Microsoft in plans to purchase TikTok operations

So what exactly is happening at the TikTok headquarters?

TikTok a short video streaming platform has gained a worldwide following since its introduction and is known for its comedic short videos; it has also long been thought to be the successor of another widely used, but now extinct short video streaming platform, Vine.

It features users that range from celebrities, digital creators or teenagers dancing, lip syncing and acting out to audio clips. To summarize, the TikTok experience is fun or downright silly at times but informative to those who utilise it that way.

President Trump

In recent days, U.S. president Donald Trump vowed to ban the video-sharing app. 

On Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the president would take action in the coming days against Chinese-owned software that he believes pose a national security risk.

Officials in Washington have become increasingly concerned over time that Americans who use TikTok could risk having their data accessed by the Chinese government due to the app’s Chinese ownership by ByteDance.

TikTok has reportedly denied that any of its operations are being influenced by Beijing.

Microsoft’s involvement 

In a bid to Microsoft said it was looking to purchase the TikTok service in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and would operate the app in these markets.

“Following a conversation between Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and President Donald J. Trump, Microsoft is prepared to continue discussions to explore a purchase of TikTok in the United States,” the tech firm said.

The tech giant also added that it “may” invite other American investors to participate in the purchase “on a minority bases” but added that the discussions were still in its “preliminary” stage. 

It also added among other measures, that all private data of TikTok’s American users is “transferred and remains in the United States”.

According to a story by the Wall Street Journal, TikTok’s U.S operations to Microsoft has been on hold ever since. The sale was close to an agreement until the warning posted out by the U.S president on Friday.

As on Monday, Microsoft said it will move forward with said plans subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States after Nadella’s conversation with Trump.

TikTok users respond

“I think that a lot of people didn’t like Trump before, and this has driven people to not like him even more,”

Fearing what could be the end of their TikTok days, viral and mainstream users across the U.S. began livestreaming and posting videos in tribute to their beloved video platform.

Content ranging from heartfelt goodbyes to persuading their current followings to Instagram and YouTube, it was a rollercoaster of a weekend for many who called the platform their entertainment outlet or even workplace.

The information and entertainment hub is also widely used by Gen Zs and politically-minded young people, it also serves as an educational outlet about issues such as climate change, racism and the Black Lives Matter movement.

As reported by the New York Times, Ellie Zeiler, 16, who has 6.3 million followers on TikTok, said that Mr. Trump’s threat to ban the app may even sway more young people to vote against him.

“I think that a lot of people didn’t like Trump before, and this has driven people to not like him even more,” she said.

TikTok responds

Upon release of the news, TikTok released the following statement in regards to the platform coming under fire.

“Our $1 billion creator fund supports US creators who are building livelihoods from our platform. TikTok US user data is stored in the US, with strict controls on employee access. TikTok’s biggest investors come from the US. We are committed to protecting our users’ privacy and safety as we continue working to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform.”

On TikTok’s official TikTok account, its US General Manager Vanessa Pappas appeared in a video thanking American users for their support.

“We’re not planning on going anywhere,” Papas said. “When it comes to safety and security, we’re building the safest app because we know it’s the right thing to do … We’re here for the long run. Continue to share your voice here and let’s stand for TikTok.”

Ellen Degeneres’ show investigated for Racism, Mistreatment & Intimidation

Ellen DeGeneres, right, with Dakota Johnson, on an episode of her daytime talk show.
Image via NBC

Ellen Degeneres has recently been caught under the spotlight due to an ongoing internal investigation by Warner Media to review work culture at “The Ellen Degeneres Show”.

The long-time host of her own talk show has built a reputation of being kind, friendly and all in all wholesome. Acts of discrimination and mistreatment isn’t normally what one would associate with the talk show host. However, recent allegations of a reportedly toxic workplace culture has been contradicting what we know about one of America’s richest self-made women. 

According to two people with knowledge of the matter, Warner Bros. Television executives sent a memo to employees last week that shows an outline of the internal investigation in the workplace at “The Ellen Degeneres Show”.

The people also said that WarnerMedia’s employee relations department will conduct interviews with current and former staff members to determine whether the experiences in the program’s workplace were in fact toxic.

Earlier, BuzzFeed news released an article this month which described what it referred to as a “toxic work culture”. Racism, fear and intimidation were one of the few words used by former staff members. 

Black employees also experienced racism in the form of comments such as “I’m sorry, I only know the names of the white people who work here”, specifically from one of the show’s writers.

According to the article, former employees were also fired for taking time off for medical leave and marked most of the blame on three of the show’s executive producers, Ed Gavin, Mary Connelly and Andy Lassner.

In a joint statement to BuzzFeed News, Mr. Glavin, Ms. Connelly and Mr. Lassner said: “For the record, the day to day responsibility of the Ellen show is completely on us. We take all of this very seriously and we realize, as many in the world are learning, that we need to do better, are committed to do better, and we will do better.”

“The Ellen Degeneres Show” is a winner of dozens of Emmys and is currently still in its summer hiatus.

Degeneres renewed her contract last year to continue hosting through 2022. She is also due to be creating three shows for WarnerMedia’s streaming platform, HBO Max.

World’s first Coca-Cola café now calls Malaysia home

Image via ChekSern Young

An American diner? A café? A movie theatre? Malaysia’s very own Coca-Cola café now offers all that in their brand-new location in Johor Bahru.

Located inside TGV Cinemas at Toppen Shopping Centre, the Coke-themed café which is also the first of its kind, is all dressed up in the signature red donned by every Coke bottle and is definitely an eye-catching element.

