03/06/2019 Who’s Who in Crypto (Repost from CCN with Photos): Coinbase Sought Neutrino After Losing Control Over Customer Data Being Sold

bitcoin neutrino coinbase

Coinbase, one of the first “Bitcoin Unicorns,” faced major industry backlash after acquiring blockchain analysis firm Neutrino. | Source: Shutterstock

Coinbase Sought Neutrino After Losing Control Over Customer Data Being Sold

Coinbase’s controversial acquisition of Neutrino was motivated by a desire to ditch its existing tech partners because they ”were actually selling client data to outside sources,” the head of sales at Coinbase said on Saturday.

In an interview with Cheddar, Coinbase’s Christine Sandler explained the rationale for buying Neutrino— a blockchain intelligence firm whose founders used to build hacking tools to sell to the police.

We are aware of the backgrounds of some of the folks that were involved in Neutrino and we are looking into that. I think the compelling reason for making the acquisition was that Neutrino really had some industry-leading, best-in-class technology. And moreover, it was really important for us to migrate away from our current providers — our current providers were actually selling client data to outside sources. It was really compelling for us to kind of get control over that and have proprietary technology that we could leverage to keep the data safe, and to protect our clients.

Riccardo Spagni

@fluffypony

Wow. I’m really struggling to view Coinbase’s actions in anything but the harshest light.
1. Deal with blockchain tracing firm
2. Discover that firm selling client data
3. Don’t disclose this to anyone
4. Buy a firm that is made up of human rights violators
5. Profit?!?

Janine@J9Roem
Replying to @J9Roem

Director of Institutional Sales at Coinbase praising Neutrino’s “best-in-class technology” and saying that they needed to migrate to another “provider” because their previous one was “selling client data to outside sources.” (1:25)

h/t @BTCismoney https://cheddar.com/media/coinbase-adds-support-for-ripple-s-xrp-despite-regulatory-uncertainty 

CCN has reached out to Coinbase seeking clarification as to which vendors sold Coinbase customer data, how long this went on, and whether or not customer data is now fully in Coinbase’s control. Coinbase had not responded as of publication time Sunday evening.

coinbase crypto

NEUTRINO, HACKING TEAM, AND SURVEILLANCE

Neutrino bills itself as a go-to analytics platform for helping law enforcement agencies and financial institutions keep track of transactions on the blockchain. Previously, Neutrino CEO Giancarlo Russo, CTO Alberto Ornaghi, and CRO Marco Valleri used to ply their wares as cyber gurus for a firm known called Hacking Team.

On its website, the Hacking Team says:

We believe that fighting crime should be easy; we provide effective, easy-to-use offensive technology to the worldwide law enforcement and intelligence communities.

On the “Solutions” page of the Hacking Team’s website, the company sheds light on the nature of the tools that are being sold to governments around the world:

Criminals and terrorists rely on mobile phones, tablets, lap tops and computers equipped with universal end-to-end encryption to hide their activity. Their secret communications and encrypted files can be critical to investigating, preventing and prosecuting crime. Hacking Team provides law enforcement an effective, easy-to-use solution.

Amber ☘️@AmberBaldet

When I said it would be great to have more infosec people involved in the “crypto” space, I didn’t mean the largest US exchange should acquire an analysis tools company run by a former Hacking Team member, but here we are

Hacking Team’s mostly-secret client list reportedly includes Mexico, Oman, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Bahrain, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Sudan, and others. In some instances, the Hacking Team’s tools have apparently been deployed to spy on journalists and dissidents instead of criminals.

On it’s “About Us” page, Hacking Team notes that its technology “is used daily to fight crime in six continents.”

HACKING TEAM’S SAUDI PARTNERSHIP REVEALED

Supporting good-faith efforts to prosecute crime sounds reasonable enough. Different countries adhere to unique criminal codes, though. Speaking out against the government is legal in many countries, but not in others. For instance, Saudi Arabia has imprisoned women’s rights activists, journalists, and government critics. And in late 2017, Riyadh passed an “antiterrorism” law that tied certain “nonviolent political and religious speech” with prison time, according to a report by Freedom House.

Saudi Arabia Hacking Team

Saud al-Qahtani, head of the Center for Studies and Media Affairs in the Saudi capital, has reportedly been one of Hacking Team’s clients.

“Qahtani and his cyber colleagues worked at first with an Italian company called Hacking Team,” the Washington Post’s David Ignatius reported in December, citing “many knowledgeable sources who requested anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence matters.”

Qhatani worked with Hacking Team as he built “a network of surveillance and social-media manipulation to advance MBS’s agenda and suppress his enemies,” the WashPost report notes.

HACKING TEAM IN THE U.S.

In 2012, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) spent $2.4 million on Hacking Team’s Remote Control System, which lets government agents remotely access communications data on a device.

END OF POST …

03/06/2019 Who’s Who in Crypto (Repost from CCN with Photos): Not Just McAfee: The Long History of the $1 Million Bitcoin Price Target

bitcoin price

There’s just something alluring about a seven-figure bitcoin price target. | Source: Shutterstock

Not Just McAfee: The Long History of the $1 Million Bitcoin Price Target

There’s just something about that $1 million mark that causes crypto bulls to froth at the mouth. The VP of blockchain and digital currencies for IBM, Jesse Lund, is one of the most recent industry experts to proclaim that the bitcoin price could hit seven figures.

In an interview with Finder, he made this prediction:

“I see Bitcoin at a million dollars, maybe $5,000 by the end of the year but a way higher trajectory… that means there’s over $20 trillion of liquidity in this network.”

