Paypal has made it where we can safely conduct financial business and personal tasks all without sharing our banking information. However, it looks like Paypal’s encountering a company that is finally taking them out of their comfort seat. Irish brothers John and Patrick Collison founded Stripe. You probably have never heard of Stripe before, but this invisible new billion dollar company is changing how we pay online. Stripe is an online payment startup based in Europe that is only growing bigger in the four years it has been around.
The company has grown quickly from its humble beginnings with just ten employees in 2011. They employ over 300 people now, but the brothers believe they still have a lot of barriers to overcome. One of the brothers mentioned that if you were to examine how different the current Stripe is compared to when they were starting out years ago, they are just scratching the surface of the range of complications there are. However, they will continue to make a strong company.. Even though it is simpler to construct an online business today on almost every front, co-founder and CEO John Collision stated that payment processing remain dominated by clunky legacy players.
Earlier this year, the company raised new funds up to a $5 billion valuation after partnering with Visa. Visa isn’t the only card companies noticing the value of the new company. American Express and Sequoia Capital are also known investors.
Stripe is also talking about bringing their work over to other countries in Southeast Asia and Latin America. Their goal is to expand their services in the year 2016. One of the brothers, John, believes there will be better success if it were in Europe. The two brothers predict great success because of their current technology. If Europe were a country, it would have easily been the largest gross domestic product (GDP) around the world.
Nevertheless, they have high hopes that the next big thing like Facebook, Amazon, or Uber comes from Europe instead of America. America has a lot of benefits and technology for anyone who wants to start growing a business, but Europe is becoming just as popular because their technology is growing bigger and stronger just like their company. Technology investment bank GP Bullhound mentioned it is amazing to see well over forty new companies (also valued as a billion dollar companies) originate from the continent in the past year alone.
What is it that makes the company so different from Paypal or any other processing company? Stripe wants to streamline the online checkout process by allowing various businesses to embed and personalize a payment form on their app or website instantaneously. Allgrove, an eBay power seller, mentioned that while online shopping is popular, fewer than 5% of transactions around the globe happen online.
In the UK, online percentage sales are a bit more successful and produce twice as much as anywhere else in the world. Allgrove believes these numbers could be higher, but no one has yet to figure out how they can make a quick, smooth, and secure checkout experience online.
Although Paypal and several other companies like Twitter, Apple, and eBay have overall been successful at making online ordering a breeze, something is still missing. One of the best things about Stripe and what makes it so appealing is because of their API system. It allows someone to understand error codes through predictable HTTP and URLs.
It’s also important for cross-platform compatibility and client-side web application. Their API has programming flexibility that was once thought of as hard to achieve or impossible with legacy systems. API and the mobile functionality of the system go hand in hand. Stripe was made with systems like iOS and Android in mind to make the once over-bloating and confusing APUs repurposed or simple. It doesn’t hurt that their pricing is also simpler to understand and is cheaper than its competition.
The company also has a hand in virtually every programming language with highly documented files. This information is that documented into a more understandable, nontechnical language. Payments today are currently built for offline transactions. If a merchant partnered with Paypal for example, the buyer would also end up needing to be a customer for Paypal too. If you were ordering from any website or social media platform, you would eventually be redirected to Paypal, Google, or any other payment platform.
Stripe plans to eliminate that altogether where you can simply buy directly and feel safe knowing your information is secure. It’s because there are plenty of steps someone has to go through and businesses aren’t able to customize their experience in order to make the process truly seamless. Even though other companies had success, this can’t be denied, there has yet to be someone who looked at it from a platform point of view. By providing software building tools and API, both the merchant and buyer can be happier. The company’s goal is to increase the GDP online.
Although Stripe is still a startup company, they are winning the hearts of several big investors by staying simple and having enhanced attention. The brothers state that the most inventive companies are not often those who make a completely new idea. that they aim to try and perfect what is already out there.
