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Personal Finance: How to beer-proof your budget

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(NC) – It may be that time of year for green beer and cheer, but beware, money and alcohol don’t mix.

That online shopping spree with a glass of wine or suds in hand may have seemed like a great idea at the time, but now, along with the credit card statement, often comes buyer’s remorse. Mixing shopping and alcohol can lead to blown budgets, credit card abuse, and even identity theft.

Alcohol knocks down our inhibitions, making us more impulsive and less able to stand up to temptation. We tend to spend more money after a drink or two. Retailers recognize this and send “happy hour” marketing emails, or they launch online sales later at night to catch the post-bar crowd. To guard against such practices, it’s worth noting that March 15th is Consumer Rights Day, the perfect time to develop your skills as a smart consumer.

Here are some tips to “booze proof” your budget and to avoid waking up with a spending hangover:

Leave credit cards at home or in another room. If you know you’ll be sipping a little, leaving the cards at home can help remove the temptation to spend more than you have. The simple act of having to walk to another room may be enough to deter (or at least give you time to reconsider) the purchase.

Make a list and stick to it. If you do have shopping to do, make a list of things you need to purchase. Put the price of the items on the list for that extra reminder of your budget. That way, even if you do have a little extra holiday “glow” while making purchases, they’re ones you have already included in your budget.

Shop first. If you are meeting friends to do some shopping and socializing, and you know there will be alcohol involved, get the shopping done first. Then relax and enjoy a social drink without worrying about waking up to find out you’re the proud owner of a new cashmere sweater that looks alarmingly similar to one you already own, or a leather recliner for your man-cave that you don’t recall purchasing.

Don’t auto-save passwords on your computer or cell phone. If you have to type your password in 3 or 4 times before getting it right, it could be a good reminder that now might not be the best time to be making purchases. Not keeping yourself logged in, or unchecking that “remember me” option, can help avoid filling up your online shopping cart with items and being able to conveniently check out with one click.

Keep receipts. Always keep your receipts. If you do wake up with a regrettable purchase, you may be able to return the item under the store’s return policy. But remember, a store does not have to take it back just because you changed your mind. Each store sets their own return policy, so know the details before you make a purchase.

More information about smart spending, budgeting and preventing buyer’s remorse is available on the Financial and Consumer Service Commission’s website at www.fcnb.ca.

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Ford’s labour law rollbacks are another blow against Ontario workers

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Announcing plans for new labour legislation, a beaming Premier Doug Ford assured us earlier this month that “we’re going to make sure we’re competitive around the world.”

At first glance, that statement might lead us to believe the premier, especially given his commitment to act “for the people,” was vowing Ontario would make sure its workers got as good a deal, or better, than workers elsewhere in the world.

But that’s not what he meant at all.

In fact, he meant just the opposite — that he would ensure our workers got a worse deal than workers elsewhere.

That is the perverse thinking behind the economic philosophy that has dominated North American politics in recent decades: that workers must offer themselves up at the lowest possible wage with the fewest possible benefits in order to create an attractive investment climate for businesses that might otherwise move elsewhere.

Despite the persistence of this theory, there’s little evidence to support it: most low-wage countries remain that way, while the high-wage nations of Europe and Scandinavia continue to excel in global competitiveness. Undeterred, Doug Ford is rolling back labour legislation, updated last year after a two-year review with extensive public consultations, and replacing it with a bill hastily assembled behind closed doors, with heavy business input.

Gone is the minimum wage hike to $15 an hour. So, just like that, faster than you can say “for the people,” Ford has cancelled what amounted to a $2,000 annual pay increase that was headed for the pockets of the lowest-paid people.

He’s also cancelling the two paid sick days a year, even though 145 countries (most of the world’s nations) already offer some form of paid sick leave. Think how competitive we’ll be without it! That should give us a leg-up on Guatemala and Botswana!

Business commentators argued that the higher minimum wage would drive businesses elsewhere, presumably leaving Canadian customers happily ordering their coffee-to-go from far-away places. Commentators made the same argument last year, when the minimum wage was raised to $14 an hour. However, Ontario’s unemployment rate fell to 5.4 per cent, its lowest level in 18 years.

Killing the $15 minimum wage is another victory in the long-running class war, sometimes called neoliberalism, in which business-funded think-tanks have shaped the public debate, convincing us we must design our economy to please business interests.

