Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The NFL is Completely Full of It; And Here's Why

The Ray Rice domestic abuse scandal has reached is highest point as of yesterday, when video evidence from Revel Casino in Atlantic City was released showing the events that occurred in the elevator, the night that Ray Rice struck his then fiancĂ©e (now wife), Janay Palmer. The video is graphic, and it is a very grotesque event to have occurred. Having said that, I think that we've addressed how much of a terrible person Ray Rice is, and how messed up the entire process has been surrounding the event. However, it's now time to fix our eyes on to the NFL itself, and find out who it was that turned a blind eye to this by considering a 2-game suspension of Ray Rice as appropriate. Keith Olbermann laid the entire issue out very poignantly in his segment on his show Olbermann, where he accuses the NFL of turning a blind eye and trying to sweep their involvement in this situation under the rug. And he's absolutely right in doing so.

Let's look at the facts and fill in the gaps with common sense. The NFL had to have seen/looked at the tape. There was no reason to not look at the tape. That's all you really need to come to the conclusion that the NFL is completely full of it by claiming ignorance when it comes to the full extent of the Ray Rice affair.

The NFL League Office and the Baltimore Ravens organization have both publicly denied being privy to the video tape of Rice knocking out his wife out until yesterday morning, and TMZ, the ones who had leaked the tape, have conflicting reports saying the NFL deliberately chose not to see the video tape, but that some NFL security "dudes" did see the tape. Then there's Peter King, the NFL's reporting glory boy, backtracking on his original claim that the NFL did in fact see the tape, covering for the same sources that had screwed him over in the first place when he had approached them about the matter in February. This has been a long and sordid process of making the truth more and more opaque as the days go on, distancing ourselves further away from what occurred in February. There's no way we get solid evidence that Roger Goodell saw the tape with his own eyes before it was leaked to the internet yesterday. Any evidence of that has long been deleted from a league office computer, completely irretrievable, and any reporter that's best in a position to dope out the proper justice that needs to be done here in pointing their fingers in a generally sensible direction won't do so, because they don't want to publicly announce that their sources in the league office have clearly played them - thus putting all previous stories from those sources in doubt. Guilty by association.

We don't need evidence to fill in the gaps though - we have common sense that works just as well in this scenario. Here's all you really need to know:

  • Roger Goodell really likes to suspend players to further consolidate power within his office.
  • Goodell really likes to make strong statements in the media to increase the PR appeal of his office.
  • If you're investigating an incident like this, you're going to want to look at all the evidence associated with the incident - it would only make sense at least somebody at the NFL saw the tape.
  • The tape was bound to surface at some point - people had already seen it. Seldom do events like these stay quiet for long in this day and age.
  • Legally speaking, nothing good can come from avoiding the tape.
  • It doesn't take a rocket scientist to at least take a guess at what was on the tape, given that the other already leaked tape shows Ray Rice dragging an unconscious Janay Palmer out of an elevator.
Roger Goodell is stupid, but he's not that stupid. He had to have seen the tape, because considering the aforementioned factors, the risks of not watching it are too high. They knew what was on the tape, and they heard Janay Palmer testify, and they still thought that two games sounds fair. That logic filtered through Goodell's office to the Baltimore Ravens' office out to the national media. Everything is easily explained if you consider that these are all very stupid, smug men who think alike. And nothing can be done to rectify their mistakes - despite how hard they may try. There was no good reason not to watch that tape. They saw it, and they thought little of it, and now they're praying you don't notice.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Zoos of the Future

tnplus9 Zoos throughout the country have been recently struggling to stay afloat. Some of the most famous zoos in the world such as the Bronx Zoo, Oregon Zoo and the San Diego Zoo have not been generating enough revenue to support their extremely expensive exhibits. Exposes like Blackfish have left people wary about supporting organizations that keep animals confined in small, unnatural habitats. However this does not necessarily mean the end of all zoos, the trend just calls for them to adapt and evolve.

Recently, Danish architecture firm BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) has released a batch of revolutionary designs and drawings of their latest project, Zootopia. This plan, created especially for the Givskud Zoo in central Denmark, will revamp the 300-acre complex. It will be divided into numerous open range sections for American, Asian and African ecosystems. Visitors will be able to observe the areas from a high perimeter wall or even view the animals by bike, boat, truck or car.

Although the plan has numerous kinks and problems to work out, it is an exciting step in the progression of zoo design. BIG is not the only organization that has been taking steps to reinvent the zoo experience to make it more humane and educational. The Paris Zoo reponed only a few months ago with new large “biozones” over smaller enclosures for individual species.

