Category Archives: Main

Is data the new oil?

Oil for a long time has been one of the most sought after commodities on the planet. However, as our online lives develop, data is fast becoming recognised as potentially more valuable than even the ‘liquid gold’ drawn up from the earth. Instead of huge mining rigs out to sea, entrepreneurs have now taken to surfing waves of the digital kind, mining electronic databases instead to create value from seemingly thin air. 

Unlike oil however, data is not a commodity to be bought and sold on the market. The value of data comes instead from its position as an asset. In terms of a digital gold rush, this makes the potential value of data as open for business to far more of us than would ever be able to dig down to an oil well. Whilst an individual’s data might not be worth much on its own, thousands of peoples data collected into sets is worth far more to the enterprising thinker. 

With hundreds of different datasets available, it becomes far more possible to use the information available to better understand and predict consumer and market trends. Increasing accuracy comes also with this type of prediction, as the law of averages creates relatively reliable outcomes. 

They say if the product is free then you’re what’s on sale, which is a claim lobbied at internet giants such as Facebook, Google and other social media networks in particular. Not all big firms however are looking to get value from their data through its sale. Companies such as Amazon and Alibaba for instance, find much more value in mining their own data for clues and insights as to consumer trends and preferences. An online shopping merchant for example, might use the data it has collected on customer shopping habits to better match consumers to their next purchase, subsequently increasing profit through a higher volume of revenue.

NRA files for bankruptcy

With all the support from people in the United States of America as well as globally, it’s hard to believe the National Rifle Association (NRA) of America could be short of a bob or two. People were shocked to subsequently learn earlier this year that the NRA was filing for bankruptcy. The unusual move was criticised by many opposers of the NRA and members alike, for the sinister undertones of the action. Filing for bankruptcy has brought into question the finances of the NRA, and spending habits of its Executive Vice President (EVP) and organisation frontman Wayne LaPierre

The National Rifle Association is America’s self proclaimed “foremost defender of Second Amendment rights”, according to their web page. It is an organisation for Americans who believe it is their right to hold a firearm. It is estimated roughly a third of the American public own a gun, with gun violence seen as continually on the rise in the states. Between 1968 and 2011, over 1.4 million people died from firearms in the U.S., a shocking statistic that makes it clear why some people are so opposed to the law. Gun statistics show gun violence as more prevalent in lower income communities, where police interventions are also high as a result. Statistics for gun crime and death via firearm in comparable countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia are disturbingly low and in jarring juxtaposition with the US. 

The bankruptcy move from the NRA has reached a bump in the road however, as plans to move the organisation’s registration from New York to Texas has gone sour. In a recent twist of events, a Federal Judge has rebuked the NRA’s attempt to relocate to Texas, seemingly to avoid a lawsuit from the New York attorney general. Only time will tell what will happen next for the organisation in this tumultuous period.

What is an NFT?

The art world has been going wild recently over a recent surge in interest surrounding NFTs. But what is an NFT? The acronym stands for non-fungible token. Yes, non-fungible… the basic meaning of this is, unlike bitcoin that can be traded for other bitcoin and you’ll have the exact same thing, an NFT is more like a trade of playing cards. This means you could trade something of equal value but end up with a different token at the end. 

The application of this type of blockchain technology to digital art has been heralded and critiqued widely. While some people see NFTs as a way to deprivigalise more traditional forms of art and open up the art market to those outside of its traditional centres, others cite moral and environmental arguments for why such cryptocurrencies are a bad idea. 

One particular argument against the use of NFTs for digital art is that it affects the experience of the viewer. A benefit of digital art currently is that it retains the aura of the original work with each viewing, unaffected by what number of copies it is. Some are arguing that inscribing an NFT to a work would fix an original of the piece in such a way that the aura of the work  subsequently viewed elsewhere as a copy would be destroyed, and experience of the audeineed diminished. 

The hype for NFTs in the artwork has increased so much that even high-end auction houses such as Christie’s have been getting in on them. Though initially traded between friends for at most $100 USD, a secondary market for digital artwork NFTs made from files such as MP4s, GIFs and JPEGS, has quickly emerged. 

The digital artist Beeple is the pseudonym of NFT innovator Mike Winkelmann who, until October 2020, had never sold a work for more than a hundred dollars. Come March 11th 2021, a recent digital collage from Beeple titled ‘Everydays – The First 5000 Days’ sold for a staggering $69 million USD at a Christie’s online auction. The price was far beyond the estimated $35 million and $15 million more than the painting Nymphéas by Monet which was sold via the auction house in 2014.

Giant shipping container blocks global trade routes on Suez Canal

The grand Suez Canal in Egypt has been blocked by one of the world’s largest shipping containers this week. In an extraordinary (almost) turn of events, the ship has been caught in the side of the canal as it tried to turn around. 

