WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Tuesday it would be a mistake if the Federal Reserve raises interest rates when it meets next week, as it is expected to do, continuing his criticism of the U.S. central bank.
U.S. President Donald Trump looks on as Jerome Powell, his nominee to become chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, speaks at the White House in Washington, U.S., November 2, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
“I think that would be foolish, but what can I say?” Trump told Reuters in an interview.
Trump said he needed the flexibility of lower interest rates to support the broader U.S. economy as he fights a growing trade battle against China, and potentially other countries.
“You have to understand, we’re fighting some trade battles and we’re winning. But I need accommodation too,” he said.
Trump named Jerome Powell as Fed chairman, but has repeatedly railed against him since he took over as head of the U.S. central bank last February. Trump in August told Reuters that he was not “thrilled” with Powell’s raising interest rates.
Trump was more conciliatory in his comments about Powell on Tuesday, but still criticized the policies of the man he chose for the top Fed job.
“I think he’s a good man. I think he’s trying to do what he thinks is best. I disagree with him,” Trump said. “I think he’s being too aggressive, far too aggressive, actually far too aggressive.”
When asked whether he was concerned there might be a recession when he was running for re-election in 2020, Trump noted that other factors in the world could affect the economy, including Britain’s plans to leave the European Union, known as Brexit, and the unrest in France.
“Well, you have problems in the world, like Brexit, like France – a big problem in France. It’s shocking to see what’s going on in Paris,” Trump said, referring to anti-government protests that have targeted his French counterpart, President Emmanuel Macron.
Macron this week made major concessions to try and quell the protests that have rocked France, announcing wage increases for the poorest workers and a tax cut for most pensioners.
“Are we heading for a recession?” Trump said. “In my opinion, we are doing really well. Our companies are doing really well. If the Fed is going to act reasonably and rationally, I think we’ll go – I think we are a rocket ship going up.”
Reporting by Roberta Rampton, Jeff Mason and Steve Holland; Editing by Leslie Adler
The global oil market is going through a metamorphosis, and if the signs are right, a possible long-term partnership between OPEC and its former rivals, especially Russia, looks to be forming.
UAE Minister of Energy, and OPEC chairman, Al Mazrouie reported yesterday that Saudi Arabia has proposed a conference to institutionalize an OPEC and non-OPEC Alliance. Al Mazrouie indicated that there will be a cooperation agreement signed between non-OPEC, led by Russia, and OPEC in the next three months. Next to this, the UAE minister said that “the declaration of co-operation will be used as a base and will be hopefully finalized in the next three months”.
Looking forward, more developments can be expected after the signing of the March 2019 agreement. With the Christmas season in mind, the statement indicates that for 2019 the “Three Kings” will not be meeting on the 7th of January (as the Christian Holy Calendar indicates) but the OPEC – Non-OPEC Kings will be waiting for another 2 months. A new child seems to be born that day, presenting the global oil market with a fait-a-compli only to be strengthened by a formal new organizational structure, ending the current OPEC producers alliance and replacing it with a much stronger NOPEC.
Analysts have already been talking about a full restructuring of the oil cartel for years, with some even predicting a doomsday scenario based on Peak Oil or Renewables. Others have been assessing the option of a new NOPEC, including Russia and others into the cartel. Al Mazrouie bluntly stated that he is unconcerned about exits from the group following Qatar’s departure. The impact of members leaving the cartel in the last couple of years, with Qatar as the most recent example, is unlikely to erode the cartel’s influence on global oil markets. OPEC’s main producers, led by Saudi Arabia, already have been actively assessing and supporting a potential NOPEC approach for years. The importance of such a new alliance should not be underestimated. By taking Russia on board as a member, OPEC’s grip on the oil market would increase substantially, looking at the current Russian production volumes. By allowing minor producers, such as Qatar, to leave and at the same time sidelining Iran, the effective power is in the hands of the new Triumvirate (Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Moscow). A possible inclusion of Russia, officially or unofficially, will increase the production levels of OPEC+ by around 11+ million bpd. At the same time, other options also still exist, as Azerbaijan, Egypt and others could be looking to join too. Related: Former Venezuelan General Takes Helm Of OPEC
A stronger NOPEC also will be able to diminish U.S. claims of energy market dominance. Already, U.S. president Trump’s claims are based on the wrong assumptions, as true energy dominance remains a long shot. Demand for OPEC oil continues to be strong and is predicted to increase in the next couple of years. At present, the real impact of U.S. energy and shale oil production is most likely overestimated by the media. Overall market fundamental power of U.S. shale oil is less, especially when taking into consideration that the U.S. has virtually no spare capacity. OPEC or NOPEC have an existing spare production capacity, and the capability to act as a swing producer to stabilize the market. U.S. shale does not have the same capabilities, based on technical and geological factors.
