Posts tagged ‘San Francisco’


This Spanish Company Says It Holds the Key to Speed on India’s Crooked Railways – India Real Time – WSJ

India’s trains are notoriously slow and outdated, but a Spanish train maker says it can change that with coaches that can squeeze much more speed out of the country’s crooked railways.

Talgo S.A. has been wooing India for years as the South Asian nation has one of the largest railway networks in the world and big plans to upgrade its rail infrastructure.

The Madrid-based company got its breakthrough this year when it got the go-ahead to test its coaches on few routes in India to prove its trains can slash travel times for the 13 million people who use the state-owned Indian Railways every day. Talgo claims its coaches can cut travel time by up to 30%.

The existing average maximum speed of Indian passenger trains is 110 kilometers per hour, according to Vijay Kumar, executive director for infrastructure and mechanical engineering at Indian Railways.

One of Indian Railways’ current fastest trains–the Rajdhani Express–travels between Delhi and Mumbai in around 16 hours. Talgo says the same journey with its coaches will take less than 11 hours.

India has traditionally built its own trains and Talgo is the first foreign train-manufacturer to be given permission to conduct trials, said Mr. Kumar.

The tests of the trains began last weekend between Bareilly and Moradabad in northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh and will be expanded to two other routes.

The main selling point of the Talgo coaches is that India won’t need to change the tracks for them.

“For any conventional train you need a lot of investment in the existing infrastructure but with Talgo train you don’t need any investment in the infrastructure and it can start going at higher speed,” said Subrat Nath, director for India and Asia-Pacific region at Talgo.

Despite India’s dependence on its railways, the system has become outdated and overburdened.

“India is unique and alone among the major countries of the world in not having a single high-speed rail corridor,” said a document presented to the Indian Parliament in 2009 titled “Indian Railways Vision 2020.”

The Congress party-led government back then said it would upgrade the current tracks and build “state-of-the-art high-speed corridors” for the trains to run up to 350 kilometers, or 217 miles, per hour.

In the latest step in that direction, India launched its first “semi-high speed” train in April–the Gatimaan Express– between Delhi and Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. The train has a maximum speed of 160 kilometers, or 99 miles, per hour, cutting the fastest travel time between the capital and Agra by more than 15 minutes.

One of the biggest factors slowing down Indian Railways’ 7,000 passenger trains is the country’s long and winding railroads. There are 495 speed-killing curves in the tracks between Delhi and Mumbai alone, said Mr. Kumar at Indian Railways.

Straightening out existing tracks or building straight ones from scratch is too expensive, said Mr. Kumar, so the trains from Talgo and others which offer more speed on curvy lines could be the best option.

Talgo coaches use a “natural tilting mechanism” which allows them to go up to 20% faster on curves than conventional coaches, Mr. Kumar said.

He said the trials will test whether the trains perform as promised. India has not committed to ordering from Talgo yet.

Talgo’s Mr. Nath says the company is ready to build the coaches in India if it can get the orders.“India can be a key market for us,” he said.

Source: This Spanish Company Says It Holds the Key to Speed on India’s Crooked Railways – India Real Time – WSJ


Facebook Wins a Trademark Battle in China – China Real Time Report – WSJ

The court battles on American trademarks in China keep coming. But this time, a U.S. company has walked away with a win.

Late last month, the Beijing Higher People’s Court ruled in favor of U.S. social media giant Facebook in a trademark case against a Chinese beverage company that owned the trademark “face book.”

Zhongshan-based Zhujiang Beverage, which sells products like milk-flavored drinks and porridge, said it registered its trademark, “face book,” or 脸书, (lian shu) in 2011. The company faced objections from Facebook, but gained approval from the Trademark Review and Adjudication Board, the country’s trademark authority, in 2014 to use it.

In a verdict posted on its verified Weibo account, the Beijing court said that the trademark authority’s approval had been revoked and that it is now up to the regulator to revisit its decision. While the verdict was issued last month, it has gotten wider attention in recent days on Chinese social media.

“Lian shu is something very Chinese,” said Liu Hongqun, marketing manager of Zhujiang Beverage. “We have lian shu in traditional operas,” he added, referring to the intricate masks — called “face books” in China — that are used to indicate a historical character in traditional Chinese opera, especially Peking opera.

Facebook naturally wasn’t happy and went back and forth with the trademark authority before eventually bringing the matter to the Beijing court. Facebook won the original lawsuit; Zhujiang then appealed, and, as of the most recent ruling, lost again.

