Category Archives: Cloud Computing

Twitter’s Huge Purge of Fake Accounts Could Lead to Decline in User Numbers

Twitter has more than doubled the rate of account suspensions since October of last year, as part of an ongoing effort to fight illegitimate accounts, including bots, trolls, and impersonators. The push continues the company’s efforts to exert control in the wake of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, which triggered a series of scandals connected to propaganda, disinformation, and harassment on social media platforms. It might also lead to a decrease in the site’s usage statistics.

According to data obtained by the Washington Post and confirmed by Twitter, the company has suspended as many as 1 million accounts a day, with 70 million accounts suspended in May and June. A substantial portion of the suspension process is automated. Twitter told Gizmodo that automated systems were identifying and “challenging” about 10 million accounts per month as of May, a process that can require adding a phone number to an account flagged as “suspicious.” Twitter also says it has been blocking the creation of 50,000 suspected spam accounts per day.

Outside experts and Twitter itself have estimated that substantial numbers of users are fake, and sources told the Post that the purge could lead to a decline in Twitter’s monthly user number for the second quarter of this year. User numbers are widely seen as measures of the health of digital media platforms. Numbers that show even slower growth, much less an actual decline in users, can put serious downward pressure on a stock (see Snap, Inc. for a recent example). Twitter’s user numbers will likely be reported with quarterly earnings later this month.

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Though the purge of spam and bot accounts creates some headline risk for Twitter stock, it has the potential long-term benefit of improving the quality of users’ experience on the site. To give just one infuriating illustration, Twitter has until now failed to stem a torrent of fake accounts impersonating figures in and around the blockchain industry and trying to swindle users out of cryptocurrency. Whether or not those scams are actually effective, they’ve made Crypto Twitter a significantly less enjoyable place to spend time.

And while top-line user numbers have long been a common metric for measuring the success of digital platforms, Twitter’s focus now should be on how effective it is for its primary customers – advertisers, who generate roughly 85% of Twitter’s revenue. Broad user numbers are much less important to ad buyers than engagements, including clicks and sales, and Twitter appears to be keeping its advertisers happy. User growth had already slowed to 10% annualized in the first quarter of the year, down from 14% at the same time in 2017 – but revenue increased by 21% over the same period, and the stock has responded positively.

3 YouTube Daredevils Dead in Waterfall Accident

Three popular YouTubers died on Tues., July 3, after accidentally falling over a waterfall more than 1,000 feet in height. Two of the deceased were founders of the High on Life YouTube channel, which featured exotic travel and dangerous outdoor stunts.

The three victims were reportedly part of a group of seven swimming near Shannon Falls outside Squamish, British Columbia. According to eyewitness reports, Megan Scraper slipped and fell 30 meters into fast-moving water just above the falls. Alexey Lyakh and Ryker Gamble are believed to have jumped into the water to try and save her, but all three were swept over the falls. Their bodies were recovered the next day.

According to the CBC, Gamble and Lyakh started High on Life with two other childhood friends. Previous videos posted by the deceased and the High on Life channel show lots of exotic travel as well as some high-risk outdoor activities, including cliff jumping and crossing decrepit rail bridges. Some of the group’s YouTube videos emphasize the danger of certain activities. One video, featuring Gamble descending a harrowing natural water chute, is accompanied by a disclaimer stating that “Our team has been trained and involved in gymnastics, diving, stunts, and the extreme sports community for over a decade,” and warning others against trying to replicate what they see.

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The accident has nonetheless added new fuel to long-running debates about the potential danger of social media featuring risky activities. That’s in large part because the High on Life group has previously been accused of violating safety and natural preservation rules. In 2016, Gamble and Lyakh posted video showing themselves leaving designated trails in Yellowstone National Park and walking near the Grand Prismatic Spring, an ecologically delicate and potentially dangerous hot spring. They were ultimately sentenced to seven days in jail and apologized for their behavior.

Members of the group, including Gamble and Lyakh, were also accused of violating rules elsewhere. Those incidents included using bicycles in prohibited areas in Death Valley National Park; swinging from the Corona Arch rock formation in Utah; and wakeboarding on the sensitive Bonneville Salt Flats in the same state. At least some of those incidents were filmed, according to citations.

High on Life currently has more than 500,000 subscribers, no doubt partly thanks to such high-risk stunts. Some have argued that the quest for thrilling footage led the team to take more extreme risks, without the safeguards or oversight that might have been imposed by a more conventional media organization. That dynamic mirrors the documented tendency of algorithm-driven media platforms to encourage ideological extremism among users.

