Russia Gets Ready for Life Without Visa and MasterCard – Businessweek

Russia Gets Ready for Life Without Visa and MasterCard – Businessweek.

SMP Bank in Moscow

Is Russia ready to cut up its plastic? After Visa and MasterCard stopped processing some Russian transactions in response to U.S. sanctions, Moscow says it could launch a homegrown payment system that could be ready in as little as six months, according to German Gref, chief of the country’s largest bank, Sberbank (SBER:RM). Hard as it may be for Americans to imagine life without Visa (V) and MasterCard (MA), jettisoning them wouldn’t be all that difficult. Moscow has been preparing for the past few years to issue an electronic payment card that citizens could use for transactions with the government, such as tax and pension payments. …

Is it time to give up on gold? – Jeff Reeves’s Strength in Numbers – MarketWatch

Is it time to give up on gold? – Jeff Reeves’s Strength in Numbers – MarketWatch.

There are some Federal Reserve haters out there who think it’s wise to put over half of your portfolio in gold bullion to protect you against inflation and the inherent volatility of stocks. On the other hand, there are others who think the gold standard is a “barbarous relic” or think Martians would be baffled by our affinity for the precious metal. As for me, I try to be agnostic about gold. Any investment you make money on is a good investment in my view. So rather than debate whether or not gold is “good” for investors, I’d prefer to focus on the short-term and medium-term outlook for the precious metal. That means the …

Top JPMorgan China banker to resign

Top JPMorgan China banker to resign.

One of JPMorgan Chase’s top bankers in China is leaving the bank amid an investigation into its hiring practices in Asia. Fang Fang, a vice-chairman at JPMorgan, is expected to leave this week, according to a person familiar with the situation. JPMorgan declined to comment. Mr Fang could not be reached for comment. The US Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice last year launched a probe of JPMorgan’s hiring practices over whether it had hired princelings – the family members of influential figures in the Chinese government and elite – to win business. Hiring candidates in order to land specific business …

Meet The ‘Assassination Market’ Creator Who’s Crowdfunding Murder With Bitcoins – Forbes

Meet The ‘Assassination Market’ Creator Who’s Crowdfunding Murder With Bitcoins – Forbes.

Screen Shot 2013-11-17 at 5.48.50 PM

As Bitcoin becomes an increasingly popular form of digital cash, the cryptocurrency is being accepted in exchange for everything from socks to sushi to heroin. If one anarchist has his way, it’ll soon be used to buy murder, too. Last month I received an encrypted email from someone calling himself by the pseudonym Kuwabatake Sanjuro, who pointed me towards his recent creation: The website Assassination Market, a crowdfunding service that lets anyone anonymously contribute bitcoins towards a bounty on the head of any government official–a kind of Kickstarter for political assassinations. According to …

Why China wants to dominate Bitcoin – Nov. 18, 2013

Why China wants to dominate Bitcoin – Nov. 18, 2013.

china bitcoin

China is quietly positioning itself to dominate the brave new world of Bitcoin. Until recently the digital cyrptocurrency was considered a joke by the financial mainstream, but the view is starting to shift now that prices have surged above their April peak and are now hovering around $600. Bitcoins are still being viewed cautiously by lawmakers and regulators in the United States. In fact, there are two Senate hearings this week about the risks Bitcoin poses. But that is decidedly not the case in China. There has been a steady drumbeat of positive news in the Chinese press this year, including a landmark …

26th Virginia Film Festival Was Boffo at the Box Office | UVA Today

26th Virginia Film Festival Was Boffo at the Box Office | UVA Today.

This year's festival sold more than 27,000 tickets and included 35 sold-out screenings.

The Virginia Film Festival kicked off its second quarter-century in record-breaking style, smashing its previous ticket sales record set during last year’s 25th anniversary celebration.

The festival, presented by the University of Virginia, included four days of screenings, lectures and film-related activities. It ended Sunday.

Officials announced Tuesday that this year’s festival set all-time marks at the box office, coming in at $120,156 in total sales, an increase of 11 percent over last year’s receipts. The 2013 edition issued more than 27,000 tickets in all, and boasted 35 sold-out screenings.

“We are delighted to share the news that this year’s festival has once again put us in uncharted territory when it comes to ticket sales,” Jody Kielbasa, the festival’s director and U.Va.’s vice provost for the arts, said. “It is a credit not only to the hard work of our staff and volunteers, but also to the extraordinarily supportive and culturally engaged members of this community, who year after year come out in force to enjoy and interact with the festival on so many levels and in so many ways.”

