Tag Archives: videogames

If anything, Bitcoin is inflationary

Bitcoin fails as a form of “money” according to how economists look at money. This has lead many economists to conclude that Bitcoin will fail. What it really means is that economists need to change how they look at money.

The Internet is the history of disruptive innovation. The telephony system had evolved slowly for over a 100 years, then the Internet came along and changed everything. The old engineers, steeped in telcom lore, unwilling to challenge old assumptions, claimed that the Internet would never work. And, according to their principles, it doesn’t. For example, when I use Facetime with my brother who lives in Japan, there is a lot of “latency” or “lag” between when I say something and I see my brother react. That’s what the old telcom engineers warned us about: the “packet switching” nature of the Internet would cause unpleasant lag in telephone calls.

But did I mention my free video call, in high definition, from my iPhone in the United States, to his iPad in Japan? That this works at all, and so cheaply, is inconceivable according to old telcom principles. No matter how right the old telcom engineers were, they were still obsolete. Nobody cares about their old principles; the Internet is a whole new set of principles of free, world-wide, high-speed connectivity.

Old economists have the same problem as old telcom engineers. What economists say about Bitcoin is correct, after a fashion, but it’s obsolete.

For example, a major critique of Bitcoin is that there is a fixed supply (21 million coins), and thus can’t expand to accommodate demand. This causes the value of Bitcoin to rise (“deflation”). This in turn encourages hoarding (why spend the coin when it’ll buy twice as much tomorrow?). And this in turn causes the value to rise even further. This means nobody will be able to buy anything using Bitcoin because everyone else will be hoarding them.

That’s true for normal currencies, but not true for Bitcoin. The idea that hoarding money makes it unavailable only applies to physical money, because you can’t move it around and subdivide it. This doesn’t apply to electronic currency, because somewhere in the world you can always find somebody willing to part with a billionth of a coin so that you can use it to purchase something. Hoarding has no effect on the “supply” (sic) of money available for transactions.

Well, another reason hoarding is bad is because it causes volatility. As people hoard Bitcoin, a bubble forms, a sort of ponzi scheme driving up the value until the music stops, after which the price collapses. Such volatility makes it too impractical to use as money.

Again, volatility matters more for physical currency than electronic currency. Volatility is only a risk for the duration that you hold onto the currency. This matters, for example, if you need to save money to pay rent at the end of the month. But, in a fully liquid electronic system, such timing goes away. Instead of a monthly, weekly, or even daily wage, you could get paid once per second. The incoming pennies every second can then automatically be spent every second on rent, food, gasoline, and so on. Even in situations like Zimbabwe’s trillion-percent inflation, earning/spending electronic money on a 1-second timeframe means volatility doesn’t much matter.

Bitcoin’s timeframe is around 10-minutes for transaction, so volatility matters somewhat more. But here’s the thing: the amount payment processors charge for Bitcoin is less than what they charge for credit cards like American Express or Visa. The total risk associated with Bitcoin, including volatility, is still less than the total risk associated with other payment methods. And in any case, a recent study has shown that Bitcoin volatility has been steadily decreasing.

So we’ve proven that Bitcoin’s deflationary issues don’t matter, but here’s another thing: it’s not even deflationary.

The word “Bitcoin” can mean many things. It can refer to the coins (B⃦) themselves. It can refer to the “blockchain” (public ledger) that holds those coins. It can refer to the “bitcoind” software that most everyone uses to process the blockchain. It can refer to the “protocol” that the software implements. It can refer to the general algorithm that the protocol/software implements. It can refer to the general idea of “cryptocurrency without centralized control”.

If 21 million coins aren’t enough, somebody can simply fork the blockchain, starting a new one with another 21 million coins. Or, somebody can fork the software/protocol, creating a new currency with more than 21 million coins (and other useful properties, like shrinking the transaction window, or changing the proof-of-work algorithm). Or, somebody can come up with a wholly new cryptocurrancy vastly different than Bitcoin.

People have done all these things. There are a vast number of “Bitcoin” things running around.

