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Why Venezuela’s government hasn’t collapsed even though its economy has

Anti-government protesters clash with police in Caracas, Venezuela. (Miguel Gutierrez/EPA)

Venezuela’s government has managed to turn the country with the world’s largest oil reserves into a pauper state where food is scarce, violence is abundant and money is worthless.

Despite that, however, its grip on power still seems strong. It has packed the courts, bullied the press and replaced the opposition-led legislature with a much more pliant one filled solely with regime apparatchiks. Not even mass protests have been able to stop this slide into authoritarianism. Why not? Because Nicolás Maduro’s Venezuela has learned what Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe did a decade ago: that you can get people to stick with you no matter what if they think your opponents are their enemies.

It turns out, then, that revolutions do not live by bread alone. They need polarization, too.

That’s the only way to explain the otherwise inexplicable fact that the two of the most economically destructive governments in recent memory have also been two of the longest-lasting. Indeed, Venezuela has the world’s worst inflation rate, second-worst unemployment rate, third-worst murder rate and 10th-worst corruption score. To give you an idea of how dire things are, the International Monetary Fund estimates that inflation is more than 1,100 percent right now and will get up to more than 2,000 percent by year’s end. (The government, of course, doesn’t bother publishing its own figures anymore). This has meant death for the nation’s currency. It lost 99.7 percent of its value, going by black market prices, from the start of 2012 to the end of 2016, and then another 98.3 percent since. Altogether that’s a 99.99 percent drop over the past six years. Which, as my colleague Anthony Faiola reports, is how something as simple as a Transformers toy could end up being worth 10 months of someone’s pay.

It was the same story in Zimbabwe, only orders of magnitude worse. Its economy shrank 50 percent between 1998 and 2008 at the same time that inflation exploded to such astronomical levels that, according to Johns Hopkins professor Steve Hanke, prices got to the point where they doubled daily. It was the second-worst hyperinflation in history, and the country still hasn’t fully recovered. Even today, Zimbabwe’s economy is 10 percent smaller than it was 20 years ago.

Now, "9 times out of 10" a "government that performs this poorly economically over time is likely to fall," said Steven Levitsky, a Harvard political scientist and co-author of the new book "How Democracies Die."

It will either get forced out of office by voters, protesters, the army or even ambitious members of its own party who want to preserve a political future for themselves. But in any case, somebody will stop it before its failed policies turn the county into a failed state.

Unless, that is, the government can divide the people. It’s the oldest trick in the book. See, while it’s true that elections can always be canceled, demonstrators shot, generals bought off and defectors made examples of, these kind of dictatorial tactics invite a massive backlash. They also require at least the tacit support of the rest of the regime. The president, after all, can give the order to fire on the crowd, but the soldiers still have to carry it out. What an economically unsuccessful autocrat needs, then, is something to keep everyone outside the government from coming together and everyone inside it from falling apart.

And that’s an ideology.

It’s about the only thing that Venezuela and Zimbabwe do have anymore. Both of their ideologies were born in opposition to extreme inequality and the ancien régimes that let it fester. In Venezuela’s case, that was the gap between the rich and poor that previous governments were too busy carrying out IMF-approved austerity measures to do much about. In Zimbabwe, it was the racial caste system that the colonial authorities had first put in place and the white settler state had then continued. Which is to say that these had long been deeply divided societies. Venezuela’s Chávistas and Zimbabwe’s Zanu-PF just organized politics around this fact. The problem, though, is that it’s easy for that to feed an ever-increasing cycle of polarization. For parties to go from being competing interest groups to hostile tribes. And for politics itself to just become war by other means — so everything is permitted.

Including trying to take over the commanding heights of the economy. That, at least, is what both the Chávistas and Zanu-PF did in response to their rule being challenged. Neither was willing to tolerate any source of power, whether political or economic, being beyond their control. The revolution was too important and their enemies too untrustworthy.