Facebook declined to comment on the case.

Mr. Liu argued that even though Facebook is a known brand around the world, it’s blocked here in China – and has been since 2009.

“How many Chinese customers get access to or sign up for Facebook in mainland China?” Mr. Liu said. “Where can we get access to this product in mainland China?”

The Facebook win is a bright spot for U.S. companies, which lately have been under the trademark gun.

In late March, a Beijing court ruled that a Chinese handbag manufacturer can continue using the trademark “IPHONE,” in a setback to Apple Inc.’s iPhone trademark.

The court said Apple failed to prove that its brand was famous in China before the accessories company applied for its trademark in 2007, even though Apple first registered its iPhone trademark here in 2002.

Athletic gear maker Under Armour, meanwhile, is contemplating legal action against a Chinese sports apparel company called Uncle Martian, which last month unveiled an eerily similar logo to that of the Baltimore-based business.

On social media, Chinese internet users speculated that Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg’s adulation for China may have helped his company win. Mr. Zuckerberg has gained media attention for, among other things, his jog on a heavily-polluted day in Beijing this spring and his prominent placement of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “The Governance of China” on his desk during a U.S. visit by China’s internet czar.

“[Facebook] shook hands with a standing committee member, after all,” wrote one online user, referring to a meeting in March between Mr. Zuckerberg and Liu Yunshan, a member of China’s top circle of leadership. “How could you dare not to give them the trademark?”

Source: Facebook Wins a Trademark Battle in China – China Real Time Report – WSJ


Where’s the Cheapest Place to Buy…? Probably India – India Real Time – WSJ

If cities were stores, to find the best deal you’d be advised to shop in Mumbai for Levis and Coca Cola KO -0.15%, go to Rio for a pack of Marlboro cigarettes and stop off in San Francisco to buy an iPhone 6.

San Francisco
New York

Deutsche Bank research published last week compares prices for everyday items in cities around the world. Overall, across a range of products, India is “the cheapest major economy.”

Looking for a cheap date? A Big Mac, movie, cab, soft drink and couple of beers costs $24.70 in Mumbai – making India’s financial capital the least-expensive place in the world to show someone a good time.


Try to do the same in San Francisco or Tokyo and you won’t get change from $100 – in fact, you’ll need to scrape a few more dollars together to cover the bill.

Need a man’s haircut? A short-back-and-sides in New Delhi on average goes for $2.40, a snip of the price elsewhere in the world. A trim in Tokyo costs 15 times more.

The study compiles prices posted on the Internet and from secondary sources, though it doesn’t say what they are.

“We have tried our best to use goods and services that are standard across countries or are close substitutes,” the authors of “The Random Walk Mapping the World’s Prices 2015,” wrote.

Such studies, including this one, do not reflect the true cost of living though because they ignore housing rents – often a person’s biggest monthly outlay.

Add on the price of accommodation in Mumbai, which can have rents as high as those charged in New York, and the city would suddenly look a lot less easy on the wallet.

*The price in each country.  **A Big Mac, movie, cab, soft drink and couple of beers. ***Two nights in a standard 5 star hotel room, four meals, two snacks, car rentals for two days, two pints of beer, four liters of soft drinks/water, and a bit of shopping (a pair of jeans and sports shoes.)

via Where’s the Cheapest Place to Buy…? Probably India – India Real Time – WSJ.


India’s Billion-Dollar Startups Balloon on Glut of Global Funds – India Real Time – WSJ

Vikram Chopra spent the past three years building an online furniture-shopping site for Indian consumers that was funded mainly by annual capital injections from a German technology incubator.

But during the past few months, investor interest in the site,, has soared, said the 32-year-old entrepreneur, who is based in the New Delhi suburb of Gurgaon. Several global venture-capital firms and hedge funds have said they are interested in investing, and Mr. Chopra is now considering another round of funding that would exceed the $20 million raised so far—even though he doesn’t expect FabFurnish to be profitable for another two years and doesn’t yet need the cash.

“A few years ago, everybody wanted to see profitability upfront,” said Mr. Chopra. “Today, it is more like how much money you need to curb the competition [and] kill everyone else.”

Global money is flooding into Indian startups as investors search for a successor to Alibaba Group Holding, the Chinese e-commerce company that raised a record $25 billion in its initial public offering last year.

Venture capitalists sank $4 billion into India last year in some 300 deals—almost twice as much money as they invested in 2013 and 14 times the level of a decade ago, according to Indian data tracker Venture Intelligence.

via India’s Billion-Dollar Startups Balloon on Glut of Global Funds – India Real Time – WSJ.


