The Economics Of North Korea’s Special Economic Zone

November 23, 2014 in Daily Bulletin

Rason is a Special Economic Zone in North Korea that is experimenting with free market reforms. Rudiger Frank had a chance to visit it:

  • Clothes made in Rason will have “made in China” stamped on them so that they can be sold in South Korea.
  • While in North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, the quoted exchange rate for each Euro is 132 won, in Rason it is the more realistic 10,476 won.
  • Not that it matters; transactions take place in Chinese Renminbi rather than North Korean won due to the greater stability of China’s currency.

Read about other ways that life is different, what North Koreans really think, and what this says about what an open North Korea would be like over here.

Source: Foreign Policy

Oil Prices And Donkeys

November 22, 2014 in Daily Bulletin

While oil prices are at remarkably low levels around the world, they’ve actually gone up in Iran. The BBC wrote about some of the odder changes in lifestyle this has led to:

  • Due in part to pressure from international sanctions Iran has had to cut fuel subsidies to right its budget, causing prices to go up by 75% overnight.
  • This has led to farmers giving up the use of vehicles and using donkeys for transportation instead, at times in the city.
  • A high oil price is great news for the donkeys; they’d often be abandoned during the winter as farmers couldn’t afford to keep them fed.

Read more here.

Source: BBC

Food And Gender

November 21, 2014 in Daily Bulletin

GrubHub is an online food delivery service that links up with local restaurants. James McWilliams wrote about what the company has found in an analysis of orders and gender:

  • Women are more likely to order food at work and eat it at their desk. Men are more likely to go out for lunch.
  • Men are often night owls, with their rates of ordering being substantially higher than women between 10pm and 2am.
  • Women are more likely to order juices, and frozen yogurt, while men prefer sodas and milkshakes.
  • Women like edamame, avocado rolls and plantains. Men like poutine, and Sriacha hot sauce.
  • In terms of ethnic food women prefer Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese and Korean. Men prefer Greek, Turkish, and Mediterranean.
  • When they do agree on a type of food their menu choices differ. Women will go for vegetable kormas and ensaladas, while men opt for meat samosas and chorizo sausage tacos.

Read many more details here.

Source: The Pacific Standard

Shave? Not By The Hair Of My Chinny-Chin-Chin

November 20, 2014 in Daily Bulletin

Put down the razor and join the revolution. Beards are back writes Vanessa Gera:

  • The norm for being clean-shaven is largely a result of ethos learnt during World War Two where soldiers were expected to shave.
  • Counter-cultural groups such as hippies and hipsters have thus always been proud of the beards they sport.
  • However after the financial crisis beards became more mainstream as people looked to get a fresh start on life by reinventing themselves.
  • Actors, athletes, and the fashion elite of Paris are leading the way with the facial hair they’re sprouting.
  • The general public is also encouraged to put down their razors through events like “Movember” where men grow beards and moustaches to raise awareness for men’s issues.
  • They are this generation’s tattoos; if enough people adopt them, then society will likely go back to its razors and wait for the next big thing.

Read more here. And see our earlier coverage on how stubble is bankrupting the shaving industry here.

Source: Yahoo

Craft Brewers Are Making Beer Cans Popular Again

November 19, 2014 in Daily Bulletin

Bottled beers were long associated with class and sophistication while cans were best left to the lower masses. This is no longer true writes Svati Kirsten Narula:

  • Consumption of canned beers first rose during the depths of the financial panic as incomes dropped.
  • Since then however craft brewers have driven the popularity of canned beers. Brewers like them because cans don’t let any light in or oxygen out, preserving the concoction.
  • There used to be concerns about a metallic taste back when cans were made of tin and lead. Modern aluminum cans with water based polymer linings no longer have that issue.
  • Cans are also more convenient: they are more often recycled, can be taken to venues such as sporting events where glass is banned, and are easier to manufacture.

Read about the beer that started it all, the role that marketing plays, and more over here.

