I Haven't Eaten for 3 Days and It's Amazing

I love food, but I have eaten nothing and drank only water for the past 72 hours.

Why?

Partly because I kept hearing from friends and the media that they enjoyed fasting. Since swimming across the Hudson River, I’ve shifted my life from analyzing and planning–what decades of school taught me to do–to experimenting.

I’ve found experimenting improved my life more so I keep practicing.

My motivation

The 4 main appeals to me of a 3-day fast were

  • New experiences: A friend told me day 3 of his 3-day fasts made him feel amazing and I wanted to experience it.
  • Delicious: Many sources told me the first meal after a long fast tasted indescribably amazing. I love food and I love delicious, so I wanted to experience what could only come this way.
  • Curiosity: I grew up hearing of one-day fasts were very hard–I thought bordering on impossible. My hunger overwhelmed me skipping one meal.
  • Vanity: I won’t lie. As I’ve become more fit I’ve found I enjoy the definition on my abs.

Non-reasons

Many people claim fasting gives health benefits. I don’t believe any of the health claims from people saying it detoxes, extends life, or similar claims. I don’t disbelieve them. I just don’t find their evidence compelling.

I enjoy watching many videos and reading many posts by people saying they could feel the toxins exiting their bodies and such, but I found this WebMD post, Is Fasting Healthy, most compelling, which said most evidence was inconclusive.

I did find their subjective descriptions of their experiences compelling.

They also made me not afraid of taking a risk with their diversity in age, sex, fitness, and every measure that seemed relevant. Many drank only water for a week or more.

How hard could 3 days be?

One man didn’t eat for over a year, though under medical supervision and he took supplements, just not macronutrients. He started at 456 pounds and my body fat is probably in the low teens, so I have less spare fuel, but I found people with less body fat than me enjoyed their experiences.

The idea seemed mind-blowing

I grew up thinking that 1-day fasts, which people do for religion all the time, were nearly impossible. Hearing that people drank only water for days and weeks seemed impossible.

I’ve learned that believing something is impossible that people do means my belief is wrong. It points to an opportunity for growth.

I get hungry after a few hours. How could I make 72 of them?

A 24-hour test

Hearing random people doing 3 days, I tried one day a few weeks ago. It turned out easy.

I felt shockingly unremarkably normal. Most of the hunger and temptation passed. I was used to hunger subsiding on a few-hour scale. It ebbed and flowed over 24 hours, but no steady rise.

Then I looked for a 3-day period without obligations and before my summer farm share deliveries began on June 5. From then until Thanksgiving, the deliveries flood me with vegetables and fruit too delicious to let go to waste.

It was difficult to find time without food-related activities or other occasions I didn’t want to risk having no energy for. The holiday weekend gave me freedom.

My 72-hour results

It was easy! That it was even possible seemed unbelievable a couple months ago.

I became conscious of many mindless eating patterns.

I became enabled to act against mindless eating habits. I thought I was helpless about many of them. I’m not.

The motivational and emotional skills underlying eating habits underlie many habits. I’m now aware and starting to become experienced in developing and using those emotional skills. I expect I can apply them throughout life.

Hunger passes, though not as much as the videos and posts I read said. Many hours would pass without me noticing I hadn’t eaten in a while.

Since I think about food a lot when I’m eating normally, I’d estimate that I thought about the same or maybe less about food while fasting.

I went outside more. I love eating and my kitchen has delicious food in it, so I decided to go outside more. I got plenty of work done and enjoyed the beautiful weather. I didn’t miss the time I missed in front of a screen.

Not much fat loss. I don’t have a scale or calipers, so I haven’t measured with tools so I’m just gauging by pinching around my belly button and looking in the mirror. My skin feels thinner and my abs show more definition, but not that much difference.

Not much muscle loss. I continued my twice daily burpee-based calisthenics unchanged (3×9 sets of burpees, stretches, and exercises for abs, back, and arms). They make me sweat and out of breath all the time. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to continue them, but I didn’t have to reduce them at all.

