4 Reasons Bitcoin Hoarders Are Screwed

By XJ Selman In the last several months, you might have heard stories about people striking it rich and losing big by speculating on virtual money -- or cryptocurrency -- known as Bitcoin. Despite Bitcoin's volatile busts and booms (one bitcoin cost $13 in January 2013 and is valued at roughly $900 now) and the fact that governments around the world are giving it the legal stink eye, some of you may still be curious about it. After all, who wouldn't want to invest in a magical piñata that seemingly explodes into a geyser of fine topaz every few days? Well, before you get too giddy, know that Bitcoin isn't wizard money and has some pretty significant downsides, namely...

#4. Bitcoins Are Easy to Lose
Being a virtual currency, Bitcoin doesn't exist in the real world. The reason why Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are so popular is because users transfer the currency directly between each other and don't require a middleman like PayPal or a bank. (This also explains why Internet drug dealers are so fond of cryptocurrencies). So what's the problem? A systemic lack of safeguards against fraud. In other words, you have basically zero recourse if an 11-year-old in Turkmenistan decides to hack you and caper off with all of your bitcoins. Anecdotally, users have been hoodwinked out of millions upon millions of dollars' worth of bitcoins, and one news anchor even got ripped off when he accidentally flashed his info on live TV. Sure, you can store your bitcoins offline, but that presents its own set of challenges. Just ask the person in Wales who procured 7,500 then-worthless bitcoins in 2009, stored his account information on an old hard drive, forgot about it, and accidentally threw it out this past summer, leaving a few million dollars stuck under a landfill.

#3. A Few Really Devoted People Could Tank Bitcoin
Unlike real-world currencies, Bitcoin isn't regulated by a central bank or government. So where do bitcoins come from? Here's an extremely pared-down explanation: When Bitcoin was programmed into existence, a massive "mine" of bitcoins popped into the virtual world that is the Internet. Bitcoin miners obtain new bitcoins using incredibly powerful computers that consume insane amounts of electricity. But now let's imagine that one group of miners all band together and suddenly take the majority of the mining power, or 51 percent. If that were ever to occur, it would allow them to essentially crash the currency, rendering the value of Bitcoin worthless. But no one could ever accomplish that, right?

Well, earlier in January, a group of miners known as Ghash.io reached 45 percent mining power. Ghash.io later claimed that they would never knowingly crash Bitcoin, but what they've proved now is that it is possible.

#2. Yes, You Have to Pay Taxes on Bitcoins
Taxes don't disappear just because you flipped gave your country’s currency the finger. Every single transaction you take part in using Bitcoin must be listed with your taxes, and the entire process is confusing. Even the IRS isn't 100 percent sure what the deal is. Think this isn't serious? Professional Bitcoin miners are already one step ahead and have started treating the currency as more of an investment with commodity trading, as overall miners spend $17 million per day in electricity costs to mine $4.4 million worth of Bitcoin. (It also means that if Bitcoin's value doesn't skyrocket, more than one miner is looking at a field trip in the back of their neighborhood mafioso's limo.)

#1. And It's Not Entirely Anonymous
If nothing else, everyone should know the biggest praise of Bitcoin -- anonymity. Well, too bad that's garbage. Every transaction that is made is stored on a public record, with information from both accounts and the number of bitcoins exchanged. And this isn't just a minor mistake that can be fixed with a few code changes. The structure of Bitcoin requires records for everything to ensure that the same coins aren't being used more than once, and recent university studies suggest that users are more traceable than they think. So while we're not saying that Bitcoin is definitely a no-go, we are saying that it's a bit more like Mars: The first colonizers are probably screwed, but down the pike it could be viable for everyday folks.

5 Things I Learned Working With Somali Pirates
By Robert Evans and Thymaya Payne

Somali piracy has finally hit the big time with its own Tom Hanks movie, bringing public awareness to the issue in the same way we became aware of the problem of lovable foreigners getting trapped in our airports. The truth is that pirate attacks along the Somali coast are actually on the decline today, but just a few years ago bands of latter-day buccaneers ruled the Gulf of Aden with an iron prosthetic hook. They hijacked a boat full of Ukrainian tanks, caused a crisis in the U.S. that required the intervention of Navy SEALs, and extorted the shipping industry for billions of dollars. So who are the human beings behind these maritime assaults? We spoke to Thymaya Payne, who in the course of shooting a documentary got to know both Somalia and its pirates in a way rare for men who haven't been held for ransom by them. He found ...