Another idea is to construct “vertical zoos,” particularly concerning wild birds, which will mean an open tower providing plenty of food, shelter and foliage for migratory passing birds. Visitors would be able to observe the traveling avian wildlife as they pass through.

Webcam zoos, such as the nonprofit has dozens of cameras set up around the world which film different species in the wild. It would allow viewers to spy on a snowy owl family in its natural habitat than in a tiny aviary at a zoo.

An extremely futuristic approach is to replace biological animals with artificial doppelgangers. Zoos packed with cloned animals are another option planners are considering. The possibilities for these more humane zoos appear endless.

Although the traditional zoos we have come to know have been hit hard, the ideas for zoos of the future are proving to be equally entertaining and enjoyable. They also have the added advantage of removing the guilt that comes with seeing an animal in caged captivity. The possibilities are exciting and endless zoos of the future.

from Nature and Outdoors Blog | Samantha Krahenbuhl

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Monday, June 2, 2014

Backers Want Everyone to Use Bitcoin

Bitcoin investors are eager to get the digital currency into mainstream usage. While we are still far from that reality there have been great strides recently to make the currency more popular. The biggest obstacles towards wider usage have been the public’s perception of the currency as confusing and the fact that many associate it with illegal activities. These concerns are legitimate because the currency is unregulated and anonymous making it a perfect candidate for illegal dealings. Also, the public is concerned with how the currency fluctuates up and down and how the Mt. Gox exchange crashed. Even so, the currency is flourishing and with the help of Bitcoin start-ups and backers the currency is being successfully promoted and supported by many businesses. More and more retailers are becoming pro-Bitcoin, like and TigerDirect who are know accepting Bitcoin payments. Even more encouraging for the future of the digital currency is that Circle recently launched a free Bitcoin consumer-finance company. This is a new move for the currency because it boots out the once dominant method of fee-based Bitcoin consumer services.

The new Circle exchange was created by Circle co-founders Jeremy Allaire and Season Neville. They are doing the most to tackle the public concern of not understand Bitcoin. Their goal in starting the company was to help instill consumer confidence, whichcombats many of the public’s concerns. They use terms that make the currency more accessible. For example, instead of saying buying, selling and exchanging Bitcoins they use more common, banking terms like deposits, withdrawals and storage. They also help with the trust aspect of the currency by giving a free service, providing phone support, military grade encryption, and insurance from theft.

Another fund was established by the Winklevoss twins that allows people to invest in Bitcoin without actually owning any. This kind of exchange is the first of its kind an acts as a trading fund that can be bought and sold on the public markets like a stock or index fund. This allows people to reap the benefits of the Bitcoin exchange without experiencing the risk normally associated with the new currency.

These two new Bitcoin innovations are just the beginning of building trust and helping the public to understand that Bitcoin and other digital currencies are the way of the future. It will take time, but Bitcoin is on its way to becoming mainstream.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Dental Therapist Trying to Fill the Gap

There is an oral health care crisis in many states throughout the U.S. In rural areas many are underserved and therefore develop many oral health issues. There is a lack of dentists and the dentists that are already licensed frequently do not want to move to extremely rural areas where there is the most need. To fill in this need some states have turned to licensing dental therapists. These therapists are similar to physicians’ assistants in the medical field. They go through two years of intensive training and then they are able to do routine check-ups, cleanings, extractions, fillings, and pediatric steel crowns. The states that have already licensing these therapists include Minnesota, Alaska, and Maine. States that are working on the legislation to allow dental therapists include Vermont, New Mexico, and Kansas.

The advantages of licensing dental therapist include servicing the many people who live in rural areas and never get to see a dentist. Those who live in these areas are more likely to develop dental problems because they don’t have regular check-ups and cleanings. Also, if there is a serious dental issue, it usually goes unresolved until it is too late and they end up in the emergency room, rather than having it dealt with earlier by a dental professional. In 2009 the Pew Research Center reported that over 830,000 emergency room visits were due to preventable dental conditions.

