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Green Dot today launches the smartphone-based GoBank, which will have no overdraft or penalty fees, no minimum balance and a “pay what you feel is right” monthly membership fee.

iphone_payLet’s take a step back to set this up. Lots of startup types go about their lives in search of something they can fix. “Banking!” they think. “Banking sucks! I hate all the fees and unfriendliness.”

But then they realize that banking is really hard. To do it right, you have to actually officially be a bank, which takes years, even if you can find an existing bank to buy. So startups like WePay and BankSimple (now Simple, if that tells you anything) have historically partnered with banks and offered user interfaces layered on top.

GoBank promises that it can fully bridge the two worlds. That’s because prepaid card provider Green Dot actually bought an FDIC-insured bank in Utah back in 2011, after two years of regulatory hurdles.

Then, in March, Green Dot bought Loopt, an early mobile location app maker that never had a ton of usage. But Loopt had a team of mobile developers and a strong leader in Sam Altman, one of the earliest participants in Y Combinator and a significant influence on the famous startup program as a part-time partner.

Altman said in an interview yesterday that he’s seen many a startup apply to YC over the years, trying to be a bank. But none of them were equipped to do it. “This is a product I’ve always wanted to build,” he said, “and it was just starting up when we were talking to Green Dot.”

Altman said it should take approximately four minutes to set up a GoBank account, and it can be done from a mobile phone. Starting today, GoBank plans to let 10,000 U.S. users in for a beta test, and expand from there.

GoBank charges for just four things: Putting a personal photo on your debit card ($9), going to an out-of-network ATM ($2.50), spending money in another country (3 percent), and paying your membership fee (whatever you want, a la Radiohead or Humble Bundle).

SamAltmanGoBankBut it promises that it has a huge network of fee-free ATMs — 40,000, more than twice as many as Chase and Bank of America.

The iPhone and Android apps also include budget tools (including a silly “fortune teller” feature that makes judgment calls on new purchases), an option to see your balance without logging in, bill payments and ways to send money to people outside the network through PayPal. Savings accounts and mobile alerts are also included.

The idea of allowing people to pay whatever they want for banking is an odd one. It might make sense in the context of thinking about the human appreciation you have for an artist like Radiohead, but this is a bank we’re talking about. Users can pay anywhere from $0 to $9 per month.

Altman said he likes the challenge. “We’re accountable to deliver a service that users think is worth something.”

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An anonymous reader writes "Last night, Google held its Pwnium 2 competition at Hack in the Box 2012, offering up a total of $2 million for security holes found in Chrome. Only one was discovered; a young hacker who goes by the alias 'Pinkie Pie' netted the highest reward level: a $60,000 cash prize and a free Chromebook (the second time he pulled it off). Google today patched the flaw and announced a new version of Chrome for Windows, Mac, and Linux."


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As 2011 draws to a close, Framework looks back on an eventful, tumultuous year, documented by the photojournalists of the Los Angeles Times.

It was a year marked by the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan; the Arab Spring in North Africa and the Middle East, with rebel uprisings and hard-fought battles resulting in the fall of Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, and the capture and death of Libya’s Moammar Kadafi; and the humanitarian crisis of continued famine in Africa.

2011 also saw the somber 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks of 2001; the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement; the royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in London and their subsequent Southland visit; and the involuntary manslaughter trial, conviction and sentencing of Michael Jackson’s personal physician.

Carmageddon in Los Angeles, anticipated with dire predictions of monumental gridlock, turned out to be not so disruptive after all.

Almost nine years after the invasion of Iraq, the war was declared officially over with the withdrawal of all U.S. combat troops and their return home — in time for the holidays, no less.

As always, the worlds of entertainment, sports and celebrity are part of the gallery, adding a light, colorful touch to a memorable year.

Enjoy the look back with us, and have a wonderful 2012.

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Ahmed Harara is a dentist. While protesting during the Egyptian revolution in January, he was struck in the eye by a rubber bullet. Blinded in that eye, he continued to protest. Then, during the November protests in Tahrir Square, Ahmed was shot in his other eye by a rubber bullet. Now he is completely blind.

But he kept protesting.

Harara is one of more than a hundred protesters around the world photographed by TIME contract photographer Peter Hapak. From Oakland, Calif., to New York City, across Europe and through the Middle East, Hapak and I traveled nearly 25,000 miles photographing protesters and activists from eight countries.

