* Posts by I ain't Spartacus

4262 posts • joined 18 Jun 2009

Bitcoin fixes a Greek problem – but not the Greek debt problem

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Re: QE

Tom 13,

QE isn't printing money. There's an important technical difference.

The economy is improving. We're in our 3rd year of decent growth. The U.S. longer. And that's better than the non-QE Eurozone. People are going to work. Unemployment is falling. In the UK we have the highest number of people in work ever. I believe that's not true in the U.S. though, where labour participation rates are still down.

There is no inflation. It's at 0% here. And low in the States. It never went all that high, and much of that was oil and food prices, not QE. Anyway, savers may whine at low interest rates, but the alternative was losing their principal.

The government are not fiddling the figures. I've seen no credible suggestion of that. If you disagree, then back it up with figures. Put up, or shut up.

We might go back into recession. There are still lots of global economic risks. However, not doing QE would have made the recession worse, and made bailing out the banks riskier and more expensive. It was the best of a bad bunch of options. And although it does have its downsides, many of the objections to it I've seen, have been economically illiterate.

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DaveDaveDave,

The answer is Target2. All inter-country transfers within the Eurosystem go via Target2 at the ECB. So any time any government steps out of line, the ECB can effectively turn off their access to the international payment network. Greece imports most of its food.

This is an even bigger step than cutting off Central Bank funding to the banks. It may even be illegal, as it amounts to kicking a country out of the Euro. But the European Court of Justice is notorious for backing the EU institutions, and the Treaties pretty much make the ECB accountable to no one.

On the other hand Greek ex Finance Minister Varoufakis wanted to fight. He said the Euro was unworkable. But for Greece to leave now was worse than staying in. He also, correctly, has said that this current bail-out will fail for the same reason the first two did.

His idea was to print Greek government IOUs, in the way California did temporarily a few years ago. This would keep the banks solvent, when the ECB tried to collapse them. They could also then default on their debts, but re-capitalise and nationalise the banks, while staying in the Euro. Then there would be time to negotiate, without artificial deadlines, and the groundwork would be progressively laid to re-create the Drachma, if they got no deal. Plus lots of court cases at the ECJ. Syriza rejected this as too confrontational.

I don't believe he planned to print Euros though. As that would be unarguably illegal. His plan was to let the ECB and Troika keep breaking the treaties, and hope the ECJ would finally stop them. Cutting off ELA to solvent Greek banks is a clear breach of the Treaties, by any sane reading if them. It's a Central Bank's primary job to maintain the financial system. Deliberately collapsing solvent banks definitely fails that test.

It would have been an unholy mess. There's no legal mechanism to leave the Euro. Let alone get chucked out. And default is not illegal. Bail-outs are, but they've had three of those already! Seems pointless to me. Those months of chaos would be better spent on introducing a new currency. To be fair to Syriza, they had no good choices. The Greek electorate won't leave the Euro, the Eurozone leadership won't offer a sane deal, that might actually work. So they'll have to implement policies that will make the 1930s depression look like a picnic, and hope the Troika wake up and realise what fucktards they're being.

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Re: QE

That, and exactly that is the problem. And you know what? Germany is trapped in this system just like all other countries as well. The effective income in Germany stagnated after the introduction of the euro while it went up nearly everywhere else.

Chairo,

This is true. But this was a German political choice. Haartz IV. They held down wages to boost exports. In a fixed currency system there's a name for this. It's called Mercantilism. And it's against Eurozone rules. By suppressing wages, the Germans boosted the competitiveness of their exports, while also restricting domestic demand within Germany. The downside of this is that capital builds up in German banks, but there's nowhere to spend it, as demand is low.

The banks had to pay interest on those savings. So they had to lend it to someone. There was insufficient appetite for borrowing in Germany, so the German banks recycled this money across the Eurosystem as loans to Spain, Greece, Italy etc.

But now Germany would like its money back. Understandably. But those countries can't pay Germany back, because Germany won't buy their goods, because Germany likes to run huge trade surpluses. The Eurozone solution to this has been to cause deep recessions in Southern Europe, thus massively pushing up unemployment and forcing wages down. This has destroyed internal demand, so now the Eurozone has a large trade surplus with the rest of the world - and those trade surpluses can be used to pay back debts within the Eurosystem.

Of course this causes deflation all across the world, as the Eurozone and China both push policies to repress internal demand and boost exports. The better policy would be a bit of inflation to help reckless debtors a bit and punish reckless lenders (but only a bit) - and allow wages in Germany to rise faster than those in the Eurozone periphery. Also structural reforms to make their economies more competitive. Although breaking up the Euro in an orderly manner would be the best policy choice of all.

If the Germans had stuck to the Eurozone rules, they wouldn't have done this internal devaluation. They also wouldn't have broken the Growth and Stability Pact in 2003 (without penalties). And they'd have been taking action to reduce their trade surplus once it topped 6% of GDP 6 years ago (also in breach of Eurozone rules). Now who was it who called the Eurozone "a rules based organisation"? Ah yes, it was Merkel. Repeatedly. And Schaeuble too. Repeatedly. And rather smugly. And I suggest, incredibly hypocritically.

This is one reason why Italy entered the Euro with a trade surplus with Germany, and now has a deficit.

Also it's causing the increase of inequality in Germany. As workers aren't getting the benefits of the export boom, it all goes to profit.

Separate currencies are great for dealing with this problem. Making people take wage cuts is difficult and painful. Wages tend to be sticky. It takes unemployment to push them down. But a currency devaluation does this to everyone for imports, but doesn't effect internal trade so much. So can cushion the effect.

Oh, one more thing - if you want to see what happens to a developed nation that overuses QE, look to Japan.

It's too early to tell. Japan's problem was allowing deflation to take hold in the early 90s. Their economy has stagnated ever since. This is what the Eurozone and ECB were allowing, until they finally announced QE this year.

Although they have allowed deflation to take hold in Italy, Spain and (most disastrously) Greece. And QE was designed to exclude Greece, who need it most.