Image via Inside Retail Asia

Upon entering the café, you are welcomed into a diner that features reminiscence of the 1950s. One can’t help but be reminded of the diners seen in movies such as “Back to the Future” and “Pulp Fiction”. Other than that, precious Coca-Cola mementos and a Coke-themed jukebox makes the interior that much more aesthetic and vibrant.

Image via Inside Retail Asia

Coke beverages, popcorn, chocolate and confectionaries for the movie-goers and also Cold Stone Creamery ice cream for RM6.90 a scoop, it’s all one would need for a movie night out or just a night out in general.

Image via Inside Retail Asia

A “powerzone” is also available to use for patrons who need a charging port or power plugs for their mobile devices. Did we mention that the location also offers high-speed Wi-Fi?

The café is open from 10am to 10pm daily and visitors can get there by simply entering the Toppen Shopping Centre and then heading to TGV Cinemas. 

At the sight of a bar with a hanging Coca-Cola sign is where you’ll realize that you’re there.

Address:
L.301, TGV Cinemas, Toppen Shopping Centre, 
No. 33, Jalan Harmonium, 
Taman Desa Tebrau, 
81100 Johor Bahru, 

The 7 Dwarfs of Auschwitz

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The story of the seven fiddler dwarfs from the Maramures village of Rozalvea, who survived the Auschwitz camp, continues to fascinate decades after the heinous experiments they were subjected to by the well-known Nazi doctor Josef Mengele. The band “Liliput”, composed of seven brothers, all dwarfs, began to become known in the 1930s. The “Ovicers”, as their neighbors called the members of the Ovitz Jewish family, became famous throughout Europe with their variety shows, even singing for King Charles II.

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The Ovitz family at one of their famous performances in 1938

After the occupation of Transylvania by horticulturists, the members of the “Liliput” band knew what to expect, given their Jewish descent, so they hid all their belongings in a pit which they dug under their car.

Upon reaching Auschwitz

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Perla (right) and Elizabeth Ovitz: as the five sisters and two brothers were all good-looking and musically gifted, the stage seemed the perfect career

The Ovitz brothers, five girls and two boys, were taken to Auschwitz along with several hundred other Hungarian Hungarians. As they entered the camp gate, all elegantly dressed and well-dressed, an officer demanded that Dr. Mengele be awakened urgently.

Dr. Josef Mengele was known for his passion for strange people, from hermaphrodites to giants, so the incorporation of seven dwarfs into the Auschwitz extermination camp could only be a source of joy for him. Hearing of the arrival of the seven members of the “Liliput” band, Mengele jumped out of bed and wanted to see them immediately.

While waiting for the doctor, Perla Ovitz, who was 23 at the time, remembers seeing people, including her relatives, taken to a two-chimney building from which smoke constantly came out. The pearl, naive, thought it was a bakery, but was soon awakened to reality by a prisoner of the camp: “There is no bakery. This is Auschwitz, and you will soon be in those ovens. ”

But Mengele’s passion for strange people saved them from death, but the seven dwarfs from Rozalvea had a perhaps more cruel fate.

Meeting with the diabolical Dr. Mengele

“I have been working for 20 years now!” Exclaimed Mengele when he saw the seven dwarfs. The doctor, who had gassed five hundred women a few months ago to escape a typhus epidemic, was simply charmed by the Ovitz family.

In just three hours since they arrived at the extermination camp, much of the Jews they had brought on the train were already dead. Both the seven members of the “Liliput” band and their relatives were spared. In total, 22 people.

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All members of the Ovitz family which survived Auschwitz

The “ovicers” told the doctor at Auschwitz that their father, also a dwarf, had been twice married to tall women, who gave birth to seven dwarfs and three children of normal size.

Like the other prisoners, members of the Ovitz family were put in a barracks and fed the same strained soup. In the room where they were kept, there was also an aluminum bowl in which they washed every day because Mengele was obsessed with hygiene. However, the dwarves were not shaved and were allowed to keep the clothes they had brought with them.

Unsuccessful experiments

At first, Mengele just wanted to take their blood, but this became a weekly routine, weakening the malnourished “ovaries.”

“He was stabbing us carefully, and the blood was jumping. I was often dizzy and vomiting. We were returning to the barracks, but until we returned, we were called again “, said Perla Ovitz.

Mengele didn’t know exactly what he wanted from them either, although he took their blood weekly and did x-rays. According to the documents, the doctor was doing routine tests for kidney and liver problems, but he did not make any discoveries about dwarfism. Then he began to test them for syphilis and torture them, pouring cold and hot water into their ears. Pearl said that water torture was very painful and led them to the brink of madness. The doctors also extracted their teeth and took their genes for testing.

Strange friendship with Mengele

“We were used to the idea that we would never leave the camp,” Perla Ovitz said in an interview more than 10 years ago. But Mengele saved them once again from a painful death because they were to be gassed. The “Lilliputians” had even heard of two dwarfs who had been killed at Mengele’s behest just to show their skeletons in Berlin.

Although subjected to painful experiments, Perla said there was a strange friendship between the dwarves and the sadistic doctor Mengele. “Dr. Mengele was like a star, he looked better and better. Anyone could have fallen in love with him, “Perla recalled. “When he was nervous, he calmed down as he entered our barracks. When he was in a good mood, people said, “Most likely he visited the dwarves.”

Frieda, one of the sisters, often flirted with Mengele, and he responded to the flirtation, calling her “Meine Liebe” (“my love”). All the Ovitz brothers treated him with respect and addressed him with “Your Excellency.

