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Posts tagged capitalism

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The price of surveillance: Government pays to snoop

AP reporting on something I never thought of before but which makes perfect sense in retrospect:

In the era of intense government surveillance and secret court orders, a murky multimillion-dollar market has emerged. Paid for by U.S. tax dollars, but with little public scrutiny, surveillance fees charged in secret by technology and phone companies can vary wildly.

AT&T, for example, imposes a $325 “activation fee” for each wiretap and $10 a day to maintain it. Smaller carriers Cricket and U.S. Cellular charge only about $250 per wiretap. But snoop on a Verizon customer? That costs the government $775 for the first month and $500 each month after that, according to industry disclosures made last year to Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass.

That’s it, I’m done. 100% done. I’m pulling the ejector seat and leaving the planet.

I’ll miss the blue parts, not so much the green and brown parts.

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Wikipedia: The Fantastic Four (1994 film)

I was, until quite recently, completely unaware that the 2005 film Fantastic Four was not the first live film adaptation of the superheroes. The first was a low-budget film that was completed in 1994 but was never released. It is, by all accounts, a not terribly great B movie.

My favorite part of the article was this:

Speculation arose that the film had never been intended for release, but had gone into production solely as a way for [producer Bernd] Eichinger to retain rights to the characters; Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee in 2005 said this was the case, insisting, “The movie was never supposed to be shown to anybody,” and adding that the cast and crew had been left unaware. [Producer Roger] Corman and Eichinger had dismissed Lee’s claims, with the former stating in the same article, “We had a contract to release it, and I had to be bought out of that contract” by Eichinger.

I just really love the idea of slapping together a movie based on a high profile license just to maintain that license.

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Rift between oldest synagogue, Jewish congregation

AP staff report:

A disagreement over the ownership of a set of Torah finial bells from Colonial times that is worth millions has led to dueling lawsuits between leaders of the nation’s first Jewish congregation and the nation’s oldest synagogue.

The dispute started after leaders of the nearly 250-year-old Touro Synagogue in Newport, R.I., agreed to sell the bells, called rimonim, for $7.4 million to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The sale is opposed by leaders of Congregation Shearith Israel in New York City, who say it owns Touro and the rimonim.

Weird story about ownership, religion, and — somehow — ownership of religion.

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New York Stock Exchange sold to a rival exchange

Steve Rothwell for the Associated Press:

In a deal that highlights the dwindling stature of what was once a centerpiece of capitalism, the New York Stock Exchange is being sold to a little-known rival for $8 billion — $3 billion less than it would have fetched in a proposed takeover just last year.

The buyer is IntercontinentalExchange, a 12-year-old exchange headquartered in Atlanta that deals in investing contracts known as futures.

It honestly never occurred to me until reading this story that one could buy or sell a stock exchange. But then, it’s got to be operated by someone, right? In this case, the parent company is NYSE Euronext, which IntercontinentalExchange has acquired in this deal.

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Kansas City Homes for Hackers renting room with Google Fiber access

Klint Finley on Wired:

Google Fiber — the search giant’s brand-new, ultra-high-speed internet service — is only available in Kansas City, and even there, it only runs to homes, so there’s no trying the thing out during a Kansas City hotel stay. But if you really want a taste of those 800 Mbps speeds — that’s about 100 times faster than your average internet connection — there’s another option. You can rent a room at the hacker house.

The Homes for Hackers house is a four-bedroom Kansas City abode where a group of entrepreneurs have bedded down to incubate their tech startups on an honest-to-goodness Google Fiber connection. But only three of those bedrooms are taken. The fourth one is available for rent at a price of $49 via the online vacation rental site Airbnb.

Pretty silly, but in a way I’m kind of impressed by the idea.

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Could pepperoni spoil presidential debate?

Candice Choi, AP:

During the next presidential debate, the candidates will be pondering the important questions of our time. But the most controversial may be “Sausage or pepperoni?”

Pizza Hut is offering a lifetime of free pizza — one large pie a week for 30 years — or a check for $15,600 to anyone who poses the question to either President Barack Obama or Republican candidate Mitt Romney during the live Town Hall-style debate next Tuesday.

Capitalism failed. We gave it a good run, but if this is what we have to show for it, we might as well just pack it all up.

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Insurance companies send crews to protect homes

The AP:

Insurance companies began sending crews to wildfires around 2006, said Paul Broyles, former head of fire operations at the National Interagency Fire Center, which coordinates federal firefighting efforts from Boise, Idaho. Land use changes in the past two decades have allowed more homes to be built in or near wildfire-prone areas, prompting the insurance companies to offer such a service, said Michael Barry of the New York-based industry funded Insurance Information Institute.

“It’s an added layer of protection for our clients,” [Kevin Fuhriman of Chubb Personal Insurance] said. “From a business perspective? It’s an extremely advantageous business proposition.”

Completely privatized firefighting is an exceptionally terrible idea for a lot of reasons. But in addition to a public fire department? It kind of strikes me as fundamentally unfair that one should be more protected from having their life destroyed solely by dint of having more money, but not really in any way I can argue.

Maybe we could just stop cutting fire budgets in states.