On Wednesday, The US Department of Homeland Security seized a payment processing account belonging to Mt. Gox, the largest international Bitcoin trader over claims the monetary exchange service had falsified financial documents.The US government has never hidden the fact that it is closely watching the virtual currency, which international regulators have thus far failed to keep a lid on.But while banks and governments have treated the Bitcoin payment system as an “existential threat” to current financial system, Taaki argues that the virtual currency epitomizes real free trade and is a necessary tool to maximize the benefits of a free and open market. RT: You’re at the heart of the Bitcoin system – could you explain for us in a nutshell how Bitcoin works, and why anyone would want to take part?Amir Taaki: The basic gist of it is, there is this network of people worldwide, and any person that joins the Bitcoin network is responsible for upholding it. The Bitcoin is actually a form of money, like the dollar, euro or pound, but it’s virtual currency on the Internet. It is a type of currency which is not overseen by central banks, governments or states, and there are no restrictions on how you can use it. You can send it to anyone, anywhere in the world. A person can download Bitcoin software, get set up with it in five minutes, and start accepting payments from Iran or North Korea. It’s proper free trade, not the fake kind where you need to register corporations or companies, and then you’re shut out of the market because of regulations: No! It’s the kind of money where anybody in the world can participate. It might be alright in the West, when anybody can set up an account and get a Visa or Mastercard, but it’s not the same. Paypal alone is blocking access from over 60 different countries worldwide. Bitcoin does not have any of these restrictions or limitations. The payment system is used as a political tool to shut down speech on the Internet, and that’s why the Bitcoin is so important. RT: Still, to many people the whole Bitcoin system seems to be very complex – how do we know that it’s safe and can be trusted?AT: The Bitcoin system is a really simple system because it’s based off this concept of open source. I can download the source code for Bitcoin and you can read through it. It’s like how someone [can read] French or Spanish or English – I can read the source code and see that it does exactly what it says it does. It’s something really powerful when I have Bitcoins stored on my computer and I send it over the Internet direct to someone without any middleman whatsoever using software that I wrote myself, completely. When I have a bank account, I don’t know what happens in that bank account. I don’t know who I’m dealing with or all the middlemen and institutions there. Bitcoin has none of that. It’s total control over your money.RT: As we’ve heard, the U.S. government has raided a business involved in Bitcoin transactions – could it stop BitCoin althogether, if it was determined to do so?AT: No, and this is actually great news. So far they’ve been moving covertly, in the shadows, pushing Bitcoin here and there, and this is the first time they’ve actually played their hand and made a move against Bitcoin that’s out there in the public. Bitcoin is a tool which threatens the powers of all of these institutions which have the economy rigged [in their favor]. Yesterday, I was in Canary Wharf, there are these police and they’re not even real police. They look like police, they dress like police but they’re not – they’re security guards. And they were going around harassing us when we were going to the FCA [Financial Conduct Authority] to ask questions. They will make moves against Bitcoin, because it does threaten this power that they have; this monopoly over the economy. But Bitcoin is a tool, which, if done right, cannot be censored. You can’t stop people from doing trade with each other. It’s a proper tool for free trade. I’ve been saying for a long time that we need to build Bitcoin in the underground market and things like what has just happened in the US prove this is true. We need a foundation for Bitcoin, and the underground economy doesn’t only mean drugs or guns or weapons. It means normal things like people doing trade with each other – local business sending goods to each other and trading. There’s a lot more to the underground economy than just the common picture which is painted out there. It’s something which allows people to progress and to actually create the kind of wealth and business that should be possible in a truly free market. …
The MICEX dropped 0.98 percent and will open Thursday at 1391.98. The RTS slightly eased and gained 5.83 points, closing at 1.396.76. European market indices also gained. On Asian floors, the Euro Stoxx is up 0.50 percent to 2,809.58, France’s CAC 40 is up 0.41 percent, and Germany’s DAX is making gains, up 0.28 percent, continuing its record gain ascent. Market gains appeared immune to France’s poor Q1 news which officially put them in a recession, or Germany’s slowed growth report. In London, FTSE 100 added 0.22 percent, continuing its nine-day rally, after the Bank of England revised its growth predictions for the second quarter. On Asian floors, the index dipped down to 6,990.70 at 11:29 GMT. UK lenders led the markets- Royal Bank of Scotland jumped 1.75 percent, Barclays rallied 1.83 percent and Lloyds Banking jumped 1.87 percent. US markets ended high Wednesday. The Dow Jones gained 0.40 percent and closed and the S&P 500 rose 0.51 percent, and the NASDAQ Composite edged up 0.26 percent on the New York Exchange. Analysts await US inflation and unemployment data, set to be released at 13:30 GMT. Asian stocks were mixed on Japan’s solid 3.5 percent GDP increase, easily topping 2.7 percent estimates The Nikkei fell 1.08 percent after it hit a five-year high on Wednesday. Hong Kong’s Seng gained 0.27 percent and the Shanghai Composite added 0.59 percent Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.20 percent on falling gold prices and mining weakness. The NZSE also dropped 0.21 percent, and on Thursday announced its 2013-2014 GDP growth forecast of 2.3 percent, compared to last year’s 3 percent growth. Both WTI and Brent are trading low. WTI is down 0.41 percent and trading at 93.91 and Brent is down 0.40 percent at 103.27. …
Speaking in aid of UN World Book and Copyright Day, last month U.S. Ambassador to Australia Jeffrey L. Bleich waded into the Internet piracy debate after learning that Aussies are particularly partial to downloading Game of Thrones without paying for it.