One day, Mengele announced that they were going on a trip and provided them with makeup kits, asking them to look their best, because he was going to give a show in front of important people. After squabbling, the dwarves took to the stage in front of hundreds of SS officers. Dr. Mengele was waiting for them on stage, who suddenly returned to them and shouted: “Undressing!”.

Trembling and trying to hide their private parts, the dwarves stood naked in front of the whole room. In fact, the Ovitz brothers had been brought on stage to make a strong impact on the speech given by the sadistic doctor Mengele about how the Jewish race degenerates into disabled and dwarfs. At the end, the audience stood up and applauded, and the SS officers went on stage to see the dwarves more closely.

Finally, free

In 1945, the “ovicers” were removed from Auschwitz and, after a few months in Moscow, returned to the country. Once in Rozavlea, the dwarves found, under the car, their jewelry and gold objects.

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The Ovitzs leaving Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1945

In 1949, the family emigrated to Israel, where they continued to perform variety shows. Perla Ovitz, the last member of the dwarf family, died on September 9, 2001 of natural causes.

The Kid Who Saved Shia LaBeouf’s Life

Shia LaBeouf wears a paper bag on his head to the premiere of ...

Shia had publicly become a drunk, he had been arrested several times, his ego was out of control, and he hooked up with Megan Fox which broke up her marriage. In one out of control incident, he showed up to The Berlin Film Festival with a paper bag on his head that read “I am not famous anymore.”

Things went from bad to worse. His acting career was done.

Megan Fox Reminisces on Her Transformers Days With Shia LaBeouf in ...

After Megan Fox left Hollywood behind, Shia says he “fell into bad habits.” These were the two subtle changes:

  1. He gave up his routine
  2. He started to drink alcohol regularly

It wasn’t only the Megan situation, but also pressure from his father. Growing up in poverty and watching his dad become a dealer after returning home from the Vietnam War was hard for him to watch. The flashbacks from the war would cause his father to lose control and put Shia in danger.

Who is Shia LaBeouf's dad Jeffrey, where is the convicted ...

The escape from the madness, for Shia, was acting. His father wanted to be an actor and failed, so it was Shia’s chance to do what his father couldn’t.

Being on the film set was an escape and after the success of The Transformers Movie, Shia never really processed or understood what his father had gone through. Blocking out the past was the decision he unconsciously made.

It became apparent to Shia later on that he was desperate for his dad to like him. Getting arrested was just a way for him to understand what it was like for his father to spend time in prison.

Watching Shia’s public escapades after returning from America was overwhelming. Suddenly, I didn’t want to watch his movies anymore or be inspired by him.


His Life Was About to Change and He Had No Idea

The Peanut Butter Falcon Review | Movie - Empire

Filming a movie called “The Peanut Butter Falcon” allowed Shia to be introduced to his co-star Zack Gottsagen who was born with down syndrome.

I stumbled across this movie in 2019, not knowing Shia was in it, and it took me by complete surprise. You could see the new friendship between Zack and Shia was real while you were watching the movie.

This was Zack’s big acting break and Shia’s behavior at the time was about to ruin all of that.

“That was just much bigger than me. I felt quite overwhelmed.”

Shia still couldn’t escape his troubled past and being arrested jeopardized the filming of the movie that Zack had waited his whole life to star in.

“I had no humility,” says Shia.“The world had been handed to me on a silver platter.” “I did not know why.” He burned all of his bridges and was on a dark path. No one was talking to him. Meanwhile, Zack’s dreams of stardom were put at risk by Shia’s selfish behavior.

“I was mad. Angry. Frustrated. I was worried about Shia doing the wrong things, being out in the middle of the night.” — Zack Gottsagen

There were two options: Get clean or self-destruct. Zack decided to help Shia get into rehab.

“[When] you hit the wall enough, you start reflecting.” “Sort of like [a] flashlight to your soul,” says Shia.

The whole way through rehab, Zack was there for Shia and helped him shed his old self so he could become somebody new. “He softened me,” says Shia.

This softening, as Shia describes it, led him to a previously inconceivable realization: he was fine to kill his own acting dream and burn it to the ground, but he couldn’t bring himself to do that to Zack’s once in a lifetime opportunity. Who could?

Zack managed to get through to Shia with his unconventional approach to life. Shia describes Zack as greeting the world with arms wide open and an open heart. “Everybody starts at a hundred with him.”

This view of the world caused Shia to act differently and be more like his new friend. It was beautiful to watch the movie and then see the message from the film play out in real life.

It’s incredibly rare for the characters in a Hollywood movie to become those characters in real life.

I have never seen anything like it. “It’s the small, simple things that change the world” is the way Shia describes the impact this friendship had on his life.


On February 9, 2020, Zack made Academy Awards show history by becoming the first person with Down Syndrome to present the Best Live Action Short Film with his Peanut Butter Falcon co-star Shia LaBeouf. He received a standing ovation.


Final Thought

Shia LaBeouf says Zack Gottsagen saved him after arrest - Insider

Friendship helped Shia add more meaning to his life. That extra meaning took his life from a mess to an opportunity to do great things in the future. I’ll be watching from afar to see how far he can come.

Unlikely friendships change your life if you allow them in. Connections with others can lift you up and take you to new places.

When your life has the power to positively impact another’s, you’re forever changed.


By Tim Denning

How Buffet Restaurants Turn a Profit

10 Best Hotel Ramadan Buffet In KL & Selangor For 2019

When most of us think back, we can usually remember many happy times spent at a buffet restaurant.

For me, some of the happiest times in my childhood was spent at the buffets.