#1. They're Inspired by the Same Media We Are
When Payne was talking to a group of Somali pirates, he mentioned that he lived in Hollywood - at which point one of the men pointed to himself, smiled, and said, "Johnny Depp." He wasn't referencing Edward Scissorhands or Fear and Loathing. This pirate had a mental image of the job that came from the same Jerry Bruckheimer movies yours does. It's no coincidence Somali pirates struck a chord with American audiences. At one point Payne sent some local Somali journalists onto the boats to get pictures of pirates in their natural habitat. He reviewed the footage later and realized something: These guys were consciously posing every time the camera panned their way. When the camera wasn't on them, the pirates didn't bother to look menacing. They knew that any picture a journalist took of them would wind up online, and they wanted to be able to point out "That's me!" to their friends. Kids are all the same, even if they happen to make a living through violent piracy. They're still young guys who mostly want to look badass in front of girls and listen to Half Dollar (that's how the Somalis know 50 Cent) albums. It's a mistake to think these people are so different from us. They may live in the desert and own a bunch of camels, but they're still denizens of 2014. Pirates of the Caribbean and gangsta rap belong to them, too. Which group do you think identifies most strongly with MIA's "live fast and die young" -- American teenagers, or 16-year-old Somali kids robbing freighters at gunpoint?

#2. The Reality of Piracy Isn't Good
Pirates aren't big on quality control. Thymaya Payne interviewed one in prison who had a (selfgiven) reputation for awesomeness. But when asked "How many ships did you capture?" he answered "None." And that's what the guy was in there for: attempted piracy. He'd gone out with the wrong motor on his boat and the wrong sort of hooks to get up the side of the ship, and thus he failed and got caught. It was a feeble attempt at high seas crime, but it was enough to earn him the right to call himself a pirate. And that's all he wanted. So it's not uncommon to see new pirates vomiting all over the boat because it's literally their first time out to sea. A lot of them wind up falling into rotors or drowning. But the most dangerous time is when the money comes. That's one thing every pirate movie gets right -- pirates like to murder each other on payday. Many of the pirates Payne met were in prison and by definition not the best and brightest of the bunch. But he also met a lot of "fishermen" (as they call themselves) who were extremely wealthy. These guys were clever, and they treated piracy like any other form of organized crime. Once world governments started navy-ing up Somalia's coast to crack down on the pirates, these guys simply switched to smuggling guns and charcoal (yes, the stuff you put in your grill -Somali charcoal is awesome for grilling and thus in huge demand). But if most of these missions wind up in death or slapstick failure, why did so many want to get into piracy? Well ...

#3. Piracy (and Terrorism) Are Like the Armed Forces for These Kids
On the day Osama bin Laden's death hit the news, Thymaya Payne was sitting at an airport in Somalia with a local friend. This fellow had helped him track down pirates to interview but seemed distinctively un-piratey in appearance himself, down to his knockoff polo shirt. They talked about the assassination ("He was just some rich Saudi asshole, anyway"), and Payne's friend casually admitted to having joined the Somali terrorist group al-Shabab as a young man. It had been exciting, he said, but he'd wound up with a girlfriend and a kid and no time for terrorism. He spoke of this infamously violent militant organization like it was his old college garage band. Al-Shabab, by the way, is the same group that shot up that mall in Kenya. They're also affiliated with al-Qaida. To us, they're a violent group of Cobra-level bad guys. To a starving 16-year-old in Somalia, they're the closest he can get to joining the Marine Corps. They offer food, training, social status, and the ability to feel totally awesome when you namedrop your job to girls in the bar. So you get an idea of why some parents would encourage their children to join the pirate crews. In addition to room and board, the job comes with the possibility of earning tens of thousands of dollars. (Note: Youth unemployment in Somalia is 67%.) So crime and terrorism doesn't just pay, it's sometimes the only paying job in town.

For context, understand that Somalia's lifeblood used to be its coastline, and then illegal fishing operations started putting them out of business. That's actually how the first Somali pirates started off. Between poachers and ships dumping toxic waste on their shores, the Somali fishing industry died out, and failed states don't exactly have coast guards. A few angry fishermen started patrolling their waters themselves and then realized, "Hey, while we've got these guns and boats ..."

