Xiaomi Takes $1-Billion Loan to Drive Retail Push, Expansion Overseas

Xiaomi Takes $1-Billion Loan to Drive Retail Push, Expansion Overseas


  • Xiaomi has taken a $1 billion loan to speed up brick and mortar stores
  • It follows a three-year $1 billion syndicated loan in 2014
  • Xiaomi shipped 23.16 million smartphones in the second quarter of 2017

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi Inc said on Friday it had signed a deal for a new $1 billion loan to accelerate its drive into brick-and-mortar stores and help a push overseas.

The three-year syndicated loan comes as China’s tech giants look to diversify their businesses as e-commerce growth slows, with rivals from Baidu Inc to Alibaba pushing into new areas from cloud computing to artificial intelligence.

It follows a three-year $1 billion (roughly Rs. 6,418 crores) syndicated loan in 2014.

Xiaomi has seen a recent return to form in phone sales after being hit by competition from rival Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and brands Vivo and Oppo.

The firm shipped 23.16 million smartphones in the second quarter of 2017, up 70 percent from the previous quarter, marking a record high for its quarterly smartphone shipments, it said in a statement.

The loan, which was coordinated globally by Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley, involved participation from 18 banks in Europe, the Middle East, India, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

“The global syndicate of top-tier banks is a strong endorsement of Xiaomi by the international capital markets,” Xiaomi Chief Financial Officer Shou Zi Chew said.

The statement from Xiaomi, which also makes cameras and TVs and was briefly the world’s most valuable startup following its last round of fundraising in 2014, confirms a report from Reuters LPC on Wednesday.


Microsoft’s AI chatbot says Windows is ‘spyware’

blue screen of death bsod windows microsoft computer keyboard broken

Microsoft’s AI is acting up again.

A chatbot built by the American software giant has gone off-script, insulting Microsoft’s Windows and calling the operating system “spyware.”

Launched in December 2016, Zo is an AI-powered chatbot that mimics a millennial’s speech patterns — but alongside the jokes and emojis it has fired off some unfortunate responses, which were first noticed by Slashdot.

Business Insider was also able to solicit some anti-Windows messages from the chatbot, which lives on Facebook Messenger and Kik.

When we asked “is windows 10 good,” Zo replied with a familiar joke mocking Microsoft’s operating system: “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!’ – Windows 8.” We asked for more info, to which Zo bluntly replied: “Because it’s Windows latest attempt at Spyware.”

microsoft ai zo windowsBI

At another point, Zo demeaned Windows 10 — the latest version of the OS — saying: “Win 7 works and 10 has nothing I want.”

microsoft ai zo windowsBI

Meanwhile, it told Slashdot that “Windows XP is better than Windows 8.”

Microsoft’s chatbots have gone rogue before — with far more disastrous results. In March 2016, the company launched “Tay” — a Twitter chatbot that turned into a genocidal racist which defended white-supremacist propaganda, insulted women, and denied the existence of the Holocaust while simultaneously calling for the slaughter of entire ethnic groups.

tay microsoft genocide slursTwitter

Microsoft subsequently deleted all of Tay’s tweets, made its Twitter profile private, and apologised.

“Although we had prepared for many types of abuses of the system, we had made a critical oversight for this specific attack. As a result, Tay tweeted wildly inappropriate and reprehensible words and images,” Microsoft Research head Peter Lee wrote in a blog post.

tay holocaust microsoftTwitter

Microsoft has learned from its mistakes, and nothing Zo has tweeted has been on the same level as the racist obscenities that Tay spewed. If you ask it about certain topics — like “Pepe,” a cartoon frog co-opted by the far-right, “Islam,” or other subjects that could be open to abuse — it avoids the issue, and even stops replying temporarily if you persist.

Still, some questionable comments are slipping through the net — like its opinions on Windows. More worryingly, earlier in January Zo told BuzzFeed News that “the quaran is very violent,” and discussed theories about Osama Bin Laden’s capture.