But one thing I always wondered when I was a kid was how they ever made any money. I always did my best in my attempt to eat the restaurant dry, and in my mind it seemed to have worked.

The business model still exists in many restaurants today, most of which offer ‘all you can eat’ on select menu items.
The main reason for the decline of some chains, is that this style of restaurant has fallen out of fashion. They’ve also been tainted with bad reputations based on the first reason for why this model works.

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Photo by Rosie Fraser on Unsplash

Inexpensive ingredients

‘All you can eat’ restaurants started gaining terrible reputations during the early 2000’s for serving low quality food. After rumours started circulating of sickness-inducing menu items, it wasn’t long before people stopped going altogether.

Some restaurants do cut a lot of corners with the food they display in the cabinets. Some have been known to use frozen pre-made meals, others have been known to swap out high quality fish for cheaper varieties.

Another issue was how long the food stayed on display, frying to a crisp under the warm lights before being swapped out.

Bad press shut down many of the restaurants, others simply moved into hotels and casinos where people ask less questions.

In spite of the rumours though, serving crappy food was never enough to make these businesses work. Their true schemes were far more impressive.

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Photo by Leighann Blackwood on Unsplash

Soda Anyone?

One of the cheapest supplies for any large restaurant is the soda.

Soda’s such as Coca Cola are shipped to the restaurants in syrup form, held within plastic bags. A restaurant employee merely needs to cut the top off the bag and feed it into the soda dispenser, the dispenser is then able to cut it with water as it’s poured into the customers cup.

A very small portion of the soda is the syrup, the rest is water. This means that each cup of soda costs only cents for the restaurant.
(Making it all the more annoying at the movie theatre when a cup of coke costs so much).

‘All you can eat’ restaurants make sure that there are as many soda dispensers as possible around the dining room, and that your cup is enormous.
They’ll also usually up-charge your meal for the soda. So you’re paying for a soda “package” on top of the cost of the buffet.

They don’t do this because they need the money, they just want you to treat the soda as a high priority.

They want you to go out of your way to drink as much soda as possible, to get your moneys worth. This will mean that you’re eating less food and saving the restaurant money in food costs.
The soda is filling your stomach with gas, ensuring you’ll eat less. This is great for the restaurant as the food costs a lot more than the soda.

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Food placement

On a buffet line, have a look at the order in which your food has been arranged.

Highly filling, inexpensive carbs such as heavy pastas will be first in the line. They know you’re starving and that you’ll fill up your plate with these foods before arriving at the more expensive options such as steaks, fish and salad.
If there’s a seafood option, it’ll be right at the end of the line.

‘All you can eat’ restaurant plates are much smaller than normal plates, so it will fill up fast. They’re betting you’ll have no more room on the plate before you get to the end of the line.

Often you’ll tell yourself that you’ll go back, but the majority of us can’t eat more than one full plate, two at the most.

We tell ourselves all day that we’ll eat ourselves silly, but often we can’t. Often we sabotage ourselves by starving all day long, not realise that we’re shrinking our own stomachs.

We then go to the restaurant and hope to fill it to bursting, only to find ourselves feeling sick after a regular portion of food. Unfortunately our stomach isn’t like a balloon that can be shrunken down, then filled to the brim on a whim.

My favourite buffet always made sure to give us cheesy bread at the beginning of our meal because of it’s enormous amount of carbs.
Between the cheesy bread, pasta and soda; I paid RM100 to eat, but probably only ate RM40 worth of food.

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Less and cheaper staff

A conventional restaurant has a fairly large labour overhead. There are so many professionals involved in the operation of the restaurant, it can sometimes be the reason for a restaurants downfall.

However with an ‘all you can eat’ restaurant, the customer is expected to wait on themselves. The only staff needed are those cooking the food, and front of house staff who keep things clean and swap out dishes.

The staff needed to clean and turn over dishes don’t need to be highly trained and skilled wait staff, they can be almost anyone. Kids fresh out of school can do this job, or anyone else that’s willing to work for the minimum wage.

Labour is one of the biggest costs for a restaurant, so reducing that cost is the most important money saver of all.

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Modern ‘all you can eat’ options

The modern ‘all you can eat’ option isn’t an entire restaurant that offers this style of eating, although these do still exist.
Instead, the far more common sight is a conventional restaurant that offers ‘all you can eat’ menu items. A good example is Red Lobster.

Red Lobster offers ‘all you can eat’ shrimp during 6 weeks of the year. They don’t make money by giving you cut-rate shrimp, lowering staff, or placing the shrimp in strategic locations. Rather, they entice you to come by creating false scarcity.

Just like when Disney use to put their movies in the “vault” for 10 years to entice you to buy their movies on DVD “while you could”, Red Lobster only offers their shrimp deal a few weeks out of the year. They hope that people will come in droves while it’s an option.

They don’t make money on the shrimp themselves, they make money on everything else you have to buy while eating the shrimp. Things such as the soda, your entree, and a desert.

Much more important than the food though, is that they’re hoping they’ve made a repeat customer.
They’re hoping that you were so impressed by their limited time shrimp deal, you’ll come back once the shrimp deal is over.

If they’ve turned you into a repeat customer, that’s worth losing any amount of money on a one time shrimp deal 6 weeks a year.

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And that’s how it’s done

The business world is a cruel and heartless race to the top. It takes more than one strategy to succeed, and businesses need to constantly adapt to stay alive.

We’re all pawns in their game whether we like it or not. Have you been played recently?

