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Today as I was walking out of the offices in my holding company, I saw a pile of unread newspapers and made the decision. Yes, that decision, the decision that I have been wanting to make for 10 years and for some reason, probably nostalgia, had not made. The decision to cancel all newspapers subscription, the end of the newspaper era for me. I canceled them all. I know it´s sad that I won´t get the International Herald Tribune anymore, nor the Financial Times, Expansión, El País, El Mundo, the WSJ. But why should I go on getting them if I get all my news online? At least I will save a few trees. So long newspapers, it was good while it lasted.

PS here´s a good article on how the newspaper industry in the States is doing online.

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“In the general European euphoria over the election of Barack Obama, there is the beginning of self-reflection about Europe’s own troubles with racial integration. Many are asking if there could be a French, British, German or Italian Obama, and everyone knows the answer is no, not anytime soon”.

These are the words of Steven Erlanger in a brief article published in the International Herald Tribune.

But now, as I just visited my native Argentina – which has many problems, but fortunately not the nationalisms that my adoptive country, Spain, does – I am wondering if it would be possible for the President of Spain to be someone with the look of a foreigner, or more specifically, a child of immigrants.

Currently, immigrants comprise 11.6 percent of the population of Spain, which is practically the same percentage that the United States has: 12.9 percent. But despite the fact that their population percentages are basically the same, the difference in political representation between the two countries is abysmal. In the United States, minorities are better organized and better represented in the political system. Obama is not the only case of an immigrant or child of immigrants in politics in the United States; others include: the former ambassador of the United States to the United Nations, current governor of New Mexico and Secretary of Commerce Nominee, Bill Richardson and Antonio Ramón Villaraigosa, the current the mayor of Los Angeles.
In Spain, there are practically no immigrants or children of immigrants among the 200 most influential political figures.

It is possible that it will only a matter of time: the United States was founded by immigrants and their descendants. A fairly recent New York Times article provides an interesting look at the history of immigrant and racial identity in the country. Indeed, the founding father Benjamin Franklin himself was once worried about “swarthy Germans” outnumbering his fellow white Pennsylvanians.

In contrast, immigration is a recent phenomenon in Spain, having begun just a decade ago – two at the most. As such, at the dawn of the 21st century, the country finds itself stuck in the 19th or 20th when it comes to immigrant and racial integration, at least in comparison to the USA.

Ever since the Muslims and Jews were expelled in 1492, Spain has been a catholic, monolithic, and relatively poor country, and its people have emigrated to others. However, thanks to democracy’s comeback and its admittance into the European Union, the country has transformed itself and made progress in that aspect. As part of that transformation, Spain has received nearly five million immigrants in ten years, and the immigrant population has jumped from a mere three percent in 1998 to its current level of 11.6 percent.

The majority of immigrants are not yet able to vote in Spain, since they are still not Spanish citizens and thus cannot be represented in the Spanish government. This means that there are still very few Spanish citizens of immigrant origin. In contrast, think about the massive efforts undertaken by the candidates in the recent American elections to win the Latino vote. Regardless, in Spain, this level will grow in the next few years. It is very important to keep in mind that immigrants have twice as many children as natives, meaning that they make up 11% of residents but have 22% of the babies.

Could Obama’s election in the United States be influential and mobilize Spanish society and spark a demand for immigrant rights? Could the immigrants in Spain have their own Barack Obama?
To me, it seems unlikely.

In order for Spain to have its own Barack Obama, three preconditions that already exist in the United States would have to be met. One: that immigrants mobilize themselves and generate leaders to enthusiastically fight for the rights of immigrants and minorities (Spanish Martin Luther Kings, so to speak). Two: that the immigrant and minority movements grow more cohesive in order to demand their rights. And three: that voters in Spain be mature enough to vote for a child of immigrants.

I believe that the immigrant society in Spain has the ability to organize and mobilize through hundreds of organizations, but lacks leaders to represent the multiple interests of immigrants and be reference points for Spanish society as a whole. In order for immigrants to make that political leap, it is absolutely necessary to have leaders who mobilize, unite and demand minority rights.

As to whether Spanish society is ready to vote for an immigrant or a child of immigrants, to me it seems unlikely today. Spain lacks a lot in this sense because the level of prejudice is high. Just look at what Madrileños (natives of Madrid) and Catalans say to each other. It is hard for me to imagine that Spain could vote for a man or woman born to African immigrants.

A little while ago, I wrote an article in my blog in which I warned about the prejudice against minorities being demonstrated by Spanish high school students. It is hard for me to believe that, with these racial prejudices firmly established in Spanish high schools, this very group of young people will vote for a half-African or half-Latino president within a few years.

“In this election, the Americans not only chose a president, but also their identity. And now we have to think, too, about our identity in France. We realize we are late, and America has regained the torch of a moral revolution” wrote the French analyst Dominique Moisi in the International Herald Tribune.

I believe that it is also time for Spain to rethink its identity and, through an inclusionary campaign, better integrate its immigrants and open the doors to political process for them.

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...