We photographed protesters representing Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Oakland, Occupy the Hood, Los Indignados of Spain, protesters in Greece, revolutionaries in Tunisia and Egypt, activists from Syria fleeing persecution, a crusader fighting corruption in India, Tea Party activists from New York, a renowned poet turned protester from Mexico and a protester from Wisconsin who carries a shovel, topped by a flag.

We set up makeshift studios in hotel rooms, apartments and people’s homes, inside a temple in rural India and an anarchist headquarters in Athens — even in the courtyard of the home of Mannoubia Bouazizi, the mother of Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi. Tear gas wafted into our studio in a hotel room overlooking Tahrir Square — the same room where Yuri Kozyrev made a now iconic photograph of the crowd.

Each time, we asked subjects to bring with them mementos of protest. Rami Jarrah, a Syrian activist who fled to Cairo, brought his battered iPhone. He showed me some of the most intense protest footage I’ve ever seen. A Spanish protester named Stephane Grueso brought his iPhone too, referring to it as a “weapon.” Young Egyptian protesters brought rubber pellets that had been fired at them by security forces. Another brought a spent tear-gas canister. Subjects carried signs, flags and gas masks (some industrial ones, some homemade, like the one belonging to Egyptian graffiti artist El Teneen — his was made from a Pepsi can). A trio of Greek protesters brought Maalox. (Mixed with water, it was sprayed on their eyes to counter the harsh effects of tear gas.) Molly Katchpole, the young woman from Washington, D.C., who took on Bank of America — and won — brought her chopped-up debit card. Sayda al-Manahe brought a framed photograph of her son Hilme, a young Tunisian killed by police during the revolution. El Général, the Tunisian revolutionary rapper, brought nothing but his voice — he rapped a cappella for us (we have video). Lina Ben Mhenni, a blogger from Tunisia and a Nobel Peace Prize contender, brought her laptop. She spoke Arabic, yet we understood the words Facebook and Twitter.

Each subject was photographed in front of a white or black background — eliminating their environments but elevating their commonality to that of “Protester,” a fitting setup for a group of people united by a common desire for change.

“They were all unhappy. They wanted change, and they wanted a better life,” Hapak said. “Everybody is out there to unite their power for one common cause, one common expression: to get a better life.”

Witty is the international picture editor at TIME.

Hapak is a contract photographer for TIME, who most recently photographed Tilda Swinton for the Dec. 19, 2011, issue.

MORE: See the entire 2011 Person of the Year package here

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The Occupy Wall Street movement continues to grow and has now spread across the world, motivating thousands to voice their anger at financial and social inequality, and in some places merging with existing anti-government protests. On Saturday, a global "Day of Rage" was observed, and demonstrations took place in more than 80 countries around the world. Protesters took their messages and anger to the streets from Hong Kong to Fairbanks, from Miami to London, from Berlin to Sydney, and hundreds more cities large and small. The demonstrations were largely peaceful -- with the exception of some violent clashes in Rome. Collected here are some images from the past several days as the Occupy Wall Street message continues to resonate and grow. [50 photos]

A participant protests with a mock 500 euro bill during a demonstration to support the "Occupy Wall Street" movement in Munich southern Germany, on October 15, 2011. Protestors gathered at many major European cities Saturday to join in demonstrations against corporate greed and inequality.(AP Photo/Joerg Koch)

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What started in NewYork City in mid September, a call to "flood lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street," has continued to feed similar groups around the United States taking up the name and cause. Groups have gathered to bring attention to many issues, with a central focus on the economic hardships and inequality they say many Americans face. -- Lloyd Young (35 photos total)
Occupy Boston demonstrators block an entrance to the Federal Reserve Bank behind a police line in Boston Oct. 8. (Michael Dwyer/Associated Press)

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It's now been three weeks since the "Occupy Wall Street" protests began in New York City's Financial District, and the movement has grown, spreading to other cities in the U.S. Protesters have organized marches, rallies, and "occupations" from Boston to Boise, Los Angeles to New Orleans, Seattle to Tampa. Using social media, handmade signs, and their voices, they are voicing anger at financial and social inequality and protesting the influence of corporate money in politics. Seattle police recently arrested 25 protesters camping out in Westlake Park, following on the heels of 700 arrests on New York's Brooklyn Bridge last week. Collected here are a some of the scenes from these protests across the U.S. over the past week, as the movement moves forward with no signs of slowing. [44 photos]

Protestors march through downtown Boise, Idaho, Wednesday October 5, 2011. Activists have been showing solidarity with movement in many cities, including Occupy Boise. More than 100 people withstood an afternoon downpour in Idaho's capital to protest. (AP Photo, Idaho Statesman/Darin Oswald)

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