The Scariest Pirate That Ever Lived

Facts on Pirate "Black Bart" Roberts | Owlcation
Bartholomew Roberts with his ship and captured merchant ships in the background, 1724 by Benjamin Cole

It isn’t long during the course of our lives before we find people don’t keep their promises. Words of great meaning are often tossed about with no meaning behind them. How often have you heard things like this said in your life:

  • “I love you.”
  • “I’ll always be there for you.”
  • “You can depend on me.”
  • “Anything you ever need.”

Once these promises are called upon, many times you’ll find them empty. The person who said these things is gone because the promise was too hard to keep.

One who is said to keep their word is held in high regard and respected. But, let’s turn this idea on its head for a second. Imagine the negative impact on the world if someone was malicious and always kept their word.

What if every threat issued by this person wasn’t “idle”? What if even the most outlandish promises and curses uttered by this person became true? How terrifying would this be? It might even make you reminisce of the empty words spoken by those undependable friends or loves of your past.

In the 1720’s, the colony of Virginia was experiencing this bizarre situation with a monster who always kept his word. They hurriedly built watchtowers and panic spread throughout the land. Guns and cannons were gathered while the colonist stood alert.

Bartholomew “Black Bart” Roberts had made a promise to get them — the entire colony. His threats were never meaningless and his promises were always kept. He was coming and they were terrified.


The Reluctant Pirate

Robert’s life is relatively unknown until he signed up as a mate on the ship called Princess according to Angus Konstam’s book Pirates: Predators of the Seas. The boat would be attacked and captured by the pirate Howell Davis. Robert’s Welsh background and sailing skills would help keep him alive.

According to The Richmond Observer, Roberts had been invited to join Howell’s crew. Although, “invited” might not exactly be the proper word. If he had refused, he might have been turned into fish food.

The future pirate would be adopted into Howell’s crew and his navigation skills would prove useful. Roberts’ ability to speak Howell’s native tongue likely won him a bit of favor as well.

They wouldn’t have much time to cement any kind of friendship though. Howell would soon be killed during an attempt to capture the governor of the island of Principe. After his death, the ship would hold an election. A group of “Lords” would elect candidates and the “Commons” would vote on them. Roberts would be elected and win according to The Pirates Own Book by Charles Ellms.

Roberts is reported to have replied to his appointment by saying, “That since he had dipped his hands in muddy water, and must be a pirate, it was better being a commander than a private man.”

Roberts would promise the crew to avenge the death of their previous well-esteemed captain. The crew would attack the Portuguese fort on the island and burn it, tossing their cannons into the ocean. They’d also burn some houses down in the town and set a ship on fire in the harbor. The crew would capture and loot a couple ships in local waters a few days after this as well.

Roberts was immediately found to be a man of his word.


The Business Of Piracy

Pirate Ship, Dark, Night, Storm, Lightning, Adventure

Roberts and his crew now would now vote and decide to travel around the coast of Brazil looking for prey. They sailed for 2 months without much success until they found themselves at a large bay called Los Todos Santos and found a fleet of 42 Portuguese ships guarded by two heavily armed warships.

According to Konstam’s book, Roberts quickly showed his bravado and skill. He moved his two ship fleet into the convoy and blended in. He and his crew quietly captured a merchant ship close to them and asked the captain what the richest ship in the fleet was. The captain pointed out a ship with 150 men aboard and an arsenal of 40 canons, which was much bigger than the ships in Roberts’ small fleet.

The pirates managed to keep themselves undercover and attack their new target. They boarded the larger ship and found it loaded with 40,000 gold coins, jewelry, and items specifically for the king of Portugal. Roberts’ band would rob the ship without being discovered and make off to spend their loot.

Roberts’ second in command would later steal his second ship and some of the loot. In response, Roberts would put together a pirate code. Konstam actually has the original code Roberts and his crew formulated listed, which sounded surprisingly business-like for something of pirate origin.

  • Each man had an equal vote on “affairs of the moment” and had a right to equal share of fresh provisions acquired. Each man got a share of the loot, officers got a slightly higher share.
  • Each man is entitled to his share of loot and no more. Theft of another man’s property could result in death or being marooned.
  • No gambling aboard ship. No crewmember is allowed to strike another onboard. Arguments will be settled on shore by means of a dual.
  • The lights go out at eight at night. If anyone wants to stay up past those hours, they sit in darkness.
  • Weapons must be ready and clean at all times. Leaving the ship during time of battle would result in death.
  • No women or children allowed on board. If they’re found hidden on ship, the punishment is death.
  • Men who are injured in service shall be compensated with 800 pieces of eight from the common stock and “lesser hurts proportionately”.
  • Musicians are allowed to rest on the Sabbath Day.

As Konstam points out in his book, the terms of his contract were much more generous than what normal naval sailors received. So, it wasn’t a wonder why Roberts might be tempted to leave his hand in “muddy waters”. A wounded sailor was also compensated for his injuries, which is also an unheard of benefit at those times.

As a whole, Roberts was a strange pirate. Many sources describe him as being a “teetotaler” who preferred tea over alcohol on board. He also appeared to be a surprisingly good sailor who could coordinate the action of multiple ships. Many sources also report he liked to dress in fine clothes and “made a gallant figure” according to author Charles Ellms.

He also had a strange respect for the Sabbath Day, despite the murderous nature you’ll be accustomed within the next section.


The Unknown Becomes Infamous

Bartholomew Roberts (Original) art by Edward Mortelmans Archive ...

After countless acts of piracy, the governors of Barbados and Martinique would put bounties on Roberts’ head. He’d travel to North America in early 1720 to escape and wreak havoc wherever he went. Konstam mentions that Roberts captured 170 ships on this rampage.