The news is not good for the global shipping industry which runs around 10 percent of its trade via the canal. As a result, the waterway is one of Egypt’s top earners in foreign currency, and one the country has invested in much over the years. The most recent investment in the canal’s structure by Egypt was in 2015 when the government of Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi authorised a substantial expansion in the canal’s width to allow for it to accommodate larger vessels – like the one currently stuck. 

The Suez Canal provides one of the only direct routes from East to West and vice versa for trade shipping. The canal has been a crucial link in the global industries for natural gas, oil and shipping containers since it opened in 1869. The stuck ship comes only as the latest disruption to these international trades that have been already severely affected over the past year due to the global coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. 

The stuck ship is called the MV Ever Given and originated from Panama. It often carries trade between Europe and Asia via shipping container and is considered one of the world’s largest. The humongous container ship was grounded on Tuesday of last week, blocking traffic along the waterway ever since. 

The ship was trying to turn sideways in the canal although the reasons for why have remained a mystery to the Suez Canal Authority. The boat suffered a ‘blackout’ whilst in transit but the logistics company in charge of the ship have declined further comment. As of Saturday 27th March 2021 the ship remains blocking trade via the canal. 

Digital currency Ethereum reaches an all time high

Digital currencies have been making international news since blockchain pioneer currency Bitcoin reached an all time high at the beginning of 2021. Riding on the coat tails of Bitcoin’s success and the increased interest in digital currencies, online coin Ethereum has also reach a peak in its market value. 

As of Sunday February 28th 2021 on Ethereum coin was worth $1,380 United States Dollar after reaching highs of $1,960 United States Dollars on Friday 19th February 2021. In comparison, Bitcoin reached a peak of $57,849 United States Dollars on Sunday 21st February 2021, before a relative decline to $46,189 United States Dollars as of Friday 19th February 2021. 

The spike comes as more companies are becoming interested in the digital currencies as the number in circulation begins to reach towards its limitations. Bitcoin for example will only ever have a maximum of 21 million coins in circulation. There are currently 18.5 million coins that have been mined, meaning there are only 2.5 million coins left to be unearthed. With far more less to mine, there were 72 million Ether coins launched at generation point but only 18 million Ether have currently been mined. 

Interest in the online currencies was peaked when Tesla Inc Chief Executive Officer and billionaire tech entrepreneur, Elon Musk, tweeted on the subject. In a trend for stocks to rise on anything the cult celebrity figure comments on, Bitcoin and Ethereum proved no exception. He went on to comment that “That said, BTC & ETH do seem high lol”. 

Fuelling the speculation around digital currencies Musk also commented: “Money is just data that allows us to avoid the inconvenience of barter …” The remark came after a dramatic purchase by Tesla of $1.5 billion Bitcoins. The record purchase is one reason prices for the coin may have risen so high in early to mid February.

Alexa, are you a spy?

Amazon is attempting to address privacy concerns by attaching more privacy settings to its domestic spy bots Alexa and Echo. It’s still astonishing to me that anyone would voluntarily put such devices in their own homes (that used to be the job of secret police units), but maybe I’m just old fashioned. Speaking of which, there is nothing old fashioned about online courier quotes; nothing at all.

If you believe Alexa isn’t listening to everything you do while she’s “asleep,” you’ve got another think coming. (Yes, it’s “think,” not “thing.”) That bot is always active, always absorbing your words and storing them as data to be used as Amazon sees fit.

I know, I know, you have nothing to hide so you don’t care. If Amazon wants to record you having sex, so be it—you’re not bashful. But as Ed Snowden and others have pointed out, saying you don’t care about privacy because you have nothing to hide is akin to saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say. Then again, free speech doesn’t seem to be very fashionable these days, so maybe that argument doesn’t resonate much anymore.

Last year Amazon laughably introduced voice controls that allows surveillance targets—er, users, to tell Alexa to “delete” their previous question or request, or even the whole day’s questions and requests! Yes, I’m sure the data is immediately and permanently wiped from Alexa’s memory and Amazon’s servers. Just like Instagram (Facebook) gets rid of your private messages and photos when you “delete” them …

Nevertheless we’ll play along here. Recently Amazon went a step further, allowing users to choose whether their voice recordings are saved by Alexa: you can do this by going to “settings” then “Alexa privacy” then “manage your Alexa data” then “automatically delete recordings.”

In case you were wondering, Amazon discourages the setting, stating that by letting Alexa save your voice recordings you give yourself a better and more personalised experience. And anyway, the transcripts of your voice recordings are still automatically saved for 30 days, at which point Amazon says they’re all deleted.

That reminds me, I’m trying to sell this bridge I just inherited. Super low price. Let me know if you’re interested in the comments section.