Which is why, back in 2003, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez replaced 18,000 striking workers at the state-owned oil company who knew what they were doing — about 40 percent of the total — with 18,000 people who knew they were loyal to the regime. The predictable result was that oil production flatlined just when the government needed it the most to underwrite its ambitious new social spending. Even triple-digit oil prices weren’t enough for it to be able to pay its bills, so it just printed what it needed — which became a lot more after oil crashed in 2014. Now, the Chávistas have made as many other mistakes as you would expect the economically illiterate drug cartel that it is to make, but this is the most basic one: They tried to get control of the goose that laid the golden egg and killed it instead. No amount of money-printing could cover this up.

Zimbabwe was no different, except that it went bankrupt much more suddenly than gradually. It began in 2000 when Mugabe lost a constitutional referendum that would have given him even more power. He blamed the country’s white farmers for this and decided to get back at them at the same time that he tried to burnish his own popularity by simply taking their land and giving it to his black supporters. It was the worst answer to the hardest question. Like a lot of post-colonial states, Zimbabwe had been trying to balance what was good for its economy with what was fair for its historically oppressed people. Which is to say that it didn’t want to break up the white farms that made up the backbone of its export economy so fast that their production fell, but it did want to break them up eventually. And up until this point, Mugabe had settled on maybe the best possible compromise: selling white-owned farms to black buyers whenever they came onto the market. But no more. Now the government was just taking whatever it could as fast as it could without any regard for whether the cronies it was giving land to actually knew how to farm it. They didn’t. And so Zimbabwe ceased to have an economy … but it didn’t cease to have a printing press. That’s how it ended up with a bill worth 100 trillion Zimbabwean dollars.

The irony is that these governments have failed for the same reason that people have stood by them even as they have. That’s polarization. "The Chávistas really, really hate their opponents," Levitsky told me, and still think of them as "imperialist stooges who want to bring back the old order." That makes "splitting with Maduro" seem like "going over to the enemy," even though his government has created a humanitarian crisis in which three-quarters of Venezuelan adults lost weight in 2016 for an average of 19 pounds each.

Mugabe was similarly able to survive one of the biggest economic catastrophes in modern history, because, Levitsky said, he was "the leader of a pretty disciplined liberation party that was able to use the memories of the war and its own heroism to close ranks." It was only when Mugabe tried to make his wife next in line to take office that he was deposed. The regime, though, goes on.

But that doesn’t mean that nothing matters or that these governments will never fall. "The conditions for an internal split in Venezuela are actually very good," Levitsky told me, because the country’s "deepening fiscal squeeze" should lead to more "battles over power and resources" between different elites. But it does mean that extremism in defense of a leader is no virtue. Staying loyal to the president even if he, say, shot someone in the middle of the street is the kind of thing that leads a nation to ruin.

That’s true whether you’re talking about Venezuela or Zimbabwe or a lot closer to home. Source:

5 Things You Should Know – Part 164

Here are 5 things you should know.

1. If there’s a promotion where you can enter a code for a chance to win a prize after purchasing a product, you’re likely legally entitled to a free code.

Companies usually do this to avoid it being considered gambling. For example, Doritos has a promotion going on where there are codes on their bags, and in the fine print it says “no purchase necessary […] for a free code, call (tel#)”

2. Amazon just raised the price of Prime monthly from $10.99 to $12.99.

3. Accepting “MDM” on your phone will give a third party full administrative rights.

“MDM stands for Mobile Device Management, and is a way to ensure employees stay productive and do not breach corporate policies.”

Invasion of Personal Privacy, Once an MDM Policy is installed on your phone, regardless of which third-party software you are using, it has the highest privileges on your phone (Device Administrator).

One of the big advantages of MDM is that users do not even know how much the administrator actually knows.

4. There is a multilevel marketing game going around.

There’s a new game spreading around, mostly with those in high school, that’s a multilevel marketing scam. While often called a game or because a lottery or gambling is not appropriate because it is a fixed outcome, you should not fall into it.

