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February 27, 2014

Mt.Gox site disappears, Bitcoin future in doubt

Filed under: finance, news — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 4:56 am

The Bitcoin-trading website Mt.Gox was taken offline late Monday, putting at risk millions of dollars put there by investors who gambled on the digital currency. The exchange also deleted all of its tweets, and Mt.Gox CEO Mark Karpeles resigned from the Bitcoin Foundation’s board of directors on Sunday.

The news frightened Bitcoin investors elsewhere, knocking the price down about 3% to $490 — its lowest level since November.

For now, there’s no telling what’s behind the shutdown. Mt.Gox did not respond to requests for comment.

However, an unverified document called “Crisis Strategy Draft” that is being circulated online claims Mt.Gox has lost 744,408 of its users’ bitcoins, worth nearly $367 million. It also claims Mt.Gox is planning to rebrand itself as Gox.

Mt.Gox has been mired in problems ever since Feb. 7, when it halted withdrawals from its trading accounts. The company’s computer programmers hadn’t accounted for a quirk in the way Bitcoin works, allowing cyber attackers to dupe Mt.Gox with a scheme resembling receipt fraud. When Mt.Gox discovered it was under attack, it stopped any investors from pulling their money out of their trading platform — but it has yet to allow them access to their money.

By the time trading at Mt.Gox was halted entirely late Monday, the price of a Bitcoin there had dropped significantly, to $130. Meanwhile it was trading for more than four times that on other exchanges cash advances pay day loan.

Late on Monday, several other Bitcoin exchanges sought to reassure investors and took a harder line with Mt. Gox.

“This tragic violation of the trust of users of Mt.Gox was the result of one company’s abhorrent actions and does not reflect the resilience or value of Bitcoin and the digital currency industry,” the groups said in a statement.

The executives who signed the joint statement cast Mt.Gox’s downfall as the typical industry evolution that weeds out bad actors.

Trading bitcoins the old-fashioned way

Although Mt.Gox’s shutdown was unexpected, its piling troubles were no surprise.

Evan Rose, president of Bitcoin ATM company Genesis, said that the kinds of problems seen at Mt.Gox and other exchanges show that Bitcoin is in flux.

“The people running the systems right now are not necessarily business men,” Rose said. “For the most part, they’re people who came into this digital project without grasping the value or risk of it. The ecosystem is maturing, but it’s a little scary for everyone involved.”

— Charles Riley contributed reporting from Hong Kong.


February 23, 2014

Toronto fans share the joy of gold medal win

Filed under: Uncategorized, loans — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 10:52 pm

The cold didn’t stop them for relishing gold.

A huge crowd of Canadian ice hockey fans hooted, hollered and hugged each other outside the Air Canada Centre after watching Team Canada’s men blank Sweden 3-0 and capture the Olympic gold medal in Sochi Sunday.

It was -3 C, but that didn’t stop friends Ross Merlino, 34, Ahmed Mohamed, 30, Saleh Mohamed, 28, and David Desintonio, 34 from coming down to watch the thrilling victory on the large screen outside the ACC.

Many in the raucous but orderly crowd of several hundred were decked out in red and white Team Canada jerseys, scarves, and toques or had painted their faces in the colours of the Canadian flag.

A huge cheer went up when Team Canada captain Sidney Crosby and the other Canadian players were awarded their gold medals.

“There’s no words that can describe this,” said Merlino — who then came up with the word: “monumental.”

“For the team to repeat as world champs, as gold medalists (following Canada’s 2010 Olympic gold in Vancouver) and Sid the Kid (Crosby) came up huge again in a gold medal game. It’s great,’’ Merlino, of Toronto, added.

Crosby scored Canada’s second goal Sunday.

“I’m so excited. We’ve got the best powerhouse team in this world right now,” said Ahmed Mohamed, adding: “I think we’re going to celebrate for at least another couple of days,” said the 30-year-old forklift operator from Toronto.

Wearing no hat or gloves, and only a light jacket while standing outside — Ahmed ran into the lobby of a sports bar in Maple Leaf Square periodically to thaw out during the game.