Whether Abenomics will work, who knows. But Japan now has both growth and inflation, for the first time in 20 years. If they can get the economy to keep growing, then their debt is sustainable. If not, it won't be. Rather like Italy's. If the Eurozone can't meet its own targets, and give Italy 2% inflation a year, along with some growth, then Italian government debt will have to be written-down. Given that all the major Italian opposition parties are now calling for a Euro referendum, they may solve their problem by leaving. Unless the Eurozone start pursuing policies that work for everyone, not just the core.

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and then northern European countries ask their people whether to write off debts?

It doesn't bloody well matter what other Eurozone voters want. Or what they vote for. Greece can't pay its debts

The Greeks have just experienced what happens when you have a referedum on a matter your government has no power over. Although at least the Greek referendum (and government) was actually asking for something that was possible.

They couldn't pay in 2010 when the first bail-out was created. But rather than Germany and France re-capitalise their incompetent banks, who'd lent something like €160 billion to Greece between them - it was decided to "bail-out" Greece even though that was illegal under Eurozone rules. Using everyones tax payers. What this means is that Germany only had to lend something like €60bn to Greece, rather than €100bn to its banks (France's bail-out pretty much matched its bank exposure). The remaining €40bn was covered by the rest of Europe, although seemingly mostly by Italian taxpayers, as their banks hadn't lent much to Greece. The Italian banks incompetence was restricted to loaning money to Eastern European and Spanish banks that couldn't pay them back either...

This is the same model that was used in Ireland. Where Irish taxpayers were put on the hook for their banks, with the threat of Ireland being chucked out of the Euro if they didn't. Co-incidentally that was mostly German banks that got bailed out too. Obviously it's illegal to chuck a member out of the Euro, but the ECB told Ireland it would cut off funding to its banking sector, causing it to collapse, and forcing them to print their own currency to save them. The ECB used the same threat against Cyprus and Greece, except we can see they actually carried it out in Greece.

This bail-out failed in Greece. It broke the IMF lending rules, as it patently couldn't work. But the IMF made a new rule to allow it, to save the Euro. Probably a legitimate reason at the time, although I'm sure it didn't influence things that their managing director was French.

So in 2012 there was a second bail-out. This one was notinally sustainable. It was a fiction, as it required Greece to be paying back something like 4.5% of GDP per year for a decade. Also the last bail-out, having made the Greek government cut spending by 10% was only going to shrink the ecoomy by 5%. That caused a 10% drop instead. The 2012 bail-out did the same again, with the same result. The fictional forecast was wrong, and it resulted in a total loss of 25% of Greek GDP, 25% unemployment and 50% youth unemployment. Plus a massive spike in emigration. Oh and the debt to GDP ratio went from something around 130% of GDP to 175%.

Basically the Troika cooked the books in 2010 for sane reasons. Greece took one for the team, which given their cooking the books beforehand is fair enough. Then they came back to the deal in 2012, but still fiddled the figures. They had less excuse this time, and the IMF none. That bail-out was designed to fail, given the knowledge gained from the 2010 one. The IMF admitted so in 2013, when they admitted to miscalculating the Greek fiscal multiplier.

And here we are. Replaying the 1930s. It's the Fisher Paradox. The more the creditors demand that the debtor repay, the less they'll get back. As they destroy the debtor's economy, out of greed and stupidity.

And the Germans have the least excuse of any nation on earth for failing to learn the lessons of the Versailles war reparations and the deflation, depression and instability that this caused.

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Re: Greeks pay all their taxes?

Gordon 10,

Yes I've read the papers. And the IMF reports. And the unhelpful public comments of Christine Lagarde.

The fucking IMF waited until AFTER negotiations had collapsed and the Greek referendum was already underway to finally publicly say that Greek debt was unsustainable. And even then, that was a leak to the German press, probably from the Americans or some disgruntled soul in the technical department. Bloody Christine Lagarde was still coming out with crap like how the negotiations needed to have "adults in the room".

And even then that IMF report was trying to claim that everything was hunky-dory until the nasty Syriza came in and buggered everything up. Despite the fact that the IMF's own analysis from 2013 claimed that they'd got the first two bail-outs wrong, and that the the Greek fiscal multiplier was more than 1. This means that for every 1% of GDP the Greek government cuts spending or raises taxes - Greek GDP will shrink by more than 1%.

So the IMF were saying everything was OK until January, even though their plan called for 2% cuts to Greek government spending this year alone. When Greek growth was only predicted to be 1%, thus guaranteeing another recession.

They did finally publish that Debt Sustainability Analysis after it was leaked. And then Lagarde was at last weekend's disastrous Eurzone summit - and was there when the agreement was made. Having publicly said little about the need for debt write-downs. And then the IMF published their updated DSA that says that Greece needs even more help. But the deal had already been agreed! What the fuck is the point of that?

The IMF should be publicly beating the Eurozone ministers over the head for their incompetence and financial illiteracy. Then their public might see that the choice is to get maybe half their money back, or to bankrupt Greece and get none of it. There are no other choices. There is no magic reality where Greece pays back all its debt. Not now the Troika's last 2 plans have reduced their GDP by 25%.

The IMF's job is to tell truth to power, and be the bad guy. But they've only done that in Greece. For the Eurogroup, they've rolled over to have their tummies tickled. I'm sure it's entirely a coincidence that they've had 2 French managing directors since the Eurocrisis and a French chief economist.

Blanchard claimed that George Osborne was "playing with fire" by making spending cuts of 1% of GDP per year. The Greek bail-out has cut Greek government spending by 26% of GDP - and is asking for 2% more in spending cuts this year as well.

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Re: QE

You definitely need to check your facts on this one.

Greece didn't meet the criteria to enter the EU.

