July 18, 2018

Sex workers slam crypto-based ‘Uber for escorts’ over safety fears

PinkDate matches sex workers with clients, who can pay for services with crypto such as bitcoin or monero. The startup, still in beta, has raised $1 million through its initial coin offering (ICO).

However, escorts involved in the project have already complained about its security and the risk of meeting unvetted clients, with one anonymous sex worker telling CoinDesk the system is “too pimp-like and not safe to use.”

The company said its clients will also be asked to give identification, but sex workers fear they won’t be adequately cross-referenced with industry blacklists. Under its current model, prospective clients are not obliged to provide detailed ID information, with PinkDate saying: “While we suggest providing more information (so that your chosen companion is more likely to say yes to a date), obviously comfort level is very individual.”

The app takes a substantial cut of 20 percent of the sex workers’ earnings. A similar company, SpankChain charges 5 percent.

PinkDate’s founders are anonymous, yet escorts are expected to upload their government ID and Twitter accounts to sign up. The company says users’ information will be kept on encrypted, secure servers which aren’t exposed to government raids.

The company’s COO, Roger, admitted the anonymous set-up is a “double edge sword” in a Medium post, saying they underestimated the impact it would have on communication.

READ MORE: Blockchain tech and cryptocurrencies to flourish in UK, report states

The company’s former president Sarah Stevens was a sex worker, but she said she left PinkDate because of concerns about its business model. She also raised concerns about the lack of checks surrounding those who invested in the ICO.

“They do zero know-your-customer and anti-money laundering [checks],” she claimed. “Since they’re not a legal entity, this is not even a security token offering.”

The company said the reason for Stevens’ departure was a legal one and “for her protection,” as it felt it was in Stevens’ best interest to leave because of law enforcement increasingly targeting sex workers.

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Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/433479-pinkdate-uber-crypto-escorts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

Tesla stock dips after CEO Elon Musk calls British cave rescue diver a ‘pedo’

A number of them told Reuters, requesting anonymity, that the latest controversy is distracting Musk from Tesla’s main business of producing electric cars.

Tesla’s stock lost four percent or $2 billion of its value on Monday following Musk’s comment. In May, Tesla shares suffered a similar plunge after Musk’s erratic performance. During the company’s earnings call, Musk called questions about capital requirements and reservations for its Model 3 cars “boring, bonehead.”

Tesla fails braking test again dismisses results

The conflict between Musk and caver Vernon Unsworth started last week. The rescue team rejected Musk’s offer of a mini-submarine created by SpaceX to help rescue a 12-member soccer team and their coach from a flooded cave in Thailand.

Unsworth told CNN that Musk’s sub “had absolutely no chance of working” due to the tightness and turns of the cave passage and added that the billionaire should “stick his submarine where it hurts.”

His words apparently offended Musk. “We will make one (video) of the mini-sub/pod going all the way to Cave 5 no problemo. Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it,” replied Musk on Twitter before quickly deleting the post.

Unsworth said he would talk to lawyers about a possible lawsuit against Musk upon returning to Britain. “I believe he’s called me a paedophile,” he told journalists. “I think people realise what sort of guy [Musk] is.”

Just two days before the ‘pedo’ tweet, Musk said in an interview that he would try being less aggressive on Twitter. “Generally the view that I’ve had on Twitter is if you’re on Twitter, you’re in like the meme—you’re in meme war land. If you’re on Twitter, you’re in the arena. And so essentially if you attack me, it is therefore OK for me to attack back,” Musk told Bloomberg.

“If somebody attacks you on Twitter, should you say nothing? Probably the answer in some cases is yes, I should say nothing. In fact, most of the time I do say nothing. I should probably say nothing more often,” he added.

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Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/433474-tesla-stock-dips-musk-insult/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

A Starring Role for Hollywood’s Sexual Zelig

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — “It’s hard to know where to begin,” said Matt Tyrnauer, a Vanity Fair special correspondent turned documentary filmmaker, as he dryly started to describe his new movie, which looks at closeted luminaries during Hollywood’s Golden Age. “There’s a story about Cole Porter and multiple carloads of guys, but it’s probably not printable.”

Oh, dear.

Best, then, to start in 2012. In an X-rated, best-selling memoir published that year, a former Marine named Scotty Bowers recounted how, between 1946 and the mid-1980s, he ran a type of prostitution ring for gay and bisexual people in the film industry, including A-listers like Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Mr. Bowers also claimed to have personally shared a bed with J. Edgar Hoover and arranged wild sexual liaisons for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

It was hard to believe, to put it mildly. Mr. Bowers offered no proof, and everyone he named was conveniently dead. “Supposedly true,” wrote Janet Maslin, a New York Times book critic. Writing about the lurid, no-detail-too-excruciating memoir for The Washington Post, Charles Kaiser asked: “Can we believe all of this? Half?”