Google’s self-automated automobiles are almost beyond the prototypes. Sure, many are excited, but California isn’t. The state’s regulators plan on restricting the overall use of these cars and ban them if they ever seen them travelling along public roads. They believe no matter how advanced car technology gets, no moving vehicle should be without a licensed driver.
This statement was released by the California Department of Motor Vehicles. They believe that cars, even automated ones must have pedals, a steering wheel, and a person that is there to take control over the car when deemed necessary.
Google engineers have worked well over six years to design and test the car. They also spent a couple of years testing the car with sensory-loaded Lexus SUVs. The company proudly made a prototype that can seat two people, and many of them were tested in Texas as well as states other than California. The prototype did have temporary pedals and wheels.
While California states the invention is dangerous, Google believes the opposite. Johnny Luu, a spokesman at Google, stated that their vision was the vehicle would take someone from one point to another with the push of a button. He added that they hoped to alter the mobility for millions of people for the better.
Luu also stated that hope can come in the form of reducing the 94% of accidents that take place on the road due to human error. Car accidents are one of the most common deaths going on in America, stealing over 32,000 lives annually in California.
Luu was one of the people shocked by California’s brash decision. He said that that safety was the main priority and motivator the entire time they were working on the project. From the time these cars have been on the road, Google adds that none of their cars have ever been ticketed. Some would only get stopped for driving too slowly. He believes it to be nothing short of a sad choice made by California, already writing things in stone too quickly when automated cars have the capability to help rather than hurt.
Although driverless cars are currently being seen as the ultimate future of transportation, there are larger leaps being made. Other automobile companies like Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Ford, and a few others are adding advanced safety features to even moderately priced cars that can leverage tech in order to better promote driving safety. One of the most incredible features they have worked on is giving cars the ability to detect other cars that are close to lanes.
Another neat feature these companies also worked on is the ability for the car to take over breaking in the event they sense a pedestrian or other object near them. Tesla has a new autopilot feature that allows an electric car to go to a different lane of its own once the driver.
Draft regulations are stating that manufacturers would also need to put all driverless cars to a third party safety test. They would also have to provide any accident reports on a regular basis, implement security measures to detect, respond and inform a driver should anyone attempt to highjack the car’s information. It will have the ability to speak the car owner what type of data was erased from the video as well. Popular electric car companies such as Ford and Tesla were among various companies that have the permit to test drive cars on the roads within the state of California.
Automated cars will be one of Google’s most loved inventions, and they have plans to use their new upper advantage to go after Uber. That’s right, Google has plans to partake in ridesharing there they plan on using their driverless cars to pick up and drop off people. However, Uber has also been busy themselves hiring autonomous car engineers for their new lab in Pittsburgh.
Google is proud to add that their driverless cars are also part of Alphabet’s secretive X division. So fair, their driverless cars have logged over a million miles by driving on public roads. It’s a project that does a lot of experimentation with new technology.
Currently, the project may get spun out and into Alphabet. The idea is to keep Google’s search and the advertising businesses completely separate from other speculated efforts. Both regulatory issues and driverless car technology are sure to be on the front burner in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show the start of next year. There also will be a higher amount of convention hall space becomes dedicated to the computerized car.
There are obvious pros concerning automated cars, and there are cons as well for many. In a scenario where most, if not all cars were driven by automated cars, do you think there would be little to no accidents that occur?
One of the most unnecessary, yet unavoidable bills the average household has is for television. The relationship between consumer and TV provider is a highly dynamic love-hate relationship. We feel obligated to stay up to date on the news to see what is going on in the world, and we enjoy watching our comedy, sports, and reality shows when we can. Of course, it is nice to have additional perks like high definition, recording capability, and the ability to record and rewind what we watch. What we do not appreciate is being cheated out of fair service and suffering hidden fees.