The most common version is a $20 buy, in that it puts you on a ladder or board. As more people join, you get pushed up the ladder and the higher you are the more money you get/when you get to the top you get a grand prize.

Since there needs to be $160 for every grand prize winner that means that 8 people have to buy in for per winner and the other 7 get screwed over. The burden of being screwed over gets passed down the ladder to more and more people resulting in 85% of players losing and being out $20 without having a chance at winning.

Important things to note: there can only be a maximum of 11 tiers/rounds for everyone on the planet to play once. This means that its very quickly going to get to a point where you can’t win if you enter.

It’s a fixed game. Only the first who join can win (and that’s only if it gets popular enough). If you join late you’re going to lose.

By the time you’re hearing about this, a large portion of those who are going to win already has so you’re going to be on the bottom more than likely and lose.

If you join and rope your friends in after you, you’re responsible for their loss and for screwing them over. There are winners in this but it is only the early players who do. Don’t join it, don’t spread it, don’t screw yourself and others over.

Recap about why it doesn’t work: Not enough money in the system. Per 8 people put in $20 for a $160 payout to the winner. That’s all the money in the system and the other 7 lose.

There can only be a maximum of about 11 tiers 8¹¹ is about 8.6 billion players. Not everyone is going to join, in fact, most people shouldn’t so there’s going to be a lot of losers.

It’s a fixed system. This isn’t a lottery. You don’t have a chance to win. Only the early win. Even if you are one of the first to join, you can’t join a second time because you’ll be in the bottom 85% at that point and unless money magically multiplies by 8 each round you won’t win.

It’s a completely unsustainable model designed to take advantage of the unaware

Please, parents and siblings, educate about multilevel marketing. People who hear about it, please don’t join and spread it. The bigger it gets, the more people get burned, and it will be your fault if you do. This is not a game, it’s a scam.

5. Butter (not marg) can be kept out of cooling, avoiding any softening procedure.

Because of the high-fat content of real butter, it requires less climatic conditioning preventing it from getting moldy as quick as margarine due to it’s conserving nature.


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Why You Should Start Planning For 2019 Instead Of 2018

The New Year is generally a time where people feel pressured to think of a resolution for the year, something in our lives that we would like to change, to work on, to learn, to let go of etc. The media does a great job of reminding us of this too and more often than not, the most common resolution, is to lose weight.

It’s no wonder that gym membership sales soar during this time. If you’re anything like me, this thought of a resolution isn’t even really crossing your mind until after Christmas is over and then it’s just kind of like, “okay what’s not working? What should I try to change this year?”

Often we put little thought into these resolutions or we aren’t being fully serious about them. Instead of scrambling last-minute to think of something that we’d like to change during the upcoming year or feeling guilty because it’s now 3 weeks into 2018 and we have yet to even get started, maybe we should start thinking a bit more long-term. What do we want for ourselves? Do you ever ask yourself this simple question – what do I want? Rather than just thinking “I want to lose weight,” we could think a bit more holistically and long-term; “I want to change my eating habits, I want to eat more fruits and vegetables, I would like to live a more active lifestyle.”

This will inevitably bring you the weight loss that you’re after in a more sustainable way. So you could say by 2019, “I plan to have learned more about healthy eating, figured out which type of exercise I enjoy, and naturally have lost a few pounds,” if that’s your goal.

This common form of last minute thinking, or little focused YOU time, is exactly why we created The 5 Days of You Challenge here at CE. It includes videos, worksheets, exercises and a clear plan for you to get clear on what you want, align with your soul and journey towards self realization.