When telling someone else to check their facts, its first important to get yours correct. Greece indeed fiddled the figures to get into the Euro. And info and leaks from German government sources make clear that everyone was aware of this at the time. Italy didn't even come close to complying with the Maastricht convergence criteria, but was admitted as one of the original Euro members. The Euro was a political project, not an economic one. The idea was that ever closer union would fix all the known problems, it's just that no-one wants ever closer union anymore.

Anyway Germany and France also didn't meet the criteria, so the pension assets of France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom for example magically got included on the books as government assets, in order to make their government debt figures look better.

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Re: Politics not economics

Dan 55,

After saying the one word that ended war in Europe. NATO.

The EU was a manifestation of the desire of people not to have another war. I would say that the EU did do two amazing things though.

Compare Eastern Europe to Russia, and the non-EU ex Soviet states. Or what happened to the countries that tried to throw off tyrannies in the Arab Spring. Sure the Eastern Europeans were more advanced, better educated societies, but the help the EU gave them in building working democracy - with the carrot of EU entry was a wonderful foreign policy success.

I'd argue the other great success was letting Greece, Portugal and Spain in, so quickly after their dictatorships collapsed in the 70s. Acting again as an aide to building a democratic society.

Sadly the Eurozone leaders deliberately collapsed one Greek government and just tried to do the same to another. You could also argue that they hung on deliberately in negotiations with the last one, hoping to cause it to lose the election in January - so they could get what they wanted out of Syriza. Pasok are destroyed, Syriza and New Democracy could both be in quite serious trouble. If you break all the democratic parties in a country, who will you have left to negotiate with? And what the hell is the point of the EU then?

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Dan 55,

They ain't bluffing. I'd say it's pretty clear now that a majority of Eurozone governments would like to chuck Greece out, but haven't quite got the balls to do it. Also they have no legal mechanism. Though using the ECB to collapse the Greek banking system works perfectly well, as we've seen.

Hence they've offered Greece a deal that's so awful, they hope they'll leave of their own accord. And a deal that everyone knows won't work. In fact, can't work.

Sadly something like 80% of Greeks say to pollsters that they wish to remain in the Euro. So Syriza have rightly capitulated. Seeing as no policies are on offer that will work, the Greek depression will continue to grind on for another few months/years until common sense breaks out in the rest of the Eurozone and they offer reflation and debt relief. Or common sense breaks out in Greece and they realise that Euro membership under these terms means permanent 1930s style depression.

Sadly a third alternative is that Greek democracy breaks. There's an awful lot of extreme left and right parties in the Greek parliament. The Troika and electorate have been working their way through the centrist parties, chewing them up and spitting them out. New Democracy are in a mess, Pasok are virtually destroyed, Syriza might split in half over this - and who does that leave to govern the country? The Weimar system turned to Hitler because the Nazis and Communists between them could block all legislation, and they picked the wrong ones to try to co-opt into government, thinking Hitler was going to be controllable. Politics having broken down after a massive global downturn and unpayable foreign debt had led to deflation and mass unemployment. Sound familiar? The famous Weimar inflation was in the early 20s, but the German folk-memory seem to have forgotten the late 20s deflation crisis.

It is truly a horrible thing to watch for a student of politics and history. A policy car-crash of massive proportions.

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Re: Greeks pay all their taxes?

I'd say one problem is that the IMF got into bed with the Eurozone, and they've all just screwed everything up. All the effort has been made to make Greece pay back its unpayable debt. And continue to insist that this debt is sustainable - even if that means sticking their fingers in their ears and shouting LA LA LA.

So instead of focusing on reforming the broken Greek political system, they focused on cutting government spending and raising taxes.

Whereas an IMF bail-out, unencumbered by the North European economic illiterates, would have had fewer cuts and more reforms. Or if the Troika had been a bit more politically savvy, it would have had debt relief in exchange for desireable reforms. That would win some political backing within Greece.

So close a tax loophole, get €100m of debt written off. De-politicise the civil service, get €1bn. That way even with the party in power (New Democracy) that actually screwed the economy up in the first place, and is full of the politicians who were paying their mates to do government non-jobs in exchange for their votes - there would be massive political pressure on them to do necessary reforom.

The real tragedy here is that Syriza are political outsiders. They're not involved in the patronage networks in the same way. Although, as I understand it, they do have quite a few refugees from Pasok - who probably are. So a deal could have been done with Syriza, had the Eurogroup been willing to do a sane and fair deal, rather than fuck around and indulge in childish and vicious political grandstanding.

To back my point up, I link to a European think tank, pro-EU but pro-reform, and an article from Ashoka Mody. He was the IMF European Department boss and designed the Irish Troika bail-out. So he's no natural Syriza ally, or fluffy lefty. And he gives the Troika both barrels and says: They negotiated in bad faith.

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Greece has a printing press. Set up to do €10 notes. Each country prints some of the notes, but only one denomination. And the Y prefix is for those printed in Greece, not for Greek notes. The ECB then truck/fly them round so everyone has the right mix of notes for their country.

This was designed to be a common system, but watching out to stop naughiness. The German influence on the Eurozone rules might be guessed by the fact that all €500 and €200 notes are only ever printed in countries who speak German...

Anyway if Greece prints without permission, it's illegal. The money's counterfeit. And that really would be fighting talk. The rest of the Eurozone would cut off Target2 access to Greece and all its banks. So Greece would be out of the Euro - and I'd imagine would be chucked out of the EU. Remember there's no way to leave the Euro. It's not legal. When Greece is finally ejected or leaves (as I believe is inevitable) I'm sure they'll just change the law to let them stay in the EU. But there wouldn't be much goodwill for that, if Greece had been counterfeiting all of their currencies.

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Re: QE

Yet another anon coward,

As my last post was long, and to be frank becoming a bit of a rant (I'm rather angry about this whole Eurozone clusterfuck), I thought I'd post again on QE.

QE isn't quite money printing.