In a video message posted after the tragic deaths, other members of the High on Life team praised the trio’s legacy. “They lived every single day to its fullest,” the memorial stated in part. “They stood for positivity, courage, and living the best life that you can, and they shared and taught their values to millions of people worldwide.”

Sonos' IPO Filing Shows Risks of Relying on Amazon and Apple

There are smart speakers, which connect wirelessly to other devices, and then there’s the new era of smart speakers, designed to offer services through voice-controlled virtual assistants. Sonos, for a long time, was all about the former, having been a pioneer of high-quality, Wi-Fi–connected speaker systems. Now it has entered the next era with products like Sonos One and Sonos Beam, which are high-quality speakers that also happen to work with Amazon’s Alexa and other virtual assistants.

But Sonos’ partners are also rivals, and Sonos’ reliance on companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google makes it vulnerable, as it revealed in filing for an initial public offering Friday. To cite one example: Amazon can disable Alexa on Sonos devices anytime, with “limited notice,” according to the filing. And that’s just around voice control. One feature Sonos boasts of is that it offers the ability to stream around 100 different music and podcast services through its app. All of those services are controlled by others, not Sonos.

This dynamic isn’t unique to Sonos; China’s Lenovo and other device makers also rely on partners for services on their hardware. But it underscores the reality that the new era of smart devices isn’t just about asking Alexa to queue up a playlist for you. It’s increasingly about services. It’s an era in which tech giants like Amazon, Apple, and Google are positioned to dominate the smart home, whether that means music listening, TV streaming, or home security, because of their service businesses. Sonos’ agnostic approach—its vow to be the Switzerland of the smart home, as we’ve described it before—is noble, and arguably much better for consumers. But it’s also risky.

Sonos’ plans to go public were first reported by The Wall Street Journal in April. In its filing Friday, the Santa Barbara, California, company revealed that there were 19 million registered Sonos products in use as of March, in 6.9 million households around the world. In the fiscal year ended September 30, 2017, Sonos said it sold 3.9 million devices. By comparison, research firm Strategy Analytics says there were 32 million smart speakers shipped last year; it says Sonos ranked fourth, behind Amazon, Google, and Alibaba in number of shipments. But Sonos can also claim an enthusiastic fan base: People listen to a whopping 70 hours of streaming audio per month on Sonos, and 60 percent of customers are repeat buyers.

Sonos generated revenue of $992.5 million in 2017, up 10 percent from the year prior. In 2015, then-CEO John MacFarlane said that the company’s sales were around $1 billion; it turns out that was a bit of fancy math, as the company’s revenue was actually $844 million that year. Sonos has never posted an annual profit, a fact that tops its risk factors.

Below that, though, Sonos lays out the risks related to its software partnerships. “We are dependent on a number of technology partners for the development of our products, some of which have developed or may develop and sell voice-enabled speaker products of their own,” the filing says. The prime example (no pun intended) is Amazon; Sonos essentially borrows Alexa from Amazon, while Amazon makes its own less expensive smart speakers with Alexa. Then there’s the clause allowing Amazon to disable Alexa on Sonos devices with limited notice. If that were to happen, that $400 Sonos Beam with Alexa would become the Sonos Beam sans Alexa.

Another challenge for Sonos: Some rivals have their own retail channels, where they can promote their own products over Sonos’. Or they could remove Sonos products from their stores entirely. This is not unprecedented: Apple has cleared the competition from its shelves before, and Amazon’s ongoing spat with Google over Amazon’s refusal to sell Google hardware products in its store has resulted in a less-than-ideal YouTube experience on Amazon streaming devices.

The fact that YouTube, which is part of Google, no longer works natively on Amazon streaming devices is a good example of what could happen when tensions arise among the tech giants and why they’re all building their own integrated services. It also sums up how crappy the experience can be for consumers when giant tech companies push their own services, again and again. Apple’s integrated approach means there’s a simplicity in how things work, but it also means Apple promotes Apple Music above all else and has made its Siri-enabled smart speakers off limits to anyone with an Android phone.

Sonos has positioned itself as a purist—we make great speakers, and that’s why people love us—and as a promoter of other services. It also says that customers listen to approximately 80 percent more music after purchasing their first Sonos product. “What’s going to set them apart are these partnerships. They’ve built a kind of strategy moat around their business,” says Matt Pencek, a director at MorganFranklin Consulting. He cited a collaboration with Ikea as an example of an unconventional partnership that might fare well for Sonos in the long run. “But those partnerships also leave them exposed,” Pencek added.

