Money | Anorak - Part 20

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Money in the news and how you are going to pay and pay and pay

Nigerian Scammers Float Messages In Bottles Up River Thames


NIGERIAN scammers have found a way to reach Lottery winners and recipients of General Goodboy’s largesse: messages in bottles.

Tom Fenton, from Caversham, Berkshire, spotted bottles bobbin in the River Thames. He fished them out. Inside each were notes:

“Dear Friend, I am pleased that this letter has reached you safely. I was given your name as an honourable and upright person to do business with.

“Let me introduce myself; I am Umsloppogas Adinga a barrister working in the Nigerian inheritance court and have been assigned to the estate of a Mr Bates who has left an unclaimed estate totalling £4,500,000. If left, the money would revert to the government and I want to get the money safely to a western bank account. If you will allow me to use your bank account for this purpose, I would be happy to render 10 per cent of the estate to you as a fee for helping me with this transaction.

“If you are happy to help me with this, please email me at with your details so that we can progress this and once you have paid any fees necessary the money can be transferred to your account. May the lord bless our business arrangements. Yours faithfully, Barrister Adinga (aka Impro)”

Did these cries for help bob all the way to the River Thames from Nigeria, fighting against the currents to head upstream? Is this epic journey a sign of God’s will?

Much to debate, especially how anyone without email and internet connection can reach Barrister Adinga? We’d suggest cramming fistfuls of cash into the toilet and hitting the flush. With a following wind and luck. he’ll get the messages he so richly deserves…

Posted: 7th, November 2013 | In: Money, Strange But True | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Call Of Duty And The Chinese Rare Earths Monopoly

call_of_duty_black metal

I’VE just realised that I was interviewed about the Call of Duty game back a while. They wanted to know how realistic was the plot point in the game where the Chinese exploited their monopoly of rare earths production.

Complete bollocks was my simple response. Here’s the set up:

Blockbuster video game Black Ops II last year enthralled gamers, with its premise that the world could be brought to the brink of war over China’s dominance of rare earth minerals (REM).

The premise is based on the scarcity of these minerals which are used for, among many other things, powerful batteries, camera lenses, MRI scanners, modern electronics, such as iPods, TVs and computers, and for renewable energies, such as solar panels and wind turbines, meaning they are integral to modern life.

Although obviously far fetched, at its inception Black Op II’s narrative didn’t seem so implausible. For many years, China had been responsible for producing 97% of all REMs. In recent years it has been known to use its monopoly of the industry as a geopolitical weapon, and to drive up the price of REMs. However, more recently China’s dominance has diminished and in November last year, the country closed its largest mine, Baotou Steel mine, in a bid to maintain falling prices.

As a direct result of China’s tactics, the exact opposite to Black Op II’s narrative has occurred – the world hasn’t fought China for its REM riches, but found its own.

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Posted: 6th, November 2013 | In: Money, The Consumer | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Cartoon: Justin Welby Goes To Wonga

MATT Buck’s cartoon on Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and payday loan company Wonga:

welby wonga


The talented Hack.

Posted: 5th, November 2013 | In: Money, Reviews | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

It’s Not A Living Wage, It’s Tax Poverty


SO we’ve had the announcement of the new Living Wage. This is the amount someone would need to earn in order not to live in poverty in the UK: it’s 7.65 an hour, well above the national minimum wage of 6.31 an hour. This being the very point of the campaign of course: to point out that the minimum wage is too low, that it leaves people still living in poverty.

To give the campaign their due, they are calculating that poverty line correctly: they’re asking people what people need to be able to do in order to not be living in poverty. Answers are that they should be able to afford a couple of pints once a week, go out for a cheap dinner once a month, that sort of thing. Do note they’re not saying that the unemployed should necessarily be able to do these things: only that they would regard people who could not afford to do these things as living in poverty. And, if people think that not having enough money to do these things is poverty then that’s what the definition of poverty is.

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Posted: 5th, November 2013 | In: Money | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Is Jane Austen Too Airbrushed On The New Banknote?

Jane-Austen dolly

THE Bank of England decided that they needed to get some women involved on our currency. The hooters and sneerers pointed out that The Queen was pretty ubiquitous on our money, but everyone else acknowledged that it was a bit of a sausagefest and that we’re lucky enough to have some incredible achievements from womenfolk and that should be celebrated.

And so, we ended up with Jane Austen, and no-one could argue with her outstanding contribution to the English language.

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Posted: 5th, November 2013 | In: Money, Reviews | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

What’s The Worst Part About Working At Google? The People Are Too Smart And Talented


WHAT’S  the worst part about working at Google ? That question was posed to readers of Business Insider. Some answers err on the creepy side of Norman Bates’ slippers. A selection now follow:


When it’s standard to be awesome, and the work isn’t particularly tough to begin with, it’s hard to differentiate…

Some people end up losing their drive by working at Google. They get accustomed to not trying their hardest, but still having an awesome day-to-day life.