He noted that interest seemed to be spread throughout the entire festival.

“We were thrilled to see a full house for our higher-profile events, such as our opening night screening of ‘Nebraska’ with special guests Will Forte and producer Ron Yerxa, and for our Friday night screening of ‘The Birds’ with Tippi Hedren,” he said. “But when you look deeper into our program, it is particularly satisfying to me and to our programmer, Wesley Harris, to see the tremendous response to films that might not have been as well-known before the festival.

“This really speaks to our mission, and to our ongoing desire to create a dynamic and ongoing dialogue around the films we show and the issues that surround them.”

The program included works from filmmakers who hailed from around the world – and from Virginia.

“I continue to be amazed by the quality of films coming from right here in the commonwealth,” Kielbasa said. “And we were so happy to provide a well-deserved spotlight for a number of talented Virginia filmmakers with films like ‘I Used to Be Darker,’ ‘CLAW,’ ‘Seasons with Brian and Julia,’ ‘Blue Ruin’ and so many others.”

Kielbasa cited “CLAW,” which portrayed the culture around Charlottesville Lady Arm Wrestlers, a group that has expanded nationwide to raise funds through an unusual entertainment vehicle, as an example of a film with local roots and national appeal.

“When we decided to slot this film into our Saturday night Centerpiece Film slot, we knew it would be more than a film – it would be an event that could be shared by the people who made it, who are featured in it, and the community who helped launch CLAW around the country and around the world,” he said.

The festival’s featured guests also were instrumental in the festival’s success, Kielbasa said.

“Will Forte, Jorma Taccone and Tippi Hedren all went above and beyond to share their talents and experiences through meetings with U.Va. students and through generous interactions with our audiences,” he said.

The festival’s traditional Saturday “Family Day” activities shifted from the Downtown Mall to U.Va.’s Betsy and John Casteen Arts Grounds for the first time this year. Kielbasa called it “a perfect example of the festival’s ability to engage with the U.Va. academic community, while shining a well-deserved spotlight on the extraordinary arts offerings available on the Grounds all year long.”

The festival’s sponsors included The AV Company, the Charlottesville-Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau, The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation, Flow Audi of Charlottesville, Regal Entertainment Group and the Virginia Film Office.

FRB: Testimony–Yellen, Statement before the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs–November 14, 2013

Chair Janet L. Yellen

via FRB: Testimony–Yellen, Statement before the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs–November 14, 2013.

Chairman Johnson, Senator Crapo, and members of the Committee, thank you for this opportunity to appear before you today. It has been a privilege for me to serve the Federal Reserve at different times and in different roles over the past 36 years, and an honor to be nominated by the President to lead the Fed as Chair of the Board of Governors.

I approach this task with a clear understanding that the Congress has entrusted the Federal Reserve with great responsibilities. Its decisions affect the well-being of every American and the strength and prosperity of our nation. That prosperity depends most, of course, on the productiveness and enterprise of the American people, but the Federal Reserve plays a role too, promoting conditions that foster maximum employment, low and stable inflation, and a safe and sound financial system.

Heir style: the rich kids who have it all

Heir style: the rich kids who have it all.

The Courtin-Clarins cousins.The Courtin-Clarins cousins, Claire (26), Prisca (26), Jenna (26), and Virginie (27).

 

Life is easy enough if your parents have millions upon millions of dollars — but it’s even sweeter if you have dashing good looks, too.

 

That’s the case with these beautiful children of businessmen, fashion moguls, and rock stars.

 

And while some of these heirs and heiresses have cashed in on their family names, many are striking out on their own, starting charities or taking over the family business.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/executive-style/luxury/heir-style-the-rich-kids-who-have-it-all-20131111-2xbt0.html#ixzz2kQ84ad2S

Honeymoon over: business confidence fades

Honeymoon over: business confidence fades.

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Business confidence has fallen back towards its pre-election levels as optimism fades and conditions remain weak, a monthly private survey has found. Firms were less positive in October after a surge of sentiment in September, as soft forward indicators pointed to a tepid outlook for domestic demand, the National Australia Bank’s business survey on confidence and conditions found. “Forward indicators do not paint a favourable picture for the outlook, with capacity utilisation falling to a four-year low and the level of forward orders, capex and stocks also declining,” NAB chief economist …

We Think Alone: What We Learned From Lena Dunham and Kirsten Dunst | TIME.com

We Think Alone: What We Learned From Lena Dunham and Kirsten Dunst | TIME.com.