For example, “Bitcoin mining” can now only be done by those who invested a lot of money in custom silicon chips (“ASICs”). It takes two years to create a new chip, so only enthusiasts who invested two years ago can profitably mine Bitcoins today. However, many forked Bitcoin variants use different mining incompatible with these chips. You can still mine these “alt-coins” (as they are called) using a desktop computer with a graphics card. I do this. I mine whichever alt-coin is more profitable at the moment, and then exchange them for true “Bitcoins” at the end of the day. Thus, I’m earning about 0.02 Bitcoin per day (about $10) through mining — but without directly mining Bitcoin. This demonstrates that more “coins” are being created than just the 21 million limit on Bitcoins.

Some of these alt-coins, namely Litecoin and Dogecoin, can be used to buy things online. For a payment processor, or online trading site, handling multiple types of coins is as easy as handling one. If Bitcoin is volatile and has a high risk premium, a buyer could easily switch to Litecoin, which might have a lower premium. If more people would use Litecoin, then that means fewer people would use Bitcoin, and that the value of Bitcoin would drop.

QED: Bitcoins are inflationary in the long run.

So it’s not about Bitcoin, but the entire ecosystem of alt-coins that needs to be evaluated for inflationary or deflationary tendencies. On the whole, the system is inherently inflationary (anybody can fork the system at any time), but it depends upon the willingness of payment processors and customers to use new kinds of coins.

We might find that it’s self-regulating as alt-coins are accepted or dropped from the system. New alt-coins might be created when the price of existing coins rises. Lesser alt-coins might stop being accepted when their price decreases. We might find a decade from now that the Bitcoin-ecosystem turns out to be more stable than national currencies.

What we see here is that old timers (the economists) are right on every principle, that a physical currency limited to 21 million coins would be inflationary, volatile, and unusable as money in the economy. But, they are ignoring how online currency changes those rules, and that Bitcoin isn’t a single currency, but an entire ecosystem. For economists to be right, they have to hold onto their immutable principles for old currencies and ignore all the innovation happening online.

Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman opined back in 1998 that “by 2005 or so, it will become clear that the Internet’s impact on the economy has been no greater than the fax machine’s”. After being mocked for that, he gave this rebuttal:

“I don’t claim any special expertise in technology… The issues about Bitcoin, however, are not technological! Everyone agrees that it’s technically very sweet. But does it work as money? That’s a very different kind of question.” — Paul Krugman, from Business Insider

But he’s wrong. That Bitcoin is technology has everything to do with whether Bitcoin works as money. It’s like old time telcom engineers who claimed that while they didn’t understand computer networking, they didn’t have to, because it was long distance transmission of data that mattered, regardless whether it was computer data or voice data.

Consider my claim that the Bitcoin-ecosystem is inherently inflationary. Let’s take that to the logical extreme and assume that anybody who has Bitcoin gets rid of them as fast as they can, as they would any inflationary currency. They only acquire Bitcoin if they can immediately spend them. If that’s the case, and assuming that Bitcoin accounts for 10% of the U.S. underground economy, then the value of Bitcoin comes out to one penny, or 1¢, or $0.01. It’s simple math, taking the $2 trillion underground economy (IRS estimate) and taking into account the 10 minute transaction window enforced by the Bitcoin protocol.

I arrive at this 1¢ value by technology, now explain it with economics. I’m pretty sure squaring the two will discover something new about the properties of money, all monies, that economists hadn’t considered before, at least, been able to convincingly prove. I predict that in 20 years (these things take time), some economists are going to win Nobel Prizes for their theories on cryptocurrencies.

The technology of decentralized cryptocurrency is here to stay. It’ll be used by those dissatisfied with existing currencies (namely, the underground economy unhappy with the surveillance mandate placed on existing money). Instead of poo-pooing this technology claiming it won’t work, the successful economist is going to be one that analyzes it, gathers data, and explains why it does work.