It is a feeling millions of DIRECTV subscribers can identify with after using said services. California customers decided several years ago that enough was enough; they united to sue the company for their part in causing these fees to go into effect. However, it does not appear the case will rule in their favor. In December 2015, the Supreme Court ultimately stated that DIRECTV, a satellite TV company, could avoid a class action lawsuit in the State of California. The lawsuit concerned early termination fees, and the ruling would force customers into private arbitration hearings. While the Supreme Court had to deliberate and decide if unhappy customers of the company had the chance to come together in a class action, they negated it. The majority believe it better to rebuke and reverse the California appeals court that permitted class action and will send them to arbitration instead. Most of the time, the Supreme Court is often against class actions and partial to arbitration where parties in dispute can resolve their problem before private bodies.
The Court decided, in a 6-3 opinion, that it was a sound and reasonable rule because the satellite provider’s contracts mentioned a statement that protects them from consumers joining to sue them. Regardless of that fact, California state law would still permit any class action related to it to go forward. This change is the latest in a multitude of high court rulings that are for companies that have the ability to limit their litigation expenses by adding mandatory arbitration in every general customer contract. It is a smart move that only benefits the companies. Consumer advocates, however, are not pleased and say agreements like these rob customers of any meaningful power to fight corporate misconduct. Stephen Breyer, an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, wrote for the court and stated that California’s law preempts the Federal Arbitration Act. It allows businesses to require any customer dispute to be settled one-on-one in arbitration. Earlier in 2014, the California state appeals court ruled against DIRECTV. The state’s highest court mentioned that the state law forbade any agreements that waived customer’s rights to bring a class action.
The case originally started back in 2008 when Kathy Greiner and Amy Imburgia both filed class action lawsuits against the satellite company, stating they wrongfully charged them termination fees of up to $480. These fees would often be paid directly from the customer’s credit card or bank account on file without obtained permission. Greiner stated that her dissatisfaction started with a minor issue with the company’s receiver not operating, causing her to order another one. It wasn’t too long after the replacement arrived until it also starting giving her troubles that DIRECTV would not resolve. She was a customer with them for six years and ultimately decided it would be best for her to leave the company and return the equipment when she was slapped in the face with the disputed fees. Imburgia had a different scenario and mentioned they failed to tell her that the company imposed an 18-24 month term of service. She was unaware of any cancellation before that time meant huge expenses for her. Not only that but DIRECTV also automatically extends the “contractual obligation” another 12-24 months. Both Greiner and Imburgia argue the company’s policies resulting in fees were never disclosed.
The satellite company also said the ruling that took place April of last year by the California Court of Appeal won a similar issue. It was held by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals based in San Francisco. The primary complication was language in the customer agreement that stated all contract disputes would get settled via arbitration unless the “law of your state” prohibits it. Justice Breyer stated the high court ruled in another case (AT&T Mobility vs. Concepcion), during 2011, and said California’s law was invalid since it clashed with the federal arbitration law. Breyer also said the “language” in the contract that referred to state law meant “valid state law.” Even if the state law was indeed valid at the time the contract was created; it didn’t matter if it became invalid sometime down the road.
Clarence Thomas, an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, disagreed with the statement. He argued that he didn’t believe that the federal arbitration law should apply to proceedings in state courts. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, yet another Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, along with Associate Justice, Sonia Sotomayer, voiced another disagreement. They mentioned that parties to a contract had the ability to decide if they wanted to be bound by a certain state law, regardless if the federal law supersedes it. Justice Ginsburg said that the majority option, as well as prior rulings in favor for arbitration clauses “predictably, meant it would deprive customers of their rights to get justice for any loss.” As a result, Ginsburg stated that large businesses could impose contracts and ban class lawsuits altogether on those with little to no bargaining position.
Neil Armstrong may have been the first man to set foot on the Moon in 1969, but it has been a long time since humankind last took a visit to the Moon. Many people wonder why we have not sent more astronauts to the Moon, especially when the U.S. has already done so twice. A new goal has delayed additional trips to the Moon, and it seems other countries are closer to achieving it than us.
