September 18, 2014 in Daily Bulletin
Whelp, back to Iraq we go. This time with a touch more Gulf support. Bobby Ghosh took a look at how useful Arab militaries will actually be in the fight against the group formerly known as ISIS:
- The highest ranking military among the Gulf States belongs to Saudi Arabia which, somewhat surprisingly, is roughly as good as the Syrian military.
- Given that Syria, too, has struggled against ISIS, it’s unclear how effective Saudi Arabia will be against the terrorist group.
- While other countries in the region spend a lot on their militaries, they have very little combat experience, making their use questionable.
- This is largely because the purpose of the militaries in the oil soaked region isn’t to fight wars – it is to protect the monarchy and other sections of the elite.
- The country with the most fighting experience is Yemen which has been combating its own urgency. It is also the poorest Gulf country.
Read more about the relative military prowess of various Gulf States, as well as how Middle Eastern states outside the Gulf will fare in the return to Iraq over here.
September 17, 2014 in Daily Bulletin
Nike got together with a design firm to create a concept aircraft tailor made for athletes. Joseph Flaherty wrote about what they came up with:
- The redesigned Boeing 777 which is typically designed to handle up to 400 passengers is a lot roomier when it only has to hold 13 players and their support staff.
- The plane has distinct zones for sleep, socialization, recovery, and food.
- The socialization zone is in the area where the cargo hold would usually be.
- At the recovery zone players can get a massage in relative silence.
- The seats are labelled with a player’s own number and are designed to handle large bodies.
- Sensors onboard, including in the urinals, monitor data about each of the players and the plane can recommend things like dimmer lights or a bottle of Gatorade.
- In the in-flight entertainment system players can review game plans or watch highlights of successful performances.
- It’s worth noting that players who cross more than three time zones have a 60% chance of losing games. If teams spend hundreds of millions of dollars on training facilities, they may find such a plane to be worth the investment.
Read about the aircraft, the specialized leg sleeves to help players recover, details about the food area, and see some pretty incredible photos here.
September 16, 2014 in Daily Bulletin
Apple launched its version of a wearable watch last week. The Economist took a look at what this means for watchmakers:
- Apple is confident that it’s about to upend the watch business. Apple’s design chief has boasted about the trouble that the Swiss are in.
- Watchmakers themselves don’t seem worried. Wrists are prime real estate, especially for men where watches essentially serve as the only socially acceptable form of jewelry.
- The Apple watch lacks the style of traditional watches. Watchmakers point out that the first Apple watch will be obsolete in a year, while watchmakers sell “eternity in a box”.
- In fact, the Apple Watch may even be a boon to watchmakers as it may get the young more used to wearing watches.
- And Apple customers might be too low class for establishment players to target anyway. Watches costing less than $500 make up just 6% of revenues in the industry.
Read more about the types of watches that are most threatened, what Apple is doing to make the watches more of a fashion statement, and more over here.
Source: The Economist
September 15, 2014 in Daily Bulletin
The Chinese government has recently been on a crusade against public officials claiming extravagant expenses. This hasn’t worked out as well as the government would have liked writes The Economist:
- As a result of the effort domestic airline carriers have seen a sharp fall in profits as politicians no longer fly in first class.
- To get around this China Southern Airlines has relabeled its first class seats as business class without making any other changes.
- This should make it more palatable to bean counters who will now see ‘business’ rather than ‘first’ next to flight ticket expenses.
- Similarly hotels have requested to be downgraded from “five-star” status so that government officials continue to visit.
Read about the government’s efforts, its unintended consequences, and more over here.
Source: The Economist
September 14, 2014 in Daily Bulletin
A while back the gentlemen over at Freakonomics looked at the economics of the chicken business:
- Chicken feet used to be a value-less product for chicken farmers. They would be mixed into things like dog food.
- Then costs started to rise due to competition for chicken feed from the ethanol fuel industry. Chicken farmers looked for ways to stay afloat.
- Chicken feet are eaten in China and industry veterans realized that there was an opportunity to export them.
- These days chicken feet exported to China are basically the only profitable part of a chicken.
- During October however, the price of chicken wings surges, in what is known as the Football Effect.
Read about chicken pricing, sales, and more over here.
