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‘Sorry’: Brokerage chief at heart of GameStop saga apologises – Al Jazeera English

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The head of trading app Robinhood and Wall Street hedge fund managers fielded a barrage of questions in the United States Congress about their role in the GameStop trading frenzy, at times being cut off by irate policymakers who found their answers wanting.

Financial heavyweights including billionaire Republican mega-donor and Citadel CEO Ken Griffin defended their businesses at the virtual hearing, which lasted more than five hours. The officials probed how users of social media site Reddit, trading on retail platforms, squeezed hedge funds that had bet against shares of the loss-making video game retailer and other companies.

“Robinhood owns what happened and we need to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” said Robinhood CEO Vlad  Tenev, who appeared to answer the most questions.

The inquiry aims to shed light on the hazy sequence of events that precipitated the ascent and rapid decline of the struggling video-game retailer’s share price, when it rocketed from $17.25 on January 1 to $347.51 on January 27. They since plunged back to about $50 and on Thursday, they sank a further 11 percent to $40.69 after the hearing.

[Bloomberg]

Robinhood and other trading apps drew fire for putting trading limits on GameStop a day after the stock price more than doubled. The trading platforms, which face numerous lawsuits, said the limits were needed because the wild swings in share prices prompted clearing houses that guarantee trades to call for billions of dollars in extra collateral.

But outraged policymakers questioned if the platforms were siding with large hedge funds over retail investors.

Representative Sean Casten, an Illinois Democrat, played an automated message on the Robinhood customer service phone line while questioning Tenev about how customers are treated.

Griffin received numerous questions which focused on his company’s heft. Melvin Capital CEO Gabriel  Plotkin and Reddit CEO Steve Huffman also appeared.

‘I am not a cat’

Also at the hearing was Keith Gill, a Reddit user and YouTube streamer known as Roaring Kitty. He sat in a red video-gaming chair from which he has recorded many videos promoting his investment in GameStop. Displayed behind him was a poster of a kitten with the caption “Hang in there!” Many investors who bought GameStop as the price skyrocketed now face deep losses.

Keith Gill, a Reddit user credited with inspiring GameStop’s rally, denied during the hearing that he was an institutional investor or a hedge fund [Daniel Acker/Bloomberg]

“A few things I am not. I am not a cat. I am not an institutional investor, nor am I a hedge fund,” Gill said. He told legislators he was still enthusiastic about the stock.

“I am just an individual whose investment in GameStop and posts on social media were based upon my own research and analysis,” he said.

Representative Maxine Waters, chair of the Democratic-led House finance panel, is a critic of Wall Street, while Republicans on the panel also sought to burnish their consumer-protection credentials, making for a fiery virtual hearing featuring echoes, feedback and background noise.

Waters, who in January called hedge funds “unethical,” frequently talked over Tenev and Griffin and cut them off. At the end, she promised to hold more hearings, with testimony from regulators at the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

She said she was “more concerned than ever” that retail investors were being taken advantage of and that large market makers like Citadel – which ensure there is sufficient supply of a particular asset to meet demand – could pose a threat to the financial system.

In prepared opening testimony, the witnesses generally acknowledged the GameStop saga was unprecedented, but they all said there was no foul play on their part.

Tenev expressed regret that Robinhood’s actions upset customers but said no hedge funds influenced its decision and the situation would have been “significantly worse” if it had not suspended buying.

GameStop’s shares had a wild ride late last month [File: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images]

“I’m sorry for what happened. I apologise. I’m not going to say that Robinhood did everything perfect,” he said.

New York-based hedge fund Melvin Capital, which had bet GameStop’s shares would tumble, suffered huge losses as the stock soared leading up to January 28. Citadel had made a $2bn investment in Melvin on January 25.

Officials questioned Robinhood’s commercial arrangements with market makers as well as whether its “payment for order flow” model hurts customers.

Manipulation?

Griffin, the majority owner of Citadel Securities, a Robinhood market maker, was castigated by Democratic Representative Brad Sherman for evading his question about whether market makers provide the same prices to all brokers.

Griffin maintained that Citadel Securities, which executes about 47 percent of all US-listed retail trading volume, had worked for years to help give consumers “a better price”.

All parties have denied any attempt by Citadel or Citadel Securities to influence Robinhood’s policies.

Gill and Huffman were asked about the role of social media platforms in potential market manipulation.

