National / International News
Charter Communication and Time Warner Cable announced today that the two cable providers plan to merge merge in a $55 billion deal that values Time Warner Cable at nearly $79 billion.
Charter is also buying a smaller provider, Bright House Networks, which has 2.5 million customers. The three companies combined under the Charter banner will have roughly 24 million customers — just under the 27 million customers of rival Comcast.
Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research, says a larger Charter “can negotiate more favorable terms with broadcasters,” possibly creating savings.
“They’re going to argue this is really great for consumers,” says Rob Frieden, a professor of telecommunications and law at Penn State University. But, Frieden predicts that the new competitive landscape would stymie a possible “maverick” company from emerging.
“You also have a situation where two operators control 80 percent of the broadband marketplace,” he says.
The deal may go more smoothly than the failed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger, partly because Charter could now serve as a competitive check to Comcast.
The deal would make Charter Communications a significant rival to Comcast, which had also sought to buy Time Warner but it met regulatory objections.
Geek culture is having a bit of a moment. Superheroes are smashing box office records. Comic conventions have become national news. Now, gamers are getting their very own bars. A new pub in Savannah, Georgia is offering a place to throw back a few drinks while you battle it out in video or board games.
Walking into the Chromatic Dragon feels like entering most bars — at first. You decide if you want to sit at the bar or get a table; inside or out. A friendly employee approaches, but he’s not a server. He’s a "game master."
“Are there any board games or card games you guys would like to enjoy while you enjoy your food tonight?” he asks.
On the tables, cards and dice are spread out between plates of food and drinks. Flat-screen TVs with access to XBOX 360, PlayStation 3, and the latest Wii line one of the walls. On the first of several couches, two young guys are engaged in a fierce Mortal Kombat battle. One of them, Patrick Gardner, wears a black t-shirt that says, simply, “KOMBAT.”
Gardner says playing here is more fun than at home. He has his own gaming systems, he says, “but meeting new people is like a new experience.”
In just one month, 153 people pledged almost $21,000 on Kickstarter to help the bar open.
Owner and lifetime gamer Clegg Ivey says all of this socializing is part of the appeal, despite the misconception that gaming is a solitary activity. “But really, it’s not,” he says.
“Anybody who’s ever hung out at somebody’s place with a Nintendo sitting on the table, everyone’s taking turns. Or we’re playing, say, 'Mario Kart' where there might be four or five people all racing at the same time, and it’s a great way to connect with other people," says Ivey.
Gamer pubs like this one are opening in a handful of cities. Ivey says someday he’d like to see gaming bars as popular as sports bars — where each one is a hub for a different game the way many sports bars favor a certain sport or team. For now though, Savannah’s gamers have just the one pub for just about any game.
“This is ‘Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt. Skullzfyre!’” Colorado Brown announces in his best wizard voice. He says he’s been looking forward to gaming here for a simple reason:
“I love board games, I love video games, and I love booze and good food.”And now, he can find all that in one place.
Bernie Sanders, the two-term independent senator from Vermont, is scheduled to officially kick off his campaign for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination Tuesday in Burlington, Vermont. (Sanders announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination on April 30.)
Local celebrities Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, founders of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, are expected to be on hand (and there will be free ice cream). Sanders is expected to share the speaker’s podium with Vermont-based environmentalist Bill McKibben. Mango Jam, a Burlington-based band, will provide music.
Sanders describes himself as a democratic socialist. He caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate and has previously indicated that he does not want to run as a third-party candidate and be a political spoiler for the eventual Democratic nominee.
Democratic socialists (in the U.S. and abroad) historically have advocated a political and economic system in which the government is chosen democratically and subject to the will of the people, while the means of production (factories, farms, and other producers of goods and services) are owned and/or controlled by society as a whole, rather than by individuals or corporations. However, there is no precise and universally accepted definition of democratic socialism. Some democratic socialists advocate for a heterogenous economy with private property and investor ownership, as well as ownership of property and enterprises by cooperatives, employee groups , government, and communities. They favor reform and regulation of the capitalist economic system by a democratically elected government, rather than its replacement with a fully socialist economy.
The democratic socialist moniker that Sanders proudly claims can be toxic in some parts of the American political landscape, and it will certainly alienate many conservatives as well as some liberals, says presidential historian Julian Zelizer at Princeton University. But, Zelizer points out, over the last century, socialists have at times made a significant mark in national politics and even some presidential campaigns. (Zelizer is author most recently of "The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society.")