#4. Somalia Isn't Getting Rich Off of Piracy (But Somebody Is)
Some soft-hearted person out there is thinking about now, "Well gosh, if these kids are starving, and if stealing cargo off boats headed for rich countries is how they make their money, that's almost a Robin Hood situation, right? And didn't I hear that they were bringing that money back to their impoverished villages?" That would be a nice thought, but no. True, we are talking about a ton of money here -- piracy in Somalia costs the world around $6 billion a year. That's Escobar-level drug cartel money. But very little of it winds up in the hands of the pirates, and even less stays in Somalia -- the real money is in all of the industries that sprang up around the pirates (but more on that in a moment). The small cut of the money the pirates do make doesn't go as far as you'd think. Somalia is larger than California. The areas that actually did well thanks to pirate money were not like the rest of Somalia. Yet everyone ended up suffering higher inflation. Payne heard about a pirate who wound up with $100,000 in cash but had no real concept of how much money that was. This guy went on a shopping spree, buying stuff left and right, until he hit upon the bright idea of hiring a hooker. Who (of course) stole the money while he was passed out. The average pirate who went out there and made $15,000 to $20,000 for a year's worth of work won't tend to keep it long. It's money he can't do anything with but just blow. It's true that some pirates acted like Robin Hood with their winnings, and it helped a few people in a few villages here and there. But it didn't spread out into the economy. If you want to see which countries made bank thanks to piracy, look further west. "Specialist services" like risk consultants and security advisers are necessary to deliver a ransom and can easily double its cost. Those specialists did real well from the spike in piracy. As did the maritime insurance industry -- pirates only capture a handful of ships per year, but when they're active, every ship pays more for insurance. Somali piracy generated roughly $400 million a year in increased premiums at its height. Meanwhile, the Somalis were lucky to take in $160 million in a great year. Selling pirate insurance is more than twice as profitable as the act of piracy, in other words. So, kids -- crime pays. But not nearly as well as a good legal racket.

#5. They Know How Bad Things Are (and That's Part of the Problem)
We mentioned the terrorist attack on the Kenyan mall earlier, and how the group responsible recruits from the same pool of pissed-off young Somalis that fuels the pirate crews. Well, during the attack, the terrorists used Twitter to live tweet the assault, even creating a hashtag to try to

get it trending. From inside the mall. So when we say that groups like this are aware of Western culture, it's not just limited to swashbuckling pirate movies. It's a key part of everything they do. Remember, America's chief export is its culture, and every Hollywood movie sells the idea that awesome cars, big houses, and shiny gadgets are part of the good life. Piracy is part of what happens when people accept that narrative in a place where you don't get there by following the rules. Somalis are completely conscious of the outside world, and they are pissed off about it. Imagine you live in a hut with twigs and plastic for a roof, but you can go down the street and watch TV and see exactly how much the rest of the world has, and how they've completely written off your country. Huge numbers of angry young men with no money make great pirate recruits. But they've also been the building block for every terrifying "-ism" of the last century. Underneath the Jack Sparrow of it all is a country that's been a geopolitical tennis ball for decades. Right now we mostly ignore the whole mess, but it's coming back to bite us -- this is why Somalia is the next front in the war on terror. Piracy was just the canary in the mine, and now we're seeing a ton more angry people who don't remind us of whimsical Disney characters. In the end, piracy's greatest victory was forcing us to pay attention to Somalia. Even if the movie we made about it puts the spotlight elsewhere.

The 7 Most Baffling Things About Women’s Clothing
By Christina H.

There are a lot of annoying things about being a woman, like childbirth and not being able to play basketball in a way that keeps spectators awake. But near the top of the list has got to be buying clothes. I know one way to fix it is just to wear men's clothes, and that's a bold choice. But you take a social hit for wearing "masculine" clothes, and most women don't want to take that hit. So they go to buy clothes made specifically "for women," and generally find a set of the most impractical, low-quality, high-maintenance junk that a sweatshop can make. Here are a few of the many, many awful things about the clothes that manufacturers want women to wear:

#1. The Material Is Too Thin
Go through any women's clothes section and put your hand inside all the shirts and dresses and see if you can see it. (If you are a man, try to make sure no one is looking first.) About 50 percent of the time, you are going to get a pretty good view of your hand. And you don't have to go to a fancy boutique; this holds true for my neighborhood Target. That means if a girl wears just that shirt, you are going to see her bra, or even her breasts, which I'm sure sounds exciting and positive to many men, but violates workplace and school dress codes, as well as many public decency laws. Also, these are clothes for all women of all ages, not just young, attractive women. This isn't a mistake. The solution is supposed to be layering, which has really caught on in recent years. All of these stores also sell plenty of tank tops, camisoles and plain form-fitting T-shirts, sometimes dedicating entire sections to clothes specifically designed for use in layering. Catalog photos will often show girls wearing three or more layers. I can't prove they do this deliberately to make women buy more pieces of clothing, but once you found you could sell this concept to people, why wouldn't you? Someone who used to buy one shirt is now going to buy three from you. And you get to use less material. On top of that, super-thin cloth isn't very durable, and its evil cousin, the lacy sweater with huge holes, easily catches and tears in a washing machine. So you get to spend even more money replacing them more often or dry cleaning them.