“We spend a lot of time at Reddit ensuring the authenticity of our platform … And in this specific case, we did not see any signs of manipulation,” Huffman told legislators.

At times, Gill and Plotkin offered their competing investment theses on GameStop, with Plotkin arguing that due to the rise of digital downloads, the video game bricks-and-mortar business model has “structural challenges.”

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What are NFTs? Everything you need to know. – Mashable

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NFTs are the hottest cryptocurrency product right now and everyone wants in on the action.

NFTs are the hottest cryptocurrency product right now and everyone wants in on the action.
Image: Getty Images / iStockphoto

NFTs are the latest cryptocurrency rage these days, with bands like Kings of Leon releasing their next album as limited edition “golden tickets,” and NBA digital collectibles being sold for millions of dollars. 

They’re interesting to collectors and cryptocurrency fans alike, but is there a future there? In other words: Should you spend some actual dollars to invest in a digital trinket?

Kings of Leon have already jumped on the NFT bandwagon.

Kings of Leon have already jumped on the NFT bandwagon.

Image: yellowheart

What Are NFTs?

NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are a type of cryptocurrency created on a smart contract platform such as Ethereum. They are unique digital objects that can be cool to own or even profitable to trade. Think of them as digital collectible cards. They typically start out as something only enthusiasts care about, but if you get a rare one, it could be worth a lot one day. 

What is fungible vs. non-fungible? 

Cryptocurrencies can be fungible, meaning all the currency’s units (i.e., tokens) are the same and equal, like grains of rice or dollars. 

Non-fungible tokens are the opposite — every cryptocurrency unit, or token, is unique and cannot be replicated. 

This “non-fungible” property can be used for many things, even certain types of currencies. But the current NFT craze is mostly fueled by digital art and collectibles. People have figured out that a unique, digital object can be interesting, cool, and even have a significant monetary value. It’s why the space has recently blossomed, encompassing thousands of projects involving artworks, gaming, and sports. 


How do NFTs work?

It really depends on the platform. But given the vast majority of NFTs are created and traded on Ethereum, we’ll focus on that. 

NFTs are created on Ethereum’s blockchain, which is immutable, meaning it cannot be altered. No one can undo your ownership of an NFT or re-create that exact same one. They’re also “permissionless,” so anyone can create, buy, or sell an NFT without asking for permission. Finally, every NFT is unique, and can be viewed by anyone. 

So yes — it’s like a unique collectible card in a forever-open store window that anyone can admire, but only one person (or cryptocurrency wallet, to be exact) can own at any given time. 

In a practical sense, an NFT is typically represented by a digital artwork, such as an image. But it’s important to understand that it’s not just that image (which can easily be replicated). Its existence as a digital object on the blockchain is what makes it unique. 

How do I buy or trade NFTs?

NFTs are bought and traded just like any other cryptocurrency based on Ethereum, only instead of buying some amount of tokens, you buy a single token. 

To do that, you should start by installing Metamask, a browser extension that lets you interact with various facets of Ethereum, such as exchanges and dApps (decentralized apps). MetaMask is also a digital wallet for Ethereum and all the tokens created on Ethereum (both fungible and non-fungible). 

After installing the extension, you should buy some Ethereum (you can do it directly in MetaMask with a debit card or Apple Pay by clicking on “Add Funds”). But be very careful with your funds — store your MetaMask password and your wallet’s private key somewhere safe. Then, when you visit a website that sells NFTs (such as NBA Top Shot) or an exchange where you can trade for them (such as Uniswap), connect your MetaMask wallet to the site (only do that on sites you know are safe), and buy your first NFT.  


Why do NFTs have value?

Of course, before you buy anything, you’ll probably want to know why it’s a good purchase. Indeed, why would anyone buy an NFT and why should there ever be a buyer willing to spend even more money down the line?

Ideally, the value of NFTs doesn’t just come from a game of digital hot potato, in which you purchase something hoping you’ll sell it for more later. And so on, until the whole thing crashes. Ideally, the NFT should be valuable to you because… you like it. If you’re an NBA fan, you might want to have an official NFT representing your favorite player. Or, perhaps there’s a digital cat that you really like.

Sure, in some ways, many NFTs are just a digital image that you can easily right-click and save to your computer. But NFTs also reside on the blockchain, which makes it extremely hard to truly copy them in their entirety. The blockchain entry also transparently tells you who created the NFT. If a famous musicians says: “Yes, that’s my Ethereum address that created this digital image of a possum.” Then that can be verified on the blockchain. 

