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Uber Drivers in New Zealand Complain of Sliding Income and Rising Workload

Wed, 02/08/2017 - 03:50

Drivers of New Zealand Uber Drivers' Association are saying that they are facing a noticeable drop in their income but a rise in workload as the company's fare prices have dropped.

In April, Uber announced a twenty percent drop in its prices. The app based ride hailing service also changed the process how one can become an Uber driver.

Earlier, if someone wanted to be a driver they had to dish out $2000 plus three months for medical checks and acquiring the different licenses. Now it costs $20 and approximately six days to finish the entire process.

Ben Wilson, the chairman of NZ Uber Drivers' Association agreed that the alterations have affected the Uber drivers.

He said, "Lots of the drivers were former taxi drivers who came to Uber because they thought it was a better service. But with these price cuts, they have to go back to traditional taxi driving."

He said many Uber drivers are leaving the business as they felt, the business is not proving to be a sustainable source of income any more.

An Uber move which has worried the NZ Transport Agency is that, the company has removed rules that need drivers to carry a passenger service license. The agency calls it illegal.

Companies: UberBusiness: Auto SectorBusiness NewsRegion: New Zealand

In Paying Off Mortgage before Retirement the Best Option? There is no ‘Ideal’ Answer

Wed, 02/08/2017 - 03:47

Time and again, surveys have indicated that more people in the United States worry about running out of money after retirement.

According to a survey conducted by Wells Fargo-Gallup greater than a third of retired US investors and about half of those who are yet to retire said they worry about running out of money and being forced to live Social Security as the key source of income. One might think, the idea will push people to save more but most of them do not even know how much savings are enough for their retirement days for a comfortable living.

There are ways to find out how to save best and how much to keep for post retirement days by asking financial planners.

One frequently asked question in the U. S is should one pay off mortgage before retirement? There is no definite suitable answer as it depends on the situation.

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, countrywide, the percentage of homeowners who are at the age of 65 or more with mortgage debt took a big leap in one decade, from 2001's twenty two percent to thirty percent in 2011.

Business: Real EstateBusinessRegion: United States

Air New Zealand has a New Destination in Vietnam

Wed, 02/08/2017 - 03:44

Air New Zealand has a new destination and that's Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. The flight which took eleven hours reached its destination on Sunday morning. In flight dignitaries included Steven Joyce, Economic Development Minister and Viet Dung Nguyen, the Vietnamese Ambassador to New Zealand.

According to Air New Zealand, the addition of the new destination was proof of the airline's "strong growth mode" and it gave it confidence about introducing added further routes.
Also on the inaugural flight, Cam Wallace, chief sales and commercial officer of Air New Zealand said it was "quite a significant day" as it extended the market of the airline in the Pacific Rim.

He said, "We see tremendous economic opportunities in this part of the world."

Vietnam offers an attractive mix of history for the New Zealand travelers says Wallace. The flights launch
Also serves to strengthen the relationship between New Zealand and South East Asia. Vietnam joined the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement and had one of world's fastest growing economies with open approach to trade.

The closer link between the countries could also help the international education sector as well as New Zealand's exporters.

Last year Air New Zealand launched new routes to Beijing, Houston and Buenos Aires and is planning to add a direct link to Manila in the Philippines by this year's end.

Companies: Air New ZealandBusiness: Aviation SectorRegion: New Zealand

Elon Musk Offers More Information on Tunnels Project for Solving Traffic Congestion

Tue, 02/07/2017 - 12:24

Billionaire investor and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk has been talking about solving Los Angeles traffic problems by digging tunnels. Musk has said that by making tunnels, the issues related to traffic congestion in major cities can be solved but tunneling is quite expensive. It is yet to be seen how Musk can use technology and innovation in reducing the cost for tunneling in big cities. Musk’s plan has been questioned by many in terms of feasibility.

Musk clarified last week that he isn’t sure how he and his team can do it. But he complained about traffic issues and said that technology experts should come forward to solve it. As per Wired magazine, Musk has put in some effort to dig 30 feet wide and 50 feet long tunnel at Los Angeles headquarters of SpaceX. Musk said that it is beginning of the experiment.