Matthew Medeiros, 23 and girlfriend Emily Rolko, 21, both of Aurora, took public transit down to the ACC to watch the game on the giant screen.

“It’s very exciting, very exciting. Big win for Canada,” said Medeiros, an electrician.

Rolko said the game was fun to watch and she remembers watching the gold medal win in Vancouver in 2010 in her basement at home.

“This time I got to come out and experience the atmosphere down here. I love it,” said Rolko.


February 20, 2014

Snipers bring Ukraine truce to a bloody end

Filed under: loans, news — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 5:00 pm

KYIV, UKRAINE—Fierce clashes between police and protesters shattered a brief truce in Ukraine’s besieged capital Thursday, leaving at least 22 people dead. Government snipers were reported to be shooting at some of the protesters.

The deaths in Kyiv came in a new eruption of violence just hours after the country’s embattled president and the opposition leaders demanding his resignation called for a truce and negotiations to try to resolve Ukraine’s protracted political crisis.


Why Kyiv’s bloodshed is Moscow’s problem

Truce reached in Ukraine

Bloodshed in Kyiv as Ukrainian government clashes with protesters

The two sides are locked in a decades-long battle over the identity of the country of 46 million, whose loyalties are divided between Russia and the West. Parts of the country — mostly in its western cities — are in open revolt against President Viktor Yanukovych’s central government.

An Associated Press reporter saw 21 bodies laid out on the edge of the sprawling protest encampment in central Kyiv.

In addition, one policeman was killed and 28 suffered gunshot wounds Thursday, Interior Ministry spokesman Serhiy Burlakov told the AP. Government snipers were seen shooting at some protesters in Kyiv, according to an AP cameraman and a protester.

The deaths Thursday brought the week’s toll to at least 50 in Kyiv, with hundreds injured.

Shocked by the violence, the chief of Kyiv’s city administration, Volodymyr Makeyenko, said Thursday he was leaving Yanukovych’s Party of Regions.

“We must be guided only by the interests of the people, this is our only chance to save people’s lives,” he said, adding he would continue to fulfil his duties as long as he had the people’s trust.

As the violence exploded and heavy smoke from burning barricades at the encampment belched into the sky, the foreign ministers of three European countries met with Yanukovych, after their meeting with the opposition leaders.

Neither side appears willing to compromise, with the opposition insisting on Yanukovych’s resignation and an early election and the president apparently prepared to fight until the end.

Later Thursday in Brussels, the 28-nation European Union was scheduled to hold an emergency meeting on Ukraine, to consider sanctions against those behind the violence.

The latest bout of street violence began Tuesday when protesters attacked police lines and set fires outside parliament, accusing Yanukovych of ignoring their demands to enact constitutional reforms that would limit the president’s power — a key opposition demand. Parliament, dominated by his supporters, was stalling on taking up a constitutional reform instant credit report.

In a statement early Thursday, the Ukrainian Health Ministry said 28 people have died and 287 have been hospitalized during the two days of street violence. Protesters, who have set up a medical care facility in a downtown cathedral so that wounded colleagues would not be snatched by police at the hospital, say the numbers of injured are significantly higher — possibly double or triple that.

A statement from the Interior Ministry on Thursday said the gunfire against officers appeared to be coming from the national music conservatory in Kyiv, which is on the edge of the downtown square housing an extensive protest tent camp.

Also Thursday, the parliament building was evacuated because of fears protesters were preparing to storm it.

At the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Ukrainian alpine skier Bogdana Matsotska, 24, said she will not take part in Friday’s women’s slalom to protest the developments in Kyiv.

“As a protest against lawless actions made toward protesters, the lack of responsibility from the side of the president and his lackey government, we refuse further performance at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games,” her father and coach, Oleg Matsotskyy, wrote in a Facebook post.

The clashes this week have been the most deadly since protests kicked off three months ago after Yanukovych shelved an association agreement with the European Union in favour of closer ties with Russia. Russia then announced a $15 billion bailout for Ukraine, whose economy is in tatters.

Although the initial weeks of protests were peaceful, radicals helped drive an outburst of clashes with police in January in which at least three people died, and the day of violence Tuesday may have radicalized many more.