The mission is to send astronauts on missions that will last for months rather than just a few days. Technology today is highly advanced compared to years ago, and the new plan is to create semi-permanent habitats on the Moon. Going into outer space is not like hopping on the next plane. It is a challenging feat to create updated systems for these spaceships, and years of research and work has gone into it.
America’s astronauts have seen the Moon twice; now Russia wants a slice of the pie. The Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) leader, Vladimir Solntsev, recently announced they have plans to send a crew to the Moon, landing in 2029. What is even more interesting is that Russia’s Moon squad will be the world’s first space crew to be all female. Valentina Tereshkova was the first female Russian in space during 1963. In the past fifty years, only four women have traveled into space, and the country appears to want to make up for lost time by working on this experiment.
Solntsev mentioned that they had their hands full working on a spacecraft for the mission in Moscow where initial flight testing begins in 2021. Six Russian women were locked in a suite at Moscow’s Institute of Biomedical Problems on October 28, 2015. It will be the start of an eight-day experiment that will simulate the conditions of space to help the ladies adjust. The director of the project, Sergei Ponomaryov stated, “We consider the future of space belongs equally to men and women and unfortunately we need to catch up a bit after a period when unfortunately there haven’t been too many women in space.”
The next test drive is predicted to occur in 2021, then again in 2023 at the International Space Station. Another unmanned mission to the Moon is planned to take place by 2025. The ladies in the project all have bright backgrounds, in either biophysics or medicine. The announcement regarding an all-female team was exciting for many people but worrisome to others. Some asked how the women will wash their hair, put on makeup, and live without men. Anna Kussmaul, who will be participating in the mission, countered, “We are doing work. When you’re doing your work, you don’t think about men and women.”
The European Space Agency (ESA) decided they wanted to join Russia’s mission to start small habitats on the Moon and will be providing their exceptional technical skills. The ESA may just be the perfect team for them; after all, they were the first to land a spaceship on a comet. The leader of the ESA, Bérengère Houdou, said they have an ambition to have European astronauts on the Moon. Roscosmos is also planning to send Luna 27, a lander, to the south pole of the Moon by 2024. The program they are constructing will have other smaller projects, like Luna 25 and Luna 26. The goal is to send a lunar lander to one of the poles of the Moon as well as a lunar spacecraft in the Moon’s orbit. When it lands, the machine will take a look at the lunar surface for future lunar bases. The lander mission was originally talked about in 1997 but never came to light due to delays. However, a Russian and European partnership to run the dark side of the Moon may be the perfect combination to get the ball rolling.
This mindset is very different than ones common in the middle of the 20th century. Such cooperation can be attractive as is evidenced by China’s statement that they want to create a joint lunar station. Dmitry Rogozin, Deputy Prime Minister accountable for supervising defense-related policies, adds that a trio could be possible. Russia and Europe are currently still discussing whether to include another country. The Russians did get a chance to meet up with Wang Yang, one of China’s Vice Premiers of China, on April 28, 2015. Rogozin mentioned they “have told China of our plans on the possibility of creating a Russian national orbital station.”
The Chinese Lunar Exploration Program established the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP) also known as the Chang’e program back in 2007. The goal of the program was to release a series of probes into the lunar orbit then send them to the surface. The latest probe China sent out, where it landed on the Moon in 2013 was a success, and the country has plans to complete a sample return sometime in 2017. The CLEP hopes their probes will become the ultimate pathway that will help people travel to the Moon.
With all this outer space activity, do not think that the U.S. is hovering in the background. America’s space agency, NASA, persists in looking at the planet Mars. NASA plan to send their astronauts to the Moon around 2030. Charles Bolden, NASA’s administrator, did provide, in brisk detail, what expedition they plan on doing. He states rather than focusing on the Moon like the other countries are doing, all their efforts will be going to the red planet. Venturing to Mars is perhaps a more dangerous mission than traveling to the Moon, but NASA is currently working on systems and spacecrafts to make the journey as safe as possible.
