Money in the news and how you are going to pay and pay and pay
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.
THE reason being that when bankers get bonuses then we get most of it flowing right back into the Treasury in the form of taxes. Which makes this complaint of hers really quite remarkably stupid:
Barclays, HSBC, RBS and Lloyds are paying themselves £5.5bn in bonuses this year. How much is that? About a penny and a half off the income tax, or the cost of the BBC plus the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, and museums. Look how strenuously the bankers are avoiding the EU’s new rules limiting bonuses to a stingy 100% of salary, or 200% with shareholder approval. Astonishingly, George Osborne is taking legal action against the EU to try to get this lifted. The Bank of England’s plan announced yesterday – a six-year period in which bonuses can be clawed back in the case of serious wrongdoing – would be hard to effect, says the High Pay Centre. Instead, slithering round the law, the banks re-badge bonuses as “monthly allowances”, while the regulator turns a blind eye: ignoring the spirit of the law is regulatory capture – and we know where that led last time.
Of course, Barclay’s and the other banks are not paying themselves anything at all: they’re paying the staff their wages. And we can make all sorts of complaints about how much they get, for sure, but to complain about tax is simply ludicrous. For here’s what happens when the banks pay those bonuses. First, out of the total amount of the bonus, the government gets 13.8% of the cash in employers’ national insurance. Then, out of what’s left, it gets 45% in income tax and 2 % in employee’s national insurance. Let’s call that 55% or so in total, just to do a bit of rounding.
THIS is excellent news really, that the CIA has been spying on the people in the Senate over in the US. OK, in one sense it’s a bit naughty as the CIA isn’t supposed to ever do anything domestically. And the Yanks also tend to frown a bit on one part of the Executive part of government trying to interfere with a part of the Legislative side of government. They’re supposed to be quite different. But this can still be seen as cheering news:
A bitter dispute between the CIA and the U.S. Senate committee that oversees it burst into the open on Tuesday when the committee chairwoman accused the agency of spying on Congress and possibly breaking the law.
Veteran Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said the CIA had searched computers used by committee staffers examining CIA documents when researching the agency’s counter-terrorism operations and its use of harsh interrogation methods such as simulated drowning or “waterboarding.”
THESE people really should have known just given the name of the scheme. Quite the best story about alternative currencies today:
This is pure comedy gold. Operator of a bitcoin ponzi website has decided to pull a runner without paying people out:
I usually don’t laugh at other people’s misfortune but it’s kind of hard not to laugh when someone knowingly invests in a ponzi scheme, loses money and then gets upset.
MATTERS at the Bitcoin exchange in Japan, Mt. Gox, are getting ever murkier: ever more fascinatingly interesting in fact. For hackers have now broken into the exchange and gobbled up a lot of the internal documents. And, of course, printed them out on the internet. You can see part of it here.
To give you the background to the story. Bitcoin is the new supper must have shiny technology. It’s essentially a new form of money or, if you prefer, a new way of making payments. You really only need on piece of technical information to grasp the point of it all.
CHARLES de Ganahl Koch is an American businessman and philanthropist. He is co-owner, chairman of the board, and chief executive officer of Koch Industries.
In 2010, he told the Wall Street Journal: “Corporate Cronyism Harms America.”
You name it, in every industry we have this. The successful companies try to keep the new entrants down. Now that’s great for a company like ours. We make more money that way because we have less competition and less innovation. But for the country as a whole, it’s horrible. And for disadvantaged people trying to get started, it’s unconscionable in my view. I think it’s in our long-term interest, in every American’s long-term interest, to fight against this cronyism.
ANORAK’s new distraction is the Tumblr Casting Call Woe:
REAL CASTING CALLS FROM REAL CASTING WEBSITES BROUGHT TO BY THe EGLE-EYEDE @PRORESTING
Ready for your close up? Here goes:
OR alternatively, don’t try ordering in an escort until you’re sure that your son’s girlfriend isn’t one:
An elderly Italian man got a rather unwelcome surprise when he ordered an escort – and his son’s girlfriend turned up.
The 70-year-old from Treviso, a city in the northern region of Veneto, hired the escort from the neighbouring town of Vicenza.
