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Money | Anorak - Part 20

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

Magician turns dollar bills into hundreds for the homeless

SNEER all you want, but now and then, it is great to put a little sunshine in that grey brain of yours. Mocking celebrities, laughing at misfortune and all that is great fun for those of us who enjoy gallows humour, but sometimes, we need to get gooey and break out a huge, wet grin.

The person who will be responsible for that today is a nice magician who used his powers to help out some destitute folks in need of a pick-me-up.

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Posted: 18th, June 2013 | In: Money, News | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Supreme Court rules that US companies cannot own the patents on human genes

SO. Can you patent human genes? The US Supreme Court – yep, it actually got that far before someone saw sanity – said you cannot:

The case involved Myriad Genetics Inc., which holds patents related to two genes, known as BRCA1 and BRCA2, that can indicate whether a woman has a heightened risk of developing breast cancer or ovarian cancer.

Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the court, said the genes Myriad isolated are products of nature, which aren’t eligible for patents.

The high court’s ruling was a win for a coalition of cancer patients, medical groups and geneticists who filed a lawsuit in 2009 challenging Myriad’s patents. Thanks to those patents, the Salt Lake City company has been the exclusive U.S. commercial provider of genetic tests for breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

The challengers argued the patents have allowed Myriad to dictate the type and terms of genetic screening available for the diseases, while also dissuading research by other laboratories.

America is going mad – stark, raving mad.

Spotter: @tylercowen

Posted: 13th, June 2013 | In: Money, Technology | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Sainsbury’s Boss Spouts Bollocks: boss wants internet firm to pay supermarket-sized business rates

THIS really is a bit much coming from the boss of Sainsbury’s. It’s total and complete bollocks: my assumption is that it’s a direct attempt to mislead. He’s claiming that a US law which makes internet sellers pay sales tax (our equivalent is  VAT) means that we should have a law that makes internet sellers pay business rates as if they had huge shops all over the place.

In the UK, Mr King is one of a number of high-profile retailers who have warned that businesses rates, a tax on commercial property, are crippling the high street because there is no equivalent for online retailers.

“The burden of taxation falls very heavily on bricks and mortar retailers,” Mr King said. “I think we need to rebalance the tax burden.”

Business rates are costing the retail industry more than £7bn a year and increased by an inflation-linked £175m in April. The British Retail Consortium, the trade body, has held talks with the Treasury about their concerns after a string of high street retailers collapsed into administration earlier in the year.

Mr King said the Marketplace Fairness Act was designed “specifically to address this issue”. Shop owners in the US have backed the tax, although it has proved controversial because of concerns about how the tax can be collected when online transactions occur across state and national boundaries.

No it wasn’t you numpty. It’s got absolutely sod all to do with property taxes (the US equivalent of business rates).

Until very recently an online retailer in the US did not add sales tax to its bills (only if it had an actual office in the state it was sending the stuff to did it add it). The MFA changes this, so internet retailers will now collect the sales tax of the place that the goods are sent to. This is just like the VAT system in Europe. You’re in the UK, you pay UK VAT on what you buy over the internet (except electronic books and software for some reason). You’re in Germany, you pay German VAT.

Business rates are an entirely different matter. You pay these based on the value of the property that you run the business from. And not unaturally, shops on the high street are worth more than a shed on some trading estate in the wilds of the Midlands. Thus the online retailers do indeed have an advantage: but it’s an entirely natural and just one. They pay less in property taxes because they use less property.

What King is saying here is that it’s unfair that I pay more petrol tax filling up a Chelsea tractor than if I fill up a Ford Fiesta. Well, yes, that’s the point of it, isn’t it? I’m using more so I should be paying more tax.

God knows where he got the idea that we’d be taken in by this from.

Posted: 13th, June 2013 | In: Money | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0


The Glorious Bolivarian Socialist Revolution: country runs out of toilet paper

THERE are economic cock ups and then there are economic cock ups. OK, so allowing half the banks to go bust in 2008 doesn’t make neoliberalism look all that good, sure. But allowing a nation to run out of toilet paper is the sort of thing that only happens in Bolivarian socialism:

Toilet roll has been in short supply in the South American country in recent months, with economists blaming price controls imposed by the government.

