December 17, 2018
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate will publish a report this week detailing the vast scope of Russia’s disinformation campaign surrounding the 2016 U.S. election campaign, the Washington Post reported on Sunday.
The research, a draft of which was obtained by the newspaper, is the first to study the millions of social media posts provided by major technology firms Twitter Inc, Facebook Inc and Google, to the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to the Post.
The research provides more detail on known efforts by the Russian government’s Internet Research Agency to bolster Republican Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign and sow discord among U.S. voters by posting on contentious issues such as gun violence and race, according to the Post.
The bipartisan panel has not said if it endorsed the findings of the report, which was compiled for the Senate by researchers associated with England’s University of Oxford, the newspaper reported.
It will be one of two reports the committee will release this week, the Post said.
A representative for Senator Richard Burr, the panel’s chairman, declined to provide comment to Reuters on Sunday.
Russia has denied it meddled in the election, contrary to the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies.
Earlier this year, U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office indicted 13 Russian individuals and three corporate entities in an alleged conspiracy to tamper with the U.S. presidential race by adopting false online personas to push divisive messages, traveling to the United States to collect intelligence and staging political rallies.
(Reporting by Michelle Price; Editing by Peter Cooney)
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December 17, 2018
By Manolo Serapio Jr
MANILA (Reuters) – China banned induction furnaces last year in a crackdown on polluting producers of low-quality steel, but these machines have made their way to parts of Southeast Asia, hitting domestic steelmakers and fueling safety and environmental concerns.
The Philippines and Indonesia have seen an influx of these furnaces since China prohibited their use for steelmaking in June 2017, eliminating 140 million tonnes of capacity – or just over the combined output of the United States and Germany.
The two Southeast Asian nations – big steel importers with fast-growing economies – are ideal markets for these induction furnaces, or IFs, that produce cheaper steel.
But some big Indonesian and Philippines steelmakers claim that IF-produced steel does not meet national quality standards and poses a major risk in these countries that are prone to earthquakes and typhoons. They have urged their governments to ban IFs.
Unlike electric arc furnaces, IFs have limited or no capacity to remove impurities in the process of producing steel, resulting in inconsistent product quality. Since most IFs in the two countries produce rebar, which is used in construction, rival steelmakers say that poses safety hazards.
Southeast Asia crude steel production: https://tmsnrt.rs/2QP9CQO
In the Philippines, “the rebar market is under attack from IF producers” which sell the product 20 percent cheaper than those from electric arc furnaces, said Roberto Cola, president of the Philippine Iron and Steel Institute.
In Indonesia, after China banned IFs, the furnaces were imported by factories to reduce steelmaking costs at the expense of safety, said Silmy Karim, chief executive of top Indonesian steelmaker Krakatau Steel <KRAS.JK>.
“Imagine, Indonesia is an epicenter for earthquakes, so we must be vigilant. They must be prohibited,” said Karim who is also chairman of the Indonesian Iron and Steel Association.
‘WHOEVER WANTS TO BUY’
In banning IFs, China was also addressing the overcapacity that has dogged its steel sector for years. It hasn’t stopped the sale of these machines to buyers outside China, mostly sold as second-hand equipment.
A trader based in top Chinese steel-producing city Tangshan buys and sells IFs with capacity of between 0.25 to 60 tonnes to, he says, “whoever wants to buy.”
“I can also send it to overseas buyers as long as their country is okay with importing second-hand equipment,” said the trader who spoke on condition of anonymity, adding there are container companies that process the shipping.
Another Tangshan-based trader said many of these machines are shipped to Southeast Asian nations such as Indonesia and Cambodia, most of them exported as parts and then assembled at the final destination.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Iron and Steel Council urged member governments in January to prohibit the imports of Chinese IFs for use in steelmaking, saying the region has become a preferred destination for the “obsolete and unwanted equipment from China.”
“If it’s an ASEAN directive, all governments are inclined to comply,” said Trade Undersecretary Ruth Castelo from the Philippines, whose government has launched an investigation of IFs that is currently underway and is expected be completed in the first quarter of 2019.
The total capacity of IFs in the Philippines has surged to 400,000-500,000 tonnes from 150,000-200,000 tonnes two years ago, said Cola, who is also vice president of leading Philippine steelmaker Steel Asia Manufacturing Corp. In Indonesia, 30-40 percent of domestic rebar producers use IFs, said Karim of Krakatau Steel.
