MELTDOWN: BITCOIN CRASHES TO $576

Bitcoin fell from a high of $1,079 to a low of $576 today. This is according to data from Mt. Gox. Also, this represents a breathtaking 46% crash.

Currently, Bitcoin is back to the $700 level. This is still down a whopping 35%.

The sharp moves come in the wake of China’s clampdown on the controversial digital currency.

Earlier this week, the People’s Bank of China announced it was barring the country’s banks from handling the Bitcoin. (That Thursday announcement was followed by a 30% intraday crash.)

That was followed by this announcement from Baidu, aka “the Chinese Google”:

Due to the recent fluctuations in the price of Bitcoin larger unable to protect the interests of users, in response to the risk of state-controlled bitcoin spirit Baidu music accelerate decision to suspend with immediate effect from accepting bitcoin buy accelerate music services.

Horrific price volatility has been one of the biggest criticisms.

This week, Bank of America Merrill Lynch currency strategist David Woo initiated coverage of Bitcoin, assigning a $1,300 fair value.

“We believe Bitcoin can become a major means of payment for e-commerce and may emerge as a serious competitor to traditional money transfer providers,” wrote Woo in a 14-page note to clients. “As a medium of exchange, Bitcoin has clear potential for growth, in our view.”

Here’s a Bitcoin price chart from Clark Moody:

bitcoin
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Turkish PM Erdogan hit by allegations of son’s meeting with ‘Al Qaeda financier’

ISTANBUL // An alleged meeting between the son of prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a Saudi businessman accused by the United States of being an Al Qaeda financier has intensified the scent of scandal and corruption enveloping the Turkish government.

According to findings by investigators leaked to Turkish media, Yasin Al Qadi is suspected of involvement in a scandal over the sale of land in an upmarket neighbourhood in Istanbul. His alleged meeting last year with Bilal Erdogan could implicate the prime minister’s family in the affair.

The allegations could not come at a worse time for Mr Erdogan, whose government is reeling from a series of corruption allegations.

Ugur Bayraktutan, a member of parliament for the opposition Republican People’s Party, last week launched an official query in parliament, asking Mr Erdogan whether his son Bilal had met with Yasin Al Qadi, 58, a Saudi national accused by the US of being an Al Qaeda supporter.

Under parliamentary rules, Mr Erdogan is obliged to answer the question within a month.

The accusations come after prosecutors last month ordered the arrests of dozens of people, including the sons of two of Mr Erdogan’s former ministers, suspected of being involved in a separate corruption scandal.

According to reports by Radikal, Milliyet and other Turkish newspapers, Mr Al Qadi was on a list of names due to be arrested in a second wave of arrests as part of investigations into several corruption cases. The reports said the arrests were cancelled after the prosecutor, Muammer Akkas, was taken off the investigations.

Bilal was included in a group of people that were to be questioned as “suspects”, said reports, quoting sources in the judiciary.

Several Turkish media have carried pictures said to show Mr Al Qadi talking with Bilal in the lobby of an Istanbul hotel in April. According to the Taraf newspaper, prosecutors suspect the Saudi businessman was involved in talks about the sale of a publicly-owned piece of land in the upscale Istanbul district of Etiler to private investors for US$460 million (Dh1.69 billion), less than half its market value.

Umut Oran, another CHP politician, in his own parliamentary query, asked Mr Erdogan whether Bilal acted as a mediator in efforts to sell the land to Mr Al Qadi and others. Istanbul’s mayor Kadir Topbas has denied that the area had been sold.

Last week Taraf claimed that Mr Al Qadi also entered Turkey illegally four times before being taken off the UN sanctions list in 2012, with the blessing of the Turkish government. He remains on a US terrorism blacklist.

Mr Bayraktutan, the MP, said Mr Al Qadi was protected by the prime minister’s security detail during those visits.

“Al Qadi was here illegally, there are pictures proving it,” Mr Bayraktutan told The National.

There has been no reaction by Mr Al Qadi to the allegations that he was involved in the land deal or that he entered Turkey illegally.

A property company in Istanbul named in news reports as being connected to Mr Al Qadi did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr Erdogan said foes of the government were trying to draw him into the corruption scandal by targeting members of his family. Bilal is one of two sons of the prime minister, who also has two daughters.

“They are aiming at my son, but it’s me they want to get,” the prime minister said on a recent visit to Pakistan.

But Ilter Turan, a political scientist at Istanbul’s Bilgi University, said as yet there was “no satisfactory explanation of the relationship” between Bilal and Mr Al Qadi.

Mr Al Qadi is accused by US authorities of financing Al Qaeda, a charge he has in the past denied. His charitable Muwafaq foundation was identified by the US Treasury department as an Al Qaeda front and placed on a terror list in October 2001. The United Nations removed Mr Al Qadi from a separate list of people under sanctions because of Al Qaeda connections in October 2012.

The businessman has had strong commercial and political connections in Turkey for years. As early as 2006, Mr Erdogan publicly defended Mr Al Qadi against terrorism charges, telling a television interviewer that the businessman was “a charitable person who loves Turkey”.