It's back to that difference between insolvent and illiquid. If a bank has loads of assets it can't sell (such as crappy old mortgage backed securities), but these are actually worth money if only people were willing to buy them, what does it do? Well it goes bust. No one will buy it's valuable stuff, so there's a run, it can't sell, it goes pop. But really it's not insolvent, it's not bankrupt. It's got the assets, it just can't turn them into cash. So it has a cashflow crisis, which needs solving. That's also true if you're holding loads of government debt, but everyone's scared the government are about to default, because they're running terrifyingly huge deficits.

But hooray! Central Banks to the rescue. They can print imaginary money, come along and buy loads of this stuff up, and hey presto! The banks have cash! They're now liquid, as well as solvent. Even better, why not buy some government debt as well, so that interest rates don't shoot upwards?

So you've increased the money supply. But you've taken assets out of the system in return. So it's not quite the same as money printing. You've swapped illiquid assets for liquidity. It seems not to be as inflationary as just printing cash. The other idea was "helicopter money". Give everyone in the country £1,000 and watch consumer spending rise. Although I believe when this was tried in Japan, most people paid down debt or saved it. So in recession even that may not generate sufficient demand or inflation.

Theoretically this can all be reversed. I'd say it might have been looked at as the stock market bubbles were bubbling away, as that's where a lot of this liquidity may have been going. But I'd assume the banks were felt to be too weak.

But reversing it is easy. The Central Banks just sell this stuff back to the market, and destroy the money they get for it. It's a tool for reducing excess liquidity other than raising interest rates. I imagine the Bank of England will find it useful.

I believe this will never fully happen. If it's not been too inflationary, and the Bank of England are holding say £150bn of UK government debt, why sell it back to the market and pay interest on it? I supsect that 5 years or so, a Chancellor will somewhat shamefedly mumble in his budget that he's writing it off - disappear that debt - and no-one will notice that our government debt has gone down by 20% (or whatever). You can do this once every 100 years and get away with it. Make a habit of it, and you risk Zimbabwe/Weimar inflation.

By the way, the Europeans also did this in 2011. The ECB gave the banks €2 trillion in loans. Of money they'd just printed from nowhere. Lending cash to solvent banks is what Central Banks are for of course. Except when they're deliberately fucking over Greece under German pressure (stopping ELA at the end of June to deliberately cause a bank run was a fundamental failure to do the one job that a Central Bank is there to do!). Anyway they just print that cash, then destroy it when they're paid back. And of course they take assets as collaterol. So it's QE by another name, but it was more temporary. However when you do it to the tune of €2 trillion, and encourage all banks to take it, it's still QE. If it quacks like a duck...

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Re: QE

Well growth in the US and UK has been much higher than the Eurozone average. And we did QE, and they didn't until a couple of months ago.

On the other hand, Germany's growth has been pretty similar. So I'd say it's a combination of deeply held beliefs and German "folk memory", and "I'm alright Jack". The places that risked deflation were Italy, Spain and even France. But the Germans didn't care so much about them. Of course Greece has deflation, and Eurozone QE was specifically designed to exclude them! That deflation is a policy disaster of the highest order, because:

Let's say the Greeks grow their economy at 1% a year and paid all the interest on their debts, but deflation was 2%. Then Greek nominal GDP growth would be -1%. So their debt to GDP ratio would actually get worse even as their economy grew, and so their debt would become ever more unsustainable. Which is why the first bail-out failed, the second bail-out failed and this third bail-out willl fail. Seemingly, Germans can't fucking count...

Another policy reason in general is that Germany lowered a lot of their wages in the boom. Haartz IV is the name usually given to it. This means that Southern Europe's wages were going up, while the German's weren't. Hence they became less competitive and the Germans more so. Hence the German trade surplus kept on growing. So in order to get the competitiveness back to something more level, you need wage cuts in Spain, Italy, Greece and France. But wages are sticky. It takes high unemployment to force them down. That's deflationary. So Eurozone policy is to force deflation on countries, it's called internal devluation. It's another disastrous consequence of sharing a single currency and not having exchange rates to take the strain of adjustment. QE would make that less effective.

As you might understand, the Germans feel that they've taken the pain, why shouldn't others. And who can blame them for not wanting to pay for Greece's over-spending? However before complaining of the mote in your brother's eye, you may wish to remove the log in your own.

By the way, that German internal devaluation while they already had a trade surplus is against the Eurozone rules. As are bail-outs. And for the same reason, because it creates massive distortions, which cause financial crises. However, no action was taken against Germany and France when they broke the Financial Stability Pact in 2003, and no action has been taken against Germany for running intra-Eurozone trade surpluses of more than 6% of GDP for the last 6 years!

But according to ze German government, "the Eurozone is a rules based institution" and people must be punished for breaking the rules. So long as they're not German of course...

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Google robo-car in rear-end smash – but cack-handed human blamed

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Happy

Is that the light that lights up when you have a KitKat?

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Hey, Spotify! Why do you internet companies hate competition?

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Re: Oh look...

Tom 38,

That's interesting. They don't do the same with their books and films services. I wonder if music will remain different, or if they'll try and become more of a platform-independent content company?

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Re: Oh look...

Apple won't have a monopoly. They don't have a monopoly of devices. I presume they won't be issuing an Android app for example. This is why they avoid government action on monopoly, even though they run a walled garden. At the time of their run-ins, Microsoft were on 95% of PCs. Apple have 20% of the global smartphone market (30%-odd in the US I think) - and less of the PC market.

The article also suggests there's a risk of collusion between Youtube and Spotifiy. Something I'm not knowledgeable enough to comment on - and also the risk of Google buying Spotify.

Finally the whole industry do seem to have quite a distressing habit of offering stuff for free to grow their service or to get advertising reveunue. And of course, what they're giving away for free is the artists' work. So I've got quite a lot of sympathy with artists who mostly aren't rich, when the technology industry keeps trying to find ways to make money out of what they produce, and then gets all sniffy and whiny when they complain and try to get compensated for their creative efforts.

It's good that musicians can make money by playing live, and I like live music. But I also like recorded music, and I like to hear from new artists. And that means that whatever market we evntually come up with needs to be funnelling money to those artists, so they've got the time to actually write and play their songs.