#2. Fake Pockets or No Pockets
One thing I think a lot of men take for granted is pockets. It seems like men always have pockets. They're a requirement in men's pants, men's coats always have functional pockets and I guess

even men's prison jumpsuits must have them, since I hear about people smuggling goods into prison all the time. Women's clothing manufacturers, on the other hand, seem to believe women can't be trusted with pockets. Something like 99 percent of dresses have no pockets at all, and the more formal you get, the more likely a women's coat or pants pocket is going to be a fake, decorative pocket. I know the arguments -- "But women's clothes are so carefully cut and tailored. If you put anything in a pocket, it would bulge and look bad!" That's nonsense. I just went to the store with my bridesmaids and picked out some bridesmaids' dresses with pockets. Sure, there will be unsightly bulges if they put too much in their pockets, but the solution isn't to take them away -- the solution is to trust women to have the common sense to not put a bag of rocks in their pocket. These pockets are just fine for carrying a key or some cash or credit cards, and it's stupid to not give anyone that option because some idiot might try to put, I don't know, night-vision goggles or a piece of cake in their pocket. But it's OK, because instead of functional pockets, we get a ton of decorative pockets, as well as numerous other nonfunctional decorations, like extra buttons, and buckles, and flaps.

#3. Too Cold
Another problem is that women's clothes are too cold. Part of it is the thinness of much of the material, as mentioned before, but no matter how thick the material, many, many styles involve increasing exposure, like dipped necklines, three-quarter sleeves or skirts and dresses. It can be easy to chalk this up just to women who dress "provocatively," but the truth is that a fairly normal, unprovocative women's style exposes a lot more skin than men's clothes. A belowknee skirt still exposes your shins. A three-quarter sleeve isn't terribly provocative unless you have a thing for forearms. And necklines don't need to go anywhere near the bust to still be a lot wider than the average men's neckline. The obvious question, which might come up on a bunch of these points, is why we don't just avoid these styles. It's harder than it sounds, because they're everywhere. It can be hard to find a shirt with a neckline between "look at my bust" and “turtleneck”, and when you do, it turns out to be a three-quarter sleeve. If you find a dress with full sleeves, they've pulled the hem up to your butt. What makes this all worse is that this is almost inevitably the case with all "professional" styles that are OK to wear at the office, and women being cold at the office is an enormous, widespread workplace issue. I don't think colder clothing is the cause, as bundled-up women complain of the cold just as much. I think it's just adding insult to injury that they're already feeling cold, and that there is no "professional"-looking outfit that will let them bundle up properly without looking like they are in a Christmas special.

#4. Arbitrary Clothing Sizes
Men's pants sizes are logical and come in measurements of at least waist size, and often inseam, too. Women's pants sizes, and clothing sizes in general, are meaningless, arbitrary numbers that come, as far as I can tell, from having kittens bat around a 20-sided die. This isn't just a recent trend. Women's clothing manufacturers have been making up sizes as far back as sizes have existed. According to one fashion historian, a 32-inch bust would have come out to a size 14 in a 1937 Sears catalog, while being labeled a size 8 in 1967, and coming down to a size 0 in today's terms. Even today, you apparently inflate and deflate like a balloon when you go from brand to brand, according to their sizes. A woman who is size 6 at American Eagle might be a 0 at Ann Taylor, as mentioned in the above article. Obviously they're pandering here, trying to flatter women by making them sound thinner with a skinny-sounding number, because when you make people feel good, they buy things. As long as the market keeps rewarding for it, they'll keep doing it, so I guess there's no hope for making women's sizes any easier to buy. On the other hand, if we can't make things easier for women, apparently they are making things harder for men these days by doing the same thing with their pants. According to Esquire, various brands of men's pants labeled as having a "36-inch waist" actually had waistlines ranging from 36 to 41 inches (Old Navy was the fattest liar). In an era where action heroes can no longer sport beer bellies (John Wayne, young Captain Kirk), I guess men need flattery about their waistlines, too. In attempting equality, I would have preferred making pants-buying easier and more consistent for everybody instead of making it suck for everybody but I guess that's the way they decided to go.