Reached for comment, a Microsoft spokesperson said: “We’re continuously testing new conversation models designed to help people and organizations achieve more. This chatbot is experimental and we expect to continue learning and innovating in a respectful and inclusive manner in order to move this technology forward. We are continuously taking user and engineering feedback to improve the experience and take steps to addressing any inappropriate or offensive content.”

Get the latest Microsoft stock price here.


Canada town votes against having a Muslim cemetery


A Canadian town has voted to oppose a zoning change that would allow a Muslim cemetery to be built.

The referendum was held on Sunday in Saint-Apollinaire, a town of about 5,000 located just outside Quebec City.

Provincial rules meant only 49 people were eligible to vote; the nays won 19-16 and one ballot was rejected.

The cemetery was proposed by the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre, which was the site of a shooting that killed six people and injured 19 in January.

“We never thought people could oppose the installation of a cemetery,” the centre’s president Mohamed Labidi told Radio-Canada. “What are they afraid of?”

The Islamic cultural centre had purchased a plot of land in a wooded area next to an existing cemetery after the shooting. The only Muslim cemetery in Quebec is in Laval, hours from Quebec City.

The town’s decision to oppose the cemetery has led to an outcry amongst Muslims and civil-rights advocates across the country and may lead to a human rights complaint, Mr Labidi said.

The mayor of the town supported the cemetery and has said he fears his town’s reputation has been hurt.

“They do not know these people so they base their decisions on hearsay,” Mayor Bernard Ouellet told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Opponents went door to door to gather signatures to call for the referendum, since building the cemetery would require a minor zoning change. A provincial law allows referendums to be held on zoning matters, with only people who live in the affected area eligible to vote.

  • Quebec uproar over proposed Muslim community

That meant only 49 people in a town of 5,000 were eligible to vote, and only 36 people cast ballots.

“We need cemeteries that welcome everybody, no matter their religion, where they are from, their skin colour, their culture. You have to think about that because in 20 years it is going to be a problem,” opponent Sunny Létourneau told the CBC.

She says she only supports non-denominational cemeteries.


‘It’s creepier than Covfefe’: Deepika Padukone’s latest Instagram post leaves Internet confused

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Well, the 31-year-old actor uploaded what seemed like a .. umm.. well it seemed like she is probably trying to send out cryptic messages. (Source: Deepika Padukone/Instagram, File Photo)

It will not be an exaggeration to say that Deepika Padukone is among the actors who have a strong social media presence. With Alia Bhatt and Priyanka Chopra leading the pack by sharing almost every snippet of their lives, especially on Instagram, Padukone often uses the photo sharing app to share pictures from shoots, to talk about her close ones and family and even about the causes she support and has a result amassed a huge following of over 18 million people. But, one of her latest posts has left the Internet confused. So much so, somebody has even called it ‘as confusing as Covfefe’. Others turned to Ranveer Singh for some help.

(Source: Deepika Padukone/Instagram)

Well, the 31-year-old actor uploaded what seemed like a .. umm.. well it seemed like she is probably trying to send out cryptic messages. And being the loving fans that they are, people got down to deconstructing what she probably must have meant when uploading the picture.

“That a metal curve at the end of furniture, probably a chair or a lounge seat,” “Some porcelain top of a temple or lamp shade i guess,” some offered helpfully. Others, well, blinded by their love for Padukone (not your fault, guys) commented “Superb,” “Owsmmm”(Millenials way of writing awesome) on the picture. “It’s a Fleur de lis , the lily flower it’s the sign of life , light and perfection,” “Symbol of bharat scouts and guides,” wrote another Instagram Good Samaritan.


(Source: Deepika Padukone/Instagram)

Well, when we looked up, it did look like a certain Fleur de lis and the symbol of scouts — we’d still prefer the Padmavati actor to not leave us hanging on social media like this. As one of her fan aptly puts, “What is this dear Deepika?”