We have the same problem with news content. There's an awful lot of people who want to get the advertising revenue from hosting it. There's an awful lot of people who want to read it for free. But if we can't find a way to funnel sufficient cash to the right people, then we won't have professionals going out and collecting, collating, editing, fact-checking and producing our news content. And society will be the poorer for it.

Money ain't everything for sure. But sometimes the only way to get good quality stuff is to pay people to do it properly. Copyright is a way that society chose to organise itself to try and achieve this. You've got to feed the goose in order for it to lay golden eggs.

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iPod dead? Nope, says Apple: New Touch has iPhone 6 brains

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Interesting to have the downvotes, but no counter-argument. I could also have mentioned the Motorola G, which is only £150. And comes with I believe 16 or 32 GB.

My old hard disk iPod is on its last legs. After many years excellent service. The battery and storage on my iPhone 5 wasn't sufficient to replace it. Apple stopped the 80GB iPod, and the Touch doesn't have enough storage. I've got over 30GB of music now - and more than that in podcasts. That is laziness, in that I could keep unloading and loading podcasts on to keep the storage use down, but I can't be arsed. I want to have all my unlistened ones on the device, so it only needs synching with the computer when it's charged each weekend.

The conclusion I came to was to get a cheap phone with memory card slot as a replacement. But the battery on mine seems to be up to it, and memory cards are cheap. Just got to try Microsoft's software now. At least they've killed the frankly awful Zune - which made iTunes look like a work of elegant genius.

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It's also a lot cheaper than a phone - 16gb iPhone 6 is £539, 16gb iPod Touch is £159.

Interestingly that's what work just paid to replace my iPhone 5 with a Microsoft Lumia 735. It's only got 8GB of storage, but since it has a memory card slot, it can go up to 256GB for less than the price of the 64GB iPod Touch. While also doing the phone stuff - and probably having a longer battery life, comparing to the previous iPhone or my colleague's iPhone 6.

It's got a surprisingly decent camera - and does better as a phone - in that I get a signal and can make calls at home, which the iPhone could only manage by the windows.

The price of both of these and the iPads, show just how overpriced iPhones, and top of the range Androids, are nowadays.

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Crims and politicians using RTBF to scrub themselves from Google? Not quite

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Eventually society will catch up

At the moment everyone under the age of 25-30 has probably posted something compromising to Facebook, G+, Twitter or whatever. Either that or one of their friends has, and has left their privacy settings to "everyone in the entire world".

However most people in senior HR are older than that, and so don't have that experience of growing up with their mates online - and think it odd to see that sort of stuff. Presumably society will eventually catch up, and employers will be less surprised by this sort of stuff, or just everyone will have something compromising online so it won't matter.

Then, presumably at some point in the next 30 years, employers will become suspicious of your job application if they can't find a naked picture of you somewhere on the internet...

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Did MARS once have OCEANS? Curiosity discovers continental crust

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Happy

Perhaps?

Slartibartfast

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Epic Games, Epic Fail: Forumers' info blown into dust by hack

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Re: Sigh

What is it with all these websites demanding your date of birth, before you can register? I have had this from several restaurants, just to get money off vouchers from them.

They could at least just ask your age (for games / videos), after all they're only interested in if you're 12 or 18. And in the case of restaurants, what they actually want is your birthday, to send you a special birthday dinner voucher. Which is fair enough. I tend to stagger my birthdays, so I get nice dinner vouchers spread throughout the year from my local chains...

Obviously one can lie about addresses, phone numbers and dates of birth. But it would be better if websites considered security properly, and didn't bloody well ask!

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There should be one central silo of user data

I read those words, and my instinct is to shout, "Flee!"

And then run away, terribly fast.

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Neil Young yanks music from streaming services: 'Worst audio in history'

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Re: Of course...

In my experience, any music that you can even barely tolerate to hear on radio without running away (or sawing your own ears off), will sound good live. At least as long as it's played competently.

Although I can think of one exception to that rule. Having seen a pretty good Rolling Stones tribute act a couple of times. The second time I saw them was the day after I'd seen the actual Rolling Stones at Hyde Park - and suddenly they didn't seem so good anymore.

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Horrifying MOCK BACON ABOMINATION grown in BUBBLING VATS as ALGAE

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Mmmm. I'll have the same double-bacon sandwich. But I'll be extra healthy, by having a synth-bacon smoothie please. And if it tastes equally bacon-y uncooked, I'll also have a side of bacon salad. With baconaise obviously.

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Attention dunderheads: Taxpayers are NOT giving businesses £93bn

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Re: So can someone help me?

It's simple. If you're pirating music or films then you're funding terrorism.

However, if you're legally buying films and music, then you're funding cocaine and Bentleys for idle music execs.

If you're buying Apple, then you're being hypnotised by the reality distortion field and become a mindless consumer of cheap Chinese tat.

If you've read the article, and all the comments, then that's ten minutes of your life that you'll never get back.

My suggestion is to say "sod all this for a lark" and drink copious quantities of beer.

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Re: Interesting writeup

phil dude,

You're still wrong though. Even if you have done your research.

Who pays the tax is not the same as who suffers the tax. That's tax incidence.

I'll be paying out £20k to the VAT man in a few days. Sadly the company's cash, not mine. But neither I, nor the company, is actually paying that tax. Nor (at least to my knowledge) are any of the companies who we invoiced - and got paid that VAT money in the first place. We're somewhere deep a chain of business transactions, many invoices away from the poor customer - who actually gets to swallow that VAT bill. All of us bill it, all of us claim it from what we buy, and all of us pay the difference back to HMRC.

As another example it's widely considered in economics that companies do not bear the cost of Employers Contribution to National Insurance. They have to pay it of course. They also hand over the money for employees NI contribution and income tax - and deduct that straight out of the pay packet. But the assumption is that in two countries with identical personal taxation and economies, but one where no employers NI had ever existed, the same total amount of cash would get paid out in wages and payroll taxes, it's just that wages would be higher in the country without employers NI. That's the amount of money employers want to hand over to their staff, and that's what they'll pay, it's just the government is intercepting a bit more of it. Obviously when you change an already existing system, things won't change smoothly.

