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Xiaomi raising $1 billion in new funding according to latest reports

It looks like Xiaomi is raising more funds, with the Chinese smartphone giant reportedly raising over $1 billion in a fresh round of funding that could be finalized on Monday.

 

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The latest injection of cash is reportedly led by All-Stars Investment, which is run by a former analyst of Morgan Stanley, Richard Ji. The Wall Street Journal has its usual unnamed sources who claim "Other participants in the round include Russian investment firm DST Global and Singapore sovereign-wealth fund GIC, which are both already shareholders of Xiaomi."

Instagram is now worth $35 billion, after Facebook paid $1 billion

Most thought that Facebook was a bit crazy when it purchased image sharing service Instagram for $1 billion, but now the company is worth upwards of $35 billion according to a new valuation estimate.

 

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Citigroup has performed the valuation, with the previous valuation pegging Instagram at being worth a still-impressive $19 billion. The increased value is coming off of the news that Instagram now features over 300 million active monthly users, and is growing much faster than most have anticipated.

 

The $35 billion valuation is still quite speculative, withi Citigroup's own analysts weary of it, as it depends on multiple factors, but they're still optimistic that the service is undermonetized. Citigroup believes that Instagram could provide Facebook with around $2 billion in annual revenue eventually.

BlackBerry's revenue drops 34%, ending the year on a bad note

BlackBerry's revenue dropped 34 percent during its fiscal third quarter, posting a net loss of $148 million, ending Q3 with $3.1 billion in cash. It may seem like a major financial loss, but the Canadian smartphone maker lost $4.4 billion during Q3 last year, and was a slightly smaller loss than reported during Q2.

 

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The company expects it to take a "couple of quarters" before sales begin to increase, as BlackBerry still struggles to compete against the Apple iPhone - and smartphones from Samsung and other manufacturers using Google Android.

 

Here is what Chen said during the financial call: "Things are happening. I'm encouraged that they are happening, but I wouldn't say that all things are well. I mean we still need a lot of work and a lot of attention and working well together and that's what I'm spending most of my time on."

Bitcoin advocate Charlie Shrem given two-year prison sentence

Bitcoin supporter Charlie Shrem, 25, was given a two-year prison sentence for his role in sending $1 million in bitcoins to Silk Road. He pled guilty earlier in the year for aiding and abetting an unlicensed money transmitting business. Shrem was a former vice chairman for the Bitcoin Foundation, and must also forfeit $950,000 for his role in the operation.

 

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Shrem was described as someone who "excitedly" participated in the "very innovativeness" of drug trafficking, according to U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff. The bitcoin supporter faced up to five years in prison, while the court wanted a 57-month term - as Shrem's BitInstant company knowingly processed bitcoins that were used to sell and purchase drugs via Silk Road.

 

Shrem offered the following statement via Twitter: "I've been sentenced to 2 years, to self surrender in 90 days. Considering I was facing 30 years, justice has been served. #Bitcoin."

T-Mobile was busted and will pay $90 million for cramming behavior

T-Mobile will have to fork over $90 million in refunds, fines and penalties for its longstanding "cramming" behavior, hitting its subscribers with unauthorized charges - and refusing to issue refunds when some subscribers found the charges.

 

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"This is a major settlement that will put tens of millions of dollars back into the pockets of consumers," said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a statement. "This case is about a core principle, that no business should bill a consumer for charges they did not authorize, period."

 

Cramming behavior seems to be quite popular among wireless carriers, and the most common type of cramming is premium Short Messaging Service (PSMS), normally focused on gossip and jokes of the day. AT&T and T-Mobile have already settled cramming cases, while Sprint is just beginning to face its own problems.

Uber puts the brakes on its cars in Portland, but it's only temporary

After the City of Portland sued Uber for not adhering its transportation rules, the company is moving toward somewhat of a solution with Portland.

 

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Uber has since taken its cars off the roads of Portland as of December 21, while officials work around the clock on new regulations. The City of Portland has said that if the new rules aren't set within the next three months, Uber will be allowed back onto the roads, picking customers up once again.