The big results

I experienced that it’s not that big a deal.

Why is it not being a big deal my big result?

My horizons were constrained by inexperience. Experience expanded my horizons and therefore my abilities.

I felt helpless to resist food for even one or two meals before. I could do it, but it felt hard.

I just skipped 9 meals and could go longer. I’m more able than I thought. I found I can sit around food for days and choose not to eat it with zero problems.

The skills and abilities that I applied to fasting I can apply to anything requiring similar skills, which exist everywhere in life, not just food.

It reinforced how life-changing activities are under my nose all the time. I found that trend in getting rid of stuff, swimming across the Hudson, performing on stage, trying open mike stand-up comedy, and so on.

I didn’t have to fly to India, jump out of a plane, or even leave my neighborhood.

It cost me zero in time, money, or other resource. I saved money and gained productivity, actually.

Will I do it again? Probably every now and then. I entered this time full of anxiety, which I expect will decrease in future times.

FBI Says You Should Reboot Your Home Office Router to Stop Russian Malware

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation recommended in a Friday statement that “any owner of small office and home office routers” reboot the devices, hopefully reducing their exposure to a widespread malware attack linked to Russian government actors. The FBI has reportedly seized a server used to escalate the infection, making rebooting an effective way to disable it.

A Cisco cybersecurity team said on Wednesday that at least 500,000 routers in 54 countries were impacted by the malware, known as VPN Filter. The software reportedly targets consumer-level routers used in home and small offices, and is able to both monitor local traffic and even wipe the routers, destroying them and cutting users off from the internet. Routers from Linksys, Netgear, TP-Link, and MikroTik were reportedly vulnerable – though again, the FBI is recommending rebooting all small or home office routers.

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According to reporting by The Daily Beast, VPN Filter is a product of a group known by names including “Sofacy Group” and “Fancy Bear.” The same group was allegedly responsible for the hack of emails from the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016, and has been strongly linked to the Russian government.

According to Ars Technica, the VPN Filter malware is “one of the few Internet-of-things infections that can survive a reboot,” because a persistent first stage of the infection can use automated remote systems to install or re-install its second or third stages.

The FBI’s seizure of one of those remote systems, hosted at the ominously-named domain ToKnowAll.com, means the attackers will likely have to use a much more labor-intensive method to re-infect devices after they’re rebooted. Rebooting will also, according to a Department of Justice statement, help the government teams “identify and remediate the infection worldwide,” apparently by tracking communications sent by infected devices after they’re rebooted.

Can't Complete a Sale? Try Asking These 5 Questions

There is nothing more frustrating than having a hot prospect turn down your offer on a sales call and knowing they just slipped through your fingers. You lose out on acquiring a new customer and they lose out on the amazing product or service that could benefit their life or their business.

As a start-up entrepreneur, you have to wear many hats and one of them is probably being a salesperson. Before I hired my sales team, I conducted thousands of sales calls and I learned five key questions that helped me increase my conversion rates and get the client excited about saying “yes.”

If you aren’t doing the sales calls yourself and have a sales team, these questions can help them convert more customers and increase revenue.

For the most part, prospects are skeptical. They want to make wise decisions with their investments and you need to build trust that you can deliver. Most people enter a sales conversation looking for a reason to refuse. These questions transform the mindset of the customer from why, to why not?

These questions are great for any entrepreneur trying to close a big deal or even just getting started to ask their prospects to inspire the sale.

1. Is this a priority in your life?

This question really gets at the root of a purchasing decision. People only pay for things that are a priority for them. It isn’t about the price or product itself, but more about their willingness to make solving their problem a priority.

When you ask a prospect this question, it forces them to confront his or her own inner conflicts about what they want and what they are willing to do to get results. When the decision requires a significant financial investment, their mind will convince them that it isn’t the right time or that it is too much of a risk. When something is truly a priority, the prospect will find a way to make the investment and timing work if they believe it will help them.