Elsewhere in the region, Vietnam has not seen any movement of IFs from China since the latter banned the furnaces in 2017, said Chu Duc Khai, vice chairman of the Vietnam Steel Association, adding that the government is not allowing new investment in IFs.
There are also no new IF investments in Thailand with the rebar market there facing overcapacity, making it unattractive for new entrants, said Wikrom Vajragupta, chairman of the Thailand Iron and Steel Industry Club.
Karim, in Indonesia, said he wrote to Jakarta’s environment ministry last month to draw attention to companies using IFs, but has yet to receive a response. Indonesia’s environment and industry ministries did not respond to repeated requests for comment by Reuters.
Authorities had to shut some plants using IFs in the Philippines for violating environmental laws, but allowed them to resume operations after they complied, Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said.
Castelo, the Philippine trade official, said she visited three steel plants using IFs and found them either lacking or without anti-pollution devices.
“It’s not safe even for the workers and for the neighboring areas,” said Castelo.
“(But) we cannot just ban it without justification so we have to go through due process,” she said, referring to the investigation into IFs.
(Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Additional reporting by Wilda Asmarini in JAKARTA, Muyu Xu in BEIJING and Yuka Obayashi in TOKYO; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)
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December 17, 2018
TOKYO (Reuters) – Hitachi Ltd <6501.T> and ABB <ABBN.S> will announce on Monday a plan for the Japanese conglomerate to buy the Swiss engineering group’s power grid business for up to $7 billion, the Nikkei business daily reported.
The two companies, which have previously said they were in talks, will hold a news conference later on Monday, the business daily said. The report said the acquisition was likely to total around 600 billion to 800 billion yen ($5.3 billion to $7 billion).
A Hitachi spokesman declined to confirm the report, saying it was not something it announced.
(Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki; Editing by Chang-Ran Kim)
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December 17, 2018
By Cindy Silviana
JAKARTA (Reuters) – A renewed search for the cockpit voice recorder of a Lion Air jet that crashed into the Java Sea on Oct. 29 has been delayed for two days due to bad weather hampering the arrival of a specialized ship, the airline said.
The crash, the world’s first of a Boeing Co 737 MAX jet, killed all 189 people on board and the main wreckage and second ‘black box’ were not recovered in an initial search.
Lion Air said in a statement that it was funding a 38 billion rupiah ($2.6 million) search effort using the offshore supply ship MPV Everest, which had been expected to arrive in the search area on Monday.
Bad weather and heavy rain at the port of Johor Bahru in Malaysia interfered with the equipment and crew mobilization process, delaying the ship’s arrival at the crash site until Wednesday, the airline said late on Sunday.
Lion Air’s decision to foot the bill for the search is a rare test of global norms regarding search independence, as such costs are typically paid by governments.
By law, the search for the cockpit voice recorder is the “duty and responsibility” of Indonesia’s transport safety committee (KNKT), Lion Air said.
The transport ministry, which is responsible for KNKT’s budget, was not immediately able to comment on the matter.
Indonesian investigators said last week that bureaucratic wrangling and funding problems had hampered the search for the recorder and they had turned to Lion Air for help.
Safety experts say it is unusual for one of the parties to help fund an investigation, required by U.N. rules to be independent to ensure trust in any safety recommendations.
There are also broader concerns about resources available for such investigations worldwide, coupled with the risk of agencies being ensnared in legal disputes.
The clock is ticking in the hunt for acoustic pings coming from the L3 Technologies Inc cockpit voice recorder fitted to the jet. It has a 90-day beacon, the manufacturer’s online brochure shows.
The flight data recorder was retrieved three days after the crash, providing insight into aircraft systems and crew inputs, although the cause has yet to be determined.
(Reporting by Cindy Silviana; writing by Jamie Freed; editing by Darren Schuettler)
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December 17, 2018
The Baltimore Ravens are expected to release or trade quarterback Joe Flacco this offseason, NFL insider Ian Rapoport reported Sunday morning.
Earlier in the week, coach John Harbaugh chose rookie Lamar Jackson, who subbed for an injured Flacco the past four weeks, to start even though Flacco is recovered from the hip injury that sidelined him.
Flacco was the backup quarterback for the first time in his 11-year career when the Ravens beat the visiting Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20-12 on Sunday. On the season, Flacco has completed 61.2 percent of his passes for 2,465 yards with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions.