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A Primer on Startup Growth

This primer is not original work but pulls together information from multiple sources including articles, slides and talks from Andrew Chen (AppSumo), Andy Johns (ex-Facebook), Dave McClure (500 Startups) and Paul Willard (Atlassian).

Growth is what turns a startup into a large company.

The metric used to measure growth is often active users or revenue/profit. However, it can also be taken from a diverse set of variables and will often change depending on the stage of the startup.

There are a few mantras that always get thrown around: “if you build it, they’ll come” and “you’ll win if you build the best product”. While sounding great in theory, these often don’t hold up in practice. After all, was Internet Explorer really better than Netscape? Excel better than Lotus 1-2-3? VHS better than BetaMax? Rather, whoever builds the best distribution wins.

Growth needs to be planned.

This post is divided into three sections: (i) choosing a suitable growth metric, (ii) monitoring the metric, and (iii) how to go about growing that metric.

A quick aside before diving in. Startup growth is very much dependant on the startup’s actual product. Optimizing for growth can only help so much and, in a lot of cases, time may be better spent on product/market fit. As Donald Knuth puts it, “premature optimization is the root of all evil”; always improve an inferior product before focusing on growth.

In fact, one way to test how badly people want a product (and hence determining the startup’s growth potential) is to erect barriers: make it difficult to invite friends, make it ugly and make it slow to use. If it still grows at a reasonable pace, optimizing for growth will only step up the pace.

Choosing a suitable growth metric

The key to choosing a suitable growth metric is understanding the user conversion funnel. These are the steps a user goes through while using the product. It is called a conversion funnel because people are lost with each step they are made to step through.

User Conversion Funnel
  1. Acquisition: the user arrives in front of the product from a variety of channels.
  2. Activation: the user has a great initial experience.
  3. Engagement: the user keeps coming back because the product delivers value.
  4. Revenue: the user conducts some monetization behaviour.
  5. Virality: the user recommends the product to other people.

Many actions can have varying effects on user numbers and revenue/profit. Only by committing an action in an isolated section of the funnel ceteris paribus, can growth be accurately attributed to certain actions.

If the steps in the entire user conversion funnel are fixed, then the conversion rate (number of people entering the step vs. the number of people exiting the step) is a good metric to use. If the steps aren’t fixed, consider removing certain steps and seeing how the entire user conversion funnel performs as a whole. Reports suggest that each additional page or step in a website’s flow leads to a 20% drop-off rate.

The conversion rate, however, isn’t everything, and we use an example to illustrate this. According to Elliot Shmukler, LinkedIn decided to improve two sign-up channels in 2008. People who had reached the sign-up page were divided into whether they came from email invitations or from viewing the LinkedIn homepage. After some work, the following results were achieved:

  1. Email invitation conversions jumped from 4% to 7%, taking 2 years.
  2. Homepage view conversions jumped from 40% to 50%, taking 4 months.

There are a number of useful take-aways from this example.

  1. The amount of effort is not necessarily proportional to the results. Email invitation conversions took considerably longer to improve yet were less effective in nominal percentage points than homepage view conversions. In certain cases, it’s better to double-down on what works instead of improving parts of the funnel that have a low conversion rate.
  2. User conversions in a funnel only tell half the story. The quality of the users also matter and this can be assessed by segmenting users by channel and following them through the rest of the user conversion funnel. In this case, although email invitation conversions may take more work, what if converted users in this channel are more engaged, monetize easier and are more likely to invite friends? This is called cohort analysis and is a great way to understand the different types of users and their needs. For example, tell-tale signs of a later engaged user at Facebook was whether the user added seven friends in the first ten days, while for Twitter it was whether they followed thirty accounts.
  3. The actual number of users entering the funnel is important. If 10M people enter the email invitation funnel, but only 1M people enter the homepage view funnel, then it may be more judicious to focus on the email invitation funnel since 3% of 10M is greater than 10% of 1M.