2. If you don’t do this, what will you do?

I’ve heard prospects tell me how frustrated they are and how they want to find a partner, make more money or change careers and live their purpose. When the conversation turned to next steps, suddenly they had many excuses whether it was time or money that kept them from moving forward. By asking them this question, they got in touch with the reason they set up the call in the first place. They wanted the result and the thought of walking away without a plan or guide was scarier than they thought. Without pressure, the question led them to make a decision focused on what they will lose rather what they would win. Fear has a stronger emotional change than hope that motivates them to make the decision that would change their life.

3. Is it that you do not believe in my product/service or believe in yourself?

If you sell a service that involves a customer to have joint responsibility to get the result such as coaching, fitness, financial services, etc., you also have to overcome the client’s self-doubt in implementing the solution properly. This is a more personal question that may not be appropriate in more conservative corporate environments, but in small businesses that deal with mindset and psychology of the user, this question can be crucial to get into the head of the client.

In personal development there are many programs that make big promises and the prospects I speak with are fatigued with programs that don’t deliver. They begin to wonder if they can change at all. Asking the prospect this question helps them realize that the hesitation isn’t about your product or service but about their own insecurities. If you stand in confidence of your product, you can transform their anxiety about taking a risk because they will feel understood and comforted by your certainty.

4. What did you find most helpful about our conversation?

Before you pitch your product or service, ask the prospect to repeat back what was helpful about your advice or suggestions during the consultation sales call. They will literally give you all the reasons for them to say “yes” to your offer. It nearly makes it impossible for them to say refuse your service after they just told you all the ways you already helped them.

This process helps laser the conversation, summarize what was discussed and the prospect is often surprised at the things they learned in just one call that leaves them with a positive association with your product or service.

5. What was missing?

When a prospect clearly declines the offer and is ready to leave the conversation, I found that just being transparent and asking the prospect what was missing (why didn’t I earn the sale), they easily volunteered the remaining objections that kept them from moving forward. Once I understood those objections, I was able to address them. Many times, this has completely turned around the sale because the prospect knew I really cared and valued their input and wanted to make sure she had all the information to make the best decision.

You never want to coerce someone to buy something they don’t need or cannot afford. The key to asking the right questions isn’t about manipulation but about helping a prospect get out of their own way in taking a step that could change their life or their business. If you believe in your product, this should be unconsciously conveyed to them and they will feel it.

7 Business Travel Essentials You Didn't Know You Needed

As someone who makes a living doing travel for business, I have a few items that I would highly recommend for any business trip. Most of these items are small and lightweight, perfect for fitting into a suitcase. After a few mistakes and mishaps over the years, I won’t travel without them.

Whether you’re traveling to give an important presentation or want to ease anxiety by having a backpack plan, these 7 items will leave you prepared.

1. Smart luggage.

There’s a good chance you’ve felt the pain of a low cell phone battery and no place to charge it in an airport. This can be especially stressful if you need your phone to navigate an unfamiliar place. Smart luggage is a nice option in situations such as this.

Most smart luggage cases can register the weight of the bag, plus provide a GPS location (a reassurance if you’ve ever had a lost or delayed bag), remote lock functions, and the ability to power your phone via a luggage battery. However, be aware that a number of airlines now require the battery to be removable — a decision that has put a few smart luggage companies out of business.

2. Microprojector.

This is one of those items that you didn’t know you needed until you one day need it. A microprojector ensures that your work gets seen in the event of an unpredictable circumstance. Some of these devices are smaller than an iPhone yet are still able to deliver on sound and picture quality.

I once had to present an idea to a small group of investors. As my luck had it, a pipe had burst in the room where we were supposed to meet, leaving me with nothing but my laptop to present. Thankfully, one of the staff members had bought a microprojector to watch movies and was able to lend it to me for this occasion.

3. Portable scanner.

This is a necessity if you are attending a major conference with many vendors. Many of these scanners are cordless and can connect to email or apps like Dropbox. Some of these can scan nearly 30 pages in less than a minute. Sizes vary but most can easily fit in the crook of a suitcase and are lightweight.

