Anorak » Money Pop culture, news, sport and an off-beat take on the mainstream Wed, 16 Apr 2014 22:18:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How Does Regulating Plastic Bags Stop Germany From Invading France? Wed, 16 Apr 2014 08:44:00 +0000 PA 10434223 How Does Regulating Plastic Bags Stop Germany From Invading France?


IT was Sr. Barroso who told us, in a piece in The Times, that the aim and purpose of the European Union was to stop Germany from invading France. Again. So, every action of that European Union needs to be looked at in this light. Will it aid in preventing Germany from invading France? At which point we get the EU trying to legislate on the use of plastic bags:

Europe’s Committee of the Regions, a consultative body to the European Commission and Council, has suggested outlawing the free distribution of plastic bags at retail stores by 2020 or—even better—banning them entirely. The committee, comprised of 353 local representatives from across the EU, also wants mandatory targets for reducing per-capita plastic-bag use to 35 per person per year, from an estimated EU average of 198 per person per year currently.

Quite how this deals with Hun militarism isn’t certain.

But worse than this, it’s also against the EU’s own rules. Which are that everything should be dealt with at the appropriate level of governance. Only those matters where whatever is done in one place will affect people in another should be bumped up to the next level. Therefore, to give an example, it’s right that the rules about cap and trade, about climate change, are made at EU level because climate change affects us all. But clearly and obviously, the use of plastic bags is something that can only have an effect at town or village level. The laws therefore should be made at that level according to the EU’s own rules.

Plastic bag use ain’t about Germany invading France and it ain’t being dealt with according to the EU’s own rules either. Sod’em say I and let Berlin march on Paris any time they like.


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Would You Use Facebook As A Bank? Because They’ll Be Asking You Soon Tue, 15 Apr 2014 16:28:28 +0000 facebook bank Would You Use Facebook As A Bank? Because Theyll Be Asking You Soon


IT looks like Facebook is going to open itself up as something of a bank. Why not, they’ve a billion users already and that could make them the largest bank in the world by a long way if they can pull it off. They’re starting over here in Europe too:

Not content with being just a platform to host cat photos and status updates, Facebook is readying itself to provide financial services in the form of remittances and electronic money.

The social network is only weeks away from obtaining regulatory approval in Ireland for a service that would allow its users to store money on Facebook and use it to pay and exchange money with others, according to several people involved in the process.

It all sounds a little odd I agree but seriously, this is a large game changer. They’re starting with the idea of being able to be a money transmission service. A little like Western Union say, or PayPal as an electronic version of it. And the problem with all such attempts to do these things is that you’ve got to set up the network. It costs you tens of millions, hundreds of millions, to get ready to be able to do all of these sorts of things. Send money around, get the right licences and so on. And when you start of course you’ve got no damn customers having spent all that cash already.

But if you’ve already got a billion customers then those costs become more manageable. Because you’ve already got the people you can sell your new services to.

And more than that, think through what migrants already use Facebook for. They use it to keep in contact with people back home. And who are the people who are the largest senders of money internationally? That’s right, migrants, and they get charged a fortune for doing it too. So, you’ve already got both ends of this network on Facebook: all you’ve got to do is get the lience to be allowed to transmit money between them.

This could be a very big service indeed.

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Airbnb Home Share Is A Boom To Prostitution Tue, 15 Apr 2014 13:57:06 +0000 Screen shot 2014 04 15 at 14.55.30 Airbnb Home Share Is A Boom To Prostitution

YOU may or may not know what Airbnb is. It’s a system whereby people can rent out their homes, or an extra bedroom, for a couple of days or a week or whatever. And therefore it’s also a website where you can rent a room in a town for a week or a night or two or whatever. Well, that’s great and it’s booming, currently worth some $10 billion as a company. But obviously, people have found a way to exploit that system as well:

Hookers are using the controversial Airbnb home-sharing Web site to turn prime Manhattan apartments into temporary brothels, The Post has learned.

One escort service is even saving a bundle by renting Airbnb apartments instead of hotel rooms for clients’ quickies, says a 21-year-old call girl who works for the illicit business.

“It’s more discreet and much cheaper than The Waldorf,” said the sex worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“Hotels have doormen and cameras. They ask questions. Apartments are usually buzz-in.”

Think it through: in both the UK and the US it’s illegal to run a brothel. And hotels really don’t like getting that reputation for being a place where you can hire rooms by the hour (although they obviously exist of course). So up pops a new service which allows you to rent an apartment for a couple of days or a week or two. This is obviously much cheaper than those hotels. And it’s also a lot safer than having one regular place being kept as a brothel. For the police have to know where that apartment is before they can come raid it and if you’re only there a week then it’s most unlikely they’ll find out.

This is the sort of problem that’s going to be almost impossible to stamp out too. Which could be a problem for Airbnb: for it’s one thing to rent out your apartment for a week to some nice tourists from out of town, quite another to have it turned into a knocking shop for a week.

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Hilary Benn Spent Enough For 720,479 Packets of Jammie Dodgers from Waitrose Fri, 11 Apr 2014 14:15:07 +0000 pickles cookie Hilary Benn Spent Enough For 720,479 Packets of Jammie Dodgers from Waitrose

THERE’S an interesting little tactic that Labour MPs are trying to use in the House of Commons these days. To ask questions about how much a department is spending on this or that and then when they get the answer they can chunter along about how poor widows are being thrown out of their homes over the bedroom tax so that Tory Ministers can spend £x on whatever it is they just asked about.