Thinking more long-term can have a dramatic impact on your goals and from there you can take the baby steps needed in order to reach that goal. Also, no joke, a vision board can be quite beneficial to help you to keep your eye on the prize so to speak and have a daily visual reminder of how you want your life to look and what you can do to get there… it’s important to be realistic with yourself. And I don’t mean in terms of what you can accomplish, because I want you to know, in case you don’t already know – you are a powerful being, and you are capable of creating, and manifesting absolutely anything you desire for yourself.

So, be realistic in terms of what you actually want, not what you think you should want. According to westernized society, we should all aim to get a degree, get married, buy a house, have children, etc. If that’s not what you truly desire in your heart, then don’t make that your goal. These dreams are for you and you alone. If you are unsure of this, then hey, don’t stress, you still have about 11 ¼ months to get clear… nah.. Undoubtedly this can take time, but you still have to get started and for that, I highly recommend writing in a journal. It’s interesting how powerful and effective writing in a journal can actually be. It’s as if when you put all of your jumbled up thoughts down on paper, you are clearing the space in your head and you are literally communicating with the universe. What you put out you will get back.

Check Yourself

Science has found that people with a higher level of self-efficacy and internal locus of control tend to radically outperform others.

Self-efficacy meaning your belief in your own ability to achieve your goals. How confident are you? And how’s your self talk? Do you tend to not think very highly of yourself and doubt your ability to actually achieve the things that you want for yourself?

Internal locus of control meaning a belief that you, not an external circumstance will determine the outcomes of your life.

External locus of control meaning a belief that factors that are outside of you determine the outcomes of your life.

The fact of the matter is that the majority of the population have low self-efficacy and an external locus of control and research has shown that people with these two traits,

So, are you a part of the majority? If so, then chances are that unless you check yourself, accomplishing your goals might be more difficult for you. But it is important for you to know that you and only you, are in control of your own life. Things are going to happen in the world, as they tend to all the time. But you are still in charge of your own life and how you react to those circumstances is entirely up to you. You have the power, you just have to realize that.

It’s easy to look at the lives of others and think to ourselves, “oh lucky them. They had a better chance, their parents have money, they had a better start,” but where is playing the victim really going to get you? Also, don’t forget that WE ALL FACE STRUGGLES in our lives, all of us, yes  – even the rich and famous. As Abraham Lincoln once said,

“The best way to predict your future is to create it.”

Some important things to remember,

  1. You have to believe that YOU ARE IN CONTROL of what happens to you in your life.
  2. You have to believe in YOUR OWN ABILITY to make things happen in your life, you have to remember that you are a powerful manifestor and can literally create anything you want for yourself. We are given the circumstances and challenges in our lives because we are strong and capable enough to overcome them.
  3. You and only you are responsible for the choices you make, your goals aren’t going to achieve themselves, stay focussed.
  4. You can’t lose hope, that’s a dangerous slope. ANYTHING is possible! Don’t ever forget that.

There are numerous books on this topic that can potentially help you to see this in yourself. Check out a list here! Also, a few that I have found to be quite insightful are, Excuses Begone! By Dr. Wayne Dyer and Breaking The Habit Of Being Yourself, by Dr. Joe Dispenza.  

And one more inspiring quote to leave you with,

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. -Marianne Williamson

Join the 5 Days of You Challenge that begins Monday January 29th 2018. The challenge includes videos, worksheets, exercises and a clear plan for you to get clear on what you want, align with your soul and journey towards self realization. You also get access to a private support community!

Sign up for the challenge here.


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An economic case for protecting the planet | Naoko Ishii

We all share one planet — we breathe the same air, drink the same water and depend on the same oceans, forests and biodiversity. Economist Naoko Ishii is on a mission to protect these shared resources, known as the global commons, that are vital for our survival. In an eye-opening talk about the wellness of the planet, Ishii outlines four economic systems we need to change to safeguard the global commons, making the case for a new kind of social contract with the earth. Source:

How to Increase Revenue by Targeting Impulse Buyers

Every consumer is different.

Some people like to shop online, and other people prefer shopping in stores.