I’ve gone to travel fairs and used a portable scanner to get information back to my team quickly. It helps us stay organized and I don’t end up with a bunch of pamphlets and papers in my suitcase. I also use it to upload receipts to keep track of my expenses.  

4. Multifunctional pen/stylus/USB drive.

A pen with a stylus makes sense. But the additional flash drive that’s included makes this item one of my staples. This 3-in-1 deal makes my life easier and always becomes a conversation starter. They are surprisingly ergonomic and still allow for beautiful penmanship.

5. Portable router.

A portable router is almost a requirement, depending on how secluded your destination is. These devices offer additional safety when working online by providing a private network. It can also be cheaper than finding WiFi in a remote location or using your phone to tether.

Some of these routers can provide service in over 100+ countries while also charging your devices. I’ve had to use this a couple of times when my internet has been dicey and have never regretted the investment.

6. Virtual keyboard.

I know this one is a little out there but a virtual keyboard is a great way to work if you don’t have access to your computer. If you’ve ever tried to type a lengthy document on a phone or iPad, you know how it can be a struggle to work quickly and correctly. This helpful device is a portable keyboard without the bulk of a physical keyboard.

If using, I recommend projecting the keyboard onto a piece of paper and on a hard surface. This will help you type more efficiently and make it easier to view. Just watch out for cats who might view it as a toy.

7. Collar stay and shirt travel pouch.

A collar stay is exactly what it sounds like – a little metal object that helps the collar stay in place. A shirt travel pouch is another useful item. It’s like a laptop case but for your individual shirt. These items are cheap, effortless, and can keep you looking professional.

I’ve found both of these items to be essentials, especially if I have to head straight to a meeting after arriving at the airport. Collar stays are those life-hack items that everyone should own, as they are sure to come in handy at some point.

While most of these items aren’t necessary, they can definitely make life on the road easier.  

LeBron James is a Superstar. But Great Leaders Use This Superior Strategy to Find Success

For anyone who follows NBA basketball, there’s a war going on right now.

One one side, there’s LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, struggling to overcome the incredible team-based play of the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Meanwhile, in the Western Conference, it’s exactly the same scenario.

The Golden State Warriors are loaded to the gills with superstars like Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, but they play like a well-oiled machine. James Harden, meanwhile, is one of the most talented players we’ve seen in years and a likely league MVP–his dribbling and shooting prowess makes you do a double-take. Yet, it’s hard to ignore the fact that everyone else on the Houston Rockets (except Chris Paul) is often on the court standing around, waiting to see what happens. Four teams, but two completely different strategies. We’ll soon find out which strategy will prevail in the next few days.

The war raging between “team” and “superstar” has been around awhile. In business, you might be tempted to rely on a small group of overachievers. Yet, nothing quite compares to a larger group of people all working together in perfect synergy.

I was watching the Cavaliers the other night and realized the “old school” approach of driving the lane, passing the ball to the superstar on almost every play, and hoping that one person scoring 42 points is a good strategy matches up perfectly with how some leaders operate in business. “Give the ball to the superstar” is a common tactic.  

It doesn’t really work, and part of the reason has to do with how teams function. In my own experience, individuals who can ramp up sales quickly are like a meme or a viral marketing video. It’s a big hit, but it doesn’t really lead to long-term success. I agree James is one of the best ever, but you could easily argue that one-guy-driving-the-lane has not worked. It has not helped the Cavs win an NBA Championship. Only when James surrounds himself with exemplary players, not pawns in a chess match, does he usually win the final series.

It won’t help your prospects as a leader, either. Teams in business who work together are far stronger, far more productive, and find far more success than a couple of greats.

Here’s an example of what I mean.