You know, Yah! Boo! The Tories and only Labour looks out for the working stiff.

This is a tactic that has just received some blowback as the answer given to the question, well, how much has Eric Pickles been spending on catering (given his size this would add another level of joy to the chuntering) was, well, a whole hell of a lot less than Labouir did when they were in power.

The full question and answer is here in Hansard but the important lines are lovely:

To assist the right hon. Member, I would note that this Government has dramatically cut spending compared to the last Labour Government and put in place far tighter rules and restrictions on spending:

The Department spent £553,230 on catering and hospitality in 2008-09, and £456,142 in 2009-10. By 2012-13, spending had been reduced to £58,882 (plus £16,727 of delayed billing from the year before). We anticipate spending in the region of £36,000 in the year 2013-14 (the precise figure will be audited at financial year end).

To place our savings in context, as noted in the answer of 8 April 2014, Official Report, House of Lords, column 270WA, when the right hon. Member was Secretary of State, he spent £444,891 on catering, hospitality and refreshments in 2008-09 and £552,367 in 2009-10.

I know that the right hon. Member has a particular interest in biscuits, so to help quantify this amount, his spending in his last year in office is equivalent today to buying 720,479 packets of Jammie Dodgers from Waitrose (albeit, with a free cup of coffee thrown in).’

They might not be trying that tactic all that soon, eh?

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Aaaaand the Bitcoin Bubble Is Deflating Fri, 11 Apr 2014 14:11:05 +0000 PA 19522316 Aaaaand the Bitcoin Bubble Is Deflating

Robocoin CEO Jordan Kelly, places the company’s decal on the Robocoin machine, the world’s first bitcoin kiosk (ATM) for buying and selling popular and controversial digital currency, before a demonstration on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 8, 2014. 

I’VE been saying for some time now that Bitcoin is a bubble. And we’re seeing the usual and classic bubble behaviour in its price too. It’s down to just under $400 today:

Bitcoin reached another milestone today, with the cryptocurrency falling below the $400 per-coin mark. Bitcoin sold for over $1,100 inside of the last 52 weeks.

What goes up like a rocket does usually come tumbling back down to Earth.

And economists do have a rough rule of thumb about when something is in a bubble. That’s when people buy and hold it simply because they think it will be worth more tomorrow. That they do this is what makes it worth more tomorrow and thus that price keeps rising.

You can have price rises without this happening, of course: for example, a share might rise in price because the company is making higher profits. This means more income to that share over time and thus it’s worth more. The bubble part is when it’s only about the rising value: not about greater income that can come from whatever it is compared to alternative investments.

Do note that Bitcoin being in a bubble or not has nothing at all to do with whether it is going to be successful in the long term. Indeed, we can find economists who will tell us that bubbles are almost a requirement of a successful new technology. Because it’s exactly those startling price rises that get people to pay attention and then commit capital to the surrounding infrastructure necessary. And there have been commitments to Bitcoin, certainly tens of millions, probably more like a couple of hundred million, of capital to build more secure trading sites, wallets and all of that.

So it’s entirely possible that Bitcoin will become part of the general economy over time. Calling it a bubble is simply referring to that price boom: the one that’s now slowly deflating.

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Dodgy Maths: Where Apple Goes Wrong In Calculating The Samsung Damages Thu, 10 Apr 2014 07:02:07 +0000 PA 1030185 Dodgy Maths: Where Apple Goes Wrong In Calculating The Samsung Damages

YES! We’ve another exciting instalment of the Apple v. Samsung patents battle and this time Apple are asking for over $2 billion in damages from the Korean firm. The problem is that they’ve used a very dodgy indeed method of trying to calculate those damages.

To determine how much individual software features were worth as part of its multi-billion dollar lawsuit, an Apple-paid expert surveyed less than 1,000 consumers about imaginary smartphones and tablets, and included features that weren’t even on trial. Another expert then estimated billions in fees for theoretical negotiations that might have occurred between the two companies, as well as how many smartphones and tablets Apple might have sold in their place.

So, they’ve gone off and asked people theoretical questions about what they might have done. And economists insist that this just isn’t the way that you can gauge people and their actions. It’s an idea called revealed preferences. You don’t believe what anyone tells you, you most certainly don’t believe what they vote for. You look at what they actually do and then calculate back from their actions to tell you what they value.

For example, pretty much everyone says that they’d like to lose a little bit of weight. But economists look at all the porkers and point out that while everyone says this no one does a damn thing about it. Therefore people don’t really want to lose weight because they don’t in fact lose weight.

So, according to an economist at least, asking people which phone they would have bought, maybe, doesn’t actually work. Because asking people questions isn’t a good guide to what they actually do.

Sadly, this economic approach has another problem associated with it. Which is that there’s no other method of trying to work out what the damages Apple has actually suffered are. So we’re left with a method that we know is wrong but which we have to use anyway.

Ho hum.

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If Your Looks Got You The Job Don’t Complain When The Job Goes When Your Looks Fade Wed, 09 Apr 2014 19:22:31 +0000 PA 5018765 If Your Looks Got You The Job Dont Complain When The Job Goes When Your Looks Fade

BBC TV newsreaders past and present at the BBC TV Centre in London. From Left to Right Peter Woods, John Snagge, Corbet Woodall, Bob Langley, Colin Doran, Kenneth Kendal John Timpson and Robert Dougall. Seated Anglea Rippon, Richard Whitmore and Richard Baker. Date: 26/06/1979

LIFE is indeed unfair and it is entirely true that some of us lose our jobs after our looks start to fade. The latest little scare story being that we don’t have enough middle aged and older women on the tellie, telling us all how the world is in the news and the like.

