Are We There Yet ?


Put away your wallet: Why mobile payments’ moment may have finally arrived

by Armina Ligaya

Thousands of years ago, humans traded grains and rocks for goods. We dug into our satchels for bits of silver. How little things have changed. Generation after generation has spent its days “pulling stuff out of our pockets and handing it to someone to get something back,” said Edward Castronova, a professor of media at Indiana University.

The author of Wildcat Currency: How the Virtual Money Revolution is Transforming the Economy, Mr. Castronova believes, finally, a transformation is coming.

No more pockets. No more reaching, even. Just tapping on the lens of your glasses will bring up a tally of your financial assets, from dollars and bitcoins to loyalty points and frequent-flyer miles. When you want to obtain something, some chip will calculate the best combination of currencies and execute the transaction for you.

If there’s one thing that Apple has done well in the past, is it’s gotten people to adopt technologies that they have not been willing to in the past

We will become the perfect consumer: a “walking source of purchasing power, able to freely walk through the world and acquire whatever you wanted,” Mr. Castronova envisions. “Until a little red beep would go off telling you that you’re out of money.” Little wonder that tech companies, and payment companies, are racing to beat each other to dominate in the space, most recently with Apple’s announcement this week of its launch of the Apple Pay device-based wireless payment system, compatible with the next generation of iPhones and Apple Watch.

The wallet, that overstuffed modern satchel — “an organizer, a secretary, and a friend,” asSeinfeld’s George Costanza once described his book-thick pocketbook — could have as little as five years left to live, the author suggests. Digital devices are already organizing our lives like secretaries, and connecting us to our friends. The only thing missing is the money.

“Our vision is to replace this,” Apple chief executive Tim Cook said during Tuesday’sproduct gala, gesturing to the image of a bulging black leather wallet on the giant video screen behind him.

Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesJustin Sullivan/Getty Images

Apple Pay, a contactless system, which uses near-field communication technology, will be available on its newest iPhones and the Apple Watch, starting in the U.S. in October.

The company will have to succeed where others have only struggled. Google Inc. has yet to make its Google Wallet, launched in 2011, take off on a wide scale. PayPal, which was acquired by e-commerce company EBay in 2002, has expanded beyond facilitating online payments and into physical stores, but hasn’t achieved widespread traction either.

But Apple has shown a knack before of being able to improve on existing products and make them ubiquitous, noted Maynard Um, equity analyst for Wells Fargo in New York. There were MP3 players around before the superior iPod roared into the space and put one in every music lover’s hand.

“If there’s one thing that Apple has done well in the past, is it’s gotten people to adopt technologies that they have not been willing to in the past,” he said. “It’s all about the execution of the technology.”

And Apple has built features into its platform that positions it a few steps ahead of its competitors, said Forrester Research analyst Denée Carrington.

Consumers have been reluctant to change the way they pay because many existing mobile-payment platforms are cumbersome, requiring users to figure out which app to use, and pull it up to make a purchase, she says. There hasn’t been a compelling reason for merchants to change their ways either, she added.

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Apple Pay, however, is using its PassBook app to automatically detect when the user is in a store and prompt them to pay, she said. The Touch ID function to detect a user’s fingerprint as a security measure when paying will also make consumers more comfortable, she added.

“They have designed a lot of things into the experience that are different than the way other [digital] wallets work,” said Ms. Carrington. “That will help remove the barriers that have existed before, and make it easier to even think about trying it,” she said.

And because iPhone users are typically early adopters of technology — and big spenders — merchants will be more willing to change their current point-of-sale terminals and adopt Apple Pay to cater to this audience, she added.

Apple’s entry is enough of a threat that some analysts, such as Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster, have downgraded EBay.

The iPhone maker has already signed deals with Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and major retailers including Staples, McDonald’s and Whole Foods.

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Still, Ms. Carrington doesn’t think the five-year deathwatch for the wallet is particularly realistic.

“There are things in your wallet, such as an ID,” she said. “And times when you need to have coins or cash. And that’s not going to go away entirely in the next year, or five years.” Mr. Um wonders how you deal with paying digitally for groceries when your device batteries are dead.

Jack Dorsey, CEO of payment-systems’ maker Square Inc., who was a co-founder of Twitter, said he is preparing for Apple, with its marketing and execution prowess, to finally shake up the sleepy digital-payment space.

“[Near field communication] is not new technology … It really hasn’t taken off because there hasn’t been a huge consumer demand for it,” said Mr. Dorsey, at the launch of Square’s Kitchener, Ont. office on Wednesday. “We think Apple may change that.” (Square launched its own wallet app in 2011, but pulled the plug earlier this year — now Mr. Dorsey says he doesn’t consider Apple Pay competition, but rather a complement to his system, which is agnostic about the form of payment).