BITCOIN BULLS HAVE BEEN POUNDING THE TABLE ON $1 MILLION FOR YEARS

Mr. Lund is not the first to predict such a lofty bitcoin price. RT host Max Keiser said on his show in early 2016:

“Most of the people who are on the sidelines not buying bitcoins today will start to buy when it gets over $1,000, and then a greater percentage of people will definitely plow into bitcoin once it trades over a $10,000.”

Rick Falkvinge believes it’s reasonable for bitcoin to capture 1% to 10% of the global investor market.

“This leads us to a target market cap of 600 billion to 6 trillion USD, to be fulfilled by about 6 million bitcoin, which makes for easy calculations. That means that each bitcoin would be worth $100,000 at the low market cap and $1,000,000 at the high market cap,” he wrote.

A PAYPAL BOARD MEMBER JOINS THE FRAY

Wences Casares, CEO of bitcoin service provider Xapo, said on a panel at TechCrunch Disrupt 2015 that he thinks $1 million is not out of the question and may be more likely than not.

“I think that there is a higher than 50 percent chance that a bitcoin is worth more than a million dollars.”

Mr. Casares also wrote about his opinion on the Bitcoin.com forum.

“It is hard to estimate how many people on (sic) bitcoins, but it may be somewhere between 13 and 15 million people right now,” he wrote at the time. “If Bitcoin is successful we will see hundreds of millions of people own Bitcoin and, eventually, billions. The only way we can get to billions of people owning Bitcoin is by the price going up by several orders of magnitude, let’s say $ 1 million (but this is highly speculative and risky). So, if I am right, and Bitcoin has to go from $390 to $1,000,000 the best way for it to get there without crashing irreversibly is with as much volatility as possible.”

Trace Mayer, the Bitcoin Knowledge Podcast host, has made multiple cases for a bitcoin price of more than $1 million.

“If you moved just 1% of the cash balances from off shore tax haven bank accounts, which currently hold estimated $30 trillion of value, if you move just 1% of that into bitcoin you are looking at $2.8 million per bitcoin,” he said back in 2013.

JOHN MCAFEE PUTS SKIN IN THE GAME

bitcoin price john mcafee

If price increases were in line to reach $1 million by the end of 2020, one bitcoin today should be worth over $39,000, according to an online tracker that measures the progress of John Mcafee’s infamous prediction to cut off his own member should it not reach seven digits by the end of 2020.

john mcafee bitcoin price tracker

That’s quite a prediction. To reach the seven-figure mark in a more conservative timeframe of five years, bitcoin needs to see daily growth of roughly 0.3%. It has exceeded this in the past—the height of the 2017 bull run saw the coin enjoy massive growth on an almost daily basis.

Stable growth throughout the coming year could be crucial, and the first two months of 2019 have proved promising so far, as the price of bitcoin stays relatively steady between $3,500 and $4,200.

While McAfee was the first crypto celebrity to put so much, well, skin in the game with his $1 million bitcoin price prediction, there’s something about that seven-figure mark that’s simply irresistible to crypto bulls.

This brings us back to IBM VP Jesse Lund’s forecast:

“Two billion adults are unbanked yet one billion of those are carrying smartphones,” said Lund. “If the price of Bitcoin were higher, there would be more liquidity and we could be having a different discussion with banks right now.”

Institutional heads echo this, saying that bitcoin needs to find stability at a price that more closely reflects its utility. Best case scenarios include extended and exponential growth for the flagship cryptocurrency.

MAINTAINING A LONG-TERM OUTLOOK EVEN IN FRIGID CRYPTO WINTER

A substantial price increase is likely to be contingent on what the true utility of cryptocurrency actually is, and this will only become apparent as markets continue to mature. But for the Winklevoss twins, who in 2017 became the first “verified bitcoin billionaires,” the cryptocurrency is already close to becoming an effective store of value.

Responding to questions in a Reddit AMA thread, Cameron Winklevoss and brother Tyler – founders of the Gemini exchange – stated that BTC is the most likely “winner” in cryptocurrency markets due to its existing prominence.

“It’s hard to defeat network effects,” Tyler Winklevoss said. “We believe Bitcoin is better at being gold than gold. If we’re right, then over time the market cap of Bitcoin will surpass the $7 trillion market cap of gold.”

This line of thinking relies on bitcoin becoming less volatile than it has been historically. Toward that end, there have been positive developments since the onset of a long ‘Crypto Winter,’ as proponents dub the consolidation period that began for most cryptocurrencies at the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018.

bitcoin segWit

Markets may be tentatively approaching these conditions. Online trackers show that the usage of Segregated Witness (SegWit) on some days accounts for nearly half of all transactions conducted on the BTC blockchain, which before saw average fees rise to $30when the number of transactions spiked to 300,000 daily. Previously, this was seen as a huge obstacle to the future of “digital gold.”

But, at the time of writing, median transaction fees sit below $0.30, despite recent highs of 360,000 transactions within a 24 hour period. Data indicates that SegWit is working to raise the ceiling for bitcoin and could yet help to realize a value that better represents its utility. This, smart money says, is how a promising start to 2019 will eventually turn into a major bull run.

END OF POST …

03/06/2019 Who’s Who in Crypto (Repost from CCN with Photos): Obama’s Nobel Prize Should Be Stripped, Awarded to Donald Trump Instead

Barack Obama holding his Nobel Peace Prize. Photo: Pete Souza | White House Photo Stream

Obama’s Nobel Prize Should Be Stripped, Awarded to Donald Trump Instead

President Donald Trump is scaling back military exercises in Korea, calmly and humorously building a rapport with the world’s youngest nuclear power, and making a remarkably hastyexit from Syria. He seems far more deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize than Barack Obama.