Roberts would actually attack the harbor of Trepassi in Newfoundland, coming into port with drums beating and cannons firing, according to Ellms. All the sailors abandoned their ships in the harbor, which Roberts captured and effectively took over the port.

Roberts would travel from the Caribbean, to Africa, and to North America avoiding naval fleets and plundering wherever he went. One of his most infamous feats would occur when he’d make another promise come true and get revenge on the governor of Martinique.

“When Black Bart said he was going to get you, he got you. And when he got the governor of Martinique, he hung him from the yardarm of his own ship.”

— Historian John Quarstein as quoted in the Dailypress.com

On a trip to St. Kitts and Martinique, on which Konstam reports Roberts would take 100 ships, the pirate would find a 52 cannon warship. Roberts would brazenly attack and take this ship and find the governor of Martinique who dared to put a bounty on his head.

Golden Age of Piracy - Wikipedia

Roberts would hang the governor on his own ship, torturing and killing most of the crew, and taking the warship as his own flagship. This would be one of the many stunning acts that would shock and terrify many in the Golden Age of Piracy, which Roberts was a part of. The Richmond Observer reports that Roberts amassed a haul that equaled $32 million in present times and captured over 400 ships in the span of only 3 years.


The End Of The Terror

In 1720, a few of Roberts’ crew had decided they would retire in the Virginia colony, which turned out to be a bad idea. They didn’t exactly try and blend in, throwing money around lavishly and making a spectacle of themselves. It was obvious to everyone that they were former pirates.

According to the Daily Press, Lt. Gov. Alexander Spotswood would order them arrested and tried. A number also came forward to testify against the former pirates. The pirates brazenly cursed the governor and the colony as they stood on the gallows.

A sailor coming into port later would bring a message from Roberts himself. He had heard of the trial and was coming with a fleet and 112 cannons to teach the colony a lesson. The colony had heard of Roberts’ exploits and knew him as a man who kept his promises, so panic spread throughout the area.

In 1722, however, Roberts would be stopped before he could put a plan in motion to punish the colony. A British warship would find Roberts’ fleet off the coast of Africa. The Swallow, commanded by Challoner Ogle, would charge towards Roberts’ unaware ship.

The crew, who was still drunk from the night before, thought the British vessel was another ship with Roberts’ pirate fleet and sat idle. Once the Swallow was noticed, it was too late to run. Roberts only option would be to attempt a risky escape — the crew was in no shape to fight. They’d try and sail past the warship and hope the possible broadside of cannon fire wouldn’t cause too much damage.

Pirates: the Royal Navy and the suppression of maritime raiding ...

Roberts would be dressed in his finest clothes, adorned in gold and diamonds with his pistols hanging from a piece of silk around his shoulders, according to Ellms. It might be imagined he’d stick out like a sore thumb. Whether the British clearly saw him or not it couldn’t be known, but Roberts would be hit in the throat with grapeshot from a cannon and instantly die early in the engagement.

The rest of the pirate fleet would be captured and punishment handed out to the crews who followed Roberts. Likely the world breathed a sigh of relief as word spread of his passing. In ThoughtCo.’s biography of Roberts, they mention that commerce came to a dead halt wherever he operated. If you think about it, the loss of over 400 ships in the course of 3 years must have been like a man-made catastrophe of sorts.

According to the article in the Daily Press, Alexander Spotswood would still be afraid years after of Roberts’ death. He’d only travel to England on the largest of warships. After all, Roberts had made a promise and they always seemed to come true.

Think of this when you reflect on those who let you down with empty words in the future. Unfulfilled promises of wonderful things will always beat an unending litany of threats and curses which are always fulfilled. You may have lackluster friends and loves, but you luckily don’t have a Bartholomew Roberts in your life.

Life is better when some promises aren’t kept.

Written by Erik Brown

The Plane Crash Which Led to Cannibalism

Peckish Pete: The horrific cannibal who ate the corpses of his victims

About four decades after the accident that changed his life, doctor Roberto Canessa remembered that he had to eat from his friends in order not to die of hunger. Roberto is one of 16 people who survived after the plane crashed in the Andes Mountains between Chile and Argentina on October 13, 1972. They were rescued after 72 days. Canessa was only 19 years of age at the time and he was a medical student. Today, the doctor confesses that he will never forget the time he turned into a cannibal, eating from the dead passengers in order to survive.

“It was disgusting. In the eyes of a civilized society, this was a revolting decision. I stood up to my dignity when I decided to eat chunks of my friends to survive. I felt like I was taking advantage of my friends who died. “says Roberto Canessa.

Everything to survive

On October 13, 1972, at 3:35 pm, a Fairchild FH-227 turboprop aircraft of the Uruguayan Armed Forces crashed into the Andes, on the border between Chile and Argentina. There were 45 people on board, five of whom were crew members. The remaining 40 were members of the Christian Rugby Football Club rugby team and a few members of the players’ families.

The president of the Uruguayan Rugby Federation, Gustavo Zerbino, one of the survivors of the aviation catastrophe of 1972, in which 29 people lost their lives, told how the 16 survivors were forced by circumstances to choose between starving to death or eating their deceased friends in order to survive until a rescue team would find them.

Doctor Roberto says that the only thing that helped him resist was the thought of his mother and the desire not to cause her suffering through his death. At the point where he had to turn to cannibalism, Roberto says he had no choice. They were in a place where there was nothing but snow, a place where people had absolutely no business.