A stronger NOPEC is also needed to counter or mitigate the current market developments. OPEC’s current production cut agreement is NOT enough. To counter the market sentiment at present a real cut should be made of around 1.7-1.9 million bpd. This will not be taken for granted by the market, as most of the parties are still questioning the OPEC-Russia cooperation. When formalizing or institutionalizing the cooperation, maybe by a full membership of a new organization, statements are taken as a fact, not as a political view or media proposition. The new NOPEC could grow into a powerful organization which offers counterweight to a booming U.S. shale sector
The explosion in online shopping has led to porch pirates and stoop surfers swiping holiday packages from unsuspecting residents. The cops in one New Jersey city are trying to catch the thieves with some trickery of their own.
Police in Jersey City, across the Hudson River from New York, are teaming up with Amazon to install doorbell cameras and plant dummy boxes with GPS tracking devices at homes around the city.
They didn’t have to wait long Tuesday for someone to take the bait.
“We had a box out on the street for three minutes before it was taken,” said police Capt. James Crecco, who is overseeing the mission. “We thought it was a mistake at first.”
The suspect was caught, Crecco added.
Exact figures on porch thefts are hard to come by. A company commissioned by comparison-shopping service insuranceQuotes.com surveyed 1,000 people and extrapolated that 26 million Americans have had a holiday package stolen from their home. That would be nearly one in 12 Americans.
Amazon — which is providing equipment free for the Jersey City program — declined to provide figures on how many packages are reported stolen or missing, as did UPS and FedEx.
“We absolutely report them to local law enforcement when we hear of them, and we encourage our customers to do the same,” UPS spokesman Glenn Zaccara said.
Jersey City Police Chief Michael Kelly told The Associated Press that the locations for cameras and boxes were selected using the city’s own crime statistics and mapping of theft locations provided by Amazon.
“Most of the package thefts we’ve made arrests on revolve around (closed-circuit TV) or private surveillance cameras that give us a still image,” Kelly said. “With the bait packages, some will be under video surveillance, and some will have GPS.”
No homeowner is immune. Crecco said his mother was a victim of a package theft. So was Mayor Steven Fulop, according to his spokeswoman.
Members of the police department who live in the city volunteered to have the cameras and boxes placed at their homes.
Kelly said the program has undergone a legal review and has been approved by a municipal prosecutor. He said the city is hoping to expand the program with assistance from Amazon, the nation’s largest online retailer.
Amazon declined to answer questions about the anti-theft program but said in a statement, “We appreciate the increased effort by local law enforcement to tackle package theft and remain committed to assisting however we can.”
Similar programs have been tried in other cities including Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Hayward, California.
E-commerce sales have been growing faster than sales at brick-and-mortar retailers for several years. Online sales in the U.S. are forecast to increase 14.8 percent from last year, to $124.1 billion, for November and December, according to Adobe Analytics, which tracks online spending.
The Postal Service expects to deliver about 900 million packages, and United Parcel Service forecasts it will handle about 800 million parcels between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
That is causing a spike in deliveries to houses and apartments. Sometimes the residents aren’t home or aren’t aware that a package has been dropped off.
The delivery companies provide services that could offer some protection against porch thefts. The boldest might be Amazon’s Key service, in which homeowners pay to have a cloud-connected lock and camera installed at the front door, allowing an Amazon delivery person to unlock the door and slide the package inside.
Plenty of people went on social media to raise privacy and security objections after Amazon announced that service, but the company is betting that others will decide it’s convenient.
Some other strategies for foiling snatch-and-run thieves require picking up packages at a company store, which defeats the purpose of at-home delivery.
To avoid parcels being left outside during extended absences, the post office has long allowed customers to set up hold-mail requests.
