Money in the news and how you are going to pay and pay and pay
HOW was the bedroom tax for you? Did you manage to save for your next egg? Did you keep up with payments? The Housing association Valleys to Coast in Bridgend thanks you for fighting on through the austerity crisis by sending you a letter in the post and the chance to pick up a 60p ‘Creme Egg’.
Locals are welcome to take their own (rotten) eggs round to the Money Matters team and return the favour.
YOU may or may not worry very much about some of the richest workers on the planet getting screwed over by the companies they work for. We tend to worry more about the poor getting so screwed. But Google, Apple, Intel and a number of other big Silicon Valley firms are getting sued by their engineers for the way in which they’ve screwed them over in recent years.
But next month, Google, Apple, Intel and Adobe will be in the dock to face the same opponent.
A group of technology executives is suing the companies for alleged collusion to suppress their wages, after they signed a series of “no-poach” pacts barring them from recruiting each other’s staff.
The companies, whose collective value tops $890bn (£530bn), could be forced to pay handsomely to compensate them for the losses, but they are likely to be far more worried about the details the case will expose.
THE claim is that garden centres lose £5,000 each by being forced to close on Easter Sunday. This is, of course, an intolerable imposition of Christian rules on a country that isn’t in fact very Christian any more.
However, it should be said that their claim doesn’t have quite as much power to it as they seem to think:
Garden centres want rules reviewed which force them to close on Easter Sunday, causing them to lose up to £75m in takings.
The Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) said trading rules, which force shops of more than 3,000 sq ft (280 sq m) to close on Easter Sunday and Christmas Day are old fashioned and should be reviewed, allowing families to enjoy garden centres for longer.
They also said the laws mean garden centres lose out on around £5,500 each by staying shut for the day.
Raoul Curtis-Machin of the HTA told BBC News: “That’s a potential economic boost to the country of up to £75m.”
It’s that economic boost to the country thing there that is wrong. It’s true that if those shops all stayed open and if they all sold £5,000 worth of gear then recorded GDP would change by £75 million. We would have £75 million more GDP recorded in the garden centre sector. However, just because garden centres are open on one extra day7 does not mean that shoppers are going to spend more in garden centres. We would expect at least some of that being spent to move from other days. Easter Monday takings, or Good Friday ones, might well fall as a result of being open on Easter Sunday.
And it’s also true that the total amount of what people spend on everything isn’t going to change as a result of people being able to buy aspidistras on Easter Sunday. What isn’t spent in garden centres will be spent in cafes, fish and chip shops, pubs, whatever.
Being open or not being open on Easter Sunday will really only change that portion of what we’re all going to spend anyway that goes to garden centres: and much of the extra turnover will be the movement of purchases at garden centres from one day to another. There won’t be any change in overall GDP as a result of their being able to open that one extra day.
All of this is nothing to do with whether they should be open on that day, whether we are being religiously sectarian in insisting upon these rules, but the argument they’re putting forward themselves just doesn’t really work.
AS two different people have now noted, Matt Yglesias and Matt Levine, Yahoo is now officially valued at less than nothing. Which, for a company that has a $40 billion price tag on the markets is a pretty strange thing to try and say. But it also happens to be true.
The conundrum is explained by the fact that there are really two different things here. One is the business that makes up Yahoo, the other the company that owns that business. And that company owns not just the business Yahoo but also good sized chunks of two other businesses, Yahoo Japan and Alibaba, a Chinese internet company (not unlike Amazon). If we take the value of Yahoo the company and subtract from it the value of the stake in Alibaba then we get a negative number. Take away the value of that stake in Yahoo Japan and it becomes even larger.
“THIS is the first time I have recovered gold from the stomach of a patient,” said C S Ramachandran, a senior surgeon at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi. He has just treated man who had been experiencing stomach aches. The man said he had rowed with his wife, and swallowed a bottle cap. Which is an easy thing to happen, a common occurrence that would raise no suspicions.
Says the surgeon of the 400g of gold he found inside the man: “I remember having taken out a bladder stone weighing 1kg from a patient. But finding gold in a patient’s stomach was something unbelievable.”
Dan Snay Invents A New Way To Upset Parents On Social Media: Boasting Florida Teen Costs Parents A Mint
DANA Snay cost her father £80,000. When dear Dana realised her headmaster father had won an age-discrimination lawsuit against his former employer, the Miami-based Gulliver Preparatory School, she started to boast.
She told her Facebook friends:
“Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.”
OR at least Starbucks is going to be relocating it’s European HQ to the UK. Which, after all that fuss about how much tax Starbucks was or was not paying in this country is a bit of a turnaround.
The basic background for those who need a refresher: Starbucks was noted not to be paying any corporation tax in the UK. On the grounds that it wasn’t making any profit so why should it? Then in the details people noted that it was sending royalties, tax free, to Holland, and paying a margin on coffee it bought from lower tax Switzerland. Aha! so, tax avoidance! Except, when those were added back in then Starbucks was still making a loss. And then decided to cough up some tax anyway in order to get the loons from UKUncut off its premises.
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.
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.