When I asked Sonos CEO Patrick Spence in a recent interview whether Sonos would ever create or sell its own services, he replied that he “doesn’t think that’s in the best interest of the consumer.” Sonos has weighed this before, around streaming music, and now has been forced to confront the “services” question again with voice assistants. Spence said then the company is looking at opportunities to make the voice setup experience better but insisted Sonos “wouldn’t build an ask-anything assistant, like an Alexa or a Google Assistant.” Even if Sonos were to launch its own streaming music or voice-control services, it would be years behind the others.

Investors love the idea of services, with their recurring revenue stream, Spence acknowledged at the time. Sonos’ recurring services, he said, are building great products and getting people to buy more of them. It’s been successful at doing that. The question now is whether Sonos can maintain its status as an agnostic outlier or whether it will eventually have to use the same kind of services hooks that other tech companies employ.


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The Future of Former EPA Chief Scott Pruitt's Anti-Science Legacy

Gone is the boss who loved first-class travel to places like Morocco and Rome, forced his staffers to find him an apartment (and a used Trump hotel mattress), and asked fast-food executives to hire his wife. But EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s many scandals haven’t been the real bugaboo for environmental advocates—rather, it’s been his rollback of environmental regulations on toxic waste, tailpipe emissions, air pollution, and greenhouse gases.

And in fact, Pruitt’s replacement might be more effective at gutting environmental protection than Pruitt himself.

Pruitt left office Thursday after questions of lavish spending, mismanagement, and ethical lapses. He was the target of 13 investigations by the EPA’s own inspector general, according to The New York Times. In June, a federal judge ordered Pruitt to produce documents supporting his statements on CNBC that humans were not a major contributor to climate change.

So when Pruitt’s resignation was tweeted by President Trump on Thursday afternoon, there was relief among many EPA employees, according to Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a non-profit legal group that represents civil servants from several federal agencies. “They were overjoyed,” said Ruch, who spoke to several EPA employees after Pruitt left. “It was ‘Ding-dong, the witch is dead.’”

In fact, the scene outside EPA headquarters in Washington got a bit nutty yesterday afternoon, as a man wearing an oversized papier-mâché Pruitt head posed for pictures with happy EPA staffers.

That glee may be fleeting. For now, Pruitt’s replacement is Andrew Wheeler, a coal industry lobbyist who worked briefly at the EPA 25 years ago and will return as the acting administrator. He was approved as deputy administrator by the Senate in April 2018, but Wheeler would face a second Senate vote if Trump nominates him to become the permanent agency head.

From 1995 to 2009, Wheeler was a staff member for James Inhofe, a Republican senator from Oklahoma who is one of Congress’s fiercest climate-deniers. Then, as a lobbyist, Wheeler represented the largest coal-mining operation in the United States, Murray Energy, for more than a decade. In 2017, Murray Energy gave Pruitt an “action plan” to overturn existing EPA rules on mercury pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and air pollution that crosses state lines.

So far, the White House and other federal agencies are on track to pass 16 of the rollbacks. Under Wheeler, “the administration’s agenda won’t change,” says Vicky Arroyo, executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center, a non-profit group at the Georgetown Law School that works with state officials on federal environmental regulatory issues. “Because Wheeler has deeper roots in DC, knows his way around these issues, and has built more relationships than Pruitt,” Arroyo says, “he might be more effective at completing [the White House] agenda.”

Just as Pruitt urged Trump to abandon the Paris Climate Agreement, Wheeler has attacked mainstream climate science, writing in 2010 that the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change was biased. “The UN IPCC has blurred the lines between science and advocacy to the point where they are unable to separate situational awareness from proposed remedies,” Wheeler wrote in a blog on his law firm’s website. “They have been advocating for specific policy actions and ignoring the original charter of informing the public on the state of science.”

At his Senate confirmation hearing in November 2017, Wheeler was noncommittal when faced with the federal government’s own climate report. “I believe that man has an impact on the climate, but what’s not completely understood is what the impact is,” Wheeler said during the hearing. At least on climate science, Pruitt and Wheeler are speaking from a similar book.

That matters because the Trump administration continues to block the Clean Power Plan, which seeks to limit greenhouse gas emissions from plants that burn fossil fuels. The plan was developed by President Obama, but Trump’s EPA reversed course and is now asking a federal court to oppose it. The Supreme Court blocked the plan from going into effect until a lower court can rule on its merits.

Under Wheeler’s tenure, Arroyo expects that her work will continue, with several states who are suing the EPA to enforce the Clean Power Plan, toxic air pollution rules, and climate protection rules. “It’s not a new day,” she says, “but we all have to be relieved that someone who is so blatantly corrupt is let go.”