Monitoring the metric

All changes made to the product need to be compared objectively. A/B testing serves two different versions of the product to different users. These change can be small (the headline may be re-worded or the color of the button changed) or big (the user may be given the option to try the product before signing up). Once a certain number of users have tried option A and option B, the results are tallied up and a winner determined. As Andy Johns (Wealthfront) puts it: data is wonderful in never letting terrible ideas have a long shelf-life.

A few words of advice regarding A/B testing:

  • It’s often important to find a balance between being data-driven and data-informed. A/B testing blindly is not very effective; the tester still has to come up with the options in an A/B test.
  • A/B testing is often used to determine whether A is better than B, but it’s also an opportunity to understand the market. Perhaps B is better than A by 40% in the general NYC area, but in the rest of the country, it’s worse.
  • Don’t A/B test your core repeat users, it will annoy them if the website looks looks different everytime they visit.
  • Weekend traffic may be different from behaviour during the week, so consider run tests that span the course of a week.

Once a test is complete, the reason behind why users behaved a certain way should be analyzed. It often boils down to this relationship:

Conversion = Desire – Friction

To test for desire, start by changing headlines and the copy. Google AdWords can be a useful tool for seeing which words appeal to people. To test for friction, on the other hand, optimize for speed and change around the placement, size and color of the call-to-action. CrazyEgg produces a heat map and scroll map that helps in gaining a better understanding of how visitors engage with a website.

A/B test results are the conversion rates in the user conversion funnel. A tool like Kissmetrics or Mixpanel is able to link actions from the same user and plot the steps they take through the product alongside the relevant conversion percentages. Alternatively, this can be achieved by trawling the server logs and linking up requests by the same user.

Irrespective of the tool, ensure that a standardised report is spit out automatically for each change that you make. The report should look something like this:

Example Conversion Metrics

This will let you know whether your changes were effective and where next to concentrate your efforts.

Growing the metric

With the growth metric monitoring in place, it’s now time to focus on growing the metric. Unfortunately, there isn’t a systematic framework for coming up with the ideas that drive growth. What’s possible is to monitor their effectiveness and try to understand the rationale behind why certain changes work better than others.

Here are some things that are worth trying:

  • Communicate clearly. Change the colour, shape and size of the call-to-action, copy, headline and tagline. The aim is to effectively communicate the value of the product to the user.
  • Users want to use your product. Don Norman (ex-Apple) believes that everyone comes to a website with a reservoir of goodwill. Things that deplete it are: hiding information I want, punishing me for not doing things your way, asking me for information you don’t need, tricking me, putting obstacles in my way, amateur looking websites. Things that increase it are: knowing the main things that people want to do on your website and making these things easy and obvious, telling me what I want to know, saving me steps wherever you can, knowing what questions I’m likely to have and answering them, providing me with creature comforts like printer-friendly pages, and making it easy to recover from errors.
  • Plot the engagement loop. According to Chen Li Wang (Dropbox), it can be very hard to resurrect people you’ve already lost without coming across as being pushy. Instead, if done right, emails, notifications and app store updates can help get people back to your product. Also, closely monitor engagement and unsubscribe rates of messages before sending them out to everyone.
  • Plan for growth. Paul Willard (Atlassian) reveals that to show growth, only two graphs are needed: the Acquisition Exponential graph (customers vs. months) and Cohort Curves (life-time value vs. months as customer). Cohort Curves should shift higher and steeper as the company grows and their understanding of their customers deepen. This means that newer customers are buying more from the start as well as accelerating their pace of buying.
  • Try different ways of understanding the user. Survey users to understand them better. For example, ask “What would you do if you could no longer use this product?”, “What was the primary benefit you received by using this product?” and “Would you recommend this product to someone else? Why?”
  • Identify the magic feature. Andy Johns (Wealthfront) recommends dumping the session logs of twenty user who love the product and twenty users who never use the product. Then, manually piece together their histories and figure out their usage patterns towards the beginning of their experience. This will help identify the magic feature or behavior that gets people hooked.
  • Make a great product rooted in human psychology. Facebook satisfies the curiosity of knowing what your friends are doing, Twitter, with its public tweets, retweets and favourites, appeals to one’s need for acceptance and popularity, and Instagram is a form of visual escapism.
  • Move fast. Eric Florenzano (Twitter) explains that if you want to move as fast as possible, use HTML5 for components of your app that you aren’t sure about and only implement natively the parts that you’ve already nailed.
  • Make it easy to share. Airbnb’s “Post to Cragslist” link allowed users to post their listings to Craigslist, which didn’t have a public API supporting this function. Have the option of importing the contact list.
  • Make the product inherently viral. Hotmail added a “Get your free email at Hotmail” link at the bottom of each email after determining that 80% of signups were from referrals.
  • Don’t make users wait. Sean Ellis (Qualaroo) recommends identifying the must-have experience of your product and to look for ways to front-load that experience. The sooner your customers experience the value of your product the better. Pinterest populates your feed by forcing you to follow a curated set of quality users when you sign up.
  • Give users a reason to share your product. PayPal paid each referer and referee $10. Dropbox users could invite friends to increase their space by 250MB, helping them to grow from 100K users to 4M in under two years.