In one startup, I remember hiring someone who had exceptional graphic design skills. She could make Photoshop dance. And, she could crank out brochures and other items faster than anyone else. At meetings, she was always a little bored. But the other team members were also hungry to learn. Over an entire year, the other team members eventually learned how to use the design apps, shared ideas with each other, found workarounds, and built up their repertoire. In meetings, they would come up with far better ideas as a group. That one superstar was wildly talented, but had to rely on her own prowess.

Eventually, we ended up switching her to a different department, one that needed a solo producer. The rest of the team flourished, grew creatively, and became way more productive. There’s something about how a team of, say, five people working together creates more productivity than five individuals working alone. Each person fuels the entire team, generates new ideas, and pushes every project forward.

Watching the Cavs lately reminds me of that designer. Just give the ball to LeBron is not a great strategy against teams like the Boston Celtics. It becomes one against five. We’ll see how it all works out, but I’ll still hold to my view. Teams win in the end.

Facebook users unite! 'Data Labour Union' launches in Netherlands

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Activists in Amsterdam on Wednesday launched the ‘Datavakbond’ or “data labor union”, which hopes to elect leaders to negotiate directly with Facebook and Google over what they do with users’ data.

FILE PHOTO: Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of Facebook logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

Possible demands could include payment for the data users supply to the companies, more information about how the data is used, and a direct channel for communicating grievances.

“Right now, we work for Google and Facebook producing data, and we’re getting feathers and beads in exchange,” said Paul Tang, a member of European Parliament from the Dutch Labour party, at the union’s establishment in Amsterdam.

“What we want…is to get across the table from Google and Facebook to talk about reasonable compensation, or at least better working conditions.”

Tang said that although governments have a role in regulating the internet giants, users should also organize themselves and seek to influence the companies directly.

The Union’s founding chairman Bas van der Gaag, a high school maths teacher, said that although it is based in the Netherlands, it hopes to win members internationally.

Membership is free, and those that join will be encouraged to help craft the organization. Later they may vote on specific demands, for instance for the company to provide a paid, but advertising-free, version of Facebook. Within the first hour of its launch, 250 people joined.

Van der Gaag said volunteers are working on tools to make it possible for the union to organize a ‘strike’, which would involve temporarily depriving the companies of some of the most valuable information they sell to advertisers, such as location data.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified in European Parliament on Tuesday to answer questions about how political consultancy Cambridge Analytica improperly got hold of the personal data of 87 million Facebook users, including up to 2.7 million in the EU.

Facebook did not immediately respond on Wednesday to a request for comment on the establishment of the union.

Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Alexandra Hudson

Cyber researchers, Ukraine warn of possible Russian attack

TORONTO/KIEV (Reuters) – Hackers have infected at least 500,000 routers and storage devices in dozens of countries, some of the world’s biggest cyber security firms warned on Wednesday, in a campaign that Ukraine said was preparation for a future Russian cyber attack.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it was investigating the malware, which targets devices from Linksys, MikroTik, Netgear Inc (NTGR.O), TP-Link and QNAP, advising users to install security updates.

Ukraine’s SBU state security service said the activity showed Russia was readying a large-scale cyber attack ahead of the Champions League soccer final, due to be held in Kiev on Saturday.

“Security Service experts believe the infection of hardware on the territory of Ukraine is preparation for another act of cyber-aggression by the Russian Federation aimed at destabilising the situation during the Champions League final,” it said in a statement.

Cisco Systems Inc (CSCO.O), which has been investigating the threat for several months, has high confidence that the Russian government is behind the campaign, according to Cisco researcher Craig Williams. He cited the overlap of hacking code with malware used in previous cyber attacks that the U.S. government have attributed to Moscow.

Cisco, which uncovered the campaign several months ago, alerted authorities in Ukraine and the United States before going public with its findings about the malware it dubbed VPNFilter.

It also shared technical details with rivals who sell security software, hardware and services so they could issue alerts to their customers and protect against the threat.

Cisco described the mechanisms that the malware uses to hide communications with hackers and a module that targets industrial networks like ones that operate electric grids, said Michael Daniel, chief executive officer of Cyber Threat Alliance, a nonprofit group.