The new programme, launched last week, uses crowdsourcing technology to enable users to let each other know which supermarkets still have stocks of the tissue.

Called Abasteceme – “Supply Me” in English – the free Android app has already been downloaded more than 12,000 times.

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Posted: 12th, June 2013 | In: Money | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0


We’ve probably got enough government now they’re rationing chips

WE’VE definitely got enough government when they can nick £30 million off us to fund people to tell us to order fewer chips with our meals.

Restaurant customers ought to order smaller plates of chips, the Government’s recycling advisers have declared.

They say that too many people leave cold fried potatoes uneaten on their plates – and as a result hundreds of thousands of tons of food waste each year have to be dumped by pubs, restaurants and fast food chains.

They called for waiters to be trained to tell customers they ought to have less chips, and for ‘stealth menus’ designed to encourage diners to go for lighter meals.

The campaign against chips was launched by the Waste and Resources Action Programme, a £30million-a-year quango set up to encourage more recycling.

Fire them, burn the building to the ground and plough the land with salt so they can never come back.

Quite apart from the stupidity of grown adults trying to tell other grown adults such things they’re supposed to be encouraging us into recycling. And we’ve had for centuries a very efficient method of recycling food scraps. Feed ’em to the pigs. Except that’s now been banned, you can’t feed swill to them any more. Despite the fact that they love it and we’ve gothundreds of thousands of tonnes of stuff that could be used to make bacon.

‘Mmmm. Bacon.

So yes, we’ve definitely got too much government and really ought to be cutting back on it.

Posted: 12th, June 2013 | In: Money | Comments (3) | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0


So is Thames Water tax dodging or not?

THERE are a few alarm bells ringing about this story. Here’s the Mail’s take:

Britain’s biggest water company paid no corporation tax last year despite imposing inflation-busting price rises on millions of customers.

Thames Water made profits of £549million last year after sales rose six per cent to £1.8billion.

But the Australian-backed group, which serves nine million customers in London and the Thames Valley, paid nothing in corporation tax – and even received a £5million tax credit.

No, really, no. That just doesn’t pass the laugh test. A company that has its prices controlled by the government (OK, the water regulator) just isn’t going to be making a net profit of 30% of sales. Simply not feasible.
Here’s where the error is:

The group also spent £400million in interest payments for its £8.4billion debts

Posted: 11th, June 2013 | In: Money | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0


The rich get richer but absolute poverty is being beaten

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WE’RE regularly told that rising inequality is a great social evil: that it’s far better if places are more equal, that people are more equal, whatever the level of actual wealth that has been achieved.

At which point people like me start shouting “Piffle!”. For while it might indeed be true that at any level of general wealth less inequality might be a good idea (depends upon your personal views really, but it’s possible) it seems clear and obvious that everyone being equal at $1 a day is worse than having more inequality but most people are on much more than $1 a day.

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Posted: 10th, June 2013 | In: Money | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0


On the front line at the Bilderberg Group summit – Watford (photos)

THE Bilderberg Group summit has rolled into Watford. The annual meeting of royalty, politicians, billionaire investors, banking and corporate CEOs, policy-makers and media moguls from all over the world is in Elton John’s hometown. For three days, Watford isn’t all about hot hatchbacks, smoking in Cassiobury Park and Harry Potter World. It;s about money and power meeting in secret behind police protection.

If you’re looking for a conspiracy to believe in, the Bilderberg Group is a good place to start. US radio host Alex Jones (pictured below) says of the BG: “The Devil is trying to create an artificial, omnipresent system. If you don’t believe in the Devil, folks, you haven’t studied. Everything these people do is to try to become God.”

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Posted: 7th, June 2013 | In: Money, News | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0


London’s Green Belt is simply a subsidy to land owners

YES, yes, I know, it’s absolutely lovely that people can’t build over Surrey and Sussex and Hampshire: not that anyone would care of they did Essex. And that’s what the Green Belt around London is said to achieve: to stop those horrible ribbon developments of the 1930s. You know, those large spacious houses with a decent garden that everyone wants to live in and which cost over £1 million a pop these days?