Political and diplomatic manoeuvring has continued, with both Moscow and the West eager to gain influence over this former Soviet republic. Three EU foreign ministers — from Germany, France and Poland — were in Kyiv on Thursday speaking with both sides.

President Barack Obama also stepped in to condemn the violence, warning Wednesday “there will be consequences” for Ukraine if it continues. The U.S. has raised the prospect of joining with the EU to impose sanctions against Ukraine.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, described the violence as an attempted coup and even used the phrase “brown revolution,” an allusion to the Nazi rise to power in Germany in 1933. The ministry said Russia would use “all our influence to restore peace and calm.”



February 19, 2014

Blue Jays chances of adding Ervin Santana take a hit as Ubaldo Jimenez signs with Orioles: Griffin

Filed under: business, loans — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 1:52 am

A warning to Blue Jays fans who may think the signing of Ervin Santana is now a slam-dunk.

The Orioles agreement with free-agent right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez for a reported four years, $50 million, may, in fact, signal that Santana, the other prime free-agent starter left, could be out of the picture for the Jays. It seems counter-intuitive but based on the GM’s history, may very well be true.

The Jays, Mariners, perhaps the Yankees and Royals are seen as top remaining suitors for the talented Santana, but if the Jimenez deal has, indeed, set his new market value, the thing to remember, the way Jays’ GM Alex Anthopoulos conducts his business is that he doesn’t “chase” contracts that he doesn’t think make sense. He prefers to stay within range of the value he set when his pursuit began.

Example? His boss, Jays’ president Paul Beeston recalled that several years ago Anthopoulos received ownership approval to sign Cuban free agent, Aroldis Chapman, to whatever dollar amount was needed. But when the Reds bumped up their offer, last minute, he backed away. He never chases.

The fact is that all of this past off-season, since the GM meetings following the World Series, Anthopoulos has kept a quiet interest in both Jimenez and Santana. But his strategy was to wait until the asking price dropped to a more realistic number, in line with his view. The Matt Garza free-agent deal with the Brewers likely re-set the market — four years, $50 million. The Garza difference was that there was no draft-pick compensation attached, so that fact should have opened up the bidding to more teams making Garza more expensive. With draft pick compensation attached, fewer bidders.

With Jimenez and Santana as the prime free-agent starters left, the Jays believed that with fewer teams willing to give up draft picks and with his own two first rounders protected, that as spring training approached the cost of doing business with those two coveted starters would go down. Wrong. The landscape changed again. The O’s had been interested in A.J. Burnett, but he preferred to remain in the NL and agreed to a one-year, $16 million deal with the Phillies. The O’s then moved to Jimenez.

Anthopoulos had continued to stay in touch with Jimenez and Santana reps. He has a solid relationship with both agents. Face it, the Jays’ GM always plays it close to the vest, offering very little information. Thus, he may or may not have established an informal, but understood ground-floor offer of three years and $27 million with the agents to cement his continued interest. But all of a sudden, the O’s, who had money to spend and an obvious need, in choosing to match the Garza deal for Jimenez, have blown the Jays’ strategy of patience out of the water.

The belief now is that if Santana and agent Bean Stringfellow are willing to come back to the Jays, to negotiate a lower figure than they’ve just witnessed, a deal may still be done. But if they are waiting for a Garza/Jimenez contract, then Anthopoulos, given past history, may well be out.

However, that does not mean for sure the Jays won’t add a 2014 starter. Beyond free-agency, there is the trade market, a method the Jays’ fifth-year GM has always preferred. And once again he has an inventory of spare parts that has value — as long as he doesn’t trade Aaron Sanchez or Marcus Stroman. The Jays have depth in the bullpen, young outfielders and other minor-league starters.

A trade would likely be in the spring. Anthopoulos has a history of playing draft-pick angles to the max (e.g. Miguel Olivo trade and release as Type B). If he trades for a pitcher with five-plus years service, who will become a free agent, then he would prefer to do it before Opening Day, otherwise he can’t manipulate the rules to make a post-season qualifying offer to obtain an extra draft pick if he signs elsewhere. This applies to a guy like Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs, who the Jays coveted earlier.