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“We should be taking this pretty seriously,” said Daniel, whose group’s 17 members include Cisco, Check Point Software Technologies Ltd (CHKP.O), Palo Alto Networks Inc (PANW.N) and Symantec Corp (SYMC.O).

Cyber security firms, governments and corporate security teams closely monitor events in Ukraine, where some of the world’s most costly and destructive cyber attacks have been launched.

They include the first documented cases where hacks have caused power outages and the June 2017 NotPetya cyber attack that quickly spread around the world, causing network outages that lasted weeks at some companies. Victims included Beiersdorf AG (BEIG.DE), FedEx Corp (FDX.N), Merck & Co Inc (MRK.N), Mondelez International Inc (MDLZ.O) and Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc (RB.L).

Cisco said it does not know what the hackers have planned. The malware could be used for espionage, to interfere with internet communications or launch a destructive attack like NotPetya, according to Williams.

The Kremlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Russia has denied assertions by nations including Ukraine and Western cyber-security firms that it is behind a massive global hacking program that has included attempts to harm Ukraine’s economy and interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

VPNFilter has infected devices in at least 54 countries, but by far the largest number is in Ukraine, according to Cisco.

Netgear representative Nathan Papadopulos said the company was looking into the matter. He advised customers to make sure their routers are patched with the latest version of its firmware, disable remote management and make sure they have changed default passwords shipped with the device.

A Linksys spokeswoman had no immediate comment. MikroTik, TP-Link and QNAP could not be reached.

Reporting by Jim Finkle in Toron to and Pavel Polityuk in Live; Writing by Jim Finkle and Jack Stubbs; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Jeffrey Benkoe

Never Get Lost Again, Promises Google. Here's How They're Using AI To Deliver.

You step out of a Lyft or Uber, looking for which building your appointment is in. You can’t tell which way to go. You might be running late now. This happens to millions of people millions of times a day. Google knows–they see you jogging back and forth on the block trying to self-orient. If the blue dot problem has ever enraged you, you’re going to like what Google’s changing this summer.

All that frustration is ending, promised Anna (Aparna) Chennapradaga, VP of Product for AR and VR. She addressed the crowd at Google I/O, sharing that the new Google Maps, shipping with new Android phones this summer, will use your phone’s camera to orient for you.

Google AI focuses on vision

“Vision is a fundamental shift in computing for us, and it’s a multi-year journey,” she shared. It’s certainly a deepening of Google’s mission to be an artificial intelligence-centered company, which CEO Sundar Pichai announced a year ago at the previous I/O developer conference. He said Alphabet is betting the company on AI. Looks like no lie. Google has made incredible progress, including Duplex, which wants to book appointments for you with the world’s most human-sounding artificial intelligence known to phones. They have an entire arm devoted to AI investments, too. Alphabet’s progress on artificial intelligence vision is also impressive.

The new Google Lens does three things that can save you serious time:

1)    Orienting you faster. Google has solved what’s referred to as the “blue dot problem.” You know, you’re in an urban environment, and you get directions through Maps, but you don’t know if you need to turn right or left first on the grid to start the pattern. See how Google Lens has made this a snap in the video below:

2)    Recognizing words.

Snap a photo of a menu, a sign or a document. Now you can highlight text on the image to get Google to translate or look up information. “Lens is not just understanding the shape of characters and the letter visually–it’s actually trying to get at the meaning and context of these words,” says Anna.

3)   Making personal recommendations. The Maps will also use your history across the Google platform to suggest information you may care about right where you are. As in, “Hey, surprise! Your old boyfriend lives here now!”–just kidding. Seriously, a new tab called “For You” tells you about places and events in your area, tailored to Google’s knowledge of you (which is vast). For example, a feature called “Match Score” gives you recommendations for restaurants predicting how much you’ll love the food.

Coming soon, Google Lens helps find gear

The new Google Lens can help you find similar products, too. Want a cheaper version of that high-end coffee mug you just spotted? No problem–Google Lens can bring you options.