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Posted: 6th, June 2013 | In: Money | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0


The massive Lionel Richie head Kickstarter is go

WHAT the world needs is a huge head modelled to look like Lionel Richie’s noggin. If this Kickstarter project can make it, the world will have what it needs.

For your money you get  “internal turbines to keep his head up, internal sandbags to keep his head down” and “Head Guards” to protect the head from human lice. You also get a “Lionel Richie Head Paper Mask” (£9), and  “a chance for and your partner to stay overnight in Lionel Richie’s Head” (£1,000).

A good looking Lionel Richie Head at a respectable height (3m) will cost us £4,900… We hope with the possible success of raising the money to make a 3m inflatable sculpture, that we also reach our additionally intended ‘Stretch Goal’ of £10k. This money will be used to make Lionel Richie’s Head bigger (6m). Making it bigger allows us to create a portal that will let Bestivalers go inside Lionel Richie’s Head. 

hello lionel richie head

Posted: 5th, June 2013 | In: Celebrities, Money | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0


So this has been Amazon’s plan all along, eh? France gets it wrong, as ever

WHAT is Amazon’s big plan? We know now:

France’s culture minister has attacked Amazon, the online retailer, for deliberately undercutting traditional rivals to create a “quasi-monopoly”, in the latest assault by the socialist government on internet companies.

“Today, everyone has had enough of Amazon which, through dumping practices, smashes prices to penetrate markets to then raise prices again once they are in a situation of quasi-monopoly,” said Aurélie Filippetti, the culture minister.

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Posted: 4th, June 2013 | In: Money | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0


What? Food Banks Show The Government Must Do More!

THIS is a very strange argument being used here ion regard to food banks.

There is poverty: yes. There are people who cannot afford, for some reason, lots of lovely food. So, of course, we all want everyone to be able to fill their bellies. We’re certainly a rich enough country for that. But then the argument goes haywire:

Massive cuts to social safety nets have led to “destitution, hardship and hunger on a large scale” in Britain, with more than half a million people now forced to rely on food banks for sustenance, key poverty charities have warned in a report.

Well, no. If people are getting their food from foodbanks then this shows that they’re not going hungry, doesn’t it?

Try the same logic again with a different example: lots of people getting benefits shows that there’s destitution and hunger. No it doesn’t, lots of people getting benefits means that lots of destitution and hunger is being avoided.

People who would be destitute or hungry are now not because they get money. And so it is with food banks. That lots of people are using food banks is evidence that much hunger is being avoided. Because people are being given food.

Posted: 3rd, June 2013 | In: Money | Comment (1) | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Greed is good – Jason Trigg proves it

IF you were thinking about how you might make the world a better place your career options might include joining an NGO or charity. Going and digging wells in Kenya perhaps. Or working to develop treatments for Third World diseases. Or you could instead do something effective about it. After all, there’s no shortage of muscle in Kenya to dig wells and not all that many of us have the skills to develop new drugs.

Instead, why not try to make as much money as you can in the gory world of investment banking: then give it away?

Jason Trigg went into finance because he is after money — as much as he can earn.

The 25-year-old certainly had other career options. An MIT computer science graduate, he could be writing software for the next tech giant. Or he might have gone into academia in computing or applied math or even biology. He could literally be working to cure cancer.

Instead, he goes to work each morning for a high-frequency trading firm. It’s a hedge fund on steroids. He writes software that turns a lot of money into even more money. For his labors, he reaps an uptown salary — and over time his earning potential is unbounded. It’s all part of the plan.

Why this compulsion? It’s not for fast cars or fancy houses. Trigg makes money just to give it away. His logic is simple: The more he makes, the more good he can do.

He’s figured out just how to take measure of his contribution. His outlet of choice is the Against Malaria Foundation, considered one of the world’s most effective charities. It estimates that a $2,500 donation can save one life. A quantitative analyst at Trigg’s hedge fund can earn well more than $100,000 a year. By giving away half of a high finance salary, Trigg says, he can save many more lives than he could on an academic’s salary.

