Morgan Stanley chief says bitcoin ‘doesn’t quite deserve the attention it’s getting’

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Bitcoin is getting more attention than it deserves, but the phenomenon is not going away overnight, according to Morgan Stanley Chairman and CEO James Gorman.

Speaking with CNBC on Thursday, Gorman said bitcoin isn’t even close to a safe investment, and would-be cryptocurrency owners shouldn’t expect otherwise.

“Something that goes up 700 percent in a year — it’s by definition speculative,” he said. “So anybody who thinks they’re buying something that it’s a stable investment is deluding themselves.”

“It might go up another 700 percent, but it could easily not,” Gorman added.

Gorman’s stance on bitcoin appeared slightly less negative than some of his peers on Wall Street. For example, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon predicted if “you’re stupid enough to buy [bitcoin], you’ll pay the price for it one day.” Meanwhile, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink called the cryptocurrency “an index of money laundering.”

The criticism from financial luminaries has done little to deter bitcoin’s ascent. On Thursday morning, the cryptocurrency traded at $7,141.03, according to Coindesk data. It had begun the year at only about $1,000 per token.

Gorman added that bitcoin is “punching above its weight” and the cryptocurrency “doesn’t quite deserve the attention it’s getting.”

Previously, the Morgan Stanley CEO described cryptocurrencies as “more than just a fad.”

He explained to CNBC that bitcoin’s growing acceptance and usability meant it was “not going away overnight.”

But there are issues and uncertainties surrounding the cryptocurrency.

“Is it a needed new form of stored value? I’m not so sure,” he said, adding it was also unclear if the regulators and central banks would watch bitcoin’s growth from afar or become involved.

Still, the bank chief grappled with digital money’s reputation for facilitating criminality: “Does it support people who want to use currencies on anonymous basis for wrong purposes? Absolutely,” Gorman said.

Proponents of bitcoin predict the cryptocurrency will continue breaking records amid its growing acceptance among users to carry out financial transactions. One analyst even predicted bitcoin could top Apple’s market cap in five years.

An Uber rider is suing the company, claiming it shouldn’t have hired driver who allegedly raped her

The Uber application on a smartphone during an Uber ride in Washington, D.C.

An anonymous Uber rider is suing the company in California Superior Court, claiming that Uber did not take sufficient measures to protect her from a driver who allegedly raped her on Nov. 11, 2016.

The complaint states that the passenger, called “Jane Doe” in the filing to preserve her anonymity, called an Uber after getting drinks and picking “the safe choice” to get home. After the assault happened, the passenger went to the hospital and doctors conducted a rape kit analysis. The Uber driver was charged with “Rape by use of drugs.”

The complaint alleges that this Uber driver had been previously charged with committing violent crimes and that Uber’s background check “either failed to discover these egregious charges, or willfully chose to risk passengers’ lives in exchange for the additional profit one more driver could potentially have provided.”

The filing alleges that Uber has an “inadequate and careless background checking process” that “only [goes] back for a period of seven years and [does] not capture all arrests and/or convictions.”

It also cites former Uber employee Susan Fowler’s blog post earlier this year that detailed a culture of sexual harassment and sexism at the company. The suit alleges that this culture has spilled over into the way Uber treats its passengers, especially female passengers, and says the number of reported sexual assaults and rapes of female passengers by male Uber drivers “has skyrocketed in the last several years.”

The filing also suggests that a “profits over safety” culture has “led to thousands of drivers with violent criminal records slipping through the cracks.”

“We are confident that a jury will hold Uber accountable for this horrific and senseless violence,” plaintiff’s attorney Jeanne M. Christensen said. “Uber must take immediate action to prevent another tragedy like this from happening.”

In response, an Uber spokesperson said, “These accusations are extremely concerning, and we are in the process of reviewing the lawsuit.”