Even though dental therapists are filling a great void in the dental care industry, dentists and the American Dental Association are taking a firm stand against states allowing the licensing of dental therapists. They have been lobbying hard against it in every state that the issue comes up. In a statement the ADA said that they do, “not consider the one-size-fits-all mid-level dental provider model to be a viable solution to the diverse set of barriers that impede million from getting dental care.” Although the ADA is trying to protect the dentists that are their members, it has been shown that dental therapists that work for dentists in their private practices actually boost income just like hiring dental hygienists. In reality, the more people that are trained to help others with their dental health needs, the healthier our country will be.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Black Keys Release Turn Blue

The popular rock duo, the Black Keys have introduced their new album, Turn Blue. The pair, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have been pretty consistently successful since they started in the 2000s even after other bands of their generations have faded away. The secret to their survival was making it through the financial crisis. When people stopped buying records and sought a totally different sound, the Black Keys were there with something fresh that still reminded listeners of something older that they may have listened to before. They offer a sort of nostalgia with rock beats, some disco elements, sixty stoner haze, but in a contemporary package and new lyrics. In Turn Blue they take the album as an opportunity to dive into themselves and work through their own issues emotionally and musically. Much of the album has the same flavor as far as feel. It is as if you have been transported to the back room of a disco club where everything exists in a haze of smoke perfumed with marijuana.

What makes it contemporary are the feelings and depth that Auerbach has poured into the lyrics. He has been going through some of his own issues and you hear that in the song “Year in Review” he sings “Why you always wanna love the ones who hurt you/ Then break down when they go and deserve you.” Through much of the album there is a very established atmosphere and motifs that often come back in the strings sections without deviating. In fact, the Black Keys, overall, have not been known for deviation. They usually stick to the status quo and stay with what works. Innovation is not their style. That being said, there are a few moments in Turn Blue where they step outside of their comfort zone and explore something new. These moments are the only redeeming parts of the album and they are worth listening to.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Fines for Morgan Stanley Over IPO Rules

morganStanley-glass Morgan Stanley Wealth Management has been charged $5 million by Finra for violating IPO rules. The financial regulator, found that Morgan Stanley lacked clear policies on how to communicate with customers about their intention to buy shares in initial public stock offerings. This procedural error comes from the company needing to distinguish for customers when they have a firm commitment to buy stock, or just a nonbinding indication of interest. This fine is the third-largest Finra has given out over the past two years. Finra stands as the industry self-regulator for investment brokers and securities firms. They stepped in, in this case to protect the clients, although this charge was not started because of a client’s complaint. Finra representative Mr. Bennett said the issue is whether investors were able to review information before making a decision for themselves. “The blocking and tackling [when selling IPOs] must be done correctly, so that if in the event you have IPOs with disappointed purchaser, that those purchasers made the decision with the benefit of timely and accurate information. The securities laws don’t guarantee you’ll make money, but that you’ll have the information in a timely fashion.” The fine for Morgan Stanley comes down to being transparent with their clients about whether they are buying into a stock, so that the client is aware of what the bias is of the company that they are getting their financial and investment advise from. Most of the confusing in the company’s policy comes from Morgan Stanley merging with Citigroup’s Smith Barney. When these company’s came together no one distinguished and combined the policies and training from each side to inform employees of the important difference between the language “indications of interest” that was used by brokers at Morgan Stanley and “conditional offers” spoken by brokers at Citigroup Smith Barney.

from Samantha Krahenbuhl’s Webpage

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Xapo Set to Release First Bitcoin Credit Card

Xapo made big news in March of this year, launching an insured, secured repository for high exposure BTC investors. Now, the service is going after the novice or average bitcoin user credit cards that link directly to their Xapo bitcoin wallet.

“Most of our customers keep 90% of their bitcoin in our vault and 10% in their wallet,” said Wences Casares. The addition of card access to these wallets will allow that 10 percent to be instantly transferred to cash.

Users of the Xapo wallet service will receive a free credit card number, complete with expiration date that they can use for transactions online. For an extra $15, they can request a physical card with a magstripe that is usable at any store that accepts MasterCard. PIN and chip cards will be available in Europe. 

Here’s the transaction structure: the card gets run and Xapo checks the associated bitcoin wallet for sufficient funds. Once the funds are verified, Xapo sells the bitcoin on Bitstamp for fiat currency and pays the vendor with the fiat currency. Vendors pay regular credit card fees while the customer pays no fee.

The service doesn’t allow for ATM withdrawals - yet. Cesares expects that functionality to come soon. The credit card clearly isn’t for the bitcoin community as a whole - only for targeted individuals that are either unfamiliar with bitcoin itself, or for those that want to use it for transactions. There are many that are simply hoarding the currency and have no intention of using it. 
Cesares also claims that Xapo has no intention of becoming an exchange, which is reasonable considering the difficulties exchanges have on a daily basis to make money. Hedging a highly volatile currency is no easy task. For now Xapo seems content to specialize in the storage aspect, which they’ve performed quite well in doing. 

Users who want to try the new credit card service can simply open a new wallet and request a credit card number.