Minecraft creator just purchased a $70 million house in Beverly Hills

Markus "Notch" Persson is spending some of those billions that Microsoft paid for Mojang, buying a $70 million mansion, which just so happened to be the most expensive house in Beverly Hills.

 

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The John Aaroe Group announced the sale, a record $70 million, with the following press release: "Persson's purchase included everything in the house from luxury furnishings to exotic electronics such as the automated 54-foot curved glass door in the living room that opens onto an infinity pool with iPad-controlled fountains and spectacular views. Cases of Dom Perignon were part of the deal."

 

Notch's new digs are pretty damn nice, with the house taking up a massive 23,000 square feet. The $70 million mansion features "vodka and tequila bars, a candy room, an 18-seat tiered screening room, a state-of-the-art kitchen and an exquisite 18-foot onyx dining room table for 24 that includes place settings by Roberto Cavalli at a cost of $3,700 each. Three high-definition 90-inch television screens bring panoramic views of Los Angeles from the roof into the down stairs lounge - especially breathtaking at night, says De Los Reyes. Art pieces include a replica of James Dean's motorcycle and a chromed Ma Deuce machine gun. On a conventional note, the home has eight bedrooms and 15 bathrooms all equipped with Toto Neorest toilets at a price of $5,600 each."

Continue reading 'Minecraft creator just purchased a $70 million house in Beverly Hills' (full post)

BBC details Apple 'failing to protect' workers in Chinese factories

An undercover BBC investigation revealed ongoing poor working conditions of employees inside of factories manufacturing Apple products. At a Pegatron factory manufacturing iPhone 6 smartphones, there were routinely broken guidelines, with workers' hours, dormitories, work meetings, juvenile workers and ID cars being breached in day-to-day operations.

 

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Not surprisingly, Apple "strongly disagreed" with conclusions from the investigations - despite video showing employees falling asleep during 12-hour shifts. One employee worked 18 consecutive days, despite previously asking for a day off. A different worker had to work a 16-hour shift and said that he or she wouldn't want to move, and just wanted to lie down and rest: "I was unable to sleep at night because of the stress."

 

Here is what Apple noted in a statement: "Worker safety and well-being are our top priorities. We set very high standards, conduct rigorous training for managers and workers, and have external auditors regularly visiting our facilities to find areas for improvement."

Continue reading 'BBC details Apple 'failing to protect' workers in Chinese factories' (full post)

Sprint being targeted for billing subscribers bogus charges on bill

Sprint has been accused by US federal regulators of charging its subscribers hundreds of millions of dollars in charges for services they didn't order. Sprint, the No. 3 wireless carrier in the US, reportedly engaged in "cramming," which means they knew third-party companies were charging for text message alerts and other random garbage their customers didn't want.

 

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"Consumers ended up paying tens of millions of dollars in unauthorized charges, even though many of them had no idea that third parties could even place charges on their bills," said Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), in a statement. "As the use of mobile payments grows, we will continue to hold wireless carriers accountable for illegal third-party billing."

 

Not surprisingly, Sprint disagreed with the CFPB's accusations, saying that it "strongly disagree with (the CFPB's) characterization of our business practices," and wants customers to contact them if they believe they were unfairly charged.

Uber exploring the use of biometrics, lie detectors to screen drivers

With countless people, corporations and governments worried about Uber's screening process for its drivers, the ridesharing company is going much deeper into the screening process according to the company's new Head of Global Safety, Philip Cardenas.

 

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Cardenas has said that Uber is looking into multiple avenues for screening its drivers, something that involves biometrics, voice fingerprinting, and lie detector tests. Cardenas added that "scientific analysis and technology" will help fill in the blanks that pop up from the usual background check infrastructure across the world.

 

Uber isn't just adding additional layers of screening for its drivers, as it's also working on a new emergency system that would let you get in contact with your family, and Uber, if you're at risk. The ridesharing giant is also working on bettering its response network, where it hopes to provide "immediate" support if your ride goes awry.

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