The lawsuit follows a proposed class action lawsuit filed Tuesday against Uber asking the ride-sharing company to change its screening practices for drivers on behalf of all U.S. riders who were “subject to rape, sexual assault or gender-motivated violence or harassment by their Uber driver in the last four years.”

In late 2016, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a new law that requires ride-hailing start-ups to look at violent convictions throughout a prospective driver’s entire record, instead of examining only those that occurred in the past seven years. It required Uber, Lyft and other companies to reject any driver who has been convicted of a violent felony or a terrorism-related offense, or is a registered sex offender. But it stopped short of requiring ride-sharing companies to submit drivers to fingerprint background checks conducted by the government.

LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman: Trump is ‘worse than useless as a president’

Reid Hoffman, founder and chairman, LinkedIn

LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman is not shy when expressing his opinions of President Donald Trump.

The entrepreneur, who now sits on Microsoft’s board of directors and is a partner at venture capital firm Greylock, campaigned publicly for Hillary Clinton and in March said that Trump was even worse than he feared.

In an interview with CNBC’s Julia Boorstin at the Disruptor 50 event in San Francisco on Wednesday night, Hoffman had perhaps his harshest words yet about the president, calling him “worse than useless” and saying that he’d “take someone randomly picked from a phone book” over him as president.

He singled out Trump’s criticism of legitimate news sources like CNN as “basically criminal negligence” because we need to have “robust media functions” to check abuses by government.

Hoffman also discussed entrepreneurialism and the challenges of turning a start-up into a successful high-scale business.

One challenge, he said, is maintaining a consistent culture as a company goes through different stages — the CEO of a 50-person company might be able to interview every new employee for cultural fit, for example, while a 10,000-person company needs systems in place to communicate the company’s cultural mandates to new hires.

He also suggested that Uber, while it did many things right, missed the transition from being “pirates” to being “navy” — that is, from scrappy start-up to powerful established company — and that some of its cultural problems may have arisen because of that.

Here’s the full comment from Hoffman regarding Trump:

“You know I obviously last year campaigned relatively publicly and vocally against Trump as a candidate. I also think he is, you know, worse than useless as a president. I sometimes say at dinner parties, I’d take someone randomly picked from a phone book over him as a selection for president. And I think we’re seeing all kinds of play on that. Everything from, you know, a broad-based incompetence when it comes to very key race and unity issues … you know, like calling CNN ‘fake news’ is I think actually basically criminal negligence, right, because it’s like ‘no, we need to have robust media functions.'”

CEO Les Moonves: CBS may not be able to stay out of the media deal frenzy much longer

Leslie 'Les' Moonves, president and chief executive officer of CBS Corp.

Against the backdrop of sweeping consolidation in the media industry, CBS Chairman and CEO Les Moonves says he is positioning the network as the underdog against “monstrous companies,” including Comcast, Disney, as well as online powerhouses Netflix and Amazon.

Mooves spoke at CNBC’s Net/Net event on Thursday evening as word was leaking out that Comcast and Verizon were sniffing around the same assets of Twenty-First Century Fox that Disney was said to be in talks to buy. Fox appears to be considering the sale of most of the entertainment company, leaving behind news and sports.

“Disney is six times as big as we are. Comcast is six times as big as we are,” said Moonves, making a David and Goliath argument that CBS may be diminutive but nimble. “Netflix’s market cap is huge. Now Amazon, the number one company in the world, is producing content. We are sort of like an old-fashioned production company, we are a small guy.”

“It’s a jump ball we’re never going to win. We have to continue to develop our own projects ourselves … like we did with ‘Star Trek’ on our over-the-top service,” he said. “That’s how we’re going to compete.”

“Star Trek: Discovery” is available to stream on CBS All Access, the network’s television service delivered over the internet.

Moonves views online competitors more as frenemies. “We still do a lot of business with Netflix. We still produce original content for Netflix and virtually everyone who is our competitor is also our friend.”