But for all his anticipation of the end of the wallet, Mr. Castronova doesn’t actually believe it will be Apple — or any of the big Silicon Valley firms — that will put an end to our bulging pockets. As with Facebook and Twitter and social media, he expects a small, nimbler company will develop the ultimate solution to the modern satchel.

“It took a small company to take the full plunge,” he said. “The same thing is going to go on here.”

Armina Ligaya | September 13, 2014 at 6:00 am | Tags: Apple Inc., Apple iPhone, Apple Pay,PayPal Inc., square inc., Tim Cook | Categories: FP Tech Desk | URL: http://wp.me/pMyQt-1Zwi
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Saudi Arabia and ISIS


New post on Financial Post | Business

Saudi Arabia could fight ISIS with oil — if they can bear the price

by Yadullah Hussain

Saudi Arabia might end up doing more in the growing multilateral campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) than its muted response so far has suggested: Using its oil-market power to drive down the price of oil, which the insurgent group relies on to fund its Islamist rebellion.

[np_storybar title="Oil sands players shrug off falling prices, eye narrowing differentials" link="http://business.financialpost.com/2014/09/11/oil-sands-players-shrug-off-falling-prices-eye-narrowing-differentials/?__lsa=cff5-9eeb"]

While the industry is mindful of a disruption caused by a price collapse, companies are comforted by lower differentials between Canadian and U.S. crude
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“What could Arab countries offer the West to help contain this threat? Lower oil prices,” wrote Francisco Blanch, commodity and derivative strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, in a note published this week.

ISIS, which has been overwhelming conventional forces, as well as rival rebel groups, in a spreading occupation over large swathes of Syria and Iraq, is estimated to earn US$3-million a day from oil sales. The group has already seized the largest oil field in Syria, now controlling 60% of the oil production in that country, and captured seven oil fields in Iraq. Most of the oil is sold at discounts to world prices to Turkey, who then resells it throughout Europe.

President Barack Obama’s phone call to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on Wednesday, before addressing the nation on the ISIS threat in a speech outlining plans to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the group, suggests greater cooperation between Washington and Riyadh.

“In our view, Saudi and other regional rulers may prefer to re-engage the U.S. to help protect established borders from the expanding caliphate,” Mr. Blanch wrote.

So far, however, the Saudis appear to have agreed, this week, only to provide a base where the U.S. can train moderate Syrian opposition fighters to combat ISIS.

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As the largest OPEC producer, Saudi Arabia has in the past been able to wield the greatest influence on world oil prices, especially as it has large spare production capacity, and has significant sway with the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, two other major OPEC producers. Saudi Arabia and its Gulf counterparts have been largely credited for keeping a lid on oil prices in recent years at around US$100 per barrel, despite the disappearance of Iranian, Libyan and Sudanese crude from the market.

Since then oil prices have been tumbling into the double digits. OPEC’s latest report does show that the Saudis cut production last month, although some analysts noted that there are seasonal reductions this time of year: the kingdom’s output often falls when domestic demand for air conditioning declines from its summer peak. As a result, lower production does not necessarily mean lower exports. And, of course, the scaling down occurred before the White House began leaning on the Saudis for help in the conflict with ISIS.

A sustained dip in prices does benefit the Saudis in other ways, as it may slow production from U.S. shale plays and Canadian oil sands, while weakening Iran and Russia financially.

“A delay in energy independence would keep the U.S. engaged in the Middle East for longer,” the Wall Street analyst noted.

KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty ImagesKARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images

Of course that same effect would also hurt Canadian producers that are over leveraged.

ISIS reportedly controls a combined capacity of 80,000 barrels per day, according to the International Energy Agency, although it may have lost two of its Iraqi oil fields in Kurdistan in recent weeks after Kurdish peshmerga troops were able to push ISIS back with the help of U.S. airstrikes.

“There is lingering concern, however, that IS[IS] militants will make periodic attempts on vital infrastructure,” the Paris-based IEA said in a forecast published September 11. “The jihadists remain in control of the northern Baiji refinery, Iraq’s biggest facility. Their occupation has damaged the Baiji refinery, forced it offline and sharply reduced output by closing the major domestic outlet for crude from the northern fields.”

ISIS has reportedly smuggled crude via tankers to Jordan through the Iraqi province of Anbar, to Iran via Kurdistan, to Turkey via Mosul and to Syria where some of the oil is refined.

Luay al-Khatteeb, visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center said in a media interview that ISIS’s oil will remain limited to these black markets, and the group will have no chance to establish a sophisticated pipeline network. “Fixed distribution networks are complex, require investment and can become targets by the Iraqi Army and Kurdish Peshmerga.”