He accused half the show’s audience of being thieves which perhaps understandably caused a bit of a fuss. Bleich’s Facebook page lit up with reaction – most of it critical, some of it abusive – but, as the Ambassador now points out, “a frank exchange is a good thing”.
In a new address to those who download content from unauthorized Internet sources, Bleich recaps some of the issues, including one on many critics’ lists – doesn’t a U.S. Ambassador have anything better to do than talk about file-sharing?
“Actually, given the overwhelming response to the topic, maybe I haven’t talked about internet piracy enough,” Bleich begins. “The point is, this isn’t just about ‘Game of Thrones’ and it isn’t a small issue.”
Citing a whole bunch of figures, such as U.S. businesses “losing” $48 billion to Chinese-based copyright infringement in 2011, Bleich said piracy “is a big deal” for both the U.S. and Australia. “Fortunately, working on this topic doesn’t mean I’ll stop working on other big issues too,” he adds.
Bleich goes on to dismiss accusations that copyright enforcement is all about protecting the profits of big corporations. Game of Thrones, he says, costs $6m per episode to produce and relies on people putting money into their pockets to fund the show. However, we also know directly from mouth of HBO that the show is doing very well indeed, despite all the piracy. Bleich, however, feels this is missing the point.
The Ambassador argues that profitable shows and artists help bring niche products to market. Without Taylor Swift, One Direction and Justin Bieber, labels won’t have the money to support acts that aren’t commercially viable.
“When the labels aren’t fully compensated for the big acts (or HBO doesn’t get receipts for ‘Game of Thrones’) that means other artists won’t get a chance at all,” he says.
Bleich then goes on to address the one thing that seems to come up in every infringement debate – the notion that copying is the same / is not the same as theft. He makes some more analogies, but none of them will quieten this baby.
“Making use of someone’s property without permission — is against the law, and for the same reason as stealing. Think of it this way: no one would argue that it’s legal (or moral) to slip into a movie theater and watch a movie without paying for your ticket (even if a seat was empty and the theater still had the movie afterward). That’s basically what you do when you illegally download a video.
“Stealing is the word that comes to most people’s minds when you use something that’s not yours without permission and without paying for it. So if folks want to call it something else, that’s fine, but my point here is that it is both wrong and illegal,” he says.
But hold on just one minute – didn’t the maker of Game of Thrones and an HBO executive describe piracy of the show as a kind of compliment? They did, but Bleich is having none of it.
“Illegal immigration is a sort of compliment, too (it means people would rather live in your country than theirs) and so is having someone hit on your partner (because it means they find him/her attractive),” the Ambassador says.
“No one seriously thinks that illegal immigration or someone seducing your partner is a good thing. Likewise, the idea that people who download illegally may generate ‘more buzz’ or might decide to do the right thing and buy the next season may be true, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that you are taking something that is not yours when you illegally download content.”
Of course, no one likes the idea of someone hitting on their partner, but they aren’t exactly up for grabs in the first instance – free, paid for, or otherwise.
Countries attract illegal immigration for a number of reasons, not least because they’re a) desirable and b) hard to access by the official routes if you live in the wrong locale, which coincidentally is something Game of Thrones and HBO know a little about.
“Many companies today are working on how to deliver their products flexibly enough to meet the lifestyle and expectations of online consumers. But while they are working out the kinks, we shouldn’t be doing something that hurts people who work in the entertainment industry,” says Bleich.
“I know some people will still passionately disagree (and will let me know it). But instead of shifting blame, I’d just ask that the next time one of us considers illegally downloading a copyrighted work, we remember (and actually follow) the Lannister family code: ‘A Lannister always pays his debts’,” he concludes.
To be continued….