“You have tall buildings, they’re all 3D, and then everyone wants to go into the building and leave the building at a same time,” Musk said. “On a 2D road network, that obviously doesn’t work, so you have to go 3D either up or down. And I think probably down.”

Musk has been successful in bringing a major change in space travel industry. He has also been able to bring Tesla vehicles for people aiming to reducing their carbon footprint by using electric cars.

“We have no idea what we’re doing — I want to be clear about that,” Musk said.

“Without tunnels, we will all be in traffic hell forever,” he said. “I really do think tunnels are the key to solving urban gridlock. Being stuck in traffic is soul-destroying.”

People: Elon MuskRegion: United States

Andrew Little speaks at Green's AGM

Tue, 02/07/2017 - 04:21

Labour leader Andrew Little has spoken at the Green Party Conference about the newly formed partnership between the parties aiming to change the government.

Mr. Little has said that the two parties have to work to offer a credible alternative to the National-led Government. It was the first time that a Labour leader has spoken at a Green Party AGM and it came just days after the parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together till the elections to change the government in the country.

Mr Little received a standing ovation and prolonged applause from the Green party members at the conference in Christchurch. Green Party co-leader James Shaw said that his presence was a "break in the clouds"

Mr. Little called for a change in the government stating that Labour and the Greens have found a common ground to work together. Mr. Little said that Labour had a strong relationship with the Greens and this relationship has reached a maturity level that will allow the two sides to work together to change the government.

The Memorandum of Understanding between the two sides will provide clarity that was lacking in the earlier elections.Green co-leader MetiriaTureipointed out that a joint approach will help bring change in the government.

The MOU also includes an agreement to co-operate in Parliament and investigate a joint policy and campaign. Mr. Little announced that Grant Robertson would be finance minister in a Labour-Green government but did not announce additional details while Turei said that discussions over cabinet seats will come much later after the elections in the country.

Region: New ZealandGeneral: GeneralPeople: Andrew Little

Truck crash claims 9 lives at Fort Hood

Tue, 02/07/2017 - 04:18

Rescue teams and other crew recovered four bodies on Friday increasing the total death toll to nine following an accident involving an Army truck falling into floodwaters at Fort Hood in the state of Texas. Twelve soldiers were on a training missionwhen their vehicle became stuck in the flooded creek at a remote section of the army post.

Rescue teams from the army and other emergency crews are searching for the missing soldiers along a Fort Hood creek after a truck overturned in the water.Fort Hood spokesman Chris Haug has said that they search operations continued after teams found bodies of two soldiers on Thursday night. Three others were found dead shortly after the accident in Owl Creek during a morning training exercise on the huge army post in Texas.Soldiers from another vehicle rescued three of their comrades following the accident.

The teams also rescued three soldiers and they have been sent to the hospital for treatment and are in stable condition. Teams from the air and on land continued to search the 20-mile creek that covered by a thick forest cover on the northern fringe of the base. An army aircraft, canine search teams, swift-water rescue watercraft and heavy trucks are being used in the rescue operations in the area.

Christopher Haug said that the soldiers were learning to operate the Light Medium Tactical Vehicle and were not sent in conditions too dangerous for training. He said, "It was a situation where the rain had come and the water was rising quickly. They regularly pass through these weather conditions like this. This was a tactical vehicle, and at the time they were in proper place. Just an unfortunate accident that occurred quickly."

General: GeneralRegion: United States

New Conspiracy Charge brought Against Former Pharmaceutical Executive Martin Shkreli

Tue, 02/07/2017 - 04:16

On Friday, a new conspiracy charge was slapped against Martin Shkreli, the former pharmaceutical executive of Retrophin Inc and his former lawyer, Evan Greebel in Brooklyn.

In December, both of them were accused and arrested for stealing money from Retrophin Inc. to cover up for the losses which investors suffered at Mr. Shkreli's hedge funds.

Mr. Shkreli, was ousted as Retrophin's CEO by the company's board in 2014. He has also been heavily criticized for spiking essential drug prices at his pharmaceutical companies. However, his arrest has nothing to do with the matter.