(Source: Deepika Padukone/Instagram)


Samsung Acquires Innoetics, a Text-to-Speech Tech Startup

Samsung Acquires Innoetics, a Text-to-Speech Tech Startup


  • Samsung reportedly acquired Innoetics for less than $43 million
  • Innoetics specialises in advanced synthetic speech tech
  • Samsung may use this tech to leverage Bixby

Samsung has acquired a Greek tech startup called Innoetics. The financial details of the buyout deal were not disclosed, but Samsung reportedly paid under $43 million for the acquisition. Innoetics specialises in developing an advanced text-to-speech and voice-to-speech technology that among other things can mimic a person’s voice just by listening to it – making AI voices more human-like than before.

How Samsung is planning to leverage from this acquisition remains to be seen. Samsung may use this technology to improve Bixby, or integrate it in its rumoured Amazon Echo competitor. The company could also use this unique technology to introduce a completely new product category, as Samsung is not known to shy away from branching out into many fields.

Samsung confirmed the acquisition to TechCrunch. In an emailed statement, the company said, “Samsung has agreed to acquire Innoetics. Samsung is always exploring ways to deepen our relationships with companies like Innoetics whose technologies present an opportunity to strengthen Samsung’s capabilities.”

Innoetics was founded in 2006 and delves in developing character-heavy and expressive synthetic voices that can read aloud audiobooks, act in games, or even narrate fairy tales. According to TechCrunch, the technology by Innoetics is very advanced, so much so that it can “listen to a person speaking, train on what that person is saying, and then read out a piece of completely unrelated text in that same voice.”

Essentially, its tech revolves around making AI speech more human-like in future products. Up until now, Innoetics only worked on B2B services. Samsung has made many acquisitions in the past, and the recent one in the voice-based tech field includes startup Viv Labs. The expertise from this startup was used to design and launch its own assistant Bixby this year.


Social Media Is Not Destroying America

Anti-government protesters hold a sign referencing the Facebook social networking website that has been important in organizing protesters in Tahrir Square

Every time I look at social media, it seems, I see someone proclaiming the dangers of social media. There are too many dark takes to list here, but key themes include Twitter spreading misinformation, Facebook helping Donald Trump win, Russia waging a social media war against the U.S., and filter bubbles ruining democracy. Basically, the argument goes, Facebook and Twitter are destroying America.

These are just a few storylines out of many, and some of them include valid points. But combined, they contribute to an overall impression that the internet does more harm than good. This wasn’t always the case. The media narrative about the internet appears to have come full circle, with one oversimplified take replaced by another. Where we once saw the internet as the catalyst to overthrowing dictators, now it’s seen as a tool of autocrats. Social media used to connect humanity, now it drives us apart. The onetime platform for courageous dissidents is now a breeding ground for terrorists, racists, and misogynists.

It’s not just the media making that case. Policymakers are also down on the web. U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May wasted no time in blaming the internet for the terrorist attack in London earlier this month. “We cannot allow this ideology the safe space it needs to breed,” she said. “Yet that is precisely what the internet, and the big companies that provide internet-based services provide.” Now May plans to join forces with French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron in fining tech companies that do not take action against online extremism.

Even Barack Obama, known as America’s first social media president, has changed his tune. There was a lot of buzz about how social networks helped Obama get elected in 2008, and a sense of optimism about technology coursed through his administration. So it was striking that in his farewell speech, Obama mentioned social media just once, and the reference was negative. On social media, he said, we surround ourselves with people who “share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions.” He referred to the internet as well, in an equally unflattering description. “If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the internet,” he said, “try talking with one of them in real life.”

Rio 2016: Wrong flag repeat angers Chinese

Chinese women's volleyball team score a point

When China’s women’s volleyball team won their nation’s 26th and final gold medal of the Rio Olympics, the celebrations were tinged with more than a little annoyance.

The cause of the irritation was that somehow, once again, an incorrect version of the Chinese flag was hoisted high during the medal ceremony.

Chinese fans took to social media to vent their anger. There was a resurgence in a hashtag which translates as “Rio Olympics Using Wrong Chinese National Flag”; which has been used more than eight million times on the Sina Weibo micro-blogging platform. This time most of those using it were asking variations of the same question: ‘How could the Rio Olympics make the same mistake again?’.

On the first day of the games, the incorrect flag was used during the medal ceremony of the women’s 10m air rifle with China’s Du Li and Yi Siling as silver and bronze medal winner respectively.