“Sometimes your question is not ‘what’s that thing’–instead it’s, what’s like that?” Anna pointed out at I/O.  Lens is able to match similar couches, similar crackers, and similar cars. “Lens has to search through millions and millions and items, and we kinda know how to do that–search,” she said with a smile. “We’re using on-device intelligence and cloud TPUs. We want to overlay the live results directly on top of things like concerts, street signs, even a concert poster . . . This is an example of not just how the camera answers questions but putting the answers right where the questions are.”

Artificial intelligence that understands the relevance of what it sees

Google’s new suite of vision artificial intelligence capabilities is fueled by a desire to help computers see the world more like we do. Google continues to launch and test products that mine that idea, like VR Tours:

One of the most powerful uses of VR I see is as a tool for empathy — to look at the world through another person’s eyes, to see and share your story. Now you can easily create and share VR Tours that do just that. #TourCreator #googleio2018 https://t.co/miHJl0LtU2

— Aparna Chennapragada (@aparnacd) May 10, 2018

There’s no question we are highly visual creatures. Human vision is an extension of our brain. By integrating vision with meaning in these early products, Google’s artificial intelligence is taking a major step forward. This new paradigm has implications for literally everything you rely on your eyes for. And with Google’s developer integrations, visual positioning and integrated meaning will become a layer that developers and entrepreneurs will find ways to use for all sorts of new products. Get ready to see a whole new world a whole new way.

Will 'Public Shaming' Sink Celgene?

Source: NPR

To stave off generic competition drug makers often get creative. They seek new uses for old drugs, seek patent extensions and refuse to provide samples to generic rivals. Allergan (AGN) even sold Restasis (dry eye) patents to the St. Regis Mohawks in order to rent their sovereign immunity. Last week the FDA posted a list of drug companies who have been targets of complaints by generic drug makers. The FDA wants to provide transparency over prices. The “public shaming” could prompt certain drug makers to finally provide samples to generic rivals. Celgene (CELG) topped the list with 31 inquiries pursuant to three different drugs.

Last week I highlighted the company’s refusal to provide Mylan (MYL) with samples of its top-selling cancer drug Revlimid. While Mylan pointed out Celgene charged dying patients $20,000 per month for the drug, Celgene suggested that “it had no obligation to help a potential competitor.” Now that the FDA’s shame list has been published Celgene could have a change of heart.

Shaming Celgene Won’t Lower The Price Of Revlimid …

CELG hit a 52-week low last week and the stock is currently down over 30% Y/Y. I believe negative sentiment over having made the FDA’s “shame list” and negative publicity over double-digit price increases helped spur the decline. According to Jonathan Gardner of EP Advantage, shaming the company will not lower prices for Revlimid:

Celgene’s recent corporate troubles have more to do with clinical and regulatory setbacks than the negative public relations surrounding its commercial tactics, so the latest furore will give investors something new to worry about. Shareholders would be dismayed if the company were pressured into cutting the price of Revlimid, certainly giving the executive team some incentive to hold fast on pricing.

The $9bn in Revlimid sales forecast this year accounts for most of Celgene’s valuation. While this could make the company vulnerable to any attack on its flagship product, its domination of the multiple myeloma space makes it difficult to put the group under payer pressure.

In my opinion, Gardner stated a fact that had nothing to do with the issue of Celgene not providing drug samples to generic rivals. Without access to the samples generic drug makers cannot show that a generic copy is equivalent to the original. It begs the question, “What is Celgene hiding?” If Revlimid is under patent protection until the early 2020s then why not provide the samples? It brings unnecessary attention to the company’s dependence on the drug, in my opinion.

Dr. Reddy’s has already sought FDA approval for five patents pursuant to Revlimid. If Mylan also challenges the patents it could create another issue for investors to worry about. Such worries over whether generic Revlimid will enter the market earlier than expected could cause CELG to sell off even further. That said, this may be unnecessary drama of Celgene’s own making.