The accusations say, the two accused allocated San Diego based Retrophin Inc's stocks to seven employees in order to conceal that Shkreli owned them.

Shkreli has earlier pleaded not guilty to the charges stating he lost investors' money through bad trades and stole from the pharmaceutical company to cover it up.

Shkreli has faced heavy criticism and is hated because his drug price spiking moves. Turing Pharmaceuticals, a Shkreli owned company raised the price of Daraprim, a drug mostly used to treat malaria by 5,000 percent.

Shkreli's attorney said that the new allegations will not change "flawed theory" of the case and Greebel's lawyer did not make any comments.

Business: Pharmaceutical SectorCompanies: Retrophin Inc.Region: United StatesPeople: Martin Shkreli

Twitter Yahoo! Merger Seems to be More of Speculation than Possibility

Tue, 02/07/2017 - 04:14

Reportedly, for a brief period Twitter and Yahoo were in talks for a merger. The senior Twitter staff met Yahoo Marissa Mayer, Yahoo's CEO to talk about a possible deal. However, absence of Jack Dorsey, Twitter's CEO in the discussions raises a question about the seriousness of the situation.

Yahoo!'s core assets are up for sale and have drawn interest from AT&T, Verizon among others. According to sources, Twitter's officials met Yahoo! "several weeks ago," but the talks did not last for long as Twitter did not show further interest. Both companies declined to comment on the issue and said, "We don't comment on rumor and speculation."

As Yahoo could not find a tax-efficient way of selling its stake in Alibaba. com , the Chinese e-commerce company, in December, Yahoo put up its core Internet business for sale. The value of Yahoo's 15.4 percent stake in Alibaba is somewhere between $20 billion and $30 billion currently which surpasses the total value of Yahoo's Internet business which is estimated to be in the range of $4 to $8 billion.

SoftBank , the Japanese internet company with which Yahoo has a joint venture in Yahoo Japan, is not likely to be a suitor for Yahoo as it is facing shortage of cash right now and this week sold part of Alibaba stake.

Companies: YahooTwitterBusiness: Technology SectorPeople: Marissa MayerJack Dorsey

Obamacare’s New Concern; Insurers Seek Increase in Premium for 2017

Tue, 02/07/2017 - 04:11

It seems troubles for 'Obamacare' aren't over yet as many insurers nationwide have cited financial losses under the health care law and are saying they hope for a premium increases in 2017.

Including Texas, insurers in several states are facing problems like lower than expected enrollment, more number of customers who are sicker than expected and also problems with the financial backstop offered by the government for insurance markets.

Health insurance is locally priced and the available data from several states indicate that chances of an increase in premium appear to be coming up.

The biggest insurer in North Carolina said this week that it will seek 18.8 percent increase on an average.

An analysis by Avalere Health, a consulting firm, showed that average premium increases in nine states for the insurance plans which most people choose range from five percent in Washington State to forty four percent in Vermont.

Although, millions of customers have government subsidies to guard them but those who are not eligible for income-based subsidies are more vulnerable to these premium increases. These customers include self employed people, owners of small businesses and the early retirees. According to the law, most of the Americans need to be covered by health insurance or face substantial fine.

Companies: ObamacareBusiness: Business NewsHealthCareRegion: United States

Car crashes with a truck on Kaimai Range

Tue, 02/07/2017 - 04:07

Police officials in Tauranga are advising motorists to avoid State Highway 29 over the Kaimai Range following a crash involving a car and a truck.

Reports showed that one person has life-threatening head injuries and another has serious injuries after a car and truck collided just before 2.14pm on Friday. Two occupants of the car have moderate injuries while the condition of the truck driver is unknown. The authorities closed the road but a single lane has been reopened in order to allow east and westbound traffic. However, the police is warning motorists to consider significant delays on the route.

Senior Sergeant Ian Campion said, "My advice to motorists heading from Waikato to Tauranga or the western Bay of Plenty is to take an alternative route. From Waikato, take SH5 to Rotorua, then State Highway 36 to Tauranga. Alternatively, you can take State Highway 2 through Waihi to Tauranga. Drivers travelling from Tauranga to Waikato can take the opposite routes."

