E April Fool's Day + 1

It isn't April Fool's Day today but from the headlines you might think it is:

*A retired Italian Fiat auto worker learned he owned masterpieces by Bonnard and Gauguin hanging in his kitchen. He bought them for 45,000 lire (about $20) in 1975 at an auction of abandoned railway property. The paintings were stolen 5 years before and were listed with Interpol and other databases.

*The European Central Bank was accused of falsifying growth data to understate deflation and back continued austerity--by Swiss experts.

*The new French cabinet of Pres. François Hollande includes his ex-ex-ex mistress, Segolène Royal, mother of his 5 children, who ran for president while they were together, and was badly defeated.

*A strike by German pilots took down all planes operated by Lufthansa, the by-word for reliability.

*Cong. Paul Ryan's latest budget-balancing exercise counts savings from Obamacare to offset corporate tax cuts he plans. Ryan is committed to repealing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

*With new Google C-shares coming out tomorrow, the stock symbol for the A shares has changed from GOOG to GOOGL. Multi-share classes enable the founders to keep control. Allowing them is why Alibaba is listing here rather than in more strictly-regulated Hong Kong.

*The US Supreme Court in a 5-4 partisan ruling removed the ceiling on how much companies and unions may donate to political campaigns in the name of "free speech". Money talks.

More on M-Pesa from an Africa-born writer on our team. The Kenya-developed cellphone money transfer system by-passes banks. It can be used to invest in Old Mutual "Toboa" funds by phone using a 4-digit pin and a registered phone number.

Each investment has to be for 7,500 shillings, whereas earlier buys through banks required the investor to put up KSh 200,000. A Kenya shilling is equal to 1.2 US cents. Old Mutual is South African; M-Pesa is owned by Britain's Vodafone, but was developed in under-banked Kenya by its Safaricom sub.

Another app sells M-Kopa Solar systems for Kenyan homes which are off the electricity grid in a jv with Safaricom. Buyers get finance collaterized by a syndicated debt facility from Commercial Bank of Africa, a Kenya big bank, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other do-gooders.

Kenya customers pay back their solar loands with their phones via the huge dealer network of M-Pesa storefronts. The hope is to replace the KSh 86 bn Kenyans pay annually for dirty and unsafe kerosene for lighting their homes in rural areas without power lines.

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