October 31, 2014 in Daily Bulletin
Soon after Apple Pay launched retailers such as CVS announced that it would not work on their systems. Why would shops resist an easier way for customers to give them money? Davey Alba explained:
- MCX is a group of retailers who agreed to develop their own mobile payment solution, long before Apple Pay had been announced or discussed.
- Having signed up to it, it is possible that members would have to pay a fine if they adopted any other solution – although MCS states that this is not the case.
- MCX’s solution is more attractive to retailers since it ties directly to bank accounts rather than going through credit cards, cutting down on the fees that have to be paid by merchants and customers.
- In contrast Apple is believed to get a cut of every Apple Pay transaction, making it lucrative for the technology company, though not so much for retailers.
- Retailers also prefer MCX because they’ll have access to the shopping data and use it to offer promotions and discounts to customers. Apple Pay does not allow for this.
Read about the hurdles that the MCX solution faces, the technical differences between the two, and more over here.
October 30, 2014 in Daily Bulletin
France has long been known for its custom of topless sunbathing. It’s not as frequent anymore and Morwenna Ferrier looked into why:
- Concerns about skin cancer have made the activity seem less appealing.
- Going topless used to be seen as a sign of class and female liberalization. These days however with mainstream culture increasingly “pornified” it seems less innocent.
- Sunbathers also have to deal with photos of them being immortalized on the internet through social media.
- Breasts have, in some cases, become political statements. The group Femen uses them to attract attention to various causes, and this can make stripping on the beach seem like a political statement.
- And then there’s the lure of traditional romance. One writer notes that covering up “makes uncovering them for a lover more interesting”
Read more about the countries where topless sunbathing is still popular, what French commentators have to say, and why gravity is a significant concern over here.
Source: The Guardian
October 29, 2014 in Daily Bulletin
Turns out that the politics of seating arrangements at Washington social events are not too distant from the politics in Game of Thrones in terms of drama, complexity, and the possibility of longstanding family feuds. Roxanne Roberts wrote:
- Traditionally the host and hostess of a Washington dinner event are seated apart, and guests of honour are carefully placed around the two.
- There is an established hierarchy of importance. The President has the highest rank and gets the best seat, next to the hosts. Then come foreign leaders, the Vice President, Governors, and on the list goes.
- Wives are treated as if they held the rank of their husbands.
- Married and dating couples are seated separately, but engaged couples sit together as it is assumed that they’re too smitten by one another to be apart.
- Everybody knows this protocol, and their ranking. If a guest feels that they’ve been seated at a lower position than they should have been, one should expect the grudge to last for years.
- Experts who know the protocol can be brought in to advise on what the seating arrangement should be.
- But things will likely change at the last minute. Cancellations are common, and guests will have to be rearranged so that they’re not sitting alone at their table if their dinner companions are late.
- Despite all the complexities, figuring out dinner seating arrangements isn’t nearly as difficult as funeral arrangements. At President Reagan’s funeral a fight broke out when a staffer was upset that their seat wasn’t in the camera shot.
Read about the headaches caused by people who simply change their seat to get a better table, a mock case study which shows how guests should be seated, how the Obamas have shaken things up, and much more in a fascinating article here.
Source: The Washington Post
October 28, 2014 in Daily Bulletin
Procter & Gamble is going to sell off its venerable Duracell brand. Max Nisen argued that this showed that the days of batteries are numbered:
- Sales of Duracell have been declining for a while and last year they shrunk 4.6%.
- People used to use batteries for their flashlights, music players, and gaming devices. The smartphone with its rechargeable battery has replaced all of them.
- TV remote controls also suck up a lot of batteries. But with systems like the Xbox and SmartGlass people are increasingly using other means to control their televisions.
- All of this is probably good for the environment. Batteries are usually thrown away and contain various chemicals that end up in landfills.
Read more about Procter & Gamble’s logic, and how second placed competitor Energizer is responding to the same market conditions over here.
October 27, 2014 in Daily Bulletin
Due to rising sea levels, several countries are threatened with extinction. Latif Nasser wrote about what this means for what is often the country’s most valuable resource: their water rights.
- The UN law of the sea defines a country’s waters as those within 200 nautical miles of its shore.
- These waters can be lucrative. The fishing rights alone can be worth several billion a year.
- There is a catch though. A country can’t claim the waters around a rocky outcropping that might formally be a part of its territory.
- Instead it must properly be defined as an island, which, among other things, requires that it be able to sustain human habitation on its own.
- The problem is that as sea levels rise, several countries may no longer meet the definition of an island, and lose the lucrative rights to their waters.
- As countries will likely erect artificial ocean barriers, one possible solution is to redefine islands to include those which allow for human habitation through manmade structures.
- Another is to freeze maritime boundaries as they currently exist so that they don’t constantly have to be remapped and the economic viability of small sinking states isn’t threatened.
- The United Nations could also recognize a new type of country: the deterritorialized state. These states could continue to call themselves a country, and hold onto their maritime rights, even if they no longer have any land to call their own.
