The evidence is everywhere if you know how to look.
Apple is an obvious one. The company that used the phrase "Think Different" to set itself apart from a homogeneous environment of personal tech just settled a class-action lawsuit alleging it colluded with book publishers to make the prices of all e-books more expensive.
Amazon, a company that started selling books because founder Jeff Bezos loved the broad spectrum of titles available, has been in the news for understocking, delaying deliveries and preventing pre-orders of books from a publishing company. For an organization with a stated mission of being "where people can find and discover anything they want to buy online," fighting with Hachette doesn't really fit the bill.
And then there's Google. Even ignoring "don't be evil," the company's fight with independent artists and labels over terms and conditions for creating its new YouTube music service looks like a betrayal of what the company's platform stands for. YouTube is supposed to be a place where everybody can upload; where your success is only limited by the quality of your content and your ability to hustle. When that changes to "agree to our terms or get blocked," and Billy Bragg calls you "stupid," you're probably not serving that ideal.
Is anyone else getting a creeping feeling that we're seeing some grand scale bait and switch? Tech companies -- even big ones -- pride themselves on "disrupting" in a good way, and "removing friction" from traditional business transactions. When it's done right, innovation is a democratizing force that makes our lives better. And when they're doing right, tech companies offer us alternatives to petrified, monopolized industries and marketplaces. So what happens when we opt in early and often, and then find ourselves pushed and bullied by the companies we thought were offering a new and better way of doing business?
The Supreme Court is poised to rule on a case that’s being watched closely by everyone from ABC to Google to the NFL.
It involves internet start-up Aereo, which streams broadcast television – CBS, NBC, Fox, and the like – to consumers on their phones, tablets, and computers, but doesn’t pay those providers retransmission fees. Instead, the company charges a subscription of up to $12 a month for which subscribers receive a tiny antenna to stream and record broadcast TV.
Whatever the court rules, the stakes are high, says Harvard Professor Susan Crawford.
If Aereo wins, cable providers might argue they don't have to pay networks for the rights to show their programming. That means the networks would lose billions, forcing them to live off advertising revenue exclusively.
“So what really happens is that sports moves off broadcast and becomes something only available through your cable subscription,” Crawford says of that scenario.
If Aereo loses, Crawford says that could raise numerous copyright questions about services somewhat similar to Aereo; services that store movies and music in the cloud, for example.
She says ultimately Congress may have to get involved, meaning a long fight in Washington with a “mosh pit of special interests” battling it out.
How much does war and violence cost us—all 7 billion of us on Planet Earth?
In its Global Peace Index, the Institute for Economics and Peace, an international think tank, attempts to quantify the economic impact of violent strife of all kinds — from homicide to civil war to terrorism — in 162 countries around the world.
The bottom-line: nearly $10 trillion spent “containing and dealing with the consequences of violence” worldwide in 2013. That cost has been rising steadily for the past eight years, as global “peacefulness” declined, especially in regions like the Middle East, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
“Violence containment” by the Index’s definition includes everything from buying tanks, deploying surveillance satellites and paying soldiers; to economic damage from civil war, political violence, drug trafficking, and refugee crises; to the costs of domestic security—from police, airport security, and jails, to lost wages and fear of criminality suffered by homicide victims’ families.
Here’s Marketplace’s take on the Global Peace Index “By the Numbers”:$9.8 trillion
That was the global cost of violence in 2013 — for trying to contain it, and dealing with its consequences. $9.8 trillion represents 11.3 percent of global GDP, or $1,350 for every person on the planet. It is double the GDP of Africa. The cost of violence rose nearly 4 percent from 2012.$5,455 per person
The U.S. cost of violence containment per-capita — for every man, woman, and child living in America. The U.S. spends 10.2 percent of GPD to deal with violence — everything from the costs of homicide and law enforcement, to military and terrorist threats like North Korea and Al Quaeda. The U.S. spends more per-capita than Mexico ($1,430), France ($1,300), South Africa ($1,000), Argentina ($635), or India ($145). The U.S. even outspends Israel, at $2,795 per capita, or 8.1 percent of GDP.#1: Iceland
Iceland (spending $320 per person on violence containment) again ranked as the world’s most peaceful country. Iceland does well on many of the 22 indicators that the Index tracks. These include: homicide rate, terrorist activity, displaced persons due to civil conflict, per-capita weapons imports and exports, size of police and armed forces, incarceration rate, per-capita military spending, and the number killed in armed conflict. Rounding out the “Top 10 Most Peaceful” list: Denmark, Austria, New Zealand, Switzerland, Finland, Canada, Japan, Belgium, Norway.#162: Syria
Syria overtook Afghanistan in 2013 as the “least peaceful place on earth”—ranked 162 out of 162 countries surveyed. Rounding out the “10 Most Violent”: Afghanistan, South Sudan, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, and North Korea.#152 and #151: Russia, Nigeria
Cutting off the “10 Most Violent” list here leaves off these two giants, which are eleventh and twelfth. Russia’s adventurism in the Crimea and Eastern Ukraine solidified its dismal performance on the Index, and also caused Ukraine’s peacefulness to fall. Nigeria has suffered a severe deterioration in public safety as terrorists have murdered and kidnapped with little effective response from the military or police.#101: U.S.
