time the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration removed a species from the endangered list after its population recovered was in 1994, when the ecologist body took out from the list a population of gray whales. Even if the whales are removed from the list, all the humpback species would still be protected under the Marine Mammals Protection Act.

There are only a few zones in the world that still permit hunting of humpback whales. Those places are meant for aboriginal subsistence only, said the International Whaling Commission. Three nations, Norway, Japan, and Iceland, still permit the killing of marine animals for scientific research.

Humans used to hunt the whales in large numbers before their labeling as endangered. Humpbacks were considered endangered in 1970, only four years after the International Whaling Commission prohibited commercial humpback whaling. The same commission stopped all forms commercial whaling in 1986.

Humpbacks are living all around the world, and scientists say restoration and protection efforts have greatly increased their numbers in many waters. Among those which are recommended for dropping from the list is the population that migrates each year from Alaska to Hawaii.

The ruling on which whale groups to propose for removal from the list were based on many factors, among them the risks they face, NOAA experts said. The largest threat to humpbacks is fishing that can result in the whales becoming trapped in fishing gear and then drown.

Image Source: One Green Planet

China and Pakistan kick-started a plan on Monday which implies $46 billion worth of energy and infrastructure projects in Pakistan, in a move which will connect their economies and further build China’s economic ambitions in Asia.

China’s President Xi Jinping traveled to Pakistan to be present at the signing of agreements that target the establishment of a China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The project is centered in Pakistan’s southern Gwadar port on the shores of the Arabian Sea and China’s Xinjiang region.

The project, which would be much greater than U.S. spending in Pakistan over the last ten years, is part of China’s plans to forge land and sea links to markets in the Middle East and Europe.

Xi Jinping, whose trip to Pakistan fill finish on Tuesday, explained the move cemented an “all-weather strategic cooperative partnership” between his country and its neighbor.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif explained the corridor would help Pakistan transform into a regional hub and offer China a cheaper and shorter route for trade with much of Asia, but also with the Middle East and Africa.

“Friendship with China is the cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy,” Sharif mentioned in a speech.

The corridor, a network of railways, roads, and pipelines, will transit Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, where poverty and a long-running separatist insurgency which the Pakistani army has promised to crush will shed some doubts over the feasibility of the scheme.

China is also concerned about Muslim separatists from Xinjiang, whom are partnering up with Pakistani militants. Although Xi did not address the issue on Monday, he said that economic cooperation is closely linked to security in a statement on Sunday.

“Our cooperation in the security and economic fields reinforce each other, and they must be advanced simultaneously,” Ji said, while Sharif mentioned: “I assured President Xi that Pakistan considers China’s security as important as its own security.”

Pakistan army officials added the Waziristan army offensive has killed a large number of militants. Afghanistan also has captured and handed over more than a dozen anti-China fighters it captured on its territory in recent months.

Xi requested greater efforts to settle peace in Afghanistan, where Pakistan is eager to restrict the influence of its main local rival India.

The two neighbors also have agreed to strengthen their cooperation in civil nuclear energy, maritime and space technology, as well as counter-terrorism and defense.

Image Source: Pakistan Today

NASA and the European Space Agency are setting up a project that could save humanity from potential dangerous meteors and asteroids headed for Earth.

The two space agencies have teamed up to clear some of the near Earth objects, by starting a new asteroid targeting mission.

The European Space Agency announced it started the preliminary design work for the Asteroid Impact Mission. According to the scientists, the new project will be a great opportunity to test new technologies which could be then used for future deep space missions, but also for planetary defense methods.

ESA will carry out a mission to Didymos, a deep space binary asteroid system. The mission will focus on the asteroid moon named Didymoon, which is expected to pass-by Earth at a non-risk distance of 11 million kilometers in the year 2022.

The European Space Agency will analyze the asteroid using high resolution photographs and mappings, but will also carry out radar and thermal mapping of Didymoon. After all the research is complete, the space agency will send a lander on the asteroid.

ESA said that its Asteroid Impact Mission will focus on gathering scientific bounty and increasing information which will provide valuable observations and data about the formation of the solar system. This extraordinary mission will also set up humanity for future dangerous asteroids that might head directly to Earth.

NASA will also send a Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) in 2022, along with AIM: This means that the American scientists will deploy a probe that will crash into the surface of Didymoon.

Ian Carnelli, mission manager of ESA, explained that the results of the two missions will give the laboratory impact models to be further used on a larger scale to deeply understand the reactions that are taking place on a real asteroid when it is exposed to this type of energy.

Through the DART mission, NASA also aims to shift Didymoon’s orbit. If successful, it will be the time that any human activity has ever changed the dynamics and trajectory of a solar system object.

