A while ago, we took a look at the follow-up to a number of stories we covered. Here are a few more.

Identity Theft

Identity theftIdentity theft is a serious and ongoing issue, which we first reported on last November. Later, we looked at something labeled iBeacon, which turned out to be what we know today as ApplePay, which we reported on recently as a means to fight identity theft. Well, it didn’t take long for this event to have some serious fallout. Seems retailers are not nearly as keen to adopt Apple Pay as Tim Cook, Apple’s fearless leader, had hoped.

There is a nefarious reason: Major retailers, it turns out, are already invested in a competing technology which would not require them to buy the millions of terminals Apple Pay would need to work. It’s called Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), and it’s backed by some big names, like Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Rite-Aid and Sears. They’re not implementing Apple Pay in their stores (translation: they’re not buying those expensive little terminals), because they’re launching a competing app called CurrentC early in 2015.

This conflict has already been called the Apple Pay vs. CurrentC war, including allegations of retailers having to pay MCX a fine if they implement ApplePay (a very unAmerican, if not illegal, thing). But, just as things began to look interesting, MCX was forced to report this past Wednesday that they have been hacked. No data of value was stolen, because the CurrentC app is still in testing. Still, it sounds like it’s going to be hard to convince consumers that CurrentC is a better way to go than Apple Pay.

So far, only the Meijer grocery chain has broken ranks with the big retailers to accept Apple Pay. This story is far from over, so it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Detroit Bankruptcy

Detroit bankruptcyThe bankruptcy we reported on last year was allowed to proceed, and the trial everyone awaited finally occurred last month. The major issue was two large bond insurers, FGIC and Syncora, which were slated to get nothing, while pensioners, the other major group of unsecured creditors, would only lose a negligible portion of their pensions.

One of the controversies which arose centered around the City of Detroit’s art collection, housed in its art museum, the Detroit Institute of the Arts (DIA). The creditors said why not sell the art to raise money to pay off the debt? Auction houses estimated the art could fetch close to $1 billion at auction. Problem is the city only paid for 5% of the art. Most are donations, and those donations typically have transfer restrictions. “Here, lovely city, have my art. I will take a big tax deduction for my donation. However, you’re not allowed to sell the art without giving me first right of refusal, with a price set according such-and-such a formula.”

In the end, the city’s bankruptcy managers cobbled together what is now being called the “grand bargain,” in which the museum will raise $100 million, nine private foundations promise $330 million, and the state of Michigan will contribute $350 million for a total of $820 million that will be used to guarantee municipal workers’ pensions. In return, the city of Detroit will give the collection and the building to the non-profit entity that already operates the museum. FGIC and Syncora will receive large swaths of valuable city-owned land, which they can develop, as well as other assets.

In all, it looks like the grand bargain will be approved by all (after the lawyers cause a few more suitable delays to pad their billings) and Detroit will rejoin the ranks of cities healthy and solvent.

Obamacare Website Rushed To ER

The controversial Obamacare website was launched about this time last year, to great fanfare and high hopes among its proponents. However, it didn’t take long for reports to surface that the site was not working quite as well as the politicians would have liked consumers/voters to believe.

As these things go, it wasn’t long before other events displaced this story from the headlines. The site appears to be working fine now. However, there are more and more grumblings surfacing that the only reason any of the health care plans are “affordable” is because they entail enormous co-payments, leaving the insured pretty much with only catastrophic coverage.

The site itself has settled down, but the underlying issue of making healthcare affordable in a country increasingly becoming the laughingstock of the world for its overpriced and under-performing health care systems has not been resolved just quite yet.

Affluenza Incident

Ethan Couch, you might have remembered, drove drunk and killed and injured several people when he drove into a group of people by a roadside. His blood alcohol level was several times the legal limit three hours after the accident, yet he received no sentence of any consequence when his defense team claimed he was a victim of affluenza, the product of wealthy, privileged parents who never set limits for the Texas boy.

Some of the victims’ families have received multi-million dollar settlements from the liability insurance companies.

In the meantime, the father, Fred Couch, who apparently  has quite a history with the law, including two convictions for passing bad checks, was arrested after impersonating a police officer last August.

Ethan Couch, the boy, is currently being treated at the North Texas State Hospital in Vernon. Ironically, his wealthy parents are required to pay just a little more than 5% of the actual costs ($715 per day). Texas taxpayers pay the rest.

College Players Union

college players unionIn February this year, Kain Colter, a Denver native, did something unthinkable: he started a players union for collegiate football players. At Northwestern University, no less, the prestigious Harvard of Chicago. This came after Ed O’Bannon filed a lawsuit against the NCAA for a portion of the billions they receive for the use of athletes’ likeness on various athletic and apparel products.

Nothing much seems to have happened about the union, but a judge handed down an opinion in the lawsuit. The opinion seems to have slammed the NCAA pretty heavily, but they’ve appealed.

The legal process will undoubtedly take its time to wind its way through the courts, but, between the lawsuits and the burgeoning movement to institutionalize some form of payment to collegiate players of major sports, it’s probably safe to say the status will not be quite so quo ten years from now.

Atlantic City Casinos

Just a few months ago, we wondered if more Atlantic City casinos will close their doors soon.

They did.

In September, the Trump Plaza became the fourth casino (out of twelve) to shut down.

That came right after the Revel Casino (pictured) closed. The Revel was supposed to be the latest, greatest, and up to datest casino, designed to be the fresh draw for new tourists when it opened early in 2012. It barely lasted two years.

Well, here’s the latest:

Brookfield (which owns the Hard Rock Cafe casino in Las Vegas and the massive Atlantis resort in the Bahamas) won the bidding earlier this month for the Revel. The winning bid was $110 million (for a facility which cost over $2 billion a couple of short years ago).

They plan to revive the casino. How successful they will be, even at a bargain price, remains to be seen, given that the remaining casinos around them keep folding: Trump’s Taj Mahal is scheduled to close next month. 

Time will tell if the new company knows when to hold them, and knows when to fold them…

Government Shutdown

government shutdownDo you even remember that your Government was shut down about this time last year? We took a look at that and predicted that, despite the brouhaha in the media, it would end up being pretty much a non-event, something nobody would remember a year later.

So… did you remember that shutdown? Didn’t think so. I didn’t, either, until I went back through the archives and happened upon the story.

Just goes to show how fleeting the crisis du jour so often turns out to be…

Some things never change, and that includes the media, the government… and your need to save money on your auto and home insurance. Fortunately, neither does Grant and his crack team’s ability to keep you safe at the lowest possible cost. Give them a call today to make sure you’re getting the lowest premiums for your insurance. 

 

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