The same is considered to be true of business rates. Companies can afford a certain amount for their premises, and a working market will eventually bring them to roughly that. Because what markets do is to ration scarce resources. So if you're not willling to pay as much as other people, you won't get the shop you want. Or won't keep it for long. Therefore if the government is taking some of that cash companies have to spend on thie premises - that's coming from the landlord's share.

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Pluto revealed as KING of the Kuiper belt

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Questions Science Fails to Answer

What's going to happen in pub quizzes now? Or games of Trivial Pursuit? You'll need to look up the printing date to know how many planets there are in the solar system. And then resort to saying things like, "well it was 9 when I was at school."

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Hackers sell 79,267 Cloudminr accounts for ONE Bitcoin

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Re: Bitcoin - the currency of losers

How very dare you! I shall sue!

My online Bitcoin bank is perfectly safe and secure. Join Ruptcy Bank today! The bank that likes to say Yo!

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Post-pub nosh neckfiller: Chopstick-collapsing Spam musubi

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Re: Spam in Scotland

Ooh 'eck! School dinner memories. Crikey DM!

My school never served Spam, so far as I can remember. But I am now having horrible flashbacks to the ravioli. Huge catering sized tins of the stuff. It was in a sauce, that managed to be bright, radioactive orange, and watery at the same time. Heaven knows how they managed that feat. And inside the soggy, ersatz tomato coated pillows of pasta was this sort of greyish mush, with the consistency of belly-button fluff, that I presume was mince. Shudders!

The less said about the pink blancmange the better!

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'Ugly Reddit commentards made me doubt humanity'

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Re: @Antonymous Coward, re: Eadon.

I'm pleased to say that I just can't get my brain round trying to impersonate Eadon - and so I don't feel too dirty after having tried. However I did manage to get the all-important trademark ending in. So I shall end this post in similar tribute with:

I AIN'T SPARTACUS FAIL!!!!!

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Re: @Antonymous Coward, re: Eadon.

2+2=5,

An EADON post could NEVER contain praise of Microsoft! That would be totally unacceptable! Microsucks are the worst company that has ever spewed forth upon the face of the earth - and everything they did was wrong.

AND YOU ALSO MISSED THE ALL IMPORTANT ALL-CAPS SUMMARY OF THE POST AT THE END!

2+2=5 FAIL!!!

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EU squashes bogus copyright scare as red-faced Guardian slaps down Wiki's Wales

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Re: Confused...

It was an amendment to a European Parliament report. Which they then reversed.

The European Parliament does not have the power to initiate legislation. Only the Commission can do that. It's one of the oddities of the European system. The Commission and everyone else produce reports and that should all get fed into the legislating process. But the Commission then puts out all the bills. These then go to the Council of Ministers and the Parliament, who have lots of fun amending them, before they can be paseed.

It's all very complicated, and also some of it has changed since the Lisbon Constitution Treaty provisions came into force after the last Parliamentary elections and the new Commission took over.

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Re: Copyright extension sucks

This isn't about copyright extension. It's about people campaigning against copyright in general claiming that new rules are coming in to make copyright stricter, when that isn't actually the case.

And also pointing out that some of the people who campaign agains it (Google for a huge example), have a big interest in weakening copyright as that would be more money for them. So perhaps they shouldn't be given a free pass when claiming to be altruistic campaigners for right and justice.

I'm not sure about the Mickey Mouse thing. On the one hand, it's part of our culture now. So at some point it should be freely accessible to all. But on the other hand I don't really care, or see that it's doing massive harm to society to pay Disney its pound of flesh for Mickey related stuff. Again, in the case of song-writing copyrights, I want artists to get paid. If an artist dies young, I also don't see why their family shouldn't still get cash. But it seems to have gone too long. And music is much more culturalurally important than Mickey. Everyone sings songs, I'm not sure I care if some people are prevented from making Mickey Mouse mugs/toys/ears/whatever.

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7/7 memories: I was on a helpdesk that day and one of my users died

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Re: Abiding memory of 7/7

That reminds me of the Sioux City (Iowa) plane crash. Perfectly timed, in that they'd just practised their drill with the local hospitals and emergency services the week before.

Although obviously that was also down to some very experienced pilots doing the right thing and doing it well. Given that I believe in post-crash simulations no-one else managed to even reach the runway.

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Ooops. Pressed the wrong button...

Obviously there was John Smeaton at Glasgow aiport.

But I remember someone from the PFLP claimed responsibility for September 11th. Almost immediately an obviously panicked leadership not only denied all knowledge but also condemned the attacks. I think I just found it grimly amusing to hear a bunch of terrorists getting scared. On the other hand, it was also a sign of how serious and effective the attacks were, that the world had obviously changed - and even a bunch of terrorist has-beens (I'm not sure they were all that effective even back in the 70s/80s) could see it immediately.

Generally though, I think black humour is a healthy sign.

It got a friend of mine a new nickname. He was in Sudan at the time. He's got a nice big beard, and his new nickname at football was Osama...

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That reminds me of September 11th, when HQ (of my company at the time) was in Boston, and a bunch of people were on their way over to California that day. And in the confusion it was impossible to find out which flights had crashed and which our guys were on.

I also remember the internet totally failing me. Someone got a text from a friend about it, which I didn't believe and just assumed was a plane crash. But after the BBC, Guardian, Torygraph, Sky, NBC, New York Times and a few other websites I tried all failed to respond, I decided it must be true. Went up to the MD's office and stuck a piece of wire in the back of a TV used for presentations and managed to get a signal.

I was working from home for the London bombs - so could have Radio 5 on.