UPS and FedEx let customers sign up for alerts about deliveries and give them the chance to reschedule or change the drop-off address even for deliveries already on their way. They let customers leave detailed instructions for drivers about where around the house to leave a package.
The delivery companies will also let customers pick up packages at other businesses. FedEx, for example, uses some Albertsons and Kroger grocery stores and Walgreens drugstores.
— Have packages delivered to a workplace or a friend who is home during the day.
— Ask if a signature can be required for the package to be dropped off, particularly if it’s an expensive item.
— Doorbell cameras, some for $100 or less, let residents keep an eye on their porch, which might not stop a thief but perhaps give police video evidence to help catch the culprit.
— There are services that use a locked storage box bolted to the customer’s porch; delivery drivers can unlock them by entering a code on a keypad.
Associated Press business writers David Koenig in Dallas and Anne D’Innocenzio in New York contributed to this story.
Altria, the parent company of tobacco giant Philip Morris whose $1.8 billion investment in a cannabis company was announced Friday, has over the past five years quietly patented dozens of devices that could be used to consume marijuana, a review of public documents at the US Patent and Trademark Office shows.
Altria’s patents and patent applications carry one of several generic descriptions, including “electronic cigarette,” “electronic smoking article,” “e-vaping” device, and “electronic vaping device.”
“They see a downturn in the tobacco industry, and they see this humongous upside in the cannabis industry.”
Michael Cohen, intellectual property lawyer
Many of them bear striking similarities to vape pens and other devices used to consume cannabis that are already on the market, according to patent attorneys and an independent product manufacturer who reviewed the patent filings at the request of Leafly News.
Exactly what Altria plans to do with its new intellectual property is uncertain. The company did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story. But intellectual property experts noted that the number and breadth of the patents involved mean Altria could conceivably seek to charge competitors licensing fees or knock them out of the market entirely.
“What’s clear is that they’re making a play at the vaporizer market,” said Larry Sandell, a Washington, DC–based patent attorney. “This will be a good way to achieve dominance in that market.”
“They certainly have the force with litigation to sue people for patent infringement and try to knock others out of the market,” he added. “I can’t say whether it captures most of what’s out there on the market without looking at each individual patent, but [the number of patents] tells me they’re investing substantial resources and making a real strong play here.”
Generally, companies use patents either to secure licensing fees from other entities or to seek damages in court from companies that use their patented technology without permission. In order for a patent to be enforced, and thus have value for its owner, it must survive any challenges that arise in an infringement lawsuit. Such legal proceedings can be lengthy and costly endeavors, usually undertaken by big companies with deep pockets.
Taken as a whole with Altria’s recent investment in a Canadian cannabis producer and its earlier patent of a “terpene-producing plant,” the company’s patent flurry looks exactly like what a company looking to stake a claim in the marijuana industry would do, observers said.
“I think it’s certainly an indication” of the company’s intentions, said Nicole Grimm, a Chicago-based patent attorney.
“I don’t know of any one company with patents broad enough to cover tobacco, cannabis, and herbal-type devices,” she added. “Those patents have been around for a while, and there’s a chance some of them might be expired.”
Speaking at an investors’ conference in Boston this past fall, Altria executives said that the company is “exploring our options” in the marijuana space.
“As you know, cannabis remains illegal under federal law, and we intend to continue to comply with federal law,” said Murray Garnick, the company’s executive vice president and general counsel. “Having said that, we are exploring our options, and we’re mindful of the possibility that in the future, cannabis may no longer be illegal under federal law.”
While none of the device patents secured by the company mention the words “cannabis” or “marijuana,” patent attorneys and product creators interviewed for this article said Altria’s patents are broad enough—and there are enough of them—for the company to potentially capture as intellectual property many popular cannabis vaporizing devices on the market.
On the Sidelines No Longer
Combined with Altria’s $1.8 billion in Cronos, a licensed Canadian cannabis producer, the patent filings suggest Altria has for years been quietly laying the groundwork to make a bold and broad claim for a large share of the burgeoning legal marijuana market.
“They see the market,” said Michael Cohen, a Los Angeles-based intellectual property attorney who also reviewed the patent filings. “They see a downturn in the tobacco industry, and they see this humongous upside in the cannabis industry. That’s happening.”
Even as cigarette consumption steadily declines in the United States, tobacco companies’ revenue has remained remarkably stable. Altria’s revenue has hovered around $25 billion for the past three years, according to market data.