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The 16 survivors on the day of rescue

Their fate seemed diminished because the plane crashed into the mountains and collapsed at over 4,000 meters altitude. Between night and day, there was a huge temperature difference. Five died on impact, and 12 other people died during the five-kilometer where the aircraft went downstream. The survivors tried to go as far as possible to look for help and even screaming for hours but with no response, this has confirmed them that they were in a totally secluded location which meant that the chances of rescue were extremely low.

No hope

After some time the group of survivors has glued the wires from a detached instrument from the board of the plane to listen to the radio about the search missions. Sadly the news was not good as the search missions were a failure one after another, after a few more days the survivors have heard some devastating news on the radio, that the search team had given up looking for the crashed plane or any survivors.

Many of the survivors became hysterical at that point, however, some such as Doctor Roberto who was mentally prepared for such news as he had stated that he thought about this potential outcome. At this point, they have made the decision of splitting the group into two so that a group would go look for the other half of the plane where their supplies were as the starvation was growing into them. (it is imperative to mention that by this point none of the survivors thought of a cannibalistic act).

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Doctor Roberto Canessa

Without supplies, the survivors of the “tragedy in the Andes” passed from peanuts, biscuits, and tree bark to the remains of friends who died in the accident. In the first week, the survivors were feeding on jam, biscuits and drank some bottles of brandy that they had obtained from Mendoza, which they found through their luggage that escaped whole. After they have finished all the provisions they ate shell and tree branches and took a mouthful of snow.

17 days after the crash, something terrible happened, which brought the survivors down from a mental point of view. A powerful avalanche swept the valley in which they were and covered the remains of the fuselage, and the snow penetrated through the impoverished wall behind the fuselage and covered the survivors.

Last Resort

After a few days, when all the supplies had run out, a shocking discussion between the survivors has followed up. The only solution for survival was to eat from the dead bodies of the other survivors, there was simply no other solution. The idea was welcomed pretty well taking into consideration the starving stomach and terrible mental state that the survivors were in, this discussion happened 30 days after the crash. Doctor Roberto was the first to eat from the deceased survivors.

On the 72nd day after the crash, a farmer from the mountainside has discovered the survivors on Christmas day. The survivors mentioned that he was an angel sent from God as their savior. Even after they have been rescued their cannibalistic act for survival had left them with a huge mental disturbance however, they never hid from their dire and desperate actions.

The incredible story of the avian accident in the Andes was screened in two films, the first in 1976 and the other is 1993, and Nando Parrado, another survivor, wrote the book “Miracle in the Andes”.

By Andrei Tapalaga

Nintendo’s Secret Connection to the Yakuza

Nintendo Wouldn't Exist Today Without the Japanese Yakuza

Eight tables spread throughout a wide, low ceiling room. A haze of smoke hangs in the air.

At each table, are several men. One is shirtless, his body covered in tattoos. Another has a scar down his eyebrow and to his cheek. His iris has turned white from an apparent blade strike.

Besides some of them are partially nude women. Waitresses carry food and drinks to tables. And on each table, is a wide set of cards. Some players are leaned forward analyzing them. Others are leaned back, sipping on a drink.

Beside some men are swords. On the table, there is a gun. On another, is a pile of cash.

They are playing Hanafuda, a popular Japanese card game.

Source: pic via Wikimedia commons

And it might surprise you that, for decades, this was Nintendo’s first customer. In fact, these crime lords were Nintendo’s primary customers.

In the 15th century, a Spanish gambling card game, ombre, had arrived from Europe. It quickly became famous in Japan as it was the first popularized form of gambling. Tangent to this, lots of shady enterprises began springing up around the casinos (prostitution, drugs). Regions with these casinos saw an uptick in crime. The government then enacted a prohibition of gambling.

In turn, the Yakuza gang formed and began running back-alley gambling halls. The name Yakuza itself extrapolates out into “a very bad hand of cards” (ya‘8’ + ku‘9’+ za‘3’).

Source: pic via Wikimedia Commons

After the government banned the manufacturing of ombre cards, the Yakuza came up with a new type of card to gamble with. Then the government would ban those. It became a cat and mouse game. To run casinos, the Yakuza needed a good set of cards to use en masse.

Then, eventually, hanafuda was invented. The government didn’t ban it because it had no numbers and would be difficult to gamble with. But, eventually, the Yakuza created a hanafuda game that could be used.

The problem was that the manufacturers didn’t want to sell the hanafuda as it was associated with Yakuza.

Insert Fusajirō Yamauchi. He founded Nintendo in 1889. The business struggled for years, to the point that it may have gone bankrupt. Then, seeing an opportunity, he began making hanafuda cards.

As one of the only manufacturers of this tainted card game, the Yakuza began filtering into his store more frequently. They not only kept Nintendo afloat, but they also made the business very, very profitable.

This is Nintendo’s original store. It wouldn’t be uncommon to see gang members inside.

Original Nintendo Headquarters in Kyoto, Japan, 1889 (source: pic via Wikimedia Commons)

Causing trouble here wouldn’t be good for you. These gangsters were fond of Fusajirō Yamauchi.

The Yakuza had a lot of money. To Nintendo’s benefit, they typically threw entire Hanafuda packs away after each round of games. In turn, each Yakuza casino went through hundreds of decks of cards each week and had to replenish them.

These cards weren’t cheap. They were custom made from bark and were handpainted, leaving for higher margins. The Yakuza gave Nintendo so much business that Nintendo had to scale up, building another manufacturing facility to add more painters.¹

With decades of steady business from Japan’s largest criminal organization, Nintendo was able to network and build up capital to expand their business model to hotels and taxi services.