If the Saudis were willing to swallow lower prices, it could mean forgoing between US$35-billion to US$55-billion; but with US$1-trillion in foreign assets, it may be a price they’re willing to pay in order to rid the region of a threat that ultimately could challenge their dominance.  Saudi Arabia’s budget break-even oil price is US$85 per barrel of Brent crude, the Wall Street bank estimates. Brent fell in trading Thursday to US$96.72 per barrel, on sliding demand and high crude inventories — its weakest price since July 2012.

With a file from Reuters

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Yadullah Hussain | September 11, 2014 at 5:01 pm | Tags: Iraq, oil prices, Saudi Arabia | Categories: Energy | URL: http://wp.me/pMyQt-1ZtT
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Israeli’s Continue to Bully the Palestinians


(CNN) — Israel came under fire Monday for claiming close to 1,000 acres of land in the Palestinian West Bank.

Israel announced Sunday that the land in and around the Wadi Fukin valley, would become “state land,” clearing the way for the development of a new Israeli settlement. The affected land lies near Bethlehem and close to Bitar Ilit — one of the biggest Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Farmers in the area have 45 days to appeal Israel’s decision to claim the land.

“The seizure of such a large swathe of land risks paving the way for further settlement activity, which — as the United Nations has reiterated on many occasions — is illegal under international law and runs totally counter to the pursuit of a two-state solution,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement Monday.

 

Peace in place, Gazans return to rubble

 

Reaction to Israel-Gaza ceasefire deal

 

Did Hamas kill Israeli teens?

UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond issued a similar statement, criticizing the move.

“This is a particularly ill-judged decision that comes at a time when the priority must be to build on the cease-fire in Gaza. It will do serious damage to Israel’s standing in the international community,” he said. “Our position on settlements is clear: they are illegal under international law, present an obstacle to peace and take us further away from a two state solution at a time when negotiations to achieve this objective urgently need to be resumed.”

Hammond said efforts should be focused on securing a durable cease-fire in Gaza and lasting peace. “We strongly urge the government of Israel to reverse this decision,” he said.

Teens’ abduction

Israeli officials told CNN the expropriation was linked to the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers who disappeared from the West Bank settlement of Gush Etzion in June. Tensions between Israel and Hamas ratcheted up after the teens’ bodies were found June 30.

Both sides last week agreed to an open-ended cease-fire following more than seven weeks of heavy fighting.

Hamas has said the teens were abducted by Hamas militants who did not inform the group’s leadership about their operation.

The Israeli Civil Administration, which rules over Palestinians in Israeli-controlled areas of the West Bank, has posted “no trespassing” signs in the valley.

Farmer Mahmoud Mifrah, 66, told CNN he had grown vegetables and olives in Wadi Fukin for 42 years and did not see why he should suffer the consequences of others’ crimes.

“We are the neighbors of the Israeli people,” Mifrah said. “We share water and air and everything. We have to find a way to live together.”

The Palestine Liberation Organization said the expropriation was the“the largest Israeli land grab in the Occupied State of Palestine in three decades.”

“This move is further proof of Israel’s relentless policy of destroying the prospects for a negotiated peace and an independent Palestinian state, living side by side the State of Israel in peace and security,” the PLO said in a statement.

The Israeli group Peace Now expressed bafflement at the move.

“It’s a crazy idea. In my view it’s collective punishment not only to Palestinians but also to Israelis that it’s actually killing our chances to get to peace some day, and a two state solution,” spokeswoman Hagit Ofran said.

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New Faces of Marijuana / revisited


The New Faces of Marijuana

charlotte figi

Hardball with Chris Matthews / Health / Society
By Lisa Crivelli
Charlotte Figi, the namesake of the Charlotte’s Web oil.
Charlotte Figi, the namesake of the Charlotte’s Web oil.Courtesy of Paige Figi
Two years ago, Charlotte Figi was losing a lifelong battle to epilepsy. Her parents were using a hospice program at home because she wasn’t eating, had chronic pneumonia, and couldn’t swallow water. At the age of five, Charlotte was suffering up to 50 seizures a day.
Fast forward to today: Charlotte, now seven, is like any other child. She rides horses, goes to school, and plays with her twin sister and older brother. Her parents say she is “99% seizure-free,” suffering usually one seizure a month which is under control after a few minutes.
“She can hike a couple of miles a day,” Paige Figi, Charlotte’s mother, told MSNBC. “She can walk, talk, feed herself, has a normal sleep cycle and she has not taken prescription medication in two years.”
Charlotte’s miracle? Medicinal marijuana oil.
“We were using [medicinal marijuana] as end of life comfort measures,” Figi explained. But it turned out that those measures saved Charlotte’s life.