NASA’s DART and ESA’s AIM projects will be useful lessons for asteroid defense strategies in the future. The scientists want to achieve insights about what type of force and energy is required in order to change the paths of asteroids, especially of those space objects that are headed for Earth and could destroy life as we know it.

Image Source: Fox News

Hiring in March slowed abruptly to its weakest rhythm in over a year, following months months of strong growth.

The Labor Department announced Friday that employers added only 126,000 net new jobs in March. Forecasters expected almost double. It is a lower level than half the monthly average in 2014.

The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5.5% last month, but this can be explained by the shrinking of the work force, with the number of new jobs dropping significantly.

One of the few good news of the Labor’s Department report is that the average pay of workers grew up significantly last month. Also, business services recorded continued solid job gains. This sector accounts for high-paying occupations such as engineers and architects. Also, the retail sector has recovered all the jobs it lost in the recession, after a good last month.

The report published on Friday was one of the feeble in recent months. The results will probably put in doubt the strength of the overall economy, and if similar reports will follow, the Federal Reserve could postpone raising interest rates, which could happen in June.

Friday’s report also suggested that average hours of work dropped in March. Experts revised downward payroll employment numbers for the previous two months by a combined 69,000, but in January and February the average monthly job growth was still at 281,000 for the six months before March.

It is still not clear how much the extremely cold weather in March may have slowed hiring. Construction payrolls remained constant, while restaurants created much fewer than expected new jobs.

Hiring in recent months had been overachieving the expectations of analysts, considering the slowdown in total economic output. U.S. economic momentum has decreased in the first quarter, due to the snowy weather but also to a drop in exports and a slowing in investments in the energy sector, after oil prices have plummeted.

The mining and logging sector, which includes oil and gas extraction, had suffered a serious contraction. It lost 11,000 jobs in March and has dropped 30,000 positions so far in 2015.

Private sector workers recorded an average hourly earnings raise by 7 cents, 0.3%, to $24.86 in March. Economists had expected a 0.2% rise in salary from the previous month. Compared to last year’s levels, hourly earnings grew by 2.1% in March, slightly over the 2% annual pace of recent years.

The employment-population ratio was 59.3% in Marched, steady compared to February but higher by 0.3% than in March 2014.

Image Source: Ozone South Bridge

Since he met the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on March 5, Vladimir Putin has not made any public appearance. This has led to a lot of speculation in the media regarding his whereabouts. Rumors have circulated that the Russian president is either ill, or visiting a supposed lover of his, the gymnast Alina Kabaeva, who is said to have given birth to a son by Putin. The latter information has been firmly denied by Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov.

Putin’s absence wouldn’t have seemed so unnatural if it hadn’t been for the fact that on Friday the state-controlled Russian TV Channel Rossiya 24 broadcasted the news of Putin’s meeting with Almazbek Atambayev, the President of Kyrgyzstan, a meeting that hasn’t yet taken place. The news channel spoke of the official conference between the two leaders in the Russian past tense, as if it had already happened on this Monday, although it was known that the meeting was scheduled for the next Monday, March 16. The TV channel sent a spokesperson to apologize for this blunder, saying it was a simple mistake, but the international public opinion was reluctant to accept this explanation.

A similar thing happened on NTV channel, where images of Putin meeting Supreme Court president Vyacheslav Lebedev at the presidential residence in Novo-Ogaryovo were broadcasted on Friday. Since no evidence showed that the images were indeed shot on Friday, rumors continued to circulate, fed by the fact that Kremlin had already tried to present old photographs of Putin as recent ones.

Now, that the actual date of the meeting is less than 24 hours away, speculations are at their highest. This, according to Leonid Bershidsky from Bloomberg News, is due to the fact that the Russian president has never dropped out of sight for such a long time in the 15 years since his first election as president.

According to Daily Mail, former FSB chief Nikolai Patrushev organized a coup d’état to “neutralize” Putin. The Russian leader is said to be alive, but “neutralized at the moment”. At least this is what pro-Kremlin chairman Geydar Dzhemal declared last night. The presence of a number of large trucks parked outside the Kremlin palace gave birth to rumors about a supposed flight attempt of the president’s, but some say that they are part of the preparation for celebrating a year from the annexation of Crimea.

image: lorries outside Kremlin (source: Daily Mail)

UK Chancellor George Osborne declared on March 12 that Britain intends to join the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank), a China-backed monetary institution aimed at funding energy, transport and infrastructure projects in several Asian countries. This decision was taken without consulting the US, which caused a White House official to express his displeasure in the Financial Times. In their Thursday article, the newspaper reported that the government official, who refused to disclose his name, warned about “a trend toward constant accommodation of China”.