It’s actually rather more fun to be hanging out with the hippy chicks at the NGO. But this is almost certainly more effective: producing the wealth that saves people’s lives. And the thing is, while not all of us can do the actual life saving part, all of us can indeed go earn money to make it happen. In which case there might well be something to be said for this greed thing. Make as much as you can: it’s what you do with it that counts.

Posted: 3rd, June 2013 | In: Money | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Does Margaret, Lady Hodge, know anything about payday loans? Not much

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DOES Margaret Hodge know what she’s talking about?

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has accused the watchdog of failing to properly regulate or even understand the burgeoning market. The OFT has instead been “passively waiting for complaints from customers before acting”, the MPs said.

Margaret Hodge, chairman of the PAC, lambasted the OFT’s regulatory efforts claiming it has “never given a fine to any of the 72,000 firms in this market” and has “very rarely revokes a company’s licence”,

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Posted: 3rd, June 2013 | In: Money | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Investors worry that the market has reached Peak Facebook?

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THIS might not be good news for people who (follishly) invested in Facebook stock at the IPO. There’s a distinct possibility that we’ve already reached peak Facebook and that it’s just not going to get any better from here.

There’s four things that determine how much money Facebook can make. How many users it has, how much time they spend using it, how many ads Facebook can show them in that time and the price FB can charge for those ads. To boost profits Facebook would rather like all four to be rising. However, in the mature territories, that’s not what seems to be happening.

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Posted: 30th, May 2013 | In: Money, Technology | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0


We’ve reached peak farmland! Millions of humans will die (maybe)

EEK! We’ve reached peak farmland: we’ll not expand the fields ever again. That, of course, spells doom for all of us human beans, as there will be ever less food for ever more people. Woe is us.

Except that’s not actually what is being predicted. Rather, that because we’re using farmland ever more efficiently we’ll never need to plough up more forest to make fields:

American corn farmers currently average about 180 bushels per acre, and the world average is around 82. Ausubel and his colleagues assume a modest 1.7 percent annual increase in corn yields between 2010 and 2060, which implies that “the average global yield in 2060 would resemble the average U.S. yield in 2010.”

One concern is that farmers may be approaching the biological limits of photosynthesis, which would constrain crop yields. But the authors note that the winners of the annual National Corn Yield Contest currently produce nonirrigated yields of around 300 bushels per acre, nearly double average U.S. yields. Ausubel suggests that the difference between the global average of 82 bushels and contest-winning 300 bushels per acre yields means that “much headroom remains.”

All that’s necessary is to get global average crop yields up to current US average crop yields and we’ll be fine. And the good thing about that is that we know how to get crop yileds up. For we do it today, so we must know how to do it.

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Posted: 30th, May 2013 | In: Money | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Bureaucracy will kill Bitcoin

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BITCOIN’S this shiny new form of money that has hal the geeks and the libertarians shouting for joy. There’s no government involvement, it’s all entirely produced by code, there’s no nation attached to it and most importantly, there’s no name attached to an account. This makes it superb for anonymous shuffling of money around. And that, of course, is why it’s going to get killed by the bureaucracy:

With mounting pressure on online money exchanges from US regulators, payments processor OKPay has announced that it is suspending processing for all Bitcoin exchanges, including industry leader Mt. Gox.

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Posted: 30th, May 2013 | In: Money | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Lorra Laughs: Comedians are making even more than footballers

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ARE comics making more cash than footballers? Yes. So we’re told:

Laughing all the way to the bank: The comics who are earning a fortune and even overtaking Premier League footballers.

Peter Kay tops the list, pocketing £32.8million in the past two years.

Michael McIntyre next highest earner on the list with earnings topping £21m.

Third is John Bishop reporting profits of £6.3m in two years.

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Posted: 28th, May 2013 | In: Celebrities, Money, Sports | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Is this the worst application to be a journalist ever?

SO. You want to work on the Wimbledon Guardian?

journalist

 

Spotter: Omar Oakes

Posted: 24th, May 2013 | In: Money | Comment (1) | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Structural change not shopping is killing the High Street

marks and spencer online

THIS is an interesting little piece of news from Marks and Spencer:

Marks & Spencer is to stop opening new general stores in the UK amid a shift to internet shopping.