Source: Quartz

Hotels Are Taking The Airline Approach To Fees

November 18, 2014 in Daily Bulletin

Mini-bars: the epitome of everything that is wrong with the travel experience? Or the model that should really define it? Scott Mayerowitz writes that hotels seem to have concluded it is the latter:

  • Hotels are now charging for things such as guaranteeing that you get a King sized bed (or two Queen sized ones), or for early check in.
  • Receiving a package can add fees as can storing luggage in the lobby.
  • Hotels make $2.25 billion in such fees, just 2% of revenue, but it’s basically pure profit.
  • Resorts have even found a way to make minibars worse. In addition to charging you $5 for a coke, they may charge you a 20% “administrative fee” for using the service.
  • Being smart and buying your own snacks to store in the fridge? You may well be charged for that as well.
  • And overpriced snacks are no longer limited to a hidden cupboard. They’ll be strewn about the desks and drawers to tempt you.

Read other fees you may end up paying, how staff are becoming better at negotiations, and more over here.

Source: Yahoo

A Table For One

November 17, 2014 in Daily Bulletin

Belinda Lanks wrote about a restaurant that encourages diners to eat alone:

  • In Amsterdam one man has launched a restaurant with only single seater tables.
  • The idea of the restaurant is that having company takes away from patrons being able to truly appreciate their food.
  • In keeping with this theme, the interior of the restaurant is raw and unfurnished to keep the focus on the food.
  • For similar reasons the restaurant also doesn’t offer Wi-Fi.
  • So that patrons aren’t bored waiting for their food alone, they are encouraged to read books while they wait.
  • Four course meals costing $48, including a drink, are served.

Read more about the restaurant how it works, and where it might end up next over here.

Source: Businessweek

Via: Marginal Revolution

Robot Security Guards

November 16, 2014 in Daily Bulletin

This is how it begins. Robot security guards may well soon be guarding our nuclear facilities. Soon Skynet will have everything in place…Rachel Metz wrote:

  • Knightscope is a startup that is building a security robot called K5.
  • The robocops are equipped with four cameras, license plate recognition ability, microphones, and a weather sensor that can monitor things such as carbon dioxide levels and ambient temperature.
  • If they detect anomalous behaviour like somebody walking when or where they shouldn’t, it’ll let a remote security hub know.
  • Its battery lasts a day, and the system is set to automatically recharge itself when required.
  • While K5 isn’t armed, if somebody tries to detain it it’ll sound an ear-piercing alarm that will perhaps dissuade the assailant and alert human security to the problem.
  • If a victim needs help they can tap the top of the robot to alert emergency personnel.
  • There are several use cases for K5. It could be an escort on demand service for people on college campuses.
  • Knightscope plans to charge $6.25 an hour for the robot’s services, or, roughly half the hourly wages that guards currently earn, in a bid to compete against them.

Read about the drone, how it works, why it’s still far from prime time, and more over here.

Source: MIT Technology Review

333355: A Number Worth $55 Million

November 14, 2014 in Daily Bulletin

Qatar is running an online auction for special vehicle license plate numbers. Elysia Windrum reported on some of the more astounding numbers:

  • Of the 19 license plate numbers being auctioned, number 333355 has attracted a bid for $55 million – and may go higher.
  • To put things in perspective, one could purchase about 20 of the Bugatti cars depicted above for that amount.
  • The BBC reports that the allure of an easy to remember number is such that in the past people have taken out loans to bid for appealing numbers.
  • Qatar set a Guinness World Record in 2006 when it auctioned off the telephone number 666-6666 for $3.7 million.
  • Winners of the license plate auction will have two days to pony up the cash or be fined $5,492.

Read about the auction, how it works, similar promotions and more over here.

Source: Doha News

Via: BBC

What It Costs To Fight ISIS

November 13, 2014 in Daily Bulletin

Uri Friedman took a look at the money being ponied up by the US in the fight against the group commonly known as ISIS:

  • The first airstrikes against ISIS began roughly 100 days ago, and the US has spent about $800 million on the campaign.
  • This comes out to $8 million a day, or $300,000 an hour to fight the extremist group in Iraq and Syria.
  • This is a bargain compared to the $200 million a day that the US spent during its 13 year campaign in Afghanistan.
  • Analysts note that if the US wants to destroy rather than merely degrade the terrorist group it will have to massively expand its military and financial commitment.

Read about the confusion over when the battle against ISIS truly began, different ISIS battle scenarios, and difficult questions facing the American government here.

Source: The Atlantic