NOBEL PRIZE COMMITTEE REGRETS 2009 OBAMA AWARD

In 2015 Nobel Prize secretary Geir Lundestad said that Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize “didn’t achieve what it [the Nobel Prize Committee] had hoped for.”

No Nobel Peace Prize award had ever drawn so much publicity. Or scrutiny.

Even many of Obama’s supporters thought the award was premature: It was given to Obama a few mere months into his term – and before he had really done anything.

It was a big stretch to give Obama the Nobel peace prize for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between people” in 2009.

Specifics? Results?

OBAMA WAGED MORE WAR THAN GEORGE W. BUSH

In his first term as president Obama had drastically increased the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan several times higher than when Bush II was president.

And Obama massively increased the number of controversial drone bombing missions that began under George W. Bush, and killed civilians in Pakistan, Yemen, and Syria.

And he rewrote the rules of engagement to leave the U.S. DOD and CIA ultimately unaccountable for confirming they are not killing civilians.

On top of that Obama opened up U.S. war fronts in three more countries: Libya, Somalia, and Syria.

In Libya, the U.S. fomented and militarily supported the coup d’etat of a relatively stable, secular, U.S.-allied dictatorship. He put U.S. troops’ boots on the ground in Somalia. And then he put boots on the ground in Syria.

WASHINGTON’S DYSTOPIAN FOREVER WARS

What president since Jimmy Carter has exercised more restraint in U.S. military policy or moved the world closer to peace than Donald Trump?

Obama, the Clintons, Reagan, and Kings George I & II kept the United States military fighting in foreign territorial disputes and civil wars halfway around the world for 34 out of the 36 combined years of their administrations.

Under the direction of these presidents, U.S. foreign policy has been a horrific amalgam of every dystopian 20th-century novelist’s worst nightmares:

Kafka, Orwell, Heller, and Huxley all rolled up into one.

Gallingly and incredibly, these presidents have led the U.S. federal government to:

1) actually foment some of these conflicts, 2) suddenly and inexplicably switch sides, 3) and even fight on both sides of a foreign conflict at the same time!

A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE

The U.S. fomented the 2011 revolution in Libya and supported it with airstrikes, a sudden an inexplicable switching of sides against the relatively stable, secular government of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who had been a U.S. ally in the War on Terror since 2001.

The U.S. fought on both sides of Syria’s civil war at the same time. The U.S. swept Saddam Hussein to power in the first place, supported him militarily under Reagan, and even green-lighted his annexation of Kuwait, before invading Iraq twice, once by each Bush.

The Taliban and many Muslim extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan also had billions of dollars funneled to them by the Washington political-military-industrial complex during the Reagan years before these countries became fodder for relentless U.S. bombing campaigns.

DONALD TRUMP IS ENDING WARS

donald trump kim jong un

There is no candidate more deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize than the one who has measurably reduced the amount of armed conflict in the world by the most.

Although he isn’t perfectly peaceful (Donald Trump has fired cruise missiles in Syria, surged troop levels there before starting the withdrawal, wants to build more nukes, and is actually dropping more bombs than Obama did), Donald Trump is decreasing the number of people involved in violent conflict by more than anyone in Korea, Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen.

NBC NewsUSA Today, and The Atlantic say Trump’s talks with Kim Jong Un have “collapsed” and been “unproductive.” But the real news is Trump has just ended decades of very threatening and provocative annual joint-military exercises with South Korea.

The U.S. and South Korea would conduct these practice invasions of North Korea mere miles away from North Korea’s border. According to a CNN report from Friday:

“The United States and South Korea are expected to announce in the coming days that annual military exercises between the two nations are to be scaled back…

“The large-scale military exercises… had been scheduled for this spring. Now… the US and South Korea will instead conduct scaled down exercises at a small unit level that could involve virtual training.”

“Virtual training.”

So Trump just scaled back this:

To a bunch of South Korean and American soldiers playing video games.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is withdrawing from Syria and targeting an April exit date. That is insanely fast for the U.S. federal government and the United States military.

Obama strung us along for years with false promises about closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and getting the United States out of nation-building military occupations in the Middle East.

He and his apologists told us these things take time.

But if Donald Trump can get the U.S. out of Syria this fast, where it occupies 33 percent of the country’s territory, an area the size of Louisiana, then Obama could have waged a lot more peace and a lot less war as president if he had really wanted to.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not represent those of, nor should they be attributed to, CCN.

03/06/2019 Who’s Who in Crypto (Repost from CCN with Photos): The Socialist Politics of Envy: What the World Can Learn from Nigeria’s Unfolding Disaster

Nigeria, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez

Africa’s most populated country and the world’s 26th largest economy is heading for a meltdown as a direct result of envy politics. | Source: Shutterstock

The Socialist Politics of Envy: What the World Can Learn from Nigeria’s Unfolding Disaster

Africa’s most populated country and the world’s 26th largest economy is heading for a meltdown as a direct result of envy politics.

It was an election between a multimillionaire pro-business candidate seen as part of the establishment and a self-proclaimed hero of the masses who railed against corrupt elites and promised to fight for the little guy. While this may seem to be the story of pretty much every election nowadays since the shock victory of Donald Trump in 2016, the results of Nigeria’s recent elections contain a very important message from an imperiled country about the dangers of using socialist rhetoric and envy politics as a tool of governance.