Chinese insurer Anbang extends M&A drive with $1 billion South Korea buy | Reuters

China’s Anbang Insurance Group is paying $1 billion to buy a controlling stake in South Korea’s Tong Yang Life Insurance, extending a global acquisitions drive that has already seen it spend $10 billion in under four months.

Anbang agreed to buy a combined 63 percent stake in South Korea’s eighth-largest life insurer from three separate shareholders for 1.13 trillion won ($998 million), or 16,700 won per share, Tong Yang said in a regulatory filing on Tuesday.

This follows once-obscure Anbang’s deal announced just a day earlier to buy an insurance arm of Dutch bank and insurer SNS Reaal for at least 1.4 billion euros ($1.6 billion).

The privately-held insurer and asset manager, which according to a media report is considering an initial public offering this year, recently sealed a $1.95 billion purchase of New York’s landmark Waldorf Astoria hotel. It also bought the Belgian banking operations of Dutch insurer Delta Lloyd NV, for 219 million euros.

The flurry of deals shows Anbang’s global ambitions and comes as China’s financial firms are increasingly targeting assets outside of home for growth.

via Chinese insurer Anbang extends M&A drive with $1 billion South Korea buy | Reuters.


China considers abolishing death penalty for nine crimes | Reuters

China is considering trimming nine crimes from the list of offences punishable by death, state media said on Monday, as the ruling Communist Party considers broader reforms to the country’s legal system.

Rights groups say China uses capital punishment more than any other country, raising public concern of irreversible miscarriages of justice.

A draft amendment to China’s criminal law, which includes the use of the death penalty, was submitted for initial review to the country’s National People’s Congress, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Crimes that would be exempt from capital punishment under the amendment include “smuggling weapons, ammunition, nuclear materials or counterfeit currencies; counterfeiting currencies; raising funds by means of fraud; and arranging for or forcing another person to engage in prostitution”, Xinhua said.

The crimes of “obstructing a commander or a person on duty from performing his duties” and “fabricating rumors to mislead others during wartime”, are also under review, the news agency said.

Officials had previously said that China would review the application of the death penalty, which applies to 55 offences, including fraud and illegal money-lending.

China guards the number of people executed every year as state secrets.

The San Francisco-based Dui Hua Foundation, which seeks the release of political prisoners in China, estimated that 2,400 people were executed in 2013. By comparison, 39 people were executed in 2013 in the United States, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The reduction in death penalty crimes, however, is not expected to greatly reduce the number of executions per year, scholars have said.

The Communist Party, worried about rising social unrest and anger over land grabs, corruption and pollution unveiled legal reforms aimed at improving judicial independence at a key meeting last week.

The Party has stressed that it will remain in overall control of the judiciary, and despite the move to implement legal reforms, few analysts expect significant political change any time soon.

via China considers abolishing death penalty for nine crimes | Reuters.


Hardware startups: Hacking Shenzhen | The Economist

OH NO, NOT another accelerator, you may think. But this one is different. On the tables are not just the obligatory laptops and smartphones but circuit boards, cables, screwdrivers and a few items which look only vaguely familiar. One resembles a very old mobile phone with an oddly shaped knob attached to it. Another, a set of small blocks with switches and buttons, calls to mind a disassembled mixer in a recording studio. Yet another might be the microphone of a computer headset, but is mounted on a pair of glasses.

Even more surprisingly, the home of Haxlr8r (pronounced “Hackcelerator”) is not some co-working space in London or San Francisco but the 10th floor of an office building in Shenzhen. The city in the Pearl River Delta, close to Hong Kong, is the world capital of electronics: most of the planet’s digital devices are assembled in factories in and around the city.

Haxlr8r is living proof that, as Karl Popper once said, history repeats itself, but never in the same way. Just as with software services, new technology makes it ever easier to build new types of devices, most of them connected to the internet. The difference is that making hardware remains, well, hard—which is why Haxlr8r is in Shenzhen. That way its teams may avoid the fate of a first generation of hardware startups, mostly based in America. They put their ideas up on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, the leading crowdfunding services, but then endured months of delay or never got as far as manufacturing their devices.

The technologies that allowed software services to be developed more cheaply and quickly were cloud computing, social networks and any number of digital services called application programming interfaces (APIs). For hardware the list includes all of the above plus 3D printers, sensors and microcontrollers which bridge the analogue and the digital worlds. The platform for most connected devices is smartphones. All these elements can be combined in countless ways, creating a Cambrian explosion not just in software but in physical electronic devices too.

via Hardware startups: Hacking Shenzhen | The Economist.