The Ravens were 4-5 when Flacco was injured. Now, with a 4-1 record under Jackson, they are 8-6 and knocking on the door of a playoff berth.
–The injury Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger suffered in last week’s loss to Oakland apparently was worse than originally thought, but it didn’t keep him from playing in the Steelers’ 17-10 win over visiting New England.
Roethlisberger required a pain-killing injection to deal with a rib injury sustained in the second quarter last week. He returned to the game late in the fourth quarter.
Roethlisberger was 22-of-34 passing for 235 yards and had two touchdowns vs. the Patriots. He was sacked twice. The Steelers snapped a three-game losing streak, and at 8-5-1, hold a slim lead over the 8-6 Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North.
–Miami Dolphins running back Frank Gore suffered a left ankle injury against the Minnesota Vikings and did not return to the game.
Gore, who has not missed a game since 2010, suffered the injury when he was tackled on a run in the first quarter. He was able to make it to the sidelines but later was carted to the locker room.
–Green Bay running back Aaron Jones left the game against Chicago in the first half with a right knee injury and was ruled out shortly after halftime.
Jones left midway through the Packers’ second possession of the game and was seen icing his knee on the sideline.
–Chicago safety Eddie Jackson sprained his right ankle late in the fourth quarter of the Bears’ win over Green Bay, said head coach Matt Nagy, who noted the team will know more in the next 24-48 hours, but it’s unclear if Jackson will miss significant time.
Jackson was hurt while sliding to the turf after intercepting Aaron Rodgers — ending Rodgers’ NFL-record streak of 402 consecutive pass attempts without a pick — with just over three minutes left. Jackson’s ankle bent awkwardly and he was seen in a walking boot in the locker room after the game.
–Among other injuries Sunday: Bengals’ wide receiver Tyler Boyd injured his left knee and did not return in Cincinnati’s win over Oakland; Tennessee safety Kenny Vaccaro suffered a concussion during the Titans’ win over the New York Giants and did not return; and Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley also suffered a concussion vs. Cincinnati and did not return.
–Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith is out of the hospital after multiple surgeries to repair his broken right leg.
Smith underwent immediate surgery on Nov. 18 after incurring compound and spiral fractures to his tibia and fibula in the Redskins’ game against Houston and had been hospitalized since.
Head coach Jay Gruden said that Smith did not suffer any ligament damage and would face a recovery of six to eight months. However, reports earlier this month claimed an infection had led to Smith needing further surgeries and could jeopardize his chances of playing again.
–Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy and his backup, Chris Ivory, were both out for the Bills’ 14-13 win over the Detroit Lions.
McCoy hurt his hamstring in last week’s loss to the New York Jets and was listed as questionable entering the weekend. Ivory also was listed as questionable with a shoulder injury but was a full participant in practice all week.
–Former Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, fired last week, has received the seal of approval from the NFL’s career development advisory panel, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported.
That means the panel, comprised of former NFL head coaches and general managers, recommends him as a potential top candidate for any general manager position that comes open.
The panel is part of the league’s effort to make sure minority candidates are given strong consideration for GM and head coaching jobs.
–Chicago left tackle Charles Leno popped the question to his girlfriend, Jennifer Roth, at midfield following a win over Green Bay, which clinched the team’s first AFC North title since 2010. She said yes. Leno told reporters afterward he had intended to propose soon, but the importance of Sunday’s game accelerated his plans.
–Field Level Media
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December 17, 2018
SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Monday the government may take steps to cushion the effects from the sharp minimum wage increases of a combined 29 percent over two years, which have led to a drop in low-paying jobs.
At a meeting of economy-related ministers, Moon also said the government should aggressively remove hurdles to corporate investment as weak domestic investment added downward pressure on an economy already grappling with slowing exports.
(Reporting by Choonsik Yoo; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)
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December 17, 2018
BEIJING (Reuters) – China central bank said on Monday it will guide reasonable growth of credit and social financing and further improve the monetary policy transmission channel.
The People’s Bank of China said in a statement that anti-globalization and trade protectionism are rising, stoking uncertainties and creating challenges for China’s economy.
The central bank reiterated that it will step up support for private and smaller companies, making it easier for these firms to access bank loans.
