Banking bonuses worldwide up 29%; eBay cuts CEO’s pay by half; A peep into driverless future; Delay your decision to make the right choices; Why some India politicians contest from two seats





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1 Banking bonuses worldwide up 29% (Jill Treanor in The Guardian) The average bankers’ bonus globally was 29% higher than a year ago, with those in the City of London higher than in other parts of the world, according to a survey by a leading careers website. More than 2,660 financiers in the UK, US, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia were asked about their bonuses by eFinancialCareers, and the 700 who responded from the UK were found to have higher payouts.

In the UK nearly half (49%) of respondents reported higher bonuses, compared with 47% in the US and Hong Kong. Yet 41% said they were disappointed with the size of their bonuses. Although the size of bonuses increased, the degree of satisfaction among the recipients increased only one point to 39%, compared with 38% a year ago.

2 eBay cuts CEO’s pay by half (BBC) E-commerce giant eBay has cut the total compensation of its chief executive, John Donahoe, by more than half. Mr Donahoe was paid $13.8m, including salary and bonus, in 2013, down from $29.7m a year ago. While his basic salary rose by 2%, Mr Donahoe’s annual cash incentive fell by 43% from a year earlier.

The company said that while their chief executive had performed well, the firm’s financial performance “did not fully meet expectations”. eBay generated earnings of about $850m in the final quarter of last year – an increase of 13% – but its results have not been meeting expectations. However, the main explanation for the severity of Mr Donahoe’s pay cut is his one-time award of $14.8m in performance shares in 2012, which doubled his compensation that year.

His sharp drop in pay comes amid an ongoing battle between the firm and activist shareholder Carl Icahn over its online payments business, PayPal. Mr Icahn has called on eBay to spin off PayPal, which it acquired in 2002 for $1.5bn. It has been a key driver of eBay’s growth as an increasing number of consumers turn to online shopping, prompting increased use of online payment services. The division accounts for nearly 40% of the firm’s total revenue.

3 A peep into driverless future (Johannesburg Times) As automakers and technology firms steer towards a future of driverless cars, a Swiss think tank is at the Geneva Motor Show this week showing off its vision of what vehicles might look like on the inside when people no longer have to focus on the road.

“Once I can drive autonomously, would I want to watch while my steering wheel turns happily from left to right?” asked Rinspeed founder and chief executive Frank Rinderknecht. “No. I would like to do anything else but drive and watch the traffic. Eat, sleep, work, whatever you can imagine,” he told AFP at the show, which opens its doors to the public Thursday.

Google is famously working on fully autonomous cars, and traditional carmakers are rapidly developing a range of autonomous technologies as well. With analysts expecting sales of self-driving, if not completely driverless, cars to begin taking off by the end of this decade, Rinderknecht insists it’s time to consider how the experience of riding in a car will could be radically redefined. He envisages a future where car passengers will want to do the same kinds of things we today do to kill time on trains an airplanes. So Rinspeed has revamped the interior of Tesla’s Model S electric car to show carmakers how they might turn standard-sized vehicles into entertainment centres, offices and meeting spots wrapped into one.

The seats can slide, swivel, and tilt into more than 20 positions, allowing passengers to turn to face each other or a 32-inch screen in the back. Up front too, an entertainment system lines the entire length of the dashboard, and the steering wheel can be shifted to allow passengers a better view of the screens. And of course there is an espresso machine.

Ford Europe chief Stephen Odelle also said the technology was speeding forward, but added that he believed “the technology will be ready before legislation and consumers are.” Rinderknecht acknowledged there are obstacles, but insisted “they can be overcome.” And while it will be an upward battle to redefine liability legislation, “I think it can be done, because laws must adapt to life, and life as we all know changes,” he said.

4 Delay your decision to make the right choices (Khaleej Times) The secret to making a right choice is to delay your decision by fractions of a second, a new study has found. “Postponing the onset of the decision process by as little as 50 to 100 milliseconds enables the brain to focus attention on the most relevant information and block out irrelevant detractors,” said Jack Grinband, associate research scientist in the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain here.

The delay allows attention to be focused on the target stimulus and helps prevent irrelevant information from interfering with the decision process, the study showed. Researchers conducted two experiments to test their hypothesis that a more effective way to reduce errors might be to delay the decision process so that it starts out with better information.

In the first, participants were shown what looked like a swarm of randomly moving dots (the target stimulus) on a computer monitor and were asked to judge whether the overall motion was to the left or right. A second and brighter set of moving dots (the distractor) appeared simultaneously in the same location, obscuring the motion of the target.

The second experiment was similar to the first, except that the subjects also heard regular clicks, indicating when they had to respond. The time allowed for viewing the dots varied between 17 and 500 milliseconds. This condition simulates real life situations, such as driving, where the time to respond is beyond the driver’s control. The study appeared in the journal PLoS One.

5 Why some India politicians contest from two seats (Vibhuti Agarwal in The Wall Street Journal) In a political equivalent of spread betting, campaigning from two constituencies is a legitimate game plan in India where politicians often contest elections from two seats. Congress party president Sonia Gandhi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav have both done so in the past and in the upcoming election starting April 7, Rahul Gandhi, Mrs. Gandhi’s son and the vice president of the Congress party, has hinted that he may contest from a constituency in south India as well as his current seat of Amethi.

Narendra Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, has also expressed his desire to contest from his home constituency in Gujarat as well as in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state. Under section 33 of the Representation of People Act, 1951, a person is allowed to contest polls, whether a general election, more than one by-elections or biennial elections, from a maximum of two seats. But what happens when a politician wins both seats?

In such a situation, they must vacate one within 10 days, triggering a by-election, as stated under section 70 of the Representation of the People Act. Political and constitutional experts, however, say the provision is irrational. Subhash C. Kashyap, historian and former secretary-general of the Lok Sabha, India’s lower house of Parliament, says “It doesn’t serve any useful purpose. What it does is allow candidates to cover political risks by falling back upon a constituency if they are to lose the election to a seat,” Mr. Kashyap said.

The Election Commission of India in 2010 proposed a change to this provision to limit the number of seats to one per candidate. But the proposal was not cleared by the federal government. Aditya Mukherjee, professor of contemporary history at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, suggested that allowing candidates to contest from two constituencies sometimes helped political parties to “mobilize voters” and “shore up their party’s prestige” during elections.

“It is not unusual for politicians to contest from two seats in order to have a multiplier effect on other constituencies,” Mr. Mukherjee said. “This will attract more people to vote.”


About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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