To which there’s a pretty robust response. If you originally get your job because you’re pretty, somewhat toothsome on the eye, then it’s a bit odd to complain about losing said job when you’re less easy on said eyes. As Michael Buerk has been pointing out:

BBC veteran Michael Buerk says TV presenters who got their jobs through their beauty have no right to complain if they’re axed when their looks fade.

While the anchorman has expressed his satisfaction that broadcasters are now featuring more and more experienced talent, such as Great British Bake-Off presenter Mary Berry, he says many of those that complain about ageism should not have been given their roles in the first place.

He said: ‘”Presenter” in any case is a very recent job description dreamt up to provide somebody who fronts a programme without any special reason for being on it.

‘And if you got the job in the first place mainly because you look nice, I can’t see why you should keep it when you don’t.’

It’s worth noting that no one hired Buerk in the first place for his cheekbones so it might be that he knows what he’s talking about.

And we might go further too: there really is injustice in this world and one of them is that good looking people have it easier than the rest of us. This is what drives the fury in quite a number of the middle aged in fact. For when those looks fade they find out what life has been like for the rest of us all along. And the injustice isn’t that we ignore the middle aged whose looks have faded, but the ease with which the beautiful glide through life while us munts look on in envy. While those looks last of course…..

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Son Sues Nursing Home For Allowing 85-Year-Old Mother To Hire A Stripper Wed, 09 Apr 2014 07:51:01 +0000 oap strippers Son Sues Nursing Home For Allowing 85 Year Old Mother To Hire A Stripper

WHEN Franklin Youngblood saw the picture of his 85-year-old mother Bernice stuffing cash in the knickers of a young male stripper at Long Island’s East Neck Nursing home he was upset.

It wasn’t the sight of his inheritance disappearing; it was the perversion. So. He’s suing the home for defiling his mother for ”the perverse pleasure and enjoyment of the Defendant’s staff.”

A nurse later told another of the victim’s sons that the strip show was an “entertainment event” for the patients and was done in “good faith,” according to the suit.

“Hiring male stippers to perform for the defendant’s nursing-home patients was a serial occurrence,” the suit claims. “Bernice Youngblood has lived 85 years as a traditional Baptist, hard-working, lady . . . And now she has been defiled,” [attorney John Ray] said.

A lawyer for the nursing home says the residents requested the strippers.

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When Venture Capital Fails Spectacularly: The Bessemer Venture Partners Story Tue, 08 Apr 2014 15:19:19 +0000 Bessemer Venture Partners When Venture Capital Fails Spectacularly: The Bessemer Venture Partners Story

WE’VE all heard about the titans of the silicon Valley venture capital industry. One day they put 30 cents into the stock of some company enabling people to show cat photos to each other and then three weeks later they’re running off with $10 billion from the IPO.

All most, most, annoying.

However, there’s one company out there that has been doing this venture capital stuff for over a century now. And they’ve made some quite glorious suck ups. No, not in what Bessemer Venture Partners did invest in, rather in what they didn’t. And they’re self-confident enough to tell us what they did fail to invest in too.

On investing in e-Bay:

“Stamps? Coins? Comic books? You’ve GOT to be kidding,” thought David Cowan. “No-brainer pass.”

On investing in FedEx:

Incredibly, BVP passed on Federal Express seven times.

And the Google story is great:

Cowan’s college friend rented her garage to Sergey and Larry for their first year. In 1999 and 2000 she tried to introduce Cowan to “these two really smart Stanford students writing a search engine”. Students? A new search engine? In the most important moment ever for Bessemer’s anti-portfolio, Cowan asked her, “How can I get out of this house without going anywhere near your garage?”

They might actually be a good firm now. Not just because they’ve clearly got a sense of humour. But because fucking up is how we learn things and the most important thing we learn when fucking up is not to fuck up in that manner again.

That still leaves a near infinite number of ways in which we can still fuck up of course, but each mistake means that we’re one less method better off than everyone else.

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Michael Lewis Says High Frequency Trading Rips Off Investors. Michael Lewis Is Clearly Wrong Tue, 08 Apr 2014 13:40:29 +0000 PA 8809723 Michael Lewis Says High Frequency Trading Rips Off Investors. Michael Lewis Is Clearly Wrong

THERE’S been a bit of a furore over in the US about the new Michael Lewis book. He’s saying that all this high speed trading (that’s the stuff done by computers in nanoseconds) is just a rip off of the average investor. The sad thing is that he’s got it entirely wrong.

What HFT does do is add more liquidity to the markets. That is, there’s just more people buying and selling as a result of their activity. Because their activity is buying and selling, so obviously there’s more of it going on.

And when there’s more liquidity then the bid ask spread becomes narrower. That’s a bit of jargon, true, but it’s also true. The difference between the buy price, the one you can buy for, gets smaller with respect to the price that you can sell for. That’s what a smaller “spread” means, that the difference between what you can buy for and what you can sell for becomes smaller.

And obviously, you buy shares in order to sell them again at some point in the future. So the smaller the difference between those two prices at any one time the less it will cost you to invest in that share. Another way of saying the same thing is that you’re paying a smaller commission to hte people running the stock market for making your investment.