September 13, 2014 in Daily Bulletin
Olive Garden is now a loss-making business, and a hedge fund just released a presentation outlining everything that the company is doing wrong writes Max Nisen:
- The quality of food has declined. Pasta dishes, for example, have the sauce dumped on top of them rather than mixed in and evenly distributed, leading to variable levels of heat and taste per spoonful.
- The chain has also stopped salting the water in which the pasta is cooked in, because it was causing pots to wear out too quickly. Salted water is, of course, crucial to adding flavour to pasta.
- American burgers and Spanish Tapas are odd menu items for a chain that was once renowned for its Italian authenticity.
- The endless breadsticks largely go to waste. The hedge fund recommends serving around one breadstick per guest, and then having the server come back with more if they are being eaten, arguing that this increases customer touch points and improves satisfaction.
- Wine, a key part of the Italian dining experience, and a significant profit driver at restaurants, is hardly marketed.
Ultimately the hedge fund concludes that the chain should take steps which will both drive profits and increase customer satisfaction. Read about the problems with the chain’s frying, its takeout containers, and endless salad over here.
September 12, 2014 in Daily Bulletin
Junk food will kill you, but it’s not all bad writes Gwynn Guilford:
- If Americans were to eat the same number of calories they currently do, but ate foods according to the guidelines created by the USDA, then the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions would increase by 12%.
- This is because fat and sugar produce relatively few greenhouse gasses per calorie.
- Meanwhile dairy produces a lot of emissions, and the USDA would have Americans consume more of it.
Read about more pragmatic ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through diet, how eating meat affects the numbers, and more over here.
September 10, 2014 in Daily Bulletin
The Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant again and it’s an opportunity like no other for brands to expand their market share writes the BBC:
- Within minutes of the announcement of the pregnancy Nissan released the ad pictured above.
- It’s unlikely that Nissan and other companies spontaneously created this in response to the announcement. Instead they’d probably planned for the event in advance and had ads ready to go.
- Nissan’s probably shows seven seats just in case something like twins, triplets, or quadruplets had been announced.
- The Postal Service, for its part, noted that a ‘special delivery’ was on the way.
- Pizza Express suggested that the couple name their child pizza.
- And Lexus used the announcement of what could potentially be a baby brother to push the younger sibling of one of its own models.
See examples of brands trying to cash in on the announcement, find out why they do it, and more over here.
September 8, 2014 in Daily Bulletin
For all the technology being used in this year’s NFL season, the process used to determine the position of the ball hasn’t changed since 1907 writes Joseph Stromberg. This could change:
- Most other sports use high resolution cameras to track the location of the ball. This isn’t an option at the NFL where the ball is often blocked by players’ bodies.
- Now researchers are experimenting with using radio waves to track the ball. This system is superior to GPS or NFC because it’ll be able to track its position even in the case of a 22 man pile up.
- Aficionados might be concerned that the transmitter will affect the balance of the ball, but given that each ball is handmade anyway, there is considerable variation, and the extra weight from the transmitter will be within the bounds of the natural variation.
- The technology could also be used to help coaches track data such as a quarterback’s throwing speed for each pass.
Read about the technology, see how it’s put into a ball, hurdles to adoption, and more over here.
September 6, 2014 in Daily Bulletin
Julie Turkewitz wrote about one town that has the opportunity to live in a beer ad. They’re not very thrilled about it:
- The makers of Bud Light are turning a small town into a beer ad by flying in 1,000 youngsters and making free beer available to them for a weekend.
- The main road of the town in Colorado has also been set up with outdoor hot tubs, concert stages, and sand pits.
- The 1,000 participants were selected through a contest where people submitted videos proving that they were “up for whatever”.
- A $500,000 donation was made to the city in return for being allowed to run the publicity stunt – big bucks for a town with an annual budget of just $10 million.
- The area will be rebranded as “Whatever, U.S.A.” for the duration of the stunt.
- Residents dislike the idea, fearing that it will ruin the tranquil spirit of the vacation town.
- Defenders point out that the initiative will bring tourists, employ locals, and boost sales for local bars and restaurants.
Read more here, and find out why the deal was conducted in secret, what the donation will be used for, and what local residents have to say.
Source: The New York Times