Hoping to invest in the world’s most rapidly developing countries, but also hoping to find a solution to last year’s Hong Kong issue (which still breeds tension between former pro-democracy protesters and Chinese authorities), British Prime Minister David Cameron has been intensely working towards establishing new trade deals with China, an effort which culminates with this AIIB membership request. Critics say that economic interests are placed above the necessary criticism of China’s management of human rights issues that the UK used to voice.

The AIIB was founded in 2014 by 21 nations, among which India, Thailand and Singapore are the most prominent. If Britain is accepted, it would be the first important Western economy to be involved in the project. The bank’s plans to expand in the Pacific region were mildly discouraged by the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, whose support was limited by conditions of transparency. South Korea and Japan were also persuaded by the US not to participate.

The US drew attention to a series of questions regarding the AIIB’s observance of international regulations. Last year, when the bank was founded, Obama agreed with Tony Abbott about the transparency conditions, stressing the necessity for this bank to be truly multilateral.

According to financial experts, China has a 67% shareholding in the new bank, because the inaugurating agreement specifies that the capital structure of AIIB is relative gross domestic product. Some experts fear that in these conditions Britain would not have an important vote in taking bank-governing decisions. But UK’s hope is to gain some power within the new Asian bank, rather than exert pressure from outside.

image source: Daily Post

In a statement released on Thursday, the US Labor Department has announced that the number of people claiming unemployment benefits has dipped by more than 36,000 during the first week of March, being now situated at 289.000.

The average of people that request unemployment help during a four-week estimate has also fallen by almost 4.000, being situated at 302.000 – a 9 percent drop in comparison to the same period of 2014. This comes after the last week of February saw the highest rate of jobless claims in the last 10 months, at about 325,000 U.S. citizens filling in for benefit.

The number of continuing claims, which represent the people who are already receiving unemployment benefits, is estimated at about 2.4 million as of February 28.

This represents a normal rate in the context of a steadily improving labor market, which oversaw the creation of over 295.000 jobs in the country during February. Analysts believe that the high rate of unemployment benefit claims could be mostly attributed to temporary lay-offs by some employer due to the unpredictable weather circumstances occurring over the last month,

The unemployment rate across the country has also dropped to only 5.5 percent signaling a strong labor market and boosting the chances of economic growth. Unemployment in the United States is almost at half of the historic levels reached in 2009 and 2010, which saw on average almost 1 of every 10 American citizens without jobs.

This rise in employment and general economic stability of the country is what prompted U.S. Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen to warn that the central bank will raise interest rates for federal funds, after they stumped near 0 for years to stimulate economic growth in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

According to Department of Labor rates seasonally adjusted for December 2014, North Dakota has currently the lowest unemployment rate in the country, with only 2.8 percent, while at the other end 7.3 percent of those living within the country’s capital in the District of Columbia are jobless.

Image Source: BBC

It was announced that Burger King has dropped soft drinks from the children’s menu boards. The fast-food company has replaced the soft drinks with 100% apple juice, low-fat chocolate milk and fat-free milk.

Still, Burger King has kept the soft drink varieties on their general menus, but they would need to be ordered separately.

Burger King isn’t the first fast food chain to take this measure, both McDonald’s and Wendy’s have removed carbonated sugary drinks from their children’s menus.

The change was made by Burger King last month, but it wasn’t announced officially because it wanted to allow its franchise members to adapt to the change without any pressure from the media.

Burger King released a statement in which it said that it was adopting the nutrition standards for children set by the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, which is a voluntary industry standard for marketing and advertising for children. The company said:

BKC reviews its menu and nutrition criteria on an ongoing basis to ensure it is consistent with established scientific and government standards.

The companies that have adhered to the CFBAI nutrition standards, are committed to only advertise for better-for-you products to children under the age of 12.

Professor of food distribution and policy at the University of Guelph, Sylvian Charlesbois, said that both McDonald’s and Burger King are making important moves in an attempt to get the attention of health conscious millennials and baby boomers.

The financial impact of such a massive change will not be known until the summer, when the sales increase for fast food restaurants, but analysts believe Coca Cola and Pepsi are going to feel the change.

Nutritionists agree that sugary soft drinks contribute to child obesity, as they are a top source of calories in the diet of kids.

McDonald’s sales have been dropping in North America, as consumers want to eat nutritious foods when they eat out. In an attempt to regain customers, McDonald’s said that it would only select chicken that is free for antibiotics for their famous chicken nuggets.

Burger King sales, on the other hand, have been growing by 3.6% in Canada and the U.S. in the third quarter of the previous year.

Image Source: Ziua Constanta

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