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            A Canadian fintech company called Monarch has just created the world’s first decentralized and scheduled crypto-currency payment system. Crypto-currency is a digital currency created and managed through cryptography, an advanced set of encryption techniques. Monarch isn’t the first company to create crypto-currency subscriptions; in fact, Coinbase and PumaPay were the first companies to make this service happen.

This new service from Monarch will allow companies like Netflix and Hulu to receive crypto-currency for subscriptions. Monarch currently has over 270,000 users and has the support of Bitcoin founder Roger Ver and LinkedIn founder Eric Ly; the company also received $2 million to fund their blockchain services. Time will tell how quickly this new payment method changes how business and personal finance operate.

            On September 1st, New Zealand will allow companies to pay salaries through crypto-currency. However, the country will require that the crypto-currency being used have a fixed conversion rate with a normal currency; the crypto-currency must also be easily converted into regular money. Bitcoin is the world’s largest crypto-currency. Next month companies in New Zealand will be able to pay workers through bitcoin. It will also be legal for bonuses to be paid in crypto-currency. Crypto-currency salaries will be taxed just like normal salaries.

            The new ruling does not apply to self-employed workers who won’t be able to get paid through crypto-currency. This change signifies a new attitude of government towards crypto-currency. It means that at least one government in the world sees value in using crypto-currencies for regular payments. Some countries such as Russia, China and others have actually banned or restricted the use of crypto-currencies. Much uncertainty remains about how successful crypto-currency will be in the future; many people have concerns about the environmental impact of crypto-currency because of the large amounts of energy needed to make the system work.

            The MTV video awards are coming soon and it seems that Ariana Grande might not be attending. Grande and Taylor Swift received the most nominations for this year’s MTV video awards, they both received 10.  Swift will not attend the show itself but will be performing at the event. In contrast, Grande’s tour schedule will make it hard for her to attend; she happens to have two shows lined up in Europe the days before and after the VMAs event in Newark, New Jersey.

The video of the year award will be an interesting battle to watch; Ariana Grande’s video “thank u, next” will compete against Taylor Swift’s video “You Need to Calm Down” for this coveted prize. Furthermore, this competition will be made more interesting by the fact that newly discovered fame will be competing against well-established talent; Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X, two recent breakthrough stars, were also nominated for the video of the year award. The award itself might be determined by what MTV prefers; will it be well established talent or brand-new musical stars?

            An article published in the Economist in 2017 said that data is the new oil. Recent history has seen massive amounts of data becoming available on the internet, especially through social media. The data created in the social media universe can be accessed by data miners and artificial intelligence (AI) creators. A 2019 global report on internet use by Tech Jury claims that two hours and twenty-two minutes a day is the average amount of time spent socializing online.

            AI requires vast amounts of data in order to be successful. This is because it uses massive amounts of data to make predictions. The more data available, the better AI programs will function. As an internet user, you are creating AI just through your data alone. Facebook recently released 87 million profiles to the data analytics firm that was hired by the leave campaign advocating for the UK to remove itself from the EU. Allowing personal ownership of one’s data might be a way to overcome some of the privacy issues which emerged with the digital age. Recent companies such as Wibson have allowed users to own and sell their data on their apps. Time will tell if the public gets tired of the lack of privacy on sites like Facebook and turns to alternatives.

Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft are developing new policies to require games to disclose loot box odds on Xbox One, PS4 and Switch. Loot boxes are common in games such as Overwatch, Call of Duty, Middle-earth: Shadow of War and NBA 2k18. Originally developed for monetizing free-to-play mobile games, they are virtual tools that can be bought in the digital world. Full implementation of this feature is expected in 2020. Some loot box items are cosmetic with no influence on gaming success; however, others are designed to induce players who spend money to succeed. Example: The 2017 game Star-Wars Battlefront II has been criticized for loot boxes requiring full retail prices while not providing the items as expected. Previous industry efforts to limit loot box problems included ratings and password-protected spending controls. The new loot box odds will be presented in a clear and understandable way according to the Entertainment Software Association. 

Here’s a quick summary of what’s happening with these new and exciting games.