The U.S. rank in the 2014 Global Peace Index. Just behind Bangladesh, Haiti and Benin . . . but beating out Angola, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. The U.S. is the least peaceful country in North America — but its only regional competition is Canada, which ranks #7 for peacefulness worldwide.35 out of 36
That’s how many countries in Europe are more peaceful than the U.S. Only Turkey is less peaceful — and it has a civil war next door. In Central America, Costa Rica and Panama are the most peaceful countries; Mexico and Honduras the most violent. For a safe South American vacation, go to Uruguay or Chile, ranked tops in the region; avoid Colombia and Venezuela. Brazil ranks near the bottom of the continent, at #91 — World Cup muggers, anyone?
For decades, inventors have been trying to capitalize on the power of scent – the way smelling lilacs can immediately transport you to your mother’s garden, while pine reminds you of that long-past camping trip. This week, Harvard Professor David Edwards unveiled what he says is the first scented email.
Colleagues in France used the free app oSnap to send Edwards an email with a photo tagged with a handful of pre-encoded smells that were supposed to suggest champagne, macaron, and chocolate. The smells wafted out a table-top device called an oPhone, which has two mini smokestacks to release the scented vapor.
The first caveat is that the system didn’t capture a smell to transmit, but rather tried to approximate the smell by drawing on a library of scents, like “tropical” or “creamy sour.” And while the device definitely released a scent, it wasn’t easily identifiable. Rather, it had a tangy, artificial aroma.
Edwards says the technology is still a work in progress. He’ll be refining both the library of scents and the oPhone distribution system.
Moreover, he hopes his technology will be used for more than just email. He wants companies to be able to create scents for specific products – to use scents to sell.
“It could be coffee, it could be wine, it could be chocolate,” he says. “It could be a trip to the ocean.”
He’s already working with a café chain in Paris to use smells to help customers select a coffee. Eventually, he could imagine doctors or hospitals using the technology.
“The idea is, as we get more virtual, how can we create more real experiences to get people to buy or relive something?” says Lisa Bodell, CEO of FutureThink, a consulting firm focused on innovation.
That could mean augmenting virtual reality with scents to make a digital experience feel more authentic, or smelling a “new car smell” while browsing an online dealership.
The idea of transmitting scents digitally may seem wild, says Bodell, but crazy ideas can become the next big thing depending on how they’re executed.
For smell, execution has been a stumbling block in the past, like smell-o-vision in the 1960s, or more recently when a greeting card company tried to introduce scented cards.
“The problem wasn’t getting [scent] into a card,” she says. “The problem was at the display. There were so many scents competing with each other that it didn’t work. That’s an example of an execution problem.”
The film 1971 is receiving a screening at the American Film Institute's documentary film festival, AFI DOCS, in Washington. It’s about a group of anti-war activists who broke into a Federal Bureau of Investigation office in Media, Pennsylvania, and changed the course of government surveillance.
The files they stole and mailed to journalists exposed rampant domestic surveillance, and led to the formation of the Church Committee, which ultimately led to the FISA court.
Those involved in the break-in practiced lock picking and swore off home phones to stay anonymous. But decades later identities have been revealed.
Click the audio player above to hear two of the involved activists, John and Bonnie Raines, in conversation with host of Marketplace Tech Ben Johnson.
The Raines' were unsure of what they would find in the FBI files, but they quickly discovered many that were damaging in terms of actions to intimidate anyone critical of government policy.
As to their ability to escape cature and remain anonymous for so long, John Raines credits the vastly different technological landscape.
"We were lucky to do this in an era of relative primitivism in terms of the technology of surveillance,” says Raines.
The head of American Apparel, Dov Charney, has been sacked, the board announced in a statement.
Charney built American Apparel – the clothing line known for its racy ad campaigns and emphasis on American-made products – out of a tshirt business in his dorm room at Tufts University. He was an outspoken opponent of sweatshop labor and a prominent advocate for immigration reform.
He was also a weird guy.
“It’s important that every generation there’s going to be people that push boundaries, and those are my people,” Charney told Marketplace’s Kai Ryssdal in an interview earlier in 2014. Ryssdal asked Charney what his biggest weakness was, to which he replied: “my biggest weakness is me, lock me up already. It’s obvious! Put me in a cage, I’ll be fine. You know, I’m my own worst enemy. But what can you do, I was born strange.”
Charney has been the subject of numerous lawsuits alleging sexual harassment or mistreatment, including one alleged incident where he rubbed dirt in the face of a store manager. All of the suits, which Charney and American Apparel have previously said were frivolous attempts at extracting money, have been dismissed or settled.
The board, it would appear, got tired of either the negative attention, or Charney’s personal idiosyncrasies, or both. In any case, some event appears to have given them what they needed to make a move; the board cited an “ongoing investigation into alleged misconduct.”
For now, the company’s CFO John Luttrell is taking over as interim CEO.
But succession is often difficult for large companies.
“Think about what you learned in history or the Bible,” says Joseph Bower, Baker Foundation professor at Harvard Business School. “How often were successions smooth, as opposed to how often did sons kill fathers, fathers kill sons, wars happen.”
Plus, it’s not every CEO that is cooperative. “Succession is also about power, and you’re asking someone to give up power,” he says.
Whoever takes over American Apparel for the long haul will have a difficult challenge. The company posted a net loss of $106.3 million in 2013, a $ 5.5 million loss for the first quarter of 2014, and is selling $30.5 million in stock to pay its debts.
American Apparel also noted that the change in management may have triggered a default, a status it is negotiating with creditors.