A report by Forbes in 2008 alleged that Mr Al Qadi used his friendship with Mr Erdogan to avoid UN sanctions.

Keecker launches polymath home entertainment robot

Keecker has launched a new home entertainment robot

Keecker has launched a new home entertainment robot

CES always throws up some gadgets that are more radical and fun than most, and this year is no different. Keecker, founded by ex-Google employee Pierre Lebeau, has unveiled an all-singing, all-dancing smart robot aimed at “redefining the home entertainment and connected devices market.”

Keecker’s new Wibot is a sleek creation that transports itself from room to room with a variety of multimedia functions at the ready. The device stands at 25 inches (63.5 cm) tall and features video projection, 360-degree audio and video capture, audio speakers, web browsing, gaming and video calling. It is is also able to monitor temperature, humidity, sound volume and light levels.

The Keecker robot features video projection, 360-degree audio and video capture, audio spe...

The Wibot is controlled by iOS, Android and web-based apps and is provided with one terabyte of internal storage space as well as a dock for recharging the unit. Perhaps most excitingly, Keecker plans to publish an open API for the Wibot, allowing developers to create their own apps and uses for the device.

There’s no shortage of promise from Keecker. Its website modestly states that the Wibot is “a device that will change everything,” and Lebeau himself says, “Creating a new dimension between technology, entertainment and our imagination, Keecker merges the physical and digital worlds for the first time.”

In reality, the US$4,000-$5,000 price tag will ensure that the Wibot remains fairly exclusive, at least initially. Getting your hands on one will also require plenty of patience – the Wibot is currently at prototype stage and will reportedly go through a Kickstarter campaign before delivery begins towards the end of the year.

The Top 10 Studies Of 2013 Proving The Medicinal Power Of Cannabis

cann

Just because a substance is illegal does not mean it is bad. In fact, many legal substances are responsible for a variety of ailments, prescription drugs alone are responsible for killing over 100,000 people each year. Cannabis was considered a harmful drug for many years despite the fact that scientific evidence to prove it is greatly lacking. All of the evidence points to this plant having great benefits for the human body. It’s 2014 now, and more people are becoming aware of the fact that our body actually produces compounds called endocannabinoids, and they play an important role in many processes within the body that help to create a healthy environment. Cannabis activates the cannabinoid receptors in the body. It’s important to note that the best method of ingestion is not through smoke, because this changes the chemical structure of the plant. Cannabis is a powerful key to good health when we eat it vs. smoking it. 

Iraqi army in tense stand-off at Fallujah

Sunni fighters carry RPG missiles launcher and machine guns as they take up position in Fallujah (EPA)

Iraqi forces were engaged in a tense stand-off on Monday night outside two cities said to have been taken over by al-Qaeda as the government attempted to end its latest crisis without major bloodshed.

At least 200 troops, rebel fighters and civilians have already been killed in clashes and bomb blasts across west and north-west Iraq since fighting began last week between militants, the army and local tribes loyal to the government.

Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, on Monday called on the residents of Fallujah, one of the two cities seized by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, the local al-Qaeda group, to drive out the militants themselves. In the meantime, the army, which has surrounded the city, held off from a full-blown assault.

Al-Qaeda are said also to be partly in control of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, where an attempt last week to break up an anti-government protest camp led to the current crisis.

Fallujah was the scene of one of the bloodiest battles of the insurgency against the American presence in Iraq after the allied invasion of 2003.

Then as now al-Qaeda forces, believed to have been initially bolstered by Sunni remnants of the regime of Saddam Hussein, were attempting to drive out what they regarded as foreign-backed forces.

The crisis has raised new questions about American policy in the Middle East, highlighted when the deputy chief of staff of the Iranian army, Gen. Mohammad Hejazi, offered to send weapons to his Iraqi counterparts.

The United States has already sent Hellfire missiles to help the army counter al-Qaeda, another sign that the return of al-Qaeda in both Iraq and neighbouring Syria may end up bringing the US and Iran closer. However, it has rejected suggestions that it might end up sending back troops, withdrawn at the end of 2011.

Although the conflict has pitted the Shia-led government against al-Qaeda, comprising Sunni militants, Mr Maliki has also been able to rely on Sunni tribal leaders in the area who helped the US eventually defeat the militant threat in Anbar.

But the area has never been entirely pacified, and al-Qaeda has been strengthened by new recruits drawn in by its involvement in the civil war in neighbouring Syria.

Criminal barristers stage walkout to protest against planned cuts

Barristers, protest outside the Old Bailey this morning.

Austerity measures attracted outrage from an unlikely quarter on Monday as criminal barristers protested at the government’s proposed cuts to legal aid.

On the same day that chancellor George Osborne outlined a further £12bn of public spending cuts, courts across England and Wales played host to a much less typical kind of anti-austerity anguish. Bewigged barristers, joined by solicitors and members of the public, brandished signs saying “Save British Justice” and “#fight4legalaid”.