Rice farmers join in one of India’s biggest protests

Rice farmers in India have been making global news headlines over the past few weeks for taking part in one of India’s biggest ever protests. The rice farmers are in protest against changes to the law made by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that will significantly change the way they do business. 

The proposed changes to the law currently stand to affect the country;s 146 million farms. The current state run system is said by the Prime Minister to be having an effect of too much constraint on the selling of rice and agricultural industry. As an alternative, Mr. Modi is advocating for market-orientated reforms he believes would improve the rice farmer’s ability to do business in the free market. 

Many of the local rice farmers however feel differently. It is not unusual in India for a farm to be less than three acres in size, and local farmers fear that larger corporations will come in and buy up their smaller plots of land. Their biggest fear is that allowing intervention by these larger companies in this way, the overall price of rice will be lowered and severely affect their business earnings. 

In defiance and protest of the current regulations being overhauled, many rice farmers have chosen to burn their crops. This move comes as a reaction to the pollution response fine and prison time set up by the government, to punish farmers who burn their crops. The fine is up to 10 million rupees, which is roughly $176,000 Australian dollars. 
Protests so far have taken place all over the country, with marches in the capital of Mumbai, and other areas like New Delhi and Punjab. More tension is caused by the protest due to the ongoing coronavirus worldwide pandemic that is currently worsening in India, exacerbated by the gathering of crowds to protest, as well as air pollution caused by crop burning.

Top fashion influencers to follow on Depop in 2020

Christmas and the new season are fast approaching and for many of us that also means a switch up in our wardrobe styles. Whether you’re moving into the chilly scene of winter or entering a more sunny period in the Southern hemisphere, now is the time to seek out some fresh style inspiration. Whilst many fashion bloggers can be found channeling their style, beauty and lifestyle tips over on Tiktok or Instagram, we’re here to recommend some of our favourite Depop fashion influencers you can also buy from. Combining ebay with Instagram, Depop is a truly 2020 way to follow fashion trends. The site boasts over 4.5 million users, with each user selling an average of one item every four second, making it one of the internet’s most used and most successful resell fashion e-commerce platforms. Much of the site’s popularity comes from its ethical and sustainable focus from many of its users promoting second hand clothes. Depop is here to make thrift trendy again. 

So who is catching our eye this month? Let’s find out!

 Based in the USA, Ugli clothing is a brand selling 90s neon cardigans and crop tops amongst some standout jewelry pieces. Its bright pop aesthetic is sprinkled with just a touch of irony, keeping the brand’s edge of cool intact as it markets itself to a fresh-faced teenage audience. 

Fiona Short ships worldwide from the United Kingdom. Her curated selection of 90s and 00s rave wear and cartoon sweaters is available to purchase from anywhere in the world and is promised to be shipped with fully recyclable packaging. 

Ann Kim, or andyheart as she’s known on Depop, is a follow for those interested in a more minimal and mature style. The fashionista’s sleek style sees a muted colour palette of earthy browns and sensuous greys contrast with starker black and white monochrome pieces.

Tensions rise between India and Pakistan over Basmati rice

Tension the rise between India and Pakistan over the geographical identification of Basmati rice. The two countries are currently in dispute over the European Union’s identification of the type of rice’s Geographical Indication (GI). In a recent lobby to the EU on September 11th, 2020, India has claimed the rice as being grown at the foothills of the Himalayas on Indian terrain – despite the EU’s assertion that Basmati rice is a joint export of India and Pakistan, in 2006. 

India claims a cultural legacy the basmati name: first recorded reference to basmati rice appears in ‘Heer Ranjha’, a Punjabi poem by Varis Shah in 1766. The Indian application of the name derives from two Sanskrit word roots. The first word ‘vas’ refers to the aroma of the rice, whilst ‘mati’ alludes to the ancient tradition of the rice in Indian culture, meaning ‘ingrained from the origin’. 
The opposition to India’s claim over the rice comes from the Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce Razak Dawood. Following a meeting with the Secretary of Commerce, Chairman, Intellectual Property Organisation (IPO-Pakistan), and representatives of Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP), Dawood declared Pakistan would oppose the designation sought by India with the Geographical Indications (Registration and Protection) Act. This would prevent India from claiming exclusive rights to Basmati rice labelling for products exported to the EU. Such an act would exclude Pakistan from being able to label their exported rice as Basmati, and could significantly damage rice sales that rely on customer’s brand recognition of the rice-growing region. In data from the Pakistani Commerce Ministry, out of the 500,000 – 700,000 tons of rice exported by Pakistan, roughly 200,000 – 250,000 is currently exported to the EU. Pakistan is known around the globe for its quality exports of the famous rice. Rice exports contribute over $2 billion to the Pakistan economy each year and are the second highest-grossing export after textiles.