- The problem with all of these solutions is that they would require changes in international laws. And since the countries that most need it have little geopolitical clout it is unlikely that they could effect change in time.
- Instead countries will likely have to sell their maritime rights, in exchange for land from other countries to establish a new state.
Read about Kiribati, a country that is currently living this dilemma, how it has tried to resolve it, how groups such as the Knights of Malta might lead the way, and much more in what is a well written and exhaustive article on the subject over here.
Source: The Boston Globe
October 26, 2014 in Daily Bulletin
Only 499 LaFerrari supercars, the most powerful street legal car built by Ferrari, were made. Jordan Golson wrote about what it took to buy one:
- It’s not enough to be a celebrity and to have a lot of money. Various famous people have had their requests turned down.
- The campaign to own a Ferrari begins well in advance of the car’s delivery. All 499 cars were sold before they were even announced.
- To own the car you have to show yourself to be a loyal Ferrari customer. To have any hope of getting one you have to have at least five other Ferraris – although more are recommended.
- But there are thousands of people that meet this criteria. You also have to get a letter of recommendation from the local Ferrari dealer.
- If high level corporate figures approve your application you’re merely told that you’ll get one without any clear idea about when the delivery will be made.
- While it may seem odd that Ferrari is rewarding loyal customers by giving them the privilege to pay the company an additional million plus dollars, since the cars will appreciate in value they’re a pretty good deal.
Read about what it’s like to be in the shoes of a prospective LaFerrari owner, why owners must be willing to accept it as a work of art, and not focus on things such as mileage, and why it’s a rather dangerous car to drive one over here.
October 25, 2014 in Daily Bulletin
Studies in the west have found that taller people make more money than shorter ones, on average, due to subconscious biases. In China the preference for height is explicit and institutionalized, writes The Economist:
- In China your pay can, in part, be determined by your height. Taller security guards, for example, are offered more money than shorter ones because they are more intimidating.
- However discrimination exists in fields where height makes no difference. Job postings will sometimes include a height requirement, such as for being a cleaner.
- Even if a height requirement isn’t listed, Chinese applicants will note their height and weight on their resumes.
- For women each centimeter of height above the mean leads to a 2% increase in pay.
- The military’s preference for height has gotten to a point where soldiers are becoming too tall for the tanks they drive.
- This prejudice is exacerbating income inequality. Taller people are more likely to come from wealthy backgrounds. They then get nicer jobs, and raise their children in an environment that allows them to grow even taller.
Read about the university that has a height preference for students, the regional height differences within China, and what this all means for the country over here.
Source: The Economist
October 24, 2014 in Daily Bulletin
A couple posted data about how marriage affected the text messages that the two sent each other:
- After marriage, the frequency of the term “love” and “hey” fell, while the usage of “home”, “dinner”, and “ok” rose.
- Surprisingly the two also stopped using each other’s first name, abandoning any form of greeting.
- Before marriage the two texted between 3pm and 3am. After marriage they texted during working hours and rarely texted at night.
- The differences mostly stem from the fact that before marriage, the couple weren’t sure of seeing each other every day, and so things such as “I love you” had to be said via text.
Read more about how the couple’s relationship evolved from dating, to the period of engagement, to marriage, and see some charts which may well generalize across most couples here.
Source: A Dash Of Data
October 23, 2014 in Daily Bulletin
Sales of hot pockets are nose-diving. The excellent Venessa Wong looked at what went wrong:
- In a time of increasing health consciousness consumers are turning away from the pastries famous for the gooey mix of meat and cheese within.
- In response the makers of hot pockets tried to rebrand the product emphasizing the ‘premium’ cuts of meat and ‘real’ cheese contained within. It hasn’t worked.
- A beef recall further dented the product’s reputation.
- One of the biggest factors affecting sales however might be the expiration of extended food stamp benefits.
- The frozen pockets are fairly economical, with each one costing less than a dollar, making them popular with lower income individuals.’
- Hot pockets aren’t the only food affected. The expiration of federal subsidies is changing the supermarket landscape.
Find out about the failing Funny or Die marketing campaign, what executives have to say, and more over here.
Source: Bloomberg BusinessWeek
October 21, 2014 in Daily Bulletin
Dubai is considering building the next generation of ambulances wrote Alex Davies:
- The wealthy emirate is looking into Lotus Evoras and a pair of Ford Mustangs to act as emergency response vehicles.
- With a top speed of 260 Km/h the “ambulances” should be able to get to the scene of incidents much quicker than typical vehicles.
- Given that the cars don’t really have room to carry patients, they would instead be equipped with emergency medical equipment to stabilize patients until slower ambulances got to the scene.
- Experts (sourpusses) point out that the money is being wasted entirely since after a certain point, response times actually matter very little in determining patient outcomes.
- They also note that emergency vehicles travelling at several hundred kilometers per hour through a crowded metropolis could well create more patients than they help.
Read about the vehicles, what the government things, what the experts know, and more over here.