The person trapped in the car after the crash was rescued and is being treated by ambulance in the afternoon. The Ambulance was also treating two other patients at the site of the crash on the intersection of Poripori Rd and SH29. The fire services were assisting police with road closure.

General: GeneralRegion: New Zealand

Government to build new schools in Tauranga and Hamilton

Tue, 02/07/2017 - 04:02

Education minister Hekia Parata has announced new investments to build new schools in Tauranga and Hamilton as well as extra classrooms at Tauranga and Hawke's Bay. A school in Hamilton will also be extended under the plan. Parata announced a $53.5 million education infrastructure plan as part of the Budget 2016 at Tauranga's Welcome Bay School on Friday.

The authorities will build a new school, Sylvester Primary school in the Hamilton's growing northeast with a budget of $25 million. The plan also includes an expansion of Endeavour School with a budget of $4 million. Another new school will be built at the cost of $18 million on Kennedy Road in the Pyes Pa area in Tauranga. The authorities will build eight extra classrooms in Hawke's Bay and six in Tauranga

Parata said that two new areas and Hawke's Bay have recorded population growth and there was a requirement for new infrastructure to better cater to the students. He said, "With that population growth comes increases in school rolls, so this investment is about staying ahead of schools' need for more quality learning spaces."

Associate education minister Nikki Kaye had pointed out that expansions or new schools were needed in several areas. He also said that the government has been building new schools such as Endeavour School, Rototuna Junior High School and Rototuna Senior High School to cater to the growing demand.

Region: New ZealandGeneral: GeneralEducationPeople: Hekia Parata

Call for Stronger Regional Haze Rule Might Face Opposition from the Coal Powered Energy Industry

Tue, 02/07/2017 - 04:00

Smoke and haze from coal fired power plants drift to national parks and wilderness obscuring the visibility by up to sixty miles. The authorities are trying to address the same problem in Denver, Colorado so that the habitat and the wilderness have lesser impact and visibility issues from the pollution.

It is not easy to work out Obama administration's proposal to constrict regional haze rule nationally which also faces opposition from the industry and over the time line as to how fast the states must implement their plans to meet the goal of Regional Haze Rule, which mandates the restoration of "natural" air conditions in hundred and fifty six national parks and wilderness areas by 2064.

To achieve the goal of restoring perfect natural clarity and the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed that all states would be compelled to control air pollution spreading beyond the boundaries of that state.

At an EPA hearing Jen Clanahan, a member of Colorado Moms Know Best, testified "Our protected natural areas are some of the few places where I thought I could take my daughter and not have to worry about pollution." She added, "If I can't take her to our national parks to escape, I'm not sure where to go. It leaves me feeling like we can't escape the pollution we're breathing in all the time, like I can't get my daughter away from it."

However, the industry officials maintain that the coal-fired power plants and other fossil fuel facilities that are currently operational must keep working.

Business: Energy SectorRegion: Colorado

New Federal Law Prohibits Car Rental Companies from Renting Recalled Cars until they are Repaired

Tue, 02/07/2017 - 03:59

Last year a legislation approved by the Congress was endorsed as a law which comes into effect today, which makes it necessary for rental car companies which have fleets exceeding thirty five vehicles, to pull out all recalled vehicles until they are repaired.

Earlier, laws only stopped car companies from selling a vehicle which was under recall, till it was fixed. However, there were no legal boundaries to renting out one to the public. With the law coming into immediate effect from Wednesday, there is not much time for the rental fleet operators to pull out recalled unrepaired vehicles.

Though the bill got support from the car rental industry and inputs from the American Car Rental Association for a better step towards consumer protection, yet it did not make everyone in the industry happy. For the smaller independent companies, the idea of parking cars for long, till they are repaired does not seem t be a great idea.

In many cases of recall, the automakers do not have a timeline or a clear cut plan of the repairs and it may take months before the vehicles are allowed to ply on the roads.