Mr. Tyrnauer — curious about the answers, as well as the notion of Mr. Bowers as a missing link in L.G.B.T.Q. history — decided to find out. He trailed Mr. Bowers for more than two years and found now-elderly men willing to talk on camera about working as gay prostitutes. He turned up supporting evidence (photos, explicit Super 8 footage from 1965) and filmed Liz Smith, the late gossip columnist, confirming the lesbianism of Ms. Hepburn, a longtime friend.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/16/movies/scotty-bowers-hollywood-sex.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

The Rules of the Baseball Press Box

I heard a few cheers, from the press box and the stands just below.

For a moment, I thought about bringing the ball home to my children, or giving it as a gag gift to my Times colleague Ben Shpigel, a big Verlander fan. But then I remembered another rule of the press box: Give the ball to a kid.

I’ve gotten other foul balls over the years — always scooping them up on a bounce — and the exercise of giving the ball to a fan is always fun.

In many ballparks, like Houston’s, the fans are so close to the press box that it’s not much of a drop. You can pretty much select which fan gets the ball and toss it right there.

Players, if they choose, can go through a similar exercise every day. Fans always want something from them — an autograph, a ball, a selfie or just a hello — so they always have the power to make someone’s night.

Fans usually don’t want anything from writers — we’re just part of the background scene. But giving away a foul ball made me feel good, since I remembered how desperately I wanted a ball every time I sat in the stands as a kid.

I looked out at the seats just below my perch where a few dozen fans were pleading for the ball. I spotted a girl in an orange Astros T-shirt who was maybe 10 years old, like my youngest daughter. I pointed in her direction — to make sure folks knew I had a specific target — and tossed it to her mom. Cool moment.

Then I went back to the laptop to do what we do these days — check the tweets. Kaplan had tweeted about my catch, as had Susan Slusser of The San Francisco Chronicle and the radio broadcasters for both teams. I tweeted about it, too, of course.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/15/insider/foul-ball-baseball-press-box-rules.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Russia & United States can compete & work together in energy market

“I believe that we, as the largest oil and gas powers, could work constructively to regulate international markets, because we are not interested in acute prices drops, because producers will suffer from this, including shale oil and gas projects in the United States,” said President Putin in response to a reporter’s question regarding the future of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

‘Wrong politically absurd’: German business lobby blasts US over Russian pipeline sanctions threat

The United States is a major opponent of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that will double gas flows through the existing pipeline from Russia to Germany. While President Trump cites concern for European energy security as the reason, he admitted during the press conference that it is also a competition issue for US liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Trump reminded everyone that the US has become a global leader in oil and gas production, and that “we will be competing when you talk about the pipeline,” adding that Russia is a “good competitor.”

Putin suggested creating a working group that would unite leading businesses from Russia and the US. He also stressed that gas transits through Ukraine will remain despite the construction of Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany, if Moscow and Kiev manage to find a solution in their legal dispute over gas transit in Stockholm Arbitration.

In June, Russia’s Gazprom won an appeal to halt seizure of its European assets. Four months earlier, the Stockholm court ordered the Russian company pay for a shortfall in the delivery of gas to Ukraine, awarding Naftogaz $2.6 billion in compensation.

On Monday, Germany maintained that the gas pipeline from Russia is purely about business. “Nord Stream 2 is first and foremost a commercial project,” government spokesman Steffen Seibert told a regular government news conference in Berlin. Last week, Trump accused Germany of being a “captive” of Russia because of the project.

During the Helsinki press conference on Monday, President Trump repeated his concerns. “I’m not sure necessarily that it’s in the best interest of Germany or not but that was the decision that they made,” he said.

The $11-billion Nord Stream 2 will double the existing Nord Stream pipeline’s current annual capacity of 55 billion cubic meters and is expected to become operational by the end of next year.

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Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/433410-gas-nord-stream-putin-trump/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

How much gold is in the FIFA World Cup Trophy?

After the French national team’s victory in the 2018 final in Russia, RT talked to precious metals experts at BullionStar, who took a closer look at the legendary trophy.

Beyond all doubt, the statuette has almost a mythical status among elite football players and sports fans, and its iconic shape has become synonymous with the tournament that is held every four years.

The trophy was designed by Italian artist Silvio Gazzaniga and produced by the Italian Stabilimento Artistico Bertoni trophy design company in 1970, making its first appearance in the 1974 World Cup in West Germany. It currently bears the official name of the FIFA World Cup Trophy.

“To create a universal symbol, I was inspired by two fundamental images: those of a triumphant athlete and of the world,” Gazzaniga said, explaining the concept of the trophy.