Lena Dunham Emmys

For the last 20 weeks, stars like Lena Dunham, Kirsten Dunst, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have exposed their secrets, feuds, and dreams to the Internet, all through that most immediate yet lasting medium: email.

Through artist Miranda July’s digital art project “We Think Alone,” commissioned for Stockholm museum Magasin 3, subscribers have received a letter every Monday morning filled e-mails first written for private consumption by various artists and innovators. The emails come from the senders’ archives, some personal and some professional, often to recipients whose names have been deleted.

In “an email that gives advice,” we learned that the Mulleavy sisters, who co-design the fashion line Rodarte, like whiskey sours. In “an email about a dream,” 46-year-old novelist Etgar Keret admits he wishes his dreams were about “having sex with a lot of young women like everybody else in [his] age group.” In “an email that includes a picture of yourself,” we see a sexy schoolgirl picture that Lena Dunham sent to a lover, identified only as “E,” in 2007. And in “an email with I love you in it,” Abdul-Jabbar defends his fascination with the “Real Housewives” franchise.

All these quirky moments in the subjects’ lives add up to an often sweet, sometimes sour treatise on the way we communicate in the digital age. They make the famous feel familiar and transform a thing that we send everyday by the dozen into something valuable and rare.

Most of the participants have an artistic bent. Lena Dunham created the television show “Girls,” Kirsten Dunst is a movie star, Sheila Heti and Etgar Keret are both critically acclaimed novelists. Kate and Laura Mulleavy have been fashion sensations since they showed their first line in 2005. Lee Smolin is a theoretical physicist, but explains in “an angry email” that for a scientist, his interest in the arts is above-average. Catherine Opie is a major photographer and Danh Vo is a celebrated conceptual artist.

Spying on the e-mails of physicists and fashion designers can provide a rarefied view of how we e-mail today, banking on the smarts of this select group. But the beauty of the project is that their emails read so normally. If it weren’t for all the discussions of book contracts, you might not be able to guess at the senders’ professions.

They fire off letters (at an average of 17 words per message, the Mulleavy sisters win the brevity award). They make typos, send goofy links and place business orders. They apologize—a lot—often for missing events or leaving early. “My social anxiety really made itself apparent,” Dunham writes after bailing. “It isn’t my fault,” Keret writes when a missile strike on Tel Aviv means he can’t get away, “it is Bibi’s.”

Sometimes the rushed nature of emails creates sentences that are beautiful precisely because of the poor punctuation, spelling and grammar that email encourages. Consider artist Catherine Opie’s urging her niece to get tutoring: “I am not your parent I love you a ton.” Somehow, missing the “but I still” in the sentence’s middle, it’s lovelier than a more formal statement.

Emails like this one are common, perhaps because it’s an ideal medium for tough love: the writer has plenty of time to choose her words carefully, and is excused from seeing the recipient react in real time.

The facelessness of email seems to make it easier to be open and analytical. In an email to his friend and manager, Deborah Morales, Abdul-Jabbar shows his cards: “I’m just saying all this because Mother’s Day makes me miss my own mom and because if I say all this sentimental stuff you won’t be too mad at me for not being able to make it to brunch.”

Dunham, of course, climbs to the pinnacle of emotional transparency. She’s almost a parody of herself in these emails: “When I was little I left my journal out, open, for my parents to find (then hid behind the counter waiting for them to read it so I could be incensed.)” Of course you did, Lena.

Still she emerges as the most desirable pen pal, writing the kind of thoughtful, engaged notes you’d want your friend or lover to send. Take this email to “E”: “you were in my thoughts a lot today (just general contemplations about independance [sic], unknown vistas, all the swell stuff that could happen for you, and soon…) was it a heavy birthday or a light one? and how would you rate your life thus far on a scale of 1 to 11?”

Then again, my preference for Dunham’s email style is likely personal: it’s impossible not to get through the series without developing strong feelings about who you would and would not want to befriend.

Perhaps it’s because we now spend so much time online that email can be so much more telling than in-person communication. We’ve adjusted to boiling our thoughts down to 140 characters, and rather than making those thoughts less profound, that’s actually made us more able to express ourselves fully in just a few lines.  It’s also provided a mode of connection that is individual and honest—and if we’re already spending so much of our time on the Internet, we should be happy that it has adapted to our emotional needs. We may think alone, but email makes it a little less lonely.