  • Total Party Kill is a survival battle game based on the classic The Lost Vikings game. It involves leading three heroes safely through dangerous environments. Sacrificing one of the heroes is necessary for at least one hero to survive.
  • Learn to Walk is a hilarious stilt walking game featuring a goat on stilts.
  • Mighty Quest for Epic Loot has a user guide a knight to plunder by sliding a single finger or thumb.
  • Meridian 157 is a mystery problem-solving game in which the user must search for a solution to a power outage.
  • Tharsis is a iOS game about a disaster-prone research ship.
  • Minit is a throwback game filled with puzzles and combat.
  • Serial Cleaner is a 1970s-based crime investigation game.
  • Dr. Mario World is a health game involving killing viruses by releasing capsules.

America’s epidemic of gun violence has been linked to video games by President Trump and some commentators.  The data suggests otherwise.  Naturally, the first to object was Stanley Pierre Louis, President and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association who claimed that video games have a positive influence on society. He cited examples of video games being used to support health and education efforts. He also claimed that scientific studies showed that there’s no link between videogames and violence.  What studies?

Benjamin Burroughs, a professor of emerging media at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas says, “There are no longitudinal studies that show a link between violence and video games. Certainly, there is no linkage to gun violence.”

An AP article in the subject states, “Indiana University researchers found [in a small study] that teenagers who played violent video games showed higher levels of emotional arousal but less activity in the parts of the brain associated with the ability to plan, control and direct thoughts and behavior.”

Research by Patrick Markey, a psychology professor at Villanova University, led him to conclude, “The general story is people who play video games right after might be a little hopped up and jerky but it doesn’t fundamentally alter who they are. It is like going to see a sad movie. It might make you cry but it doesn’t make you clinically depressed.” It is pretty clear the video games do not lead to gun violence.  Still, some of these games can be disturbing to young kids and teens.  Their parents have a monitoring role to play. To help them, since 1994 The Education Software Rating Board has provided ratings designed to help parents decide what games are appropriate for their children with ratings that range from “E″ for “Everyone” to “Adults Only” for those 18 and older.  Reviews of games designed for parents can be found through Common Sense Media.

Teen users of Instagram are increasingly switching to business accounts to get better metrics about their posts. These accounts show how many times posts have been viewed, at what times their posts are being viewed, who likes their posts and how many likes and views they’re getting.  Sounds great, but according to Facebook, which owns Instaram, business account holders are required to make their email and phone number available to the public.  When a teen is involved that’s a problem.

Alex Meron-McCann from the cyber security firm McAfee, warns of serious consequences for teens who share personal information by using business account.  Alex is especially concerned about sexual predators contacting kids through these accounts.

Data Scientist David Stier tells us that millions of teenagers have switched to business accounts; he also emphasized that if a 13-year-old develops a business account their contact information is available to over a billion people. A Facebook spokesperson explains that their set up process warns users that their contact information will be available to the public if they switch to a business account. Is this feature enough to keep a generation of young people safe?  Given fair warning, is Facebook responsible if someone blows through warning and misuses their platform?

            Regal Cinemas, the second largest movie theater chain in the US, is releasing a subscription allowing unlimited access to movies. Regal is finally getting into the business of movie ticket subscriptions. The other two of the three biggest movie theater chains in the US have already started subscription services. According to Business Insider, Regal’s parent company Cineworld already has experience implementing movie subscription services.

The new movie subscription service will launch in less than a week from today, July 26th, 2019. The service will operate through the Regal Cinemas apps on the Android and iOS phones. The program offers three different subscription plans. The cheapest subscription is Regal Unlimited, which offers access to 200 select Regal Cinemas for $18 a month. The next cheapest subscription is Regal Unlimited Plus, which offers access to more than 400 Regal theaters for $21 a month. And the most expensive of the three subscriptions, Regal Unlimited All Access, allows the user to go to all Regal Cinemas in the United States for $23.50 a month. If you’re a frequent theater goer looking for a cheaper way to enjoy your passion, check out Regal’s new plan.

Lil Nas X is being sued $25 million over Carry On, a song he released before Old Time Road. A company called The Music Force claims to own the copyright of a song titled “Carry On” by Bobby Caldwell. The company also says that Lil Nas X’s song Carry On hijacked parts of this Caldwell song from the 1980s.

Lil Nas is signed with Sony Music. The Music Force is suing Sony Music along with Lil Nas. The Music Force wants $10 million in damages to “remedy the confusion in the marketplace” and $15 million in punitive damages. Sony Music certainly has the financial power to put up a good fight in court.