There are customers who spend days or even weeks researching a product before making a purchase, while others buy something without any prior intention at all.

This is called an impulse purchase.

Believe it or not, more people are guilty of this than you would think.

Have you ever bought something impulsively?

I’m willing to bet that you have.

In fact, 84% of Americans admit to making an impulsive buy.

So, how much are they spending?

If someone is waiting in line to check out at the grocery store and buys a magazine or candy bar, that counts as an impulse purchase.

But that’s really nothing to get excited over.

However, 54% of consumers have spent more than $100 on an impulse purchase, and 20% have spent over $1,000.

Those are numbers that can motivate marketers and retailers.

As an example, let’s take a look at something that everyone buys.


Here’s some data that compares planned and impulse clothing purchases grouped by age and household income.

image10 3

It appears that nobody is immune to this.

You might think that the more money someone makes, the more likely they are to spend money impulsively.

But based on this data, that simply is not the case.

There’s only a 2% difference between consumers with an annual income less than $25k and an annual income more than $75k when it comes to impulsive clothing purchases.

Whether you have a brick and mortar store location or an ecommerce website, you can increase your sales revenue if you learn how to target impulse shoppers.

As you can see from the numbers we’ve looked at so far, impulse buyers aren’t hard to find.

But you need to position your brand, products, and marketing campaigns accordingly to encourage these people to spend more money.

I’ll show you how to do it.

Understand the psychological characteristics of impulsive consumers

Younger generations are more likely to make an impulsive purchase.

9 out of 10 Millennials have purchased something impulsively.

That number gets even higher when you focus on the youngest portion of that generation.

95% of consumers under the age of 25 say they have made an impulse purchase.

But why?

It has to do with psychology and personality traits.

According to marketing experts, Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg, we can group consumers into four categories based on their personality.

image2 4

Impulse buyers would fall into the spontaneous category of this graphic.

They are more emotional as opposed to logical thinkers.

Impulsive shoppers are willing to take risks and respond to visual cues such as color schemes.

Studies suggest that impulse buying translates to gratification.

Those who seek self-gratification and approval from others are more likely to have impulsive tendencies.

The risks associated with an impulse purchase can suggest that the buyer may not consider the consequences of their spending.

They may not realize that the item puts them over budget for what they can afford based on their income and other expenses.

While some people are more susceptible to impulse purchases than others, the data that we saw earlier showed that the majority of consumers have made impulse buys.

This means that these personality and psychological traits are somewhere within all of us.

As a marketer, you just need to find ways to exploit those tendencies.

If you do this correctly, you could turn just about anyone into an impulsive customer.

Focus on the right products

First, you’ve got to figure out what products you want to entice people to buy.

Ideally, these products will have a high profit margin for your company.

Depending on your business, you might be selling hundreds or even thousands of items.

So, which ones are the right products to emphasize?

Let’s take a look at how men and women shop impulsively.

image1 4

So you’ve got to decide who you’re targeting.

If you’re targeting impulsive men, you want to focus on products that they could buy for their spouse.

But if you’re targeting women, you should concentrate on items suitable for children.

You’ll want to strategically place these items in your store on your website, but we’ll go into greater detail about that later.

Every product you sell shouldn’t entice consumers to be impulsive.

Some items are necessities.

People are going to buy those regardless.

For example, let’s say you own a home furnishings store.

Your primary target market is new homeowners.

There are certain items that you know they need for their house.

Things like a bed, couch, and kitchen table are needed in a home.

But an impulsive product could an ottoman for their living room or an extra television for the bedroom.

Those aren’t necessities, but consumers may be swayed to buy them, even if they had no intention to do so in the first place.

Look at this bedroom set from Bed Bath & Beyond.

image9 3

Items like the painting, extra lights, throw pillows, rug, and artificial flowers would be good products to focus on for impulsive buyers.

