International Cat Day: the art of photographing Larry, the beloved Downing Street cat | AFP

Ahead of International Cat Day, photographer Justin Ng explains his obsession with Larry, the beloved Downing Street cat. Justin, an Australian native, is popular on social media for sharing his pictures of the thirteen-year-old brown and white tabby, that has been a permanent fixture of the British Prime Minister’s residence since 2011.

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How Columbia House Sold 12 CDs For A Penny

Does 12 CDs for a penny sound too good to be true? Well in the mid 90s that offer made Columbia House $1.5 billion. NYU music business professor, Larry Miller, helps break down how Columbia House made their money.

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Following is a transcript of the video:

Matt Stuart: Ever get a whole bunch of CDs for a penny, or even free?

Commercial: Columbia House, big enough to bring you all the best in entertainment

Matt: Columbia House and the BMG Music Service both offered amazing deals. About eight CDs at almost no cost to you, then just buy one more at full retail price and you get three more for free. Sounds too good to be true, right? How could something like this make money?

Commercial: Remember, it’s our secret, so watch your mail for this package from Columbia.

Larry Miller: You could join these things for a penny, get a bunch of music for almost free as long as you promised to buy a certain amount of music over the next year or so at regular club prices.

Matt: That’s Larry Miller. He’s an NYU professor and music industry vet with a podcast about the industry, Musonomics.

Larry: The regular price of the CDs that you would buy was the suggested retail price, which was 17.98, 18.98, 19.98 plus shipping and handling for those CDs.

Matt: Those prices and the shipping costs were key to the club’s success. Columbia House, BMG Music, and other clubs utilized a practice called negative option billing.

Larry: The way that the clubs offered music to consumers was through a catalog roughly every month. Actually it was a little bit more often and in some cases they were shipping 21 different catalogs every month. And that for every catalog, you would need to send back a postcard within ten days of your receipt of that catalog indicating that you didn’t want the selection of the month. If you didn’t do that in time, or if you just forgot, you would be shipped that record and of course you would be billed for it.

Matt: Forget to send the card back and you’d owe the club about $22 for a CD you may not even want. But you still only paid a few bucks shipping on 11 other albums. This still doesn’t seem sustainable, especially when retail shops were selling CDs for $14 and up.

Larry: They would license the actual master tapes and the production files for the physical media from the major music companies. And they would be able to manufacture these records at a cost of about $1.50 or so each. In many cases, inferior pressings on vinyl and CD and you wouldn’t get maybe the full lyrics and you wouldn’t get the nice inserts and stuff and even the little booklets that were included in the CD were not quite as nice as the ones that you would get in the store very often.

Matt: By pressing their own albums, the clubs were able to make about $5 to $6 on each unit they actually sold. Even accounting for all the free albums they sent out.

Larry: As it turns out, that was plenty of margin to operate these businesses which together were generating about a billion and a half dollars of revenue, or about 15% of U.S. record industry volume at the peak, which was around 1996 or so for the record clubs.

Matt: However, that 1.5 billion wasn’t really going to everybody. Larry: The records that you would get for a penny counted as free goods and that there were no royalties on free goods. It’s still unclear today exactly how many of those royalties were paid through to recording artists. They were only paid on the purchased goods, and even so it was at three-quarters of the regular rate that they would have been paid had you bought it in a regular record store.

Matt: Most of the artists and writers didn’t get paid anything on any of the free albums. Larry: However, the sale of the records did count in the calculation of gold and platinum and chart position.

Matt: So no money, but you might wind up with a pretty big trophy. Now the clubs are long gone and services like Spotify and Apple Music have taken their place with access to almost any song you could want for $10 a month. Are those bum deals for the artists, too?

Larry: I believe that as streaming takes hold and as smartphone penetration continues to grow the way that it has and as smart speakers and voice interactivity begins to take hold that music consumption is going to grow to a level that we just haven’t experienced before. Even if the amount of money per listen is less than what we were used to getting back in the days of the CD or vinyl record.

This Elite Gymnast Quit At The Height Of Her Career To Escape USA Gymnastics Abuse (HBO)

Mattie Larson was an elite gymnast who was adored by fans. She was also one of the dozens who were sexually abused by USA Gymnastics national team doctor Larry Nassar.

“I don’t think it’s possible for someone like Larry to get away with doing what he did for 20-plus years if it’s not in a corrupt environment and organization,” Larson told VICE News. “I just don’t really see how that would work.”

Here’s how the organization USAG works. Gymnastics isn’t a popular high school sport like football, so the path to the top, the Olympics, goes through some 3,400 private clubs nationwide. Those clubs are governed by USAG, which sets rules about who coaches and what levels gymnasts compete.

When gymnasts reach the very top level, elite, they’re invited to “the ranch,” a gym in remote Texas that’s also the home of legendary coach Martha Karolyi. From 2001 to 2016, Karolyi was national team coordinator — she effectively picked the world and Olympic teams, and so was the most powerful person in the sport. And she required the national team members to spend one week each month there, to monitor their fitness. The ranch was the site of much of Nassar’s abuse.

At the ranch, “The rules were never show any weakness,” Jessica O’Beirne, host of the gymnastics podcast GymCastic, told VICE News. “You don’t talk, you don’t giggle. You don’t show a lot of personality. There’s not a lot of food. You workout twice a day. There’s not a lot of time to do homework or study. Up until February 2018, you could not bring a parent or chaperone with you to the ranch.” O’Beirne added, “And the other rule was you had to see Larry for treatment.”

That’s one way Nassar exploited the system, according to Larson. He would be kind to the gymnasts, and give them snacks — even let them make fun of their coaches — but he also let them compete injured. She would hide the pain from injuries from her coaches, but not from Nassar. “Like with him we would be honest,” Larson said. “But he never really like kept us out of competition. So they definitely benefited from him. He let us compete when we were super injured.”

In 2009, Larson dislocated both her ankles and broke a foot at the same time at the ranch. “He didn’t wrap them whatsoever. I didn’t get a wheelchair. I had to stay the rest of the camp crawling on my hands and knees.” She did upper body and core exercises while her feet dangled. What did the adults do while a teenage girl crawled around them? “Nothing.”

USAG closed the ranch in January, after Simone Biles tweeted that she didn’t want to go back to the scene of her abuse. Multiple congressional committees are looking into USAG, and the Texas Rangers are investigating the ranch. USAG told VICE News it’s “cooperating fully” with the investigations, but won’t comment on the ranch amid litigation.

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Palmerston vs Larry: Cat’s fur flying in Downing Street in yet another political power struggle

Theresa May might have become British PM, but the battle for 10 Downing Street is still underway between ‪Larry the Cat and Palmerston‬ and they’re resorting to some dirty tactics


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RT (Russia Today) is a global news network broadcasting from Moscow and Washington studios. RT is the first news channel to break the 1 billion YouTube views benchmark.