Weirdly I'd say New York had more impact for me. Despite living near London, with friends there, and knowing someone who was injured on one of the tube trains (it's had a huge effect on her of course). I guess because it was a different kind of attack, and had so much impact on global politics. Maybe also because I've always associated London and terrorism? So it was almost a normal thing. My Dad narrowly avoided serious injury in the IRA's Hyde Park bomb - and was nearby for another one as well.

I also remember a couple of moments of probably inappropriate humour

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NASA chooses ace SPACE PILOTS who'll take the USA back into manned flight

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Happy

Yeah, they had one of those in The Times the other day. I just need to collect 1,000,000,000 coupons from each day's paper, and at the end of it, they'll fly me to the Moon for £1.

Terms and conditions apply. No more than one application per household. You may not fly on weekends, bank holidays, peak travel times (such as Christmas, Summer, Winter, Autumn, Easter or Spring). See paper for more details.

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Greek PM Alexis Tsipras brings the EU to its knees

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Re: Can the Eurogroup count?

Charlie Clark,

Greece has made massive reforms. It's gone from developing world levels of transparency, openess and ease of business to Southern European levels, in the last 5 years. At least according to OECD charts.

That's not wonderful of course, but it's much more than the lying wankers of the Troika are willing to acknowledge with all their shit about "Greece having to do its homework", and Greece having done no reform.

Also notice that when they keep saying Greece hasn't brought proposals to Eurogroup meetings, at least three times, that's because the Commission technical teams have refused to pass their proposals on because they were trying to force the Greeks to only produce proposals that fitted within a very narrow scope. It was then extra convenient that they could then lie about having no proposals to discuss. Although there are also times when Greece has been late with stuff, which I susepct is because their civil service doesn't function properly at the best of times - and is helping Syriza even less than it would the established parties (given it's so full of their clients). The head of the Central Bank is a former New Democracy finance minister for example.

Greece's underlying problem is political anyway. It doesn't have a functioning civil service or a fucntioning political system - and because of that people will never trust in the system and pay tax. It also doesn't have all those civil society institutions like think tanks and independent analysts of government policy. There's no way the UK government could get away with cooking the books in the way the Greeks did in the boom years, it would get spotted. The information exists, for people to draw their own conclusions on UK debt sustainability.

The Troika have never touched the political area. Which is where Greece is crying out for reform. And of course they had the almighty carrot of debt relief to offer in exchange for particular reforms too. Another proof that they haven't been honest or beneficial actors.

On debt sustainability though you're both right, and totally wrong. Greece cannot safely exit the program until it's in a position to get market access again. Even if just for 3 month paper to tide it over between high tax months and low ones. Plus the next recession - if it ever gets out of this one. No one will lend to a country with debt-to-GDP ratios of 180%, even if that's actually manageable because the interest rates are low - and maturities long.

Secondly the Troika's own failures make the debt unsustainable. The ECB, by allowing deflation, means that even if Greece grew by 2% this year, it would still go backwards on debt-to-GDP levels. This is the same for Italy, but at least Italy finally gets QE. The Greeks don't. And should have - if their central bank were politically neutral. Making the ECB a creditor was a disastrous mistake. Then again, so was creating the Euro...

But it's the Troika that keep on insisting on insane levels of Greek government surpluses, that if implemented will push Greece further into depression. The more they squeeze them for debt repayments, the less money they'll get. The Germans, of all people, should know this lesson by heart.

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Can the Eurogroup count?

For your information I include this piece from an EU thinktank. www.bruegel.org-linky

Now before you think that this is some wimpy old marxist Greek sympathiser, this is the guy who designed the Troika "bail-out" of Ireland, as he was head of the IMF's European department at the time.

So when he says that the IMF and Eurogroup have just spent the last few months negotiating in bad faith, and that the IMF should actually be forced to take losses on their Greek lending as a punishment (losing their super-seniority for the first time ever), you should listen.

Basically the trajectory of this crisis is as follows. Corrupt Greek policians ran their country horribly badly. Given they were buying votes with government jobs, and few people paid their taxes, the Greek voters can't just get away with blaming their politicians either. But they were allowed into the Euro anyway, because it was a political project. And those of us who pointed out the flaws at the time were ignored/laughed at.

I'd say that William Hague's description from the 90s was rather prescient. He said that in a crisis, the Eurozone was "like a burning building with no exits". As you can see from the Greek crisis, where they have the choice of totally fucking their economy by leaving, or slowly fucking it by staying in.

When the crisis hit it was then decided to bail out the crisis countries. But in the most retarded way possible. They would be loaded up with unsustainable levels of debt in order to save the Eurozone banking system. In reality it was the French and German banks that were most exposed to Ireland and Greece. Spain were later forced to bail out their own banks, but the Germans and the French preferred to get other people to bail theirs out. Although actually Germany spent more than the UK did in its own bank bail-out, and still their Landesbanken are in a horrible mess.

However various people wanted the IMF involved. Partly as a body to duck behind for political cover. But also because the Eurosystem didn't have much crisis expertise.

However, again, the IMF's rules only allow bail-outs of countries if they're sustainable. This is normally done by making the creditors take haircuts, in exchange for some IMF loans to tide the country over until they can borrow from the markets again and tough reforms. This is also accompanied by devaluation to give a burst of inflation (and avoid the risk of deflation) and a chance of export-led growth.

There was no creditor hair-cut whatsoever! There was no devaluation. The ECB refused to reflate these countries with QE, and even raised interest rates in 2010/11!!!!! Plus no QE. And even when they finally did QE this year, they specifically designed the program not to include Greece who have 2.8% deflation at the moment, and therefore need it most.

This breaks all the IMF rules, but they re-wrote them for saving the Eurozone. Which to be fair, was probably sensible - as collapsing the Eurozone in 2010 would have buggered the world economy. Although the IMF board minutes got leaked and there were lots of objections given how awful this would be for Greece. Even the Swiss delegate said the austerity would be too harsh...