Some caveats: Many Googlers are clearly among the brightest in the world in their field, and they’re able to run full stride in their work. If you take your career into your own hands, you can find a role that challenges and stretches you as much as any other job in the world.

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Posted: 4th, November 2013 | In: Money, Reviews, Technology | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Deliberate Planned Obsolescence In Apple’s iPhones? New York Times Spreads Conspiracy Theory

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DOES Apple lace its products with deliberate planned obsolescence? Err, no, despite the claims there isn’t any deliberate planned obsolescence in Apple’s iPhones. So much so that it’s really rather amazing that the New York Times published a piece even suggesting that there is.

Apple could be deliberately making your iPhone slower when a new model comes out, an influential tech columnist has claimed.

Catherine Rampell, who writes in the New York Times, said that Apple could be engineering the new operating system so it only works properly with the newest version of the product.

She added her iPhone 4 became a lot slower when she downloaded iOS 7 – and that the only solution seemed to be to buy the iPhone 5.

Rampell accused Apple of having run out of ideas so was trying to ‘brainwash’ its customers into buying the new iPhone 5S and 5C because they look nice.

Rampell’s claims are likely fuel conspiracy theorists who have long held that Apple engages in ‘planned obsolescence’, a term which has been around since the Great Depression in the 1930s.

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Posted: 4th, November 2013 | In: Money, Technology | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

How Much Would You Buy Someone’s Virginity For? Shatuniha Is Asking £17,000 (Photos)

shatuniha 1

VIRGINITY. A weird notion. A name given to something you haven’t done yet. Imagine if everything we hadn’t done had a special word. Is there a designated word for someone who hasn’t tried pickled onion Monster Munch yet? There should be because, when it comes down to it, someone’s virginity and pickled onion Monster Munch are about as important as each other (although the latter has more sustained and dependable pleasures).

Either way, people value virginities much more highly than things you can buy from the corner shop. While snacks cost under a quid, one Russian teenager has sold her virginity online for £17,000.

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Posted: 4th, November 2013 | In: Money, Reviews, Strange But True | Comments (4) | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Maybe It’s Just Because The NHS Is Rubbish? Obamacare, Listen Up

ANOTHER report out, another report insisting that it’s the inequality that’s killing people:

Women and children in the UK would have longer and healthier lives if they lived in Cyprus, Italy or Spain, and Britain is facing “a public health timebomb”, according to a study by an expert on inequality and health.

Sir Michael Marmot, who is known worldwide for his work on the social determinants of health, says much of the rest of Europe takes better care of its families. Life expectancy for women and death rates among the under-fives are worse in the UK, where there is also more child poverty.

The public health time bomb Marmot describes is caused by the large number of so-called Neets – young adults who are not in education, employment or training.

Well, it could be that. But there is a problem with Marmot and his research. He just never does look properly for all of the various things that could be causing the problems he notes.

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Posted: 31st, October 2013 | In: Money, Reviews | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Apple Really Is Dodging Taxes You Know!


THERE’S been intensive debate….well, let’s call that screaming matches….about whether Apple is avoiding tax or not. Everyone points to the Double Irish with a Dutch Sandwich as irrefutable proof that they’re skiving swine.

The thing is that this isn’t tax avoidance. It’s most certainly not tax evasion for as all agree it’s wholly and entirely legal. But it’s not even tax avoidance: for this is how the corporate tax system is set up to work: this is how it was designed. Companies, when they sell overseas, are taxed on the profits they make in their home country. That’s it, that’s all. And Apple will indeed be taxed on their overseas profits as and when they take those profits back into the US. That’s also just it: there is no more to the story than that. At the very best the entire structure delays the payment of tax: but it most certainly does not mean that the tax has been avoided.

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Posted: 29th, October 2013 | In: Money, Technology | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

How to Stay on Top of your Finances this Christmas

How to Stay on Top of your Finances this Christmas

While Christmas is undoubtedly a fabulous time of year, it’s also an expensive one! Some people start planning and saving in January, let alone October, especially when they’re part of a large family with lots of gifts to buy and mouths to feed. It’s essential that, when the festive period comes around, you stay in control of what you spend and keep an eye on your finances so that you’re not suffering once it’s all done and dusted.

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Posted: 28th, October 2013 | In: Money, Online-PR | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Russell Brand, Ignorant Poseur Or Just Posing As Ignorant?

brand paxman

SO. We’ve seen the earnestly Teenage Trot Russell Brand trot out his ignorance of economics for us all on Newsnight. This is the one line that made me cringe the most:

David Cameron said profit isn’t a dirty word, I say profit is a filthy word. Because wherever there is profit there is also deficit.