The movement to legalize medicinal marijuana has a face like Charlotte’s–and it’s a young one that’s hard to ignore. Lawmakers across the country are pushing legislation to legalize marijuana oil as a treatment for children with epilepsy. The marijuana extract is producedin Colorado and is designed to not produce a high. Instead, the strain has increased levels of CBD, a chemical that fights seizures.
The organization the Realm of Caring developed the marijuana oil strain now known as Charlotte’s Web, which was named after Charlotte Figi–the first child to test the oil two years ago. On average, the organization says 85% of people taking Charlotte’s Web have seen a reduction in seizures.
Since the development of Charlotte’s Web, many parents have traveled to Colorado to treat their children, since the state law does not have a provision that allows the shipment or sale of marijuana products out-of-state. Others have gone as far as to relocate their families to Colorado for the oil. The Realm of Caring says they have 100 patients who have moved to Colorado from 43 other states, and there is a waiting list of more than 2,000 people who are willing to relocate. An additional list exists of more than 4,000 Colorado residents who are waiting for the oil. Doctors work with the Realm of Caring to determine each patient’s dosage based on their weight, and the cost of Charlotte’s Web is about 5 cents per milligram. The Figi family’s monthly cost for the oil is about $180 a month.

brothers

Left: Charlotte’s medicine | Right: The Stanley brothers (Jon, Jared, Joel, Jesse, and Jordan), the founders of the Realm of Caring and makers of the Charlotte’s Web oil. Photoby Paige Figi
Currently, there is a rapid movement to legalize medicinal marijuana across the country: four states in March alone (Kentucky, Utah, Alabama, and Georgia) passed legislation to allow the use of the marijuana oil for medical purposes. The fight to allow medicinal marijuana now heads to the floor of the North Carolina State Assembly, and lawmakers there are doubling down on their chances of legalizing with two bills up for consideration. When the assembly reconvenes next month, it will consider one bill to legalize all forms of medicinal marijuana and another that focuses solely on the cannabis oil for the treatmentof epilepsy.

“There seems to be a sense that something has got to happen,” said State Rep. Kelly Alexander, who is sponsoring the bill for medicinal marijuana. “This is a bipartisan measure to find a way to alleviate the pain and suffering of those with illnesses.”
Alexander spoke on behalf of his bill when it was introduced to the North Carolina General Assembly last year, but it was placed on an “unfavorable report” and put on hold. State Rep. Jonathan Jordan told the High Country Press that he was not likely to support the bill unless he saw evidence of the success of medicinal marijuana, and State Rep. Paul Stam told WRAL in Raleigh, “We did it to be done with it so people could move on for the session.”
Stam claimed lawmakers were being harassed by emails and phone calls in regards to the bill. MSNBC reached out to Stam, who declined to comment for this article.
But lawmakers who support marijuana legislation could see an advantage at the polls in November. In a recent George Washington University poll, 39% of surveyed voters say they would be more likely to vote if there was a proposal on the ballot to legalize marijuana. An additional 30% of those surveyed said they would be more likely to vote in the 2014 midterm election under that circumstance.
Americans also seem to be more open overall to changing marijuana laws. Plans to legalize marijuana show a 73% approval rating while decriminalizing the possession of pot has a 53% approval rating.
Charlotte and Paige Figi
Charlotte and Paige Figi. Photo by Paige Figi
Paige Figi said the opposition in states like North Carolina was based onpreconceived notions about the damages of marijuana as a whole. “Some states are very conservative and just won’t allow cultivation because they can’t figure out a way to regulate it,” Figi said. “There are no negative side effects, absolutely none. THC has shown long-term cognitive loss, but that’s not in this oil.”
Recently, the Realm of Caring began cultivating Charlotte’s Web in the form of hemp, which can be dispersed to a wider population. The organization is continuing its work to expand the legalization of medicinal marijuana to other states, sharing Charlotte’s story as a means to give hope to the families of epileptic children.
“We had a DNR [do not resuscitate] signed,” Figi recalled. “Nobody thought [Charlotte] had any time left…and now she is doing amazingly well.”

HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS, 5/14/14, 8:19 PM ET
The new faces of medical marijuana

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I AM A REPUBLICAN


Originally posted on Common Sense Republicans:

What do you think about that ?  I’m not sure what to think today. It seems those we elected, can’t seem to do their jobs. Can someone please help me understand why I should vote for someone just because he’s not as bad as the other.  I think this go around I’ll vote independent and just not tell anyone. Public figures in any venue should be responsible to those who put them there, either by talent or education. A pro athlete should be held accountable for his or her actions because our children look up to them. If the athlete doesn’t like it , give back the money!! and go play in the street. Accordingly, Politicians need to be accountable to us and if they can’t get the job done and move us in any direction, they need to be removed. JG   

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History is Important


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New from the Mind Institute


New from the Mind Institute.

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The New Faces of Marijuana


The New Faces of Marijuana.

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Canada needs a mindset shift to fix the skills gap


Canada needs a mindset shift to fix the skills gap.

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Post from Autism Speaks


Post from Autism Speaks.

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