“What’s clear is that they’re making a play at the vaporizer market.”
Larry Sandell, patent lawyer
Recent trends, however, could spell future trouble for the tobacco industry. Even with the well publicized popularity of e-cigarettes, including the popular JUUL device—developed by a San Francisco–based firm that initially developed vaporizers designed for marijuana—overall consumption of tobacco products among young people has steadily decreased over the past decade, based on to data from the Centers for Disease Control.
According to an online database kept by the US Patent and Trademark Office, Altria holds 41 patents for devices that can be used to “vaporize” a material, according to the patents’ descriptions.
Applications were filed as early as 2013, records show. The first patent was issued in 2013; the most recent was issued on Dec. 4, 2018.
The company also has 51 other patent applications for “vaporizers” and another 70 applications for devices that can “vaporize” a substance, Leafly’s review found.
Vaporizers consist of a battery that produces heat and an apparatus, such as a coil, that delivers that heat to a tank or container, which is filled with some vaporizable material, whether a solid or a liquid. By nature of their simple design, the devices in Altria’s patents are “product agnostic,” Sandell said. “They don’t care what you put in them.”
But patent examiners will care that existing devices used for cannabis—currently available online and at most smoke shops in urban areas, with or without legal marijuana—are similar to Altria’s patented devices. And ultimately, it could cost those manufacturers.
“Cannabis guys historically simply used [existing] e-cig devices with their oil, and it just worked for the most part,” said Dan Fung, a New York-based device maker who has applied for a patent for a vaporizing device that takes two cartridges at once (and thus, he hopes, is different enough from Altria’s patents to be deemed his own intellectual property).
Other marijuana device makers, Fung said, “will likely have tons of issues going up against [Altria’s] filings, which appear broadly written enough so that they’ll cause problems for the cannabis vape IP filings.”
One leading vaporizer brand, Pax, has patents on three versions of its proprietary devices meant to vaporize cannabis flower. But the company’s popular Pax Era, which vaporizes cannabis concentrate, isn’t mentioned on the company’s IP page. Pax declined to comment for this story.
‘Capture the Market’
Similar to the rapid rise in popularity of e-cigarettes, vaporizing cannabis oil is considered by most market observers to be the fastest-growing segment of the estimated $10 billion marijuana market.
“The company that will bring out the first marihuana smoking devices, be a cigarette or some other form, will capture the market.”
confidential 1969 letter to Philip Morris
In recent years, vaporizers have made their way into the hands and minds of celebrities, including actress and “wellness” entrepreneur Gwyneth Paltrow, whose Goop brand has devoted space to several different brands of vaporizer.
Meanwhile, major alcohol brands, such as Constellation Brands and Molson Coors, have already made large investments in publicly traded cannabis companies based in Canada. Even Coca-Cola has indicated interest in getting involved. By contrast, tobacco companies, including Altria, whose brands include Marlboro, Nat Sherman, and Black & Mild, have so far steered away from the cannabis industry—at least publicly.
But a closer look reveals that Altria’s patent flurry isn’t entirely without precedent. In 2016, reports arose that the company invested $20 million in an Israel-based firm, Syqe, that makes 3D-printed inhalers for consuming cannabis.
Altria also owns specific plant technology, having secured a patent for a “terpenoid-producing plant.” Terpenoids, or terpenes, are the essential oils in plants that grant them unique scent and taste. In cannabis, terpenes are increasingly understood to modulate marijuana’s effects on the body and mind.
Not mentioning cannabis specifically in the patents was most likely a deliberate choice for Altria, “because they don’t want to reveal themselves as a company involved in marijuana or the cannabis industry,” said Cohen, the Los Angeles–based intellectual property lawyer. “But they are clearly anticipating in the future there will be a move in which federal prohibition will go away, and they’re setting themselves up for that. It’s pretty obvious they’re doing that.”
Other hints sprinkled in Altria’s patent language led experts consulted for this article to believe that Altria’s technology could capture popular marijuana consumption devices, they said.
In addition to liquids containing nicotine, for instance, Altria’s patented devices can be used to consume “a non-tobacco material and/or may be nicotine free,” according to a description found in several of the patents. “For example, the liquid may include water, solvents, ethanol, plant extracts, and natural or artificial flavors.”