Consumers may visit a store looking to buy bed sheets, which is a necessity, and end up leaving with artificial flowers and a painting, which are luxury and decorative pieces.

Create FOMO (fear of missing out)

Promotional campaigns are a great way to target impulsive shoppers.

Discounts, deals, and coupons that are only available for a limited time might do the trick.

The concept of FOMO makes the consumer think, “If I don’t act now, I’ll lose out on this opportunity.”

So, now that you’ve narrowed down the products you want to focus on, it’s time to figure out how to advertise them.

Create a sense of urgency by saying that there is a limited quantity remaining.

Take a look at this promotional email from GetResponse.

image6 4

They use certain keywords to create FOMO, which can appeal to an impulsive shopper.

  • Only 500 accounts remaining
  • Don’t miss out
  • 40% off
  • Summer sale

Come up with ways to incorporate this strategy into your business.

For example, let’s say you have a retail store located inside of a shopping mall.

A consumer may be at the mall for something else and have no intention of stepping foot into your store.

So you’ve got to draw them in when they are walking by.

Take a look at this window display sign outside of a Banana Republic storefront.

image3 4

It doesn’t just say 40% off.

The sign says, “today only” to entice impulse shoppers to walk inside.

Even if they had no intention of buying clothes, 40% off is too good of a deal to pass up on, right?

That’s the idea behind creating urgency and FOMO.

Learn how to strategically place items

Placement is key for brick and mortar store locations as well as ecommerce sites.

Even though our society is moving toward digital trends, the majority of impulse purchases still take place in physical store locations.

In fact, 68% of impulse buys occur in-store as opposed to online.

image5 4

With that said, it doesn’t mean that ecommerce websites should shy away from targeting impulse buyers.

Research suggests that impulsive online sales jumped 60% over a time period where total online sales increased by 12.6%.

Those numbers are extremely encouraging for online retailers.

So now that you’ve identified which products are the best to focus on to trigger impulsive behavior, you need to make sure they are placed properly.

On an ecommerce site, you should put these items on your homepage.

Don’t make shoppers go searching for something.

That defeats the purchase.

You want someone to stumble upon your website, see something that catches their attention, and buy it.

Check out this example on the SAXX website.

image7 4

The items are clearly displayed on their homepage.

In addition to offering these products at a discounted rate, look at how SAXX used FOMO to entice impulse buyers as well.

“Get your hands on these seasonal styles before they’re gone.”

So when people visit their website, they may end up purchasing something they don’t really need and never intended to buy.

For those of you with a retail store location, you’ve got to apply the same theory to your layout.

Impulsive items shouldn’t be hidden in the aisles.

Present these at the end of a row or separated alone at a table or display areas.

Put items near the register so customers see them on their way out or while they wait in line.

Remember what we said earlier about the differences between men and women shoppers?

Based on that information, you could put some women’s products on display near the men’s section of your store to entice men to buy for their wives.

You could position some children’s items near the women’s section to encourage women to buy for their kids.

Simplify the buying process

Once someone decides to make an impulsive purchase, you don’t want to give them any chance to change their mind.

The buying process needs to be as fast and easy as possible.

For example, let’s say you only have display models of a certain product in your store.

In order for the customer to buy it, they’ll have to pick it up at your warehouse or visit another store location.

Those products shouldn’t be aimed at impulse shoppers.

There are too many extra steps that give them the opportunity to back out.

Have you ever been inside of an IKEA store?

image8 3

IKEA sell furniture and accessories for bedrooms, living rooms, bathrooms, kitchens, offices, and every other area of your home.

Their retail store operation works like this.

You walk through different display areas for each room of a house.

If you see something you like, you write down the item number from the corresponding tag, which I’ve pointed out on the image above.

After you walk through the entire store, you find the item based on the corresponding row and aisle number in their warehouse.

IKEA is successful on an international scale, so it’s a great business model.

However, this process is not set up to target impulse buyers.