It is a story that shows how the populist tactics deployed by Trump and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have infected the global political discourse, becoming powerful tools for emerging dictatorships and incompetent governments to entrench themselves in power. Whether dressed up in right-wing clothes as in Trump’s case or presented as new age “socialism” as with AOC, the basic method is the same – the weaponization of envy and use of scapegoats to achieve political goals at the expense of good economics and common sense.

If the collapse of Venezuela got the world’s attention, the impending collapse of Nigeria, with six times the population of Venezuela, will be positively seismic. This is what happened, and here is how the world can learn from it.

‘POVERTY IS GOOD’

Typically decided along ethnic and religious lines, these elections took on a decidedly economic posture, with the generally prosperous South voting as one for the first time in favor of Atiku Abubakar. This was an economically liberal challenger and successful businessman who promised to introduce comprehensive cryptocurrency regulation in his campaign manifesto after Nigerians were forced to become prolific crypto traders due to the woes of the naira, which fell over 85 percent between 2014 and 2016. The largely impoverished North, however, voted almost unanimously for the famously statist incumbent Muhammadu Buhari.

Following four years of woeful economic performance, including Nigeria’s first recession in a quarter of a century, Buhari’s campaign message was no longer that fighting corruption would grow the economy – which it clearly failed to do in his first term. The message was something altogether different – that Nigerians should learn to accept poverty as the price for “fighting corruption.”

Fatima Askira@Fatiskira

See how shallow people are making it look like their sympathy for is a favor to the people. Hello! You are only being human when you sympathize with the situation, we are resilient and we will sure defeat Boko Haram with @MBuhari our hero.

Leo Septembrist@Leo_Septembrist

They do not see how much corruption has almost destroyed this country. The people that hate PMB now have hated him since 2015. They cloak their hatred with Boko Haram, herdsmen etc. No more easy money. Live within your means. No more overnight billionaires in Nigeria.

While this message elicited stunned reactions from many voters, it turned out to be right on the money in terms of hitting the emotional lever of an even greater number of people.

Despite being far behind where it should be on a per capita basis, Nigeria’s $411 billion economy has a significant population of US Dollar billionaires and millionaires, in addition to a large population of middle class professionals in cities like Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Enugu and Ibadan – predominantly in the country’s South. This fact is often overshadowed by the preponderance of extreme poverty, particularly in the North.

The glaring economic divide between North and South has been used alongside ethnic and religious politics in the past, but this election was the first time that no attempt was made to promise economic growth to those in need of it. Instead, the message was that poverty in Nigeria is a sign of virtue because only the “corrupt” are able to live well. Like a certain social media sensation-cum-Congresswoman across the Atlantic, Buhari was the “man of the people,” campaigning with a message that their honest poverty is not their fault and is nothing to be ashamed of.

Like in the U.S., this approach worked brilliantly, with voters responding positively to a message that absolved them of responsibility and found a comfortable and suitably visible scapegoat. On the surface, AOC’s message is “billionaires and corporate money are distorting democracy,” but what voters are actually expected to hear and respond to is a class warfare dog whistle saying “rich people think they are better than you.” Similarly, the message Nigerian voters really got from the “live within your means” mantra was “those smug city people feel superior to you because they have some money which they probably stole.”

POPULISM IS GOOD POLITICS

For Buhari’s campaign team, it meant avoiding discussions about real issues like Nigeria’s bloated, inefficient, and excessively powerful central government and the unsustainable nature of its welfarist federal budget.

To have such a discussion would mean explaining why amidst the naira’s 85 percent fall against the dollar in 2016, Buhari’s government chose to maintain an unrealistic official exchange rate which was used to subsidize religious pilgrims heading to Mecca for the Hajj.

Such conversations would include discussing the opposition’s stated plan to privatize NNPC, Nigeria’s state-owned oil firm that essentially functions as an independent country on its own, with no practical oversight by or accountability to government. Also included would be the federal government’s opaque and inefficient public contracting, procurement and funds disbursement process.

Rather than discuss a lack of investment in education and healthcare, extremely poor power generation and transport infrastructure, or the lack of proper separation of powers making the executive a law unto itself, the campaign was instead spent attacking the convenient fig leaves of “corrupt people”, “treasury looters,” and “arrogant elites”.

In the absence of reasoned debate or actual policies and achievements, a large vote-buying effort was also deployed, in what some have referred to as the “weaponization of poverty.”

M O R E N I K E J I M I@mzgbeborun

Sanwoolu asked to meet Civil servants in Lagos State at Adeyemo Bero Auditorium, Alausa… But we are here struggling to collect Rice. Yes! CIVIL SERVANTS!!!!

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

M O R E N I K E J I M I@mzgbeborun

These are not thugs my dear, these are civil SERVANTS OF LAGOS STATE!!!! pic.twitter.com/6LOa9Qqpnx

Weaving together the anti-elitist appeal of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the bloviating news-magnetism of Donald Trump and the skilful sophistry of Nigel Farage, Buhari’s campaign painted a picture of a country held hostage by “corrupt” elites, “treasury looters” and their middle-class subalterns who wanted to vote in a pro-business candidate to preserve the corruption status quo.

In 2015, Buhari defeated an incumbent candidate with a Ph.D. who was perceived to be incompetent due to being an airy-fairy ivory tower resident. This time around, his challenger’s wealth was portrayed as a moral failure in a manner reminiscent of how Ocasio-Cortez has portrayed the existence of billionaires amidst poverty as morally unjust.