While hundreds voiced their discontent in public, thousands of criminal barristers stayed out of court until at least 2pm on Monday in an act of “mass non-attendance” – the first such walkout in 400 years.

The protests came in response to plans by the Ministry of Justice to cut publicly funded fee rates by up to 30 per cent.

The budget for legal aid – introduced after the second world war and designed to provide representation for those unable to afford it – is £1.8bn this financial year, a 7.7 per cent fall year on year.

Criminal barristers – who are on average paid less than their commercial counterparts – say falling rates are threatening the continued existence of the criminal bar and the dispensation of justice.

“To defend people with no money is hugely important, but we are getting to the stage where the criminal bar cannot make it sustainable,” said Sarah Forshaw QC, of barristers 5KBW and leader of the southeastern circuit.

Mrs Forshaw said there was also some sympathy from fellow barristers specialising in commercial law who were concerned that the UK’s reputation as a centre of legal excellence could be undermined by the changes and an exodus of barristers from the profession.

The protests, which took place outside courts in England and Wales on Monday morning, including in Birmingham and Southwark and the Old Bailey in London, was organised by the Criminal Bar Association, which represents more than 4,000 criminal barristers.

They say the government’s proposed cuts, due to be implemented for trials from April, follow 40 per cent cuts already applied since 1997.

Hourly rates are set to be cut by 30 per cent for so-called very high cost crime (VHCC) cases from April, which include white-collar fraud trials.

Karl Turner, Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull East and a former criminal barrister, said the cuts were part of an “ideological drive to undermine the welfare state”.

“The profession can’t take any more cuts to legal aid,” he said.

Defendants are struggling to get barristers to represent them at the new rates.

Under the rates, for VHCC cases, an experienced junior barrister would see pay drop from £61-£79 an hour to £49-£55 an hour.

It is difficult to assess precisely how much criminal barristers earn because of fluctuations in the frequency of cases they handle and their status as self-employed.

At the protest outside the Old Bailey, attended by 150 barristers and solicitors, Mukul Chawla QC, head of chambers at 9-12 Bell Yard, read a letter on behalf of the southeastern circuit saying that most criminal barristers or solicitors “do not earn the mythical sums suggested”.

According to the Ministry of Justice, the mean income for the 4,931 barristers claiming money through legal aid schemes in the financial year to April 2013 was £72,000. This figure, however, does not include VAT, professional insurance and expenses, and may take into account money earned over several years.

Barristers say they already do significant unpaid overtime on complex cases as hours have to be preapproved by the Legal Aid Authority. Mr Chawla notes that as a general rule of thumb, one minute a page is permitted for reading statements and 30 seconds a page for reading exhibits.

The Criminal Bar Association points to government figures that showed that 60 per cent of “median” barristers doing legal aid work earn an average of £37,000 a year after expenses. The CBA claims that many are working for less than £25,000 before tax.

It says barristers, who are self employed and so do not receive holiday or sick pay, can face a rate as low as £20 a day, once the hours of preparation, time in court and chambers’ fees are included.

The CBA says that the cuts have recently led to one criminal case, a complex fraud trial, being placed in jeopardy because a representative for four of the eight defendants on trial approached 17 sets of chambers – and every one of them declined to accept the case.

Nigel Lithman QC, chairman of the CBA, said: “A line has to be drawn in the sand before it’s too late. The cuts pose the most serious threat to the British legal system in more than 400 years.

“Who can blame anybody for wishing to protest against swingeing cuts that mean they can’t pay their mortgages or afford to come back to work after being on maternity leave?”

He said he had heard of a number of examples of low-paid barristers including a young woman in her second year of practice who had taxable income of £13,800 and a 60-year-old man who made a loss and would have had to file for bankruptcy had he not received an inheritance.

“People are not prepared to work for the rates being offered,” he added.

The MoJ believes the cuts are necessary. “We agree legal aid is a vital part of our justice system. That’s why we have to find efficiencies to ensure it remains sustainable,” a spokesperson said.

The SilkRoad saga continues as new admin goes AWOL

SilkRoad’s new leader has went into exile following a global sting that rounded up several of the rehashed drug marketplace’s employees

It seems like the drama is never ending at the infamous online drug marketplace known as SilkRoad. Over the weekend, Silkroad’s new Admin Dread Pirate Roberts (AKA DPR. Not to be confused with the original SilkRoad DPR) signed off from the site with a post informing users that he would release information concerning the arrest of several SilkRoad employees.

the_silkroad_saga_continues_as_new_admin_goes_awol

 

The post was made on Saturday and nothing else has been heard from DPR since. Another site admin who goes by the name DefCon says that DPR has entered exile and his whereabouts are unknown. DefCon says that DPR took the sites key used to unlock its Bitcoin storage with him. This means that none of the bitcoins the site held in escrow can be released until DPR’s return. DefCon says that SilkRoad users should not worry too much as DPR will return and the digital currency will be returned.

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