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Bye-bye, StackMob: Platform shuts down following acquisition by PayPal

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Samsung Galaxy Smartphones - S, SII, Ace

photo: Samsung
Summary:In a not-very-surprising move, PayPal is shutting down the mobile development platform it bought in December and will focus those resources on — what else? — electronic payments.

It was probably inevitable that things would change after PayPal bought StackMob and its mobile app development platform three months ago. Now that change has arrived. StackMob is shutting down and its people are being pulled into mobile payments, according to a blog post by StackMob co-founder Ty Amell.

Here’s the gist: The platform will stop working on May 11, 2014 and at that time, customers will lose access to their accounts. “This serves as our notice of termination of our agreement with you,” Amell wrote.

He continued:

“To ease the transition, we are launching a data exporter to help you get all your data out of StackMob in CSV format. If you would like the data you have stored in StackMob, please ensure you export your data before May 11th (the data will not be available for export after this date). If you have any specific questions about your apps or any requests about extracting your data, please email stackmob@paypal.com.”

Developers use these server-side platforms – typically known by the awful term “Mobile Backend as a Service,” or MBaaS — to speed development of mobile apps that hook into various cloud back-end subsystems. And that world is both narrowing and expanding: Facebook bought Parse last April and Amazon Web Services is gearing up its mobile development push, as is Salesforce.com. A handful of enterprise-focused MBaaS players — Kinvey, AnyPresence and FeedHenry – remain independent.

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What Bitcoin Needs To Grow Up

Original URL ARTICLE: http://readwrite.com/2014/02/11/bitcoin-needs-to-grow-up-value-price#awesm=~ovGm9BdEjky2LA

The Bitcoin economy is as dramatic as a teen. What’s going to help it mature?

February 11, 2014 Hack

Every day, there’s a new Bitcoin fire to be put out.

Whether it’s a national government rejecting Bitcoin, a household-name business adopting it, or a new malfunction in a Bitcoin exchange or wallet, there’s always breaking Bitcoin news. And at this rate, the continual rollercoaster ride is less exciting than it is predictable.

Right now, it’s easy to see why so many governmental agencies, big businesses, economists and finance experts don’t take Bitcoin seriously. As long as Bitcoin’s value continues to violently rise and fall with each news story, they can afford to ignore the currency entirely.

Will Bitcoin overcome, or will it fizzle out in its own drama? I’ve pinpointed three areas where the Bitcoin economy needs to improve in order to shift out of its theatrical adolescence and mature into a currency that demands to be taken seriously.

Consumer Protection 

Bitcoin transactions are final and irreversible for a reason. It helps ensure that only one person owns the currency at a time, and verifies who that (pseudonymous) owner is.

But when you get into disputes, things get tricky. If you’re selling products to customers with Bitcoin, you need to be able to allow returns. And if you’re sending somebody a loan with Bitcoin, you need some way to arbitrate that they’ll pay you back.