While the world of shouty Fox News anchors and social media-savvy Congressional freshmen may seem relatively tame in comparison to the literal life and death politics of Africa’s largest country, it is important to note that Nigeria itself was not always this way. The unfortunate sequence of military coups and poor economic decisions that saw the country lose an entire generation of talent to the developed world could not have taken place without popular support from the very people most affected.

It may be difficult to picture Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Donald Trump leading the U.S. into a dystopian future where middle-class professionals are disparaged as the “enemy”, and widespread poverty is held up as a virtue, but such situations can take decades to incubate. The incubation takes place in three stages that often overlap – an anger and dissatisfaction phase, a demonization phase, and then the catastrophe.

DEMONIZATION AND SCAPEGOATING

The first phase is already well underway across most of the developed and developing the world. From Bangalore to Baltimore, everyone is united in anger about something. Regardless of the wide disparity of living experiences around the world, the general mood is that things are worse than they have ever been, and something or someone must be held to account for it. Politicians eagerly feed the narrative that something has gone terribly wrong, and they will fix it.

The second phase is also underway across much of the world. During this phase, scapegoats must be identified and separated from the assumed ‘virtuous masses’. In Nigeria, the scapegoats are “elites”, which translates practically to “anyone who is not poor.” Anyone with a university-level education and a stable source of income is an “elite” who is collaborating with “corrupt treasury looters.”  Across the developed world, the scapegoats may vary from immigrants to Blacks, to Muslims, to “the 1 percent.”

To the impoverished and angry Nigerian voter, their predicament is down to “people who are stealing Nigeria’s money,” regardless of how easily that argument falls down when challenged by the most cursory analysis. Their world is a zero-sum game, where if someone eats three times a day, lives in a comfortable modern residence and drives a car, they must have those things because they “stole” them, or they work for someone who stole them.

ThankGod Ukachukwu@kcnaija

Buhari’s overarching mantra since he came to power is – “elite are the problem of the masses”. Of recent, he hammers on “living within means”. To Buhari, the rise of the middle class during GEJ equals inequitable distribution of wealth. What else is instigation of class war?

However intellectually redundant such a viewpoint is, it has a powerful emotional resonance that is often amplified by lack of education and existing ethnoreligious divisions between North and South.

To the angry voter across much of the developed world, their discontent is caused by immigrants coming over and being given all the jobs and housing, or it is down to the Muslims and refugees being allowed to come into the country and create their own laws and live outside the constitution unlike the long-suffering, salt-of-the-earth natives whom nobody ever listens to.

Perhaps it is the Blacks who are committing all the crimes and nobody can criticize them for fear of being called racist, or most recently, it is the 1 Percent (or even the 0.1 Percent) – the globalist plutocrat oligarchs who pay fewer taxes than everyone, and who have taken away all the jobs and healthcare and placed everyone in debt.

NIGERIA’S UNFOLDING CATASTROPHE

For most of the world, the catastrophe phase is not underway yet, so perhaps a look at Nigeria, where it is well and truly underway will be instructive. A poor economy dependent on a single export resource looks set to continue on its self-imposed implosion, driven by generous subsidy regimes, ridiculously unsustainable social intervention programs, rapidly ballooning foreign debt and a growing annual recurrent expenditure bill that it cannot hope to afford.

In a wrong-headed attempt to plug this funding shortfall, the government has embarked on a high-handed tax collection effort, repeatedly violating the law by unilaterally freezing bank accounts belonging to small businesses and private individuals in the absence of valid court orders or even demand notices. Understandably, this has spooked investors and accelerated the outward flow of investment, which is conveniently labeled as “corrupt money” leaving the country, as against a policy failure driven by envy and fuelled by incompetence.

Alongside this is the growing specter of oil losing its value, as the world’s biggest oil buyers including China and Europe switch to renewable sources over the next couple of decades, which will effectively render Nigeria’s government penniless overnight. Amidst all this, due to a populist aversion to promoting family planning, Nigeria’s impoverished population over the next decade will add another 137 million to its numbers – the biggest growth of any country on earth excluding India.

Paul Wallace

@PaulWallace123

Quite a chart. The UN reckons ‘s population will grow by 137m through 2040, more than anywhere bar India. So, it’ll add as many people as Japan has today if the UN is correct. Nigeria’s current population is about 200m. H/T @JohnAshbourne

44 people are talking about this

Already, tens of thousands of middle-class Nigerians are upping sticks and moving to destinations like Canada, Germany, Australia and the U.S. in preparation for the impending crisis. An entire generation of highly skilled labour including doctors, teachers, lawyers, engineers, nurses, pilots, accountants, entrepreneurs, artists, programmers, artisans, academics and management personnel is being lost to the developed world, leaving behind an exploding population of people living in extreme poverty.

Nigeria

The Sahara desert meanwhile, is also claiming an estimated 3,500 sq. km of arable land from Nigeria every year, which is a contributing factor to the presence of Boko Haram and the Fulani herdsmen – two of the world’s deadliest terror groups responsible for tens of thousands of deaths, maimings, and abductions over the past decade.

ENVY POLITICS IS DEADLY POLITICS

Through all of this, a class of anti-intellectual populists in Abuja continue to raise clenched fists before adoring crowds, admonishing them to “live within their means” while demonizing economic ambition and wealth. They have achieved great political success by weaponizing the economic envy of a large, impoverished population, publicly glorifying poverty as a virtue while collecting the world’s most generous compensation packages for political office holders.

Outside in the real world, however, following the news of Buhari’s re-election, the Nigerian Stock Exchange lost 196 billion naira (about $542 million), as the investment outlook continues to dim on Africa’s largest economy. The net result of years of envy politics and demonizing wealth and intelligence is a country that has hit the metaphorical iceberg, and continues to cheer while the band plays as the ship sinks.