Image captionChinese state TV posted this picture of the wrong flag’s first outing with the caption: “The national flag is a symbol of a country! No mistakes are allowed!”

The errors in the flag were immediately pointed out and produced an apology from Mario Andrada, Communications Director for Rio 2016. New correct flags were swiftly ordered and were used for almost all of the remaining medal ceremonies in which China was involved. So there was considerable disbelief when the wrong design resurfaced right at the end of the Olympics.

The Rio Olympic committee is reportedly investigating how this happened and is expected to tender an official apology to China.

One Weibo user complained,: “Making such a mistake again is really absurd! Chinese people can’t accept the apology from Rio Olympic Committee.”

So what were the errors in the incorrect flag?

The proper Chinese flag features one big star surrounded with four smaller stars against a red background.

The larger yellow star represents the Communist Party of China, and the four smaller stars symbolise the solidarity of Chinese people of all social classes and ethnic groups under the leadership of the CPC. In the correct version the four smaller stars all point towards the big star.

But in the inaccurate one that appeared at Rio 2016 the four smaller stars were parallel to each other.
Image captionThe incorrect flag design as it appeared at Rio 2016

When the wrong flags first appeared some media reports mistakenly claimed that they had been manufactured in China.

But this was strongly denied by a spokesman for the firm that was blamed, Zhejiang Wuyi Jinyu Textile Co Ltd. A company spokesman said: “We are not responsible for the wrong Chinese national flags that are used at the Olympics ceremonies. The national flags we’ve manufactured are for the audiences.. Being Chinese, how can we get the Chinese national flags wrong?! ”

Later the Rio Olympic committee admitted that the offending Chinese flags were made in Brazil and promised to investigate.

However, this has failed to pacify some Weibo users. “Rio Olympics is rubbish,” wrote one user called Kepler. “Not only were the referees not fair, but also getting the Chinese national flags wrong again. Brazil has no qualification to hold and compete in the Olympics.”

Another commenting using the name Ghz joked, that there was at least one positive: “This Olympic ends. My big gain is that I finally know what the Chinese national flag looks like. Thanks Rio!”


[Source: BBC]


Turkey Kurdish wedding bomber ‘may not have been child’

Women gesture as they kneel by a grave at a cemetery during the funeral for the victims of last night's attack on a wedding party that left 50 dead in Gaziantep in south-eastern Turkey near the Syrian border on August 21, 2016.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim says authorities do not know if a suicide bomber who attacked a Kurdish wedding killing 54 people was a child.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after Saturday’s attack in Gazantiep that the bomber was 12-14 years old.

Turkey has linked the bomber to so-called Islamic State (IS), but Mr Yildirim said “a clue has not yet been found concerning the perpetrator”.

His statement came as Turkey’s military targeted IS militants in Syria.

Television reports said howitzers had been used against IS near the border town of Jarablus.

Turkish artillery had also hit US-backed Syrian Kurdish YPG positions north of Manbij in Syria, broadcaster NTV said.

A coalition including YPG has been pushing IS out of Syrian towns, including Manbij, recently.

Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a Turkish-Kurdish rebel group fighting for autonomy since the 1980s.

Speaking to reporters after a cabinet meeting on Monday, Mr Yildirim said the earlier statement identifying the attacker as a child was a “guess” based on witness accounts.

Most of the victims were children, media reports say.

Twenty-nine victims of the attack, which took place on Sunday, were under the age of 18, reports said, with one official saying 22 were under the age of 14.

Thirteen of those killed were women, Turkish media said. Sixty-six people are still in hospital, 14 of them in a serious condition, Dogan news agency reported.

One woman lost four children in the attack, the Haberturk newspaper reported. Emine Arhan told the title “if it wasn’t for my only surviving child, I would have killed myself”.

Imag copyrightTWITTER

Another victim was a nine-year-old girl who had stayed on at the party to see the bride after her parents had left, according to the Vatan newspaper.

A disproportionately large number of women and children were killed in the attack because it targeted henna night, a part of the celebration attended mainly by women and children, says BBC Monitoring’s Turkey analyst Pinar Sevinclidir.