The previous prize, known as the Jules Rimet Trophy, was presented to the Brazilian Football Confederation in perpetuity shortly after Brazil’s national team won the World Cup tournament for the third time in 1970, following their World Cup victories in 1958 and 1962. The measure was in line with the then-existing FIFA rules, allowing a three-time winner to take the cup forever. The original Jules Rimet Trophy was stolen in 1983 and never recovered.

The current trophy looked absolutely unusual, as it wasn’t like traditional sporting cups of the time. Moreover, the entire sculpture, which featured two athletes with arms outstretched, resting a globe of the world on their shoulders, was made of gold.

The FIFA World Cup Trophy is 36.8 centimeters tall, while its base diameter stands at 12.5 centimeters. Its overall weight is 6,175 grams (13.61 pounds) with a gold content of 4,927 grams (10.86 pounds) of 18-karat gold, while the base contains two layers of the dark green malachite. The creators designed it to be hollow either to make it liftable with just one hand or to make its production cheaper.

“Given that it’s 18-karat gold (meaning 18 parts gold to 6 parts of other metals or 75 percent gold), there are 3,695.25 grams (118.8 troy ounces) of pure gold within the trophy,” according to Singapore’s premier bullion dealer BullionStar. “At a gold price of $40 per gram at the time of writing, the gold within the World Cup Trophy has a current market value of approximately $150,000.”

The World Cup Trophy has been won 14 times from 1974 to 2018. The award is priceless regardless of the quantity of precious metal it contains. So, nowadays FIFA carefully guards the original, while awarding each winning country with its own gold replica.

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Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/433367-gold-fifa-world-cup-trophy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

Russia to invest $50bn in Iran’s oil & gas

“Russia is ready to invest $50 billion in Iran’s oil and gas sectors,” Senior Adviser for International Affairs of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic Ali Akbar Velayati was cited as saying by the Financial Times.

Velayati met with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week in Moscow. The sides focused on Russian-Iranian cooperation as well as the situation in the region. According to the Kremlin, they reaffirmed their commitment to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s Nuclear Deal (JCPOA).

An unnamed official from the Russian government confirmed Russia’s $50-billion investment plans to the Financial Times. A Russian oil company has signed an agreement with Iran worth $4 billion, Velayati said, without specifying the name of the company. He added that the deal “will be implemented soon.”

Iran may enter Russia-led free-trade zone within months – Kremlin

Russian energy giants Rosneft and Gazprom are also in talks with the oil ministry of Iran to potentially sign deals worth up to $10 billion, according to an Iranian official. Earlier this year, an agreement was inked by a local Iranian company, Dana Energy, in a consortium led by Russia’s Zarubezhneft, with the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC). They seek to redevelop the Aban and West Paydar oilfields, with a total capital expenditure estimated at around  $740 million.

Russia’s Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Friday that Moscow was studying all legal implications of a possible deal with Tehran, under which Russia would provide goods to Iran in exchange for oil.

Meanwhile, the European Union fears that billions of dollars’ worth of trade could be jeopardized as a result of Washington’s new sanctions on Iran. The bloc has asked Washington to grant exemptions to European companies but the US has rejected the appeal, saying exemptions would be made only if they benefited US national security.

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Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/433316-russia-iran-oil-investments/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

Amazon’s Curious Case of the $2,630.52 Used Paperback

The wild book prices were in the remote corners of the Amazon bookstore that the retailer does not pay much attention to, said Guru Hariharan, chief executive of Boomerang Commerce, which develops artificial intelligence technology for retailers and brands.

Third-party sellers, he said, come in all shapes and sizes — from well-respected national brands that are trying to maintain some independence from Amazon to entrepreneurial individuals who use Amazon’s marketplace as an arbitrage opportunity. These sellers list products they have access to, adjusting price and inventory to drive profits.

Then there are the wild pricing specialists, who sell both new and secondhand copies.

“By making these books appear scarce, they are trying to justify the exorbitant price that they have set,” said Mr. Hariharan, who led a team responsible for 15,000 online sellers when he worked at Amazon a decade ago.

Amazon said in a statement that “we actively monitor and remove” offers that violate its policies and that examples shown it by The Times — including the hardcover version of the scholarly study “William T. Vollmann: A Critical Companion,” which was featured for $3,204, more than 32 times the going price — were “in error, and have since been removed.” It declined to detail what its policies were.

A decade ago, Elisabeth Petry wrote a tribute to her mother, the renowned novelist Ann Petry. “At Home Inside,” published by the University of Mississippi Press, is now out of print, but late last week secondhand copies were for sale on Amazon. A discarded library copy was $1,900. One seller offered two copies, each for $1,967, although only one was described as “Nice!” All these were a bargain compared with the copy that cost $2,464.

“I wish I had some of that money,” Ms. Petry said.