In the election of 1912, labor organizer and Socialist Party firebrand Eugene V. Debs pulled in 6 percent of the popular vote nationwide — an all-time high share for a Socialist presidential candidate. The 1912 election saw a four-way contest among national candidates after Theodore Roosevelt split with the Republicans and ran on the Progressive ticket against the Republican incumbent, William Taft. Woodrow Wilson, the Democrat, won the election with 42 percent of the vote. Roosevelt got 27 percent; Taft got 23 percent.
Debs went on to take 3 percent of the vote in the election of 1920 — running from prison, where he was serving time for advocating non-compliance with the draft during World War I.
The Socialists didn’t win any states’ electoral votes in 1912 or in subsequent elections, but their showings in the pre- and post-World War I years were still significant, Zelizer says. “They didn’t win. They didn’t get huge portions of the electorate. But they put forth a lot of the issues in the early 1900s that would eventually become part of the platform of the Democratic Party.”
Those core Socialist causes included the eight-hour day and 40-hour week, child-labor laws, social insurance, the progressive income tax, as well as labor and political rights for women and African-Americans.
Debs ran for president five times. Norman Thomas took up the Socialist Party mantle in the Great Depression and ran for president six times. With schisms and red scares after World War I, the socialist party and movement gradually lost adherents and influence, though it still succeeded at times in electing local officials, and its positions continued to push labor and civil rights advocacy on the left, Zelizer says. After World War II, the Cold War and McCarthyism virtually obliterated socialism as a meaningful political force in American politics.
Socialist leader Norman Thomas’s great-granddaughter, Louisa Thomas, has written a book about the family titled "Conscience: Two Soldiers, Two Pacifists, One Family — a Test of Will and Faith in World War I. She says that like Bernie Sanders, Norman Thomas often referred to himself as a democratic socialist.
“He was running for president to use it as a platform,” says Louisa Thomas. “At one point he said that he was a champion not of lost causes, but of causes not yet won.”
Why do we care about the durable goods report, which the U.S. Census Bureau publishes each month to tell us how big-ticket item sales are going? Let Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, explain.
"We get lots of information about what businesses are saying, but they don't always do what they say they're going to do," Shepherdson says.
The durable goods report, he says, is a hard-data antidote to that problem. "The one thing that businesses don't do if they're worried about the future is invest large amounts in new equipment."
The durable goods report is an optimism indicator. It tells us if companies are buying new equipment in order to expand, or merely replacing old equipment, or not buying anything at all.
It measures sales in everything from transportation and communications gear, to primary metals.
In recent months, that measurement has been all over the place. There were more airplanes sold, but less big machinery. Investment in the oil sector, for example, has fallen, thanks to dropping oil prices.
But the report doesn't just measure what businesses are buying. It looks at consumers, as well. And that can tell us a lot, says Gennadiy Goldberg, a strategist with TD Securities.
"Consumers don't really make very large ticket purchases until they feel very secure and they do actually have money saved up," Goldberg says.
In March, consumers bought lots of cars, but not much of anything else. A cold winter in parts of the country may have been a factor. So, analysts are watching to see if sales pick up in things like vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, computers, and TVs.
In Chicago, 26-year-old Jessica D'Andrea is exactly what analysts hope to see more of. On a sunny spring day, she was shopping for furniture.
"I feel like I'm in a stable enough financial place, that I can," D'Andrea says. "And I'm moving out into my own apartment for the first time."
That's the value of the deal in which Charter will merge with Time Warner Cable, as announced Tuesday morning. That puts the valuation of Time Warner Cable at almost $79 billion, and brings the companies' combined customer base to 24 million. Charter also bought Bright House Networks, a smaller company, whose numbers figure into the customer base totals.20,000
That's how many drivers Uber is adding each month, according to a company report cited in the Wall Street Journal. In his WSJ column, Christopher Mims picks apart the so-called "sharing economy" – which has become something of a misnomer – and its murky relationship with employees. Or are they partners?$30 million
That's the latest cash infusion news organization Fusion got from its corporate parent Disney, the New York Times reported. Fusion is both a cable network and a website, and one of several well-funded news outfits going after millennials. But it's not an easy road. The Times notes that despite some big hires, Fusion is doing modest numbers and its coverage of last year's Sony hack rankled its corporate overlords.$84 million
That's how much was spent within the military last year in food stamps. Veterans are using food stamps too – 7 percent of them in 2012. The issue brings up interesting questions around military pay: when someone's pay is already publicly funded, does it matter if they draw on other publicly funded assistance as well?43 states
That's how many states allow for prisoners to be charged by the prison system for "room and board," in what is known as "pay-to-stay." Over at Vox, there's a closer look at the widespread practice that often hits families of the incarcerated especially hard.