So, HFT provides liquidity, it does this through trading, more trading means smaller spreads and that saves the individual investor money. Sure, the HFT guys are making money too: but what the hell do we care if we’re saving money ourselves?

To put it a different way. Sure, the supermarkets make money out of us buying stuff from them. But it’s still cheaper for us to shop there than it is to buy everything from little corner stores. Which is why we shop in supermarkets, obviously.


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Modern Job Ad Of The Year: Beyonce Pays Her Interns In Selfies Mon, 07 Apr 2014 21:33:40 +0000 WANT to wok for Beyonce Knowles, the minter pop goddess? Well, here’s is your big chance to live the dream – to get paid in selfies:


Screen shot 2014 04 07 at 22.29.28 Modern Job Ad Of The Year: Beyonce Pays Her Interns In Selfies



Spotter: @carrozoDaniel Storey @danielstorey85


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How Many People Do You Need To Colonize The Next Star System – 150 or 40,000? Mon, 07 Apr 2014 16:14:48 +0000 colonise star system How Many People Do You Need To Colonize The Next Star System   150 or 40,000?



THIS is an interesting little calculation that’s been made about how many people you would need on your spaceship if you were to set off and try to colonise the next star system over. Well, OK, it’s interesting to me as someone who imbibed so much SF and Fantasy stuff when in my long ago youth at least. And the answer is a very much larger number of people than you might think.

Here’s what the problem is:

Entire generations of people would be born, live, and die before the ship reached its destination. This brings up the question of how many people you need to send on a hypothetical interstellar mission to sustain sufficient genetic diversity. And a new study sets the bar much higher than Moore’s 150 people.

According to Portland State University anthropologist Cameron Smith, any such starship would have to carry a minimum of 10,000 people to secure the success of the endeavor. And a starting population of 40,000 would be even better, in case a large percentage of the population died during during the journey.

To get that low number you simply calculate how many people you need to have alive at the end of the trip, assume they’ll have lots of kids and then they manage to get on with things. However, humans don’t really work that way. Over centuries such a small group would become horribly inbred. OK, you can take account of that by making sure of your breeding plans before everyone goes off. But that’s still not enough. Because there’s enormous variation in the human genome and taking only 150 people will mean that you’re not taking enough of that variation. And what you do take will also find much of it being lost down the generations. In order to be able to keep people as people, in all their near infinite variation, you need to take a number in the 10 to 40 thousand range. Which is the rather surprising conclusion of this research.

We might note that the various emigrations of people on Earth were never this large: no one thinks that there were 40,000 Aborigines arriving in Oz at the same time, or Polynesians in Hawaii: but these migrations were rather different. Because they were not single events, there were waves of people, the later arrivals being able to make up for that lack of genetic diversity in the original groups.But it does show that we’ve got something of a problem with this populating the universe idea: it’s not just building a ship that will last for a thousand years or two, it’s building one that can take 10,000 people or more.

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Man Gets Rich When Hyena Eats His Dick Mon, 07 Apr 2014 06:46:40 +0000 CHAMANGENI Zulu is now surely on his way to riches. Currently in residence at Zambia’s Chipata General Hospital in Zambia, near the Malawi border, Mr Zulu followed doctor’s orders: he went into the bush and allowed / encouraged a hyena to eat his penis. Mr Zulu tells the Times of Zambia:

“I met some business persons who told me the best way to become rich was to sacrifice parts of my body. I was instructed to be naked and a hyena came to me and started eating my toes and eventually my manhood was eaten. Even if I have lost some important parts of my body, I still want to get rich.”

Well, that’s his story, and if it gets turned into a film or Channel 4 mini-series, riches might well be his.

Meanwhile, if anyone sees this man, check for a crock of gold.


hyena eats penis Man Gets Rich When Hyena Eats His Dick


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Mad Men Rejoice: Plain Packaging For Cigarettes Will Increase Branding Fri, 04 Apr 2014 17:46:52 +0000 smoking is good for you Mad Men Rejoice: Plain Packaging For Cigarettes Will Increase Branding



AS you’ll know there’s a move to get to the plain packaging of cigarettes. This is the rather strange idea that if we can’t associate red with Marlboro and white with Silk Cut then we’ll smoke fewer cigarettes overall. Quite why is never really explained but we are assured that it will be true.

There’s something of a problem with the idea though. Which is that abolishing branding for legal cigarettes will probably lead to more branding by illegal ones. The reason is that a brand is an identification: it tells people something about the quality, and consistency of whatever the brand is associated with.

So prevalent have some lines of Cheap Whites become in parts of the UK where the majority of cigarette sales are now non-dutied through boot sales and under-counter trades that they are establishing brand loyalties; people like cigarette characteristics they are used to, in terms of taste, strength, throat-feel, acridity and so on, and when they find an illegal brand that mimics, say, Superkings will stick with it.

Which offers the intriguing possibility that with the government’s moves to introduce plain packaging for the legitimate TMA members already feeling the pinch, it’s unlikely the Cheap Whites will follow step; if anything, they will surely tend to improve their pack image.

As taxes on the legit fags get ever higher and the ability to tell brands of those legit fags gets ever harder, then the illegal folk will be trying to distinguish their own brands of those cheap whites ever the more. And this of course is how brands started in the first place: with producers trying to make sure they had repeat customers by being able to point people to the same as what they had before.

