Daily Archives: October 18, 2013

Views from the Solar System (161)

High Above Saturn

NASA – This portrait looking down on Saturn and its rings was created from images obtained by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on Oct. 10, 2013. It was made by amateur image processor and Cassini fan Gordan Ugarkovic. This image has not been geometrically corrected for shifts in the spacecraft perspective and still has some camera artifacts.The mosaic was created from 12 image footprints with red, blue and green filters from Cassini’s imaging science subsystem. Ugarkovic used full color sets for 11 of the footprints and red and blue images for one footprint.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://www.nasa.gov/cassini and http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/G. Ugarkovic

As Obamacare tech woes mounted, contractor payments soared

By Sharon Begley – A Reuters review of government documents shows that the contract to build the federal Healthcare.gov online insurance website – key to President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare reform – tripled in potential total value to nearly $292 million as new money was assigned to the work beginning in April this year.

“Why this went from a ceiling of $93.7 million to $292 million is hard to fathom,” said Scott Amey, general counsel at the Project on Government Oversight, a Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group that analyzes government contracting.

The work on Healthcare.gov grew out of a contract for open-ended technology services first issued in 2007 with a place-holder value of $1,000. There were 31 bidders. more> http://tinyurl.com/lfqlujw


The 5 Currencies

By Phil Turner – We all need money to buy bread, to pay the mortgage and to pay our taxes. Money is definitely important. However focusing on making money can often be counter-productive; it is better to focus on the conditions needed to make money than the money itself.

The 5 currencies are:

  1. Time
  2. Knowledge
  3. Reputation
  4. Contacts
  5. Money

more> http://tinyurl.com/m2tjw5n

An illustration in market disconnect

Lucent Logo, bearing the "Bell Labs Innov...

Lucent Logo, bearing the “Bell Labs Innovations” tagline (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By George Mattathil – Forbes article, “How AT&T Can Go Shopping In Europe And Keep Its Credit Rating” by Maggie McGrath, provides an illustration how the financial markets are disconnected from reality and creates havoc with real businesses.

AT&T no longer has any competitive advantages, except its ability to borrow huge amounts of capital from financial markets. For starters, AT&T is not the company what most people think it is. Financial wizardry has reduced it to “at&t.”

Financially driven decision-making started at the original-AT&T with the decision to keep the then profitable long distance business and divest the technology (Lucent, Avaya, Agere) and the customer-connecting access networks (Baby Bells.) AT&T then followed it by another disastrous decision to buy TCI cable network, since it no longer had customer-connecting networks. As the original fantasies did not materialize, AT&T was forced to spin off the cable business to Comcast, and lost billions in the process. The result was one of the reconstituted Baby Bells, SBC, bought AT&T and renamed itself as the current ‘at&t’.

SBC had been mirroring the original-AT&T financial strategies for maximizing earnings — such as downsizing, shutting down research, not investing in network upgrades, etc. As an example, after the acquisition of Pacific Bell by then SBC, market leading research activities at Pacific Bell were terminated.

Current ‘at&t’ financial wizardry is based on customer-connecting networks of the constituent Baby Bells of past SBC.

Vodafone, in turn, benefited from Verizon’s financial wizardry. An estimated $20 billion investment by Vodafone in Verizon Wireless has turned into a $145 billion payback.

Seems the success of network operators is not based on how well they run their network operations, but how much they can borrow — a lesson learned probably by watching how Washington operates!

Impact of the financial wizardry by network operators is not limited to news generation, or even contained within their respective organizations. Network being a key enabler for economic activity, the costs and pain of network operator missteps are distributed to their customers and the entire economy. But the financial benefits from the wizardry are seldom shared, except, may be, as increase in share price.

Another impact, not easily identified, is the current turmoil at Alcatel-Lucent. AT&T used to be a major Lucent customer. But plans to migrate their infrastructure to VoIP (Voice-over-IP) make the current infrastructure and major Alcatel-Lucent product lines redundant. This has made it necessary for Alcatel-Lucent to reorganize their business operations. And placing a question mark on its future.♦


Republican Civil War Erupts: Business Groups v. Tea Party

By Michael C. Bender & Kathleen Hunter – A battle for control of the Republican Party has erupted as an emboldened Tea Party moved to oust senators who voted to reopen the government while business groups mobilized to defeat allies of the small-government movement.

To improve their odds, Tea Party leaders are fine-tuning their strategy by targeting incumbents in states where Democrats have little or no chance of winning in the general election. In 2012 and 2010, the movement nominated weak or flawed Senate candidates in Indiana, Missouri, Delaware and Nevada who were defeated in the November general elections, dashing Republicans’ chances for taking over the chamber. more> http://tinyurl.com/q394jw7