Such a description would apply to cannabis vape pens cartridges, which usually run between $40 and $60 on average and contain a plant extract—cannabis oil—as well as some residual solvents and cannabis terpenes for flavor.
Altria has a colossal claim on intellectual property. According to its most recent annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company has 7,800 registered patents and 7,700 pending patent applications—including the vaporizer technology.
And the desire to patent cannabis-related consumer products appears generations old.
As early as the late 1960s and early 1970s, Philip Morris executives have eyed marijuana as a potential growth opportunity. In a confidential 1969 letter to Philip Morris’s research laboratories, Alfred Berger, a professor overseeing the Phillip Morris Fellowship in Chemistry at the University of Virginia, wrote: “The company that will bring out the first marihuana smoking devices, be a cigarette or some other form, will capture the market and be in a better position than its competitors to satisfy the legal public demand for such products.”
Never underestimate the market-moving potential of a nagging child. “Mom, Dad, I want THIS for Christmas!” is a phrase that each year leads to billions of dollars of toy sales. And it’s a phrase parents can appreciate, because knowing what your kid actually wants to find under the tree helps minimize Christmas morning tears. Toy manufacturers and retailers spend millions of dollars each year to make sure their products are the ones on everyone’s wishlist, with TV and online ads, special retail displays, and old-fashioned toy catalogs.
The stakes are particularly high this holiday season, since one-time retail juggernaut Toys R Us closed all its US locations earlier this year. Even while its sales were declining, Toys R Us still accounted for around 12 percent of the estimated $27 billion total toy sales in 2017, according to Juli Lennett of NPD Group, the leading toy industry analysts in the US.
With Toys R Us gone, those sales are up for grabs, and Amazon wants them. The digital-first company was already beating Toys R Us in market share. And while it alone was not responsible for the demise of Toys R Us—poor business decisions and its sizable debt were also to blame—Amazon did put intense pressure on the toy store chain with extremely low prices, especially during the past few holidays seasons, using its familiar tactic of sacrificing profit for market share. Toys R Us couldn’t compete. Now Amazon hopes to feed from the carcass.
And so the ecommerce giant went retro this holiday season, mailing out its first-ever print toy catalog, like the one Toys R Us used to be known for. The “Holiday of Play” lookbook from Amazon is 68 pages long and features toys like the über-popular LOL! Surprise dolls, LEGO’s Star Wars Solo, and the Osmos Genius Kit for iPad. An Amazon representative told WIRED the catalog was sent it to millions of customers in November, but wouldn’t give exact numbers. It’s also available at Whole Foods and some physical Amazon store locations, or online in PDF and Kindle form.
“The great thing about a catalog is that it sits on the coffee table, where kids can find it.”
Steve Pasierb, The Toy Association
The catalog may be made of paper, but it’s designed as a gateway to a digital transaction. What it lacks in pricing information it makes up in QR codes and stickers that kids can use to make note of presents they want their parents to buy. It also works with the Amazon app: Take a photo of the catalog item you (or your kids) want, and the app will pull up the listing and let you buy it from your phone.
“The great thing about a catalog is that it sits on the coffee table, where kids can find it,” says Steve Pasierb, CEO of The Toy Association, a trade group representing American toy manufacturers. “The catalog is a market share play. Amazon has a huge chance to win a lot of those holiday sales.”
Amazon’s top competitors for Toys R Us’ sales are Target and Walmart, according to experts—traditional retailers that have mailed out holiday catalogs for years. And in the wake of Toys R Us closing, both companies decided to devote more shelf space in their retail locations to toys, says Pasierb. With only a handful of physical stores in a few major cities, Amazon’s toy push comes in the form of a dedicated landing page for kids on its website, and its catalog.
“They’re emulating a proven method of doing business, which is the catalog, but using their muscle to engage at a particular time when there are just fewer retailers now that sell toys,” says Richard Gottlieb, CEO of research firm Global Toy Experts. Gottlieb was impressed with Amazon’s catalog, though he far preferred eBay’s catalog, full of weird and wild and expensive one-of-a-kind toys, which launched this season as well.