All of which leads to that interesting possibility: banning the use of brands in legit smokes is likely to increase the branding efforts in the other part of the market, the illegal side.

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Everything You Heard About Climate Change Is Wrong Mon, 31 Mar 2014 11:49:22 +0000 TODAY’S the lovely day we all find out how we’re going to fry in that latest report from the IPCC. You know, the scientific consensus on how climate change is doing damage to the planet and what it is that we might do about it. And what we all get told about what we ought to do about it is entirely wrong.

I mean all of that stuff that comes from The Guardian, Green Party, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and so on. You know the damn mantra. we must grow more of our own food, stop this horrible market based economy, plan to make things better, stop doing all this globalisation stuff.

It’s all absolutely and entirely wrong. And my proof is that the IPCC itself says that all those actions are wrong. It’s Chapter 10 here of the latest report.

The following initial conclusions emerge. First, markets matter. Impacts are transmitted across locations—with local, regional and global impacts– and across multiple sectors of the economy. For instance, landlocked countries are affected by sea level rise because their agricultural land increases in value as other countries face erosion and floods. Second, consumers and producers are often affected differently. The price increases induced by a reduction in production may leave producers better off while hurting consumers. Third, the distribution of the direct impacts can be very different than the distribution of the indirect effects. For instance, a loss of production may be advantageous to an individual company or country if the competition loses more. Fourth, a loss of productivity or productive assets in one sector leads to further losses in the rest of the economy. Fifth, markets offer options for adaptation, particularly possibilities for substitution. This changes the size, and sometimes the sign of the impact estimate.

Yep, markets matter. So we’d better not go around destroying those, had we?

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Radio Put Downs: Did Kate Adie Call A Banker A ‘Fat ***t’? (Audio) Fri, 28 Mar 2014 10:24:15 +0000 IN her Times column, Caitlin Moran highlights BBC Radio 4 Today host John Humphry’s interrogation of Sam Laidlaw, the chief executive of Centrica, the biggest of the six leading British energy companies. Humphreys turned to discuss raising fuel bills.

Laidlaw seemed to suggest that the major companies found it difficult to effect change in the market, causing Humphrys to exclaim: “You have 97 per cent of the market, you … big six.”

Moran notes that “You . . . big six,”  is now a diss, up there with “Your mum”.


13050813 Radio Put Downs: Did Kate Adie Call A Banker A Fat ***t? (Audio)


I’d like to draw your attention to former BBC news reporter Kate Kate Adie discussing Co-op Bank’s ex-CEO Euan Sutherland on New Zealand national radio.

Listen closely at around the 4mins 25s marks. What’s that she says of Sutherland? He’s a what..?

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The IRS Says It’s Going To Tax Bitcoin, Well, Just Like It Taxes Everything Else Thu, 27 Mar 2014 13:05:34 +0000 PA 19351947 The IRS Says Its Going To Tax Bitcoin, Well, Just Like It Taxes Everything Else

Christopher David uses a Robocoin kiosk to sell bitcoins outside of the 500 Startups’ Bitcoinferance in Mountain View, Calif., Thursday, March 20, 2014. The Robocoin kiosk is owned by Coinage and will be moved to a semi-permanent location after the conference. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)


THIS is perhaps a bit unkind of the IRS over in the US, issuing new tax guidance about Bitcoin in late March when everyone has to have their tax returns in by April 15th. But that’s what they’ve done and the ruling isn’t a surprise to anyone except those with the most absurd ideas of what Bitcoin actually is:

Twenty days: that’s how long American virtual currency users have to comply with newly released tax guidelines if they want to meet the April 15 filing deadline. The IRS today released an official statement declaring that virtual currencies – including, but not limited to bitcoin – will be treated as property.

In short, this means that bitcoin will be treated the same way shares of stock, real estate assets, and other investments and will be subject to capital gains taxes.

Bitcoin isn’t legal tender so it’s not going to get treated in the same way that dollar bills are. But it’s also obviously something of value and therefore will be taxed under the same rules as other things of value. And that’s really what they’ve announced. And whatever the enthusiasts for Bitcoin might think about how it’s going to change the world by being a deflationary non-governmental currency might desire us all to believe that’s pretty much the only way that the tax laws were ever going to work.

And we’ve other evidence to support the proposition as well. For the Germans made very much the same announcement not that long ago:

The German Finance Ministry ruled that Bitcoin is a “unit of account”, and therefore ‘mining’ them is a form of “money creation”.

This means that, like stocks or shares, any profit from them is subject to Germany’s capital gains tax, at 25pc – unless they are held for more than a year, according to German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

And more recently our own dear HMRC made very much the same announcement:

As with any other activity, whether the treatment of income received from, and charges made in connection with, activities involving Bitcoin and other similar cryptocurrencies will be subject to Corporation Tax, Income Tax or Capital Gains Tax depends on the activities and the parties involved.

Whether any profit or gain is chargeable or any loss is allowable will be looked at on a case-by-case basis taking into account the specific facts. Each case will be considered on the basis of its own individual facts and circumstances. The relevant legislation and case law will be applied to determine the correct tax treatment. Therefore, depending on the facts, a transaction may be so highly speculative that it is not taxable or any losses relievable.. For example gambling or betting wins are not taxable and gambling losses cannot be offset against other taxable profits.