The IMF predicted the Greek economy would shrink by 5%. It shrank by 11% that year. And the same the next year. Hence the 2012 second Greek bail-out. Because the first one had failed. All the governments refused to take any losses. So the few remaining private creditors of the Greek government took the brunt of the hit. This was basically the Greek pension and banking system. Which then needed bailing out, and is one of the reasons they're now saying the Greek pension system is unsustainable. Because they buggered it up in the last bail-out.

BTW this is also what buggered up the Cypriot economy. And led to their bail-out. They were promised help, as many of their (actually well run) banks had lots of Greek government debt, as there wasn't enough Cypriot debt for them to hold as reserves. That help was never given, and they were given a deliberately crap bail-out to punish them for having too much Russian money on deposit. Interestingly the Greek and Cypriot banks were cautious, with lots of savings on deposit and reasonably high interest rates. Unlike the French, Italian, German or our banks - who had to be rescued due to their own incompetence...

In 2013 the IMF admitted that they'd screwed up on their calculations on Greece. The Greek economy had now shrunk by 26%, government spending had been cut by 25%, unemployment was 27% and youth unemployment was 50%. This is 1930s territory.

They also calculated that the Greek fiscal multiplier was more than 1. That means that for every euro of spending cuts or tax rises, the Greek economy would shrink by more than one euro! That means that the only way for Greece to pay off its debts is to stop cutting government spending (or raising taxes) until after the economy has started growing again. With debt to GDP of 180%, Greece would need to be running huge government surpluses until the mid 2020s, and their economy to be growing to get this paid down. The IMF tried to pretend that this was possible up until June this year, after the fucking negotiations had broken down, then admitted that Greeece needed €50 billion of debt relief. When it was too late.

The IMF has been run by two French politicians with ambitions for later advancement in French politics, and both of them have ignored guidance from the technical (i.e. economically literate) department. I'm sure this is just a co-incidence though...

Syriza have negotiated badly, and are inexperienced. On the other hand, the required debt relief has been refused discussion by the Eurogroup until after the referendum finally forced them to. Hence the original article I quoted, about negotiating in bad faith.

The economic argument is unarguable. Greece needed debt relief in 2010, or it would never be able to pay back its debts. Surprisingly enough it's still failing to cover them. It's made the biggest cuts of any economy in modern peacetime history. It's had the deepest depression of any economy in modern peacetime history. The programme offered it by the Troika in recent negotiations is designed in such a way that it can't do anything but fail. So leaving the Euro is Greece's only option, as the Troika program would have put Greece back into recession by now even if Syriza had accepted it in January this year.

This will go down as the biggest economic fuck up in modern history. Because everyone involved knew the Troika programs would fail, but did it anyway.

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PLUTO: The FINAL FRONTIER – best image yet of remote, icy dwarf planet REVEALED

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Windows

Re: For anyone who's tried to "shoot the Moon"...

I tried to shoot the moon. But I missed.

Now I just howl at it...

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Re: Just for a laugh...

Ah, but the Saturn V was just a decoy. Admittedly quite a big decoy... But the real mission was flown by the Airforce from Edwards on the X51.

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FLYING PIG crash-lands in Utah: Rider survives, bacon saved

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Re: Quick thinking that man!

Although he did end up sandwiched between 2 piles of bricks. Butty spoke of his survival with relish - and I'm sure the journalists didn't grill him too hard.

...I should probably stop now...

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Quick thinking that man!

What, for coming up with turning the burners to full? Anyone could have done that.

No. For getting "what saved my bacon" into his press interview, of course.

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Devil

Re: New form of lift

Make a balloon shaped like a politician

When a 100' tall grinning Tony Blair goes floating past my window, I am going to hunt you down and take revenge for coming up with that idea!

Actually he probably wouldn't do it. Much more likely is the Boris Balloon.

You're going to burn in hell...

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Router cockup grounds United Airlines flights WORLDWIDE

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Can't they just do it like Das Boot? When you want to take off you make all the fattest passengers run to the back of the aircraft, then when you get to crusing altitude you make them lie in a big heap in the aisle over the wings.

Obviously it's bad for passenger morale when the pilot comes on the PA and screams, "ALLLLAAAARRRRMMMMMM!!!!!!!!". But it's a small price to pay for getting off on time...

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Re: Sensational

The Chinese stock market is down to China not having read their history of the Wall Street Crash in 1929. Apparently 90% of their stocks are owned by individual investors - and loads of them have borrowed money to buy the stocks, which is why the Shanghai index has doubled in price over the last 18 months. So of course when the price drops, you have to sell before the value of the shares you own goes below the value of the debt you took out to pay for them. When half the other people on the market are in the same boat, things go wrong very quickly.

Margin trading is scary. Don't do it kids!

One big difference is that China's government can do whatever the hell they like. So they've suspended trading in half the market, they can make the banks write-off the loans, or just abolish the stock market.

The Chinese banking sector is in some ways quite well regulated. They have reasonably high interest rates and very high capital requirements. A lot of their bad loans are also to local government, so the national government will probably have to bail them out. On the other hand the shadow banking industry is huge, and barely regulated. Possibly they were too cautious with the banks, so people went elsewhere? And that mess will be painful to clean up.

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Berlin pours bucket of flat beer on Patriot missile hack report

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Re: Seriously?

Although there possibly was a Syrian missile battery (or several) that did odd things. When Israel bombed Syria's nuclear site a few years ago it was rumoured that they first did something horrible to their air defence network. Possibly involving shutting down their radars. Details were pretty scarce at the time, I don't know if much has come out since.

That of course could have been hacking, an inside job, special forces breaking things or any number of other shennanigans.

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Norks execute underperforming terrapin farm manager

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He went to school in Switzerland, so he's got some outside experience. Actually perhaps that's where he learnt his management techniques? Do Toblerone employ death squads? Enquiring minds would like to know...

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Pluto probe brain OVERLOAD: Titsup New Horizons explained

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Re: Deadline detector.

I thought that feature was only normally enabled on printer CPUs. Did NASA get HP to write their drivers?

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