It’s too long. There are too many steps and too many opportunities for the buyer to change their mind.

For those of you with an ecommerce site, you want the customer to finish their checkout in just a few clicks.

Don’t ask them to create an account or fill out unnecessary information.

Just ask for their name, address, and payment information.

That’s all you need to complete the sale.

Provide ease of access to customer support

Great customer service can help drive a sale, especially for an impulse buyer.

But your company needs to provide the consumer with easy access to a customer service representative.

For those of you with retail store locations, make sure your staff is properly trained to assist customers while they are walking through your store.

They should be informative and let the customer know if an item is on sale or if you’re running a special promotion.

It’s always important for you to clearly state your shipping and return policies as well.

Take a look at the impact these policies have on encouraging online sales.

image4 4

If the customer knows the item will ship for free and they have the option to return it, they are more likely to buy the item.

So just make sure your company prioritizes customer service and has representatives available online, over the phone, and in-store to communicate with your customers.


Businesses can increase their sales revenue by learning how to market their products based on impulsive shopping behavior.

Although certain personality types are more likely to make an impulse purchase, the vast majority of consumers are guilty of this as well.

There are certain things you can do from a marketing perspective to trigger an impulsive response from your customers.

First, you’ve got to focus on the right products.

Then use marketing campaigns to make the customer think they are missing out on a great deal if they don’t buy something.

Strategically place items in your store and on your website to entice a sale.

The buying process needs to be fast and easy.

Make sure you provide shoppers with excellent customer support options.

Follow these tips to increase your sales revenue.

What types of products are you strategically placing on your website to target impulse buyers?


Epic Games Acquires Cloud Computing Experts Cloudgine Ltd

While its very common place to hear about tech companies making acquisitions here there and everywhere, that’s not usually the case when it comes to middleware developer Epic Games. Today, the company has announced the purchase of Cloudgine, a cloud computing and online technology business.

Epic Games logo

Cloudgine specialises in delivering massive compute power to real-time, interactive content, which is especially useful when it comes to videogames, enterprise applications and power hungry virtual reality (VR). One of the reasons Epic Games has bought Cloudgine is that its research and development has been based on Unreal Engine 4, Epic Games videogame development engine which has been used for many a VR title.

It’ll be joining Epic Games as a wholly owned subsidiary, looking to enhance the feature set of Unreal Engine 4 so that developers can further push the technical limits of their VR experiences through advances in physics simulation and networking.

An example of this can be found in Cloudine’s VR titles They Came from Space and Toybox. The latter was made in collaboration with Oculus Studios, a launch title for Oculus Touch that showcased the features of the new controllers. While the former is Cloudine’s most recent project. Announced last summer, They Came from Space draws visual and tonal inspiration from classic 1950s B-movie alien invasion films and allows players to annihilate entire cities and landscapes. Utilising unique cross-platform VR and PC gameplay, the online-multiplayer videogame gives VR-players control over massive alien Overseers, which work together with PC-players, dubbed Pilots, who control agile drones.

They Came From Space screenshot

Additionally, Epic Games is also hiring, recruiting for Cloudgine’s office in Edinburgh, Scotland, where it plans on growing the team to develop leading-edge technology, as well as the other Epic Games UK locations in Guildford, Newcastle and Leamington Spa.

VRFocus will continue its coverage of Epic Games and Cloudgine, reporting back with the latest developments regarding VR and AR. Source:

Scientists create efficient fuel cell powered by solid carbon

INL, Idaho National Laboratory, researchers at INL, researchers at Idaho National Laboratory

Researchers at Idaho National Laboratory (INL) have created a new fuel cell technology that is powered by solid carbon. This technology could make the generation of electrical power through carbon-based fuels, such as coal and biomass, to be done in a more efficient, cleaner manner. The most recent variation on direct carbon fuel cell (DCFC) designs was described in a study published this week in the journal Advanced Materials. According to INL materials engineer Dong Ding, the latest DCFC technology runs at lower temperatures and produces higher maximum power densities than previous designs. Similarly, the latest solid carbon fuel cell tech from INL, which produces a much cleaner byproduct, would make it easier for carbon capture technology to be implemented.

