Oxford University start-up Plink Search Ltd has is the first UK Company to be purchased by Google Inc.Mark Cummins and James Philbin, Information Engineering graduate students at the Department of Engineering Science, founded the firm in 2009.PlinkArt, available as a mobile app on the Google Android Market, enables users identify works of art by photographing them with their phone.The company applies technology developed during the pair’s doctoral research to create a search engine based on visual art, rather than text. Cummins explained, “We started by talking to the university about licensing the IP from our PhD work – that was almost two years ago.“We’d been taking steps towards it for a year or two before that, though.”Plink won a $100,000 prize from Google last December after winning a public vote for the best reference app on Android. The company was also a finalist at Seedcamp, a London-based event offering advice for European start-ups.Following the public launch of the company, over 50,000 users downloaded the app in just four weeks.The Mona Lisa is the picture most searched for by PlinkArt’s users, with Leonardo da Vinci and Claude Monet the most frequently snapped artists.Plink’s founders are both members of Oxford Entrepreneurs and hired subsidised office space in the OE Incubation Centre on St. Giles to set up the company whilst studying at the university.Google’s acquisition of Plink reflects its continuing focus on the mobile platform as it competes with Apple’s iPhone for dominance in the fast-growing smartphone market.In a blog post announcing the deal, Cummins and Philbin wrote, “We’re looking forward to helping the Goggles team build a visual search engine that works for everything you see around you.“There are beautiful things to be done with computer vision – it’s going to be a lot of fun!OE President, Jordan Poulton, congratulated the pair’s success, “It has been an absolute pleasure having them in the OE Incubation Centre, and it will be a shame to lose them to Silicon Valley”.For other potential student entrepreneurs, he added, “OE are launching a new programme this summer – Kick Start – offering up to £15,000 cash investment as well as mentoring, support and advice to startups in the web/tech space.”
Although Iran last received a loan from the IMF 60 years ago, the country maintains a good relationship with the Fund. Iran underwent an Article IV consultation with the IMF in 2018 and has proven willing to make tough reforms suggested by the fund’s economists, including a controversial cut to fuel subsidies that spurred protests in November of last year.But the US will likely aim to block Iran’s access to the requested loan. Since US law defines Iran as a state-sponsor of terror, the Trump administration is obligated to vote down Iran’s request. The US vote share of 16.51 percent means it lacks a veto on the IMF board, but even if it is unable to block the loan, it could use its sanction powers to sabotage the disbursement of the funds.The European Union has said it would support Iran’s request, and there are growing calls for the Trump administration to ease its economic pressure on Iran at this time of crisis. Unswayed, Trump administration officials have sought to undermine support for Iran’s request to the IMF by arguing that funds risk being diverted away from COVID-19 relief and that Iran should meet its financial needs by drawing down its sovereign wealth fund—a step the Iranian government already took last year as the country’s economic crisis was compounded by devastating floods.To get Iran the assistance it needs, the IMF can take steps to address the Trump administration’s concerns. First, the Fund can account for the unease of US regulators by excluding dollars, which are normally part of the Special Drawing Right (SDR) basket of currencies in which loans are made. Iran could even agree to accept the loan in euros alone, given that the EU is its primary supplier of medical goods. Second, the loan could be paid into an account maintained in Europe by the Central Bank of Iran. This would mean that the funds are spent within the European financial system, and therefore subject to oversight from regulators who can monitor for potential misuse, in communication with American counterparts.The Trump administration has itself implemented a similar system as part of the Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement, a payment channel launched in February that enables the Central Bank of Iran to use assets in Switzerland towards payment of humanitarian exports by Swiss companies.Administration officials know a loan to Iran can be “de-risked”—what they are seeking to avoid is a political defeat. To that end, the IMF could seek a more discrete way to provide financial support: it could boost Iran’s access to liquid foreign-exchange assets by arranging the sale of some of Iran’s assets at the Fund to a third party, such as a European country.In this scenario, the IMF would reallocate some portion of Iran’s 1.55 billion in SDR holdings (valued at approximately $2.1 billion) to the buyer, which would then make a payment to Iran in a foreign currency, such as euros, to an account maintained by Iran’s central bank outside the country. The funds would then be spent in accordance with the same oversight measures described above. Such a transaction would not require approval from the IMF board of governors, meaning the US can avoid appearing isolated during an approval vote.It can be done. The question now is whether the IMF has the will to do it.Topics : The coronavirus epidemic has hammered Iran’s economy. Like many developing countries around the world that have seen export revenues fall, Iran faces a balance of payments crunch—but one that has been uniquely exacerbated by the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign.Brian Hook, the State Department’s point person on Iran, has revealed that the Trump administration had restricted the Islamic Republic’s access to 90 percent of its foreign currency reserves. Even when Iran is able to access these funds, medical supplies can be hard to procure. John Smith, the former head of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, has said the sanctions have “likely dissuaded many companies from exporting medicine and medical devices to Iran that they otherwise could.” To address this crunch and to ease imports of medical supplies, Iran has requested a $5 billion emergency loan via the International Monetary Fund’s Rapid Financing Instrument, one of the facilities through which $50 billion in financing will be made available to low-income and developing countries facing balance-of-payments challenges due to the impact of the pandemic.
ORVC Weekly Report(December 11 – 16)Players of the Week.Girls Basketball: Morgan Peetz – South RipleyBoys Basketball: Hunter Mefford – SouthwesternORVC Report (December 11-16)Courtesy of ORVC Recorder Travis Calvert.
He also competes in the shot put, where he has a personal best 18.58m, done in 2011. “Overall, I am being patient and this is track and field, and with my event, it is not something you have to rush as you just have to be persistent and the breakthrough will come, so I am being patient and dealing with the problems I have,” he said. Smikle stated that he also enjoys the rivalry between him and his teammates. “It is good as we make each other better, and right now, we are finding ways to get further throws, and the rivalry is good, and we just hope for more progress and positive vibes,” he said. “Coming into this season I am more motivated and focused, and during the period, I had my issues. I was not doing enough training as I was sorting out personal things. But with regard to my athleticism I am getting it back, so I need to get back my fitness and certain things I normally had, and it is going to take some time, but I am being patient,” he said. Smikle believes overseas competition at the highest level will be key for improvements. “At this point in our career, we have to get more competition to get to a higher level as it is all about competing against the best, and in order to improve, you have to compete against the best in the world. As my coach always says, you have to be in the ‘fire’, and Fedrick is leaving soon to go to compete in Europe, and that is also my aim as I thrive off competition,” he said. SHOT PUT AFTER missing out on quality competition for the past two seasons, Traves Smikle, who competed for Jamaica at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, had to watch from the sidelines after failing a doping test. However, his suspension was provisionally lifted by the Court of Arbitration for Sport last February. Since his comeback, the 23-year-old former Calabar High School throwing sensation has been taking it slowly. Last Saturday, he played second fiddle to his teammate at Calabar High and now UWI, Fedrick Dacres, in the men’s Open discus, where he threw 57.47 metres. “Today (Saturday) my performance didn’t go as planned as coming off a good training session I expected better. But I sustained an injury to my left hand, which was kind of sprained, but my coach told me to go out there and try to compete, and I will just have to go back and get treatment for the injury,” said Smikle, who has a personal best of 67.12m in the discus back in 2012.