But to his shock, it was his 40-year-old son’s South American girlfriend who arrived at his house, The Local reported, citing Italian newspaper Il Gazzettino.
Red-faced, the pair declined to take the encounter further and swiftly parted ways.
THIS is a fun little finding about how much leisure time people seem to have. It rather gives the lie to those complaints of ever greater working time that we hear so often:
It is a statistic likely to raise eyebrows in more than a few households but an international study has crowned British women among the “queens of leisure” of the western world.
A new comparison published by the OECD found that women in the UK have – or at least admit to having – more leisure time than their counterparts in any other EU country and second only to those in Norway among the world’s leading economies.
It claims that British women clock up an average of 339 minutes a day relaxing – almost 70 per cent more than those in Portugal enjoy and 61 per cent more leisure than Chinese women have.
Who would have thought it, eh? Especially when we’ve every damn columnist in the land demanding that we do something about the work life balance?
I THINK we’re all aware these days that smoking is bad for us. That it’s probably something we shouldn’t do for the sake of our health but then again, it is our health to use or abuse as we wish.
I think we’re all also aware that vaping, or using electronic cigarettes, is an alternative to smoking. Gives people the nicotine hit but without that cloud of toxic carcinogens to go with it. So, all other things being equal we’d probably think it’s a good idea for people to switch, from one to the other. To stop smoking, or at least smoke fewer, cigarettes and to suck on some steam containing nicotine instead.
DEAR God this is one hell of a surprise, isn’t it?
The more drunk a woman looks in a bar, the more likely she is to be targeted by predatory men, a study has claimed.
Nine out of ten aggressive incidents in bars involved men approaching women because they look ‘easy’.
The research, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, investigated sexual aggression in bars.
Well knock me over with a feather and all that.
Rachel Johnson Discovers The Poor On A London Poverty Safari: London Mayor’s Sister Finds UK’s Lost Tribe
THE Times reports on Rachel Johnson, sister to London mayor Boris Johnson. She’s been on a Poverty Safari. Yes, those darling poor London wildings have been viewed:
WE’VE the usual suspects out today trying to tell us that smoking is very very bad indeed and all who do so must be held to account. The particular method today is to show how much production is lost by people going off on smoking breaks:
Cigarette breaks at work cost British businesses £8.4bn a year in lost productivity of smokers who disappear for a cigarette for 10 minutes four times a day, new research reveals.
Smoking breaks cost employers £1,815 a year for each full-time member of staff who lights up during working hours, according to a study for the British Heart Foundation (BHF) carried out by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR).
This is of course piffle.
THERE are indeed things wrong with this world and it behoves us all to pay attention and try to make the world a better place by solving such problems. However, whining about what Google puts in its front page as a doodle may not actually be one of these things.
Activists have accused Google of being racist and sexist in their choice of figures to create the firm’s much loved Google Doodles for.
Spark, which describes itself as a ‘girl-fueled activist movement’, said its analysis found the majority of Google’s doodles were of white males.
It said the accolade was the modern equivalent of being put on a stamp, and said ‘it’s uncommon for Google to celebrate historical women of color.’
THERE’S an argument around and about the place that paying benefits to poor people just ends up as a subsidy to the people who pay them scummy wages. The argument being that as the taxpayer is picking up part of the bill of keeping body and soul together then the employer can get away with paying peanuts.
To which my usual response has always been, well, great, let’s abolish all benefits then and see whether wages rise.
However, I’ve rather changed my mind as a result of this point:
As long as non-workers remain eligible for poverty programs, the answer is no. This is basic supply-and-demand. When the government offers free stuff to people with low incomes, the marginal benefit of work falls – and so does labor supply. When labor supply falls, hours of work go down, and wages rise. This could be very nice from the point of view of Walmart’s workers. From the point of view of Walmart’s stockholders however, it’s bad.
Not convinced? Ask yourself: “If I ran Walmart, would I favor higher unemployment benefits?” Of course not. Why not? Because higher unemployment benefits make it easier to not apply for a job at Walmart. The same goes for any government program that makes idleness less unpalatable.