If you use a credit card, you can call Visa or Mastercard if you don’t receive the goods you paid for. Who do you call with Bitcoin?

Since Bitcoin’s fixed transaction style cannot be changed, companies are innovating around it. An initial step is Bitrated, a company that is pioneering consumer protection for Bitcoin.

Bitrated works using escrow, which is basically the use of a third party to pay on your behalf. Instead of a customer sending her money directly to the merchant, it goes to Bitrated and is only released when the customer confirms she received the product.

Bitrated takes this concept one step further: Instead of sending the money directly to an escrow agent, the customer sends money to a multi-signature address, using the private keys for the agent, the customer, and the merchant. The money can only be spent if two out of the three parties approve.

Bitrated lets the merchant or customer who initiates the transaction select an escrow agent of their choice, and the agent’s fee is usually something like 0.1%. So even with consumer protection, Bitcoin wouldn’t lose the low fees that make it appealing.

“The groundwork for third party arbitration has existed for a long time, since [Bitcoin founder] Satoshi’s days,” said Nadav Ivgi, cofounder at Bitrated. “It just required someone to step up and build a system that implements it and is usable to the general public.”

The issue so far is that Bitrated is still very small. For Bitcoin to grow up, Bitcoin’s most prosperous merchants would need to begin advocating for consumer protection.

Fix The Glitch

Mt. Gox made a lot of Bitcoin users very angry this week—and tried to bring the entire cryptocurrency down with it.

The Bitcoin economy’s first and oldest exchange raised eyebrows and tempers when it made the decision to stop allowing customers to withdraw their own funds until further notice. Faced with bad publicity, it elaborated—it’s because of a fundamental bug in Bitcoin itself.

Transaction malleability, the bug in question, means that it’s possible to alter the details of a transaction to make it appear as if one occurred when it really did not. One anonymous redditor shared how he used the glitch and a little luck to steal 100 BTC (about $60,000) from an exchange. The redditor returned the money, but warned the glitch was still around at the “top exchange” he stole from. Since no other exchange has been experiencing issues with transaction malleability, other redditors are guessing he’s talking about Mt. Gox.

Gavin Andresen of the Bitcoin Foundation boldly responded that transaction malleability has been a known design flaw “since 2011,” and the problem was with Mt. Gox’s software, not with Bitcoin itself.

True enough, most other Bitcoin services, like popular wallet Blockchain and the aforementioned Bitrated, have designed their software to be invulnerable to the glitch. But that doesn’t mean the Bitcoin Foundation shouldn’t make an effort to fix it.

“The Bitcoin core development team has worked to limit transaction malleability,” Andresen wrote. “There is broad agreement in the community that this needs to be eliminated. Finding the best and most responsible solution will take time.”

It may have not been the smartest thing for Mt. Gox to blame a three-year-old glitch for its current problems, especially when nobody else is experiencing the issue. But “we’re working on it” isn’t an acceptable response from the Bitcoin Foundation, either. For Bitcoin to be taken seriously, it can’t just leave vulnerabilities exposed and expect people to work around them.

Lower Volatility, Higher Adoption

If you’re only reading the headlines, it would seem like Bitcoin drama is peaking. But whatever it may look like on a day-to-day basis, Andreas Antonopolous, Bitcoin expert and entrepreneur, says there is statistical data to prove Bitcoin is actually becoming less volatile all the time.

“Volatility as a metric, on a rolling average basis has been declining continuously for five years,” he said. “Each year, Bitcoin has less volatility as the volume and liquidity pool increase. The fact that media drama causes price fluctuations is not an objective measure of Bitcoin fundamentals.”

Even if it’s slowly improving, Bitcoin is still volatile enough that if you have $20 in Bitcoin today, it might be worth only $18 (or perhaps $25) tomorrow. This might hinder people from using Bitcoin to do things like pay their rent. Imagine if you received your paycheck in Bitcoin—you’d never know if it was enough to buy everything you need this month until you looked at the exchange.