However, Moonves did acknowledge that CBS might need to fortify its position. “Eventually are we going to have to do partnerships with other content companies and distribution companies? The answer is probably, ‘yes.'”

Despite all the deal talk, AT&T and the government are drawing battle lines over the telecom giant’s proposed $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner. Last week, CNBC reported the Justice Department could sue to block the takeover unless AT&T agrees to sell its DirecTV division or Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting, which owns CNN.

“It’s sort of a contradictory situation we’re in right now. I was pretty surprised. I’ve been surprised a lot in the past few weeks that the Department of Justice objected to this deal,” Moonves said. “It didn’t seem like something they would do, but God only knows what the reasons are for stopping that.”

But Moonves said there’s one thing he’s sure of in this current deal-making environment: “Content assets are incredibly valuable.”

Verizon, Comcast Approach 21st Century Fox About Acquiring Assets

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Comcast Corp and Verizon Communications Inc have both approached Twenty-First Century Fox Inc to express interest in buying Fox assets that were the subject of recent talks between Fox and Walt Disney Co, two people familiar with the situation told Reuters on Thursday.

News of the approaches came the same day the U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted to end a 42-year-old restriction on ownership of multiple TV stations in a major market, removing a major roadblock to media company mergers.

It is unclear whether Fox’s broadcast assets are part of any of the conversations.

Fox shares jumped nearly 8 percent in after-hours trading. Shares of Viacom Inc and CBS Corp also rose more than 2 percent, a sign investors may see then as potential targets.

Disney was in talks to buy Fox’s movie and TV production studios, cable networks FX and National Geographic and international assets such as the Star network in India and European pay TV provider Sky Plc , CNBC reported last week.

The assets would give Comcast, the largest cable provider in the United States which bought NBCUniversal in 2011, an international distribution footprint. For Verizon, the U.S. No. 1 wireless carrier, it would provide movies and TV shows to stream to its mobile subscribers.

Comcast and Verizon declined comment. Fox did not immediately respond to requests for comment.


Ethiopia blocks nationwide access to the internet to stop students from cheating in exams


Ethiopia has blocked access to the internet nationwide to stop students from cheating in exams, its government has claimed.

Mohammed Seid at the Office for Government Communications Affairs told Reuters that the “shutdown is aimed at preventing a repeat of leaks that occurred last year.”

“We are being proactive,” he said. “We want our students to concentrate and be free of the psychological pressure and distractions that this brings.”

Mr Seid is reported to have said that only social media website had been blocked temporarily, but independent sources have reported “widespread disruption” to mobile networks and fixed line internet services.

The government appears to have taken preventative measures to avoid a repeat of last year’s leak in which the papers for the country’s 12th grade national exams were made public.

In 12th grade, Ethiopians take exams to enter university and to study on vocational courses.

Mr Seid did not disclose when the internet block would be lifted, but affirmed that it would last throughout the exam season.

He said that the only social media sites were affected by the block and that other services such as online banking and airline bookings remained intact.

Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, has experienced social media bans before at the height of the 2015 and 2016 protests.

Amnesty International criticised these bans claiming that the country was “intent on stifling expression and free exchange of information.”

Afghans to get free access to Wikipedia on their phones


People in Afghanistan are set for greater access to the internet and free information, thanks to a new partnership between a local telecommunications company and the Wikimedia Foundation.

Roshan Communications and the internet giant announced on Monday that all of the company’s customers would be able to access the Wikipedia website through their phones – without being charged for data usage – for the next 12 months.

The initiative, called Wikipedia Zero, is due to launch later this month. It will be a fully functional version of the website, meaning users will have access to all content, search and editing functions.

The Wikimedia Foundation is the non-profit organisation that runs Wikipedia and funds dozens of other open-source and other free knowledge projects.

“At Roshan, we are proud to have been leading the efforts to increase access to information,” Altaf Ladak, deputy CEO of Roshan, said in a statement.