#5. There's No Such Thing as a "Regular" T-Shirt
Men like to use T-shirts as billboards to show everyone what their favorite band, or team, or joke is, and when they see a T-shirt with the perfect saying on it, they just need to pick a size and buy it. Women also like to make similar statements with T-shirts, but it's not that easy. Women's torsos can be a myriad of different shapes, not just for obvious reasons (the bust), but for waist-to-hip ratio and torso length as well. And women's clothes, while not all skintight, are expected to be at least semi-fitted -- to at least tuck in somewhat below the bust. The fit isn't just about bust size, but how far down the breasts are as well. As such, you can find something that fits your bust size but expects them to be lower/higher than they are, or it can fit both of those things, but be too short for your long torso.

So the end result is that if you find, say, a Metallica women's T-shirt with the perfect, most metal design, odds are that size small will cut off above your belly button and size large will fit two of you, or you'll have to bind your chest to wear it, or some other mismatch. Or even worse, they've put a weird V-neck on it or freakishly short sleeves, or some other attempt at making it "fashionable" and "feminine." You can buy a men's shirt instead, but if you have any kind of figure, it will either hang like a tent or be too snug on one end of the hourglass or the other. The end result of all this is that because of the good cut, I end up wearing my World of Warcraft T-shirts a lot even though I don't play the game anymore and am honestly a little embarrassed.

#6. Clothes That Need Instructions
One thing I'm pretty sure men don't have to ask when clothes shopping is, "Is this supposed to be a long shirt, or a short dress?" This is a common question for many women. If you're at a department store, you might be lucky enough to see it printed on the price tag, but if not, good luck. Other pieces of clothing that can be confused are tube tops and short skirts, leg warmers and arm warmers, and whether something is supposed to be pajamas or not. Even if you technically know what something is, like a wrap sweater, that doesn't mean you know how to wear it. If you didn't know anything about wrap sweaters, how would you think you're supposed to wear this? It's not as simple as you think, because apparently people actually have to make videos about how to wear these. But possibly the king (or queen) of "How am I supposed to wear this?" is this American Apparel ... dress? It claims to be a dress. You don't really get a lot of help as to how or when you're supposed to wear it. There are some "what to wear underneath" suggestions to the right, but that model in the picture seems to be ignoring all those suggestions, almost as if American Apparel is deliberately messing with its customers. Are you supposed to wear it around the house? Can you wear this to a formal event? I know it's acceptable to show up halfnaked to the Oscars, but what about Grandma's funeral? All these questions, and all you get from the official description is "A sheer, sexy and form-fitting sleeveless maxi-dress with a high neckline and a sexy plunging deep V-back detail." Thanks a lot. Not surprisingly, every single review is sarcastic.

#7. There's No Such Thing as "Regular" Clothes
"Well, sure, all that might be a problem if you are always shopping for fashionable, fancy clothes," you might say. "You should just go to a regular store and buy normal, not-fancy clothes." The problem is that they've almost stopped making normal, not-fancy clothes. Remember Gap? It used to be known as a store where you could buy dependable, boring staples like jeans, sweatshirts and plain T-shirts. If anyone remembers that Gap, they wouldn't recognize it today. Looking for a nice, regular long-sleeve shirt? How about an upside-down drawstring garbage bag with a giant V cut into the neckline? The problem is that women's fashion has to change every year, preferably to some type of clothes that haven't existed before, because the economic model of women's clothes depends on at least a certain group of women buying new clothes every year, which they are less likely to do if the fashions haven't changed. Unfortunately, all the good styles have already been invented, which means that in order to come out with something that's never been done before, it has to be stupid and look bad on most women. Sometimes they can be lazy and bring back an old style, like with the recent '80s revival, but designers do put their own stamp on it to make it technically new, and usually more ugly and inconvenient (a tough thing with '80s wear). Making the material thinner is always a great trick. And for some reason, more and more staid, dependable, "regular" clothes stores like Gap and Target are trying to capture the "fashionable" market by carrying more of these stupid short-lived fad trends and less of the timeless, washable styles. When I go in to replace my leggings or skirt, all I find are jeggings and bubble skirts, which must have been created on a dare because nobody looks good in them. So yeah, I know some stores have always got to be providing the latest stupid fashions everybody wants. But how about we all don't jump on the bandwagon and some stores sit tight and keep offering the rest of us some normal clothes we can put in the washing machine? And put some pockets on them.

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