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Samsung Electronics says second quarter operating profit likely rose 5.2 percent year-on-year

SEOUL (Reuters) – Samsung Electronics Co Ltd on Friday said its second-quarter operating profit likely rose 5.2 percent from a year earlier, missing analyst estimates.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Samsung Electronics is seen at its office building in Seoul, South Korea, March 23, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/File Photo

Its sluggish mobile business pressured strong margins from its chip sales, analysts have said.

Samsung, in a regulatory filing, said April-June profit was likely 14.8 trillion won ($13.2 billion), below the 14.9 trillion won average of 18 analyst estimates in a Thomson Reuters poll.

Revenue likely fell 4.9 percent from a year earlier to 58 trillion won.

The firm did not elaborate on its performance and will disclose detailed earnings in late July.

Reporting by Ju-min Park and Heekyong Yang; Editing by Stephen Coates

Small Cap CEF Yields 7.7%, Deep Discount Of 9.2%, Outperformed The Index The Past 32 Years

This research report was jointly produced with High Dividend Opportunities authors Julian Lin and Philip Mause.

Royce Value Trust (RVT) is a legendary closed-end fund (‘CEF’) started by a giant fund manager in the small-cap investing world, “The Royce Funds”. In fact, RVT is the first small-cap CEF ever created 32 years ago.

RVT recently traded at $15.76 per share, representing a 9.2% discount to its net asset value (‘NAV’) of $17.80 and a 7.7% dividend yield based on its trailing 12 months distributions. RVT is a solid pick for those wanting exposure to both the high alpha small-cap space as well as a high dividend yield.

Small Caps Have A Little More Alpha

Stocks of small-cap companies are well known to potentially have higher return potential than their larger cap counterparts. This is generally due to the fact that smaller companies have more room to grow, they tend to grow more quickly, leading, of course, to share price appreciation.

In fact, from 1927 to 2009, small-cap stocks greatly outpaced large-cap stocks by a wide margin.

(Dimensional Fund Advisors)

In 2018, small-cap stocks are taking the leadership position compared to their large-cap counterpart with the small-cap Russell Index (IWM) returning 10.3% year-to-date compared to the S&P 500 index returning only 3.8% for the same period.

One Of The Best Time To Have Exposure To Small Caps

It is one of the best times to be invested in small-cap stocks. Small-cap companies will be the biggest beneficiaries of the recently enacted corporate tax cuts. Larger companies will also benefit, but not as much, because they usually hire expensive tax accountants and use complex strategies to reduce their effective tax rate down; so the biggest tax impact will be felt in smaller cap stocks. According to a recent Invesco study, the companies in the S&P 600 Small Cap Index had an average effective tax rate 4.3% higher than that of the S&P 500 companies. This means that small-cap stocks have been more positively impacted by the recent corporate tax cuts because they will be able to save more taxes.

U.S. stocks are set to strongly outperform their foreign counterparts. With the U.S. economy being the healthiest large economy on the globe, it provides a “safe haven” for investors. Small-cap stocks on average generate more than 78% of their revenues from the U.S. compared to 70.9% for the S&P 500 companies. Since their revenues are mainly generated domestically, they are set to grow faster.

Despite the recent rally, small-cap stocks continue to have PE ratios which are very attractive relative to the S&P 500.

At current ratio levels, the increased potential for growth inherent in small-cap stocks is not really “priced in.” As a result, in addition to earnings growth potential, there is also significant potential for multiple expansion – this is a recipe for strong shareholder returns. No wonder small-cap stocks are seeing such a strong outperformance.

Getting To Know RVT

RVT was the first small-cap closed-end fund ever at its inception in 1986, and its manager, Chuck Royce, has managed it for its 32 years of existence since inception. Royce is naturally known as a legend in the small-cap investing universe. The focus is on small-cap stocks generally with market capitalization up to $3 billion. The fund has about $1.46 billion in net assets and 437 total holdings, and employs a tiny bit of leverage, with its leverage ratio at around 3.7%. This is relatively modest for an equity CEF.

A Solid Management

The managers of RVT, “The Royce Funds”, are pioneers in small-cap investing. It’s been their specialty for 40+ years. What sets them apart is their depth of small-cap knowledge, experience, and a single focus in their area of expertise.

The core approach of management is to combine multiple investment themes through small-cap companies that are set to generate high returns on invested capital or those with strong fundamentals and/or prospects trading at what management believes are attractive valuations.

This strategy has paid off well over the years. RVT has seen 10.7% average yearly returns since inception (through March 31, 2018).