Business: Auto SectorBusiness NewsRegion: United States

Missing hunter found near Waiti Stream byhelicopter

Tue, 02/07/2017 - 03:57

A missing hunter, who had disappeared after entering the woods near Makahika, Levin, has been located in the search and rescue operation.

The missing man was found near the Waiti Stream by a Defence Force helicopter that was taking part in the search and rescue operation. A medic was sent down from the NH90 to assist the man from Levin. The man was airlifted and dropped to an ambulance at the Levin Showgrounds, where he walked into the ambulance with the help of a St John officer.

The Ambulance paramedics are assessing his conditions and it is believed that he may be suffering from a leg injury and possible hypothermia. A police official said that the man was reported missing this morning after his hunting partner said that the two were separated yesterday in the bushes. The man was not carrying equipment to spend the night in the bushes.

Officials said that search and rescue teams from Palmerston North arrived in Levin to assist in the operation. The friend of the missing person, Evan Jacobsen said that the hunter belonged to Levin. Central District search and rescue co-ordinator Sergeant Bill Nicholson said the man had gone missing in the foothills behind Levin. He had earlier said that several teams are working to locate the man and more teams are arriving from Taihape, Whanganui and Tararua. The New Zealand Defence Force joined the search with the NH90 helicopter in the morning and helped locate the man and bring him to safety.

General: GeneralRegion: New Zealand

To Help Reduce Debt Load, SoftBank Selling $7.9 Billion worth Alibaba Stock

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 04:18

On Tuesday, Japan's SoftBank Group Corp said, to increase its financial flexibility it would sell at least $7.9 billion worth of its shares in Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, the Chinese e-commerce giant. The proceedings from the sale will help the company to trim down its debt and to revive the U.S. wireless company, Sprint Corp which it bought three years back.

The Japanese multinational telecommunications and Internet corporation based in Tokyo owns 32.3 percent of Alibaba shares and said it would retain approximately 28 percent stake in Alibaba.

Masayoshi Son, SoftBank's founder and Chief Executive invested in Alibaba in 2000. At that time it was just a small-commerce company, which later grew to make a position in the U.S IPO history. Then he had invested $20 million in Alibaba, which has now turned into the largest online shopping mall in China with greater than $200 billion market value. Mr. Son's investments have borne fruits for sure.

That's not all; Mr. Son and Alibaba's founder and executive Chairman Jack Ma have been close associates and have had strong ties through some joint ventures. In May itself, the companies said in a joint venture in Japan, they will launch cloud-computing in the country.

Companies: SoftBankAlibabaBusiness: Business NewsRegion: Japan

From April’s After- Recession High, Consumer Confidence in California Drops in May

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 04:15

On Tuesday, data from Conference Board, a market research group revealed that in May, U. S. consumer confidence dropped rather unexpectedly. The highlights worries related to the economy's health. The report showed that the index of consumer confidence dropped to 92.6 in May from April's revised reading of 94.7 which was earlier reported to be 94.2. The reading for May also fell short of the analysts' expectations of 96.0.

The Present Situation Index decreased from 117.1 to 112.9, while the Expectations Index declined from 79.7 to 79.0 in May.

Director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center Lynn Franco said, "Consumer confidence declined slightly in May, primarily due to consumers rating current conditions less favorably than in April. Expectations declined further, as consumers remain cautious about the outlook for business and labor market conditions. Thus, they continue to expect little change in economic activity in the months ahead."

In April, California topped the list of consumer confidence, but in May the state's Consumer Confidence Index dropped to103.0 from April's 111.8. However, it was still higher than one year ago at, 94.6 in May 2015.

The reading in April was California's post-recession high with a strong job market stays and steady growth in the real estate market showing recover after recession.

Region: CaliforniaBusiness: Business NewsPeople: Lynn Franco

China’s Factory Activities Suffer in May as Orders Drop

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 04:13

In May, China's factory activities did not get any better with months of successive drops. On Wednesday a private survey revealed that new orders softened, leading to loss of hope for any recovery soon in the huge manufacturing sector of the country.

In May, the Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Manager' index (PMI) dropped to 49.2 which was lower than the reading of 49.4 in April and the market expectations of 49.3.