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Police drill realizes 9-year-old’s dream – CHINA –

In order to fulfill a 9-year-old disabled schoolboy\’s dream of being a police officer, local police and residents in Xinyu, Jiangxi Province, simulated a hostage situation on Saturday.

However, critics have said that the move used public resources to allow the local police department to show off.

The 30-minute exercise was held at a square near a supermarket in Xinyu, at noon on Saturday. In the drill, two robbers kidnapped three people, and demanded the police send a car and 1 million yuan ($165,200) in cash.

During the standoff, a robber asked the boy, who was in a wheelchair, to send water to him. He first requested the boy drink some of the water and the boy obliged him.

When he passed the water to the robber, a policeman pushed the wheelchair and subdued the robber. Another thief was also caught by police, the Web publicity center under the Xinyu Party committee publicity department told the Global Times on Sunday.

The boy, Zou Junyi, was awarded the medal \”brave little police officer\” by Xinyu Mayor Cong Wenjing at the scene.

Before participating in the exercise, the boy visited the local police training camp and experienced the work of traffic police on the same day, Ao Weibing, the director of the center, told the Global Times. Zou said that the police did not spend any money on these activities, except to make a small uniform for Zou.

Zou suffers from muscular dystrophy, with the symptoms presenting since he was 6 years old. He lost the ability to walk in December, Zou\’s mother, Chen Qingmei, told the Global Times, adding that her family has spent about 500,000 yuan to treat the disease and can not spend any more.

\”Our family was touched. These special experiences can help my son build his confidence to fight the disease and overcome difficulties,\” Chen said.

Ao learned about the boy\’s dream when he visited him in December, and decided then that he wanted to find a way to help.

The drill was inspired by a US case in which 7,000 people in San Francisco, including the city mayor, helped 5-year-old leukemia patient Miles Scott make his wish – Batkid saves city – come true in November, according to Ao.

via Police drill realizes 9-year-old’s dream – CHINA –

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* Chinese in Talks to Fund U.S. Homes

WSJ: “Lennar Corp., one of the U.S.’s largest home builders, is in talks with the China Development Bank for approximately $1.7 billion in capital to jump-start two long-delayed San Francisco projects that would transform two former naval bases into large-scale housing developments, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The negotiations aren’t final and the financing arrangement could still fall through. But if completed, the deal would reflect a changing dynamic between the U.S. and Chinese economies, as an American company turns to China for help funding a long-delayed and partially publicly funded project that otherwise wouldn’t get done.

The developments, Treasure Island and Hunters Point Shipyard, also have the potential to alter San Francisco’s housing market by providing nearly 20,000 new homes, a sports arena and millions of square feet of office and retail space in a market that is land-constrained and has had limited new construction. The city has committed hundreds of millions of dollars, in the form of tax-increment bonds, to the projects, which in total are expected to cost $10.5 billion over the next few decades.

In recent years, Chinese state money—in large part provided by CDB and its counterpart the Export-Import Bank of China—has been pivotal in funding major infrastructure and resource projects around the world, but the bulk of that activity has been in developing countries in Africa, South America and Asia.

That has resulted in the construction of dams, airports, railways, highways and sports arenas that otherwise wouldn’t get built, primarily in developing countries. Funding is typically conditional upon Chinese developers and contractors being used to build the projects. And in order to keep costs down, and in many cases to ensure the necessary expertise, at least a portion of the workforce is flown in from China.

This would be difficult or impossible in San Francisco, where local regulations and deals cut with local governments generally require developers to use local labor and pay prevailing wages.

The CDB and the Lennar partnership have been in discussions to include China Railway Construction Corp., a state-run contractor, in the development of Treasure Island and Hunters Point, according to people familiar with the matter. While it is unclear what CRCC’s role would be, the company could serve as an adviser or in an consulting role, or could possibly even invest in a local construction company that employs U.S. workers, these people said.

With Chinese firms increasingly eyeing opportunities in the U.S. and other developed markets, CDB will likely find itself being approached to fund more deals in the U.S. People familiar with the negotiations said CDB was using the Treasure Island and Hunters Point projects—which both include “green” building and affordable housing components that are of interest to Chinese builders—as a test case to become familiar with what’s required for doing such deals in the U.S.”

via Chinese in Talks to Fund U.S. Homes –

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