And we’ve done that, slashing taxes on corporations and the rich, signing trade deals designed to protect corporate rights, weakening labour laws and making it harder for workers to organize into unions.

The result has been … well, pretty much what you’d expect when all economic laws have been redesigned to benefit the elite.

In his new book, The Age of Increasing Inequality, Dalhousie University economist Lars Osberg notes that the incomes of the top 1 per cent have doubled since 1982.

Meanwhile, the bottom half of Canadians, some 13.5 million people, are earning less than they did in 1982 (in inflation-adjusted dollars), Osberg shows. Only Canada’s social safety net — child, disability, welfare benefits, etc. — prevents them from actually being worse off than they were in the early 1980s.

Of course, the neoliberals have been shredding the safety net as well.

Ford has moved quickly to diminish Ontario’s safety net, ending the Basic Income project and making cuts to social assistance. Among other things, it now reportedly takes longer for those on disability to qualify for a wheelchair. Ford is planning an additional $6 billion in spending cuts.

In an analysis done before last spring’s election, economic consultant Edgardo Sepulveda projected that the NDP’s platform would reduce inequality “moderately” and the Liberal platform would reduce it “slightly,” but Ford’s PC platform would move the province in exactly the opposite direction, increasing inequality “significantly.”

Given the speed and scope of Ford’s changes already, Sepulveda now believes that inequality in the province will increase “even more and faster.”

So, after decades of losing ground to the elite, millions of Canadians will find themselves falling behind deeper and faster under Doug Ford.

On the bright side, think of how competitive we’ll be. In the race to the bottom, nobody beats Ontario!

Linda McQuaig is a journalist and author. Her book Shooting the Hippo: Death by Deficit and Other Canadian Myths was among the books selected by the Literary Review of Canada as the “25 most influential Canadian books of the past 25 years.” This column originally appeared in the Toronto Star.

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3 ways Artificial Intelligence will change the world

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When it comes to A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) the implications of recent advances in Artificial Intelligence have spurred heated debate globally and for very good reason. When you begin to look at the factual implications of A.I. the rubber meets the road at the end of the day. As you begin to do the digging on this topic the warts and all start to come out so in this piece we can take a look at how these pieces begin to fit together in the real world. As science fiction transforms into science fact in front of our eyes and becomes our reality.

A.I. products are slowly infiltrating homes and workplaces at breakneck speed. This is now raising concerns about the possible potential detrimental effects of A.I. on the job market, modern day or even about the dangers of an A.I. singularity, where sentient robots take over the world and destroy humans which with the way things are developing today this is getting dangerously close to becoming a real situation. Later on in this article we will point out some of the links as to how this just might pan out but always with the proof to back up the claim.

While these points are all valid for discussions, I feel that the focus of A.I.“should”not be just on cool home gadget or on process optimisation and automation. Instead, A.I. could be used to fundamentally rethink how we solve the world’s problems. In an ideal world this might be the case but as things stand currently we have a lot of the solutions to the world’s problems already and the threat, at this point is coming from the implementation of A.I. itself.

Although A.I. has the potential to improve things like healthcare, education, poverty and security in general. A.I. machines can do some very beneficial things already today that humans will simply never be able to especially at breakneck speeds. If we allow that leverage to accelerate A.I. could positively impact society, business, and culture on the order of magnitude never before seen and not just on the internet itself but we will still have to build in (in my opinion) a kill switch.

We as human we process millions of sensory inputs automatically and constantly, allowing us to learn and respond to our environment. But the human brain only contains about 300 million pattern processors that are responsible for human thought so what if the A.I. began to use trillions of calculations a second? Adding to this what if the A.I. became self aware? What if we could amalgamate all of our amazing ideas with not just more data, but also orders of magnitude more data processing capability? Imagine how we would have to rethink every single problem that exists today with the correct knowledge. Think how the world would change overnight!

With today’s primitive level of A.I., there is more than enough technology out there to start doing exactly this. The examples below draw from a variety of industries to illustrate the magnitude of social impact possible when we couple A.I. with human skill and ingenuity.

  1. Precision Medicine

A.I. is driving the adoption and implementation of precision medicine: an emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that takes into account individual variability in genes, D.N.A. environment, and lifestyle for each person. Think of it as a type of medical personalisation. For example, around 25,000 people in the US are diagnosed with brain tumours every year so A.I. might be able to help with this for example. Precision medicine could allow doctors and researchers to pool and predict more accurately which treatment and prevention strategies for a particular disease will work in which groups of people.