The next time a politician – be it AOC or Donald Trump or Viktor Orban or Nigel Farage – tells you that your life is terrible because of this or that group of people, it would do you some good to think about whether this is what you want your future to look like, before giving in to your base instincts.

The unfolding lesson from this part of the world is very clear – the politics of populism and envy may be very good at winning elections, but they clearly are not good at running successful economies.

03/06/2019 Who’s Who in Crypto (Repost from CCN with Photos): How Stupid Does Google Think We Are? Nest Privacy Fiasco is Flat-Out Insulting

Google, Nest, Google Nest

Google has laughably claimed that it forgot to mention the built-in microphone of its Nest Secure alarm system. | Source: AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File

How Stupid Does Google Think We Are? Nest Privacy Fiasco is Flat-Out Insulting

Google has become the latest tech giant to admit that it had screwed up when it comes to doing something suspect related to one of its devices and users’ privacy.

Google’s Nest home alarm products are embedded with a microphone that was not disclosed to the buyer. When the news hit the fan, search engine giant pretty much said oops, our bad, we made a mistake, etc.

There seems to be a playbook that tech giants pull from when they’re caught red-handed doing something nefarious. Think Amazon, Apple and Facebook and their debacles with privacy issues. Through verbal gymnastics, their C-suite execs downplayed the problems.

Most aggravating is the “duh” response. Such responses by these tech behemoths are not going to continue to fly.

NESTING AND LISTENING

To considerable fanfare, Google rolled out a series of home alarm products that it named Nest at the beginning of the year.

As pointed out by Gizmodo, some of Google’s newest Nest devices have been on the market for just barely two months, and already there are issues.  There have been a few hacking scares over its home securities cameras, according to Gizmodo.

The whammy over this microphone is particularly disturbing and the reasons are twofold:

  • Nest buyers were not explicitly told about the microphone.
  • The lackadaisical response leaves a lot to be desired.

Apparently, it’s common practice for Google to use microphones in its systems because that’s how they can pick up sounds. Business Insider was told by execs that the mics are included on the device so that [it] can potentially offer additional features to our users in the future, such as the ability to detect broken glass.

Furthermore, “the microphone has never been on and is only activated when users specifically enable the option,” according to Business Insider.

QUIRKS PUT OUT FOR ALL TO SEE

Like its peers, Google is finding out what it’s like to have issues meant to be kept private exposed to the masses.

Business Insider broke the news of the Nest systems and the built-in microphones. It was only then that Alphabet-owned property spoke up about it.

Here’s a statement from a Google spokesperson.

The on-device microphone was never intended to be a secret and should have been listed in the tech specs. That was an error on our part. The microphone has never been on and is only activated when users specifically enable the option.

Error!?

That backlash from that comment came quick. It was almost as insulting to the intellect as the mic being put in the devices in the first place. Google had put users on notice about the system. In February blog post, it stated it was adding “a feature” to help people streamline their daily routine.

Unbeknownst to users was this feature had a microphone. As the fallout occurred, Google updated its product page to point out the mic.

WAKEUP TIME FOR BIG TECH

Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook have dazzled us when their inventions. We eagerly awaited the releases of their next best things.

Few hesitated to buy their gadgets over fears that they’d feed off of by violating our privacies. Now that these tech giants are being caught red-handed breaking all kinds of common sense privacy rules, they seem to think they can feign ignorance, or just offer up and ‘oops’ in response.

Steven Tweedie

@SteveTweedie

Senate Commerce Committee pens letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai requesting written answers for 6 questions and an in-person briefing related to Google’s failure to disclose a mic was inside Nest Secure/Nest Guard https://read.bi/2Xm9Pv4  tip @Techmeme

The Senate Commerce Committee is demanding answers from Google CEO Sundar Pichai about the compan…

“Google’s failure to disclose a microphone within its Nest Secure product raises serious questions about its commitment to consumer transparency and disclosure.”

businessinsider.com

Given these tech companies boast being manned by the most intelligent people in the world, apologies are falling on deaf ears. More are doubting that the uptick in the number of these screw-ups just mistakes.

DISTURBING TREND OF DISREGARDING PRIVACY ISSUES

It seems that tech companies are in an endless cycle of “hold my beer.” As soon as we learn about one doing something related to privacy we hear of another one doing something just as bad.

Google joins Amazon in having privacy issues with its devices. Earlier this month, Facebook co-founder Sean Parker singled out Amazon’s Alexa in warning about these devices.

Amazon’s Alexa is listening to everything you say, literally everything you say. You don’t have to say ‘Hey Alexa.’ The microphone is on and it’s recording. If you need any evidence of this, just look at all the subpoenas Amazon is receiving from law enforcement agencies.

Facebook has been mired in controversies over how it handles its users’ privacies. One of the most damning reveals stemmed from the breach of its subscribers’ information by Cambridge Analytica breach.

CCN reported that the Cambridge Analytica debacle would cause a mass exodus of Facebook users. Their leaving would result in businesses decreasing their ad dollars for the company, the theory went. However, neither scenario came true. Advertisers are still using the platform because users aren’t leaving in droves.

Then there’s Apple.  whose FaceTime app had a bug that was allowing people to listen in on others’ conversations. Many were outraged that Apple was slow to respond or fix the bug that was allowing this to happen.

OOPS, MY BAD, I’M SORRY AREN’T CUTTING IT

In expressing their concerns about Google’s snafu, many observers were having a hard time believing that the supposedly smartest people on the planet weren’t catching these flaws.