According to a recent report from Admob, a company bravely and so far successfully competing with Google on mobile advertising, today about 8% of requests to their servers come from WiFi networks, while the same was 3% in August. Use of WiFi from mobile devices is increasing thanks to devices like the iPhone, T-Mobile’s G1, and WiFi-enabled Blackberry phones spreading really fast.

Interestingly on iPhones 42% of requests come from WiFi, while for other WiFi phones the average is between 10-20%. According to Om Malik this is due to AT&T’s spotty 3G coverage and to the company’s efforts to offload traffic to WiFi. I believe what also plays a big role is the great job Apple did integrating WiFi on the device and the fact the OS on the iPhone forces bandwidth hungry applications to use WiFi whenever it’s available, saving huge costs to the network operators and giving users better speed and service. This proves that 3G and WiFi are more complementary than competitive and grow in tandem.

If so please contact me at martinvars@me.com. I have some ideas for you 🙂

I just spent the morning with the management team of Ydreams including founder Antonio Camara, Jose Miguel Remedio and Ines Henriques. This is a Youtube Channel with their work and here´s one of the many examples.

Ydreams clients include Nokia, Vodafone, Coca Cola, and many government agencies of different governments around the world. They are specialists in not online virtual reality that is mostly used in museums, movie theaters, public spaces and other locations where you would not normally expect Ydreams to be. Hence the positive shock.

And Ydreams is not only about amazing reality present now in exhibits around the world. Ydreams is also about future dreams. One of the most interesting part of the meeting was listening to Ines Henriques describing her research (team of 8 scientists) on non conventional displays. Yes, it is possible to have say paper displays. I saw one today. Still primitive but promising. Imagine packaging displaying information in electronic ink format. Or your clothes showing your friend´s Twitter updates. Is it possible to embed a display in a fabric? Or a battery in a piece of paper? Until today I thought it wasn´t.

After reading in Bloomberg the enormous commissions that Fairfield was making selling fraudulent products, I more firmly believe now that it is imperative that Fairfield, Santander and all others who sold Madoff products at least return the commissions they made. One thing is to claim to clients you cannot return their money from funds you recommended, but another much worse one is to keep their commissions.

I can accept that Santander was a victim of Madoff, and so was Fairfield, and so were thousands of others all adding up supposedly to $50bn. But what Santander has to do, what Fairfield has to do and what all other financial institutions who made a lot of fees and commissions from selling Madoff products is to return these fees to their customers. Even if these fees cut the losses from 100% to 98% it will mean a lot to those who lost everything. Moreover while I accept that those who were selling Madoff products were victims they are also negligent in the sense that they did not really do a good due dilligence on Madoff´s operations as others did.

How We Knew Bernie Madoff Was A Fraud

View SlideShare document or Upload your own. (tags: madoff)

Here´s Emilio Botín, considered by many the world´s smartest banker explaining in broken English how if you don´t understand an instrument you should not sell it or buy it.

Photo of Robert Scoble, cropped from original.
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I just read this warning about blogging from top blogger Robert Scoble:

Since I have been taking the time and slowing down and enjoying life more with family and friends and I’ve found that my blog’s traffic is going down (I’ve been doing that after Om Malik had his heart attack and other bloggers have died).

My view is that in some cases there could be something unhealthy about the way some people live to blog. Especially if they make a living from blogging and compete for advertising. In my case blogging is mostly about annotating life. It´s something I always did. I used to collect private notes in written form. Now they are digital annotations and most of the times shared with others.

Charles Ponzi (March 3, 1882–January 18, 1949)...
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As the main supplier of capital to Bernard Madoff with over $7bn raised from clients whose investments have now evaporated it is a fair question to ask if Andres Piedrahita of Fairfield and his father in law (and boss) at Fairfield Walter Noel were victims of Madoff or part of the scam. I have known Andres Piedrahita and his wife for 8 years now. Andres Piedrahita invested with me in some of my tech start ups through our mutual friend Adam Horne. So I have had enough dealings with him to at least have an opinion on this financial disaster that I would like to share with my readers. I think that it is more likely that Andres Piedrahita and Walter Noel were victims of Madoff than his partners in crime. Indeed it seems to be the case that even Madoff children were not part of the swindle. That they themselves lost money in his “fund”. After a telephone conversation with Andres this morning I heard that he and many family members including his father in law Walter Noel lost enormous amounts of their personal net worth in Madoff´s Ponzi Scheme. Tragically it seems that Andres and his family took money out from many other hedge funds and recently put it with Madoff as he was one of the only hedge fund managers “doing well” this year. Now why did not Fairfield Greenwich do more due diligence and find out that Madoff was a crook? Where they happy with all the commissions they were making and did not feel like investigating? Andres answer to this question was that they did have 2 PhDs assigned to checking Madoff out and that they were simply given fraudulent data. This is probably true because even the SEC examined Madoff´s operation twice and could not find anything wrong with it. I think that Madoff´s scandal is another proof that the global financial regulatory system is broken and needs serious rebuilding.

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I am not in favor of bailing out all 3 of the Big 3 auto makers. Saving 2 out of three makes more sense. Still it annoys me to see than in USA people can feel more sorry about a Goldman Sachs partner than a GM autoworker.

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