Many of the answers lie in the vast amount of medical data already collected but not all of it is made accessible to the public.Ayasdi uses A.I. algorithms likedeep learning to enable doctors and hospitals to better analyse their data. Through their work, medical practitioners have been able to identify previously unknown diabetes sub-typesthat could lead to better therapies that can work better for certain types of patients rather than others.

  1. Cybersecurity

There were around707 million cybersecurity breaches in 2015, with554 million in just the first half of 2016. The impact of just a few of these attacks, such as foreign governments potentially biasing US presidential elections, is truly scary.

Security teams struggle today to work through the increasing number of alerts generated by traditional tools so it is imaginable that in the same way these types of A.I. could be used to defend systems it could also be used to breech them.

The self-learning and automation capabilities enabled by A.I. can increase effectiveness and reduce costs, keeping us much safer from terrorism or even smaller scale identity theft but we have to remember who or what the real threat is. A tool can be used for both good and bad after all. A gun never shot anyone the person using it did.

A.I. based solutions are already in the big wide world and can be more proactive and can pre-empt attacks in the pre-execution state by identifying patterns and anomalies associated with malicious content.

  1. A Conscious Warning

Pretty much of this article has been predominantly about the A.I. aspect but let us take a look a little deeper into this aspect for a moment and at the same time look at some of the additional aspects to the bigger picture. Let’s start with the word, government which is one example to look at first off. What does it mean? Well the black’s law dictionary has the definition of this as the following:

“The regulation, restraint, supervision, or control which is exercised upon the individual members of an organized jural society by those invested with the supreme political authority, for the good and welfare of the body politic; or the act of exercising supreme political power or control.” – rendan Wilde – www.umbrellar.com

Which is point number one. This means there are means in place to control all of the people if very simply put. Those who wish to enforce total control will make every effort to do just that no matter what this may involve.

Point number two: What could happen if “government was replaced by A.I.?” If this were the case how would we be affected and to what degree? There are many aspects to this but for an example let us look at point number three:

Cloud based computing and how the cloud is integrating with the A.I. on the internet as we speak. Ok we can see this is a feasible aspect so we move on.  R.F.I.D. chips that are implantable. If we then move on to the next aspect we will find there are ways to connect the RFID’s to the net via the internet. Radio Frequency Identification. I.e remote connection to the internet via radio frequency signals. So the next step is to connect the individuals brain to the chip which is being mandated via vaccinations through the W.H.O through the vaccination program.

Then comes the last but not least step to connecting all people to the A.I. on the web remotely and on this note we should all be aware of the reality of the A.I. and why we need to be aware of the situation as it unfolds step by step.

There is one key to the end of this post and those who read it will absolutely see where it is going. This is why we all must look at the A.I. situation and remain alert to the fact we could end up being plugged into the A.I. net once and for all and for good. Forbes information in this last link was written with contributions from Lauren Taylor, Principal Consultant in Frost & Sullivan’s Visionary Innovation Group. The information contained in this piece is based on sound science and factual data as well as the professional research behind all of it.

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CamSoda creates crypto currency controlled phone sex service

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Porn company, CamSoda, has created a phone sex service that’s controlled by major crypto currencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin.

The service, Bitcast, tracks the real-time USD value of cryptocurrencies Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin, via a chart and then syncs it with a string of internet-connected Lovense sex toys. The vibration on the sex toy is controlled by the current market value of the cryptocurrencies. If it goes up, the vibrations increase—dropping in sync with a decrease in value.

The Lovense sex toy line has a range of internet enabled Fleshlights, dildos, prostrate massagers, discreet buttplugs and vibrators.

“The excitement surrounding cryptocurrency could only be hotter if it brought investors to climax,” said Daryn Parker, vice president of CamSoda.

“Now, in addition to the euphoria investors receive from their investment starting to take off, they’ll be able to simultaneously get off. Tracking your investment has never been more fun. It’s the ultimate high, the ultimate experience and it’s what we’re all about here at CamSoda,” he continued.

According to a CamSoda spokesperson, the Bitcast service obtains its data from popular cryptocurrency trading platform, Bitstamp. The current prices of cryptocurrencies traded on

CamSoda had previously released several tech sex services such as Ocast and OhRama.

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