The Portfolio

Their top ten holdings are seen below (as of 3/31/2018):

RVT mainly focuses on U.S. based stocks with 87% invested domestically. It has 18.1% in international exposure out of which 7.7% in Canadian stocks. So, RVT has an overwhelmingly North American exposure.

(CEFConnect)

This Isn’t Just The Index

There are substantial differences in sector representation between RVT and the Russell 2000, the typical small-cap index. In particular, RVT has dramatically greater exposure to the industrial, materials, and information technology sectors and considerably lower exposure to health care and utilities:

In our opinion, this allocation makes a lot of sense in the current economic environment. We have previously discussed reasons for the industrials and materials sectors to outperform, namely in the form of a near-term catalyst in a large infrastructure bill in Washington, backed by long-term tailwinds of incessant demand for infrastructure spending. Furthermore, industrials and materials tend to do much better during periods of economic growth, inflation, and rising interest rates than other sectors such as utilities.

The information technology sector, despite the recent rally, is still quite attractively priced because of the potential for growth and major innovations. The recent tax reform which has allowed companies (especially large-cap tech companies) to repatriate foreign cash at lower tax rates greatly increases the potential Merger & Acquisition activity. Small-cap companies, such as the ones that RVT holds, have market caps which look like mere “pocket change” to companies like Apple (AAPL) which has over $200 billion in cash.

The weighted average price to earnings (‘P/E’) multiple of RVT portfolio companies was 22 and the price to book ratio (‘P/B’) was 2.2, versus 20.4 and 2.3, respectively, for the Russell 2000. The slight premium in valuation reflects management’s decision to emphasize positions with strong growth potential:

Share Price Performance

RVT has outperformed the Russell 2000 over almost every time frame, including by over 50 basis points since inception 32 years ago.

In addition to producing superior returns over time, RVT has also had less volatility (‘risk’) as well.

This management team clearly has a long track record of outperformance and also has the experience of managing through multiple economic cycles.

Low Expense Ratio

Whereas many CEFs have high expense ratios around 1.5% of assets, RVT is different and in a good way. RVT has an expense ratio of only 0.65% of net assets. This includes 0.54% in inclusive management expenses plus 0.11% in interest expenses. This low expense ratio is a significant plus because high expense ratios tend to eat away at shareholder returns over time and are considered an important reason why many funds underperform indices over the long run.

Dividend Policy

RVT uses a “managed distribution policy” in which they pay quarterly distributions at an “annual rate of 7% of the average of the prior 4 quarter-end “net asset values”, with the 4th quarter being the greater of these annualized rates or the distribution required by IRS regulations.”

RVT last paid an average of $0.305 in quarterly dividends and for the past 4 quarters paid a total of $1.22 per share in dividends, for an annualized yield of 7.7%. The fund has historically distributed dividends out of long-term capital gains and dividend income.

(Chart by Author)

While it is definitely a plus that RVT has rarely had to give distributions in form of “return of capital” (‘ROC’), we would like to remind readers that ROC is not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to equity CEFs. While ROC for fixed income CEFs is usually always destructive, in the case of equity CEFs, this is not always the case. Often, equity CEFs decide to distribute ROC as a tax advantaged way to return capital to shareholders.

Valuation

Aside from trading at a 7.7% dividend yield, RVT also trades at a 9.2% discount to its NAV of $16.24 per share. With a 1-year Z-Score of 0, RVT is currently trading within its normal NAV discount. Note that during the bull market of 2002 through 2007, RVT traded mostly at a Premium to NAV.

(CEFConnect)

We would not be surprised if RVT will start trading again at its NAV or a premium to NAV in the current bull market cycle. In all cases, the shares do not deserve such a steep discount to NAV considering management’s track record to outperform the index.

Risks To Consider

  • Small-cap stocks tend to carry a higher risk and price volatility than their large counterparts. That said, this risk is mitigated by RVT through a high diversification among both sectors and companies through 437 stock holdings. While there may be some losers in the mix, these have been more than offset by very big winners.
  • In the event of a market downturn, RVT, like all equity funds, will see its price decline. However, it has very low leverage which may make it comparatively stable. In addition, there are many reasons to believe that the outlook for equities is positive, considering the extra firepower for growth-related capital expenditures and investments being afforded as a result of corporate tax cuts.

Bottom Line

RVT is possibly the best equity CEF with a focus on small-cap stocks. It has a proven track record of outperformance through its 32 years of existence. Because of its exposure to value small-cap stocks with growth potential, the fund is set to strongly outperform in the current economic cycle. RVT is recommended for income investors who are looking for a portfolio diversification in addition to a generous yield which is currently at 7.7%. RVT has also the potential to also generate a high level of capital appreciation. We rate RVT as a strong buy.