Buying books on Amazon can be confusing, because sometimes the exact same book can have more than one listing. For instance, a search for the Petry book turned up another listing. This time, there was just one copy for sale, which cost a mere $691. Whether a customer paid that price or three times that sum apparently depended on what listing he or she found.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/15/technology/amazon-used-paperback-book-pricing.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

The downfall of US nuclear power

The report was issued by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of Engineering and Public Policy (EPP), Harvard University, and the University of California San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy.

Published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), “US nuclear power: The vanishing low-carbon wedge” examined 99 nuclear power reactors in 30 states, operated by 30 different power companies. As of 2017, there are two new reactors under construction, but 34 reactors have been permanently shut down as many plants reach the end of their lifespan.

“We’re asleep at the wheel on a very dangerous highway,” said Ahmed Abdulla, co-author and fellow at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at UC San Diego. “We really need to open our eyes and study the situation.”

Can Argentina replicate the US shale boom?

For more than three decades, approximately 20 percent of US power generation has come from light water nuclear reactors (LWRs). These plants are now aging, and the cost to service or upgrade them along with fierce competition from Trump’s economic order to prop up failing coal and heavily indebted shale oil/gas companies make nuclear power less competitive in today’s power markets.

In return, the American shale boom could trigger a significant number of US nuclear power plant closures in the years ahead, the researchers warned. The country is now at a critical crossroad that it must abandon nuclear power altogether or embrace the next generation of miniature, more cost-effective reactors.

The researchers noted that small modular reactors might play a significant role in US energy markets in the next few decades. This new design would effectively swap out the current aging, LWRs that the Atomic Energy Commission allowed to rapidly expand across the country in the 1960s and after. The researchers described several scenarios where new nuclear power plants could be used to back up wind and solar, produce heat for industrial processes, or serve military bases.

Given the current market structure and policy dynamics, the researchers were not convinced that nuclear power would be competitive in the future power market.

While efforts continue to advance batteries for storing electricity from solar and wind, utilities have made an impressive push into natural gas. As of 2018, fossil fuel now produces nearly 32 percent of US power.

Given the impending collapse of the nuclear industry, the researchers questioned whether renewable energy would be enough to offset losses from retiring nuclear power plants.

World’s first floating nuclear power plant reaches Russia’s Arctic for maiden mission

“The reality is you cannot actually replace 20 percent of the need with wind and solar, unless you want to wallpaper every square inch of many states,” said Christian Back, vice-president of nuclear technologies and materials at General Atomics. “It’s not efficient enough.”

Back said with the right political support, nuclear reactors operating today could be retrofitted to increase safety and lifespan, while smaller, more cost-effective ones could be strategically placed on the grid.

“This is a situation like Nasa when you’re putting someone on the moon where the government needs to recognize the long-term benefit and investment that’s required and help support that,” Back added. “This is where political will matters.”

Researchers also suggested that many civilians overlook nuclear energy and do not realize the urgency of the situation.

In the article’s conclusion, the researchers warn, “It should be a source of profound concern for all who care about climate change that, for entirely predictable and resolvable reasons, the United States appears set to virtually lose nuclear power, and thus a wedge of reliable and low-carbon energy, over the next few decades.”

This article was originally published on Oilprice.com

Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/433140-downfall-of-us-nuclear-power/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

Retiring: In a Tight Labor Market, Retirees Fill Gaps Their Previous Employers Can’t

At some organizations, it is high-level executives who have come out of retirement.

Thomas Murphy, a construction engineer in Atlanta, had helped the United Parcel Service erect some 70 buildings throughout the United States during his career at the company. In 2007, after he had risen to the post of coordinator of compliance and ethics for the company, he accepted an early retirement package.

“I was only 50,” he said, “but the package was generous. My health insurance would be paid until Medicare kicked in. I thought it was time to start something new.”

At first, Mr. Murphy, now 62, and his wife, Nancy, traveled. Then they started a small construction firm that had, as part of its mission, the training of disadvantaged youths in the building trades. But after a few years, the demands overwhelmed them. “Our retirement was exhausting us,” he said.

After shutting the business down, Mr. Murphy thought that regular full-time employment might be the best way to spend his senior years. But by then he was in his late 50s, and the difficulties he had finding employment frustrated him.

Eventually, through friends, Mr. Murphy heard about a program that U.P.S. had organized to recruit retirees.

The internet shopping boom had driven huge growth for the delivery service. Management was seeking to bring back former workers, who, according to Malcolm Berkley, a vice president at U.P.S., “wouldn’t need much training because they’d done the job for 30 years.”

The day after Mr. Murphy applied, he was offered a position mentoring new construction engineers.

Today, he is the East region project engineering manager for the company, and is comanaging the construction of what will be a large automated distribution center on the west side of Atlanta. But this time, Mr. Murphy is not on the U.P.S. payroll. He works for a staffing company, Cortech.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/13/business/in-a-tight-labor-market-retirees-fill-gaps-their-previous-employers-cant.html?partner=rss&emc=rss