(Reporting by Meng Meng and Beijing Monitoring Desk; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)
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December 17, 2018
Mitchell Trubisky completed 20 of 28 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns, and the Chicago Bears clinched their first NFC North division title since 2010 with a 24-17 win over the visiting Green Bay Packers on Sunday afternoon.
Tarik Cohen and Trey Burton each hauled in touchdowns for the Bears, and Jordan Howard scored on the ground. Chicago (10-4) snapped a five-game skid against Green Bay and clinched its first division crown at home since 2006.
Aaron Rodgers completed 25 of 42 passes for 274 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. Jamaal Williams scored the lone touchdown for Green Bay (5-8-1), which dropped to 1-1 under interim head coach Joe Philbin and was eliminated from postseason contention.
Bears safety Eddie Jackson ended Rodgers’ NFL-record streak of consecutive passes without an interception at 402 when he picked off a pass in the end zone intended for Packers tight end Jimmy Graham with three minutes to play.
Colts 23, Cowboys 0
Marlon Mack rushed 27 times for 139 yards and two touchdowns as host Indianapolis ended Dallas’ five-game winning streak in emphatic fashion with a shutout at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Adam Vinatieri added three field goals for Indianapolis (8-6), which remains in contention for the AFC’s second wild-card spot. The Colts, Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans are tied at 8-6.
Dallas (8-6) could have wrapped up the NFC East title with a win but will have to wait for a Week 16 home game with Tampa Bay. The Cowboys were shut out for the first time since Nov. 16, 2003, when they fell 12-0 at New England.
Ravens 20, Buccaneers 12
Gus Edwards rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown as Baltimore topped Tampa Bay on a cold and rainy afternoon in Baltimore.
The Ravens (8-6) remain in control of the second AFC wild-card spot and in contention for the AFC North crown, rushing for 242 yards to become the first team since the 1976 Steelers with five straight games with 190 or more rushing yards.
Jameis Winston completed 13 of 25 passes for 157 yards and one interception for Tampa Bay (5-9). Peyton Barber rushed for 85 yards and a touchdown. Mike Evans had four catches for 121 yards.
Titans 17, Giants 0
Derrick Henry followed up a record-setting performance with 170 yards and a pair of short touchdown runs as Tennessee eliminated New York from postseason contention with a shutout in East Rutherford, N.J.
A week after setting a franchise record with 238 yards in a Thursday night game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Henry recorded his second 100-yard game of the season and fourth of his career as the Titans (8-6) entered the game as one of four 7-6 teams vying for the sixth seed along with Baltimore, Miami and Indianapolis. Baltimore and Indianapolis also won, while Miami lost.
The Giants (5-9) had won four of their last five games but could never develop a consistent rhythm while playing without Odell Beckham Jr., who missed his second straight game with a quadriceps injury. New York was shut out at home for the first time since Dec. 15, 2013, against Seattle.
Vikings 41, Dolphins 17
Minnesota set the tone in the first quarter with a three-touchdown outburst on the way to an easy win over visiting Miami.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins threw touchdown passes to Stefon Diggs and Aldrick Robinson, and Dalvin Cook rushed for two scores and Latavius Murray ran for another as the Vikings (7-6-1) set a season high in points scored.
Minkah Fitzpatrick and Kalen Ballage scored touchdowns, and Jason Sanders added a 25-yard field goal for Miami (7-7), which lost for the sixth time in seven road games.
Redskins 16, Jaguars 13
In a game lacking offense, visiting Washington put together two late scoring drives and got a Dustin Hopkins field goal as time expired to earn a win over disappointing Jacksonville.
The win ended a four-game losing streak for Washington (7-7) and keeps the Redskins alive in the NFC playoff picture.
In his first NFL start since 2011, Redskins quarterback Josh Johnson was 16-of-25 passing for 151 yards and a touchdown. Cody Kessler had just 57 yards passing as the Jaguars (4-10) lost for the ninth time in the past 10 games.
Falcons 40, Cardinals 14
Linebacker Deion Jones began a 26-point first-half outburst with a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown and Atlanta ended its five-game losing streak with a blowout over visiting Arizona.
Atlanta (5-9) was led by quarterback Matt Ryan, who was 22 for 36 for 231 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran three times for 18 yards and one touchdown. Tailback Tevin Coleman rushed 11 times for a career-best 145 yards and one touchdown. He had a career-long 65-yard run.
