Twenty actors and musicians of the famous Cirque du Soleil dressed in extravagant costumes marched through the center of Russia’s second-biggest city the day before their ‘Alegria’ performance, scheduled to premiere on May 9th.The parade was approved by city authorities, and 200 people were expected to attend. The actual crowd that gathered for the event turned out to be much bigger than anticipated.”We cut the parade short because more people showed up than what we expected,” Cirque du Soleil’s PR manager said in a statement. “We already went two-thirds of our planned route. The decision to wrap up the parade was made together with the law enforcement officers to ensure security of both the audience, the actors and the passersby”.’Alegria’ will run in St. Petersburg from May 9 to 18. Russia introduced tougher regulations on public gatherings last year in the wake of mass opposition rallies in Moscow. …
I was talking to a hedge fund manager I know here in London about setting up a UK based bitcoin exchange. To this end, I contacted a hedge fund servicing company (prime broker) with a large bitcoin position to get a quote on borrowing 10,000 bitcoins. The price they came back with; 250% interest on the bitcoin loan. Needless to say, the economics don’t support this. But it got me thinking. Until potential market-makers can access borrowed bitcoins at reasonable interest rates we won’t see any exchanges operating that can handle ‘market’ orders for 1,000 BTC to buy or sell ‘at the market.’ And with this we won’t have an institutional or speculative market. And without this we won’t see bitcoin gaining any measurable market share at the expense of the government-sponsored clown currencies like the US dollar, euro, pound, yen or renminbi [yuan]. So goes the speculator’s case. What about the non-speculating users of bitcoin? The chicken and egg problem has already been solved on the mining side of the bitcoin business model. At first it wasn’t clear why anybody would waste time and energy mining for bitcoins if you couldn’t spend them – then merchants started accepting bitcoin and a ‘virtuous circle’ was created: miners were incentivized to keep mining and more merchants were incentivized to grab more of these mined bitcoins. In other words, there is a ‘barter value’ for bitcoin set informally by tracking news about what people are willing to accept bitcoin for in dollar and other currency terms. And this is great and is enough to do everything bitcoin lovers want bitcoin to do: taking the management of currency away from the corrupt central bankers and their affiliates. Maybe a speculative market will never emerge for bitcoins. I’m curious to see how a startup ‘coinsetter’ will tackle these ‘market making’ issues. But so far, we have not yet seen anyone step up and put serious capital to work backing enough bitcoin loans to allow for guaranteed ‘market orders’ of bitcoin in size. One thing I’m pretty sure about though, is that the model of ‘bitcoin exchanges’ as they are currently iterated seems vulnerable to either state or DDoS attack and with no ‘market making’ ability (tied to an institutional market with deep pockets) it’s hard to see this business of the bitcoin ecosystem expanding. But then again, maybe some disaffected billionaire type will step in and rattle some cages by putting up a deep pool of BTC to allow for large speculative bets in bitcoin. If the goal is to challenge the fiat cartel this is a necessity, IMO. With or without a $100 billion market-maker, bitcoin will still continue to encroach on the ‘free lunch’ of the status quo of the current banking system who milk us with their rent seeking nickel and diming of every transaction made anywhere, anytime. …
The plan, dubbed by critics as “Big Brother technology,” has been backed by the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E). The EU-wide body of energy regulators, ENTSO-E has outlined it in a 63-page document sent for the European Commission approval, Mail Online reported on Sunday.Should the plan find approval in the European Parliament and become legislation, it would enable the energy giants to selectively cut power consumption in millions of homes, instead of having to deploy back-up generators and ask factories to temporarily shut down production.Under the current scheme, the National Grid may approach companies asking them to switch off some of their works, when the UK’s power transmission network is not coping with the demand. In return, compensation is paid.But there was no hint of compensation or benefits to the household device owners in the document drawn up by ENTSO-E. Also, there was apparently no way for consumers to decide, if they wanted to use the proposed scheme, as the ‘smart’ switches were to be automatically installed by device manufacturers.Reports of the plan have immediately sparked public outrage in the UK, with critics saying the energy giant are simply “passing down their incompetence to the customers.”“This is Big Brother technology on a grand scale… Consumers are not benefiting at all and will be left paying more when they buy the appliances, as well as having their private goods controlled by outside forces,” Viktor Sundberg, energy strategy manager at Electrolux, has said. At the same time, energy companies would benefit from consumers’ inconvenience by saving millions, he added.Meanwhile, the UK’s Big Brother Watch civil liberties group voiced its firm opposition to the proposal.“This sinister plan smacks of over-the-top intrusion into people’s houses. It should be the choice of consumers if they want to sign up to it, not slipped into our homes through fridges and freezers,” the group’s director Nick Pickles has said.Consumer groups throughout Europe have also expressed their “serious concern” with the issue in a letter to ENTSO-E.Nevertheless, the UK company pushing the idea was adamant the proposal was both rational and reasonable.