In summary, the bottom line is if the Jays do not sign Santana or trade for an established starting pitcher prior to the opener, then the off-season will have been an abject failure for Anthopoulos. The reason? The day the ’13 season ended, in the immediacy of a disappointing 74 wins, he emphatically stated his team needed to make changes in order to compete, strongly suggesting one, maybe two starting pitchers, anticipating free agency for Josh Johnson. Doing nothing now becomes a failure.

But all is not lost. Just because the off-season will have been a failure for the GM minus a starter, it does not mean that the 2014 season is a write-off. Anthopoulos has talked himself into believing that even without changes his rotation could be alright. Over the course of 162 games, he may be right, but the failure is that it’s not what he said, what he promised fans and hios players.

What has happened to soften his once-firm resolve to add starters? There was the Arizona Fall League rebound from Tommy John surgery by Drew Hutchison. There’s the minor-league success and contagious self-confidence of Marcus Stroman. There was the great report on the renewed good health of Brandon Morrow. There is the successful late-season change in arm-angle by J.A. Happ. How about the second half rebound of R.A. Dickey and the continued consistency of Mark Buehrle? Finally, there’s the Cards’ example of Michael Wacha emerging from the minors in the second half to become a star.

Conclusion? Adding Santana, even on the same terms as Jimenez, is what the Jays should do but given history, is something Anthopoulos likely will avoid unless he or Santana has a change of heart.


February 15, 2014

Hypo Alpe Debt Cut Four Steps as Insolvency Not Ruled Out - Bloomberg

Filed under: Uncategorized, technology — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 8:00 pm

Hypo Alpe-Adria-Bank International AG, the nationalized Austrian bank, had two of its debt ratings cut four steps by Moody

February 14, 2014

Rob Ford again discloses confidential information

Filed under: Canada, loans — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 5:28 am

Mayor Rob Ford has again committed a likely breach of city rules by publicly discussing confidential matters — though his target says he didn’t have his facts straight.

At a Thursday news conference, Ford accused Councillor Maria Augimeri, a Toronto Community Housing board member, of being the one person who voted to fire chief executive Gene Jones at a closed-door meeting Thursday.

Augimeri is Ford’s own designate on the TCHC board. But she is facing a tough re-election battle against conservative Gus Cusimano, whom Ford has strongly endorsed.

“I completely disagree with Maria Augimeri voting against it, to remove him; that’s disturbing to me. She doesn’t want to be on the board, we’ll find someone else who does want to be on the board guaranteed personal loan approval. She was the dissenting vote…I don’t know, I was just told it was 12 to 1 and she was the dissenting vote,” Ford said.

Augimeri said that is incorrect.

“There was no vote to either get rid of or keep Mr. Jones,” Augimeri said. She added: “An indignity has been done to me by this mayor. Again.”

Board chair Bud Purves said the board “will need to look into” Ford’s comment.

“We are not sure how any information about confidential in camera board meetings is being released to the public,” Purves said.


February 10, 2014

Alex Bilodeau wins gold for Canada, Mikael Kingsbury captures silver in men

Filed under: management, mortgage — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 11:32 pm

Canada’s Alex Bilodeau won his second straight gold medal in Olympic moguls on Monday.

His teammate Mikael Kingsbury captured silver.

The Canadians narrowly missed sweeping the podium as Marc-Antoine Gagnon finished fourth.

Bilodeau, who won Canada’s first medal four years ago in Vancouver, had a near-flawless final run to earn a score of 26.31.

Kingsbury, who has been Bilodeau’s main rival on the World Cup circuit this season, had a small stumble in his final run to finish with 24.71.

Russia’s Alexandr Smyshlyaev was third with 24.34.

It’s the second 1-2 finish for the Canadian moguls team after Montreal sisters Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe won gold and silver in the women’s competition Saturday night.

Bilodeau, who is the first moguls skier to defend an Olympic title, received a long celebratory hug from his brother Frederic right after his victory. Bilodeau has said Frederic, who has cerebral palsy, is his hero and he dedicated his gold medal in Vancouver to him.