The second-largest economy in the world is still struggling to get a grip on its manufacturing activities.

On the other hand, the official Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) in May remained same as April's 50.1 which were just above the 50 mark which separates expansion from contraction on a month over month basis.

In March and April there were some improvements noted in the factory activities in China which had sparked hopes of an improving economy but the modest decline in May reversed the optimism. In May, the new export order index dropped to 47.7 compared to April's 48.6.

Chinese manufacturers have noted a drop in orders from abroad as well as at home. In recent months the manufacturers have trimmed payrolls and cut down on raw material purchases.

Companies: CaixinBusiness: Business NewsRegion: China

Peaceful march planned against child abuse followingMoko's case

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 04:11

A peaceful march has been planned to protest against child abuse following the death of three-year-old boy, MokoRangitoheriri, who was killed by people entrusted with taking his care.

The New Plymouth 'March for Moko' is a part of a nationwide campaign to stand up against child abuse. There was a huge outcry and criticism after Moko's killers had their charge of murder reduced to manslaughter. The theme of the rally is 'Stand Up NZ, Enough is Enough' but activists and campaigners said that work will continue to prevent violence against children.

Tania Shailer, who is 26 years old and David Haerewa, who is 43 years old, were entrusted by Moko's parents to take his care. They both pleaded guilty to Moko's manslaughter in May after the young boy suffered weeks of abuse, including being kicked, slapped and stomped on. He died of his injuries on August 10, 2015.

As part of the protest, people from more than 30 towns and cities will gather outside court houses around the country on 27 July this year to show solidarity against child abuse. The rally will coincide with Shailer and Haerewa's sentencing in the High Court at Rotorua.

General: GeneralRegion: New Zealand

Labour ties up with Greens to change government

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 04:08

The Labour party has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Greens to work together to change the government in the country.

Labour leader Andrew Little called for a change in the government stating that Labour and the Greens have found a common ground to work together.Mr. Little said that Labour had a strong relationship with the Greens and this relationship has reached a maturity level that will allow the two sides to work together to change the government.

Mr. Little also confirmed that he will speak at the Green's annual conference next weekend. Green co-leader MetiriaTurei agrees with Mr. Little stating that it was time to change the government in the country. The Memorandum of Understanding between the two sides will provide clarity that was lacking in the earlier elections. Turei pointed out that a joint approach will help bring change in the government.

The MOU also includes an agreement to co-operate in Parliament and investigate a joint policy and campaign.Mr. Little announced that Grant Robertson would be finance minister in a Labour-Green government but did not announce additional details while Turei said that discussions over cabinet seats will come much later after the elections in the country. Many believe that NZ First might also play a role in the formation of the government next year. Labour is pooling around 30 percent supportwhile the Greens have been polling above 10 percent and NZ First just below for the elections scheduled for 2017.

Region: New ZealandBusiness: Business NewsPeople: Andrew Little

Australia to Auction Confiscated Bitcoins in Sydney

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 04:05

According to an official, in June, approximately $13 million worth digital currency, bitcoins will be auctioned in Sydney as proceeds of crime, which the Australian police confiscated.

The auction will be the second of its kind in the world only after the sale of 144,000 bitcoins by the U.S. Marshals Service through a period of two years. The bitcoins which were auctioned were confiscated from Ross Ulbricht, the founder of the Silk Road, theonline drug marketplace. In Australia, the process is being handled by Ernst & Young said Adam Nikitins , the accountancy firm's transaction partner.

The $13.1 million value of the bitcoins on auction is based on the value of the cryptocurrency's price on Tuesday of nearly $533.80.

The bidders for the bitcoins have time till June 7 to register themselves. The forty eight hour sealed auction for the 24,518 bitcoins will take place starting from June 20.

Nikitins said that Ernst & Young has received interests in the bitcoins from the U.S, Europe and Australia. Nikitins said, "Over the last few months, the price of bitcoins has been steadily rising and the volatility has gone out of it" and added that it was expected to generate greater interest. However, where were the bitcoins confiscated from was not confirmed.

Business: EconomyBusinessRegion: AustraliaSydney


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