“This should result in benefits to consumers as it will lead to a reduced requirement for additional back-up electricity sources,” a spokesman for National Grid said, speaking of “accumulated effect” of automatically switching off millions of temperature controlled devices.The company also claimed that the scheme would have no serious impact on consumers, and “no material impact on the operation of fridges and freezers,” as the devices will have to be put off just “for a few seconds and only occasionally.”A private company with multi-billion profits, the National Grid is said to be addressing the EU’s demand for having 20 per cent of all electricity generated from green sources, such as wind farms. Being dependent on weather factors, such sources increase a risk of large-scale blackouts, which the energy supplier is keen to avoid. …
Vigilant but calm, New Yorkers were unfazed Tuesday by heightened security measures imposed after the Boston bombings even as the blasts revived memories of the devastating September 11, 2001 attacks. “It’s just life today after 9/11,” an investment manager, who would only give…
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) campaign manager, Jessie Benton, on Thursday insisted that it had not been misogynistic to scheme about using Ashley Judd’s “emotionally unbalanced” mental state against her if she ran for Senate in Kentucky. Earlier this week,…
The indie sensation Minecraft has now sold more than 10 million copies according to a recent tweet from Mojang customer support manager Marc Watson. It’s worth pointing out that this milestone only includes copies for the PC, Mac and Linux which makes it the seventh best-selling PC game of all… …
U.S. Army veteran Jeff Crawford
and his family have been bounced around a lot over the past three
years—living out of hotels and sometimes on the streets. When the
Veterans Administration (VA) connected him six months ago with the
L.A. chapter of Volunteers of America (an organization that helps
the homeless find permanent housing, among other things), it seemed
like things were finally looking up.
Even though Crawford and his wife struggled to raise the money
to furnish their apartment with a working stove and a refrigerator,
they were grateful for the shelter and the stability it provided
for Crawford’s two sons.
Sadly, Volunteers of America is preparing to rescind the brief
respite it provided the Crawford family, because Jeff Crawford is a
medical marijuana user.
While Crawford was initially assured by his case manager, Ben
Perdue, that his use of medical marijuana (which he takes with the
blessing of his VA caseworker to treat stomach ulcers, migraines,
and arthritis) posed no problem, Crawford’s new case manager with
the L.A. chapter of Volunteers of America wants Crawford to take
drug tests as a condition of his housing. As of this writing, I am
waiting to hear back from an L.A. affiliate of the Volunteers of
America regarding Crawford’s situation.
Under protest, Crawford took one drug test and failed when he
tested positive for THC. Now he’s one more failed test away from
being placed in a treatment facility and separated from his family.
His next scheduled visit from Volunteers of America is March
“Of course it’s going to hit the fan tomorrow, because I’m going
to refuse,” said Crawford during a phone interview.
Morgan Fox, communications manager for the Marijuana Policy
Project, had a few choice words on the subject when he emailed me
about Crawford’s situation:
Stories like this really highlight the need for Congress to end
federal marijuana prohibition. It is admirable that the VA has
directed its employees not to discriminate against medical
marijuana patients in states where it is permitted under law.
Federal housing authorities should do the same without delay. It is
unconscionable to force anyone into homelessness merely for using a
medicine that works for them, especially when that medicine is
legal within that state and the person in question has served their
It’s likely that Crawford will
have support when this turns into a legal battle. T.J. Thompson, a
veteran and medical marijuana activist, has already begun by
mobilizing Americans for Safe Access and Veterans for Medical
Marijuana Access. ;But in the mean time, the threat of eviction
and the possibility that his family will be split apart looms
large. In an email, Thompson wrote,
I think it’s going to turn into a legal or legislative battle,
but right now I am interested in keeping his shelter, family and
medicine with him—the 3 major pieces of his structure foundation.
When dealing with veterans, if a piece of that support system is
removed, you take a person that is typically (and statistically)
more volatile than the average American citizen and send them into
a whirlwind.… The organization that has offered to help him (with
stipulations) is threatening to destroy more in his life than they
were even helping with in the first place.
“They’re supposed to be pulling you out of it, but they’re just
pushing you deeper,” Crawford added.
All this over a medicine that he has been legally taking in the
state of California since 2007. Still, Crawford is trying to keep
his head up—and do his best to make sure this doesn’t keep
happening to others. “I know I’ll pull myself out of this, but it’s
going to take time,” he says. “Fortunately, I’m being heard because
I’m a veteran. But there are thousands of people out there that
don’t know their rights. And they get walked on. The outcome I
want? That someone else doesn’t have to go through this.” …