Nearly everyone agrees on one thing that could accelerate Bitcoin’s stability: Higher adoption. Since Bitcoin is an opt-in currency, not one you have to use to pay your government taxes, it needs to make itself especially compelling, even essential, to consumers. Bitcoin could achieve this by solving problems no existing currency can solve.

We can already see seedlings of this in the way that Bitcoin lets users make donations to causes, no matter how controversial, without concern for a government’s watchful eye. Bitcoin also solves problems no other currency solves by allowing people to transfer money with minuscule fees. And God forbid you want to transfer money from your bank account on a Sunday with traditional currency. With Bitcoin, that’s A-OK.

But what really makes Bitcoin unique is the technology it’s built on. Even if Bitcoin doesn’t survive, the blockchain will. Before the blockchain, we could only transfer copies of digital data online. I could send you a file, but I’d have the same file myself. With the blockchain ledger, I send you the bona fide original, but I can even prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that I no longer own it myself.

Like the Internet, consumer PCs, tabletop copiers, and other disruptive technologies, it’ll be impossible to imagine our reliance on something like Bitcoin until it actually happens. The potential is there, but for Bitcoin to thrive, we’ll need to watch it occur.

Lead image by Jason Benjamin on Flickr


Selena Gomez Lounges In Sexy Lingerie For Flaunt Magazine




Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/07/selena-gomez-lingerie-flaunt_n_4234829.html?utm_hp_ref=celebrity&ir=Celebrity&utm_hp_ref=celebrity&utm_hp_ref=celebrity&utm_hp_ref=celebrity

House Debt Ceiling, Government Shutdown Vote Dead: Report


GOP Leaders

GOP Leaders (Photo credit: Talk Radio News Service)

A scheduled House Rules Committee hearing on the GOP leadership’s plan to reopen the government and avert the debt ceiling deadline was postponed Tuesday evening, signaling that support for the measure within the GOP caucus was in jeopardy.

The National Review‘s Robert Costa reported that a vote on the bill, proposed by House Republicans earlier in the day, would not take place Tuesday:

My sources tell me House Republicans will likely postpone tonight’s vote on their plan to end the fiscal impasse. “The votes aren’t there,” says a leadership aide. “We’ve been amending the bill all day, but we’ve been unable to get people around this strategy.”

This development leaves Speaker John Boehner with few options as Thursday’s debt-ceiling deadline nears, and it throws the action back toward the Senate, which has been working on a bipartisan package.

Read more:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/15/house-debt-ceiling-vote_n_4102723.html

Obama turns down GOP proposal

John Thune, Susan Collins, John Barrasso

President Barack Obama spoke with House Speaker John Boehner on Friday but did not wholly accept the House Republican plan to open government, raise the debt ceiling and open budget talks, sources said.

“The President and the Speaker spoke by telephone a few minutes ago. They agreed that we should all keep talking,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner.

Senior Republican sources say Obama is amenable to changes to mandatory and discretionary spending, but needs Republicans to commit to increasing governmental revenue.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/10/government-shutdown-2013-update-98177.html#ixzz2hRpHrx93


Kenya Mall Attack: Authorities Say They Control Most Of Complex

Source Huffington Post!


Kenya, 2012

Kenya, 2012 (Photo credit: Moridin_)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenyan officials said security forces controlled nearly all of an upscale mall on Monday, two days after it was seized by members of a Somali terrorist group who invaded with guns blazing, killing at least 62 people.

Four thunderous explosions reverberated through a Nairobi neighborhood in the morning, raising fears for the lives of any remaining hostages still being held by al-Shabab, a Somali armed Islamic group linked with al-Qaida, in the Westgate Mall.

Three attackers had been killed in the fighting Monday, officials said, and more than 10 suspects arrested. Eleven Kenyan soldiers were wounded in the running gun battles. By evening, Kenyan security officials were claiming the upper hand.

“Taken control of all the floors. We’re not here to feed the attackers with pastries but to finish and punish them,” Police Inspector General David Kimaiyo said on Twitter.