It is a sad state of affairs when law enforcement agencies in the U.S. work hard to locate terrorists as a way to halt future attacks, but our own laws make it a stroll in the park for deadly criminals to create secret companies. These hidden businesses allow criminals to conceal funds right here in the United States. It can be hard to differentiate the dangerous from legitimate when they hide in various cloaks from the white collar to armed dealers. A majority of fraudsters these days will forge false businesses to mask their true identity, their activities, and secretly send funds to anyone or anywhere across the globe. These fake companies, also referred to as shell companies, are even legal to operate even when they are not in operation. You would think these people would have to lurk and hide in international safe havens like the Cayman Islands or Panama, but they can set up shop in America just as smoothly.
These criminals can come in and out of the states with ease thanks to the veil of secrecy that American laws provide to corporations, namely in Wyoming, Nevada, and Delaware. These three states have the lowest taxes and require limited information from those who want to start a business.
How exactly are they doing this and getting away with it in America?
These criminals can do this by using a “registered agent.” There are firms that incorporate hundreds of companies annually for a few hundred bucks. There is a handful of these corporations that are set up as quick as a heartbeat so long as they have an email address handy. There is no need for them to go through any lengthy process to prove their identification as long as they have an email address. These registered agents are great at what they do since they can not only help jumpstart a business but will even go as far as giving the corporations physical locations they can claim as theirs and use as contacts for government filings.
There are legitimate companies that use registered agents; it is not a system used solely by shady characters. However, the system is a double-edged sword easily used by criminals that prefer to do their dirty deeds in the dark. Linking shell companies to their rightful owners is a complex task, and it is unknown how often terrorists use such businesses to help them with their plans. Federal law agencies, such as the FBI, state that shell corporations are ideal vehicles for terrorist financing as shell owners can remain hidden, yet able to transfer funds after opening bank accounts.
Dennis Lormel, a former FBI special agent, says the most critical attribute of shell companies is their ability to obscure themselves. He adds that the lack of transparency is an obstacle to law enforcement. Shell companies in the U.S. have been used to launder cash and promote illegal activities of big name criminals. Even if these crooks are discovered, the registered agents who helped them remain untouchable.
Congress has yet to take any action despite multiple bills from lawmakers to eliminate the issue. The absence of legal action is not helping America; we are left behind in comparison to other countries successes unveiling criminal enterprises. Cy Vance, a district attorney for Manhattan, stated, “Time and again, we find that our international partners are better situated to assist us in thwarting terrorism and financial crime.”
There are a few criminals that will use shell companies along with legal business operations as a way to confuse those of legal authority by appearing legit. For example, the family behind Peruvian drug trafficker, Sanchez-Paredes, used a mix of shell companies and gold mines in Peru to conceal their illegal cocaine proceeds for years. Law enforcement eventually discovered that they were producing cocaine in 2012.
Luke Bojovic was one of Serbia’s top wanted criminals for his participation in the assassination of Serbia’s prime minister. Another notorious Serbian criminal, Darko Saric, was charged by the country for trafficking over five thousand kilograms of cocaine. According to documents discovered by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, both of these men also used shell companies, located in Delaware, to achieve their illegal activities. A few shell companies used by the pair were traced to the same registered agent. The Deleware firm was called Harvard Business Services, a corporation of no relation to Harvard Univesity. It represented over ten thousand companies in a single year. The men’s names were never on any paperwork while they were working with the firm. Richard Bell, the HBS President, stated, “We are as concerned as anyone about the fraudulent use of Delaware companies by a few of the people who obtain them. These few who misuse them threaten our existence and we come down hard on them whenever we are alerted to such cases.”