Oh Dear God that’s nonsense.

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Posted: 25th, October 2013 | In: Celebrities, Money | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

French Football Cancels Matches To Protest Against Tax


GETTING footballers to show any sort of excitement, opinion or passion for anything is nigh on impossible. All over the world, they talk in monotone voices, all the life trained out of them and blurbling on and on, vaguely about results and teamwork.

Unless, of course, it involves money.

French professional football clubs have scrubbed all matches over one weekend in November to protest against President François Hollande’s 75% “super tax” on high salaries.

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Posted: 24th, October 2013 | In: Money, Sports | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Yes, Of Course Royal Mail Was Sold Too Cheap But Not For The Reason You Think


WAS Royal Mail sold on the cheap? Yes. But not for the reason you might think.

When they announced that they were going to privatise Royal Mail there were all sorts of shrieks and moans that this would just put cash into the pockets of the hedge funds. You know, the fly by night boys just looking for a quick turn on tyhe shares. And of course that’s not what the government wanted at all: rather, we want stable long term investors who will be with the company for years.

So, when the hedge funds all applied for shares in the share offering they were told to naff off. Or allocated very many fewer than they had asked for:

TCI, for its part, applied for a whole presidential suite of rooms £200m of shares and was allocated just £1m. Many other hedge funds were similarly shunned.

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Posted: 24th, October 2013 | In: Money | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

The Daily Mail’s Witterings About X-Rated Mumsnet And Women Who Reproduce

mKokD-r1sPKrVh5vHXg1h-QFOR some reason the Daily Mail seems to think that Mumsnet has been taken over by a horde of sex crazed housewives. Something which is really very strange indeed. For most human beings are quite interested in sex so you don’t need to be sex craved to talk about it. Further, there’s something about mothers that indicates that they might actually have some experience of the subject at hand:

It is an internet forum where parents can share advice on subjects such as potty training and the spiralling cost of childcare.

But Mumsnet has also attracted thousands of posts on risqué topics, as women members clamour to share details of their explicit bedroom antics.

The website – popular with middle-class mothers – risks undermining its wholesome image because many users seem preoccupied with X-rated chatter.

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Posted: 23rd, October 2013 | In: Money, Reviews | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Sexism: The Fault Is In Ourselves, Not Google’s Autocomplete

THIS is a rather fun finding, the UN has actually managed to do something both useful and interesting. There’s a piece in the Guardian about it here and the main page of the project is here.

What they’ve done is go to Google, typed in part of a query and seen how Google autocomplete finishes it off:

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Posted: 23rd, October 2013 | In: Money, Technology | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

What Is It With The French Ruling Classes And Bad Economics?

ONE of the things that grates, now that we have to share this EU system of government with them, is the way in which the French ruling classes seem not to have the first clue about economics:

In a rare alliance, France’s ruling Socialist Party and the opposition UMP Party approved a new bill banning the company and other online retailers from shipping discounted books for free. It comes in the form of an amendment to a 32-year-old law that sets the value of new books at fixed prices.

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Posted: 22nd, October 2013 | In: Money | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Row Over Muslim Woman’s Pubic Hair Costs Taxpayers £350,000

high court pubic copy

TO shave or not to shave? What says the judge who oversaw a case costing £350,000 that hinged on whether a disabled 23-year-old Muslim woman should have shaved pubic hair?

Her parents wanted it shaved before she returned home to live with them. They said it was a Muslim matter. The council, which cares for the woman, said it was unsure if the woman understood what the procedure meant. So. It went to court.

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Posted: 22nd, October 2013 | In: Money, Reviews, Strange But True | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Why Do People Live So Damn Long In Eastbourne And Die Earlier In Liverpool?


WHY do people live so long in Eastbourne? This is interesting:

Eastbourne has become the first place in the country to boast a population with an average age of more than 70.

The Meads district of the famously genteel East Sussex town was identified by the Office for National Statistics as having the oldest residents in England and Wales.

Named by officials as Eastbourne 012B, the well-heeled area has a population with an average age of 71.1, compared with the national average of 39.7.

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Posted: 22nd, October 2013 | In: Money | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Should Apple Throw $150 Billion at Shareholders or Not?

ONE investor in Apple, Carl Icahn, has demanded that Apple should throw $150 billion of the company’s money at shareholders. It seems like a reasonable enough idea, given that the company’s money does actually belong to the shareholders, but there’s a couple of minor problems. The most obvious being that despite Apple having $150 billion in cash it would have to go and borrow to pay that amount to the shareholders:

Mr Icahn took to Twitter to disclose that he had used a dinner meeting to press the tech giant’s chief executive Tim Cook to carry out further share buybacks. He said he had “pushed hard” for more share purchases by the iPhone and iPad maker.

Buybacks reward investors by lifting earnings per share and Apple shares rose 2.4pc on the news the influential investor was pressing the company over its share purchases.