… But It Could Tamp Down Additional Price Increases

Like Gilead (GILD), in the past Celgene had cultivated an image that had a strong R&D pipeline and an ability to successfully acquire companies in late-stage clinical trials. Its robust R&D pipeline may have been proven a myth after the company discontinued clinical trials for Mongerson (Chrohn’s disease) in the second half of 2017. The recent refusal to file letter from the FDA pursuant to ozanimod (relapsing multiple sclerosis) didn’t help matters.

Celgene hiked prices for Revlimid and Pomalyst after it missed on Q3 revenue and gave disappointing guidance; the move brought price increases on the drugs to about 20% in 2017. Revenue growth for Revlimid and Otezla was slowing and could have potentially jeopardized CELG’s double-digit EBITDA multiple. Management intimated the price hikes were needed to help fund future R&D. However, the company had over $12 billion of cash and securities on hand, and robust cash flow. In February Celgene announced an additional $5 billion share repurchase program – another ploy to support the stock.

In my opinion, such large price hikes made Celgene look desperate. It exposed the company as no different from Valeant (VRX) or Retrophin (RTRX) – willing to hike prices on the backs of sick patients to support the stock or service debt. Now that regulators and lawmakers have tried to make the company’s pricing more transparent, it could be difficult to pass through additional price increases.

Celgene’s revenue will likely grow by double-digits in the first half of 2018 due to price hikes alone. What happens in the second half of the year when those increases wear off? Are CELG longs willing to rely solely on organic growth to justify its $57 billion market capitalization? After CELG hit a 52-week low last week the answer appears to be “No.”

Conclusion

Double-digit price hikes and shenanigans designed to protect Revlimid from generic competition make Celgene look desperate. Its nearly 13x EBITDA multiple does not reflect that desperation. A multiple in the single-digits would seem more appropriate, in my opinion. Sell CELG.

Disclosure: I am/we are short CELG.

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.

Taiwan exports orders beat forecast as tech sector growth picks up

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan’s export orders growth beat forecasts in April, as the island’s technology sector recovered from a weak first quarter, with goods such as auto electronics driving growth although communications products remained a soft patch.

FILE PHOTO: People fish in front of an Orient Overseas Container Line container ship, at Kaohsiung Port, Taiwan August 7, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo

Orders for the trade-reliant economy rose 9.8 percent to $39.1 billion from the same period a year earlier, data from the Ministry of Economic Affairs showed on Monday. That was stronger than more modest growth of 3.1 percent in March and higher than the median forecast of 8.85 percent growth for April in a Reuters poll.

From the previous month, export orders declined 7.7 percent.

The overall on-year growth was driven by a 12.1 percent increase in electronics orders and an 18.6 percent increase in machinery orders. Information and communications products, which includes smartphones and PCs, declined 0.3 percent.

The ministry said in a statement orders for information and communications products were hit by “the weak season for smartphones and computers, and weak market demand”.

However, economists said strong growth in traditional industries outside of technology offset some of the weakness in the information and communications products.

“If you look at the breakdown, the electronics exports in addition to the traditional export orders, for example base metals and plastic products and machinery, all grew by double digits,” said Betty Wang, an economist at ANZ in Hong Kong.

“I think that helped to offset weakness in the ICT sector which still contracted for the third consecutive month,” she said.

Looking to May, the ministry said it projects the on-month change in value of export orders to range between a 0.3 percent contraction to 2.3 percent growth.

Orders from the United States, where Apple Inc (AAPL.O) is a major customer for major Taiwanese technology component makers, rose 9.6 percent in April from a year earlier.

Orders from China, the island’s biggest trading partner, rose 13.6 percent last month compared with the same period a year ago.

April orders from the European Union and Japan climbed 4.9 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively.

The ministry expects the softness in smartphone demand to be mitigated by firmer growth in products such as for the internet of things, auto electronics and artificial intelligence.

Reporting by Roger Tung; Writing by Jess Macy Yu; Editing by Sam Holmes