Amazon and eBay are joining the many other ecommerce companies still finding that print catalogs have value in the digital era. Catalogs are harder to ignore than the clutter of online ads, one footwear startup founder told Digiday earlier this year, explaining that his company gets a slightly higher return on direct mail versus digital-only marketing. Companies can also use data to target catalogs to customers they know are likely to spend more money. And they are a traditional way for families to compile gift wishlists.
“I’m old enough to remember the Sears catalog,” says Gottlieb. “I remember laying on the floor just going through it. I didn’t get much anything out of it. But you know, marking things, studying it in detail. It was wonderful and a wonderful way to communicate with your parents what you want.”
People really want and love catalogs. Take a glance at the reviews for the Kindle version on Amazon’s website. Plenty of customers posted bad reviews, not because they didn’t like the catalog but because they were annoyed that they didn’t get one.
“Why can’t we get a book and why didn’t we get one? We have been prime members for years, have 4 kids, buy lots of toys, and no book. And we can’t order one,” reads the top-rated review right now. “Would love to have the toy catalog delivered through the mail. The children love looking at it and circling what they like. I dont use Kindle. I’ve been a prime member for many years and did not get one,” reads another. A review from November 15 is even more direct: “Disappointed that I didn’t and can not now get a hard copy in the mail even though I have two small children and spend a ton on toys through Amazon Prime. I AM YOUR TARGET MARKET. Speaking of Target – I’ll be doing my toy shopping there because I am THAT petty.”
The disappointment those Amazon reviewers felt speaks to the reason catalogs have worked so well. They’re convenient, above all. Enjoyable, even. And this time of year, when millions of Americans are going to buy toys, it’s easier for children to thumb through a physical catalog that feels like a big book of wonders than a notoriously hard-to-navigate website.
Kids, especially, don’t have a great way to discover toys on the actual Amazon website. Even its dedicated toy section divided by age group is confusing to navigate. And while the site does have a wishlist feature, parents might not trust their kid to trawl through Amazon’s website on their account, since they could accidentally push one button and buy something. A print catalog is a way for Amazon to directly get its offering in front of children, while also giving parents a little bit more control over the process.
Plenty of customers posted bad reviews, not because they didn’t like the catalog, but because they were annoyed that they didn’t get one.
The toy catalog is a familiar marketing throwback in an otherwise rapidly evolving industry. Pasierb notes that with the growth in streaming entertainment for kids, the kinds of ads children see have changed. “Unboxing videos, the online kind of stuff is for a lot of our toy companies as important or now more important than traditional television advertising. A lot of our companies that no longer do traditional TV advertising do almost all exclusively digital,” says Pasierb. The highest-paid YouTube celebrity this year, according to Forbes, was a 7-year-old boy making unboxing videos of toys, earning an estimated $22 million in 12 months.
“[These kinds of ads] are entertainment in their own right,” says Lennett. “A lot of these kids, I don’t think they know the difference between watching a show—a real show—versus watching another kid playing with a toy on YouTube.”
“In my household, the word ‘TV’ is gone. Now it’s just ‘shows.’ Children have already fully internalized the idea of on demand, and that disrupts the ad model completely,” says David Carroll, professor of media design at the New School.
But Carroll doesn’t let his two kids watch YouTube, where they might see those ads. I don’t let my three-year-old son watch it, either. We are the exception; a recent Pew survey found that 81 percent of parents do allow their young kids to watch YouTube. Our reasons are less to do with fear of seeing ads than fear that we can’t control the algorithm and our children might get exposed to inappropriate, creepy, or ideological videos. Instead, our kids mostly watch on-demand shows on Amazon Prime, Netflix, iTunes, or Google Play—and those are largely free of ads.
“The only way [Amazon’s toy offerings] are getting in front of my children is through a catalog,” says Carroll. Only Carroll never got an Amazon catalog, despite his prolific Prime usage. Neither did I. Neither did Lennett, who says, “I’m mad I didn’t get one.” Though her kids are teenagers, she buys lots of stuff on Amazon and thought they’d receive one in the mail, as some of her friends did. An Amazon representative declined to comment on how the company decided who to send the catalog to, though the person offered to send me one. (I declined.)
For Amazon, a catalog also fits well with its bigger push into the physical world, with everything from actual store locations to Dash buttons you physically push to order goods. “[Amazon owner Jeff] Bezos has total world domination as the goal. So from that perspective it makes sense that they would not take a digital-only approach. They would take a whatever works approach,” says Carroll.