They’re all pretty much the same statement and that’s because the outcome of this was always pretty obvious. Bitcoin are valuable but not legal currency. Therefore they were always going to be taxed as something valuable and not as legal currency. For surely no one thought that Bitcoins weren’t going to be taxed at all, did they?

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George Monbiot Makes Shock Discovery That Humans Are A Viciously Destructive Species Thu, 27 Mar 2014 07:21:54 +0000 PA 5280240 George Monbiot Makes Shock Discovery That Humans Are A Viciously Destructive Species

A Myanmar vendor in the border town of Tachilek, just across from Mae Sai, Thailand, offers endangered animal bones and skins for sale to tourist in a Saturday, Nov. 25, 2003.


THIS really ought to take some sort of a prize for the amount of cluelessness it shows about our fellow humans. Yes, of course we’re ruthless, greedy and destructive swine, what the hell else did anyone ever think we were?

You want to know who we are? Really? You think you do, but you will regret it. This article, if you have any love for the world, will inject you with a venom – a soul-scraping sadness – without an obvious antidote.

The Anthropocene, now a popular term among scientists, is the epoch in which we live: one dominated by human impacts on the living world. Most date it from the beginning of the industrial revolution. But it might have begun much earlier, with a killing spree that commenced two million years ago. What rose onto its hind legs on the African savannahs was, from the outset, death: the destroyer of worlds.

Before Homo erectus, perhaps our first recognisably human ancestor, emerged in Africa, the continent abounded with monsters. There were several species of elephants. There were sabretooths and false sabretooths, giant hyenas and creatures like those released in The Hunger Games: amphicyonids, or bear dogs, vast predators with an enormous bite.

And Monbiot goes on to point out that where ever humans ended up we killed off the megafauna in that location pretty quickly.

The question is though, why is anyone surprised at this? Didn’t everyone already know this?

Well, the answer is that the evidence was always there in front of us. The story of the dodo, or for the more alert, the auk and the passenger pigeon could tell us that we’re pretty good at eliminating species even if only by eating them. But those have usually been attributed to modern man being a greedy ruthless bastard. Pre-modern man wasn’t like that at all you see. No, he lived in harmony with nature uninfected as he was with capitalism and other vices. So, when people started noting that the giant wombats of Australia seemed to have been wiped out soon after humans got there 40,000 years ago, or that the American elephant and horse seem to have disappeared as humans got there 12,000 years ago, well, there were a lot of people disposed to say that it was climate change that killed them off, not humans. Because, you know the idea of the Noble Savage is just to precious for us to admit reality.

Even the fact that it took the Maori only 100 years or so to wipe out the giant moa was conveniently overlooked.

It might come as a shock to Monbiot but anyone actually paying attention has known that humans are a viciously destructive species, always have been. And the most interesting thing we can say about it all is that we’re less destructive now than we used to be. Probably because we’ve already got rid of all the things that want to eat us and already domesticated all the things that we want to eat ourselves.

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Candy Crush Saga Floats In NY – Here’s The Saddest Story About Its Founder Toby Rowland Tue, 25 Mar 2014 16:50:46 +0000 SO., the makers of Candy Crush Saga, is floating shares in the company in New York. The valuation put on it is that it will be worth $7 billion and change which is a pretty big number. Then again they did make over $500 million in pure profit this past year. All of which is just great for the people that own the company and are now able to cash out and turn some of it into hot and cold running Bentleys for the rest of their life.

However, there’s also a slightly sad story here as well. What about the bloke who worked hard for years, invested, helped build the company, but sold out too soon?

Toby Rowland

No shares. Founder, $0

Toby Rowland co-founded King with Morris and Zacconi, and was co-chief executive until 2008, but he sold his shares in 2011, just months before the company launched its first hit Facebook game. He is married to the author and Vogue journalist Plum Sykes, and his father was the mining tycoon Tiny Rowland, who once owned the Observer and House of Fraser department stores. He was persuaded by Morris to move to Derby and become marketing director of their previous venture, uDate. He invested and shared in the spoils when the matchmaking site was sold for $150m in 2002, using the proceeds to set up King. Despite backing King for eight years, like the founding Beatles member Pete Best, Rowland left too early to share in its success. His 40m shares were sold back to King for a mere $3m, according to data from PrivCo. Had Rowland stayed in, he would have been King’s largest individual shareholder today, with a stake worth up to $966m.

OK, so he’s rich anyway, both from inheritance and also from a previous venture. But $3 million is very different from $966 million, that’s for sure.

Not quite sure what would be the best way to deal with this really. Should Rowland cry about it or just laugh it off as they way things go?

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It’s EU, Stupid: Apple And Amazon Get Stung By Osborne In The Budget Mon, 24 Mar 2014 10:43:14 +0000 THAT’S what the newspapers are reporting this morning, that Osborne has stung the big internet companies like Amazon and Apple by changing the rules on VAT rates. Although it’s not actually Osborne who has done this, it’s the EU:

Multinational companies such as Amazon and Apple will be forced to add VAT to all UK downloads including music, film, smartphone games and e-books from January 2015 in a move that may drive up the cost of music tracks from 99p to £1.19.

The move forms part of the Government’s “international efforts to develop tough, new global tax rules,” George Osborne said in his Budget address last week. From next year, download services will be subject to VAT in the country where the consumer is located.

According to the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), the change will attract an extra £300m in VAT revenues in the first year.

