Money in the news and how you are going to pay and pay and pay
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.’
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.
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.”
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.
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:
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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”.
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..?
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.
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.
SO. King.com, 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.
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.
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 Zete.com, 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.
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.
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 the net profits earned by the collection of protagonists shown was $215 billion. 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.
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.
SO the latest shocking report from Oxfam tells us. That only five families are richer than the bottom 20% of Britons put together, that just one family has more wealth than the entire bottom 10%.
The scale of Britain’s growing inequality is revealed today by a report from a leading charity showing that the country’s five richest families now own more wealth than the poorest 20% of the population.
It’s both true and also complete poppycock at the same time.
In a report, a Tale of Two Britains, Oxfam said the poorest 20% in the UK had wealth totalling £28.1bn – an average of £2,230 each. The latest rich list from Forbes magazine showed that the five top UK entries – the family of the Duke of Westminster, David and Simon Reuben, the Hinduja brothers, the Cadogan family, and Sports Direct retail boss Mike Ashley – between them had property, savings and other assets worth £28.2bn.
WE’RE all used to the idea of getting our jollies fairly regularly these days. Certainly it’s all very different from Victorian times when it was supposedly marriage, celibacy or prostitution. But what is it that actually caused the change?
Some have pointed to the invention of the Pill, the first simple and reliable contraceptive but it’s possible that we’re about to find out whether that is true. For gonorrhea is making a comeback and what happens next will tell us a great deal about what happened last time around:
Gonorrhea has taken many forms over the last few decades. The strain that people acquire today isn’t the same one that previous generations had to deal with. In fact, it might not be the same strain that infected people a little over 10 years ago. That’s because gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease (STD), has become resistant to most of the antibiotics that we have used to combat it over the last three decades. That’s right: penicillin and various tetracyclines have all stopped working against the most prevalent strains. This means that today’s gonorrhea patient has very few treatment options left.