Rookie Josh Rosen suffered a long afternoon for the Cardinals (3-11). He was 13 for 22 for 132 yards and two interceptions, getting lifted midway in the fourth quarter for backup Mike Glennon.
Bills 14, Lions 13
Josh Allen threw for 204 yards and accounted for a touchdown with his arm and another with his legs to help Buffalo squeak by Detroit in Orchard Park, N.Y.
The Bills rookie quarterback completed 13 of 26 passes without a turnover and notched his second fourth-quarter comeback. He gained 16 yards on nine carries, giving him 351 rushing yards over his past four games as the Bills (5-9) snapped a two-game losing streak.
Matt Stafford threw for 208 yards and a touchdown, Kenny Golladay caught seven passes for a career-high 146 yards, Theo Riddick rushed for 47 yards and Zach Zenner contributed for 45 yards and a rushing touchdown, but Detroit (5-9) still lost for the third time in four games and was officially eliminated from playoff contention.
Bengals 30, Raiders 16
Joe Mixon ran for two touchdowns, Cincinnati converted two fourth-down conversions that led to two first-half touchdowns, and the Bengals defeated Oakland in the Bengals’ final home game of the season, and perhaps Marvin Lewis’ final home game as head coach.
Rumors have circulated for weeks that Lewis’ 16th season as head coach of the Bengals will be his last. Cincinnati (6-8) has been hurt by injuries, with 14 players — including Andy Dalton and A.J. Green — on injured reserve.
The Raiders (3-11) couldn’t get their offense on track. In their first five possessions, they punted three times and fumbled twice. Not having starting guards Kelechi Osemele and Gabe Jackson didn’t help quarterback Derek Carr, as Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins had three sacks.
–Field Level Media
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December 17, 2018
By Vatsal Srivastava
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The dollar held near a 19-month high on Monday, bolstered by safe-haven buying as heightened concerns of a global economic slowdown reduced appetite for riskier assets such as stocks and Asian currencies.
Weaker-than-expected economic data out of China and Europe and fears of a possible U.S. government shut down spooked investors away from stocks toward safe haven assets such as the greenback and yen.
“The dollar is clearly showing it is attractive during times of market stress,” said Ray Attrill, head of currency strategy at NAB.
The dollar index <.DXY>, which gauges its value versus six major peers, was little changed at 97.44, below the 19-month high of 97.71 it hit on Friday.
The Australian dollar <AUD=>, whose fortunes are closely tied to China’s economy, was marginally lower at $0.7174. It lost 0.3 percent of its value last week as data showed Chinese November retail sales grew at the weakest pace since 2003 and industrial output rose the least in nearly three years, underlining risks to the economy.
The offshore Chinese yuan <CNH=> was flat at 6.9013.
Apart from fears of a global economic slowdown, markets are also focusing on the future trajectory of U.S. monetary policy.
The Federal Reserve is set to raise interest rates by 25 basis points at its Dec. 18-19 meeting. The central bank has lifted rates eight times since December 2015 in a bid to restore policy to more normal settings after having slashed borrowing costs to near zero to combat the financial crisis a decade ago.
With the December hike largely factored in by the market, larger moves in the dollar will be guided by the Fed’s forward guidance.
According to their latest projections in September, the median view among the Fed’s policymakers was for three rate hikes in 2019. However, interest rate futures used to gauge the probability of further hikes are pricing in only one rate hike in 2019.
Traders believe that higher U.S. borrowing costs will likely hurt U.S. growth momentum and ultimately force the Fed to pause its monetary tightening path.
Recent comments by Fed officials have also been read as dovish by some analysts. Last month, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said rates were near the range of policymakers’ estimates of “neutral” – the level at which they neither stimulate nor impede the economy
“The Fed will most likely move from an auto-pilot mode to being data dependent,” added Attrill.
The yen <JPY=> was flat in early Asian trade at 113.36 to the dollar. It strengthened against the euro and sterling last week, reflecting the risk-off mood in the financial markets.
The euro <EUR=> was also little changed at $1.1304, having lost 0.6 percent last week after weaker-than expected data out of France and Germany suggested that economic activity in Europe remains weak.
Sterling <GBP=> remained under pressure in Asian trade, down 0.02 percent at $1.2582. British trade minister Liam Fox said on Sunday talks with the European Union to secure “assurances” for parliament on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal will take time, with a decision expected in the New Year.