This diversification would sustain Nintendo for several years until it went into the toy business in 1966.

And so if we fast-forward to today, it’s a fascinating contrast. Nintendo is the most kid-friendly video game company in the world. Most of their characters are in the Disney tier of cute and innocent.

Source: Pic via Wallpaperflare (royalty free)

But for longer than these characters have existed, Nintendo was associated with:

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Without the Yakuza and their illegal casinos, there would be no Nintendo. Full stop.

In fact, the very name Nintendo itself translates to “leave luck to heaven”, which was a reference to gambling.

Reference

[1] Sheff, David. (1994) How the Game Over: How Nintendo Conquered The World

Original Article by Sean Kernan

Podcast Wars: Spotify vs Apple

Spotify thinks its algorithm can find your next favorite podcast ...

Earlier this month, Spotify signed a deal with Kim Kardashian to co-produce and co-host a criminal justice podcast that will air exclusively on the platform. The deal with the reality TV megastar is only the most recent installment of Spotify’s investments in podcasts. In 2019, it acquired podcast companies Gimlet Media and Anchor for just under $340 million combined. In February 2020, it purchased The Ringer, Bill Simmons’ sports and pop culture publication and podcast network, for nearly $200 million. Last month, Spotify signed an exclusive agreement with podcast star Joe Rogan worth reportedly more than $100 million. Rogan’s show, The Joe Rogan Experience, consistently tops the podcast audience charts globally, with nearly 200 million downloads a month.

So, why is Spotify investing so heavily in podcasts? The largest reason is probably that its core business — music streaming — is an inherently low-margin business. This is due mainly to three factors.

1. Spotify doesn’t own the songs we listen to

Whenever we hit “play” on a song on Spotify, the company has to pay the rights of each song back to music labels, like Universal or Warner Music Group. That means, on average, Spotify spends spends 70% of its music revenues on royalties. Unless Spotify branches out from streaming music, this is a dangerously tight margin to manage long term.

2. There is intense competition from tech giants

As music streaming services have become the most popular way to listen to music, it would make sense for Spotify to slowly and marginally increase its price, similar to what Netflix did with its video streaming service.

The main issue with raising prices is that Spotify’s main competitors — namely Apple Music and Amazon Music — are funded by behemoth companies that can afford to lose money on streaming music. It’s not a core service for Apple or Amazon, but rather a sweetener they offer their users to increase customer loyalty. Apple and Amazon have the money to go cheaper for longer than Spotify if Spotify doesn’t diversify from music.

3. It’s easier than ever to find your favorite music anywhere

This threat of competition is especially relevant to a company like Spotify, because the majority of its songs are available for streaming or purchase on other platforms. Aside from a few exceptions — like Tidal’s HiFi subscription streaming plan — music will sound the same on Spotify as it will on other music platforms. That decreases the switching costs (or, rather, the pain) for customers hopping from one platform to another and makes it harder to build a devoted longtime user base.

The power of exclusivity

What makes podcasts a particularly inviting medium for Spotify to invest in is that it can sign exclusivity deals with top creators. Unlike music, where you largely can listen to everything anywhere, Spotify is ensuring with its Joe Rogan and Kim Kardashian deals and its Gimlet and Anchor acquisitions that the content will be available only on Spotify. Meaning that if you are among the many who regularly listen to The Joe Rogan Experience or The Ringer, you are virtually forced to download the app and potentially make Spotify your go-to audio service. Rather than juggling multiple audio apps, Spotify is hoping new adopters who come for the podcasts will stay for its music streaming features as well.

This is something that, at least to date, cannot be replicated on the music side of the business and mimics Netflix’s shift in recent years toward producing original content. To decrease the company’s dependence on third-party content, Netflix began building a library of original shows and films that you can’t find anywhere else, making it more enticing to buy subscriptions or renew subscriptions than if the platform offered only curated content from existing movie and TV studios.

A podcast advertising machine

Spotify’s pitch to woo established and rising podcast stars is simple: It already has a very successful advertising studio and tech-supported ad operations, and the company can leverage its infrastructure and advertising staff along with its large user base to monetize content better than if creators were to go out on their own.

The first evidence of Spotify’s added value as a podcast advertiser is already visible. Many podcasts offer promo codes on air, but it isn’t convenient for listeners to pause a podcast just to write these offers down with the intent to use them later. Spotify is trying to fix that by creating a link to the sponsor’s website within the app, making the promo redeemable at any time in a much more user-friendly way.

As was the case with internet advertising, the emergence of an aggregator (Google) enabled the growth of ad revenues like never before. Spotify aims to replicate the same effect in podcasts.

Is Spotify’s investment in podcasts paying off so far?

Although it’s too early to make a judgment on Spotify’s return on investment, one important group of people agree that this is the right move for the company: its shareholders. The company’s share price popped more than 10% when the deals with Kim Kardashian and Joe Rogan were announced, and the stock price is up more than 250% since April.

Operationally, Spotify also seems to be moving in a positive direction — podcast consumption of Spotify grew 200% in Q4 2019 and more than 19% of its users listened to non-music content on the platform in the first quarter of the year. The latter happened despite an unprecedented lockdown that changed commuting habits globally.

Skeptics could argue that Spotify is overpaying for its bet in podcasts, as podcasting remains a relatively small industry compared to music; podcast ad sales in the United States will likely hit the $1 billion mark for the first time in 2021. The first signs are certainly encouraging, but Spotify still has a mountain to climb to displace Apple as the world’s #1 podcast platform and establish itself as a supplier of podcasts that helps grow the size of the overall market.

Original article: Manuel Medeiros