“Had a cordial dinner with Tim last night,” Mr Icahn said on Twitter. “We pushed hard for a $150bn buyback. We decided to continue dialogue in about three weeks.”

Mr Icahn later told CNBC that he had invested $2bn in Apple. He added that the tech group’s finance chief had also attended the meal with Mr Cook.

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Posted: 22nd, October 2013 | In: Money, Technology | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

We Know You’re Reading This At Work You Know: Google’s Online News Explainer


ONE of the things that’s become increasingly apparent in the development of this ‘ere internet thing over the last couple of decades is that everyone’s reading it at work. We seem to have shifted the “finding out the news” thing away from free or leisure time into the working hours of the day and the week.

Anyone who has ever run a website knows this little point: traffic starts to rise from a particular timezone as people start to arrive at work in that timezone. UK traffic is pitiful before about 8.30 am and rises strongly after 9.30 am. It then falls away again around 5 pm. US traffic starts to rise around 8 am East Coast Time and continues to rise until the Californians get in several hours later.

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Posted: 21st, October 2013 | In: Money, Reviews, Technology | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Nuclear Nutjobs In Hinkley Point, Somerset: But Jobs Are A Cost Of Doing Something


IT’S a strange thing to be boasting about goings on in Hinkley Point, Somerset.

David Cameron has hailed as “brilliant news” the £16bn of new investment and 25,000 jobs he says will come to Britain as the Government struck a deal for the country’s first new nuclear plant in a generation on Monday.

Yes, it’s great that they’re finally going to build the damn nuke. It’ll reduce carbon emissions and the likelihood that the lights will go out. But it always astonishes me when politicians tells us how many jobs are going to be created by their plans.

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Posted: 21st, October 2013 | In: Money | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

But Boots Isn’t Avoiding Any Tax So What Are They Blathering About?


IT appears that the next part of the increasingly creaky tax campaign is to go after Boots:

 Alliance Boots, which became Britain’s biggest private equity buyout in 2007, could have received UK tax bills of more than £1.1bn over the last six years, had colossal interest payments on the group’s billions of pounds of borrowings not depressed the chemist and retail group’s UK profits, according to tax campaigners.

A report, commissioned by Unite, War on Want and US union group Change to Win, found that Alliance Boots generated UK taxable profits, before interest costs, of £4.5bn between 2008 and 2013. But it also incurred financing costs of £4.2bn over the same period, reducing its UK taxable profits to just £313m.

That’s a bit weird. For there’s no such thing as taxable profits before interest. Interest is an expense of the company so therefore it gets taken off gross profits before they become taxable profits.

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Posted: 18th, October 2013 | In: Money | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

For China’s Professional Cigarette Smokers Life Is Good

smoking china

LI Hui is a cigarette tester. She tests them by smoking them. And she loves her job:

As one of hundreds of “tobacco appraisers” in China, Li Hui, a petite, pony-tailed mother, has been smoking up to 30 cigarettes a day for more than 20 years. “It’s my job, and I like it,” Li explained in a long profile in the Global Times, a Chinese state-run newspaper. “Besides, I haven’t seen anyone around me or my friends getting sick from smoking yet.”

Li’s attitude, and the fact that she works for an officially-sanctioned company, Heilongjiang Tobacco Industrial, encapsulate the paradoxes China faces in dealing with a smoking epidemic. The country has over 320 million smokers, more than the population of the United States and over one-third of the world’s total, and the government has been taking small steps to try to discourage smoking, as Quartz previously reported. But with the country’s tobacco regulator and much of the tobacco industry controlled by the state – and tobacco taxes making up as much as 10 percent of state revenues – it’s a tough battle.

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Posted: 16th, October 2013 | In: Money, Strange But True, The Consumer | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

All Hail The Corporate Content Sherpa Making Mountains Out Of Molehills

North_face sherpa

WOULD you like to be a Sherpa? No, not a Himalayan Sherpa, who risk life and limb for glory. A man or woman (surely guy? ed) who can do the jobs the gofer did before they got a YouTube Channel and stock:

The job title shows up as a branding tool: strategy sherpa and ideas sherpas; on Twitter and LinkedIn there’s the Gym Sherpa, the Human Resources Sherpa, the Tech Sherpa, and a startup sherpa or two, as well as quite a few social media sherpas. The Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development has two staff members with sherpa in their titles, including its chief of staff Gabriela Ramos. Hannah Morgan has been known as the Career Sherpa since 2008. “One reason the sherpa term has become hip is because it sounds less arrogant than expert or guru. And it sounds more unique than ‘guide,’” said Morgan.

Only, Morgan, it can make you sounds like a otherworldly dick. Tread carefully…

Posted: 16th, October 2013 | In: Money, Reviews | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0