The Mail covers the story in much the same way. However, this is nothing to do with Osborne or the UK budget. This is a change in the central EU rules about VAT. HMRC published the regulations some time ago:

On 1 January 2015, changes will be made to the European Union (EU) VAT place of supply of services rules involving business to consumer (B2C) supplies of broadcasting, telecommunications and e-services. A consumer means a private individual.

This must be obviously true, for the rules about VAT are EU rules and no national government can change them in this manner on their own.

What’s actually happening here is that goods which are sold across borders carry the VAT rate of the country into which the goods go. However, electronic and digital goods carry the VAT rate of the country which they are sold from. Apple and Amazon sell their songs, online videos etc, from Luxembourg which does deals on the VAT rates which must be paid. The new rules mean that those digital goods will now carry the VAT rate of the country of destination, just as with physical goods.

And that’s it. Completely sod all to do with Osborne, the Budget or the UK government.

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Burlesque Babes: Sheila ‘The Peeler’ Ryan Was ‘Cleveland’s Own Sweetheart’ Sun, 23 Mar 2014 07:06:57 +0000 PA 10020348 1 Burlesque Babes: Sheila The Peeler Ryan Was Clevelands Own Sweetheart

Even clothes that come off have to fit. Here, Charles Guyette, New York dealer in theatrical accessories, measures night-club stripper Sheila Ryan for addition to her wardrobe on Sept. 29, 1948. Guyette reports the G-string business is booming although prices have remained fairly constant. The every day, garden variety at $7.50, as it did before the war, Guyette reports. (AP Photo)


BURLESQUE Babes presents Sheila Ryan, nee Ardath Patricia Lavelle, who earned the nickname Sheila The Peeler. She was “Cleveland’s own sweetheart”.


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Sheila was a big enough star to be profiled in the Miam Daily News on September 22, 1953.



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Sheila was the break-out star of the chorus line at the Roxy Theatre.


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* … the Roxy was a stop for entertainers such as Abbott & Costello, Phil Silvers, Red Buttons, Ann Corio, and later, Tempest Storm and Blaze Starr. The theater was remodeled in 1956 by new owners Frank Engel and Frank Bryan, and they brought their Eastern Burlesque circuit to Cleveland. From 1968 until its final closing and razing in 1977, the Roxy alternated between live entertainment and X-rated movies.

The Roxy was the venue where Carrie Finnell invented tassel twirling. Her act was Carrie Finnell and her Educated Breasts. Talented Carrie would tell the punters, “Come back next week and I’ll take more off.” But Carrie could twirl each of her tasseled breasts at different speeds and directions. Independently, Carrie’s breasts were interesting, but together they were a mesmeric act.


carrie finnell Burlesque Babes: Sheila The Peeler Ryan Was Clevelands Own Sweetheart


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Let’s end this with that wonderful piece of music. Set your tassels to “turbo” and Cue the Sabre Dance, the final act of Aram Khachaturian’s ballet Gayane (1942).




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Idiotic Turkish Prime Minster Bans Twitter And Twitter Use In Turkey Rises Fri, 21 Mar 2014 14:39:41 +0000 PA 19101385 Idiotic Turkish Prime Minster Bans Twitter And Twitter Use In Turkey Rises

A man photograph a placard with the name of Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul during a rally against a bill which would allow Turkey’s authorities to block web pages for privacy violations without a prior court decision, in Istanbul, Turkey, late Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014. Police in Istanbul have clashed with hundreds of protesters denouncing a new law that increases government controls over the Internet. About 90,000 people have stopped following Gul on Twitter after he signed a controversial bill increasing government controls over the Internet into law on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)


YOU’D think that people would have worked out about these internet things by now but apparently there are none so dumb as politicians:

Shortly after the Twitter ban came into effect around midnight, the micro-blogging company tweeted instructions to users in Turkey on how to circumvent it using text messaging services in Turkish and English. Turkish tweeters were quick to share other methods of tiptoeing around the ban, using “virtual private networks” (VPN) – which allow internet users to connect to the web undetected – or changing the domain name settings on computers and mobile devices to conceal their geographic whereabouts.

Some large Turkish news websites also published step-by-step instructions on how to change DNS settings.

On Friday morning, Turkey woke up to lively birdsong: according to the alternative online news site, almost 2.5m tweets – or 17,000 tweets a minute – have been posted from Turkey since the Twitter ban went into effect, thus setting new records for Twitter use in the country.

The ban came from the Prime Minister, pissed off that people were disagreeing with him in public. One of the first people to breach the ban on using Twitter was the Turkish President.

We might have to start saying that there’s a Turkish variant of the Streisand Effect.

The Streisand effect is the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet.


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Will The New Pound Coin Kill Us All? Thu, 20 Mar 2014 13:33:25 +0000 WELl, it might not kill is all but it’s entirely possible that it will poison a good few of us.

As you may have seen George Osborne unveiled the idea of a new £ coin in the budget. It’ll be …

WELl, it might not kill is all but it’s entirely possible that it will poison a good few of us.

As you may have seen George Osborne unveiled the idea of a new £ coin in the budget. It’ll be like the old three penny bit in shape and made of two different alloys plugged together. And that’s where the slight problem comes in. For the sort of alloys you need to use to make coins will contain nickel.