The company will build four new large outlets over the next three years, but then call a halt to 129 years of bricks and mortar expansion.

Bosses believe that the popularity of ‘click and collect’ means people will be buying more online and either collecting from its existing stores or getting home deliveries.

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Posted: 24th, May 2013 | In: Money | Comment (1) | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0


African coins find does not mean we have to rewrite the history of Australia

african coins australia

THE Mail’s got itself all in a tither about a find of African money off the coast of Australia. Apparently this means that the entire history of the place has to be rewritten. Err, no, it doesn’t: it’s an interesting little find, to be sure, but it doesn’t change the history of Oz in any appreciable manner at all.

Five copper coins found in northern Australia could rewrite the country’s history.

The coins are thought to date back as early as the 900s and are believed to have originated in Africa.

Written history of Australia only dates back to 1606, when Dutch explorers landed in the region, and researchers from Indiana University want to find out how the thousand-year-old copper coins ended up on the other side of the Indian Ocean six centuries earlier.

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Posted: 24th, May 2013 | In: Money | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0


James Dean returns from the dead to flog banking in this advert

james dean lived

WHAT if James Dean had lived? Allan Gray Investment bired King James agency to chew over that quesiton.

Allan Gray is a South African investment management company.

Our purpose is to help our investors build wealth over the long term and we seek to earn the trust of our clients by providing superior long-term investment performance, outstanding client service and holding ourselves to the highest ethical standards.

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Posted: 21st, May 2013 | In: Celebrities, Money, The Consumer | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Global warming will boiled us all to death, say Manhattan experts

THIS is a fascinating little example of how the debate of climate change gets very skewed. In fact, the report is more interesting for what it says about that than it is in its intended actual result.

The number of people dying from unbearable heat in big cities could almost double because of climate change, according to new research.

A study in Manhattan found the number of fatalities caused by global warming will far outstrip the reductions in those perishing from the cold.

It follows a report last year by the Health Protection Agency that warned heat related deaths in the UK will increase by more than 10,000 annually – a fivefold rise.

It’s undoubtedly true that if and when global warming happens then more people will die of the heat than happens now. So the finding isn’t all that odd.

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Posted: 20th, May 2013 | In: Money, News | Comments (2) | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0


The elite are manipulating petrol prices

AFTER the inquiry into the crud oil prices is announced we’ve got the AA leaping in and insisting that there’s another group conspiring and manipulating to make the petrol made from crude more expensive.

Few of the traders’ names – including Glencore, Cargill, Gunvor and Trafigura – are known to consumers outside the oil industry, but their effect on Britain’s 33million motorists and the wider economy is profound.

They buy huge quantities of petroleum on the open market and store it until the price goes high enough to make them a handsome profit, at which point they sell.

Hmm.
There’s a slight problem with this sort of story. It assumes that these manipulators know that the price is going to rise in advance. That’s why they buy and store of course, because they know. And it’s not really possible to know that prices are going to rise: so there’s got to be something odd about the story itself.
So let’s think about what that might be. There’s a group of people out there who buy up lots of petrol from the refineries. They hang on to it for some amount of time and then they ship it on, in smaller amounts per sale but of course the same total amount, off to the petrol stations. They make a profit doing this.
What might we call these people? Possibly they’re wholesalers?
And that is indeed the business that those named companies are in. They might be speculating a little on the side, sure, but their main business is in transferring the very large amounts the refineries sell into the much smaller amounts that the petrol stations actually want to buy. Just like there are food wholesalers who buy shiploads of bananas and split them up into the truck loads that the supermarkets want.
We might even think that the AA has got the wrong end of the stick here….

Posted: 19th, May 2013 | In: Money | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Homeless man proves Atheists are more generous than Christians and Muslims

RELIGIONS are often the first to point out how good charity is and that we should always reach out to those in need. However, one homeless chap has conducted an experiment which shows religious people aren’t taking their own advice.

The homeless man, as seen in a Reddit thread, bears a sign that says: “Which religion cares the most about the homeless?” There are nine begging bowls in front of him, each with money in them.

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Posted: 16th, May 2013 | In: Money, News | Comment (1) | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0