For world domination, Amazon has to be everything. And everywhere. Even in the living room, where your kid can find it and come up to you whining, “Mom! I want this!” That is, if Amazon sent you one.
CBS NEWS – Looking for ways to boost revenue for the U.S. Postal Service’s money-losing operations, the Trump administration is suggesting selling access to mailboxes.
“The legal mailbox monopoly remains highly valuable,” said a government reportissued last week. “As a means of generating more income, the mailbox monopoly could be monetized.”
The report, representing the efforts of a task force created by President Donald Trump, proposes a number of other changes to the U.S. Postal Service, including cutting costs and boosting prices for “nonessential services,” including delivery of commercial mail such as advertising flyers. In November, the USPS reported its 12th straight year of losses, due to slumping mail volume and rising costs of retirement and health care benefits.
While the report didn’t detail how much the USPS could earn from franchising mailboxes, it suggests the USPS could charge third-party delivery services such as UPS or FedEx to gain access to consumer mailboxes. It’s currently illegal for other delivery services to drop packages or letters in a mailbox — a restriction that even applies to neighbors stuffing flyers for a local event.
“As [mail service providers] and package delivery companies continue to expand offerings to multiple parts of the value chain, it is reasonable to expect a willingness to pay for access to USPS mailboxes,” the report noted. “By franchising the mailbox, the USPS could expand its revenue and income opportunities without necessitating any change to its current mail products.”
But the economics might not be as rosy as the Trump administration report suggests, according to Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a think tank that focuses on productivity and innovation issues.
“Nobody knows what the economics of that are,” Atkinson said. “Right now, say what you want about the Postal Service, but the part that is perhaps the most efficient is the last-mile delivery,” or the delivery from postal offices to consumers’ homes.
Monopoly on delivery
Instead, it could actually backfire and end up costing the USPS more money, Atkinson warned: “One of the reasons the USPS is not even more financially troubled is because they have this monopoly for delivery” to your mailbox, he explained.
If the USPS sells access to consumers’ mailboxes, even more businesses may opt for rival services such as FedEx or UPS. It’s not clear whether the franchise fees would offset the loss of that mail revenue, he added.
“I’m dubious that they could charge a price that could be any better than they already make, because then they’d be delivering fewer of those letters or packages,” Atkinson said.
While the report didn’t single out Amazon, the online retailer — whose founder Jeff Bezos personally owns the Washington Post — has repeatedly drawn the ire of Mr. Trump, who has blamed the company for some of the USPS’ financial woes. The president has claimed the USPS loses $1.50 on average for each package it delivers for Amazon.
There’s little evidence to back up his claims, however, as the package delivery remains one of the few lines of business that’s growing for the USPS.
Nevertheless, the report recommends that the Postal Service develop a new pricing model that would lift current price caps and charge what it calls market-based prices for mail and packages that aren’t “essential postal services.” Amazon and other major businesses that are currently using the Postal Service to supplement their delivery operations would face higher costs, if that were to happen — and so, too, might their customers.
Martin Tripp, a former technician at Tesla’s Gigafactory turned whistleblower, is embroiled in a nasty lawsuit with the EV manufacturer and recently released court documents show that Tesla is not taking Tripp’s alleged “sabotage” lightly. The company wants Tripp to pay $167 million in damages for public statements he’s made that Tesla claims are false.
Tripp’s story first came to prominence in June when he went public with his accusations that Tesla sold hundreds of Model 3s with punctured batteries, and cut numerous corners that endangered workers and drivers. His decision to come forward was apparently prompted by Tesla’s filing of a lawsuit that accused him of stealing confidential information and hacking its computers. A bonkers email exchange between Tripp and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, which took place just before the suit was filed, showed that there was clearly bad blood between these guys but didn’t clear up who was telling the truth. In July, Tripp countersued Tesla for defamation and filed a formal whistleblower claim with the SEC that appears to still be unresolved.
A new case management report was published by a Nevada district court on November 27 and was first noticed by CNBC on Tuesday. The biggest news from the filing is that Tesla wants big money from Tripp. Very few details about Tripp’s claims against the company are publicly available. He did tweet out numerous photos and documents in August that he alleged would bolster his case about the company’s unsafe practices but he quickly deleted the account and has kept a low profile since then. Still, Tesla apparently believes his limited allegations caused $167 million in damages to the company. The two parties are also arguing over Tesla’s reluctance to provide more than 10 witnesses for discovery and resistance to making Musk available for questioning.