fuel cell, carbon fuel cell, INL fuel cell

While hydrogen fuel cells have made news lately for their promise to produce clean, efficient energy, DCFCs offers the advantage of being able to utilize readily-available fuel sources, such as coal, organic waste, and biomass. “You can skip the energy-intensive step of producing hydrogen,” Ding told However, there are disadvantages in traditional DCFC designs. They have historically required high temperatures to function, which in turn requires expensive materials that are able to withstand such heat.

Related: World’s first commercial carbon-sucking plant goes live in Zurich

INL, Idaho National Laboratory, researchers at INL, researchers at Idaho National Laboratory

The most recent DCFC design from INL addresses these problems. To deal with the necessary high temperatures, the researchers developed an electrolyte with doped cerium oxide and carbonate, highly conductive materials that can perform under lower temperatures. To increase the efficiency of the fuel cell, the researchers created a 3-D ceramic textile anode that is woven like cloth and maximizes the surface area available for carbon fuel chemical reactions. The design also incorporates a molten carbonate-carbon composite fuel, which allows for better flow. “At the operating temperature, that composite is fluidlike,” Ding said. “It can easily flow into the interface.” Because DCFCs produce pure carbon dioxide without other pollutants, Ding believes it would be much easier to include carbon capture technology into the design. While a shift to carbon-free renewable energy is necessary to mitigate climate change, this new DCFC technology may ease the transition.


Images via Idaho National Laboratory Source:

25 Uplifting Headlines of the Week – Part 65

Here are this week’s uplifting headlines.

1-5 Uplifting Headlines of the Week

1. Scientists have taken a step towards one of the biggest goals in medicine, a universal blood test for cancer. A team at Johns Hopkins University has trialed a method that detects eight common forms of the disease. – Source

2. Two teenage boys were rescued by a brand new lifesaving drone in Australia while lifeguards were still training to use it. After being spotted struggling in heavy surf 700m (2,300ft) offshore, lifesavers sent the drone to drop an inflatable rescue pod, and the pair made their way safely to shore. – Source

3. These dogs begged to be let outside. Then they saved a woman from freezing to death: The dogs, Adam and Eva, woke their owners at 4:30 a.m. on Sunday. They strangely tugged on their owner’s sleeve, insisting to be let outside. – Source

4. The dog makes miracle recovery after being shot in the head, thrown in a snowbank. – Source

5. Impressed with the sportsmanship that New Orleans Saints punter Thomas Morstead showed on Sunday, Vikings fans have donated more than $27k to his charity. – Source

6-10 Uplifting Headlines of the Week

6. Diddy Donates $200k to women’s maternity healthcare in Uganda. – Source

7. Trash girl ignores bullies to clean Norwich’s streets. – Source

8. Iraqi soldier disarms 7-year-old boy after ISIS strap him with a suicide belt.  –Source

9. After four months without power, A Puerto Rico town strings its own lines. – Source

10. Pit Bull saves owners from carbon monoxide poisoning. – Source

11-15 Uplifting Headlines of the Week

11. Somaliland criminalizes rape for the first time. Rapists now stand to face up to 30 years in prison. – Source

12. Chrissy Teigen offers to pay McKayla Maroney’s NDA Fine if she speaks at the sentencing of Larry Nassar. –Source

13. Single father of five who wore an “In Need of Kidney” T-shirt to Disney World over the summer underwent a kidney transplant last week in New York. – Source

14. North, South Korea to march together under one flag at Winter Olympics. – Source

15. New Zealand’s largest online auction site Trade Me, bans the sale of purebred, crossbred pugs, British bulldogs, French bulldogs. – Source


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