National / International News
The market for streaming music just got more competitive: rapper Jay Z launched Tidal, his new service, this week. Tidal promises, “high fidelity sound quality, high definition music videos and expertly curated editorial,” as well as equity to musicians who decide to join Jay Z in owning the service.
Tidal will also not be offering any free content. Instead, it will offer two monthly subscriptions based on audio quality: $9.99 for standard compressed audio and $19.99 for higher quality files, such as CD.
“There are some of us audiophiles who believe that this higher quality audio is better but most people, including, for example, my mother-in-law just don't’ care,” says Ian Sherr, executive editor at CNET. “And Jay Z has got to convince us all that this is worth paying potentially more money.”
The only way Tidal can compete, Sherr adds, is if there are more “audiophiles” out there who would be willing to pay higher prices for better quality.
“What we do know is that the landscape is littered with people who have failed at this,” says Sherr. “And failed at streaming in general. It’s expensive.”
Does Jay Z offer no advantage? He does, according to Sherr: “Him. He has the Jay Z brand behind him. He also has the Beyonce brand.”
So far that’s helped him successfully court musicians for exclusive access to their tracks, at least for a limited time.
“That could be compelling,” says Sherr. “People love to be the first to hear things. People love to be the first to see things.”
Jay Z might be late to the game, but that doesn’t mean the move won't work. There are other pitfalls, however.
Says Sherr, “What Jay Z has at stake is obviously money, but also if he isn’t able to pull this off, it’s going to raise questions about, does the music industry understand how to actually sell to consumers?”
Following the annexation of Crimea, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would intervene to protect ethnic Russians from persecution wherever they may be. So how about Latvia? The tiny Baltic state has a large and disgruntled Russian-speaking minority, representing more than a third of the total population of 2 million. Are they eager for secession? Could Latvia be Putin’s next target?
Many of Latvia’s Russians — who arrived in the country when it was still a part of the Soviet Union — are certainly disaffected today .
“As Russian speakers we are not welcome, we are not wanted in this country,” claims Latvian lawyer and activist, Elizabete Krivcova. “I was born in this country. It’s my country. But I’m treated as a foreigner here," she says. Native Russian speakers face restrictions on using their language in business and public life. They cannot get citizenship unless they speak Latvian. 300,000 of them are non-citizens.
“As a country, this is our key problem,” says Simona Gurbo, a political scientist at Rīga Stradiņš University. “Many of these people are living in a kind of cultural bubble. They don’t speak Latvian. They get their news from Russian TV and so they sometimes have no idea what is going on in Latvian politics but they follow closely everything that’s going on in Russia.”
The message from Russian TV is increasingly hostile to the west, to NATO, and to the European Union. Latvia itself has been described as a “failed state” in Russian broadcasts.
But while they are bitter and disillusioned over the relegation of their language to second class status, most Russian speaking Latvians express no desire to separate from Latvia and join the Russian Federation.
“No, no, no. Absolutely no. I wouldn’t like it,” insists Josiph Korens, another Latvian Russian activist. Korens was speaking on the sidelines of a march through central Riga commemorating the Latvian soldiers that fought with Hitler’s army against the Soviet forces during the Second World War. Korens was staging what he called an “anti-fascist protest” against the march, wearing a mock bio-suit. “I want to make the point that we must disinfect Nazism,” he says.
Korens denied an allegation by the police that he’d been paid by the Russian Federation to stage the protest as a way of embarrassing and weakening the Latvian state. “I am loyal to Latvia,” he says. “Russian speakers here are not trying to separate.”
A leading economist in Latvia agrees. Morton Hansen of the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga detects no real separatist sentiment among the country’s Russians.
“They have incomes that are, in most cases, better than in Russia,” he says. "And therefore there are not really that many reasons for wishing that you had something from Russia here.”
The $12.8 billion merger between health insurer UnitedHealth Group and drug benefits manager Catamaran Corp. is the latest of a spate of deals in the pharmaceutical industry.
"Certainly it's been a trend that's been happening between manufacturers and supply chain partners," says Charles Rhyee, an analyst with Cowen and Co. "There's a lot going on in terms of jockeying for purchasing power."
Both drug buyers and sellers want to scale up to get more leverage as drug prices rise, says Rhyee. UnitedHealth and Catamaran, a pharmacy benefits manager, will control up to a fifth of the industry's business.
Mergers are also being driven by short supplies of certain generic drugs.
"There are companies out there acquiring manufacturing capacity for sterile injectibles, ophthalmology drugs, and topical drugs," says Donald Ellis of Avondale Partners.
Those particular types of drugs are hard to manufacturer and have few suppliers, says Ellis. And shortages could grow now that some foreign firms have left the U.S. market.
At the same time, George Hill of Deutsche Bank says the Affordable Care Act has meant more patients and more prescriptions, "which makes more companies comfortable that future revenue and earnings trends are sustainable."
Which means that mergers are likely to continue, analysts say.
That's the amount required per year to buy a median priced house in Silicon Valley. Those outside of the top income bracket in the area have struggled to keep up with the rising cost of living. It's forcing people like high school teacher Christine Holst of San Jose to reconsider the traditional middle-class lifestyle.$1
The going price for some Uber usernames and passwords in some corners of the web, Motherboard reported. The site interviewed a couple anonymous sellers and verified that at least some of the credentials were real, though Uber itself says they've found no evidence of a hack.200,000
The number of images the Artline Group gives hotel proprietors to choose from when decorating their businesses. They can be printed on a variety of materials and even custom designed in some cases, given hoteliers near-infinite options. You've always wondered where hotels got their art, so we looked into it this week.$7.50
The minimum wage in Arkansas, which got a $.25 raise earlier effective first of this year. The Washington Post spoke to one minimum wage worker at a Days Inn about how the increase would affect her life. But now the worker claims she was fired for speaking to a reporter. Her manager disputes the story. No matter what happened, the original story is worth reading.1.3 billion
The total number of active users – though there could well be some overlap – between Facebook messenger and WhatsApp, the messaging app Facebook acquired for more than $20 billion late last fall. Now the company is expanding Messenger, modeling it after the lightweight messaging platforms that are hugely popular in Asia. With such a huge user base, Quartz reported, Facebook could be very well-suited for the next step in mobile social networking.132 million
The total annual volumes Guinness World Records says they've sold in the past 60 years. As more people turn to the web for the kind of eye-catching stories that used to be Guinness' stock and trade, the company has built up a "business to business" arm, which helps brands organize and legitimize a world-record attempt and get the resulting publicity. But getting paid to organize and codify brands' records means Guinness is walking a tricky but lucrative line, Slate reported.
Clinicians correctly predict a suicide attempt about half the time — no better than a coin toss. Certain tests of involuntary responses, although still experimental, aim to improve the odds.
Many Americans now have access to a commingled recycling system, which lets users mix plastic, glass, paper and metal together in one bin. It's much easier, but not nearly as efficient.
To keep its code-breaking prowess, the NSA must recruit scores of the brightest students in math and computer science each year. But the Snowden revelations are hurting those efforts.
Afghanistan is a mountainous land where mountain climbing is rare among men and virtually nonexistent among women. An American is now preparing young Afghan women to scale the country's highest peak.