Twitter user Tim Shisler summarized the thoughts of many by tweeting:

For all these tech companies hiring the smartest people available, they sure do a good job pretending innocent mistakes just happen. And the craziest thing is people believe it.

Scott Galloway

@profgalloway

Oops! We neglected to mention we’re recording everything you do while fronting as a security device. The fact that we can record you is in no way intentional, a mic must have just fallen into the device. https://www.businessinsider.com/nest-microphone-was-never-supposed-to-be-a-secret-2019-2 

Google says the built-in microphone it never told Nest users about was ‘never supposed to be a…

On Tuesday, a Google representative told Business Insider the company had made an “error.”

businessinsider.com

Here’s another person who’s not buying the “mistake” answer.

Josh Constine

@JoshConstine

I love how tech giants think calling some massive betrayal of user trust “an error” makes it all better. Google had a secret mic in Nest Secure. Wtf.

874 people are talking about this
END OF POST…

03/06/2019 Who’s Who in Crypto (Repost from CCN with Photos): Millennials are Killing the US Beer Industry – Their Next Victim is Heineken

heineken us beer industry

Heineken is just the latest beer company pushed to the brink by changing drinking habits among US millennials. | Source: Shutterstock

Millennials are Killing the US Beer Industry – Their Next Victim is Heineken

Heineken USA, the American division of Dutch global beverage manufacturer Heineken International – the world’s second-largest brewer – is gearing up for a business restructuring that will involve cutting 15 percent of its total workforce.

Honestly, did anyone not see this coming?

US BEER GIANTS ARE DOWNSIZING EN MASSE

Beer companies are taking a beating in the US, which explains why a number of them are undergoing cost-cutting measures. Heineken USA is not alone in the downsizing spree. Other major beer companies that have chosen to initiate job cuts in recent months include MillerCoors, Pabst brewing, AB InBev, and Constellation Brands.

Oregon-based Deschutes, the 10th largest craft brewer in the US, also eliminated 10 percent of its total staff last December. The brewer had made expansions to its workforce after initiating some growth strategies, but they eventually resorted to the layoffs after growth outcomes failed to match their projections.

Bjorn Trowery, a spokesperson for the firm, confirmed the job cuts, saying:

“We are modifying our sales team structure to align with our strategy and to enable more efficient ways of working. This will help Heineken USA be more cost effective, and allow us to reinvest behind our brands and business in the US. While change that impacts our people is always difficult, we believe these changes will better position Heineken USA for the future.”

US MILLENNIALS ARE DRINKING LESS BEER

Last year, Heineken-owned Lagunitas slashed 12 percent of its total workforce, 17 months after it was acquired. At the time, Lagunitas had said the cuts were necessary for the company to adjust to the needs of a dynamic and significantly more challenging market.

To put that more bluntly: millennials just don’t drink beer like their parents did.

Last month, Diageo CEO Ivan Menezes noted in an interview with CNBC that consumers are moving from beer to spirits and cocktails.

According to data released by the Distilled Spirits Council, a trade group based in the United States, spirits (including vodka, rum, and gin) gained even more market share in the alcohol market for 2018, as compared to wine and beer.

The data showed that the share of the alcohol market owned by spirits rose 0.7 percent to 37.4 percent within the last calendar year, showing a marked increase in the consumption of spirits in the country.

Distilled Spirits Council President and CEO Chris Swonger said that younger consumers were the driving force for that shift:

“These robust results show adult consumers are continuing to favor spirits over beer and wine, particularly among millennials. The spirits sector is benefiting from millennials who demand diverse and authentic experiences, and desire innovative and higher-end products.”

The group revealed that supplier sales of spirits rose to $27.5 billion, an increase of 5.1 percent. The volume of spirits produced in the year also surged to 231 million cases, a whopping 5 million case increase from 2017.

MILLENNIALS WERE BORN TO DRINK WINE & SPIRITS

millennials killing beer

Millennials are just not into beer anymore, and this is quickly pushing many beer companies to the brink. Molson Coors saw sales slump in four straight quarters in 2018, and the volume of Heineken cases sold has decreased drastically – even while wine and spirits sales are on the rise.

From 2006 to 2016, beer lost 10 percent of its market share to hard liquor and wine. US millennials consumed nearly 160 million cases of wine in 2015 alone, according to Wine Spectator, which was roughly 42 percent of all US wine consumption.

What’s more? Millennials actually drink more frequently than previous generations. These consumers are the imbibers the beer industry have been dreaming of, and they seem to be growing in numbers. From 2005 to 2010, young high-frequency wine drinkers went from making up 8 percent of drinking-age adults to over 13 percent.

And yet, this group seems uninterested in big beer brands like Heineken or Budweiser. Millennial drinkers picked beer just 49.7 percent of the time when deciding on an alcoholic beverage to consume, per a Wall Street Journal report.

HEINEKEN DITCHES ALCOHOL IN LAST-DITCH BID TO REVIVE AILING BUSINESS

To close the gap and get in on this free-spirited and high-frequency drinking market, big brand names have swooped in on the nonalcoholic beverage business to make up for the loss in beer sales.

The parent company of Budweiser, AB InBev, rolled out a range of non-alcoholic beverages including the Bud Light Orange and the Budweiser Reserve series in 2018.

Heineken also jumped on the bandwagon, pushing out Heineken 0.0 in 2017 and launching it in the US last month. Heineken 0.0 is the cavalry that would help revive the Dutch brewer’s ailing business in the US.