Tesla declined Gizmodo’s request for comment on this story.
Tripp’s attorney, Robert D. Mitchell, told CNBC that the “purported damage amount claimed by Tesla relates to supposed dips in Tesla’s stock price by virtue of the information Mr. Tripp provided to the press last summer.” He characterized this notion as “absurd.”
While Tesla’s stock price did go on a roller coaster ride this summer, there have been many factors involved and Tripp has never been at the top of anyone’s mind. Investors feared that Tesla would not be able to meet its mid-summer production goals, a feat that it accomplished but analysts were still worried. Tesla’s stock price started going up in August, peaking on the 7th when Musk fired off his infamous “420 tweet,” claiming that he was considering taking the company private with backing from Saudi funds. For the next two months, the price nose-dived as we were treated to a bizarre interview with a crying Elon and an SEC investigation that resulted in Musk stepping down as Chairman. These days, the future seems brighter for Tesla but for some reason, Elon is still crying during interviews.
Gizmodo asked Tripp’s attorney if he plans to argue that the damages that were allegedly caused by his client’s disclosures were actually the result of Musk’s own actions. Mitchell replied by email: “Yes, we do. Our expert report will be disclosed on December 21 refuting those alleged damages.”
Delta Airlines said Monday that it will ban all emotional support animals on flights longer than 8 hours and will ban all service and support animals under four months of age on flights no matter the duration. The policy will go into effect Dec. 18, ahead of the Christmas holiday travel season.
“These updates support Delta’s commitment to safety and also protect the rights of customers with documented needs — such as veterans with disabilities — to travel with trained service and support animals,” said John Laughter, Delta’s senior vice president, corporate safety, security and compliance.
said it amended its animal policy after finding an 84% increase in reported incidents involving service and support animals in 2016 and 2017, “including urination/defecation, biting and even a widely reported attack by a 70-pound dog.”
The airline said the updated support and service animal age requirement aligns with the vaccination policy of the CDC, and the eight-hour flight limit for emotional support animals is consistent with the principles outlined in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Air Carrier Access Act.
As a result of the policy changes, customers ticketed on or after Dec. 18 will no longer be permitted to originate travel with emotional support animals on flights longer than eight hours and will no longer be permitted to originate travel with service and support animals under four months of age regardless of flight length. Customers with tickets purchased prior to Dec. 18, who have already requested to travel with an emotional support animal will be allowed to travel as originally ticketed.
Regardless of booking date, emotional support animals will not be accepted on flights longer than eight hours on or after Feb. 1. Additionally, service and support animals under four months of age will not be accepted on flights of any length on or after Feb. 1.
Delta said it will contact customers to adjust reservations if the policy update impacts their travel plans. The full policy and additional information on types of accepted animals and other questions related to traveling with service and support animals is available on delta.com.
Google is still having trouble protecting the personal information on its Plus service, prodding the company to accelerate its plans to shut down a little-used social network created to compete against Facebook. A privacy flaw that inadvertently exposed the names, email addresses, ages and other personal information of 52.5 million Google Plus users last month convinced Google to close the service in April instead of August, as previously announced. Google revealed the new closure date and its latest privacy lapse in a Monday blog post. It’s the second time in two months that Google has disclosed the existence of a problem that enabled unauthorized access to Plus profiles. In October, the company acknowledged finding a privacy flaw affecting 500,000 Plus users that it waited more than six months to disclose, per the AP.
Even if the latest privacy gaffe on Plus didn’t cause any major damage, it nevertheless marks another embarrassing incident for Google. The company’s business model relies on it being seen as a trustworthy guardian of the personal information it collects about billions of users. Like Facebook, Google makes most of its money by selling ads that draw upon what the company learns about the interests, habits and locations of people while they’re using its free services. Google’s privacy issues on Plus are likely to be a topic that US lawmakers delve into Tuesday, when company CEO Sundar Pichai is scheduled to appear before a House committee. Pichai’s appearance comes more than three months after he turned down an invitation to testify in August, to the consternation of some lawmakers. (Meanwhile, Google faces problems from within its own ranks.)