Hmm, well, not necessarily, you can of course use gold or silver, and we’ve made copper coins for generations. Except all of those are too expensive or the wrong colour. So, we are pretty much limited to nickel containing alloys. It’s the only thing that will give us the weight, colours and durability that we need. And that’s a problem because they’ve already decided that it will indeed be a two colour coin. Just like the one and two euro ones in fact and that leads to the same problem:

Euros break the European Union’s own rules. The currency, adopted by most of Europe at the beginning of this year, can release up to 320 times the amount of nickel that European Union (EU) regulations say triggers skin reactions in people allergic to the metal.

This is one of the highest rates of nickel release ever measured for any coins. Frank Nestle of the University of Zurich in Switzerland and colleagues have now worked out why – and it’s not just that the new coins contain too much nickel.

In a sweaty palm, each coin is like a tiny battery, Nestle’s team shows. When sweat gets between the two different alloys of the central pill and outer ring of 1- and 2-euro pieces, metal ions flow between them. This makes the coins corrode, releasing nickel ions, which can set off itching and redness in up to 30% of the population.

The same will happen with these new coins: or rather, the same is likely to happen with the new £s. For there’s one bit that they haven’t decided as yet:

A public consultation will be held over the summer focusing on how to manage any impacts before a final decision is made on the precise specification of the new coin, including the metal composition.

Get ready to write in telling them that you don’t want these coins to be made from nickel so that you don’t get poisoned by the currency.

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Apple’s Only 10% Of The Phone Market But They Make 60% Of The Profits Wed, 19 Mar 2014 18:27:07 +0000 THE smartphone is really only just under 7 years old: that’s right, we’re just coming up to hte 7 th anniversary of the release of the Apple iPhone. And this smartphone is now the fastest adopted technology of all time: there were a billion of the damn things made and sold last year. But the truly remarkable thing is that while Apple only has around 10% of this market they have been able to capture 60% of all of the profits of the entire sector.

Which is, when you think about it, pretty remarkable:

Indeed, since the launch of the iPhone[3] the net profits earned by the collection of protagonists shown was $215 billion[4]. 60% has been earned by Apple, a newcomer to the market. That figure is also consistent on an ongoing basis, having reached 60% as early as 2011 and remained in a band around that figure since.

Actually, that’s friggin’ amazing. But the story doesn’t stop there. Over and above the profit that they’ve managed to capture there’s the amount that we, the consumers, have been able to enjoy as we play with our new shiny shiny. We must indeed gain more value from our iPhones than we pay for them precisely because if we didn’t we wouldn’t bother to buy them. This value over and above what we actually pay is called the consumer surplus. And sadly we’ve no real way of working out exactly what it is. It doesn’t form part of any of the conventional numbers like GDP or anything. The best guess we can make is to look at it in another way.

We do have an estimate of how much of the value from innovation that the entrepreneurs manage to keep. This isn’t entirely accurate, to call Apple the entrepreneurs but it’s a close enough sorta thing. And the finding is that the innovators manage to hold on to around 3% of the total value of their innovation. There’s a bit that goes to the financiers but the vast majority comes to us the consumers in that consumer surplus. So, if Apple has managed to get $129 billion out of the iPhone then we must have made 97/3×129, or $4.2 trillion dollars out of its existence.

Yes, yes, I know, a pretty dodgy calculation: but it is of the right sort of order that consumer surplus. And that really is friggin’ amazing.

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Sod The Sugar And The Salt We’re Allowed To Eat Fat Again Tue, 18 Mar 2014 20:39:54 +0000 lard Sod The Sugar And The Salt Were Allowed To Eat Fat Again


SO. Everything that we’ve been told about healthy eating for the past 30 years has turned out to be a mistake. Or a lie, your call:

For the health conscious reader who has been stoically swapping butter for margarine for years the next sentence could leave a bad taste in the mouth.

Scientists have discovered that saturated fat does not cause heart disease while so-called ‘healthy’ polyunsaturated fats do not prevent cardiovascular problems.

In contrast with decades old nutritional advice, researchers at Cambridge University have found that giving up fatty meat, cream or butter is unlikely to improve health.

They are calling for guidelines to be changed to reflect a growing body of evidence suggesting there is no overall association between saturated fat consumption and heart disease.

Yes, it is real research, no it’s not just Daily Mail style immigrant butter causes house cancer type stuff. Looking back at all the studies that have actually been done on the relationship between eating fat, even saturated fat, and heart disease the researchers manage to find no link between the two at all. So yes, everything we’ve been told about a healthy diet for the past 30 years is indeed wrong.

But there’s a much bigger implication to this as well. You’ll have seen the two campaigns in recent years over salt and sugar in our foods. To the point that there are people running around now insisting that sugar is in fact toxic. And the salt people (often the very same people in fact) insisted that that compound caused all the strokes in everyone.  Despite the very dodgy statistics upon which the claim was made.

But OK, let’s just take it at face value: OK, so why are food manufacturers loading up processed foods with salt and sugar? Well, it’s a desperate attempt to make them taste of some fucking thing given that we’ll all had the shit scared out of us about eating anything with fat in it. And that fat is usually where all the flavour is as well. So the new findings allow us to kill three birds with one stone. We can reduce the salt and sugar we ingest by simply going back to those full fat versions of everything. They just don’t need as much seasoning and flavouring. Our second bird is that we will be eating better and more healthily anyway. And our third is that we get to ignore those loons over in the public health community on two grounds. Firstly that they’ve been wrong for thirty years already and secondly that we’ve just solved the salt and sugar thing they’re currently complaining about.

Sounds like a pretty good idea really: all I’ve got to do now is convince my wife to allow me to eat butter again rather than margarine…..

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