“The partnership with the Wikimedia Foundation expands the frontier of access to information and knowledge, especially for Afghanistan’s youth who make up almost two-thirds of the population.”

Afghanistan only gained access to the internet for the first time in 2002, after the fall of the Taliban. Under the extremist group, it was deemed immoral.

Mobile data services began in 2012, which the government hoped would prove an important cultural and economic turning point for the country – though by the end of 2016, it was estimated only 12 per cent of the 26-million-strong population had access to the internet.

Social media use through mobile has rocketed in the last year, however, increasing by 43 per cent – meaning nine per cent of the population in total were active users. 

The UN declared in 2011 that access to the internet is a human right. In many developing countries, social media companies offer pared-back low data or free-to-access versions of their apps and websites.

“Wikipedia’s mission is to imagine a world in which every single person can freely share in the sum of all knowledge … Millions of people in Afghanistan will now have access to Wikipedia and its sister projects without incurring mobile data charges, said Ravishankar Ayyakkannu, Regional Manager for Strategic Partnerships in Asia and Eastern Europe of the Wikimedia Foundation.

“This will also empower them to participate in adding content to these projects,” he added.

Government outlines plans to ‘regulate the internet’

The government has unveiled sweeping plans to “regulate the internet”.

Ministers will restrict what people can say in moves they claim will stop the web being used to tackle bullying and abuse. But activists have repeatedly criticised the proposals, arguing that they represent a kind of censorship.

The idea of regulating the internet was first promised in the Conservative manifesto earlier this year, and immediately led to criticism. They have since been watered down – because laws would take too long in the current hung parliament – and have been published in a formal proposal.

Now the government hopes to introduce new rules including a tax paid by social media companies that will then be used to improve the internet. Social media companies will also be asked to commit to a “code of conduct”, but won’t be forced to under law because pushing through legislation would be too long and difficult for the beleaguered Conservative government.

But it also made references to “regulating the internet” – suggesting that further restrictions on online content could be on their way.

Asked whether that could mean the same sort of restrictions and charges that apply to other utility companies, ministers said that internet companies could move towards that sort of model.

“That’s what we’re looking at – to make sure that we do regulate the internet in appropriate way, so that we allow the freedoms the internet gives you,” said culture secretary Karen Bradley in an interview after the plans were released.

The government also said that it would regulate under-age access to pornography. It has claimed it is fixing that problem repeatedly – but hasn’t said exactly how it will, leading to worries that it could launch a nation-wide porn authentication scheme or similar plan.

Mrs Bradley said: “The internet has been an amazing force for good but it has caused undeniable suffering and can be an especially harmful place for children and vulnerable people.

“Behaviour that is unacceptable in real life is unacceptable on a computer screen.

“We need an approach to the internet that protects everyone without restricting growth and innovation in the digital economy.

“Our ideas are ambitious – and rightly so. Collaboratively, government, industry, parents and communities can keep citizens safe online, but only by working together.”

The proposals outlined in the Internet Safety Green Paper also include an annual internet safety transparency report to keep tabs on online abuse.

Support would be given to digital start-ups to make sure they build safety features into new apps.

The government also confirmed plans announced earlier this year to make relationship lessons, which will include online safety, compulsory in schools.

After the election, Theresa May suggested that she would still launch wide-ranging plans to regulate the internet, despite not having won a majority. But during an interview on the Today programme, Mrs Bradley appeared to suggest that the government thinks that it would be unable to pass such legislation through parliament.

‘Wolf of Wall Street’ warns raising money through ICOs is the ‘biggest scam ever’

Jordan Belfort, the infamous penny-stock broker formerly known as the “Wolf of Wall Street,” has urged investors to dismiss the current craze of Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), calling them the “biggest scam ever.”

In an interview with The Financial Times published Sunday, Belfort warned promoters of ICOs were “perpetuating a massive scam of the highest order on everyone.”