Source: U.S. Ambassador: Internet Piracy and Illegal Immigration are Both a ‘Compliment’
There will be gradual growth in 2013, and inflation is expected to stay within a manageable range, the International Monetary Fund said in its Asian-Pacific global economic report, released on Monday.China will remain the region’s cardinal growth engine, adding 8 percent to GDP in 2013 and 8.2 percent in 2014 the IMF report said. The Southeast Asian economies will grow about six percent in 2013 and 2014, including the Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Cambodia, according to the report.”Growth in Asia is likely pick up gradually in the course of 2013, to about 5.75 percent, on strengthening external demand and continued robust domestic demand,” it said.Along with the growth boost, the IMF advises policy makers to remain vigilant, as they must be “ready to respond early and decisively to any prospective risks of overheating”, amid widening financial imbalances in certain economies.Earlier in March, the World Bank warned the risks of overheating were increasing in some Asian economies, and that policy makers must be prepared to withdraw stimulus funds if the economy heats up too quickly.Loose monetary policy, coupled with the consumer driven economies, have driven up asset prices in the past decade, raking in high returns for investors. Stock prices in Southeast Asia have risen sharply while European economies have dipped into a second round of recession.”While the external risk of severe economic fallout from an acute euro area crisis has diminished, regional risks are coming into clearer focus. These include some ongoing buildup of financial imbalances and rising asset prices,” the report said.Greater exchange-rate flexibility in the region would play a “useful role” as a hedge against overheating.The report warned of a ‘middle-income trap’, a phenomenon when economies get stuck in a middle-income level stagflation, and fail to go to the next level and become an advanced economy. Japan is the focus of the warning.“A successful exit from deﬂation and persistent yen depreciation could reduce the home bias of domestic investors and lead to a rebalancing of their portfolios to include a larger share of foreign assets, especially from Asia,” the IMF report said.India, China, Indonesia, and the Philippines all need to improve their economic institutions, as sub-par infrastructure could drag down output, in Thailand, for example.Asia is less exposed to slowed growth, and remains at a lower risk than other regions, set to lead the global recovery, according to the latest report. The Philippines peso and the Thai baht have even made advances against the dollar.Growth in Asia could also be disrupted by any trade idiosyncrasies, “a loss of conﬁdence in Japan’s efforts to restore economic health, or an unexpected slowdown in China” could all hinder their GDP output. …
China became the second biggest economy in the world by pegging their currency to the dollar at an artificially cheap rate. This boosted exports and built up reserves to the multi-trillion yuan level – of which more than a 1 trillion is US dollars. The Chinese workers themselves cannot afford the goods they make for Apple and hundreds of other companies that manufacture their products on ‘the world’s factory floor’ but they are better off working in these sweatshops than working the land; so we are told. With Bitcoin, there is an interesting corollary with China and its currency peg. And the question is, why not peg Bitcoin to the dollar, at let’s say $100 BTC to the dollar. This might solve two problems. First, the volatility issue – with merchants and spenders of Bitcoin uncomfortable with the exchange rate of Bitcoin’s wild fluctuations – having a fixed exchange rate would introduce stability and predictability into the economy. Secondly, having a fixed exchange rate would open up a possible workaround of the the FinCEN problem.”At least three exchanges in the U.S. that traded the digital currency Bitcoin have shut down, apparently as a result of guidance issued last month by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. That agency has emerged as the top threat, at least in the United States, to the decentralized Bitcoin network – more so than the widely reported price volatility and hacker attacks.” John Matonis writing in Forbes. FinCEN, a captured regulator (like the SEC, and CFTC) is muscling Bitcoin exchanges and shutting them down, hoping to take off the market any potential competitor to entrenched oligopolists Visa, Mastercard and PayPal. Having a fixed rate of exchange for Bitcoin would allow all Bitcoin exchanges to ‘go dark’and hide behind cryptology. The conversion price of $100 is known so there is no need to ‘see’ the market. Without the need to publish trading activity, exchange rates, and current prices; there would be no need to operate within eyesight of troublesome thugs-for-hire working for the payment and currency cartel looking to shut down a competitor. The fixed exchange rate could be managed by the Bitcoin Foundation who would publish the official ‘fix’ every day and continuously be adjusted upward to keep miners incentivized to continue mining. At some point in the future, when the Bitcoin industry and economy are big enough to lobby politicians and regulators sufficiently to get them to back off, the exchanges can come out of the dark and business can be transacted more transparently. But until then, having a fixed rate and dark exchanges might be the most expedient way to grow this new economy. …
The 1998 erotic noir movie “Wild Things” is getting (another) sequel. Film director John McNaughton, whose only feature release since has been “Speaking of Sex” in 2001, told Hollywood.com that he and screenwriter Stephen Peters are hashing out a script that would follow-up straight-to-DVD releases “Wild Things 2″ and “Wild Things: Diamonds in the Rough” with a fourth “Wild Things” movie. From Hollywood.com:”It’s not one of the sequels, but about their children,” he says. OK, that sounds odd, but just wait. It gets real crazy. “Do you know the Amanda Knox case? It’s something like that. Something that’s like the child of Suzie Toller [Campbell's character], she claimed that Matt Dillon’s [character] had raped her a long time ago and maybe there is a child and maybe Bill Murray’s character had a child and they’re exchange students and things get out of hand. We’re calling it Wild Child Things.”Continue Reading… …
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is considering a rule that could stem the tide of shadowy corporate money into political advocacy groups, plugging a hole in campaign finance law blown open by the Supreme Court’s controversial decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election…