Kenya’s interior minister said the evacuation of hostages “has gone very, very well” and that Kenyan officials are “very certain” that there are few if any hostages left in the building.


hong kong

Go to These Places for Mind-Blowingly Fast Internet

Six of the world’s top 10 universities are in America, the U.S. has the most gold medals, and Americans make the most money per year, notes BuzzFeed. But if you want the fastest Internet speed around, you’ll need your passport to go overseas. While some countries make Internet access a right and speed a priority, Internet speeds in the U.S. rank anywhere from ninth to 27th in the world. So, where can you find the fastest connections?

Fastest Internet Port of Call: Hong Kong

Most observers agree Hong Kong has the fastest Internet connections. Its average speed is reported to be as high as 64.6 megabits per second (mbps) – three times faster than the world average. There’s some variety among the lists that rank nations by Internet speed, but all agree Asian nations are doing quite well. Japan (44.2 mbps), South Korea (48.8 mbps) and Singapore (30.7 mbps) deliver faster Internet connections than the U.S.

Smaller European Nations Deliver Fast Connections

Several smaller European nations also appear on top 10 lists, including Romania, Latvia, the Czech Republic, and Bulgaria. In Northern Europe, Switzerland, The Netherlands, and Sweden offer super-fast Internet speeds. Unlike the Asian nations, these are not countries particularly noted for high tech dominance. So why are they leaving the U.S. behind?

Private Internet Access Versus Public Support

Simply put, Internet service is sort of like healthcare. It needs sound support and maybe some nudging from government to work for more, if not most, people. Plus, the U.S. is much larger than the top 10 nations, making access and speed far more challenging.

Many of the top 10 nations consider Internet access an actual right of the people, an intriguing view on democracy. Their governments encourage Internet Service Providers to enter local markets and compete with one another on price and speed. And these nations have far less geography to cover than the U.S.

Internet Speed and Global Competition

Remember the last time you dealt with a slow Internet connection? Think about how this impacts a large global business. Could slow Internet kill some business opportunities? Would a high-tech or financial powerhouse prefer South Korea, which offers faster and cheaper Internet speed, to the U.S.?

If we really want faster Internet connectivity, perhaps we need something similar to the 1935 Rural Electrification Act that brought electricity and telephone service to 98 percent of all Americans, as Internet specialist and former Obama advisor Susan Crawford suggests. In fact, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided $7.2 billion to support broadband improvements.

The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, a nonprofit that researches ways for technology to support the economy, suggests that internet service providers should focus on to delivering moderate speed Internet to private homes, rather than try to meet the high-speed service for which businesses have a stronger need.

Richard Bennett, an analyst with the Foundation, also points out that American consumers and businesses are accustomed to wireless Internet access, and recommends focusing efforts here, as well. Mobile platforms developed by cell phone providers are growing steadily and increasing in speed. “The battle,” he notes, “isn’t just about faster networks, it’s about more kinds of networks that let us do more things.”

In the meantime, can anyone recommend a nice Internet cafe in Hong Kong?

Creative Commons image of Hong Kong by Zachary Baumgartner

Ben Affleck Says Justin Timberlake Makes Him Feel Insecure !!! (REPORT)

Source Huffington Post!

Ben Affleck at the 2008 World Series of Poker

Ben Affleck at the 2008 World Series of Poker (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ben Affleck seems to have everything: an adorable family, a thriving career, good looks … but apparently Justin Timberlake makes him feel insecure.

On “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” Affleck admitted that JT gave him a dose of low self-esteem while working together on “Runner, Runner,” out Oct. 4.

“He dances like Michael Jackson, sings, writes music … There’s 400 million boy bands; he’s the one guy that became a gigantic star,” Affleck said.

Affleck said he spotted JT making half-court shots on the basketball court in suits and that he was invited to go golfing with the singer, but he politely declined because he didn’t want to take the risk of embarrassing himself.

The “Take Back the Night” singer clearly got into the Academy Award winner’s head, especially after Affleck started subconsciously singing JT’s songs.