(Reporting by Vatsal Srivastava; Editing by Sam Holmes)
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December 17, 2018
By Makiko Yamazaki
TOKYO (Reuters) – Akihiro Adachi, a 31-year-old audiovisual equipment designer at Panasonic Corp, longed for some personal space during his lengthy train rides from Osaka to Tokyo. So when his company set out to encourage innovation, he joined with some colleagues and came up with “Wear Space,” a headset that limits noise and peripheral vision.
Many at Panasonic were puzzled.
“Someone said the office full of people wearing this would look weird,” said Kang Hwayoung, another member of the 10-person design team.
But the prototype unexpectedly won a global design award and received positive feedback from unexpected quarters, such as sake tasters who wanted to limit sensory input.
The project is among a range of efforts in the Japanese electronics industry to reinvigorate industrial design. After years of losing ground to design-first rivals such as Apple and Dyson, Japanese companies are now trying to recover the processes and creative flair that produced iconic products such as the Walkman.
Panasonic, Sony and Mitsubishi Electric are among those implementing practices that have been routine at many U.S. and European companies, such as engaging designers at every step and treating packaging as part of the product.
“We used to have designers involved only in final stages of our product development process, just for an aesthetic fix,” Yoshiyuki Miyabe, Panasonic’s technology and manufacturing chief, told reporters. “We are revamping the process so that designers can join us from the planning phase.”
The Japanese government is promoting the efforts: a report in May urged corporate executives to pursue “design-driven management, whereby a company leverages design as a primary driver of competitiveness.”
It also called for tax incentives for design-related investments and new laws to better protect intellectual property. The government is set to revise such laws next year.
“Of course, we had an argument over how much the government can do and should do with private-sector issues like this,” said Daisuke Kubota, director at the government’s design registration system planning office, who was involved in the panel.
“But a lot of design experts asked us for government initiatives, saying that this is really the last chance and Japan would never be able to catch up with global rivals if this opportunity is missed.”
Another member of the panel, Kinya Tagawa, visiting professor at the Royal College of Art and co-founder of design firm Takram, says there has been a sharp increase in major companies’ requesting design lectures for their executives.
“I’m seeing a sign of change,” he said.
THE ROAD AHEAD
All agree there is a long way to go. C-suite designers remain a rarity at most electronics companies while technologists reign supreme, company officials and industrial designers say.
Japan last year received 31,961 applications for design registrations, only a fraction of China’s 628,658 and half of South Korea’s 67,374. In the heyday of the Japanese electronics industry in the early 1980s, Japan had nearly 60,000 applications every year.
Tagawa said the root of today’s problems was the failure of Japanese firms to absorb lessons from the software revolution, which showed the importance of user-centered design principles and easy-to-use products such as Apple’s iPhone. Instead, they remained fixated on engineering.
Ryuichi Oya, who retired as design chief of Sharp Corp last month, says he saw that attitude up close when he moved to Sharp four years ago after a long stint at automaker Mazda Motor.
“Designers at home electronics companies have little say compared to engineers,” he said. “When engineers dismiss design proposals as too costly or difficult from an engineering point of view, designers easily succumb.”
Oya said he found it particularly hard to convince management of the need for a design vision.
“It’s not about whether you like this color or that shape,” he said. “There have to be design principles unique to Sharp and consistent across its product line.”
Japanese designers cite the contrast with South Korea’s Samsung Group, where its patriarch, Lee Kun-hee, said in 1996 that design was a core management resource “imperative for a company’s survival in the 21st century.” He sharply boosted both the number and status of designers.
At Sony, insiders say design began its return to the forefront after chairman Kaz Hirai took over in 2012. Change has been slow as the company went through a painful restructuring, but the results can be seen its approach to the revival of Aibo, a robot dog.
Designers worked to craft a holistic user experience, starting from the moment a customer opened the box, tapping into a community of Aibo owners, Sony design chief Yutaka Hasegawa said.
“We had intense discussions over how Aibo should be packaged, to make it look closer to a living creature. It’s important because opening the container box marks the customer’s first encounter with the dog.”
They decided to lay Aibo sideways with its head tilting to the left, a more expensive option than placing it face down because the interior packaging must be asymmetrical.
The result was a buzz among Aibo owners, with some posting on the Internet videos showing a “ceremony for opening the Aibo container.”
($1 = 112.7200 yen)
(Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki; Additional reporting by Yoshiyasu Shida; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Gerry Doyle)
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