While the 26-year-old Bilodeau was the defending champion, the 21-year-old Kingsbury is the reigning world champion and he has won the World Cup overall title the last two years.

Kingsbury picked up three World Cup victories at the start of this season but Bilodeau won the last three World Cups leading into Sochi.

Canada is the only country that has won the men’s moguls on more than one occasion. Jean-Luc Brassard won gold at the Lillehammer Games in 1994.




Bilodeau, Kingsbury set for Olympic showdown

VIDEO: Spend a minute with Bilodeau


February 4, 2014

Empty Hotels Drive Thailand to Best Sovereign Gain: Asean Credit - Bloomberg

Filed under: business, marketing — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 11:04 am


February 2, 2014

Kensington Market Loblaws: beyond a debate over gentrification

Filed under: finance, money — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 8:52 pm

There’s no more patently ludicrous marker of Toronto’s gentrification, and of gentrification as a whole model of civic transformation, than the mock graffiti dressing up the Loblaws on Queen St. West, near Bathurst.

It just says “LOBLAWS.” Over and over. In different ripped-off street art fonts. And it’s indoors!

It’s like a cartoon of an out-of-touch corporation pitiably trying to connect with the roots of a neighbourhood it’s papering over. It’s Homer Simpson strutting through Lollapalooza in an oversized Rastafarian hat: desperate, embarrassing, totally oblivious. It’s an easy target.

Last week, Tribute Communities announced it has sealed a deal with Loblaws to develop a 20,000 square foot supermarket in another of Toronto’s most contested neighbourhoods: Kensington Market.

Slated to take over 297 College St. — in a space formerly housing, no joke, a Zen Buddhist temple — the new Loblaws is being regarded in some quarters as both a material and existential threat to the vibrancy and uniqueness of Kensington.

It remains to be seen how exactly Loblaws and Tribute will pay phony homage to the neighbourhood they’re encroaching upon — a graffiti-scrawled Jane Jacobs quote or a 40-foot hollow Buddha filled with cheese? — but the people behind the new deal are already adopting the language of Kensington’s culture.

Speaking to Toronto Life, Tribute VP of land development Steve Deveaux stressed that the Loblaws will be “more of a community grocery store,” insisting that the Kensington we know will still be “relevant.”

“Relevant,” even!

Over the past year, Kensington has become a battleground, a site of contestation. As Loblawsian corporate interests further come to define Toronto, many have taken up the cause of protecting heritage communities against the corporatized steamrolling that defines, oh, pretty much everything.

Per a petition endorsed by 7,300-plus “Friends of Kensington Market” that has circulated online since Loblaws first began eyeing the Kensington-adjacent space, the clash is between Big Corporations and “the small independent stores, especially purveyors of raw food — fruit stands, dry goods, fishmongers, butcher and groceries,” those that “may not withstand the impact of a Loblaws moving into the community.”

In a way this battle has already been lost. Friends of Kensington Market are determined to preserve a spirit that’s already receded.

Kensington’s uniqueness has already been co-opted in less obvious ways. It was 2009 when Max and Son Meat Market, a tiny family-owned butcher on Baldwin St., was bought out by Peter Sanagan, laying the tracks for a much bigger, 5,000 square foot space hawking organic heirloom pheasants and artisanal pepperettes.

And if that didn’t seal Kensington’s fate as a sort of d

January 30, 2014

Stocks slide on weak earnings, Fed’s stimulus cuts

Filed under: mortgage, news — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 2:24 pm

Stocks are sharply lower following weak earnings from several U.S. companies, more trouble in emerging markets and economic stimulus cuts from the Federal Reserve.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 18 points, or 1 percent, to close at 1,774 Wednesday. The S&P 500 has ended lower on four of the last five days.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 189 points, or 1.2 percent, to 15,738. The Nasdaq composite dropped 46 points, or 1.1 percent, to 4,051.

The stock market opened lower after companies including Boeing and AT&T gave weak earnings outlooks and investors worried about plunging currencies in developing countries like Turkey and South Africa.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.69 percent from 2.75 percent late Tuesday.


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