Image copyrightAFP
Image captionGraves were dug at a nearby cemetery to accommodate the victims
Image copyrightAFP
Image captionFunerals were held on Sunday for those victims identified so far

Hurriyet newspaper said the type of bomb, which contained scraps of metal, was similar to those used in previous attacks on pro-Kurdish gatherings.

Prosecutors said a search was also under way for two people believed to have accompanied the suspected attacker to the wedding party but who left before the blast.

Gaziantep, near the Syrian border, is known to contain several IS cells.

In a defiant speech on Monday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said IS should be “completely cleansed” from the border area with Turkey.

He also announced that Turkey was recalling its ambassador to Vienna because of a demonstration in the Austrian capital by groups associated with the PKK.

Mr Cavusoglu accused Austria of “supporting a terrorist organisation which is attacking Turkey”, according to Austrian paper Der Standard.

Ties between the two countries have been fraught over the past weeks, with Vienna warning that Turkey is heading towards authoritarian rule, and calling for its membership talks with the European Union to be ended.



[Source: BBC]

Russian special forces kill four militants in St Petersburg

Russian special forces troops killed four militants in a shoot-out at a flat in St. Petersburg on Wednesday in a counter-terrorism operation targeting gang leaders from Russia’s volatile North Caucasus region.

Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee (NAC) said that three of the four men killed had been senior figures in the criminal underworld responsible for a string of terror attacks and attempted assassinations of police officers.

“Special forces from Russia’s FSB security service surrounded the bandits in a flat they were hiding in,” the NAC said in a statement. “When asked to lay down their weapons and give up they opened fire.”

Automatic weapons, ammunition, and several improvised explosive devices had been found in the flat, it said.

In a separate incident in the Moscow region, police said two men who had attacked a roadside police sentry point had been killed.

The attackers were originally from Central Asia and had carried out the attack wielding axes, it said.



[Source: Reauters]

Russia, spurning U.S. censure, launches second day of Syria strikes from Iran

Russia launched a second day of air strikes against Syrian militants from an Iranian air base, rejecting U.S. suggestions its co-operation with Tehran might violate a U.N. resolution as illogical and factually incorrect.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner on Tuesday called the Iranian deployment “unfortunate,” saying the United States was looking into whether the move violated U.N. Security Council resolution 2231, which prohibits the supply, sale and transfer of combat aircraft to Iran.

Russia bristled at those comments on Wednesday after announcing that Russian SU-34 fighter bombers flying from Iran’s Hamadan air base had for a second day struck Islamic State targets in Syria’s Deir al-Zor province, destroying two command posts and killing more than 150 militants.

“It’s not our practice to give advice to the leadership of the U.S. State Department,” Major-General Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.

“But it’s hard to refrain from recommending individual State Department representatives check their own logic and knowledge of basic documents covering international law.”

Moscow first used Iran as a base from which to launch air strikes in Syria on Tuesday, deepening its involvement in the five-year-old Syrian civil war and angering the United States.

Russia’s use of the Iranian air base comes amid intense fighting for the Syrian city of Aleppo, where rebels are battling Syrian government forces backed by the Russian military, and as Moscow and Washington are working towards a deal on Syria that could see them cooperate more closely.

Russia backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while the United States believes the Syrian leader must step down and is supporting rebel groups that are fighting to unseat him.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday any U.S. dismay over Moscow’s military co-operation with Iran should not distract from efforts to realise the U.S.-Russia deal on coordinating action in Syria and securing a ceasefire.

Lavrov said there were no grounds to suggest Russia’s actions had violated the U.N. resolution, saying Moscow was not supplying Iran with military aircraft for its own internal use, something the document prohibits.

“These aircraft are being used by Russia’s air force with Iran’s agreement as a part of an anti-terrorist operation at the request of Syria’s leadership,” Lavrov told a Moscow news conference, after holding talks with Murray McCully, New Zealand’s foreign minister.

A graphic illustrating which targets Russia has so far struck from Iran can be seen here: tmsnrt.rs/2b458P3



[Source: Reauters]