ICOs have become a primary means of fundraising for projects built on blockchain technology. Companies create and issue digital tokens that can be used to pay for goods and services on their platform or stashed away as an investment. But investors don’t typically get equity stakes in a company like they do with an initial public offering (IPO). The projects or firms put out white papers describing the platform, software or product they’re trying to build, and then people buy those tokens using widely-accepted cryptocurrencies (like bitcoin and ethereum) or fiat currencies like the U.S. dollar.

All of that is done without any regulatory oversight, and both regulators and members of the financial industry have expressed concern about the potential for money laundering and fraudulent activities.

In September, China’s central bank banned ICO funding amid concerns that the exercise may involve financial scams while British regulators have said investors should be prepared for the value of their tokens to drop to zero.

‘ICO funding far worse than anything I was ever doing’

A scene from "The Wolf of Wall Street" starring Leonardo DiCaprio

A scene from “The Wolf of Wall Street” starring Leonardo DiCaprio

Belfort, who spent 22 months in jail after pleading guilty to securities fraud and money laundering, said while most investors probably did not have bad intentions with ICOs, it would only take a small proportion of people trying to scam the others for it to become a “disaster”.

“It is the biggest scam ever, such a huge gigantic scam that’s going to blow up in so many people’s faces. It’s far worse than anything I was ever doing,” Belfort told the Financial Times.

Digital currencies are pseudonymous, decentralized and encrypted, making it harder to track each of the transactions made, and the individuals behind them. Theoretically, anyone with an internet connection and a digital wallet can be part of a coin sale event. That, many worry, leaves plenty of room for people to launder money or engage in other fraudulent behaviors — especially in countries where corruption is rampant.

However, start-up companies argue ICO funding is a legitimate method of raising money and it is representative of a broad grassroots movement to unsettle big banks and venture funds. A frequent refrain from bitcoin enthusiasts and cryptocurrency stakeholders is that the blockchain system is actually problematic for would-be launderers.

That is, every transaction of a blockchain-based token is permanently recorded on a publicly view-able digital ledger. Although the parties associated with each exchange are hidden behind pseudonymous IDs, it is possible for investigators to track down who has done what if their activities go through a cooperating exchange.

Stock picker who predicted $5,000 bitcoin says it’s on track to top Apple’s market cap

 digital asset was trading at about $5,700 on Tuesday.

A Bitcoin conference in New York.

Getty Images
A Bitcoin conference in New York.

On Monday, Saudi billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal said the cryptocurrency with no controlling body was an “Enron in the making.”

Previously, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink called the cryptocurrency “an index of money laundering,” while JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimonpredicted if “you’re stupid enough to buy it, you’ll pay the price for it one day.”

Moas said that the three prominent critics of bitcoin were “heavily invested” in publicly-traded U.S. banks that are currently being threatened by the cryptocurrency. “I don’t expect those people to come out and recommend … to buy bitcoin. Because that hurts their business,” he said.

He said he expects the price of bitcoin to jump to $50,000, possibly within a decade and the market value could cross a trillion dollars.

“You have a supply-demand equation here that is mindboggling to me,” Moas said. Bitcoin has a limited supply of 21 million tokens, which is expected to be reached only in the next century.

But Bitcoin’s growing popularity and acceptance among users to carry out financial transactions could mean a wider adoption in the future — and greater demand for the cryptocurrency. According to Moas, in a few years, there could be about “200 million people around the world trying to get their hands on a few million bitcoin.” That, he said, would drive the price to $50,000 per token.

Other cryptocurrency proponents have also said in the past they expect bitcoin to hit a market value of at least $1 trillion by 2025. Regulation may help lend more credibility to the cryptocurrency among investors.

Moas added that out of the 1,000 or so cryptocurrencies that are currently in existence, he is focusing only on the top 20 names that account for more than 90 percent of the total market value. A majority of the rest are “pump-and-dump scam operations,” he said.