If you enjoyed this article and wish to receive updates on our latest research, click “Follow” next to my name at the top of this article.

Note: All images/tables above were extracted from the Fund’s website unless otherwise stated.

Disclosure: I am/we are long RVT.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Ketogenic Diet Improves Response To Cancer Drug In Mice, But Alone May Accelerate Cancer

Mice on a ketogenic diet have shown remarkable responses to a class of cancer drug, which has previously experienced largely underwhelming results in human clinical trials. The study published today in Nature shows how a combination of a ketogenic diet with a type of cancer drug called a PI3K inhibitor, strongly improves the effect of the drug in mouse models of cancer.

A well-described side-effect of PI3K inhibitors is high blood sugar and increased insulin levels. This side effect normally passes, but can be prolonged in patients with insulin resistance, such as those with diabetes. When this happens, the therapy is discontinued because insulin stimulates PI3K signalling in tumors and can cause cancer growth. This gave the researchers a clue that artificially modifying levels of insulin and glucose could affect the response to the drug.

“We knew from the early 1990s that PI3Ks were mediating insulin responses. The (PI3K inhibitor) drug was taking effect, but just for 30mins then insulin overrides it. When the insulin level is down, it is very effective,” said Lewis Cantley, leader of the research and Professor of Cancer Biology in Medicine at Cornell University.

Cantley and his team used mouse models of several different types of cancer to show that glucose and insulin can block the effects of PI3K inhibitors, possibly affecting their efficacy. Giving the mice a ketogenic diet to lower blood glucose, or treating with a drug called a SGLT2 inhibitor, which prevents reabsorption of glucose by the kidneys, made the drug much more effective in slowing cancer growth in the mice.

PI3Ks are a family of enzymes involved in regulating how a cell metabolizes glucose and are vital to control cell function. PI3K mutations affecting this process are found in a variety of cancers and are found in a high proportion of some common cancers, for example up to 40% of breast cancers and 50% of endometrial cancers. Two PI3K inhibitors are currently FDA-approved for use; Zydelig by Gilead Sciences and Bayer’s Aliqopa, both for certain types of blood cancer.

Some PI3K inhibitors have, however, shown largely disappointing and irregular results, such as Roche’s Taselisib, which was mothballed last month after disappointing phase III trial results were presented at ASCO. There are, however, hundreds of ongoing clinical trials featuring multiple PI3K inhibitors for the treatment of a variety of cancers.

A ketogenic diet consists of lots of fats with adequate protein and low amounts of carbohydrates and is regularly a component of popular ‘fad’ diets, including most notably The Atkins Diet. This low consumption of carbohydrates forces the body to get some of its energy from a different source and results in a state known as ketosis.

The diet is not currently recommended for patients by any major cancer organization or medical board, with major cancer centres urging caution. It is also an unfortunate magnet for a lot of pseudoscientific claims, such as some entirely unsubstantiated statements saying the diet will be able to replace chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Some healthcare professionals are dismissive of the diet as having any potential role in cancer treatment, but with some cancer patients already adopting the diet, many are curious about the potential benefits, whilst also stressing that the diet is not going to treat cancer alone.

“This is a very interesting preclinical trial which goes further to explain why some metabolic drugs aren’t working as expected at the moment. There’s a lot of growing anecdotal evidence which is increasingly hard to ignore, but most of the research so far has been done on patients with very advanced cancer and aggressive tumors,” said Angela Martens, Registered Dietician and Clinical Lead of Nutrition Services at CancerCare Manitoba.

Despite the lack of formal scientific evidence, a handful of scientific studies and case reports show some benefit in some types of tumors, often in combination with other drugs, such as this small study on patients with glioblastoma when combined with anti-angiogenic drug bevacizumab, but notably showing it had no effect alone.

While the new research provides badly needed, robust scientific data showing a ketogenic diet in combination with PI3K inhibitors may be beneficial, it also showed no clear evidence to suggest that a ketogenic diet alone may be useful in treating cancer. In fact, the study showed that a ketogenic diet alone accelerated the progression of mice with acute myeloid leukemia.

“There is so much heterogeneity in clinical evidence, it’s hard to make any definitive conclusions. We need to look at it in a more systematic way. A ketogenic diet may be useful in a majority of cancers, but may also be harmful in some patients. We need to figure out who might potentially benefit and who won’t,” said Martens.

Further tests are required in human clinical trials before distinct conclusions can be made, but the new study is definitely worth thinking about for those who work with cancer patients on nutritional approaches.