Despite the recent layoffs, Heineken CEO Jean-François van Boxmeer claims to see many prospects in the US, and one has to wonder why it took them so long to join the party.

He explained on the company’s earnings call:

“We try it out with a belief that also in America there are moments where you don’t want to drink alcohol, if you have people who never drink alcohol, and you have people who love beer and don’t want to have alcohol in sight[…] or want to have a glass of beer and be able to take their automobile back home.”

Update 3/2: Heineken USA Director of External Communications Bjorn Trwoery provided CCN with the following statement:

“In response to what we find is a headline which misrepresents, as a family-owned company with 150+ years of brewing experience, we’re confident we can continue to innovate, adapt and offer beers and ciders that attract drinkers for years to come. Recent innovations such as Heineken 0.0, Strongbow Rosè and gains with Dos Equis are opening up new occasions, energizing the category and offering incremental opportunities with new drinkers— including Millennials.”

END OF POST…

03/06/2019 Who’s Who in Crypto (Repost from CCN with Photos): Airhead Alert: Ocasio-Cortez Declares Radical Leftist War on Moderate Democrats

alexandria ocasio-cortez

Progressive firebrand Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has turned her radical leftist attack dogs on moderate Democrats. | Source: REUTERS / Brian Snyder

Airhead Alert: Ocasio-Cortez Declares Radical Leftist War on Moderate Democrats

Newbie congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is causing waves within her own political caucus by declaring war on moderate Democrats who refuse to go along with her desire to move to the party to the far-left.

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ WANTS TO BLACKLIST REASONABLE DEMOCRATS

Ocasio-Cortez — a self-declared socialist — threatened to put moderate Democrats on a hit list of people she’ll target to unseat at the next election, the Washington Post reported.

alexandria ocasio cortez bartender

AOC CHAMPIONS OPEN BORDERS AND SOCIALISM

AOC and other far-left members of the splintered Democrat Party were furious this week after 24 moderate Democrats sided with Republicans on a bill that would expand background checks for gun purchases.

Ocasio-Cortez’s rep said she told her colleagues that moderate Democrats who side with Republicans on this issue “are putting themselves on a [hit] list.”

While Democrats want restrictions on the Second Amendment, AOC and her motley crew of open-borders leftists were outraged that a provision requires ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to be notified if illegal immigrants try to buy guns.

This goes against the leftist orthodoxy of rabidly promoting illegal immigration — regardless of the heavy financial burden and social costs to Americans.

Some 15 Americans are murdered every day by illegal immigrants – who collectively cost U.S. taxpayers $116 billion every year, according to the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

illegal alien cost

DEMOCRATS PREVIOUSLY OPPOSED ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION

While the Democrat Party supported a border fence and opposed illegal immigration as recently as 2014, all that changed once Republican President Donald Trump took office.

The entire Democrat Party has since done a radical about-face and now supports open borders and illegal immigration. Many, like Ocasio-Cortez, even support socialism — a failed ideology that runs counter to the capitalist principles that made the United States the richest and most powerful country in history.

In short, today’s Democrats oppose any political position that President Trump takes, no matter how destructive. And freshman lawmakers like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are leading the charge.

Some people might be fooled into believing that liberals support illegal immigration because they’re kindhearted humanitarians. In reality, it’s a cynical power play to increase the Democrat voting bloc after the party began losing middle-class and minority voters, who felt abandoned.

NYC STILL REELING FROM AOC’S AMAZON DISASTER

Even though Ocasio-Cortez has only been a congresswoman for a month, the former bartender’s star power is undisputed, thanks to her massive social media following. But so far, AOC is proving that she’s all style, no substance.

Her most recent debacle was chasing Amazon out of New York in a move that cost the city 25,000 high-paying jobs. Amazon’s new headquarters would have spurred an economic boom in the financially struggling borough of Queens, New York. When Amazon pulled out, Ocasio-Cortez gleefully celebrated.

Local businessman Josh Bowen, the owner of the John Brown Smokehouse in Queens, torched her. Bowen said AOC’s comical stupidity and radical activism hurt his blue-collar community.

“Our dumb, glory-seeking politicians decided this was their hot-button issue, f–king over our people for political gain,” Bowen said. “This is not Shangri-La over here. We needed this! We needed this! This was a gift.”

job creators network ocasio cortez billboards

FED: THERE ARE LIMITS TO USING OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY

Even Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell ripped Ocasio-Cortez’s epic ignorance. At a February 26 hearing of the Senate Banking Committee, Powell said Democrat enthusiasm for using OPM (Other People’s Money) is “just wrong.”

“The idea that deficits don’t matter for countries that can borrow in their own currency is just wrong,” Powell said, in reference to an idea vocally championed by AOC.

The thin-skinned Ocasio-Cortez bristles at the bipartisan criticism she receives over her lack of knowledge of basic economic principles. While she has tried to frame the backlash as racist by suggesting that only white male Republicans find her clueless, in reality, many minorities also mock her foolishness.

Alfredo Ortiz, the CEO of the Job Creators Network, trashed Ocasio-Cortez for championing socialism, a failed ideology that caused the once-sizzling Venezuelan economy to plunge into poverty.

“Socialism takes, and capitalism creates,” Ortiz said. “We can see what socialism did here. It took away 25,000 to 40,000 great-paying jobs. We calculated somewhere between $4 billion to $6 billion in lost wages for New Yorkers.”

“We have economic illiteracy in this country. [Ocasio-Cortez] basically is taking a victory lap while thousands of people lost the American dream opportunity.”

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not represent those of, nor should they be attributed to, CCN.