Larva Labs' CryptoPunks are among the most coveted (and pricy) NFTs around.

Larva Labs’ CryptoPunks are among the most coveted (and pricy) NFTs around.
Image: larvalabs

Some NFTs can be valuable in other ways. Say, for example, you buy an NFT related to an online game. Perhaps that NFT will one day give you special prestige in the game, or it could even be the basis for you getting some other, hard-to-get object; something that only you can have because every NFT is unique. If you’ve ever played World of Warcraft or a similar game, you know how valuable a piece of armor or a weapon can be. Now, with NFTs, no one can take it away from you, not even the game’s owners. 

Let’s return for a second to that game of digital hot potato. NFTs are a nascent space, and there’s a lot of hysteria and scamming going on. You might see a certain NFT sold for millions, and think you’ll also be able to buy something for a few dollars and become rich selling it to someone later on. It can happen, but it’s rare. And these things can be manipulated. For example, a cryptocurrency whale (someone that owns vast amounts of crypto money) can buy many NFTs and then “sell” them to himself (his other cryptocurrency address) for millions, artificially inflating the price. So be careful: Just because some NFT was traded for a lot of money, do not think this automatically means all other similar NFTs are valuable as well. 


What are the most expensive NFTs?

In the early days of the space, we saw a blockchain game like CryptoKitties sell virtual cats for tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Recently, music producer 3LAU sold a collection of 33 limited edition NFTs for more than 11 million dollars. The musician Grimes (aka the mother of little X Æ A-Xii) even sold her digital art collection for $7,500 apiece, totaling $6 million in sales. Yes, these things can get very pricey. 

Are NFTs a good investment?

Buying an NFT because you like it, or maybe even to earn (or lose) a few quick bucks is one thing. But investing in NFTs is another. Again, it’s a nascent space. Even a Van Gogh painting or a rare Babe Ruth baseball card required some passage of time before becoming very valuable. 

Given the digital nature of NFTs, it’s hard to compare them to prized physical artworks, such as statues and paintings. On the other hand, we live in a world where one Bitcoin is worth more than $50,000, so things from the digital realm can certainly be very valuable and even sustain that value over longer periods of time. 

In any case, if you plan to invest in NFTs, you’ll need to dive deep into this complex world because each NFT market is slightly different. It’s also pricey — trading on Ethereum can be quite costly as the network’s recent congestion is causing fees to rise. Finally, you’ll need to think strategically and follow the often rapidly changing cryptocurrency trends. 

In short, it’s possible to earn money by investing in NFTs, but you’ll have to do your homework. 

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Toronto ready to administer COVID-19 vaccines 24/7 as long as supply allows – Global News

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More than 197000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered in Toronto so far – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Almost 200,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Toronto, and more shots are being injected in the arms of residents in clinics this weekend.

In a news release, the city said a number of hospitals and community healthcare centres are operating 15 clinics on Saturday and Sunday to vaccinate those in Phase 1 priority groups, including residents aged 80 years and older, who have a confirmed appointment.

“The city of Toronto, Toronto Public Health, hospitals and community healthcare centres are all working together to get Torontonians vaccinated as quickly as possible. Getting vaccinated protects individuals, their close contacts and the community,” the release stated.

The city said 197,155 vaccine doses have been administered so far.

Earlier this week, Toronto officials responded to criticism that the city is falling behind other regions in vaccinating people over the age of 80.

The city said it had administered COVID-19 vaccines to seniors in hospitals and congregate settings, but wider availability of vaccines for residents above the age of 80 will only occur when supply improves, and the provincial booking system launches on March 15.

The province released an update on its vaccination plan on Friday, announcing who will be prioritized in the second phase of its rollout set to run from April to July.

On the same day, Health Canada authorized the country’s fourth COVID-19 vaccine, the single-dose Johnson and Johnson shot.

Retired general Rick Hillier, the head of the province’s vaccine task force, said there had been a “seismic shift” in the province’s vaccination rollout following the approval of two more vaccines, supply ramping up, and new guidance on the extension of interval between two doses.

“I want to say by the first day of summer we want to have, vaccine supply dependent, we want to have a first needle in the arms of every person in Ontario who is eligible for the vaccine and wants to get,” he said during a news conference on Friday.

More than 860,000 doses have been administered and over 270,000 people have been fully vaccinated in Ontario so far.

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