“The potential positive influences this diet may have on cancer treatment justify the need for large human trials. As the findings from this article highlight, nutrition should be seen as a metabolic therapy (i.e targeting the metabolism of cancer cell and its treatment) rather than a dietary approach,” said Carla Prado, Registered Dietician and Associate Professor in Nutrition, Food and Health at the University of Alberta, who was not involved in the study.

Cantley and colleagues have designed a clinical trial with Bayer, which is pending ethical approval and which will test the combination of a ketogenic diet and Aliqopa in a small number of patients with lymphoma or endometrial cancer. He hopes to start recruiting patients within the next year.

“While a ketogenic diet is not yet ready for prime time yet, the findings of this article once again support the need for increased attention and investment on its role in cancer,” said Prado.

Why accounting matters to your cloud computing plans

Where do I get my cloud news? It’s almost never CPA Journal. But, more and more, accounting is becoming a larger part of cloud computing—no matter what side of the cloud you’re sitting on. 

On the enterprise side, it’s a matter of taxes to be paid. While you can typically find 30 to 40 percent better operational cost utilization when using cloud computing, that savings may be diluted by the fact that you’re giving up depreciation on hardware in the datacenter.

So, while cloud computing can save you millions of dollars a year, it may actually cost you money, at least in the short term. That’s something that I’ve run into from time to time with clients over the years.

At issue is that you need to consider net savings. That mean looking for the all-in cost of the cloud, including dealing with tax and other accounting implications.

Although cloud computing is typically a superior model, walking away from traditional hardware and software has a cost as well. Indeed, in a few cases I’ve found that a cloud computing solution that will save $10 million a year actually will cost $15 million considering the impact of taxes. The gross savings made sense for cloud, but the net savings did not.

So, how are cloud geeks supposed to deal with these accounting issues? By using business analysts to work up cloud ROI models. It’s not uncommon for these business analysts to be CPAs.

Even more complex is the fact that most companies are multinational these days, and so you to figure out not only the net cost impact for a single country, but for dozens of countries that have some pretty odd laws when it comes to accounting, especially tax issues. At this point, the ROI models become pretty complex.

But you don’t have to cede everything to the CPAs and lawyers. The good news is that current IT cost-governance tools for cloud computing do indeed consider other net cost issues. So you’ll actually see a truer cost of using a cloud service, versus just the cost of the cloud services—and for the operational life, not just the upfront ROI analysis.

Although it adds complexity to the cloud migration path, accounting is just a fact of life in business.

Who knows? Perhaps one day we’ll see this as a specialty in accounting. (Umm, I hope not!)

Dell moves to go public, spurns IPO

(Reuters) – Dell Technologies Inc said on Monday it would pay $21.7 billion in to buy back shares tied to its interest in software company VMware Inc (VMW.N), paving the computer maker’s way back to the public market without an initial public offering.

A logo of Dell Technologies is seen at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain February 28, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Dell said the cash and stock deal will value its equity at between $61.1 billion and $70.1 billion, more than twice the $24.9 billion that founder and Chief Executive Michael Dell and buyout firm Silver Lake paid to take company private in 2013.

The transaction will allow Dell to bypass the traditional IPO process, which would likely have involved grilling by stock market investors over its $52.7 billion debt pile.

It also means Dell will not have to raise any new money, because it will pay for the deal by issuing new shares and a $9 billion dividend it will receive from VMware.

Going public gives Michael Dell and Silver Lake the option to eventually sell down their stakes, even as they affirmed on Monday they had no plans to do so. Following the deal, Michael Dell will own 47 percent to 54 percent of the combined company, while Silver Lake will own between 16 percent and 18 percent.

A new public security gives Dell currency it can use to pay for acquisitions beyond cash. The security which Dell is buying back is a so-called tracking stock tied to its 81 percent economic stake in VMware. VMware specializes in virtualization, a technology which allows multiple systems and applications to run at the same time on the same server, which can cut companies’ IT costs.

Dell issued the stock in 2016 to buy data storage company EMC Corp for $67 billion, because it could not pay for the whole deal in cash. EMC owned the majority stake in VMware, which Dell inherited.

Such a security “tracks” or depends on the financial performance of a specific business unit or operating division of a company rather than the operations of a company as a whole.

Dell will exchange each share of VMware tracking stock (DVMT.N) for 1.3665 shares of its Class C common stock, or $109 per share in cash for a total cash consideration of not more than $9 billion.

Dell said it will list its Class C shares on the New York Stock Exchange following the completion of the deal that will eliminate its tracking stock. Following the deal, investors who owned the tracking stock will in aggregate account for between 20.8 percent and 31 percent of Dell’s ownership.