There are possibly thousands of other cases similar to these involving terrorism in America right now. When will these false companies the government is aware of come to an end?
For many, there is always a New Year’s resolution that makes it to the list: getting fit and eating healthier. Whether we pig out on specific days or want to eat better overall, starting that journey and staying healthy is easier said than done. Time, money, and commitment are extremely important factors in being truly successful if you want to lose weight and keep it off.
There is a way of claiming medical and health expenses as long as you itemize your deductions with a 1040 form, at Schedule A. Only 30% of taxpayers that advantage of it. You can only deduct the amount of your total medical charges that exceed a tenth of your AGI, adjusted growth income, or 7.5% should you are your spouse be sixty-five years of age and up.
Let’s say your total medical expenses are five grand in a calendar year. If your AGI is valued at twenty grand, you have the ability take off three grand — expenses totaling $5,000 less $2,000, which is a tenth of $20,000. If your AGI exceeds fifty grand, the deduction will get capped — $5,000 of expenses less a tenth of $50,000.
If you are curious to know your total medical costs, remember to have the diagnosis, mitigation, treatment, prevention, or cure. Or you can add payments for treatments that affect a particular function in your body. It may seem like a general thing, but tax laws are strict with what the things they permit, even more so when it involves losing weight.
The key would be to get a specific diagnosis, and the doctor has to order you to complete a program. If you or a loved one goes to a hospital and you hear them say the best thing you can do for your health is to drop a couple of pounds, it may not be enough. However, if you are obese, it could qualify. Still, you would need to have valid proof you received this diagnosis from a doctor and submit proof that certain expenses were a result of what was ordered as treatment.
Some exemptions may not count as a deductible regardless of whether or not a physician ordered it.
- Weight Loss Surgery
- This only counts if it’s a necessary treatment for a certain complication. This type of surgery has cosmetic components to it, so it can be viewed as controversial. If you get this done, you should have a lot of documentation as proof it was recommended by a medical professional. The same rules apply to follow-ups.
- Gym Memberships and Clubs
- Even though there is no way to deduct what you paid for the memberships and clubs themselves, you can include separate activity charges. For example, those with water aerobics could earn a deductible if ordered by a doctor.
- Foods and Beverages
- There are no deductions for foods and drinks even if a physician were to instruct you to alter your diet. Following a low-fat, low-sugar, low-sodium diet will not change anything for you. This includes foods you purchase for yourself or order from a program such as Weight Watchers. But you possibly can get a deductible off foods that a doctor orders for certain diseases like Celiac disease.
- Sports Equipment
- What if you went out of your way to get new running shoes, weights, and a yoga mat? No deductible will be possible here, but if you had to buy certain equipment prescribed by a doctor like a knee brace, it could be.
Now that you know what may not work, here are a few tips you can do that will work to your advantage:
- Eating at the Workplace
- Meals and beverages you can get at the job are often tax-free in the event the addition is convenient for your employer. Go for all the healthy options and water. The same thing goes for those who work in a place with an exercise facility (like a gym or pool area) that is leased or owned by your company. Also, be sure to make complete use of any wellness discounts, if applicable. It can be programs that help to quit smoking, eat nutritious foods, and even gym memberships. If a health club membership is offered at your job, it is taxable. Your job may either pay a portion of the cost or reimburse you if you paid out of pocket.
- Create an HSA
- In the event your employer does not provide you an FSA or HRA, you have the option to start an HSA, a health savings account. However, you must have a high-deductible health plan to join. Nonetheless, if you do qualify for it, you will be able to contribute a max of $3,350, or $6,750 for families, for next year. It will also apply for any qualified medical expenses.
- Run for Charities
- You may not be able to deduct any entrance charges, but most people are not aware that you can, with any additional funds you donate to a qualifying charity. Many races partner with a fundraising organization. You may find that registering for the race will not only be great motivation to start exercising, but you will feel happy knowing you took part of a positive cause.