The transaction represents a premium of 28.9 percent to the closing price of the tracking stock on Friday. The stock was up 10 percent at $93 in afternoon trading. VMware shares also rose 10 percent to $161.75.

“We believe that this development is positive for VMware shares not only because it avoids the reverse merger scenario, but also because there is the possibility of VMware being taken out by Dell in the future as a ‘second step’ following this transaction,” FBN Securities analyst Shebly Seyrafi wrote in a note.

A STRING OF DEALS

Michael Dell has turned to dealmaking to transform his company from a PC manufacturer into a broader seller of information technology services to businesses, ranging from storage and servers to networking and cyber security.

His strategy is in sharp contrast to that of rival HP Inc (HPQ.N), which separated in 2016 from Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co (HPE.N), based on the reasoning that having two technology companies focusing separately on hardware and services would make them more nimble.

Dell’s strategy is beginning to pay off, as companies look to one-stop shops to help them manage their IT infrastructure on the cloud. Dell reported consolidated adjusted cash flow of $2.4 billion in its latest quarter, up by a third year-on-year. Its total debt has also gone down by $4.6 billion since the EMC deal.

“Dell is a very different company than it was five years or so years ago. And we’re seeing tremendous momentum inside the business,” Michael Dell told analysts on a conference call.

Dell had also said earlier this year it was considering a full merger with VMware. However, a special committee of VMware’s board of directors formed to safeguard the interest of VMware minority shareholders pushed back against the terms that Dell was proposing, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Reporting by Carl O’Donnell in Bangalore and Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty

Yoko Taro Expresses His Love For 'Ikaruga' In New Interview

The ceaselessly wonderful Yoko Taro recently expressed his love for the classic Treasure developed shoot-em-up Ikaruga in a new interview and how it has influenced his work in making games.

Following the recent release of Ikaruga on the Switch, it seems that Yoko Taro cannot contain his enthusiasm for the cult shmup.

In a new interview with Famitsu and kindly translated by those nice people at Siliconera, Yoko Taro talks at length about how much Ikaruga influenced his work on games such as Nier: Automata.

Famitsu: What do you like about Ikaruga?

Yoko Taro, superfan: First, I’d like to talk about how the music synchronizes with what is happening on the screen. Iuchi-san, the planner and director of Ikaruga, was also in charge of making the music. Thanks to this, the stage progress matches the music as well. That is one part of what makes Ikaruga amazing. Stage 2’s music starts off with a sense of speed to go along with the opening scene, but as the screen starts scrolling slower, the song goes slower as well. How they mixed music and the sequences together was really groundbreaking, and it left such an impact on me that I stole it for the Nier series.

Famitsu: Has Ikaruga influenced your work in any way?

Yoko Taro: It doesn’t stop at just an influence! In Drakengard, you have magic and non-magic missiles that couldn’t shoot each other down. That is basically Ikaruga. Also, the enemy bullets in the Nier series was also very much influenced by the game. Actually, please write that I stole it, okay? In bold.

Famitsu: Let’s leave it at a homage.

Yoko Taro: Leaving aside my joke… Speaking seriously, Ikaruga influenced how I synchronize the game sequences with the music. Combining the two in a way that appeals to people’s hearts is a task that’s quite difficult. This sort of technique has been a hurdle for developers to overcome since the early days of gaming history, and I think Ikaruga is the first game to actually do it. Because, up until then, BGMs were only split by different scenes in each stage. In that regard, I believe Ikaruga was a game-changer in gaming history.

Famitsu: And you’re saying that’s how the sequences in Nier: Automata came to be.

Yoko Taro: Hmm, I don’t think so. It did have an influence, but I don’t think it was as successful as in Ikaruga. You see, we forced in transformation gimmicks to bosses, and while music rises to fit the moment, that’s just a scripted event, as the developers don’t know when the player will beat the enemy.

In another scene in Nier: Automata, the boss movements match the rhythm of the music, but that was just forcing it so that the movements would follow the length of the music, and not something the players could control in an interactive manner. If it were done properly, the music would increase in fervor when you do massive damage, or something like that where you feel the game via the music. That’s incredibly hard for the creator to control, and something that’s always troubling. But it’s because it’s done so well in Ikaruga that it shines so brightly.

Yoko Taro is known to be rather irreverent, but a lot of these responses are actually quite interesting and shed new light on how much games like Ikaruga have had an impact on his work.

Anyway, now that we have Ikaruga on the Switch it seems that this particular superfan of the game is very happy to play the game again.